Wednesday, 19 April 2017

My Oven Was Trying to Kill Me

Today I made hard-boiled eggs in the microwave.

I never even knew it was possible to make hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. I mean....why on earth would anybody, anywhere willingly choose to make hard-boiled eggs in a microwave? For me, the microwave has always been a glorified double boiler/butter melter/pizza re-heater. I simply don't cook in a microwave.

Maybe it's because of the less than appetizing food that seems to come out the microwave. Perhaps it's an unnatural fear of radiation poisoning our meals. Perhaps it's just the reality that a microwave is a cooking tool rather than a full-fledged cooking device. Whatever the reason, today, out of sheer necessity, I made hard-boiled eggs in the microwave.

Why?

Because our full-fledged cooking device has been thankfully euthanized. Our stove, which hasn't functioned properly since we moved in here, is about to become a matte-finished heap of useless scrap metal. May it forever rot into whatever hell stoves/ovens descend.

We knew when we bought this place that the oven was less than optimal. The gas burners didn't properly ignite and the gas stove, which I will admit to being fearful of and less than enthusiastic about, cooked unevenly and overheated on a regular basis. The previous owners needed to get the oven into working order and to their credit, they did just that. It was our own fault that we didn't include a "please do not incinerate our food" clause into the real estate offer. The oven consistently ran about seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit hotter than any set temperature, so it wasn't unusual for cookies to come out charred or roasted cauliflower to become a meal fit for Satan.

Repairing a seventeen-year-old oven seemed silly. We knew that a replacement would need to be found, but we also knew that we would be spending the winter south so procrastination was definitely in order. I started doing the research on new ovens while in the Southern Home and while I often hyperventilated over the cost of even the most basic of said devices, I knew that a functioning oven wasn't a luxury.

Our timeline was accelerated during my cooking preparations for Passover. When a batch of my chocolate macaroons came out flambéd after only 8 minutes at 270 degrees, we knew that we were at the end. Not only that, we started smelling gas on a regular basis. I was getting paranoid. Was our oven trying to slowly poison us or maybe a grand explosion was in the cards? When The Husband lit a Yahrzeit candle for his father on the last evening of Pesach, I hurriedly moved it to a different area of the condo for fear of us both winding up on top of the dome. Whatever the issue, we knew we were done. The Husband (thanks to the Divine Spirit for a handy husband) found the gas shut-off and we have been without a functioning stove or oven for almost a week now.

We are limited in our options. Due to the configuration of our condo kitchen, we need to have a downdraft. A hood and a fan aren't really options in an open concept design with twelve-foot ceilings. The stove would have to fit neatly into a previously designed spot which meant a 31-inch slide-in model. I really wanted to keep the gas burners but was adamant that we have an electric oven, which meant dual-fuel. When all the research was completed, we realized that we only had a choice between two models. Ruling out the Jenn-Aire was a no-brainer. We haven't had good experiences with this company in the past, and thus we were left with Kitchen-Aid. The reviews on it are positive so we ordered it.

The appliance store insisted that their installer must come out to take a look at the situation before they would even allow us to make the purchase. Sam showed up on the day of the second seder. He pulled and prodded. He hemmed and hawed and then said haltingly, "I'm not sure that it's possible."

What. The. Fuck???

Sam (who for some reason insists that we call him Mac) told us that the downdraft from the old oven is in the wrong place and he is pretty sure that the new oven won't fit. I asked him what the solution might be and he said without any trace of irony or amusement, "You might have to do a full kitchen remodel."

What. The. Absolute. Fuck????

I remained calm in the face of stupidity. "Sam/Mac," said I. "We are not remodeling the kitchen unless you are offering to do the work gratis. Obviously, we need a stove. You are basically telling us that there isn't a SINGLE model on the market today that will work? Your job is to make it work. MAKE. IT. WORK!"

Sam/Mac got back down on his hands and knees, hemmed, hawed, huffed, and puffed and lo and behold came up with a solution. A Pesach miracle. He tells us that the installation experience (?) takes three days. One day to uninstall the old piece of shit that wants to send us into the world beyond. A second day to deliver the new model and remove the old piece of shit that wants to send us into the world beyond. And finally, a third day for Sam/Mac to install my heavenly new piece of nirvana.

Day one was today.

Hopefully, we are on tap for delivery of the new machine tomorrow and we can kick this piece of crap into the gutter.

But until Sam/Mac returns on Friday, reconnects the new stove, and gives us a gas feed that isn't going to launch us into orbit when we ignite the burners, I will continue to make hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. Our very safe, possibly radioactive microwave.

I suddenly feel an overwhelming need to take a Silkwood shower.







Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Another Vignette of Tikkun Olam

Another quick and really nice story from the streets of urban Toronto.

I know, I know. 

I am in danger of losing my official membership card to the "Curmudgeonly Gadfly" club, but my psyche has been in desperate need of good news stories. Trust me. When baseball is no longer an escape but instead it has a compounding effect on my acid-reflux, you know that I am on a precarious perch. So when I see deeds of loving kindness up close and personal, I feel an overwhelming need to share.

Yesterday, The Husband and I had an appointment in the east end of the city that required a ride on the Queen streetcar. While waiting at the stop, we noticed a gentleman who had obviously spent the frigid night before sleeping in the bus shelter. He was amiably chatting with some other familiar locals and just trying to keep the crisp April morning air at bay.

While we continued to wait, I noticed that the Tim Horton's directly behind us was doing its usual brisk early morning business. Easter Monday is a school holiday here so the place was filled with young families as well as young urbanites who were languidly enjoying the slower pace of the day. Just before our streetcar arrived, two young women exited the shop with several orders of coffee. They approached the gentleman and explained that they had been given a free coffee and were wondering if he would like to have it. He very politely declined their offer and thanked them for their thoughtfulness but he explained that he really didn't care for coffee. However, if they were willing, he would really love to have a chocolate donut. He hoped that they weren't offended by his request. Quite the contrary, they told him that it was not a problem at all and they would be more than happy to get him his treat. They then proceeded back into Timmie's to purchase it.

After seeing so much incivility in the news lately and being constantly led by world and business leaders to believe that being an asshole gets one further in this world, these small and random acts of kindness that I have witnessed lately are helping to fuel my yetzer ha-tov, my better inclination. It certainly doesn't mean that I have lost my cynicism or that I am going to start farting rainbows and unicorns but these episodes do serve to remind me that so many people are inherently decent.

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam
She-natan lanu hizdamnut l'takein et ha-olam

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, for giving us the opportunity to mend the world. 

**With thanks to Dan Nichols and Rabbi Ron Klotz

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A Small Act of Tikkun Olam

How about a quick but really nice story?

I spent a great deal of my morning today running pre-Pesach errands up and down Bathurst Street in torrential rains. I swear that I saw raccoons and squirrels marching two by two in midtown in search of an ark, that's how bad the weather was. Drivers were in no mood to slow down and believe me, I saw more than one poor pedestrian get soaked by discourteous cars and buses. It was an all-around icky early morning.

And then I witnessed the best of this city.

As I approached Bathurst and St. Clair, I saw a cab (yes a cab!) pull over to the side of the road in order to disembark its passenger. Drivers, angry at the lane blockage, honked and gesticulated in nasty ways. The cabbie ignored it all and adamantly refused to allow his senior-citizen female passenger to open her own door. Instead, he got out of his driver's seat in the teeming rain, ran around to the curbside, opened the back passenger-side door for the woman, and walked her to her destination with an umbrella. It was a small but very distinct act of goodwill and kindness.

There are so much misery and nastiness these days that sometimes I forget that so many are just decent people at heart. We often forget that we are all responsible for each other and at times a little reminder of how acts of love and kindness can truly repair the world is really in order.

This morning, in the rains and windswept streets of Toronto, I witnessed a small gesture of Tikkun Olam, the reparation of the world. I won't soon forget it.




Friday, 17 March 2017

The Dimming of the Day

וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים | לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד

Va-yikra Elohim La-or yom v'la-chodesh kara laila, Va-y'hi erev va-y'hi boker yom echad.

And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Gen 1:5)

I have recently become rather enamoured with sunsets.

I can't really explain this new-found infatuation other than to say that residency here in the Southern Home does afford the opportunity for me to gaze upon some of the most vivid and spectacular twilights. It would be easy to become complacent about the majesty, but so far I have not.



And these are just from my balcony using little to no filter. (The iPhone 7 has an amazing camera.)

Watching the sun do its daily disappearing act to the other side of the world has raised a myriad of existential questions for me, but rather than bore you all with my mid-life panic attacks and angst, I thought I might focus on just one.

Why is watching a sunset so captivating?

So, as is my habit, I turned first to my religious roots.

The highlighted verse above from Genesis is commonly used to explain why we Jews view our days as beginning at sunset rather than at sunrise.

There was evening and there was morning...

Evening comes first.

Some rabbinic scholars have used this text as a metaphor for life itself. We begin our days within the darkness of the womb and burst forward into the light. (A bit too cheesy and grade school for my liking, but what's a good religion without a few heavy-handed metaphors?)

But what if rather than secularly thinking of sunrise as the beginning of our day, we paused to consider that dusk could actually be that point in time when things renew. Perhaps my infatuation with the sunset is less about reflections on the day that has passed and rather it is a rumination on what lies ahead in the coming of the light

As I began to post some of my photos on social media, a friend shared her thoughts with me.

"I finally figured out in part what my fascination is. It has to do with seeing the beauty in transition. We are often fearful of transition in our lives but the shots remind me of just how beautiful it can be."

And then she sent me this....
Photo: Elaine P
I know...right???

I think that there is merit in her idea. We all seem to struggle with change, but the setting sun seems to reassure us that there is beauty in the struggle and excitement in the coming darkness. The new day is always filled with the possibilities.

I would also like to think that there is a modicum of hope splashing around in there somewhere. These are trying times. Each day lately seems to bring new fears, new anguish, new-found anger, new divisions, new misery. The glow of the sky in the early evening seems to suggest to me that things can get better. Even at my most pessimistic (and believe me when I say that the last few months have seen me at the depths of my cynicism) the renewal of the sunset hints at a confidence and an optimism.

I can't end this rambling without a nod to my own name. Dawn literally means beginning and it is synonymous with the first light of day. I'm am not discounting the optimism that could very surely lay in the rising of the sun nor am I dismissing the beauty of a sunrise, but I do think that both I and the time of day my name is borne from are slightly less mesmerizing than dusk. 

I will leave you all with several photos from my travels. These are all originals and were taken by either The Husband or myself. I ask that if you share them, please give due credit.



Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, oseh ma-aseh v'reisheet.

We praise you Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who makes the work of creation.


Key West

Sydney Australia
Uluru
Ketchikan Alaska
Vancouver British Columbia
Bahamas
Key West

Send me your best sunset photos. I would love to see them. 

Shabbat Shalom

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Holy Work on Shabbat

I am spending Shabbat morning watching this scene from my balcony.

Why you may ask?

Well before I answer that question, a bit of backstory is in order.

This is the pool in our building in the Southern Home. Several months ago, the city found several problems with the now almost thirty-year-old structure and insisted on repairs. The condo association tried to put off the fixes for as long as possible (read: until the snowbird season was concluded) but the city would have none of it. If the repairs weren't done in a timely manner, fines would be imposed. So last week, the pool was drained and work began on the removal of tile, the reparation of cracks, lighting replacement, and various other smaller issues. We were told that the project could take several weeks and as such, those who used the pool on a regular basis would need to make alternate arrangements. Yes, there was plenty of bitching and moaning from people in the building, but sometimes there just isn't a choice. 

Given the location of the pool with respect to our condo, the Husband and I have had a front-row seat to the action. And it has been surprisingly and hypnotically entertaining. 

At times it felt as though the job would never get started let alone completed. We saw a lot of standing around by workers. While there were at least four guys here on any given day, it was rare to see more than one work at a time. Granted, we are not pool repair people and are ignorant to the craft, but it did seem that more than a few dramatic domestic issues were being played out on phone calls than actual pool repair. (Yes...we can hear conversations clearly and I really hope that whoever was on the other end of one particularly vile string of expletives was smart enough to leave the SOB.) 

That said, while the work did seem to progress at the pace of a snail racing a sponge, it did progress.  I noticed that I was starting to recognize the various craftspeople and to understand what each particular contribution was to the project as a whole. There were the tile master and the concrete pourer. There were the electrician and the apprentice. There was the one guy who was here for one day and fired the next. (We know he was fired because they talked about it...loudly.) I noticed the particular dynamics of their work environment, how it actually functioned like a well-choreographed dance. I observed how some of the guys had an obvious report and how they might ignore or playfully haze the newcomers. But mostly, I was enthralled by their music.

In the early days, we were treated to the dulcet tones of Luther Vandross and Anita Baker. R&B wafted up to our apartment and it soothed. And the men....they sang along. They sang with passion and they sang with warmth. They sang without even knowing they were singing. It came from their souls. One gentleman, in particular, has a voice that any cantor would kill for and the echoing of his deep baritone off of the empty pool walls cascaded upward like a gift from the gods.

A few days ago, their music choices inexplicably changed to gospel. There were affirmations and holy exclamations. We were witness to a revival and a collective baptism in a pool without water. They were renewed. They were cleansed. Those craftsmen brought God to this place.

This morning, on Shabbat morning, sixteen men came to work. (They are trying to speed up the project and hopefully will finish early next week.) And they came to sing. And, oh how they sing.  These men are most definitely experiencing the presence of the Divine Spirit as they inch towards the completion of their task. These men have found a measure of holiness in their labour, a sense of Kadosh, and they are sharing it with me. I can't imagine a more precious gift.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man.” God is not in things of space, but in moments of time.” 

Thank you to these generous souls who gave me a glimpse of The Divine Spirit on this Shabbat.



Friday, 10 February 2017

My Genius Teacher

For those reading who only know The Husband as a kick-ass business-person/artisan distiller, he was, in a former life, one of the best and most sought after workflow developers anywhere. He was doing geek when being geeky was as far removed from Big Bang Theory-cool as one could get and Mark Zuckerberg was still a wandering thought in his parent's minds. His off-the-charts, brilliant geekiness was always one of the things that most attracted me to him but for years when people asked me what he did for a living, I'd simply smile and say "He's in computers." I was ignorantly incapable of accurately describing it any other way.

This morning, in a fit of heightened frustration during what can only charitably be described as our most recent coding lesson, I asked The Husband to describe how his own thought process works when he is in development mode. As he again attempted to educate this intellectual potato on the inner workings of JavaScript and its interfacing capabilities with HTML, (I actually sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I?) he explained to me that he tends to see things more unconventionally than do most programmers. 

Why am I not surprised? Geniuses in any field tend to work differently and in manners that can only be understood by themselves. If we all could comprehend the creative process utilized by the gifted, we'd all be able to compose symphonies like Beethoven, paint like Picasso, or understand mathematics like Einstein. 

The Husband told me that rather than sketch out his ideas with pen and paper first, he tends to view his computer screen the way that my potter friend sees a lump of clay. She might have the notion that she is making a bowl, but only until that bowl starts to take shape on her wheel does she really see the edges, details, and movement of the piece. His programs develop in much the same ways. He has the basic kernel of an idea and moves outward from there, using trial and error in his coding until he gets what he wants on his screen. But (there's always a but isn't there) there does exist a logical progression to his lines of code that can only be seen in his mind's eye.

This methodology could also explain why he is such a poor teacher. How is he supposed to explain something so radical and new to others when it is only obvious to him? The only logical way forward is to show them the tangible results, the finished product. Did Beethoven ever teach beginners the piano or did Pablo ever mix colours for an introductory painting course?

And....therein lies my basic problem with this entire exercise. I actually do understand the creative process and how trial and error factors into it, much like my self-editing of these pieces as I write them. My major issues come from the thinking logically part of it. It is what used to trip me up in math classes. I could memorize formulae like they were badass irregular verb conjugations, but I could never apply them to the word problems when they were presented to me. I couldn't figure out which numbers to plug into which sides of the equations. That genetic material that seems to be so necessary for seeing numbers and symbols and translating them into language, is not only dormant in me, it is non-existent. Just like those who might be colour-blind or tone-deaf, I have a disability. I am numerically challenged.

In a conversation yesterday with my mathematically-inclined mother she actually said this:

"You know, honey. Not everybody is able to do this. Maybe you just don't have it in you." 

Gee thanks, Mom. I guess that maternal nurturing button disappears from your repertoire after your offspring turns 50?

In some fairness to her, this is the same brilliant woman who persevered through dyslexia to become a nurse at a time when special education simply did not exist. There is no doubt in my mind that had she been at school during a different generation, she would have been an outstanding doctor. (She is going to kill me for writing that, but it is high-time she knows what all who love her know.)  This is also the same woman who spent the entire summer before I entered grade four drilling me on multiplication tables. She does speak from hard experience and prior knowledge of her subject. Let's just say she has scars.

No, Mom. I'm not yet ready to quit but I will admit that I am close. I do think that I have come to the conclusion that the only reason for these lessons is to accumulate blog material and maybe that's not such a terrible reason to continue. I keep hearing Nora Ephron's oft-repeated line of her mother's that "everything is copy" constantly riffing in my head. So, here's today's copy.

The Husband decided that it was necessary to teach me some basic JavaScript programming before we ventured any further into the morass that is my new web page. To that end, we worked today on creating loops. I'm still not certain of the entirety of why loops are necessary for a blog that is basically about nothing. Who the hell wants to read the same thing over and over? But there we were creating JavaScript loops. 




I was inundated with new jargon like statements and variables and learned that there are three different types of variables...numeric, string, and boolean.

A gold star to anybody outside the computer world who knows what boolean means. Honestly, when I first heard the word I thought we would be making soup. It actually means something that is either true or false. Who knew?

Following the lesson, The Husband went back to work and I attempted to re-create and modify some of the loops. I actually had some success doing it but it all seems so very futile. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I work at this shit, and even if I do manage to someday move up the coding food chain from unqualified idiot to moronic dumbass, why bother? Beethoven's brother Kasper was a financier and Picasso's sisters didn't delve too deeply into art. They stuck to what they knew rather than treading upon the sanctity of brilliance. Maybe I should just let my resident genius do what he does best....and get him to design my new website. 









Monday, 6 February 2017

Computer Coding is a Foreign Language and I am Hopelessly Unilingual.

Welcome to today's installment of "Self-Flagellation" or "How Computer Coding has Turned Me Into a Sado/Masochist Who Could Grind Christian Grey Into Chalk Dust". 

It has been a stress-free ten days since my learned tutor and I sat down for a lesson. Various other pursuits have kept us from our appointed task and I must admit that there is a certain measure of satisfaction that comes with procrastination, especially when the task one is delaying has the ability to send one shaking and screaming from night terrors and awakening at 3:00 am in a pool of one's own sweat and drool. The only problem with such an ardent pursuit of postponement and deferment is that my middle-aged, swiss-cheesed gray matter can't retain any amount of information longer than the time it takes to watch the average beer commercial. So when I innocently asked about moving some elements around the page on my dummy (yes... I am well aware of the irony of that term) page,  The Husband looked me square in the eye this morning and said in astounding seriousness that "You already know how to do that". I gazed back at him with an expression that I am certain imitated the face of a gorilla on Prozac. Square one...here we come.

This morning, this article was on page one of the Miami Herald, right beneath the article of the Super Bowl defeat from hell. Seriously. Is there anybody outside of New England who doesn't believe that Tom Brady has sold his soul to the devil and will be languishing in the bowels of Hades alongside Donald Trump for eternity? But once again, I procrastinate and digress.

So...this article...on page one.


I will not debate the merits or inherent stupidity of this proposal, (other than saying that it is incredibly Floridian and that both skills are necessary for students in the 21st century) but I will say that after enduring a mere four lessons in coding, it is fundamentally apparent to this moronic student that coding is most definitely a foreign language and the ability to master it lies in continual and constant practice. You simply cannot become fluent in any language if all you manage to utter are hello, goodbye, and peace. Great thanks to the Divine Spirit for making Hebrew simple enough to use a single word for all three. Coding is very different, very comprehensive, very complicated, and very very very confusing.

I asked The Husband for his opinion on how he thought my web page should look. I very much value his opinion on design and I was kind of silently hoping that he might just take pity on me and simply redesign the whole fucking thing himself without the stress of imparting this coding bullshit to me. I asked him at one point, how he managed to learn all of these different computer languages that he so effortlessly uses, and he replied without a hint of glibness that  "I just woke up one morning and they were all there." The really crazy part of that statement is that I believe both of us think it is actually possible. 

I decided that I would like for the front page of the site to be the most recent blog posts so that when you all open up the URL for Dawn Ponders, the posts are the first things you see. After determining that we actually couldn't accomplish such a thing using HTML alone, The Husband very gently explained to me that we would now be diverting our attention to "real" programming as if what we had been doing before was a kind of an ersatz mess. He had this look in his eye that said "Don't worry, honey. You won't feel a thing as I push you out of the plane. It's the landing that's the real bitch."

(By the way....there is a nauseated churning that occurs within the pit of your stomach when your teacher takes your computer, spends ten minutes surfing Javascript sites to figure out why he can't solve a basic problem that he wants to convey to you, swears vociferously that it doesn't work and he doesn't know why, and then says...let's try this instead. That feeling of security is EVERYTHING!)

And so we are now in the world of JavaScript working in less than perfect synchronization with HTML. It's kind of like asking "Where's the bathroom" in Spanish and being directed to the bank in Italian. 

Here's what we managed to do.


And here are the results of over an hour's worth of laborious coding. 



See the little "Hello Dawn" under the Home tab? 

Yup. 

That's it. Aren't you all so very proud of me?

At this rate, I might have a new site online in time for the celebration of Canada 175...if we both manage to live that long. 

One last note. Take an expanded look at the coding photograph.

Go on.

Blow it up.

I'll wait.

Are you there? 

Now, look at the very bottom of the screen in the extreme right-hand corner. Do you see that tiny blue icon?

IT'S A FUCKING SQUIRREL!!!!!

They have invaded every part of my life and are determined to haunt me until the end of days.