Thursday, July 28, 2011

PSSST...! Mister, Ya Got A Lightbulb You Can Spare...?

There is nothing more cozy than the glow of a soft table lamp lighting up a corner of a room. I have several of them throughout my house, and I never use more than a 60 watt bulb. I have two lamps in my bedroom and they both have 40 watt bulbs. It's enough light to read, and if I should fall asleep, they don't keep me awake. I have always loved lamps. Books, pictures and lamps are a home decorator's best friend.

Now we are being told by the environmental Nazis government that we can no longer use the soft glowing incandescent light bulbs, but instead must switch to these ghastly compact fluorescent bulbs. "The federal government will ban the sale of inefficient light bulbs by 2012 in a move to reduce energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gases, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said Wednesday. Lunn said the ban would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than six million tonnes a year, saving homeowners about $60 annually in electricity costs. Only the 75-watt and 100-watt incandescents are banned for now, although the less popular 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs are expected to come under the ban by 2012. Stores are not permitted to order more once supplies run out. British Columbia — the only province in Canada that has a ban on incandescent bulbs — plans to introduce similar restrictions on 40W and 60W incandescent bulbs starting Dec. 31, 2012." ~~ CBC News

As it turns out, CFLs have their problems as well, and in fact may be dangerous if they are broken or are not properly discarded, and can release harmful mercury into landfills and watersheds. Oh, good...

We have turned our cities into a ghastly shade of orange with the sodium vapour street lights, and now we will be turning our homes into fluorescent hell. What effect will this have on us psychologically? Canada lives in near darkness for much of the year. Our daylight hours are short, and we rely on artificial light. Light has a huge influence on our psychological well-being. Orange cities, fluorescent homes ~~ how long will it be before we go stark raving mad?

Apparently folks have been hoarding the traditional incandescent light bulbs, and I'm one of those folks. Every time I go into a supermarket, a drug store or a hardware store, I load up my cart.

I believe we have a say in how much of our standard of living is dictated to us. This draconian law of telling us we can no longer use incandescent light bulbs is going too far. Not enough research has been done on the effects of CFLs on people and their home environment.

I'm off shopping today, folks.  If you see a woman carrying a huge tote bag of light bulbs, stop and say hello.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Katherine Johanna and Thomas Edward

These are my grandparents. Like every little kid, I adored my grandparents. Granny always smelled of raspberry jam, and gave me big, smothering, hugs. Granddad always smelled of pipe smoke, and was very stern, but I learned a lot of things from him. They ended up in Canada eventually, by an interesting circuitous route. My grandmother was born and raised in South Africa and her family owned a vineyard in the Paarl Valley. She was a descendent of the original Huguenots who fled from Provence, France, and took cuttings of their vineyards with them. Her family was successful in South Africa, and she grew up very much a young woman of privilege. But she had a wonderful sense of humour and a great laugh. She would laugh at her own jokes, and slap her knee when she did it. She was wonderful.

My grandfather was in the British Army, and he went to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. He also had grown up in a family of privilege in Yorkshire, England, and was well-educated and a great rugby player. He had a silver whistle which I recently gave to Phinnaeus, when Phinnaeus became a soccer referee. He says when he blows that whistle, you can hear it for two miles. My grandfather taught my brothers to play chess, and he had a silver flute which he used to play in the evenings at sunset. Whenever I visited my grandparents, I used to drift off to sleep to the sound of my grandfather's silver flute playing softly in the background. To me, my grandparents were larger than life, and they were like no one else I had ever known. They talked about far-away places and magical things that I could never even imagine in my wildest dreams.

When they passed away, they were buried side-by-side under a beautiful tree, in a cemetery here in the Lower Mainland. Today I received a phone call from Phinnaeus, asking me exactly where they were. Well, I must confess I have never been there, and I thought it was a strange request, but I told him which cemetery it was and how to find it. A couple of hours later, he called me to say that he had found their final resting places, under the beautiful old tree, at the top of a hill. They they were ~~ Katherine Johanna and Thomas Edward. He said they had lovely headstones.

It gave me the most amazing feeling that I cannot describe, to know that Phinnaeus had visited his great-great-grandparents. It was as if there were a silver thread of continuity from my grandparents to my grandson, and in a strange way it made me feel complete. Phinnaeus has been going through some of the usual struggles of a 15 year-old lately, searching for his own identity, and there occasionally are some rocky patches on his journey, but I was touched that he took the time to pay respect to two people who are very much a part of the identity that he is seeking.

Phinnaeus has promised to show me my grandparents' final resting place. Maybe we'll take the silver whistle and give it a good, loud toot for the Captain and Katherine.

Typhoid Mary...

Evocation of Butterflies
Odilon Redon

This gorgeous painting has nothing to do with my post; I just love butterflies, and Odilon Redon is my favourite artist, so I wanted to share this with you.  I suppose you have been wondering (or perhaps you have not been wondering) where I have been for the past several days.  Well, I'll tell you.  Typhoid Mary came to work and spread a really nasty upper respiratory tract infection amongst all her co-workers, and I managed to catch it.  We work in an organization that actually gives seminars on how to wash hands and avoid infection.  We are told that if we are sick, to stay home.  Of course, Typhoid Mary shared her nasty little bug with us, coughing and hacking all over the office, and when we told her to go home she said, "Oh, but I have too much work to do..."  In the meantime, her colleagues were dropping like flies. Of course, it would never occur to Typhoid Mary to cover her mouth when she coughs or sneezes. Goodness, no...

The irony is, we are actually participating in a study, as we speak, that is going to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  What is the study, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  The study is how infections spread throughout a workplace.  We have to wear a little dog-tag, and it is being tracked by sensors in the ceilings throughout the buildings.  It shows the patterns of our movements, the folks with whom we are in contact, and so on.  I told the study guides the other day they don't need to gather research from the sensors, all they have to do is follow Typhoid Mary.  She is consistently the same person who brings infections into the office.


In the meantime, I am sitting at home today, my chest covered with Vicks VapoRub and a warm towel, a box of Kleenex at one side, my bottle of Buckleys cough syrup (it tastes awful but it works) on the other side ~~ and watching the beautiful Monarch butterflies fluttering by outside my window. I'll be back to visit all my wonderful bloggy friends very soon, as soon as I have the energy.


Friday, July 15, 2011

A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster...

Annoying, The Science of What Bugs Us
I'm reading a really good book right now that confirms what I have already suspected ~~ I am not neurotic. It turns out there is an actual science to what annoys us.  Fingernails on a blackboard, a fly buzzing around us when we are trying to sleep, a noise in the background while we are trying to concentrate, those annoying cell phone calls we all have to listen to while other folks chatter away ~~ even the person next to us in the movie theatre who nervously keeps jiggling their knee up and down ~~ these annoyances all have basis in science.  Who knew?

My next door neighbours annoy the h*ll out of me.  They're in their mid-20s, but they dress and act like four-year-olds.  Every night they're outside in their backyard playing some childish game, I'm not sure what it is, but it involves wooden containers and hacky sack balls.  Every time one of them scores a hit, they all hoop and holler, and the women scream and whistle ~~ you'd think the Canucks had just won the Stanley Cup.  It's so annoying.

There is even a scientific reason why spouses annoy each other.  "With spouses, we know that our partners know our hot buttons, and it's even more annoying when our partners bring them up".

Intentionality of action may factor significantly in the annoying quotient.  A door slammed by the wind is way less annoying than a door slammed by an angry spouse.  This intentional 'pushing too hard' isn't limited to adult relationships. "Kids do this a lot with their parents, and parents with their kids'.  Children will deliberately not clean up their rooms, will drink milk directly from the container, and will not hand in their homework as a way to annoy a parent who sets a curfew too early or refuses to raise an allowance.  Many of these annoyances will be overlooked when there is a commitment in a relationship and will be exaggerated when there is not.  Growing annoyance can be a sign of trouble to come." ~~ Annoying, the Science of What Bugs Us

One of my co-workers coughs ... constantly. It sound exactly like a dog barking ~~ also an annoying sound. Another co-worker scrapes her chair back and forth against the side of her desk, sounding exactly like fingernails on a blackboard. *shudder* It drives me crazy, however, after reading this book, I'm glad to know that I am perfectly normal in being annoyed by these things that otherwise seem insignificant. It's science. Apparently there is even a scientific explanation as to why we are annoyed with listening to other folks' cell phone calls. The human brain is progammed to hear both sides of a conversation, and it doesn't 'compute' when it can hear only one side, thereby annoying us. Interesting.

Now I am heading off to work, and because it's raining I have to wear my jacket, my boots and carry my umbrella ~~ in the middle of July. It's so annoying...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

These Shoes Are Made For Walking...

The Old Tower of Nuenen with People Walking
Vincent Van Gogh

I have always enjoyed walking, but lately I have not been doing enough of it. One gets ~~ lazy. My job entails mostly sitting, and then I come home and do more of the same, and the first thing I know I have become sedentary. And I don't like it. Walking is fun and it releases endorphins, which in turn actually makes our brains work better and lowers our stress levels. And walking doesn't cost anything, which fits right into my budget.

The important thing for me is to have a good pair of shoes, and I detest sneakers.  Whoever invented sneakers decided to invent the ugliest shoes known to man, and then make them comfortable.  Do ugly shoes have to be comfortable, and vice versa?  No one looks good in sneakers.  They're ghastly things.  But last year I discovered Sketcher's flip/flops.  (No, this isn't an advertisement for Sketcher's...)  They're just the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn ~~ ever.  I think I could probably walk from here to Richmond in those shoes, and my feet wouldn't get tired.  I don't know what it is, they're just wonderful.  We have a policy at work where we are not permitted to wear open-toed shoes, sandals or flip/flops of any sort, but I thumb my nose at their silly policy.  Just try to get these shoes off my feet ~~ I dare anyone!  They're made for walking.  Every day my poor little feet say, "Thank you, thank you...".  So, during these cooler summer months, when the weather is perfect for walking, if you see someone strolling along, wave and say "Hi!", because that will be me.  I'm enjoying walking again.  It's wonderful.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Navel Gazing...

The Harem Dance
Giulio Rosati (1858–1917)

Until now, I thought the only thing that grew in belly buttons was lint. But, apparently our belly buttons are home to a lot more little critters than that. Are you aware that one of the richest biodiversity locations in the world is ~~ your belly button? Yes it is. Using volunteers, scientists at the Belly Button Diversity project have located 1400 different bacteria living in belly buttons, 662 of which are new species. The volunteers included science bloggers, North Carolina State students, and staff at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. They were asked to put cotton swabs in their belly buttons and turn them around three times. The swabs were then placed in cultures and the bacteria was grown. One of the volunteers, who regularly washes out his belly button daily, was found to be bacteria-free, while another volunteer was found to have 53 different species of bacteria, one of which had only previously been found in soil samples in Japan.


According to Jiri Hulcr, a post-doctoral candidate at North Carolina State University, "The belly button is protected, making it a safe haven for normal skin microbes”. That gives all of the bacteria that are normally found on other parts of the skin a chance to thrive, unthreatened by the oils or other secretions produced on other areas of the body.

If you want to see pictures of what may be growing in your belly button, you can check here.

Okay, the last one into the shower is a rotten egg ~~ literally.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Divorce Ceremony...

The Japanese have an interesting culture ~~ very different from ours. In many ways, it's pragmatic, minimalistic and rather sensible. When things go wrong in their lives, they learn to cope in practical ways, and they don't seem to be encumbered with the emotional baggage that we in the West carry with us.  Many of the decisions we make are impeded with feelings of guilt, responsibility, duty, the desire for a lifestyle that we are told we should want, when in fact many of us don't want it.  You know the drill ~~ marriage, a house, two cars, 2.5 children, all the best appliances ~~ a guilded nest.  The nest becomes our life and then for some of us it becomes our prison.

When I was married, I was not happy being married.  To me, it felt as if I were trying to squeeze my feet into someone else's shoes.  They were painful, and they did not fit.  I admire people who have happy and successful marriages, but I often look at them and wonder, "Are they really, honestly happy, or have they made a huge compromise?"

According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, 50% of all marriages fail.  Of the 50% that remain, 25% of those are unhappy, leaving 25% as satisfactory.  That means, three-quarters of all the married folks out there would rather be somewhere else.  Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. The author of the article suggests, "Specifically, take an honest look at your marriage as it exists today. With your partner, confront whether you want it to continue. That is, your aim is to clarify whether you want to stay with this person for the rest of your life." It takes a lot of courage to walk away.

The Japanese have an answer for that ~~ a divorce ceremony.  The inventor of the ceremony, Hiroki Terai explains, “I started this ceremony...thinking that there should be a positive way to end a marriage and move on by making a vow to restart (a couple’s) lives in front of loved ones.” Terai officiates the ritual. He thanks the witnesses for coming, explains how the couple has grown apart, and acknowledges that it is time for the husband and wife to say farewell. Then, the couple continues to act out the end of the marriage.

•While jointly holding a hammer, the husband and wife pound the wife's wedding ring until it is beyond repair.
•There is a divorce reception after the ring-smashing ceremony, where the couple sits back-to-back at separate tables.
•After the large feast or small meal, the couple thanks their friends for coming and says farewell to each other.
•Each spouse bows toward the other and walks off to begin his or her separate life.

A divorce is like a death.  There is a certain amount of grieving that needs to take place, and then folks need to move on.  What better way to do it than with a ceremony finalizing that chapter of their lives?  We all want to believe in the "dream", but for some people it just doesn't work, and no one should be made to feel guilty.  Trust the Japanese to come up with a civilized solution.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Breeze, Make Me Feel Fine...

This is English Bay in Vancouver, just moments ago. Does it get any more beautiful than that?  This evening after work, I headed straight for the beach and had a hot dog and an ice cream cone for dinner. (That covers all the main food groups, doesn't it?  Protein, starch, vegs and dairy.  Come on, humour me ~~ I'm trying to convince myself.)

English Bay is a magical place, the jewel around which Vancouver is built.  I have swum in English Bay, I have sailed on it, and I have even rowed a row boat on it, and I never get tired of it, and it never ceases to amaze me with its beauty.

Of course, this being Vancouver, it will probably rain tomorrow but even in stormy weather, English Bay is wonderful.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer In The City...

On days like this, I am so happy to be living in my little tree house by the sea. I can feel the ocean breezes and listen to the seagulls telling each other jokes. And then they laugh and laugh.  This part of Vancouver has always been my favourite neighbourhood.  It very much has a seaside flavour to it.  In the 1960s Kitsilano was taken over by the "hippies" and they preseved all of the older buildings, so that developers could not come in and tear them down in order to build highrises.

When I was a little girl, my Uncle Fred and Aunt Coleta lived in this house, which is close to where I live now.  In the evenings after dinner, Uncle Fred and Aunt Coleta would take me for walks through the neighbourhood and we would always end up at my favourite ice cream stand on Kitsilano Beach.  Uncle Fred would always ask me what flavour I would like, and I always said vanilla.  It's still my favourite.  The ice cream stand is no longer there, but thankfully the house still is, and it has been restored to its original grandeur.  I always thought the house was very grand when I was a little girl, and I still do.

The houses in Kitsilano are famous for their English Country gardens, and most of them don't stop at the front yard. On my walk yesterday, I chuckled at this wonderful clematis growing around a telephone pole. Most of the intersections have circular traffic calmers, and folks have gardening contests to see which traffic calmer can have the most beautiful garden. You will see everything from wild grasses to hollyhocks and roses at every intersection.  They give the whole neighbourhood a feeling of being in a wonderful park.

We can sometimes have long, wet, dreary winters here in Vancouver, but when summer hits, its hits with a bang.  There is fairly low humidity, so the air feels comfortable.  It's the best place to be.

Now I am going to sit in my Adirondack chairs and have a Long Island iced tea, and listen to the seagulls telling jokes.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day, Eh...?

I may be just slightly biased, but I think Canada is the greatest country in the world in which to live. Well, apparently the United Nations Human Development Index agrees with me, and says that Canada has the highest quality of life in the world. Well ... I knew that. Around the world, we are known as that little country just north of That Other Big Country across the border, but I'll bet there are a lot of things about Canada that you didn't know. Right? Well, here are a few little facts about Canada that just might surprise you:

1.  Canada is the largest exporter of total petroleum to the United States.

2.  Crude Oil Imports by the U.S. (Thousand Barrels per Day).  Year to date so far in 2001:
Canada         2142
Saudi Arabia 1102
Mexico         1097
Venezuela       923

3. Canada is the second largest country in the world at 9,984,670 square kilometers. Russia is the largest at 17,075,200 square kilometres.

4. Canada has over two million lakes and the most fresh water of any country in the world.

5. Albert Einstein once lived in a small town called Canwood Saskatchewan for a short period of time so he could have some solitude, and he played goalie for the Canwood Canucks hockey team. He had played hockey in his younger years in Germany.

6. The Trans-Canada Highway is over 7604 kilometres in length and is the longest national highway in the entire world.

7. Canada has the ninth biggest economy of the world and is the world's eighth biggest trader.

8. Canada is the home of many great inventions, including: basketball, the electric light bulb, ice hockey, the baseball glove, the electric range, the electron microscope, insulin, standard time, the television, the telephone, Trivial Pursuit and the zipper. Oh, and botox.

9. Canada has the world's highest tertiary education enrolment, and the residents of Toronto hold more university degrees than any other city in the world.

10. Canada has the largest polar bear population of any country.

11. Canada has ten provinces and three territories, and the total population of Canada is 34,278,400 which is less than the State of California.

12. Della Falls, which is located on Vancouver Island, is the tallest waterfall in Canada, at 1443 feet in height. In comparison, Niagara Falls is only 180 feet in height.

13. Canada has the longest coastline of any country in the world at 151,600 miles.

14. The literacy rate in Canada is over 99%.

15. There are more donut shops per capita in Canada than any other country.

16. Justin Beiber is Canadian.

17. Canada produces so much energy, that it provides to the U.S. as well.

18. In 1967, the IMAX film system was invented by Canadian Ivan Grame Ferguson to premier at Expo 67.

19. The average life expectancy at birth for a Canadian is 81.16 years, the eighth highest in the world. The United States ranks 46th, at 78.14 years.

20. The Moosehead Brewery in Saint John, New Brunswick, turns out 1,642 bottles of beer per minute.

21. The world's strongest current is found in the Nakwakto Rapids at Slingsby Channel, British Columbia. The current has been measured at speeds up to 18.4 miles per hour.

22. Canada is also home to the longest street in the world. Yonge Street in Ontario starts at Lake Ontario, and runs north through Ontario to the Minnesota border, a distance of almost 2000 kilometres.

23. Actor Leslie Nielsen was Canadian and his brother Erik was the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada for two years, from 1984 to 1986.

24. Actor Raymond Massey was Canadian and his brother Vincent was the Governor General of Canada for seven years, from 1952 to 1959. Their father was the owner of Massey Harris which later became Massey Ferguson, the manufacturer of agricultural equipment.

25.  Famous Canadians include:  Nelly Furtado, Keanu Reeves, Pamela Anderson, Jim Carrey, Dan Aykroyd, Lorne Michaels, Neil Young, Avril Lavigne, Kim Cattrall, Guy Lombardo, Peter Jennings, Shania Twain, Sarah McLachlan, Jennifer Tilley, Alanis Morisette, Gordon Lightfoot, Bryan Adams, Wayne Gretzky, Lorne Greene, David Foster, Martin Short, Howie Mandel, Ryan Reynolds, Paul Anka, Mary Pickford, Rich Little, John Kenneth Galbraith, Hayden Christensen, Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Oscar Peterson, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Raymond Burr, Eric McCormack, Michael BublĂ©, James Cameron, John Candy, Matthew Perry, Jason Priestly, Art Linkletter, Morley Safer, Paul Shaffer, Cirque de Soleil, k.d. lang, Christopher Plummer, Celine Dion, Monty Hall, Hank Snow, both Scotty and Captain Kirk, Michael J. Fox, Frank Gehry (architect), James Gosling (author of Java computer language), Rick Moranis, W.P. Kinsella ("Field of Dreams"), Alex Trebek, Robert MacNeil (The MacNeil/Lehrer Report), Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook"), Mike Myers, Joe Shuster (creator of "Superman"), Donald and Kiefer Sutherland.  I'll bet you didn't know some of those folks were Canadian, did you?

26.  I have never seen a dog sled, snow shoes or an igloo.  I have, however, ridden on a skidoo.  I do say, "eh?"  A lot.

Great list, eh?

Life As An Edna Ferber Novel...

Do you ever find yourself thinking, on occasion, that life is like an Edna Ferber novel? Our lives go along day to day, and suddenly a generation has passed, and during that time, a story of epic proportions has been told.  Today, July 1st would have been Diana, Princess of Wales's 50th birthday.  She was first introduced to the world as the shy English rose, who glanced out from under her long, side-swept bangs, and hairdressers all over the world were besieged by young women who demanded a "Di job". That adulation was the beginning of the road to her early demise at the age of 36.  In this photograph the changes she underwent along that journey are clearly visible; she transformed into a completely different person.  What happened along the way?  How did Shi Di turn into the woman that Prime Minister Tony Blair awkwardly nicknamed "The People's Princess"?

In Edna Ferber's novels, usually the main character was a strong female, who underwent hardships and often discrimination of one sort or another.  Several of Edna Ferber's novels were made into movies, including "Show Boat", "Giant", "So Big", "Ice Palace", "Saratoga Trunk" and "Cimarron". Lady Diana's life could have been an Edna Ferber novel ~~ the young woman as a victim, who marries into a family whom she feels doesn't value her.  She struggles, but she overcomes the feelings of oppression, and produces two wonderful sons who grow up into fine young men to carry on the dynasty.  It's all there ~~ in epic proportions.

As Diana's life went along to its fateful end, I felt she was spinning out of control.  She had become the victim of her own celebrity, but she had also bought into her own myth.  Was that her fault, or her admirers?  I suppose we'll never know.  It's too sad for words.  Perhaps Edna Ferber might have thought of a happier ending to this woman's story. Perhaps she would be celebrating her 50th birthday today, surrounded by her friends and family, rather than as a tragic figure lying in a grave, surrounded by a lake in the quiet English countryside.