Thursday, 30 September 2010

Just for today I will change my behaviour

Today I feel like perhaps if I change my behaviour, I will get a different outcome.

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and
expecting a different outcome.

If I always expect things will not go well in certain areas of my life, I always get those results. Maybe the first step is seeing that my expectation is "doing something". Maybe changing my expectation a bit will change the result.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

African Lion Safari

We went to African Lion Safari this summer.  I took these photos there.  I can only imagine the nervous chatter going on in the car while these two huge rhinos stared at them.  What were they thinking?  Did they not like the colour?  Fed up with cars?  Just fooling around?  Like, who knows?  There are jeeps that go around and make sure that everything stays under control, but these two rhinos don't look like they care much at the moment if they were to be shot at with tranquilizer guns.  Would it even penetrate that thick hide?  Yikes! is all I can say. 
I was much happier to have this ostrich come tapping on our window.
My daughter teases him (her?) with an orange. I swear, they acted like teenage girls preening down the middle of the road trying to get the cars to notice them, tapping at windows, following cars.  This one tried for about five minutes to get the orange while we took pictures.  The oddest thing about an ostrich is that it has ears behind the feathers on the head and they kind of look like human ears.  The funniest thing is watching them take a drink from a pail and then lift their head and kind of gobble, gobble to make it go down their neck.

 Baboons are hoodlums.  Hooligans looking for action.  They jump on your car with the sole intent of doing damage.  They look for the cars they know they can do something to. They hang on the back windshield wiper of vans, yank it until it breaks, meticulously peel all bumper stickers off, wobble antenae back and forth until it breaks off and then they run away with it - a new weapon.  The jeep people chase them to get the antenae.  The baboons run up the tree and wait for the next van. 
 Zebras are celebrities.  They stand and let you admire them in their fancy outfits.  The turn and pose.  This one was just standing by himself at the edge of the road, waiting for attention.  The two behinds in the background were tired of people looking at them.  Fans can be so tiresome, after all. 
Giraffe's are afraid of people and run funny when they run away.
It is hard to believe that God was actually finished with this animal because he looks like he needs some assistance, some modifications in order to actually be comfortable.  I wonder if it true that they only sleep in twenty minute intervals?  Unfinished.  But I like them. e

Last year, it was this guy who stood outside our car and stared at us. Eeeeeek!  That was all I had to say.  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! and Let's go now.
He is very, very big and very, very strong.  I am glad he was resting.  So were the lions who were mainly asleep both times we visited the park that is west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, near Cambridge.  The kids love it.

The deer are happy and inquisitive. They huddle in clumps under the trees and don't stray very far from the other deer.  They like to check out the people carefully, with what seems to be a judgemental eye.  If they could talk, I bet they would ask why you were wearing that hat or where you got your hair cut.  They want to know about you.  But that's just my take.  You should go visit.  Even just once.  It certainly beats the zoo.    African Lion Safari

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Poem: Hot Air Balloon Ride

Peaceful, fat, bouncy, coloured clouds
that are nice enough to lower a basket
for puny humans to enjoy
their delightful exhilaration.

Foolish grins spread ear to ear,
basket to basket,
like lighting in a thunderstorm,

Above the world,
Nothing between you and the earth
But woven grass.
Dipping and bouncing.

No sound but the wind in your ears,
The rush and shoo of the intermittant burner,
And the supressed giggles of glee
That bubble up and go chasing after the birds.

The sky is so blue
It makes your heart ache
To think it will go away
With the day.

The sun,
Brilliant on the neat squares of farms
Between the white winding
Streamers of road.

Settled elation
What more can you ask for.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Duracell lasts longer than...

My suggestions for alternative slogans:

Duracell lasts longer than...

1. a subway breakdown at 8:50 a.m.

2. a heatwave without a fan.

3. a noisy neighbor the night before a job interview.

4. a colicky baby.

5. a postal strike when the cheque is "in the mail".

6. a washroom lineup at a concert.

Just thinking out loud.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Thank God for nothing

… or how God saved me from my own desires
There was an ad on CraigsList for a rolltop desk made of solid oak for $50.00 in East York. It was cheap, close to home and solid oak. I love rolltop desks! How could I refuse? Especially since I was just looking at desks at the Pottery Barn as I was going through the Eaton’s Centre last week and loving the new collection of “Printer’s” desks, cabinets and hutches. At the Pottery Barn, a writing desk costs $769.00 and it is a model that has no drawers. The actually “keyhole” writing desk has three drawers on each side and a long center drawer. I love that one, but it costs over a thousand. It’s my birthday, so I thought I might get a new desk.

Long ago I got a second-hand oak desk by accident. It kind of fell into my lap. We lived in a small rented flat of a house in the East End and there was a man who rented the second floor of the house. He worked at the CBC. One day he brought home a big oak desk from the CBC, but it was too big to go up the stairs, so he asked if we wanted it. No question there. I love that thing.

When we moved into this house, there was no where for it to go, so it went to the most available spot, which was my husband’s rehearsal studio. We ended up buying another second-hand desk for me. Laminate. It’s big surface area and three drawers on each side save it, but it has no middle drawer and it isn’t my oak desk.

I thought I could get a roll top desk for $50.00.

I emailed the link on CraigsList and we went last night. I was ready to lift that huge heavy oak desk, just me and my husband, even though I knew I really shouldn't.

Now here is the thing. I broke my arm in a car accident many years ago. I had nerve damage. I was in a sling for two years. My arm was paralyzed. (My manager visited me in the hospital and I never saw him again – thanks, Rich, I can still play guitar by the way).

I had a couple of operations, a metal plate, six big metal screws in the break. If I get an x-ray, you can see 6 holes now that they took the screws and plate out. I had an x-ray about 5 years ago and the doctor said: “I would be careful with that arm if I were you – there’s not a doctor anywhere who would touch that arm with a 10-foot-pole.” She said I should be glad to have the functionality that I do have and be thankful for it – everyday.

So, we go to get the desk. I had suggested we get a neighbourhood lad to help us with the desk. However, we ran out of time. The guy also emailed us that he had an appointment to attend – which left us about 15 minutes to get the desk.

We arrived at the mansion. Two teenagers came out to show us the desk in the third garage. It was an antique roll top. Smaller than I had imagined them to be – not a lot of surface area for a computer and everything else I own and put on my desk. So, I gave them the $50.00. They asked what about the rest of the money. I said that the ad said $50.00. They said the desk cost $500.00. Huh? They said they desk was reduced from $650.00 to $500.00. I must have missed a zero. I was sure I had not missed a zero. I had showed the ad to my daughter, who said it was so cheap that she could buy it for me for my birthday.

The father drives up and gets out of his expensive SUV. He strolls over. I tell him there must be some mistake because I had expected to pay $50.00. He smiles strangely. “No, it’s $500.00” he says. We say OK, sorry and thanks.

We get in the van. I look up the ad on my Blackberry and show it to my husband. Clearly it is $50.00. We run through various scenarios and scams that could have just occurred, all of them making him the crook and me the sucker.

Bottom line, I did not lift the desk and possibly injure my arm again for good. That means I can still use it to play guitar and record my songs. So… thanks God for that missing zero (nothing) and that my desire for a desk did not cost me my arm. Isn’t it a lesson to me to see how strong desire can lead us to do reckless and unreasonable things.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

High-speed cars cause traffic jams

I am speculating on a theory that high-speed cars are the root of our traffic jams on 401 east around Toronto and probably around every large city.

Forty years ago cars did not go fast. It took 2 hours to go from Toronto to Willow Beach. Now it takes 45 minutes or so on a clear day at 5:00 a.m. because that is when the roads are clear enough to drive your car with no traffic jam. If you were to try the same trip at 6 or 7:00 or 8:00 a.m., it will take a lot longer. If you try it half an hour later, it will definitely take you a lot longer.  All of it due to traffic volume or fender benders or accidents.

There are other factors involved in this issue, such as an increase in population as well as an increase in cars on the road and an increase in places to live that are far from the city centre. But, the fact that a person believes that a trip from Willow Beach to Toronto is a “commute” instead of a “trip to the country” can only be attributed to the fact that the person has measured how long such a trip takes in their fast care at 7.4 kilometers per litre, and so buys the property, thinking that the trip on a Saturday morning is equivalent to the trip on a Monday morning. Therein lies the dilemma.

That trip on a Monday morning, during the regular school year and not on a P.A. day or government holiday, is slow and long. Longer depending on the time that you leave your house because people closer to the city will leave later and get in front of you on the highway, slowing you down even more.

Alas for fast cars.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Bus Perfume - killer for asthmatics

Bus perfume can kill, especially in the new buses where you can't open the windows unless you are six feet tall.

I learned this week that 9600 deaths per year in Ontario are attributed to air pollution and that an enormous amount of people now have asthma, me being one of them.

Asthma is "triggered" by certain things, like some kinds of "musky" perfume. Once, triggered, your lungs start to close up because they are swelling inside. Depending on how bad your lungs decide to swell, you can pass out and even die, if you don't reverse the swelling so you can breathe.

So, you take your puffer and after a few minutes, the bronchio-dilator makes the swelling goes down. But, just like a sprained ankle, where every jolt causes renewed pain and perhaps a second sprain, the asthasmatic now has to avoid any triggers or the asthma will flare up again. Just like a sprained ankle, It can takes months to be normal again.

So what are triggers? It can be any number of things, but generally it is "an overload" of one thing, like perfume, or smoke, or dust, or mould, or fur, or smog.

The thing that worries me is that I am suddenly, unexpectedly trapped in a stuffy express bus with someone wearing that musky perfume, for just long enough to trigger an asthma attack - and I left my puffers at home. I'll just have to cross my fingers and remember to bring them with me if I am going to be taking the bus now instead of driving to work. Perhaps that will cut down on some of the smog.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


To be an artist is to learn to stand on your own uniqueness. 

My daughter is a dancer.  She is a good dancer, but when she goes to dance classes four times a week, she sees there girls who are eight years old who are better than she is.  She gets depressed.  But, I say to her, you are a good dancer and you are a beautiful dancer.  You have a uniqueness that is very compelling and many people like it.  But I am not as good as she is, she says.

Sometimes, I say, you watch "So You Think You Can Dance" and see dancers of equal quality side by side and yet, you find yourself saying, "I like her better than the other one."  Everyone does it.  At that point, it is not about technical achievement, it becomes something innate in the artist, some style, some nuance, some turn of the wrist, tilt of the head, expression on the face that draws your eye and your heart.  This is the artist's "uniqueness" and the strength of the artist comes from finding that uniqueness and leaning towards it, encouraging it, accepting it and letting it grow.

It is difficult to do because we, as a species, are motivated to fit in and standing on what sets us apart is something that takes getting used to and something that is unnatural at first.  It begins by a small acceptance - by saying "I like that little thing."  Then this can grow into liking what you do as an artist.  It may not be the best, but it is your own, and no one else can do it better than you can. You have to take little steps towards having the courage to stand on your own uniqueness.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

CBS Songquest - here is my song from last year

This time of year, CBC Radio 2 has a songquest contest. It is not really a contest, it is an event. Listeners nominate something to write a song about and a songwriter from each province is voted to write the song.

This year the topic is "road songs." They have been playing classic road songs, like "Let it Roll" and "Radar Love" and even "This Flight Tonight," which is a "travelling" song, so it qualifies.

So, I am going to try to write a song. Last year, I wrote a song for this event, because it is good to challenge yourself. It's like exercise.

Last year the topic was a favourite place in Canada. After listening to people all over the country call in to nominate some small bend in the road or vast stretch of lone sandy beach, I decided to write a song about Toronto. No one nominated Toronto, yet it is the biggest city in the country. Surely, there is somethimg noteworthy about my hometown?

The song is called "Downtown Toronto:"

Click here to hear "Downtown Toronto"

I went up the CN Tower
Thought I’d only stay an hour
Rode on a glass elevator
Thought I might throw up later

I walked on a big glass floor
Laughed cause I was scared some more
Watched the kids lie straight face down
Black and white and yellow and brown … they were


Downtown Toronto
Where else can you do that?
Downtown Toronto
Toronto’s where it’s at.

I could see for miles and miles
Way up there in the air
I looked out the windows south
My heart it came up in my mouth I saw…..

America, America
St. Catharines and more
Hamilton, Niagara Falls
On Lake Ontario shores


Paddleboats, the big golf ball at Ontario Place
The Forum where Blue Rodeo played
And I want to play someday
Condos glitter in the west
Sailboats in the water rest
Ferries go to Centre Island,
Porter planes lift off and land

The golden sun sets on the lake
All 32 miles - she swum that day
Oh what was her name again?
Oh, yeah – Marilyn Bell.


Up North I see a Pink Palace -
Queen’s Park where horses ride,
UofT for you and me
The streetcars of the TTC

And if you squint you can see
The castle where we’d like to be
Way up there - past the ROM
a small but wonderful Casa Loma

And in the east is Leslie Street
Greenwood Park and Harriet Hill
Where we'd walk down on sunny days
To Kew Beach where the music plays


I can see the Danforth,
Over by the Twelfth Fret
Withrow Park, the Black Swan too
Riverdale and the Rio

The Horseshoe, the Gasworks
And the El Mocombo
Queen Street West
Where Much is best
A building up on pencils

From Wonderland to the Zoo
Toronto has a lot to do
The Eaton’s Centre, Dundas Square
Yonge Street lights tell you you’re there


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Audio Books versus Paper Books

I am listening to an audio book. It is only my second one and I am comparing it to using a paper book. I love books. I have a degree in English Literature. I used to read a new, fat book every two weeks in each of my classes and most of the time I would read on the TTC while going to school, which took an hour each way, or going to work, which took an hour-and-a-half each way. Some days, I spent five hours on the TTC, so a big fat book was good company.

I remember one of the senior managers at my old workplace was borrowing audio books from the library, copying them to an .mp3 file and said he spent Sunday afternoons on the grass-cutting-tractor listening to books. He lives on a big property with lots of grass, just east of Toronto.

My experience listening to books is that it is great. I can continue to listen while walking, which is always a problem with books and having to watch where you are going. I can listen while making dinner, which you cannot do when you are reading a paper book and you can listen while doing housework, like sweeping, or folding laundry or gardening – none of these can be done while reading a paper book.

The only thing I don’t like about audio books is that sometimes I can’t understand what they are saying and wish I had a visual reference to use. I am listening to “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)” It is a novel written by a Dominican author, Junot Diaz. The novel mentions the dictator a lot and also incorporates a lot of Spanish words that I don’t understand. I find that I can’t grasp the names of people when he says them and I had to Google the book to learn that the dictator’s name if Rafael Trujillo. The book won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  I find that the writing is intense and realistic in it's detail and brutal honesty.  Starting from the details of the life of a loner, a gamer, a sci-fi nerd, an innocent, innocuous, harmless boy, you are drawn into the details of a horrific dictatorship and the lives of those affected by it.  I haven't finished it, so I don't know what happens in the end, but the foreshadowing does not bode well for innocent Oscar.

The main thing I don’t like about audio books is what happened today. I got to the end of an audio track and I thought I had the entire book on my player but it turns out that I didn’t – I ended up having to hang after the narrator asks “And guess who he was married to?....” Now I have to find the rest of that book and load it up.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Chinese Silver Dollar coins

Once I knew a programmer who was Chinese and hated programming. He wanted to be in security. He was going over the code for his program. He always said "empty" like "empa-tee". His name was Alex. He was there the day that I discovered the Chinese Silver Dollar coins in the import/export shop downstairs. I bought a page of silver dollars - eight for six dollars. Go figure. The next day I went back because I collect coins on the side. There was another page available for six dollars. I bought it and then asked if he had more. He had more. In the end I got about 8 pages of 8 coins.

I showed them to Alex, who was also a bit of a Chinese history buff. He told me about each of the dynasties represented by the coins. I forget it all now, but one thing he noticed was that there were chop marks on the coins and he said this was good. It was good because it proved that the coins were authentic. He said there were two ways commonly used to prove the authenticity of coins - one was to whack it with a huge chopper. If the coin survived, it was real. The next way was a bit more civilized and sophisticated and required a good ear. He demonstrated for me. He took a silver coin and held it in the middle of the coin between two fingers, then blew in an expert fashion hard on the edge, then quickly put the coin up to his ear as if listening to a tuning fork. If you can hear a ringing, it is real. I tried it, but could not get it to ring. I think it is in the angle and strength of his blowing. He did it for me and put it up to my ear and I could hear a small ringing.

When Alex got another job, I gave him one of the pages of chinese silver dollar coins. He was very grateful because he appreciated their historical value.  He was the only one who actually appreciated them other than me and he did help me figure out his spaghetti code before he left. Thanks, Alex.

Oh, yeah, after he left, I checked eBay and found that back then one of the coins sold for $7.99. So, I spent $48.00 for 56 coins and if each of them is really worth about $8.00 each, then each page is worth that much and I made a bit of a bundle on that deal - not even including the historical significance of the coins.


Saturday, 18 September 2010

Poem: Consultants

Consultants with smooth, slow voices
Sit around the table with us,
The Clients,
All nodding.

It becomes stuffy, slow,
Obvious that
They have previously agreed
Not to divulge any information
Not to commit to anything
Not to reveal the easiest method
Of getting to the expected result.

They waste Time.
Time is their consort.
Lovingly pandered to, indulged.

Expensive she is, luxurious, pampered.
She winds around them,
Reminding them to give to her.
She drinks of our ignorance.

They have agreed to let only one speak
And he is an expert
At misleading,
Drawing out Time
Seducing her,
Encouraging her to lounge,
Intoxicate herself, and
Pay no heed.

We are flummoxed, beguiled by his careless banter.
Soothed by vague assurances.
Confused by partial references.
Amused by useless details of
His wedding extravaganza.

Time lolls on the table between us,
Unable to focus, drugged,
Lulled by the consultants
Melodic, charming, hypnotic drone.

Money clicks loudly in his brain.
Keeps him on track.
Each moment registers
In digital, virtual brilliance
Behind his hooded eyes.

He continues his careful doling out of pittances.
Stingy with his information,
He purposely allows us
To wander down the wrong path
Get confused
Be ever so graciously guided back -
All the while
The digit counters creep
And our pockets grow lighter.

You would administer noxious potions
Artful Dodger.
You pick my pocket
You wait for the opportunity
To seize, to sign -
In blood.

I name you.


Friday, 17 September 2010

WARNING! for word geeks only...

You know you are a geek when you find a website that has a huge list of palindromes and you get excited.  It is almost as exciting as the day I got my own static IP address (well, not quite, but it comes in close.)  Once, I went to a Wierd Al concert (yes, he has them) with my daughter and was delighted to discover that he has a song made entirely out of palindromes.  Well, this tops that, I am afraid.  A GIANT list of palindromes to peruse and play with for weeks to come! 

This website contains exciting, never-before-thought-of palindromes, like:
“Drab bard”, and
“Emil saw a slime”

or jewels like:

“I saw desserts; I'd no lemons; alas, no melon. Distressed was I.“

I would venture to say that you will never find a better source – ask Weird Al himself.
Here it is:

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Lunch at Sick Kids resets priorities

Sometimes I go through Sick Kids just to reset my priorities.  Yesterday I did that.  Had lunch at a table where we sat many times while my daughter had open-heart surgery there four years ago, when she was eight.  Here are three poems I wrote then.
Sick Kids atrium

With Heart
To My Brave 8-year Old

His English accent was precise
But his Sri Lankin nature superseded
Lent a softness, a gentleness
To the necessary course of action

We sat together, he and I and my small Alicia
And looked at the diagram of the heart
A cartoon heart he called it
And the world slowed, stalled and tilted
Until, shaking, Alicia hung her head and I
Patted her leg.
In perfect symmetry, we matched -

The image of human despair,
The image of human inability
to in any way relieve that despair.

He assured us she will be up and running
Again at the end of five days
Visibly relieved he was.
What else was I to do?
There is no option?

Courage and dignity
Poor child
How to explain
Heart surgery
And should I bother?
What has not already been said?

I tell her she will get ice-cream
Stuffed animals

She does not cry
I do not cry
With luck
It won't be necessary

She Farts on Her Toys
I have to remove the pink nailpolish
From my eight-year-old's finger and toenails
Because the surgeon will need to
Check the nailbeds in the open-heart surgery tomorrow
During the four hours that she is on the
Blood and Lung machine
That keeps her alive
While they freeze her heart, dead, and
Repair the two holes, one valve.

She told me it was alright,
After the doctor left the room yesterday,
She would not die, duh,
Because the priest had already
Blessed her on Sunday
With the blessing specially chanted over her
Only after he had made sure
He understood what, exactly, was being repaired.
Special prayer per particular ailment, I suppose.
Good and blessed, then, we go on.

"Don't be scared," he told her, "I'll pray for you.".
Yet when all was quiet last night,
She hid her head under her pillow,
I don't want to die!" She wailed.

But before I could find any adequate words,
Pat her back, lie properly,
She farted, nice and loud, and laughed
Hysterically, loudly, wildly,
"Oh, yeah," says I,
"I must warn the nurses,
This is Alicia, and
She farts on her toys.".
To which, of course,
She farted again and
Rolled about laughing and
Squealing with delight.

Alicia's Heart Surgery

We had to clear all the stuffies from her bedroom
Make room for the new ones
The hospital gift shop has so many
Tigers, Cheetahs, Lions, and
She loves big, strong, ferocious animals
She did not cry
Because crying would burst the stitches
All down her chest,
Seven-inches and dissolvable

She did not eat
Because the tubes went up from her stomach
Drained the chest cavity out to plastic bottles

She wanted to walk
Right after the heart surgery
In the Intensive Care Unit
Three IV’s and her arms restrained,
Still drugged, but fighting it

They said she was a "Star" patient
Gave her "Bravery Beads"
Took things out of her one by one
Half-hour after the last tube
They said we could go home

She’s better
She’ll be normal
They assure me
In a few months
After the swelling in her heart goes down
The liquid around the heart reduces
The aorta expands and allows more blood to the brain
Her energy returns

God, I hope so.

Doctors dissected my daughter
Handed her back, fragile, sewn up
It’s either a miracle of medicine
Or the audacity of modern man

I am waiting to decide which
And trying to stay calm

Note: I am happy to say that she is fine. Just a small murmur until the heart adjusts from being lopsided.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Coffee-mate – "may cause Mad Cow." What?

I found a bunch of Coffee-mate packages in my cupboard and thought I would bring them to work to use in the coffee I intend to make instead of buying all the time. (yes, I will …) I recently bought skim-milk powder and have used that once or twice, but it tastes quite lousy, really. Even if you put more in – it doesn’t make it taste better – just lousier. So the Coffee-mate  looked good. I got them from the hotel room when we went on vacation to Ganonoque and the Thousand Islands this summer. They last forever (I think).

Since I am trying to watch the fat intake, I thought I should check how much fat is in these little packages. I was willing to bet there must be some fat because I kind of like the taste (better than skim milk powder) and if I like the taste of something, it probably has fat in it. As I suspected the package does not tell you anything. It is probably all on the larger box, so they don’t have to put it on the individual packages – thus giving you an optimum excuse for going ahead and using it in blissful ignorance. Perhaps I should have at least used one before I figured out the ingredients.

So I looked up “Coffee-mate” in Wikipedia and I was a bit confused.
“Coffee-mate is a powdered non-dairy creamer manufactured by NestlĂ©…. Recently the European version of Coffee-mate is manufactured without the use of hydrogenated fat which is linked to heart disease.

“Aha! I thought, there it is - hydrogenated fat. I knew it. So I looked up the ingredients:
Coffee-mate Original
• corn syrup solids, vegetable oil, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, sodium aluminosilicate, artificial flavor, annatto color.

“Wait a minute,” I said to myself. “where is the hydrogenated fat in this list of ingredients?”

Nothing on this list looks like fat to me:

Corn syrup solids are sugar, not fat,
Vegetable oil is not “hyrdrogenated fat,”
Sodium caseinate … - discovered that it "breaks down to an opioid, is a histamine-releaser, is a milk-protein, is a carginogen, (yikes!) but other studies report that it protects against cancer, (un-yikes?)

“Right, so other than the “might-be-a-carcinogen” sodium caseinate, where is the hydrogenated fat? I thought I would check the mono and di-glycerides next, which I have seen listed in many ingredients throughout my life, but never thought to look up.

“Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) is a food additive.
These synthetic fats are produced from glycerol and natural fatty acids, from either plant or animal origin. E471 is generally a mixture of several products, and its composition is similar to partially digested natural fat.” Gross.

Concern for vegetarians and vegans
“E471 is mainly produced from vegetable oils, although animal fats are sometimes used and cannot be completely excluded as being present in the product. “

“The fatty acids from each source are chemically identical. However, vegetarians and vegans, not wishing to consume any animal products, generally avoid products containing E471 unless they are certain that it is derived from vegetable oils.”

“Also, because there is a risk of pork fat being present, Muslims and Jews will also avoid products containing E471 unless they know that it is made from vegetable oils.”

“ Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) disease may also be a concern"  Coffee-mate ?  Mad Cow?           Holy cow.          (bad pun, I know, but really appropriate, I'd say) 

So, I kind of lost my appetite for Coffee-mate after that. I casually put it in the general cupboard in the kitchen with all the other cast off items. Note to self – never eat or drink anything in the common kitchen at the office.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Poem: My Old Boss

She peels to emptiness –
A hollow mold
Where her heart should be

And to travel outward
Is a journey through layers:
Duplicity, jealousy, envy, malice
Encompassed by a crisp, crackling
Surface of selfishness.

She cries for herself
Smells of last night's booze,
Doused in cheap perfume
Bulging from tight gold leather pants.

Daily she recounts the numerous slights
Her daughter's plights
Spiked barbs at her ex-husband
Insolent stabs of hostility
Aimed at people passing by

She guffaws at the marvel of herself
Shoves your shoulder
Hoots at the men
Refers to the sexual
Wails at The Injustice
And soothes her self-indulgences
With a lusty, gravelly
"Life's too short!"
Then gives you the shirt off her back
Out of guilt.

She is, however, hilariously funny to watch.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Surviving a crowded City Express Bus

After waiting ten minutes for an Express bus you begin to wonder if you have lost the advantage of the Express portion.  Three empty buses rattle on and I check my watch, (the bus is late), and glance at the lineup (people always squeeze in from the wrong end of the line.)  I also begin to wonder if I can do this "bus riding" thing after driving or taking the Go Train to work for years.  But if GO transit keeps raising their prices, I can't justify taking the train and then taking the TTC as well when I get off at the other end, so I am trying to take the bus all the way.
  It's surprising the difference in custom nowadays.  People elbow you unabashedly instead of subversively.  They squeeze in front of you without a backwards guilty glance.  Things have obviously changed.  In we go.  Stuffed like sardines and those empty buses and a few extra minutes begin to look good.

  You never know what awkward, contorted position you will have to maintain for the extent of the ride.  You always think you will get a chance to take another step and then it's "freeze."  That's it.  You look at the small spaces between people at the back, them standing all clam and dignified, you one arm over your head backwards, two bags over your shoulders and facing the wrong direction.  You never know whose hand you will end up touching, whose body will be pressed against yours, whose elbow in your back, breath on your neck.  You must remember how much money you will save at moments like this.  You can buy nice things with the saved money.  Imagine that.
  I am beside the bus driver.  I end up watching him or peeking out a small space between people to the outside.  He is 350 pounds and doesn't care about nothin'.  Some bus drivers will control the crowd, telling you to move back to keep the front window clear, to step off the bus because it is too crowded, to move back to make room for people in the front.  Nope.  He announces "doors are closing" and closes them.  I can hear somebody struggling to pull their purse inside as he drives away.   He has his reading glasses on the top of his head, sunglasses on his eyes and when the dashboard sounds an alarm signal that makes everyone turn their attention to the front of the bus and look at him, he ignores it.  After 57 beeps, he takes off his sunglasses, puts on his reading glasses, peers at the small display and silences the alarm.   Then he goes back to chewing a toothpick.
  At least he is a good driver.  He knows how to drive a packed bus.  Each stop and start is smooth and even, not drastic and sudden, tumbling everyone forward or backwards upon the closest foot.  Even when he enters the bus station and has to make those three spiral circles that always make me spin and twirl while hanging onto the handrail over my head, his driving is smooth and even - perhaps his attitude is the secret to surviving this chaos and perhaps there is much to be learned from is "Easy Does It" demeanor.  I should try that, I think, as I grab my bags and scramble on with the crowd to catch the subway downtown.
Toronto downtown

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Rebuilding an old computer to use the video capture card

HP Vectra
The past few days I have been rebuilding an old computer – boy, I forgot how much work it used to be to get a computer up and running. I want to digitize my analog home videos and I already bought the card to do it – but that was about 8 years ago and I have been a bit busy, so I have never gotten around to it.
To start with, I bought this computer about 10 years ago – no wait, that was the computer that this one replaced – I remember because my husband came in the door with the computer during the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and it was the first thing I did with the computer – look on the internet at all the chaos and videos and write an online article about it. (see below)

Anyway, I bought audio and video cards for it and set it up, but did not have time to use it much with the new babies and all, so my daughter started using it. Right. So, then it became her computer. Then it died and we went and bought a replacement at a refurbishing warehouse. Eventually, she wanted a laptop and this old computer ended up in the closet.
“So I hauled the old, beige Pentium III with 1 GB of Ram onto the desk it, hoisted the heavy, huge monitor up and pulled out my floppy disks out to set it up again – on Windows 98”.

ATI All-In-Wonder TV Tuner Card
First, I checked the computer to see if I could get away with just cleaning it up and installing the old ATI All-In-Wonder 128 video capture and TV tuner card. The computer was full of junk data and a nasty, persistent virus that would not be cleaned no matter how much I scrubbed. So out came Partition Magic and a new partition, formatted to NTFS was ready in about 5 minutes. I installed Windows 2000 first, applied Service Pack 4 and the hundreds of patches. Then the Creative Sound Blaster 16, which went on easily and came with some very nice software for audio editing. After that I searched for the old drives for the All-In-Wonder card. I finally found a driver site I trusted at the manufacture’s site, in the “archived” drivers section.


(Drivers for Discontinued ATI Rage™ Series Products for Windows 2000

Rage 128/Rage 128 PRO - Includes All-in-Wonder® 128 PRO, All-in-Wonder® 128, Rage Fury Pro, Rage Fury, Rage Magnum, Xpert 2000 PRO, Xpert 2000, Xpert 128, and Xper 99 products.)

When done, I installed Adobe Flash Player 10 so my husband can watch himself sing on YouTube (Blistercats) and we sat for a while watching all his videos. Then we went to bed.

In the morning, I tried hooking up the video camera and discovered that the video tuner did not work. After more Googling, I discovered that the video tuner will only work in Windows 98. Crap.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Remembering September 11, 2001

Sept 11 memorial
On September 11, 2001, I sat on the GO train across from a lady who was praying.  I couldn't hear her praying nor were her lips moving, but I knew she was prayingnonetheless.  Her body was held in the praying manner, composed, but relaxed; her hands were joined neatly on her lap, gently; but her face was what made me know - that calm, focused look, not sleep, but busy - connecting.  Even with her eyes closed, I felt her prayers.  I felt an aura of peace emanating frm her center.  And I took it for granted.  "That's what prayers do." I thought, and turned my attention to my own pursuits.  I regret now that I did not join her, because it was a day when so many prayers were needed.
  I remember feeling that people who lived during the second World War must have felt this way - uncertain of where to turn, lest the very spot you were standing on was the next to be bombed, or perhaps it was the safest spot.  I remember feeling sorry for my parents to have lived through that and I hadn't known, hadn't given enough attention to their hardships.  Callous, selfish, impetuous, head-strong youth.  Like a potion, it had drugged me.  Yet, without it, the human race would cease to push the envelope, for it is the wildness of youth that drives the world forward.
  I remember feeling an endless lust for information, for pictures especially and while repelled by the horror, I was also addicted to it.  Movie-makers must realize this.  What is it in human nature that craves this fix? I know if it is too peaceful, people will war to stir up some excitement, even unto death.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Google Fly

Today I went all over the world on Google Maps. As usual, it started with an innocuous email about the "Largest Emerald In North America Found on Carolina Farm."
First I went to Hiddenite, North Carolina to see the place where they found this extremely large, clear emerald that they have named the "Carolina Emperor."
It is "an emerald so large it's being compared with the crown jewels of Russian empress Catherine the Great" and to think it "was pulled from a pit near corn rows at a North Carolina farm." But this is not unusual for the area because "big, uncut crystals and even notable gem-quality emeralds have come from the community 50 miles northwest of Charlotte called Hiddenite." This, I had to see. Although, just what I expected to see, I don't know. Truly, I only went on Google Maps because I know someone in West Virginia, near Charlotte, West Virginia, and I just wanted to see how close to that place was this fabulous new find.

Of course, when on Google maps, one place leads to another and before I knew it, I was in Calgary, then Venice, Italy, then the Strait of Gibraltar (my husband's suggestion).

Strait of Gibraltar, Snagged from Google Maps

It was while standing on the highway on the hill at the Strait of Gibraltar, with the cows there with me, the grasslands rolling away on my right to the sheep in the valley and the palms trees all in a row along the edge of the road that I lamented the fact that I could only see a small glimpse of the water over there - where the road does not go and where I can see the tip of the continent of Africa - that I thought to myself I wish I could fly up in the air right now and look down at the Strait of Gibraltar. Google Fly. I know Google Earth has a similar thing, but it is not as wonderful as being able to lift off from the ground, eh? They could take the photos from airplanes and let you fly around tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican, the pyramids and, yes, Hiddenite, North Carolina. (I have since discovered that there is a much better vantage point for seeing the Strait of Gibraltar down the road, but this is where I had my brilliant idea.)
So, then I went to Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada and tried to look at the lake - again the road only goes up to the hotel and you see all the people gawking at the Google Earth camera. (There should be a Facebook group just for those people who have been photographed by the Google Earth camera. Once I Google Earthed to New York City and I saw a guy scratching his head with one hand while holding the leash to his dog with the other hand and his little Jack Russell Terrier is peeing on a fire hydrant. Could have been a Norman Rockwell painting. I noticed that even the face of the dog was blurred out. This led to a conversation with my daughter that evening whence I suggested that she might find a job at Google as a face blurrer - imagine how much work that is!)
Port Alice, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Next I went up to Port Alice, Vancouver Island and it was while on my way to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, that I remembered about the Continental Divide. So cool. So I tried to Google it, but all I got was a sign, which is what we saw when we were in Banff, Alberta and we drove by just such a sign that said "Continental Divide" or something and my husband said "Get a picture!" So I am shooting out the window at what looked like a flat place, high up in the mountains, where the water can't decide which way it will flow down the mountain, and it pools and eddies here and there, starting a bit of a river for a while, going a distance and then pooling again, until it finally goes down off one side or the other of the mountain. .

They could have a contest with boats to see which side your boat ends up taking, because whichever side the water goes down determines where it will end up - in the Atlantic, the Pacific or the Arctic Ocean. Figuring this out just now has been a giant epiphany for me because I never really understood it before. They should have Google Earth in front of every geography student, instead of a blackboard. My husband says they should also have "Google Boats" and my daughter says "Google Cruise!" then my youngest daughter say "Google Space!"  Ah, the future will be grand, I expect.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

I submitted photos to the Cottage Life Photo Contest

Today I submitted four photos to the Cottage Life photo contest.

Lake Lilies:

We paddled across the lake to Tennyson's Bay and discovered that it was filled with lily pads and beautiful white lily flowers. The water was calm and still here, although the sky was blue and the wind was strong. It was surprising to see how much of the sky and trees were reflected in the lake and how the sun made the green pads white.

Peace Kid

The blue tongue is because she just finished a big, round sucker at 9:00 in the morning (cottage rules) and the peace sign is because she got away with it and I didn't even get mad.

Floating between lake and sky

Floating between the lake and the sky, this dock lolls peacefully in the bright morning, but by the afternoon it is rocked with the clamour of jumping, laughing, carousing, splashing, (and even the crying,) of half-a-dozen kids having summer fun in a warm Ontario lake.

Glitter Lake

A shower of glitter reflects the warm afternoon sunshine just before dinnertime.

Boats by the Dock

The aluminum boat must be 50-years-old, but it doesn't seem like it to me. I can remember the spray of water in my face while racing with the motor across Lake Simcoe or paddling quietly so as not to disturb the fish underneath, holding my breath because the metal made lots of noise. Sunday morning ventures across the quiet lake in the paddleboat, with the cool sunshine in your eye and hot coffee in your mug - it doesn't get much better.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

I just dubbed her "562" - like "626"

We went to the shelter again to visit dear “A562010” or “Kitty Cora” or whatever you call her. They think we are bothering them – after dumping the cat off (which is what they write on the index card on the cage – “dumped at shelter”) then we have the audacity to return to visit her three times and ask a lot of dumb questions when they are busy trying to get these cats adopted. Whatever.

She is in the sick room and can’t be visited. She was moved out of the “stray” room, where they put all the current stray cats (it was full of new cats!) because she had caught a cold or “upper respiratory infection” as had all the other cats. She is on medication and will be treated for ten days. After that time, she is in line to be spayed – first come, first serve, so we don’t know yet when that will be.

Instead of bothering her every few days, the lady cleverly suggested that we look on the website to obtain updates about “562” as I have just dubbed her for short. (We may end up calling her “stitch” at this rate – which is a reference to the Disney movie “Lilo and Stitch” where an alien mutant experiment named “626” comes to earth and ends up in a kennel, so he impersonates a dog and gets adopted by an unknowing young Hawaiian girl who thinks her dog is the best with all the tricks he can do. Cute movie. Generated years of one-liners in our house. “He is very persuasive”)

Anyway…. Will keep you posted.