Third Alien Shore

In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Backyard dogs

The latest thing I absolutely do not understand has to do with dogs. Julie and I each take Millie out for a walk every day. Millie is young and energetic so it works well for her. We’re not as young but the exercise is very good for us. Everyone is happy.

On these walks through the neighbourhood I pass three or four homes with dogs, and those dogs live in the backyard. No matter the time of day, when we walk by, the dogs in the backyard hear us and bark up a storm at our passing.

What I do not understand is why someone would go to the expense and trouble of giving multiple dogs a home, and then push them out the back door to live outside. In the winter is even worse because of the temperature, but let’s ignore that for now. Why have pets at all if you’re going to keep them outside the house, by themselves?

It just seems like a waste of time and money, and it’s not terribly nice to the dogs.

Hyundai, it was short but sweet. Kinda.

Dear Hyundai Canada,

I regret to inform you that you’ve got a problem. I’m sure you know it, too.

Last year in June, I put $1000 down on an Ioniq 5 at my local Hyundai dealer. What the dealer did not tell me is that you stopped taking orders for the car a few months previously. My order has been sitting in a drawer at the dealership for the last ten months. In desperation, I called a Quebec dealership two months ago and asked how long delivery of an ordered car would take. They told me it would be three years.

Despite all this, your web site is plastered with sales copy like: “Vehicles arriving daily. Order yours today!” “You’re just a click away from a new vehicle.” “Try an EV, before you buy an EV.” Like it’s so simple and fast. Of course you have small print that refers to the current global supply chain issues and warns people that “delivery times on some of our vehicles are also longer than usual,” without telling potential buyers they’ll be waiting a hell of a long time.

It also seems like it’s not just a matter of my bad luck. I’ve seen only one Ioniq 5 in the wild … and the car’s been in production for two years now! I don’t know where you’re shipping them to be sold, but it’s not anywhere around here.

The Ioniq plug-in I bought in 2021 was my first Hyundai purchase and I quite like it. When I decided to eliminate gasoline from my driving, I went to Hyundai again. But you’ve let me down and kept me on the hook for a year, with delivery timeframes moving ever into the future. Either you’re doing your dealers no service by telling them they’ll get cars that don’t come, or your dealers are actively damaging your reputation by making delivery promises they can’t fulfil.

So as a result, two weeks ago I took delivery of a new electric car that is not a Hyundai. Last week I drove that car to the Hyundai dealer to cancel my order and collect my deposit. You cars are good, but I’ve found that I just can’t trust what your people say … and that’s not the kind of company I want to be involved with. I know it’s difficult to get a new customer, so why would you actively push me away?

It’s fine by me though. I have a car and I’m happy. It’s you who missed out on the sale.

Tongue and Groove

I don’t think I mentioned that my last year at the Willowbank School of the Restoration Arts is just six weeks of classes, and a placement. The placement I pursued and am delighted to have secured is with the Brown Homestead in St. Catherines, Ontario. It’s a home that was built c. 1802, making it the oldest house in the city. I’m not going to go on at length about it because although it is an amazing place, you can read about it firsthand by following the link.

This last week, my co-worker Holly and I were investigating the ceiling of a room that is currently undergoing renovation. The easiest way was from above so we removed the wood floor in the room above. While we had the floorboards so accessible, we made some repairs to the most damaged boards.

We’re not sure how old the floor is, because it’s in a loft that housed migrant workers in days past. Given the use of the room, the materials were not the highest quality and the room was likely not maintained to the same standards as the parts of the house in which the owners lived.

The floorboard wood was in good condition, but the tongue-and-groove boards themselves were only loosely fit together, and quite dirty.

Have a look for yourself:

What you see here is the edge of a floorboard with the tongue visible. The left side has been cleaned, but the right is the condition in which we found it. The gap between the floorboards was packed with a century or two of dried and hardened detritus. We have no idea what it is but we certainly took the precaution of wearing masks while cleaning it. I think it’s mostly dirt tracked in on the inhabitant’s shoes, but we also found signs of pests, probably squirrels, so there could easily be faeces and who knows what else in there. We didn’t want to inhale any of that!

To our great surprise, after very lightly sanding the areas we repaired, we saw the wood underneath the dirty grey surface was an almost cheery yellow/orange colour. It looked so unlike the colour of wood that we initially thought we’d revealed a layer of paint. Closer examination revealed that it was indeed bare wood.

We’re going to try to wash a board with linseed oil soap to see if we can bring that colour out in a less destructive way.

It struck me as I was cleaning the board that I held history in my hands. While it wasn’t as grand as a Fabergé egg, it was more real. The deposits between the boards were created by regular people going about their business. I suspect that the boards were installed at least a century ago. So a century of crud was packed between the boards, dried out and hardened. The people who brought that dirt into the room were just like us, but in a different time, long past.

So when I was a kid…

When I was a kid, I was told many times to turn down the music. Even when I had speaker cables running to the basement, so my music and my sleeping parents were separated by an empty level of the house, I still recall my dad coming downstairs and asking me what the hell I was doing. I just kept boosting the volume … until it was too loud.

These days I don’t listen to music quite so loud as I know it could do to my hearing, and I no longer feel any need for rebellion. Rather, I just listen to music. Sometimes it does need to be louder, granted.

So when I moved in with Julie some months ago, I fully expected to have the roles reversed. I’d be the one going downstairs in the middle of the night. But to my great surprise, it hasn’t happened, and it’s not likely to ever happen. Her kids have their TVs and computers, but no stereos. The closest they come is their phones, but they listen with AirPods and other headphones.

From the hallway looking into my ‘study.’ You’re looking at the back of one of the Magnepans … which sounds exactly like the front.

Far from me telling them to keep it down, they are the ones coming to me, telling me to turn it down! It’s mostly the subwoofer the kids want turned down, and it’s mostly the main speakers Julie wants turned down. The kids are a level lower. And one of my Magnepan speakers sits right in front of the door, so since they radiate sound equally forward and backward, it’s like I’m pointing the speaker out the door into the rest of the main floor, where Julie is doing something that doesn’t involve my music.

I get it. Others are doing their own thing and don’t want to be interrupted, but it’s strange that after all these years of living alone, I’m again the one being told to turn down the music.

Goodbye Mom

I’ve had such a difficult time even contemplating writing about this even though most of you already know. My mother died on May 14.

She had a number of health issues plaguing her in her final years. It came to the point that she was under palliative care at home for the last month (or so) of her life. In fact, in addition to the twice daily visits from caretakers, she was scheduled to have a nurse come to spend the nights with her to take care of her. The nurse was to start the night of May 15, so that didn’t happen.

When my father died some years ago, Mom told me that he was lucky because he went very quickly. He rode his bicycle to get the mail on Friday and was dead Monday. She said it wouldn’t be so easy for her. I’m glad that she was largely wrong. She died in her own bed at home. If how she looked was any indication, it was a very peaceful departure because the next morning, I peeked in on her and thought she was sleeping in. Only when I tried to wake her for her medicine an hour later, was I shocked to find her cold to the touch.

Mom and I, quite some time ago.

Many years ago she told me, with a hint of apology in her voice, that I would be the one to find her. She was right.

In the time since then, my sister and I have dealt with almost the entirety of her estate, including emptying her home. It was more work than I could have imagined. It was more difficult than I would have ever imagined. I continued to live in her home for three months after she died and that was not good. There wasn’t a moment I wasn’t reminded of her, and while I certainly won’t ever forget her, being submerged in it was not good for my mental well-being.

I’ve since moved in with my fiancée and things have improved for me a great deal. That’s not to say that the grieving is over, because it’s not. I miss her so much and I don’t think that will ever change. She was my mother. She gave me life. I love her and I always will.

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