Doug's rants, raves & observations on life...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Things Cheap People Life: Part Whatever

When I was a young lad in my sleepy little Nova Scotian fishing village,* I dreamed of two things: living in Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, and having my very own home office. Since ABC cancelled All My Children, I've turned to the second in hopes of not failing all of little Doug's future aspirations. I also learned that Pine Valley was not a real place. Imagine my surprise after spending weeks scouring the suburbs of Philadelphia for it.

Marco is probably reading this and thinking We already have a home office. Well, not so much thinking it as actually saying it, and shaking his head disapprovingly. But Marco, I say, it's your office, not mine, and there's far too much stimulation there. Like bookshelves and clean floors and comfort. That's why I decided to make the basement my home office.

Nevertheless, having a home office and living in Pine Valley were not my only two childhood dreams. The other? To never spend money on anything.** So does one reconcile these two desires, you ask. Home offices are expensive, and having a second is superfluous. Well, I respond, it's easy when you have a basement and a little bit of ingenuity.

May I present: The Basement.

Creepy, you think. And you're right. It's not one of those fancy finished basements with things like pool tables and floors and convenient electrical outlets. But it'll do.

First, clear out a space. Except for piles like this:

I tried moving this last spring, but something hissed at me. Live and let live, and throw out the old scales.

Find your self an electrical source. For me, this was an outlet clear on the other side of the basement. If that's your case, get a long extension cord. Rather than leave it on the floor, tack it to the ceiling. Literally.

In any office, the center piece has to be the desk, because that's where you'll do most of your work (well, not really. I've almost always been adverse to using desks, especially since The Incident in Grade 5. But that's another post).

This is a desk that Marco bought when we first moved to Columbus and didn't have any money. After we got money, we bought a desk at Ikea, and this one has been in the basement(s) since. When we moved, I lost the screws that hold it together, so it's very unstable. But it holds things, right? When setting up this home office, I was going to buy cork-board for notes and stuff, but that shit is expensive. I was just going to tape some flattened moving boxes to the wall and use that, but scissors are complicated. So I thumb-tacked things to the steps. Now I can reorganize things according to importance, due dates, or how I felt when I woke up that morning. Which is not often in a good mood, mind you. And as an added bonus, the stairs also serve as modern looking bookshelves.

So, how does one keep track of things?

The Calendar

I found this at Target for $5, and stuck it to the back of a box. I wanted to hang it somewhere, but seeing as how there's all concrete walls down here, I managed to find a wire sticking out of the ceiling. A clip, and voila! My very own hanging calendar, which I'm hoping the heating duct (directly behind it) does not catch it on fire. Fingers crossed.

There was no cheap way out of a chair, so I marched myself over to Wal-Mart and sprang $49 on one. That hurt. And for taking notes and jotting down things, which often times involves me pacing back and forth, talking to myself like a crazy person...

White Board

I already have a white board, but I wanted a bigger one. Taking notes on a white board often involves me taking pictures of said notes before erasing them, storing them on my computer and never looking at them again, much like photos of family get-togethers. So I needed to keep it fresh, keep it real... I needed a bigger whiteboard. But that's rather pricey, so I went for the next best thing. Plastic. Since I'm using dry-erase markers, I figured that if I bought a sheet of plastic and stapled it to the wall, it would work just fine. I marched myself over to Joann Fabrics with a dry erase marker in hand, and wrote on at least 7 bolts of fabric and plastic until I found the one that would readily erase. And then I wrote on 4 more because it was kind of fun. And then they kicked me out.

Staple it to the wall, staple a board to the bottom so it stays in place, and suddenly, for just $10.75, you have a 75 inch by 50 inch white board. Nifty, eh? If you don't have white walls, I probably wouldn't bother, because who really wants a brown board? Ridiculous.

Not I'm free to pace to my heart's content. And write, and all it cost was $60.

The basement home office - built yours today!

Oh, and Marco? Suck it.

*Neither of these statements are true. My town was miles from the ocean, and my sex wasn't able to be determined until age 13.
**My allowance was $1 a week until I was ten, and then I stopped getting an allowance at all. I used to spend it on chocolate bars. So this not only explains why I'm cheap, but also why I'm fat.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where I fell, but still not broken

Marco is upstairs snoring peacefully.

At 2 a.m., I'm still awake, and have decided to do nothing tomorrow.

After 3 months of getting up at 7 a.m., it's officially over. 12 a.m. no longer strikes fear into my heart as it did a mere few weeks ago, knowing that I'd be exhausted the next day if I didn't not go to bed soon. But no longer.

I'm feeling a bit guilty over the grades I submitted today for my class, because they were not at all what I expected them to be. The class wasn't what I expected it to be. Of the six classes that I've taught, this one was the first that was an absolutely struggle, day-in and day-out. Nobody wants to take Spanish at 8:30 a.m., and I sure didn't want to teach it at that time either, but those are the cards we were dealt. So grab a 2 litre of Coke and put a smile on, right? I did, and it worked... for a few weeks.

And then the vast majority of the students stopped trying. Literally stopped trying everything: participating, talking, remaining awake, absolutely everything. Normally, before class starts, the room is abuzz in conversations about what people did last night, and how other classes are going, or Grey's Anatomy, or whatever. But this class? Nothing. Dead silence until 8:30 a.m. when I would rise out of my chair and declare "Ya es hora de empezar."

And then? Nothing.

No participating.

No looks of interest, despite making up a story about seeing a UFO for a chapter we did on strange phenomenons. When I asked the class to pool their ideas about the strangest tabloid story/rumour they'd ever heard, I started the conversation with Stevie Nick's assistant blowing cocaine up her ass so as not to ruin her vocal cords. One girl said she had read that Oprah was having an alien baby.

Nobody else said anything.

Silence eventually turned into rancor from two students in the back of the room. Well, actually from just one student until he convinced another to follow him on his path of idiocy. We're all adults, right? Most of the time, it sure didn't feel that way. There are three students that I hope to never see again, and they comprise 66% of that group.

Motivation became an increasing problem, both for me and the students. By the end, I was literally counting down the days.

Despite that, I am grateful for a few of the students who had interesting things and participated as much as they could. They really salvaged the class for me.

The only really good thing to come out of this quarter was going to bed at the same time as Marco. For some reason, it's made me feel closer to him.

It's 2:25 a.m., and Marco's still snoring. I think I'll join him.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Beach

It's a long, desolate stretch of road between Campeche and Champotón, punctuated by occasional shacks perched precariously against the sea and lone vendors of coconuts. It's not a place most tourists see as they zoom down the new highway some miles from the coast, but it's a place that grabbed me, instantly taking me back to similar, desolate stretches of roadway along Nova Scotia's Atlantic Shore. Being close to the ocean is something that I have frequently taken for granted, but when I'm in the moment, it's something awe-inspiring. Christel and I used to walk along the malecón in Campeche at night, staring out at the vast blackness of the sea spread before us. So dark, yet beyond the pale, cities like Veracruz, Houston and New Orleans unfold. In Nova Scotia, it was the opposite; across the ocean was Africa, someplace unimaginable.

The beach at Champotón was rather unmemorable. My classmates and I made our marks, stretching out in the fleeting sun and taking occasional dips into the briny water.

The beach was marked with the occasional oil-motor bottle, and near the road, a large dead turtle splayed out across a wooden plank. It had died in netting and washed up on shore, left as a grim reminder of the shortness of life in the deep ocean. It was disturbing, yet at the same time, utterly fascinating. How could something so magnificent could be felled by a simple net? In the battle between the sustenance of the people and the life of animals, the latter seemed to have little chance of winning.

We didn't have a particular reason for going to Champotón but to relax, so that's what we did. I was having a particularly hard time adjusting to life in Southern Mexico, so the day-trip was a release. I was living by myself, although I had, nominally, a host-mother. A money-grubber she, I was put up in a house on the edge of the city, an hour bus-ride from the university. As if that weren't bad enough, I didn't have a fridge, a stove, or even electricity. Over the weeks I had been living there, I became completely cut off from the world outside of my daily university classes. At night, I would return home to a dark house, dodging the tarantulas on the street that had crawled up from the jungle below. I entered the baking house and laid down on my sweaty bed, listening intently to a small radio, catching the occasional radio transmission from Texas at night, but mostly just static. I eventually went to the local Chedraui and bought myself laundry detergent and a rope so I could at least wash my clothes. And every few days I would do just that, sitting on the floor of the bathroom, scrubbing my clothes in an old cement bucket to rid them of that smell and hanging them out back, praying that it wouldn't rain so that I would have something to wear the next day. I count the month that I lived in that house as one of the toughest & loneliest of my life.

After a few hours spent lazing around the beach, the wind had turned cool and the sky morbidly dark. In the distance, waterspouts flirted with the shoreline, prompting us to make a retreat to a safer area. Suddenly, we were summoned to a sandy knoll by a few people from the university in Campeche. Our purpose at the beach was to be realized: with tired hands, they dug into the sand — searching, pulling. What emerged was beautiful: tiny turtles. Our mission was to give them a chance at survival.

In handfuls, we carefully picked up the clawing, reptilian beasts. The nibbled and scratched, at once both irritating and entirely endearing. We were given strict instructions to take them to the shoreline, place them on the sand, and do no more. If they didn’t walk towards the water, we were not to move them because it could interfere with their inborn sense of direction. The turtles knew what to do, we just had to get them to the water.

With several in hand, I walked to the water, overwhelmed by the experience. I placed one down on the sand, and slowly, it stumbled towards the water. And the second, and the third, and the fourth. Instinctively, they swam forth to destinations unknown, doing just as generations before them had. Seagulls circled overhead, looking for a tasty snack, but the dark conditions greatly inhibited their hunting capabilities.

I had just one turtle left, but as I was about to lower him into his sandy escape, I noticed that his shell was deformed. I asked one of the university students if that would hurt him and, bluntly, they admitted that it would: he was one of the ones unlikely to grow into adulthood. At that moment, I considered putting him into my pocket and going home, giving him a chance to live, but decided that there was no other fate but the one stretched out before the both of us. I lowered him onto the sand, stepped back, and watched nervously as he made his way towards the water. At he reached the edge, he stalled, then turned back, seemingly confused. As much as I wanted to turn him around and point him in the right direction, I couldn’t — it was sink or swim, so to speak.

We later asked the students from the university why they protected the turtles as they did, and that explained that this particular species was on the brink of extinction. In the wild, they would have a 1 in 1000 chance of survival, but their incubation and release technique doubled those odds. Off all of the turtles we released, only one would return to the same beach to produce the next generation. The rest would meet grisly fates — they would drown, or be eaten.

At the shoreline, the turtle with the deformed shell took his first steps into the water, seconds before a wave washed him away. As the remaining rays of sunlight danced on the surface, the sea was awash in black specks swimming furiously to destinations unknown, fighting to be the one to return.

Later that night, as I scrubbed my clothes in the old cement bucket, my thoughts kept returning to that turtle.. Was he still alive? Would he be the one to return? Would he meet the same fate as the fascinatingly grotesque turtle on the wooden plank? He stayed in my thoughts even as I went to bed, the static of the radio slowly lulling me to sleep.

Monday, September 07, 2009

29 years ago at this very minute...

You know the drill. Me, hateful, mother, lady parts. See 2006 for details of that.

The sea separated, and I came walking out.

Since I've elected not to have any more birthdays for the rest of my life, I shall enjoy today. I want ice cream and balloons. And glitter. There can never be enough glitter.

So who's throwing the party?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taking back control

While Loralee is over there talking about health care and getting the attention of the President, I'm sorta just trying to keep my head above water. No, I'm not depressed or anything, but kind of apathetic. You ever have the feeling where there are so many things that you want to change about your life, and you know exactly what they are, but you have absolutely no motivation to do so? Me, check. Like, for the past two years.

Relationships are great, but they tend to make one comfortable. I love Marco incredibly, but I'm in that "comfortable" position - more like a rut. And no, Marco, it has nothing to do with you, it's just me, and my need to shake things up a bit. You don't need shaking up. Well, maybe when you're snoring.

And with the start of the new year*, there couldn't be a better time to jolt myself.
So, here's my list of things. I know it's not for great reading, so skip by if you'd like. Me putting this out in public makes me more accountable. Well, probably not, but me pacing across the living room talking to myself really isn't cutting it anymore.

  • Be more physically active. OSU has a fantastic gym, so why don't I use it more? Because I'd rather be at home, shoving chocolate into my face, that's why. Do this 4x per week, right after I finish teaching at 8:30 a.m. Speaking of which....
  • Try to become less hateful in the morning. Yes, the 8:30 a.m. teaching assignment ranks right up there cleaning behind the fridge with things I actually want to to, but it's only 10 weeks. 10 long, hateful weeks.
  • Eat chocolate at 8:25 a.m.
  • Be more responsible with money. My income is fixed at $1325/mth, so really, this can't be that hard. Usually, if I have some left at the end of the month, it's cause for celebration. The alcohol takes care of the money-overflow.
  • Take left-over money and send back to Canada. Pay off credit cards. Like, really.
  • Speaking of which, WTF is up with Bank of Montreal upping my credit limit to $11,000? I would call them and tell them that I barely make that much in a year if I didn't think a credit limit of 11k was so entirely cool.
  • Cook on Sundays, eat throughout the week. This is key. I throw away too much food because we eat out, and I really feel guilty for all of the kids in Africa who have no food to throw out at all.
  • Note: Mail week-old tomatoes to Nigeria.
  • Simply phone numbers. Right now, there's a Skype number, a vonage number, and a cell number. And Marco's phone. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Except for the last two.
  • Be a better friend. Get over persistant "they probably don't want to talk to me anyway" syndrome. Because really, I'm feeling cut-off.
  • Stop buying useless things. Like Diet Coke. Yes, the DC has to go.
I shall be held accountable for all of this, most of which is self-contradictory and pointless. Let's see how this goes....

* For academics, the "New Year" = September. The real people "New Year" = time to crawl into a hole for a month and ignore everything you're supposed to be doing. But aren't.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

The cucumber runneth dry

It's 1:37 a.m. and I'm starving. Marco took the last of the pasta to work with him, so now I'm stuck eating Weight Watcher's ice cream. It's actually pretty good, if only the FUCKING STICK WOULD STAY STUCK IN THE DAMNED ICE CREAM. This time it didn't, so I'm scooping the rapidly melting ice cream out of the wrapper with a fork. Yes, a fork, just because.

I'm also eating cucumber. Cucumber which I cut up 3 days ago, and is already very dry. Like "oh- my-god, I-didn't-know-that-cucumber-could-get-stuck-in-my-throat" dry. And now I've decided to return to blogger.

I know that there's nobody left out there who reads me, but I've been stuck for a long time trying to figure out what this blog should be. I *think* that some of my students found this, so no more nitty-gritty personal details! Or maybe yes, depending on how I feel, or how angry the FUCKING DRY cucumber is making me.

There are several possibility for this blog. I shall list them, for your viewing dis/pleasure:

  • A weight loss journal. When I originally started this blog, I was a tad bulimic and anorexic, and became thin! But because I ruined my metabolism (which felt so good at the time), the weight came all back. I haven't gained any weight in a year, and I'm not some kind of jelly-blob, but it's time to start taking it off again. Hence eating FUCKING DRY cucumber. I'm minus 6.5 pounds at the moment.
  • A journal of funny links I find on the internet. But hey, that's been done before.
  • A celebutard blog. I shall call myself Clisted. You know, like Dlisted, but more geared towards the grade I'm going to finish my degree with unless I get my ass in gear.
  • Did I mention that the cucumber is dry?
  • A recipe blog! Probably not.
  • A academic revue-type journal. However, given that I'm barely interested in academia as it is...
What to do? All of the above? Maybe. Check back for more once I return from buying vegetables that aren't completely rancid. That goes for you too, celery.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Some to come

It's time to resurrect this sucker.