Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Ice Palaces

Ah bejabers.
We're surrounded by ice palaces, dirty ones at that. I went to the supermarket and every sixth parking space was taken up by the mound of snow that had been shovelled or ploughed there and that had then frozen solid. Soon, there'll be a troglodyte city and then sometime in June when they melt, the creatures will have to return to the north.

The media have coined the term 'Snowmageddon' to describe our recent weather. This seems somewhat overstated. Elsewhere in Canada, they have weeks or months of snow without making too much fuss about it.
A small town in the east of BC has lost eight young men in a series of avalanches. The men were on snowmobiles. Thus, another subject of discussion is whether they were properly equipped and trained. It seems they were and in any case, four of them died trying to dig out the first four who were overtaken by the snowslide.
This morning on TV, the distressed father of one of the men talked about the accident, and that was enough. Trained or not trained, I can certainly imagine one of my sons doing something this foolhardy. I could imagine myself being that distraught parent.

I read in New Scientist that the average European will generate 900 tommes of carbon in their lifetime. The average North American will generate 1,500 tonnes. So, by moving here, have I upped the ante, or do I bring my European carbon parsimony to bear?

Carbongeddon perhaps?

Monday, 29 December 2008

Zohan

Shalom.
Funny old weather we're having. Rain was beating down when we woke up this morning, it had stopped by the time I took off for work, but it took me an hour to get there. I was yomping through snow piles that were over my knees, and THAT is heavy going. Kevin came and picked me up at lunchtime, and discovered that, though the main roads have been cleared, the median had not, so it was a bobsleigh ride to get across the highway.

I'm learning.

Whilst I was talking to my sister on Skype, suddenly, the starlings that had been crowding the bare tree outside the window in a Hitchcock-esque fashion, all disappeared and driving snow was being blown in a circular motion that meant it was horizontal and vertical at the same time.

After work, I went to check out the sales. So did everyone else. I don't play nicely with crowds, so I cut and ran. Well, again, more bobsleighed back home.

Although, as oft stated, we don't see many ads on TV, we do get the ones that come with the morning news. And by news I mean bunch of so-called TV presenters larking about. I should up my game. But anyway - there is one that I feel does the proverbial foot-shooting.
Kid goes into a shop because he sees a sign saying, 'Help Wanted.'
'Shouldn't you be out playing hockey?' asks the shopkeeper,
'Um...(very overdone winsome look from kid)...that's what I'm trying to do.' So the ad wants you to contribute to some fund that gives money to families so that the kids can play sports instead of bloody earning the money to do so. Feck off! That's EXACTLY what kids should be doing - going out and earning the dosh so that they've then earned the right to play.

There's little new on TV right now, so we're catching up on films we recorded previously. Last night we watched 'Untraceable' with Diane Lane and...oh some other people. It was bloody well done. I didn't think I was going to enjoy this suspense movie, but I was in.

Tonight though, we saw 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan.' Adam Sandler as an Israeli counter-terrorist wanting to be a hairdresser. The opening sequence wasn't too hopeful, but thereafter, well, all I will say is, make sure your bladder is empty before watching.
I laughed so hard and so long I cried. I'm more of a Stiller than Sandler fan usually, but this was no holds barred laugh-fest, and if that seems tasteless in view of the recent Hamas attack on Israel, that's kinda one of the points he's making.
The Hezbollah Helpline had me rolling helplessly.

Komish.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas - dritten Tag

So. Boxing Day. How did it end? Not so well, and then well.

First off, around 23.30 - we notice that the neighbour has two cars parked bang outside our garage door, thus no egress should I need to, and this means also that they are in front of two other cars in the visitor parking - who could have to move and in a firelane.
I went out and took pictures. Then I went back in my garage and honked the car horn until FINALLY the neighbour comes out. Two young men scurry out and move the cars, but in a way that suggests they are waiting for me to move my car and will then re-park as they were.
'It's a fire lane,' say I. He responds with a stream of one of the Chineses. 'What's the point of that?' say I, 'it's a fire lane.' More Chineseish. I wait. Finally the younger men move off and park their vehicles elsewhere.
But before I've made it up the stairs, one is back, so I go down again and re-state that it's a fire lane and therefore an offence to park there. More Chinese. But I stand my ground, taking another picture of the re-parker, which prompts one of them to take a picture of me (not committing any offence) on a phone-cam.
Shucks.
They go in and close their garage.

When I did get to bed however, Kevlar (I'm banned from calling him this, ergo, I'll just do it the once and never more) had got the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special set up on the TV in the bedroom, so all was well that ended well.

Today - well, the high spot of the day, bearing in mind my supreme sports' filter, was meeting the cup of His Excellency the Earl Grey. (Canadian Football League Grey Cup for anyone who doesn't know what it is.)
Cool huh?

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day

...and we`re told, the last day of snow - well, until New Year`s Day is the current forecast. We`re supposed to just be getting freezing rain for a while now. Driving back from Surrey, the conditions were worse than on Christmas Eve, but there seemed to be fewer loony drivers on the road.

So now we have the after-Chrimbo period of leftovers. Like so many people, I love Christmas dinner leftovers, yum, yum, yummers. I could do with eating a little less for a while too, December seems to have been an entire month of scarfing up calories. But it was good.

Since it is also traditional to watch movies over the Christmas period, we did just that this avo. Not an old black and white, but a cracker nonetheless. I will, however, qualify that.
The film we watched was `Factory Girl`about the relationship between Edie Sedgewick and Andy Warhol. Both Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce gave outstanding performances and I really enjoy watching films and plays where the acting is so good you are seeing the art of it instead of having to overlook it and follow a story. Story - there isn`t much, but this is a thoughtful, well-made film, that showed subtlety of character and it engaged us both.

And over Christmas so far, two greats died. Eartha Kitt, seriously, has there ever been anyone with such a sexy voice as Eartha? I'm sure we can look forward to a few plays of 'Santa Baby' in the next few days.
Then Harold Pinter, brilliant playwright, director and actor. A dramatist who gave us those very plays that provoke thought and reflection, so another loss to British theatre.

The most twinkly news story today however, was that the CIA have discovered a successful strategy for getting information from Afghan Warlords - they have been supplying them with viagra. I'm all for creative tactics - well done lads and lasses, it's just....do you think you should have maybe kept your secret weapons secret?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas

It was divine to wake up on Christmas morning and see snow falling from the sky - I find it mesmerising.

It was hellish driving in the snow on Christmas Eve, to get to Kevin's parents in Surrey, even though he was doing the driving.
Church services were cancelled and I had to settle for watching Midnight Mass on TV - but I fell asleep anyway.



Laurence got to learn a new, Canadian skill and ritual, shovelling snow. There was a lot of it about.

Kevin cooked a phenomenal Christmas meal and I...well I lazed about doing sweet fanny adams except eating and drinking. So - what I do best then.
More snow tomorrow apparently, but then some rain.

God bless and to all a very, merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Ads

Christmas TV ads.
For the past couple of years, we seem to have had a surfeit of ads all with different versions of 'Let it snow'. I haven't been aware of them this year, but then we manage to avoid almost all ads by not watching TV in real time. Thus, we skip a lot.

But I was drawn to watch a whole bundle of this year's British Christmas ads because there was an article about them on the Guardian's website. They did mostly seem a bit shabby.
I expected to see Jamie doing something perky with a turkey, but no go.
The Asda one irritated me because, well, I suppose it plays to its own audience and that Perry Como song, 'It's beginning to seem a lot like Christmas,' makes me want to puke right away.

Tesco, trotting out Des O'Connor seem not to have noticed that Desie was always naff even when he was 'young'. So that's a miss.
The Morrisons one was.... half baked. Good snow mileage, but then it all goes Pete Tong.
Iceland - hohum. Jason Donavon, ok, slightly interesting, especially since he seems to have had his hairline restored, but the two chavvie women annoying him are, really, just annoying.
But I have to say, despite the snarky comments of the journo, I rather liked the Co-op ones. They seemed snappy, to the point, and really rather GOT the point I thought.
'I'll give it foive,' as some person used to say on some old pop show back in the 60s. I think it was called, 'Hit or Miss.'

Meanwhile, we wait for more snow. 'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..'
Sadly, it looks as though it might well interfere with the one thing which actually makes it Christmas for me and other practitioners of the vampire faith, Midnight Mass.
There might be snow, but without the baby, there's not much point to the bathwater, if you get my drift.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Driving Snow

The snow finally stopped falling during the course of the morning. It is about 50cms deep.

Right. I generally think of myself as a damned fine driver, however this is based on mainly European criteria. I am really rather a calm driver, am proud of my cornering, road placement, smooth gear changing and judgement of stopping distances in all weather conditions. I also never roll back on hills, being able to easily find the biting point of the clutch.
None of this would impress another Brit, because you have to be able to do all of these things before you can pass your driving test. They don't impress Canadians either because they just don't care about driving skills.

I was, however, suitably awed by Kevin's driving skills this morning, and ones I don't have.
Having grown up largely in Ontario, he knows how to drive in big snow, so when it looked as though we would be unable to even get out of our garage, and down the street car after car was just spinning its wheels, unable to move, I was expecting us to have to walk. Fine for me, a little further for him.

But in fact, in true H2G2 (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) form, a towel was pressed into use under the tyres and some fancy gear changing, steering wheel work and generally getting the car to do things I never even knew it could do, soon got us moving. Well, maybe 'soon' might be an exaggeration, but we did get moving, and faster than anyone else.

I was impressed, dead impressed. Not just a tad, not just a touche, seriously, deeply, impressed.

At work, I discussed this amazing feat with a colleague - another Brit. Somehow, we got to discussing the different types of snow plough we have back home. Erm...pardon? Snow ploughs?
'Oh yes,' said my friend, 'you know the big ones with the double plough?' Erm...not really, no. He had lived in the north of England, in Yorkshire.

In Pompey, what we usually got was a truck with a lad sitting in the back on a pile of sand, strewing it by hand. I mean, fair do's, Pompey City Council normally managed to get the roads sanded ahead of any hint of ice, but I realised I'd never even seen a snow plough in England.

I guess that's why they call us 'Soft Southerners' oop north.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Snow on Cedars

This is what I signed up for, big snow.
Last night it was blizzard-like as we drove through it back from our friend's house.
Kev had to go out to collect his brother from the airport and although there was much snow in Toronto, his plane was held up circling Vancouver, then on the runway waiting to get to the gate.

It almost feels Christmassy.

The night before last, a woman sleeping in a supermarket trolley in Vancouver set fire to herself and died. Emergency services didn't respond quickly because it was reported as a garbage can fire.
Last night there were nine people sleeping in our church.

When we woke up, the snow lay deep and thick and even, but as I drove to church, it started falling and has been doing so ever since.
It`s fabulous and deadly.
The weather forecast has changed to `non-stop snow, well, except Monday`. We`ll see.

I leave you with a Christmas poem by the excellent Scots poet Carol Ann Duffy, as published in the Guardian this past week. Illustrations are by the equally wonderful Posy Simmonds.
I give you - Mrs. Scrooge.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Response and Responsibility

Up at Whistler - snowy Vancouver-side playground of the wealthy, a tower holding up the hawsers from which dangles the gondola, or ski-lift, was 'ice-jacked' and broke in half, leaving the occupants of said gondola suspended precariously in mid-air for three and a half hours. Poor buggers. I'd have had to have pee-ed out of the window during that time.
The branch of the mob known as Vanoc are wringing their hands in dismay. What will people think? How will they ever trust the ski-lifts at Whistler?

Well, let's think. The Chinese government have an appalling human rights record, something that's so swift to drop from anyone's mouth when China is mentioned that it's almost a cliché. They are polluting the planet as though there were no tomorrow - which in fact, should they continue, there won't be. They have bullied Tibet mercilessly, supplied arms to Darfur and in spite of communism, tolerate miserable poverty in their country. BUT IT DIDN'T STOP THE OLYMPICS. So I don't think there's too much to worry about.

In Britain, town halls are struggling with increased demand for their services, one of which is housing. Yes, in Britain, the city or town is responsible for housing those who cannot afford to own or rent privately. In line with the Social Contract, those who deign to govern and take on that privilege, also take on certain duties.
Here, by contrast, no-one is responsible. Rights without responsibility.
There is a new mayor in Vancouver, and a large part of his campaign was fought on the promise to house the homeless.
Clearly this is something that worries Vancouverites. So what does Mayor Robertson do as soon as he assumes power? Why asks the churches to open their doors at night. Yes, I think this comes under the label of abrogation of the social contract, and I know what you're thinking, surely I meant to say, 'establishments where faith is practised'? Did he not ask the mosques, temples, synagogues and so on ? Nope. Just the churches.

Now, you could indeed argue that Christians have a responsibility towards the poor and homeless, and this is no doubt why some of them open their doors, but churches here, even more than back home, have limited resources, severely limited; to heat rooms up outside of normal hours puts a very real strain on that church, and to have the church staffed overnight is relying on overstretched volunteers.
In Richmond, there is ONE church that opens its doors, let's re-state that, ONE faith establishment, the one I attend. And that means there is literally only ONE place that homeless women and children can go to, because the Sally-Anne offers shelter, but only to men.

Why do the cities not have responsibility for this? Beats me.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Snow Way

Today was a rare day, a snow-all-day day. Oh yes. On top of the most wonderful snow we already had, it started snowing late yesterday evening. It was snowing when we woke up and it went on all day, although it has stopped now. There is something unbelievably magical about walking in deep snow whilst it is also falling from the sky.
At work, we found a squirrel stuffed into a chickadee nesting box, clearly not a claustrophobe.

Yesterday, Nicole Kidman was under fire from critics for blowing into a didgeridoo. I'm not even sure why anyone can claim it's her fault, since the TV show she was appearing on staged the whole sorry spectacle.
The only thing to do in these circumstances in my opinion is to go out and get preggers straight away, to show other women that it's a load of almost literal, bollocks. What does surprise me however, is that both Cruise and Kidman have managed to have children since splitting up. So what was all that adoption stuff about then?

In the cold weather, it is useful to know that it turns out to be a myth that most of our bodyheat is lost through the noddle. I had wondered about this I must say. I am no hat wearer, but I am quite a warm person. Now at least I don't feel as though I should wear a hat.

Anyway, the real snow - apparently - hasn't yet hit, seems we're getting more on Sunday.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Red Sky

Apparently the entire country is below freezing and here in the west we have another snow warning. Driving isn't much fun right now, but it's right proper pretty.

I've eaten my curry, now I'm waiting for my eggnog whilst watching an old and yet unseen by me, episode of The Vicar of Dibley, who seems to have a date with Sir Guy of Gisborne. A totally normal Brit-Canuck December evening.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Our Mountains

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Snowfall


Then later...it did indeed snow.

Nanotubes

My dreams of snow stayed as just dreams, but at least it is still cold, so there is hope. The mountains looked so close today, it was so clear.

On the TV here, after every break, there is a warning if the programme may contain nudity, sexuality, bad language or a bit of ultraviolence. Oh, and when 'Bones' is on, there is a warning that it 'may contain graphic forensic details.' I should bloody well hope so.
However, this becomes annoying. Personally I feel the warnings should be more appropriate. How about,
'Viewers should be advised that this programme contains scenes with incorrect use of language, there may be some adjectives used instead of adverbs, prepositions and articles may be left out and metaphors may be wrongly applied. There is also sexist language which some viewers may notice and find offensive.'

The spin-off from the British series, 'Life on Mars', 'Ashes to Ashes', is, in my opinion, even better than LoM, which was brilliant. There is a sexual tension between the two main characters, that was not possible in the original, and being that little bit further forward in time, the exploration of other issues, such as early AIDS cases and the changing attitudes towards women and gay and black people. Also, the music of the eighties was just stonking and so the soundtrack is spectacular too.
On the episode we watched last night, the lads come out with a whole string of derogatory names for gay men.
'Ever wondered why the Inuit have so many words for snow?' asked DI Alex Drake (the character from the future.)
The lads look bemused,
'Eskimos,' explains the WPC.
'Because it's so important in their lives,' said DI Drake.
Great writing.

I notice in the back of New Scientist that there is a firm that will sell you nanotubes, should you need them. They also supply phase changing material. Well that takes care of that then. Should I ever need to remodulate my Heisenberg's Coils, I'll be sending them an e-mail, so problem solved.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Snowy Dreams

Well, we had a bit of snow this morning. Mostly it was sleet, then it would change back to snow, then sleet again. It ended the work day as sleet, but we're forecast snow for tonight, so here's hoping.

Here in 'Almost Vancouver' we are honoured to be able to have spent gazillions of tax dollars building the Olympic skating rink. This is known as the skating oval, which just sounds wrong, since the oval is where they play cricket, but whatevs, we live a confusing life.

Today, this magnificent structure was opened and the public were invited to...park several hundred metres away and go in to see it in all its unfinished glory. But the design looks spectacular and the roof is made from pine-beetle damaged wood, so it's all good.

'Lesbilicious', which boasts that it is 'the web's tastiest lesbian magazine', tells us that the UN is likely to be asked to vote on decriminalising homosexuality.
I had no idea it was a criminal offence, but apparently, 86 countries do in fact ban male homosexuality.
I'm proud to be European, because all 27 member states of the EU back the motion, however this also worried me because the last time I was paying attention, it seemed like there were only fifteen member states.
The US hasn't yet indicated its support. Hmmm. I'm sure their invitation just got lost in the post.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Crackers

Ah, Costco, cheap as chips but nowhere near as big as a French hypermarket. I broke some kind of unwritten law there today. All around the place are people giving you small tasters of some new line in food items.
And it came to pass that I came upon an abandoned food-tasting station, but still with tasty snacks crying out,
'Eat me!'
So verily, I took a little cheese cracker and lifted the knife from the plate of cream cheese and was about to spread said cracker with said cheese when from nowhere (seemingly) popped up a small Chinese woman screaming, 'excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, excuse me.'
She took the knife from my hand and like a ninja wielding some kind of special ninja weapon, she cleaned the blade in one swift movement of paper towel, whilst simultaneously ripping the minute cracker from my other hand and tossing it contemptuously into a nearby bin. From some nook or cranny appeared an enormous bottle of disinfectant which she used to render the knife beyond hygiene and into the realms of godliness and somehow it seemed to me that she spun the knife in the air as she stripped off her latex gloves and donned a new pair, although I may have imagined this manoeuvre.
By now, an amused gaggle of onlookers were making comments about how dare a mere mortal touch the food samples and chuckling.

Finally, the Chinese ninja took a new tiny cracker, spread it with cheese from the exact plate that had been sitting there exposed the whole time, and handed it to me, her face contorting into a Jack-o-Lantern smile and saying something along the lines of,
'Thank-you for trying our new cream cheese spread,' I think she may have bowed to me as well.
I raised my left eyebrow at her, hoping she'd understand the full meaning of it.

In most countries, you could say, 'Well, who do you get demonstrating food samples in Costco? Probably not brain surgeons,' but here, well, you could easily be receiving your tasty bite from a rocket scientist or a neurosurgeon, seriously, it keeps you humble.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Wellies

I love my wellies. I do. They let me splash in puddles and paddle through ditches. They let me make excuses to escape the stuffy, overheated office.

I also love the shortest of days, the fast-falling twilight, the mist, the twinkle of early evening lights. It is surely enough in itself.

Yesterday evening, one of my friends read a short piece centred around 'La Pieta', Michelangelo's sculpture depicting the grief of Mary as she held Christ in her arms - as she held her dead son in her arms. That grief is so easily forgotten, so easily overlooked in the story, taken over by the fervour of followers and disciples.

I was amused to read that pupils studying maths and science in England are amongst the highest performers from a study of more than sixty countries. No, that wasn't what amused me, it was that said pupils were achieving more, but enjoying it less.
Oh. Dear.
Education is about education, not about being entertained.

Well, out of all the mess of Canadian politics over the past few weeks, it looks as though one of the parties - the Liberals, are about to get a strong, capable leader. Who thought that could happen?

Last night we saw the last ever episode of Boston Legal and wow, was it an amazing episode. Often, last episodes of great series turn out to be a disappointment, lame, but not this one. This episode exceeded all others and oh sister have there been some great, GREAT programmes. It will be sorely missed.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Dori and Dawn

I do have stuff to write about, but it can wait until tomorrow.

Tonight I just want to remember a woman I have never met, Dori Henderson who died today at the age, I think, of 49.

But her sister, Dawn, is a dear friend that I have known for forty years now and so I can grieve because I know how hard this has been for my friend and her family.
Dori was only diagnosed with cancer (quoting from her CaringBridge site) "...the week before Labor Day..." and I certainly remember Dawn first mentioning it to me in early September. It has been a swiftly progressing and aggressive illness, and I know through my friend Dawn, that Dori's family, her husband, her two children and of course, parents and siblings, have been devastated by the speed at which she was taken from them.

Dawn, I know you'll read this at some time, may God give you and your family the strength you need at this most dreadful time, and may you dear sister Rest in Peace.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Pillocks

Whatever is occurring? Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, professional pillock and all round twonk, ballsed up already? Dear, oh dear, oh dear. No-one saw that coming. Much.

According to New Scientist, although they didn't mention us personally, have endorsed our choice of car last year. We couldn't cough up for a hybrid, nor did it tick the important 'hatchback' box for us, but it seems that the manual fuel-efficient small car is the best you can do for the environment - well, short of not having a car at all.

How green is green? Is applewhite as green as avocado? What does that even mean? No idea.
But...I have been agonising over whether to send physical Christmas cards, or should I go electronic?
I decided that I should aim for electronic, maybe for next year, but I am doing better than I was. Here, people don't seem to send cards to absolutely everyone they know the names of, so I am being MORE green than I was. Applewhite then.

In the season of the perpetual party, is it better to be an 'and guest' or a 'plus one'? Hmm? I'm thinking 'and guest' has more status. My friend, who wanted to attend a do and bring another friend, was annoyed at the 'and spouse' invite. I can't understand why she didn't just take the friend, but she had a point.

On the radio yesterday morning, they were playing that modern classic, 'Wonderwall'. Now, believe you me, I am no Oasis fan. I think they're barely human and not particularly talented, but when the DJ, let me say again, the DJ, whose job it is to...well, be a DJ and have a more extensive musical knowledge than the hoy palloy said to the other,'Wonderwall, that's what, by Oasis isn't it?' I had to just shake my head.

I'm so fed up of those fecking e-mails that keep coming round with some blethering old shite. Like, for example, the old 'Britain has dropped the Holocaust from the National Curriculum because the Muslims didn't believe it happened' crapola. Bullshit.
Another one keeps appearing, that we are supposed to send on to other Canadians, telling immigrants to feck off and go back home because some Hindus wanted to be able to sing the National Anthem in Hindu.
Well firstly, arseholes, the English language version is flagrantly sexist and needs to be updated, and secondly, don't send it to me, I am an immigrant.
Fuckwits.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Club Penguin

I am making virtually no preparations for Christmas, I'm going to England for two weeks in January, so I figure it'll all be done then. And yet....I seem to have a plethora of to-do lists - many Christmas-related. Still, I do like my lists, I find them very motivating.

I was up at 6 this morning, in order to drive Laurence into Vancouver. In spite of feeling like a real weed, because I have friends who don't get in from work until that time, I considered myself hard done-by to have to drag myself out of bed. Admittedly, that is easier to do on a Friday than any other weekday.
The compensation for this however, was that I left the house at 7 and was back by 7.35. Sweet. And on the way back, the sky was beginning to lighten. It's exciting watching two cities come to life.

This week has seen the start of a new programme at work. And it is a fairly new programme, so not tried and tested over many years. I play Mother Nature and have to prepare the Park for the onset of winter, whilst Jill Frost wants to go straight from summer to winter. The past two days, the programme has been really well received and it's nice to see the kids really enjoying it.

You know how in TV soaps, men often discover children they never knew they had? Well it turns out I have a child I never knew I had, Ryan. I have discovered Ryan because he has twice joined 'Club Penguin' and Club Penguin have e-mailed me, his mother, to activate his account. I feel bad. BUT....I'm a sucker for Penguins, so as long as he can remember either his password or who he sent the details to, he'll be able to 'get a penguin'.
This clearly differs from the old ads that told us to p-p-pick up a penguin, then lick the chocolate off and nosh it.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Rum Ration

It's ironic. I'm dead jealous of the snow in the north of Britain today and yet...even were I there, it would take me hours to get to the nearest snowfall, whereas here, I could be standing in snow in about forty minutes. But I want it outside my front door, waaaahhh!!!

I was wondering about the naval rum ration today, since it became clear that a whole bottle of the stuff had mysteriously vanished. Well, not so mysteriously really, more a case of co-dependency, the eggnog has disappeared at the same time.
Anyhoo, got me wonderin'. The naval rum ration, which only stopped in 1970, was an eighth of a pint, ergo 2½ fluid ounces, so, turns out we've been consuming a supersized rum ration. The traditional naval ration was 50% proof though, so on that score, we're quite restrained.
Think we'll lay off it for a while even so.

I'm not sure if it's the time of year or my age, but dinner seems to be preoccupying me. Last night, I went out with people from work and had a really good turkey dinner. Tonight, we had Korma. Both yummers. It used to be all about the brekker, now - it's the dins. I wonder if there'll come a point when I start having dinner at lunchtime.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Snowberries

So, sorry, I got ahead of myself. The whole squabbling government thing isn't resolved. We don't have a coalition, we have the possibility of one, and now we also have the pathetic spectacle of our brave leader whining and stamping like a small boy and making us look like a bunch of dishonourable weenies on the international stage.

Another bunch who can just fuck off are the retarded part of the Anglican church who want to separate because they just don't get it. Jeez. Let them go. Pathetic bunch of tossers. We don't need bigots thank you very much.

Ah, December, month of hectic camaraderie and celebration of the birth of Christ.
On Saturday evening I mentioned to the people at our table that Sunday was the first in Advent. One couple looked at me blankly and then said,
'Oh, right, the kids' thing with the chocolates.'
'No, the REAL Advent,' I said, but I thought un-Christian thoughts.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Light Fantastic

At the weekend, the fairly new laptop started having a severe case of indigestion. I couldn't do more than a couple of things before it would freeze up. The old clunker had to be pressed into service, resulting in a feeling of discomfort and a distinct lack of joy. Sheesh, how can I be so dependent on a machine?

Joy was restored, however, by the final half-series of Boston Legal. Oh what a treat it is. I can't wait for the two-hour last ever ep next Monday.
Denny Crane.

People who go on holiday to Thailand, against government advice - what can you say really? Well, I know, but after a while you've gotta think that the government has to send in the troops and get its people out. Lucky that the situation looks to be over, because our government has been too busy fighting amongst themselves. Lucky that's over now too, and we are to have a coalition. And of course the abysmal anti-French prejudice is affecting people's brains, because the coalition HAS to involve the Bloc Québécois, and there are those who think this is tantamount to being in league with the devil.

I have put up Christmas decs. I'm trying to be less...well, me I suppose. Minimalist maybe. But the lights that we can get now, the low energy, LEDs, white and blue, feed into that. I can't do the coloured lights, but we do have lights.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Divali Lights

And it came to pass that the beast was awakened. Damn good thing too. The beast is the old laptop, humongous great thing in comparison with the new little one, which seems to have caught a chill or some such. At any rate, it's not playing well at the moment.

Yesterday we celebrated a late Divali/early Christmas. Yes, it's that time of year again - used to start with Eid when I was at Mayhem, but here we seem to have more Hindus than Muslims, and boy do they know how to throw a party. We danced to Bangra with Sikhs and we ate various curries until we were sweating spices.

On the darker side of matters Indian, I had an irrational panic during the week. I knew my sister was to be in Mumbai this month sometime, but she hadn't been very specific about when. And I hadn't heard from her. I tried e-mailing, but received no response. I couldn't ring since she is not home during the week. Finally I did get a reply to my frenzied hails, and she was back, safe and sound, but she only missed the horror by a week, and had been staying in the exact hotel, and on the exact floor where many western visitors had been killed. She is shaken. Many of the staff who had been so warm and welcoming to them and made their stay so good, are now dead.

On Friday evening, we had a celebration for the cast and crew of the church play. This also seemed like an opening of the Christmas season, and as a bunch, we determined to challenge sellers of Christmas cards whose products say, 'Happy Holidays'. It's Christmas goddamit! Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Snowy Lions

Fuck. It was one thing when we were behind Québec, Newfieland, Nova Scotia and Ontario, but now we're bloody well lagging behind Manitoba. That's it. BC is officially lamer than Manitoba. Bollocks. Oh, sorry, Manitoba is banning in-car cell-phone use.

I was pleased to see that two women won a sexual harassment case in the City of London. This was about more than just the two women, it's a clear shot across the bows of sexism in financial institutions and shows that the appalling behaviour shown in the series 'Mad Men' still goes on, but will not be tolerated.
Well done ladies and thank-you for taking the trouble to challenge it.

Heston Blumenthal, the anally-retentive chef, is just too much for me. I get the point, he makes dishes that other people do, but in extremis. And in the right place and setting (ie when it behoves me), I can enjoy pretension, but Blumie really, really, makes me feel that life's too short and that Waitrose is a mere 8,000 kilometres away.
I was, however, as intrigued as the food and drink section of the Graun, to know how he might be able to devise a menu for under a tenner for the Little Chef. (Roadside diner). It almost makes me want to actually GO to a Little Chef, and generally it's only desperation and the need for toilets that make me venture into one.

Ok. Second thing I was pleased to read about is that the whole Proposition 8 fiasco is far from over. The nazis of California are to be challenged in the courts and quite right too. The go ahead has even been given BY the courts to challenge IN the courts. This is not a gay issue, this is a human rights issue. And it's not a Californian issue, it's a global one.
Let the games commence. And let them not end until prejudice and backward thinking - closed minds, lie bleeding on the floor.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Manic Preaching

Happy Thanksgiving American friends.
And any of you fiends out there too.

One of the Sikh temples in Surrey, has been taken by coup. I'm not entirely sure how this works, but it seems like they have leadership elections of some description. So now the young bucks are in and the young 'uns are fundies. Oh yes. Who said that conservatism comes with advancing age? Not the older Sikhs, that's for sure. They want to carry on eating at tables and sitting on chairs, whilst the fundies want everyone to sit on the floor.
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

I was kind of surprised to see an obit for Manic Street Preachers' guitarist Richey Edwards.
Surprised in that I thought this must mean he's been found, but no, he has just been declared dead as it has now been so long since his disappearance in 1995. That must be so hard for his parents, not knowing, just not knowing.

It seems that owning a gun is eight times as likely to incline you to suicide than not owning one if your are a woman, and four times as likely if you are not. I'm really not sure if that's a good thing, a bad thing, or morally neutral. After all, the stats aren't saying you're more likely to kill someone else - although that is probably true too.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Bristol Cities

Darkness on the edge of town.

In the UK, women have been continually harshly sentenced - and imprisoned - for petty crimes such as shoplifting. Finally, this situation is being addressed, and remedial alternatives are to be put in place.

I`m sorry, but this is really funny. I don`t know how it got past me. Reading an article about the first single mother in U.S. congress, which made me think I`d fallen through a bloody time warp into Victorian England, I mean seriously, In 2008, this is the first time?
But anyroad, I discover that the artist formerly keeping the western world amused and known as Sarah Palin, daughter thereof is called Bristol Palin. How did I not know this? And how does a young woman get through any part of life being called Bristol? I suppose there are men called Dick. And Willy. And I don't know how that works. But Bristol? And is that better or worse than Bristols? Boggling, just boggling. There is no end to this family's comedy value.

On the TV this morning, Dr. Art told us that a new study suggests that 20% of breast cancers would disappear if no treatment were given. That came with the rider that treatment was not going to stop for anyone.
Interesting though.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

At Large

Monday morning, and an e-mail from Sleepy telling me that another kid we used to teach at Mayhem, well, I should say 'teach' had died. An accident early in the small hours of the morning. At school, he was ADHD and when taking his Ritolin, pleasant, bright, teachable. But he refused to take it and then became disagreeable and unteachable.
A sad end however.
A nice family and you wouldn't wish the loss of a child on anyone.

Christmas seems to have started early here. Even last week, the Sally-Anne Santas were ho-ho-ho-ing outside of Shoppers' Drug Mart, all the shops seem to have the continual Christmas music loop, and some already have cinnamon surround-smell.

Out there in the world at large, attacks on girls in Afghanistan continue unabated. Where is the world's outrage when school girls yet again have battery acid thrown at them?

Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai is subjected to men screaming, 'kill her!' when she stands up to speak. She continually receives personal threats but refuses to abandon the fight for women's rights. But who cares? She's just a woman, just one of the majority gender.

In another story, the Guardian tells us that New Zealand has lost its greatest reforming Prime Minister ever, Helen Clark, and although she has been in power for ten years, the suggestion is that whilst,

"As the late Sir Edmund Hillary said of her: "She's always off climbing something, doing something exciting and I think that New Zealanders admire that." "

That also,

"But there were some things about Helen they never felt comfortable with. Her deep voice, her wardrobe of serviceable trouser suits, and her childless marriage to sociologist Peter Davis all brought their share of snide media comment. This didn't seem to bother her much; she was no emotional chin wobbler. But as one media commentator pointed out: "Bossy women aren't much liked or trusted in New Zealand." "

In Myanmar, a comedian was given a 45 year gaol sentence for delivering aid to people who needed it - the intended recipients in fact.

Lastly, and back to the woman-related, the F-Word reports that clitoris is a word banned from Google's safe search section. Not so penis however. Odd that. Penis envy? Not so much.
I did of course, have to google it, and there were certainly links that came up, but read the article.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sustaining the Stones

The word on everyone's lips, more or less since I got here, is sustainability. There has also been a fair amount of confusion over what exactly it refers to. I have to show sustainability in my programmes when I apply for a grant from the Province every summer, and in that case, it's referring to whether we have the wherewithal to continue providing them.

On Thursday afternoon, I went in the torrential rain into a majestic, green forest, the kind that presages certain psychological states, to attend a meeting about sustainability - teaching it through environmental education.

The group I belong to are known as Lower Mainland Museum Educators, although it's rather a misnomer, since museum educators are really only a section of the members, many of us come from environmental organisations, or other extended education facilities such as the Planetarium and Science World, and that was never more true than on Thursday.

But watching a rather superb programme on National Geographic this morning, about an archaeological dig around Stonehenge and the theories it had given rise to, made me think about sustainability once more.

I am frequently, frequently finding myself in a conversation that has turned to Stonehenge and invariably one speaker will bang on about how they would never go to Stonehenge now, whilst in 1963 or thereabouts, they were able to go and sit on the actual stones, now you can just stand and look from the other side of the road or some such tosh.
This happened to me again last evening.
Well bully for them. The fact is, the organisation 'English Heritage', has made a brilliant job of rendering Stonehenge sustainable. No, people can't sit on the stones, but you can certainly get close enough to feel the vibe, you could touch it if you wanted to and you can listen to an excellent audio tour whilst you are going around the stones.

Stonehenge was a remarkable feat of co-operation by a determined people whose leaders had a burning vision and enough trust from their people to enact it. And the people of Britain itself, whilst tribal in nature, were nonetheless already bonded by nationhood based on spirituality.

We're still tribal, but on a planet-wide basis. And on a planet-wide level, we're a global society, and we have a mighty task to accomplish. Can we succeed as those early peoples did?
Do we have the will and vision?
Do we want it enough?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Bodyparts

Whatever is occurring in the sick, sick world?
At work, someone told me about a British guy who had committed suicide by decapitating himself with a chain saw.
And yet I couldn't find the news item either on the BBC website or the Graun one. So, I googled it - oh give me a break spellchecker, 'to google' is so a verb - and discovered that another Brit had done the same earlier in the year, an Austrian man last year, and in 2004, a man in Omaha. How grisly.

On the subject of body parts, I was also fascinated in a horror-struck sort of way, but the BBC's item about people who don't have belly buttons. This seems grotesque to me, but why? I'm not grossed out by people missing hands, limbs, eyes, and various other bits and pieces, but tummy buttons. Creepy.

Cupcakes. I have never, EVER met anyone who liked cupcakes. Seriously, what's the deal with them?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Frost

My job doesn't allow for illness. It looks like it does - I'm allowed a certain number of days' sickness, but the reality is that if either of us are away, there's no slack, no wiggle room, things fall apart.

Jo, my assistant, was ill. She literally couldn't crawl in. Yesterday, I managed, the particular programme and the particular school, allowed for me to be able to adapt and present it on my own. But not this morning's. This morning's presented the problem of my having to play two puppet parts at the same time. It never occurs to me what an odd thing we are doing when we're sitting behind the screen making puppets talk, but today, with a spider on one hand, and a slug on the other, talking to myself on silly voices, well, yeah, I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of it.

Before I went over to start, my friend said to me,
'Just stay calm, you'll be ok,' but I realised that what I needed to be wasn't calm at all, I needed to be hyper. I needed to keep the energy level above theirs to do that magician thing, misdirect, stop them from realising that anything was wrong.

Sparrows are missing in Britain. The Guardian wonders where they've all gone. And today, as I took the children to the bird feeding area, so were the birds. It was too quiet for too long, then we noticed the hawk, sitting in a tree watching for little plump snacks.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Fog

The day hasn't been perfect, actually, I'd give it a 6½ overall. But on the way home, I realised I was having a perfect moment and sometimes, that's good enough.

The air was crisp, it had become satisfyingly colder during the afternoon. Let's say it was al dente. The light was fading and the sky was ribboned with pink and gold. And I was surrounded my trees, bare, beautiful bones of trees and deep green, majestic conifers. I experienced one of those moments of hearing that still, small voice of calm.

My daily routine is to get up at 7, go down and make the coffee and my porridge, and when I do, I open the front door and look out.
Yesterday morning I looked out and realised I couldn't see any further than the doorstep, the world was shrouded in fog.
By eight, when I set off for work, the fog was lifting very slightly. On every bush, on every tree, were dew-bejewelled spiders' webs. Hammocks of sheet webs, big, perfect orb webs, and strands, just strands linking every twig. Some of the webs were insane, spiders confused by the fog perhaps.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Prophet

I have a story that I've been writing for a long time, to be honest, I mostly only add to it when it's my turn to read at writers' group.
The story is set in the town of Horse-sur-mer on the south coast of England, so it's probably what you'd call a comedy of manners. And it is, to be fair, a town of mostly women, or at least the women are mainly who you hear about.

The vicar in my town, changed the name of her church from St. Brigid to 'The Blessèd Deborah' for the Old Testament Judge of the same name, and of course, raises controversy - and more is to come.

Today's OT reading in church was about the Judge Deborah. To give a quick recap, Deborah summons Barak and tells him the time is right for him to lead the Israelites against their oppressor, Sisera.
Barak's a bit of a 'fraidy cat and says that he'll go if she goes, which she does, but she tells him that he won't get kudos for killing the big bad, because that honour would go to a woman.
But the woman who kills Sisera is not Deborah herself, but Jael, a Kenite and thus an ally of Sisera's people.

How did Deborah know what was going to happen? Because she was a prophet as well as a judge - the OT is bristling with them.
Prophet's not on that list of jobs the careers officer gives you to select from. Perhaps it's just been renamed. Psychic instead of Prophet. Shaman perhaps. Oh, we have them, but we explicitly set them aside from modern religion. To experience that level of communication with the world or with God, we have to step outside of the Faiths or embrace something older.

I can't help wondering if we are rendering our worship anodyne by ignoring the psyche. Behold, we have prayer, but let's stop at the words, we must not do it too deeply, for fear of being accused of witchcraft.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Frenchies

All quiet on the western front today. Not a twig stirring. But it was colder and there was a flurry of fluffy little birds, chickadees, juncos, a downy woodpecker, kinglets and brown creepers, right outside our office window. Very distracting.

Would it be impossible for someone to make a cough syrup that didn't taste like the end of days? It's how I imagine DDT would taste.

I was reading an article about Hillary (genuflect) and it referred to 'the Clinton brand'. I LOVE that! SO pretentious! I must start to think about 'the Schneewittchen brand'. Not sure it carries the same clout somehow.

I feel that there's a difference between the way the English hate the French and the way Canadians do. The English hate them in the way that teenage white boys hate Pakistanis - they say they do, but not their own friends, no, their own friends, of whom at least a quarter are generally Pakistani, they would defend to the hilt, with fists if necessary.

There's a lot about the French that pisses the English off, and vice versa I'm sure, and we`re rather vocal about it, but it's mostly talk. If push came to shove, we'd most likely go in and defend them all over again, and we go there, exchange a few bon mots, eat their food and drink gallons upon gallons of their wine, and we all have friends who are French and...the opposite of friends.

For a lot of Canadians however, the reverse seems to be true. They will initially pay lip service to tolerating the French, but scratch the surface, and there's a seething mass of rancour and venom against them.
You mark my words, no good will come of it.
The French on the other hand, the ones who actually live in France, handed over a goodly swathe of their own land to Canada, as a thank-you for Vimy Ridge. And maybe some of it stems from there, for it was mainly the non-French settlers in Canada who went back to Europe to fight in both World Wars. And got killed.

I like the twilight, like this time of year of early darkness. I like to be walking home as the night is closing in.

'Every cat in the twilight's grey, every possible cat.'
Purrfect.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Gales

Last night we had gales, the wind chased around the house, rattling and buffeting it and rocking me back to sleep each time it awakened me. In the morning the winds were still blowing at between 50 and 70 kilometres an hour.

In the park, dead wood was brought down from the trees and the trails were closed, leaving us to make do with the wildlife garden to stir scientific enquiry to life.

In some ways, I could understand the adults who looked at the barrier that said, 'Trails closed, hazardous conditions' and decided to take a chance, but the young woman with one baby strapped to her chest and a toddler holding her hand who hesitated for all of five seconds before ignoring the warning - not so much.

A car parked at the front of the Nature House started wailing as I walked past it to put something into the storage cabin. As I turned to look at it, a head popped up from the back seat, then a hurried exit from the car park.

On the morning news, a man who had climbed up an electricity pole to steal cable and who had died when the pole cracked and fell with him to the ground, caused us little concern.

The Guardian reports that we will soon have the technology to drive our cars by mind control. Give me a break. That would mean people actually have to think whilst driving, something the majority of them don't do now. No, what people need is a car they DON'T have to think about at all. A car that someone else drives. A robot car.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sacrifice and Vitriol

Good Lord, is it Wednesday already? Whatever happened to the beginning of the week?

Well yesterday, we had a day of rest, an extra one, in remembrance of those who had died fighting for our freedom. A record number of people wore poppies and attended the Armistice Day services in the pouring rain.
The first, quite frankly, astonished both Kevin and myself, since nowhere had we been able to buy poppies. I wore one, briefly, in church on Sunday, before attaching it to the communal wreath.
In Britain, it was impossible to avoid, since even at Mayhem, people would come into your classroom in the middle of lessons to make sure you had had the opportunity to purchase one.
It`s all good.

This morning we were reminded what our lads and lasses in Afghanistan are fighting for, as a bus carrying young girls to school was ambushed and battery acid thrown at the occupants. What vitriol in the truest sense of the word. Nothing can justify that, and certainly not the abhorrent notion that girls should not be educated.

More mundanely, and in stark contrast, I discovered today a whole new supermarket annoyance that doesn`t exist in Britain, although the potential is certainly there.
The people at the checkout who not only (and in my not-so-humble opinion unreasonably) want to pay half in Canadian dollars and half in U.S., but then tie the cashier and the supervisor up by bloody arguing about what exchange rate they should be allowed. Well here`s an idea - pay by credit card and argue with sodding Mastercard - in your own time.

Raymond sent me this brilliant link. It`s a blog to which you can send your dream - if you happen to dream about Hillary. I`ll be submitting one of my own soon.
Thank goodness someone thought of it.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Searching for Wisdom

From our service at church today, a few lines from Solomon. (6: 17-20)

"The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,
and concern for instruction is love of her,
and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
and immortality brings one near to God;
so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom."

This really spoke to me since it is the thing I claim on the 'About me' heading on the left hand side of this blog, 'searching for wisdom'. And one of my oldest loves as an adult is Philosophy, the love of wisdom.

I'm searching for something else too. I want to like Obama. I know the problem is with me and not him. I'm still sulking over his camp's appalling treatment of Hillary Clinton, that and...well, I simply don't find him likeable. He doesn't seem like a Statesman to me. I know, broken record. But I'm working on it.

I told Austen about this during my weekly phonecall. He suggested that perhaps I didn't really GET the full impact of what it means that America has elected a black person to be their President. He told me to think about an equivalent situation in Britain. Britain has already broken the barrier to women being elected, and as I have said before, were I any kind of a Tory, I would consider Thatcher to be a goddess. And maybe in Britain we don't view black people the same way as they are viewed in the States, so that it doesn't seem like such a big deal.
'But think about what a huge deal it would be if Britain elected an Asian PM,' he said. And he was right. The idea of having a Patel or Singh/Kaur at number ten, and yes, I think he's right, THAT would be huge.

In Brighton, Ben met one of his heroes, Lemmy from Motorhead. It's pretty cool to meet a hero, a legend. Alex met Mark Wahlberg once, and got his autograph, but then in a freak, recycling accident, she lost it and it is a testament to her ability to forgive, that she has done.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Planning

But I can't let it lie. It bugs me. Melissa Etheridge is indeed right. California is a rich state, richer than most countries. And those riches are largely generated by the film and music industries and by big corporations like Apple, Microsoft and Google.
The entertainment industries must have way more than the government issue one in ten gay women and men. In fact, I would say that it is pretty much dominated by either gay people or close friends thereof.
The big corps - no idea, but what we do know is that at least two of them, Apple and Google, came out publicly against Proposition 8. So the revenue generators in the state are, let us say at least probably, wholeheartedly against it. So it is the rednecks and hicks who are the bigots there, and yet who gain immensely from the money-makers.

So here's my solution. Bring 'em all up here. Melissa, Ellen, Apple, Google, come to the Hollywood of the North. We'll take your tax dollars and spend them on green initiatives whilst not denying a large percentage of our population the right to marry. We have plenty of room and the haemorrhage will cripple the already morally dead state of California. AND we're more than happy to increase our gay population, since they probably, as a body of people, are more productive than us breeders. (Whilst acknowledging that we do need children so that we can all retire at some point and still have our economy and service industries continue.)

Good, that's settled then.

At Schloss Schneewittchen, the painting is almost finished. I put the first coat on in the small bedroom. Of course, during the summer when I was doing most of the painting, I was able to continue for much longer, not losing light until well into the evening.
Today I was aware of the light changing even at 15.30 and after a break for Home Heist, it was all over until tomorrow. Just as well. Once again, the cheap and thirsty mushroom soup already on the walls, means I have to take a trip to Home Depot tomorrow.

And I booked my trip to the UK. Second week of the New Year, I'll be annoying the pigeons. I'll be travelling alone this time, since Kev had been planning a trip to the Emerald Isle with his dad later in the year, but we'll have to see whether that happens or not. At least he'll get a couple of weeks without me snoring.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Tooth and Claw

The rain continues, although somehow it didn't feel as wet as yesterday, it certainly wasn't as cold. Nonetheless, the mums who came with the afternoon group, huddled together under their brollies as their kids and I hunted for bugs.

Because of the inclement weather, not leaving anything to chance, we showed them a real spider and asked them to tell us whether it was a boy or a girl.
'How do you think you might be able to tell?' I asked,
'If it's a girl, it doesn't have eyebrows,' said one boy. My work is done.
But yes, getting back to the spider. A colleague had found a false widow in the storage hut. Portacabin. You know the type of thing. I was sure that false widow spiders were dangerous, not in the league of black widows, but well...
We put her in a jar, for yea verily, she had no eyebrows.

Then we worried about starvation, so we caught a couple of flies, well, Jo did, and fed them into the jar also. The spider ignored them. Jo found a woodlouse and introduced that.
'Nothing eats them,' said I. And nothing did.
This morning, Jo found a big, fat, orb-weaver spider, again, no eyebrows, and put it into the jar. By the afternoon, the widow had speared the orb-weaver, spun it in silk and the poor bugger was beginning to necrotise. For some reason, this horrified us both. Nature is all very well until it gets a little...too natural.

Ah well, nature is red in tooth and claw. But humanity is bloody shocking.

Melissa Etheridge on Prop 8.

"Anyways, she (Etheridge's wife) and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen. Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books…."

But read her full, totally reasonable and very eloquent comments for yourself.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Storm

This picture was from before the storm.

Today the rain came. Sweeping, hammering rain that soaked and filled and made the world private.
Beautiful, terrible rain.

That Dexter effect I talked about - this quote (from UPI) from my friend Michael,

"MIAMI, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- For the first time since May 1966, Miami went more than a month without a single homicide the city's police detectives say.

"That's an amazing thing," said Lt. John Buhrmaster, a Miami homicide investigator. "It's a great record when people are not killing each other."

The last homicide occurred Sept. 26 with the shooting death of 26-year-old Demetrius Sherman, The Miami Herald reported, noting Miami, so far, has had 55 homicides in 2008 as compared with 87 in all of 2007.

The lack of recent homicides has allowed detectives to investigate other cases, such as the deaths Friday of three migrants who drowned after jumping from a grounded cargo ship near Fisher Island, the Herald reported. "

I have a cough as a reminder of being unwell a few weeks ago, not much of one, but every so often it just catches in my throat and then it gets going.
I laughed so much during 30 Rock, that the damn cough nearly carried me off.
It's not always true that laughter is the best medicine.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

5th November

I'm bored with Obama already.
Inside the brave new America, California has voted to ban gay marriage. It also voted against the renewable energy bill.
Yep, it's all good.
Not.

Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night, I miss it. Every back garden with its own fireworks, tomato soup and hotdogs with real sausages. And bonfires. With guys.

The skies were blue today, and there was a sprinkling of snow on the mountains.

It has been a long day, culminating with a meeting. So here's a wasps' nest, some autumn leaves and a squint down the railway tracks towards the mountains.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Red or Blue?

This is my friend Roma, an American. She voted weeks ago, I can't imagine who she voted for.

I'm loving the Guardian's front page, because it has a map of the USA with States filled in according to who has won them. You can roll your mouse over the State and see what the results are. Cool.

Moving on.
Somewhere over the past couple of days, a news item about a murderer here in BC (I think), said that he claimed he was influenced by the TV series 'Dexter'. Really.
A friend told me that for the first time in recorded history, Miami had had a month without a murder. The Dexter effect maybe?

Elections here are getting out of hand, we now have a whole slew of small potato elections. There was a leaflet yesterday in with the post, with a set of candidates. So far as I could work out, you had the choice of Chen, Chen, Chen, or Cheng. Mmmmm.

We have no letter box, so thrust in the gap between the door and the jamb yesterday was a leaflet for something. It had four pages and was entirely in Chinese, not a single word of English. Oh well, yes, there was, quite literally a single word, in small print, 'Watchtower'. One word, but so eloquent.

So, oddly, most of my Guardian map seems to be coloured red (for a strong win) or pink (for a bare win) and yet Obama seems to be sweeping the board.

This'll make sense once I have a drink.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Wapman

Not theatre as we know it Jim.
Ah, the world of Am Dram.
Actually, I'm able to see quite how complicated putting together even an amateur production is. No, good Lord, not me, I'm not trying to do so gargantuan a task, but I'm helping out as prompt with the church play.
You might be forgiven for thinking that someone who had taught in secondary schools for so many years might know this, but alas, all I used to see was the disruption to lessons, the over-active egos and the rather unimpressive end product.

This morning was the celebration of All Saints' day in church. Many churches have the custom of compiling a list of departed friends and rellies of the congregants, ours limits it to those who have passed since last All Saints'. I put our friend Bruce on the list, because he was important to me and to a group of people who are in turn important to me. And yet I feel kind of like I'm not honouring his memory because he didn't believe. On the other hand, he might now be feeling a little confused and wondering why physics didn't explain this.

All of my children have Christmas tree decorations engraved with their names that my friend Dawn had sent over the years. I was quite touched that my daughter wanted me to send her one for her boyfriend Seth so that he had one too, and that she knew exactly where I could get this in town, which was just as well because I wouldn't have known where to start. I have it as instructed, now if only I had an address to send it to....

Over the past week, I have had one of my questions answered, but it has given rise to another. Sometimes I feel I'm a lone little feminist voice, whining on about the patriarchy. I wondered if there were other feminists within shouting distance. Ans the answer came loud and clear. Yes. My own friends. Why was I not seeing or hearing this? I don't know. But I am far from alone.
But now, not being prepared to be a guy, what do we call ourselves? Girls, gals, ladies, women? It's hard to find a term that all agree on. One friend objects to being called a lady, and yet there's nothing derogatory about calling a man a gentleman.
Most of the time, to be honest, any term is a filler. 'You guys' is often used when the speaker just means 'you'.
There was an interesting comment on a feminist blog I was reading last week. The commentator said that originally, English had had the term 'wapman' which meant the male of 'man' just as 'woman' means the female of man. But as so often happens, the term for the whole species has been hijacked to mean the male. I haven't been able to confirm this by googling however, since 'wapman' seems to be some kind of electronics company or device.

Perhaps I'll have to make something up.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Mental Moments

Finally, it rained. Both Vancouver and Richmond are beautiful in the rain. The five day forecast is all about the rainfall. The leaves were tumbling from the trees today and being gently cushioned by a light wind as they fell.

There was a picture of Baghdad on the news this morning. Women are starting to abandon the hijab. That's a great sign.
Taking off the horror costumes for Halloween.

The Graun asks, 'Who should replace Ross and Brand on radio 2?' My answer is, 'Sleepy and me'. Apart from the fact that for some reason it's radio 2, I mean, hello? Isn't this the supermarket music channel? Sleepy could pitch and I'd rein in. We're much cheaper, in fact, even if we were as famous as them, we'd be cheaper because we're lasses.

Actually, if they don't want us, Rossie has a stunning (yeah, I know, it's radio), intelligent and articulate wife. Maybe she could do it.

Darcey Burner, we're told on the TV ads, doesn't have an Economics degree. That's it, that's the WHOLE message. Another candidate called Christine Gregoire, sets fire to money. The whole bloody thing is nuts right now. Who pays for these ads? Why, 'Dino Rossi for Governor' of course.

Have I introduced you to Witch Hazel? She's a Mensch. She rocks. And she's bloody exhausting. I welcome her visits, but I'm glad when she goes back into the box. Bless her.
Tomorrow will be mental.
You can ask any kid here 'what they are wearing for Halloween' and you'll get an answer, just as if it were an actual, complete question. Manana, they'll be in costume when they come in to see the play.
Like the Rocky Horror Show for ankle-biters.
Mental.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Sentience

Reading the headlines quickly I thought Madonna was going to be manager of the Argentinian footer team, seemed believable that she'd get Argentina in the divorce settlement.

Walking home through the Park, I saw a big Northwestern Garter Snake on the trail. It didn't slither off straight away, but before I could find my camera it had gone. I'm thinking that'll be the last one of the year.

The snakes in my office - I try not to anthropomorphise them. But I feed them and change their foliage, I control their environment.
I try to imagine what it would be like to be a creature with only limited ability to perceive or feel things, limited memory span, in short, limited sentience. I have a hard time with them being in captivity, but then I need them to teach kids about snakes, to become less afraid, less inclined to kill without thinking.

Who controls our environment? Are we in captivity? Are we barely sentient by the standards of others?

I was perturbed to read of this whole fiasco with Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Brand I couldn't care less for, but Ross, Wossy, should have known better. Why only the other day he was in the kitchen with Gordon Ramsey in the F-Word (not sure why Ramsey would have a show about feminism but whatever.)

Good TV news for us exiles is that the second series of Gavin and Stacey is finally airing on BBC Canada, superb.
And in Little Britain USA, the lads, however watered down, are still breaking ground. The new naked male bodysuits, complete with erectable micro-penises, are brilliant and balances Bubbles de Vere.