Friday, October 30, 2009

Samantha The She-Devil Cat

It wouldn't be Halloween without my telling you the story of Samantha The Demon Cat, who still haunts me. She was not a cat. Oh, she looked like a cat, and people often mistook her for a cat, but she was not cat. She was a demon straight from the bowels of Hades. She was very, very wicked and she was a drug addict as well. I didn't own her, she owned me. She let me live with her, as long as I fed her, gave her all my attention -- 24/7 -- and gave her drugs. I was her pusher, I was her enabler, I was her co-dependent. Our relationship was dysfunctional and pathological, and she had complete control over my every waking moment.

Oh, yes, Samantha the She-Devil Cat.

Samantha was very possessive of me. She insisted on being close to me at all times. If I went from one room to another, she would follow me. If I sat down, she would sit next to me. When I went to bed, she climbed in with me. Often when I fell asleep, she would howl like a banshee to wake me up. One night, in sheer exhaustion, I put her into a closet, only to wake up an hour later to find her lying next to me. I put her back into the closet, and pulled my heavy beveled glass coffee table in front of the closet door. It wouldn't budge, and it held the closet door tightly shut. I woke up an hour later with Samantha next to me, sound asleep, the coffee table pushed out of the way and the closet door wide open. The Hounds of The Baskervilles had nothing on Samantha. She would have made mincemeat of them.

She was jealous of anyone who came near me, and several of my family and friends still bear the scars to prove it. If I spoke on the phone with anyone, Samantha would pace back and forth bellowing, "Oh, yah, oh yah, oh yah, OH YAH..." People would ask me, "What the h*ll is that!?"

Funny you should ask...

I loved Samantha, though. She was not like any creature I had ever known. There are nights when I'm lying in bed and I can still feel her cold nose on my foot, and hear her rustling at the end of my bed. If any living creature would have found a way to come back, it would have been Samantha.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Seven Beauties...

This photograph is considered scandalous. Yes it is. In the 21st Century when anything goes, and we have seen the private parts of almost every celebrity, either in movies or in print, this photograph has caused a huge sensation. But, it's not for the reason you may think. This photograph is considered shocking because it is a photo of plus-sized models. Yes! Plus-sized, as in larger than size 4. These women are considered chubby, plump, portly, large -- fat. Can you believe it?

The woman on the left is considered a "normal" woman -- used in advertising to represent "real" women. She is the image that advertisers use to sell products to women. Women who don't fit this template don't buy the products. So they change their bodies to fit the standard, and develop eating disorders in the process. The woman on the right is a "plus-size" model and is considered fat. Many modelling agencies -- including Janice Dickinson's agency -- refuse to hire plus-size models such as this woman.

In the movie "The Devil Wears Prada", Nigel snootily informs Andrea that they have nothing that would fit her, because she is a size 6, and all their samples are from 0 to 4. What is a size 0 anyway? Is that for someone who has no body? Designer fashions stop at size 10 or 12. If you wear a size 14, good luck in trying to find designer fashions. When I was 18 years old, I weighed 120 pounds and wore a size 10. By today's standards that is plus-sized, because the sizes have been reduced, but unfortunately women's bodies have not. The average Canadian or American woman is 5 ft. 4 in. tall and weighs 140 pounds. In other words -- plus size! And believe me, no one will ever mistake me for the woman on the left.

Let's get real and start celebrating our curves again. When we came into this world, God did not provide us with an air brush.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Adjourning Sine Die

It would appear the swine flu H1N1 virus is cutting a swath through our office, which means I don't have time for my favorite activity -- blogging -- at the moment. I am taking up all the slack for all the overload work. I have all sorts of ideas for posts and no time to do them *sigh* and no time to visit my favorite blogs.

I am of two minds about the H1N1 vaccine. I believe it is probably necessary, but at the same time, I wonder how safe it is. Do I want to be on the receiving end of an "uh-oh" moment? As in ,"Uh-oh, we didn't know it had those side effects..." Maybe I'll wait.

Have a wonderful week, everyone, and don't have too much fun out there without me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Amelia Earhart Or Irene Bolam...?

The story of Amelia Earhart is one that has always fascinated me, and now there is a new movie about her, and I can hardly wait to see it. To me, the really interesting part of her story begins when she disappeared on her final approach to Howland Island in the South Pacific, and no trace of her or her plane has ever been found. There are all sorts of theories as to what happened to her, and why she was unable to locate Howland Island. Some of the theories seem plausible, and other stretch the limits of the imagination. One theory that I had not heard until recently is that Earhart did in fact make it back to the United States, and lived the rest of her life as a woman named Irene Bolam.

(Click to enlarge)

Photographs of the two women were superimposed on each other, and it was claimed that they were such a close match, even the tear ducts were the same. It's much like the story of Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, the only surviving member of the Imperial House of Romanov, who were assassinated by the Bolsheviks. Anderson's story has since been proven false, and I believe the claim that Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart is false as well. But it is an interesting theory, and adds a whole new twist to the mystery.

One day Earhart's plane -- if there is anything left of it -- will be located somewhere at the bottom of the South Pacific Ocean, much the same way the "Titanic" was discovered. Until then, it's always fun to speculate about what really happened to these larger than life people. Folks still continue to spot Elvis filling his car's gas tank at a local gas station. Of course, he still looks the same as he did 32 years ago. And Andy Kaufman is alive and well, and living quietly somewhere as Tony Clifton.

Somehow these implausible and impossible theories are always much more fun, though, aren't they? It is said that truth is stranger than fiction, but that's not true at all. Oh, by the way, have you heard? When NASA crashed a probe onto the moon a couple of weeks ago looking for water, they found Bigfoot living up there. Who knew!?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Joy Of Laughter

There is nothing more relaxing and refreshing than a good belly laugh. Laughter reduces stress, relaxes muscles, helps refresh the air in our lungs, lowers blood pressure, and releases nature's painkillers (endorphins). It has also been found that laughter sparks our creativity and rejuvenates our mind and soul.

Laughter is sometimes called our "internal jogging" because it helps strengthen our hearts. For people who are not able to get regular cardiac activity, laughing is wonderful exercise. It aids in circulation and delivers oxygen and other nutrients to the rest of the body. And, believe it or not, women receive more benefit from laughing than do men. I think that is one of the reasons women always seem to fall in love with men who can make them laugh.

Laughing is wonderful, but did you know it also helps your immune system? Yes it does. It increases the natural killer cells that attack viruses and even tumors. Laughing also wards off colds because it increases immunoglobulin in saliva, and has a cleansing effect.

Laughter is the universal language, and a great ice-breaker. Often groups of people will not share the same ideas, and that can create tension, especially over the long term. Most of us find ourselves in that situation from time to time. I work closely with a co-worker who never laughs. It is all business, all the time. There is no sense of humor, or sense of the ridiculous in this person, and unfortunately as a result, my co-worker suffers from high blood pressure. I am just the opposite, and I love to laugh. However, there are times when I feel as if I'm doing something subversive when I laugh. But never fear -- that doesn't stop me. We have a new young doctor who has the most wonderful, infectious giggle. Hearing him laugh makes me giggle too. His laugh is ... just what the doctor ordered.

No one has ever discovered the negative side effects to laughing -- it's free, and it's good for you. Find every opportunity you can, and laugh.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rockwell, Images Of An Illustrator

There is a wonderful article in Vanity Fair this month about Norman Rockwell, and in particular about how he set up the compositions for his paintings. He photographed his subjects first, and now there is an extensive collection of his photographs, which I think would be as interesting to see as his paintings.

This is one of my favorite Rockwell paintings. The little girl is comparing herself unfavorably to the actress Jane Russell, whom she sees as beautiful and glamorous. But the viewer can see that the little girl will be far more beautiful when she is grown up. I like this picture because the little girl reminds me very much of Marigold.

Most people are familiar with "The Gossip". Rockwell used friends and family members as subjects for his paintings, and you can see the same folks throughout many of his works. I have never been a huge fan of Norman Rockwell's art. He really was more of an illustrator than an artist, but as an illustrator, no would could outshine him. He created images that today are referred to as "Rockwellian" or "kitschy", because they seemed to reflect a perfect way of life that perhaps did not really exist. But if you look closely at his paintings, you can also see images of reality. In his painting "Saying Grace", if you look through the curtains covering the diner window, you can see the diner is located in an industrial area.

Photography is very much a form of art, and I think it would be interesting to see Rockwell's photographs. Somehow they would give a whole new dimension to his paintings.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Story Of Frank Paul

The other night I watched a movie that has just been released on DVD called "The Soloist", starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. The movie is based on the true story of Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) who is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He discovers a Juilliard trained musical prodigy, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) living on the streets in downtown Los Angeles. Ayers had developed paranoid schizophrenia while at Juilliard, and he ended up alone and homeless. Both Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx's performances were wonderful, even though the movie seemed to lack direction.

The most gut-wrenching scenes in the movie were the scenes of the hundreds of homeless people, with nowhere to go, no hope, and no one who seemed to really care. Most of them suffered from some sort of debilitating mental illness. I have never liked the term "mental illness" because it seems to imply a psychological connection rather than a physical connection. I believe most so-called mental illnesses are really a form of physical brain disease, and should be treated as such. There should be no stigma attached to having a "brain disease", any more than there is to having heart disease. But here we are in the 21st Century, still stigmatizing these poor folks. In the 1980s, the policies in many countries were to close the hospitals where people could receive the treatment they needed, and most of these folks who were powerless to help themselves were forgotten. The idea was to help people get better, learn new coping and life skills, and gain some independence. Unfortunately, we now see them now sleeping under piles of rags, in doorways and on park benches. Most of us walk past them, trying not to look at them, or to make eye contact.

A few years ago there was a Mi'kmaq Aboriginal man by the name of Frank Paul who used to panhandle outside the liquor store next to my local supermarket. Something about him touched my psyche -- or my heart -- if you will. He looked people in the eyes, and there was a whole world of communication in his expression. He appeared sad and ashamed of how low he had fallen, he had a certain dignity that I have rarely seen, and he seemed to be saying, "Don't look at me as I appear to be; I am really more like you than you realize. What has happened to me can happen to anyone, and I am embarrassed that it has happened to me." He also had a thoughtful look of gratitude when anyone gave him money, and I had the feeling that if the tables were turned, he would be more than generous in return. One day, Mr. Paul was arrested for being drunk in a public place. A sergeant at the city drunk tank refused to allow him to stay, and Mr. Paul was dragged to a police wagon and then dumped in the back alley, where he died of hypothermia.

Later on, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu issued a news release apologizing to Mr. Paul's family and the community. "We deeply regret the loss of life caused by the mistakes our officers made, who had a duty of care for Mr. Paul," said Chu. "Since that tragic event, we have strengthened and modified certain policies, our procedures and training have been reinforced, and we continue to work closely with our public health partners to further safeguard the lives and well being of those in our care."

While I was watching "The Soloist" the other night, I kept thinking of Mr. Paul. What talents did he possess? Could he have been a wonderful writer, artist, musician? Maybe with the right opportunities, he would have been a great diplomat, or a doctor, or a teacher. Would he have ever had the opportunity to find out? Well, certainly not on the streets of Vancouver, that's for sure.

Homelessness should not exist; it is unacceptable. And none of us really knows if it could happen to us, or someone we love. There but for the grace of God goes any one of us.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes...

"You guys said we did this for a show...!"


Out of the mouths of babes.

What is wrong with people who exploit their children in order to become famous? One of the very first things children learn is, when they do something bad, they must suffer the consequences. But, what about when their parents do something bad, and use the child as an accomplice? Parents are supposed to be the big people. Now this poor little fellow - Falcon Heene -- is being used as a pawn, and he's being paraded on every television talk show from Larry King Live to Good Morning America. He's very confused and probably a little frightened, and he knows he did nothing wrong. As the days progressed, we could see the anxiety building in this little fellow, until he was sick to his stomach -- live and in living color -- on morning television. And then his father, the redoubtable Richard Heene, actually blamed the little boy, saying he was confused. For that alone, the father should be charged.

Where are Child Protective Services? Don't they have them in the U.S.? Why are they allowing children such as this little boy and the Gosselin children to be put in the spotlight until they squirm with apprehension and fear?

The sheriff in Fort Collins Colorado is expected to charge Mr. and Mrs. Heene with felony charges. They deserve it, but now their children will be faced with more anxiety that Mommy and Daddy are bad people and may end up in prison -- just what every child needs.

This would all end of people would just stop watching reality shows that involve children. "Nanny 911", "Supernanny", "Wife Swap", "Jon and Kate + Eight", "18 Kids and Counting" ... and so on. We get to watch these children throwing tantrums, being potty trained, and all the other normal things that children do, and it's supposed to be entertainment. The producers of these shows are to blame, the parents are to blame, and the people who watch these shows are to blame. Would any of you folks want your children involved in something like this, and exposed to the whole world on a day-to-day basis? These children have no voice in the matter. How far does it have to go before the authorities step in and put an end to it? Someone is making a lot of money off this, and they're using children to do it. Make it stop...!

I now relinquish my soap box and return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interesting Times

My favorite thing to do at this time of the year is to go for a long walk, crunching leaves. Today I plan to do just that. When I come home, I am going to make some of my famous killer delicious beef stew, have a cup of tea, and visit all of your fabulous blogs. Did I hear someone whispering back there, "She needs to get a life?" Well, I suppose it's true. My life can be rather dull and uneventful at times. What is that ancient Chinese proverb, "May you live in interesting times." One should be happy to live in calm, serene and uninteresting times.

This is a little pencil sketch I did a few years ago of the fallen leaves. I loved the colors. In the meantime, I am going to leave you for today (get it? leave you -- oh, never mind...) with one of my favorite pieces of music, "L'autunno" from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons". I hope you get outdoors today and kick some leaves.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Black Widow Spider And The Black Knight

For several years I have had an idea -- a suggestion -- that would cut the back log of work in our organization and would also significantly impact the turn-around time of patient care from a couple of weeks to a day or so at most. And for several years I have pitched my idea to the Black Widow Spider, only to be told, "Oh, no, no, that would never work, uh-uh, can't be done. Nope. It won't work. This is the way we've always done it, and your suggestion just can't be done."

Oh, okay...

Enter The Black Knight. I thought, here is an intelligent person who perhaps might see the advantage in at least trying my suggestion to find out if it might possibly -- maybe -- actually work. I sent her an e-mail, I requested a meeting with her and with all the people who are involved in the process. We met, and once again I pitched my idea.

The Black Widow Spider spoke up, "No, no, no, it can't be done. It will never work."

The Black Knight, "Why wouldn't it work? Shouldn't we at least try it to find out?"

Yes! Finally -- the voice of reason. I silently cheered The Black Knight. This is why this person was hired. The new broom sweeps clean, as my mother used to say. Here is some someone with some intelligence and common sense.

The new process I suggested was implemented. It worked immediately. It took a backlog of work that was chronically backed up for two or three weeks -- or more -- and brought it current, and it remains current. And not only has it eased the burden of work in general, it has directly affected patient care in a positive way and it has greatly lessened the stress on the support staff. Of all the changes that have been made recently, it has produced the most significant results with the greatest impact, and for that I am pleased. For several years I have given the idea a lot of thought, and I knew it would work. It has seemed to me to be a "no-brainer", as they say.

Yesterday I discovered -- quite by accident -- that The Black Knight is taking credit for my idea, and is being supported by The Black Widow Spider. At at off-site management meeting, The Black Knight received kudos for her (my) suggestion that significantly reduced the turn-around time in the backlog of work regarding patient care.

It is always impossible afterwards to speak up, "But that was my idea...!" At that point, we have to remain silent. But, I know it was my modest contribution, even if the credit goes to someone else. The Black Knight may even believe it was her idea. Memory is a strange thing. We sometimes edit and prune the things we don't choose to believe, and embelish the things we do until we believe it ourselves. But it was my idea, and I pushed for it until it was done.

"Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time."

... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, October 16, 2009

2010 Winter Olympic Medals

The 2010 Winter Olympic medals were unveiled yesterday. They're quite strange and unique, but much to my surprise, I like them. One interesting fact is that they're partially supplemented with trace amounts of gold, silver and copper reclaimed from discarded electronics -- gold 1.52 percent, silver 0.122 percent and copper 1.1 percent -- the practice is an Olympic first. The thing I like best about them is the art work, they feature the Orca whale and were designed by artist Corrine Hunt, a First Nations Artist. According to the Vancouver Olympics website, The orca, designed across four panels in the style of a traditional West Coast First Nations bentwood box, is often associated with the attributes of strength, dignity and teamwork. The sleek and powerful black and white whales are common to the waters off Canada’s West Coast but are also found in all the world’s oceans. The medals for the Paralympic Games will feature the Raven.

I have always been very partial to Orcas, and when I was growing up on Vancouver Island my father used to take us "whale watching" off the coast of Tofino, where we would watch the pods of Orcas swim close to shore. My father loved Aboriginal art, and he did a painting of the Orca and the Raven, which I now have in my house, and is one of my treasures. My parents had a wonderful First Nations art collection of baskets, totem poles and paintings which they donated to the museum in Port Alberni, but I still have some of the baskets and paintings. So, I think my Dad would approve of the medals as well. All we need now is for some of our Canadian athletes to win a few -- gold would be nice.

And while they're at it, perhaps this will be the season a Canadian team will bring home the Stanley Cup.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jaycee Dugard And Elizabeth Smart

Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart resemble each other enough to be sisters. How is it that these two lovely young women could have endured horrors beyond our imaginations, and still remain so fresh-faced and cheerful? I think hope must be very strong in the human heart. Every parent's worst nightmare is to have their child taken by a stranger and to have them suffer the indignities -- to say the least -- that Jaycee and Elizabeth suffered. The worst thing would be the not knowing, and there should be a special place in the Ninth Circle of the Inferno for the monsters who kidnap, molest and murder innocent children. It's wonderful that these girls were returned to their families.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed.

... Alexander Pope

La Mer

What do you call it when you have a particular song that goes through your head -- over and over and over -- for days, weeks, months...? It's called an "earworm", I believe, although that is a rather unfortunate choice of words. I have had the same song going through my head, on and off, for several weeks. Fortunately, it is one of my favorite songs, but enough is enough. I'm fortunate that I live beside the ocean, and I spend a lot of time strolling on our wonderful beaches, whenever I have the opportunity. And when I do, I always have this song going through my head. So here you are, my lucky friends, I will share with you my "earworm". Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blogging As A Form Of Journalism

During high school, I went through a stage where I wanted to be a journalist. I belonged to the journalism club and everywhere I went, my notebook and pen went with me, and I learned to observe things. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where current events, politics, religion, art, music, philosophy and literature were discussed at length every day. My father subscribed to several newspapers and magazines -- Time, Newsweek, the New Yorker, and he and my mother had a wonderful library of books available for my brothers and me to read. One of my favorite books was "The England of Elizabeth" by A.L. Rowse. The book described life in Elizabethan England, from the lowest classes to the Monarch. Elizabethans invented some wonderful recipes that are still used today, including meat and cheese pies and pastries.

Blogging seems to have taken off as a form of journalism. Blogs vary from personal journals of folks' day-to-day lives, interests, hobbies, etc. Blogging gives us the opportunity for creative freedom and interaction with people from all over the world. With the mainstream media becoming more questionable and biased in their reporting of news, bloggers are making their voices heard.

Two years ago a man named Robert Dziekanski was tasered to death by the R.C.M.P. at Vancouver Airport. They hit him with the taser four times. The entire incident was videotaped by a young man named Paul Pritchard. The R.C.M.P. confiscated Pritchard's camera, but Pritchard hired a lawyer and two days later the R.C.M.P. were forced to return it. Pritchard released the horrifying video to the public, where it quickly made its way to the blogs. The R.C.M.P. were unable to cover up their misdeed, and this month the Braidwood Enquiry is concluding its investigation of the incident. Without Pritchard's video, the R.C.M.P. would have made the whole thing quietly go away, and indeed several of the R.C.M.P. officers were found to have lied about it.

Never before in history have ordinary citizens been able to have their voices heard in such a manner. It is an amazing phenomenon. My boring-little-blog is what might be called a "slice of life". There is no recurrent theme, and I post about whatever happens to be going through my mind on any particular day. I do, occasionally however, like to post about things of which I have a strong opinion. And anyone who knows me, knows I do sometimes tend to have strong opinions. I'm not always right -- in fact very often I am wrong. But, if I think something is bunkum, I will say so. And I cherish other people who feel just as strongly about their opinions, and feel free to disagree with me. To me, the most dangerous people of all are the ones who have no opinions whatsoever, and often they called upon to make tie-breaking decisions, such as in the work place or in the voting booth. As Voltaire said, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

He also said, "I hate women because they always know where things are." It seems he had a sense of humor.

Blogging has become a forum where people can discuss anything and everything, and I think that's wonderful. The one thing I have learned is that no matter what part of the world we are from, and how different we are, we are all the same. People can agree, disagree -- whatever -- but we should never, ever stop the conversation. Keep it going, and keep it honest.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Lonely Glove

I have been invited to participate in a pre-Christmas art show in November and possibly sell some of my paintings. The only problem is, I haven't been doing much painting in the past few months, and this art show is just the incentive I need to get started again. I used to paint everything I saw. This little colored pencil sketch was done several months ago when I lost one of my favorite gloves, and all I had left was its lonely mate. I was about to throw the remaining glove away, when I found the other one lying in a pile of leaves outside. Et voila! I had both gloves again and I was so happy. A few days later, I lost them both. At least they are together.

For some reason, I enjoy working with colored pencils. I have tried watercolor, oils and acrylics, but colored pencils are my favorite medium. They're very forgiving, and they appeal to my sense of being in control of my drawing. I have never been a big fan of "happy accidents". Perhaps that is why I will never venture out of the realm of being a "drawer" to being an "artist". A true artist lets the painting go and allows it almost to paint itself, much the way a writer will let a book write itself. The artist or the writer is the medium, guided by their art. I can never do that. At the same time, after I am finished with a drawing, I find it difficult to part with it.

"Sell it? But I spent so much time on it!"

This little apple is called "Phinnaeus's Apple". He was in Cubs and all the little fellows held an apple sale. I bought an apple, and I wanted to preserve it before I ate it. When I pass into the Great Beyond, this will belong to Phinnaeus. I could never sell it.

So I have my work cut out for me in the next little while, but it is just what I need at the moment, to regain my centre, and to get away from the silliness at work.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and to all my Canadian friends,


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Doctor Will See You Now...

Yesterday at work we were given a briefing on how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, particularly H1N1 -- commonly known as swine flu. It is highly contagious and for some inexplicable reason British Columbia has a higher incidence of it than any other province in Canada. Unfortunately, once the infection starts, it grows exponentially at a very rapid rate. However, there are things people can do to stop the spread of the infection, and in particular there are things we can do to prevent getting the infection ourselves. The first, and most obvious, is wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands.

It's amazing how many people don't know how -- or even when -- to wash their hands. Even the most obvious times seem to elude some people, and I have seen folks use the washroom and then leave without washing their hands. Ewww ... do I really want to touch that doorknob now? The correct way to wash your hands is to count the alphabet from A to Z. Using hot, soapy water, clean the palms and backs of your hands, in between your fingers, and if you can, also underneath your fingernails. When to wash them is -- often. Without venturing over into obsessive compulsive territory, you can never really wash your hands too much, especially when there is a threat of an infectious pandemic. Carry a bottle of Purell with you as well, and use it often. Purell does not clean your hands, but it kills the viruses and bacteria. Only washing your hands will get rid of them.

With colds and influenzas, people are often contagious even before they know they are sick. So we have no way of knowing whom to avoid. It's a good rule of thumb, however, that if someone uses your phone or your keyboard, wipe it off with a disinfectant before you use it. I know that sounds extreme, and perhaps a bit discourteous (do it when they can't see you), but it is a good form of prevention. One of the things we were told in the briefing was to keep our computer mouse and keyboards disinfected, and to wash our hands before and after using them. The keyboards can be disinfected using Clorox Disinfecting wipes. Alcohol apparently failed to kill any microbes.

I'm hoping the H1N1 (swine flu) does not turn into a pandemic, but we do seem to be teetering on the precipice of it. Simple hygiene can do a lot to prevent the spread of it, however. And for goodness sake, if you're sick -- stay home...! Don't be a hero and come in to work or go out to public places. I work with so many people who do that, and first thing I know the thoughtless idiots little darlings have shared their crud with three-quarters of the rest of us.

I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Is It April Fools Already...?

Did I miss something? Shouldn't a person have to actually have effected peace somewhere before being award a Nobel Peace prize? This question is not meant as a criticism of President Obama, and I don't mean to sound mean-spirited -- I honestly feel a bit embarrassed for him. I would think one would feel better winning such an esteemed prize, knowing he had in fact accomplished the goals for which the prize was awarded. Everyone knows I'm not his biggest fan, but in this case I think most folks can share my confusion. For which particular action did Obama win a Nobel Peace prize? Enquiring minds want to know. Despite the title of my post, I am not being facetious, I am genuinely curious. Maybe the folks in Stockholm felt bad because the folks in Copenhagen awarded the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro.

Maybe I have a chance of winning an Academy Award after all...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Poisonous Workplace

How many of you folks work in a poisonous workplace? Probably more than a few. Every organization has initiatives in place in order to keep their employees, if not happy, at least somewhat satisfied with their jobs. If your organization is anything like the one where I work, you probably receive questionnaires every year asking you how satisified you are with your job, your management, your working conditions. You fill out the questionnaire, and that's the end of it. Nothing ever changes, because apparently no one who reads the questionnaire seems to care.

I try not to post about my work place too much because, well, one never knows who is reading our blogs. But things are so bad where I work that I feel the need to "vent", as it were. Stress is a killer, but even more dangerous than stress is the feeling of helplessness. This is a feeling that permeates many workplaces at the moment, and I think ours is no exception. And it is taking its toll on people at all levels, not just the so-called "front-line" employees. In the past five years, in our relatively small office, these are the folks who have been affected:

A. Had high blood pressure and died of a heart attack.
B. Had high blood pressure, a heart attack and cancer.
C. Had cancer, died.
D. Is battling cancer and recently had a heart attack.
E. Had cancer, died.
F. Has high blood pressure.
G. Has high blood pressure and heart disease.
H. Is battling cancer.
I. Had a stroke while sitting at her desk.
J. Quit suddenly, due to stress.
K. Is on a four-month stress leave as of yesterday.
L. Several more have quit because of stress.

If I were an office administrator in an environment like that, I think I would want to take a serious look at what is going on. Instead, the approach is to crack the whip even more. Disciplinary steps are taken against folks who speak out about increased work loads.

How does this happen? What kind of a society have we become where people are so expendable they are regarded as pieces of machinery -- robots. The bottom line is how much money the organization can save. People leave and jobs are doubled up, folks are forced to take on more responsibility.

I rarely -- if ever -- hear laughter in our office anymore. I do see a lot of frustration and tears. In the past few days I have witnessed people crying, I have had other folks asking me, "Is my face red? I think my blood pressure is soaring today." And these are folks in management as well. Yesterday I had lunch with one of the doctors, and she was so stressed and upset about a situation, she just needed to talk to someone. She told me she always feels better after talking with me.

The situation in our workplace has taken a toll on me as well. I go home at the end of the day, and I am too demoralized to do anything. I rarely paint, I don't enjoy blogging as much as I used to do. I don't read as much as I used to read, I feel as if a switch inside me has been turned off. Do any of you have any suggestions? Believe it or not, we belong to a union in our workplace -- a union that used to be one of the strongest in our country. I think it's time to get them involved. Having said that, I like my job, and I love the people with whom I work. They're a wonderful bunch of people, but enough is enough.

In the meantime, please bear with me, and I hope you will continue to visit my blog. If I don't always have the opportunity to reply to your wonderful and thoughtful comments, I love hearing from you. Have a fabulous day, everyone...!

The Cringe Factor

Is anyone else besides me getting tired of people who air their dirty laundry in public? It seems to be turning into a huge, money making industry, and folks are trying to outdo each other in shock value. The latest to hit all the talk shows is MacKenzie Phillips with her admission that she had a ten-year consensual sexual affair with her own father, John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Ewwwww....! Why on earth would someone admit to something like that?

It is not up to us to decide whether it actually it happened or not. Only two people know for sure, and one of them is conveniently not here to defend himself. In any case, whatever the truth is, the cringe factor is way off the charts. Is it possible that someone could be that hard up for money, they would write a book about something so personal? Does MacKenzie Phillips really believe we would be interested in this particular revelation? Well, obviously a lot of people are interested. That's what shocks me -- not MacKenzie's disclosure, but the fact that people are interested. I'm not a prude -- far from it -- but isn't this just going a little too far? What can we expect next?

The other night I was having a bit of a "lazy" night, watching TV and vegging out relaxing. As I surfed through the TV channels, all I saw -- on almost every station -- were "news" reports about David Letterman, Jon and Kate (with her annoyingly bad hairdo), and MacKenzie Phillips. There they all were -- live and in living color -- being interviewed on almost every talk show and faux news broadcast up and down the channels. It was like watching a slow-motion train wreck. Yesterday I read on the CNN website that Letterman apologized to his wife on Monday night's show. I guess, for whatever reason, Lettermen felt it was necessary to do that in public, but how much more do folks have to witness until this has played itself out.

If MacKenzie Phillips really did have a ten-year consenual sexual affair with her father, well, I feel bad for her, but I really don't want to hear about it. I guess the next step for her will be as a guest host on The View.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun ... With A Little Help From Our Friends...

We Canadians have almost made a cottage industry out of dissing our politicians. American Rep. Joe Wilson's little outburst during a recent speech by Obama to the joint session of Congress was nothing compared to what goes on in the Canadian House of Commons. It is famous for being rowdy and noisy, with MPs often shouting insults at each other, even when someone else is speaking, and there is a lot of pounding of desks going on. And Canadians love to hate their politicians. It doesn't matter who's in office -- we love to hate them. So, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I rather like Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen. I know I am going to have a lot of Canadians who will jump on and say, "Whaaaaat!?" The thing I like most about the Harpers, though, is they're from Western Canada, and they actually acknowledge that Canada's third largest city is on this side of the Rocky Mountains. Also, Eastern Canadians are always so smug, and it gets tiresome.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is known for being just a tad straight-laced, even though he's married to a blonde who rides a motorcycle. Harper has a Master's degree in Economics and he is a bit on the stuffy side, and he may be what is known in the U.S. as "Republican Lite". However, I have always believed that still waters run deep. So ... here is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and cellist Yo-Yo Ma at the National Art Centre gala in Ottawa on Saturday night. As the National Post said, "This is not a man who puts himself 'out there' and it must have taken considerable guts to have stepped on to a stage with one of the greatest musicians of our time."

Occasionally we have to stop taking life so seriously, and just have fun.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Norma Jean And The Kennedys

I have just finished reading a wonderful biography of Marilyn Monroe, "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe", written by J. Randy Taraborelli, that dispels all the rumors and myths we have heard over the years, particularly about Marilyn's so-called relationship with the Kennedys. Both JFK and RFK were known philanderers, and JKF did indeed have a one-night stand (perhaps two nights) with Marilyn, but afterwards he basically told her to "move on with her life" and he refused to take her phone calls. Nice guy, that JFK... A few months later, RFK invited Marilyn to sing "Happy Birthday" to the President for his 45th birthday, which she famously did, wearing a skin-tight dress. Her attitude was, "They want Marilyn, I'm going to give them Marilyn". This iconic photograph taken at a house party later that evening is the only photograph of the three of them together. Of note, Pat Kennedy Lawford, the President's sister, was one of Marilyn's closest and long-standing friends, and cherished their friendship.

If Marilyn were alive today, she would be recognized for what she was -- a brilliant comedienne, a wonderful actress, singer and dancer, and a young woman who got caught up in the world of Hollywood stardom, self-doubt and drugs. In reality, she was an intelligent woman, well-read, well versed in the arts, literature and politics. She painted, wrote poetry and was an astute businesswoman who started her own production company. She had created the persona of "Marilyn Monroe" and constantly battled the chauvinistic attitude of the men who controlled the movie industry and refused to take her seriously. She was a feminist before her time, but she had become type-cast as "Marilyn" and could not break away from "her". She was trapped in her own creation. If you want to see three brilliant performances, watch "Bus Stop", "The Seven Year Itch" or "Some Like It Hot". If those movies were to be produced today, Marilyn Monroe would be nominated for an Academy Award -- and probably win -- for all three performances. There is not an actress today who can even come close to those performances. Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson, Kate Winslet -- eat your hearts out.

Marilyn's downfall was that she ultimately allowed herself to be controlled by the men in her life, including Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. Dr. Greenson took advantage of her fragility, and pumped her full of barbiturates. He planted someone in her house -- Eunice Murray -- to watch Marilyn 24 hours a day and report back to him with her every move. The weekend before her death Marilyn had been seen injecting drugs intravenously, and when the people around her expressed their concern, she said, "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing". When Marilyn died, her body had enough Nembutal, Demerol, Librium and chloral hydrate in it to kill ten people. Since her untimely death in 1962, we have all seen what drugs have done to dozens -- hundreds? -- of entertainers in their prime: Jim Morrison, River Phoenix, Andy Gibb, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Chris Farley, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson -- the list goes on. Marilyn was simply another victim of drug addiction, the same way that Diana was another victim of a drunk driver. These woman were beautiful and larger than life, but in the end they died stupidly and needlessly -- no murder conpiracies, just carelessness and stupidity. Despite all the rumors and innuendoes, there is no conclusive evidence to prove otherwise. And, almost 50 years after her death, the world is still fascinated with Marilyn Monroe because she did indeed have that magical something that defines not only an actress but a star, which is all she ever wanted to be. Perhaps one day the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will have a posthumous award category. Norma Jean Baker should definitely get the long overdue recognition for her brilliant creation and portrayal of "Marilyn Monroe".

Saturday, October 3, 2009

An Invitation To My Treehouse

Well, here it is another wild and crazy late Saturday afternoon, and I thought I would finally sit down and visit all my favorite blogs, but my eyes are bothering me again -- sigh -- and I have to rest them from the computer. I wonder, are computers bad for our eyes? We take it for granted that they aren't, but still I wonder... I Googled my question, and there are things we can do to prevent eyestrain, such as keeping the monitor 20 to 26 inches away from our eyes, and slighly below eye level, and keeping a soft light focused on the screen to soften the glare. This picture is the view from my desk as I sit at my computer, and I think I'm just going to turn the computer off for a while. I'll be back very soon. In the meantime, you are all invited to drop in for coffee, tea -- or the beverage of your choice -- in my little treehouse.

That Great Canadian Pastime ... Sled Dog Racing

Now that fall is officially here, it is the kick-off for those three great Canadian events, NHL hockey, CFL football playoffs ending in the Grey Cup, and my favorite -- dog sled racing, or as it is more accurately known, sled dog racing. Canadian Thanksgiving is next weekend and it is the day we bring the dogs out of their refrigerated kennels, hook them up to the sleds and set them off. Dogs love sled dog racing, and they look forward to it even more than we do. Sled dogs are part of the family here in Canada, they're very docile, tame and well-loved by the polar bears. When a polar bear strolls through our back yards, as they often do, we just send one of the dogs out to play and distract them. It always works.

When any of you folks come to Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, you will find that the better hotels will offer good rates on dog-sleds for getting around the city and sight-seeing. They'll even provide a driver. Unfortunately sled dog racing is not part of the official Olympics, although there may be some "off-site" contests. It was used as a demonstration sport in the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid New York, but for some reason it just never took off -- so to speak. Not enough Canadians there, I guess.

If you prefer to get around on your own steam, you will find snowshoe rental kiosks on every corner, and snowshoes come in all sizes for every member of the family. When you put on your snowshoes, you can tell which is the left and which is the right by making sure the loose ends of the straps point outward. That way you won't step on them. Be sure to have the kiosk owner give you a crash course in snowshoe walking, and you'll quickly get the hang of it. If you can walk, you can showshoe. And, if you find yourself being chased by a polar bear -- which is fairly rare, but it can happen -- don't try to outrun them in your showshoes. It's pretty tricky, and you will definitely be on the losing end of the race. If you can, try to find a sled dog to distract the polar bear until you can make your escape. This hardly ever happens, however, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Welcome to Canada, eh, and enjoy your stay...!

Friday, October 2, 2009

My World, And Welcome To It...

Hello, all my wonderful friends, I have been spending time away from my computer for the past few days, because I am having a bit of a problem with my eyes, and reading things on a computer screen is very uncomfortable. I often get allergies in the spring and fall, and when that happens my eyes look as if a vampire has attacked me. Cucumber slices are my friend. So if I appear to be missing in action, it will be only temporarily.

In the meantime, this afternoon I picked up a People magazine for something light to read, and it contained an article about Jon Gosselin, and another about John Travolta. It occurred to me, after I had read the two articles, how diametrically opposed these two men were in their approach to fatherhood. Jon Gosselin has paraded his brood of children in front of the television cameras, for all the world to see, while John Travolta fiercely protected his only son from the prying eyes of world. None of us knew Travolta's son, Jett, was autistic until after Jett died. Being a parent is hard, and hardly anyone ever gets it right. It is fraught with land mines that all parents step on occasionally. But does anyone else think it's time for the Gosselins to start protecting their children, and get them out of the limelight? Those eight children have been a cash cow for their parents, and even after the disintegration of their parents' marriage, the children are still being exploited. "Oh, look, see Joel being potty trained! Oh, watch, see Mady throw a tantrum!" Most folks don't even want their children's pictures posted on the Internet, while those morons the Gosselins are showing every intimate detail of their children's day-to-day lives. The cringe factor is starting to go off the chart. Stop...!

And speaking of cringe factor, is anyone else starting to feel really sorry for Jennifer Aniston? She seems to be a likeable enough woman, albeit not overly attractive, but sort of pretty in a "girl-next-door in a really small town" sort of way. As far as her movie career is concerned, she's hanging in there, and actually did a fairly good job in "Marley and Me", but she just seems to be bounding and rebounding from boyfriends to beaux. What seems to be the problem? Perhaps they all think Brad Pitt's shoes would be difficult to fill. I like Jennifer Aniston, I think she has a bit of a Mary Richards quality about her, and she's got spunk.

Lou Grant: "You know what, you've got spunk!"
Mary Richards: "Well, yes..."
Lou Grant: "I *hate* spunk!"

What do you say, we all get together and find a nice man for Jennifer Aniston.

Oh, goodness, look what happens when I get my hands on a gossip magazine...! Have a fabulous weekend, everyone.