Monday, October 31, 2011

Seven Billion People ... And Counting

As of today, October 31, 2011, the population of our planet has reached 7 billion people. And yet, as we speak, folks in cities all over the world are sitting in fetid tents in squalid encampments, protesting that they don't have a big enough piece of the pie. Well, the pie just got a whole lot smaller.  Unfortunately, the areas of the world least equipped to accommodate extra people are the areas where population is expanding at the most rapid rate. In North America, however, the population is expanding so slowly, governments are concerned about maintaining productivity. In the bigger picture, the earth is made up of the *haves* and the *have-nots*. As we edge even more quickly to the 8 billion mark, here are some things to consider.

In 1974, the population of the earth was 4 billion, and in just under 30 years, we have almost doubled. China makes up 19% of the world's population. 50.4% of the world's population are male, and 50.5% of the world's population live in cities. One in three of those city dwellers lives in a slum. The median age of the world's population is 29. A staggering 73% of the world's population does not use the internet. One in eight of the world's population is undernourished. One in three of the world's population lacks a hygienic toilet. The birthrate in Germany, Canada, Russia, Australia and Brazil hovers between 1.4 and 1.9. The birthrate in the United States is 2.5. The birth rate in Niger is 7.2.

According to an article in this week's Time Magazine, the earth has enough resources for everyone on the planet, the resources are just not being distributed to everyone.  People don't have access to resources because of extreme poverty and corrupt government regimes.  I am fortunate enough to live in a country that did not have a housing bubble or any housing collapse or mortgage failures. Our banks did not get overextended, did not have to be bailed out, and are still lending. Unemployment and poverty remain lower than at any other time since the 1960s. There are so many jobs in Alberta, the immigration department is fast-tracking immigrants from other countries who apply here for work. Our country is really one of the more fortunate ones.

The economic crisis is world-wide and impacts everyone on the planet, but probably none more so than the billions of people who live in extreme poverty. We need to slow down the population expansion before we hit 8 billion, in 14 years.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Do You Know Where That Hand Has Been...?

Donald Trump once said he would never shake hands with anyone, because he "didn't know where that hand has been". Ew... think about it. It's true. A study reported yesterday that the dirtiest thing people touch on an ongoing basis is the handle at the gas pump. According to the study by Kimberly Clark, "People have a 71 per cent chance of picking up a dirty pump when filling up. Mailbox handles come in at 68 per cent, escalator railings at 43 per cent, ATM buttons at 41 per cent, parking metres at 40 per cent, crosswalk buttons and vending machines at 35 per cent."


With global travel, it's easy for microbes from one side of the globe to hitch a ride to the other side of the globe. Our immune systems may not necessarily have built up an immunity to foreign microbes, so we get sick.  I'm not a germaphone ~~ per se ~~ but I am aware when I am in a restaurant that the salt and pepper shaker or the ketchup bottle are handled throughout the day by hundreds of other people.  So, if I pick up the ketchup bottle and put ketchup on my French fries, and then pick up the fries with my bare hands and put them in my mouth, I have just created the perfect transmission for whatever is living on that ketchup bottle.

Some of the epidemiologists where I work have just completed a study on the mechanisms of contagion, and the study is going to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  For several weeks, each of us had to wear a medallion with a chip in it, and we were tracked throughout the office.  One of the medallions had an "infected" chip in it, in order to track the infection.  No one knew who the "infected" person was.  However, in our office, that study isn't necessary.  We have one or two people who always come to work sick, and almost always infect their co-workers.  The hours of manpower lost is off the chart.

How many of us are aware to wash our hands after touching bank machines, elevator buttons, debit and credit card devices, escalators, bannisters, etc.?  We go to the movies, pay for our tickets and buy a lovely, hot, buttery container of popcorn ~~ paying cash.  Then we go and sit in the movie theatre and stick our hands into the popcorn.


It's true; when we shake hands with someone, we don't know where that hand has been.  But moreover, we don't know how many folks we will go on to infect, perhaps not getting sick ourselves.  The study of contagion fascinates me.  I can hardly wait to read our researchers' publication in JAMA.

Purell is my friend...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Hello, everyone. No, I have not disappeared completely, I have been feeling a teeny, tiny bit under the weather. Typhoid Mary has struck our office again ~~ this time with a new and improved bug. *cough*

Whenever I get a cold, I am unable to sleep.  So I am spending the day curled up under my fluffy white duvet.


I will be back very soon.  Try not to have too much fun without me.



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Craigslist Free Stuff...! Part Two...

Sometimes when I'm bored and need a chuckle, I like to look through the Craigslist Free Stuff. Yes, I know, I need to get a life. But the Free Stuff ads on Craigslist are some of the best ways to spend half an hour ten minutes for a free laugh.  It's mind-boggling the things that people actually give away ~~ for free.  What's even more mind-bloggling is the fact that people actually go and pick these things up, and take them home.  Through the magic of advertising, everyone's flotsam and jetsam can be circulated from one household to another.  Who knew! Here are some of this week's junk treasures, complete with their descriptions.

"Male Crested Gecko - approximately one year old. Adoption fee is $25."

Well, that's just false advertising.  First of all, it's not free, and second, why would anyone give away such a cute little creature?  Can you just imagine that little face staring at you over the breakfast table?  It's like a snake with legs.

"Rock surrounding the fireplace. You remove."

Actually, I rather like the look of the stone in this fireplace, and I can't imagine anyone giving it away ~~ for free. It's rustic and very West Coast looking. It would look lovely in my cabin up at Whistler Mountain, don't you agree? I think I just might rush over there today with my back hoe and pick this little item up. Oh, wait, I don't have a cabin at Whistler Mountain ... or a back hoe. Darn the luck.

"Lou is a mean cat. She will probably bite and scratch you. She will pee on your carpet. She will not go out of the house. She is spayed. She has to go to new owners."

Well, that just says it all about poor old Lou.  Will anyone give her a good home after that endorsement?  I have a feeling that, sadly, Lou's days are numbered.  Truth in advertising...  Poor Lou.

"A new (used once) ankle brace. I rolled my ankle playing soccer but ended up not needing this brace. This is a medium brace for the right leg. You pick up..."

Just what we all need, right? A (used once) ankle brace. I'll bet there's a rush on this little item.

Can anyone see what's wrong with this picture?  Anyone?  I know you're all observant.  What's wrong with this picture?  Anyone?


The following is my personal favourite.  It is a novella, complete with a back story all in one advertisement:

"I have a wooden mirror similar to the picture for pick up - except mine doesn't have the fancy carved artwork, however mine does have a small drawer at the bottom. I don't know wood all that well, but I'd say it's a Cedar/Red Pine colour?? Mirror can tilt 360. Currently the mirror is not assembled. It's in near-excellent condition, except that I have disassembled and reassembled it so many times (I move a lot) that the screw-holes have been worn through. A handyman could simply fill the current holes, re-screw them and VOILA - Good as new. I have all the pieces & screws. I've kept it in my closet for THREE YEARS waiting on a promise from my boyfriend to fix it for me because I love it. However, that never happened, and now I'm tired of it collecting dust.  Pick up available today after 4:00 pm."

What, the mirror or the boyfriend?

Craigslist Free Stuff ~~ check it out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unconditional Love...

Several of my friends have pets who are ill at the moment, and may perhaps be in their final illness. My heart breaks for my friends, because I know how much we can love our pets, and how much our pets love us ~~ unconditionally. They are our best companions, never judging, never asking for more than we can give, always affectionate, always ready to please. All they ask from us is our attention, love, and perhaps some food and water ~~ definitely food and water. That's a pretty good quid pro quo.

When my brothers and I were growing up on Vancouver Island, our home was almost a menagerie. We had the usual dogs and cats, and my brothers ~~ both animal lovers ~~ were always rescuing stray animals, much to my mother's consternation. Fortunately, we had a large closed-in back porch, which was turned into an animal hospital on a regular basis.  My father loved dogs, and we would often have two or three following along behind us.  The dog in this picture ~~ Shep ~~ insisted on having his picture taken with us, and my brother had to hold him still because he was such a show-off.  My brother went into a deep depression when Shep passed away, and refused to love another dog.  That is, until he met Sporty, our border collie.  Then it was love at first sight ~~ again.

One of the more unusual animals we had in our menagerie was a baby bear. His mother had been accidentally killed by loggers, and he was found crying in a hollow log. My father, ever the softy for baby animals, agreed to look after him. Of course, the task ended up being done by my mother, and she used to feed the little bear with a baby bottle from one of my dolls. The little bear cried just like a human baby, and loved being cuddled and rocked ~~ just like a human baby. Unfortunately, baby bears grow very quickly, and he soon became too big for us to look after him any longer. My father gave him to the forest ranger, who raised the bear to adulthood. Our little baby bear, when full grown, was often seen picking berries on the lakeshore road. We always called him "our bear", because he had stolen our hearts forever.

Another unusual little creature we had in our care was a North American Murre, a cousin to the penguin. He blew into our town on a huge typhoon storm that came in from the Pacific Ocean, and once again, one of my brothers rescued him and brought him home. My mother set up a galvanized wash tub full of water for him to paddle in, but he much preferred following her around the house while she did her chores. He could be seen padding along behind her on his little two feet, like a small child. He had a strange little call that sounded almost like a seal barking, and whenever my mother was out of his sight, he was grievously anxious until he could find her again. What a cacophony... He especially loved the warm laundry basket, and if we couldn't find him, we knew where to look. There he would be, buried under the towels and face cloths, having a snooze. Our little murre lived with us throughout the stormy winter, and in the spring my father released him back onto the open ocean. However, my mother had bonded with this strange little creature, and she missed him for months afterwards.

At one point we also had a shrew (or mole). He was an odd little thing, and he lived in an Eddy's matchbox filled with cotton wool. We called him "Moley", and the only food Moley ate was live spiders. So my father and brothers had to dig around underneath the porch, armed with tweezers, in order to bring Moley his dinner. They would slide the match box open, call "Here Moley, Moley, Moley..." and a little snout would pop out, grab the spider, and retreat back into the cotton wool. I'm not sure why we had this little fellow in our possession, but we all loved him. My father took the little mole outdoors and released him to the spider smörgåsbord underneath the porch, where he could dine to his heart's delight.

My favourite dog was Maggie, our Scottish terrier. Her full name was Margaret McTavish of Windbrae, and when we first brought her home, she was a fierce little thing. My mother and I were always jumping onto chairs, to avoid Maggie's sharp little teeth. She mellowed as she got older, but she was still fiercely protective of our home. Her bark, however, was much bigger than her bite. A special treat for Maggie was to sit in front of the fireplace in the evenings. Like all dogs, Maggie loved car rides, and she especially loved going to the lake.  A friend of mine had a pier and diving board out over the lake, and Maggie loved taking a flying leap off the diving board. Then she would paddle to shore, run along the pier and take another flying leap off the diving board. We were all heartbroken when Maggie was no longer with our family.

My most recent pet was a Siamese cat named Samantha. Oh, goodness ... what can I say about Samantha. She was evil, she was wicked ... she was the most wonderful cat I have ever known and I adored her. She didn't know she was a cat, and I didn't have the heart to tell her. Whenever I chatted on the telephone with any of my friends, Samantha would stomp up and down beside me, hollering, "Oh, yah! Oh, yah! Oh, yah!" My friends would ask, "Who the heck is that?" Of course, after a while, they knew not to ask. Siamese cats are famous for "adopting" other people, and Samantha assumed everyone in the neighbourhood was "hers". I would often get a telephone call from one of my neighbours saying, "Um ... Jo, your cat is sleeping on my chesterfield again; can you come and get her?" I cried for two weeks straight when my bad old Samantha was no longer with me. I still miss her, and sometimes I can see her, out of the corner of my eye, looking for some way to get into mischief.

My heart goes out to my friends who may be losing their wonderful companions. I wish there were something I could do to ease their pain, but I know from experience there is nothing I can do. We have all felt it. Unconditional love.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You A Twit...?

I love the word Twitter, don't you? It sounds like something old Aunt Agatha would say when she's had one too many glasses of sherry.

"Ohhh, I feel all a-twitter..."

It's a silly word, and it really does describe the practice of tweeting. On Twitter.

I have to admit, I have a Twitter account.  I have used it once.  It just seems silly to me ~~ almost like a form of Tourette's syndrome, where people are shouting out strange utterances, but they're doing it on line.

"I'm drinking a cup of coffee!"

"I'm driving to Spuzzum to visit my cousin Betty-Lou!"

"I'm out of toilet paper!"

Omigawd, how did we survive without announcing our every waking thought and action?

In 2009 an American research company analyzed Twitters' tweets, with the following results:

Pointless babble – 40%
Conversational – 38%
Pass-along value – 9%
Self-promotion – 6%
Spam – 4%
News – 4%

From what I have read of Twitter posts, it's more like 90% pointless babble.  It's a very strange phenomenon that this is how the human race has been reduced to communicate.  As of 2011, 200 million users were generating over 200 million tweets per day. What I want to know is, what the h*ll are they all saying?  When Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, Twitter servers crashed after users were updating their status to include the words "Michael Jackson" at a rate of 100,000 tweets per hour.

Twitter messages are completely open to anyone in the public who wants to log on and read the *tweets* written by *twits*.  And some of it is ... well ... very personal.  If someone has, say, 400 followers, whatever that person tweets broadcasts out to those 400 people and their followers too.  We share our deepest, darkest secrets with "friends" and often we don't know their real names or where they live.  We know them only by their monikers and their avatars, and yet somehow we trust them ~  and 400 of their closest "friends" ~~ with our confidences.  Where did this come from, this need to be hooked in with so many people from all over the globe ~~ people who are, to all intents and purposes, complete strangers to us?

A friend of mine was quite a philosopher, and he believed that it was just possible that mankind was simply a collection of bits inside a giant computer. His philosophy pre-dated the Matrix movies, but had much the same idea. He felt we are plugged into something much bigger than we are, and we are just imagining our existance. He surmised that we are the components that go into making a separate entity, and that the entity needs us, much as our bodies need cells. We were the cells in the entity.  It made for interesting discussions, but the more I think about how we are all so closely connected by computers, the more I am beginning to realize my friend's theory may not have been all that unusual.

My Twitter account will stay disabled, mostly because I find the whole premise of it just slightly creepy.  Do I really want to know Demi Moore's private thoughts about Ashton Kutcher?  Or that Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber have the most followers?  Or that the vapid Kim Kardashian has almost as many followers as the President of the United States?  Do I really care about these people?

No.  I guess I'm a twit...

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood...

The sun is just beginning to rise over English Bay, and there's the promise of a new day. Like a fresh piece of paper, a new day is a chance to make a fresh mark, start anew, and perhaps even learn from the mistakes we made yesterday. No, I haven't started wearing cardigan sweaters and f*rting rainbows... I just think a beautiful new day like this is full of so many possibilities, don't you? Let's make the most of this beautiful day. Go out and make it a good one, boys and girls.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beyond Here, There Be Dragons...

The story I am about to share with you is one I have never told another living soul ~~ until now. It is up to you to decide whether or not you believe it, but it is a true story. It was something I experienced as a child, and as every child knows, not all their stories are necessarily accepted as the truth. And that is why I have never told my story.  I convinced myself, as well, that it was something that I had imagined, it had not actually happened, and it was consigned to that area of my brain known as ~~ perhaps ~~ unreality.  But now that I am of *a certain age* I can remember that it did indeed happen;  I did not imagine it.

When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, my parents decided to build a home on the edge of a dense old growth forest.  It was a beautiful old forest of Sitka spruce, western red cedar and Douglas fir. Every weekend we cleared the trees and burned the underbrush in a bonfire.  My mother loved roasted potatoes, so she used to bring potatoes and throw them into the fire to roast.  We would have a picnic of cold chicken, hot coffee and roasted potatoes from the bonfire.  It was delicious.  My mother kept some of the giant ferns growing in the underbrush and later planted them in her garden.  My father saved a couple of the old growth trees, and they shaded our house when it was built.  My mother designed the house, and my father and his friends built it by hand.  Some of the two-by fours were planed from the wood of the giant trees, and it was wonderful to watch the house taking shape.  I was allowed to choose which corner of the house I wanted for my bedroom.  I love the afternoon sun, so I chose a corner facing west.

We moved into the house in the middle of winter, when I was 11 years-old.  There were still natural ponds in the forest, and my friend Sherry and I used to go ice skating on them.  I taught her how to do figure eights, and then we would trek off to her place for hot chocolate and some of her mother's world famous cinnamon buns fresh from the oven.  Afterwards I would walk along the forest trail that connected her house to mine.  I never felt comfortable walking through there alone, and I was always aware that I was not entirely alone.  I could feel things watching me.  There were eyes on me, and they didn't necessarily have my best interests at heart.

Every morning my father woke me up for school before he went to work, and one morning he said, "Be careful, kidlet, there was a cougar out there last night.  I could see its footprints in the snow, and they were the size of tobacco can lids..."  But this was the forest, and cougar, deer even the occasional bear were to be expected. This was their territory, and we were encroaching on it. We had learned to respect those animals, and they left us alone.

But I knew something else was out there.

Then one morning I saw it, just beyond the edge of the forest, and its tracks were still visible in the snow.  At first I thought it was a bear.  The tracks led from the forest to my bedroom window, and then back to the forest.  They were not cougar, deer or bear.  And they were not human.  They were barefoot and they looked like a flat-footed ape.  With very big feet.  The Coast Salish have a name for this creature ~~ Sésquac which means "wild man". The Cowichan People gave him the name Thumquas which means "hairy giant". They believe he is omnivorous and nocturnal. And real. The Coast Salish also believe the Sésquac steal salmon from the fishermen's nets. He is seven to nine feet tall and there have been hundreds of thousands of sightings of him in Western Canada, and 700 footprints collected. There is folklore of these creatures living on every continent except the Antarctic, however, no one has ever found one of these creatures, nor any of their remains. Scientists claim there are still over five million species waiting to be found on our planet. Could the elusive Sésquac be one of these creatures?

Slowly the forest receded from our house, as more people built homes in the area, and now it is a residential district. Some of the old trees still remain, however, and I can still feel the spirits in them. And when I am walking through an old-growth forest, I can still feel something watching me ~~ and it isn't animal, and it isn't human.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Third Wave

The Wave
Gustave Courbet

In 1967, at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, a history teacher by the name of Ron Jones conducted a social experiment that became known as "The Third Wave". I had not heard about this experiment until a couple of days ago, when I saw the documentary entitled "Lesson Plan" on PBS. It was fascinating. During the experiment, Jones told his students that the movement aimed to eliminate democracy. Jones felt that democracy emphasizes individuality and therefore was a drawback to society as a whole.  He emphasized this by coining the motto: "Strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action, strength through pride" and he had his students chant this over and over until they were indoctrinated.

The Stormy Sea
Gustave Courbet

The experiment began as an exercise in discipline, with the students being told to sit up straight, behave in an orderly fashion, and address the teacher as "Mr. Jones". He made up a salute, and students were ordered to salute each other even outside of class. Everyone complied. And then a strange thing happened; the experiment took on a life of its own, and students who were not in the class wanted to join. His classroom went from 30 students to 200, with standing room only. The students were issued a membership card, and some of the students elected themselves to be "police" or "informers". Mr. Jones was amazed to find that some of the students started reporting to him when other members of the movement failed to abide by the rules. Anyone who broke the rules, or spoke up and said, "This is wrong", were immediately banished to the library, and were shunned by their fellow classmates.

La falaise d'Étretat
Gustave Courbet

By the fourth day of the experiment, Mr. Jones was alarmed at how the students had become immersed in the experiment, and rather than thinking as individuals, they were thinking and acting only according to the rules of the community, with loyalty only to the group ~~ complete with discipline, a membership card and a salute.  Individuality disappeared.  But the really frightening thing was how many people wanted to join the group, and fights were breaking out all over the campus when folks disagreed with each other, so Mr. Jones terminated the experiment.  However, even today, when the students are interviewed, they remember the feelings they had of joining the group, and then being afraid to be individuals.  They were merely part of the whole, and once they were part of the whole, they were terrified of taking a wrong step and being banished.  Folks would say and do things they no longer believed, just to remain part of the group.

Beach in Normandy
Gustave Courbet

A year after the experiment, Mr. Jones was terminated from his employment, and he never taught again. But his experiment was successful in proving how peer pressure can be very similar to Nazi Germany, and that was the point of his experiment. The definition of peer pressure is: the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change his or her attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to group norms. Social groups affected include membership groups, when the individual is "formally" a member (for example, political party, trade union), or a social clique. A person affected by peer pressure may or may not want to belong to these groups. They may also recognize dissociative groups with which they would not wish to associate, and thus they behave adversely concerning that group's behaviors.

Mr. Jones' experiment proved to be more enlightening than he first imagined.  It also proved that perfectly normal, reasonable people can get caught up in this mindset, and since we are all human, it can happen to any one of us, at any time.  The thing is to recognize it for what it is and to try to avoid it.  It's not always easy, though.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Come Fly With Me...

In the past couple of months years or so, I haven't been watching much television, mainly because there hasn't been anything worth watching. Reality shows bore the tar out of me. I mean, if I have to make a decision between watching Nancy Grace tip-toeing her way through "Dancing with the Stars", or reading a good book, the book will win every time. I have been paying a fortune to rent movies on Video on Demand, because ... well ... it's better than keeping up with the Kardashians. I have never seen a group of more intellectually challenged, one-dimensional people, as exist in that family. Why in Heaven's name would I want to *keep up* with them? How do these people even get on television, and moreover, who watches them?  So I was extremely happy to discover a whole raft of new television shows this year, of great quality, fabulous actors, and wonderful performances.  Each one of them is like watching threatre-quality productions.  So, here, in no particular order, is a list of television shows that I highly recommend:

1.  Boardwalk Empire with the absolutely fabulous Steve Buscemi. This is actually its second year, but I just discovered it.

2.  Harry's Law with Kathy Bates.  Yes, that Kathy Bates.  On television.  I would pay to watch that show.

3.  Revenge with the wonderfully wicked Madeleine Stowe. She's scheming, she conniving, she's fabulous.

4.  Body of Proof with Dana Delaney.  It's sort of CSI with high heels and great clothes ~~ and wonderful acting.

5.  Unforgettable with Poppy Montgomery.  This is based on the story of a woman who has total recall, and one of the advisors on the program is Marilu Henner, who has total recall.

6.  Terra Nova with Jason O'Mara, an extremely talented, Shakespearean-trained British actor.  The executive producter of Terra Nova is Steven Spielberg, and it is top-notch quality.

7.  Pam Am with Christina Ricci ~ yes, that Christina Ricci.  The show is about  a group of Pan Am stewardesses ~ yes, stewardesses ~ in the early 1960s.  It's so well-done, you can hear Sinatra singing, "Come fly with me..." in the background.  We get to go to London, Paris, Rome, New York, Berlin ...  Fasten your seat belts.

When I come home in the evening and plop myself into my big cozy chair, I don't want to turn on the television and watch some poor, unfortunate person in some cat and rat-infested home being evicted because he or she can't get rid of all the hoarded junk.  And I don't want to watch all the Z list ex-celebrities (Lindsay Lohan's father...?) throwing hissy fits on Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab.  And I certainly don't want to watch anyone else's children.  I want escape.  I want to be entertained.  I want to be transported to 1920s Atlantic City, or 1960s Rome, or even 85 million years BC.

Come Fly With Me...

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Miracle Of Life... Is Cheap

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am vehemently anti-abortion. My views are not on religious grounds, but strictly on humanitarian grounds. I believe the chance that life exists anywhere else in the universe is slim to none. I believe it exists only on our planet, and it happened accidentally.  When you really think about the odds against your mother or your father being conceived, and then your being conceived as a result, and in fact any human being conceived at all, it is phenomenal that we are sitting here today, in front of our computers.  It is indeed a miracle.

All of the things we are ever going to be, are present at the moment of our conception ~~ blue eyes, brown eyes, tall, short ~~ whatever. The creature that sits in front of your computer today was created at the moment of conception. We are a combination of our father's and mother's DNA. "Oh, you have your mother's nose! Oh, you look like your father!"  We cannot change it.  To paraphrase Popeye, we are what we are.  And so, I believe when we abort a human fetus, we are aborting a human being, not a blob of tissue, but a human being who has been given only one ~~ one ~~  chance at life.

Today as I was puttering around my tree house, I happened to catch a show with Anderson Cooper, about black market babies. Wait a minute ... did I hear that correctly? Babies being sold on the black market? How did that happen? Well, it turns out that so many babies are being aborted, there are none available for adoption to loving parents who want children. So, as a result of supply and demand, babies are actually being manufactured and sold on the black market. Let me get this straight. We legally kill babies and then we manufacture more and sell them. Does anyone else find that bizarre and creepy? And perhaps just a little bit immoral?

Now, please don't misunderstand me. I am not against birth control. This is the 21st Century, and there are about a kazillion ways to prevent a human being from actually being conceived. But once he or she has been conceived, well, that train has pretty much left the station, has it not? Except in dire circumstances, and perhaps with the help of adoption agencies, how inconconvenient would it be to carry the child to term, and then arrange to have it adopted by parents who are longing to have a child, and would love and cherish it?

Ever since Roe versus Wade, abortion of human fetuses has legally been used as a method of birth control. Why can't the human race rethink the whole process and call it conception control? And while we're at it, why can't we put more of the onus of conception control on the male, and not just the female? How about it gentlemen ... a birth control pill for men? After all, it does take two to tango.  Or is this another one of these deals where the responsibility of it is left to the woman, including the pain ~~ physical and mental.  And I don't want to think about what the fetus must feel.  In Canada, a woman can get an abortion at five months, and in the U.K. it's six months.  That's a full-fledged human being.

Life is cheap, isn't it ~~ as long as it's someone else's.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Once Upon A Time... Two For The Road

Woman in the Garden
Claude Monet

Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand, and go back to a simpler time in your life?  I have been thinking about that lately. I'm not depressed or unhappy, I'm just sort of ... well, I can't describe it. Disappointed, I guess.  I have always been an optimistic, cup half-full type of person. I never look at anything from the negative point of view, but recently I have been surrounded by people who do ~~ co-workers, family ~~ and it's frustrating.   I would like to go back to a time when my life was full of possibilities, not only for me, but for other people too.  I remember that time, and it seems so long ago now.

Yesterday I watched a biography of Audrey Hepburn.  What a lovely, gracious woman she was.  Henry Mancini composed many of the songs for her movies. I once owned an album of Mancini's movie themes, and my favourite was from a movie with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney called "Two for the Road".  I played the song over and over ... and I never tired of hearing it.  When I heard it again yesterday, it took me back to a time when my life was simple and full of hope.  But the lyrics mean even more to me today than they did then.  It's poignant and beautiful, and makes me think that, wherever the road goes, there is still hope and all sorts of wonderful things waiting just around the corner, for everyone.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 21st Century ... The World According To Jobs

When I was about eight years old, my friend Harry Jensen and I made a tin can telephone. My friend Harry was wonderful; we were both born on the same day in the same hospital, and he was like a kindred spirit. Harry taught me all the secret things of the "boy's world" ~~ how to do arm-pit farts, how to set off a whole strip of caps from a cap gun, how to whistle with a piece of grass, how to make ~~ and throw ~~ the perfect snowball, and so much more. But the tin can telephone was my favourite. Harry lived in the house just behind ours, and the string on the tin can telephone was just long enough so that we could chat between his kitchen and my kitchen. Of course, we were shouting so loud, we could probably hear each other anyway. The tin can telephone was great fun.

When I became a teenager, my parents gave me a Princess Telephone for Christmas. I could chat with my friends, and my very first boyfriend, who always called me on my Princess Telephone so I could help him with his homework.  I thought my Princess Telephone was just The . Best . Thing I could ever have received.  It was my doorway to my independent world.  My parents allowed me to talk on the telephone, in my bedroom with the door closed.  I now officially had my own life and my own secrets that I shared with my friends without my Parental Units being involved. 

My other prized possession was my very own radio, which I kept beside my bed, and I could listen to radio stations as far away as California. To me, California was the centre of the universe. It was where everything was happening ~~ movies, beaches, music, rock and roll. To be listening to a radio station live from California was to have finally arrived in the land of cool.  I was a fully paid-up teenager with my own telephone, my own friends, my own radio and my own music.  Did it get any better than that?

Omigoodness, have we come a long way...?  When Steve Jobs passed away the other day, I began reading about some of his innovations.  He was a true visionary, and he changed the way we live ~~ forever.  Now, our lives are completely portable.  Everything we have, know, need, listen to or communicate with, is in a little device we carry in our pockets.  This device has revolutionized the world in ways that we wouldn't have thought possible a generation ago.   Absolutely everything ~~ everything ~~ is connected, and we can take it with us when we leave the house.  It makes me dizzy...  And the thing that impressed me most about Steve Jobs is what an amazing marketer he was.  He created devices that we didn't know we needed, and then he showed us how much we could not live without them, and then he sold them to us.  We had a truly symbiotic relationship with Steve Jobs and the devices he created for us.  Is that genius, or what?

I'm wondering what other visionaries there are waiting in the wings, creating wonderful things that we don't even know yet that we need, we cannot live without did we ever live without...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Armchair Travel ... Rome, The Eternal City

In recent years, Vancouver has been voted the number one city in which to live, and at the same time it has been voted the city with the third worst fashion sense in the world. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. I have been to Paris, London and New York, and Vancouver cannot hold a candle to them for culture, architecture, lifestyle ~~ well, just about anything. Vancouver is fortunate to be situated in a beautiful location, but it's a fairly young city and has not yet really established any sense of style.  In fact, it's really just an overgrown logging town / port, located between the mountains, the old growth forest and the ocean.  We do, however, have one of the sexiest beaches in North America.  Who knew...!  Perhaps that's the reason for the poor fashion sense...  yoga pants, blue jeans, sneakers and baseball caps.  Did I mention yoga pants...?

Every year at this time, I dream of faraway places with strange-sounding names... Well, maybe not the strange-sounding names, but definitely the faraway places. This year I am dreaming of Rome. How wonderful it would be to wake up tomorrow morning, and fly off to Rome. Now there is a city with style and elegance, not to mention incredible architecture, antiquities, art and history.  I would visit all the usual places ~~ the plazas, the Sistine Chapel and the museums, the Colosseum and the Pantheon ~~ oh goodness, there is too much to even mention here.  Mostly I would soak in the ambience of the city, not to mention the food and wine.

And then I would swing over to Milan and see the fresco of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. Just think, being able to see the frescos in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Supper in Milan. Do we have anything to compare here in Vancouver? Well, yes, if you include the graffiti underneath the Granville Bridge... Then I would have an espresso at Caffè Cova, an ancient Milanese coffeehouse founded in 1817 near the Teatro alla Scala. Oh, goodness. And then I would spend the afternoon strolling through the fashion district. I couldn't afford to buy anything, but I could look.


Armchair travel is wonderful, but not as good as the real thing.  If someone were to give you an open airline ticket, and you could go anywhere in the world, right now, where would you go?  Would it be a warm topical island?  Or would it be a cosmopolitan city bustling with culture and night life?  Enquiring minds want to know.