365 Note: Day 114 – Virtual Critters

The Hippies of Manor House, here at Lake Impecunious, run a small business from their woodshop. The She-Hippie is a craftsperson and woodworker who makes delightful and wriggly snakes and fishes. She started with wooden toys, and then one day made a snake that actually captured snake movements. The fish followed soon after and, this being Nova Scotia, became her primary product.

But I still like the snakes best. Here’s one made from mahogany.


I stocked the snakes and fishes at a bookstore I ran once, and watched quite a number of people shy away from the snakes, out of actual (if comical and irrational) fear.  They would laugh about it, but they would not touch them. I saw one kid jokingly wave the snake in front of her mother. Mom shrieked and jumped back. The kid laughed and laughed. So did I. So, eventually, did the mother.

While I like the snakes best, my younger son likes the fish. He is a fidgeter, and always wants to have something in his hands. The fish make a perfect fidget for him. It wriggles in his hands, as any fish would do, and this causes him considerable delight.

In fact, almost everyone I have ever seen pick one of these fish up is delighted with them. They are hard to put down. Here is a walnut fish doing what it does best.

fish animation

Next time you are looking for a beautifully crafted gift to give to someone (even yourself), consider ordering a fish or snake from Virtual Critters. The recipient will love you for it. So will the Hippies of Manor House.


365 Notes: Day 112 – Home sweet home

I slept on a friend’s couch last night because I was in town late and had to be in again early this morning. It is great to have friends with couches, but I sure did miss my bed.

I strongly dislike sleeping anywhere but my own space. I miss my cat and my computer. And even though it is nothing special – a piece of foam in the back of the bus – I miss my bed.

I used to be able to sleep anywhere. I have been both homeless and a hitchhiker, not always at the same times. I learned to lay my head where I could. But that was then. I am very much a home body now, no matter how that “home” is defined.

I have another early city morning tomorrow, so I may both reluctantly and gratefully borrow that couch again tonight. But that is my psychological limit for being away from home: two days. No matter how early I may have to be in the next day, I will go back to the bus-home tomorrow.

And I know the cat will be as overjoyed to see me as I am to see him.

365 Notes: Day 111 – The hermit and hirsute horror

From time to time, The Hermit of the Lake introduces me to a new word that I already knew, but had forgotten because while it was part of my vocabulary, it was not part of the tiny part of my vocabulary I actually used. Yesterday was one such occasion. Usually when he encounters these new words, he jots them down on a piece of paper he keeps next to his computer. Yesterday he forgot to write it down, but when I showed up with my morning tea, he did remember he had a new word for me.

But much to his consternation, he couldn’t remember what it was. Happily, he could remember what it meant, and a quick search on an Internet thesaurus revealed the word: “hirsute”. In short, it means “hairy.” More specifically, with coarse, stiff hairs.

As always, the discovery of a word led us into the etymology, and that was where “hirsute” got especially interesting to me. Through hirsutus, it is ultimately derived from the Latin word for “to bristle or to shiver”: horrēre. The word “horror” has also found its way into the English language from this root. One can see how it evolved. Horror makes our hair stand on end, it makes us shiver. Hirsute is not just to be covered in hair, but in bristly hair.

Such is my brain that it is enormously pleased by such small things. Hirsute and horror are miles apart in meaning, and yet descended from the very same concept. I love the English language. 

365 Notes: Day 110 – Back to sleep

Insomnia hit me full force last night, and I did not have a single shred of sleep. Which means I haven’t slept since my last note. Which means don’t expect much today. Hour after hour ticked by last night as I lay awake on the bed in the back of my bus. CBC radio brought me interesting tidbits from all over the world and my cat snoozed deeply next to me. Both CBC and the cat seemed unaffected by my inability to sleep.

I finally surrendered at about 4:30 this morning and decided to get out of bed. For a change, I pawed the cat awake and told him it was time for breakfast. We both got up. He ate, I drank tea, and hid some chocolate eggs around the bus for the boys to find in the(ir) morning. Somehow – with a great effort of will – I was able to suppress the insomnia-induced crankiness that so badly wanted to be released at times today. 

Happily, the day is drawing to a close, which is more than I can say for my incessantly yawning mouth. The kids are already in bed. The cat is too. This note is my last official act of the day, and then I get to crawl in next to the cat. I guess you couldn’t find a more appropriate day than Easter Sunday to feel like the walking dead.


365 Notes: Day 109 – Back to the city

I know I just got to the lake, but I am already contemplating my return to the city. The custody arrangement for my children will be changing in September, so that I will have them 50 percent of the time again. I miss that arrangement and it will make life better for everyone involved. I like living at the lake, and I like living on the bus, but its no place for the kids when they’re getting ready for school in the morning.

Soon enough, therefore, I will move back to the city. In the meantime,  I ask my (greater) Halifax people to please keep an ear open for affordable rentals in downtown and north end Dartmouth. I spent the winter living on the Halifax Peninsula itself. And it was one of the lonliest winters of my life. So when the time comes that I move back, it will be to Dartmouth where the vast majority of my friends live.

If I absolutely must live in the city, it might as well be back to the hood I know, and near the people I love.

365 Notes: Day 108 – Doomsday clock

As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and at the onset of an era of unprecedented climate change, our way of thinking about the uses and control of technologies must change to prevent unspeakable destruction and future human suffering. The Clock is ticking.” – The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Happily, it has not ticked forward lately. The last time the Doomsday Clock moved ahead was in 2012, thanks to the instability inspiring Arab Spring, and the unholy trifecta of nuclear, environmental and technological threats. Since then it has sat at 5 minutes to midnight. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists – the keepers of the clock, supported by 18 Nobel Laureates – called our times the most “perilous” since the atomic age was ushered in with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For those who might not know, the Doomsday Clock is a metaphorical device implemented in 1947 to measure humanity’s distance from self annihilation. It takes the form of a regular twelve hour clock, with Midnight representing the Doomsday hour and the minute hand representing how far away from that hour we are. When it was first established in 1947, the minute hand was set at seven minutes to midnight. The cold war was heating and the nuclear age had dawned. For the first time in millions of years worth of evolution, mankind had devised himself the ability to bring it all to a screeching halt. No other species could design the means (or possess the desire) to trigger a planet wide suicide pact. Only man could be so clever.

Since 1947, the clock has been adjusted a total of twenty times, sometimes ticking further away from Armageddon hour, sometimes ticking closer. It has been adjusted ahead in response to the advent of new nuclear states like India and Pakistan and adjusted back with the success of nuclear proliferation treaties like the Strategic Arms Limitations. Its keepers try to stay abreast of current events, if not always successfully. The Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, is often regarded as the closest the superpowers ever came to the brink of a nuclear exchange, but those events transpired so quickly that the clock-keepers did not even have the opportunity to adjust their timepiece. I’m too young to remember the Cuban blockade, but I have heard many first hand stories and read many accounts. I expect the clock would have hit a minute to the hour. But it never got that close to midnight. In 1953, it came closer than at any other time. When the United States and The Soviet Union each successfully exploded hydrogen bombs, the clock was adjusted to two minutes to midnight – but the threat of mutually assured destruction helped the world maintain that uneasy distance from the end-times hour. The furthest from midnight the clock has been set at since its inception was in 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower. In those glory days, when tin pot dictators like Saddam Hussein were the world’s greatest threats, and treaties abounded to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, life was almost peaceful. Or at least a full quarter of a metaphorical hour from the end of that peaceful life.  

365 Notes: Day 107 -Indian giving

I have been trying to word a joke. I’m not certain it is a good joke, or even a viable one. But it has been rattling around in my brain.

Here’s the line as I conceived it:

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission offered Natives an apology, but then took it back.

Somewhere in there is something funny. Help me find it.


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