Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Dragonfly Effect...

The beautiful dragonfly in this picture has oil on its delicate wings -- oil from the BP horror oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Of all the creatures in nature, dragonflies are my favorite. I love to watch them on a summer evening as they dance through the air. They're exquisitely beautiful and very necessary in the chain of nature, eating mosquitoes, flies, and ants. There are 5,000 species throughout the world, and about 500 in North America. In Great Britain, there is a society dedicated to the conservation of dragonflies, as three species of dragonfly have already become extinct, and a third of the remainder are threatened with extinction.

Everyone by now has heard of the Butterfly Effect -- "the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events (domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different. While the butterfly does not "cause" the tornado in the sense of providing the energy for the tornado, it does "cause" it in the sense that the flap of its wings is an essential part of the initial conditions resulting in a tornado, and without that flap that particular tornado would not have existed."

The Butterfly Effect is based on the chaos theory, described by Edward Lorenz. I first read about the Butterfly Effect in a book by Ray Bradbury called “The Sound of Thunder”. I thought the Butterfly Effect was far-fetched when I read the book -- strictly science fiction with no basis in reality or fact. But Edward Lorenz's theory of the order of chaos proves that the Butterfly Effect is very real. In Bradbury's book, a squashed butterfly in the past drastically changed the course of the future.

The oil spill in the Gulf is changing the course of the future, not only for the folks in the near vicinity, but for the entire world. Migratory birds from Canada will be affected. The delicate and exquisite balance of the ecosystems around the world that are all related to each other will be affected in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine, except from the realm of what we would perceive to be science fiction.

Why isn't more being done to clean up the mess? It's almost as if everyone has given up. They are overwhelmed. BP enlisted 400 men to look as if they were cleaning up the beach for President Obama's visit, “Early in the morning in advance of the president’s arrival, hundreds of workers clad in white jump suits and rubber gloves hit the beaches to dig oily debris from the sand and haul it off. Workers refused to say who hired them, telling a reporter only they were told to keep quiet or lose their jobs.” When the President left, so did the workers.

My friend Susan sent me a quote by Chief Seattle, the full text of which:

"Teach your children what we have taught ours, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."

... and the dragonflies.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bill The Toaster Repairman ... In The Beige Lacoste Golf Shirt

My blogging activities have been briefly curtailed for a few days due to work load and other activities, so I thought I would share with you one of my previous stories. This is a true story.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to take some art classes with a well-known local artist. I had always admired her work, and I jumped at the chance to study with her. She was quite exclusive and we had to audition and show her some of our work before we were accepted. Her class consisted of 15 people and it was an interesting group, all with very different artistic styles and levels of talent. We were instructed at the beginning of the classes to introduce ourselves by first names only, and we were not to discuss anything about our private lives. The teacher wanted everyone in the class to be on a level playing field, as it were, and to bring to it only our interest in learning art.

I made a couple of friends in the class, one was a woman named Kathy and the other was an older gentleman named Bill. The three of us sat together at the same table each week and we critiqued each other's homework. Bill grew roses and he loved doing paintings of his roses.

Over the course of several weeks we got to know each other very well, but on a first name basis only. The three of us had a lot of fun at our little table, and occasionally our paintings -- especially our self portraits -- would cause gales of laughter. One day as we were walking home, Kathy said to me, "What do you think Bill does for a living?" I said, "Well, he wears the same beige Lacoste golf shirt every week, and he's very quiet and unassuming. I think he's a toaster repairman."

"Yup," Kathy agreed. Bill was definitely a toaster repairman, quietly sitting in the back of his shop every day, fixing toasters. It suited him perfectly.

At the end of the art sessions, the entire class had a party. The teacher brought a few bottles of wine and we had a pot-luck dinner and kicked back. It was very informal, and we were finally all given permission to state our last names and to describe a bit about ourselves. There were the usual suspects, a physiotherapist, a school teacher, a nurse, me ... a few other folks. Kathy and I winked at each other. We were finally going to find out if Bill was really a toaster repairman. We had a $5.00 bet on it.

When it came to Bill's turn to speak about himself, he quietly talked about his rose garden and his interest in painting, but he was hesitant to talk about what he did for a living. We felt bad that he was embarrassed to admit he was a toaster repairman, and so -- with much reluctance -- Bill told us what he did.

Bill, the unassuming toaster repairman in the beige Lacoste golf shirt, turned out to be The Honourable Mr. Justice William Joseph Trainer, a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Our friend Bill had presided over the Supreme Court trial deciding the disposition of the “cash for bodies” in the Clifford Olson case, Canada's most notorious mass murderer and serial killer of children.

Never judge a man by his quiet manner or his beige Lacoste golf shirt.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Phinnaeus and Marigold

In my day-to-day posts here on my boring-little-blog, I don't write much about my family, and I never post pictures of them. All over the internet people post pictures of their children doing wonderfully cute things -- wrangling cattle and branding horses, or is it the other way around, I never know -- and doing all sorts of other amazing things kids do. So I thought today I would tell you about Phinnaeus and Marigold. No, those are not their real names -- obviously -- and this is not a picture of them.

Phinnaeus and Marigold are three years apart in age, and for the most part they are great friends. They have their moments of course, as all siblings do, but they seem to genuinely like each other -- in spite of Phinnaeus's 14 year-old boy cooties, and Marigold's tweeny obsession with Justin Bieber. Over the years as I have observed Phinnaeus and Marigold, the one thing that has always impressed me the most is what nice people they are. I believe everyone is born with a certain "centre" or "essence" and both Phinnaeus and Marigold have a lovely centre. I can see a lot of my father in Phinnaeus. He's an old soul, and very complex. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and he can be the world's biggest goof at times, but he doesn't tolerate fools glady. He's very bright, and he has his own ideas about how the world works. He's like his Mom in that everything he tries to do, he does well.

Marigold is blessed with great beauty. She has the fine, exquisite features of a future Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn. She has straight dark hair and reminds me of my own mother. When I look at Marigold, I can imagine what my mother must have been like as a girl. She is extremely bright and very feisty -- also like my mother -- and she has a quiet, knife-edged wit that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. When Marigold was a toddler, she was always racing to catch up to her big brother. She couldn't say his name, so she called him "Buddy". "Buddy! Buddy!"

I love seeing Phinnaeus and Marigold together. I took a wonderful photograph of them on Sunday, but my family prefers that I not post pictures of them on the internet, so I can't share it with you. The picture captured their essence, and it's one that I will always treasure.

Phinnaeus and Marigold are very nice people, and I have a feeling they will be nice people for their whole lives. I think their Mom and Dad have every reason to be extremely proud of them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Quatrain Mirror ... Now In Place

Well, I promised to show you my mirror once it was in place, so here it is. Doesn't it look lovely? I can hardly wait until it reflects the afternoon sun. My tree house faces south, so I get the east sun and the southern sun, but by the afternoon it has gone behind the trees. With this mirror for reflection, I will capture some of that too.

And now it's off to work for me. Have a wonderful day, everyone.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Art Of Human Interaction And Conversation

Ophelia Among the Flowers
Odilon Redon

Yesterday I did a blog post for which I actually lost some sleep, and probably a few readers. I have pondered all day whether I feel bad or not, and in some ways I do, and in some ways I don't. That's about as specific as I can be. One of the things I inherited from my father -- along with my nose -- is the unfortunate habit of having opinions on things, and voicing them. People in my real life know that I can often get to the heart of a matter very quickly, I think mainly because both my parents were that way too. It made for some interesting conversations in our home, and both my brothers and I tend to still be the same way. My older brother, in particular, is able to hone in on the truth of any situation, with laser-like precision. It's uncanny, and like my father, my brother is always accurate.

Some people have the gift of diplomacy, and I admire those people. I wish I had it. It truly is a gift. I, however, do not have it. If I think something is ridiculous, I will say so. On the other hand, if I think something is brilliant, or someone is doing a wonderful job, you can be sure I am not saying it just to be polite. It's just not my style. On the odd and rare occasion when I have given false praise about something or someone, I feel slightly ill and uncomfortable. I would never be unkind, and there are many occasions in polite society when a "little white lie" is acceptable in order not to hurt someone's feelings.

"No, those ghastly high heel shoes don't make you look like a ridiculous stork on stilts..."

So I guess for those half-dozen or so folks who read my blog -- and thank you to those who do! -- you will not always find sugar and spice and everything nice when you visit here, and I hope you will forgive me for that. In fact, in my next life I plan to come back as Joy Behar. She "tells it like it is", and I admire her for that ability. I love controversy and debate, and I don't mind at all if you disagree with me, and I suspect most of you do, most of the time. It's all part of the fun of conversation. I would not, however, want to hurt anyone and I always feel bad if and when I do.

"Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.” ~ Yogi Berra

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May Day...! May Day,,,!

This weekend is a holiday weekend in Canada, originally in honor of Queen Victoria's birthday. I'm not sure what it is in celebration of now, as the ever politically correct Canadians keep changing things -- including our National Anthem. Most school children don't know all the words to the anthem because it keeps getting "tweaked" so as not to offend anyone. So, I'm not sure if we are still celebrating Queen Victoria's birthday, or if it's just an excuse for a long weekend. In most parts of Canada it is now called May Two-Four in honor of a case of 24 beers (a "two-four"), which gets consumed during the long weekend. To me, it's just called May Day weekend. My brain is definitely in three-day weekend mode, and I thought I would share with you some of the bits of flotsam and jetsam that have been meandering through my thoughts this weekend.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that when you use a hand-dryer in a public washroom, your hands seem to be wetter when the dryer turns off, than when you started? How does that happen? If I subscribed to conspiracy theories, I would think it's a conspiracy. There's a camera somewhere in the corner of the washroom, and we're human guineau pigs. Somewhere, someone is laughing at the puzzled looks on our faces. We could stand there all day, and our hands just will not get dry.

Ree Drummond - Pioneer Woman or Stepford Wife? The jury is still out for me. I guess the woman has made a fortune writing about the "womanly arts", but she has a university degree and had planned to attend law school. Her most recent Facebook entries consist of: "Today I shall endeavor to: Take the nail polish off my toes, plant the rest of my vegetables, detangle my necklaces, detangle my hair, detangle my children's hair, find my brain, exercise, and forgive myself for going to bed tonight without exercising. Wish me luck! ... Today I shall endeavor to: Make my bed, kiss my children, finish unpacking, spell words correctly, find my missing boot, find my missing earring, find my missing brain, find my missing camisole, find my missing mascara, and breathe." And now Columbia Pictures is making a movie of this. The description is; “how a detour on a trip from L.A. to Chicago led her to Oklahoma. There, she met the cowboy of her dreams and transformed from spoiled city girl to domestic ranch wife.” This must be what happens after the happy ending in the Harlequin romance, when the heroine rides off into the sunset with the cowboy who rescues her. I'm sure she is a lovely woman, and this is not meant as a criticism of her, but I think there is a sociological study to be made of the way the pendulum has swung so far back in the other direction in the past decade or so. It's very interesting.

Caught on tape...! Poor Sarah Ferguson -- she's done it again. She was caught taking a bribe, offering access to Prince Andrew in exchange for money. She requested a payment of £500,000 and told a reporter for News of the World: "That opens up everything you would ever wish for and I can open any door you want and I will for you. Look after me and he'll look after you ... You'll get it back tenfold." I feel sorry for Fergie. I always liked her, and I preferred her to the melodramatic, histrionic, over-the-top Diana. Fergie is sort of a klutz, but rather loveable in her awkward way. Now, however, she just looks deceitful. This will be hard for her to live down. I guess celebrities are only as good as their last scandal. Right Tiger?

Well ... it's a slow weekend, and my brain is in vacation mode. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Black Pouring Over Color
Jackson Pollock

Much to my amazement, I discovered a few years ago that I have synesthesia. Oh, don't worry, it's not contagious. According to the University of Washington, synesthesia is described as a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses, such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people's names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception). Therefore, synesthesia literally means "joined perception." In other words, I see numbers, letters of the alphabet, days of the week and months of the year as colors. For example, the letter "E" is royal blue, and the letter "Q" is a lovely powder blue. The number "7" is brown, and the number "8" is yellow. "Wednesday" is green, and "August" is a mellow orange. Each synesthete will experience a different color for different numbers and letters of the alphabet, but for some strange reason, most people with synesthesia will see the letter "A" as red. Yes, it is definitely red.

I also notice colors that don't "fit". For instance, my friend Russell once told me that he loved colored Christmas lights, but not the orange ones because they seemed out of place. I laughed, because I thought I was the only one who realized the orange lights don't fit. The blue, green, red, and yellow -- yes -- but not the orange ones. The orange Christmas lights have always seemed to not "fit" with the rest of the lights.

It is estimated that as many as 1 in 200 people have synesthesia, but the numbers may be higher, because many people have it and don't realize it. In addition, synesthetes tend to be:

● Left-handed: synesthetes are more likely to be left-handed than the general population.

● Neurologically normal: synesthetes are of normal (or possibly above average) intelligence, and standard neurological exams are normal.

● In the same family: synesthesia appears to be inherited in some fashion; it seems to be a dominant trait and it may be on the X-chromosome.

Some famous synesthetes are:

Leonard Bernstein
Duke Ellington
Franz Liszt
Tori Amos
Vladimir Nabokov
Billy Joel
Marilyn Monroe
David Hockney
Stevie Wonder
Douglas Coupland
Eddie Van Halen
Tilda Swinton
Paul Klee
Georgia O’Keeffe
Charles Baudelaire

How about you? What color is the number "3"? The letter "W"?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Lost Art Of Writing...

Don't you just love getting little handwritten notes that arrive in the mail, in the writer's own handwriting? I sure do. Does anyone remember when it was de rigueur to send handwritten thank you notes? It was a lovely custom, and I'm so glad to see that some people still do it. Today I received a little thank you card from a certain well-mannered young lady, and the nicest thing about it was reading the message in her own handwriting.  It was wonderful.  Unfortunately, with emails, texting, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter and all the other electronic messaging, the wonderful art of letter writing has all but disappeared.

"A person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill."  ~ Jane Austen

It has never been my habit to collect things -- I am the opposite of a hoarder -- but I have a dresser drawer full of handwritten notes that people have sent me, some of them from 30 years ago, including one from my father that is still rather special.  When I was a little girl, I had a pen pal in England, and I was always excited to receive a letter from my friend across the Atlantic Ocean.  I still remember her address.  I wonder what would happen if I were to send a letter there today.

"A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend." ~Emily Dickinson

I always wanted to be one of those elegant women who had a beautiful writing desk, and monogrammed stationery, like Jacqueline Kennedy and her famous powder blue embossed letterhead.  I would sit at my writing desk and write -- with a fountain pen, of course -- lovely handwritten notes and invitations to soirées at my home.  And of course, people would write me back, with their RSVPs.

"Then there's the joy of getting your desk clean, and knowing that all your letters are answered, and you can see the wood on it again." ~Lady Bird Johnson

In her 1922 publication "Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home" Emily Post wrote a whole chapter on Notes and Shorter Letters. "In writing notes or letters, as in all other forms of social observance, the highest achievement is in giving the appearance of simplicity, naturalness and force."

"There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters... I could be their leader." ~Charlie Brown

I'm going to keep my little note out where I can see it for a few days, and then I will put it with my collection of other special handwritten notes.  Have you written anyone a note today?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pray For Rain...

Now that summer is officially here in Vancouver, it's also the start of the silly season, and everyone is pretending they're living in a beer commercial. Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? I'm never too sure, especially with beer commercials. I live next door to a beer commerical. The women all run around in skimpy bikinis, and the men are all buff and drink beer, and they barbeque copious amounts of animal flesh over smoking grills, like ancient cave dwellers. *sigh* It's definitely a guy thing. The only problem is, their barbeque is right underneath my bedroom window. Last night I woke up at midnight with barbeque smoke pouring into my bedroom. *cough*

I love barbeque, but a little goes a long way, mainly because barbequed meat is a known carcinogen. According to the American Cancer Society, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when fat from meat drips onto the charcoal. They then rise with the smoke and can get deposited on the food. Oh, yum... They can also form directly on the food as it is charred. The hotter the temperature and the longer the meat cooks, the more heterocyclic amines (HCAs)are formed.

Oh, doesn't that sound appetizing?

Apparently, in Canada, charcoal is now a restricted product under the Hazardous Products Act. According to the Canadian Department of Justice, charcoal briquettes in bags that are advertised, imported or sold in Canada must display a label warning of the potential hazards of the product.

Well, since beer and barbeque seems to be a summer ritual, this isn't going to go away any time soon. I just wish they'd move the #%*!%^#!& barbeque away from my bedroom window.

Pray for rain...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome To Mr. Snail

Please welcome the newest addition to my tree house -- Mr. Snail. Isn't he a hoot? He's very curious and likes to check everything out. I think he's watching an ant inching its way across the deck. I share my tree house with raccoons, skunks, coyotes, crows, seagulls, Steller's jays, and all sorts of various birds and bees.

At least twice a day -- usually at 9:00 at night and 5:00 in the morning -- (*y-a-w-n*) -- the raccoons raid the crows' nests in the trees, setting up a cacophony of swearing and cursing from the crows. It usually lasts for about an hour or so, and last night I took a little video to share with you.

And now I had better get back outdoors and landscape my terrace before the broom takes root and starts to grow into a tree.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Pope Story...

Yesterday was the anniversary of one of the strangest experiences I have ever had. I posted about it several months ago, but I thought I would share it with you again. I am not a writer, so I probably am not able to do justice to this little story. But it is a true story, so just imagine you are sitting with me in my living room, we are having some refreshments and chatting, and I am reciting the story to you just as it happened. I must say, also, that although I was baptized in the Catholic Church, I am not a Catholic so I have no special affinity to the Pope. I am spiritual but non-religious, secular. This is my Pope story.

It was Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, 1981 and my daughter and I went for a two-hour walk to Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks, near where I live. When we got home my daughter settled down to do her homework, and I enjoyed the rare luxury of a Sunday afternoon nap. Just as I was waking up, I looked out the French doors in my bedroom that lead to the garden. The cherry trees were in bloom and I thought how wonderful they looked. I was wide awake.

As I was looking at the trees, I had a vision of a radio tower, similar to the RKO radio tower, and I could hear voices coming from it. The voices were speaking in various languages that I could not understand, but then I could understand the voices as they spoke in French and English. They were announcing that the Pope had been shot and was being rushed to Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic in Rome. The voices went on to say who did it and how he did it. His name was Mehmet Ali Ağca and he was a Turkish gunman for hire. He had smuggled the gun into Rome and hid it in a locker at the train station. I was visualizing the "boot" of Italy, and I could see his journey. He later retrieved the gun, went to St. Peter’s Square and shot the Pope.

I sat up in bed and thought, “How evil. Why would anyone shoot the Pope?” It left me feeling very unsettled and I tried not to think about it. An hour or so later, a thunderstorm passed over Vancouver and lightning struck very close to our house. One of the basement windows was shattered and I felt very disoriented, as if I were part of the electrical energy.

The next day, Monday, I checked the television and newspapers to see if there had been any news about the Pope being shot, but there was nothing. By Tuesday, I had put it out of my thoughts. On Wednesday morning, May 13th, as I was getting ready for work and my daughter was getting ready for school, she came into my bedroom and said, “Mother, someone has just shot the Pope.” I said, “I know” and I told her about my premonition. I said, “Wait, there’s more,” Two days later, the rest of the story was announced on the six o’clock news. It was just as I had predicted.

A few years later I learned the assassination attempt on the Pope took place on the anniversary of the day and the hour when the Virgin Mary first appeared to the three peasant children in Fátima, Portugal, May 13, 1917. The Virgin Mary divulged three secrets to the children, the third of which was of “a bishop clothed in white who falls to the ground, apparently dead under a burst of gunfire.” The third secret had been kept sealed for many years and had been interpreted as the assassination of a Pope. One of the three children, Lucia, became a Carmelite nun and Pope John Paul II met with her on May 13, 1982, one year after the attempt on his life. He always felt that the Virgin Mary had protected him.

Three years after the assassination attempt, the Pope came to Vancouver. Everyone went to see him, and I was standing by the side of the road near the Burrard Bridge as he passed by in his Popemobile with the bulletproof dome. Just as he pulled beside me and he was a few feet away, he turned and looked at me and our eyes locked for a brief moment, and on his face was a look of recognition. A strange and powerful force of the universe had connected us on May 13, 1981, and had also connected us both to another extraordinary event that had taken place on May 13, 1917. However, I will never fully understand what it was.

The Pope believed the bullet that hit him was diverted by the Virgin Mary and one year later he visited the shrine at Fátima in Portugal, where he placed the bullet in Mary's crown. In 1983 The Pope forgave Mehmet Ali Ağca.

The New Seven Years Old...

Embedding of the video has been disabled, but you can watch it here.

Is this appropriate? These little girls are seven years old. Where were their parents? Where were the other big people who are supposed to protect children? I cannot imagine Marigold's mother allowing her to do something like this -- not in a million years. These little girls are obviously very talented, and they're having a wonderful time, but who chose this act for them? It's completely inappropriate for little seven-year old girls. According to Melissa Presch, the mother of one of the little girls, the girls got their moves from the 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel' movie -- not Beyonce's music video. Well, that says it all right there. She went on to say the little girls were doing nothing provocative. Oh, really? What the h*ll is going on? What are we doing to our children? What happened to childhood and innocence? What happened to roller skates and hopscotch and skipping ropes and bicycles? And I don't know who gave the video its unfortunate name, whether it was by accident or on purpose, but, oh goodness, those poor little girls.  What happens on the internet stays on the internet ... forever.

I got gloss on my lips, a man on my hips
hold me tighter than my Dereon jeans
acting up, drink in my cup
I couldn't care less what you think
I need no permission, did I mention
Dont pay him any attention
Cuz you had your turn
But now you gonna learn
What it really feels like to miss me

Cuz if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it

Oh, goodness...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blue Skies, Smiling At Me... Nothing But Blue Skies Do I See...

One of my blogging friends sent me this unusual video. If you haven't seen it, it's worth watching. The yellow dots are airplanes in the sky during a 24-hour period. You can see the daylight moving from east to west, as the Earth spins on it's axis. Watch the flow of aircraft traffic leaving the North American continent and flying at night to arrive in the UK in the morning. Then see the flow changing, leaving the UK in the morning and flying to the American continent in daylight. You can see that it was summer in the north by the sun's foot print over the planet, and you can watch the daylight pattern moving across the earth's surface. It made me wonder, though, how much this daily air travel is upsetting the fragile atmosphere and the blue skies blanketing our earth. In the two days following 9/11, for the first time in modern history, there were no contrails over North America, and the skies were absolutely blue again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall...

This evening my daughter and I attended a memorial service for a woman we had known several years ago. Janie was an interesting person, a character study, really. She was different things to different people, and she was definitely two different people to her sons. The evening was a bit awkward, as most funerals are, and there was the usual mixed emotions of sorrow, sibling rivalry, hesitation, remembrances ... all those things that people feel when they're not sure what they should feel. However ... there was a beautiful mirror that a family member wanted me to have. I had admired it ages ago, and it was gifted to me. It's very much my taste, and I was very pleased that it was given to me.

When I got the mirror home, I noticed there was a label on the back that said "Hanging and Maintaining Your Carver's Guild Traditional Mirror". Well, that sounded important, so I looked it up on line. It turns out the mirror is an heirloom piece made by the Carver's Guild in Groton, Massachussetts. The particular name of my mirror is "Quatrain", and this is a picture of it. As you can see, it is the same mirror as the one from the Carver's Guild website, in the photograph at the top. And no, I'm not going to tell you what it's worth, but it's four (4) figures. I'm tempted to phone the family tomorrow and say, "I think you made a mistake. I can't accept this."

On the other hand, I'll give it a good home, and it would look wonderful over my fireplace, don't you agree?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dim Sum And The Mystery Dish ... A Contest

Sometimes the weekend goes by so quickly, blink and we miss it. By the time Monday rolls around, I'm just ready to get my weekend started. This year we did something different for Mother's Day, and went to Vancouver's Chinatown for Dim Sum. It was fabulous. I think if I had my choice, I could eat Dim Sum 364 days of the year. (I would save the 365th day for turkey dinner...) With Dim Sum, everything is so fresh, and so ... yummy.

These little sesame pastries are my favorite Dim Sum dish. They are light and fluffy, and have a sweet, dark filling in the center. Some of the recipes use figs. According to Chinese tradition, eating this dish will cause your luck to expand like the light, fluffy pastries. Apparently they are supposed to be eaten between the savory dishes, to cleanse the palate. Well, I learn something every day -- I thought they were dessert. I found a recipe on line for them, but it's more fun to go to Chinatown and have them there.

This is one of the dishes we had -- a mystery dish. I was the only one not adventuresome enough to try them, but everyone else did, and even Marigold liked them. Some of you will probably recognize this dish, while others will have no idea. Just for fun, let's see if any of you can guess what these delicious-looking morsels are. Just to make it interesting, the winner will receive an extremely ugly, rather interesting-looking candle I have hidden away in one of my cupboards.

Apparently Vancouver's Chinatown is the third largest in North America, after San Francisco and New York. Well, it's definitely one of my favorite places. We strolled through some of the shops, and I found a little blue and white lamp that matches my newly-found blue Delft lamp that I got last weekend. I absolutely love it, and it was only $9.99. I just may go back and get some matching dishes. There's no stopping me now.

If you're ever in Vancouver, be sure to pay a visit to Chinatown, and stop in at any of the restaurants that serve Dim Sum. Check out the mystery dish, and let me know if you like it.

Happy Mother's Day From Mary Cassatt

I have always loved the paintings of Mary Cassatt. She was an American painter who studied with the Impressionists in Paris, and became accepted by them as one of their group. Like John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt painted wonderful pictures of families, and in particular, mothers and children.  She did not have children of her own, and often her paintings of mothers and children were over-sentimentalized.  They are tableaux of perfect children, frozen in time.  Anyone who is a mother knows those moments are fairly rare -- children are usually little balls of energy, always moving.  But the quiet moments are how we remember our children in our mind's eye, and Mary Cassatt managed to capture those moments perfectly.  In this painting, the little girl is holding a dog, and the baby is enchanted with it.  You can see that at any moment, the dog will jump off the stool, the little girl will leap after it, and the baby will clap his hands with joy.  But for just this moment, they are all still and quiet.

To all the mothers and mothers-to-be (you know who you are) HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is Religion Necessary...?

Over the past few days I have been giving this some considerable thought, and I have decided to ask you your opinion on this subject. If religion were to be invented today, would it be politically correct? Would people accept it, or would it be considered divisive and unnecessary? Historically, religion has been, and continues to be, a source of strife all over the world, and it is the main cause of most wars and bloody conflicts. And that's just for starters. Religion is one of the main contributors to injustice, and political repression. Belief in God does not necessarily contribute to morality, and often has just the opposite effect. "My God is better than your God, therefore I'm going to chop your head off." The Christians during the Crusades in the Middle Ages were about as brutal as anyone can get. They gave new meaning to the term "Holy War". And now the tables have turned and a "Holy War" is being waged against the Christians.

My naïve question is, what is it all for? If a belief in a higher power causes so much strife and misery, why is it so important? Millions and millions of people have suffered and died in the name of God, Allah, Jehovah, the Almighty, Jesus. If this practice did not exist today, and someone invented it, would people welcome it and accept it? I was raised in the Anglican Church, and I still consider myself to be a Christian, and yet I struggle all the time with the concept of religion. The whole precept of religion is that it is human-like, not God-like. There is nothing God-like about religion, or about how folks behave in the name of religion -- whatever their faith may be.

To be honest, I envy people who do have faith in a higher power. I think it is the instinct of all people to want to be looked after by a father-like figure, who is going to make everything okay for us, and give us everlasting life. But would such a father allow us to hate, torture and kill each other in his name? To me, something doesn't add up. There is a disconnect there that I don't understand. People can argue that God gave us free will. Well, okay, but you would think that after centuries of witnessing human beings committing the worst brutalities imagineable on each other, God would step in and say, "That's enough; no more. Play nice, and don't make me come down there...!" But century, after millennium, after century, all we get is silence, while we continue blowing each other up -- all in the name of worship.

The other day I read something interesting on one of the blogs. The woman making the comment professed to be a devout Christian, and yet she said, "The Catholic Church is one of the worst, most hateful, most despicable organizations ever created." Oh, goodness.

I suppose I am just being naïve, but I think religion has outlived it usefulness, if it ever had one. Spirituality is a whole other thing, and I believe most of us are spiritual beings. But organized religion probably would not be permitted if it were invented today. It is not the peaceful institution it professes to be. I may be wrong -- and I usually am -- but I think the world would be a better place without religion. Then perhaps, we might actually get along with each other and achieve some sort of real peace. God would be happy, don't you think?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Coffee -- It Does A Body Good

There is nothing in the world more wonderful than the perfect cup of coffee. When my friend Fiona and I were chatting at dinner last night, she said she remembered the delicious coffee my father used to make. Oh, indeed it was. She remembered the first cup of coffee she ever had was on a sunny, Saturday morning at my house. She remembers we had toast and peanut butter, hot coffee and the colored comics from the newspaper, and she said it was one of the most relaxing Saturday mornings she had ever spent. From that day on, she was hooked on good coffee.

My father's coffee spoiled me for anything but the perfect cup of coffee. My dad used to put eggshells into his ground coffee beans, and it turns out there is a scientific reason for this. The calcium in the eggshells cuts the bitter flavor, and makes the coffee smooth and mellow. This is a trick Barstucks should learn, because their coffee is -- as my father would call it -- rot gut. My father made his coffee in a siphon brewer. These were invented in Germany in 1830s, and folks stopped using them in the 1970s but siphon brewers are now making a comeback in 21st century.  And no wonder, because they make the best coffee.

And the good news is, coffee is actually good for you.  Yes!  According to Tomas DePaulis, Phd, a research scientist at Vanderbilt University, "For most people, very little bad comes from drinking it, but a lot of good." "At least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson's, with three showing the more they drink, the lower the risk. Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily can translate to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones."

Apparently coffee contains oodles of antioxidants.  Well, who knew?  I just know that if it's made well, it's delicious, but if it's poorly made, it's tastes foul.  If all you're used to drinking is Barstucks coffee, do yourself a favor and invest in some really good roasted beans, a good coffee maker, and learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee.  You won't regret it.  Then all you'll need is a Saturday morning, and the colored comics from the newspaper.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dinner With Fiona

The last couple of days have been insanely busy for me, so I haven't had much time to goof off do really important things blog. I love surreptitiously logging onto my blog at work and reading all your comments. You're all wonderful -- even when you're a wee bit cantankerous, and sometimes those are even my favorite comments. I appreciate so much that you take the time to visit my boring-little-blog and leave comments, and I just wanted to say thank you. So, thank you...!

Today I am meeting a school friend for dinner. (I'll call her Fiona because I like that name...) When Fiona and I were in grade eight, it was her first day in our new, strange school. The teacher asked someone to volunteer sharing a locker with her, and "yours truly" offered. Fiona and I became fast friends, and I invited her home for dinner one night after school. She and my mother were chatting in the kitchen, and I could hear their conversation become more and more animated, until they were almost shrieking with laughter. It turns out that my new friend Fiona is related to me. Her father and my mother were cousins, and both are from South Africa. All together now -- what a small world...! Fiona and I have been close friends ever since then. She is in town for one day today, and has invited me to have dinner with her. We have chosen a very swanky restaurant, because -- well -- why not?

Have a fabulous day, everyone. You deserve it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Difference Between Men And Women...

We have a colleague at work who spends at least three-quarters of her day on personal phone calls. I have heard her conduct lengthy conversations with the contractor who is renovating her home, and the rest of the time she is speaking in her foreign language to members of her family. When the work doesn't get done, the rest of us have to take up the slack. It has caused difficulties, but no one wants to say anything. With women, it is usually a case of "shoot the messenger" so we keep our mouths shut. "Sssshhh ... don't say anything; don't rock the boat. If we say anything we'll just look bad and it will get us into trouble. We all have to get along, we all have to work as a team ... blah, blah, blah." So, the behavior continues, and the rest of us suffer in silence.

I was telling my friend Russell about this situation, and he said, "Well, you see, that's where men and women are different. A man would say, 'Hey Charlie, get the f*ck off the phone and start pulling your weight around here,' and that would be that. Charlie would get off the phone and start doing some work." Without being too general, that is the thing I have always liked about men. For the most part, the silliness of women is a mystery to men. For men, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But once a gaggle group of women get together, you know some of them are going to start to confuse the issue, in order not to "step on anyone's toes", as it were.

Oh, goodness.

I grew up with two older brothers and a father, and I tend sometimes to think like a man. And, unfortunately, that can sometimes come across as offensive, because I don't sit and weigh all the nuances of an issue, especially if I can see a quick solution to it. I'm not a good "committee" person. Sometimes the answer is staring us right in the face, but women tend to dissect a problem, whereas a man will say, "Let's just get this done." I suppose the difference between men and women in this regard is some biological thing that has evolved in us for some particular reason, and it does have it uses ... I guess. I just find it very frustrating.

Today I am in just the frame of mind to say, "Hey, Little Miss Sunshine, get the f*ck off the phone and start doing some work..."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kudos To The New York Police...!

Congratulations to the law enforcement officials who caught the perpetrator of Saturday night's failed car bomb in Times Square. The little weasel suspect was arrested just as his flight to Pakistan was about to take off from J.F.K. International Airport. I can't even imagine the carnage there would have been if that bomb had detonated. Times Square on a Saturday night is filled with New Yorkers and tourists there to enjoy the New York City night life. The bomb was very close to the theatre showing The Lion King, which is a family oriented play. My family was at that very spot, attending that very production a few years ago. Another place in time -- the wrong place at the wrong time -- the possibilities are horrific beyond belief.

Why do people do these things? What do they have to gain by killing innocent people -- children? They seem to be constantly blowing each other up in their own countries, and their victims are just regular folks out shopping in a market on a Saturday afternoon, or having coffee in an outdoor café. Why? I don't get it. What am I missing? Something is wrong with these people -- it goes way beyond politics or religion. Something is seriously wrong with someone who would methodically set out to murder complete strangers -- innocent people. I believe people who do this are just psychopaths, using a "cause" as an excuse for murder. Humanity means nothing to them. Psychopaths R Us Corporation.

Well, thanks to great police work, this little creep suspect got himself caught within 48 hours. And, his bomb failed. Yay!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

They Walk Among Us...

This afternoon I had to make a trip over to West Vancouver to do some shopping, so I caught the bus across the Lions Gate Bridge. There was only one seat left, next to a very pleasant looking, well-dressed woman. We exchanged the usual banter about the weather -- or rather lack of sunshine -- and sort of chit-chatted for a few minutes. And then she turned to me, looked at me very earnestly, and said, "I have five locks on my front door, but last night the CIA broke into my house and stole my make-up bag."

Hoo-boy. I knew it was going to be a long ride.

She went on to say that the CIA has taken over the RCMP, and they have bugged her phone lines. She was on the phone the other night negotiating to buy a boat, and as soon as she hung up, a fire engine and a police car went past her house, pretending to go to a house fire down the street, but she knew the fire had been deliberately set so they could spy on her. She said she used to work for the CBC, but she could no longer work because she was disabled by the spray that had been used on the gypsy moths. And the spraying wasn't really to get rid of the gypsy moths, but was actually to get rid of all the people in Richmond. After 15 minutes of listening to this, I finally got off the bus a few stops early, it was so disturbing. Clearly this poor, unfortunate woman needed serious help -- now. As I stood up to leave, she grabbed my arm and said, "Dear, only speak to people you trust..." I guess she must have trusted me, because she told me every secret about the CIA, the RCMP, the West Vancouver Police, and Goldman Sachs. Oh, yes, Goldman Sachs had taken over Vancouver.

After a successful shopping trip and a bite of lunch, I caught the bus back to Vancouver. A very nice, well-dressed gentleman in his late 40s sat down next to me. We exchanged the usual pleasantries. And then he turned to me and said, "You know, you must never trust the government. There is a secret underground government, and they run everything, and the government are just puppets. The planets are aligning and there is a huge planet out there heading for our solar system which is going to throw all the orbits out, and NASA knows about it but isn't telling us..." "At the centre of our galaxy is a huge black hole, and we're all going to disappear into the black hole. The world is going to end, and they're not telling us about it."

What in goodness name are they putting in the water over there in West Vancouver? These folks weren't raving street people, they were well-dressed, regular people. Has anyone -- friends or family -- noticed they just might possibly need some medical intervention of some sort for this aberrant behavior? Does anyone care? When I got off the bus, all I could think was how these people were suffering needlessly -- believing they were being spied upon, the CIA was breaking into their house, bugging their phones, and the world was coming to an end. The real transgression here was not their behavior, but the clear fact that other people around them are powerless to help them. I guess it's their "right" to go through life being paranoid and unnecessarily terrified.

I tell you ... it made me feel absolutely normal. Now, where did I put my make-up bag? It was here just a few minutes ago ...

My (New) Delft Lamp

My last few posts have been rather -- serious -- so I thought I would lighten things up a bit and invite you over to my tree house to see my (new to me) Delft lamp. Sometimes I manage to find things that are so perfect, even I can't believe it. I have been looking for a new lamp, and I have been searching everywhere from flea markets to upscale lamp stores -- to no avail. Yesterday I found the perfect lamp from a Shaughnessy estate sale -- for nothing. Seriously -- free! That's a price even I can afford.  All I have to do is buy a new lampshade.  But I love the lamp because it matches my other little blue and white objets d'art chotskies on my desk. Gosh, even my friend Lulu would be pleased.

Have a fabulous Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What On Earth Is Going On...?

Rainstorm Over the Sea
John Constable

Goodness gracious, what is happening in the United States? I have never seen a country so beset by extreme weather as those folks -- hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires, blizzards, extreme heat, extreme cold, hail, wind storms, rain storms -- it just seems to be never-ending.  They just get one community cleaned up and rebuilt, and another one comes under siege.  Now they have extreme flooding in Tennessee.

Gosh, all they need now is a plague of locusts, and I might begin to wonder if something very strange is going on.

My heart goes out to all those folks.