Monday, August 31, 2009

Random August

When selecting the winner of the birthday contest, I thought of asking Mojo to get involved, but she tends to look at me as if I've grown an extra head whenever I've asked for assistance in picking winners, so that didn't work. The Tinks didn't quite get the concept of picking a number, so I decided to wait until they're little older before I called them again. So naturally, I chose numerology (what? Naturally? Well, why not...). I added the numbers in my birthdate and came up with #9. Congratulations, LynnM! Depending on the state of my shoulder, I may be updating my Flickr page this week, so you if you want to wait until that happens, just let me know. If not, e-mail me your choice and your address and I'll get it off as soon as I can.

And on to the link-o-rama…

I'm starting with a few favorites from the lol group: this one (turn up the speakers) had me howling and I keep laughing every time I play it (which has been more than once). It's adorable, but I'm pretty happy Mojo doesn't do this - she's almost exclusively on wet food and I think it would drive me crazy. Not a video, but still very, very funny

cute pictures of puppies with captions

and then there's this one. Which makes me feel pretty smug, even if it's only reflected glory.

stephen hawking

Laurie posted this reminder that we have not reached a period of postfeminism yet. Feel free to foam at the mouth. Bridget found a great website about awkward family photos and Julie sent me this link apropos last month's Random mentioning of Disney princesses. It's a bit long, but well worth it. And via Steph’s Twitter page, here are photos of a real humdinger of a storm we had a few weeks ago.

Trevor's contribution this month includes a test revealing how you can tell you cat is plotting to kill you

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

according to which, Mojo is apparently an ungrateful little snot and another classic contribution from the lol pages, an experience from the trenches of the post office, a really interesting experiment in what exactly you can send in the mail and lastly, a rather extreme apology.

I don't know what this is, but it's pretty wonderful and there's Lego involved, so that can only be a good thing.

DavidG sent a bunch of gems, as well. A fabulous review of a beer and while we are (sort of) speaking of beverages that are bubbles in it, I really want to replicate this experiment. Staying within the beverage honor, check out some early Muppets working for Wilkins coffee (watch the ball, they're great). Still somewhat liquid, David sent me this link to a quick lecture about the Mola Mola - I've never heard of this fish, but I'm utterly fascinated now. A collection of rather epic accessibility mistakes, crimes against poodles, Hamlet on Facebook, a wonderful segment for the auto freaks in all of us (oh, how I wish I'd been in that car) and only click on this link if you don't mind a little blasphemy.

For the Twilight fans out there or, come to think of it, probably more for the people who are not fans, The Vamp. Definitely NSFW or around the innocent, but my god. It's Princess pink and it sparkles. I. Just. Couldn’t.

The winner of this year's Eurovision was Norway and Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale. Two listens and it's been in my head since. I finally resorted to cleaning out my brain with what may be my all-time favorite Eurovision entry. Do not try to explain, just watch and…. Danzing!!

And before I move on with the day, I’ll leave you with a new Maxine opinion: real women don’t have hot flashes, they have power surges.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Once-A-Year Day & A Contest

In the grand tradition of the shameless self-promotion that happens in this space on this day, I'm going to be All About Me and announced that today is my birthday. Well, the beginnings of - today is the actual day, but celebrations will, as usual, be stretched out over a week or so. I'm not sure exactly when my circle of people switched from birthday to birthday weekend and then to birthday week, but I can highly recommend it.

This year, my birthday present to myself is a three-day weekend of doing nothing that I don't want to do. As usual, Kathy Reichs has released her latest book in the last week of August and the usual, I'm more than half convinced that she's doing that especially for me (thanks, Kathy!). Today, that might be a lunch thing, the odd phone call or two with misc. international birthday songs, Reichs in the park and this weekend, there are no plans at all. Nothing. Nada. Just whatever floats my boat and I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to it.

And since it's been a while since I had a contest, what better way to celebrate the day than to have another one. Leave a comment, any comment – tell a story, sing a song (don't know what that'd look like), do the Internet version of a wave (don't know what that looks like, either). Contest closes Sunday at midnight EST and the winner will be selected using some technique that I'm not sure of yet, but which I'll will share on Monday. Winner will get an 8 x 10 prints of any photo on my Flickr page.

Have a fabulous weekend and if you are at all able, join me in doing nothing but what you want to do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wrangling Life with RA

This week, I post about pirates at HealthCentral:

"I got hijacked last week. Not by pirates with cutlasses, eye patches, bad teeth and a shoulder-perched parrot squawking obscenities. Instead, my week was hijacked by something much more bureaucratic: an agency deciding I needed to devote days to doing enough paperwork that I suspect they'll need to build an extension to their offices to store it all."

The rest of the post, pirates and all, is here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Woe, oh Woe am I. Not.

About six months ago, I finally gave in and joined the Canadian version of Netflix. I'd resisted because I tend to watch movies based on what I'm in the mood for and that's not something you can do when you never know what's arriving next in your mailbox. However, my local video store now has the poorest excuse for a library of old releases I've ever seen and since I love old movies and weird movies, I really had no other choice. And it turns out I may like surprises after all

Brief pause to allow a number of my family and friends time to hoot hysterically at the thought of me liking surprises. Done? Right then, moving on.

On my list that Rogers Video Direct is a bunch of movies I never got around to seeing for various reasons and last week, The Lake House arrived in my mailbox. And it was better than I'd expected, sweetly mindless, as long as you ignore the gaping holes in the plot. Keanu Reeves wasn’t too bad, although he really made me aware of how excellent an actor Sandra Bullock is and the titular house was breathtaking.

However, you may have noticed that one of the labels for this post is Rant so this is less about my conversion to surprises and a movie review than being damn opinionated. The movie version of my book and music rants, if you will.

The description of the movie starts with "an independent-minded doctor” – and I bet you can see what's coming - which based on first part of movie, is obviously code for single and sad because at the ripe old age of what appears to be a smidge past 30 she hasn't acquired herself a boyfriend/husband. This is when I started foaming at the mouth and it didn't get better in the movie which explores the idea of waiting for Mr. Right, the proverbial One by miscellaneous discussions of waiting. For instance, when watching Notorious, our Sad & Lonely heroine opines “if she’s not careful, she could spend her whole life waiting” and later in some other context that I’ve repressed, she muses "what if you live your whole life and no one's waiting" and can someone please pass me the barf bag…

Here is an intelligent woman with a rewarding career who still manages to spend much of her days moping around talking to the dog (which oddly never seems to need to be taken out for a pee) and only comes alive – Ms. Sad & Lonely, that is, not the dog - when she and Keanu fall in love writing letters to each other while separated in time (don't ask, you have to sort of go with it). And this relentless assumption that if you don't have a man, your life is shite drives me crazy. Are we still not past that? Are we still in the place where only a man can complete you no matter how fascinating, challenging and worthwhile the rest of our lives are?

I've been single for much of my life and y’know? There is absolutely nothing wrong with not being attached. Being single does not automatically make you sad, woeful and unfulfilled. Being single doesn't necessarily mean you're waiting for The One, pining about fretfully, wafting wraithlike in the wind, having no life and no food in the fridge.

Finding someone to love can add something very special to your life, but if it is the only thing that makes your life worthwhile, I'd recommend therapy. And sure, finding someone – ‘scuse me, Someone – can feel Fated, like finding a Soul Mate, like your own personal Fairytale, like this is the person you’d been waiting for without knowing you’d been waiting. They're all lovely feelings and I'm all for having them, but IT DOESN’T BLOODY WELL NEGATE ALL THE OTHER THINGS THAT HAVE MADE YOUR LIFE INTERESTING UP UNTIL THEN!

My apologies. I believe that was my outside voice.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Good Idea in Theory

It all started with Bridget Jones's Diary.  The messing with Jane Austen, I mean. Well, I'm sure that there have been people messing with Austen before that, but if you're looking at the most recent tendency to mess with her, Bridget started it. And did it well. It’s a fantastic book, turned into a fantastic movie that I watch on a regular basis and the only problem with it was that it persuaded all kinds of other people that they could successfully mess with the master. Some have been pretty good and then… then there’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Somebody got the idea to take Pride and Prejudice and add some zombies by inserting period-appropriate bits and dialogue about zombies.  The idea is that 25 years or so before the book takes place, a strange plague hit England creating Unmentionables (i.e., zombies) and these Unmentionables are fought by men and women alike. In fact, the five Bennett sisters have spent several years in China learning the art of combat from a master and it seems that part of being an accomplished young lady can include zombie fighting.

I'd seen it on Audible for a while - they put it on the front page for a long time and I checked it out once or twice, thinking it sounded sort of silly and I wasn't really sure if I wanted one of my favourite books messed with to that degree. Then I saw a blog entry somewhere linking to the book trailer - because apparently, now books have trailers, too - of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and I laughed and watched it more than once. Thought it exceptionally funny, so I went and spent one of my treasured credits on its predecessor.

And I've given it a good try, really I have. I read for a while, wandered off, then decided to go back and give it a little longer, give it some time to work its charms, because it seems to be very popular. So popular that it's spawned (sorry) a sort of sequel. But I can't do it.  Because it turns out that there are certain things that in my world should not be infected by silliness or complete revision and Pride and Prejudice is one of those things. After almost 2 hours of listening to it, I took it off my iPod muttering "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" and if it had been a physical entity, I would have followed Dorothy Parker's advice when she in a book review said "this book should not be cast aside lightly, it should be hurled with great force".

I felt the same about The Little Mermaid (go read it. It really is lovely). For as long as I can remember, The Little Mermaid has been my favourite H.C. Andersen -  as he’s called in Denmark - story and come to think of it, my favourite in the fairytale genre. And maybe it comes from being a kid who had chronic pain - I guess I could identify with her when she changed into a human girl and it felt as if she was walking on knives, but it was more than that. It was a book about the power of love, about the sacrifices you are willing to make for the person you love, up to and including giving up the ultimate for their happiness, turning into seafoam rather than kill your beloved. It is a perfect story and I have read it over and over and over again, crying each time at the end, yet never wishing that it had a happy ending because it couldn't end any other way.

And then Disney massacred it. I have been foaming (again, sorry) at the mouth about this for years, ever since the animated movie came out. Had it not been based on my favourite sacred test, I might’ve enjoyed it, but it was.  And became a silly, frivolous, standard Disneyfied dreck where they live happily ever after and aside from the fact that just because you can, doesn't mean you should - you don't see people out there changing the Mona Lisa to a blonde, do you? - I have problems with this continent's incessant insistence on keeping children in a bubble, untouched by sadness or reality in general. Because I think stories like The Little Mermaid - and The Story of a Mother (my second favourite H.C. Andersen tale) - can help in teaching children about sadness in a context that is safe. It's fiction, a story read to them by their parents and hopefully discussed with their parents and it can help teach them what grief is like, what love and sacrifice is about so that when the time comes that real grief enters their lives, they have an idea of what it is and what happens when you grieve. And that it is okay to be sad, because sometimes sad things happen, but you can get through it. Instead, Disney (and the like) creates children that grow up to be adolescents that grow up to be adults who have no idea how to deal with sad things. How is this healthy?

However, that's a sidetrack. The main track is just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may have been a fantastic idea in theory - and to be honest, I think it might actually make a pretty funny movie - but in reality, I hated it.  Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

And Now for Something Entirely Different

My life is requiring my extreme attention, so this is going to be short. Real short. Inspired by something Beth posted the other day, here's a question for you:

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

(for the record, I'd love to have telekinesis. Aside from the cool factor, it'd be way practical - wouldn't have to wait for other people to get things off shelves, etc)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sticking My Nose In

When thinking about my first post after my time off for alleging healing. I had two choices. I could talk about how that healing process has been going, but after almost 2 months and not nearly enough progress, it's boring me senseless, so I can't imagine how you're feeling. Or I could set the cat among the pigeons and invite a possible flame war. Given how exasperated I've been with my existence lately, guess what I'm choosing...

And little while ago, I wrote a post for HealthCentral about health care reform and got an interesting comment on it. Someone felt that as a Canadian, I had no right to express an opinion on a US issue and felt so strongly about it that they wanted their subscription canceled. This was not a surprise - over the years I've seen commenters on Steph's blog get a little irate when they believed her Canada Day posts were a slam on Americans and more recently, a very disturbing extreme example of that opinion. That as Canadians we have no right to directly or indirectly have an opinion about anything America does.

And it's a position that puzzles me. I'm not necessarily speaking about health care reform, which rather surprisingly appears to be as divisive as the Vietnam war, but that statement. That other people in the world have no business thinking or speaking about an internal national issue.

John Donne said "no man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." Doesn't that go for nations, too?

This weekend, summer finally arrived in Toronto with extreme heat, humidity and what comes with heat and humidity during Toronto summers: smog days. Half of Toronto’s smog comes from the US, more specifically the Ohio Valley - if my lungs are affected by your pollution, do I have a right to an opinion about your environmental policy? And another example. If we didn't have the right to have an opinion about other people's internal policies, Canadian and American soldiers would not be fighting and dying in Afghanistan. What about the UN and its (often very delayed) resolutions about what went on in e.g., Rwanda? Is the very existence of the UN not predicated upon the idea of a global community offering mutual assistance and intervention to protect people against events or leaders who, shall we say, do not have the best interests of their citizens at heart?

But nevermind actual armed or political responses. Isn't any change process enriched by multiple viewpoints? Do you not have a better chance of creating a good product if you look at different models of whatever you’re trying to change and engage in a dialogue with people who have different ideas and experiences?

Or is that just me?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Beginners Guide to RA: Pain Management

This week, my HealthCentral post is about pain and how to manage it. How apropos. I really am trying to practice what I preach. Most of the time.

"Rheumatoid arthritis is a pain in the... well, it can pretty much be a pain anywhere and everywhere. Whether you're dealing with the intense pain of a flare or the cranky muttering in the background when your RA is mostly controlled, you'll probably need to find a way to manage pain. Unlike the "minor arthritis pain" of commercials that magically disappears when you take Drug X, real RA pain needs more - it needs a toolbox."

The rest of is here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Yes, I know. Looks like this has turned into a photography blog. It's temporary until the blasted neck/shoulder thing will allow me to spend more time at the computer. Hoping for words by Friday.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Words Are Not Enough

As a writer, you get used to thinking that a nicely crafted bit of writing can do pretty much anything - bring peace, start a revolution, win an election, evoke anger, sell a product, capture the transcendency of love…

Carrie’s husband Rick has died, suddenly and unexpectedly.

And when the unthinkable happens, leaving a friend without someone as essential as her husband and their two little boys without someone as vital as their father, no words can heal any part of that wound.

Still, to know that you are loved, thought of and prayed for may offer the tiniest bit of solace during a dark time. I know this of the blogosphere: the people who are in it are good at rallying ‘round. So please, pop over to Carrie's and leave a word of comfort.

Sending you love, dear friend.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Request of the Universe

You know how when you stub your toe, somehow it becomes a magnet for impact? You haven't stubbed it for a couple years, but the moment you do, furniture starts leaping out at you and despite not having dropped anything in weeks, now you drop an apple and it lands on your toe and when you're in line at the bank, the person in front of you steps back right on - altogether now! - your toe. My neck and shoulders have been like that for well over five weeks now.

The thing gets injured - or rather, my old permanent whiplash injury gets highly aggravated - and I sit still so for a while, get a shot of steroids/lidocaine and get better. The week after that one of my attendants accidentally whacks her elbow on my head as she is helping me take off a sweater (this has never happened before in the 13 years I've received attendant care where I'm living now) and everything seizes up again. I sit still, get a shot of lidocaine, sit still so more, feel better and the week after that, something else happens and everything seizes up again, I sit still, I heal, I get a couple of shots of freezing, I sit still some more, I feel a little better. And so on. Every week, something happens to kick me back and every time, it gets a little worse. Last week, everything crapped out again and it got bad. Very bad. The kind of bad that meant it took me three days to do Monday's post. The muscles and tendons in my neck felt as if they were brittle, tearing apart at every movement and when I sat still, too, but since my head is still perched on top of my neck, I guess they didn’t.

I felt a little better Friday, but was still very careful and then for no reason whatsoever, Saturday, it started all over again. Okay, fine. It was a long weekend, so I decided to sit still, read a good book (American Gods - fantastic), spend some time in the park warming my bones in the sun (the forecast finally said we would have some) and watch TV. For this purpose, I rented a pile of DVDs, including Battlestar Galactica - Season 4.0 (which I had just discovered had been out for a while when I saw the notification that the second half of season 4 had been released last week). In addition, I had procured Season 3 of The Wire (which Beth got me addicted to) and I was all set to be really, really good to my body, stay far away from the computer and just get better.

Saturday, I run - OK, more like limp slowly - a few errands early in the afternoon, then head for the park. we've had a crappy, very rainy summer, one characterized by days of sunshine in the morning and the minute I finish the morning's work and want to head for the park with a book, it gets cloudy and starts raining. However! The nice people at Environment Canada are promising a long weekend characterized by beautiful sunshine and with temperatures up to 30C/86F (this is a big deal, as until this past weekend we've only had one day with more than 30C all summer). And can you see the foreshadowing?

Five minutes after I've parked myself on the grass, the clouds roll in, clearly intending to stick around and I go home. In the evening, I pop in the first disc of BSG, the image looks a little funny, there's a pop, no image on the screen and a burning smell… Okay, so the TV was well over eight years old and has served me well, but
the effin’ timing! (And no, I can't use my computer to watch DVDs – there’s something about the set up of my desk that means I get an instant pinched nerve in my shoulder when I try to watch a movie on my monitor).

Sunday, I call up Michele to have a good whine and she kindly offers to do the running around for me and get me a new TV on Monday. Excellent! On Sunday, I can stay away from the computer most of the day, the book is very good so it should be okay to just sit and read and look - brilliant blue sky with lots of sunshine and off I go to the park.

I have just settled down on the grass, drinking in the warmth with my eyes closed, feeling it enter my poor beleaguered shoulders and then it starts being not quite so warm and somewhat darker and I open my eyes, look up and see a massive patch of clouds above me. To the south, north, east and west, I can see bright blue sky, but over my neighborhood, there is a thick, grey cloud starting to spit on me a little.

It was at this point I began to take it personally.

So universe? Mind quitting it for a while?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Freydis Joanna

Last weekend, a replica Viking ship came to Toronto and being proud of my heritage, I naturally had to go check it out.

As we're waiting for the bus, the latest monsoon hit Toronto (making it look much like this, causing things like sinkholes) and by the time we're on our way, west on Lakeshore Boulevard, it is much more Lake than Shore. Seriously. Huge expanses of water, up to well past ankle height, creeping up your leg/tire. By the time we got to the drop-off point that harbor front, the street looked like this. Yes, that's a curb.

It was beautiful, though, the aftermath of the storm lending a light to the sky and the lake that I've never seen before, a strange murky green in the water and above, metallic blue with a strange glow, almost impossible to capture in a photograph

I went out on a small pier and was surrounded by water and a westerly wind and when I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, the scent of wet sand and big water hit me and it was thisclose to smelling like ocean. Paradise. I hated to leave but there was more adventure to be had.

As we made our way to the Viking ship, we stopped and chatted with some of the wildlife

and then... there she was. Not in the water due to the water coming from above, but safely in a place where it wouldn't drown. Freydis Joanna is a replica of a Gokstad Boat built by the craftsmen at the
Viking Museum in Roskilde, Denmark using a 200-year-old oak tree and funded by a legacy from Karen and Kresten Sommer. It is a true replica, built with replica tools and methods from the Viking period and was made for the Danish-Canadian National Museum in Alberta (you can read more about Freydis Joanna here, in both English and Danish). A Gokstad Boat is smaller, used for coastal sailing and raiding parties (it could go on one of the big longships). And, I think, just the perfect size for my demented funeral plans... y'know, should I ever die).

The beautiful swooping lines instantly felt like home
- I don't know why, just that it did.

Everything was handmade and was just perfect.

the boat is named after two women: Freydis, sister of Leif the Lucky and according to the sagas, a strong leader herself and also bears the middle name of Karen Sommer

I spent a lot of time just looking at the rudder - so many beautiful details showing the craft of ship building

Rudder detail

Sail detail

When alerted to the fact that it smelled good, too, I got lost for a while in the scent of wood and resin (and was completely unconcerned about how ridiculous I looked inhaling the boat)

photo by DavidG

This one gives me the feeling of raiders coming on a storm

It was a beautiful day and a tremendous experience. And I'm not plotting ways to put her in my living room. At all. Although, maybe if I move the couch...