Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Missing In Action...

You see that beach? Well, you see that person sitting beside that log down there? Yes ... that one ... right over there. Well, that's me. Summer has hit Vancouver like a freight train. Tomorrow we have the day off work for Canada Day, and I will be outdoors taking advantage of the wonderful, beautiful, spectacular weather. My friend Leslie and I are going to go on one of our excellent adventures and then we are going to come back to my terrace and eat copious amounts of Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream with blueberries.

I will be back to visit you all in a couple of days.

To all my Canadian friends, Happy Canada Day!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Billy Mays

Okay, this is weird, but I feel sadder about Billy Mays' unfortunate death than about any of the other recent celebrity passings. Billy Mays was an institution, and someone who was in our homes just about -- oh -- every ten minutes. Wherever I was in my house, as soon as I heard Billy Mays' voice on the TV, I ran for the remote and muted it. A friend of mine once said, "Can you imagine living with that voice?"

"Honey, where's my shirt...!!??"

Billy Mays was in a plane that had a rough landing and something fell on his head. So, it looks as if he might have suffered the same type of hematoma that Natasha Richardson had. I never thought I would say this, but I am going to miss him. I may even go out today and buy some OxiClean.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Treehouse

I received an e-mail from someone, asking me about my tree house. Well, I live three stories up, amongst the trees. I am surrounded by trees including mountain ash, Japanese plum, poplar, douglas fir, hemlock, pine and cherry trees. In the springtime, the Japanese plum and cherry trees are a mass of pink blossoms. When Phinnaeus was about three years old, he looked out the window at the blossoms and said, "Those are the boofelest things I have ever seen..." The douglas fir trees are filled with birds nests, and the raccoons sit in the nests in the late spring, hoping to steal the eggs. The crows dive-bomb them and put up an awful uproar, all of which usually starts at about 4:30 in the morning.

As I am writing this, there is a huge windstorm blowing in off the Pacific Ocean, and the seagulls and crows are gliding and swooping on the breeze. Seagulls are very social animals, and they love to tell jokes to each other. And then they laugh, and laugh, and laugh at the jokes. Sometimes they will set up such a cacophony, it really makes us wonder what on earth is going on. I love the scene in "Finding Nemo" where the seagulls are sitting on the pier yelling "Mine, mine, mine, mine!" until the albatross tells them to "Shaddup!" Seagulls really are like that, and they start very early in the morning. You don't need an alarm clock if you live anywhere near seagulls.

I'm fortunate that my tree house faces south, and I get the sunshine summer and winter. For some reason, which I do not understand, prime real estate in Vancouver is anything that faces the mountains, which are north. But for several months of the year, anything facing north gets no sunshine at all. I would rather have sunshine than a view of some big, dreary mountains, even though they are spectacular. In the summer months, I spend all my time on my terrace, and when the Munchkins come to visit, we eat our meals out there. We have spent many an hour on a bright summer morning, sitting at the patio table eating blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and discussing life.

So, there you have a very brief tour of my tree house.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

School Daze

Here in Canada, school is over for the summer now. One of my munchkins is officially going into high school soon, and I will be holding my breath as he starts to tread those shark-infested waters. He is the type of person who is so cool, he doesn't know he's cool. For most people, our high school experiences are not always our fondest memories. There are the usual suspects -- the "in-crowd", the "geeks and nerds", and the "in-betweens". Most of us fall into the category of "in-betweens", with occasional forays into either the "in-crowd" or the "geeks and nerds". The people who are able to navigate the waters best are the ones who don't really care which category they fall into. Whichever category my munchkin falls into, I hope he will be one of those folks who doesn't really care.

None of us escapes unscathed, however. When I was in high school, I fit squarely into the "in-betweens", but occasionally I was invited to a party by someone in the "in-crowd", only to be reminded that I didn't really belong there. The most devastating thing, however, is to be invited out by a "geek or nerd", and to a rather shallow high school person, that can flatten one's self-confidence in no time, let me tell you.

However, years later when we attend our 20 year high school reunion, the "in-crowd" folks are almost invariably the ones who have become fat and bald, and are working as a mechanic in the local service station. Or they're married to the guy who became fat and bald. Meanwhile, the "geeks and nerds" have blossomed into amazing people. Have you ever noticed that? It's almost a cliché. In the movie "Pretty in Pink", we just knew Duckie was going to become "über cool". Meanwhile, Steff, the bad boy -- and definitely the leader of the "in-crowd" -- has turned into William Shatner.

But, high school is a world of its own, and most of us are able to pass through it safely, somehow acquiring an education and not embarrassing ourselves too much in the process. And if we can survive the joys and heartbreaks as well, perhaps we can look back at those years as being -- at the very least -- not entirely unpleasant.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Is It Just Me....?

Is it just me, or are other people having difficulty posting comments on some blogs. I notice the blogs where I have the most difficulty are the blogs that have the option of posting a comment "embedded below post", rather than the "full page" option. If you have the "embedded below post" option and the "word verification" option chosen on your blog, you may be missing comments -- lots of them -- because the combination of the two options does not seem to like comments. It will invariably say "your comment cannot be posted", and the commentor has to try a second and sometimes a third time.

The "full page" option is much easier, more convenient and it has the added benefit of displaying the commentor's avatar. The "embedded below post" option does not post the commentor's avatar. Don't you think it's more fun to actually see everyone? I sure do...

If you go into "Settings", "Comment", "Comment Form Placement", you will see where you can choose the option of "full page". Now, please don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to tell you what to do. If you prefer the "embedded below post" option, well, that's your choice. But keep in mind that by choosing that option, together with "word verification", you may be losing comments, because often people give up after the second try, or even the first try.

And then, of course, there is "blog approval" which to me is just another hurdle, but some folks seem to prefer having that option on their blog. I always wonder, "Will I be approved?" and I wait with baited breath...

I have had so many wonderful visitors to my blog, and there are new people every day. I enjoy going back to visit all of you, but sometimes I am not sure if my comment has even been posted. I wonder how many other people visit you, but are unable to post a comment. Has anyone else had this problem, or is it just me...?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Little Lives

Two larger than life icons of the 1970s and 1980s are gone in one day. Is there any more proof of how fragile and fleeting life can be? How many of us wasted time today, fretting and fussing over inconsequential things? "Miss So-and-So" took too long for lunch; "Mr. Such-a-Body" was rude to someone on the bus; oh, drat, I have to pay the phone bill and the hydro bill -- again... In the alternative, how many of us take pleasure in the fact that we can simply walk down the street, enjoy the fresh summer air and look at the gardens as we stroll by. And at the end of the day we can wash our faces, brush our teeth, and climb into our warm, cozy beds. Most of us don't really appreciate these ordinary, day-to-day things but they are -- in fact -- miracles. These folks will never experience those things, ever again.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

... Prospero, "The Tempest", by William Shakespeare

Enjoy your lives, cherish your family and friends, appreciate all the things you have -- no matter what their value. And remember to value yourself too, because you really are unique -- one of a kind.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

... Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Centipede

This guy was lonely and so he decided life would be more fun if he had a pet. So he went to the pet store and told the owner that he wanted to buy an unusual pet. After some discussion he finally bought a centipede, which came in a little white box to use for his house.

He took the box home, found a good location for the box, and decided he would start off by taking his new pet to the bar for a drink. So he asked the centipede in the box, "Would you like to go to Frank's place with me and have a beer?" But there was no answer from his new pet.

This bothered him a bit, but he waited a few minutes and then asked him again, "How about going to the bar and having a drink with me?" But again there was no answer from his new pet. So he waited a few minutes more, thinking about the situation.

He decided to ask him one more time. This time putting his face up against the centipede's house and shouting, "Hey, in there! Would you like to go to Frank's place and have a drink with me?"

A little voice came out of the box: "I heard you the first time ! I'm putting my #%^&*@# shoes on!"


I notice from my list of followers that two people have removed themselves as of today, and I do apologize if my last post or the painting on it offended anyone. It was meant to be fun, and not -- provoking -- in any way. I value everyone who reads my boring little blog.

Anyway, I do apologize if anyone was offended...


Oh, well, it's all in good fun. Have a fabulous evening, everyone!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Skinny-Dipping In The Silly Season

Yesterday was the first day of summer, and the silly season is officially here. The Guinness World Records Organization has just created a new category for the largest number of people simultaneously skinny-dipping. "In conformance with the stated rules of The Guinness World RecordsTM Organization, all participants to be counted must be completely nude during the skinny-dip. In addition, and as with all Guinness World Records events, all record attempts will be witnessed by a designated 'member in standing' of the local community."

On July 11th at 12:00, "the largest skinny-dip Across North America" will be held at Crescent Rock Beach in South Surrey. You can read more about it here. And no, I won't be participating. Anyway, it's all in good fun.

I think everyone should have the experience of skinny-dipping at least once in their lives. When we were kids, we used to skinny-dip at this swimming hole in the Englishman River on Vancouver Island. Due to a weird anomaly of the weather, the town where I grew up is often the hottest place in Canada during the summer months, and is definitely the hottest place on Vancouver Island, getting up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and more. So there was nothing salacious about skinny-dipping, we just thought it felt so much better to go sans bathing suits.

Well, I wish them luck with their attempt to set a world record for skinny-dipping on July 11th. I have a feeling they will have a lot of fun ... and I wonder if it will make the 6:00 news.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bearing False Witness

Edmund Blair Leighton

I have recently been witness to a group of people who have been involved in a situation of gossip and heresay. Have you ever played the parlor game where one person will say something, and then pass it on to the next, and so on, and so on, and by the time it has reached the last person, the original message has taken on a whole different story? It's a lot of fun, and worth a giggle. In real life? Not so much. In real life, gossip based on heresay ruins friendships and reputations, and destroys lives.

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" ... Exodus. 20:16

The people involved in this gossip are good people -- in fact they are regular church-going people (which I am not) -- so they understand the ninth commandment and the concept of bearing false witness. And yet, they are so sure of the facts, they repeat the gossip and hearsay, regardless of whether or not they could swear an oath that the facts are true. And believe me, sometimes even people's own eyes can deceive them. Ask any lawyer or prosecutor about eye witness statements in court.

An article in Canadian Psychology Vol. 42(2), May 2001, p. 92-100 states that "Case studies, and more recently DNA testing in the US, have shown that mistaken eyewitness identification is responsible for more wrongful convictions than all other causes combined."

And yet people will continue to pass on gossip and heresay, based on something they insisted they saw "with their own eyes" -- and they were wrong.

"Have you heard...?" "Everyone is talking about..." "But I saw it..."

If you ever find yourself in this shark feeding frenzy situation, stop and take a deep breath. Think with your intelligence, rather than with your emotions. Don't allow yourself to be caught up in the mêlée. Usually there are repercussions, and in the long term they are very seldom in the favor of the those who are perpetrating the gossip.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What Lies Beneath

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
Ivan Kramskoy
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

I love Russian artists, and this is one of my favorite paintings. The painting was considered quite scandalous when Kramskoy painted it. The woman in the picture was referred to as an "immoral woman", and a "woman of the city", and art galleries refused to display it. I like the painting because the woman resembles someone I know.

For several years I have been going to the same pharmacy counter at Safeway to buy multi-vitamins, aspirin, what-have-you... The same woman serves me every time I am there, and occasionally we chat briefly. Yesterday I was wearing an amber necklace, and suddenly the woman at the pharmacy became very animated. She told me when she was a child she didn't like to eat. She said her mother wore an amber necklace, and as a little girl, the pharmacy woman loved to chew on her mother's necklace. Whenever she did this, her mother took the opportunity to pop food into her mouth, and that was how she got her to eat. She said seeing my necklace brought back memories. She then went on to tell me that she was born and raised in Russia, in a city near the Black Sea. We chatted about Russia and I told her I had a friend who had taken the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The woman in the pharmacy said St. Petersburg was the most beautiful city in the world, and especially the State Hermitage Museum.

My new pharmacy friend said she left Russia because she is Jewish and she wanted to live in Israel. She said she spent several years in Israel before coming to Canada. I have always wanted to visit both Russia and Israel, and I found it so interesting that this woman whom I have "known" for so long has this colorful history. Until now, she has simply been the woman who rings up my purchases, takes my money and gives me a receipt. I can only imagine the fascinating stories she can tell about living in both Russia and Israel.

My pharmacy friend so closely resembles the woman in this portrait, I wondered if they could somehow be related. It made me wonder, as well, how many people do we deal with on a day-to-day basis, but we really know nothing about them. Who are they? Where are they from? What are their stories? I believe we all have people that we deal with every day, and we never think about what lies beneath.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What I Learned In School Today

"I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday." ... Abraham Lincoln

I agree with Abraham Lincoln. We should each learn something new every day, and I definitely learned some things today.

The things I learned today:

1. Never try to run for the bus if you are wearing flip/flop sandals.

2. Be very careful whom you trust with your secrets. Sometimes the people you would least expect, are the ones who will betray your trust.

3. When you water your geraniums, always look to see who may be sitting on the terrace below.

4. Always speak up and ask for what you want. You just might be surprised and get it.

5. If it ain't broke ... don't fix it.

6. Be careful when you eat corn chowder; it will go through you like a rotor-rooter.

7. Life's short ... lighten up.

What did you learn in school today?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


What do you do when you are surrounded by negativity, and it is draining the life's blood out of you? How do you deal with people who are motivated by anger and look for only the negative and never the positive? We have all had to deal with that at some point in our lives, and it can wreak havoc on our confidence and sense of self-worth. And it has sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy effect -- the harder you try to do something right, the more you know you are going to do it wrong. More negativity, more lack of confidence, and around and around it goes. Oh, you can do something good such as teach people a new skill, or volunteer to take on some project that no one else wants to do -- or whatever. Those are positive things, but it's not as much fun to point out the positives. The negatives are so much more exciting.

I think there are people who tend to look for the negatives in other people, in order to make themselves feel better. It's true. German people even have a name for it -- schadenfreude -- meaning "delight at the misfortune of others". I see it all the time, I watch people doing it to each other -- perfectly nice people -- and I think it may be human nature.

"Oh my goodness, will you look at that. I'm glad it's him and not me."

Or perhaps it's to detract from the what they may perceive as their own shortcomings. I think the flip side of negativity may be fear. In my opinion, the best we can do is to try to be kind to each other. You never know what is going on in someone else's life, and in such cases, a little positivity goes a very long way. We're all only human, and none of us gets out of here alive.

The White Rabbit

I'm late, I'm late for a very important date
No time to say "Hello", "Goodbye"
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late
And when I wave, I lose the time I save
My fuzzy ears and whiskers
Took me too much time to shave

... The White Rabbit; "Alice in Wonderland"

I wish I had more time for blogging -- especially to visit all my favorite blogs. It seems there are just not enough hours in the day, and once again, "the hurrier I go, the behinder I get..." Please don't think I'm ignoring you ... I will be over to visit you soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sex, Murder and Mayhem on Vancouver Island

On my most recent post, our friend Owen asked about railroads on Vancouver Island, so I thought I would give you a "Cook's Tour" of the Island. Vancouver Island is 290 miles long and 62 miles wide. It is the largest island on the western side of North America. The spine of Vancouver Island is The Vancouver Island Mountain Range, and the highest point in the range is Golden Hinde Mountain which is 7,201 feet, and is named after Sir Francis Drake's ship, the "Golden Hind". (I don't know why the spelling was changed.) Sir Francis Drake was the first European to spot Vancouver Island, but he did not land there. There are 18 subranges in the Vancouver Island Mountains, and 210 peaks.

Vancouver Island is so large, it has two separate weather climates, the northern being the rainforest climate, and the southern being officially a Mediterranean climate, complete with vineyards producing prize-winning wine. Victoria is the southernmost city on Vancouver Island, and is the capital of British Columbia. It would take at least three or four posts to tell you everything about Vancouver Island, so I will start with the bottom and work up. (Oh, don't yawn ... I won't do it all at once ...)

This is a picture of the world-famous Empress Hotel. The hotel was built 1908 and has hosted kings, queens, movie stars and other celebrities. In 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales danced in its Crystal Ballroom and in the 1930s, Shirley Temple and her parents took refuge there after she was threatened with kidnapping in California. The Empress Hotel is an iconic tourist attraction, and every afternoon during the summer months, the hotel serves high tea (along with tea sandwiches, fresh scones, preserves and Jersey Cream) in its 'Tea Lobby' to more than 800 guests and tourists -- a little bit of "Old England".

Across the harbor from the Empress Hotel are the Parliament Buildings. Both the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings were designed by the architect Francis Rattenbury, who led a scandalous life. In 1923, he left his wife for 27-year-old Alma Pakenham. He married Alma in 1925 and soon afterwards she had an affair with their 18 year-old chauffeur. In 1935, Rattenbury was murdered and his wife and chauffeur were charged. It was just like in a game of "Clue". Rattenbury was murdered by the chauffeur, in the library, with a candlestick -- well, actually it was a mallett. The chauffeur was convicted and sentenced to death, although his sentence was later commuted to a life sentence. Mrs. Rattenbury committed suicide by stabbing herself through the heart and falling into the River Avon. There is a story that the Rattenburys haunt the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.

"So", Owen asks, "What about the trains?" Here is a link to the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, previously known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo line. The railway line started in 1886, and it was both a passenger line and a freight line. At one time the rail line went over the historic wooden Kinsol Trestle, which is 125 feet high and 614 feet long, and is one of the highest railway trestles in the world. And let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have gone over one of these creaking wooden trestles, in a train going about two miles an hour, and there is nothing on either side but a canyon. Oh, yes... We used to walk across those trestles, and hope and pray a train didn't come along. I remember once my friend Bonnie and I made a huge sign that said "STOP" and we stood on each side of the railroad tracks until a train came by. The engineer stopped the train and chased us down the street yelling, "You little b*ggers!"

So, that is the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Next time I will tell you about the tidal wave that almost wiped out the town where I lived.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Favorite House

The other day I decided to "Google Earth" my favorite house on Vancouver Island, et voila! there it was. This is the house where I have my happiest memories. It was quite a large house, but fairly modest, in a modest neighborhood. I believe houses can have spirits, and our house had a good spirit. I could feel it. Somehow, that house felt like summer all the time, and my memories of it are of the sun shining through the windows. It had a big cozy kitchen, a wonderful living room with a fireplace, and four bedrooms -- two on the main floor and two upstairs. My two older brothers had the rooms upstairs, and I was not allowed -- under any circumstances -- to go up there. My brothers kept me away by telling me there were spiders the size of dinner plates up there. It worked -- I stayed away.

My mother, who was a wizard at interior decorating, made the house into a beautiful home. We had a formal dining room, but no dining room table. So my father felled a pine tree, had the wood planed, and built a beautiful pine dining room table -- all with dowels, no nails. My mother painted the dining room forest green and on the walls she put botanical paintings of flowering cacti, framed in the same pine wood as the table. The sideboard and hutch had belonged to my grandparents, and my mother painted them off-white and then painted ivy growing across them. It was all done free-hand, and it was beautiful. I remember family dinners at that table, and they were always sort of raucous, with my two brothers regaling us with stories of their high school teachers. Their stories of Miss Ormrod the librarian were my favorites.

All of my friends lived in the neighborhood -- Barbara, Naida, Larry, Sonia, Billy, Joyce, Harry, Bonnie ... and so many more. We were free to roam the countryside, and we spent all our time outdoors, swimming, riding our bikes, exploring the forest. The boys taught the girls how to whistle through our teeth, how to do arm farts, how to climb trees, and all the other wonderful things that boys know how to do. Unfortunately, as we got older and realized we were different from each other, we grew apart. But for the time being it was an age of innocence, and a wonderful place in which to grow up.

The back yard was on a slope, so my mother built a rock garden out there, and it was filled with nasturtiums and all sorts of colorful flowers. The unusual thing about the rock garden is that it was built with petrified dinosaur bones my father had collected in the Alberta Badlands. I wonder if the rock garden is still there, and if the current owners of the house have any idea what those rocks are. Probably not.

For some reason, I have been thinking about that house lately -- I suppose because it was such a carefree time in my life. As I said before, the world of possibilities was still open to us, and we had no idea what life held in store. Life is such a mosaic of wonderful things -- and some not so wonderful -- I guess it is fortunate that we don't have the ability of prescience. Sometimes it is when we are at our happiest that the most calamitous things are just around the corner. That's when the gift of memory can take us back to a sunny afternoon.

I hope you are out there, making some wonderful memories.

The Two Marys

Three Sisters, A Study in June Sunlight
Edmund C. Tarbell
Milwaukee Art Museum

I have two very close friends with the same name -- let's call them Mary -- and I refer to them as Mary 1 and Mary 2. They are both lovely people, and both are very different from each other as night is from day. I have known Mary 1 for over 20 years, and she and I are the sisters each of us never had. I have known Mary 2 for only a few years, but as soon as I met her, I felt as if I had known her forever. Mary 1 is passionate, hot-blooded, sometimes volatile, always kind-hearted. Mary 2 is more even-tempered, sweet, sometimes feisty but in a calm and even-tempered way. I wish I could be more like Mary 2, but unfortunately I am like Mary 1 -- exactly.

Sometimes we are born with certain personality traits, and others I believe we pick up from our surroundings as we are growing up -- nature versus nurture. I have managed to inherit the worst traits of my parents through both nature and nurture but perhaps -- somewhere along the way -- I have inherited some good characteristics too. Even-temperedness, however, is not one of them. Like Mary 1, I can sometimes be very passionate. Is this a bad thing? Yes. Can I change it? No. I do, however, try not to hurt people -- but sometimes I fail miserably. Hurting the people in my life is the last thing I ever want to do, and those are the times when I feel very sad, and I wish I could be more like Mary 2 -- even tempered and sweet.

"How do you do it, Mary 2?"

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I know what I would change about myself -- well, besides my nose -- *heh*

It's a gorgeous day today here in Vancouver, and several of the neighborhoods have their streets blocked off for Car-Free Vancouver day, and there are block parties everywhere, so I think I'll go outdoors and see what trouble I can get into is going on. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Empty Pepper Shaker...

I have been rather unfulfilled at work lately, so in the past couple of days I did a pencil sketch of the salt and pepper shakers in the coffee room, in order to use another part of my brain for a few minutes. The salt shaker is slightly battered and worse for the wear, and the pepper shaker is empty. Why no one fills it, I have no idea. It just sits there in the middle of the table, bereft of pepper. Sometimes I understand how the pepper shaker feels -- my job leaves me feeling very empty. There was a survey done recently, and one of the questions asked was, "Is the organization giving you the opportunity to work up to your talents and expectations?" The truth is, they don't even take the time to enquire as to my talents and expectations. I have learned that it is more difficult to work below your talents and expectations than to work up to them, or to be challenged.

“Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”

... Robert Browning

If you are a manager or a supervisor, the best thing you can do for your organization is to sit down with each and every employee -- on a regular basis -- and find out exactly what it is they have to offer. Challenge them -- you may be surprised, and your organization just may benefit from it as a result.

The "Battle" Of The Sexes

Room in New York
Edward Hopper

I was raised with two older brothers, and I have always been more comfortable in the company of men than in the company of women. Instinctively, I have a better rapport with men. This has puzzled me over the years -- why should there be a difference between women and men, and what is the difference betwen them that I am unable to define? Yesterday it occurred to me. There are two types of people -- those who like everyone when they first meet them, until they are proven otherwise, and those who are suspicious of everyone when they first meet them. I'm probably over-generalizing here, but it seems to me that women fall into the first category, and men into the second. Men, somehow, seem to be more laid-back, less guarded, whereas women generally are a bit apprehensive about new people. With men, there is always less "drama" about everything. As I said, I may be over-generalizing, but that has been my experience. No matter how you slice it, it's true that women can sometimes form cliques, which seem to form a protective barrier against "new" people.

A clique is an exclusive group of people who share interests, views, purposes, patterns of behavior, or ethnicity. A clique as a reference group can be either normative or comparative. Membership in a clique is often, but not necessarily, exclusive, and qualifications for membership may be social or essential to the nature of the clique. The term 'clique' may be used pejoratively. A normative clique or reference group is often the primary source of social interaction for the members of the clique, which can affect the values and beliefs of an individual. The comparative clique or reference group is a standard of comparison in which a clique can exist in the workplace, in a community, in the classroom, in a business, or any other area of social interaction.

Cliques tend to form within the boundaries of a larger group where opportunities to interact are great. Cliques are often associated with children and teenagers in a classroom setting. Schools are a prime place where peer networks exist and can easily be accentuated through the differentiation of various cliques, and through the processes of inclusion and exclusion that characterize a clique. ... Wikipedia

Men rarely form cliques, women almost always do. So this made me wonder, is there some genetic, socialogical or biological reason for this? Does it have something to do with men being the "hunter / gatherers" while women stayed at home and tended the fires? Is it a sexual thing? Is it an instinct for the protection of children? It would be interesting to know. But, ask any woman -- there is nothing more threatening to a woman than a group of women to which we do not belong. The thought of it can actually make the hairs on the backs of our necks stand on end.

I am one of those people who instinctively likes everyone until they have done something to change my opinion of them -- but once they have, there is no going back. I can say, however, that I have never belonged to a clique, even when I was in school. The very thought of it is an anathema to me.

There is a new council in my building, consisting of seven women. Individually, they are all lovely people, and all of them are good friends of mine. We socialize, and as neighbors, we help each other. As a group -- well, let's just say I will be keeping a low profile for the next year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We've Done It Again, We're Number One ...

Vancouver has managed to do it again. The Economist Magazine has voted Vancouver the number one most liveable city in the world. I'm sure by now you are getting tired of listening to me shamelessly bragging posting about this. Well, I certainly can't take any credit for Vancouver being the number one city, so I'm not really bragging, am I? Well, maybe I am -- just a little bit. This picture is a view of the city, taken from Spanish Banks, which at this time of the year is really the most wonderful place in the Lower Mainland. We used to live not far from this beach, and my daughter and I used to go for walks along there on summer evenings. The tide goes out literally for miles, almost to the freighters docked in the harbor.

CANADIAN and Australian cities account for six of the top ten spots in the Economist Intelligence Unit's latest liveability ranking (see full report). All of the cities in the top ten scored well over 80.0, the threshold below which difficulties are apparent in day-to-day living. Vancouver is still the world’s most liveable city, with a rating of 98.0; Sydney and Zurich, sharing ninth place, achieved a score less than 2% lower than Vancouver’s. The worst-performing locations are in Africa or Asia, where civil instability and poor infrastructure present significant challenges. The unfolding political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe makes Harare the least desirable city in the survey. Locations within Afghanistan and Iraq are not included.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability rating quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual's lifestyle in 140 cities worldwide. Each city is assigned a score for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. The categories are compiled and weighted to provide an overall rating of 1–100, where 1 is considered intolerable and 100 is considered ideal.

I have emphasized health care, because there has been considerable debate lately as to whether Canada's health care system is any good. I think it is excellent, but not nearly as good as France's, which is definitely the best in the world. The World Health Organization has compiled lists of the ranking of health care and longevity in every country. Canada was listed as 30th in health care (France was 1st and the US was 37th), and in longevity, Canada was 12th (Japan was 1st and the US was 24th).

But there are so many more things that go into making up a wonderful, liveable city like Vancouver -- apart from the sheer beauty of the place. The longer I live here, the more I am gobsmacked by the gorgeous areas all over the Lower Mainland, that I have always taken for granted. I sure hope you have the chance to visit one day. You will love it.

And now I have a question for you: Is it livable or liveable? Enquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Time Travel

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." ... Albert Einstein

I have always been fascinated with the concept of time travel. In some ways, I'm not sure if I believe in time ... at least time as we know it. I often think that everyone is happening at once, contrary to what Einstein said. Well, of course, who can argue with Einstein, but wouldn't it be nice to think that with the press of a button -- zappo, presto -- we could zip backwards and forwards in time, to any time we would like. I suppose some of us would go back in time, and perhaps some of us would go forward. Others might wish to stay right here. But when you think about it, in another place in time, people who have not been born yet are dancing under the warm summer sunshine. And in still another place in time, people we have lost are young again and are skipping through a field of daisies, or petting a cat, or falling in love for the first time. It is happening right now, only in another place in time.

If you had the opportunity to go anywhere in time you wished to go, where would it be? I think for me, I would go back to my family's wonderful little house on Latham Road, where I was surrounded by my friends, and we spent our time roller skating, playing hop scotch, bike riding, and feeling very safe walking to school. The world of possibilities still lay ahead of us.

Am I A Bad Influence...?

I have come to the conclusion that I may be a bad influence. My mother used to say, "We are all born with a little larceny in us..." but I think I have more than a little. The other day I took the Munchkins to see "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian". I had taken the Munchkins for Japanese sushi first, at their favorite sushi restaurant, and I desperately wanted a latte. However, if I had stopped for one, we would have been late for the movie, so I decided to buy one to take to the movie with me. The young man taking the tickets at the movie theatre was not much older than Phinnaeus, and he informed me, in no uncertain terms, that "No outside food or drink was allowed in the theatre." I looked around and people were hauling in mega-sized buckets of popcorn, soft drinks, chocolate bars, ice cream, and there was I -- with my teeny tiny little latte. Anyway, the young man chased me out to the lobby to finish drinking my latte, just as the movie was about to start. Phinnaeus, Marigold and I sat in the lobby, and then I had a brain wave. I looked at my drink, I looked at my tote bag, et voila! problem solved. My latte fit very nicely into my tote bag, the three of us strolled into the already darkened theatre, we sat down, and I enjoyed my latte in leisure. Phinnaeus and Marigold didn't say a word, although they did look at me with a twinkle in their eyes. I hope I was not a bad influence on them.

The Munchkins enjoyed "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian". I thought it was even better than the first one; the special effects were wonderful. The famous statue "The Ballerina" by Degas came to life and danced through the museum. Jeff Koons' balloon puppy bounced and pranced through the halls; the people in Edward Hopper's painting, "Nighthawks" came to life. I loved it. Hank Azaria was wonderful as Egyptian pharaoh Kahmunrah -- complete with a lisp. But if you're looking for high drama, this isn't it. It's a kids' show, and kids love it. The Munchkins were even asking me about some of the art work, which clearly was in the movie to educate children. It was an interesting concept.

I enjoyed the movie -- and my latte -- very much. Have I led the Munchkins down the path to ruin by smuggling a latte into the movie? Oh, gosh, I hope not. When I was a little girl, my parents and I used to go to Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. It was against the law to pick any of the flowers there. My mother used to get my father and me to cause a distraction, while she took out a small pair of scissors and took a cutting of some unusual plant she saw. When we got home, she would write to the gardeners at the park and ask what it was, and how should she grow it. She always received a wonderful letter back from them. She had a little larceny in her, and I suppose that is how I became such a hardened criminal.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I watched a movie last night that, in my opinion was so good, I wanted to replay it ... but it was getting late, so I didn't. I just might watch it again tonight. It's called "Passengers" and it stars the always-wonderful Anne Hathaway. It was released in the theatres last fall, and for some reason I had never heard of this movie. Have any of you heard of it ... or seen it? No, I hadn't either, until now. It also stars Andre Braugher, who is my favorite actor. And of course, it was filmed right here in Vancouver, so it's always fun to pick out Vancouver landmarks. "Oh, there's the BC Sugar Refinery; there's the Museum of Anthropology; there's the Skytrain..."

For some awful reason, I have a bit of a morbid fascination with plane crashes. I often have recurring dreams that I am in one. When the Air France plane disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean a few days ago, I could not sleep that night, thinking about those 228 people on board, and the horrors they must have gone through in the last few minutes -- or the grief their loved ones must have felt. Oh, gosh...

"Passengers" is the story of Dr. Claire Summers (Hathaway), a grief counselor who counsels the handful of survivors of a major airline crash. One by one, the survivors begin to disappear, and Dr. Summers investigates their disappearances. The movie is good, and perhaps if it had had a director like Alfred Hitchcock, it could have been a classic. It very much had a Hitchcock feeling to it.

Flying is the only way to get from point A to point B in the 21st Century. Time is of the essence, and travel is not part of the journey anymore. Airplanes are sort of like elevators -- they go up, and they go back down again -- hopefully at their chosen destination. There is no feeling of packing for the journey.

"What clothing do you suppose I will need for the ship?" "Will it be warm on the train?"

Can you imagine how wonderful it must have been to travel like that? Now, people are jammed into flying aluminum toothpaste tubes, with the hopes that they and their luggage will arrive at the same place at the same time.

"I'm in London and my luggage is where? Hong Kong?"

I wish I enjoyed flying, but I just don't. I know statistically flying is very safe, but I prefer my feet to be on terra firma. Is it just me, or is anyone else nervous about flying?

"Well, everyone has a fear of at least one thing." ... Marge Simpson

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Golden Age Of Glamor

I recently bought a new television set, and along with it I got the digital box so I could get more channels. I love watching old, classic movies. To me, they are a real art form. And I love the classic movie stars. They were a completely different breed than the movies stars of today. They had a magical quality about them -- a patina -- that movie stars seems to have lost. I don't know, call me a prude, but I don't want to watch a movie, and then the next day see the star of the movie exposing her pregnant belly with her belly-button sticking out. Yes, pregnancy is beautiful, but cover up the belly-button, please. It just detracts a bit from the mystique. When I watch the classic movies, and see the elegant actresses who played in them, I sometimes wish the actresses of today could try to emulate them -- just a bit.

Most of the women from the so-called golden era of movies were real people in their private lives. Greer Garson was married three times, once to a man who played her son in "Mrs. Miniver". Deborah Kerr was known for her raucous sense of humor and her bawdy jokes, and all of her leading men fell in love with her for that reason. She had romantic affairs with Stewart Granger, Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum, who called her a "great broad", and he regarded that as the highest form of compliment. So do I. You can see the chemistry between them in "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison". That was my mother's favorite movie, and she always used to say, "Those two are in love with each other -- you can see it."

Ingrid Bergman was known for her classic beauty and her amazing talent, but in 1950 she became notorious for her affair with Italian director, Roberto Rossellini. This resulted in a huge scandal in the United States. Democratic Senator Edwin C. Johnson from Colorado referred to her as "a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence for evil". She was declared persona non grata and was forced in exile to Italy, where she eventually married Rossellini. In 1957 she returned to the United States and won an Oscar for her role in "Anastasia".

Grace Kelly was, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful actresses who ever lived. Her beauty was astonishing, and she was equally as talented. One can only imagine what her career would have been like, had she not married Prince Rainier and retired to Monaco as Princess Grace. I think she often wondered that as well, and I could sometimes detect a far away look in her eye -- "what if...". But she, too, was known for having affairs with her leading men, including Cary Grant (he got around, didn't he...?), William Holden and Ray Milland, who referred to her as having a "great ass".

Great ass? Great broad? Yes, these actresses had active private lives -- just as many of the actors and actresses have now. But, they had all that and more. They had style, elegance, enormous talent, and a star quality that actresses of today sadly lack. I love settling down with my new TV and watching some of these old classic movies.

"Here's looking at you, kid..."

Friday, June 5, 2009

"What Remains" ... My Introduction To Blogging

My first encounter with blogging was a few years ago when I read a book by Carole Radziwill, who was married to John F. Kennedy Jr’s cousin, Tony Radziwill. Tony and JFK Jr's mothers, Lee Bouvier Radziwill and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, were sisters. Tony Radziwill and JFK Jr were best friends, and Tony was the best man at JFK Jr's wedding to Carolyn Bessette. Tony Radziwill was born into European Royalty and was in fact a prince. He was descended from King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, King George I of Great Britain, and King John III Sobieski of Poland. In 1989, at the age of 30, Tony Radziwill was diagnosed with cancer. He went into remission for a period of time, but in 1999 just a few days after his 40th birthday, and one week after the funeral of his cousin JFK Jr, Tony Radziwill lost his battle with cancer.

Tony Radziwill and John F. Kennedy Jr, and their wives, Carole and Carolyn, were extremely close friends. Within a short period of a few days, Carole Radziwill lost her husband and her best friends. Can you even imagine the overwhelming grief she must have felt? After years of struggling with the loss, she wrote her memoir, “What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love”. When I read it, it touched me deeply. I know something of friendship, love and loss, and I wanted to send a message to Carole Radziwill to let her know how much her book had affected me.

One evening Carole Radziwill was invited to be a guest blogger on a publisher's blog, and I had no idea what a blog was. But I knew it was a way to correspond with someone in real time, so I logged on and was able to send a message to her that I had read her book, I had enjoyed it immensely, and that in some ways I could identify with her. She responded back to me, and that amazed me. From that point on, blogging piqued my curiosity. It was something new and very interesting, and something I wanted to try. I am an observer, and I thought blogging would be an enjoyable hobby -- a way to share some of my observations.

My style of blogging may be slightly different from some of the folks in the blogosphere. I don't particularly approach it as a type of social networking, but rather as a type of "slice of life" journalism. My preference is not to do blog posts about many things in my boring little life, but rather about things that I find interesting, which of course may not be things that you find interesting. Having said that, I don't always have time to visit my favorite blogs on a daily basis, so I hope you will bear with me. My favorite time to visit everyone is on Saturday mornings, when I can sit down with my second cup of coffee, relax, and read all your wonderful posts. By the same token, I am always amazed that anyone reads my boring little blog. But I love you all, and I hope you will continue to visit.

See you Saturday. :-)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm Still AWOL...

I had dinner tonight with a friend of mine from Ireland. Oh, sure, by gosh, I did, *heh* and it was lovely. Vancouver is just too hot right now, so we sat outside on a patio and tried to keep cool. My friend said when she had first heard about Vancouver, she imagined the "land of ice and snow" and was shocked to find when she first got here that it was nothing as she imagined. In any case, right now it's too darned hot to sit at my computer.

I have always loved everything Irish, and my favorite song is one that was originally Scottish, but it was "borrowed" by the Irish and they made it theirs. Scottish, Irish -- it's a beautiful song.

I will be back to visit you all soon, and I promise I won't be AWOL for long. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Flutterbies and Cutterbups

We are having unseasonably hot weather here in British Columbia. In the Lower Mainland, some areas have reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity of 15%. That is hot. And very, very dry. We often get temperatures like this from July until September, but on June 3rd? Goodness! So, as much as I would love to stay indoors and visit with all of you wonderful folks, it's just too hot. I'll be over to visit you very soon. But, I'm not complaining ... I love it. Stay cool...!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vancouver -- Botox Capital Of The World

Portrait of Dora Maar
Pablo Picasso
Musee Picasso: Paris, France

Today is the anniversary of the day I moved to Vancouver. It was a dry, hot, tropical-feeling day just like today, and I fell in love with Vancouver. But every day I learn something new and interesting about this city. Yesterday I discovered that the use of Botox for cosmetic purposes was invented right here in ... ta-da ... Vancouver. Who knew! A local ophthalmologist by the name of Dr. Jean Carruthers discovered that the Botox toxin she used to treat her ophthalmological patients also erased frown lines, and the rest, as they say ...

It just so happens that Dr. Carruthers' husband, Dr. Alistair Carruthers, is a dermatologist, and they experimented on their receptionist. Et voila! frown lines gone. However, it took a few years for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery to accept the idea, but in 1993 Botox suddenly took off.

I had dinner with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, and she seemed "fresher-looking" than I had seen her look for a while. I thought perhaps it was because she had quit smoking, but then she admitted she had had Botox for her migraine headaches.

Yah, right...

Well, if it works, why not? Most people do everything they can to keep the hands of time turned back. They try to eat healthy foods, they get at least some form of exercise, they take multi-vitamins -- why not a little tweaking on the exterior as well? However, I just bought a new TV set, so the Botox injections are going to have to wait -- at least until next payday.

Or not...

Vancouver is a fun place, and you never know what interesting things you're going to find here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Waikiki In Vancouver

Warm tropical weather from across the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii has slammed into Vancouver, and it feels just like Waikiki. And yes, those palm trees are here in Vancouver, right along Beach Avenue by English Bay. So I am going to be taking advantage of the beautiful weather to get outdoors, and I will be away from my computer for a couple of days.

I had sort of a pleasant experience this afternoon. I went downtown to pick up some things I needed, and the buses were stalled, so I grabbed a taxi home. The taxi driver had all the windows open in the car, and as we were driving across the Granville Bridge, it felt as if we were in a convertible. My hair was flying, and it felt wonderful. The taxi driver turned to me and said, "You are a very beautiful woman..." Omigosh! Every woman should hear that at least once in her lifetime, right? ...Just what I needed, just when I needed it.

Get outdoors, everyone, and enjoy the summer evenings.