Saturday, December 25, 2010

This and That.

The irony of the blog is that I don't have too danged much to talk about if I'm at home or travelling. 
That's just the way it goes.
 Currently Christmas day,  with the madness of present opening over with,  now waiting for the turkey to cook.
Of course,  we had turkey last night at one of my sister-in-laws in Guelph,  but for some reason that remains a dark mystery for the average man,  there has to be turkey once again on Christmas day.  I think there's even another bird somewhere in this house (kept in a refrigerated state)  that is going to get cooked later on.   I can eat a certain amount,  but after about the third bird,  I do get a little weary of turkey.  That's just me.
I probably need say,  a week between offerings?   That's about all.
The reality is,   with a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread,  I'm pretty much set for at least two meals a day.
Pretty sad,  I know.
 Apart from running the roads from time to time,  I've been farting around in my shop for the most part.   With no particular projects to deal with,  the "project" was mostly just sorting out all the drawers full of various highly necessary items (*ahem*)  that one tends to collect over the years.
Fine,  so there was a certain amount of junk in there that got tossed.
Where does some of it come from,  and what possessed me to keep some of it?

 Meanwhile,  I realised that I had a bare patch of wall that needed something,  and came up with a cabinet to house a few routers and router bits.

Now,  you're probably thinking that that's not much of a cabinet for the amount of time that passed after stepping off the plane a few days back.
First of all,   I have the attention span of a gnat,  which means there are many many distractions that get in the way,  and then secondly,  all the material that went into the thing was left over from some previous projects.  All part of the "cleaning up" process.
Not keen on simply turfing out cherry plywood.
The only slight consideration with using the "found" materials program,  is that I now don't have material for a door.
 It really should have a door.   I'd prefer that those routers stayed right where I put them.   Things had been so well hidden previously (in the mess) that I really didn't worry too much about things growing legs.  I'm a little worried now.   I'll sort it out.

Meanwhile,  my sister has just arrived from out of town,  so I'm pretty much done for this entry.
 See how it goes?   No time for this blogging foolishness.
 Haven't seen her in about half a year.   Best not to be rude.

Hope there's a Merry Christmas in your life today.

 By the way,  here's a picture of the previous project.   I like "built-ins"  and put this arrangement in our bedroom.   Not exactly Ikea.

There are actually many, many drawers down below.   With the way these things go though,  I only have about three of the twelve drawers. 
How does that work exactly?

Is that the subject of a whole other blog entry??

 Best not go there.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Back Home.

I think I'm awake,  although not completely sure.
 The "trick",   and it's not really much of a trick,  is to try and stay awake as long as possible and then sleep through the first night.
 Finally had to pack it in around two a.m. Wienerland time,  which of course is only about eight p.m. in Ontario.  Took great delight in watching all of about 15 minutes of TV in English and passed out.
 The annoying thing then is to wake up at about four a.m. and not be able to go back to sleep.
 This causes a certain amount of "fuzzy brain"  I'm afraid,  and since I'm already contending with a certain amount of fuzziness in the brain department,  it's more like a great hairy quilt.
Our flight was fairly uneventful.  As I think I mentioned,  went with KLM which meant having to connect in Schiphol.  Since the Vienna airport is such a marvel of design, (that,  by the way is a sarcastic comment.   Vienna airport should be torn down)  a great number of flights are boarded using the big-assed bus program.   Has nothing to do with whether the airport is a hub or not,  since Austrian has to use the big-assed bus program as well for many of their flights,  even though it's their main port of call.   This is not so bad in the middle of summer,  but the wind was just picking things when we went to board,  as you may be able to tell from the wind sock that is standing out straight here....

Lookin' a tad bleak out there?

Such a lovely experience to stand on the steps waiting for people to figure out how to sit down.  My guess would be the wind chill had to be around -10°C
Kept my coat on for that first leg of the trip just to try and regain a little lost body heat.

There was a certain amount of concern that we wouldn't have enough time between flights,  or that our luggage wouldn't get to the second plane.  I think we only had about 40 minutes there,  and of course the luggage gets there faster since it doesn't have to make it through the whole terminal.

If you prefer not to click on this little map to get the bigger version,  I'll just point out that we came in at Gate "F" (something)  at the lower left, and had to make our way to Gate "D" (something),  which is way up there at the top.
 Good thing they have an abundance of moving side walks, 'cause it seemed like a good couple kilometres there.  Probably wasn't.
Of course,  there are always those people who don't quite know how to use a moving side walk,  but I don't want to get off on a rant.

Before I get too far along here,  there is just this one little thing that I have to poke fun at.   In this case there was some time to kill before the first leg of the flight,  so we figured we'd go and relax in the First Class lounge.  OK so fine,  we flew First Class.   Whatever.   This is our annual "home leave",  so cut us some slack.    Anyway,  all I really and truly want is a place to sit quietly and be left alone,  which is not always entirely possible if the only other place to sit is at the gate.   Especially when there's not quite enough seating at the gate for the number of people booked on the flight.   Please note and refer back to my previous sarcastic comment about the Vienna airport being such a wonderful design.

So what's with the chairs?   Can you see where they've tried to colour the padding underneath to make it less noticeable?
Just go to IKEA if the budget is limited.  I'm sure they cold approach IKEA headquarters and work out a dealski.

Travelling Companion was trying to convince me that that was the actual colour underneath.   Then how would that explain the unretouched  white bits?

OK,  I'll move on now.

The only other slight snag was coming through Toronto, where the motto is,  "we're not happy,  until you're not happy".   It might take you a second or two to get your head around that one,  but we've been known to come in to Buffalo when we lived in Puerto Rico,  just to avoid Toronto.
 First of all,  with any international flight you have to remember to have your passport handy at the gate,  even though you're miles from Customs,  they check everyone coming off the plane.  Apparently if you land on Canada's shores in the hold of some smuggler's ship you're OK,  but if you come in by air,  they need to check to see if you're still the same person who got on the plane.  Nobody has been able to explain this to me.   At least not to my satisfaction.
Then of course there's the hike through the terminal,  which isn't too bad a thing after you have been completely sedentary for over eight hours.    Gets the blood flowing.  There's not too much point in trying to hurry though,  since you're by no means done.   There's then the wait for the luggage.  Now,  I know a 747 is a big plane,  but that's not the reason that it takes the luggage so long.  There really isn't any reason that the luggage takes so long.
It's Toronto.
Remember the motto.
Fine,  our one and only bag finally came out.   But wait!  There's more!   THEN you have to line up for Customs. 
On this occasion,   I'm not really sure how many flights had come in,  and I've gone through this particular customs point several times before,  so please trust me when I say I have never ever seen this long a line of people waiting to clear customs.
 I was starting to wish for a little Tylenol® by that point.

I think we finally got to our rental car by around six.   Our flight pulled up to the gate at 3:45.
Such fun.

It was all worth it.

I'm as giddy as a school boy.  
 Well,  I'll be a little more giddy after a short nap.

 Hope everyone has a fine weekend.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

A blustery day.

I had read that there was a cold front moving through and that we'd be getting a bit of wind today,  but thought better than to mention it to Travelling Companion,  just to lessen the chance of that whole "weather worry wart" phenomenon. 
Airplanes don't mind wind.   It's things like fog or volcanic ash that tend to make travel plans questionable.

 So the list continues.   I've called for our taxi,  which will be here tomorrow morning at seven.  I guess that means we're getting up at what?  Five?

Meh, we can sleep on the plane.

 I've also made another trip to the post office to send off a few more Christmas cards.   Lining up at the post office is always fun.    Luckily for me I avoided the one line where this young lady had over 150 letters.  Even though they put them all on the scale and she agreed to pay some sort of amount that included them stamping them for her,  she was still there after I had waited for the three people in front of me,  send off my cards and had gone.     Wouldn't there be some better way of doing that?   Just wondering.

 When I happened to peer out onto the balcony this morning,  I was a little bit surprised to see just how windy it had been overnight.

Ruh-roh.   Not exactly the ideal situation for keeping the bird seed dry.   And I won't be here for the next three weeks to do any re-mediation.
I thought by tying the lid down that would suffice,  but a little later on I happened to look out,  and it seemed as if the whole thing was about to go airborne!   Whoa!

Time for a more trustworthy solution.

There dammit.   That should hold it.

Even though I had initially put the feeder out without the tarp,  it was probably a good thing that Travelling Companion had insisted that I cover the table,  since the birds tend to be messy little buggers,   although I haven't seen any evidence yet of any crapping going on,  which was the reason for the tarp in the first place.

We'll see how it looks in the New Year.

I'm sure you'll care.

I think that's about it for today.   I got nothin'.

I just hope my trousers are dry.   Gawd I miss our dryer. 

 Oh....I miss you too kids!   *ulp*

Keep your sticks on the ice.

Almost forgot!  ONE MORE SLEEP!   Heeheeee!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I need more light!

Not sure if I've complained about this in the past,  and if not,  it's a subject that's overdue.   When is December 21st again?  Isn't that when the days start to get longer?
I swear some days when it's overcast it's dark by around 3:00 p.m.

 I don't like it.

 I know we get our reward in the summer time when it's light on into the evening,  but that's not good enough.

That's all I want to say.

Oh,  that and you should have seen me trying to explain to this one guy in Puerto Rico who wanted to rent us his house just how the days are so much longer in the North in the summertime than there.  I could have used something like a baseball and a tomato to demonstrate the angle of the sun,  but didn't have anything handy.
He pretended to understand.  Not sure he did.
At 18° north of the equator,  the length of daylight in Puerto Rico only changes by about a half hour between summer and winter.    And the sun doesn't just gently slide sideways below the horizon.  No,  it drops like a stone.

 On a completely different matter,  today is a National Holiday here in Wienerland,  since it's the "Immaculate Conception",  and everything that matters in closed.   I did however notice that the cops were overseeing the blockage of Mariahilfer this morning,  which to me means the retail stores will be open.  I haven't bothered to go back downstairs to investigate,  since I don't particularly care.

 I couldn't help but notice in one of our local blurbs the picture on the front of one of the small take out places around the corner from us.   They just opened in July and judging from the near constant line-ups,  they seem to be doing well.

Good for them.

 Here's the thing though.

We hate these guys.
Well,  let's just say if they closed up shop and moved away,  nobody in the building would shed a tear.
They were the top most subject of our bitch session with the Landlords a few weeks back.   They managed to stink up the entire building from the very first day they moved in back in July,  and finally the authorities put the kibosh to their vile cooking habits inside the building.  Part of their "deal"  is that they have a storage room off the main hallway for their exclusive use.   Thing is,  they immediately started using it as a second kitchen.


Not sure just what was going on in there,  and I'm sure glad we have one of the newer stink resistant front doors,  since some of my neighbours below would come home at the end of the day to find their entire apartments smelling like a stale Chinese restaurant.  I can only imagine.
Well,  it wasn't much of a stretch of the imagination,  we only had to step out into the hallway.
Couldn't hold my breath long enough to make it all the way out of the building.   Then to make matters worse,  the elevator would konk out on the order of about once a month,  so that meant even deeper breathing on the way up the stairs.

Once again.


The other somewhat disturbing by-product of this stinky business was a sudden increase in the number of rat traps in the building.  Think there was a connection?

Not sure what they're going to do when the weather warms up and their volume goes up.   They won't be stinking up the building any more that's for sure.
When their representative, who was at the previously mentioned meeting, said something about not knowing if they'd be able to stay open without being able to cook in that room,  it was met with a considerable amount of shall we say?  Silence?  Indifference?

Two more sleeps.

3:30 p.m.

This just in.

Seems people are shopping.

 I'm not.

 There was also an offering of music.   No recording.  Sorry.  I'm sure you don't mind.


Monday, December 6, 2010

And now we wait.

We're down to the single digit countdown now.   The weather looks like it should hold out until Friday,  and at least we're not flying into Buffalo.
For those of you who might happen to tune in from other corners of the world,  Buffalo got around a meter of snow last week.  It doesn't matter if you do or do not know how much a meter is.  That's a lot of snow.

Making a list.
Checking it twice.

Finishing up laundry.
 Standing in line for the usual long wait to fill prescriptions for Travelling Companion only to be told to come back in the afternoon since they were out of stock.
Standing in line again this afternoon to pick up said prescription and observing this hair brained individual jump to the head of the queue to ask if she had left her bank card behind and if the clerk would please go back and check only to discover that she had put it in another spot in her wallet.
I did not make eye contact.
Standing around at the bank to make sure a couple bills get paid before we leave.  Standing "in line" is only if you're going to the "Kassa",  all others have to hover around like lost sheep.
Putting our stuff all in one location so as to not forget anything.
Trying to figure out how to pack a jar of honey that somehow mysteriously ended up being brought here from Slovenia without having it explode in our luggage and nicely breaking in the brand new huge suitcase that Travelling Companion got from her American Express reward miles.
Car rental.
Two return tickets to Toronto on KLM. 
Check.   (no Austrian Air thanks)

There will be a couple more things to check,  like order a cab and print off our boarding passes,  but it's too early.
We'll do the smelly cab routine this time,  since the other public transit also involves a little too much walking for Travelling Companion.  Therefore no  "CAT" or "Schnellbahn".
If the geniuses who "designed"  (and I use the term loosely)  the airport here in Wienerland actually had some decent long term parking that didn't cost more than the car itself I'd actually consider it.   They don't.

There's also the small matter of trying to work away at the contents of the fridge so as to not have to throw out copious amounts of food at the end of the week.  The power is considerably more reliable here than in say Puerto Rico,  but I still don't like to leave too much in the fridge if we're away.  
Would prefer to keep the unpleasant olfactory experiences to a minimum,  thank-you.
That mandate would also explain our particular choices when it comes to the airline and the seating arrangements. 
More on that later.

Four more sleeps.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Zimske Gume.

These two words have been going through my head all morning.  They just happen to be two Slovenian words is all,  and they were a couple more Slovenian words that we learned on the weekend.
See,  Travelling Companion's cousin was concerned whether or not we had "Zimske Gume"  on our car.   And yes,  we have "Zimske Gume"  on the car,  and it's a darned good thing we do too,  since it's been snowing just gobs here.

So fine,  if you have no desire to go to google translate and look it up,  that's "winter tires".

 By the way,  don't always believe what you read in "google translate" without cross checking with maybe a good dictionary,  or in the case of last weekend,  a sign advertising winter tires and an explanation coming from a native speaker of the language who just happened to be sitting in our back seat.

 Just thought I should mention that.

I realise it's hard to have all those conditions in place if you're attempting to learn a new language,  but it helps.

 So we're back to this?

I swear this is a new photo!  I had cleaned all the snow off yesterday!
I took it just now,  and it's around noon time.    They're calling for around 20 cm.   Whatever system of measurement you chose to use,  what I see there on the table is beginning to approach the "that will be quite enough,  thank-you"  end of the scale.

The rather expected result of these kinds of conditions is that muggins here has the dubious honour of driving Travelling Companion to work.   She's just not overly keen on that whole winter driving situation.  Wasn't too bad back in Canada,  since she not only had "Zimske Gume" on the car,  but it was only about a 10 minute drive from the house.
 No Biggie.
 Here it's a little different,  since you can well imagine that there might be a couple butt clenching moments on the roads when surrounded by?   How shall I put this?   Those whose driving skills in adverse conditions are somewhat lacking?   I already saw one rear ender yesterday afternoon,  and it was clearly obvious that the rear ender was the result of the one twit simply following too close. 
 Being rear ended is probably my biggest concern.  I'm quite capable of avoiding the twits in front.  It's the nitwits from behind that give me the willies.

Speaking of things that can make a person wonder just what's up,   we were going merrily along on the North Bridge,  and were quite content with the fact that we had left the bulk of the traffic behind,  when out of the blue we get a warning from the "on-board computer"  telling me to cautiously pull off to the shoulder since one of my tires was going flat.


 Thankfully Travelling Companion needs her glasses to be able to read these kinds of things,  so she didn't go directly into a panic.   That always helps.
 Thing is,  some of these cars have just WAY TOO MANY SENSORS,  and if a sensor should happen to,  oh I don't know?  get frozen say?   Then there might be a problem?   There was no way in hell I was stopping at the side of the "carriage way"  on the advise of a few lines of programming.   When we got to Travelling Companions workplace,  I did the only test I knew how,  which was to go around and kick all four tires,  and lo and behold,  they all had air in them.  Besides which,  they're "run flat tires"  whatever that means,   but I certainly didn't feel any adverse effects when we were driving.
 I'd rather not have ever had that experience but trust me,  I know how a flat tire behaves.
Actually,  I also know how a car handles when the entire wheel decides to come off and go rolling merrily off into a cow pasture,  but that's another story.

  That about wraps up today's excitement.   Aren't you excited?

 Word is Travelling Companion wants to be picked up at 2:00 p.m.  which means I'll have to leave shortly.

 Feels like I've been spending a lot of time in the car today.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

We know the drill.

Probably time to dig out the bird feeder?

 When I went out with the shovel to clear the snow away,  I did notice some furtive little bird tracks where they had been looking for food.   I didn't see any evidence of tiny little bird snow shovels,  so I figured I'd just take the initiative and clear off the table.   I mean,  my snow shovel is considerably bigger after all.

Wouldn't they need like a "bird snowblower"?

Never mind.  

That's actually not what I had in mind today.   Other than the fact that we're down to eight more sleeps, (yay!)  the other news is that today was the day to go and pick up our Residence Permits.

Such fun.

Not much of a "yay"  on that one I'm afraid.

 It wouldn't kill them to have a system by which you pay up front and then go to a completely different office to pick the things up but no,  it's the same routine all over again.   You line up outside the building,  shuffle inside (if you're lucky enough to even move that fast)  then get your number,   then go upstairs to the big cattle call type waiting room.

 An hour and a half.

To pick up two pieces of plastic.

Thankfully my bladder was being cooperative.

There was no bonehead this time suggesting we should go to city hall.  
As a matter of fact,  the lady at the first ticket wicket was quite pleasant and chatty.
That was kind of bizarre actually,  since the notion of someone actually being pleasant in that sort of situation is somewhat out of the ordinary.   I'm not just referring to life here in "Absurdistan"  either.   It's been my experience that most "officials" are a notoriously miserable lot and should be taken out behind the wood pile for some "fine tuning". 
Of course,  that's just the "Farmer Bob"  in me coming out,  so don't take any notice.
I have a whole list of folks who could do with some "fine tuning",  but we won't go there.

Speaking of "miserable"....

Sure wouldn't hurt if they'd let you smile just ever so slightly for those types of pictures? Couldn't hurt in my case,   that's for sure.

So there you have it.    We're legal again for another year. 

Well almost.   Mine expires in October,  since that's when my passport expires.  


We're still not going to start the process until two weeks before Travelling Companion's runs out I'm thinking since:
1) I will have renewed my passport when we go home for Christmas, and
2) I don't really care?

I think Lawyer Dude (who was almost on time this time)  mentioned something about 90 days or something.   Whatever.   pfft!  They can kick me out. 

Hope everyone has a fine day.  


Wednesday, December 1, 2010


And this,  Ladies and Gentlemen,  is another one of the reasons I'm not overly keen on taking public transit.   You of course remember the whole not wanting to smell you,  hear you or see you thing I mentioned a few days ago,  right?   Well,  how about being cooped up with the same smelly bunch for a couple hours?
In a subway car.
In a tunnel.

Seems with some of the adverse temperatures (and really,  it's only hovering around the freezing mark)  there was a power outage on one of the subway lines yesterday,  and a train load of passengers were left in a tunnel for TWO HOURS!

 Are you kidding me?

It says there on the second line,  "Wurde Zug im Tunnel vergessen?"   You can figure that one out I'm sure.

I heard something on the radio yesterday afternoon in the car and thought at first I had misunderstood.

 Nope.   Seems my German comprehension skills aren't all that shabby after all.

I would additionally like to point out that,  although I did have to stop at traffic lights and sit in the car from time to time,   I was in fact comfortable,  "moving"  to some degree or other,  and arrived at my destination,  on time, without having the car break down.

Just thought I'd mention that.

And yes I know,  Vienna has one of the best transit systems in the world,  bla bla bla.   Whatever.   And yes,  I know there was that one time there when we couldn't get the flippin' garage door to open for us and we had to jump on the subway to meet our visitors down town.
But we could have also hailed a cab.

And I suppose that being stuck in a subway car for a couple hours is part of the "charm" of living in the big city?  I guess there are certain things I no longer find charming.  The "authorities"  will be investigating as to just what went wrong.   Certainly there must have been people calling frantically on their cell phones?   I mean,  they're always yakking on the damned things in the subway cars,  so I can only imagine that the signal strength must be just fine.  

This isn't to say that I'd never take public transit.   No no,  I'm just pointing out my preferences.   In the best of all possible worlds,   I'd happily take the bike most any day,  with the proviso that there were some sort of notion of  "subjective safety".   Some days I just don't feel like bolstering my courage to ride a bike in Vienna,  especially when the first part of my journey is on a street like Mariahilfer.   The actual weather conditions have very little to do with it.   I would like to get some sort of eye wear to ward off any errant snow flakes however,  since getting pounded in the eyeballs by snow is a bit uncomfortable.   Other than that,   I've ridden in temps down as low as -9°C.

Speaking of snow,  we're getting some.

I should have started a "segue count".   Too late,  dammit!

Just got an apologetic call from German Teacher Dude that he'd rather not head out in the present conditions,  since it does seem to be getting worse.
I'm fine with that.   It's not like he's delivering an organ for some sort of life saving operation.  Life is really too short to be stressing about these kinds of things.

 I'm only slightly annoyed that I got the car washed yesterday.    Kind of a waste.

Remember this?

Yes well,   there's been a slight change....

 Now where did I put my boots?