Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ten Things I Would Like To Do

The other day at work we were discussing the ten things we would like to do before we hand in our tickets and take our final journey. I had to think about it for a few minutes, because I can think of about 100 things I would like to do, but mostly I am constrained by my rather limited financial situation. Even doing any of the top ten is pushing it a bit, but I can dream. The very first thing on my list would be to go to Africa. I have always dreamed of visiting Africa. My mother was born there, and when my brothers and I were growing up we heard so many wonderful stories of my mother's life there. I grew to love everything about Africa, and I still have a few treasures that my mother brought from Africa. I hope one day to be able to walk in the places she spoke about.

The second thing I would like to do is to visit the palaces of India. I think India has the most beautiful architecture of any country in the world. There are whole tours people can take, just visiting the palaces. And I love Indian music. Occasionally when I am running late for work in the morning, I will grab a taxi, and usually the taxi driver is playing Indian music on the radio. There is something about the Indian drums that is mysterious and addictive, and oddly relaxing. It would be a whole new experience to hear it in India.

The rest of my list, in no particular order, are some of the other things I would like to do.

3. See Phinnaeus and Marigold graduate from university. That would be wonderful.

4. Attend an Academy Award ceremony.

5. Have a complete makover.

6. Learn to speak Russian.

7. Visit Russia.

8. Write a short story.

9. Do a painting that someone would think was good enough to buy.

10. Take an ocean liner across the Pacific Ocean. (I know, I know ... they don't exist anymore. How sad.)

It was very difficult narrowing my list down to just ten. I could easily stretch it beyond 100. What would be your top ten?

While Rome Burns...

Anyone who knows me, knows I have never cared for Obama. I have always been suspicious about his motives for being President, suspecting that he prefers being a celebrity rather than being President of the United States. I was never impressed with his speechifying -- his words are like pretty bubbles that float up into the air and have no substance. As a Canadian, I am not invested in what he has to say, and his promises of "hope" and "change" do not affect me. Unfortunately my opinions of Obama have caused me some difficulty with the Obamamaniacs on both sides of the border, but whether it is a blessing or a curse, I am often able to see people as they really are. I was right about the disengenuous John Edwards, when he was still the front runner for the Democratic nomination, and I feel very strongly that I am right about Obama too. Obama is fiddling while Rome burns.

I sometimes feel like the small child in Hans Christian Anderson's story about yet another legendary emperor; as his procession passes by the child yells, "The emperor is naked!" No one wants to hear it, because it does not admit failure on the part of Obama, but rather on the people who elected him in good faith. (And no, I am not a Republican, or the Canadian equivalent...)

One of Obama's campaign promises was, "I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500 a year." The main part of that promise was the public option, which was shot down yesterday, and so far it looks as if Obama is missing in action. He seems to be more interested in campaigning for the 2016 Chicago Olympics rather than being a strong President and fighting for something for which the American people elected him. It looks as if the health care reform in the U.S. will end up being more like insurance company reform, with the insurance companies monitoring themselves. It's all about business and profits, and nothing to do with health care.

I read the following on a blog the other day, "There are other insufficiently addressed problems with unionized government workers providing healthcare. Some of it has been quite forcefully said: chances of survival of cancers and other life-threatening diseases are much greater in the U.S., than, say, in England or Canada, where rationing plays the main role in holding down costs. That is to say, some of healthcare savings may be paid for with higher mortality." That is complete bullsh*t -- pardonnez mon français. I work in the health care system, and there is no rationing in Canada. Ever. Is that that sort of nonsense upon which people have based their decisions?

Everyone loves Americans, and it's really sad to see them being jerked around this way. They elected a President to represent their interests, and that is not happening. Polls have suggested that anywhere from 65% to 76% of Americans want the public option in their health care reform. Canada has a population of 33.7 million people, all with universal health care. France has a population of 65 million, all with universal health care. America has a population of over 305 million, and a huge percentage of them -- larger than the whole population of Canada -- have no health care coverage at all. Another large percentage, greater than the population of France, have less than substantial health care coverage.

American folks need to hold Obama's feet to the fire. The first thing they need to do is to get a large bowl of popcorn, sit down for an hour and a half and watch Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko". Love him or hate him, Moore's movie on health care in other countries will be a real eye-opener. Health care should be about helping people who are ill, not about making a profit from them.

The rest of the world all hopes the best for the American people, and at the very least they deserve an effective President. Obama needs to show some leadership, and have a "stern chat" with the five of his fellow-Democrats who voted down the public option. I do hope Obama will prove me wrong, but I have my doubts...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Warning ... Adult Content ;-)

When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, I used to love camping. My friends and I would pitch a tent and set up camp right at this spot, the Little Qualicum River Estuary, where the Little Qualicum River flows into the ocean. My friend's father owned property there, and we would set up camp for the whole summer. One summer Roy Orbison gave a concert in a town a few miles away. My friend and I hitch-hiked to the concert, got into the concert for free, and got free rides home afterwards. Oh, to be 17 again.

Camping was great fun, and we had our camp set up like pioneers. We bathed and washed our hair and our clothing in the river. We cooked over a camp fire and slept peacefully every night in our sleeping bags, after a day of swimming and hiking. After a while, living outdoors became almost second nature. We wanted for nothing, we had everything we needed -- we thought. Today my cousin George sent me a picture of the latest in camping equipment. Just when folks thought they had everything for the great outdoors, et voila!

The Rain In Spain Stays Mainly In ... Vancouver

Right on cue, the weather here in Vancouver has turned to a rainy, blustery fall, and I love it. Ever since I was a little girl I have always enjoyed dark, rainy days. They rejuvenate me. I remember in grade one or two, looking out the window at the leaves blowing around, and the rain pelting down, and feeling cozy and sort of anchored, in a way. I suppose it's whatever we get used to in our lives, but some of my best days have been dark, rainy days. I have more energy when it's raining, and I am more creative on rainy days.

Ray Bradbury once wrote a short story called "All Summer in a Day" about a group of children who lived on a planet where the sun came out only once every seven years, and only for two hours. The story was about a little girl named Margot who waited and waited for that day, but the other children locked her in a closet and forgot about her, and she missed the two hours of sunshine.


"She's still in the closet where we locked her."

They stood as if someone had driven them, like so many stakes, into the floor. They looked at each other and then looked away. They glanced out at the world that was raining now and raining and raining steadily. They could not meet each other's glances. Their faces were solemn and pale. They looked at their hands and feet, their faces down.
One of the girls said, "Well . . .?"
No one moved.
"Go on," whispered the girl.
They walked slowly down the hall in the sound of the cold rain. They turned through the doorway to the room in the sound of the storm and thunder, lightning on their faces, blue and terrible. They walked over to the closet door slowly and stood by it. Behind the closed door was only silence. They unlocked the door, even more slowly, and let Margot out.

Well, I don't miss the 110 degree Fahrenheit temperatures we had this summer. I love the rain. Bring it on -- I'm ready for it with my yellow rain slicker, my yellow puddle jumpers and my yellow umbrella with the blue flowers. I have been busy with other things and so I have been absent from my computer for a few days, and I haven't had a chance to visit all of my favorite blogs, but I will be over to visit you soon. In the meantime, here is a little video I took of the rain this morning. Welcome to Vancouver.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It...

Thank you, everyone, for all your wonderful, thoughful comments on my post about Robert. The work-related situation has indeed been stressful, and I have been a bit depressed bummed out about certain things over which I am powerless. As my mother would say, "This too shall pass..." I think people can deal with almost anything in life, and trust me, I have had to deal with some things -- but negativity is always demoralizing. Negativity negates everything we are and everything we do. It goes the core of our very beings.

I once had a friend who could see only the good in people. A person could be the worst good-for-nothing reprobate, and my friend would say something like, "Gosh, did you ever notice how 'So-and-So' is very kind to small animals?" My friend was able to bring out the best in everyone he met, just by looking for the positive attributes in them. It's a gift. And in the alternative, when we are constantly on the receiving end of negativity, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We turn inward, and start to see ourselves in a negative light, and we cannot do anything right. I'm sure we have all felt that way at some time or another. There should be a special place in the ninth circle of hell for individuals who make other people feel that way. No one has that right, no matter who they are.

So, I could use some laughter today. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me a joke. I know you know some -- in fact, I'll bet you know some great ones. Laugher is the best medicine, so let's have a chuckle.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lack of Compassion, A Cautionary Tale

I have found lately that the world has become a very hard place. In all the necessity to multi-task, perform and produce beyond our abilities, and work outside the box -- a term I loathe -- we exert ourselves in order to prove our worth to the organization, but we have lost our humanity. We are beginning to bear more than a passing resemblance to the Deltas and Epsilons in "Brave New World". We are expected to be robotic, and not have lives outside of work, or -- God forbid -- human feelings.

Yesterday, a young man with whom I have worked for several years, stood up, put his access pass on his boss's desk, and walked out of the office. He had had enough, and in my heart I cheered for him. The young man, Robert* (*not his real name) had given his notice to quit a couple of weeks ago, and had been planning to go back to school. Just hours after he gave his notice, his father died. His father had also worked in our organization as a physician, and was loved and respected by everyone. Last weekend was his memorial service, and everyone turned out to pay their respects. As a result of his father's death, Robert felt a bit lost and decided going back to school at this time was more than he could handle. He approached his boss and asked if he could retract his notice to quit. After all, no one else had been hired for the job yet, in fact it had not even been posted. Robert's boss would have been happy to give him his job back. She likes him, he does a good job, and it would have saved her a lot of effort having to find someone to replace him. But the final word did not rest with her, and a "higher-up" said, "No, Robert could not have his job back."

I often use the phrase, "If I ruled the world..." when I see something with which I do not agree. In this case, if I ruled the world, Robert would have his job back, and he would have the opportunity to grieve his father's death with as little turmoil in his life as possible. But that, unfortunately, was not the case. He was made to serve the rest of his time at the job, in an office where his father also had worked. Robert now had not only lost his father, but he had lost his job, and his connection to his father and the folks who were part of his and his father's lives for such a long time. Can you even imagine the weight of the sorrow Robert is carrying?

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think there was a better way to handle this situation. Robert has worked at the organization for six years. He deserves better; he deserves to be treated like a human being, at the very least.

"When the individual feels, the community reels." Aldous Huxley, "Brave New World".

You must be very careful not to show your humanity; someone may be watching.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Raise A Reader

Yesterdayday was Canada's National Raise-A-Reader Day. Canwest Raise-a-Reader is a national campaign to generate funds for local literacy programs and increase awareness about the importance of encouraging family literacy. The Raise-a-Reader program has raised $12.7 million for literacy beneficiaries across Canada since it began in 2002. Through the volunteer efforts of people across Canada, Raise-a-Reader is able to provide the necessary funding and resources to family literacy programs, libraries and school libraries in the greatest need. ... The CanWest Foundation

I have loved reading ever since I was a little girl, but I haven't had much time to read lately. Work-related issues have been so stressful, I come home from work and collapse in a heap in my big, cozy chair. I have had a couple of books on the go this summer, but I just can't seem to get to them. In fact, I have been too busy to blog, and I noticed my "followers" numbers are steadily decreasing, probably because I have not had a chance to visit anyone.

But in honor of Raise-a-Reader Day, I have a little quiz for everyone. Well, actually I pilfered borrowed it from one of our local newspapers, but I thought it looked interesting. I'll go first.

"What was your favorite book?" "Cannery Row" by John Steinbeck.

"Who was your favorite fictional character?" "Doc", the marine biologist in "Cannery Row", who is one of the most wonderful characters ever written.

"What book are you reading now?" "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" by J. Randy Taraborrelli. It is an unbelievably sad story about a woman who didn't believe in herself.

"Where do you like to read?" In my big, cozy chair, or in bed just before I fall asleep.

"Turn to the last paragraph you read, and type the first two sentences in the second paragraph." Also at this time, Marilyn continued to receive letters from her mother, Gladys, while in England. Gladys seemed somewhat better, judging from one she wrote, dated July 25: "I am very unhappy, daughter. I wish there was some way to join you in England where I am sure we would have a lovely time. May God be with you and may He find a way for us to be together again very soon. Love, Mother."

I have fears that computers, television and video games have taken children away from the world of books. I think it should be essential for all parents to turn off the electronics and encourage their children to read. The world of books is a magical kingdom that nothing else can replace.

The Land Of Ice And Snow .... Not ....!

It is almost October, and here in Vancouver it is 87 degrees Fahrenheit -- as we speak. This is a photograph taken from the Burrard Bridge camera just moments ago. If you look closely, you can see the palm trees swaying in the light breeze. If this keeps up, there won't be any snow for the 2010 Winter Olympics which Vancouver is hosting in February 2010. But, do you hear me complaining? No. My only problem is, I was scheduled to take a vacation next week, and I have had to cancel it. That is almost sure to guarantee the weather will continue to be balmy and hot.

INDIAN SUMMER ... Emily Dickinson

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, --
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Off With Her Head...!

Sometimes at work I feel like Alice from "Alice in Wonderland". In our office, we have all the cast of characters: the Mad Hatter is quietly mad; The Queen of Hearts bellows,

"Off with her head...! Off with her head...!"

The White Rabbit runs to and fro, to and fro; the Cheshire Cat sits quietly in a corner, grinning.

Cheshire Cat: "If I were looking for a white rabbit, I'd ask the Mad Hatter."

Alice: "The Mad Hatter? Oh, no no no..."

Cheshire Cat: "Or, you could ask the March Hare, in that direction."

Alice: "Oh, thank you. I think I'll see him..."

Cheshire Cat: "Of course, he's mad, too."

Alice: "But I don't want to go among mad people."

Cheshire Cat: "Oh, you can't help that. Most everyone's mad here. You may have noticed that I'm not all there myself."

Alice: "It was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn't always being ordered about by mice and white rabbits."

Would you please pass me some of that magic mushroom, or maybe the caterpillar might share his hookah pipe? *sigh*

Happy Birthday, Russell...!

Birthday Myspace Graphics

Today is my friend Russell's birthday. Bailey will probably bake him a cake -- chocolate of course. Bailey is rather partial to chocolate cake, even though he knows he's not supposed to eat it. Russell will then have to rush Bailey to the vet. Bailey will then come home and roll in some eau-de-skunk. It will be just another day in the life of Sir Mow-A-Lot and his trusty friend Bailey.

Happy Birthday, Russell...!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lessons In Canuck-Speak

I must say, the more I read about other places in the world, the more partial I am to my funny, idiosyncratic country -- from poutine and beaver tails (don't ask...) to Stompin' Tom Connors. I grew up listening to CBC radio and watching CBC television, and thinking, "What a boring country I live in; nothing ever happens here." But I have come to the conclusion that I rather like it that way. When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was to head for the bright lights of New York City. How exciting it would have been to live in the absolute centre of the world. I have since come to realize, however, that Canada is the centre of the world. Oh, yes it is. We are situated squarely between the old-world, traditional British sense and sensibilities, and the new-world, colorful and brazen jazzy American culture and way of life. Canadians have managed to extract the best of both worlds, and we have added a dash of our own to the mix.

In a few months the world will be coming to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics, so I thought I would give everyone a crash course in speaking and understanding Canuck, otherwise known as Canajun. A couple of months ago I gave you a few examples of Canajun, and here are a few more important terms you will need to know.

Mazkidda: The national insect of Canada. A kind of gnat whose bite causes a prolonged itching sensation. Mzakidda-swatting contests are staged every spring at cottage-opening time.

Horble: Extremely unpleasant, as weather, a noise, mazkiddas, etc.

Gradge: A building for storing or repairing automobiles.

Forner: A non-Canadian. The adjective is Forn.

Chewsdy: The day after Mundy (the day after Sundy).

Tamara: The day after today.

Yesday: The day preceding today.

Inta Resting: Arousing curiosity or attention.

Egg Sellent: Very good, of considerable merit.

Egg Spurt: Someone with special skill or knowledge.

Boddum: The lowest part; the backside. Used as a toast: "Boddum Zup!"

Kenya: Are you able to? As in: "Kenya stop whatcher doon en gimmier hand?" The negative form is Kentcha.

Furn Chur: Movable articles in a room, such as tables, chairs, etc.

Swedder: A knitted woolen garment covering the upper part of the body.

Yaskt: To make all necessary enquiries, to request information, as in: "I'm awfully glad yaskt."

And here is Stompin' Tom Connors with the real national anthem of Canada.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Common Things Being Common...

There have been several theories over the years as to how and why President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and by whom. His political enemies did it ... the Mob did it ... his political enemies and the Mob together did it ... it was a lone gunman ... the lone gunman had an accomplice. The Warren Commission finally put together an 888-page report concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy. This report has been challenged over the years, but never successfully, and the conclusion of the report still stands.

When a famous, larger-than-life American President is assassinated on American soil, people presume -- and in fact, expect -- that there is a larger plan behind it. Conspiracy theories abound. A great man must have been cut down by a great scheme. No one commonplace or ordinary could have plotted such a thing. In Oliver Stone's film "JFK", Stone alleged a cover-up, and if he were to believed, half of the population of the United States was in on JFK's assassination.

A physician I once knew said that one of the first rules in diagnosing a patient is to use the maxim, "Common things being common..." In other words, sometimes the solution to a problem is the most simple and obvious. In the case of the assassination of JFK, it would seem that yet another theory was discovered, one that indeed has been covered up, simply because it was -- common. An interesting article in this month's Vanity Fair makes public that theory, and using the principle of "common things being common" it is the theory that I think is the most believable one so far.

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned author William Manchester to write the official account of Kennedy's assassination. After years of Manchester's investigations and his final manuscript of the book, Jacqueline Kennedy tried to stop it from being published. The book was entitled "The Death of a President", and after initially being published, the book has all but disappeared. The tapes of Manchester's interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy, and others, are kept in a sealed vault in the JFK library, not to be opened until 2067. Here is an excerpt from the magazine article:

"Like many young couples, Oswald and Marina were obsessed with the Kennedys. Priscilla Johnson McMillan, in her fascinating 1977 account of the Oslands, Marina and Lee, reports that Marina's schoolgirl crush on the chestnut-haired president -- her mooning over magazine photographs of Kennedy strolling on the beach in his khaki pants, her insisting that Oswald translate for her any articles about the Kennedys -- was becoming a sore point in their already troubled marriage. "He is very attractive," Marina Oswald told her husband. "I can't say what he is as president, but I mean, as a man." She would flip through the pages of every magazine she could lay her hands on asking "Where's Kennedy? Where's Kennedy?" "

William Manchester concluded that JFK's assassination was the result of a lone gunman, a nondescript man by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald, and he had no grand motives. As Manchester wrote:

"In the end I concluded that the Warren Commission Report was correct on the two main issues. Oswald was the killer, and he had acted alone. ... Those who desperately want to believe that president Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy have my sympathy. I share their yearning -- if you put the murdered President of the United States on one side of a scale and that wretched waif Oswald on the other side, it doesn't balance. You want to add something weightier to Oswald. It would invest the President's death with meaning, endowing him with martyrdom. He would have died for something."

Jacqueline Kennedy agreed with Manchester's assessment, and therefore tried to stop the book from being published. After all the investigations and reports, and all the conspiracy theories and movies, wouldn't it be ironic if indeed the motive for President Kennedy's assassination were not for a great cause, but for something as common and banal as simple jealousy.

Common things being common...

Friday, September 18, 2009

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

Well, here I am on another rant. "Goodness gracious", you're saying, "Doesn't the woman ever give up?" Well, no, not when I'm p*ssed off a little bit angry, as I am now. What does Canada have to do with the U.S. Health Care Reform, and why do so many Americans seem to dislike us so much? A few days ago an individual posted an article by Dick Morris who rebutted Obama's Health care speech. In his rebuttal, Morris said:

"For example, in Canada, the drug Avastin is barred by just such a panel despite its proven track record as the most effective anti-colon cancer drug on the market. The ban is not because of any safety concerns, but solely due to its $50,000 annual cost. As a direct result, 41% of Canadians with colon cancer die as opposed to 32% of Americans. It is just these kinds of “best practices” that the panel will have to impose to pay for Obama’s plan."

Well, the only problem with that is, Avastin was approved for use in Canada several years ago. Take that, Dick Morris.

In an earlier post, the individual at the above-named blog claimed that people with leukemias and lymphomas were basically out of luck in Canada, as we had no treatment program for these folks. The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program in British Columbia is one of the best in the world, and the other day at work we received the following bulletin:

BC Cancer Agency researcher receives award from the American Society of Hematology. Dr. Connie Eaves, vice president, research at the BC Cancer Agency, has been awarded the Henry M. Stratton Medal by the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders. The award honours an individual whose well-recognized contributions to hematology have taken place over a period of several years. Dr. Eaves will receive this award for her remarkable achievements in the area of stem cell biology, especially her ground-breaking techniques of using the long-term culture system as means of understanding the reproductive and renewal properties of normal and malignant human hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells give rise to all the blood cell types.

I cannot tolerate ignorance, which is defined as "the state in which one lacks knowledge, is unaware of something or chooses to subjectively ignore information." Ignorance is like a virus, once it starts to spread it produces more ignorance. In the 21st Century, when information is readily available, there is no need to perpetuate ignorance. It is only when one chooses to ignore the truth that one creates more ignorance. And note the word "ignore" is the root of the word ignorance.

Incidentally, there is a headline on CNN today, from a study done by Harvard Medical School, that 45,000 Americans a year die from treatable diseases such as appendicitis, because they don't have health insurance. That does not happen in Canada, so what am I missing here? Does that go back to the old Cold War principle of, "Better dead than Red?"

One of my favorite lines is from the movie "Bambi", when Bambi is first learning to walk.

Thumper: "He doesn't walk very good, does he?"
Mrs. Rabbit: "Thumper!"
Thumper: "Yes, Mama?"
Mrs. Rabbit: "What did your father tell you this morning?"
Thumper: "If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all."

I wish some folks would keep that in mind.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

One of my favorite things to do as soon as I get home from work is to have a hot, soapy shower and wash off the day. I have all sorts of wonderful Crabtree and Evelyn soap, and it's so refreshing. What could be nicer, right? And what else could make us feel so clean and invigorated than a hot shower, right? Well, it turns out that, according to a recent study done, showerheads are breeding grounds for bacteria that clump together and turn into a spray that soaks and may infect unsuspecting bathers.

Researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder tested water before and after it passed through showerheads in nine cities, including New York, and found that levels of bacteria increased 100-fold on the way out. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The most plentiful microbe found, mycobacterium avium, can cause symptoms similar to tuberculosis, including respiratory problems, fever and fatigue. While the levels are unlikely to harm healthy people, they could pose risks to people with AIDS or weakened immune systems, said Laura Baumgartner, a research fellow.

"It's no more dangerous for the average person than getting out of bed in the morning," Baumgartner said. "But if you're immune-suppressed, with diseases like cystic fibrosis or AIDS, it could be worrisome."

People may minimize the risk, Baumgartner said. One way is to not stand under the shower for the first 30 seconds, while the bacteria are sprayed out. Another is to use all-metal showerheads because plastic seemed to breed more of the bacteria.

Omigoodness, what next?

I once read that Janet Leigh said she was not able to take showers again, after filming the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", the scene frightened her so much. Who would ever have guessed there was more menace coming from the hot, refreshing water than any danger from Norman Bates. I have never been able to watch that scene completely through; I always have to leave the room. And on occasion when I have been in the shower, I have glanced at the shower curtain, and thought ... "What if" ... Well, it turns out that the real danger is the stuff coming out of the shower head, and clinging to the shower curtain, and the tiles, and the bathtub and the bath mat...

Please excuse me while I go and find my bleach.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. McGillicuddy

My daughter doesn't like me doing posts about her or her family, understandably, and she doesn't like me posting pictures. That's fair enough -- this is the Internet. So, without saying too much, and without an identifiable picture (I hope...), today is her birthday so I just wanted to wish her a Happy Birthday.

Mrs. McGillicuddy is, without a doubt, the smartest person I have ever met. On the last day of school in grade two, she came home from school with a little crest with an "M" on it. She wasn't sure what it was for, so I called the principal of the school, and he said, "She deserves a White Spot hamburger and a milk shake today, because she won the award for being the smartest kid in grade two. The "M" stands for merit." It was then that I had a clue that she was quite smart. I called her grandparents to let them know, but of course they weren't surprised at all. She went on all through school to be the in top of her class, and won several scholarships in University. Life was not always easy for her, without a father, but she was very determined.

Mrs. McGillicuddy is also very funny, and a wonderful mimic, and she can do a perfect imitation of a wood bug. Interestingly, her children have both inherited her keen intelligence and sense of humor. You should see Phinnaeus imitate a cheesy 1980s aerobics instructor. It's spot on, and too funny for words. The apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.

So hopefully there is no identifiable information here, and Mrs. McGillicuddy won't shoot me be too cross with me for wishing her Happy Birthday.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Old Farmer's Advice

● Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
● Keep skunks and bankers and lawyers at a distance.
● Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
● A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
● Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled.
● Meanness don't jes' happen overnight.
● Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.
● Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
● It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.
● You cannot unsay a cruel word.
● Every path has a few puddles.
● When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
● The best sermons are lived, not preached.
● Most of the stuff people worry about ain't never gonna happen anyway.
● Don't judge folks by their relatives.
● Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
● Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.
● Don't interfere with somethin' that ain't botherin' you none.
● Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
● If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.
● Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
● The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'.
● Always drink upstream from the herd.
● Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
● Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.
● If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
● Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

My personal favorite is from my good friend Russell over there in Iowa farm country, "You can't unring a bell".

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Want A Giggle?

I actually read the following excerpt on a blog today. It was written by an American medical doctor named Jory F. Goodman, M.D. He practices in Beverly Hills and specializes in psychiatry, neuropsychiatry and psychopharmacology. Well, it sounds like he's practicing in the right place, anyway.

Canada, France, Italy, the UK, you name it, any place where there is a national health system, government run, tells the pharmaceutical companies how much they will pay for which medications (and keep in mind that in many places the latest and best treatments are simply not available unless you have private insurance or a great deal of money). So, for example, Canada buys so many doses of an antidepressant or an anticancer drug way below market value. If they run out after eight months it’s tough luck for the patients there. Of course you have never heard of this from the mainstream media, the politicians or the left-wing activists who want socialized medicine.

This man has a licence to practice medicine? Do any of you folks who live in the United States actually believe this stuff? I have never heard such nonsense, and I have never heard of a patient not being given medications because the pharmacy "ran out".

Americans seem to have such a strange view of Canadians, it makes me wonder... Well, anyway, this little video will tell you more about Canadians than you ever wanted to know. Ya gotta laugh.

My name is Jo, and I am Canadian.

Separated At Birth

I work with a young woman who I think bears a strong resemblance to Kate Bekinsale. I asked her if I could do a post about her as long as I didn't divulge her name, and she said, "Sure". So, with her permission, I will tell you a little bit about my friend Amy* (*not her real name).You know how there are some people you meet that just have something unique, sort of a "cut above" all the rest, as it were? I guess in some circles it might be called "star quality", or as the French say, "je ne sais quoi" which literally means, "I don't know what..." Amy has that. She's extremely bright, and I keep encouraging her to go back to school and get her university degree. I believe it's very important for everyone, especially those folks who have potential. I encouraged my daughter when she was growing up, and now she has her Master's Degree. I think Amy has the same potential. So, if you're reading this, Amy, here I go again, nag, nag, nag.

Amy and I provide comic relief for each other in an otherwise very stressful environment. She and I both observe the same ridiculous things going on around us, and are able to have a good laugh occasionally. As in any work environment, there is the usual cast of characters, and true to form, most of them provide a certain degree of entertainment.

"Did you see her shoes...!?"

"Yes, how does she walk in them?"

A few years ago, Amy applied to be a contestant on "Deal or No Deal" with Howie Mandel (who, by the way, is Canadian), but the silly producers didn't choose her. What were they thinking? But if Amy had been chosen, she wanted me to be one of her backup cheerleaders. Oh, goodness, wouldn't that have been a hoot. "Take the deal, Amy...! Take the deal...!" It would have been too much fun.

Well, anyway, I think Amy is a young woman with a future, but the key is education, education, education. Study hard, get that degree -- it's the key to almost everything in life.

Convince Me...

My little treehouse is very small, so I have to use furniture that is "light" in order to give the illusion of more space. I have a glass dining room table, and several pieces of wicker, to let the light through and to give a visual effect of airiness. I have some other pieces of furniture, as well, that are so ancient old that they have officially become antiques, but they are well-made, good pieces, including a couple of pieces from New England and Quebec. There are no staples or particle boards in any of them. But I must admit, it has been a very long time since I have bought anything new.

I need a new casual chair for a space in front of my sliding glass doors that open onto the terrace. I have been considering a wicker chair so it has the same feeling of airiness, and doesn't block the view of the trees. I finally found this one - on sale - at Pier One Imports. I saw it online, and I found it at one of our local stores yesterday. It's perfect, and I have the equally perfect cushions to put on it. But now I am trying to convince myself to go back and actually buy it. Should I? Should I? I just need to be persuaded. So, folks, convince me. Then, if I feel guilty, I can blame you. "They made me do it..."

Well, thank you everyone for convincing me. I actually found a chair that I like even better than the first one -- even though it was slightly more expensive -- because it has a lovely inclining back. (You can click on the picture for a better view). It is now safely in my home, basking in the sunshine, and I am very soon to curl up in it with a good book. For some strange reason, it is the endless summer here in the Great White North Lotusland, and it's almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit today. But who's complaining!? You won't hear me complaining. No, siree. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Secret Revealed

Can someone please tell me why these people are famous? I don't understand it, and I really would like someone to explain it to me. Why are they famous? Is it because of their astonishing beauty and grace? Did they discover a cure for cancer? Have they written a Pulitzer prize-winning novel? Have they drafted a Peace Accord that will establish world peace?

Oh, I know...! I know...! They discovered how Cadbury's gets the caramel into its Caramilk bar. That's it, right? Oh, wait, that's only in Canada. They've probably never had a Caramilk bar. Okay, I give up. Why are these two bland, cranky, boring completely nondescript, average people so famous? And rich. Famous and rich.

I need a Caramilk bar, and I need it now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Greatest Canadian

Thomas Clement Douglas was voted "The Greatest Canadian" of all time in a nationally televised contest organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2004. Tommy Douglas started his career as a lightweight boxer, and in 1922 he won the title of Lightweight Champion of Manitoba. He won the title again the following year. He had a Master's Degree in Sociology from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and later continued his graduate studies in Chicago. Following his studies, he became a Baptist minister in Saskatchewan, and in 1935 he was elected to the Federal Canadian House of Commons. He then went on to become the Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan.

"Well ... *Yawn* ... you say. So far, pretty dull".

Well, okay, yes. But wait ... there's more.

Many of you may not recognize his name, but Tommy Douglas was Donald Sutherland's father-in-law, and Keifer Sutherland's ("24") grandfather, and I'm sure you have all heard of Donald and Keifer Sutherland. Keifer bears more than a passing resemblance to his grandfather, Tommy Douglas. And yes, Donald and Keifer Sutherland are both good old Canadian boys, kind of like Bob and Doug McKenzie. My father was a big fan of Donald Sutherland, and he was an even bigger fan of Tommy Douglas. He used to call him "the tough little bantam chicken".

During Tommy Douglas' first term in office, his government enacted innovative legislation, most of which I will not bore you with here, except for passage of the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, which preceded the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations by 18 months.

In the summer of 1962, Saskatchewan became the centre of a hard-fought struggle between the provincial government, the North American medical establishment, and the province's physicians, who brought things to a halt with the 1962 Saskatchewan Doctors' Strike. The doctors believed their best interests were not being met and feared a significant loss of income as well as government interference in medical care decisions even though Douglas agreed that his government would pay the going rate for service that doctors charged. The medical establishment claimed that Douglas would import foreign doctors to make his plan work and used racist images to try to scare the public. In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Emmett Hall, Chair of a Royal Commission on the national health system, recommended the nationwide adoption of Saskatchewan's model of public health insurance. In 1966, the Liberal minority government of Lester B. Pearson created such a program, with the federal government paying 50% of the costs and the provinces the other half. ... Wikipedia

It is for this that Canadians voted Tommy Douglas "The Greatest Canadian". Given all the choices, and there were hundreds initially, which were whittled down to 50 and then to ten, Tommy Douglas was chosen by Canadians over all the other contestants as "The Greatest Canadian" for his establishment of socialized health care in Canada.

The top ten were:

1. Tommy Douglas (father of socialized health care, Premier of Saskatchewan)
2. Terry Fox (athlete, activist, humanitarian)
3. Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister)
4. Sir Frederick Banting (medical scientist, co-discoverer of insulin, Nobel Medicine Prize Laureate)
5. David Suzuki (geneticist, environmentalist, broadcaster, activist)
6. Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister, former United Nations General Assembly President, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
7. Don Cherry (hockey coach, commentator)
8. Sir John A. Macdonald (First post-Confederation Prime Minister)
9. Alexander Graham Bell (Scottish-born scientist, inventor, founder of the Bell Telephone Company, which later became the American Telephone and Telegraph Company)
10.Wayne Gretzky (hockey player)

Neither Céline Dion (thank God) nor Jim Carrey even made the top ten. You will notice that the list contains two Nobel Laureates, however.

Tommy Douglas one famously said, "I don't mind being a symbol but I don't want to become a monument. There are monuments all over the Parliament Buildings and I've seen what the pigeons do to them."

He also said, “Courage my friends, it’s never too late to make the world a better place.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Socialism ... Or Society?

La Grande Famille
René Magritte

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
... John Donne

I am definitely not a socialist -- at least I don't think I am. Canada is not a democracy in the strictest sense of the word, but rather can be aptly described as a Constitutional Monarchy. The highest ranking official in government is not an elected representative, not even a Canadian (residing in or born in), but rather an un-elected British monarch. The United States does have an elected head of state, yet it too, is not a democracy in strictest sense of the word. Rather, the US can best be designated as a Republic. Both countries are democratic in that the will of the people is exercised by elected officials. ... United North America

Since I am neither an economist nor a political scientist, I don't fully understand the difference between socialism, communism and democracy. I hear the words being thrown around all the time, and some of the words have a negative connotation to them. Socialism loosely means "something for everyone in a society". When you really think about it, is that so wrong? We all live in social networks, whether it is online (Twitter, Facebook, Blogger ... ) or the social networks in our real worlds. Our social networks are designed so that we support each other. We are all part of the whole.

John F. Kennedy once famously said, "To those whom much is given, much is expected." That is the whole premise of a socialist society. I think we need to take the sting out of the word socialism and call it something else -- humanism, perhaps, but I think that is already taken, and has an entirely different meaning.

What is wrong with everyone in a society looking out for each other? Doesn't that make people feel more safe, more connected to the whole? Socialized health care is criticized, but health care is one thing that should be socialized -- the emphasis should be on the care. Why would a society be afraid to take care of its weakest members. It doesn't make sense to me. Don't forget -- everyone gets a turn.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Koda and Kale

I can't think of any closer relationship than between a child and a dog. It's almost as if they are two parts of the whole. When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, we had an assortment of dogs -- Scottish terriers, golden labs, golden retrievers, and one dog in particular, a border collie named Sporty, who once saved me from drowning. I slipped on the mossy rocks next to a creek, and Sporty held my head out of the water by my blouse collar until someone could rescue me. I believe dogs are much more intelligent than people realize, and they have a sense of understanding that is deeper than we appreciate. I read a story in our local newspaper this week that confirmed what I believe about dogs. Here is the story, courtesy of the Globe and Mail.

When a young British Columbia family stopped to make camp in the Yukon wilderness they were surprised to see a scruffy dog that looked a bit like a coyote come out of the bush. They saw the mongrel had porcupine quills sticking out of its face and tried to help, not knowing that a simple act of kindness would be repaid in the most remarkable way – with the deliverance of their son from a life-threatening ordeal.

Two-year-old Kale disappeared into the bush wearing only a T-shirt on a cool and rainy night late last week. More than 24 hours later, search-and-rescue authorities found him alive, thanks in part to Koda, the yellow mutt with the quill-covered snout who protected the toddler and kept him warm overnight.

“A bear could have got him. Anything could have happened," said Mike Bondarchuk, a local hotel owner who volunteered in the search for Kale.
“What we do know is the dog stuck with him, all night and all the next day."

Kale and Koda will now be able to stick together for good – Koda's owner has given the dog to the toddler's family. “He was meant to be there at that time," said Kim Dolan, the owner of Koda, who had been missing for about a week before meeting the boy. “It was tough to give him away. I was in tears … but it was the right thing to do," she said.

I think she can rest assured that Koda will be well-loved by a little boy named Kale.

School's Back...

Tomorrow is the first day back to school for most of the children here in Canada. I still feel the excitement of it, even though it has been a few years since I went to school. It's a big day -- seeing friends again, finding your new classroom and your new teacher. Will you be stuck with Mr. Grumplemeyer again this year? Will your best friend be in your class again? Sometimes it's hard to get to sleep the night before.

"Will everyone like my new school clothes? Will I look cool?"

Unfortunately, every year some little tyke is hit by a car on the first day of school. Children under the age of eight years-old cannot judge the speed of a car. They see the color first, before they can assess how close it is or how fast it's going. Also, their field of vision is one-third less than an adult's. So it's up to the big people to watch out for the little people. I often see yahoos adults speeding through a school area, and I just want to smack them up the side of the head. "Slow down, you moron...!" So, everyone, please remember to watch out for all the excited little kids heading back to school tomorrow. They might not always be watching for you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Exercise Won't Make You Thin

While it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger, reports. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder. ... Time Magazine

Well, that's good to know. Now we learn we can sit around all day, play at the computer, watch TV, read, and still lose weight. Oh, goodness, where do they come up with these silly ideas? But I do think, sometimes, that people are fighting a losing battle. We are all genetically different.

The female body is classified in four body shapes -- "banana", "apple", "pear" or "hourglass". A study of over 6,000 women carried out in 2005 found that almost 51% of the women were banana, 23% pear, 16% apple, and 10% hourglass. Another study has found "that the average woman's waistline had expanded by six inches since the 1950s" and that today women are taller and have bigger busts and hips than those of the 1950s. So women are dieting and exercising themselves into shapes that are unnatural to them. The hourglass shape is the most desirable shape, and yet only 10% of all women have a natural hourglass shape. How many of you recognize your shape in this picture, and how many try -- unsuccessfully -- to morph it into one of the other shapes, through exercise?

I would love to be tall and willowy. Tall women always seem to be smarter, more capable, more talented -- everything -- than shorter women. It's true. The shorter women struggle more to be seen and heard, "Over here, over here; me ... me ...!" We can't change our height, and for the most part we cannot change our body type. Diet and exercise won't change us from a banana into an hourglass, or an apple into a pear. We can eat healthy food, get fresh air and aerobic exercise such as walking or playing sports that we enjoy, and let the potato chips fall where they may. And occasionally we should curl up with a good book, exercise our mind, and stop fretting about the fact that we may not be perfect, as most of us aren't.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Forgiveness and Compassion

Flowers in a Vase
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I think most people struggle with the concept of forgiveness. It doesn't come easily to many of us. It is somehow contrary to human nature. Often our first instinct in retaliation for a wrong against us is to get revenge. "Just you wait...!" Compassion, however, is entrenched in human nature, and most people -- unless they are psychopathic or sociopathic -- feel deep compassion for our fellow human beings or other creatures who are in distress. People will rush to the aid of strangers, and even put themselves into danger to ease someone else's suffering. However, when forgiveness and compassion are two sides of the same coin, it becomes complicated.

Forty years ago, during the infamous "Manson murders", 21 year-old Susan Atkins stabbed 26 year-old Sharon Tate to death, as Tate begged for her life and that of her unborn baby. Susan Atkins told Sharon Tate that she had no compassion for her, and proceeded to stab her 16 times. These were two young women in their 20s, they had never met each other before that night, and the act of violence perpetrated by one young woman on the other is inconceivable to most of us. And now it is Susan Atkins' turn to beg for compassion. Yesterday her plea for compassionate release from prison was denied. She is bed-ridden and dying from terminal brain cancer, and she is not likely to be a threat to the community. But, here is where the concept of forgiveness comes into play. How many people would be able to forgive Susan Atkins for what she did, and thereby show compassion towards her? I have thought about this over the past day or so, and I struggle with it. If I were on that parole board, what would I do? Forgiveness and compassion -- two similar but different concepts -- what would you do?

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Today is the anniversary of my father's death, and it is always a difficult day for me. My father was my Rock of Gibraltar, and ever since he died, I have always felt slightly less anchored to the earth. I remember the day after he died, I thought, "This is the first day of my life without my father, and nothing will ever be right again," and it never really was. I was only 31 when he died, and I thought he would be in my life for a lot longer. My happiest memory is of the two of us, sitting on the banks of the Somass River on a bright summer afternoon, talking about all the important things in life. I was only four years old, but my father listened to me as though I were an adult. To him, nothing I said was childish, and he took me very seriously, even though he always called me "Kidlet". I felt he was the only person in the world who really knew me. I have rarely had that connection with any other human being.

My father was sort of an early-era hippie. He was well-educated, he was a Chartered Accountant, an accomplished pianist, a keen outdoorsman and an avid reader. He had a wonderful library of books, and when I was very young I would browse through them, and get lost in "The England of Elizabeth" about Queen Elizabeth 1, or I would lie on the lawn in the backyard reading "The Collected Works of W. Somerset Maugham". My father introduced me to "The New Yorker Magazine" and all the wonderful writers in it -- James Thurber, Philip Roth, John Updike, John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov, Raold Dahl -- so many more.

My father decided, after practicing as a C.A. for a few years, that he was becoming desk-bound, so he uprooted himself, his wife and his oldest son and moved to Vancouver Island -- God's Little Acre, as he called it. He loved the outdoors, and he taught us to love the outdoors as well -- swimming, hiking, fishing. He taught us to feed the whiskey jacks out of our hands, and where to pick the best wild blackberries -- before the bears got them.

My dad had flaming red hair and his nickname was "Red" -- naturally -- and he had a temper to match. He had an innate sense of right and wrong. How often I heard him say, "Well, that's just not right!" He believed everyone had an inner compass that could detect right from wrong. If one of his children got into trouble for something, we could be reduced to rubble by my father yelling at us, "You bloody well know the difference between right and wrong, and what you did was wrong!" We never repeated that particular transgression again.

My father could also size someone up in less than 60 seconds, and he was always correct. It was uncanny. There are certain people in this world with whom there is no subterfuge. What you see is what you get. My father was one of those people. It would not occur to him to be otherwise. A person always knew where they stood with Red, and people liked him for that. Whenever my parents entertained their friends for the evening, and they were going to be serving drinks, my father would take the bottle of Canadian Rye Whiskey, or Vodka -- or whatever it was -- out of the liquor cabinet before his friends arrived. I once asked him why he did that, and he said it was just "good manners to know beforehand which drinks and even which brands our guests preferred, and to have it out ready for them rather than to take it out in their presence". It took me a long time to understand and appreciate the nuance of being that gracious a host.

I think a lot of the rough patches in my life might have been a bit easier if my dad had been around a bit longer. Occasionally when I am feeling low about anything in life, I think about my father, and the fact that he liked me. He approved of me, and his approval meant a lot, and still means a lot to me. And it's very strange, but I still feel that connection with him.

Not Just Another Pretty Face...

A harbour seal leapt from the water and dragged a five-year-old girl off a dock at a marina in West Vancouver on Tuesday, according to the child's father. Mike Cunning said he was cleaning fish at the Thunderbird Marina on Marine Drive, just east of Horseshoe Bay, when he heard a splash. (CBC News)

"And I looked over and my daughter had disappeared, and I thought, well, Caleigh has fallen into the water. She has her life jacket on, so she'll just pop back up to the surface," Cunning said. But it was few seconds before his daughter surfaced about two metres from where she fell in.

"When she popped to the surface, she said, 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, the seal!' and I said, 'What?'" he said.

A neighbour on a nearby boat then told Cunning a seal had jumped out of the water and pulled Caleigh from the dock.

"This thing must have taken a running start to be able to launch itself four feet out of the water, grab a 50-pound five-year-old and then drag her underneath the water with a life-jacket on," Cunning said.

He initially thought his daughter's hand was broken because it was badly swollen and bleeding with four large puncture wounds at the base of her wrist. The little girl was traumatized and taken to the hospital to be treated for the puncture wounds, but is otherwise OK, Cunning said. Caleigh had been feeding the seals at the fish cleaning station earlier in the day, and Cunning said that's why he suspects it attacked his daughter.

After the incident, she told her father she thought it was very rude of the seal not to ask if she wanted to go for a swim, and she doesn't want to feed the seal or be its friend anymore. Cunning said he has heard of seals attacking small dogs on leashes and dragging them into the water to eat them, but never attacking a child.

"Thank God she had the life-jacket on. I can't imagine what would have happened," he said.

Harbour seals can reach up to 1.8 metres in length and 130 kilograms, and are considered curious and intelligent. Their normal diet is mostly fish and shellfish. ...

... and little girls.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

All's Well That Ends

Every once in a while something happens that reminds us perhaps we're not so bad after all. My next door neighbour, Amy (*not her real name), who is a member of the Strata Council, had been away on vacation during all this scandalous business with my birdhouse. As soon as she came home and heard what had happened to me, she resigned from the Strata Council. In her resignation she said to them:

"I've known Jo for almost 12 years, she has always been a great neighbor and a wonderful friend. When the council, in their stupidity, almost chopped the cherry trees down five years ago, Jo saved them. She has always been here to help folks when they need help. This is a not just a building, it is a community of people. We don't treat our neighbors like that, and we certainly don't treat our friends like that...!"



Every once in a while, things sort of work out as they should, don't they?

The Mandelbrot Set

The Mandelbrot set, named after Benoit Mandelbrot, is a fractal. Fractals are objects that display similarity to the original shape at various scales. In other words, if you magnify a fractal, it seems to be duplicating itself. The process of generating a fractal is based on an extremely simple equation involving complex numbers. That’s about as much as I understand about the Mandelbrot set. Most of you probably understand more about fractals and the Mandelbrot Set than I do. No one could ever mistake me for a mathematician. I am fascinated, though, with the shapes that fractals produce, and the thing that amazes me is how the Mandelbrot set resembles a human figure.

I have always loved finding shapes in other shapes. I never just look at a tree or a flower, or a chair. I find other shapes within the shapes of those objects. Art and mathematics are two sides of the same coin, and mathematics is at the heart of all beauty. The eye likes symmetry, even in chaos, and a mathematically correct picture will be more pleasing to the eye than one that is not. Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Rembrandt -- all different styles -- but all mathematically correct. And Mozart’s music is said to be mathematically perfect, and therefore beautiful to the ear.

Looking at this strange little video always gives me goose bumps. It’s like looking into the eye of God at the moment of creation. As you can see in this video, these exquisite, intricate shapes are made by mathematical equations. After first seeing this a few years ago, I was never able to look at shapes the same way again. The next time you are out for a stroll in the forest, take a look at the shapes of the ferns growing along the path, and you will see fractals. Or gaze closely at a perfect daisy, and you will see the mathematical equations that created it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Musings On A September Morning

Jeune fille au chien
Berthe Morisot

I have a wonderful calendar of Impressionist paintings, and this is the painting for September. It fits, somehow. The colors and the pensive expression of the young woman. Summer has gone, and another season will be starting soon. I love autumn, and my favorite flowers are autumn flowers -- Dahlias, Asters, Black-eyed Susans. Soon the leaves will begin to change, and nature will put on a riotous display of color. My life has been sort of strange lately, as I sit and watch the lives of others around me -- achievements, new loves, lost loves, accomplishments, new houses purchased, careers changed. I have sometimes described my life as being "outside the candy store" watching everyone inside. It's as if there is a glass wall between me and all the people who are participating. But I do have a special friend who can make me laugh more than anyone has ever made me laugh.

Jeune femme en toilette de bal
Berthe Morisot

Last night I had the strangest dream that everyone was going to a fancy-dress ball. All the women were in their beautiful ball gowns, the men in their tuxedos. I sat and watched everyone getting ready, but I was not able to go. I remember looking at Tori Spelling's dress, thinking how lovely it was. Oh, yes Tori Spelling was there -- don't ask me why -- but she had the most beautiful dress. As everyone danced off to the ball, I sat and watched them thinking, "Oh, yes..." I woke up laughing. How on earth did Tori Spelling get into my dream?

September is really the beginning of the new year, and it calls for a new wardrobe. This weekend I am going to hit the malls and buy myself something new. Maybe I'll even buy myself a ball gown -- just in case.