Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back Again (or: Nice Pictures and Then a Long Personal Post that You Can Probably Just as Easily Skip if You Like)

(Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, p.220)

So, long time no see. What's new with me? Why, I'm glad you asked! Very nice of you. Let's pick up where I'd left off, way out west around the Oak Lake area. (And this is a smotheringly long post with a lot of complainy bits near the end of it, so don't feel obligated to read the whole way through if I start to grate a bit. Fair warning! The first part is fun, though.)

I spent a while hanging out there and puttering around with my Dad -- doing a couple odd jobs, driving around town, playing chess hammered, y'know, the usual bonding stuff. Did I ever tell you about his dog? Oh, man, let me tell you about his dog. My father owns a half-Pug-half-Shih-Tzu dog, basically a big steel sponge with eyes and a mouth, and I have no idea what the portmanteau name for the breed would be but I'm willing to guess that it sounds ridiculous. Have you ever seen a half-Pug-half-Shih-Tzu? They are goofy little creatures, most admirable for their accidental expertise in pinpointing the exact middle distance between "haha aww, you are adorable" and "what the shit is this thing".

I can't even look at her pictures without laughing:


Goofiest looking dog, I swear, I don't even know what--

--aww, no, I'm sorry! Don't feel bad, goofy dog! You know we're cool, we don't need to fight about it or anything.

My sister owns a fullbreed Shih Tzu, so I can confirm that this is a characteristic of the breed that apparently sneaks its way down into its mixes. You see this ferocious, oh-so-terrifying snarl these dogs make from time to time, with one lip curled up and one fearsome fang showing? They have absolutely no idea that they even make this face, and they mean absolutely nothing by it. The breed's combination of short muzzles and hilariously low brainpower leaves them completely unaware of how their faces work, so occasionally they just get one upper lip stuck behind a bottom tooth and they never actually realize it's there. So if you see a Shih Tzu come up to you looking like this, but it isn't actively growling or barking at you, then you'll quickly notice that it doesn't even know it's being hostile. It just made that face by accident and it stuck that way.

So our particular specimen here may not be the brightest mix of breeds, and certainly not the prettiest, but this dog is so incredibly happy just to be alive and hangin' around folks that her waves of joy actively interfere with attempts to film her.

Who needs sharpness or fine detail when you can just get pure bliss, right on camera? Man, you don't know fun until you've seen the kind of fun that a Shih-Tzu-Pug-dog seems to be having pretty much all the time.

Hilarious dogs aside for the moment, let me run a few other pictures by you. I've shown you some pictures of Oak Lake previously -- the town, not the lake, but let's not get into that again -- and I can dutifully report that not too much appears to have changed around there, so there isn't really much to report on that front. You know where I'd never been before, though? Virden.

Yes, despite it only being about fifteen minutes away from Oak Lake, I'd never actually popped in and had a look at the place until this time around. Its main strip is pretty cute, no lie:

Its community internet access point for the surrounding area is, of course, at the local library, and as an accredited professional I felt it was my duty to go check my e-mail investigate.

The inside is quite nice, as well. Drop by if you're in town.

And, as other charming hamlets around the province will attest to, you ain't nothin' if you don't have your name written on a watertower:

Bam! Instant street cred.

If you're wondering further about the general character of the place, let me pass along this anecdote. This is a true fact, seen with mine own eyes, and I regret not knowing it ahead of time to take my camera into the store: Virden is just far enough out west that the Co-op grocery store sells Saskatchewan Roughriders hats, flags and mugs. Right in the checkout aisles, as impulse buys. Any Bombers stuff? Naw, son. The Blue Bombers are a Winnipeg team, whereas the Roughriders represent the whole... next province over. Technically, though, Virden is closer to Saskatchewan than to Winnipeg -- and who knows, maybe folks out there just wanted to root for a team that can win four games a season. Maybe! I'm just speculating blindly here.

Virden is also great because you can check out championship rodeo saddles, just right in the store windows.

The area also features some fine valleys and a very lovely provincial park over a bigass aquifer, so it's a nice change of scenery from what us flatlander cityfolk are normally accustomed to.

In conclusion, I had a great time out there. It was on my way back that things kind of started to come unraveled.

I noticed on my drive home from Virden that the engine on my ol' Volvo wasn't running particularly smoothly, and it was coming up due for an oil change anyway, so I took 'er in and -- long story short -- had to replace the catalytic converter entirely, running me a quick half a grand in a matter of days. Then, within a couple weeks of fixing all that, the intercooler blew out on Highway 8 and took half the engine straight to hell with it. (And the particular gasket that popped loose to dump out an engine's worth of coolant also turned out to be the gasket that gives the temperature gauge its readings, so I didn't even get a fighting chance on this one.)

In conclusion, rest in peace, red 1988 Volvo 744 Turbo. My first car, and one that held up pretty well for the six years I had it; it ended its career within ten thousand kilometers of breaking 300,000 clicks (!!), which does make it sort of difficult to act very indignant about its demise.

Now, a lot of the time I'm all over the place, so... I... wait, let me rephrase that. I do a lot of driving, including a variety of familial commitments and a very nice cottage up in the Dunnotar area, so it was particularly good luck for me that a very nice car happened to become available right around that time. A few days of finagling with bills of sale and license plate info and everything else later, I picked up another car -- this time an '86 Volvo 744 Turbo, which only has 130,000 clicks to date on it (!!) and is in way better condition than my previous car ever was even from the beginning. For $2500! That's almost miracle territory, I tell you what.

The only downside? I am broke now, son. I mean, I was spending my time being pretty broke to begin with, but this was veering headlong into good-thing-I-pay-three-months-rent-in-advance broke. (Mind you, a wide variety of the places I've worked in the past were only accessible because I own a car, so that and the aforementioned family matters reminded me that throwing up my hands and declaring myself a cyclist was not quite an option on the table.) My last professional term had only been a few months ago, but it was definitely starting to feel like it had been a lot longer than that -- partly because of the financial aspect, but mainly because I just really enjoy work in my field and it's frustrating not having any. Really, my life has basically been the third verse of Dire Straits' "Telegraph Road" for a good while now, so there's a guitar solo waiting somewhere out there that can't come soon enough.

You can imagine how excited I was, right around that time, to get an interview for a year-long sessional position as a Librarian right here in town. Super stoked! I rolled back into town, shaved off my lakebeast beard, got a devastatingly handsome professional haircut, refreshed and re-refreshed my extensive professional knowledge, and ACED THAT INTERVIEW YEAH BABY YOU KNOW IT

aaaaaaand then still didn't get the position asdjflklrhfl;;

Yeah, it's been that kind of a run, as late. And my inbox has been getting double-whammied for a while now; I've been getting rejection notices from the most recent seasonal listings at the same time as the rejection notices from full-time jobs I applied for, on average, six months ago. (That's good for morale!) The current job market is considered one of the worst for librarians in eighty years (!), following the nasty worldwide recession as it is, because people who were going to retire can't afford to retire and institutions that were going to hire more people can't afford to hire more people. So a significant portion of these letters I've seen, I would say about a quarter of 'em, have left out the part about "we have elected to hire the more experienced candidate" and instead replaced it with "this position will not be filled". And that's actually worse, for us less experienced candidates, because if they at least hire the more experienced candidate then that candidate stops applying for the other jobs.

tl;dr My degree is not in a recession-proof field. Again, third verse, Telegraph Road.

So it may have seemed odd that I wasn't writing blog posts for a while around here, but let me assure you that you really wouldn't want to read the kind of thing I was liable to write around that time. Believe me, and I know this from experience, the last thing people are interested in reading is a dude complaining about personal matters on the internet. Ladies complaining, yes, folks'll read that. But never dudes. Somebody should just put up a website of a black screen with "DON'T BE THAT GUY" written across it in gigantic white Impact font, because it is amazingly good advice that is very frequently applicable. So now all this background and whinging that nobody wants, which I would normally avoid writing out of general courtesy, can be safely corralled into one big post that nobody reads and we can all move on from there.

To sum up, where've I been? Went out West for a while, came back, blew out the car, fixed the car, blew out the car again, bought a new car, didn't get a few jobs, tore apart and reshingled a couple rooves up North with my stepdad, wrote some columns I'll mention later, and now here I am back again.

And things are looking up! (As always, it takes me forever to get around to noting that things are looking up, but things are looking up. Humour me my above venting.) Yes, besides the nice 'new' car and the nice new professional-grade haircut, it just so happens that I also have a nice new temporary position; starting next Monday and running through to December I'll be serving as a sessional Reference Librarian at the Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library at the Bannatyne Campus of the University of Manitoba. Lucked out, finally! Bring on the guitar solo! This is supremely important, as far as two-and-a-half-month terms usually run, because a strong showing here makes me a more credible candidate for further local employment. So if you happen to be in the neighbourhood and drop by, I can guarantee you that you are going to see one impressively hard-workin' dude when you do.

So enough of my gripin' and fussin' about my personal situation! Consider my summer vacation -- or "summer" "vacation", including meaningful air quotes around both words if reading aloud -- now completed, kicking off the fall season of gripin' and fussin' about other situations and the local curmudgeonry you've come to know and expect around here. See you then, true believers!


double nickel said...

I lived in Virden for 5 years once. It was the longest 12 years of my life.

Grant Hamilton said...

You should sell Winnipeg Cat t-shirts and posters. For reals. Pick the most popular / most universal ones and monetize that kitty!

Also, I think there's a half-Pug-half-Shih-Tzu possibility with Oak Lake or Virden.

"Virden? Wish I Vir-didn't!"

I'd buy it.

Anonymous said...

What is the deal with those uppity Virdenites cheering for the Saskatchewan Roughriders? What, are they too good for the Blue Bombers?

Anonymous said...

I'd totally buy a Winnipeg Cat tshirt. I even know the specific one too, which should be among the first produced since it's soooo iconic of what Manitoba is:

"Hate the way things are...Hate change even more"

Amirite? Amirite??

PS - it's C. Beresford Tipton. I just forgot my Google password and such.

James Hope Howard said...

The thing with the Winnipeg cat design specifically, though, is that it doesn't lend itself particularly well to anything larger than its current borders. Either the colour-wheel background would have to be enclosed in a square border amidst a sea of white (or black) fabric, which would look totally beer-promotion low-rent, or the colours would have to be expensively expanded across the whole shirt and good lord that would be the ugliest thing ever made. I think my eyes just locked up out of protest against my brain even trying to parse the idea.

Similarly, it would be difficult to expand the design to a larger format because the picture cutout for the Winnipeg Cat template was jagged as all get-out. (Originally by design for accuracy's sake, mind you; you ever get a good look at the original Advice Dog template? That thing had more jaggies than a first-generation N64 game.) I could try re-cutting and softening its edges, but then it wouldn't still be the design people actually liked, you know?

(We go now, live, to James Howard overthinking things.)

So with all of that said, I guess it could work on a mug or something. Maybe one day I'll randomly meet somebody who owns a button-maker? Man, I don't know. Thanks for the kind advice, though, guys! Gives me something to think about, certainly.

Chris Rindahl said...

Hey James, it's my first time exploring your site without a crowd of people here and wow is it awesome! Unfortunately like most of the masses I do enjoy the Winnipeg Cat the best and have already submitted a few of my own Winnipeg Cat entries. I think it's really cool that you have your own site and you actually use it for constructive purposes rather than just the usual inane bs that the internet spews out. I look forward to coming here more often and seeing what's new with Manitoba without having to go to a dull news site like the Free Press.