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Too Much Stuff

As the late comedian George Carlin once said “A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” I was thinking about that awhile back on one of my daily walks, when I came across a whole lot of “stuff” spread out on someone’s front lawn and across the boulevard. There were old tools and pieces of metal and wood, boxes and other items you might find in a workshop.

The thing is, I saw the same junk out on that lawn almost a week later. I wondered, are they just going to leave it there until someone from the city has to come and clean it up? I know that happens a lot.

On another walk, I found an interesting collection on top of a manhole cover, pictured here. A pair of slip on boots and a wine glass. My imagination ran wild. Someone who had been partying a bit too much? Maybe fell down the manhole? Or was beamed up into a UFO? Of course it was probably just someone trying to get rid of their stuff.

That was confirmed days later when I came across the same spot. The boots were gone, but the wine glass was still there. And added to the collection was a frying pan and some cutlery. Dinner is served.

My husband and I have occasionally put things out on the boulevard with a “free” sign, and usually someone will take it. If it isn’t claimed within a day or so, we put it back inside and find another way to get rid of it.

Many years ago we left an old sofa out on the boulevard and watched through our living room window as a couple of young guys plopped each end of the sofa on their skateboards and rolled it away. Perfect.

Old couches and chairs are probably one of the more common sights on the side of the street. What I don’t get is why someone would leave them out there when it’s raining? I mean, if it wasn’t that appealing to begin with, a stuffed chair that has been left in the rain to rot is even less so.

Actually, in these days of COVID, I wouldn’t take anyone’s old couch anymore. You never know where it’s been.

And then there are the electronics. I’ve seen stereos, tv’s, computers and toaster ovens left out in the rain. If they were in working order once, they’re not anymore. What are people thinking? Well, that’s just it. They’re not.

When I left home at 18 years old, all I had was my bed, a dresser, some clothes and my guitar. Every time I moved after that, I seemed to have more things to pack up. Now I sit in a big house with more things than I’ll ever know what to do with. Not just my stuff, but my family’s old stuff too. I need to feng shui and declutter pretty badly.

In a few years, we will have to downsize and I’m not going to be able to bring everything with me. Neither of my kids wants any of it and I don’t blame them. They want to buy their own stuff. And things like old silverware and china don’t appeal to younger generations. They prefer new things from Ikea.

I have a feeling that the first year or two of my retirement is going to be spent just getting rid of stuff. And in the meantime, I’ve got to train myself to stop buying more stuff.

Except for that new bedroom set. I DO need that.

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The A-Zed Blues

I had just about a week or so to enjoy the fact that I had received my second vaccination and it was all done. I was officially a double doser. Then the NACI completely spoiled my fun. And, as you well know, there has not been much fun of any kind for a very long time.

In a statement on June 17th, the NCAI, or National Advisory Committee on Immunization said “…an mRNA vaccine is now preferred as the second dose for individuals who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine.”

Now preferred? Now you’re freaking me out.

Both of the doses I had were the AstraZeneca. It’s just mean to encourage us with “you should take the first vaccine you are offered” and then say “Oh, wait, not THAT one.” It’s not like a piece of clothing you bought that you can exchange when you change your mind. “Oh, I prefer THAT jacket.”

No. Now it’s too late.

Not long after that shocker, Bruce Springsteen literally left me dancing in the dark when he decided that those of us who were vaccinated with AstraZeneca wouldn’t be allowed to attend his concerts. He has since changed his mind. But now I’m really wondering what we AstraZeneca double dosers are going to have to face in the coming months. Or as I like to refer to us, the AZeders.

Will we be shunned in other venues? Will they have specialized AZed dog sniffers at the malls causing a commotion when they corner us? Security guards yelling “Put that down, ma’am. Back out of the store slowly and go home.”?

Will border guards be checking our vaccine passports to assure themselves that we’ve taken the “preferred” vaccines? “Eh, zed? Go back to Canada!” How humiliating.

I understand that these are extraordinary times. None of us alive today has been through anything like this before, so we are just feeling our way, especially with the vaccines. And those in authority have the double duty of not only getting the right information out there, but battling all of the MIS-information.

But I also think there is such a thing as too much information. Because a lot of us are not smart enough to know what to do with it anyway. And we’re already over-anxious as it is, so it’s not a great idea to make us even more so.

I have never before thought to ask where my flu vaccine comes from, I just trusted whatever was put in my arm. It would be nice to feel the same way about the COVID vaccine, but it’s already too late for us AZeders. We took what we could get, with only the intention of protecting ourselves and each other.

Our aim was true. So please don’t Astra-cize us.

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Brown Feathers, Says “Cluck”

I hear them quite often when I’m out on my morning walk. The neighbourhood chickens. You REALLY hear them when they’re laying their eggs; that loud, repetitive squawk.

For a number of years now, the city of Victoria has allowed people to have up to 15 backyard chickens. There are different bylaws in Esquimalt, Saanich and Oak Bay, but for most people, 3 or 4 hens is plenty. Each bird lays one egg a day, so unless you’re selling them, 15 eggs a day would be more than a mouthful.

Roosters are not allowed in most regions for obvious reasons. They would just cause a peck of trouble.

Many people are drawn to those lovely, fresh eggs every day. They buy or build chicken coops and sometimes even create chicken runs so that the hens can get a little exercise. Animal Control encourages people to keep their chickens in the coop until at least 7am, since they can be as noisy as roosters. And apparently raccoons and mink love chicken as much as I do, so the coop gives some protection against predators.

It turns out that you can actually rent hens too. Who-da thunk it? They come complete with a chicken coop, and you can rent them for up to 5 or 6 months. You can even adopt them if you decide you enjoy having chickens around.

Of course, it’s inevitable that a hen will escape every now and then.

One day on my walk a couple of years ago, I came across a piece of paper tacked to a utility post, as you can see here. It made me laugh. Especially the last line: “VERY sneaky!” I kept my eyes out, but never caught sight of the foxy fowl. Hopefully she realized there was better food back at the coop and she eventually flew home.

Right. Chickens don’t fly.

But a couple of weeks back, I noticed a chicken poking around on someone’s front lawn. She was a good size and didn’t look too worse for wear, so she was likely a more recent escapee. The street we were on is relatively quiet, and she seemed savvy enough to stay to the side and just peck around on the ground. I took a picture of her and then, just like that, she disappeared.

A few days ago as I was walking down the same street, I saw a young couple shoo shooing something as a truck came slowly up the road. You guessed it. Probably the same chicken. Brown feathers, says “cluck”.

The couple and I stood on opposite sides of the street and chatted about her as the bird strutted over to them. Definitely a people hen. They seemed to enjoy her attention, and I couldn’t help myself. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” We all laughed.

Eventually, we carried on our separate ways and the chicken got back to her lawn pecking.

I kept thinking about her as I continued my walk. Did she have a fight with one of the other hens? Was she really just a drifter at heart? Maybe she simply found a hole in the coop and decided to make her escape, ready for a new experience.

I mean, I don’t blame her. In fact, I really can relate. I feel that same need to get out, to get away, to have an adventure somewhere different for a change. It’s been so long.

Just like the chicken, we’ve all been feeling pretty cooped up for awhile, haven’t we?

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Shrinkflation

I learned a new word today: shrinkflation.

Shrinkflation is defined as “a term used to describe the process of a product’s size being reduced while its price remains the same.”

Actually, I’ve been aware of this phenomenon for years, just like everyone else. I’ve just never had a name for it.

The first time I remember noticing it was quite a few years back when I was purchasing a certain bath product. I noticed one day that there was less product, but the price hadn’t changed. And the way they had cleverly re-packaged it made it look like you were getting the same amount.

But it really hit me recently when I was buying some of my usual deodorant. The shape of the container had changed. It was made to look like it would be easier to grip, kind of rounded in on the sides. How handy.

And then I got suspicious. I looked closer, comparing the old container with the new one, and saw that the amount of actual deodorant had been reduced by several grams. Surprise, surprise, the price was the same.

Not only that, but on the label, the size of the font with the number of grams had gotten smaller. Trying to hide something?

According to Wikipedia, “Shrinkflation allows companies to increase their operating margin and profitability by reducing costs whilst maintaining sales volume, and is often used as an alternative to raising prices in line with inflation.”

It’s just sneaky, you know? And how long do these companies think they can get away with it? At this rate, my deodorant will be the size of a crayon in a couple of years.

I’ll bet these big companies all have a Shrinkflation department. Nerdy people who sit around all day trying to figure out how to give us less and still charge us more. Change the packaging, make the content look like more than what it is. Give it a new name.

Sometimes they’re very clever, but other times all we have to do is know how to count. That box of tea bags used to last me a month. And didn’t I change that roll of toilet paper just the other day?

To be fair, occasionally there is a legitimate reason for a price increase or shrinkflation. The cost of producing something might go up unexpectedly, for instance.

The makers of Toblerone chocolate created a huge scandal a few years back when they changed the shape of the bar, making the gaps between the triangles wider, AND raising the price. Their explanation was that there had been an increase in the cost of cocoa so it was more expensive to produce. After a public uproar, they finally gave in and went back to the old shape. But the price went even higher.

Deodorant is one thing, but don’t you dare touch my chocolate!

There are some suggestions out there as to how to shop more wisely so you get the same bang for your buck. And of course, you can always complain, write emails, or post blogs.

One of the suggestions I read was that you don’t have to stay loyal to a brand. There’s an idea. Shop around for a competitor’s product and buy that instead. Ha!

Actually, I think I’ll take it one step further. I may just give up using deodorant altogether, and raise a REAL stink. That’ll teach ’em.

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Cycling – One Driver’s View

“Never argue with a bus!” my Dad used to laugh. He was a bus driver in downtown Vancouver for more than 40 years, and he’d pretty much seen it all.

Other vehicles were always trying to outrun or outmaneuver his bus, sometimes to their peril. They weren’t thinking about the fact that a bus is a heck of a lot bigger and heavier, and that a small vehicle would not fare well if the two were to come into contact. All they could think about was getting ahead of the bus.

I was reminded of that the other day when I was in my car right behind a cyclist at a stop light. The cyclist didn’t gesture his intentions, but when the light turned green, he immediately fumbled his way out into the intersection and turned left in front of an oncoming car. All that cyclist was thinking about was beating the car.

Fortunately, the car driver saw what was happening just in time and hit the brakes. And honked.

In the last couple of years, especially since COVID-19 has come into play, there have been a lot more people out there cycling. It’s one of the few things a person can do these days that’s enjoyable and healthy. Unless you make a sudden left turn in front of an oncoming car, that is.

Cycling stores are literally running out of bikes because of the high demand. More and more bike lanes are being built, creating corridors into the downtown Victoria area.

Now, a lot of drivers will roll their eyes at the news of yet another bike lane. But I think they’re a good thing.

A few years ago, my husband and I were in Copenhagen in Denmark and I marveled at how co-operative and respectful cyclists and drivers were with each other. Pretty much every main road in Copenhagen has a bicycle lane with its own signs and signals. Drivers and cyclists alike know the rules and, for the most part, stick to them. Except for children, you don’t see too many people with bicycle helmets. Far fewer 2-wheel-versus-4-wheel incidents, I’d guess.

Cycling has been a big thing in Denmark since the 1880s, and these days, 9 out of 10 Danes own a bike. But it’s also a small country, and mostly flat. Victoria and Vancouver Island don’t have that advantage.

Back in the 1990s, like many families, we had a big van. For the most part I was used to its berth, but passing a cyclist was another matter. One day, long before cycle lanes had come to town, I had to pass a cyclist on a busy street. I got past him okay, and then came up to a red light.

Well, I guess he didn’t like how close I’d come to him when I passed. Or maybe it was something else. But he pulled his bike up along the sidewalk to the right of me as I sat at the light, came around to the front, and spat on the hood of the van. Have a good day.

To this day I still get nervous when I drive up behind a cyclist on a road with no bike lane. Especially on a certain stretch of Bay Street that is particularly narrow. I want to give them lots of room, but if the road is busy, that’s not easy to do. And then there’s the collection of cars coming up behind me to contend with. Sometimes they get impatient waiting for me to make up my mind and lean on the horn. Gimme a break.

Let’s face it; there are good and bad drivers, and the same goes for cyclists. But the reason we have rules for the road is so that nobody gets hurt in the process. And I’m going to need all of you drivers out there to pay attention and do your best.

Because, you see, I’m planning on getting myself a bike one of these days. Maybe a nice e-bike to give me some help up those hills. Because I’m old.

So I’ll need you all to be prepared for that stupid left turn I’m bound to make right in front of you.