Sunday, April 10, 2011

On decline of garage sales

Last year I noticed that the quality of the stuff available at local garage sales declined. This year the number of garage sales is down also. And I mean down! Whereas last year this time we would go to 10-12 events each Saturday, this year we are lucky if we see 5 or 6.

I suspect that there are two possible explanations:

1) Weather. It has been miserable and unstable. That global warming thing has not reached us yet: We have been seeing temperatures consistently 3 degrees C below seasonal average. Furthermore, predicting the weather has been problematic. The scientists employed by the Environment Canada are clearly not the same ones that confidently predict 2.5 degrees increase in average temperatures in the next 100 years. Ours, as reflected by the predictions on the Weather Channel, have the greatest difficulty deciding what the weather will be in the next 12 hours. In fact, the way the Weather Channel deals with this locally is to show different predictions every 6 hours. Presumably one of them will eventually turn out to be right.

Thus people are reluctant to hold garage sales unless they have the ability to go indoors in bad weather. It will be interesting if the numbers pick up in summer although "summer" is a relative term here on the Island.

2) Bad economy. I postulated this last year as the reason for poor quality stuff available. People in financial difficulty buy less new stuff and hold onto their good old stuff longer. This was also reflected in the local auction house. However, it is not clear what "bad economy" means here on the Island. There is some unemployment due to mill etc. closures. OTOH those who are employed or have their own businesses may not be as hard up as all that. For example I have tried to get estimates for some building work which I guess would be about $1500 worth. Of the four companies I asked two have not turned up and the two that did have so far failed to provide the quote, in one case for over a week. I figure that if you can turn down that sort of work you are not suffering.

I wonder what the garage sales experience has been elsewhere...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What I learned visiting a neighbouring fencing club

Our Cyclops fencing club had an outing last night: We went to visit our neighbours in Comox. We have not been there for over 2 years. All in all it was fun. Here are some things I learned:

1) Pushing yourself is good even if you are an old cripple. It would have been easy to stay at home and watch another episode of Criminal Minds. It did not hurt nearly as much as I thought it would.
2) Aerobic capacity is greatly affected by the state of mind. I was gassed during the first few fights purely because I was hyped up going into them. Once I relaxed it was not nearly as bad.
3) A 60-year old woman can dish out beating to young bucks.
4) A 59-year old man will lose 5-0 to the same bucks if he fences them the same way he would fence a 60-year old woman.
5) A good strategy may compensate for poor technique and lead to victory (see *3*)
6) A crappy strategy with so-so technique will lead to defeat (see *4*). Also there is such thing as too much relaxation.
7) Some clubs do not teach offense. A determined attack in such places often pays off. Even if the attack is horrible (see *3*)
8) Tall people have long arms. Epee at the end of a long arm reaches farther than one at the end of a short arm.
9) Hitting arms is harder than one would like it to be. So is moving blades out of the way.
10) If you have any doubs that your epee needs re-wiring there is no doubt. Re-wire and quit bitching about lost touches.
11) You can improve your fencing even if your circumstances make it very difficult. You have to want to learn by any means necessary. Our club is a living proof.
12) A decent coach would not hurt, though. Coaching is much easier if you see your student as an observer than as an opponent.

Alll things considered we did not do badly (some did better than others - see *3* - again!) Let's hope we can do even better next time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

On Mottoes

I was introduced to mottoes at an early age. "Pravda vitezi" (Veritas vincit or The Truth Prevails) was a state motto of Czechoslovakia and probably the first one I learned. In retrospect it was a bit of an Orwellian joke as was another semi-official motto "Se Sovetskym svazem na vecne casy" (Forever with Soviet Union, the concept of forever being fortunately quite limited in this case).

Have you noticed how mottoes in Latin carry seemingly greater weight? Unless you are a Prince of Wales and then you do not mind a bit of German ("Ich dien"). By the way he got that just outside Prague in 1620 during the Battle of the White Mountain. Not something the Czechs care to remember.

That mottoes can be important at less than lofty level was impressed on me when I emigrated to UK and joined the St. Marylebone Grammar School in London. The school was divided into "houses" (a novelty for me). The house I was assigned to, Portman, had a motto "Impelite caligas vestras" which translates as "Put your boots in". They taught me rugby there and I quickly learned the meaning of the motto.

When I became a family man I felt that a family is incomplete without a motto. Such motto should best reflect the family philosophy, be brief, pithy and of course in Latin.

There are many lofty ideals expressed in family mottoes: "Vi et virtute" (By strength and valor, Barnes), "Fortis in arduis" (Brave under difficulties, Beaton), "Esse quam videri" (To be rather than seem to be, Bonham).

Other mottoes are rather naked attempts at self-promotion: "Crede Byron' (Trust Byron, a motto of the  family...Byron would you believe? Pre-owned carriages and steeds??)

Some are downright dubious by today's standards: "Claris dextra factis" (Right hand employed in glorious deeds, Byam), "Insolitos docuere nisus" (Taught unwonted exertions, Babington. Your guess is as good as mine...), "Commodum non damnum" (Convenience not an injury, Backie. Was this a cry of one in distress akin to " A horse! A horse! A kingdom for a horse!?), "Virtu tutissima cassis" (Virtue is the safest helmet, Barker. A proponent of abstinence?). Much lost in the respective translations, perhaps.

Then there are a few with Confucian overtones: "Aquilla non captat muscas" (Eagle catcheth not flies, Buller).

Rare ones presumably relate to familiar clinical conditions; "Depressus extollor" (I am exalted after being depressed, Butler. More lithium?)

Anyway, I felt our family deserved something more modest yet expressive of our true nature. Thus I came up with "Primus ad alveum" (First to the trough). For some reason it has not been as accepted by the family members as I hoped it to be. The new family crest related to it has been rejected outright!

Still, I am not dscouraged. Recently, I had to come up with a name for our fencing club (well, I did not *have* to, it amused me to do so). The name is "Cyclops". Why Cyclops? You need to know that ours is a very *small* club. Two people, exactly. My wife and I. So the reason for the name is summed up in our motto: "Luscus caecos ducit". No, it has nothing to do with the large bowel! It means "One-eyed leads the blind"!