Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Madness Of King George

The Rake in Bedlam
William Hogarth

Let me say at the outset, I am probably going to be lambasted for doing this post. However, it is something I feel rather strongly about, and reading someone's blog today brought it to mind for me. I do not believe in a soul. I believe a soul is the invention of ancient people who did not understand the connection between the mind and body. Having said that, I do not profess to be an authority on the subject, nor do I have any training. It is merely my humble opinion, based on information I have read and seen.

I have been reading quite a few blogs lately where the blog owners or someone in their families are suffering from "mental illness". I don't believe in mental illness. I don't think it is mental, but very physical. It is often hereditary or familial, which means it has a genetic component to it -- which means it is physical. Genes are not spiritual, but a real physical part of our bodies.

So many people are made to feel guilty or stigmatized about having that particular type of illness. Should a person feel guilty about being born with blue eyes? Or dark hair? Or big feet? These things are passed down from generation to generation. All of the genetic material we bear are time capsules from our ancestors, and that includes any genetic illnesses we may inherit.

Everyone has heard of Mad King George. There was a movie made about him called "The Madness of King George" starring the wonderful Nigel Hawthorne, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. From the description of Mad King George's symptoms, it was discovered he had porphyria. The acute, or hepatic, porphyrias primarily affect the nervous system, resulting in abdominal pain, vomiting, acute neuropathy, seizures and mental disturbances, including hallucinations, depression, anxiety and paranoia. Cardiac arrhythmias and tachycardia (fast heart rate) may develop as the autonomic nervous system is affected. Pain can be severe and can, in some cases, be both acute and chronic in nature. Constipation is frequently present, as the nervous system of the gut is affected, but diarrhea can also occur. In some forms of porphyria, accumulated heme precursors excreted in the urine may cause various changes in color, after exposure to sunlight, to a dark reddish or dark brown color. Even a purple hue or red urine may be seen. Heme precursors may also accumulate in the teeth and fingernails, giving them a reddish appearance.

It sounds physical to me, wouldn't you say?

Mad King George was not mad, or crazy, or mentally ill at all. He did not have an illness in his soul, he was physically sick.

I think if we believe the mind or the soul to be separate entities from the body, we will continue to believe these things will become diseased. But my belief is that it is not these things that become diseased when "mental" illness occurs, it is simply the physical body. This is the 21st Century, and people should not suffer needlessly from illnesses that may be curable, or at best, treatable. More emphasis should be put on researching the genetic component of diseases, and less emphasis should be put on making the victims feel stigmatized. And I think the term "mental illness" should be parked in the lexicon of all the other politically incorrect terms that thoughtful people no longer use.

But, as I said earlier -- this is just my opinion.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Vancouver -- A Ketchup-Free Zone

Vancouver has been chosen by The Economist as the most livable city in the world in which to live, and by Mercer as the third most livable, following Zurich and Vienna. Well, we who live in Vancouver already knew that. I have been to Paris, London and New York, and I love them all. They are wonderful cities. Truly wonderful. But when I fly back to Vancouver I am gobsmacked by the beauty of the place. We are really fairly isolated, situated on the edge of the ocean, with the mountains on one side and the rain forest on the other. But somehow the world has found us and in so doing has brought a cosmopolitan flair to Vancouver. The rest of the major cities in Canada didn't even make the top ten...

One of the things Vancouver is famous for is its restaurants. I was reading some of my favorite blogs yesterday, and I saw a comment from someone who had visited Vancouver not long ago. The commenter said, "I had been warned about Canadian food (someone had even told me the ketchup was bad), but it really was (with the exception of my host’s stew which was excellent and most delicious)!"

We get our ketchup from Heinz, which is the same as everywhere else. We don't make our ketchup here.

Anyway, Vancouver is a ketchup-free zone.

Kidding, kidding...

The the consensus opinion from the people that visit here is that Vancouver has amazing food and there are restaurants of all ethnics and cultures, and no, we don't all eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a wonderful little diner here called Café Medina, and they specialize in breakfasts and brunches. One of the dishes you can get is waffles with a topping of dark chocolate, mixed berry compote, lavender milk chocolate, pistachio white chocolate, raspberry caramel, fig orange marmalade, maple syrup, or yogurt -- for $3.15. Hold the ketchup.

Here is a "brief" list of the different types of restaurants we have in Vancouver, and how many of each there are.

• Afghan (3)
• African (3)
• Afternoon Tea (10)
• American (61)
• Argentinean (1)
• Asian (28)
• Bagels (14)
• Bar Food (45)
• Barbecue (23)
• Basque (1)
• Belgian (2)
• Brazilian (3)
• Brazilian Steakhouse (1)
• Breakfast (76)
• British (1)
• Burgers (70)
• Cajun (5)
• California (4)
• Californian (3)
• Canadian (186)
• Caribbean (5)
• Catering (52)
• Chinese (67)
• Comfort Food (33)
• Contemporary American (17)
• Contemporary Asian (24)
• Contemporary French (20)
• Continental (33)
• Creole (3)
• Crepes (12)
• Cuban (2)
• Desserts (102)
• Eastern European (3)
• English (5)
• Ethiopian (4)
• Euro-Asian (3)
• European (33)
• Fast Food (64)
• Filipino (5)
• Fish and Chips (24)
• Fondue (3)
• French (33)
• Fusion (38)
• German (8)
• Global (24)
• Greek (44)
• Hamburgers (47)
• Hot Dogs (9)
• Hungarian (1)
• Indian (39)
• Indonesian (6)
• International (55)
• Irish (4)
• Italian (88)
• Jamaican (4)
• Japanese (127)
• Jewish (2)
• Korean (16)
• Kosher (2)
• Latin (1)
• Latin American (7)
• Lebanese (5)
• Malaysian (11)
• Mediterranean (42)
• Mexican (30)
• Middle Eastern (13)
• Moroccan (5)
• Northwest (14)
• Organic (17)
• Organic Food (16)
• Pacific Northwest (130)
• Pan-Asian (3)
• Persian (1)
• Pizza (48)
• Portuguese (4)
• Ribs (12)
• Rumanian (1)
• Russian (2)
• Sandwiches (84)
• Seafood (110)
• Singaporean (4)
• Soul Food (6)
• Soup (46)
• South African (2)
• South American (1)
• South Pacific (3)
• Southeast Asian (5)
• Southern (2)
• Southwest (1)
• Southwestern (3)
• Spanish (7)
• Specialty Wines (27)
• Stadium (3)
• Steak (27)
• Steakhouse (35)
• Sushi (42)
• Swiss (2)
• Tea/Coffee (95)
• Tex-Mex (1)
• Thai (39)
• Thai French (1)
• Turkish (3)
• Tuscan (5)
• Ukrainian (1)
• Vegan (18)
• Vegetarian (84)
• Vietnamese (18)
• Wild Game (5)

Oh, and the host who made the "excellent and most delicious stew" referred to in the above-noted commenter's remarks? I made the stew...!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things I Learned In Class Today

Today in class I learned the concept of "down", "up" and "expensive". You all remember when my toilet roll thingmajig went down the toilet. For some reason I thought it might have been washed out to sea, or wherever things go when they go down the toilet. Apparently more than 700 million litres of nearly raw sewage and industrial effluent is discharged every day into local waters around Greater Vancouver. I assumed my toilet roll holder would be one of them. But, no -- it got caught in the toilet.

Today the plumber retrieved it up from the trap in the toilet, and today I learned why he drives a brand new BMW, and I take public transit. You are looking at the most expensive toilet roll thingmajig I have ever owned. After being sterilized with boiling water and bleach, it is now back in service on the toilet roll.

I also learned a new color today -- tie-dye magenta. You get this color by putting a maroon towel into a washing machine with a new, white, very expensive natural fiber towel from Daniadown. Accidentally.

I also learned today that the instructions for installing a toilet seat -- you know, the ones on the package -- are not the same as the actual toilet seat in the package, with the nuts and bolts and washers. Not even close. How can anything so simple be so complicated? I might have learned some new swear words today too.

And last of all, I learned today that I am allergic to cream of garlic and spinach soup. Thank God my toilet is fixed.

I'm So Stupid

Just when you think life is simple, it gets complicated. Blogger had a function called "followers" which I really like, because you can click on any one of the followers on your blog, and the link takes you back to their blog. It's a great way to move back and forth. Except ... this evening Blogger changed the functionality of it. So, I clicked on "followers" and was going to visit some people, et voila!, "followers" added me -- as a follower of my own blog. And the worst part is, not only do I look stupid following my own blog, I can't remove myself. I'm stuck there with my silly mug shot picture smiling out at the world -- as a follower of my own blog.


Does anyone know how to fix this? It's been one of those days...

Now ... does anyone know a good plumber? Remember when the toilet roll thingmabob fell down the toilet?

And today it snowed. It's turning into one of those weeks...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Half Empty...? Half Full...?

I am always amazed by people who go through life acquiring everything and still seeing their glass as half empty, rather than half full. Nothing ever makes them happy. They have it all, but all is not enough. All becomes more, and it is still not enough. Their cup runs over, and still it is not enough. They're constantly depressed, like Eeyore in "Winnie the Pooh". I'm sure you all know people like that.

On a sliding scale of one to ten, I have next to nothing. I certainly don't have all the things that most folks take for granted, even though I have done all the same things everyone else has. I have had losses in my life, but so has everyone else. It's called life. And yet for some weird reason which I do not understand, I don't look at my cup as half empty, but rather half full. It's a choice we all make, and it's a choice I have had to make, or I would be filled with anger, resentment and bitterness -- three emotions that will kill anyone's spirit.

Maybe it is the concept of "the glass half empty" that has led to the world's dire economic situation. Everyone wants more, more, more. Fill that glass up; only a full glass will make people happy. Still not happy? Get more things. My chesterfield is 20 years old. My TV is 15 years old and it still works. I probably should get a new bed -- some day. Don't even ask me how old is my dining room table; I bought it second-hand and had the chairs re-finished 18 years ago. My coffee table is a wicker basket. To my eye, all of these things are beautiful because they're mine. But I also have no debt. Whatsoever.

I don't know the answer. I'm no economist, and I'm certainly no philosopher. I'm just grateful for the few things I have and for the people in my life who care about me, and that makes my cup more than half full.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Catalyst

I have a friend whom I have known for many years. She and I are like sisters. Our ties are strong and go back a long way. A few years ago she told me about her first high school sweetheart. They met at a dance and fell in love, but life intervened and they went their separate ways. She heard he was now living in the same city again, but did not know how to contact him. She wondered if he would remember her. She had never forgotten him. I pulled a few strings and found his address and I said to her, "Here you go ... nothing ventured, nothing gained." Well, to make a long story short, they reconnected.

A couple of weeks ago I received a note from him (let's call them John and Mary, just for fun...) In his note to me, John said, "Dear Jo, we haven't met yet but Mary has spoken of you often with great affection. She tells me you were the person to thank for her finding me after many years of separation. I have loved my darling Mary since I was a teenager and that love never faded over the decades we were apart. So thank you, and be assured that I will never hurt her. I have carried this beautiful woman in my heart since I was 16 as she has carried me in hers. Jo, thank you again for bringing the true love of my life back to me, what our future holds we don't know yet, we only know no matter what we will never part again."

Gosh...! I wanted to share that note with you because it really touched my heart.

There have been a few other people throughout my lifetime that I have brought together this way as well. My mother used to call me the "catalyst".

1. A substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process.
2. One that precipitates a process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences.

Well, I guess that's me.

Someone posted this comment: Anonymous said... Blah, blah, blah...........has your chest exploded yet? You sure do know how to puff yourself up, don't you?

Well, this post is not about puffing myself up, but about being happy for other people. I probably didn't make that very clear. I am a rather boring person, and I often refer to this as my boring-little-blog. Personal attacks are never very nice, and always unnecessary. And of course they're always anonymous...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Six Words

Girl Before a Mirror
Pablo Picasso

“O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion!
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
And ev'n devotion!” ...
Robbie Burns

If you were given six words -- and only six words -- to describe yourself, what would they be? You can give this some thought, or you can jump in. And then, if you were given six words to describe yourself as you think others see you, what would those six words be? It's strange how often the two lists are quite different. One of the words that would be on both lists is "funny". People often describe themselves as funny, and they think that other folks perceive them as funny as well. Humor is a bonding emotion.

What is even more interesting is how the sexes differ in their descriptions of themselves and each other. Women rarely describe other people -- male or female -- by using physical characteristics, whereas men almost exclusively use physical characteristics in describing themselves and others.

You're invited to give it a try. Use six words to describe yourself as you see yourself, and then six words to describe yourself you think other see you. Don't be shy...

I am going to leave this post up for a few days, because I have had so many wonderful visitors to my blog, and I haven't had an opportunity to visit everyone. So, for the next few days I will visiting all you folks. Put the coffee on.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Separated At Birth

I rented a movie this weekend called "Nights in Rodanthe", and as the movie began to unfold, I wondered where I had seen the house before, and then I realized ... ta-da ... it's the same house, well almost the same house, that was in the wonderful movie "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events". Can you see the resemblance, or is it just me?

A few weeks ago my good friend Russell at Iowa Grasslands took a photograph of an old house out on the plains of Iowa, and as soon as I saw it I thought, "Where have I seen that house before?" And then I realized it looks very much like a painting by Edward Hopper called "Ryder's House", painted in 1933. Can you see the similarities -- the chimneys, the roof lines, the shadows on the roofs, the narrow windows, the angles of the houses.

And this is where it starts to get really weird, because in 1925 Edward Hopper painted a house called "House by the Railroad Tracks" and it looks very similar to the "Nights in Rodanthe" and "Lemony Snicket" houses. Oh, gosh, it's all making my brain hurt. I have always seen resemblances between strange things -- objects, people, shapes... To me, nothing is ever what is really is, it always takes on another form and looks like something else, sort of like an M.C. Escher illusion.

I have been told by people who have visited Boston that it looks very much like Vancouver, and yes, the two cities do resemble each other. Something like that strangely appeals to me. It's amazing the things we can see, if we just stop for a moment and look.

I'd Like To Thank The Academy....

When I was a little girl, all I wanted to be was an actress. But, I guess they're not called actresses anymore ... they're all called actors, the male gender, because the word "actress" is sexist. So a feminine actor would be -- what -- Jude Law?

Oh, I don't know...

Anyway, I wanted to act. I used to dress up in various costumes and present plays in our garage. I was the playwright, stage manager, front of house ticket-taker and main actress actor. Later on I joined the drama club in high school, but I was always given the part of the "woman of a certain age" while my friends Kathy or Heidi were given the parts of the femme fatale.

Tonight are the 81st annual Academy Awards. Even the name has a magical ring to it, doesn't it? Academy Awards; Oscars. My favorite thing to do is to pick who will win, and who should win. Last year my picks were all 100% correct, much to my amazement. Can anyone remember who they were? The best actress award went to Marion Cotillard for her amazing portrayal of Édith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose". As soon as I saw the movie, I knew she had won. This year I watched an absolutely wonderful movie called "The Visitor" starring Richard Jenkins, and he has been nominated for best actor for his role in the movie. He won't win, of course; the Oscar will go to either Mickey Rourke for "The Wrestler" or Sean Penn for "Milk".

This year I have not seen all the films nominated, so I can only speculate as to whom the winners might be, so here are my guesses for the top six awards.

Best actress: Kate Winslet
Best actor: Mickey Rourke
Best supporting actress: Viola Davis
Best supporting actor: Heath Ledger
Best movie: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Best animated movie: "Wall-E"

"Wall-E" just happens to be my favorite movie this year, and one of my all-time favorite movies. Here is a clip from it. Ta-da!

The envelope, please...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Invisible People

Poor People on the Shore
Pablo Picasso

The other day I read an article in the New Yorker Magazine, that upset me so much, I found myself beginning to cry. I could actually feel my heart breaking. The article was called "The Ponzi State", and it was about the rise and fall of development in Florida, and specifically about Florida's foreclosure disaster. In the past several years, Florida's economy has been development-based and when the bottom fell out, everyone suffered. People who had mortgaged their homes for home-equity loans were now being foreclosed. Folks were selling off their family heirlooms in order to feed their families. According to the article, "People who were in their homes, were living the American dream, and then lost it. And they don't have the knowledge to navigate social services, how to get food stamps. People who were employed in the real-estate market -- people who were making a nice living, were ending up in the health and social-services department offices."

But the part of the article that affected me the most was reading about a family in Tampa -- Dan and Ronale Hartzell. They live in a modest apartment in an area of apartment complexes and motels near MacDill Air Force Base. Until a year ago, Dan had a $10.00 an hour job laminating plastic snack food bags at a small plant in Tampa. The economy had collapsed to the point where he was laid off, and he could not find work. He has been looking for work everywhere -- Home Depot, Sam's Club, Publix. According to the article, he has sent out 60 applications, with no luck. All of these companies are saturated with applications from blue-collar workers like Dan. His wife, Ronale, describes him as an excellent worker. She says, "He's a good man, he doesn't drink and he doesn't do drugs."

These folks are already classified as working-poor, they are down on their luck, they have health and dental problems which they cannot afford to have fixed, and they have two children, one in grade five and the other in grade two. As a family, they are facing homelessness. Dan says, "I apply for work, and no one will give me a chance. I'm blue-collar; I work for what I have. That's all anyone can do, and then all of a sudden the economy gets so bad and instead of 30 people looking for work, there's three-thousand. To be honest, I'm just actually starting to lose heart now."

The Hartzells didn't take out a sub-prime mortgage, they hadn't lived beyond their means. They loved each other, and Dan said of Ronale, "I thank God every day that I have her." But he felt somehow that he was to blame for their situation. The article in the New Yorker went on to say, "Dan couldn't avoid the feeling that the world had singled him out for some terrible payback, that it must have been his fault, that the failure was his alone and he had no right to anyone else's help. This was an attitude that no senior figure on Wall Street had adopted."

This is a story that must be playing out all over North America right now -- here in Canada as well as in the United States. Good, decent, hard-working, honest people -- losing everything. Will the Stimulus Package really help these folks? Or will it be like "trickle down" economics, where the folks at the top get the cream... Why do I have the feeling I have seen this all before? I am not an economist, so I can't begin to understand the machinations of this depression recession, but I remember Gordon Gekko's speech from the 1987 movie "Wall Street", "The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of it's forms - greed for life, for money, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed - you mark my words - will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you."

This was not supposed to happen again. So, how did it happen? And why is it always the folks who have nothing left to lose -- the invisible people -- who lose the most.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't Poke Me...!

I don't understand Facebook, and I'm wondering if someone can please explain it to me. I have a Facebook account, and I even have Facebook friends, some of whom include my family --- niece and nephews. Last weekend I was clicking around on Facebook, and I saw that one of my friends was online, so I clicked on the little green light and --- ta-da --- there was my nephew. He's a very special person in my life, and we haven't talked for a while, but there we were, chatting away on the instant message thing on the computer. It was lovely -- but very impersonal. He was giving me (((hugs))) and (((kisses))) and I thought, "How strange." But this seems to be the way people communicate now.

Facebook seems to be geared for people at the grade eight level, for the most part. It reminds me of the little doodles we used to draw on our exercise books when we were bored with class. I am always getting notifications from someone saying that have taken the "Path to Happiness" quiz, or the "Likeness Quiz" or they're sending me a teddy bear... Or I will receive an e-mail saying that someone has poked me or written on my wall. If you have my e-mail address, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And you know I love you all, but if I want to know 25 things about you, I will probably ask you. If you want to tell me, that's great -- if not, well, that's great too. I don't want to be nosy. And I'm definitely not going to tell you 25 things about me. Only three or four of them -- tops -- would be interesting, anyway. Besides, how do you know it's really me on Facebook? Anyone can sign up, log in and post a photograph, et voila! they're on, and they're reading all the intimate details of your life.

Excuse me, I have to run. I just checked my Facebook account and I see I have "six little green patch" requests, one "play with me request", one "hotties for sale invitation", three "happy hour invitations", and one "hatching egg invitation"....

BTW, does anyone know what those are?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Canajun, Eh?

Today President Obama is making his first official trip to a foreign country, none other than -- ta-da -- Canada. Apparently Obama currently has an 81% popularity rate in Canada. Hmmmm, I wonder who the other 19% are... Well, anyway, Canadians are known around the world as being very nice people. Okay, now all you people from Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Tuvalu, England, the Russian Federation, etc., I know you're nice people too. I agree, everyone is nice. However, Canadians have a reputation for being the "peace keepers". Well, that might be debatable if you were to walk into any neighborhood pub during Hockey Night in Canada.

But I digress...

Apparently Obama will have a working lunch with the Prime Minister of Canada, at which time they will dine on applewood smoked plains Bison. That's basically Buffalo. Only Canadians would serve Buffalo to an American President. Obama will also meet briefly with the leader of her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, otherwise known here in Canada as Iggy. I like Iggy. I hope he will be Prime Minister one day.

Obama has a personal connection to Canada as well. One of his brothers-in-law, married to his younger sister, is from Canada. However, the most important reason for Obama's meeting is Canada's oil sands. The province of Alberta is the Saudi Arabia of the west, and we are the solution to eliminating America's dependency on Middle Eastern oil.

We think the real reason Obama is coming to Canada is to meet -- Canadians! If you really want to know about Canadians, ask a Canadian. We don't live in Igloos, we don't traipse around on snowshoes, and we hardly ever say "aboot" for "about". And we always talk aboot about how nice we are. Just ask us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Queen Elizabeth II

I have a confession to make, and I would suspect there are probably support groups for people like me. Well this is my confession: "My name is Jo, I am a Canadian, and I am rather fond of our Queen, Queen Elizabeth II." Canada is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and Queen Elizabeth II is our Monarch. The Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organisation through which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status. ... Wikipedia

The fad in Canada is to diss the Queen, but I like her. She has reigned for years. She has presided over parliament through 11 British Prime Ministers, 11 Canadian Prime Ministers --- not to mention New Zealand, Australia and all the other countries of the Commonwealth. She has been the Queen throughout the presidency of 12 American Presidents. She has reigned with grace, dignity and hard work for 57 years since the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6, 1952, and she is still hard at work, fulfilling her official duties. She will be 83 on April 21, 2009.

During their youth, the Queen and her sister, Princess Margaret were the beauties of their day, with sophistication and glamor that would easily outshine any of the Queen's daughters-in-law who were to come along in later decades. It was said that Margaret was easily as beautiful, if not more so, than most of the popular Hollywood stars that were her contemporaries, and many of whom were her close friends. She was talented and vivacious. Her older sister, Elizabeth, was the more serious of the two because she knew one day she would become the Queen of England. That day came much sooner that she anticipated, when her father died at the age of 56. Elizabeth was only 25 years old --- younger than the silly celebrities of today such as Britney Spears or Paris Hilton are now.

Despite speculation on the subject, the Queen will never abdicate. She took a holy vow during her coronation in Westminster Abbey and she believes it is her sacred duty to remain Queen until she dies. I'm not overly fond of Prince Charles or Camilla, so I hope the Queen is with us for a very long time. Besides, I'm used to seeing her face on our Canadian money.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blah ... Blah ... Blah ...

If there is one thing I can't tolerate, it's gossip. First of all, I find the private details of other people's lives really boring, so I don't want to hear about them. Second of all, no matter how you slice it, gossip is malicious. Gossip is rarely positive, and is almost always negative. People who gossip are usually the same people who tear other people down in order to build themselves up. So it is to their advantage to make other folks look bad --- and they do.

Every workplace has its share of gossips. They are usually the people who feel it is their duty to give office newcomers the "low down" on everyone else in the office -- especially if the newcomer happens to be a manager. The one consistency about the office gossip is they never tell the truth. Their smarmy little stories about other people are usually far removed from the truth, but how would the newcomer know that?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, especially if the first impression has been tainted by someone else's poisonous mouth.

The only thing worse than a gossip is a stupid gossip -- someone who thinks they know everything, but in reality they live on the dark side of the moon. If a story doesn't sound plausible, or if they don't have all the facts, they embellish it. The gossip's credo is "Why make someone else look good when you can make them look really bad." Usually the victim of the malicious gossip is not even aware of it until the harm has been done. A very special friend of mine uses an expression that I really like -- "You can't unring a bell."

Most organizations are beginning to take office gossip seriously. It has become part of the respectful workplace initiatives, and I'm glad of it. I have seen gossip ruin people's careers. I'm watching this happen to a couple of my co-workers, and they walk around the office with their heads down, looking completely defeated. The best way to stop a gossip is to turn away and not listen. Cut them off and don't even give them a chance.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I have always loved words. Onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like the word it is describing, such as animal noises like oink or meow, or sounds such as boom, zoom, click, clang, zap, or bang. Whenever I eat something too quickly I get the hiccups. Is there any more perfect word than that? If we drop a pebble into a pool of water, it goes kerplunk. If we put an egg or a strip of bacon into a hot skillet, it sizzles.

When I am lying in bed at night, and all is quiet, I can hear my clock going tick tock. When I wake up in the morning, I can hear the birds chirping and the seagulls squawking.

Aren't words wonderful?

Here are some of my favorites:

Oh, there are so many, I could go on forever. Usually knock-knock jokes are good examples of onomatopoeia.

Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Little old lady.
Little old lady who?
Wow! I didn't know you could yodel.

Boo...! Hiss...! Heh.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Geography of Men and Women

The Geography of a Woman

Between 18 and 22, a woman is like Africa, half discovered, half wild, fertile and naturally beautiful.

Between 23 and 30, a woman is like Europe, well developed and open to trade, especially for someone with cash.

Between 31 and 35, a woman is like Spain, very hot, relaxed and convinced of her own beauty.

Between 36 and 40, a woman is like Greece, gently aging but still a warm and desirable place to visit.

Between 41 and 50, a woman is like Great Britain, with a glorious and all-conquering past.

Between 51 and 60, a woman is like Israel, has been through war and doesn't make the same mistakes twice, takes care of business.

Between 61 and 70, a woman is like Canada, self-preserving but open to meeting new people.

After 70, she becomes Tibet, wildly beautiful, with a mysterious past and the wisdom of the ages ... only those with an adventurous spirit and a thirst for spiritual knowledge visit there.

The Geography of a Man

Between 1 and 70, a man is like Iran ...

... ruled by nuts.

NB: No offense is meant to Iran, or to nuts, or to nuts who rule Iran... so I hope none is taken...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cupid and Psyche

I have always loved the story of Cupid and Psyche. It is the basis for the modern version of Beauty and the Beast.

"A tale as old as time..."

I have a question for you. Do we fall in love with someone because they are beautiful, or are they beautiful because we fall in love with them? I think when we are younger and we are first noticing the opposite sex, there are certain physical characteristics that appeal to us. I remember in grade 8 having a huge crush on a boy named David. My first crush. Years later I saw him at a school reunion, and I thought, "What was I thinking...!?"

I always remember a scene with Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in "The Seven Year Itch" where Tom Ewell says, "Face it, no pretty girl wants me, she wants Gregory Peck."

And Marilyn says, "How do you know what a pretty girl wants?"

Tom Ewell says "I don't know, but I imagine --"

Marilyn says, "Your imagination! You think every girl's a dope. You think a girl goes to a party and there's some guy in a fancy striped vest strutting around giving you that I'm-so-handsome-you-can't-resist-me look. From this she's supposed to fall flat on her face. Well, she doesn't fall on her face. But there's another guy in the room, over in the corner. Maybe he's nervous and shy and perspiring a little. First, you look past him. But then you sense that he's gentle and kind and worried. That he'll be tender with you, nice and sweet. That's what's really exciting. If I were your wife, I'd be very jealous of you. I'd be very, very jealous."

Oh, yes...

A handsome man or a beautiful woman can become plain and unappealling very quickly if he or she is generally unpleasant to be around, or lacks integrity or kindness or any of the other wonderful traits. But in reverse, it is possible to fall in love with someone's soul, and then they become they most beautiful person on earth. Well, that's my theory, anyway. What's yours?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Uncle Paul

"Hi honey, This is Daddy. Is Mommy near the phone?"

"No Daddy. She's upstairs in the bedroom with Uncle Paul."

After a brief pause, Daddy says, "But honey, you haven't got an Uncle Paul."

"Oh yes I do,and he's upstairs in the bedroom with Mommy, right now."

...Brief Pause.

"Uh, okay then, this is what I want you to do. Put the phone down on the table, run upstairs and knock on the bedroom door and shout to Mommy that Daddy's car just pulled into the driveway.”

"Okay Daddy, just a minute."

A few minutes later the little girl comes back to the phone. "I did it Daddy."

"And what happened honey?" he asked.

"Well, Mommy got all scared, jumped out of bed with no clothes on and ran around screaming. Then she tripped over the rug, hit her head on the dresser and now she isn't moving at all!"

"Oh my God!!! What about your Uncle Paul?"

"He jumped out of the bed with no clothes on, too. He was all scared and he jumped out of the back window and into the swimming pool. But I guess he didn't know that you took out the water last week to clean it. He hit the bottom of the pool and I think he's dead."

...Long Pause.

"Swimming pool?”

“Is this 486-5731?"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Theory Of Natural Selection

February 12th is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. In my opinion, Charles Darwin influenced the scientific world as much as Isaac Newton and Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei. More so, in fact, because his theories of natural selection have contributed to research in medicine and the etiology of many diseases.

"Evolutionary medicine addresses not only the immediate mechanism of diseases, but why natural selection has not eliminated aspects of the body that leave it vulnerable to disease. We're not asking why some people get sick, which is what most medical research asks, but why all humans are vulnerable to a disease." ... Randolph Nesse, MD

Natural selection is one of the cornerstones of biology. It is the evolution of a species through natural adaptation. Artificial selection is where traits are bred in or out of a species, such as horses or dogs. Horse or dog breeders who utilize artificial selection can see how quickly it works, in a very few generations of animals. I believe the same has applied to every species of living things on earth, either plant or animal. We have learned to adapt according to our environment, and we will continue to adapt. Natural selection is the one thing that has created such genetic diversity. Darwin saw this when he went to the Galapagos Islands on the HMS Beagle. There were plants and animals that had evolved there, cut off from the rest of the world, and unlike anything else on earth.

I have read all of Charles Darwin's books, "The Voyage of the Beagle", "The Origin of Species", and "The Descent of Man" and they have all fascinated me. I first became interested in evolution when I was studying high school biology, and we were learning the theory of genetics, and in particular, Gregor Mendel's peas, and the dominant and recessive genes. Oddly enough, Mendel was also a Catholic priest, and later became an Abbott.

There is a lot of controversy about which theory should be taught in schools, the Theory of Evolution or the Theory of Creationism. A third theory is the Theory of Intelligent Design, which I guess is sort of a combination of the two. I'm not going to debate that here, because I know there are so many diverse opinions about all three theories. I personally subscribe to the Theory of Natural Selection, and I think Charles Darwin was a genius. I have always believed that life on Earth developed by accident ... a Divine accident, perhaps ... and it just sort of took off from there. And that gets into that grey territory between science and religion. There is definitely a spirituality in the universe that no on can explain. I have experienced that spirituality myself, and I know it exists.

"It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure." -- Albert Einstein

However, is that spirituality God? I don't know. Maybe it is a vibration of the universe that we are unable to understand. I have never been able to understand a God that created the Heavens and the Earth, but has never revealed himself to us. We can scientifically prove the Theory of Natural Selection, but we cannot scientifically prove the existence of God. Did God create us in His image, or did we create Him in ours? I have wondered about this ever since I was a little girl. Is it impossible for us to believe that such beauty as we see in the world could have happened, not by accident, but by the natural selection of the living organism known as Life? No matter how much we debate the issue, there is no right answer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Road Trip...!

Today at work we were fantasizing about where we would go if someone were to give us a blank airline ticket, and we could fill in the destination. There are several places I would love to visit -- Russia, India, South Africa, Israel, Italy ... gosh, where wouldn't I love to visit? I remember several years ago reading a wonderful book by John Steinbeck called "Travels with Charley". Steinbeck traveled throughout the United States in a camper which he named "Rocinante" after the horse of Don Quixote. He started his travels in Long Island, New York roughly following the outer border of the United States, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, down into his native Salinas Valley in California, across to Texas, up through the Deep South, and then back to New York, a trip encompassing nearly 10,000 miles. Charley, his traveling companion, was a French poodle.

Ever since I read "Travels with Charley", I have wanted to take the same trip, and follow the same route Steinbeck took. I have been across Canada by train, and going through the Rocky Mountains is always amazing and to use an overused word -- awesome. I have gone through the Canadian Rocky Mountains by train and by car, and I have flown over them, and they are truly majestic.

To me, however, America seems like such an interesting country. As Steinbeck described it, it changed completely from one locale to the next, not only in scenery, but in customs, politics, opinions, accents, attitudes towards strangers, levels of education ... He felt America had become several countries in one. I have always wanted to take a road trip through America, on exactly the route Steinbeck took, and to see how much the country would change from New York to New Mexico.

In the blogging world, everyone is from "somewhere else". I would love to hear about your little corner of the world. Tell me a little bit about it. It's so far away from where I am, and I may never get the chance to see it.

Calamity Jo

Have you ever had days where you just know you should never have gotten out of bed? Well, my whole weekend was like that -- starting on Friday night. Want to hear about it? Oh, I know you don't, but I'll share it with you anyway. I think it all started when I broke my lucky bracelet. I have a beautiful bracelet that was given to me as a birthday gift, and I noticed when I started wearing it, that I had good luck. You know -- things like my bus showed up on time instead of always being ten minutes late, my computer at work stopped crashing every 15 minutes -- stuff like that. I knew soon as I started wearing it that it was definitely a lucky bracelet. Well, on Friday night just after work, one of the beautiful little beads broke. Fortunately I was able to contact the artisan who made my bracelet and she can fix it for me. Until then, I am walking on egg shells.

A few weeks ago someone on the bus stepped on my foot, and Saturday morning I noticed I am losing a toenail. So just as sandal weather rolls around, I will have ten perfect toes and nine perfect toenails. *sigh* On Saturday night a friend invited me for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. My friend told me it was the perfect little place, lovely ambience, good food, nice music. We were seated next to a party of 50, and they were well into the Tequila by the time we got there. And then I chomped on something that had a hidden hazelnut in it, and broke a crown off a front tooth. Oh yes. I looked charming. Where am I going to get a crown replaced on a weekend?

Wait, there's more...

When I got home Saturday night, I managed to flush the toilet roll holder down the toilet. I watched as it swirled down the toilet in what seemed like slow motion, but was really just a second -- too fast to retrieve it. I remember thinking, "I didn't know they could do that..."

Sunday morning I opened a kitchen cupboard to take out a cup, and the whole cupboard door fell off. I was beginning to see a pattern emerge. I stayed indoors all day Sunday; who wants to see a woman with a broken front tooth, in any case... On Sunday night as I lay in bed trying to get to sleep, I heard someone being shot. At first it sounded like firecrackers, and then I realized it was gunfire. I recognized the sound, even though it was not something we hear in our neighborhood. The gunfire was followed by sirens. Lots of sirens. As I lay there I thought, "I am listening to someone being killed", but fortunately the fellow survived, even though he was shot six times. The perpetrator escaped.

Monday morning I had an appointment with my dentist. When I got there, his clinic had been flooded by a broken pipe in the restaurant next door. He and his receptionist gathered everyone in their cars and drove us to his other clinic. The good news? My tooth is fixed.

It was a beautiful, sunny spring morning as I headed my way back to work yesterday morning. The sky was bright blue, the sun flooded the city. It was lovely. Everyone was in a cheery mood.

Today it's snowing...

I have to get my lucky bracelet fixed -- fast.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Invasion Of The Pod People

A very strange thing has happened to me lately, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I thought perhaps I had been abducted by aliens and had been replaced with someone who looks and sounds like me, but is not really me. Everything seems almost the same. I recognize everyone around me, I respond when people call my name, I recognize my image in the bathroom mirror ... but I am becoming ...

--- cue the Twilight Zone music ---

a vegetarian! Yes! After years of enjoying roast beef, lamb, chicken, salmon, scallops, pork chops and ribs, I find I am enjoying vegetables more and more. How did this happen, you ask? I don't really know! It's not something I set out to do, but I find myself craving fruits and vegetables. Well, I have always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, but not to the exclusion of everything else. One of my favorite meals is a big bowl of vegetables -- everything but the kitchen sink. I steam everything and then mix it with a bit of black bean sauce -- not too much because black bean sauce is very salty, and let it all caramelize a little bit. Then I eat the whole mess bowl of veggies with chopsticks. Yum!

Saturday night I went out for dinner with a friend to a Mexican restaurant. The menu was wonderful. After looking at it, I asked the waiter, "What kind of salads do you have?" I looked around to see who was speaking. Was this my voice coming out of my mouth? Apparently so! I ended up having grilled baby back ribs braised in orange juice and achiote with a honey and mezcal glaze. Oh, and a spinach salad with candied pecans, goat cheese, yams and and a tomato vinaigrette. I asked for two helpings of the salad, it was so delicious!

I think after a long, dreary winter, my body is craving the sunshine found in the nutritious vegetables. Perhaps in the summer I will go back to my normal way of eating, but I sort of hope not. I love veggies. Who knew!? Did you eat your veggies today?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What's Going On?

I have been blogging for about three years, and during that time I have rarely come across a blog that has comment approval. Now, almost every blog I visit has that familiar phrase at the top of the comments section. Is there something strange happening out there? I have never considered using comment approval on my blog, and I have rarely had comments that I have had to remove due to their offensiveness. I have had people disagree with me on various issues, but that is their right, and as long as they don't personally attack me, I'm okay with folks who don't see eye-to-eye with my opinions. That's what makes blogging fun. And I have rarely encountered "spam" or advertising on my blog either. Maybe I'm just fortunate.

I enjoy visiting other folks' blogs and posting a comment, and then I like to read what I have said. It's kind of satisfying to see my mugshot picture along with my witty and urbane comment. But nowadays, when I hit "Publish Your Comment" *poof* my comment does not show up on the screen. I wait with baited breath. Will the owner of the blog approve my comment? And then I wonder, will all the other bloggers out there read my comment and think what an extremely stupid intelligent person I am? Will they click on my link and follow me back to my blog? Sometimes I get busy, and I forget to go back and check.

Is this a form of censorship? What constitutes blog owner approval? I'm curious to know what it is that folks are looking for when they approve or disapprove a comment. One of the things I like about blogging is the relative freedom people have to express their opinions, likes, dislikes, thoughts, ideas and so much more. Whatever the trend is towards comment approval, I hope it goes away soon, and the blogging world becomes an open forum again.

Now I am off to answer each and every one of your thoughtful comments on my post yesterday. Thank you!

We Don't Own Our Children

Tomorrow would have been my wedding anniversary, but my husband was killed in a plane crash not long after we were married. Oh, it was a long time ago and we were very young. When I look back at it now, it almost appears that I am looking at someone else's life, not mine. The only regret I have is that my daughter was raised without a father. She was only four when her father died. Being a single parent is a challenge, but I know lots of excellent single parents. However, life was not always kind to single mothers. It was, and perhaps still is, one of the last bastions of discrimination. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, stole all of my money and much of my personal property, leaving my daughter and me to go through some struggles. But I prevailed, and fortunately my daughter was very bright and disciplined and she now has a university education.

When I read about the bird-brain woman in California who chose to have 14 children on her own, I wonder how much thought she gave to how it would affect her children. I believe fathers are very important in a child's life, not only when they are a child, but all through their life. It upsets me when I see children of divorce who are being kept from one parent or the other. And believe me, I have seen a lot of it. The child is used as a pawn to hurt the other spouse, and it works. The alienated parent goes through every emotion from sorrow to frustration to rage. I think everyone heard the rant that Alec Baldwin went through when he could not reach his daughter. It was awful, but it was also understandable. He has written a book called "A Promise to Ourselves" about his experience with a toxic divorce and alienation from his beloved daughter. And fortunately, he and his daughter have a good relationship again.

I see photographs of Heath Ledger's darling little girl, Matilda, and she looks exactly like him, but she will have no memory of him except for the roles he played in movies. As she gets older, I think she would gladly trade places with any of the children of divorce, just to be able to at least have a relationship with her father. Parents who deliberately keep a child away from the other parent because of petty jealousy are hurting not only the other parent, but more importantly they are hurting the child. It is incomparable selfishness, and I don't understand it. Who wins? Does anybody win? I don't think so. Even the vindictive parent eventually loses.

My daughter and I are, to all intents and purposes, estranged because of the situation in which our lives found us. We are polite but distant. Very distant. So, I would advise everyone -- go and hug your children. If you're finding excuses to keep them away from the other parent, or aunts and uncles or grand parents -- stop. We don't own our children, we only borrow them for a little while.

Friday, February 6, 2009

14 And Counting...!

Have you ever read something in a newspaper or magazine, or watched something on TV, and you have felt a lightbulb go on --- right over your head? I watched Nadya Suleman being interviewed on the Today Show this morning. Nadya is the mom of six children and she just gave birth to eight more, making a total of 14 children. There has been some controversy about this Mom, given the fact that she is a single mother. I have been wondering why a woman who already has six children would want one more child, let alone eight more, if she is single and has no spouse to help her raise her children. And then, this morning as I watched her being interviewed on NBC, the lightbulb went on over my head. She is trying to emulate Angelina Jolie.

I'm just guessing of course, just pure speculation, but it looks to me as if she idolizes Angelina Jolie, even going so far as to have her face made over to look like her idol. Stranger things have happened, haven't they?

So now, there are these 14 little children, their Mom is bankrupt, they have no father and to all intents and purposes their Mom will be raising them on her own. In a way it's a good thing that the children all have each other. I always wanted to be part of a large family. What a wonderful feeling that would be. Obviously every one of these children will be loved, and that's the main thing. I hope the folks in their community find it in their hearts to help out whenever and wherever they can. Goodness! 14 children!

NB: Since I first did this post this morning, there have now been quite a few websites where other people have noticed the same resemblance that I did. It just seemed very obvious to me during the initial interview this morning that the resemblance was uncanny.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Double Standards

I don't know about anybody else, but I feel very bad for Michael Phelps. Okay, so he did a stupid thing. He smoked some dope. Not smart. But he also achieved an unprecedented eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. Michael Phelps is aware of the fact that he is a role model for younger kids, and he did a bad thing. Phelps' reputation may now be tarnished beyond repair. Sponsors who had rushed to sign him up are now dropping him like a hot roach clip.

I would more concerned about the fact that in 2004 he pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Why didn't that affect his chances of competing in the Olympics? Because we still have double standards about drugs and alcohol. Thousands of people die in car accidents in Canada and the US each year, and one-half of those deaths are alcohol related.

The physical and social effects of alcoholism are devastating, but alcohol is legal and society shows that by drinking, you will be viewed as glamorous and sophisticated.

Under the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, marijuana is legal in Canada for medical purposes. However, it's strictly regulated and it's only for severely ill people, and that obviously does not apply to someone like Michael Phelps.

Maybe I am a too liberal about these things, but I think folks need to rethink the knee-jerk reaction to a young man behaving like, well, a young man. The Americans just elected a new President of the United States, the top job in the world, as it were, and he admitted to using drugs when he was a young man. "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though," he says.

Oh, good. No smack.

I'm not a teetotaller, but I think we need to get over the double standard that booze is okay, and marijuana is not. And I really think we need to stop expecting other folks to be super-human. We are all human. There but for the grace of God goes any one of us.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Garden Party

Luncheon of the Boating Party
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

A few weeks ago, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Blogger picked up my boring little blog as a Blog of Note. After the shock wore off, I realized I was getting thousands of visitors a day, and a few of them actually came back. Quel surprise! And I'm glad they did. As a result, I have over 500 folks that I am looking forward to visiting, but it takes a bit of time ... sigh. I would love to be able to log on from my computer at work, and just blog the day away, but they actually make me work when I'm there. Can you just imagine that?

So, instead, I am going to throw an imaginary party. Just imagine, if you will, a beautiful big house with acres and acres of lawn, dotted with trees and there is even a splashing fountain, ringed with flowers. It's a warm summer evening and in the trees I have hung colored lanterns. Around the yard are tiki torches to give a shimmering light when the sun goes down. There is a full moon, and there will even be fireflies. Music will be playing, and there will be wonderful food and drink. You are all invited.

You can mix and mingle with each other, and exchange ideas and laugh and have fun, and tell jokes, and flirt and dance, and eat and drink and enjoy the party. Wouldn't that be fun?

Well, that's sort of what this post is about. You're all invited to meet each other here. I hope you click on my blog links and my followers, and make some wonderful friends. Tell them Jo sent you.

Here's some summer evening music by one of my favorite jazz musicians, Ahmad Jamal. Enjoy!