Friday, 29 February 2008

29th February

Yes, it's that day that comes but once every four years.
On the TV news this morning, they interviewed a man whose birthday was on 29th of February and it seems that many in the same situation consider themselves as 'Februarians'.
How quaint.
This apparently has drawbacks when you try to celebrate with a drink when you reach 21, although only in the United States.
The man was from Vancouver and seemed confused by this. The confusion arose because he was holidaying in San Fransisco which clearly makes you think you are American. TV Steve was equally confused, the age at which you can legally drink here in BC is 19, but Steve thought it was 18.
Anyway, the upshot is that you may or may not be a Februarian, but you legally reach drinking age on 1st March.

On the news today, we watched Prince Harry putting his foot in it. Great that he's happy to be serving his country in Afghanistan, not so great to say he doesn't like England. Almost as big a gaffe as Obama's Mrs. saying she was proud of her country for the first time ever.

Interestingly, an eco-terrorism suspect has been extradited from Canada to the U.S. Who knew that Bush's land even recognised eco-terrorism as a bad thing?
Well the answer is green and ethical Oregon.
Of course, BC approved the extradition in 2005, but the bad boy didn't think it was fair, after all, he had been found guilty of all kinds of crimes in Canada too.

I find it rather compelling that members of the SETI institute, who have found, well, almost nothing over the years that they have been watching and waiting for aliens to contact us, instead of deciding to call it a day, are debating whether maybe their goalposts are in the wrong place.
Consider, these are all highly intelligent women and men, many from the field of science, who are so convinced that there is something out there, that they don't draw the conclusion that they were wrong, but rather that they are doing the wrong thing.

And if we did contact something or someone, it wouldn't be a moment too soon. Writing in today's Guardian, environmental soothsayer James Lovelock describes our attempts to reverse global warming as 're-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic'. It's too late and we should instead be planning how we're going to survive when the catastrophe happens.

Thursday, 28 February 2008


The news is just too depressing today. The word 'failure' appears in one of its forms in the first three headlines on the Guardian's website.

On the TV this morning was a perky man talking about how he had turned around his life and was about to be baptised. How did we all know this man? Because last year he attacked an older man who habitually gave him money, in church. But the good news is, he's not going to gaol!

Let me see, who else doesn't feel like taking responsibility? Oh yes, the Mountie who used his position and uniform to have sex with women while on duty. He hoped this wouldn't ruin his career, well, or let's say that he shouldn't have to lose his job over it. Really? What a cheek. Fortunately the RCMP don't agree and he has been told to resign.
So...fall on his sword. If he hasn't done so in two weeks, he'll be pushed.

There was one good piece of news today though! My friend Dawn's second grandchild was born. Congratulations to Adam and Lisa on the birth of Oliver(and Dawn too of course;)

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


No blog tonight. It has been a long, long day. It started well, with good news about a good friend. It was anti-bullying day today and everyone was being asked to wear pink. The best I could do was a salmon-coloured Henley.
The story goes like this. A kid in one of the Vancouver schools was being bullied on account of wearing a pink shirt. So another kid went to the thrift shop and bought as many pink shirts as he or she could and distributed them to one and all.
Nicely done.
Be advised that 'shirt' in the story may not mean an actual shirt, it just means top sometimes here.

On Rent-a-Goalie tonight, someone said it had been proven that it was mathematically gay to support Annaheim over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Much as I loathe the use of gay to mean lame, that one made me chuckle. Mathematically gay :)

After work, Alex Y and I took our show on the road and we attended Science Jam. A psycho came and went on at length to me about how the Nature Park and the adjoining MoD land were the two most evil places in Canada. Eventually one of the organisers came round and I tractor-beamed her in using only my eyeballs.
She called security.

And after that - I went to hear the Rabbi speak at church. He didn't turn up. We hung around for a while talking about Jewish matters.
Ah well. The Imam next week.

Oh, I suppose there was a mini-blog after all. Who knew?

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


As I may have mentioned, we were introduced to the comedy of Iranian-British comedian Omid Djalili when we went to Britain for Christmas. Now, his show is on BBC Canada every Sunday night. In this, there is not just Omid's stand-up, although there is plenty of that, but sketches too. I think he's so funny that he almost, almost cancels out that other Iranian, Head Boy, Mad-bad-jihad for me. Not quite, but Omid evens up the score somewhat.

So, the Oscars suffered the lowest ratings since 1974 when the current system of score-keeping started. Oh shucks.
On the one hand, the viewing choices of so many never cease to disappoint, on the other hand, perhaps we don't want to sit and watch a bunch of people congratulating each other on just doing their job.

Bizarre that the Talib-tubbies have demanded that mobile phone companies in Afghanistan should shut down between 17.00 and 0700 so that the UN forces couldn't track them. It seems to me that the best bet would be to not listen to the Talibs and hope that the UN does indeed manage to track them down. Get rid of the threat and you - well, get rid of the threat. Oh, except for one thing, contrary to what the beardy-weirdies might think, it seems it's satellites and not mobile phones that are being used to track them.

On the day that a report claims that anti-depressants are no more effective at combatting depression than placebos, Paul Keedwell in the Graun, tells us that no-one talks about the good side of the illness. And the good side seems to be that it 'can lead to great insights and achievement'. Well, that's good, and it makes sense, since higher IQ and depression are linked.
The good news, in the UK at least, is that 3,600 more therapists are to be trained to cope with the problem.
I know that when I suffered clinical depression after the death of my parents, I felt that both drugs and therapy helped enormously.

Here in Richmond, a local crack house has managed to blow itself up. I have no idea whether acetylene would be needed in the manufacture of said crack, but either way, keeping a cylinder of it around isn't clever. The man speaking to the local news station about the explosion and consequent conflagration, didn't look like much of a chemist, and I couldn't help thinking that hippies should stick to weed or at the very least, not smoke weed while manufacturing the crack.
Vancouver is thinking about the mayoral elections. Of course I don't get a vote because - well, I'm not Canadian and I don't live in Vancouver, but if I did, then I'd probably vote for the most competent woman candidate. And good luck with that, because there isn't even an incompetent woman candidate.
And somehow, this isn't the first thing people notice about the whole kerfuffle.

Monday, 25 February 2008


Here's the Tina Fey clip from SNL. It's good. It's so good that it was briefly on YouTube and then NBC snatched it off.

I know the photo of these birds isn't great, but I had to take it and I wished at the time that photos had the option of coming with soundtrack. These sounded like a little quarrel of R2D2s.

Although I don't have long to blog today, I did want to mention the article from yesterday's Observer that most caught my attention. And I have no idea why it was on the front page yesterday, since it was an article from 2004. It concerned a Pentagon report which was to be presented to George Bush, setting out the real fears scientists had - and of course still have - about climate change. The report is not just scary, it's petrifying. Four years later, Dubya hasn't taken a single step to address any of the issues in it.
Until today - finally the US is ready to set some goals on climate. Too little, too late? Well I guess we'll all have to wait and see if we are alive in ...ooh, what was it, oh yes, twelve years' time.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


We finally got around to watching the Michael Moore film 'Sicko'. There were few surprises, I have a friend in the States with medical insurance who has experienced problems. I have others who I assume never have. There were certainly points when I wanted to cross-examine the witness as it were, times when I felt there were parts of the story we weren't hearing, but the main point was well-made.

And of course, there was the scene where an effigy of Hillary Clinton was being burnt because she dared to introduce the idea of health reforms. In a way it reminded me of the people of Springfield. There were the people who had no insurance and hoped that nothing but nothing would ever happen to them - 50 million. Then there are the huge number of people who have insurance but who discovered their insurance didn't actually cover them for what ails them. Some died. But like the people of Springfield, they can nonetheless be relied upon to get the pitchforks and flaming torches to hound the person who dares to suggest that healthcare, like the fire brigade, police force, education and libraries, should be in any way managed by the State, and by the State I mean the country.

Now, Hillary's health reforms proposed as part of her election manifesto, or whatever that would be called in America, has been under attack from the other candidate. Hillary's response, which is to declaim said candidate, 'Shame on you...' because health reforms should be, MUST be part of any democrat's policies, is of course derided. Why is she getting shirty now? Well why not, why the hell not?

At the end of his section on Hillary's healthcare reforms, MM points out that Hillary has 'gone over to the other side,' because her campaign has accepted money from healthcare organisations. Sadly, I see this as one of the times when I wanted to cross-examine. Just as in Britain, when every mistake any police officer in the country makes is blamed on Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Ian Blair, as though he were chained to his desk in front of an infinite bank of screens, one for each police officer in the country, I don't see Hillary sitting at her desk saying yes or no to everyone who offers the campaign money. Nor do I see them all as completely evil and even if she did and they were, why not take money from them to regroup, lick wounds and come back and fight another day? Michael Moore himself says that he gave money to his sternest critic so that he could go on criticising.

On SNL last night, Tina Fey had a go at those who are failing to vote for Hillary. What reasons are being given? Ridiculous ones, ones that barely cover the ardent misogyny.
'The people don't want to see their President becoming an old lady,' I beg your pardon? 'They didn't care when Ronald Ray-gun did just that,' said Tina, although the old satirical Ray-gun was my inclusion.
'Perhaps they don't like that she is married to a former president,'
'Yes, what a horrible idea that two intelligent people should talk about matters of state,' or thereabouts, from Tina.

Misogyny is endemic, the Observer points to the media treatment of boys versus girls. How they hound and judge the women for everything, the men get more sympathetic treatment. Why is that?
Every family that has been blessed with children is even more blessed when within that family there are both boys and girls.
Each baby as it grows inside us, we women, goddesses that we are to have the amazing, the divine capacity to produce the next generation, could be either a boy or a girl, both equal, both in the sight of our Deity and in the sight of both parents. So what happens? Why, somewhere along the line, do girls slip to being the children of a lesser God?

I hate that I see this election in another country as a global issue. I shouldn't. It doesn't concern me. Except that I have good friends, people I care about a great deal who live there, but it's up to each of them to make their choices, not me.
I don't believe for one moment that Hillary is done for yet. But if she is, and if she perceives that she is, by God, if she has decided to go out in a ball of fire, I admire and respect her even more, it's what I would do.
She's an amazing, extraordinary woman, just to have boldly gone where no woman has gone before.

Saturday, 23 February 2008


Too much misogyny and too little environment- alism. It feels as though there is something swimming in the wrong direction in the underverse.

In Nicaragua, a law passed in 2006 banned ALL abortion. In a country where women are already abused and mistreated, this makes their existence intolerable. It's unthinking, it's inhumane and it's bloody immoral.

I'm wondering if the TV in Britain is currently running ads for Christmas Hampers. Well it is here. I mean I KIND of get it, when we were quite young my mum used to pay extra on the milk bill every week and we'd get a hamper at Christmas, and it seemed like it was free, because who notices an extra 50 pence or whatever it was, a week? Except that half the crap you got was stuff you would never, NEVER go out and buy, and not because it's too expensive, but because you'd only eat it in times of thermonuclear war.

Today we bought one of those devices that gives you information you're probably better off not knowing. No, I don't mean bathroom scales. It's a gismo that tells you how much Wattage each of your electrical devices is using. Gulp. Some of it's disturbing. The cable box for example, uses 21 Watts when in use, and 19 when not in use.
Now we have to work out what we can do about it all - that's the disturbing part.

On TV last night, we were watching the Canadian programme, 'The Murdoch Mysteries'. There is quite the effort in this excellent programme, to get different English accents and idiom going on, the time period being late 19th century.
Last night, they used the term 'Left Footer' - which means that someone is a Catholic - to mean gay.
Detective Murdoch was having to dress as a 'sodomite' and infiltrate a 'tennis club' in order to track down the murderer of a gay man. He was given a pansy to wear in his lapel, which they obtained from someone's brother, 'a bit of a left-footer', which was confusing since Murdoch had just been to confession himself.

It seems that the use of Viagra may be turning men into Jaffas. But surely Viagra is used by older men. When older women want to treat age-related infertility, there's an outcry. So why is it a problem that Viagra is causing older men to shoot blanks? Surely they're no worse off than before, since without the Viagra, they may have had seed, but it wasn't going anywhere.

I say distribute it free in Nicaragua. It won't stop the rape, abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and forced prostitution, but it may save women's lives.

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Englishman's Boy

Our friend Steve's mini-series, 'The Englishman's Boy' is FINALLY about to be shown and is currently being advertised on TV. It has been a goodly while since he went to Alberta to shoot it, the date for screening has been put off and put off. Now it's just over a week away.

Thursday, 21 February 2008


Beautiful day. I don't want to wish winter away, but today smelt like spring and it was dazzling.

Christmas is a time for others, for family, friends, sociability.
Lent is a time for self. Learning about, pushing, challenging self.

Yesterday at the Lent talk, we learnt about the historical Christ. Not very much that I hadn't learnt in RE lessons at school. But then that's what I learnt - that we had RE lessons at school and that the judges, the prophets, the kings, the historical Jesus had always been with me.
Next week we get the Rabbi, but I have Science Jam. I need to get my Lent head round that one. I have to do Science Jam, but I want to hear the Rabbi.

Today we trapped a squirrel. Not we, they. We're practising squirrel Apartheid, we're bussing the grey and black ones out, we're keeping the pretty orange ones like this one.
It seems they're suckers for peanut butter.

The latest bollocks in the whole 'we should all apologise for history' saga, is that Manitoba Frist Nations want the Queen to apologise for something the Canadian Government did 100 years ago.

Hope the squirrels don't hear about it.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Lunar Eclipse

We are expecting a lunar eclipse tonight, it is however, quite overcast, I'm not sure that we'll be able to see the moon by the time it gets dark. It's 18.02 and still twilight. Apparently we are now in a time of accelerated lengthening of the days.

One of my colleagues was saying at lunchtime that fun should be one of the values of a workplace. I disagreed. I have removed it as a learning objective from all of the school programmes. I hope that the kids will have fun while they are with us learning, but I don't feel it is something we should have as an explicit objective.

The idea of having fun at work is rather odd. I enjoy my work, but if I suddenly found myself having fun, I'd probably not be working, I'd be skiving off to Cypress or Grouse Mountain or some other place of...well, fun.
The point about fun surely is that it's something you do when you're not working, otherwise wouldn't fun become less fun?
As we talked it over, I suggested to my friend that maybe what he was talking about was enjoyment or job satisfaction and he agreed.

On TV this morning, various people were whingeing and whining about the carbon tax. The basis of the squinnying was that something should be done about protecting the environment, but it shouldn't have to involve them. You see why government have to be firm, because more people than you'd like, are fundamentally stupid and behave like children.

Madge Allsop, Dame Edna Everage's bridesmaid, has died at the age of 100. The amazing thing is that she started this new career at the age of 80. I wonder if the telegram from the Queen has been replaced by an e-mail. I think I may have wondered that before.
I also wonder if Canadians and Aussies get telegrams from the Queen, they should do, she's their queen too.

So the mysterious and yet evil creature known as woman, continues to keep everyone bamboozled. The Italians, based on an extensive sample of 20 women, have determined that they can find the elusive G-spot on ultra-sound.
Not so, say the Brits, what they have found is simply an extension of the clitoris into the vagina.
To some extent, it's always a good thing that research is being done on anything to do with women. And yet, this has become something of a holy grail. So long as the reason is for our good, then all is well. But if it's just another thing to beat us up over, or for us to beat ourselves or each other with, then not so good.
I'm certainly in favour of science for its own sake, but I'm also distrustful. We're currently being reminded on an almost daily basis at the moment, how misogynistic the world can be.

Tonight I'm going to listen to a talk, 'Jesus and Us : A Jewish, Christian and Muslim Perspective.'
Sounds interesting.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008


Yeah. You see my lad. I see the algae that has grown over the winter.

Today we had a Provincial budget and the big buzz was that it was going to be a green budget and lo, it is.
Ok, so we're about thirty years behind Germany, but we've started.
I'm fecking proud.
I'm particularly proud because this time, the government has stood firm. And that's their bloody job. I'd like to say that government isn't a popularity contest, but sadly that isn't the case, especially in North America.

I do so love the idea of the 'frog from hell' that has been found in fossilised form in Madagascar. He looks a bit like former Labour Premier Harold Wilson. A great man.

I went into work today, Ibuprofened up and sweating and aching, but I made it through the programmes then came home.
One day at home and I'm re-hooked on Ellen. Didn't last long though. Today she had the annoying Italian TV chef on that I don't like.

So things stir around the world, Kosovo gains independence, that'll be interesting to watch as it finds it can't sustain itself. In reality I don't have any opinion on it, it happened when I wasn't watching, but you know, when you're at school you get taught about JK Galbraith economics and how bigger is more stable and you think egh...we'll see.
Castro quits - on the one hand, that just makes him a quitter, Bush never gave up just because of mental illness. On the other hand, 'tis about bloody time. You've got to know what your sell-by date is, otherwise you cease being a legend and become a dead-weight.
Pakistan practises democracy. Good, good. That's what we like from people we play cricket with.

My vicar is wanting to start a book group. It hasn't really ever occurred to me to join such a thing because it involves reading books that other people want me to, ie not sci-fi. But...I am rather intrigued to find out more about these people. There don't seem to be any happy-clappies at the church, although there are some unusual hand movements that go on during the Lord's Prayer sometimes.
I don't watch anymore.
I wonder if the putative book group is a hand-picked enclave of subversive feminists - this I would like. At the very least I don't think I'd need to be on my best behaviour. I've warned them about this.
Had the vicar thought of this idea in September I'd have sent my mine-sweeper Sleepy along to check out how much subversion and bad behaviour they could take.

Monday, 18 February 2008


This is a picture of writer Marguérite Duras by photographer Richard Avedon. I just happen to love this photo.

The day passes, from literal fog outside first thing, to the fevered fog of daytime TV, Ibuprofen and liquids.

I think the last time I took a day off work sick was in September 2003, but then since coming here I did have a year and a third without paid employment, so that doesn't really count for much. In any case, the reason I would go into work however ill I was, was that I couldn't trust one member of my department.
I'd have gone in like this.
And I would have gone in today were in not that I knew we didn't have any programmes.
But I do feel like shit.

On TV, Ellen Degeneres rang the White House to wish the President Happy Presidents' Day. Ellen seemed to be suffering from a similar lurgy to me, except she looked much better. Yes, I know she has her own make-up department.

An amusing TV ad for First Response pregnancy kits claims that 'this is the most sophisticated piece of technology you'll ever pee on.'

I précised a potted history of the Nature Park for the new website, and Alex has posted it. I'll re-read it tomorrow when I WILL be better.

Through the haze from my sickbed, I can see a Stars and Stripes flying in between the houses. It seems a bit provocative, but then maybe it should. Four chimneys reach for the sky beside it, like the dead-dog legs of Battersea Power Station, just in metal.

Robbe-Grillet has died. I think I'm over him now, I don't even bother to make the lame old joke about his name and call him pain-grillé.
But his work was extraordinary, to write only from the eyes of one character, only what he or she could possibly see, to allow no authorial omniscience.
The nouveau-roman, which R-G pioneered was my special subject for my degree.
But there was another writer, Marguérite Duras who was also of this school, and her work I loved even more than his. She used language as music, her novels were evocative, atmospheric, she kept you there as though by reading her pages, she had her eyes locked on you, your eyes gazing deeply into hers and seeing as she would see, reflected in yourself.

Don't mind me, I can't keep my temperature down.

Sunday, 17 February 2008


Gratuitous Jedi picture. No reason.

It has been a beautiful, sunny day, although very frosty first thing. I, however, have a cold. I woke up feeling crappy on Friday, rallied Saturday, but have succumbed today. Woe is me.

We have a new TV in the bedroom. It is replacing a big old monster, so it looks nice and sleek, but it also adjusts the brightness automatically to save energy. I'm liking the new set-up immensely.

Today I have planted seeds in little pots. And that's about all.
Oh well, I did have some thoughts about Human Knowledge this morning, but maybe some other time for that.

Yesterday I walked towards the entrance to the Mall behind a man who was wearing a woolly hat. As he entered the mall he took it off. That simple act of manners just blew me away. I wanted to hug him or at the very least do something heavily patronising like rush up to him and give him a gold star.

In case it's true what they say about viruses and the internet, I'll take mine somewhere else.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

From the Inside

Danes rock. That's all I want to say on the subject.

So, I picked my sister and niece up from YVR yesterday and dropped them back there today. Yesterday they were arriving by bus from Whistler, today they were flying back to the UK.
A couple of hours after they arrived yesterday, the Sea-to-Sky Highway was closed in both directions.
I haven't been able to show them much of Vancouver or Richmond, but I think they get it. Vancouver that is, they get it. My niece has also become addicted to ice hockey.

There have been people in my life, however briefly, that have said or done something that makes me remember them and has added to the sum of my thinking.

In the very first job I had, there was a woman called Linda Lines. At this point in my life I wasn't a fully-formed card-carrying socialist, but I had joined the white collar union that supported our job.
Linda Lines was the union rep but she didn't agree with a lot of things that went on within it, particularly because our union financially supported the Labour Party and this wasn't where her personal politics lay.
Looking back, I can see that she was also one of those strong women who did her job well and didn't suffer fools lightly. You know, the type people piss and moan about.
One day I asked her how she could be union rep when she felt there was so much wrong with it and she said to me that there's no point standing outside and whingeing about it, you had to work to make things better from within.

That stuck with me and I was reminded yet again of this when I was reading a blog post earlier. The post was about an extraordinary case in Kansas USA where a woman basketball ref had been told she couldn't referee a game at a Catholic Boys' school because she couldn't be in authority over boys.
The male ref walked out with her in disgust and the Activities Association is possibly (shouldn't really be just a possibility) going to ban the school from playing.
In the comments section, a number of people said that this was typical of the kind of thing that had made them leave the Catholic Church, and I can most certainly understand that. However it also made me think back to Linda Lines, it would be better to have a church (or any other religion - wonder to whom I am referring there) that is literally bristling with the bristling because that's how things get changed, from within.
Change rarely happens from the outside in that's for sure.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


I was JW'ed, or maybe Mormoned by 'phone yesterday.
Phone went, I answered, person gave me his name and told me he was volunteering in the area.
And that he'd like to discuss the Bible with me.
'I don't want to discuss the Bible with YOU,' I said, and he apologised and the call was over.

I must admit, I was almost as surprised by myself than the call. I frequently talk about the Bible here, wouldn't this have been a fine opportunity to engage a knowledgeable person in conversation ?
Not really.
I'd rather avoid the 'phone if possible. I don't know why. I enjoy talking to my kids on the 'phone, but other than them, I'm happier to text, e-mail, IM. Inexplicable.

V-Day. Also inexplicable here on the lefthand side of Canada. What, oh what is with it? We have had all kinds of cookies, cakes and chocolates given at work. None of these people - to the best of my knowledge - has any romantic or sexual interest in any of the others.

Last week we watched the film 'Karla' about Canadian serial killer Karla Homolka. The film was based on the story of Karla and her Svengali husband Paul Bernado. Bernado had raped three women before meeting Karla, then together they sexually tortured and killed three other young women.
Kevin remembers the search for one of the girls who went missing from his town.
I wasn't aware of the case at all, until the year I came to live here when Karla Homolka was released from gaol, amid great controversy.
The film was exceptionally well made and Laura Prepon in the eponymous role was just superb.

Karla Homolka had been given a lighter sentence of twelve years, whilst Bernado got life with no possibility of parole. The film reflected this. Homolka was portrayed as besotted, bewitched by her abusive husband, powerless to escape him.
As I understand it, both blames the other, Bernado accusing Homolka of being a manipulative psychopath, and many people believe this to be the case. This contrary view was also alluded to in the footnotes to the film. But it was an excellent film, it succeeded where so many Hollywood films fail, in making you feel the horror the girls suffered before they died.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Watching Boston Legal last night, a character brought up something that I think about from time to time and had been on my mind recently.

The gist was that we are living our memories as they happen.
I was reminded of this as we walked the trails this afternoon, the ground beneath our feet springy, the sky blue to the southwest and gathering clouds to the northeast. The chickadees giving it max, and circling above us, a single Cooper's Hawk.
No smells, just vibrant colours and symphonies.
So many days like these, but every one becomes a fragment of memory. Then though, then, we were inside of the memory to be.

As when we are young, or were young, rushing headlong to the next moment, unable to appreciate what we have and what we are because we are so sure that things would get better. Yet things were good, so very good, the difference was us, we could never see how good it is to be young and beautiful and full of potential, the future brimming with possibilities for us. We could only see the emptiness in the glass, not how full it was.

Technology comes at us like a blizzard.
On Monday at Writers' Group, someone read a piece about the 'phone coming into a household where there had been none. It was so vivid, like a golden light washing a picture.

And I remember technologies that have come into my life.
There was the time before the colour TV, and then the time after. Before and after BBC2; front loading automatic washing machine, central heating, dishwasher, the video, the mobile phone, DVD, computer, microwave, cable, internet, broadband, mythbox, blog, everything ever faster, sleeting down and each one causing a profound change in how our lives are lived, a before and after.

And still more to come.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

1526 and All That.

1526 isn't really all that significant except for one thing. Oh well, of course if you google 1526 you can find at least seventeen significant things that happened that year, although the first English translation of the Bible seems fairly top of the list.

No, here's the thing. According to last week's New Scientist, 'they' has been used as a singular pronoun to avoid specifying gender, since 1526.
The reason this struck me as more interesting than what the Higgs Boson was doing this week (moonlighting as an inflaton it seems) is that I was having a discussion with a German person a couple of weeks ago. He claimed to have been taught in school that it was a rule of correct English to use 'he' where gender is not specified.
'Nonsense!' I said (though not out loud), 'using 'he' is a function of attitude, not grammar, besides which, we were always taught to use 'they' as a singular pronoun.'
I have always felt an aversion to stating the bloody obvious, thus didn't add,
'...and by the way I AM English.'

Kevin's macbook has died again, this time seemingly to do with the logic board. I'm thinking we should send in the Higgs Boson to sort it out. On Voyager, as a last resort, it always seemed an option to do a baryon sweep. This might be what is needed. I'm not sure how it works since baryons are particles that appear to travel backwards in time, however it always worked for Captain Janeway.

Ignorance is bliss and thus, some blissful part of the United States has pictures of Hillary in a red circle with a line across her and the words, 'Stay out of my village bitch.'
Perhaps it's still 1526 there.
We must hope that Osama bin Barrak never has to come across any racial abuse of this ilk. And in fact he won't because that would be rightly deemed to fuel racial hatred. Hatred of women is, of course, irrelevant.
In the UK, the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill seeks to ban extreme forms of porn such as necrophilia and bestiality - oh and SOME snuff - but not sexual violence against women. There is a well-written and in-depth analysis of this here, there's nothing I can add.

Monday, 11 February 2008


Crumpets are, or were when I was younger, a British teatime staple, and there is currently an ad on TV featuring a crumpet factory. But does anyone really, really like them.
I mean sure it's great the way you can create a butter slick on their surface, but it's also almost impossible to not dribble melted butter all down you because it lies on the surface or hides in the holes, it doesn't get absorbed by some lush sponginess.

And how did crumpet become synonymous with totty? And where did we get 'totty' from?

But I always found crumpets rather rubbery and even at their best the comfort from them lies in the fact that you always had them for Sunday tea in the winter. If you were lucky, golden syrup was involved.
I don't miss 'em.

On the subject of food, both Jamie and Nigella were on TV yesterday, one after the other, making pies.
Now I like Nigella, but I do not like her made-for-the States show 'Nigella Express'. It's just wrong hearing her measuring butter in cups. No, I'm serious, that's a real thing. On this show, she does that a lot, uses American expressions and measurements, temperature in Fahrenheit, scallions for spring onions, you know the form.
And yet she uses ingredients sometimes that I know are difficult to find here but which I know are readily available in the UK. Of course that may not be true for the States, but it probably is.
SO Nigella is stuck, mid-Atlantic. And she is stuck making 'fast food'.
A quick way to make something that could fool your nose in the middle of the night into thinking it was a doughnut was to fry thick chunks of white bread that had been soaked momentarily in egg and vanilla and then drench it in sugar.
You know what I do when I get a hankering for doughnuts in the middle of the night Nigella?
Turn over and go back to sleep.

Yesterday she made something she called a chicken pot pie. It was, if you'll pardon the (to the ear) pun, foul, or at least looked it. It consisted of what appeared to be the filling for some frozen sub-Birds-Eye chicken pie, but with no pie crust, just a raft of puff pastry sitting on the top.

Jamie, on t'other hand, made melt-in-the-mouth-looking pies, hand made and Robot-chef made the pastry, lined the pie dishes, carefully blended the fillings, and then topped them. Those pies made my mouth water.

Please don't show us how to make midnight chocolate cake out of just crumpets and a bag of icing sugar Nigella, please get back to proper cooking.
I mean it.
I don't cook, so believe you me, I don't want to watch a TV chef showing me stuff that looks worse than the crap that even I can turn out.

Sunday, 10 February 2008


We have experienced many different weather conditions today, snow, sleet, rain, really heavy rain and sunshine.
We managed it safely to Whistler and back, but I always feel I'm about to be trapped there or be enveloped by the blizzard. My sister and niece have a lovely two-level room overlooking the village plaza, I think they'll enjoy their week.

The other day, in Superstore, I spotted an excellent T-shirt. I presume it was being worn by a firefighter. It had a picture of a firefighter in uniform with axe and the legend,
'Send us to Hell and we'll still be putting out the fires.' Brilliant.
Today however, I saw another T-shirt on a blog that I felt was equally, though differently, brilliant.
A simple, grey vest with the html instruction which I have to write in words because when I write it as it appears, the instruction, being an html instruction, and the blog is in html, cancels itself.
Inside the <> is the instruction /patriarchy - meaning an instruction to cancel the patriarchy.
Simple, Superb.

I had been annoyed by a recent set of signs that had appeared at construction areas. A picture of some kids with the words,
'Please slow down (or something like that), my daddy works here.' Ok, I thought, but women do work on construction projects here, even if they don't seem to be given much more than the holding the sign job.
Today, as we were driving back from Whistler, I can only assume that this had been pointed out to someone. One side of the road had daddy, and now the other side had mummy.
Kevin suggested that construction work was like High School dances, girls down one side of the hall, boys down the other.
I wouldn't know, I went to grammar (and thus single sex) school.

There is a TV show called 'Are you smarter than a fifth-grader'. I can't imagine it's a show worth watching, however an article on Slashdot about how toddlers can learn language by data mining makes me think that I'm not even as smart as one of those data-mining toddlers. I had to read it several times and then look up the contributing article before I could mine all the data for myself.
This despite the fact that part of my first degree was linguistics and my MA is in language education.
But... it engaged my interest.
Perhaps I should have given it a first read when drunk, things tend to make more sense then.

Saturday, 9 February 2008


Winterfest was cold, and I mean I was cold, chilled to little blocks of ice. And Winterfest was straight after work, so I was cold, hungry and tired.
And my bit of Winterfest was yesterday.

Today I was making the coffee when the mobile phone shrieked. I dunno, somehow it has gotten itself set to 'shriek'.
It was my nephew.
'Are you doing anything today?' he asked,
'Er, yeah, collecting your mum and sister from the airport,'
'Oh, just that I'm on Robson Street,'
'We've come down from Whistler to Vancouver for the day, we're going to a hockey game later.'

In the end we formed a plan, he would get the bus to Richmond town centre and I'd collect him from there, he'd come to the airport with me and we'd surprise his mum.
I had forgotten about the bit of Winterfest that didn't involve me, but once I was stuck in slug-like traffic going into town, I remembered. Time was being pinched, cinched even, like a belt around a waist. My sister's flight was listed as being ¾ of an hour early and I was crawling in the opposite direction.

But it all worked out. My sister and niece are here now, my nephew has been delivered to the hockey game. Kevin made a phenomenal meal.
Tomorrow, if road conditions allow, we will be driving to Whistler.

Thursday, 7 February 2008


I have unexpectedly gained a free evening, though not for a good reason.
We were supposed to be supping with our friends Steve and Christine, however Kevin has been struck down by a migraine and it is most unpleasant.
Chundering and a darkened room are involved.

Today at the Nature Park was rather springlike, and this was remarkable since yet again, surrounding areas received a big old dump of snow.
Yesterday, students were stranded at Simon Fraser university overnight, it was impossible to get off the campus due to the snow that fell during the day.

But in Richmond - we had the doors open and outside a single Chickadee 'cheeseburgered' for all he was worth. The males' song sounds like 'cheeseburger' when their hormones are on overdrive and their bird brains turn to lustful thoughts.

And on a pleasant human note, a reminder that some men are good guys.
On the radio this morning, the DJ said that men had been complaining that women had Valentine's Day and men should have a day. Someone had written in and said he felt they should have 'steak, beer, beej and shut-the-fuck-up day.'
The DJ simply said that he especially objected to the 'shut-the-fuck-up' bit, because women were the prize. Women are what men want and they are the prize, so he told the guys to get over it and if they were lucky enough to have a partner, they should give her whatever she wants.

Of course there is still the issue of 'Valentine's Day is for women'. That's particularly not true here where, I kid you not, you can buy Valentine's cards for anyone, your mum, your daughter, your teacher, your Uncle Bob.
Scary, scary stuff.

Sadly, in this time of Lent, the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be losing what few marbles he had left. I think it's time for him to give in to the inevitable himself, hang up his mitre and book himself into the loony bin.
The man is insane and he makes both the Church of England and Britain look bad.
He's even starting to look vaguely satanic.
Steve Bell sums it up rather well in his excellent cartoon.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Ash Wednesday

It's cold, wet and generally rather miserable out and I have to go out again, and out again to work to boot. This is shaping up to be rather a relentless week.

My Ash Wednesday reading matter exhorts me to think about my own death. I frequently do, I mean, who doesn't? Sometimes I see myself as an incredibly old woman, waiting patiently for death, like the Captain of the ship who sees all pass to the other side before she can disembark.
Then when I walk to work I imagine death is imminent.
And I wonder if I have already done what I was sent here to do.

On a lighter, brighter note, the F-Word points us to statistics that claim there is a war on women.
Quoting from that post, Laura Woodhouse says,

"Worldwide, male violence against women is the cause of more deaths and disability around the world in 15- to 44-year-olds than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war combined."

And yet people still refuse to believe that there is a problem or that it matters, but it is an abomination.

The rights of women in Muslim countries are always up for debate, but Turkey, a secular Muslim state, have long since banned the wearing of the headscarf in universities, fearing it might open them up to fundamentalist abuse.
Now that fear is moving them to protest since the government plans to ease the ban. Their argument is that at present, some women are kept out of Higher Education because their families won't allow them to go if they are not allowed to cover their heads.
It looks like rather circular thinking to me, surely the problem is with the families of these women and more should be done to take control away from them than to appease them in this way.
I guess that's pretty much what the Turks feel too.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Pancake Day

'Tis pancake day and I haven't got the energy to make pancakes. (Or crepes as they are called here).
Tomorrow will be Lent. Sleepy sent me an article from the Guardian. The Church of England is advocating a carbon fast for Lent. What a brilliant idea. I will certainly be taking their advice.

But I will be observing Lent this year on a personal level too. I used to do this regularly, meat, refined sugar and alcohol, all gone for forty days and nights.
Then I didn't for a couple of years.
So what is different this year?
For me, Lent is a time for balancing. The Christmas period, which let's be honest, runs from the beginning of December until Epiphany, is rightly, a time of feast. And this year it has been particularly true. I feel as though the mid-winter celebrations started in November with Divali and have only just finished.
Not only have I put on weight, but I do feel out of balance.

Christmas happens in the sign of Capricorn, an earth sign. A time for body, but Lent is largely during Aquarius, an air sign, a time for soul.

This year I will avoid refined sugar. It will bring my body back into a balance. But the avoidance of something, anything, makes me focus on the reason for that abstinence.

Yesterday, I received a book called 'The Lenten Labyrinth', a mystery parcel in the post.
It's a collection of daily readings, reflections for the season. It will accompany me.

The weather over the last couple of days has been suitably February-ish. Yesterday, when we led a guided walk, individual fluffy flakes of snow fell from the sky for a short while.
This morning, it had snowed in nearby cities, maybe a little in Richmond since the walk to work was slushy underfoot and then some hail came down. We are expecting gales overnight and perhaps more rain, sleet or full-on snow.

Perhaps I should make those pancakes after all.

Sunday, 3 February 2008


The Christian overlay on Imbolc is Candlemass. It was presented to us in church this morning in the same way that I described Imbolc yesterday.
But it was also the presentation of Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem and the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary - which seems a bit harsh to me, the purification of a virgin and one whose womb has held the son of God.

Still, in the Celtic cycle and the Christian one alike, you can never have too many candles.

Both Imbolc and Candlemass to me personally, symbolise the male and female side of God, God must have both since to lack either would be to lack perfection.
The iron in the soul, strength of body and spirit.
Fire in a time of ice.

In our church, when we say the Nicene Creed, we refer to the Holy Spirit as 'Mother' and 'she'. This gives us a perfect Trinity of God the Father, the Mother and child. The perfect blending of Father and Mother gives forth new life, life of a different nature, flesh.

When we first said the Creed in this way, it was like a jigsaw piece clicking into place for me. I have, for a very long time, spoken to both sides of God, but to have the Holy Spirit, the mother, the giver of life described thus was a moment of completion. I love so much this melding of the Celtic and the Christian.

Is it ironic that the Celts referred to in the New Testament, that is the Galatians, were located in an area of modern Turkey, a secular Muslim state? They were bothered by St. Paul and later became part of the Roman Empire.
But the Celtae were not a race, rather a group of peoples bound by language and culture.

Rather like us. Language, culture and history.

Saturday, 2 February 2008


Today is Imbolc in the Celtic year. A sort of halfway mark between last year's harvest and this year's. The holy day of the Goddess of fire, fertility and healing, Brigid. The good that comes from cold and its place in the cycle.

My friend Canadian Karen, oops, I nearly typed fiend, was quite insistent that I should blog about our trip to Ikea.
Canadian Karen and I went to Ikea. It was a cold but frantically sunny day. I say frantic because the weather forecast is predicting much rain this week, maybe some sleet, so it's as though the sun had seen a slot and was determined to insert itself.

We went to the cafeteria, because that's what I like to do, I love to have a plate of Ikea's gravad lax - I assume lax means salmon in Swedish since it is similar to the German Lachs - and Karen was needing a lush and very chocolatey brownie.
We had the further enjoyment of queueing on a Saturday afternoon.
The woman in front of us hadn't signed her credit card and refused to do so, thus we then had to wait until a supervisor could come over and void her sale.

I get New Scientist delivered to me from Britain and this costs me $72 for the year. It's a weekly publication. A copy of Scientific American which at most only has to cross the border would cost me $6.99 plus tax from my local newsagent.
So, are NS providing me with some kind of social service because I have been exiled to the colonies, or is SA robbing the public blind?

In the most recent copy that I have received, an article reveals that research has now shown that syphilis, known to the English as the French disease and by the French as the English disease, actually came from America. South America to be precise.
The bacterium that causes syphilis is apparently related to a skin condition called yaws. This disease was once widespread in the tropics, and now exists mainly in Asia, Africa and Guyana in South America.
The strain in Guyana however, looks as though it is an intermediate stage between the older strains of yaws and syphilis which has developed from it.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Eli and Lolita

Johnny Lee Miller's new series 'Eli Stone', has a good feel, quirky and well-scripted it's good enough to be mistaken for a Canadian show. And with music from the Proclaimers and George Michael - who also appears in the first episode - it has a certain melt-in-the-mouth goodness.

The Scotsman has an article about a range of bedroom furniture for small girls stocked by Woolies, called the Lolita range. Woolies, it seems, have now withdrawn the range since enraged grown-ups have basically said 'Lolita? ARE YOU INSANE?' And Woolies claimed they had no idea why the name 'Lolita' was offensive. Seriously, you don't have to have read Nabokov...or anything in fact.

An amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has been defeated in the House of Lords by a stonking 22 votes to 89. It would have banned abortion on the grounds of severe foetal abnormality and was introduced by the clear-sighted Baroness von Moron or Münchhausen or some such, whose usual repertoire involves voting against gay rights and for hunting. I think the good Baroness shows us a living, breathing (well kind of) argument for Euthanasia, in fact in her case...well I rest my case.