Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Blog Has Moved!

Dear Loyal Readers (both of you):

I've moved my blog and changed its name! You can find me at Drop by for a housewarming drink!


Monday, December 19, 2005

The crazy two-day inka hat frenzy

I made another Inka hat - and this one fits me! It only took two days of knitting like a mad fiend...knitting through gnawing hunger pangs, knitting through the mind-wobbling ripples of sleep deprivation, knitting while walking the dog, knitting instead of going to work. Okay I'm kidding, I wasn't quite that bad. But I did knit a LOT.

Now the dilemma: do I keep it or give it to my mother for Christmas? See, here's the deal. I've knit three hats for my mom this Christmas, not counting this one.

Mom's Christmas Hat #1: simple little roll brim in a variegated blue/purple Paton's Canadiana worsted. It's okay. But I didn't realize it wouldn't be very warm until I had knit about 8 of them, including one for myself, which I wore on a cold day and discovered I had knit 8 cold hats. Besides, it was starting to look kind of just wasn't special. So naturally I decided to knit my mom a different hat, a warmer, more special hat.

Mom's Christmas Hat #2: Last year I knit her a scarf out of Estelle's chenille L'il Mama, and I decided I would knit her a matching hat this year. Estelle provides a hat pattern on the yarn ball. So I bought a skein and knit the hat. I swear I followed the pattern, but this hat turned out weird. It's so...shallow. Seriously, my mom would have to balance this thing on top of her head like a pancake, and the first stiff breeze would send it flying. It has no depth at all. It's cute, but useless as a hat. As you can see, it looks ridiculous on me, but not bad on Genevieve, even though we both have 22" heads.
Mind you, Genevieve doesn't have to go outside or move or anything, so she can just perch that thing on her head at a jaunty angle and not have to worry about anything worse than a parakeet mistaking it for a nest.

Ok. So that's Mom's Christmas Hat #1 and Mom's Christmas Hat #2.

Mom's Christmas Hat #3 - I bought the yarn and pattern at a lovely little yarn shop in Perth, about an hour from here. One ball of jazz and one ball of mohair, knit together on size 6 needles, just like the pattern says. Only the pattern neglected to mention that I'd run out of jazz yarn about a third of the way through the hat. It's gorgeous, really it is. But my mom would probably have to dig pretty deep to pretend to be gracious when she unwraps a third of a hat. (I don't have a car, and I am unlikely to get back to Perth for months...I've checked all the yarn shops in Ottawa, and nobody carries Jazz.) The sad reality of this hat too is that it's too small. I tried to convince myself it was just an illusion, but once I ran out of yarn I was able to face the facts: Even if I go out to Perth and buy two more balls of wool, this hat will never fit my mother. Damn her and her normal-sized head!

So....that's the dilemma. Do I give her the Inka hat? It would fit her. It's special. It's warm. I could always make myself another one, right?

Murder in Chinatown

One day after I wrote about my neighbourhood and its vibrant, eclectic blend of ethnicities and cultures, trouble exploded in a little karaoke bubble tea joint up the street. Several young men got into an argument, and a Chinese student was shot once in the head and his best friend was shot ten times. The assailant(s) fled the scene, and despite the fact that the shootings took place in full view of a full bar, the identity of the assailant was unknown. Word on the street was that it was gang-related, had something to do with grow-ops, and the shooter was Vietnamese.

Apparently word on the street was wrong. Unbelievable as it sounds, the altercation began over somebody taking too long in the bar's only bathroom. About a week later, a cross-Canada warrant was issued for an Asian man, who is now believed to have left the country. Meanwhile, the two dead men's parents have come here to claim the bodies of their only children.

Here are a couple of pictures of the shrine which grew outside the karaoke bubble tea joint in the days that followed, to honour the dead men, and to help light their journey to the other side. If you look closely, you'll see that there are also cigarettes. My understanding is that they believe the deceased person retains their earthly needs as they journey to the other side. Earlier this year there was a horrific fire in Chinatown in which five Cambodian people perished, including children. Their shrine grew daily, and was enormous. It included food, water, cigarettes, flowers, soccer balls, decks of cards, money, notes, photographs, toys, games, and much much more. I wish I had a picture.

A couple of days after the Chinatown murders, a young med student was talking to her boyfriend on the phone when her doorbell rang. She asked her boyfriend to hang on a sec while she checked to see who was at the door, and then he heard her screaming. And screaming. And screaming. The poor guy was driving over to her place at the time, helplessly listening to her screaming. She was stabbed over 30 times in the face, chest and back while neighbours on all sides frantically called police. When the police arrived, the man was still stabbing her. It was an old boyfriend from another city, who had gotten into his car and driven five hours to Ottawa. They had met as teenagers in a gifted program. He was described as a highly intelligent, thoughtful, considerate young man from a good family, who had no criminal or psychiatric history. I feel terrible for all of them - the victim, her boyfriend, her family, the killer, his family. It's just so devastatingly tragic for so many people.

Fortunately, Ottawa doesn't get many murders, considering we've got over a million people. These were only the 9th, 10th and 11th murders of 2005 - but they all took place in the same week, in the last month of the year. I'm glad we don't have many, becase I wouldn't want to get used to it. I wouldn't want to think any murder was unnoteworthy.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Inka Hat - Good News, Good News & Bad News

The good news is that it's finished!

The other good news is that I love it. Don't ya love it?

The bad news is that it's much too small for me. I used the wool it called for (Paton's merino) and the needles (3.75mm) it called for. But instead of getting 22 stitches to 4 inches, I got about varied a little between different areas of the pattern. Anyway, bottom line it doesn't fit.

But there's good news! I think it's going to fit my littlest niece, Arrow, who is five, and I've been trying to decide what to knit her for Christmas. There's absolutely no question that Arrow will wear it with far more style and pinache than I ever could. She'll make that tassle dance! So maybe it was meant to be. I'll post a picture of Arrow wearing it at Christmastime.

Meanwhile, more good news - I just started another one for me tonight, but this time I'm using size 4.5mm needles and more subdued colours. The only problem is it won't be windproof because it'll be looser. But that's ok. I'll wear it cross-country skiing, so I'll need a little ventilation.

Life is good. I'm happy.

My birthday resolution: remember and celebrate everybody's birthday in 2006


My niece Lindsay was born on January 3, 1984. This is the birthday that sets the stage for all the other birthdays of the year. It comes right on the heels of Christmas, and every year it’s the same story – all of a sudden it has come and gone and I’ve missed it again! Since I miss Lindsay’s birthday, it wouldn’t be right to show preferential treatment to all the other nieces and nephews by remembering their birthdays! So every year I skip all their birthdays and swear I’m gonna start the year off right with Lindsay’s birthday.

This year I really really mean it. I’m going to knit her a scarf in black and turquoise popcorn yarn to go with her new black coat. Today’s December 17. I have to get to the yarn store this weekend, knit the scarf over the next few days and get it in the mail before Christmas. Boy is she gonna be surprised!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I've been reading the Narnia Chronicles about every 10 years since I was 7 or 8, and I was very eager to see the movie. It arrived in theatres yesterday, and I saw it last night. Here's my review - it's my very first movie review ever.

I'm still mulling it over, not quite sure what to say about it. I liked it, but I wanted to love it. I loved certain things about it...for example, some of the animated characters, like Mr. Tumnus and the beavers, were perfect. But for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, I feel a little disappointed, a little let down. Maybe my expectations were too high.

I did find the movie quite true to the book, although they did have to cut a number of things of course. Narnia looked familiar to me, although I expected more creatures in the wintery forest...there were very few creatures until the wars began. The casting wasn't great...Lucy was well-cast, but the others didn't do much for me. However, in fairness, the characters weren't the most compelling part of the book either.

The battles were pretty impressive. Aslan was a bit of a let-down, but how could he not be? He was so majestic and impressive and god-like in the book, and it would be hard for any animated lion to live up to that. The witch was beautiful, icy and evil, just like I remembered her.

All in all...I'd recommend this movie, and despite my vague, lingering feelings of disappointment, I might even see it again.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Neighbourhood Signage

I love my neighbourhood. I'm tucked into the pockets of both Chinatown and Little Italy, and there's a good sprinkling of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Somalian and other cultures here too. The diverse clothing, people, languages, activities, lifestyles, restaurants, spices and aromas, all combines to make an interesting, trippy little neighbourhood. It's like a big old pot of soup, and it keeps getting better as the various flavours blend and harmonize.

Maybe I just have a juvenile sense of humour, but I get a kick out of some of the local signage.

This Doctor Dentist one is my favourite. I have no idea if the doctor's name really is Dentist or not, or if it was just a misunderstanding between the dentist and the signmaker. If so, I hope they never fix it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Clapotis yarn is here!

My peacock Cherry Tree Hill clapotis yarn arrived today from Sandra Singh, and it is gorgeous! I love it. It's beautiful to look at and luxurious to touch. Everything in me wants me to cast on today, but I am saving it until all my Christmas knitting is finished. I might even wrap it up and put it under the tree as a gift for myself.

As a Canadian, buying online can be wildly expensive because of the currency exchange, shipping rates and duties. However, I'm very happy to report that the exchange was normal, the shipping rates were more than reasonable and luckily my yarn crossed the border with no duty or handling fees. I'm delighted to be able to wholeheartedly recommend this store to Canadian knitters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Prize-winning letter of complaint

Below is a copy of a letter that won a competition in UK as complaint letter of the year...have a laugh and read on.

The British do have a way with words. This is a real-life customer complaint letter sent to NTL (to their complaints dept ...)


Dear Cretins,

I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up for your 3-in-one deal for cable TV, cable modem, and telephone.

During this three-month period I have encountered inadequacy of service which I had not previously considered possible, as well as ignorance and stupidity of monolithic proportions. Please allow me to provide specific details, so that you can either pursue your professional prerogative, and seek to rectify these difficulties - or more likely (I suspect) so that you can have some entertaining reading material as you while away the working day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your office:

My initial installation was cancelled without warning, resulting in my spending an entire Saturday sitting on my fat arse waiting for your technician to arrive. When he did not arrive, I spent a further

57 minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more annoying Scottish robot woman telling me to look at your helpful website....HOW?

I alleviated the boredom by playing with my testicles for a few minutes - an activity at which you are no-doubt both familiar and highly adept. The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later, although the technician did forget to bring a number of vital tools - such as a drill-bit, and his cerebrum. Two weeks later, my cable modem had still not arrived. After 15 telephone calls over 4 weeks my modem arrived... six weeks after I had requested it, and begun to pay for it.

I estimate your internet server's downtime is roughly 35%... hours between about 6pm -midnight, Mon-Fri, and most of the weekend. I am still waiting for my telephone connection. I have made 9 calls on my mobile to your no-help line, and have been unhelpfully transferred to a variety of disinterested individuals, who are it seems also highly skilled bollock jugglers.

I have been informed that a telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that no telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been cut off); that I will be transferred to someone (and then been redirected to an answer machine informing me that your office is closed); that I will be transferred to someone and then been redirected to the irritating Scottish robot woman...and several other variations on this theme.

Doubtless you are no longer reading this letter, as you have at least a thousand other dissatisfied customers to ignore, and also another one of those crucially important testicle-moments to attend to. Frankly I don't care, it's far more satisfying as a customer to voice my frustration's in print than to shout them at your unending hold music. Forgive me, therefore, if I continue.

I thought BT were shit, that they had attained the holy piss-pot of god-awful customer relations, that no-one, anywhere, ever, could be more disinterested, less helpful or more obstructive to delivering service to their customers. That's why I chose NTL, and because, well, there isn't anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was, when I discovered to my considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment what a useless shower of bastards you truly are. You are sputum-filled pieces of distended rectum incompetents of the highest order.

British Telecom - wankers though they are - shine like brilliant beacons of success, in the filthy puss-filled mire of your seemingly limitless inadequacy. Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile and foolhardy quest to receive any kind of service from you.

I suggest that you cease any potential future attempts to extort payment from me for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically failed to deliver - any such activity will be greeted initially with hilarity and disbelief quickly be replaced by derision, and even perhaps bemused rage. I enclose two small deposits, selected with great care from my cats litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete contempt for both you and your pointless company. I sincerely hope that they have not become desiccated during transit - they were satisfyingly moist at the time of posting, and I would feel considerable disappointment if you did not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider them the very embodiment of my feelings towards NTL, and its worthless employees.

Have a nice day - may it be the last in you miserable short life, you irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twats.

still seething

I’m still seething, but the scotch is starting to kick in now. I’ll be okay soon. I have been battling Bell since August over a $49.99 charge for a satellite dish they never installed because I cancelled the order when they tried to charge me $75 for installation after quoting me $0.

I have written letters and emails, and I have ridden their incredibly aggravating merry-go-round of a voice system more times than I care to remember. I’ve been ignored, hung up on, put on hold permanently, passed around, thrown into endless loops, and subjected to many, many hours of forced advertising while on hold. I’ve been promised my credit several times, but never received it. I’ve been lied to. I’ve been told “I have no supervisor” when I’ve asked to speak to supervisors.

It’s so frustrating to listen to that obsequious recording saying “your call is important to us. Please continue holding and we’ll be happy to take care of you as soon as we can. Have you heard about our new…”

At this point I’m so mad I could cry. They put me on hold until the office closed today. And the worst of it is, I hate when I get to the point where I’m taking it out on some low-wage Bell worker, because it’s not their fault they work for a huge soul-sucking monopoly with an intentionally rotten system of customer service.

I won’t give up though, even though the aggravation is not worth the $50. I’m stubborn.