Sunday, August 28, 2011

Knowledge is Power...

A few months ago, in a moment of insane magnanimity, I promised both Phinnaeus and Marigold that when they reached grade ten I would buy them each their own laptop computer. The last three years of high school can make or break a person's education, and I believe that kids need all the tools they can use.  Both Phinnaeus and Marigold have inherited their mother's intelligence and intellectual curiosity, but in very different ways.  Marigold is the more quiet of the two, and her interests surprise me.  She loves the aesthetic arts, and yet at the same time she is brilliant in math.  Perhaps there is a correlation there.  Marigold loves learning and I think she will do something amazing with her life.  She often talks about being a doctor, and I think she can do it.  Phinnaeus is more the philosopher and loves to debate the pros and cons of various subjects.  He is a natural born lawyer or politician.

On Friday Phinnaeus and I met for lunch, and we ended up in a computer store.  Funny how that happens.  Anyway, the store had a great laptop computer on sale, so ... I bought it for him.  It was a great deal ~~ lots of memory, good graphics card, and included in the price was a wireless modem and free installation and setup by the Geek Squad.  Not bad.

Reading by the Fireside
George Paul Chalmers

I am a huge believer in education; it is the one thing we can give ourselves, and it is the one thing that cannot be taken away from us.  Knowledge indeed is power, and it is something we can spend our lifetime pursuing.  Education and knowledge are the keys to a better life, but more than that, they are the keys to a better person.  When Phinnaeus and I were having lunch, I said to him, "The root word of knowledge is 'know' and the root word of ignorance is 'ignore' ".  I advised him to take the opportunity of these next few years and fill his head with as much knowledge as he can; to open his mind and let all the knowledge flow in, not to ignore it.  Phinnaeus can sometimes tend to make snap judgments about things without first knowing all the facts.  I often have to remind him that, at the age of 15, he cannot possibly know every fact about every subject.  But to give him credit, if he is interested in something, he does do his research.  I also reminded him that the computer is for school, not for playing games or chatting on Facebook with the girls.

"But ... Oma ..."

Phinnaeus is a good kid, but like any 15 year-old, he is a diamond in the rough.  In another 15 years, he will probably be a very different person than he is now.  Funny how that happens.  I hope he continues to exercise his intellectual curiosity, and soaks up all the knowledge he possibly can.  Knowledge is power.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Summer Staycation ... Part Two

Today I decided to take a few days off work and play "tourist in my own town" ~~ a staycation ~~ and I took a stroll around my 'hood. I'm very fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I never get tired of walking through it. There is always something new to see, and since I am so close to the ocean, I am always accompanied by my friends the seagulls. For lunch I stopped at Maria's Taverna, my favourite Greek restaurant. Usually Maria's is bustling and noisy, but today I was their only customer, except for two people on the other side of the room. The waiter offered to take my picture and I said, "Sure, okay", but I told him the farther away he gets, the better I'll look, so he'd better back up. He laughed.

On my way home I strolled past the Pocket Market, which is set up every Thursday from 3:00 until early evening. Farmers from all around the Lower Mainland bring their wonderful fruits and vegetables, baked goods and preserves, and sell them at the Pocket Market. They were just getting set up, so I bought two zucchinis. And then I came home and read a book and had a nap. Now I ask you, does it even get any more exciting than that? I mean, I lead life at such at breakneck pace, people ask me how I manage to keep up with all the whirl of activities.  I don't know ... I pace myself, I guess.  One does what one can...

Staycations can be a lot of fun.  We get to do things in our own town that we may normally not do.  I'm planning to check out the Museum of Anthropology in a few days and then maybe, oh, I don't know, I'll take a ride on one of those little ferry boats in False Creek.  On the other hand, it may just be too much of a whirlwind of merriment for me; I'll have to just wait and see...

Here is a little video that I recorded today at Maria's Taverna.  There is Greek music playing in the background, so you may not be able to hear me, but it will give you an idea of what a lovely restaurant it is.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jessica Beagley ... The World's Stupidest Mother...?

Jessica Beagley has been found guilty of child abuse, after video-taping herself pouring hot sauce into her son's mouth, and shoving him into a cold shower ... amongst other horrible things. I have seen the video twice, and that was enough for me. I wanted to reach into the camera and rescue the little boy from that disgusting woman. All mothers get frustrated with their children, it goes with the territory of motherhood. But what Jessica Beagley did to her son crossed way over the line into abusiveness; in fact, it may even be considered torture. Thank God she was stupid enough to video-tape it and then go on Dr. Phil's national television show so the whole world could see what she was doing.

This little boy was adopted from Russia, where this case has attracted attention because of growing concern about adopted children from that country facing abuse in the United States.  "Beagley and her husband had struggled with the boy, who was adopted at age 5 along with his twin brother from an orphanage in Magadan, Russia, Ingaldson said. Both boys have since been diagnosed with an emotional disorder stemming from their difficult early years in Russia and are now in long-term therapy, the defense lawyer said." ~~ Toronto Sun.

Now this little fellow faces more emotional and physical trauma ~~ more than any child deserves in his short years.  The children are remaining in the family, and Child Protective Services are involved.  I hope they keep a close eye on this family.

Jessica Beagley will be sentenced on Monday, and she could face up to a year in jail.  She'll probably get a slap on the wrist ~~ no pun intended ~~ and be free to continue being abusive, not only to her children but to her husband as well, I suspect.  I don't think we have heard the last of this woman.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Summer Staycation

During this lovely summer that we have been enjoying, my brain has become dormant and I have gone into seclusion mode. I think some folks call it vacation, but in my case it is called *staycation*. However, if I had a choice of anywhere to go right now, it would be to an English country cottage, cloistered away from the electronic world. My whole life seems to consist of computers, data bases, television, e-mail, Facebook, telephones, faxes ~~ communicate, communicate, communicate... Must . Communicate. All the time...

Do you ever feel the need to get away from the constant barrage of the sound of human voices? Does anyone remember what silence sounds like? Silence is the thing that nourishes our souls, and we don't get enough of it anymore. Imagine an English cottage in the countryside. There is no electronic buzz, just the sound of the birds and the wind, and perhaps the sound of a brook in the distance ~~ the music of nature.

These weeks of late August and early September are my favourite time of the year. Everything slows down and is sort of mellow, the light is golden ~~ a perfect time for a staycation. I have retreated to my little tree house for some peace and quiet. Soon things will be gearing up again, but for now I'm enjoying the sounds of silence.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The $50,000 Fib...

These two little boys ~~ and their father ~~ have just learned a very expensive lesson in honesty. Eleven year-old Nick Smith won a lottery in a Minnesota benefit hockey game last week. If he could shoot a puck from the opposite blue line toward a 3½-inch hole and make a successful shot, he would $50.000. The trouble is, when his name was called, Nick was outside and his identical twin brother Nate stepped into his place. The event organizer asked Nate if his name was Nick, and Nate said, "Yes". He stepped onto the ice, made the 90-foot shot, and the puck went into the 3½-inch hole. Everyone was shocked, including professional hockey players.  "How on earth did he do that?"

Right shot, wrong kid.

Afterwards, their father, Pat Smith, told officials of the switch. "We kind of went along with it that it was Nick," Pat Smith told KEYC-TV. "Then the next day I called back and said, 'You know, it was really Nate that made the shot.' We thought honesty was the best policy, and we wanted to set a good example for our kids." The insurance company, Odds On Promotions, still is deciding whether to pay up. If it receives the money, the family said it will go for the twins' college educations.

Asked if he and his brother will continue to swap places, Nate Smith replied: "We have before, but I don't think we can again."

They have before? That's interesting.

I am of two minds as to whether or not they should be paid the $50,000.  Just because they are brothers and identical twins, they are not the same person.  It's kind of a *bait and switch* situation.  On the other hand... Nate did make the difficult shot ~~ and won.

If ever there were a situation that required the wisdom of Solomon, this is it.  According to a survey, 76% of people think the boys should get the $50,000, and only 24% think they should not.  I am indecisive at the moment, but the fact that they have switched identities before sort of sways me towards thinking they should not get the money.

I guess for these boys ~~ and their father ~~ they're never too young to learn a lesson.  I would be interested to know what folks think about this.  Should they get the money?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

One of the favourite pastimes of Canadians is watching American politics. It's the ultimate reality show, and much more entertaining. Shakespeare would have had a field day with American politics, there is so much material for plays, and perhaps the occasional sonnet. "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me." ~~ Wm. Shakespeare, Macbeth. ACT I Scene 3.  The characters in Shakespeare's plays were partly based on real people, but were mostly fictional.  They were full of human faults and foibles, and got themselves into all sorts of scrapes, because sooner or later, their humanity rose to the surface.

American politics is filled with just such characters.  They stroll across the stage, perform their part, and then vanish, stage left ~~ many of them to ignomious fates.  (I predicted John Edwards' downfall while he was still the "It" boy in the Democratic presidential campaign...No one believed me...)  Others just sputter and flame out, while others don't know when to make a graceful exit.  Watching them is just too much fun, and since we Canadians really don't have an investment in American politicians or politics, we can watch them all ~~ Democrats and Republicans ~~ with equal delight.

Michele Bachmann won the Republican Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa yesterday.  She is a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus, and her husband runs an organization for *reparative therapy*.  His motto is "Pray away the gay...".  I am always suspicious of ultra-conservative folks who base their lives on being judgmental of other people.  It will come back to haunt them, and rightfully so.  And this unfortunate photograph will come back to haunt Michele Bachmann, a future candidate for President of the United States.  Yes, there is a God, and She has a sense of humour.

The newest player on the American political stage is Governor Rick Perry of Texas.  He is going to be an interesting candidate to watch.  Oh, yes.  I'm not going to tell you what I predict with this fellow.  I would rather leave it up to your imagination.  Let me just say, I believe Shakespeare would be sharpening his quill as we speak.  This character is too good to be true.

Be careful what you wish for...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Masterchef

Usually I don't care for reality shows, but (shhh, don't tell anyone, my secret is out) I'm addicted to Masterchef. If you've never heard of Masterchef, it's a TV show where 20 ordinary people test their culinary skills in what is basically an old-fashioned cook off. The judges are Chef Joe Bastianich, Chef Graham Elliot and Chef Gordon Ramsay. When it comes to cooking and being creative, they are a formidable bunch to please, believe me.   Facing these three judges, the competition becomes more like an endurance test than a cooking contest.  Each week a contestant is eliminated until we are left with a winner.

We are now down to the final six five contestants, and it’s pretty much a faceoff between Jennifer (the heroine) and Christian (the villain). They spend much of their time sniping at each other and gritting their teeth over each other's successes. My favorite contestant is Ben Starr from Lewisville, Texas. He always looks so surprised when anyone wins ~~ especially him ~~ or when anyone loses, for that matter. He has the most winning personality of the group, and he is sort of the comic relief. I think he's a pretty good cook, too. He has lasted until now, in any case, and that's not easy. I will be sad if and when he is eliminated.

I love chef Ramsay; every second word he utters has to be bleeped out, and just by his body language he is able to make a grown man cry. Cry over food? Well, I guess so... These folks take this stuff very seriously. Occasionally the judges are presented with a dish so bad, so unpalatable, so unfit for human consumption, it is scraped off the plate and tossed into the garbage, while the unfortunate contestant stands frozen like a deer in the headlights. On one episode Chef Ramsay told a contestant that her offering was the worst dish he had ever eaten. Tears ensued. Chef Bastianich just fixes the contestant with an icy stare, and we are left to guess what it means. Did he like it, did he hate it?  Was he blown away by the dish, or was it beyond disgusting? Chef Elliot just looks amused by the whole thing, but he can be very angry if a dish is not up to his liking.  He likes  his food.

Oh, the drama, the drama.

My favourite part of the show is the mystery box, which is a wooden box filled with surprise elements that the contestants are required to transform into a gourmet meal. Last week several live prawns walked right off the table, their antennae twitching as they nonchalantly strolled away, trying to look inconspicuous. Mercifully, we were not permitted to watch as they were dispatched from the state of being living creatures, into flavourful culinary delights.  However, it all worked out in the end ... well, maybe not for the prawns...

I ask you, is there anything more rewarding than the perfect soufflĂ©, or anything more disappointing than bland tomato soup? "The soup is okay, but it needs more seasoning..." Damned by faint praise.  I had no idea cooking could be so much fun.  Who knew?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Whenever Phinnaeus and Marigold come to visit, I always use it as an excuse to watch animated movies. I'll say to them, "Let's watch Rango...!"

"Oma, nooooooooo...!"

What kid doesn't love animated movies? Well, apparently Phinnaeus and Marigold. I guess they are just at the age where animated movies are for *babies*. Fortunately, I am way past that age, and I love animated movies. The movies being created these days are not just animation, they are works of art, and I'm gobsmacked at how beautiful they are. Not only that, but *A* list stars are lining up to perform in them.  Johnny Depp as the lead character in "Rango" is nothing short of inspired, and one gets the feeling that he was just ever so slightly inebriated when he was voicing the part.  In any case, he was certainly having a lot of fun.  The rest of the cast included ~~ amongst others ~~ Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton.  How wonderful is that?   If you haven't seen "Rango" yet, you're in for a huge treat.  Everything about it is absolutely perfect.  Watch for a brilliant cameo performance by Clint Eastwood.

My other guilty pleasure this summer is "Cars" and "Cars 2" ~~ in 3D.  Omigoodness.  "Cars 2" takes place in London, Paris and Monte Carlo.  The leading character, Lightning McQueen, is voiced by Owen Wilson.  The rest of the cast consists of Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Joseph Mantegna, John Turturro, Eddie Izzard, Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave (as the Queen of England), Cheech Marin, Katherine Helmond, Tony Shalhoub ... the list goes on.  In the original "Cars", there was an aging race car named Doc Hudson, and the character was voiced by Paul Newman. In the second, "Cars 2", Lightning McQueen paid homage to Doc Hudson, aka Paul Newman. Once again, the artwork is beyond spectacular, and the movie is filled with cute *in* jokes and nuances ~~ "Is the Popemobile Catholic?" I'm so glad I'm not a kid anymore, and I can enjoy these movies with unabashed pleasure. They are truly works of art in every way.

Here is a short clip from "Rango". Johnny Depp is having way too much fun, and so am I.