Recent Entries in Personal

  Minerva in the morning

Minerva in the morning - Uploaded by Zuckervati.

Or maybe I should call it Sunday Cat Blogging. This heavy creature sat on my legs all night and is now content to sit in the sun while I walk off the stiffness.

  The Motorcycle Blogs

After a gruelling weekend of sunburns and heatstroke, I am now the proud owner of an M2 license. R and I signed up for a course at Conestoga College and we both made it out without setting fire to any of the college motorcycles. My tests went flawlessly, until the final one, where I earned 3 demerit points for not staying inside the lines during a "braking while in a tight curve" test.

But that's neither here nor there. Water under the bridge. I now have an M2 and am legally allowed to drive a motorcycle or scooter. Now to find something suitable to ride. I'm still debating on getting a full-fledged motorcycle or a really powerful scooter. After the training this past weekend and the 14-16 hours of sitting on a motorcycle in the hot sun, I'm actually less inclined to get a scooter, if only because they tend to lack power and range. And friends with motorcycles will make fun of me.

But we'll have to see. No sense going off to buy something I won't use or enjoy.

  Say Uncle!

My membership to the International Fraternity of Uncles™ is once again confirmed with the birth of my niece, Ashlen. She came in (or out) at a respectable 8 pounds 10 ounces. Of course, this means I have another birthday to remember (darn it), which is Monday, August 11th. She's quite the looker, and has big, bright eyes. Unfortunately, for you, I'm still limited by the request of my brother to not display any pictures of his children. So here's something my lawyers say is acceptable:


... but not much. I've been sprucing up the old mortal coil by going to a boxing training class for some time now. In an attempt to accelerate results, I've extended this once-a-weekend torture-fest to Mondays and Wednesdays as well.

The results are promising; I've felt pretty energized in recent weeks, despite an almost daily stiffness in joints and muscles corresponding to previous nights' workouts.

Last night, however, I became party to an extra-strenuous workout when, while in the middle of a series of crunches, the instructor began striking me in the midsection with a broom handle wrapped in a towel. This new torture is said to ensure you keep your core tight while performing abdominal work, since that's where you're likely to get hit by opponents, should you resort to the actual act of self-mutilation known as boxing.

After ten rapid strikes in my gut, I was allowed to come out of a half-crunch position. Needless to say, my abs are tender this morning.

The close attention paid by the instructor is partly my fault: the whole class was sitting around the edge of the boxing ring, feet inward. Partners were poised on our feet, and we extended our upper bodies out over the edge of the ring for sit-ups and other ab work. Meanwhile, to ensure tight cores, the instructor came around to each of us, and slammed our abs with the "training device". However, by the end of the routine, I hadn't been attended to, and made a point of mentioning it to my partner. Other people overheard this, and, of course, things got blown out of proportion. Instead of punishing the whistle-blower (like any good boot camp Drill Sargent would do), the instructor returned, and thinking I was making light of the whole issue, proceeded to give me 10 straight beatings while the rest of the class watched.

Ah, public humiliation. Like old times. Afterwards, people came by to congratulate me for smiling and taking such a beating ... so did the instructor (who also mentioned that if the pain is ever too much, to let her know). I noted that around beatings 5 or 6, I said "ok, that's enough," but she just smiled and went about her post-class routine.

  Thinking about a new car

My poor Maxima was in the shop again. It's slowly wearing out, and becoming more expensive to fix. This time, there's a hole in the exhaust system, near the front. The replacement piece will cost about $900, and even the aftermarket piece will need to be assembled, welded, and then installed. And everything's on backorder too. So for the next little while, my car sounds all riced up.

I also finally removed the tattered remains of the car bra from the front bumper, and there was a little rust near the wheel wells. That's to be expected, but it's just another thing that needs to be done.

And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the car's scratched surface. There are so many things wrong at this point that it might be better to just get a new car, rather than keep fixing this one. Which is terrible, because I love my car. Sure it's a pain to park, it's starting to rust, it's a complete money pit, and its fuel efficiency borders on the hummer-esque. But it's my car. I drove it across Canada.

But time moves on. And 10 car years is something like 70-80 human years, so maybe it's time to retire the old fogey. I'm sure as hell not going to get anything on trade-in. So I was contemplating a new vehicle. Something sporty, alternative, and good with the occasional pile of cargo, construction materials, bicycles, camping equipment, canoes, and art supplies I move around from time-to-time. I mean, the Maxima was fun to drive, but was crap when it came to hauling around sheets of plywood.

The Honda Element


This car/truck/SUV/lunchbox crossover is like the Mac of the auto world. It's much maligned, marvelled, and modified by enthusiasts. The latest trim, the SC is for us urbanites who think that driving the access roads of Algonquin is off-roading (which it is, thank you very much). I've always liked the look of the car, and so do about a hundred other people in Waterloo.

Honestly, I've never liked the "Honda Nation". I've never wanted to represent. Honda owners, like Mac owners, are so self-important and smug, it makes me want to hit them. However, R's a big Honda owner, and she's brought me around. Good resale value, they last for years, and they go forever on a single tank of gas. This will be most important when the zombies come.

Pros: Better gas mileage than my Maxima; Better gear storage; Better sound system; Looks like a lunchbox

Cons: Looks like a lunchbox; Is a Honda

The Hybrid Altima


The Altima always seemed like a step down from the Maxima, but in recent years, they've made it increasingly powerful, attractive, and stylish. Now it's even a hybrid!! That's almost as good as having it run on coolness. But there are still the limitations inherent to the sedan design that will limit my use of this car, or will require me to sport it out with another roof rack. Essentially, we'll be back at the start. And the sedan isn't quite as cool as the coupe, and isn't as powerful, since it's a hybrid.

Pros: Great gas mileage; Cool-looking; Most like a Maxima; Nissan learning curve is low

Cons: Still no room for cargo; Not as powerful as the coupe; Not as sexy as the coupe

The Infiniti FX


Hey there. New in town? Yeah, this place is kind of tough. Why don't you stick with me. Yeah, we'll grab a cup of coffee or something, and you can tell me about yourself.

The Infiniti FX is the sexiest crossover I've ever seen. It does everything you want, and you don't feel ashamed while driving around with it. But it'd be like having a high maintenance supermodel girlfriend (or boyfriend, if that's your thing). I'd probably have to feed it premium gas all the time, and get it nice things.

Pros: This is the car that I want

Cons: I don't date supermodels either; What am I, made of money?

The Nissan Rogue


The Rogue is a new addition to the world of mini-SUVs and crossovers. It was brought in to replace the X-Trail, which filled the void in the price range left by the the X-Terra when it became a more pricey SUV, and had to fill the void in the price range left by the Pathfinder when it became a luxury SUV. I haven't even mentioned the Murano, on which the Rogue's chassis was based. I suppose people didn't want another boxy mini-SUV, but couldn't afford a Murano, let alone an Infiniti FX.

Suffice to say that the Rogue is supposed to be the crappy entry-level addition to the Nissan clan. Owning this car/truck/whatever is tanamount to saying "I can't afford anything better," though it does get good gas mileage, and has pretty much everything I need in a new vehicle.

Pros: It's like the X-Trail and the Murano; Has everything I need; Cool name

Cons: I need an eye patch and an M107 to drive it; It rips off the Murano; Cheap

The TNG Baja


It's no joke. This thing seats 2, gets 75mpg (3.4l/100km), costs almost nothing, and looks like something out of Road Warrior. Since all I do most of the time is commute to work and back, maybe I don't need a cargo van, or a heavy-duty driving machine. Sure I could only drive it in summer, and if I were in better shape, I could just ride my bike to work. Shut up.

Pros: Costs next-to-nothing; Amazing fuel efficiency; Awesome cool for a scooter

Cons: Only in summer; Wasn't I just griping about needing something with cargo space?

  What a mess in here...

Whoa, this place is a mess. Looks like someone left the window open, and hasn't been around for ages. There are all these half-realized ideas just tossed in a corner, and look at that stack of unposted images -- I mean jeez, couldn't someone have put them up on the wall or something? Now they're all torn, and yellowing at the corners. No one will want to look at them now.

Give me a little while to get things cleaned up in here. There are cobwebs and junk everywhere. Looks like someone's been spending too much time next door, and not enough time actually working.

Personally, I blame the weather. Once the snow melts, and things begin to dry out, there should be a little more traffic in here.

Interestingly, this post is a good analogy of things not going on in my studio. As soon as the weather gets good again, I'll be in there, sweeping up, and working on some more art. Maybe even get my bike down off the ceiling.

  Happy first day of Spring

Huh. Still feels cold out. And we're 3 minor snowstorms away from record-breaking snowfall in Toronto. Here in KW, it's also bad, as can be seen in this picture taken in our company's parking lot. My associate volunteered for the picture, but forgot to put on a coat. He's currently wearing a blanket and sipping hot cocoa.


I'm having lunch at the Williams Coffee Pub on Northfield. It's myself and 4 other people, mostly because the lunch rush is over, and there's almost a foot of snow outside. I wasn't going to go out for lunch, but didn't really bring anything today, and I didn't want to break into my stash of protein bars, sardine and tuna cans, and hardtack (yes, really, I have hardtack).

Aside from the occasional link post, it's been pretty quiet over here at Chez Zuckervati, so I haven't been blogging much. I have been keeping an eye on the server, though, and am contemplating an upgrade to Movable Type 4.1, now that the 4.x product appears to have stabilized.

I blame the lack of blogging on the weather. Everything's sort of settled into a cold cocoon, where the only thing I want to do is sit quietly at home, eat comfort food, and watch 3 seasons of "The Wire". This is not blogging material. This isn't even living material.

So I'm essentially blogging to say that I've nothing to blog about. In response to this predicament, I'm thinking of assigning myself topics for writing -- for, you see, you can't write the Great Canadian Hard-boiled Detective Story That Transcends Genres Into Science Ficton and Horror, While Still Maintaining That Canadian, Douglas Coupland Feel To It without actually writing something ... anything. So, this week's topic is: "Why aren't you writing more?" This is an open call; I'm interested in seeing if anyone else is reading this, and if they're willing to write something and tell me about it. I actually get a lot more blog comments and fan mail than I expected, so let's see if I can influence others to write. That's my ultimate goal (after taking a bullet for someone).

  New Cat: Minerva

We picked up the new cat from the vet's place last week, still recovering from a spaying operation. We kept her isolated for only a day, and Athena appeared to be getting used to having another cat around (apparently, Athena has a thing for cats that look like her). And boy, do they ever look similar. With the exception of the tufts of white fur, Minerva looks a lot like a younger Athena.


We didn't need to be too concerned by letting her out early. Athena didn't attack her once, but did show a lot of jealousy when in our presence. She did this stare-off whenever the new cat got too close.


However, later, we found them in bed together, twice. Apparently, as long as there's a little distance between them, everything's cool.



  China 1994-2007

My poor little cat never recovered from her pancreatitis. She died at the vet's last night, around 11:00pm. They were just about to perform exploratory surgery to try to figure out why she wasn't recovering, but she didn't last the night.

The vet's going to do an autopsy to figure out where it all went wrong. China recovered for a day, relapsed, then held stable for the rest of the week.

We're trying to figure out if we want to get another cat right away, or to wait for a couple of months. Athena's pretty much caught on that China's gone for good.


  Poor Kitty

Had a couple of tense moments on the weekend. China, my white cat, was acting strangely: well-behaved, quiet, no struggling when you pick her up, no begging at the table, etc. I figured something serious was wrong when she didn't jump up and down on me while I was trying to sleep.

After a trip to the emergency vet (always on the weekend, this happens), we discussed the usual options for an old, failing pet: "How much money will we spend before it's too much?"; "How much longer will we try to keep her alive?"; "What do we do after she's gone?"; "Will the other cat be OK on her own?" These questions plagued us for the rest of the evening, and soured the mood of the weekend.

The answers, incidentally are this: "$2000 for any single hospitalization"; "long enough to make her comfortable"; "do without another pet for a while"; "the other cat hasn't noticed her missing yet, so she should be OK."

Luckily, the seriously competent vet was able to figure out what it was, and what it wasn't. The blood work didn't indicate a failing kidney or anything too bad. We got her to the regular vet this morning, and it turns out it was pancreatitis, something which strikes 1 in 4 cats. It's not often known what causes it, and it may or may not reoccur. A little I.V., and some low fat food, and already she's acting normal again.

Here's a little picture of her stomping around the vet's place. Click for a larger image.



After about a year of putting it off, I finally went out to Home Depot and bought some drywall for the garage/studio. I'd asked R to nag me about it, just so I'd be reminded that my studio currently looks like a grow-op. I've actually finished one wall, and am moving on to the back wall.

Unfortunately, the garage/studio is pretty crowded, what with all the art supplies, wood-working tools, gardening stuff, lawn mower, and drywall. It's going to take a bit of work to maneuver the junk around so I can get a clear view of each wall. This is kind of why I'm drywalling and mudding at the same time -- get each wall finished, then move on to the next.

I'm still working on some plans for installing a climbing wall, but that can be done after drywalling is done.

  Finishing touches

With the exception of a little more paint, some vent covers, and a little bit of cleanup, the kitchen and bar are finished. I'll try to get some final pictures up later. We also got around to mounting the TV on the wall, and painting the TV room adjacent to the bar -- since we were working on the bar, it makes sense to get the TV room as well.

I painted the walls in the upstairs hallway and the dining room, since these were the rooms next to the kitchen, and they were heavily modified when the kitchen was re-done. I've still got to scrape some of the old paint off the floor and paint some trim before we're entirely done. We also need to find places for some things.

The next step will be drywalling the garage/studio (I promise), and clean up the computer room. We'll be converting it into a guest room at some point, putting a sectional sofa in the TV room, and moving the futon over. I'm in the long, slow process of decommissioning the servers and server rack, probably moving the blog offsite to some place with a little fault tolerance and sticking to using a laptop at home.

  Cat Blogging

To keep the cats out of the way of the contractors, we erected a barrier made up of twist-ties and that green plastic snow fencing stuff used to line your gardens to keep little tykes out. We figured it was secure, and we ran some tests, such as putting catnip on the outside, and eating cereal with milk.

When we got back from Florida, we couldn't find either of the cats. Turns out one had escaped protective custody and had been bantering about the house, bothering the tradespeople all week long. The other one was hiding so well, we had actually passed by her a couple of times, thinking she was just a sheet or a white blanket stuffed into the back of the closet. We even poked her a couple of times without any response. She is definitely a master of disguise, sort of like Zartan from G.I. Joe, except she likes sunlight.

Long story short, for about three hours after we returned, we thought at least one of the cats had gotten outside and was lost. We were just about ready to canvas the neighbourhood with "missing cat" posters, complete with little pictures of her. I figured there are plenty of pictures of the cats floating around this site, but a few recent pics wouldn't hurt, just in case one really gets lost. Also, it gives me the chance to use my stylish new camera out.

Here's China, the master of disguise:


Here's Athena, the escape artist:


  Recent Photo

I remember I used to post the occasional photo of myself on this site. I also remember at least one person complimenting me on putting photos up, calling my site a "photo blog". We'll it's hardly that anymore. But I occasionally still feel the need to plaster my image all over the place. Like in that new passport application I've got to send off.

Here's a recent pic of me. Don't go stealing my identity.


  Stealing security

So, the strangest thing happened to me this morning. I was at the gym, doing my pre-work workout as I do every other day or so. When I got back to my locker, someone had ripped the lock off the door. Just ripped it off. My locker was gaping wide, with the door just hanging on its hinges. Nothing was taken from the locker, unless you count the lock itself. My wallet, Blackberry, cash, keys, ID ... clothes -- everything was still in there.

I stormed over to the main desk and started ranting about thieves, and how no one can feel safe anymore, etc. The owner's son ran back with me to double-check that nothing else had been taken. It looks like a few of the lockers had had their loops cut with a bolt-cutter sometime long ago before the renovations, and this concerned me whenever I saw it -- but not enough to find a more secure locker. These loops were bent back into shape, and most anything short of a pair of griplock pliers would have had a hard time bending them.

Well, so I thought. Remember this place breeds bodybuilders. Also, the lock I had was one of those combination carabiners, it was an oblong shape, with more leverage than a standard combination lock. Also, it was blue and shiny.

But still, why go through the trouble (and presumably pain) of bending one of these lockers open, stealing the (locked) lock, and leaving all the good stuff inside? Were they going to steal everything, but were interrupted? Were they just bent on a little vandalism? Were they trying to teach me a lesson about securing my valuables properly? Were they gym staff, trying to encourage me to rent a better, newer locker?

Or were they just high school kids, out to prove their machismo to their buddies? And desiring something shiny?

To their credit, the management at the gym gave me a new combination lock (I think I've already forgotten the combo) so I could shower without worrying about my stuff. To their discredit, they were a little laissez-faire about it, when they found out nothing had really been stolen. I'm betting they're not even going to fix those 'problem' lockers.

  Mystery the Snowman

Someone keeps shoveling my driveway and the sidewalk in front of my house. I've even seen snow-blower tracks. I hope whoever it is realizes their mistake and either stops clearing my snow, or sends me an invoice. I kind of like having my snow cleared for me.

About Me

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