Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just checking in.

As is typically the case,  our time here is going way too fast.  Always happens.  Can’t be helped.
With the exception of some minor disturbances,  the weather has cooperated the whole time we’ve been here.  The brutal heat that Southern Ontario had been having earlier in the summer has eased up,  the tornadoes and hurricanes have missed us.  Probably best not to go on,  or I’ll be tempting fate.
If you want to have the cr*p scared out of you,  just take a look at the aftermath of Irene.  Kind of reminds me of Hazel from the fifties.   There were many water issues with that one too.  Moreover,  these days everyone and their dog seems to have some sort of recording device,  which means having more immediate access to the destruction.   Personally I’m not really sure that’s such a good thing.  I’d just as soon be blissfully ignorant for a couple days.  But that’s just me.


There’s been at least one theme party.

I’ll let you try and figure out the characters as well as the TV show they would have been seen in.  
This is where the fridge in the shop/garage comes in handy by the way.  

Along with birthdays and pub gatherings,  dentist visits.  Breakfast with friends.  It’s all been good.

I haven’t managed to get myself out on the lake,  since that would have been either last Tuesday or Thursday evening,  and I was having difficulty staying awake much past nine p.m., so my motivation was pretty low.  The boat leaves the slip at six,  the race starts at seven (well,  depending what fleet you race in).   It’s actually been a while since I’ve been out on a boat,  but I’d be quite happy to just be “deck fluff”.
I did manage to find a picture of the boat, which was taken a few years back when we had to nip into Oakville for some reason or other.  My memory is a bit sketchy,  but I think it was one of those wonderful little RV type jobs:  getting the holding tank pumped out. 
Good times.

Tonight is another Tuesday,  but there are plans for a “Happy Hour” gathering at a friend’s house,  and then dinner reservations for later on.

Fun fun!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back in the land of Stop Signs.

I’ve grumbled about this long before we moved to Europe,  especially when driving the motor home through Burlington,  but we seem to have a stop sign every few hundred metres!   Waste of fuel,  waste of energy,  creates unnecessary brake dust. 

I’ll stop now.

I’m not even going to talk about the absurdity of a city like London, Ontario getting some sort of award for their “bike infrastructure”.   Something like that.  Here’s the thing,  painting some white lines on the road,  isn’t going to make it more attractive to ride a bike in your city.  Get over yourselves.


Other than a couple gripes there,  it’s good to be home.   Well,  we did have that tornado, earthquake,  and now it looks like there’s an impending hurricane.   Hm.    The hurricane shouldn’t be a big deal though,  since it’ll be off the Eastern Seaboard,  so we’ll only have some side effects here.  Possibly.

Par for the course when we come home, is that I see little things that I think need my attention.  I say “think”,  since most of the time I could just leave well enough alone,  and the world wouldn’t stop spinning.   I mean,  we’ve had trees cut down in my absence,    along with other minor home owner type issues that really don’t need to wait until I get here.  There are people out there,  if you give them some money,  they’ll come and do stuff.   Sometimes I don’t exactly trust some of them,  but I think you get the idea.


In my shop,  (which Travelling Companion still refers to as a “garage”,  harrumph!)  I have a small beer fridge.  Once upon a time it was a small dorm fridge,  and the person who had it in her dorm naively thought it would end up in her bedroom when she came home.   Right. 

Well,  from time to time it needs to be defrosted,  but it came as a bit of a surprise when I saw this huge chunk of ice where the freezer compartment used to be.





One of the things that has never really thrilled me about these tiny fridges,  is the idea that I might have to actually bend over to get something out of the there.   This therefore,  is the reason that this particular fridge is built into a cupboard,  which then puts everything at chest height.  It’s not exactly handicapped accessible but well,  that’s just too bad.



This would be the empty cabinet.   Why take the fridge out,  you ask?  (You’re probably asleep by now,  but I’ll plod on just the same)  Well,  if a person is going to shut off a fridge with a big chunk of ice where the freezer compartment used to be,  it’s preferable to tip the thing in such a way that the water doesn’t leak all over the place.  Just a minor oversight,  but a really stupid one.

So now you just have to pretend that I’m droning on in the background and realise that this is pretty much the extent of my activities when we’re home “on vacation”.  

blaa,,  blaa,  blaa blaa blaa blaa blaa blaa….

There’s more.   Trust me.  And every bit as exciting.




Keep an eye out for those thunder clouds.




Friday, August 19, 2011

And…we’re done.

I know I said I was going on Blocation,  and I am.  Just taking two seconds to put up the one last thing.

When I got back from dropping off the car (and that was so much fun sitting in traffic),  Travelling Companion had printed off our boarding passes. 

Isn’t modern technology grand?   Mostly.




Hope everyone has a fine weekend.


I’ll be back.


(There’s an Austrian theme in there,  did you get it?)




A brief Blogcation.

I may have to call a brief time-out for a few days.  With it being the last day before jetting on out of here,  there are a few things that need sorting out,  and very limited time to get it done. 

The car has to some how end up being left at the company that cannot be named (forgot to put that in capitals, I guess I’m getting sloppy)  to get serviced,  along with having a rather nasty divot in the windshield repaired.  I’m not too sure,  but it might need a new windshield.  It was just one of those things,   driving along on the highway coming into Vienna about a month ago, we got nailed by a fair sized rock.   The annoying thing is,  it’s right in the line of sight of the driver.  

Really annoying. Believe me.

So Travelling Companion mentioned something about leaving the car and taking a cab home,  but I have to remind her to leave the spare key,  so that when we go to fetch the thing in September,  we can once again get into the parking garage.   Yes,  it will be September when we come back. 

All this thinking so far ahead.  I hate it.


I’ve also booked the cab to take us to the airport,  as well as bring us back here again once we return.   Actually,  I don’t think I ever mentioned that,  but when we went to Rome over Easter Weekend,  I had done the same thing (it’s a company called Airport Driver.at) and although the car that picked us up on the Saturday morning was a Skoda,  the car that brought us back here to the apartment from the airport was a nice big Mercedes.   And here’s the thing!  The Mercedes had twice the miles on it as the Skoda,  but the Skoda rode like it had been through the war!  The Mercedes was well,  a Mercedes.   I only point it out because it was REALLY NOTICEABLE. 

Oh, but what I was going to say was,  you know how the cab drivers and company drivers all stand around with those cardboard signs with people’s names on them?  Well,  as we’re coming out past the point of no return (after Easter, remember)  Travelling Companion asked something like, “Well,  how do you know if there’s going to be a car for us?”,  or something like that, (she always has these questions that get asked in that sort of dripping with doubt kind of way) at which point we both looked,  and there was the Sign Carrying Dude,  waiting there just for us.   It’s was some sort of combination vindication and relief,  all wrapped up in one big warm and fuzzy.   It was even warmer and fuzzier when we saw the car.

Oh, and what if you tell them your name is something like,  “Stinkybutt”?  Are they still going to hold up a sign with your name on it?   Just wondering.  By the way,  Stinkybutt was the least offensive name I could come up with just then.  There were a couple doozies going around in my brain,  but we don’t want an ‘R’ rated blog or anything.


OK,  it was something to do with being a linguist,  but that’s all I’ll say.



So that will be it for me for a few days I think.  Just want to get to that airport.

I’ll quite likely take a couple pictures on the plane.  Or not.  We’ll see.  I’ll have the big camera of course,  since there’s that wedding we’re going to,  even though the big camera can be a mixed blessing in terms of lugging it around,  but I’ll manage.

I might have to borrow a lens from my daughter,  since it would seem there’s some wood to be cut with my “saw and table”.   (I think someone was trying to get my goat there,  but I’m not going to bite) so I might just have to call in a favour.


Maybe sometime next week,  if we’re both alive and kicking,  I’ll turn the key in the blog and see if I can get ‘er going.

Looking forward to a nice cold bottle of Moosehead.


Last sleep!




Thursday, August 18, 2011

I miss our dryer.

I do realise that those are not words that one would expect from some middle-aged guy,  but it’s true.

We had such a critter when we were in the Netherlands,  since we wrote it into our lease agreement.  The one slight oversight was however,  that I should have included the word “nieuw” (Dutch for “new”,  obviously) in there somewhere,  since both machines were well used, and the washing machine in particular was a bit of a comical affair.  It would wash the clothes eventually,  but there were times when it would take most of the day.  And then there was the bleating noise that it would emit.  I have video footage,  but I won’t torture you with it.

All water under the bridge,  which does make me think of the times when I was tempted to take the laundry down to the canal and beat it on a rock,  but we had better not digress.

Oh, and by the way,  the laundry has been my job for many years now.  It’s just the way it worked out.  I know there was a couple moments there when I liked my shirts pressed a certain way when I was in the restaurant business,  but it wasn’t until later when I got the job as a Caretaker that I took over the whole operation.

You thought “The Caretaker Chronicles” was just something I made up?   Um….no. 

It was the first job I ever had,  where I only had to be there for eight hours a day.  What a concept!

This was a considerable contrast to the some 60 hours a week I was putting in during that whole restaurant phase.   There are were times when I would miss the excitement of running a restaurant,  but I’ve never missed having to spend all those hours away from my family. 


When we moved here of course,  we had to buy a bunch of stuff,  which included a washing machine.  We didn’t choose the absolute cheapest one,  even though it really and truly only had to hold on for a couple years (which has now turned into three, but whatever)  but instead got the next level up.  It does a fine job.  I understand that,  for a few Euros more,  the more expensive model will spin your clothes even faster.  Considering this one spins at 1200 r.p.m. on certain settings,  I’m not sure how much more wrung out the clothes could possibly be.  They’re already as wrinkled as they can possibly be,  so I certainly don’t want anything “more” in that department.

Which brings me to the lack of a dryer.  We don’t have one here.  There’s no real place for one,  even though all the outlets are 220 volts,  and the thing could go anywhere.   It would still just be one more “thing” we’ll have to get rid of when we move.

I suppose that a dryer is something that we do tend to use maybe just a tad too much,  and take for granted in Canada?   I’ll quite happily put some things out on the line,  or on a drying rack.  Some things though,  like t-shirts,  or any shirt for that matter,  is going to be a heck of a sight less wrinkled if you throw it in the dryer.  The absurdity of having to iron a t-shirt before putting it on because the thing is too wrinkled to wear to a dog fight just makes my head spin some days.  I guess on the bright side,  I could say my ironing skills have improved,  but I was already fairly proficient. 


I certainly hope our top of the line,  gas fired Whirlpool dryer is still in top form,  ‘cause I’m actually looking forward to using it when I get home!  


Whirlpool Duet combo

(the one on the right)


Geez,  that’s kind of sad,  isn’t it?  



OK, just to balance things out,  I’m also looking forward to using my table saw.  How’s that?

I actually don’t think I have a picture,  but this one I found on the web is REALLY close,  including the fact that it’s on wheels,  as well as the added table part on the right hand side there for a router.

Maybe I’ll need to take some more pictures when I get home, but this one seems to be perfectly serviceable in the meanwhile.


General 350


I have to briefly comment on a comment from yesterday.  Just a slight technicality,  it’s “We’re not happy until your not happy.”   It’s a minor thing,  but as an airport slogan, it’s important to get these things right.


We’re down to two.






Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gonna need more pickles.

And this is when you know I really don’t have too flippin’ much to talk about.  I’ve just about run out of blog titles,  and I’m mostly just waiting around for Saturday morning. 
Well,  truth be told,  if it were somehow possible to be put into some sort of semi-comatose state, and be SHIPPED home,  I’d be willing to try it.  Air travel offers very little in the way of enjoyment for us these days.  I don’t think I’m alone on that one.  To make it even more “fun”,  we’re heading for Toronto airport where,  we’re pretty sure the motto is,  “We’re not happy,  until you’re not happy”.  
A quick shout out to my sister-in-law for that one.  Thanks.
You might have to say that one out loud a couple times to let it sink in. 
Even in large airports like Amsterdam,  Newark,  and Düsseldorf where there is a certain amount of hiking involved after you get off the plane,  at least there’s some sort of diversion,  even if it’s just shops and signage.  In Toronto,  you’re herded like sheep down endless corridors,  reminiscent of a scene out of Outbreak

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to look down to the terminal floor and see everyone else in Hazmat suits.   Not only that,  but Canada Custom’s,  or whatever the hell they call themselves,  have this thing about checking everyone’s passport immediately when you get off the plane.   It’s OK, I’m used to it,  and since I always keep my passport within quick and easy reach in my front shirt pocket and Travelling Companion is pretty quick on the draw as well,  it’s not really a challenge.  The challenge it seems is, for those who have nicely squirreled away their documents in anticipation of the long trek to the actual Customs inquisition. 
Wrong.  Best to step around those people.
I can only guess that these geniuses are checking all passengers coming from Europe,  but judging by their track record for actually keeping bad guys out of the country, they’d be more useful if they’d just offer to help with my luggage.   Or maybe have one of those nifty golf cart things handy. 
Now, I’ll readily admit that not all of the 41000 illegal immigrants mentioned in that newspaper article are “bad guys”, (unless you stretch that definition to being “illegal”)  but you can bet your bottom dollar that anyone who has immigrated to Canada following all the proper procedures,  or even good ole boys like me who were born and raised there,  aren’t too happy with these very bright people living off our tax dollars that call themselves “Canada Border Services Agency”.   They need to get a clue.
Oh wait!  Stop the presses!  Turns out it’s only 39,999.   They managed to nab somebody.  Good thing the “public” are willing to help.  But,  is that it?  That’s all you have to report?  What, are we back in Elementary School?

Not sure how we got off on that little rant there,  but I’m glad I got it out of my system.   I’m also quite aware that this “problem” is a mere whiff of stale air compared to the stench of illegal immigration south of the 49th.   Those Americans!  They like those big numbers!  We’re talking millions of bodies in that case,  but it’s not my place to comment.  I’ll keep my opinions geared towards any shortcomings on the home front.  Canader, eh?

So,  why pickles?

Well,  as the day for the departure draws near,  it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out what to put on the table,  all the while trying to pare down the contents of the fridge. 
It got a good cleaning on Sunday,  so at least that’s out of the way.
Last night’s paltry offering was grilled cheese sandwiches,  along with some potato salad and fries.   It’s kind of one of those “go to meals” that I sometimes fall back on in a pinch.  Since I had to plan on the stores being closed for the two days over the long weekend,  I figured I had better have some toast sized bread and cheese slices at the ready, just as a back up plan.   I thought our pickle situation was in need of improvement.  I don’t think we’ll need any committee involvement to determine if I should buy any more.  They’ll keep while we’re away.  For those not “in the know”,  grilled cheese sandwiches are not only nicely complemented by Heinz ketchup,  but pickles as well.  Just thought I should point that out.
My hidden agenda is to pare down the contents of the freezer as well as the fridge.  The bread goes in the freezer of course,  since the bread here in Wienerland never has any preservatives in it,  and will go stale like nobody’s business.  The fries are the freezer variety too,  and I’ve almost used them up.  It’s usually best to be mindful of just how much I put on our plates.  If it’s in front of me,  I’ll quite often eat it all,  so I couldn’t quite use up all the fries.  (And no,  we don’t just throw things out!  Certainly not food.)  The somewhat amusing thing about the fries is,  they’re from McCain.    Yes,  those guys.  I first saw McCain products in the Netherlands,  so seeing McCain fries here in Wienerland wasn’t such a big shocker.   They’re not New Brunswick potatoes though,  that would be just silly.  Besides,  Austria’s potato industry is as huge as their forest products industry.  
I gave up looking for the pictures I had taken of the potato storage situation, but instead found the post I had written about it.  That works.  It’s here if you give a rat’s tiny behind.  You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom.

So,  in more or less keeping with the “pitiful” theme,  that would be it for today’s offering.

Three more sleeps!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not much to see here.

So don’t squint too hard.

I realised this morning that we should have written down a phone number for the leather bag place,  since I certainly can’t find anything on line.  *groan*.   The big idea was to try and get it repaired during the time that we’re back in Canada. 
I have very little desire to either take the subway all the way down there or to peddle my arse there just to find a phone number.  We’ll strike a committee and have a meeting.  Or something. 
I’ve been watching a construction/demolition crew do a little number on a building down the street for a couple weeks now.  Unfortunately for our “Friseur” (barber/hairdresser)  it’s right over her front door.  She has regular customers though,  so that’s some consolation.  When the owners of our building added onto the building we're in,  the cafe downstairs suffered for a couple years.  His business is all “walk in”.  I felt kind of bad for them.  Not much I can do.
I might have mentioned in the past how they do tend to try and built “up” here,  as opposed to “out”.  Just a concept that reinforces the notion of how wasteful we are in North America with our urban sprawl.   If you’ve ever had the chance to fly into the greater New York area,  or the Greater Toronto Area during daylight, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  I use those examples only since I’ve seen them first hand.  I’m sure the same can easily be said about any of the bigger cities in North America.   L.A. comes to mind.

So,  I took this first picture a few days ago,  August 10th to be exact.   Isn’t it great to have all that extra info there is in a digital photograph?  I’d never remember when I took most pictures,  and being able to look at the “properties” is sure handy.

And just now I had to run upstairs to put something in the storage locker (one of the by-products of cleaning up it seems)  and noticed a bit of a change!

Well then.  Seems there’s no more roof.  We’ll see what they come up with over the next year or so.  
They’re never really sure how long these things will take.  There can be all kinds of little snags along the way.   They told the “Friseur” that it could be a couple years.

In the case of the building we’re in,  it was built in 1908,  so my guess is that the structure itself was substantial enough to take whatever extra weight a couple rooftop apartments might add.   Then of course there’s all that extra “garden” stuff that some people add.

OK you can look away now.

Four more sleeps!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A disturbance in the Force.

OK fine,  maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  It’s more like a disturbance in the Fridge.
Today’s original title was going to be “It’s a Holiday”,  but sometimes I have an abundance of ideas.  Other times,  I come up dry. 
It’s the Assumption,  or something like that.  Mary goes to heaven.  I would wager that 99% of Austrians haven’t a clue what that is,  but they like their holidays.  Turns out it’s not a holiday in Germany and a couple other countries.  Doesn’t matter.  The tricky bit is,  making sure there’s something to eat in the fridge or freezer,  since not only are the stores closed on Sunday,  but in this case also on a Monday.   Travelling Companion remembered that it’s a holiday,  and is spending the day at home.    This is good. 
But,  back to the disturbance.

Yesterday afternoon,  some time around 3:30 or so,  I was sure I heard some sort of a bang,  and I just figured the neighbours were upstairs messing around in their garden.  Well,  it’s really just a mess of potted trees and shrubs,  but it has a “garden” look to it. 
Didn’t think too much about it,  although I did get up off my lazy butt and wander around,  looking to see if something might have taken a tumble,  or if maybe Travelling Companion had knocked something over in some sort of “cleaning frenzy”.  No worries there, since the temperature here in the apartment was getting to that point where a person’s desire for tidying up tends to diminish.   It wasn’t too long after that, that I decided to put on the air conditioning.  It was 27°C,  and my cut-off is usually around the 25°C mark.
I had spent a little time earlier on, copying a set of discs from a series called Harper's Island onto a media drive,  and that was keeping her busy.   It’s a four disc set,  which runs something like nine hours,  so that had been a good diversion from that whole cleaning thing.  It wasn’t even my idea to be completely honest,  (really!) she wanted to check it out in the morning,  and we discovered that our somewhat less than top notch dvd/video player was being a bit cantankerous,  so I offered to rip the discs so she could watch them using a nifty little device that we got for Christmas.   I think I talked about that at the time,  and there are several versions of this particular creature,  which is essentially a way of playing media files without benefit of a computer.  (click the link to see what I mean)  The drives themselves are SATA drives that can be run directly off a motherboard if necessary,  or installed in the player and used like any other media device. (remote control etc.)
Something like that,  I'm not much of a techno-wiz.

Anyway,  in spite of her reviews of Harper’s Island consisting of, “it just gets stupider with each episode”,  she still watched off and on for most of the day.  Sort of like watching a train wreck I guess.  Not sure.
Since our weekends tend to be somewhat lacking in structure some times,  we decided that dinner would be the “Early Bird Special”.   Most weeknights we do tend to eat way too late,  and I don’t seem to recall having much in the way of lunch yesterday,  so eating at something like five wasn’t going to be too much of a hardship.  The other part of that agenda of course is getting ready for when Travelling Companion eventually retires,  although I’d prefer to simply have “Happy Hour” right around that time,  and still eat a bit later on.   We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Our fridge is a bit of an odd little creation,  and apart from making some of the weirdest noises I’ve ever heard come out of a piece of machinery,  (it sort of does this whimpering,  moaning thing?) it has this uncanny ability to drip water down the back wall almost constantly.   I don’t really understand the reasoning behind this particular function,  but I did notice a hole built into a little trough arrangement at the bottom.   I can tell you that it has nothing to do with it being a frost free fridge.  No amount of persuasion would convince me of that,  since the meagre amount of storage in the already minuscule freezer has been mitigated by a protective layer of ice,  and one of these fine days I’ll have to get around to defrosting the stupid thing.   So no,  I don’t know why there’s moisture on the back wall.  All I do know is,  anything that’s pressed up against it,  does tend to freeze up.  What has also been recently reinforced is that tins of soft drinks don’t do well when frozen. 
It was then that I discovered just what that “bang”  was all about.

Ah cr*p.

I didn’t take a picture of the mess,  since I wouldn’t want anyone to accuse me of putting such a disgusting thing on the internet. 
All I wanted to do was take out the chicken.  I didn’t want to clean the fridge!  It wasn’t even on a “to do” list,  which we didn’t even have in the first place!  Maybe I should make a list.   Put “clean the fridge” on it?
Just thinking about it now,  I’m trying not to blaspheme. 

It’s not easy.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

About that car rental thing.

So after all my stewing and hemming and hawing,  (is that a “down East” expression?)  I ultimately ended up going with Enterprise. 
Yes, fine,  you can stop rolling your eyes now.   See,  the thing was, when we went to Toronto in May of 2010 (two trips ago)  Enterprise was still offsite,  hence the wonderful trip in the van. There were other rental places at the airport,  although in a similar fashion to here in Vienna,  as well as a few other airports we’ve been to,  the counter might be reasonably handy,  but the cars themselves are sometimes “out there”.  You start to think, “Am I going to end up just walking all the way home,  what gives?”
From what I can gather, Enterprise has moved to a location at the airport.  Note I said,  “what I can gather”.  The jury is still out. 
So yes,  in answer to one of the comments on a previous post,  the car rental places are in fact at the airport.   Most of them.  What I did discover though is,  it’s usually the pricier outfits.   Just an observation.   Which is kind of odd,  since National and Alamo are both owned by Enterprise Holdings Inc.   Even more curious is that the cars at National at least, are more expensive to rent,  and the models are pretty much the same.   I don’t understand that at all.  I know the Company that Cannot be Named once had a supposed “deal” with National once upon a time,  so maybe there’s some sort of prestige issue?   From what I gather though,  Travelling Companion was never all that pleased with that arrangement,  but that was a while back.

There was one time when we took some sort of cab or whatever home,  and then had Enterprise come to the house and fetch me the next day.  Once you figure out the prices though,  it works out to being pretty much the same,  cost wise.   Not only that,  but the rental site in Burlington doesn’t always have such a great selection of cars,  being the backwater of the rental car world that it is I suppose.
So I guess my point is,  I didn’t want to leave the impression that somehow in Toronto you have to go by dog sled out to the igloo to pick up your car.  There are cars to be had at the airport.   Bad enough that Travelling Companion used to further the myth of the “Great White North” when she was working in Horseheads, N.Y. by telling them stories about rebuilding our igloo.    Or shovelling our way out our front door in the spring time.    Honestly!   Besides,  half the time they had more snow in places like Elmira than we did anyway,  since we’re protected by Lake Ontario for the most part.   Usually by about Wednesday,  she’d turn into this “Weather Worry Wart”,  if it was her turn to drive home,  since getting past Dansville was quite often,  how shall I say this?  a concern?   I’m not quite sure what the deal was with Dansville,  but the Thruway (the 390) is somewhat elevated as you pass by,  and it would always be either snowing or foggy or something.   Each of us drove past Dansville once every other week for roughly the two and a half years that she worked in Horseheads,  and we both have vivid memories of good ole Dansville. 
My hope is that nobody actually believed any of her stories.  We’ll never really know.


The whole “cleaning the whole house”  thing is going at a fairly leisurely pace.  This is mostly due to the fact that a certain amount of time yesterday (Saturday) was spent out and about in the frantic world of shopping in Vienna.   There was a computer bag type thing that needed some sort of repair,  and the shop where it was purchased is in the First District,  so that was going to be our first stop.  Well,  I naively thought it was going to be our only stop,  but after all this time,  I’m still a hapless idiot when it comes to these things. 
Did I mention we’ve know each other since 1978?  You’d think I would have figured out a couple things by now.

Long story short,  the place was closed!  And we did such a good job of finding a close enough parking garage and everything!  Turns out,  the owner of the place has retired,  and their last day of business was July 30th.  Be nice if someone could have done a little update to the website!!  Any repairs that were yet to be picked up could be had at some location out in the 13th District or something.  I don’t know, I didn’t write it down and I have to look it up on the web again,  since I offered to take the thing out there some time this week.  We’ll see how that goes since, if they’re unwilling to honour the warranty,  I’m certainly not going to pay them to fix something that I can get fixed a heck of a sight cheaper elsewhere. 

Or maybe we won’t bother getting it fixed??

 So then we wandered around in the touristy area of Vienna for a little while,  until we had both had enough of that.   (Stephansplatz is a little nuts on a Saturday.) But then having rested up on the drive back up Mariahilfer Strasse,  Travelling Companion opted to bail out along the way,  and I agreed to go pick her up a little later on.  I don’t know,  she spotted a store,  and as I mentioned last week some time,  one of her associates had a baby (well,  his wife did)  and so naturally we “have to”  buy something for the baby.  I’m pretty sure we already bought something for the baby,  but I don’t even want to go there.

 If there’s any advise I could give to a recently married fellow,  it would be that,  in certain circumstances it’s always best to just nod, and say yes.   Don’t ask why.  No no.   Bad.   AND,  count your lucky stars if you get to stay home.   Some times you do have to do the driving,  and maybe do the dropping off and picking up.  Be happy that that is all.   This will be followed by some measure of marital bliss.  For those of you who may be in other “arrangements”,  you may wish to insert “blissful cohabitation”.  
I try to be inclusive if possible.

I suppose that’s the extent of our wild and wonderful life here today in Wienerland.   I know, I know.  It’s hard to grasp just how exiting it is,  cleaning the house and all.
On the blogging end of things,  I’ve been having some consistent issues with Live Writer recently where I get the error message if trying to post,  but once I remove any pictures,  it seems to work just fine.   I may have to do a dump in the cookie department,  but there are a couple obscure passwords that I’ll need to write down first.
And yes,  we do have pretty cool sunsets here in Wienerland,  and if anyone saw any of the Perseid Showers recently,  enquiring minds want to know.  I stayed up past midnight last night and didn’t see a bloody thing.   Staying up much later is out of the question.

I suppose though,  I could always start my training for the inevitable jet-lagged six hour switcheroo that we’ll be facing in less than a week.

That’s right! 

Six more sleeps!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Words that strike fear into the hearts of men.

And ladies,  don’t be upset.  It was some sort of quote or something,  so I can’t really say “persons”, or “people”.  That just wouldn’t work.


I’m not talking about, “That’s a hernia,  you’ll need to get that fixed”.

Although I didn’t get that done right away,  like my Doctor thought I should,  since I was a big-assed chicken. 

Or, “I’m sending you for a Contrast Barium Enema”.

Which,  if you’ve never had one,  is actually not that bad.  Mind you,  when it comes to things you’d like to do for fun,  having someone shoot some white liquid up your poo hole by way of a rubber hose might not be the first thing that comes to mind. 

I suppose there are people who do it for “fun”,  but I don’t know any of them,  and if it happens to be somebody’s hobby,  I’d just as soon that they kept that little gem to themselves.

No,  the worst part of that ordeal was lying on that really hard stainless steel table.   I think that hurt worse than the hose in the hole.  And the hose in the hole part was mostly only some mild discomfort.

It did give me a chance to try out some of my “Burning ring of fire”  type of humour though.   I don’t think the technician was amused.  When someone says,  “You’re worse than my husband”,  that might be your cue to ease up on your Johnny Cash impersonation.  

Hey, she already had a hose up my butt,  I figured,  what the hell?

You can click on that now,  if you want to hear the tune,  or you can wait until the end….if you can read music,  that is.



No,  what I’m talking about here,  are the following words, “We need to clean the whole house!”


Yup,  those words.


I think I’d sooner go for the enema.


Altogether now:

♪ “Love,  is a burnin’ thing…”♪





Oh,  almost forgot.  Seven more sleeps!





Friday, August 12, 2011

Tiny Victories.

Ever have a pen you really like using,  and then when the ink runs out,  you can never find a refill?   I’m sure there are other examples where you go to find or replace a product that you really like,  only to hear that it was a “limited run”  or some such thing?   Usually it’s when the manufacturer discovers that their product is actually a little too well made,  and they decide it would be more profitable to simply discontinue it,  rather than have something on the market that has any kind of reliability or quality.
That’s not where I’m going here,  but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

I normally don’t really hang around stationary stores.  I guess we don’t have anything close to our home in Canada,  so I’ve never felt the need.  Plus,  the tendency is to have a bunch of “throw away” pens on hand,  and then just pitch the thing when it runs out.  

We do have a shop close by out on Mariahilfer Strasse,  and I have had some success in the past finding Christmas cards or whatever,  both in English and German.  They also have a pretty vast supply of writing instruments.  I seem to think I went in there once before with this one particular pen that I wanted to get a refill for,  and the lady couldn’t find anything.  She had nothing else to offer,  which wasn’t the case this morning when I decided to go back in for another go.   Quite often in the summertime,  the full time staff are off on vacation,  and you’ll quite likely end up with a student.  This can be a mixed blessing in the knowledge department sometimes,  but any lack of knowledge is compensated for when it comes to their enthusiasm, or at least willingness to help.
Well,  it turns out that no,  they didn’t have the proper refill, (and I wasn’t really all that optimistic)  but then the young lad gave me the name of another place a few blocks away on Neubaugasse,  and suggested I give them a try.  See,  I’m sure the lady who tried to “help” me the last time could have done that too?   But then again,  maybe she didn’t know,  but I somehow doubt that.  When I was in the restaurant business all those years ago,  I knew where all my competitors were.  I’m just saying.
It was more or less just slightly past where I was headed anyway,  so that wasn’t a big deal.  I was also kind of glad I had stopped in on the way there,  instead of on the way back.  That would have sucked.
Funny thing too,  once again I ended up with a young lad who was no doubt a student,  working at his summer job.  Not only did he know his pens,  but he eventually found something.

We have two of these,  and they’re by no means expensive pens,  but they’re comfortable to use.  See that white bit there where you would normally grasp the pen?  Well,  the word is,  and I have no way of verifying this,  that the material used there is the same silicone that is used for breast implants.   Do they still even use silicone for breast implants?   I haven’t really been keeping up with the latest news on the breast implant front,  so I wouldn’t really know. 
So you can well imagine how I have no way of verifying this assertion.  Even if I did know someone with this particular equipment,  how exactly does a person go about doing the comparison? 
I think we’ll just leave that alone,  and let’s not even begin to try and explain the relationship between the material, and just how comfortable these pens are to use.   We could do a whole psychology paper on that one. 


I spent most of yesterday afternoon wading through the websites of every possible car rental place within a 5 kilometre radius of Toronto International Airport.
Most of the companies that have the “cheaper” rates,  will nickel and dime the crap out of you with all the little extras that they throw in when you finally get to the counter.  It’s also not that easy to find this information,  and I typically had to get two or three pages into the reservation process before being able to get to their policies.
Then you have the obscure directions some of them give you in order to simply get to their desk,  or out to the car.
Here’s a good one for you:


  • Terminal 1: Train platform is located on Level 5 of the Terminal 1 Parking Garage. To get to the train platform from the terminal, take the West Pedestrian Bridge to the parking garage. From there take the link train to Viscount station. 

  • Terminal 3 :Train platform is located on Level 3 of the Terminal. To access the train platform from the terminal, go to Level 3 of Terminal 3 and follow the signs up the escalator/elevator to Link train. Take the link train to Viscount station.

    Are you kidding me?
    This particular company even went to the trouble of including a series of photographs to help the hapless fool who dared to rent from them.
    Who would want to put themselves through that?
    I’m afraid I’m just not clever enough to try and solve that kind of a mystery after an eight hour flight.  On top of which is the inevitable line up at Canada Customs followed by their stupid assed questions.  What’s so hard to grasp about the idea of having a house in Canada,  yet living in another country?    I don’t know how many times we’ve had to explain that. 

  • So hopefully everyone has a happy Friday,  and a fine weekend.  It’s a long weekend here, and Travelling Companion is already looking forward to doing absolutely nothing on Monday.


    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Messing with Biology.

    No no,  I’m not talking about genetics.  It’s heaps stupider* than that. 
    Apparently,  I’ve been working on a little biology experiment in the fridge over the last little while.  I would like to enter a specific time frame at this particular juncture,  but therein lies the problem. 
    A couple weekends ago,  as a result of our little sojourn down to Slovenia,  we came back with some garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.   Man,  I wanna tell ya!  Nothing like vine ripened tomatoes! 

    This is Slovenian Cousin’s garden. Over yonder, underneath the plastic “canopy” are tomato plants.  The use of the plastic canopy is a bit of a mystery to me,  but the tomatoes are damned good,  so it must be working.

    So what that meant was,  the perfectly serviceable cucumber that was already in the fridge got summarily over looked.

    Until this morning. 

    The thing is,  that plastic wrap they put on those English cucumbers I quite often will buy here in Wienerland,  does a really good job of hiding just how gross and disgusting a rotten cucumber can get over the course of what?  a few weeks?  No way of knowing, really.
    Mind you,  it’s a fairly expeditious way of getting the fridge cleaned.   Along with the floor,  not to mention the garbage can.    Didn’t get any slime on my person,  thankfully.  Maybe that somehow comes from all those years as a Caretaker?   I mean,  if a soldier walking down the street hears a loud pop,  he’s just as likely to hit the deck.  In my case,  getting a slimy green thing to the garbage without getting any of it on me comes as second nature. 
    So now I’m thinking,  if the motto for the U.S. Marine core is “Semper Fi”,  does that mean for Caretakers it should be, “Hasta Lasagna,  don’t get any on ya”?

    Just a thought.

    *all mistakes are intentional.

    Now on to part two of things I’d rather not do.  This is something I’ve touched on in the past,  and has to do with booking stuff on line.   Can’t say I’m thrilled.
    Just let me explain.   Most times it’s easy peasy.  If you want to go to a certain concert or opera at a certain time,  and have a pretty good idea of where you want to sit,  then it’s a no brainer.   Somehow I think this is going to all tie in with the biology experiment,  with the key words being, “no” and “brains”.   But that’s just a hunch.
    We’ve already booked our flight home,  and as of this morning, we have nine more sleeps and a “wakie”.   To be honest,  I’m never sure if the “wakie” is supposed to be the last night or not,  since this was a goofy term that I learned from my oldest brother.  He got moved around a lot when he was in the Air Force,  and I forgot to ask him to explain the subtleties of the term.

    Doesn’t matter.   All I know is,  Saturday morning August 20th,  we’re outta here.
    The thing is,  we don’t have any kind of motor vehicle at all over home.  That means muggins here has to rent something.   *groan*
    So I figured,  since we have all kinds of “reward” cards,  it would be prudent to try and get some points some way or another.   Let me give you my little list.  I have “Miles and More”,  “Flying Blue”,  “Aeroplan”  “One Pass”,  not to mention,  an actual “Air Miles” card, which I can’t even find.    I think that’s it. 
    So…”Aeroplan” usually means flying Air Canada,  and I don’t.   “One Pass” used to be OK,  but then Continental Airlines entered into an unholy alliance with United,  so that puts that one out the window.   That leaves “Flying Blue”  and “Miles and More”.   Don’t even bother with “Flying Blue”,  since it’s associated with KLM,  and that would be fine,  except that it’s managed by Air France.   Nope,  I think maybe the air would be blue,  so best to stay away from Flying Blue?  Hey, I like France,  and I like to visit France,  but I’m certainly not going to intentionally deal with the French if I can help it.   I’m just saying.
    That leaves “Miles and More”.   See how we boiled it down there?   Um,  I hope you don’t have to get back to work right away,  ‘cause this could take a couple minutes.

    So fine,  I go to the website,  finally remember what my log in name and password happens to be (argh!)  and then discover that the rental car outfit they’re associated with is Avis.  Just Avis.  That’s cosy.  Fine,  whatever.   Getting a pretty average car from Avis is going to run something like 1500 bucks.  Wow.  Really? 

    But just hang on a sec.  Let’s have a look around.  There’s a site called “Travelocity”,  and lo and behold,  they have a wonderful search engine.   You don’t get any points,  but it turns out that Alamo (and a couple others on the list there)  have the same or better car for about HALF.   Well,  a little more than half,  but close.  

    Holy Cow!  I don’t even have to get the midget clown car either!  I might not have to wind it up or anything!

    But just hold on now,  we already know that Enterprise isn’t exactly on the airport property.  We found that out last year.  Whenever it was,  it was hot,  so that must have been in June.   You have to take a van.  I’d say “shuttle bus”, but that would imply comfort.  No,  this was a big ole Ford van,  which would have been great for loading up with tools and such,  but not necessarily for anyone who has just been sitting on an airplane for over eight hours.   I realise I just called it and “old” van,  when in fact my guess is that it was new.  It just rattled and banged like an old one.
    And fine,  maybe I’m being fussy,  but I’d sooner DRIVE MYSELF or,  if I’m being taken off airport property,  then it needs to be in taxi or limo or something.   Not a van.  That’s all.
    So,  we can rule out Enterprise,  and I won’t be pulling the trigger on this until I’ve looked for the address for each and every one of these outfits.  I suspect there’s sneakiness going on when it comes to divulging their actual locations.  
    I don’t want to be driven half way home,  just to pick up our rental car. 

    Who knows,  maybe that’s why the cheap ones are cheap,  since they don’t have to pay “airport rent”?  
    I guess we’ll find out.

    In addition to it being “nine more sleeps”,  today’s date has one other significance.
    Today is August 11th.   Just so happens to be our Anniversary. 
    Twenty-one years married. 
    Thirty-one years living together.  (hey,  it was 10 years before we could afford to get married,  ease up!)
    Travelling Companion also pointed out this morning that we’ve actually known each other since 1978!

    Holy cr*p on a cracker! 

    We’ll see how the next thirty-one goes.


    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Can anyone explain this?

    Just this past weekend,  when the plans were still such that we thought we’d go to Slovenia,  I came back home after going to to fill up the car and run to the hardware store,  and said to Travelling Companion,  “Y’know,  if a person from North America just stepped off a plane and decided to rent a car here,  they’d crap their drawers.”

     I realise that I’m more or less used to the “cultural differences” by now,  (along with the traffic,  and all the rest of it) but every so often there are things that jump out in front of me, that make me do a double take.

    Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a prude. At least I don’t think I am.
    I think I’ve mentioned in the past that,  when we were in sunny and very hot Puerto Rico,  I had no qualms whatsoever about wandering around the house with not much else on except my “fur coat”.    I’m not talking about clothes here.  The fundamental reason for ever wanting to stay covered up, in my case at least,  is that the Wolf man and I could pass for first cousins.
    For me,  the notion of “propriety” has very little to do with whether or not you’re male or female.  I’ve seen “gentlemen”  wandering around with no shirt on,  and my first thought is,  “Oh man,  you need to cover that up”. 
    Which brings me to the reason that,  for many of us,  having some clothes on is usually a good thing.  I can’t speak for everyone here of course,  since there are those who think they are absolute Gods or Goddesses,  and that we should be so lucky to gaze upon their countenance.

    I suppose it all has to do with proportions,  or “body image” or whatever.

    Just the same however,  the idea of having one’s nekked “countenance”  plastered on the front page of a newspaper,  just somehow doesn’t quite work for me.

    I know it’s a free newspaper (and as I’ve said before,  “worth every penny”)  but what the hell?? 
    And yes,  I suppose I’ve seen bigger boobs on some guys,  which usually brings me right back to the thought I expressed just a minute ago and yes,  lots of folks wear even less on the beaches in most of Europe.  Just the same,  it doesn’t happen just everywhere,  and there are rules as to just where you can take it all off.    Moreover,  you don’t put a picture on the front page of a newspaper.   At least, that’s what I used to think.

    So,  maybe Heidi doesn’t have a problem with this?  Don't know.  She must know she’s being photographed,  and judging by the fact that she’s had a kid and yet has abs of steel,  she’s probably quite pleased with the notion of someone taking her picture.  She’s 38,  and although blessed with good looks earlier on in life, you don’t get to look like that after having a kid without some “work”.   Serious work.

    I’m not offended or anything.   I’m just confused.

    I’m also reasonably certain this one won’t be getting picked up by the Associated Press any time soon….
    Just a hunch.


    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Don’t you just love a good recession?

    Well,  not if you have any plans of getting “out” of the market.   That wouldn’t be prudent, unless you cashed out a couple weeks ago.  If you did,  then good for you.  But if you’re looking to go shopping,  there be deals out there.   There are those I am sure who are just lying in wait.  I’m not saying what plans (if any) I might be entertaining.  That also wouldn’t be prudent.

    The gold bullion ship has sailed,  so that’s not an option.  It’s great to have hard currency, but don’t kid yourself,  there’s not going to be another ‘29 crash.   An ‘October of 1987’ would be more likely.   The only reason that I remember that particular date,  was that it was my 31st birthday.   Of course,  I barely had enough money to buy a decent pair of socks,  so anything to do with the Stock Market wasn’t part of my daily thoughts.
    I was most likely more worried about whether my car would start.  Or if there was enough gas in it to get me to work.

    My eldest brother told me a little tale of woe many years later,  of how he had just “bought in” on the previous Friday.  Talk about “timing”!
    I think it was to the tune of about 25 grand,  only to see that it was only worth about half that amount on the following Tuesday.  It all came back, but not without a certain amount of butt clenching.
    This is probably why I received an email from our “guy” back home.   He’s actually not allowed to communicate by any means other than either face to face,  or over the phone,  so I don’t ever get random emails saying what we should buy or whatever.   In light of that six hour time difference,  if I want to talk to him,  I have to wait all bloody day,  and that can really suck.   No,  he was just sending us a note from one of the big head gurus of his “E. F.  Nuttin’ “  investment firm.   (that’s not really their name,  I made that up)
    It took the guru at least 750 words to convey the simple notion to chill out.   He could have just shortened it to,  “Dude,  (and Mrs. Dude) don’t freak out!”  and that would have had the same impact.  Do these people think I can actually stay focused long enough to read something that long?


    I have trouble enough going back and proof reading my own drivel.

    And well,  maybe using the term “Dude” might have given me some thoughts as to their credibility,  but you know what I mean.

    Now,  for something that’s fun to think about,  I’ve heard that Volkswagen is a good buy.  Their most recent dividend was around 2%,  with the only slight wrinkle being  just how pricey their stock is.  Or,  was.  It's coming back up again though I see.

    Anything that pays in that range every quarter is certainly better than a GIC.   The thing is though,  it trades on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.   That doesn’t work for me.   I could go down to Bank Austria around the corner,  and they’d happily set up a brokerage account for me,  but when we leave Wienerland for the last time,  I intend to have no ties to Europe in any way, shape or form. 

    Just taking my pictures,  and my new coffee cup.

    Oh,  almost forgot.  Eleven more sleeps!


    Monday, August 8, 2011

    No beer, no wine, no chocolate.


    Since neither Travelling Companion nor I slept all that well Saturday night,  we thought we’d try a little experiment for the following night.

    For her part,  she has some issues with blood sugar,  and as a result,  I’m slowly working on either a degree in chemistry or some sort of qualification as a dietician.  Why is it that the older we get, and the more we need to know about how to look after ourselves,  the more brain dead we are,  making it that much harder to learn? 

    I can only speak for myself of course,  so don’t take offence.  I think you still might just be quietly nodding your head though.

    The internet does come in handy,  since we can look up “stuff”  and hope that it gives some sort of clue as to what’s going on.  Some times it’s cr*p,  and you have to take a rather empirical approach to most anything you read,  no matter how official sounding it might be.  My rule is,  I’ve always only ever believed 10% of what I hear,  and about half of what I read.  Just means I have to wade through more “stuff”  to try and figure it all out.  Most times I never do.

    The tricky part is to know when to call,  “Bullshit!”,  since there’s a lot of it out there.

    That’s a card game, by the way.  I found a couple links


    So the deal was,  no alcomohol, and no chocolate,  and we’ll see if we sleep any better or feel any better in the morning.   I might have buggered up the experiment by taking one solitary Ibuprofen before going to bed,  which meant sleeping right through until five a.m.   That’s the first time I’ve done that,  and thought I’d give it a try,  since I usually wake up with something “bothering” me. 

    Wonder what it’s like to sleep in zero gravity?  I’ll bet those astronauts don’t get woke up out of a sound sleep with complaints from a bum hip.


    Well,  I didn’t like that experiment one bit.  I felt just as crappy as any morning,  and had to give up the goods the night before with nary a hint of an encouraging result.  What the heck is the point of that?


    Since we weren’t going anywhere yesterday afternoon,  I hauled out the manual to the Nikon once more to try and get past always shooting in “auto” mode. 

    There was a time in my distant past,  that I actually had a pretty decent idea what I was doing in the picture department,   but then cameras started getting so many “features” that I got lost some how.

    Of course,  the manual seems to be missing just that one clue to which ever step it is that you need to make to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.   I wasn’t about to give up though, even though the part where you had to change the image format was in a completely different section.


    Like anything,  it’s a matter of practise,  and in the digital age,  that’s certainly a whole lot easier than blowing a half dozen rolls of film,  experimenting to see the difference between shooting at f11 and f2.5

    The other thing is,  with some digital cameras,  you can do some fancy stuff,  like this.



    Maybe “fancy” is a stretch?  How about totally useless fluff?  No need for a darkroom at least.

    The example given in the manual is some night photography where the rest of the picture is black,  but I think you get the idea.    It’s actually kinda creepy.


    I’m not sure I’ll be needing this “feature” right away.  I’ll keep it in mind though.   Of course,  the trouble with that is,  if at some point in the future I have that light bulb moment when I figure this is just the ticket,  I will have forgotten all the steps it takes to make it happen.


    Which brings me right back to what I was saying about becoming a dietician.  There’s just too much to remember.




    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Not where I thought I’d be.


    That could apply to life in general I suppose,  but that would be a whole other story. 

    I haven’t been too enthusiastic about writing much,  and if you stick with me here for a couple minutes,  you’ll see why.


    Let me put together a few snippets,  and you can then put the rest of the picture together.

    First snippet:  Remember we went to dinner with an associate of Travelling Companion on Thursday night?  This person actually reports to Travelling Companion, and that’s only important to understand the situation.  We talked about a bunch of stuff during dinner,  not the least of which was her Dad and how he liked to putter around in his garden.   The usual polite small talk.  Certainly better than talking about the weather.  Plus, I’d like to remind you that I don’t know how much I’m not supposed to know,  so there’s no talking about any goings on at The Company that Cannot be Named.  That can get tricky.  Case in point,  it’s really poor form to lean over to the boss during the company Christmas party and ask, “So which one is it you’re going to get rid of?” 

    Nobody heard me,  so settle down.   And besides,  it was years ago,  and that person is long gone.

    So it’s usually best to just pepper people with questions about their life.  Most everyone likes to talk about themselves,  so that usually a good strategy.


    Second snippet:  Another associate,  who also reports to Travelling Companion,  will be taking a few days off,  since his wife just had a baby!  Such fun!  We saw the picture.  Little girl.  Usual newborn cuteness.  That kind of thing.  (To think you can take a picture with your phone,  and send it to someone’s house!)


    Third snippet:  Knowing that the second associate I mentioned was going to be away, (the new Dad), Travelling Companion spent the entire day Saturday working from home,  since the cloud of “month end”  takes a few days to dissipate,  and without certain helping people in certain places,  making sense of some of it can be a challenge.  (I’m really glossing over things here since,  once again I’m really in the deep end).  Basically speaking, being away all day Monday meant having to do stuff on Saturday. 


    So now we move ahead to Sunday morning.  Travelling Companion is once again on her computer doing…whatever,  we were just about to get to the stage where we fire up the iron and sort out what we’re going to be wearing, and her Crackberry does that little dance that it does when someone is calling. 

    Why would anyone be calling on a Sunday morning?   It’s the middle of the night in North America,  so that rules out that part of the globe.  (we hope)   Turns out it’s a phone number in Germany.  

    It’s immediately apparent that the woman on the other end has been crying,  and continues to sob throughout the conversation.   See,  the Dad who likes to work in his garden?   He passed away suddenly Saturday night.  Not a hint of a warning.

    There were no details forthcoming.  The poor soul could barely get out the words as it was,  so no questions were asked.  So that means that a second person is going to be away,  since she’ll need time to deal with the death of her father.

    Time to make a tough decision.

    Without enough bean counters around to hold down the fort,  nipping off to Slovenia and being away from work on a Monday wasn’t going to be possible.  Certainly not this close to month end.

    So that was that.


    If these things come in threes,  I certainly hope this counts as the third. 


    I jump as it is when the phone rings.


    I’ll try to come up with something a little more “peppy”  to talk about for next time.  I promise.



    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    No second chance.

    The latest news is that the funeral for the Auntie who passed away on Thursday morning is going to be on Monday.  So that means we’ll head off to Slovenia tomorrow (Sunday) after breakfast some time.    We’ll be staying over night at the cousin’s place in Sava.  It would seem those were the arrangements that had been made for the next time we were there.  I’m perfectly happy to stay in a hotel,  but staying with relations,  even if they are distant,  is OK with me I suppose.   The service will be in Žužemberk.  At least we know where that is.  I suppose the service will be in the big church up on the hill,  but Travelling Companion seems to think there are other churches in town.  I sure didn’t see any.

    Some times there are only limited chances to do certain things.  Missing out on someone’s funeral certainly falls into that category.  There’s no “do-over”  when it comes to that event.  Each of us only ever gets one.   The unfortunate thing about this particular Aunt is that we never got to meet her.   No “do-over” there either.
    Many of Travelling Companion’s siblings (along with their tag along spouses)  had the chance to meet Teta Cerila. (Aunt Cerila)

     The word was,  if you go there, make sure you’re hungry.

    In all the trips we’ve made to Slovenia,  there never was just the right moment to go visit.  I’m not going to get into the reasons.  Just showing up at her door was out of the question,  since even a planned visit was quite stressful for her. (I think it was preparing all that food).  It’s not something I completely understand,  since I was brought up with more of that East Coast Hillbilly mentality,  where you would just “stop by” and see people.  If you yakked long enough (and my father could easily have been accused of being able to talk the ear off an elephant)  and supper was being served,  then you just stayed for supper.   Mind you,  it was usually my Mother who had the common sense and decency to say,  “C’mon Dad,  we better get going!”,  before there was any hint of supper preparation.

     It wasn’t until I moved to Ontario in ‘67 that I was introduced to the curious notion that you called ahead.  Seemed like a very strange idea to me at the time.   Even to this day,  if I’m at my brother’s place in the Annapolis Valley,  (Nova Scotia),  and we want to go visit a cousin over in Margaretville,  the only reason we might call ahead, is to see just how foggy it is.  If it’s really bad,  it’s the driving that’s the worry,  not whether or not you’re welcome to come in! 
    Of course,  there was a period of time there,  when not everyone you might stop in to see even had a phone,  so maybe that’s why the idea of calling ahead was so strange to me.
    I did slip out today to fuel up the car and take a run over to Obi to pick up a couple packages of screws,  so I can do a little remedial work on some door handles at the place where we’ll be staying.  This is a lady who lives on her own,  and there are a couple things that need a little attention from time to time.  The last time we were there,  I went to open a door on the way into our bedroom,  and the handle came off in my hand.    To make it even more interesting,  the only screwdriver she could come up with was a tiny little slotted thing.  I’ll be taking along some tools tomorrow as well.

    Not too much else going on in the way of excitement I’m afraid.

    I suppose I’ll have something or other to say on Tuesday. 
    We’ll see.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


    Friday, August 5, 2011

    An evening out, and a phone call.


    Usually within a few days after the end of each month, there’s a flurry of activity on the “accounting front”,  and as a Divisional Controller for the Company that Cannot Be Named, (the official blog moniker) that can often lead to long hours for Travelling Companion.   I should point out that,  most of her days consist of long hours anyway,  but that’s beside the point.

    The thing is,  from time to time,  “help”  comes in,  by way of Plant Controllers or whatever other name that they might go by.

    It’s a bit odd here in Europe,  since they break it down into “finance”, and “controlling”.

    I’m not sure how the heck that’s supposed to work,  but it’s not my place to speculate.


    So Travelling Companion has had a visitor who had come down from Germany for a couple days to lend a hand getting the books organised, (or something like that,  I’m in the deep end here)  and that usually means either leaving the person to fend for themselves in the evenings,  or possibly taking them out to dinner.  Some times it can be a whole group.  Normally I have very little interest in tagging along since, if it’s a group situation,  the hope is that it’s at least a special occasion like a retirement,  or moving to another division, since the conversation usually revolves around the goings on of the company anyway,  and I couldn’t care less.   I hear enough of it most every night,  and half of it is such that I don’t even know if I’m supposed to know it or not.    So…I can’t even utter a peep,  since I don’t know what I’m supposed to know.  And I’m probably not supposed to know anything.  

    Got that?


    It’s heaps less confusing if I just stay away.


    So then I stay home.


    Now,  I don’t really mind, and I’d sooner that a person who has come to lend a hand not sit and eat by themselves,  so if Travelling Companion takes said person out to dinner,  it’s no biggie. 


    Apparently that plan wasn’t going to fly,  since there was a question like,  “Well,  wouldn’t Bob like to come along?”

    Admittedly,  he does eat dinner,  and not only that he can take over the driving.  Just a side benefit for Travelling Companion.  


    The way these things go of course,  that meant that I had to make the reservations.  I suppose I don’t mind doing that either,  even though I already had a pretty good grasp on what we were going to have for dinner here at “Chez le Caretaker”.

    Mind you,  getting in to a place like Plachutta with about two hours notice can be a bit of a challenge.  And you DO need to have reservations to get into Plachutta.  I’ve seen many a poor tourist looking plaintively at the Maitre-D,  unable to get a table,  as we’ve sashayed on by on the way to our table that most times I’ve had to reserve days in advance.


    I’m not sure if it helped or not that my name came up in their little database, and there was some back and forth and such, but we managed to secure a table out in the “garden”.    If you’re not familiar with dining concepts here in Wienerland,  in the summer months it’s all about having an eating area outside.   EVERY place,  whether big or small is going to have anything from a couple tables to an entire section of the restaurant outdoors.    Usually they take over part of the street by blocking off a half dozen or so parking spaces.  I’m sure getting a permit for that isn’t cheap, but it must be worth it.

    Plus of course,  you can smoke out there. 


    In terms of logistics,  any time Travelling Companion comes by our front door to fetch me,  it usually involves a switch,  since I always end up behind the wheel.   Last night though, I just jumped in the back seat, since there was no place to pull over,  but I sensed that that wasn’t going to last long.   We just needed a fresh light to stop at,  and then to make a switcheroo.  I felt like we were rehearsing a circus act.   I got out of the back seat and moved to the front,  Travelling Companion went over to the passenger side and our guest moved to the rear.   Travelling Companion was willing to go to the rear,  but since she’s the boss of the outfit,  the guest wasn’t going to hear of it.


    This was all accomplished before there was even a hint of the light getting ready to change. 


    Dinner was outstanding.  I didn’t go for the “Tafelspitz”  this time around,  as I have done on the last four or five occasions that I’ve been there,  but instead had some Beef Medallions,  (tenderloin)  with a side of some sort of dumplings.   The biggest challenge for me was not to just scarf it down in about nine seconds flat.   This joint is a tad pricey and hard to get in to,  but the food is awesome.   Funny how that works.


    We were quite willing to give the guest a ride back to her hotel, but since she not only speaks the lingo and already had transit fare,  we parted company a couple hours later.


    It wasn’t long after we got home last night that the phone rang.  You have to understand that our phone doesn’t ring that often,  and we have call display.   So when the display showed the number for Travelling Companion’s oldest sister,  you already start to wonder if there’s something that’s not quite right.


    You might recall the house that we had been looking at in Žužemberk?


    Yes,  this one….



    Well,  the reason that we didn’t go in,  was because the Aunt who normally lives there was in the hospital.   It seems to me she had a bit of an “incident”  (this was all explained to me in Slovenian so you’ll have to bear with me if I’m a little vague)  and was in the hospital for treatment.   There was every prospect of her coming out again,  even if it meant she might only be able to go back to the “care facility” where she had been staying for the last little while.   We learned on the weekend that we were not going to get to see her,  since she had a staph infection.   Turns out,  it got the better of her,  and she passed away sometime Thursday morning. 


    At the moment the details of a service are yet to be determined,  so there’s the very real possibility that we’ll be returning to Slovenia on the weekend!  

    Travelling Companion will try calling the cousin some time later tonight.  

    I know I can do the trip down and back in one day,  and that’s one possibility that has crossed my mind.


    We’ll see what our plans will be.  




    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Confessions of a Chocoholic.

    It’s true.  I think I have a problem.
    I’ve never been one to talk about any of the soul searching kind of cr*p that some folks might think is appropriate for a public forum,  but I think it’s time to fess up.
    First of all, I know I’ve had some problems with addictive behaviour in the past. 
    After about a month of living in Paris as a young student,  I was pretty sure I was becoming an alcoholic.  I mean,  wine was the cheapest thing going,  even cheaper that Coke,  milk,  water.
    Besides,  who wants to while away the time in the evening sitting and chatting with friends over a glass of milk?   I’m not saying it won’t ever eventually come to that, (*gasp* with some chocolate chip cookies??)  but that’s certainly not going to happen when a fellow is 22. 
    I mean.  C’mon.

    Turns out my fears were somewhat unfounded,  since I can leave the “demon drink” alone,  sometimes for days on end.  I’m not even sure what the real signs are,  but I think it has to do with not being able to stop after just one?
    Can’t say the same about cigarettes though.    It was also during my first stay in Europe that I was a smoker.  I’m not talking about smoking your run of the mill,  namby-pamby  Craven “A” with filter tips either.   I certainly would have smoked them if I could have found them,  but the only “Craven A” I could find in Paris had no filters with cork tips.  Wowsers!

    I see you making a face,  and so you should.

    What that meant was,  after about every third drag,  you’d have to spit out the little bits of tobacco that ended up sitting on your tongue.  Gah!
    In desperation I would sometimes accept either a Gitanne or Gaulois.  And if you want to go with the expression, “That’ll put hair on your chest”?   Well,  I do have a certain amount of proof of that.   Chest,  back,  arms.   Just not so much on my head anymore. 

    There was a brief moment of realisation,  a few years later, while standing on the front porch of my brother-in-law’s brand new house with a couple other fellow smokers on a bitterly cold (-15° C) eastern Ontario morning,   when I began to formulate a plan. 
    It was time to quit.
    Don’t get me wrong,  there were days when I really enjoyed smoking.  I’d smoke my brains out.   Other days not so much.   Most days though,  there was that annoying cough,  along with that even more annoying stink.  Everything stunk.  Many smokers don’t realise it,  or don’t want to admit it,  but they stink.

    You do.

    It was then along towards the end of June,  1987 that I smoked my last smoke.  The thing is though,  I’m still addicted.  Oh yes,  those little “nicotine receptors”  are just sitting there waiting for another “fix”.    Now I know that’s not the proper term,  but the actual explanation is way too complicated.

    I can’t make much sense of this,  can you?

    you can double click this one.



    All I know is,  I can’t have just one.   Now,  how do I know this?  I mean,  without studying diagrams or medical texts,  and long before there was something called “Wikipedia”?   Well,  that’s because when I quit,  it wasn’t for the first time.  Previous to that,  after having proudly gone ‘without’ for almost a year and a half,  someone innocently offered me a smoke,  and I accepted.  


    Fell for that one.  I was hooked again.  That’s why I know I can’t have just one.
    I’ve often thought that if I were to ever get drafted,  and I’m way too old for that now,  I’d start smoking again!
    ‘Cause if bullets are going to be flying past my ears,  then dammit,  I’m gonna have a cigarette in my mouth!


    So what about the chocolate?


    Europe is the place to find the “really good stuff”.  If you have a bit of a problem,  you’re in the right place.  You can get a fix on most any street corner.  Most grocery stores have a full aisle of chocolate!    In a place like Bruges,  where it’s “Belgium Chocolate”  (*drool*)  the choices are mind boggling!

    (I’m starting to shake ever so slightly here….)

    The quality is all the same,  so it’s mostly a question of which shop to choose?  I figured out that the thing to do was to watch the kids on their way home from school (without appearing too creepy,  of course!)  and then go in whatever shop they had just come out of.  They would obviously know who had the best prices!   Heehee!  Such smart little Belgians.

    See,  kids are good for something.

    I’ve even gone so far as to give advise to tourists here in Wienerland looking for a fix.  There was this one particular group that had just come out of one of those Mozart Chocolate whatever places,  and were looking understandably disappointed.

    Some people like their chocolate cut with Marzipan,  and the “Mozart” people use a lot of it. 

    Personally,  I’m not keen. 

    It’s right up there on my “hate list” with flavoured coffee.  Can’t stand it.   Just give me that pure stuff grown by Juan Valdez.


    You know him, right?  He’s a busy guy.

    Besides,  what’s Mozart have to do with good chocolate?

    The thing is,  I do try and make sure I go all day without a fix,  and it’s only later in the evening that I might go to the “treat drawer”,  (and don’t get too high and mighty,  we all have a “treat drawer”)   and maybe have half a bar? 

    Well,  sometimes the whole thing. 

    Last night though,  I had a brief moment of panic,  when I opened the drawer only to see that I had no chocolate there!  What?  This can’t be.  This never happens.

    It was also in that moment that I realised that I just might have a “problem”?  Ahem.

    Then I remembered that,  since it had been a tad warm,  I had placed it carefully in the fridge.  (*phew*)
    We do have small fridges here in Europe,  but there’s always room to keep your chocolate cool.  
    Even if it means getting rid of some vegetables.

    Which reminds me.   I think I had better go to the store.

    You believe me when I say I’m going there to buy more vegetables,  right?