Sunday, March 25, 2012

Yellow Onions in a Blue Bowl...

This week I have been on "staycation" and have not been blogging much. You know how that goes -- sometimes folks blog every day, and other times, well, not so much. I had a wonderful, lazy week, sleeping in, going for walks, shopping, hanging out with friends, and just relaxing (or *unlaxing* as my Mom used to say...). On Thursday a friend and I went shopping and I bought a bag of onions.  How exciting is that!  Anyway, I thought they looked rather interesting, so I decided to do a little watercolour pencil sketch of them.  I love watercolour pencils.  They offer the best of both worlds; I can control them, plus I can add water to them to give the picture a watercolour effect.  It's fun.  I should paint more, but sadly, I don't draw or paint as often as I should.  Having the time off work this week has put me into a painting mood -- just in time for me to go back to work tomorrow.  *sigh*  Anyway, that's my little watercolour pencil sketch.

Have a great week, everyone.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Previously Unpublished Photo

This year is the Queen's 60th year as a reigning monarch, and this photo was taken just a few weeks after her father, King George VI, died. The photograph was taken by a photographer named Kenneth Clayton, and it has remained hidden until now. Only a handful of people knew the photo existed. I like the photo because it is a young woman still grieving the death of her father, and it shows her vulnerability.  The photo is unretouched, and if you look closely you can see the imperfections.

I rather like the Queen.  She has presided over a particularly interesting period of history in the 20th and 21st centuries.  The Queen has known 156 Commonwealth Prime Ministers during her reign and 12 United States Presidents.  She is in her 80s, she is still working hard, and she has had an unfaltering sense of duty.  Times change, and the monarchy is in many ways becoming a thing of the past.  I like the concept of a constitutional monarchy, but I do believe the Queen will be the last of the great reigning monarchs.  If the Queen lives as long as her mother did, her son Charles will be a very old man when he inherits the throne, and his son, William, will be well into middle age.  Queen Elizabeth II will join the other two great monarchs -- Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria -- as the longest reigning monarchs, all great queens and all three presiding over the most interesting and innovative periods in history.  And when this photograph was taken, it was all stretching before her, as yet unfamiliar territory for a young woman of 26.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Melancholia, The Movie

When I was a little girl, my two older brothers took great delight in frightening the tar out of me at every possible opportunity. There were no holds barred, and of course because I was the youngest of three children, my parents were more relaxed by the time they had me. They paid no attention. At all. One of my brothers accidentally set the kitchen on fire, and the curtains and most of the cupboards were gone before I could get my parents' attention. Mom and Dad were in the garden, and I kept running outside, "The kitchen is in fire! Really! The kitchen is on fire!" When they finally saw the smoke billowing from the windows, they realized the severity of the situation. So, all through my childhood, I was fair game for my brothers without anyone paying too much attention. As a result, I developed a fairly severe anxiety disorder that took years to get rid of, and very occasionally something will trigger it again.

One of the things my brothers used to say to me was, "What would you do if the world came to an end?" (Oh, I know, delightful little b*ggers, weren't they?) At the age of five or six, my world, of course, consisted of my cozy house, my friends, school, teachers, Mom and Dad, visits to my grandparents. I had no real knowledge of a world beyond that, or even a world beyond our world, other than to know there was a vast universe "out there somewhere". But to my brothers, the universe was a scary, mysterious place, filled with rogue planets that could crash into ours at any moment, obliterating all life on earth. Fortunately, my father was an amateur astronomer and had dozens of wonderful books on the universe and the stars, and it wasn't until I was in my teens that I could look up at the night sky and watch the shooting stars without fear that one of them had our number on it.

The other day I watched a movie called Melancholia that took me at the speed of light -- no pun intended -- back to my childhood. It is the story of a huge rogue planet, Melancholia, that is headed straight for earth. Visually, the movie is a work of art, and Kirsten Dunst's performance was Oscar-worthy. As a work of it, it does what art should do -- it is sometimes difficult to look at and even more difficult to forget. As one critic said, "Melancholia will haunt you for days, maybe weeks." In addition to being a work of art, the movie is a cautionary tale as well. Life on earth is fragile, and it doesn't take a rogue planet to destroy it. We can do a pretty good job of it ourselves if we are not careful. On this, the first day of spring, we should celebrate the new life emerging from the earth.  It may well be the only life in the universe, and it is precious.  It's when we realize how close we are to losing something, that we learn to appreciate it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Some Of My "Favourite" People...

This month is my 12th anniversary where I work. During those 12 years, I have met some wonderfully interesting people, many of whom are world-renowned, and who have published in several prestigious medical publications including, JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet ... and more. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with those folks. It has always been my experience that the higher up someone is on the corporate totem pole, the more respect with which they treat the little green frog (me) at the bottom. However, in the past 12 years I have also met some folks who were, shall we say, less than civilized in the way they treated other people. Fortunately, the nasty folks have come and gone -- mostly gone -- but their echoes have lived on long after they have departed this facility. Here are five of my particular ... um ... favourites who have made my life and the lives of my co-workers a living hell extremely miserable over the past ten years.

Snooki. Oh, goodness, what can I say about Snooki? She was hired to be the department manager, but I have never met anyone who was so completely unqualified to do her job.  She would come into work in the mornings, after being out the night before, and pronounce to all and sundry, "I feel like ass...!"  A class act, she was not.  We could hear the clickety clack of her stiletto heels as she clomped down the hallway, and her artificially enhanced bosoms entered the room five minutes before she did.  She was so completely incompetent, she had no idea what any of us did.  Not a clue.  But if the folks in our department came up with an idea or suggestion that streamlined any of the processes, Snooki immediately stole it and took credit for it.  She was mean and nasty, and she took great delight in calling people into her office and haranguing them solely for the purpose of asserting her authority.  She was responsible for several people jumping ship, and when Snooki finally announced she was leaving, someone hung a calendar in the break room and counted down the days with a big red X.  She's gone, baby, gone, but the echoes of her incompetence still reverberate throughout the office.

Psycho nurse. One of my particular favourites was the overwrought nurse manager. Man, she was psycho. She was the type of person who enjoyed stirring up trouble between people or groups of people. And she was good at it.  Watching her manoeuvre was like watching a virtuoso play a Stradivarius.  It was a work of art.  But, when folks had finally figured out her game, she would cry foul and carry on like a mad woman.  She once sent several of the administration staff an e-mail that was three pages of incoherent ranting and abusive name-calling.  It was one of the most bizarre things I had ever seen.  When the staff complained to the human resources department, the psycho nurse was forced to formally apologize with both a verbal and written apology, in the presence of the Director, in the human resources boardroom.  Psycho nurse left shortly after that, and she has had eight jobs since then.  Our understanding is she can't stay in one place for very long.  Wherever she is now, they're welcome to her.

The gossip. One of the most dangerous people in the workplace is the gossip. Gossips don't discriminate -- whether it's the truth, or a lie made up out of whole cloth -- they're happy to pass it on. And if it's a particularly slow day, they're not opposed to making something up themselves. I have been at both sides of the gossip's mischief, and it's particularly unpleasant. We have a gossip at work who is always standing in someone's doorway, whispering something confidential -- about someone else.  The sole purpose of the gossip is to make other folks look bad so the gossip can look good. If they can cozy up to a director or a manager, and whisper something the manager should know, they think they look as if they are being conscientious.  Of course, anyone in a management position who knows their stuff (that rules out Snooki) pays no attention to the gossip.  But the harm is done, nonetheless.  Our office gossip retired a few years ago, but because of short-staffing, she keeps coming back.  Yesterday she whispered to me that the people on the other side of the office are using our water.  From our taps!  Can you imagine?  *sigh*

The black widow spider. Oh, dear. What can I say? She was a manager for many years, and several of her staff members died of cancer or heart disease -- in their 40s. The black widow spider was one of the most angry people I have ever met in my life. I still have nightmares about her. She yelled, she threw things, she slammed doors and she swore. She always wore black with never a hint of colour, and she sat in her web lair office with the lights turned off until someone walked past and she would pounce on them.  She believed the office could not run without her.  She made the rules and she changed the rules -- at her whim.  She stomped up and down the hallways hollering, "What would this place do without me, what would this place do without me...?"  When she retired, the organization didn't bother to replace her but instead farmed her meager duties out to her staff members.  What did we do without her?  We celebrated.

The shrieking giraffe. She came to us as a temp. At first she was very pleasant, albeit slightly high strung. She she was over six feet tall, skinny, and she called everyone "love" or "baby" or "honey" or "doll face". It made everyone extremely uncomfortable, but in truth the shrieking giraffe hated us all -- well, all except for the gossip. She loved the gossip. The gossip could be useful to her. The shrieking giraffe really was the temp from h*ll. About 20 years ago there was a movie called The Temp with Timothy Hutton and Lara Flynn Boyle. Have you seen it? The shrieking giraffe made Lara Flynn Boyle appear sweet. Trust me, there is no shark or piranha hungrier than a temp. The shrieking giraffe's modus operandi was to tell jokes.  And then she would shriek with laughter.  It was scary.  When Snooki left, the shrieking giraffe was transferred to another department on another floor, and occasionally I can hear the shrieking laughter drifting through the hallways, and when I do, I hide.  She still scares me.

Those are just a few of the more "colourful" folks that have drifted in and out of our office.  Common things being common, you have probably known a few people like these as well.  We endure them.  But, as quickly as they arrive, they leave. Thank goodness.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Rites of Spring

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
Salvador Dalí, 1952-54

I have never been able to understand the reason for Daylight Saving Time.  It doesn't make any sense to me.  I would rather have daylight in the morning, and dark in the evening.  When I was in Hawaii, the sun set promptly at 6:00, and the evenings were warm,  dark, and very beautiful.  What purpose does it serve to have the sun shining until later than 10:00 at night?  Isn't night meant for the moon and the stars?  When it's daylight at night -- until almost midnight -- people feel compelled to spend their nights doing daylight things and missing the beauty of the night.  It's not logical.  In the wintertime, when the nights are long and dark, folks can't get outside.  In the summer, when people can sit out side and watch the shooting stars and the moon make its path across the sky, no one can see them because it's still light.  Night time has been banished.  Why?  What on earth for?  What's wrong with night?

I dread Daylight Savings Time for another reason.  The Hominidae Troglodytes Sasquatch 20 year-old kids next door shake off their winter somnolence, open their windows and doors and partay... all day and all night.  There are nine of them, and each of them has at least 30 or 40 friends.  What would summer be without beer -- lots of beer -- loud music. barbeque and marijuana smoke wafting through our windows?  This seems to be a rite of passage brought on by the brightening sunlight.


I'm a morning person.  I love the bright sunshine flooding through my windows early in the morning.  Night is for star gazing, bonfires on the beach, lying on the grass and looking for the Big Dipper and Orion.  Who can enjoy the mysteries of the night, when the sun is still shining until almost midnight?  Bring back the night -- please.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dangers of Coffee Walking

When I was growing up, my mother was very particular about how to drink coffee or tea. Tea was to be poured into a China tea cup, of which I still have many, and coffee was consumed from a demitasse cup. In neither case would one ever use a mug -- ever. In fact, I don't believe we had any mugs in our house.  We were taught to be very particular about using our spoon.  It should not be heard, if possible, and never, ever tapped against the side of the cup.  No slurping, please, and no pouring the tea or coffee into the saucer.  If one was in a restaurant, and the tea or coffee was served with liquid spilled into the saucer, we were to ask for a new cup -- never, under any circumstances, put a paper napkin on the saucer to mop it up.  In our home, my mother didn't own paper napkins, only the finest linen serviettes.  We had tea serviettes and dinner serviettes, and each of us had our own serviette ring.  I still have mine.  It's a little red elephant.

After all my mother's instruction, I was disappointed the other day to find that I will never be a coffee walker.  You know those folks -- you see them everywhere, perhaps you are one.  They can juggle a cell phone, a tote bag, a knapsack, a water bottle, perhaps a small child-- and in Vancouver always an umbrella -- and with wonderful dexterity they can also enjoy a cup of coffee, all without breaking a stride.  How do they do it?  How did we become a nation of coffee walkers?  Tim Horton's, Blenz, ... Barstucks we take our coffee everywhere.  I tried it on the weekend.  I bought a cup of coffee at Blenz, $3.85 for a small coffee.  Yikes.  But as I walked through the mall, I realized that I didn't have the hand/eye coordination required to walk and drink at the same time.  After a few steps, I had to sit down.  It was embarrassing.  I felt as though people were looking at me.

"Look at that woman; she has to sit down to drink her coffee."

"Well, that's just sad."

I am old enough to remember when people actually went places without their water, their telephones and their huge containers of coffee.  Unfortunately, I'll never be a coffee walker.  It's just sad.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Body Of Proof...

This past television season has had a number of excellent new shows, and one of my favourites is Body of Proof with Dana Delany. She plays Megan Hunt, a medical examiner who balances her professional life -- dealing with the process of analyzing the clues on bodies and solving cases -- with trying to manage her personal life as a single mother reconnecting with her estranged 13 year-old daughter, Lacey.  Ah, yes.  The show must be written by a single mother, because she understands completely the dialogue of dramatic, overwrought teenagers, and the frustrations of the single mother trying to navigate those shark-infested waters.  The interactions between Megan and Lacey are true to life.  Lacey, of course, being the know-it-all teenager, has no respect for her mother until one day  she visits her mother's office.  When she sees her mother in action in her professional life, Lacey's opinion of her mother is profoundly changed.  Her mother is no longer just the "parental unit", but a highly respected specialist in her field, and Lacey sees her mother as a whole other person whom she had no idea existed.  I guess there is some benefit in "take your daughter to work" day.

Lacey is hovering in that grey area between childhood and young adulthood, and she pushes the envelope, as all kids that age do.  At first, Megan is filled with apprehension; she doesn't know how to deal with her daughter -- how much freedom to allow her, and how much to reign her in.  As the weeks go on, they both begin to learn that a compromise is somewhere in between.  In one episode, Megan has hired an interior designer to decorate Lacey's new bedroom, but Lacey wants to do it herself.  Megan finally gives in and allows her daughter to decorate her own bedroom, with her mother's help.  This is something that all parents can identify with, and especially single parents.

The one thing that was obvious to me was that, when Lacey's father retreated to the background for a while, Lacey's relationship with her mother improved.  There was no longer that "push-me-pull-you" division of accountability that often happens with divorced parents.   Sometimes, without even being aware of it, parents will use the child as the conduit for their own conversation.  You will hear the child "parroting" what one parent is saying, when having a dialogue with the other parent.  Everyone loses when that starts to happen.  A child's relationship with a parent is not similar in any way to the relationship the two parents have with each other.  So, without Dad in the picture for a little while, Megan and Lacey are going through the healing process and re-establishing their relationship, and they are able to have some time to do it.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them.

It's a great show.  If you haven't seen it, check it out.