Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nightmares of Arithmetic

When I was a little girl, I was a rather plump little thing. I had two older brothers who spoiled me and were always buying me Crispy Crunch chocolate bars. You can buy them only in Canada, and they are still my favorite. I try to avoid them, however. Later, when I was in my teens, I became almost anorexic. I was too busy to eat. I was always very active when I was a child -- swimming, ice skating, bike riding, hop scotch, skipping, hiking ... Home was just a place to hang my coat in between activities. But still, I was never what anyone would call skinny. When I was in grade four, I had a teacher by the name of Mr. William Foster. Mr. Foster was mean, he was cruel, and he was ignorant. He was not only a teacher, he was a pastor in an evangelical church, so there was no excuse for him to be mean, cruel and ignorant. He was always hitting the little boys for no reason, and I once caught him with his hand up a little girl's skirt. He was not a nice man, but we were taught to respect our elders. Teachers, parents, ministers, their word was law, and we did not question them. They were the big people.

The other night I had a dream -- a memory really -- about an awful incident that happened to me when Mr. Foster was giving us an arithmetic lesson. We were learning about multiplication, division, and reduction. He called me up to the front of the class and explained about reducing fractions. He then turned to me and said to the class, "Some numbers cannot be reduced at all -- unlike Johanna here, who could reduce by about five pounds." I remember the feeling of tears welling up in my eyes, and my face turning red. I went to sit down, and Mr. Foster said to me, "Wait, I am not finished with you yet..." So, I stood there while he went on to explain about reducing fractions for what seemed like an eternity. When I finally sat down, my friends were very kind and sympathetic to me. One little boy named Jimmy hugged me. Years later Jimmy and I worked together in our first after-school job in high school, and we practiced our high school French as we worked. I would say, "Merci beaucoup" to him, and he always called me "Little Beaucoups".

I was never what anyone could call a "bad little girl". I had lots of friends, I liked everyone; there was no reason for Mr. Foster to single me out like that. I had always treated him with respect. Why did he do it? I will never know. What causes someone to be cruel to other people -- especially to a child?

I had forgotten about this incident until my dream the other night, and it felt as painful as it did when it happened. Even to this day, I have a phobia about arithmetic. But, as I go through life, no matter what faults I have, I will never be unkind to people. Perhaps I did learn something from Mr. Foster, after all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

RMS Titanic

This is the last photograph of Titanic, prior to its sinking, taken as it was sailing out of Queenstown, Ireland, and into history and eventual doom, April 11th, 1912 @ 1:32pm.

I have always been fascinated by the Titanic. The other night as I was flipping around the channels looking for something to watch, I came upon an amazing program on the Knowledge Network, called “The Man Who Found the Titanic”, and it was the story of Dr. Robert Ballard, the marine archaeologist who found the debris field of the Titanic. The story of how the Titanic was found is interesting, involving the Cold War and the U.S. Navy's search for two Navy nuclear powered submarines, the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher, both of which sank in the 1960s.

Dr. Ballard approached the Navy about his new deep sea underwater robot craft, the Argo, and his search for the Titanic. The Navy however was not interested in spending a large sum of money in searching for the large ocean liner, but they were however, very interested in finding out what happened to their missing submarines and ultimately concluded that the Argo was their best chance to do so. In an agreement made with the Ballard, the Navy would finance Ballard's Titanic search only if he first searched for and investigated the two sunken submarines, and examined the state of their nuclear reactors after being submerged for such a long period of time to see if their radioactivity was impacting the environment. Ballard would be placed into temporary active duty in the Navy and in charge of finding and investigating the wrecks. After the two missions were completed, and if time and funding were permitting, Ballard would be free to use the resources to hunt for Titanic.

Ballard understood the ocean currents would create trails of debris that would make it easier to find the submarines rather than searching for the hulls. Following each of the submarines' large trails of debris led Ballard and his team directly to them. He knew, as well, that the Titanic had probably imploded from pressure depth, much the same way the two submarines had, and concluded that it too had left a trail of debris. Ballard and his team used Argo to sweep back and forth across the ocean floor looking for Titanic's debris trail. The team took shifts monitoring the video feed from Argo as it searched the ocean floor two miles below.
... The Knowledge Network.

On September 1, 1985, Dr. Robert Ballard found the Titanic.

Even by today’s standards, the Titanic was luxurious. Items and artifacts from the Titanic are at a premium, because of the mystique of the ship, and the opulence of the furnishings. In many ways, Dr. Ballard regretted locating the ship because in the years since 1985, Titanic has been pillaged, and in fact more damage has been done to her from artifact hunters than from the erosion of the Atlantic Ocean. He also believes that the location is sacred ground because so many men, women and children lost their lives there. He says when he visits the wreckage, he can still feel their spirits.

The story of the Titanic is one that will always fascinate people, and I think as long as the artifacts are regarded with the proper reverence, people should be permitted to view that important part of maritime history.

Here is a bit of Titanic trivia. Titanic had four smoke stacks, but only three of them were operational. The fourth stack was added to balance the lines of the ship, and make the other smoke stacks not look out of place. Without the fourth stack towards the back, she would have looked top-heavy. The fourth smoke stack served as air ventilation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do Blondes Have More Fun...?

Apparently blondes do not have more fun. After 68 years of “playing the field” with both Veronica and Betty, Archie has finally decided to propose – to Veronica. Archie will get down on bended knee to present Veronica with his marriage proposal and a ring. Veronica will accept Archie's proposal while poor Betty looks on and wipes away a tear. The message boards at have been filling up with messages saying Betty should receive Archie’s proposal of marriage, rather than the snooty Veronica. One fan wrote, “I hope it's Betty! I've read these comics for over 30 years and waited for the day he woke up and chose Betty.”

Someone named Rob wrote, “I think he should ask Betty. Veronica is too sophisticated and too richy rich for him. Betty is very laid back, sort of like the All American Girl she has always been. Betty has a big heart, she would make a great wife to Arch, and I would be disappointed if Archie chose Veronica! Good luck to Archie.”

One commenter by the name of “archielover,” wrote: “OMG! Pick Veronica! He doesn't deserve Betty, he always makes her do all his chores and fix his car and help with his homework, while he treats Veronica like a little princess! I can't wait to see what happens.”

I think Veronica should marry Reggie. They’re perfect for each other. And in a perfect world, Jughead will end up being a wealthy entrepreneur and will marry Betty. They'll have wonderful fun together and he'll make her laugh. Archie will be the lone single guy everyone invites over for dinner and tries to fix up with their loser cousins friends. I mean, my goodness, anyone who vacillates for 68 years...!

L'Eggo My Eggo...

For me, the ultimate, ne plus ultra comfort food is anything made with waffles. When I feel I just have to nosh on something, waffles will do the trick every time. There are about a million things you can make with waffles, and all of them are scrumptious. They make wonderful desserts as well, with berries, icing sugar and ice cream, and maybe some chocolate or caramel sauce. Yum.

Waffles are really easy to make, and I still have my mother and father's waffle iron. I remember my father making waffles on Sunday mornings, with real Canadian maple syrup and his wonderful coffee. The waffles never looked as tidy as they do in this photograph, however. There was waffle batter spilling over the sides, and sticking to everything. That was my favorite part -- what I used to call the "scrumbly bits". My least favorite part was having to wash the waffle iron afterwards, which of course was always my job. Now I understand why.

Anyway ... I have promised that my blog would be a "recipe free" zone, mainly because all your recipes are so much more wonderful than mine -- but I just have to share with you a recipe I discovered invented that is so good, you have to try it. If you don't want to go to the fuss of making "real" waffles, Eggo makes really good "store-bought" waffles. Anyway, make (or buy) a cinnamon waffle with raisins, cover it with thick slices of old, old, old brick cheddar cheese, and put it in the oven at about 425 degrees until the cheddar cheese melts and gets a bit bubbly and crispy. You'll know by looking at it. When you take it out of the oven, sprinkle it with with cracked pepper. The combination of sweet waffle, tart aged cheese, and peppery pepper will make your taste buds do the dance of joy. I know it sounds really peculiar, but the Munchkins love it when I make this for them. It's really good with an ice cold beer. (Don't serve that to your Munchkins, however...)

"Try it, you'll like it.."

So ... what strange food combinations do you enjoy?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

I just watched the most amazing movie about two little eight year-old boys, Bruno and Schmuel -- one the son of the commandant of a German concentration camp, the other a prisoner in the camp. The horrors of the Holocaust are seen through the innocence and simplicity of their eight year-old eyes, as they form a friendship through the barbed wire fence surrounding the camp, and as we watch the trust they build in each other, we are reminded that we are all the same. So, here we are all these years later, and people are still doing the same things to each other -- the Palestinian and Israeli war; the civil war in Darfur; the war in Afghanistan; the Iraq war. People never seem to learn, do they?

I’m not going to say anything more about the movie, except to say if you haven’t seen it yet, you should watch it. It’s a thing of beauty from start to finish. The movie won several awards, including the audience choice award at the Chicago Film Festival. The two little boys who play Bruno and Schmuel are just delightful, but be prepared -- you will fall in love with them.

The movie is based on a book written by John Boyne. He had originally written the book as a children’s book, but it is definitely not for children.

Every once in a while I will watch a movie that is so good, I immediately want to watch it again. This movie is one of those movies. And yes, they all speak with "plummy" British accents, but I would rather hear that than listening to them speaking English with phony German accents.

The Gambler

I am feeling just a wee bit under the weather today, so I hope you will forgive me if I don't have the chance to answer all your wonderful comments, or visit you today. Ever since I was a teenager, I have had what is known as atrial fibrillation. I can go for months or even years without any episodes, and then suddenly it will act up again. For some peculiar reason, it was at its worst when I was in my 20s. Sometimes it is related to stress, and often it is related to something I might have eaten. Yesterday I had a very strong cup of coffee, et voila! that set it off. I have had a couple of other stressors in my life too, but nothing major. Today I'm fine (well, that's a relative term, isn't it?) albeit a bit sleepy.

Life is a gamble, anyway, don't you think? We can't avoid stress, or any of the other things that might happen to us, including all the wonderful things. The minute we get out of bed in the morning and set our feet on the floor, we take chances -- but that is the joy of life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I hope today is a wonderful day for you. You deserve it.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Divine Punishment

This is something that perhaps only women can fully appreciate -- but I think there should be a special place in the ninth circle of h*ll for people who piddle on the toilet seat and don't wipe it up after themselves. Also, if I could, I would create a tenth circle in h*ll for folks who sit down beside me on the bus and proceed to sneeze and sneeze and sneeze -- and cough -- and sneeze ... sans Kleenex. And while I'm at it -- special punishment should be reserved for people who enthusiastically dig the sleep out of their eyes, or the wax out of their ears, and then stick their hand into the shared cookie tin at work. And finally, there is no punishment in the ninth circle of h*ll severe enough for people who blow their nose at the lunch table and then place the well-used Kleenex in the middle of the table for everyone else to enjoy. You don't do any of these things -- do you?!

When they arrive before the precipice,
There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
There they blaspheme the puissance divine.

I understood that unto such a torment
The carnal malefactors were condemned,
Who reason subjugate to appetite.

Inferno, Canto V ... Dante Alighieri

Oh, I am wicked...

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Gift Of Life

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night, about life. Well, to be more specific, we were talking about the gift of life each living creature has been given. If you really think about the overwhelming odds against life anywhere in the universe, the gift of life is one that is truly extraordinary.

No one knows if the universe is infinitely large, or even if ours is the only universe there is. Although our view of the universe is limited, our imaginations are not. Astronomers have indirect evidence that the universe of galaxies extends far beyond the region we can see. But no one knows if the whole universe is infinitely large - large beyond limit.

... NASA

There are folks who subscribe to the theory of God creating life, breathing life into Adam and Eve; and there are folks who believe life was purely an accidental lab experiment in a primordial soup. And there are people like me who think the truth may be somewhere in between. I like to believe there is a life force in the universe, a Higher Power, as it were. Wouldn't it be too awful to consider, if life on Earth were the only life in the Universe, and we were created by accident? Whatever (or whomever) created life, the very fact of it is a miracle, and each of us has been given this miraculous gift.

It didn't occur to me until my conversation with my friend last night, that most of us don't appreciate the extraordinary gift we have been given. Whether by accident or design, we have been the lucky ones -- the chosen ones -- each and every one of us. As we go about our day-to-day lives, how often do we consider the fact that we have been granted a miracle. How many people are truly happy, every day? We spend so much of our time just taking care of the business of living, do we ever stop, take a deep breath and just think that the very fact that we are here is amazing. I know that is often difficult to do, most of us have so much to worry about. Get a job, earn enough to keep ourselves and our families in food, clothing, a roof over our heads -- perhaps enough money left over for hobbies, sports, vacations. We let the commonplace events of our lives rule our emotions, and sometimes that makes us afraid to live. I am as guilty of that as anyone. I work with people who are so stressed over the most trivial matters, they are ruining their health. They have created a microcosm of a world around them that they feel is eminently important, and they rush around to and fro, to and fro, making themselves ill. "What would this office do without me?" Well, it would go on as it always has, just fine.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

... Mahatma Gandhi

My friend with whom I had the conversation last night is concerned because she feels she is nearing the end of her life. No one knows that for sure. All we really have is today. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not happened yet. We should learn to savor the moment, to enjoy the "today" of our lives.

“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”

... Dr. Seuss

And now I am going to sit down and enjoy (savor) a Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate Orange Intense chocolate bar -- just because -- it's a miracle.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cold And Hot Sex

After examining the elderly gentleman, the doctor said to him, "You appear to be in good health. Do you have any medical concerns you would like to ask me about?"

"In fact, I do," said the old man. "After I have sex with my wife, I am usually cold and chilly; and then, after I have sex with her the second time, I am usually hot and sweaty."

After examining the man's elderly wife, the doctor said to her, "Everything appears to be fine. Do you have any medical concerns that you would like to discuss with me?"

The lady replied that she had no questions or concerns. The doctor then said to her, "Your husband had an unusual concern. He claims that he is usually cold and chilly after having sex with you the first time; and then hot and sweaty after the second time. Do you know why?"

"Oh, that crazy old fart!" she replied. "That's because the first time is usually in January, and the second time is in August."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Unfinished Pomegranate

I was sorting through some of my art supplies recently, and I found an unfinished colored pencil sketch I did of a pomegranate. A few months ago I started to draw the pomegranate, and then I ate it before I could finish the drawing. When I found this little sketch, I decided I would like to complete it. So ... now ... I have to go out and buy another pomegranate. I love pomegranates so much, I may have to buy a few, because I just might end up eating it them it first. What do you say ... should I finish this little sketch, or leave it unfinished? The Unfinished Pomegranate... Do I need an excuse to buy another pomegranate?

The Big Nasturtiums

Ignace Henri Jean Fantin-Latour

Today we have been given a rare gift in Vancouver -- a sunny weekend. I have been waiting for the opportunity to start landscaping the terrace on my tree house. This year I have decided to attempt growing nasturtiums again. They are my favorite summer flower. Nothing says summer like a bunch of colorful nasturtiums. My tree house is not very big but it has a terrace that goes around two sides. On one side I have a round patio table and four chairs, and on the other side I have two Adirondack chairs. It's my favorite spot in the whole city on a warm summer afternoon. I'm surrounded by Douglas fir trees, poplar, Japanese plum, cherry, and pine trees. I can sit out there and feel the ocean breezes, and listen to the rustle of the leaves. It's my own private sanctuary in the middle of the city. My favorite time of year is when I can get my terrace ready for summer. So today I'm off to the garden center to stock up on some plants -- including nasturtiums -- for my terrace. Have a great weekend, everyone, and to my American friends, have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

—Robert Beverly Hale ... The New Yorker magazine

All of a sudden the big nasturtiums
Rose in the night from the ocean's bed,
Rested a while in the light of the morning,
Turning the sand dunes tiger red.

They covered the statue of Abraham Lincoln,
They climbed to the top of our church's spire.
"Grandpa! Grandpa! Come to the window!
Come to the window! Our world's on fire!"

Big nasturtiums in the High Sierras,
Big nasturtiums in the lands below;
Our trains are late and our planes have fallen,
And out in the ocean the whistles blow.

Over the fields and over the forests,
Over the living and over the dead—
"I never expected the big nasturtiums
To come in my lifetime!" Grandpa said.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Suffer The Little Children ... Tristen Clarke

Probably most of you have never heard of this little boy, or recognize his face, but he is 11 years old, he is in grade five at school, he loves to play soccer, he has a pet turtle, and he is homeless. CBS news interviewed Tristen the other day, and the report was shown last night on CBS news. Here is the text of the whole interview:

"How is life for you?" asked CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts.

"Pretty bad," Tristen said. "Everything has gone down the drain. We don't have enough money to pay, we can't afford food."

At schools teachers describe Tristen as a sweet boy: smart and innocent.

"I feel lucky about my life because right now I'm not really on the street or in a cardboard box," Tristen said.

Instead, he and his mom live in the El Dorado Motel on a busy street in a tough neighborhood in Salinas, Calif. There are 22 other homeless families here.

They landed here after she lost her job in January as a job coach for people with disabilities. That means a cramped space, no car and no health insurance. There's just a bed for her, an air mattress for him, and a plastic bowl for Tristen's turtle. Last week Rhonda's $90 weekly unemployment check stopped.

"I try to save food," Tristen said.

"What do you mean?" Pitts asked.

"If we're going to run out of food I'll only eat a little of it and save it for later," Tristen said.

His grades have dropped - he'll have to repeat 5th grade. His self esteem is falling. And he is often afraid.

"I thought I was going to lose everything yesterday," Tristen said. "I thought we were going to lose everything."

"That scare you because that's a possibility?" Pitts asked.

"Yeah," Tristen said.

"Because you've lost things before?" Pitts asked.

"Yeah, I have," Tristen said.

Behind his Harry Potter face is a child in crisis. With his mother's permission, Pitts and Tristen kept talking.

"Find the words for me," Pitts said.

"Life and death," Tristen said.

"You think about life and death?" Pitts asked. "Why do you think about things like that?"

"Because I gave up," said Tristen, crying.

For the homeless children at the El Dorado Motel, life is often bleak. But there are a few bright spots. Like many school districts across the country, Salinas has a homeless children's advocate. Cheryl Camany helps identify homeless children and provides resources and free supplies.

As for Tristen Clarke, he says he has one real friend - 8-year-old Gus Hernandez, Jr. They're neighbors. Gus is also homeless.

"Me and him share the same life," Tristen said. "He understands me and I understand him."

They also share the same risk. Even a simple game of soccer can be dangerous ... when the ball rolls right into traffic. For their safety, the boys were ordered back to their rooms by the motel owner.

Anger and frustration brews in Gus every day. He lives with both parents and 4-year-old brother. They owned a house until Gus Sr. lost his job as a mortgage loan processor. The bank foreclosed on their home.

"My life is dumb," said Gus Jr. "We have to live in a motel, have to be in at a certain time. Can't play anywhere, and most of my friends are there."

"That must be hard?" asked Pitts.

"Today was a worse day, tomorrow may be better," Gus said.

"That makes you an optimist?" asked Pitts.

"Yeah," Gus said.

Later, Pitts went to talk to Tristen.

"What do you want Americans to know about you, what it means to be a child and homeless in America?" Pitts asked.

"We need people to help," Tristen said.

Children of the recession - for whom childhood has all but past them by.

Where you can offer help if you're able, or receive help if you need it.

I felt heartsick when I saw this little boy being interviewed, and when he cried, I wanted to put my arms around him and give him a hug. This should not be happening.

The other night I watched Donald Trump being interviewed, and he was incensed -- incensed -- because someone had implied that Trump was not a billionaire, only a millionaire, and Trump insisted that he was indeed a billionaire. To me, there was something vaguely obscene about that. Oh, I know, Trump creates wealth, he creates jobs, he pays taxes, and I'm sure he gives to charity. But perhaps at a time like this, with so many folks in such desperate situations, people with excessive wealth can give just a little bit more. As Tristen says, "We need people to help". Out of the mouths of babes... Ever since I watched this news report, I have been thinking, "What can I do to help these people?" There but for the grace of God goes any one of us.

I'll never forget the sight of that little fellow, trying so hard to be brave, but finally breaking down and sobbing into his hands. He's only a little boy. How can this be allowed to happen in some of the wealthiest countries in the world? He lives in Salinas, California, and if there is anyone out there who reads this and can help him, or any other child in distress because of the recession, I think you will have earned your angel wings.

Update: I you want to make a donation to this young fellow, you can do so here:
Salinas City Elementary School District
District Outreach Consultant
Homeless Liaison
840 South Main Street
Salinas, CA 93901
ATTN: Cheryl Camany

Note: Please indicate on the check if you would like your donation to go directly to the Clarke and Hernandez families or to all homeless children identified in the Salinas School District.

To find out where you can make a donation in your area, look here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

People Watching ... And Listening

Au Café
Jean-Georges Beraud

Don't you just love the looks on these folks faces? They're watching something or someone -- just out of our sightline -- and they are thoroughly amused and entertained. I often find myself doing the same thing. Sometimes, without knowing it, people can be very funny. I used to love watching people and creating imaginary conversations as they were walking through a store, or sitting in a restaurant. Oh, I know, it doesn't take much to amuse me.

Without meaning to eavesdrop, I think all of us at sometime or other have been privy to other folks conversations as they are walking along the street, or riding a bus, or sitting in a coffee shop, and they are talking on their cell phones -- especially when they use their telephone voices. Yesterday afternoon as I was waiting for the Number 9, an extremely beautiful young woman in her 20s walked past with her phone to her ear, and I could clearly hear her say, "Well, as long as you don't mind us just being friends..." I thought, I am hearing someone's life being devastated, as casually as you please, on this bright spring afternoon. I can only imagine what the fellow at the other end was feeling.

I get a kick out of the young kids who rehash the party the night before.

"And ya, like I don't remember how I got home, but my dad was waiting for me, and now I'm so busted."

Or the couple who are on their way home -- on different buses -- discussing what they're going to have for dinner.

"I'm on the Number 9, almost at Oak Street, where are you? Did you pick up the chicken? What's that? I can't hear you. Pizza? No, I said chicken. I can't hear you -- text me, text me."

I have actually heard job interviews take place over a cell phone on a bus. And then the interviewer will finish the call, hang up, call the HR department and give them the low-down on the interview. "Don't bother to check the references, I don't think the candidate would be suitable." And of course the whole transaction was done in telephone voice so everyone on the bus could listen, including the bus driver.

No one's life is private anymore, but it sure makes for some fun people-watching.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Newspapers -- Relevant Or Outdated?

A Lady Reading a Newspaper
Carl Larsson

There was an interesting article by Jack Cafferty yesterday on CNN. He asked, "Would you notice if your daily newspaper disappeared?" At first, I thought, no I would not notice, and I would not care. I can get up in the morning, click onto any news outlet, including CNN, and get the up-to-date news, complete with videos and editorial comments, whenver I want. And of course there are the blogs...

And then Cafferty pointed out something interesting. ... News isn’t just a product; in a democracy, the press exists to investigate and criticize the government.

Well, okay, but that's not why most people read newspapers. We read newspapers to be informed, entertained and occasionally challenged. And the question is, with so many of us being accustomed to being online every day, are newspapers relevant anymore? And with the advent of Amazon Kindle, is the written word on paper becoming obsolete? The Kindle was initially designed for reading newspapers and texbooks. I still have mixed feelings about Kindle -- I love curling up with a good book, and falling asleep... Somehow that just would not be the same with a Kindle.

There was a time when I would go through actual withdrawal if I did not have my daily newspaper. The paper was delivered early in the morning, and I would read it when I was having my morning coffee. If the paper was not there on time, I was completely discombobulated and out-of-sorts for the rest of the day. I grew up in a home where we had three newspapers every day, and we read them from front to back. They were a source of information for everything -- news, current events, social events, entertainment, business, sports, finance op-ed, our favorite columnists, and even recipes. I still have some dog-earred recipes that my mother clipped from the newspapers. And if we wanted to know if "old-lady Rafferty" down the street was still alive, we would check the obits every day.

And then a few years ago something strange happened. I installed a home computer, and I found myself referring to my computer for everything, and my newspaper lay untouched and unopened on my coffee table. After about a week's collection of them piled up, they would go into the recycling bin. This would go on week after week until finally I did not renew my subscription.

What on earth was going on? I didn't understand it. I was bored, and my love affair with the newspaper was over. I just couldn't seem to re-Kindle (pun intended) any feelings for it. I try, but they're just not there. I still love books and magazines, however, and I could not be without my weekly New Yorker magazine. But newspapers somehow seem so -- 20th Century. Has anyone else felt this way about newspapers, or is it just me?

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Aspidistra

Who would like to see my aspidistra? It's a rainy day here today, so I have done a bit of sketching. Et voila! My aspidistra. I haven't been doing enough drawing or painting in the last few months, and I'm very rusty -- to say the least. The aspidistra is in a brass pot which I did not draw very well and the whole perspective is all wrong, but I feel as if I'm getting my mojo back. It takes a lot of practice. I wish I had the time -- and the resources -- to be able to spend all my time drawing, sketching, painting. But I go through stages where I don't feel the inclination to paint at all -- sometimes for months at a time. When I was a little girl, my mother was a wonderful artist, but she would go for years without picking up a pencil or a paint brush. I never understood it then, but now I do. I do the same thing. I haul my paints out, my sketch pads and my paper, I set them up and look at them, and there they sit until I put them away again. Why is that? Does anyone know the reason for that? I think writers go through the same thing, and perhaps photographers, musicians...

The other day I was in a bookstore that was going out of business, and I found a sketch book for the princely sum of $2.00 -- so I bought it -- thinking it would inspire me to sketch. This pages are still brilliantly white and empty, however. Often when I am out for a walk, or having a coffee somewhere -- whatever -- I will look at something that I think would make a good sketch. Often I take a picture of it, but by the time I get home, the moment has passed. If I had my sketch book with me, I could discreetly open it and jot down some sketches. I had an art teacher who once told me this was the best way to keep the creative juices flowing. So, hopefully the next time I show you my sketch book, it will be filled with dabs and doodles of sketches I have done.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Axelotl ... Oops, ... I mean Spuzzum

I know I have asked this question before so please bear with me -- but enquiring minds want to know -- why do some people have word verification and comment moderation on their blogs? Some people have both. I have had a blog for three years, and I have never had to use either word verification or comment moderation. I think if people want to post a comment, it should be made as easy as possible for them to do it. I have noticed lately that word verification is asking us to type the gobbledegook word twice. I am very careful to type the letters -- just as they are shown -- and oops, my comment cannot be posted, and I have to go through the whole ... process ... again ... So, I take the time to do this, only to find the little sign that says:


I want to visit all you folks, really I do. There are some amazing blogs out there, and interesting people from all over the world. Many of you folks have just the type of blogs I like, where you talk about current events, politics, religion, science, movies, art, music, literature, poetry, philosophy ... and so much more. It fascinates me. When you post something that I think is fabulous, I want you to be able to read my witty thoughtful almost intelligent comment. Why are you making it so gosh-darned difficult for me? I honestly wonder how many people just give up in frustration and never go back to some blogs again, not because they don't want to read them, but because instead of having the "welcome mat" out, they have the "do not disturb" sign on the door. And then of course there is the issue of, "Will they post my comment, or will they think it banal, stupid, uninteresting...". I think we all have a certain amount of insecurity about that. And to be honest, sometimes I forget which blogs have moderated my comment, and so I don't go back to see if it has been posted, or if the blogger has replied to it. So you may say something wonderful in response to my comment, and I will never see it.

We're all nice folks here in the Blogging world, and there is rarely a need to moderate comments or ask for word verification. If you get a comment from someone who is "trolling", just delete it; or if you get spam, just delete it. *Poof* Gone. Forever.

I hereby relinquish my soap box. Can I go back to visit you now, and will you put out the welcome mat?

Here There Be Dragons...

There are reports of lake monsters in lakes all over the world, including the United States, Russia, South America, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, Canada. This picture is a drawing of our very own Ogogopogo who lives in Lake Okanagan in the interior of British Columbia. In 1926, Ogopogo was sighted by thirty carloads of people heading for a picnic at Mission Beach on the shore of Lake Okanagan. And the First Nations have legends of lake monsters in lakes all over British Columbia, dating back for centuries. To them, there was no question that these animals existed, and there were ancient legends of them basking on the shores of the lakes.

In Sproat Lake, where I grew up, there are petroglyphs depicting a sea monster, with the same characteristic long neck, four flippers and long tail. (If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see the details of the animal.) These petroglyphs (K'ak'awin) are considered prehistoric, and little is known about them, but the pictures are very clear. When I was a teenager, this was our favorite swimming spot on the lake -- it was dark, deep and refreshing on a hot summer day. The more daring kids would dive off the top of the petroglyphs into the lake. I love swimming in deep water, and I sometimes wondered what was down there, swimming beneath me. Could it see me? If I believe in a lake monster, does it believe in me?

In April 2005, National Geographic reported that geologist Philip D. Gingerich and his team had excavated the first known nearly complete skeleton of a Basilosaurus isis. Some cryptozoologists believe the Basilosaurus to be the same animal as the lake monster reported in Okanagan Lake (Ogopogo). One theory is that these animals are a living plesiosaurs. Plesiosaurs were not true dinosaurs, but were reptiles, and could very well still exist today. Plesiosaurs were sea-going, with long necks, four paddle-like flippers, and a humped back. There is another theory that a massive flood approximately 4,500 years ago created some of the deep mountain lakes all over the world where these creatures have been seen, including in the famous Loch Ness.

To this date, these creatures are still legend, although there have been hundreds of sightings of them, but no plausible explanation. There are still so many undiscovered things far in the murky depths of oceans and deep lakes. I think, in many ways, it is as interesting a frontier as outer space. What kinds of wonderful and strange aliens has man yet to discover in the darkness of both these places.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Climate Change ... Brrrr ...

This is Victoria Day weekend in Canada -- a three day holiday -- and today is the official start of summer here in Vancouver. Kitsilano Pool opens, it's the first day of camping and boating season, and everyone here in Kitsilano pulls their Birkenstocks out of mothballs. In order to actually be a resident of Kitsilano, it's de rigueur to own a pair of Birkenstocks. In fact, they don't let you let you live here if you don't own a pair. And yes, I have a pair of Birkenstocks.

I remember just a few years ago getting sunburnt to a crisp every Victoria Day weekend. When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, (and no, it was not that long ago -- the dinosaurs had long since perished) we had already been swimming outdoors for several weeks before the arrival of Victoria Day weekend. I would rush home from school, jump into my bathing suit, and go swimming with my friends in the swimming hole at Kitsuksis Creek. The banks of the river were lined with blue shale, and we would slide down the shale into the water. The water had warmed up enough by that point that none of us suffered from hypothermia. In just a few short years, the climate has changed significantly enough that folks can't do that anymore. It's c-o-l-d.

Sometimes I wonder what we can do to change the damage that has been done. How can we fix the problem? We have become accustomed to so many things in the past couple of decades -- every family has two cars, mostly out of necessity. Everything we use is wrapped, packaged and sold in plastic. Everything is made with plastic. We use plastic every day, without even thinking about it. It's rare to see natural products anymore because plastic is durable. I was sitting in a food court yesterday, looking around, and I saw that everything was made of plastic -- the tables and chairs, drink containers, knives, forks and spoons, the signage, trays, garbage cans, (even most of the food *heh*) -- plastic everywhere.

Does anyone remember Dustin Hoffman (Ben) in "The Graduate"? He is at a cocktail party, and a businessman by the name of Mr. McGuire takes Ben aside...

“I just want to say one word to you ... just one word." says Mr. McGuire
"Yes, sir."--Ben
"Are you listening?"--Mr.McGuire
"Yes, sir. I am."--Ben
"Plastics."--Mr. McGuire

I am going to try to get back to using natural products as much as possible -- wood, paper (trees are a renewable resource and paper is recyclable), cotton, wool, silk. Thank goodness I am allergic to polyester clothing (polyethylene terephthalate), but I did not realize until just recently that most polyesters are not biodegradable. Perhaps the genie is already out of the bottle, but I certainly hope not.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jon and Kate ... Plus Nine?

I'm not a fan of reality shows, so I have seen only a couple of episodes of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight". Well, let me rephrase that ... I occasionally click onto the "Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" -- accidentally -- and then I am trapped there. It's like a giant vortex that draws me in and I can't escape. Janice Dickinson is delightfully nasty -- a combination of every wicked witch ever created by Walt Disney. She has a voice like fingernails on a blackboard as she hurls insults to everyone around her. I love her...!

But I digress...

I've watched only one or two episodes of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight", and that was enough for me. I felt a bit like a voyeur, and I don't understand the fascination with this couple and their eight children. But the one thing that did occur to me is, why would an ordinary couple like this put their small children's lives out there for the whole world to watch? Children are innocent, and they trust the big people in their lives. They trust that Mommy and Daddy are doing everything to protect them, to make sure they are cared for and tucked into bed every night with a bedtime story and a song. The big bad world is still far outside their doors, and for most children it should stay outside their doors for a very long time. Why would anyone invite the world into their home to watch their family's day to day intimate life? And why are people interested in watching? I don't understand it.

It now appears that things are getting a bit dicey in Jon and Kate's marriage. There are allegations of infidelity. Those little children are soon going to be painfully aware that either Mommy or Daddy -- or both -- are "playing footsies" under the table with someone either than Mommy or Daddy. This family has been artificially made into celebrities. Mommy is now on the cover of this week's issue of People Magazine saying, "We might split up." I don't know these people, but that broke my heart when I saw that. We are watching the dissolution of the marriage of a perfectly normal couple -- live and in living color. Whether or not there is infidelity going on -- and the allegations may be untrue -- I think Jon and Kate should close the window on their private lives -- for the sake of their children. How many of you out there would want the whole world watching your children's private lives? What does that say about us, that we settle down in front of the TV in the evening, with our bowl of popcorn, and call this entertainment? I feel so sad for this family.

I think I'll stick to watching Janice Dickinson. She's wicked, she's evil, she's fun, and all the folks at her house are big kids.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sleeping At Work

We had a meeting at work yesterday, and it was the usual yada, yada, yada. We have a few problems that need to be addressed, but for the moment they are being solved with band-aid solutions. One person suggested fluorescent Post-it notes, someone else suggested white-out, I don't remember what some of the other suggestions were. We will try them and they will work for a while. It's just the usual growing pains, of course, but trial and error... However, at one point in the meeting I glanced across the boardroom table at one of my co-workers, and she was sound asleep. She was sitting up straight, her hands folded in front of her on the table -- asleep. It was all I could do to keep from laughing.

Today she said to me, "Did you happen to notice that I nodded off during the meeting yesterday?"

"Yes, it did not escape me entirely..."

Today I found ten excuses folks can use if they get caught sleeping at work:

1. "They told me at the blood bank this might happen."

2. "This is just a 15 minute power-nap like they raved about in the last time management course you sent me to."

3. "Whew! Guess I left the top off the liquid paper."

4. "I wasn't sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm!"

5. "This is one of the seven habits of highly effective people!"

6. "I was testing the keyboard for drool resistance."

7. "Actually I'm doing a "Stress Level Elimination Exercise Plan" (SLEEP). I learned it at the last mandatory seminar you made me attend."

8. "The coffee machine is broken."

9. "I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve work related stress."

10. "Darn! Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out a solution to our biggest problem."

Number 4 is my favorite. Now it's late, and I'm off to get some sleep.


Is there anyone who doesn't love Farrah Fawcett? For anyone who watched her in her iconic role in "Charlie's Angels" during the 1970s, she was very sweet. One got the impression that she was just as lovely in real life as the part she portrayed in the TV series. She made some errors in judgement, however, and her career never took off. She was always known for that role, and for her famous poster. In "Charlie's Angels" Farrah always beat the "bad guys" without ever mussing her famous "Farrah" locks. Now she is doing battle with a foe that it would appear she cannot beat, and she has tackled it with the same grace and dignity with which she has lived her life. She has made a film of her journey, and tomorrow night NBC will air this documentary of Farrah's well-fought battle. I hope everyone will say a prayer for her and wish her God speed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Dreams...

"You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are."

Ebenezer Scrooge. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Do you ever have strange dreams -- I mean strange dreams? I had one last night that was so real, and so strange, I woke up wondering if it was live or Memorex. I was in a house in a foreign country. My boss was with me, and we were being pursued by three Nazi SS officers. Now, trust me, I don't think about Nazi SS officers from one year to the next. As far as I am aware, they are not anywhere on the horizon of my conscious or subconscious mind. But there they were, live and in living color. And they were up to no good. My boss and I had apparently done something of which the Nazi SS officers did not approve, and they were about to show their displeasure. Without going into great, gory details, I managed to dispatch all three of them, thereby saving myself and my boss.

I woke up in my own bedroom, wondering -- was that dream the result of some undigested bit of pork dumpling I had had at a Chinese restaurant for dinner that evening, or had I at one time had an actual encounter with SS officers, perhaps in a previous life. I'm not sure I believe in previous lives, but some of my dreams are so real, there is no other explanation for them. Today I am exhausted, after having done battle with three Nazi SS officers, and saving my boss's life. Do you think I'll get a raise for my efforts?

I wonder what I'll dream about tonight. I'm having fresh halibut for dinner.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

English Bay

I went for a wonderful dinner with my family on Sunday night, and as we were driving back from the restaurant, I snapped these pictures of English Bay in twilight. I wasn't sure if they would turn out, but when I uploaded them to my computer, I was pleasantly surprised. If you look closely, (click on them to enlarge them) you can see the full moon hiding behind the clouds. The pictures are quite dark, so I hope you can see them. I thought the bay looked rather mysterious in the twilight.

English Bay is my favorite part of Vancouver. It's surrounded by the West End and Stanley Park, North and West Vancouver, and Kitsilano. When I first moved to Vancouver, I thought English Bay was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, and my daughter and I lived close to the beach for several years. In the fall, when all the tourists had gone home, we used to go to the beach and gather driftwood to burn in our fireplace.

English Bay is usually very placid, and there are several beaches along the bay that are very popular with Vancouverites and tourists -- English Bay Beach, Sunset Beach, Second Beach, Third Beach, Kitsilano Beach, Jericho Beach, Spanish Banks, Locarno Beach and Ambleside Beach. In the summertime they are all packed with sunbathers, and folks swimming, having barbeques and playing beach volleyball.

My photographs are very dark, so I have added one that I stole borrowed from the internet, so you can see English Bay in daylight. Occasionally Vancouver gets hit with typhoons that roll in off the Pacific Ocean. A couple of years ago many of the old growth trees in Stanley Park were decimated by a huge typhoon that slammed into them. It looked as if someone had gone through there with a giant lawnmower and mowed them down. It was devastating. When that happens, English Bay becomes wild, with huge waves. I remember the day my husband was killed in a plane crash, Vancouver was in one of those windstorms. I was a little bit in shock, and I went for a walk along English Bay. Branches from trees were flying, the waves were pounding on the store, and there was one other person out for a walk as well, an elderly gentleman. He said to me, "Young lady, you should not be out here in weather like this. Someone could get killed." The irony was not lost on me.

And yes, those are palm trees in that picture. Most people think of Canada as the land of ice, snow, sled dogs and snowshoes -- but Vancouver is 1,327 miles away from Anchorage, Alaska and only 799 miles away from San Francisco, California. In the winter months we are warmer than most of North America, and in the summer months we are often exactly like Hawaii. This is a picture I took last fall, on one of my visits to English Bay. Whenever I need to get rid of the cobwebs in my head, I go for a walk along English Bay. I could never live very far away from it, and for me it will always be home.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Lately I have been leading a more sedentary lifestyle than I did previously, and I feel as if I am getting a bit rusty. I don't own a car, so I walk a lot, but I feel somehow that's not enough. Often I get into the habit of sitting at work, and then going home and perhaps logging onto the computer for a while -- and sitting, and then doing some sketching or painting, or watching TV or reading -- and sitting. You get the idea. Lately I have been feeling the need to stretch. I am considering joining a Yoga class, but there are so many different types of Yoga, on so many different levels, that I don't have any idea which to join.

Do any of you know anything about Yoga? If so, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to let me know which type of Yoga is best for a rusty beginner like me. Many thanks.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hopper and Herzog

My favorite painter is Edward Hopper, and I have this picture, which a very dear friend gave me for Christmas. I look at it every day, and every day I see something different in the painting. Edward Hopper loved geometrical design, and he often worked on several sketches of a painting to get the geometry of it just right before he completed the finished painting. He would often do as many as 40 or 50 sketches before he was satisified with the composition. The thing that appeals to me about Edward Hopper's paintings is the use of light and shadow. It fits in very much with the geometry of his paintings, and creates a very strong mood. However, Hopper insisted “I was more interested in the sunlight on the buildings and on the figures than any symbolism."

Yesterday one of our blogging friends posted a comment that reminded me of how similar Hopper's paintings are to one of our local photographers, Fred Herzog. The geometrical lines are similar; the light and shadow, mood, subject matter and colors are all very similar. Fred Herzog is an acclaimed photographer and his photographs have been exhibited in art galleries all over the world, and featured here in the New Yorker Magazine. Herzog gave a lecture at the University of British Columbia recently, and he said, “The picture has to be in your head, not in your camera bag.” I often think about that when I see people PhotoShopping their photographs. In my opinion, those pictures are no longer photographs. Herzog also says, “To me, the city is a stage and the people on the streets are all actors. We need to record how people look in their natural state…it’s the reality of how we look.” I think Hopper and Herzog had very much the same philosophy.

Here are some more examples of the similarities between the two artists, one a photographer, the other a painter, both of whom are wonderful. I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do. I haven't given any of them labels, so perhaps (without clicking on them) you can guess which are the paintings and which are the photographs. One of them in particular might surprise you.