It’s time for a rant – an Ikea rant.

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed my two bits worth to the blogosphere. But Farley’s still dead, my kidney stones are gone, my knee is OK, Megan’s settling into her new job, and the kitchen is mostly done, so it’s time.

The rant will follow after a bit of kitchen history.


Those of you who’ve been here, when first seeing the kitchen, must have wondered WTF were Megan and Walter thinking of when they bought this place, but were too polite to say so. Bright yellow Formica counters, crappy wood cupboards, drawers that wouldn’t open, and if they did, wouldn’t close. This was cheap crap in the 70s when it was built, and it certainly didn’t improve with age. Well, it is no more.


I was quite amazed that it all fit in the truck!


We ripped up the walls for access to the electrics and plumbing in preparation. We soon found that the walls and floor aren’t square or straight, but fortunately nothing was rotted or structurally unsound. We also learned not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. When I say we, the main man who knew what he was doing is my friend Geoff, jack of all trades. I was just his helper, building up some sweat equity in the place.


We ran into the usual problems and had a million little and not so little details to work out, but the biggest hassle was with Ikea.

As long as you’re not into super-custom stuff, Ikea has a good product, with great hardware, at a really good price. The problem is that even when you order an entire kitchen and have them deliver it, they only deliver what they have in stock. They leave it up to you to track the shortages, check the website, and pick up the missing materials. They will not hold materials for you, so if you check the website, it says the stuff is in stock, you go down there, and it may or may not be there because someone else may have bought it in the meantime. First come, first serve!

The biggest missing piece we had was the sink. We couldn’t finalize anything until the sink was in place. About two weeks into the project, they told me sinks would be arriving on a Saturday. I called on Friday, just to make sure the sinks were still on schedule. They said they had eight in stock right then, so I drove the 30 miles across Seattle to the store and got the last one in stock. I was just lucky to get it when I did.  Imagine how pissed off I’d be if I’d gone to the store on Saturday morning when the doors opened, and all the sinks were gone!

With the sink in place, we were able to make the kitchen functional, and restaurants around here started laying people off. I ate in restaurants more in a month than I normally do in years.

Right now, I’m still missing four cabinet doors and five drawer fronts. After at least a half dozen trips to pick things up, I ordered the stuff online. They say they’ll ship on July 9th. We’ll see.

But the Ikea screwed up system doesn’t stop there. I paid for the whole kitchen, but they only shipped 80% of it. So they gave me three “gift” cards to pay for the rest. What they don’t tell you is that I bought during a 20% off sale, and the gift card amounts reflected that discounted price. So when I picked up materials from the original order and paid for them with the “gift” cards, the sale was over and I was charged full price. I had to spend considerable time in the kitchen department going over receipts and then spent more time in the “customer service” department getting the refund.

But wait! There’s more. The price for the whole kitchen included quartzite countertops that were supplied by a local firm. I found that firm absolutely impossible to deal with, so I cancelled the order. I found a different local contractor for less than half of Ikea’s sale price.

At the end of the day, I’ll be very happy with what we got from Ikea. And the hassle was worth it. Great value for product received. But beware, if you use Ikea for your kitchen remodel be prepared for a lot of headaches.


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Farley’s Gone

P1050577 (1)Last night in the street in front of our house, Farley was hit by a car. After being hit, he was still breathing and alert, so we rushed him to a 24 Hour veterinary hospital. X-rays soon revealed that his spine was fractured. The damage was severe and life-threatening. Our options were to take him to a vet hospital with a neurologist for further assessment, or have him put down. We were leaning toward having a neurologist take a look at him, but during the discussion he went into respiratory distress, and we made the heart-breaking decision to euthanize him.

Farley was born on Boxing Day of 2007. I wasn’t sure I’d ever replace Angus the Airedale after he died in the summer of 2006, but a year and a half later I was ready to start looking around. I liked Airedales, but Angus was a 75-pounder, which was a bit too big for me. I like Wheaten Terriers and they were about the right size, but Angus’ old vet told me they had lots of  congenital health issues. I liked the look of Labradoodles, but I was too cheap to spend $2500. So when I found Farley’s breeder on the internet, the description of the dogs she was breeding from a Wheaten Terrier father and a poodle mother sounded perfect. A non-shedding curly coat, males weighing around 50 pounds, and a touch of that terrier attitude. Add the fact that the breeder was in my home town of Saskatoon, and it seemed like a cosmic sign to me. So I made the commitment to get him after he was weaned. “F” was up next up in my alphabetical string of dog names. I chose Fred. But things were just starting to get interesting with Megan and me, so I brought her into the process. She didn’t like the name Fred. She ran through a whole lot of “F” names, and when she hit Farley, I knew immediately that was it. Farley (as in Mowat) from Saskatoon. Perfect!

Megan and I went skiing in Romania that February, and when we came back we were more than the good friends we had been for the previous year and a half. I left immediately for Saskatoon to fetch Farley. Megan and Farley and I have been together as a unit ever since. Now that trivalent bond is forever broken.

Farley was a furry ball of love from the beginning. He loved people and dogs and wasn’t afraid to show it. For those of you who met him, you know that he was often a bit over the top in his greetings. Though I tried, I never managed to train that exuberance out of him. I finally just gave up and let Farley be Farley. He wanted to play with every other dog he ever met, and never got aggressive even when they returned his enthusiasm with a growl or a snarl. He loved nothing more than running at full speed with grace and elegance and sheer joy.

Farley was a worthy successor to the other fabulous dogs I’ve had over the years. He was a great dog in his own right. He might have been the best ever, and will be sorely missed by me and Megan and anyone else whoever knew him.

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Gun Control, once again

Is there anything, any statistic, any event that could conceivably change the stance of a gun advocate (nut) on the issue of gun control? Sandy Hook didn’t do it, nor did Columbine, the Aurora theater shootings, or any of the other mass shootings. (These guys were insane; no gun laws could have stopped them; they could have been stopped had the victims been armed, etc., etc.) Statistics showing the correlation between gun ownership and firearm death rates in developed nations don’t move the needle. (Other developed nations don’t have the same big, barely civilized violent underclass that the USA has.) Appeals to the words of Second Amendment (what well-regulated militia do you belong to?) have no effect.

Because the “Freedom to Bear Arms” is a near-religious belief based on nothing more than gut feel (how can you argue against what you feel in your gut?), I doubt that I’ll ever change any minds. But I did recently find some interesting statistics about gun control and firearm death rates in those famous laboratories of democracy, the States of the United States.

So here I go again:

According to the Kaiser Institute, the USA firearm death rate is 10.4/100,000. That same website  shows the firearm death rates in each of the States.

The Brady Campaign, as reported by the Deseret News, ranks states according to the strictness of their gun laws. The ten strictest are here. The ten loosest States are here.

According to gun enthusiasts (nuts), more guns should make us safer. Let’s see.

The least restrictive gun control States are Utah (12.6), Alaska (19.8), Arizona (14.1), Oklahoma (16.5), and North Dakota (11.8). The firearm death rates are in brackets.

The tightest gun laws are in California (7.7), New Jersey (5.7),  Massachusetts (3.1), New York (4.2), and Connecticut (4.4). Once again, firearm death rates are in brackets.

Remember, the overall USA firearm death rate is 10.4. All of the lax gun law states are well above the national average. All of the tight gun law states are well below the average.

Tell me again how more guns and lax laws save lives.

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Indiana, Arkansas, Wal-Mart and more…

The last week has seen a huge battle erupt between religion and sexuality and the freedoms thereof. There’s lots of good and bad to be said for both sides. In the battle for marriage equality, the LGBT community has won a huge victory in an astonishingly short time. In 2004, states were passing “Defense of Marriage” laws across the country. Those ballot measures brought out a big vote that helped elect Bush the Younger to a second term. Now, a few short years later, marriage equality laws are sweeping the land, and barring something really weird, the Supreme Court will likely make it the law of the land. This is a huge victory. I just wish the winners were more magnanimous.

They’ve managed to demonize anyone who disagrees with them as bigots and fools. This is wrong. There are lots of good people with sincerely held beliefs who feel at least somewhat squeamish about embracing this New World Order. My dear departed mother could be described as a born-again Christian who loved everyone and rarely had anything bad to say about anyone. Even though her faith was sorely tested over the years, she managed to accept the divorces of two of her children, the remarriage of one, and the out-of-wedlock birth of her only great-grandchild. Her faith did evolve over the years, and I’m sure she would have loved any of her children had any of them been gay, but I doubt that she would have blessed a gay marriage. That would have been a bridge too far for her, but that does not make her evil and worthy of scorn.

My mother had a lovely voice and often was asked to sing at weddings and other special occasions. She wasn’t in the wedding singer business, but she loved doing it. But in spite of her loving and accepting nature, I don’t think she would have accepted an invitation to sing at a gay wedding. She didn’t do it for the money or to make a living, so I doubt she would have gotten into any legal trouble for her hypothetical actions. But people who go into for-profit business serving the public should have to provide their service or merchandise to all comers. In an egalitarian society, businesses shouldn’t be able to render moral judgement on the people they do business with. There are all sorts of things that we do in a civil society that are against our own beliefs, religious or otherwise. I hate the fact that almost 20% of my tax dollars go to fund the military-industrial establishment, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. So even though I don’t understand why a gay couple would even want a wedding cake or flowers or food from someone who hated them, they should have the right to get those products that are available to everyone else. So to you squeamish business owners out there, grit your teeth, force a smile, provide the service and take the money. Or find another line of business where you’re not in a position to judge your customers.

As for you cultural crusaders out there – What makes sex, especially the sex lives of others so special? In the pantheon of sins in the Bible, homosexuality is pretty low on the list. Fornication and adultery are big no-nos, as are murder and envy and having other gods before you. Gluttony and sloth up there too. At least they made it to the list of Seven Deadlies. I don’t see any evangelical florists refusing to do business with fat, poorly dressed fornicators on their second or third marriages.

As for you principled conservatives out there – We know where your principles really lie when you fold like a cheap tent as soon as Wal-Mart complains.

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The Golden Age of Television

I watch too much TV. I admit it. But the networks and their advertisers won’t get much joy from that admission. There isn’t a single network show I watch on a regular basis, and any commercial TV that I do watch is DVR’d so that I can fast forward through the commercials. I watch Rachel Maddow regularly because she’s smart and funny. Once in a while I watch whoever is on Fox News, just to keep up to date with whatever the whacko-birds are crowing about. I do record the Sunday morning talk shows, but over the years, I’ve gotten really tired of the same old crap that passes for politics today and tend to fast-forward through them now.

The main time-suckers for me are the excellent series produced by the cable networks, HBO, Amazon and Netflix. For me this all started back in 2006 when I broke my ankle skiing. With a cast and crutches and living in the Fremont Alps, I was stuck in front of the TV, bored spitless. The Sopranos had been around for a while, but I’d never watched it. Comcast was just starting to get a decent on-demand library going, and I happened across the series. I binge-watched the first season in two days, by which time the second season was available. Another two or three days shot. Then I went to the video store (remember them?) and rented the third season. By then I’d had enough, and embarked on my Broken Ankle Tour to New Orleans. (But that’s another story.) I got back and watched all the available episodes, and ended up watching the final season live.

For a few years, I wondered how HBO could ever hope to duplicate the success of the Sopranos. I need not have worried. Rome, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, True Detective, Boardwalk Empire and the Leftovers all caught my attention. I even stuck with Big Love and True Blood for a while. HBO is the single biggest reason I’ve put up with the evil Comcast all these years.

I never thought that HBO would get much competition in the TV drama department, but I was wrong. A couple of years ago, I started watching The Tudors on Netflix. I even sucked wife-Megan, who doesn’t normally watch much TV, into watching it. Not long after, I was at the cabin alone looking for something to watch, and came across The Walking Dead. Then came Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black. And now Better Call Saul.

Which brings me to the most recent one I (and Megan too) binge-watched. Transparent, produced for Amazon. It’s about a 67 year-old father who decides he’s really a woman. I have to admit that I really have a hard time wrapping my head around this issue. I can’t understand how only the latest in hormonal therapies and surgical intervention can bring out the true inner being of a person. But all that aside, this show is fabulous! It has a cast of familiar faces, even if you can’t quite name the actors. Here is the family:


-Jeffrey Tambor plays Maura Pfefferman, the patriarch (matriarch??) of the family. After years of secretly cross-dressing, he comes out as a woman.

-Judith Light plays Shelley, Maura’s ex-wife, and typical Jewish mother.

-Jay Duplass plays Josh, a successful record producer who beds any woman who comes his way.

-Amy Landecker is Sarah, a suburban housewife who leaves her husband and two kids for a lesbian girlfriend from her college days.

-Gaby Hoffman plays Alexandra, the youngest daughter who hasn’t quite figured out her own sexuality, but is willing to try anything in her quest.

So here you have an extremely dysfunctional family, with all the sibling rivalries and parent/child relationships, and yet they’re very much a family. It’s actually heartwarming at times.

I can’t say I have a better understanding or empathy for someone in Maura’s position after watching the first season, but it is a great family story that will grab you and make you laugh out loud at times. So forget about any qualms you have about the subject matter (they’ll still be there after the show), get out the popcorn, and enjoy!

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To blog or not to blog

I’ve been blogging on and off (mostly on) since March of 2007.  At that time, I had been doing a fair bit of traveling and wanted to keep friends and family updated. My niece Sarah was living in Zambia at the time and I was following her blog with interest. I reasoned that if she could do it, I could do it, so I started to write on Blogspot and sent an email with the link to folks who might be interested. Truth be told, I was too lazy to write update emails to everyone. You can check out the old stuff here. There’s cool stuff there like Hal’s and My Excellent Motorcycle Adventure to the New Orleans Jazz Fest and the Baja Ha Ha sailing trip from San Diego to Cabo with Bob and Phyllis. There are the usual political rants, book reviews, and dog pictures. Even some stuff about old girlfriends and friend-Megan before we got serious.

Looking back, I think I blogged for the same reason that people keep diaries. It was more for me than for my readers. Most of the time I’d get 10-20 views a day. My biggest day ever was 180! So this is not something I used to hone my writing skills with the view to become a paid pundit. YOU TOO CAN MAKE TENS OF DOLLARS WRITING ON THE INTERNET!!! It was something I did to reflect on what I’d done or to expand on random thoughts I’d had. It was a way to document and refine arguments I’d made with facts and figures rather than off-the-top-of-my-head facts and gut-feels.

So after writing only a couple or three posts in as many months, I think I’m ready to get back in the saddle. It will be more of the same. Personal thoughts, grandbaby pictures, dog pictures, political arguments, book and movie reviews, beer and food and more.

2015 is shaping up to be a good year, so I will try to be a bit more disciplined about posting, aiming for two to three posts per week. We’ll see how it goes.

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Poor Little Nikki

P1050745Nikki’s under the covers there somewhere, being comforted by Nurse/Mom-Megan. She had a hard day today with major abdominal surgery to remove these stones from her bladder:

P1050748At first we thought it was just a UTI, but medication didn’t help. No wonder – it wasn’t a routine infection at all. These things are enormous! No wonder she was having bladder issues! We only got a few of them from the vet. The rest went off to some lab for analysis.

P1050747So she’ll be wearing the cone and will be taking some serious meds for a few days.

We’re hoping for a quick and full recovery.

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