Thursday, 31 January 2008


The New Canadians were outside the community centre with their after-school care person. They had hockey sticks that were longer than them and that had brightly coloured ends for some reason (if there's an actual term for the end of the hockey stick, please someone enlighten me). They were beating up piles of leftover snow and shouting 'tenderised meat, tenderised meat!' which I thought quite peculiar for children of an age to be requiring after-school care.
So much energy was being expended in this exercise that I was surprised that the trainer-turbans didn't fall off.

A report out today, or possibly any time in the past month, has made a strong link between sugary drinks and gout. The article on the BBC website says that,
"This link was independent of other risk factors for gout such as body mass index, age, high blood pressure and alcohol intake." Also that the risk did not include diet drinks.

My mother suffered from gout, which tends to be viewed as something funny, jokey, but I can tell you that it was far, far from amusing. She was in intense pain from it and it went on sometimes for weeks. There also seemed to be little that could really be done for the condition apart from stay the hell away from the sufferer.
The good news for me is that another study shows that coffee-drinking apparently reduces the risk. So, since I never drink sugary drinks (unless all the sugar has been turned to alcohol as the advert used to say) and I do drink coffee, if I develop this dire condition, I'm going to want my money back.

I was chastised by e-mail by Austen for implying that the Daily Express is a newspaper.
"Your blog, today, is misleading, as it implies that 'The Express' is a
newspaper. The only part of the paper that is not complete fiction is

I do of course apologise for misleading anyone and certainly did not mean to suggest that The Express is a newspaper.

We watched yet another new Canadian series last night, 'Sophie'. Unfortunately I found the writing to be rather uninspired. It could become one of those series that gets relegated to Saturday morning on the W-Network, like 'The Jane Show'.
It did have one redeeming feature though. I'm getting some great pointers from the mum/nan on how to embarrass your children.
And I thought I already had all the moves.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Women's Work

Finally BC is considering joining the rest of humanity and is THINKING about banning the use of mobile phones whilst driving. Just thinking mind. Be good if we could catch up with Québec and Newfoundland.

But BC is first for something. From the first of February, we are going to have to pay for our petrol before it is pumped. No problem there, a lad was killed trying to stop a man from driving away without paying. In fact it hardly makes any difference to the majority of people who always swipe their cards beforehand anyway.
In Richmond however, thanks to a ridiculous backwards looking bylaw, an attendant has to actually operate the pumps. This was introduced to create jobs some years ago, but now there are jobs that need people and most customers are used to self-serve petrol stations.

I noticed on the cover of the international version of the Daily Express - no, I kid you not, they not only bother to produce an international version of the ridiculously illiterate tory rag, but then ship it here - that there is going to be a ban on employing white males in the British Fire Brigade.

Oddly, last year, this self-same thing happened right here in Richmond, however hopefully the circumstances were different. Ours, in a case that was reported across Canada, involved systemic and chronic sexual harassment.
There was an outcry when measures were announced to increase the number of women and ethnic minorities in the department, no-one thought they'd apply and no-one thought the women would meet the physical requirements. But they did, and before long the department was allowing white males back in.

Wherever there are roadworks, there is also a token woman. She gets to hold the sign that says stop. She also gets to smoke or some other task of high importance.
Recently, we have had a team of men working at the park. Obviously operating a bobcat is too macho for a woman, but there are jobs we girls could do, even wearing our high heels and other girlie stuff.
For example, an important part of the work seems to be three or four people standing around watching. Oh, then there's the standing around smoking.
The annoying thing is, our admin person, who knows everything about all the systems we work with, all the people who walk through the door, keeps the place and the relationships ticking over and doesn't even take a lunchbreak - gets less than these guys.
Women's work you see.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Snow Log

Saturday, snowfall, but no stickage.

Sunday night, light stickage and snowfall as I went to church, but coming back, it had all disappeared.
When we went through Delta to Surrey on Sunday afternoon however, they must have had a heavier snowfall than us and more of it had hung around.

Monday evening, Yvonne and I drove out to Delta and the snow was still thick on the ground, crunchy even, but by the time we were coming back, the snow was coming down fast.

When we got to Richmond, it was lighter, but it must have snowed pretty continuously throughout the night, and was still snowing when I walked to work this morning. Along the side of the main roads, the dirty, gritted slush from the road met the white snow, creating the illusion of a taupe curb to a pure white pavement.

Around mid-morning, a coyote came to the back of the Nature House. By the time I'd turned my camera on, she was gone, but leaving tracks through the fresh snow. So I followed. It was an amazing opportunity, even though I didn't see the coyote again, to see where she had come onto the paths and where she had gone off-trail again.

The bird in the picture is a towhee, a very common bird around here. Pretty too, but with a screech like nails on a blackboard.

On Monday, Alex Y and I went to the Macmillan Space Centre for a course on 'Web 2.0' although to be honest, before I got there, all I'd have been able to tell you was that it was 'something about IT'.
Raymond's Brain was there too. We learnt about elevating our humble websites from flat, one-dimensional, hardly-interactive at all 1.0 dodos to widget-laden, facebook interfacing, revenue-generating, second-life presence legends of the net. Blogging, as far as I could work out, was 2.0 anyway. I still didn't entirely understand what either widgets or mashups are, but in the fullness of time, probably by the time a blog is a three-dimensional holodeck, I might.

Connected with that, kinda, -ish, and because we spent the day looking at photographs of art galleries' collections and such like, when Sleepy sent me this link to the photograph collection of the Library of Congress I had to pass it on.
There are some amazing, and I mean AMAZING photographs from other decades, and of course another century.
Check it out.
Ouch, I think I've said that twice today.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Waiting for Snow

A watched sky never snows, as the old adage doesn't exactly say.
All week, the weather forecasters have been predicting snow for Saturday morning, fo Sunday, for Monday. They have shown us a big old kick arse snow-bringing weather system sweeping in from the Arctic.
But this morning there was no snow. I gazed out of the window, like Holly did over Christmas, waiting, but still none.
We started painting the living room. And then suddenly, mid-afternoon, I looked up and there were flakes falling from the sky.

The living room isn't finished, but it looks great. I'm dead pleased with it.

I understand that the hopeful first First Gentleman was literally barracked by Barack's groupies. He was accused of racism over the statement that the Presidency was BO's 'pleasant little dream'. Yeppers. You may not say the provocative word 'dream' to a black person. Because whilst a cigar may or may not be a cigar, a dream might might be...well, a dream. Hmm.
Get better supporters Barack.
And do I really need to keep reminding you about Judges 4 ?

Friday, 25 January 2008


Blogging using Blogspot is relatively easy. Over the time I have been blogging, there have been some hiccoughs, but things have become rather streamlined and I feel as though I know my way about it, I can do what I want with it.
Now though, we have a blog attached to the website at work and it won't behave at all. It will now need time spent, experimentation and maybe I'll tame it in the end. We'll see.

So, political autistic Boris Johnson, who is campaigning against Red Ken for the City of London mayoral position, has right royally compromised his stupid self by accepting backhanders from a firm that the existing competent and effective Mayor of London has already told to sling their hook.
The man's a retard.
It'll probably make no difference to him.

Good bloody grief is all I can say. Plus, Robert Peel would be proud of his girls and boys in blue.
It seems that Romanian orphans have been trafficked into Britain to commit petty crimes, not too petty mind, they are thought to be able to net £20 million per year. And for pity's sake, it's not like there aren't enough home reared little gits willing to steal their own granny's false teeth.
Having said that, the Bill raided 17 houses in Slough and have taken 10 children into care and are holding 25 adults in custody.
Slough, bloody disgraceful.

There was yet another excellent new Canadian series on TV tonight, 'The Murdoch Mysteries'. There is some money in it from UKTV, thus some chance it'll actually be seen in the UK. A rare show that appears to have been filmed in Toronto rather than Vancouver.
It's like when a fire has burnt all the choking weeds and new growth can poke through.
Rather refreshing really.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Sleepy Hollow

Everyone, so we are told, has a fictional place they would like to be. For me, it would be Sleepy Hollow. There was something so comforting about the enclosed world, the snow, the feeling of mystery. A place you could wrap yourself in like a duvet.
You maybe have to separate the story from the place to understand...if you even want

But there is something drawing and yet scary about the inside of Tim Burton's head. Which is odd, because you may say the same about the outside of his wife's head. Helena Bonham-Carter's famous hair is strangely attractive and yet scary.
All of his little towns and villages, all hypnotic, often snowy, snowy and yet dark.

On another tack, and briefly, I can't decide whether the L-Word's Shane and more precisely, her effect on women is feminist or not. Watching her driving away from yet another scene of sexual mayhem tonight, made me think, 'Well, she's using them like a man, and yet she's not one. So, is this OK? What does it say?' I haven't worked it out yet.
There must be hardly any straight women in LA. Or Vancouver? How confusing, since fictional LA is real Vancouver.
Back to Sleepy Hollow for me I think.
Don't, I'm confuddled enough.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


I can't just not mention Heath Ledger. I don't have anything to say that hasn't been said, but I just can't ignore his passing.
Instead of saying anything trite, I will quote Joe Queenan, because he captures what I felt about Ledger's role in Brokeback Mountain.

"Brokeback Mountain is no more about gay cowboys than Hamlet is about indecisive, twenty-something Danes. It is about two people who are madly in love but whose lives are destroyed because they cannot be together. They are separated not only by social mores, by marriage, by distance, but by class: Jake Gyllenhaal, buoyed with the emancipation from financial worry he has achieved by marrying into a wealthy family, can do whatever he damn well pleases, whereas Ledger, a cash-strapped day labourer, does not have the money or the social mobility to go where he wants, whenever he wants. Gyllenhaal, a talented actor, does a very nice job in Brokeback Mountain, but Ledger gives a performance that is literally heartbreaking."

The world is poorer for his loss, however he died.

A correction from yesterday. Cypress, known as the Cypress Bowl, isn't just one mountain. I had wondered about why I'd never heard it called either Mount Cypress or Cypress Mountain, so I asked Alex Y and he explained.

I was reminded today, during a conversation with a workmate, a term I have decided to reclaim whilst rejecting the creeping use of 'co-worker', that one can like a person whilst finding their behaviour unhealthy, bizarre or even disquieting.
This seems in some ways counter-intuitive to me, and so it inclines me towards a behaviourist theory. It was so drummed into us in teaching, that in the end, you start to actually think that way.

And at the end of the gets dark.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


Guess where I've been today?

Cypress, no, not Cyprus; Cypress, the mountain. In Britain we have cypresses as a sort of annoying hedging, here, it is called yellow cedar and it is majestic. And on Cypress there are many, plus western and mountain hemlock, mountain fir, white pine and piles of beautiful, sparkly, glittery snow.

Alex Y and I went snow-shoeing. I was kind of expecting the snow shoes to be like the tennis racquet footwear you see in cartoons, but they weren't. They had crampons and were easy to use.

In the forest we saw whiskyjacks, kinglets, adult and juvenile bald eagles and really not much else. We looked for snow-shoe hare tracks, and tracks in general. We even thought we'd found some, but on reflection decided that they were just the result of some really regular nordic ski-pole stabbing.

There were razor thin people doing Nordic ski-ing and super-athletic ones who were doing something that looked like ski-ing and skating at the same time.
Me, I fell over three times, but hey, it was in snow and I have plenty of padding. My problem was walking downhill in the snowshoes, I think I got it in the end.

We stopped at the Lodge and bought poutine. I had always thought that poutine sounded disgusting, chips, curd cheese and lashings of ginger sorry, I mean gravy. I can't imagine a french French person would be seen dead within 100 km of a plate of it, but the Québecois love it.
In the summer, Austen insisted on trying it and has an appeal. I think the quality of it largely rests in how good the gravy is. Today's wasn't great, but it was welcome.

The temperature on the mountain was -11º and so I had worn double everything. After about ten minutes of snow shoeing, my rucksack was filling up with discarded items. Still, easy to cool down, just reach down and grab some snow.

Maybe I'll ache tomorrow.
Who cares though.
Heaven is in the mountains and I've been there.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Mountains and Moon

I have been to writers' group and often don't find time to blog on a Monday evening, but I do have some beautiful pictures from my walk home from work and there is something that I've been thinking about.

I can't remember when exactly it became alright to start buying fruit from South Africa, was it in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from his imprisonment or was it when the first democratic elections were held in 1994?

But what I do and very clearly remember, was that throughout the preceding decades, no-one that I knew would buy it. Someone must have done, the supermarkets never stopped selling it.

Sometimes people would argue that we should buy it because it hurt the economy of the country not just of the ruling whites, but also of the poorer blacks.
But the message that kept coming out from the ANC was for the world to boycott their goods.
And so those of us who found Apartheid repugnant, did so.

But afterwards, when Mandela was free and Apartheid was dismantled, what had become second nature, a habit, was damned difficult to break. Finally, it was ok to buy South African wine and fruit, but to bring ourselves to actually do that was an almost physical barrier to overcome.

In Sunday's Observer, an article was urging us to eat British veal. And just as with boycotting South African goods, not eating veal is a deeply entrenched habit.

The argument is that British consumers' pressure groups were so successful in the 1980's, that so-called 'traditional' methods of rearing veal were outlawed in 1991. Therefore, British veal is ethically raised and so should be the only one anyone eats.

In fact, last year, the whole of the EU were scheduled to fall into line with Britain, and so we must assume they have done.

I certainly accept that Britain has not, for a long time, reared veal calves in restrictive crates in the dark, with insufficient room to either turn or kneel down and being kept thirsty, salt even painted on the struts of the crate, so that they eat more of the rich artificial food.

But to actually be able to eat it...?

Of course it's not a problem for me while I am in Canada, since there are no laws governing the rearing of veal calves. There are 'guidelines'.
How precious.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Pink and Green

Maya Angelou is showing how to be gracious and dignified. Despite being closely associated with Oprah Winfrey, Angelou is strongly backing Hillary for the U.S. presidential race, whereas Oprah has stated her support for Obama.
In spite of this, there is no public flailing between the two women, they are showing us how to love and support our friends whilst disagreeing with them.

Last night we finally watched a film we had recorded a while back, 'Infamous', the other film about the obsession of writer Truman Capote with a man who killed a family of four people. When we saw 'Capote' at the cinema, I was full of praise, and it was probably because I'd thought so highly of that film, that I hadn't been in a hurry to see this one.
And yet...
And yet now that I have, I consider 'Infamous' to be the superior film by a long way. I found the characters more...characterfull, the story more carefully woven, lights thrown more cleverly on different aspects and emotions.
Very worth a watch.
Or you could clock it.

I love, love, love the very idea of this band of women that Sleepy sent me a story about. The Pink Vigilantes are a bunch of Indian women, and now includes men, who are out to right wrongs, chiefly against women.
What a fantastic movement. I wish it would come to the Indian dominated area of Surrey here in BC, where it seems as though every other week, a woman, mother, wife, daughter, from the Indian community is murdered, often by menfolk from the family.

At last, Kevin and I have agreed on a colour for our living room. My 'lightening up' of the darker, existing plum, just hadn't worked with the wood of the furniture. We think we've got it right now, we've done a test wall and we're liking it. Now I'm trying to come up with a way that coming and painting a second coat could be described as a legitimate field trip for my assistant and me.
I have great faith in my assistant Alex.
At the board meeting at the beginning of the month, it was decided that I should put in a bid with Young Canada Works for an intern who would come and develop a website for us, and that Alex would do some research into a likely host and perhaps set up a construction page.

I am chasing my own tail writing the bloody bid, but meanwhile, Alex has found a green server and web host, bought the domain name, set up the site and has built a number of pages, and he has done it very well. It grows daily and it is a carefully thought-out and efficient site.
I tried to claim this as a result of my great management skills but people laughed! :)

Saturday, 19 January 2008


The murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich is currently in the news again, as a man is standing trial for those murders.
What has horrified the feminist blogosphere, is the remarks that a Daily Nazi journo made at the time about how worthless the women were.
An article in The Burning Times however, is so thorough and so superbly written, that I have nothing to add,, just kidding.

We watched the film 'Letters from Iwo Jima', made by Clint Eastwood to counterbalance his own 'Flags of our Fathers'. One military engagement, two viewpoints.
I haven't seen the latter, but I found Iwo Jima to be a riveting film. Of course, part of the riveting was that I had to full-on concentrate to read the sub-titles.

When I woke for the second time this morning, snow was falling again. Not much was sticking, but the wonder was in the gazing at it.

Friday, 18 January 2008


In the hairdresser's it is warm and by now it's familiar, comforting, relaxing. The decor is black and cherrywood and for some reason, lavender.
The first bit of the appointment, where the dye has to stay on, is a long stretch, I have brought a stack of books and magazines.

In 'Mind' I read about a new theory on empathy and altruism. Both, the theory says, come about as a result of a blurring of the difference between ourselves and the other. Psychologists are excited. It's a satisfying idea.

I finish 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' and cry right there in the salon.
Minoush tells me that Afghans speak a type of Farsi that she sometimes can't understand.

I read a section of 'Les Caves du Vatican'. The pages are yellowing, it's one of the books I brought back at Christmas. I have forgotten what a craftsman Gide is.

Bill Bryson reminds me about the rules of apostrophe use. I'm not an offender, except, perhaps, sometimes with the plural units of measure rule, 'in two week's time'.

I leave Anne of Cleves behind at the hairdresser's, swapping her for Alison DuBois.

Last night's TV gave us a new series of 'The L-Word' despite the writers' strike. Les girls are back.

And tonight, on 'Moonlight', I learnt that, 'as vampires age, their scent becomes more potent from decay.'
A useful piece of knowledge. I shall bear it in mind.

Thursday, 17 January 2008


Try as I might, I couldn't seem to capture the snow actually falling from the sky this morning. It was, to be fair, very fine. After a while it grew thicker, it continued for most of the morning and early afternoon, but then it stopped.

My hair is doing a sort of Anne of Cleves, Katherine of Aragon thing. Not their actual hair, more the headgear they wore. Luckily, I have an appointment with the Persian hairdresser tomorrow, so I'm hoping for a cure.

More in the Guardian's 'Random Acts of Feminism' include using 'Clarkson' as a swear word and leaving feminist literature in waiting rooms. I also liked 'tearing offending pages out of magazines and newspapers and leaving them on the newsagent's counter like spare wrapping'. Nice

TV is running out. The US writers's strike is starting to squeeze and we are getting fewer and fewer programmes. The upside however, isn't as we'd feared, that there is nothing but reality TV, it is that we have time to watch the History channel, Discovery, things we don't normally get time for. I found out interesting stuff about Henry the second yesterday, a King that pops up a couple of times in history at school and then forgotten except for the name of his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


I have a fury upon me.

My sister has, in the past, had to employ au pairs.
I, in the past, have had to employ foreign language assistants. My sister's experience of au pairs has been about 50-50. Half of them have been a success, half, not so much.

My experience with FLAs, more tied to nationality. Amongst the French ones, I have had some spectacularly good ones and a few indifferent ones. All of my German assistants have been great apart from one, and she was homesick throughout a goodly part of the year and then just went home.

My sister has been recently, due to a confluence of circumstances, obliged to engage an au pair to be an adult presence for my 14-year-old niece during the week.
This week, while my sister was away in London and my brother-in-law in Germany, the au pair who had been with them for two weeks, left in the middle of the night. Literally left my niece on her own in the house at 4am and went back to Germany. I am so furious. My sister is understandably beyond stressed. My niece will be boarding at her school for a while.

I'm annoyed that anyone would leave the minor that they are in charge of alone without any notice, but I'm also annoyed that I have no way of standing her in front of either myself or my sister and trying to understand why, what would motivate anyone to do that.

In quite a different way, the book I am reading at the moment, 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini, writer of 'The Kite Runner' makes me furious. Furious that any bunch of people could hate women as much as the Taleban do. This book is shocking. I thought I understood their vitriol after reading the Kite Runner. I didn't.
This book should just be compulsory reading for everyone on the planet. And it's a damn fine read too.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008


Clear, cold morning, perfect morning. Mountains painted onto the sky morning. A morning when a Cooper's hawk shadowed part of my walk in, gliding from a cedar tree on the edge of the park, swooping up and into a bare cottonwood tree whence it surveyed the road.

It was an easy morning to be distracted, pulled away from the computer and the general paperwork, to forget the new programmes coming up in less than a fortnight and instead feel an absolute urgency to go and view another site where we could, maybe, possibly, perhaps in the not very near future do some classes.

Well, to be fair, Rich was going anyway, so Alex and I just tagged along.

It's a tough part of the job, but someone has to check up that the herons and red-winged blackbirds and snow geese, finches, Cooper's hawks, red-tailed hawks and bald eagles were all where they should be.
Someone needed to gaze across the water at the airport runway, and walk through the Japanese garden.

The Japanese garden. There is a heritage house nearby and surrounded by all that beauty it irritates, causes a scratchiness, haunts.
It was owned by a family called Shimano before the war. There is a picture of the extended Shimano family happy, standing and smiling in the garden.

But when the war started, Canadians with Japanese backgrounds were interned and their homes, their fishing boats, their farmlands were taken away from them, confiscated. They might have fought for the allies, for Canada, in the Great War, but they still lost everything in the second.

The Shimano house was sold by the Canadian government to another family in 1957. Stolen property that was fenced.
Did this happen to Canadians of German descent? I don't know for sure, but I don't believe so, and nor should it have.

And looking down on us with an air of judgement, was this beautiful bald eagle, two in fact.
I guess it was just that kind of a morning.

Monday, 14 January 2008


We are having some WILD weather. This morning, big rain beating down. This evening major wind. Some would say gales, although people in the south-east of England are probably more likely to remember Gales Ales as a brewery.

Last Wednesday evening, I missed a debate about a new women's radio station. I had intended to go but then I had a meeting at work. And it turns out it was hijacked by militant lesbians. Militant lesbians! And I missed it!

Now, it isn't my intention to make light of this. Iran is being urged to end death by stoning. And well they bloody well should, especially in view of the general practice of blaming women for everything...and then stoning them for it. For example,

"One of the eight women currently facing execution was allegedly forced into prostitution by an abusive husband who was a heroin addict, Amnesty says.

She was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder of her husband - by one of her clients - and to death by stoning for adultery. "

Now this is horrible. the American language, this would be called death by rocking, and somehow that doesn't sound quite as bad.

My assistant Alex is back. In time honoured fashion I have given him a task that is beyond my own expertise. He is creating a website, and doing a damned good job of it too.
Meanwhile, we're supporting reality radio. Erm..or something like that. Our friend, my previous assistant Rob, is in a competition called 'CKNW Talk Show Idol', if he wins, he gets his own talk show. I have no idea what CKNW is or stands for, but we're pulling for Rob and we'll be listening in tomorrow.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Slave Trade

Ok, I think I've finally fallen in. I get it. On the first of January 1808, the importation of slaves to the U.S. was officially banned.
Oh, to be sure black people were mis-treated and generally considered second class citizens in the south for a very long time.
So white men could no longer own black men and women and those same men and women no longer had to take the name of the slave owner.

Women, on t'other hand, aren't there yet. Not in the southern states of the U.S.A. at any rate. Firstly, they frequently still take the name of their husband. No, I mean the FULL name, Christian name and all. Ah, that should be secondly, because FIRST firstly, a case has just been successfully prosecuted in Mississippi where a woman's second husband was sued for her theft from the first husband. He was awarded $750K and the verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court.

So there ya go.

I see that another British Tory, mayor of a town - or city - called Mirfield, has angered local and in fact national Muslims with a number of generalisations about them,

"'The policy of clothing the feminine population of Dewsbury in black sack-like clothing from head to toe, the occasional trip out to cause mayhem with explosives and the proposal that all those of homosexual persuasion should be killed by shooting or other means is adequate and practical testimony to the level of progress being made in this direction.' "

The response from the Muslim community has been that he must be removed from office because he is a bigot. And surely anyone can see why.
It's just that......
Well, you know, the burqa and the homosexual thing. Really, both of those are true and they are both examples of bigotry. And they don't bother to deny either of those.
Hmm...tricky one eh?

Friday, 11 January 2008


Spectacles are very personal. They are a functioning part of our body that isn't actually attached to us. Anyone who has lost someone who wore glasses will understand. There you are with their specs and they seem so...personal.

I have needed new specs for some time. Although I hadn't noticed any deterioration, apart from finding the white-on-green street signs impossible to read, I realised I hadn't had my eyes checked since 2004, and 50 seems to be some kind of watershed for eyes. Things can start to degenerate. Plus my specs were starting to get a bit scratched.
And....I had put off looking for an optician over here. It takes years to find the exact right one. But...I had to start somewhere and I was given a recommendation.

I now have some new specs on order. Kevin, who has un-bloody-believable eyesight, couldn't believe the price of lenses, but they seemed reasonable to me. And my eyes had hardly changed at all, turns out it really is the roadsigns that are crap.

Austen sent me a link about Boris Johnson. Apparently he considers Pompey to be a city of 'obesity, drugs, underachievement and Labour MPs'. I suppose it is in a way apart from the Labour MPs. Instead of apologising for him, his party supported him by digging up stats to prove that what he said was true.
Eventually he HAS to be seen as a liability. I s'pose that time simply hasn't come yet.

In Baghdad they had snow.
OJ is back in gaol.

These are the days of miracle and wonder.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Last night as I was going to bed, I saw through the glass above the front door that it was snowing. Big flakes were coming down thickly. I went to the window and opened the blind and watched while it increased in speed, covering everything.
After I had gone to bed, I heard the sound of rain on the window pane. By morning the snow had disappeared.

The F-word had a brilliant post yesterday about the level of sexism that Hillary has had to put up with so far. If Osama had to put up with even one moment of racism, all hell would be let loose.
Jess McCabe sums up the list with this observation,

"This has nothing to do with her political stance. Nothing on this list - all from the last two days - has anything to do with her position on any issue. And regardless of our views on Clinton’s specific politics, it’s truly been flabbergasting to see the reaction she has garnered simply for being a woman seeking power."

And you know what else? Half of them can't even spell her name correctly. And yes, I know I always call Barrack Obama Osama, but that's on purpose to wrong foot him in case he reads my blog.

And in other Hillary news, I can't believe that sir Edmund just died - in the sense that I can't believe he was still alive. Still, 88's a good innings, especially when you can say you climbed Mount Everest.

According to the Grauniad, 'Expectations are low for Bush tour'. I can't imagine why. Furthermore, I thought he had Condoleeza to do important foreign stuff, and if she's too busy, why not send Oprah, who seems to have taken to meddling in politics these days?

In the toilet at work, I have been reading a little book of quotes from politician Boris Johnson which was given away free with the Spectator.
I'm not familiar at all with the gentleman or his 'work'. He seems to be an ultra Tory twat as far as I can ascertain. I'm not sure why I've never heard of him apart from the fact that I never read the Tory press, nor do I need to, since Sleepy offers this as a public service and points me in the direction of things to guffaw at.
You have to read this book in the toilet, since some of Boris's...well, Borisisms, would make you pee yourself. Or the other thing.
Today I read, 'if incitement to racial hatred is to be made illegal, then so should the Koran.' I nearly fell off the seat.

I was however, fascinated to read about Koran reader Fatima Bhutto in the Graun. Seems like, although she no more wants political leadership than her cousin, I can see why she is arousing interest.
And not just in Jemima Goldsmith.

I received a letter today, an actual real letter in an envelope, from a Kurdish girl whom I taught when I was in the UK. It was strange timing. I hadn't heard from her since just after leaving England, and she wasn't asking for anything, just wanted to thank me for teaching her.
But when Kevin gave me the letter, I was reading an article by Gerard Alexander, a university teacher who deals with the Holocaust, still on my mind from yesterday.
Alexander was writing about the Kurdish genocide by Saddam Hussein.
Strange how things coincide sometimes.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008


Right. I had a meeting this afternoon at the Jewish Community Centre in Vancouver. Jewish Community Citadel would be more like it.

The first line of staff you meet are über Jewish. They are related to Maureen Lipman, to Miriam Margolyes. They look Jewish and speak in comedy Jewish tones. But they seem not to know where, inside the citadel, the museum is. Then they said we might try the third floor.
Don't forget the additional confusion of the third floor actually being the second floor. They didn't say that, but I wish they would.

We are in a small room. Very small. A Latin American woman is doing some research on one of the exhibits, pictures of people exterminated in the Holocaust. The pictures personalise the experience. And it's true. Just looking at these ordinary family photos is horrifying, because these ordinary people, not faceless people, not strange, alien people with shaved heads and emaciated bodies, make it real. Ordinary people taken from their homes, who will be put in a big airless room and then the doors will be shut and not a single chink of light will break through. The ordinary people will experience intense, visceral fear, utter hopelessness, animal panic, horror and then suffering, they will die.

The Latin American woman has a strong accent. Very strong. She has no inflection. And she has a speech impediment. Beneath it all her English is good, but she is almost impossible to follow.

Later, after bagels and cream cheese we look around the small gift shop. Calendars in Hebrew catch my attention, but they cost $18 and the Jewish year is already a third done.

Then we go into the basement to see the Holocaust Learning Centre. There is an amazing interactive exhibit. Panels with pictures and information, video of the Nürnberg trials. Then a courtroom setup. The children 'try' one of the defendants, Julius Streicher. Apparently 50% of them find him not guilty but are horrified by his crimes.

The first of the information panels has letters about 8 inches high. A word draws me to it, 'Vengence'. I can't let it go. 'Vengence'. I nudge someone and ask if that is American spelling of the word 'vengeance'. Yes. But I keep looking. I get home and look it up. It isn't.
They were talking of packing up the exhibit and sending it on elsewhere. I'll have to phone them tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Chillies and Chocolate

A hairy woodpecker. You may have to click on the picture to see it properly.

I love the idea of 'random acts of feminism'. Back in November, the Guardian asked women to send in their suggestions, they gave the example of turning all the lads' mags round so the covers face the wall.
I would like to think of a random act of feminism, but I think I try never to miss an opportunity to do the feminist right thing so that I simply miss the random.
Turning off the TV occasionally might be something.

I was relieved to hear that Hillary had won the New Hampshire vote. I know there's still a very long way to go, but this was good.

Today started with a sprinkling of snow, by the end of the day, the snow had been replaced by rain.

So, yet again we are told that moderate drinking is good for our hearts. Well, fine by me, mid-life seems to have curtailed all but moderate drinking for me. Any more and I experience severe overheating. The re-packaged news about drinking comes with a follow-up piece of advice though, exercise and moderate drinking are a stonkingly good combo. And by sheer good fortune, one of the only ways to turn off the central heating is some kind of exercise.

Chillies, on the other hand, don't seem to have the same effect as other types of heat. Fortunately, I, like many Brits, are rather partial to very hot food. We are, as has been said many times, actually addicted to it. But it seems that there is evidence to show that chillies, like turmeric, may protect against cancer.
Good show.

The New Scientist reports that some animals can be killed by a surfeit of chocolate, not us though, in fact chocolate, could we ever eat it without sugar, could protect us from all kinds of ailments, dental decay for a kick-off and apparently e-coli to boot.
But a New Zealand parrot died after ingesting a relatively small amount that it found in the garbage. For pity's sake, what was chocolate doing in the garbage anyway?
A German shepherd, the dog, not the Lederhosen-wearing mountain wanderer, can be killed by eating just 240 grams of the ambrosia. Again, who would give their poochie such special but deadly treatment?

Instead of their German shepherd, if it's good chocolate, people should give it to me. I will consider it a random act of feminism. I do, after all, find chocolate empowering.

Monday, 7 January 2008


According to New Scientist (22-29/12/07), one thing that sets us apart from the chimps and in fact all other members of the animal kingdom except toothed whales, is the menopause.
Chimps, it seems, are fertile until they die. True, their lifespan is generally shorter than that of most humans. And scientists can't really work out why. It's as though Nature has some special plan for post-reproductive women, and I believe it is our mission to be grumpy and challenging.
And there's good reason for that.
In the chimp world, 'male chimps tend to prefer mating with older females.... one wild chimp called Auntie Rose was fertile until she died at 63, and males were still fighting over her.'

A big smiley to whoever it was that used Jeremy Planet-Killer Clarkson (aka Satan's big helper)'s details to defraud him out of money, even if it was only five hundred notes.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


There's a lot of it about.
Today we went to a memorial for a friend of Kevin's from uni. He was 39 and had died on Christmas Eve. The memorial seems to be the thing here, and it was nicely done if you want non-religious, and many do.
Personally, I want a cardboard box, can't decide on which is environmentally better, cremation or burial, and then a church service, if'n someone can muster a requiem mass, let's go for that. But as for a memorial, unless I get significantly famous between now and then, I'll not be up for it.

Yesterday, we took my nephew up to Whistler where he is doing a three-month ski-instructor course. I had worried about going up there, because the sea-to-sky highway can be notorious for the road conditions in the winter and for the appalling driving in those conditions. We also don't have either snow tyres or chains, so we were keeping a watchful eye on the webcams and weather reports.
We had some snow, and you can see from yesterday and today's pictures that there was plenty up there, but we made it intact. So long as the snow doesn't come down too fast and thick, the snowploughs keep the roads clear.
Today's picture is of the house Jeremy will be staying in. Two other lads are living in the car in front of the house.

However, tying together yesterday's theme and snow sports, it was announced that women's junior ski-jumping would not be recognised as an Olympic sport. It was one of those news items where they couldn't find anyone to interview who thought this was a good thing.
A lad ski-jumper said it was unfair and it detracted from the men's junior ski-jumping that women didn't have their own event.
A male member of the provincial parliament said it was ridiculous, the Olympic ski-jump at Whistler had been paid for by the taxpayers and 52% of the taxpayers were women. Protests had been filed and lodged and what have you, I don't think we've heard the last of it.

Saturday, 5 January 2008


There is a programme on TV called 'Holmes on Homes'. It's a Canadian show but it can be seen in Britain. Mike Holmes is called into people's homes where professional builders have botched things.

Tonight, he was in a house where virtually everything was crap. It started with the plumbing, soon got to the electrics and then he found carpenter ants and damp in the walls.

The electrician he called in looked at the appalling wiring. Everything that could be wrong was, everywhere he turned or looked the work was faulty, dangerous, unbelievable. He stood there with some group of ridiculous wiring in his hand, shaking his head and saying how he couldn't believe it.
And of course, in our homes, we all did the same thing.

And that's how I feel right now.
This week I wrote about a Scientific American research report on how women's abilities are underestimated.

My sister, telling me about her family's holiday in various African cities, recounted how in one, she was not allowed point blank, to pay for anything and in another, she was simply ignored. The money paying for anything was earned by her. It shocked me. Those countries are dependent on the tourist industry. What happens when a woman travels alone, or two women go there?

Following the Osama-Hillary tosh, all I see or hear about is how Hillary's hair is wrong or she's too short, or some other garbage. Reading even her fiercest critics I see no debate but that she is the more experienced, intelligent and soundest candidate, but...but...but nothing, trivia, nit-picking.
Basically, she's a woman.

Women, we were told this week, can expect to spend 16 years paying off their student loans, compared with 11 years for a man due to pay differentials.
That's without mentioning that she may take time out of her working life during those 16 years, to bring up children and sacrifice career.

I see a friend who is suffering health problems at the moment and I can't help wondering whether her concerns aren't being properly addressed because they are women's problems. I have seen that over and over again.

There's an advert on TV where one woman, clutching one of those trick chocolate bars that are wafer thin, so you have to eat two of them in reality, telling her friend that the dress she is trying on in a shop, a dress the friend looks fabulous in, doesn't suit her, just so she can buy it herself.
I am woman hear me undermine and lie.

I am fed up with being insulted and offended by other women. I'm fed up with other women doing it to other women. The best men I know are those who are also offended by it.
I don't want to see it on TV, I don't want my daughter and my granddaughter to still be suffering this crap.
I would hope that any intelligent person would feel the same and it pisses me the hell off that some don't.

So if I were a man saying this, would you be sitting up and taking notice instead of shaking your head and smiling about me going off on one yet again about imaginary feminist stuff?
Stuff that's all in my head.

Thursday, 3 January 2008


I was reading an article in Scientific American which was looking at why women don't choose jobs in Science and Engineering. The reasons seem to be manifold, however there were some interesting points made.
In mathematical aptitude testing of men and women, overall, both scored the same but the men had a much wider range, both more gifted and more hopeless.
Odd, but not scary. What was scary however, was subjective peer rating of women for jobs in Science and Engineering.
The researchers rated candidates on a number of objective criteria, such as how many times they had been published, the quality of the research and so on. When the candidates were then peer rated, the highest scoring group of women on the objective scale, were rated subjectively by the peers lower than the lowest scoring group of men. Insane.

Meanwhile, another article dealt with the notion of boredom. Researchers found that boredom was an internal event and was not as a result of boring stimuli. Boredom is not caused by the boring, it is experienced by them. There was also a strong link with attention.

And who could possibly be bored in Ikea? You're right of course, the answer is no-one. Jeremy, thereby qualifying himself as all time top nephew, wanted to go to Ikea yesterday, and we spent an enjoyable hour or so appraising everything, EVERYTHING!!
It rocked.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


How strange, this turn of the year. The year we have become so familiar with, the one we are living in, becomes just an old calendar, last year and the future becomes the now. How very strange.

Jetlag in this direction seems gentler somehow, less ragged. It pulls gently at us but lets us continue with our lives.

After only two weeks' absence, being back at work seems odd. Disjointed. The long, slow wait between heartbeats, the long, dark teatime of the soul.

On my desk, various sweet things that people had given me. This seems to be something that Canadians, or Canadians in this part of the country do, they make cakes, or cookies, or sweets and give them out at Christmas.

My nephew has arrived, safe and sound. He is exploring our little corner of BC. He goes to Whistler on Saturday but in the meantime, he does nephewy things, came to the nature park and met my colleagues and snakes. Allowed me to show him the trails, went into Richmond centre with Laurence and finally, tested every sofa in Ikea with me.
Meanwhile, off the pistes at Whistler, off the beaten track, one skier has died and a snowboarder had to be airlifted out and will be prosecuted for entering private property.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New Year's Day

The house had a chill. Oddly, I could feel it for once, maybe the tiredness. But by the time I woke up, it had warmed up.

The journey home went well, the whole trip was great, the only fly in the ointment the bloody misbehaving macbook.

I think I was surprised that things had changed, moved on in my absence, or maybe progressed further. Green initiatives, and people actually being very involved in them.

And then some things don't change. A main news story while we were over was about a one-year-old child who was killed by the family's 'pet' rottweiler. There had been so signs, apparently, that the dog was aggressive, well apart from the fact that he was a rottweiler of course. Police were on the scene six minutes after they were called and they shot the dog but were unable to save the child.

I was taken by the statistic that in Britain in 1931, there were 2.3 million cars on the road and 7,000 deaths due to motoring accidents, whereas in 2006 there were 33 millions cars on the road and only 3,150 deaths.

Back to work tomorrow for Kevin and me, Laurence was back in today for a half shift. My nephew Jeremy is currently sitting on the tarmac in Chicago, waiting to come to Vancouver. It could be a long night.

Happy New Year. May it bring growth and consolidation. May you have both dreams and determination.
May none of us end it unexpectedly in charge of a country.