Saturday, December 05, 2015

Microwave Burns Out

(draft written 2015_12)
I don't think there is an appliance in my kitchen that terrify me more than the microwave. Oh, no big deal, just a personalized family RADIATION MACHINE to shoot ENERGY BEAMS at food.

Everything else in the kitchen is understandable, and doesn't toe the line of magic and doom. Spinning things with blades, large things that turn electricity into heat. Other heaty things. Sure, they might burn the house down, sure I might sever a lesser used digit. But I'm not going to end up with a laser hole in my torso or a curiously growing tumour.

So it was with some consternation that our microwave/oven vent blew. Just stopped working. My buddy helped me take it down, then even suggested I open it up and look for a fuse. My comfort with hardware never goes beyond assembling components to make a computer. I don't own a solder, for instance. I know OF fuses. I know they have to be replaced when they blow, and that's it. The idea that they'd be in the Radiation Machine seemed a bit far fetched, but he opened it up and voila, there are fuses.

So, looking like, if not feeling like, the adult I appear to be, I went to the local hardware store and picked up right fuse with the right amperage/voltage/whateverage. Brought it back home and plunked it in and wow it worked.

Next morning, blew again. So, getting a new microwave, but happily have not detected any tumour growth.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Parent-Teacher Interviews

Both my kids are of the age where they are in actual SCHOOL school as opposed to School Kinda But Actually Just Fingerpainting and Light Story Reading. The daunted 1-12 years of, for them, public* school.

I know I'm an adult because I seriously think about metamucil and have a considered opinion about mortgage insurance. But a startling reality hits me when the teacher, with all seriousness, asks me if I have any questions. I would only have questions if either of my kids were having a particular problem. I don't have an opinion about the curriculum, for example, or their didatic style. I do feel guilty for this.

On the other hand, isn't it much worse, I tell myself, to be a helicopter parent? To be micromanaging their education and their interactions? 'Yes', answers what I hope is just not the extremely lazy part of me.

I mean, we are all on this planet chaotically, wandering and blundering about and we try and achieve what we can and what we want but to attemp to optimize along every axis seems an act that'll lead to a padded room and powerlifting psychiatric nurses asking  "How was your pudding, champ?"

Or, says the other part of my brain during a sleepness night, maybe I"m just succumbing to laziness and letting them struggle and fight in the mire of childhood because I did and I didn't turn out to be an outrageous disappointment (so far?).

I realize I'm over thinking the underthinking. How much intervention is too much, not enough? At one horrible moment have I irreparably broken my kid? That last question the most haunting and certainly most universal, I think, of first world parents. Well that and, Why The Hell Aren't They Just Going To Sleep Already For The Love Of All That Is Holy.

It's a spinning tizzy of questions and counter questions, a mental sweater with that one thread askew that if you started to pick at it, in no time you have a  tumble of yarn that used to be a sweater, no questions answered, and an analogy that doesn't really hold up to close inspection.

So I always say what I say every year, I smile apologetically, and murmur, "uh, no, thank you".

*Public in the North American sense not the British sense which actually means private and how does the once greatest Imperialist power confuse public with private when both are explicitly opposite? My guess is that you rise to utter world domination and subjugation  by not worrying about things like that.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 5 : Ecola Park

Our last day there we went to Ecola State park, which while also sounding vaguely like a non-lethal intestinal bug was apparently the place we went last time to take our family photo. It's high up over the beach and quite pretty. Wheeling gulls and ocean-wind swept vistas and the like.

There's a rather involved drive where you follow a twisted road. I'm sure it was laid down before any sort of laws were passed about turning radius, minimum shoulder width, and all things that make the average North American road not make you want to grip your steering wheel white-knuckled. At all times, anyways.

I was constantly reminded of professional drivers: truck drivers, delivery drivers, and any and all who have to operate multi-ton vehicles in anything more tricky than the Bonneville Salt Flats --who have a sixth sense where their vehicle is, bringing their tire within an eighth of an inch to the curb or building or small child running for her red ball -- apparently without worrying and sweating and accidentally hitting the horn twice and the high beams once in the process.

This was the sort of road made when men like THAT made roads.

You can imagine them, hacking away at the Pacific Northwest forests, making what they perceive to be a perfectly reasonable path and that would not tax at all the abilities of the average office worker whose trickiest spatial reasoning he has to make is how ergonomic, exactly, IS he sitting.  Optimistic, perhaps a little too generous with those who don't have an easy swagger, and skin made from calluses and rugged individualism.

The pictures were taken, with more squint than was desired, as these things tend to go. The camera balanced inexpertly on a camera bag, inches from the sort of fine sand you should ABSOLUTELY keep from your camera at all costs.

It turned out. It's funny how pictures like that tend to turn out, even when they turn out poorly (well, back in the days of no-preview film), it's poorly in a nostalgic way. The way your cousin is blinking and how dad's hair is something medusa would feel a little self conscious about, these become features and not defects. Mental watermarks on a day that only seem to get better in hindsight.

After that bit we went back tot he cottage for one last day just hanging out and, for whatever reason, not going to the beach. The kids can get in a rhythm where they actually enjoy playing with each other, and it's kind of the magic you want to keep going, not interrupting to go do this or that activity. It also perfectly suits my loosely realized vision of Hands Off And Lazy Parenting. Also known as 80's Parenting.

The cottage is tiny, even smaller than our townhouse, but because it has a somewhat odd layout and there are bunkbeds this makes for a WONDERLAND of fun, apparently.Sure it's a small boring bedroom, but it was a small boring bedroom with a bunkbed with a window that looks out into the family room, how CRAZY is that? Very, apparently.

So we let them have their fun, running around slightly different layout with odd choices for rooms made by budget rather than aesthetic. I'm sure it'll help them develop that spatial reasoning that will only atrophy in time; a skill they'll wish they had when, 20 years from now, they are driving white knuckled through some federal parks' idea of a reasonable road for drivers in 1932.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 4 : Rides

On the fourth day we went to the tourist city, Seaside. Where all the distractions that appear cheap and absurd in your adult's eyes will hopefully be magical to the kids. The tourist boardwalk . Replete with what I assume to be reconditioned rides from carnivals that have long since folded, merry-go-round, saltwater taffy shops, t-shirts shops that show their political bent a little too readily, an arcade, of all things.

Oh, and the standard small train ride that raptures every boy and some girls below a certain age. An age that, I think  Owl Jr has sadly passed. Actually, we steered him well clear of it because we only have so much energy to wait in so many lineups. It was all the way across the street, for god's sake, I used up all my overachieving in high-school.

There were bumper cars though. A ride I always preferred in my youth, favouring a ride in which I had some say in the matter notwithstanding the 22 year old 11th grader who seemed expert in all things mildly violent (a detail that was infuriating to kid-me, and not tragically sad to adult-me). Owl Jr was of the same opinion.

Owlet was fine with me driving, and screaming and hollering as we slammed into and were slammed by various other cars. Owl Jr actually drove, with startling malevolence, accuracy, and bloodlust. Where do children learn how to drive? What is this instinct to bash and crash coming from? It was the first, and probably not the last time one of my children drove me somewhere. The abuse of prescription painkillers in the elderly is no longer a mystery to me.

In the other bumper cars were the other dads and the alternately timid and wild teens.  One quickly finds who is perfectly acceptable targets (most), and who aren't (the kid who's just there trying to obey the rules of the road, for some reason).

Then the tilt-a-whirl. This was what Owlet seemed to enjoy the most. This thing went fast, fast as in "Am I in a reboot of The Right Stuff and/or hurtling towards dangerous re-entry and humming "Battle Hymn of the Republic"" fast. Fast as in I start to wonder at what speeds does the brain develop instantly fatal aneurysms. Fast as in the very vivid thought about how Mrs. Owl would make a striking widow. Fast as in my entire faith (never that much) in the FDA or whatever regulatory body that regulates the speed and safety of worn-down carnival rides housed in long-forgotten tourists traps in a desperately eager beach-town crumbled dust.

Of course I had to maintain what little cool I possessed. It's a well known fact that dads must, generally, Maintain Their Cool. Regardless of me clawing over my children to make sure they didn't get flung into the ether. Small whimpers of terror must be overridden by what I think are robust, devil-may-care laughter. Like from a war-bassoon, or, something equally manly and not at all made up.

They put this bar.. thing, which I think is supposed to simulate some sort of control? But I couldn't ascertain -- in the blinding minutes on what I'll generously call a ride and not "A Machine That Makes You Seriously Consider Life Insurance" -- how exactly it worked. Illusion of control, is what I'm guessing, like traffic signs or gun safeties or elections.

Later we made a trip to the toystore. 'Mass-produced junk mostly made for nostalgia and largely forgotten 15 seconds after purchase store' being too wordy, if accurate. Many items in the store were obviously put there to hook the nostalgia in the parents. Silly Putty, Slinkies, Simon Says. You can just feel the embittered pleas as Gen-X parents try and get their kids play with an archaic toy (only really fun in the 80's because of the inexplicable cartoon tie-ins). And the trains, and puzzles, and the sorts of toys you would've swore were banned in the 70's because of eyes being poked out or lead based paint or a bit of both but some factory in the hinterlands of China never got the memo and is still pumping out GoBot knock-offs with military grade spring-loaded missile-launchers.

Owlet took a sizable portion of a geologic epoch to decide, having been given a budget, and what seems like one quintillion combination and possibilities. Owl Jr lasered in on Lego Star Wars. Not the last time I've been grateful for otherwise heinous media empire cross-overs.

We finished it off with ice-cream, because, you have to finish off a tour of the tourist trap town with some ice cream (ardently-assured to be Real with just sugar/milk/cream and NO ADDITIVES like you have in the city what with your Sushi and hybrid cars).

It's a day I hope my kids will remember with nostalgic fondness and not a wry cynicism. Wonder, exhilaration, joy. And if they have even a smudge of that in their memory, then it was well worth it; Fond memories that will stay with them through whatever they decide to become, anytime anyone mentions the beach or Seaside.

At least until the FDA shuts it down.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 3 : Less Windy

Pacific Northwest Beaches aren't usually the type where all the men are in euro-speedos and all the women in two-pieces that fit with varying degrees of accuracy. It's more like a warmer version of what I think everyone thinks of New England. With better sand and more neutral accents.

We went to another beach at Ecola Park. Which was supposedly 'less windy'.  'Less windy' than the opening scenes to 1996 disaster movie "Twister", the last time Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton were remotely relevant, is not 'not windy'. Also, by meterogical fate, the wind WAS blowing directly onto the beach. Nobody was digging out their loved ones from suddenly appearing sand dunes, but nobody was peaceably perusing a newspaper, either.

Everyone mills about in Gore-Tex or capris and strolls up and down taking a sudden interest in tidal wild-life and various sub-species of gulls.

There are also surfers. Pacific North West Coast surfers, to be exact, in their Subarus and faux-hippie attire and rigourously distressed boards. I often wonder if these surfers get defensive when confronted with a Hawaiian surfer  or anywhere in which the size of waves can be measured in 'number of galleons that it can capsize'.

There are those who obviously insist on experiencing the beach as they imagine it, if we were 10 degrees lower in latitude. Shorts and frolicking in the sort of water they use to prep for cryogenics, I assume.

Invariably these off-seasonals are kids. My kids.

They spend some time making the sort of lumpy no-form sand castles that can only be made with perfectly dry sand, and then decide they want to play in the waves. Sensible parent that I am, I steer them to a calmer area, where the waves won't immediately claim them in a deceptive undertow. Owl Jr. becomes grumpy, because, of course he wants the life-threatening ones, populated entirely with wet-suit wearing Pac NW surfers.

And here, amongst water that makes my toes candidates for hypothermia-relatd amputation from an enthusiastic 1800's naval surgeon, they are most happy. Running to and from the waves. Surfers doing their surfer thing. Me, squinting, the wind and the sun being a bit much for my introvert ways. Mrs. Owl is far back where the dry sand is, being one of those regular people who seem to enjoy sunshine and just, 'relaxing'.

(It's impossible to 'relax' while being assaulted by a bracing wind and a sun that insists it's the middle of summer, is my general take on things. On a couch with the gentle impulse engines of the NCC-1701-D, maybe. )

But boy, do the kids scream alot. It takes a practiced ear and a tense-nonchalance to determine if this is 'screaming because we're having so much fun' or 'screaming because a severed head has just washed ashore'. Context and probability help me out, usually. And this is their game, running to the waves. running away from the waves. Owlet, being a girl who could get dirty taking a bath, would switch up the running and screaming and make extremely muddy lumps of sand and build a sad moat around them, and become pseudo-distraught when the waves washed over it. The things that kids find fun.

And the wind, not noticeably less, didn't seem to bother them at all.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 2 : Arrival

We got a place at Cannon Beach, not Seaside, where we stayed previously. It was by lack of planning, but we ended up liking Cannon Beach more. There is a spurious commercialism, a worn-out carnie atmosphere with Seaside. It has a generally charming crassness but it can start to show through over time, only to be expected of a town that manufactures delight one season every year.

The tired local kids who must wither at the sight of more and more tourists invading their town. Rebelling against everything that kids rebel against every year, but set up against the blare of souvenir shops and saltwater taffy makes it particularly dismal.

The young people, with their loud music and cat calls and impossible displays of athleticism on the beaches, unsustainable choice of cars,  and general aura of invincibility that grates anyone who isn't them. I'm not sure at what point people are emulating what they see on spring-break themed movies and TV, and at what point it's the other way around. It's a McDonald's of sameness, though, from Fort Lauderdale to Venice Beach to here, it's all pretty much the same, the finally pent up and sudden release of all those hormones upon the unsuspecting public, and multiplied by the expectations to do so.

Cannon beach, on the other hand,  is the home to the semi-famous Haystack Rock. It's quieter and settled but you suspect there is no way any town can support that many art galleries. The vast majority of the businesses must be subsidized by the owners, who I imagine to be far too well-off older women who have left their high-powered jobs to get back to roots which involves 'getting back to roots' with other just-near-retirement women and opening an art galleries.

There are restaurants, the sort that usually don't bother showing prices on their menus, or have everything neatly lumped into whole dollar amounts. Complete with horribly over-informed foodies and the forced casual free-ness of men stifling under t-shirts when they clearly would be more comfortable with at least a collar, ideally with cufflinks and season appropriate blazer.

To be clear, both are lovely places, for the right crowd, my family isn't exaactly the right crowd for either.

The house we rented was just right. Overpainted, far too many American flags, a sense of whimsy with regards to what, exactly, is a level floor. Old furniture that didn't so much as not belong together as they were all from exactly 35 years ago, but from as opposite styles as could be imagined. Somewhere there is a Salvation Army whose furniture section has been reduced to a single ottoman.

We decided, after arriving, to just take a look at the beach.

Just stroll, maybe.

Don't bother putting Owlet and Owl Jr. in swimming clothes, it's too cold and too windy and it's just a quick look. We told the kids we'd just look. Owlet asked if maybe she could put her toe in the water. Fine, fine, what could go wrong. Just the toe. 30 seconds later and our attention elsewhere, both the kids are drenched, covered with the wet sand, laughing, and we are glad to be within walking distance of a shower and dry clothes. Owlet has, and we know this, an amazing ability to take whatever small allowances for a given activity, and, particularly if there is dirt involved, increase it until she looks like she's advertising for a new Ultra Cleen Tide brand. The before picture.

Oregon Coast - Part 1 : The Drive

I'm not sure if going a second time makes a trip to a certain area a 'tradition' yet or not. But going to the Oregon coast, seems, in my  memory, something that my parents did with us more than once, so it's close enough to tradition for me to call it one.

Second generation immigrants can't be picky about such things.

In any case we went to the Oregon Coast again, this time to Cannon Beach, isntead of Seaside. Not because one is more tasteful and less bustly than the other and we prefer our beach visits contemplative if not outright Thoreauesque but because we planned late and that's where Mrs. Owl was able to find a beach house. A house near the beach. We are not of the tax bracket where beach house is both literal and figurative.

I get lulled into a a sense of ease when Mrs. Owl tells me it's a 6 hour drive. Doesn't seem so horrible. But it's 6 hours as the crow drives. If the crow didn't have kids and bathroom breaks and the border and eating and nausea and lack of GPS. And, you know, if crows were allowed to drive cars and retrofitted their cars to handle beaks and feathers and if they had the cognitive ability-- you get the idea. The TRIP is actually about 8 and a bit. 

8 hours seems to cross the line for me from 'that seems reasonable' to 'how much are airline tickets, really?'. It's also the length of time I remember my dad driving when we went on road trips. An interminable span that starts in the dewy moment of naivete and stretches to INFINITY.  It's an ADULT amount to drive, and I'd always wonder how the hell my dad did it. Something gets stronger or some mayfly need for novelty dies out when you get older, I assume, that makes the drive doable. I'm still surprised when I do it.

And being this adult-like person, I tend to have a very low tolerance for whining, usually from Owlet, who has a prediliction to car-sickness. It's absurd, my impatience, stemmed both from my current day form of Being Who Can Withstand Boredom and Guy Who Had To Do Drives Like This As A Kid Without A Tablet Showing Movies. Mrs. Owl has to intervene, and apply some patience and listening. It's a small armageddon when both of us have run out of patience. Events that always lead to massive guilt and apologies.

Oohhh roadtrips.