Sunday, February 28, 2010

Well Done...!

It has been a lot of fun being in the centre of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm glad Phinnaeus and Marigold were able to experience it as well. And to all the athletes from all over the world who worked and trained so hard, and participated in these games, I can only say, "Well done". When an athlete gets to the Olympic level of proficiency and expertise, there really are no winners or losers. They're all amazing and it was a joy to watch them compete. In addition to their athletic abilities, they are all truly good sports, and they demonstrated such determination and grace. Of course, being a Canadian, I am proud of the fact that the incredible Canadian athletes won 14 gold medals for Canada, a new Olympic record for any country. Previously the record was held by the Soviet Union who won 13 gold medals at the Olympic games in Innsbruck in 1976, and Russia and Norway tying for 13 gold medals in Salt Lake City in 2002.

And to Mr. E.A. B***** (a Canadian, and a professional curmudgeon...) who said in a private e-mail to me a few days ago,

"Anyone with half a brain would recognize that Canada will never be a power group in terms of medals won, at any Olympics ... history even guarantees that notion..."

I say to him,

"I'm very, very happy that our wonderful, talented athletes have proven you to be very, very wrong. Now, here's a knife and fork -- you can eat your words."

It has been fun, too, meeting people from all over the world and enjoying the friendly camaraderie. Vancouver is a beautiful city, isn't it? And the good news is, in a few days everyone will have gone home, and the city will be all mine again.

...Kidding, kidding...!

Cheers,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Play Like Girls...!

Canada has now won ten eleven twelve thirteen FOURTEEN Olympic gold medals, more than any other country so far in the current 2010 Winter Olympics. My goodness, how did that happen? Way to go, Canada...! We're this funny little country, situated just north of That Other Big Country to the south, and our total population is less than the State of California. Most of us live along the border, and we peer across the line at our bigger, stronger, more assertive cousins to the south. We're fairly modest and we don't do a lot of flag waving, but we have had a lot of wonderful athletes to be proud of during these winter Olympics, and we're celebrating their successes. In spite of all the naysayers when the winter games first started, Canada has managed to do okay. History was made last week when Alexandre Bilodeau won the first Olympic gold medal -- ever -- on Canadian soil.

But there is one big match to go, on the final day of the Olympics, and everyone here is holding their breath. Hockey is almost a religion in Canada, and from the time a Canadian child is old enough to sit up and watch the television, Saturday evenings means only one thing -- Hockey Night in Canada. The Canadian women's Olympic hockey team won the gold medal Thursday night -- yay! -- for the third time in a row, and so as the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team goes into their final playoff against the United States on Sunday afternoon, we have only one thing to say to them.

Play like girls...!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Making Good Choices...

Children by the Sea in Guernsey
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
1883

One of my co-workers gave her little four-year old boy an expensive toy, and admonished him not to break it -- which of course he promptly did. It's one of Murphy's Laws that the most expensive toy will get broken first. The little fellow's mother was annoyed with him, and later that evening as she listened to him saying his bedtime prayers, she heard him say, "... and please, God, help me to make good choices..." When she told me the story, I couldn't help laughing. Somehow, at the age of four, this little guy had figured out the key to life -- making good choices.

How many of us have made bad choices somewhere along the way? I know I have -- lots of them. Of course, at the time they seemed like good choices, and even despite the advice of older, wiser folks I have still occasionally managed to make bad choices. Sometimes we can head the consequences off at the pass, and get our lives back on track without too much damage being done. Other times we have to live with the consequences for a very long time.

“Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.” ... Robert Louis Stevenson

Fortunately in my life, I have learned from my choices, and the consequences have not been too harsh. In fact, sometimes -- if we're lucky -- the consequences of our poor choices can turn out to be blessings in disguise. The trick, though, as the little fellow says, is to learn to make good choices. I hope God answers his prayer.

Cheers,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ice Castles

Did anyone see Joannie Rochette's wonderful performance during the short program of the figure skating last night? If there was a dry eye in the house, I would be surprised. Her performance was a beautiful tribute to her mother, Theresa Rochette, who passed away suddenly in the early hours on Sunday morning, at the age of 55. I can't even imagine the courage and determination it took for Joannie to continue with her program. She skated to the music Uruguayan tango La Cumparsita, whose lyrics begin: “The little parade of endless miseries ...”

She skated a flawless performance and ended in third place behind the two top rivals, Japan's Mao Asada and Korean world champion Yu-Na Kim. But the real star of the evening was Joannie Rochette, and as she began her skate with a rousing ovation from her fans she looked so small and fragile, alone on the ice. When she was finished, she stood quietly and wept.

Joannie Rochette is in a very good position of winning a medal after the long performance on Thursday night. But, whoever wins the Gold Medal, the Vancouver 2010 women's figure skating event will always belong to Joannie Rochette.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Where Do They Go?

Last night I watched a wonderful movie about the life of Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes. Temple Grandin was a high functioning autistic women who went through university and received a Doctorate in Animal Science. She is a visual thinker -- she thinks in pictures -- and is able to recall every detail of anything she sees. She can play it backwards and forwards like a movie, and she says that the spoken word is her second language.

Temple Grandin has an innate affinity for animals, she is able to feel the animals' emotions, and she can identify with the anxiety animals feel when they are being led to slaughter. Because of this, she has designed humane livestock handling processes and has given advice on how to improve standards in slaughter plants and lifestock farms. She has also received awards from PETA.

I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect. ... Temple Grandin

Last night in the movie she asked a question that resonated with me. When one of her favorite horses, "Chestnut", died and later when her favorite college teacher died she asked, "Where do they go?" It was a compelling question, asked simply. Human beings have pondered that question for millennia. Indeed, where do they go? Every religion and every philosophy has a theory. I have not been able to reach a conclusion to that question myself. I would be interested to know what you think. "Where do they go?"

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lord-Luv-A-Duck...!

Canada is known as the land of geese, ducks and loons (in more ways than one), so I thought I would show you my duck collection.

"Why is she showing us her duck collection...?"

...you're asking. Well, because I am too tired from all sorts of Olympic activities to post about anything even slightly stimulating at the moment, and because I love my collection of wooden ducks. And if you look closely in the background, you will see a couple of brass geese that my daughter gave me for Christmas one year, and when they're polished and the fireplace is on, they glow.

I also have a brass duck on one of my bookcases, and it was the first duck in my collection. The bookcase was built by my father, from a pine tree that he felled and had planed, and it is all built with dowels -- no nails. So somehow my little duck fits nicely with my bookcase. When I was a little girl, my father used to go duck hunting in the woods on Vancouver Island. My mother would cure the soft, down feathers and then she made each of us our own eiderdown comforters. My eiderdown was almost a part of me for years. I would curl up with it when I was reading or watching TV, and whenever I was not feeling well, my mother would say, "Go get your eiderdown, and I'll bring you a hot water bottle."

My eiderdown was paisley, and it resided in a place of honor at the foot of my bed. It was great comfort to me through many of the joys and tribulations of my teenage years. I have been pricing eiderdowns lately, considering buying one. Have you looked a the price of eiderdowns? An eiderdown made of pure eider duck down, such as the ones my mother used to make, cost between $8,000 and $10,000.

My Aunt Molly had two pet ducks named Lucille Ball and Winston Churchill, and I think that was the beginning of my fascination with ducks. And yes, I do eat ducks, and I love duck l'orange. So, there you have it. I am a Canadian, and I have a close, personal relationship with ducks. I suppose that makes me a bit of a loon...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Olympic Flame

This afternoon we went to downtown Vancouver to see the Olympic flame and to take part in some of the activities down there. All I can say is

Oh ...

My ...

Gawd ...


According to the news reports, there were over 2 million people in downtown Vancouver today. The lineups to get into pavilions were up to seven hours long. I have never experienced anything quite like this. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It's wonderful to see everyone having fun and enjoying themselves, and getting into the spirit of the games. I took a little video of the Olympic flame to share with you. I tried to capture some of the feeling of the crowd as well, but it was rather difficult to do. Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying the Olympic games as much as we are here in Vancouver. Tomorrow is the men's hockey, Canada versus the United States. Good luck to them both, and may the best team win.

video

Cheers,

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Land That Old Man Winter Forgot...

Once upon a time, long, long ago and far, far away there was a major metropolis called Vancouver, situated in a frozen land known as Canada.

On a regular basis -- at least once a year -- Old Man Winter visited this wonderful city and dusted the mountains and the city with snow, like icing sugar on a Tim Horton's blueberry fritter. The Lions with their white cloaks looked out over the land and saw that it was good.

"We will invite the world to come and play in our snow and skate on our frozen lakes. We will share our bounteous winter playland, and everyone will be happy."

And so, the world came to our city, but much to everyone's dismay there was no ice and snow -- only roses, tulips, azaleas, daffodils, magnolias, Japanese plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, crocuses, violets, pansies, irises, heather, lavender and bumble bees. It seemed that Old Man Winter had forgotten to pay a visit to our city.

"Where is the snow and ice?" everyone cried? "Where are the dog sleds and snowshoes? What am I going to do with this #$%^&@# fur-lined parka I dragged all the way from London?"

And everyone was sad. And the great pundits in far-away lands were very displeased with us, and they wagged their fingers and admonished us, calling our fair city a "swamp". "This is the worst Winter Games ever! You promised us ice and snow! Who's organizing this -- Doug and Bob McKenzie?"

So, while the rest of the world languished under snow storms and blizzards and ice storms and more blizzards and more snow storms, the fortunate ill-fated people of the metropolis in the Great White North frolicked in their tulips and daffodils and azaleas. But, being Canadians, they were very polite and said, "We're sorry. We had no idea we would have an El Niño, and it would be summer in February..."

And behold, from high atop Mount Olympus came the voice of the Gods The New York Times, telling the people of our beautiful land,

Canada — snap out of it! You’re gorgeous, baby, you’re sophisticated, you live well. No need for an apology.

There may be no more heart-stopping view in all the world than the glimpse to the west, toward the distant Strait of Georgia, from the span of Lions Gate Bridge, which links Vancouver to its northern suburbs. The pan-Asian cuisine of British Columbia, built around a bounty from the sea, forest and prairie, puts London and Hong Kong to shame. And the cheeky sensibility of Canadians — without the British snarkiness — is a fine colonial legacy. Vancouver is Manhattan with mountains. It’s a liquid city, a tomorrow city, equal parts India, China, England, France and the Pacific Northwest. It’s the cool North American sibling. If only, and this holds true for the rest of Canada, it didn’t feel the need to blush.

And the people of Vancouver were pleased, and relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, guilt-free and with a modicum of Canadian pride at being so fortunate to live in such a beautiful land.

The End

Plushenko Against Lysacek, Against ... Tiger?

If anyone watched the men’s Olympic figure skating last night, you would have seen the American figure skater Evan Lysacek complete an almost perfect routine, to win the Gold Medal. Russia's Evgeni Plushenko's performance was almost as good – but not quite. The two skaters are almost identical in their level of skill, but in the end Lysacek outscored Plushenko outscored by 1.31 points, 257.67 to 256.36. These are the dramatic moments that make the Olympics worth watching. One never knows what the dramatic story is going to be, and here it is. You just can’t get better performances, or more drama than that. And what was the headline newstory on CNN this morning?

“Stage Set for Tiger’s Apology. Can Tiger Woods Make a Comeback?”

Oh, puleeze...! Tiger Woods has decided to hold a press conference tomorrow. Let me get this straight – he’s a sportsman, and he is holding a press conference during a major sporting event where the eyes of the world are on the young athletes of the world. Can you say selfish? To quote Sports Illustrated columnist Selena Roberts:

"He wants to explain himself by holding a press conference tomorrow with selected reporters who will be asked to sit there in silence. No questions, please. The control freak in Tiger wants to tell the world he is a crummy guy on his terms, with his spin, uninterrupted. The serial cad in Tiger will likely feel the need to express contrition for being human, of course, even if most humans are equipped with restraint buttons. The Olympic athletes deserve a break, particularly those from the U.S. The Americans have earned their enthusiasm, and all the coverage and headlines that go with it. Now Tiger wants to eclipse their sunshine by crashing their bash with his own pity party."

My opinion of Tiger Woods is diminishing daily. Just go away, Tiger. I don't want to hear your lame excuses apologies for cheating on your wife. Just go away.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Knocked For A Loop...

The day before yesterday I had a bad fall and I am feeling a bit out-of-sorts. It's amazing how a fall can really knock you for a loop. There is a sidewalk here in Vancouver that had been paved with uneven flagstone-type tiles, and I caught my foot on one and went flying. Within three hours, the City of Vancouver had replaced the flagstones with slip-proof cement. The only person who helped me was a homeless man on the sidewalk in front of the store. He was so sweet, I gave him a $20 bill. In the meantime, I hurt in places where I didn't even know I had places...! I'll be fine in a couple of days, and I'll be back.

Cheers,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You've Got Mail...!

Just for fun, I have decided to try something slightly different, so I'm giving it a test run. I have noticed that some of the folks out there in the blogosphere respond to their blog post comments by e-mail. I like that. It seems very friendly. I like friendly, don't you? During my working day, I am often not able to go into my blog and read the wonderful comments from all my blogging friends, so as much as I would like to respond, I am often not able to do it. However, I am able to go into my e-mail.

So now, I have set up my comments section so that all your wonderful, fabulous, witty, insightful comments will come to my ... ta-da ... e-mail as well as to the comments box, and I can respond to you individually. I have set up an e-mail just for you. Is that wonderful or what??? However, it's often fun to have an ongoing conversation on my blog as well, so on days when I am still able to do that, I will continue to do it. We can play it by ear, and see how it works. Don't you just love that expression, "Play it by ear?" When I was four years old, I sat down at the piano and played "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and my mother said, "Oh, listen! She's playing by ear!" It always seemed strange to me. Well, we'll play it by ear...

Cheers,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Moksgm'ol, The Spirit Bear

One day, a little boy asked his father "Why is it that all of the bear people that we have seen are black and brown? Why are there no White Bear people?" To the little boy all the creatures of the woods were a kind of people, and his father replied, "My son, there are indeed White Bear People. We have learned from our ancestors that in the beginning of time, "Whe-Ghet," the Raven, decided to leave a reminder that once the land was white with ice and snow. To do this he set an island aside to be home of the White Bear People, then went among the black and brown bears and made every tenth one white, and he decreed that they would never leave this island for here they could live in peace forever."

People were wondering why a giant Coca-Cola bear was part of the Winter Olympics opening night ceremonies. This wonderful icon was meant to represent the Spirit Bear, otherwise known as the Kermode bear. Spirit Bears are local treasures, and live only in the temperate rainforests of British Columbia. Spirit Bears are a subspecies of Black Bears and are not Polar Bears. Because of their ghost-like appearance, Spirit Bears hold a prominent place in the mythology of the Canadian First Nations. It is the belief of the First Nations that the white bear was put on the planet by the creator to remind us of the age when much of the land was covered by glaciers.

This wonderful painting is called "Salmon Watch - Spirit Bear" by Canadian artist Robert Bateman. I have never been fortunate enough to see a Spirit Bear. A few years ago I was visiting friends in northern British Columbia, and my hosts asked me if I would like to see a Spirit Bear. "Sure...!" So we went to the one place where folks are certain to see lots of bears -- the city dump. Unfortunately all we saw were dozens of regular Black Bears, scrounging around for their evening meal, and the Spirit Bear eluded us.

Spirit Bears are protected in British Columbia, and one of the Olympic mascots, Miga, is part Spirit Bear, part Killer Whale -- an interesting combination, to say the least. So, that's why the giant Coca-Cola Spirit Bear was represented at the opening ceremonies.

Cheers,

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Birthday "Phinnaeus"

Today is "Phinnaeus's" 14th birthday, which I find hard to believe. It seems it was just last week that he was born, and he missed being a Valentine's baby by only a couple of hours. When I first saw him, I was mesmerized by this tiny little blob of a human being. In some way, he seemed magical. If ever a human being could be a reincarnation of someone else, Phinnaeus is a reincarnation of my father. They look alike, they have the same personality, intelligence, sense of humor and innate sense of integrity. Phinnaeus is what you might call a "decent" person, and I think he will always be that way. Both he and his sister have that same inborn wholesomeness, even though they can sometimes get each other's goat on occasion.

Phinnaeus doesn't suffer fools gladly. He is an old soul, and even as a small child, he could often be extremely mature. I remember once when he was about four years old, he was sitting on the chesterfield, his feet didn't touch the floor and his arms were folded across his chest. He announced very importantly. "I love everyone I know, and I don't love everyone I don't know...!" It made complete sense to me.

As he begins to grow into a young man, he is becoming slightly more guarded, in an adult sort of way. He phones me every few days, "Hi, I'm just calling to say Hi..." and we have the most interesting conversations about politics, history, philosophy, religion, art, current events, and so much more. I enjoy our conversations because he makes me think. He's his own person, and after weighing all the issues about things, he comes to his own decisions and when he does, no one can sway him. I like that in a person. It sounds just like someone else I know -- I wonder who that could be ... hmmmmm ... let me think, let me think...

Phinnaeus has a wonderful sense of humor and a sense of the ridiculous. He understands irony, and he has perfect timing. He can do a flawless imitation of a cheesy 1980s aerobics instructor, that knocks me flat every time. Phinnaeus is a very good-looking young man and he has wonderful hair -- thick and wavy, however he keeps getting it cut really short. So, a few months ago I offered him $100 if he promised not to get his hair cut short for a long time. He kept his promise, so I have to keep mine.

Lucky Phinnaeus, he has the day off school today. What better birthday gift can a guy have?

Happy Birthday, Phinnaeus...!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Winter Olympic Magnolias


I went downtown this afternoon to take part in the Olympic activities at Robson Square, and all I could see were the Magnolia trees blooming in front of the Art Gallery. Here we are in Canada, it's the Winter Olympics, it's February, it's winter -- you get the idea -- and the Magnolia trees are blooming. Is that crazy, or what? So, for all you folks still digging your way out of yet another snow storm, I snapped this picture today and I'm happy to share our Magnolias with you. Enjoy!

Cheers,

Separated At Birth

It has been a while since I have done one of my "separated at birth" posts, but I could not help but notice the uncanny resemblance between these two women. Is it just my imagination, or do they look almost exactly alike? Everyone knows the woman on the right, but perhaps many of you may not know the woman on the left. It would be interesting to see those of you who do know who she is. I'll give you a hint ... she is extraordinarily well-educated and accomplished, and when they do a movie of the story of her life, they've already got the perfect actress to cast in the role.

Does anyone know who she is?

Cheers,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wardrobe And Other Malfunctions

Despite the slight malfunction at the torch lighting, I thought the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics was rather nice. My favorite part was where the ice broke up into ice floes and the whales swam through them. How on earth did they do that? And of course, it was lovely to hear Joni Mitchell in her new incarnation singing "Both Sides Now" in her slower, more mellow voice. At first I didn't recognize her. Like fine wine, her voice has actually improved with age. On the other hand, I could have done with a bit less speechifying by the Olympic officials. Just as things were beginning to build to a crescendo, they stepped in an threw cold water on the whole event. But ... I guess it's necessary.

There were the usual Canadian clichés, of course, but seen from a different viewpoint, they were actually very interesting. Canada is made up of a population of great diversities from east to west, and it was nice to see them all represented. I have always loved First Nations art, music and culture, and I would have liked to have seen a bit more of their dancing. It's quite beautiful and unique. The spirit of the First Nations is inextricably woven into the West Coast culture.

I do have one criticism, however. What on earth is happening to the national anthem -- not only Canada's but America's as well. "Oh Canada" is a beautiful anthem, as is "The Star Spangled Banner". They are not meant to be warbled, or sung as if the singer is on stage in some jazz club. They are meant to be belted out in a clear strong, steady voice. Enough with the artificial trills and quavers. Those are gimmicks used by people who cannot otherwise hold a note. Nikki Yanofsky sang "Oh Canada" last night, and I was embarrassed. I felt the same way when I heard Carrie Underwood butcher sing the American national anthem at the Super Bowl. Why can't the organizers of these events find singers who can actually sing, and who can deliver these beautiful anthems the way they are meant to be delivered? Was the incredible Canadian tenor, Ben Heppner, not available? On the whole, though, I liked the opening ceremonies very much.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone. I'm off to participate in some of the free events. I'll take pictures.

Cheers,

Friday, February 12, 2010

How Human Are You?

Do you ever feel as if everyone else in the entire world is normal, and perhaps you are not? Let me rephrase that. Do you ever feel as if you have done or said something completely stupid, something that perhaps no one else on earth would do or say, and you feel utterly wretched? Or do you try to convince tell yourself that you really are fallible, and we all do and say completely idiotic things at times?

Does "being human" ever happen to you? Some of us (me) are perhaps a little more stupid human than others.

*sigh*

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Olympic Fever Hits My Street Corner

Tomorrow Vancouver hosts the world for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Everyone here is beginning to get very excited, and there is a real spirit of celebration all throughout the city. Today I had the opportunity to watch the Olympic Torch go past close to where I work, and it was really a lot of fun. I took a couple of little videos, if anyone is interested. If you're not interested -- well, that's okay too. The preparation and organization for this event really has been of Olympic proportions, and I must say the organizers have done a wonderful job. It's like a huge party, all over the city. It's still a secret as to who will light the cauldron at the opening ceremonies tomorrow, but word in the street is that it will be Wayne Gretzy -- the Great One, No. 99. We shall see. Matt Lauer carried the torch for a while today, and tomorrow the Governator himself -- Arnold Schwarzenegger -- will carry the torch just a few hours before the opening ceremony. Don't ask me why; no one here seems to know... But what the heck, it's all in fun, right?

I like the exhilaration of the folks in this video. It was actually more fun than the torch.

video

That is not me yelling "Yay!" in this video, it was a very loud woman behind me. But everyone was in the spirit of the fun. I have no idea who is carrying the torch here. I think she was a policewoman. The torch was handed over to her at City Hall.

video

Tomorrow night will be the opening ceremonies, and I hope you all have the opportunity to watch them. I'm told there will be thrills, chills, and a whole lot of wonderful surprises. And let's wish good luck to all the athletes who have trained so hard to get here. I hope everyone has a fabulous time.

Cheers,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Terror", "Erebus" and "Resolute"

From the times of Queen Elizabeth 1 until Queen Victoria's reign, the British were great explorers. Every school child knows the story of Sir Walter Raleigh, the British aristocrat, historian, Renaissance poet and explorer, and his journeys to the "New World". Most of us know, as well, the story of the Franklin Expedition which took place more than 200 years later. Sir John Franklin made four journeys to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. His first three journeys were unsuccessful in finding the passage, but he was successful in mapping much of the Arctic shoreline. In May 1845, Franklin set out on his fourth attempt, in two state-of-the art ships, the "Terror" and the "Erebus".

The "Terror" and "Erebus" had cabins that were heated by hot water piped through the floor. The ships' bows were reinforced with iron planks to help them break through ice, and each ship was equipped with a specially designed propeller. They took plenty of provisions with them, including canned goods, and were well prepared for the expedition, having been there three times before. But sometime between 1845 and 1847, Franklin's expedition disappeared. In 1850, Inuit hunters discovered the bodies of 30 men and several graves. Some of the bodies were mutilated and it was believed that, because of starvation, Franklin's men had resorted to cannabilism.

In 1848 the British government began sending ships to look for the Franklin Expedition. One of the ships commissioned for the search was the "HMS Resolute". The ship was fitted for Arctic service with especially strong timbers, an internal heating system, and a polar bear as a figurehead. Together with "HMS Assistance", "Pioneer", "Intrepid", "Investigator" and "Enterprise", they searched the Arctic for Sir John Franklin. Beset by ice, the men abandoned their ships and were rescued by "HMS North Star". In 1855 "HMS Resolute" was discovered off Baffin Island by an American whaling ship, the "George Henry". The ship was refitted and sailed back to New England, and the American government returned "HMS Resolute" to Britain. The ship served in the British Royal Navy, and in 1879 was finally broken up.

In 1880 Queen Victoria donated a desk made out of the timbers of the ship to the President of the United States, as a gesture of thanks for the rescue and return of "HMS Resolute". Since then, the desk has been used by almost every American President, with the exception of Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Given the history and sanctity of the ship and its connection to the Franklin Expedition, I would hope that anyone would have enough respect for all the men who served on these ships and gave their lives on these ships, not to put his feet on the desk. It belongs to a far greater history, and anyone sitting there is only borrowing the desk.

As Queen Victoria would say, "We are not amused..."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Still Life with Fruit and Lemon
Paul Gauguin
1880

Is there anything more wonderful in life than that first bite into a fresh, juicy orange? Or perhaps it is that first piping hot cup of coffee in the morning. For me, nothing can make my day perfect more than arriving at the bus stop just at the same time the bus arrives, hopping on, finding a seat, and being whisked away to my destination. No waiting ... no standing. Or perhaps it is knowing the people we love are all safe, happy and enjoying their lives. When we really think about our lives, and the things that lift our spirits and give us joy, it's not the big things, but rather the simple things. I'm never happier than when I find the perfect shade of lipstick -- that suits me -- or a bra that fits me and actually "lifts and separates". It sounds a bit shallow, but really, our lives are made up of day-to-day small victories and pleasures. The overall contentment and serenity in life comes in the overall compilation of minor events.

A few years ago I read a book called "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy. The main premise of the book is how the small things in life affect people's lives. In the alternative, the broken shoelace can set us on a path of misery.

For me, a good day is when my house doesn't need dusting or vaccuuming, I have wonderful conversations with my friends, I step on the scale and I have lost a pound or two, and I have found a wonderful book in which to completely lose myself for several hours. Is that a perfect day or what? Who needs les grands événements?

What simple pleasures make you happy?

Cheers,

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Darling Buds Of May ... Oops, I Mean February


Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:

... Shakespeare, Sonnet No. 18

While the whole rest of North America is freezing its butt off, and there are record snowfalls in areas that never get snow -- ever -- we here in the "frozen north" have roses blooming in February. Yes... The photo above was taken three days ago, a couple of blocks from my house. A budding rose, resting against a wall with a southern exposure, just ready to bloom.

Athletes, journalists and tourists from all over the world are pouring into Vancouver this week, only to find Vancouverites jogging around the seawall in their shorts and T-shirts. This is Canada? What's going on? Was Al Gore right, after all? The fact is, we are 1,700 miles from Alaska, but only 700 miles from California -- less than half the distance -- and we share much of the same weather as San Francisco and northern California.

These are all pictures I took as I went on my walk the other day. So, while all you folks are posting your wonderful pictures of snow and ice -- *sigh* -- these are photos of my world at the moment. Everyone here has been praying for snow, but there's not much chance of that happening now. I hope you enjoy your visit to Vancouver folks, but remember to bring your shorts and flip-flops.

Cheers,