Thursday, 30 December 2010

Dog

Yesterday morning we met up with Kevin's mum and dad, and his brother and partner. Outside the diner, when we came out, was this rather large dog, most likely part wolf, just sitting in the back of a truck, unleashed.

Today, I took Alex to the airport and right now she is on her way back to Blighty. I am bereft.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Comet's Tail

We're in the comet's tail of Christmas. It would be better if Christmas were more like Kwanzaa, which seems to have a focus for every day. Or maybe it does, but the meaning of each day has been lost in the mists of time and alcoholic haze. Today would be 'four calling birds' whereas for followers of Kwanzaa, today is 'collective work and responsibility'. Hmmmm.

Oh well.
The lights on the houses in this largely Chinese part of town are relatively subdued this year. There are a few houses with lights on the outside, but not many. Through the blinds of others, you can see the indoor lights, some, frankly, must be inducing unpleasant brain states through their flashing on and off.

For the past few years, the original white and blue LEDs have given way to more colourful options, and actually, I have to admit, they can look pretty good. If people stuck to one theme, there would be no problem, but there seems to be a tendency to just throw everything in together. At least there are no blow-up atrocities. After dark, the apple green house's lights are the best and most tasteful.
However.....
On Christmas Day, we visited Kev's folks and one of their neighbours had gone rather overboard with the red festive lights. You might think this would render it rather Amsterdam. In fact, if Satan celebrated Christmas, this is what the Satanic Macmansion would look like. We seriously expected trident carrying, satin-wearing devils to pop their horned heads out at any moment.

So, let's talk dates. Thursday, much to my sorrow, Alex returns to England for the foreseeable future. On the 17th February, Kevin and I pop over for a whirlwind tour, this takes in half term over there.
I see this also as the 'Jan the Baptist' tour, preparing the way for the Vicar and her Missus the following month (ish).

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Booze

''Til Burnham Wood shall come to Dunsinane'. The Bard probably meant the Schloss.

Christmas, as we know, is all about the booze, not the baby Jesus, more the wassailing.
Christmas is also the only time of year when I find it reasonable that we can't buy booze in our supermarkets, because that could significantly increase the mayhem. In Britain of course, you have the choice, you can go to the supermarché or your Threshers or Oddbins or any offie really, and this encourages healthy competition.

Our BC Liquor Stores are quite impressive though.
Yesterday, before going to see Mr. Lube, I went to the Liquor Store and bought more alcohol than I had meant to, mainly just because it was there. I managed NOT to buy a bottle of Absinthe, which I was attracted to because of the mention of the green 'Fée' on the bottle, I moved quickly past it, so I'm unsure whether I was just reading the French side or whether they were playing with words.
One of my favourite current Canadian TV series is 'Lost Girl', in which the Fée, both dark and light apparently, live alongside humans and lead fairly normal lives in a completely abnormal, human eating way.

So, the booze. 'Booz endormi'(Victor Hugo, and not in fact about booze).
I realise I've never really been MUCH of an imbiber. I like a glass, I can look forward to a glass, but in recent years, I haven't been able to knock back much more than a glass, two at the most. I overheat and feel very uncomfortable, so my own boozing is more theoretical than real.
Even when I was younger, at peak time for being drunk, I never got to the hangover stage because at a certain point, I would just throw it all up and that would be that.
But I can imagine what a hangover's like because I have been ill and felt like death warmed up. I am fairly sure I can conjure up the memory of something akin to a hungover state.

I have just finished reading a book about alcoholism and I now see that I had absolutely no idea what alcoholism was. My friend lent me the book, she is a recovering alcoholic and she said,
'This book speaks to me, I have lived through this.'
Oh dear, I thought, a book about alcoholics, and set it aside.

Then I looked at it again and realised it was fiction, it was a story, told in the first person, so I started reading. And it was a good read. Glaswegian writer, so in my head, my mind's ear if you will, I could hear her speaking. This was great fiction, that kept me reading in spite of the state the character was in, being just horrible, and I was in the head of someone describing an experience about which I had no idea.
There are a couple of people within the very wide definition of my family, who are alcoholics, have been treated for it, and I had never really understood the phrase, 'it's a disease,' or, 'it's something they have no control over,' or even, 'they do that because of the disease,' until reading this book.
Now, I think, I'm a step closer.
'Paradise' by A.L.Kennedy.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Lube

Things I have learnt today(-ish).

1. Macdonald's is open on Christmas Day - presumably for all your day after Christmas Eve hangover needs.

2. Apple green houses cannot in any way be made to look acceptable by any available colour of Christmas lights.

3. Marky Mark Wahlberg can really, seriously, act. I went to see 'The Fighter' to spend time with the kids and was utterly transfixed.

4. There is a casting director on this planet who is enough of a genius to cast Melissa Leo in a major role. (See 3 and pic.).

5. If you live somewhere long enough, you can go and visit Mr. Lube without giggling, chortling or in any inappropriate way, snorting.


In fact, the visit to Mr. Lube was the highlight of today. I think I've said it before, but going to car-themed places here is not the nightmare of patronising misogyny it is back home. At Mr. Lube, they treat you as though you understand them, as though the fact that you can drive a car and wish to buy their lube, entitles you to be treated as an intelligent lifeform.
BUT.....I'm still not used to this, so I approach with trepidation. Even though the person is calmly and precisely encouraging me forward to position the car over the pit, I am convinced I will drive into the hole.
They give you a newspaper, explain how long you will have to wait, how long it will take and offer you coffee, which they will bring to your car. They ask you to leave the window open so that they can explain things to you, let you see the cost on their computer.
Mr. Lube is indeed a well-oiled machine.
I realise I've forgotten how to open the bonnet, but I realise in time, before the person asks me to do it, before I have to panic and look like a nit-wit. I find the catch.
Finally, all is finished and paid for, I have my free torch and tyre gauge set. I have my coupons. My windscreen has been washed, my tyres adjusted. And in front of me, the hangar door is opening to let me out, like the space door in a sci-fi movie, the only thing that's missing is Star Wars music.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Eclipse and Solstice

We couldn't see the lunar eclipse last night, because of cloud cover, so I've had to borrow a picture, oh alright, steal, this is from earlier in the year.

I learnt, from watching Merlin, that a dragon's heart is on the right. Now don't you think that would have been a useful thing to learn in the Brownies? I mean, being able to use your Brownie tie to make a sling is not a skill to be sneezed at, but compared with knowledge of dragon physiology, there's simply no contest.

My friend Gail posted a link via someone else she knows on Facebook, to a monologue by Ricky Gervais on why he doesn't believe in God, and it's good Gervais. I liked the stuff about science too, many people don't think about Science philosophically. I taught A-Level Philosophy to adults for twelve years, and so I taught both Philosophy of Science and of God. Thus, I know my theoretical God.

I had recently read elsewhere that we are all atheists, because there are always other gods we don't believe in. I certainly don't believe in the god that Gervais describes, the male god who therefore presumably has either XY chromosomes or the male characteristics generated by that Y chromosome, presumably physical ones, since science, albeit social science, has repeatedly shown us that 'femininity' and 'masculinity' are culturally created phenomena.

Of course, God cannot have physical characteristics, since God is not corporeal substance as we are.
Then there is the peculiar problem of the Y chromosome.
Germaine Greer, in 'The Female Eunuch', shows us that the extra little arm of DNA that is missing from the Y chromosome, is the one that saves us from a whole slew of little problems, it would seem to be an imperfection - God being the sum of all perfections cannot lack one. One of the arguments for God's existence claims that existence itself is a perfection and therefore God must exist. *

But then there is also the oddity that the sex chromosomes have become more dissimilar over time.
From the Gale Genetic Encyclopaedia,

"Present-day sex chromosomes look very different from each other: The X chromosome comprises about 5 percent of the human genome, and contains about 2,000 genes, while the Y chromosome is quite small and contains only about 50 genes (Figure 1). This striking difference in size and gene content between the sex chromosomes makes it hard to believe that they are actually ancient partners in a pair of chromosomes that originally were very similar."

But this, of course, is about humans, not God and my central point is that the theoretical male God is actually theoretically impossible.

Today, however, is the Winter Solstice, the Celtic rebirth not of the son, but of the sun at 23.38 tonight.

And one more Christmassy thought.
My friend sent me an e-card, and in my bungling, trying to send one back, and it remains unclear whether I succeeded or not, I was able to see a list of e-cards that had been created that day, my favourite was,
'I'm sorry my dog fucked your Jesus lawn ornament.'


*There are a number of problems with this argument, one of which is that there is no particular reason why existence should be seen as a perfection, nor what the nature of existence may be.
Another is that if existence is a perfection and God lacks it, then clearly God cannot exist on either a theoretical or an actual level. The attempt here is to make God's existence a Necessary Truth, (something that is true by definition, such as mathematics or a tautology) whereas it seems to be a Contingent Truth (one that requires some information that is not contained in the statement itself).

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Joseph and Kant

The Schloss interwebs are not playing nicely today.
The weather got me all hopeful yesterday, the sleet became more snowy, then stopped all together. Now it's delightfully nippy, but the sky is clear.

Welcome to Rosalind, my friend Gail's new daughter. Good timing young lady, letting mum get out of hospital before Christmas. Congratulations to Gail, Ross and big sister Lily.

Ah...Christmas, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Now firstly, what exactly is it in the Jewish faith that passes through the female line? Just Jewishness I presume, not actual lineage, because otherwise, Mary would have had to have been of the line of David, not Joseph and also....isn't the point of the story that Joseph was NOT the baby daddy? You think it's simple, and then it gets really confusing.

We had the children's Nativity play at church today. It was called, 'Benjamin the little shepherd boy,' Benjamin being the only reliable Jewish boy's name anyone knows. So there was a toddler dressed as a sheep, with a little hat with ears on, cute beyond compare, except the sheep was not happy with his sheeply tabard, nor his sheeply headgear and went somewhat awol. I'm sure there was another story in there somewhere.

Austen told me a story that made me cry with laughter. Recently, there have been a couple of high profile faux pas in the British media, to do with the unfortunate mispronunciation of the name Hunt, Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary. Hunt, culture - what could possibly go wrong?

Now Arts presenter Mark Lawson was interviewing Germaine Greer on his late night show. Greer of course, is originally Antipodean, and her accent is slight, but still noticeable sometimes.
So, she says to Lawson that (The C Word) has fallen into disrepute and that we shouldn't ignore (The C Word), in fact we should all be talking much more about (The C Word). Mark Lawson, horrified, stopped her and said that although the programme went out on late night television, they simply couldn't say that on air.
Germaine turned and looked at him, eyes wide, mouth open,
'What?' she said, 'we're not allowed to talk about German philosophers any more?'

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Mental Bubbles

I experience mental bubbles. Spheres of memory that rise through the dark liquid of my Psyche. Sometimes they seem to come from nowhere, sometimes I know what prompts them.

In spite of the lights, cards and decorations, I have not been feeling very Christmassy, until today when I smelt the mince pies cooking in the oven. Ahhhhh....Bisto....er, I mean Christmas. Very good they were too. I still haven't found any shop's mincemeat here that involves only ingredients that can be safely taken into the human body, so the filling is home made. I can also never remember from one year to the next, what circular object I use to cut the pastry. The tops are easier.

Today is also my friend Karen's birthday, we must have been wishing each other Happy Birthday for not far off fifty years now. We went to each others' birthday parties as small children, wore paper hats, sparkly frocks and party shoes. Played pass the parcel and danced the twist.
But that's not what has actually caused the memory bubble.
When we were younger, both of us had the experience of dads going to sea, coming back from sea. And for Karen, this featured in her own earlier married life.
Now her husband has returned to the sea, and this past week, returned from it. Thinking of my friend looking forward to her husband's return has made me think of how we looked forward to my dad coming back.

I think my father's absence at sea gave him a sort of theoretical status when my sister and I were very young. We had a dad. We loved him. He sent us postcards from Hong Kong, Singapore, the countries, the ships were names we knew, but not places or vessels that we knew, just names.
He came home from time to time and brought us presents.
But our real lives were run by women. Our mum, our aunt, our nans. They did the day-to-day business of keeping us fed and cleaned and sent to school. My mother managed the money, planned the parties, made our dresses. Hers was the face we saw every day.

And although, like me, she was not adept in the kitchen, for Christmas, she pickled onions and at Christmas, she made the mince pies.

Bubbles of memory.
Happy Birthday Karen. I know you're in London so won't see this for a couple of days, but I hope you had a splendid time.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Desperately Seeking Snow

Catch-up day, and not going altogether to plan, but then, if things went according to plan, one wouldn't need a catch-up day.

Tuesday is Alex's one day off in the week, so yesterday we had mother and daughter time. We had decided to go snow-shoeing, but we had not fully factored in the snow. As we drove to the North Shore, the rain turned to sleet and this continued as we drove up the mountain.
'Are we going to be able to snow-shoe in this rain?' asked Alex as we wound round and round the mountain road,
'Oh yes,' said I, 'by the time we get up there, this rain will be falling as snow, no problem.'
Correct on the snow, incorrect on the no problem. As we got further up the mountain, the snow on the roads made it impossible to drive further and we had to turn back. We found the snow though.
Alex had to take pictures from the car while we were moving, I was in a low gear, but I didn't dare to try and stop.

As a consolation prize, we ate at Havana on the Drive, perused Dix Mille Villages, and drifted around an insanely wonderful Italian food store. It reminded me of the small Italian shops you find back home, only bigger, much, much bigger. Groups of Italian men hung around conversing intensely in Italian.

At the weekend, the rain was so torrential, we had to look out in the morning to check we were still in Birch Bay. Kevin cycled around the State Park and came back and reported that we could have kayaked most of it.

Because of the weather, also the current bizarre lack of TV, we watched two films.
Firstly, the Cate Blanchette Robin Hood movie. Excellent. Russell Crowe was good in it too.
Secondly, the Joan Jett movie, The Runaways, also excellent.
Oh, and I have also read a book by a New Zealander, Laurence Fearnley, "Edwin and Mathilda". A most excellent read, flawless writing.

Today, one of my tasks was to pick up a prescription. I went to the drop-off counter. In front of me an elderly woman, who clearly had no prescription to drop off, was testing the patience of...well me mostly, the long-suffering pharmacist was showing no signs of the frustration he must have been experiencing, since she was expecting him to solve the mystery of what medication she needed from colour description alone. There must be some kind of secret pharmacist's button under the counter, since eventually an assistant came out to help me.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Letting the Side Down

I hate it when someone lets the side down. The cretins who attacked the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall's car, just make all the students who are demonstrating for a legitimate reason, look like a bunch of hooligans. Bloody pillocks. In a war, those type of people get their own side killed.

An interesting article by Libby Brooks, on the Graun's website, almost makes me think I'm reading more Stieg. There was a lot in those books about the Swedish legal system.

"In fact what is significant about the Swedish system is not that it employs a broader definition of rape than in other countries – it doesn't – but that prosecutions are based not on consent but whether a complainant's "sexual integrity" has been violated. In addition, alleged victims can instruct their own lawyers, who often seek second opinions after an initial dismissal, which may offer a rather more pedestrian explanation for why the cases have been re-opened now."

Even a Swedish fringe freedom-of-speech organisation, doesn't believe the hype.

"Groups supporting Wikileaks in Stockholm also rejected speculation that the case was politically motivated.

Rick Falkvinge, leader of Sweden's Pirate party, a fringe pro-freedom of speech and anti-copyright party, said: "In theory, if you wanted to strike back at WikiLeaks to discredit the organisation, this would be blueprint 1A, but I have not seen anything to indicate that this was politically motivated." "

So, to counterbalance the misogyny with some woman worship, I give you, once again, Dame Helen. Isn't she just the best?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Beady Eye of God

And on the subject of privilege, whilst it's frustrating to the point of tears, doing battle with it, if you do happen to be white, male and straight, acknowledging your privilege and then refusing to use it to your advantage makes you a bloody amazing human being. Well, man.

Other people I admire at the moment are my own. The British. I'm about to royally diss the Greek nation, so step aside if you can't stomach it.
The Greek austerity measures had the Greek people rioting in the streets and generally refusing to play nicely. What a bunch of tossers.
The British austerity measures have the Brits doing what they do well. Intellectualising and debating and sorting out who really is getting one up the bum with a big stick, thus the Fawcett Society are challenging certain aspects through the courts and the National Union of Students have their people out in full force doing what all leftie intellectuals are supposed to do, demonstrating outside parliament whilst their own arse stuffing is under debate. Fucking amazing. If there's one thing a Tory government is good for, it's allowing the British people to show their true Brit Grit.
For this I salute you gruesome-twosome Decameron-Clegg.

Filed under the category of 'can walk and talk at the same time', is the recent Julian Assange controversy.
Yes, I get that he has clearly been extradited because of his Wikileaks escapade, but that doesn't mean he isn't guilty of the sexual assault crimes he has been accused of in Sweden.
He was certainly guilty of hiding somewhere in the South of England and not coming out when told to.
Also, I don't like the way he looks, although, since I'm trying to be objective, I won't mention that.
Here's the thing though. Most assuredly, the majority of sexual assaults are treated with contempt by those charged with protecting the public, so isn't it galling when one person gets singled out like this and hauled across the channel?
Well, not really. Yes, ALL complaints should be dealt with sensitively and fairly, but even one being dealt with publicly makes points and raises awareness. Sometimes, doing something not necessarily for the right reason, still has the same outcome as if you had.

Then there is Lollo Rosso. Who doesn't like a nice bit of lollo rosso lettuce? We bought some yesterday from Costco, who made a sterling attempt at the name and managed to come quite close with 'lolla rosa'. Splendid then.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tradition and Privilege

Tradition and privilege, privilege and tradition. Excuses, excuses, fucking excuses.

The other day, a friend of mine said that he was aware of having been privileged growing up, because he's male. He was aware of it. Presumably until he worked out he was gay, not that the privileges of being male and white stopped then, but the other one must have done.
We're all aware of each others' privilege and each others' lack of it. AT least I think we are, maybe I'm just too naive about that, or too ideological.

Then today, that one lone slap across the face that brings you to your metaphorical knees. That lunge. The card that comes addressed to a non-existent Mrs. His First Name, His Surname. Because God forbid that I should HAVE ANY FUCKING EXISTENCE AS A BEING OUTSIDE OF MY MARRIAGE.
Ask anyone that you know who still does this to women, ask them why they do it and they'll say 'tradition'. Right, tradition. Tradition is having mince pies for Christmas, or standing up for an older person on the bus, or seeing your mate on her birthday. Denying the existence of someone you know well enough to send a card to, isn't tradition it's simply an archaic practice designed to keep women firmly in their place, second-best to a man.

I have a friend, a much younger woman than me, who burns with the humiliation of this, burns. And she won't say anything for fear of offending the person or persons who do it.
When the FUCK did it become more important not to offend the bigots than to champion the rights of those who are actually being treated as though they had lower status? Seriously?

On a different other day, a different friend said to me that remembering to speak respectfully to women was a little bit stressful. I made light of this, since one would assume it would have to be humour in poor taste. But behind that is an attitude that 'yay, equal rights, so long as we don't have to put ourselves out at all, so long as we don't have to make any effort, and so long as even a single atom of our being doesn't leave its comfort zone.'

Well, guess what?
Firstly, I've personally, never asked anyone to do anything difficult, simply speak to me respectfully, without implying that women are of a lower status than men. Not too hard you'd think.
Secondly, if it were hard, well, frankly, it should be, it isn't, but it should be, because equal rights are insanely important, and we should have to think about them every time we do something to promote them.
And thirdly, in the name of tradition, wtf? That woman who denied my existence, couldn't even claim that pathetic excuse, because she's been in a same sex relationship for donkeys' years.
So yes, WTF?????

I am SO pissed off and SO depressed about this.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Poetic Justice

I think this qualifies as poetic justice. I made some Koftas yesterday for Kevin. rest assured, they looked nothing like this. I put in plenty of garlic, coriander and mint, but since I dislike the special sweaty sock spice known as cumin, we had none, so none went in.
Today I felt mildly guilty. Kevin doesn't dislike cumin, so I bought some when I was in Superstore. As I finished scanning it and put it into the bag, I realised, as a cloud of it engulfed me, that there was a split in the packet.
Cheched.

It wasn't even as though the shopping experience itself had been particularly pleasant. In my opinion, 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth', should NOT be played where you expect people to spend money.
Vile song.

So, the past few days, there has been an annoying set of roadworks going on at one of the main intersections, slowing things down even more than normal. But there has been entertainment in the form of one of the crew. The person who directs the traffic in these situations, is often a woman, and this case is no exception. This one is a sort of petite Fagash Lil. She must be in the four foot something range and skinny, but she struts out into the road with her stop sign and her seven league boots, fag hanging out of her mouth and fake Viking plaits dangling from the woolly hat under her hard hat. Then she performs. I mean she really works those traffic directing gestures, the whole body is in it. She makes full-on eye contact with motorists who don't instantly obey her, followed by hand signals that leave no doubt. This woman has attitude, and so long as I don't get on the wrong side of her, I'm enjoying that attitude.

I'm being haunted by Dexter. The last episode in the current series is coming up, the ducks all seem to be lined up, it has been an excellent series, but since Sunday, when I wake up in the night with my waking-up-in-the-night heat I have immediately started worrying about what the twist might be.
Darkly Dreaming Dexterity.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Locusts

A picture stolen from Kev's Friday bike ride from Richmond down across the border to Birch Bay, some 60 kilometres in all, much of it uphill, some of it downhill too fast and altogether quite awesome and scary. Finally, when he rode up to the security barrier at the Static Place, the guard rushed out, clearly confused to see a cyclist trying to get in, but even more so when Kev just swiped his keycard, the guard laughed and called out,
'I didn't see that one coming!'
I'll bet he didn't.
I went down Friday evening, when all the monstrously over-decorated houses were all lit up.

Gott sei Dank, Laurence eventually got away late Friday afternoon, after the flight was delayed again. The other end, he made it as far as Chichester by train, before Austen had to go out in the car and rescue him.
There is controversy in the Schloss and across the sea, as to the advisability of sending him with a bag of health food labelled 'Hemp nut fines'. I was convinced by Alex and Ben that it was legal and safe and so I sent it. I was correct about the legal it seems, but whether the sniffer dogs would have alerted the latex glove snappers remains open to question.

Presently, in Advent, John the Baptist is preparing the way. He prepared his own way out in the desert eating locusts and honey. Now I feel this is very much to be encouraged. Locusts are a bloody nuisance and destroy crops, so why not get more people to eat them, it's a win-win. I've even seen Salma Hayak on TV eating fried crickets, so it can't be that unusual.
'Eat locusts,' I say and save the crops.

A great post on the F-Word blog shows how entrepreneurs create a self-fulfilling prophecy. They 'notice' that start-up companies by young, white males are more likely to succeed, so they put their money into them. Of course, if entrepreneurs support companies by young, white males, then they are likely to succeed, whereas companies started by women, non-whites and older people, never receive funding and thus....

The amusing Facebook thing where you change your picture to a cartoon character is quite charming, unless you happen to be in the following hypothetical situation.
You have driven a number of miles up the I5 to send your niece's present from the Post Office in the nearby town. You have left her address at home, but you happen to know it is in your Facebook inbox. Your partner has their computer and you cruise along searching for an open network. Finally, one is found and you try to log on to Facebook using an unfamiliar computer. Facebook notices this and makes you identify a number of your friends from their pictures.....

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hijacking Hanukkah

So, my plan to hijack Hanukkah, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, the first person I wished a Happy Hanukkah to said...

'How did you know I was Jewish?'
'Er...I...didn't...'
'Well I am...we don't celebrate, but I am Jewish,'

Mmmm.

But..on the other hand, I rang England and had a conversation with my granddaughter, she has been learning about Hanukkah at school. Austen thought we were talking about Holly's friend Hannah, there is a slight confusion since Holly does pronounce it 'Hannah Kerr'.

I wouldn't say the wheel has yet fallen off the hijacking wagon, but interesting times.

Interesting times too in the South East of England. Laurence flies in to Gatwick tomorrow, or rather towards Gatwick, since he doesn't actually arrive until Friday, except...well, Gatwick is closed due to snow.

Last time Laurence flew to England, the charter company went bust. When his dad came over, the volcano blew. Every time Ben flies something goes wrong. I'd say they were ill-starred in travel, but the truth is, a hell of a lot stops the smooth running of the travel industry.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Bit Rocky

Britain has snow! Woohoo! Now I keep loading up the weather forecast to see if we're getting any more. Not yet apparently.
There are some wonderful pics on the Graun's webbie, and I particularly like the one of Westminster Bridge.

There's a very good article on alternet about Sarah Palin's brand of feminism. It's brilliant. Anything you can't achieve or can't seem to change, like equal pay, or sexual violence, it's because you're just not capable and strong enough.
Backwards argument from a position of privilege.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Hanukkah, which continues for eight days. I intend to wish people a Happy Hanukkah throughout, but not because I'm being inclusive. Well, I am, but not in a good way, it's an attempt to share the hijacking.
I am squinting from a different angle at this.

You often get people here being all bent out of shape because other people get arsey about being wished a Merry Christmas, and fair enough, not to labour the point, but separation of Church and State and so on. Yes, I used to think that it was the non-Christians who were being put out by it. But in fact, I've realised it's the Christians who are being disrespected.
Forget the over-commercialisation of Christmas, the real problem is the complete denial that it has anything to do with Christianity.

This morning, Alex reminded me that last year, one of her friends simply didn't celebrate Christmas. He said he didn't want to encourage pointless present giving, that he ate nice food all year round, and that since he isn't a Christian, there was in fact no reason for him to celebrate their festival.
And I respect that, I respect it a lot.

She also pointed out to me that it's nice to have the trees lit up in December, and that day when the whole nation stays home and does more or less the same thing, and I agree.
But for the next eight days, I'm going to encourage the hijacking of Judaism. I mean, it's happening anyway, everyone has a Menorah these days, and it occurred to me last Sunday, when we were singing about Israel's Redeemer, that we had pretty well hijacked a big chunk of their faith anyway.
Although it's St. Andrew's day today, I already practised on the Salvation Army collector outside of Shopper's Drug Mart.

When we get to Christmas, Midnight Mass this year is going to have a mediaeval theme. But Alex and I were thinking, well, we don't really want to dress up in Mediaeval garb, we think we'll go Rocky Horror Show. No-one could object to that surely?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Adventageous

Like I said, in reality, the snow has gone. As it has melted at the park over the road, it turns out that the pathways are littered with dog poo. What did people think would happen to frozen poo? That unlike frozen food, it would break down and disappear?

First Sunday in Advent. Last week however, our church recorded Silent Night and put it on YouTube. Laurence is so much taller than everyone else. Djembe alert.

The Guardian e-mailed me to tell me about the U.S. Embassy Cable Wikileaks. Oh my.

The book, 'Room', turned out not to be too horrible after the people had escaped. An effective technique though, since I found it depressing to the end.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Slush Puppy

The snow has mostly been cleared by the rain, although before it was, the intersection outside our house, where people at the best of times behave like idiots, was a skating rink. Kevin went out and threw some salt on it, and in my opinion, probably saved lives.
The trail behind the houses, clearly peat bog, which acts like a refrigerator, still has snow, so Whisky can still leap through it like a hare, the slush he likes not so much.

Black Friday. I can understand Canadians being more than familiar with this term, thousands cross the border to take advantage of bargains in the States that technically they can't bring back unless they pay the tax.
Last year, our local crossing had queues that had to wait six hours to cross. This year, when Kevin checked at seven, the border was clear.
Canadian stores have sales to try to keep dollars in Canada.
But today, I received an e-mail from a British firm advertising Black Friday sales. Bizarre and somehow quite wrong.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail forward from a relly, claiming that 75% of Canadians believe the word 'God' should stay in the National Anthem. I don't even vaguely believe this. I don't think that if you asked the members of my church you'd get 75% who think the National Anthem should mention God.
For Britain, of course, reasonable, the Queen is the head of the Church of England, for Canada, separation of Church and State, so wtf?

At the breakfast I went to yesterday, there was an 'invocation', carefully distanced from 'prayer'. Yet God was still mentioned. Well I'm sorry campers, but if God is mentioned, then it's a prayer. Oh yes, I know I've just mentioned God and it wasn't a prayer, just a sentence, but if you're all standing around being quiet and bowing your heads, and someone asks God for something, or thanks God for something, I remember not which, then it's a prayer.

I'm now waiting, just WAITING for some complete twonk, to tell me that when they say 'God' they don't mean God, they mean a neutral term for ....for what? A neutral term for some Being who may or may not be a Being and who may or may not exist. What? Do atheists ask or thank God for stuff, but not in an actual God-God way?

Some people need to sort themselves out and start thinking about what they say.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Epic Snow

Even more epic snow is falling. It was at six this morning too. My friend had invited me to her Rotary club's breakfast meeting and she was collecting me at 6.20. Getting up at quarter to six was no fun at all. Driving through the snow at 6.30 was - especially since I wasn't doing the driving. It's still coming down now. It feels warmer than the past couple of days though.

On the news earlier in the week, they were asking people not to call 911 to tell the police about the snow. In fact, really, there's not much point calling 911 to tell the police if there was some unusual weather condition, but for pity's sake people, look at the flags outside your doors, on your Macdonald's sign, on store fronts, on the money, this is Canada - it snows, granted not usually so much in this part of Canada, but it's not a phenomenon.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Freeze

I frequently complain that it isn't cold enough. Well, it's cold enough. With the wind chill factor it's been down to -10º. Outside, it feels as though the wind is sawing the skin off your face.

Whilst watching 'House' (Crucifixion) I realised my freezer is stuffed with loaves and fishes. Also cranberries, but that doesn't really fit the theme.

I'm really not enjoying the book I'm currently reading, from this year's Booker shortlist, 'Room' by Emma Donaghue. It's about a mother and child trapped in a room by the woman's kidnapper and abuser and it's told through the child's perception. Grim and not yet engaging, yet for some unfathomable reason I feel compelled to keep reading because, in spite of it having been cheaper, I have it as an e-book. I'm not sure how that works. I'd have abandoned it in paperback by now.
I have just finished Lori Lansens' glorious, 'The Girls'. Difficult to put down. New one, difficult to pick up. I should have chosen Andrea Levy's 'The Long Song' instead. I will next time.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Snow Dog





Friday, 19 November 2010

And we have snow




Thursday, 18 November 2010

Boys

Strange weather.
This morning, bright and sunny, Alex and I went for early morning coffee in Steveston. Halfway through the morning, the sky clouded over and it started to rain, cold and possibly a little sleety.

Seth has flown back to England today. He will be missed. I would like to be a fly on the wall at his parents' home in Wiltshire tomorrow though, since he hasn't told them he's arriving back.
Kevin told us that one of his university friends surprised his parents like this once. There was a secret way of unlocking the back door without a key, which he did, and REALLY surprised the new family that was living there since his parents moved.

Laurence has been laid off work. One of the three branches in Richmond has closed and so they had too many staff. Bummer. He's fairly upbeat about it at the moment, but time wears you down. Hopefully he'll get a new job quickly.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Gap

I love that, as the weather kills off every other plant in the garden, a rose manages to bloom.
Somehow it has to be symbolic.

This year's Gender Gap Report has just been released.
The good news for Canada and the USA are that they have both gone up from last year, a whopping twelve places for my friends in Obama's USA. Five places for Canadian women. The gender gap in the UK has stayed the same, Britain is still in fifteenth place, nonetheless, still ahead of the USA in 19th position, and Canada at number 20. France, has shockingly plummeted to 46th from 18th position last year.

The National News this morning was all about a skating contest, 'Battle of the Blades', and the engagement of Katherine Middleton and Prince William. This news was so shocking that it rendered everyone incapable of using the English language. The newscaster came out with the word 'exuberation' and a delightful old lovey who is fluent in all Royals, told us that they would probably create a dukedom out of William, which has the kind of surreal quality one welcomes at this time of year.
He also told us that the name 'Kate' was a media invention and that she is always called Katherine by actual people. So the newscaster continued to refer to her as Kate.
Ignorance is bliss and bliss can be maintained by ignoring what people say to you.
Anyhoo, back in Britain, everyone seems delighted. Quite the item to lift the mood from gloomy to merely cynical.

I was pleased to see that an adoption advisor who had been dismissed from her post with Northampton County Council because she refused to place children with same sex couples on 'religious grounds' has been told to take a running jump. The courts weren't having any when she took the employer to a tribunal.

Some things, bigotry for example, really should be killed off by the frost.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Good News and Grimoires

Good news numbero uno. Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest.This should have had the same impact as Nelson Mandela's release in 1990, and yet hasn't somehow. The world waits, but at least both Pres Obama and UN Bloke-in-charge Ban Ki Moon have both made the right noises.

Good news numero dos. Some time ago I blogged about a bunch of homophobic, misogynistic bigots in the Diocese of New Westminster, (ours), who thought that they could squat in the Anglican churches they were already infesting and in fact actually own those buildings. The court said, no you can't. They appealed, and now, happily, their appeal has been turned down.
Jolly good show you lot, now piss off back to the Appellations where you belong.

Sadly of course, the Catlicks'll probably have to have them. Now, I had this discussion with my Sarah Palin-loving friend last week.
Her view is that this type of 'Christian' should just realise that the church of Rome exists for just such a delightful bunch as they.
The Pope seems to think this too.
I of course have joked about this, but the reality is that there are a great many forward-thinkers in the Catholic church, and it's their church, so it has just as much right and in fact duty, to give the full body swerve to Anglican rejects and move forward with its own reforms.

Reduce, re-use, recycle. The Catholic church is not everyone's garbage bin, even if it still contains quite a bit of useless rubbish and worse.

I really wanted to get on to the Grimoire however. I was trying to research whether it was safe to transplant my flat leaf parsley from the front patch to the back balcony. I can't quite make up my mind whether it's bad luck only in Devonshire, or bad luck in general.
No matter.
I have discovered Kereena's Grimoire, which I feel will greatly expand my repertoire of strategies for dealing with nuisances. At the moment I'm relying heavily on sticking pins into effigies, and frankly, my heart's not entirely in it.

Eventually, I'd like to have my own Grimoire. I think this could be the perfect project for me.
Firstly, however, I need a spell that will enable me to safely transplant parsley.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sitcom and Food

Two thoughts really. Have you ever noticed that there's sitcom you and real you?

People in sitcoms often, in my experience, do things that are completely out of character, because it fits in with the story.
Sitcom you is the you that does things in the minds of other people, because it fits in with the story running in their head rather than your actual character.

Here's an example. A week or so ago, someone in the household (name withheld to protect the guilty)left their clean washing on top of the fridge, because said person spotted some interesting bread and got munching. Later, said person was mortified and asked whether I would now hate said person.

'How does this tie up with any experience you've ever had of her since being here?' S. Person was asked by A.N.Other,
'Er, not at all,'
'Well then,'

I was aware of this happening elsewhere today. Someone said that someone else said, that third someone said something that was entirely out of keeping with third person's character.
'So,' said I, 'maybe we should ask Third Person whether they said anything like that at all,' presumably there exists the sitcom version of Third Person.

Ok, hope that wasn't TOO cryptic.

Whilst in the States at the Static at the weekend, we watched the film, 'Food Inc.' Woah. You think you know what a load of shit we're being fed until you find out what a bunch of shit we're really being fed.
To be fair, this film is about the US Food industry, but frankly, I doubt anyone else's is squeaky clean.

Farmers who refused to 'upgrade' to the industry's new low standards, were simply put out of business.
Cattle - normally grass eaters - are being fed corn, which increases the e-coli in their stomachs by huge amounts. Cattle taken off corn feed and put back to grass for 5 days, were found to drop the percentage of e-coli in their guts by 80%. These cows were also living ankle deep in their own e-coli ridden shit. Farmers who refused to 'upgrade' to the industry's new low standards were...well, you know.

Corn was being mass produced on land that formerly had grown other crops. Farmers who tried to resist the major producers of resistant strains of corn seed ....yep, were sued into oblivion. High fructose corn syrup was being made into fillers for burgers, sausages, bloody everything. It's insane. In fact, my theory is that we'll discover that insanity itself is caused by HFCS.

I'm still working on that Zombies and corn syrup story.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Oh to be in England (and other spontaneous poetic outbursts)

...now that autumn's there,
and whoever wakes in England,
sees some morning, unaware,
that the lowest branch on the brushwood sheaf,
round the elm tree bole is without leaf,
and the chaffinch is hiding
from the orchard bough,
in England,
now.

Yes, sorry, a spontaneous outburst of poorly-adapted Browning.

And actually, it's pretty amazing being in BC in the autumn. The leaves have mostly fallen, but they have been spectacular, the wind and rain have been mighty and right now, the sun is shining and filling the house with a last hurrah.
There are some pumpkins still lying in the fields, even after Hallowe'en, the pumpkin fields are fun to see, very seasonal.
Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday, being Remembrance Day.

In the Autumn, I am given to random bouts, not of melancholy, but of Romantic Poets, thus a quick burst of Shelley.

"O Wild, West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
thou from whose unseen presence the leaves, dead are driven,
Like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.
Yellow and black and pale and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes,
O thou who chariotest to their dark, wintry bed,
The wingèd seeds,
Where they lie, cold and low, each like a corpse within its grave,
Until thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow her clarion o'er the dreaming earth,
And fill, (driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air),
With living hues and odours, plain and hill.

Oh, wild Spirit which art moving everywhere,
Destroyer and Preserver, hear, O, hear.

So, the Romantics, the Wordsmiths at Gorsemere. Bunch of chaps in frilly shirts, or something more useful?
Well, at first sniff, not really. The Romantics were a sort of antidote to the the grim reality of the Industrial Revolution, they believed that they had some godly duty - through their god-given gift of being able to write poetry - to bring to mere mortals, the beauty of the natural world. And often they did a damn fine job of it, so long as you don't mind the occasional heavy-handed metaphor, or overly-vivid imagery.

So is there an up side?
Well, yes, I think so. There is something very uplifting about the natural world, as one tramps across fields, the wind in one's hair and so forth, and the poetry of the Romantics can be very stirring, even spiritual, which, I suppose, was what they claimed for their art.

Of course, my own higher education was in French, and what came along as an antidote to the French Romantics, were a bunch of poets who concentrated on the seamier side of life, and generally through some kind of drug-induced stupor.
I always found Baudelaire's 'Fleurs du Mal' (the Flowers of Evil) really quite compelling in its association of sensuality with death and decay.
Unlike the Romantics, who interpreted the heavenly because we couldn't, Baudelaire took opium so that we didn't have to.

Rather disturbingly, I always felt he looked a tad like Hitler.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Trouble at t'Schloss

Same old, same old.

At the end of last week, Laurence either fell, or was knocked off his bike. It was the middle of the afternoon, he was coming back from swimming after work.

He wasn't aware of being hit, but he temporarily blacked out, and that's what makes me think he probably was.
When a pick-up truck went into the back of our car three years ago, it was as though the car had imploded. I didn't know what had happened for several seconds, I had, and have, no memory of the moment of impact.

Laurence went to the hospital and was treated. No bones were broken, but he was badly bruised and scraped and he's had to take time off work, since he can't lift anything.

It's quite bizarre, the level of aggression towards cyclists here.
It's not like cyclists are loved back home, but there is a grudging acceptance that, although they are a pain in the arse, they're there and that's all there is to it.

Here, considering most Canadians see themselves as an apathetic nation, the vitriol against cyclists is disturbing in its vehemence. And yes, at one end of the scale there is, perhaps akin to apathy, a thoughtless ignorance that simply doesn't even notice them on the road, or when knocked off their bikes, but at the other end, there is a very real and spiteful hatred.

In my soul, I hope that Laurence simply fell off, his rough treatment of his machine has resulted in many potential problems that could have caused this, the pedal, for example, is now missing. But I fear that someone has simply driven off, leaving a human being, my human being, lying injured in the road.
This year in Vancouver, five pedestrians have been run over and killed. The most recent was a woman of 85. Someone's mother, grandmother, friend, probably all of these.

Aside from damage to humans, the mechanical side of the Schloss is showing its age. The garage door has stopped working, a vital spring has broken and must be replaced at considerable cost. The furnace was serviced and the person brought to our attention what we were told by the home inspector when we bought the place, that the hot water boiler needs replacing, fortunately with a much more energy efficient one. Better now than when it floods the garage.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as they say.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Credit Crunch

My credit card company are right royally pissing me off.

I am trying to be as paper free as possible and so have selected the paperless statements option and all was well until three months ago when they 'improved' their website. Now, when they e-mail to say that a statement is available and to go to their website, I do, it isn't, it won't open, I get an error message.

For three months in a row, I have then rung their number and said, 'yadayada, I need to be able to check my statement, blah, blah,' and every time they say the same thing, 'we'll send you a paper one,' and 'we're aware of the system error, we're working on it,'
Bollocks they do and bollocks they are.
Paper statements never arrive, system error continues.

So this month I tried another tack. I e-mailed. Their customer service e-mail addy starts with, 'talk to us,'
So I tried. And the to-and-fro boils down to something like this,

[I have opted for paperless statements and I get an error message every time I log on]
[You need to log on in Internet Explorer and set the language to Canadian English]
[I use Firefox, I've added Canadian English it doesn't work. In any case, why has everyone told me over three months that you are working on this?]
[You need to use Internet Explorer. Then we'll check that you are registered for paperless statements]
[I am and I don't use IE]
[I'm sorry it won't work in Firefox, you need to use IE]
[Why won't you answer my question? Why was I constantly being told that you were working on a system error if it's a browser conflict? It used to work, now it doesn't, it should have been fixed by now, assuming you have your IT department working on it and not your canteen staff]
[You need to open in IE]
[I don't use IE. I've opened in Canadian English AND Canadian French. Doesn't work. Incidentally, if I choose the French option, only the first page of the log-in questions are in French]
[IE]
[I don't use IE!]
[Silence]
[Is it because I is black?]

(I didn't say the last one).

In the meantime, I can trick it into doing something and the whole thing has turned into a sad game, but no way am I submitting to the great Thule. Er...or internet explorer.
Not without an anaesthetic anyway.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Showers

Parked outside Mark's Work Wearhouse with Whisky on my knees and at the steering wheel, reminded me of the time I was stopped at the lights at a major intersection and a pick-up truck crossed, with a very small kiddie sitting on the driver's lap. The child's hands were on the steering wheel, not the man's. (Probably using his phone).

Last night at Writers' Group, one person mentioned that people didn't have showers in their houses in the 1950s, they didn't come in until the sixties.

I don't remember them in Britain until the seventies. Oh, we had the blasted things at school all right. We didn't want to get our kit off and get into the showers, it was amazing how many girls had periods that lasted from one end of term to the other, the main excuse for not using them.
But at home, just baths and the plastic hairsprayer thingie whose rubber attachments fitted over the taps, and which perished after a certain time period.

In 1971, my parents took my sister and I to visit some friends of theirs in Denmark. They had been part of the ex-pat community with my parents in Nigeria.
Here we encountered several things that were about to become part of our lives, duvets, yoghurts and showers. The Danes in fact didn't like the idea of baths, they considered them unhygienic, because you were sitting in your own dirt. This didn't cut much ice with me, since we had done how detergents work in Chemistry or Physics or on TV or something, but I knew that the dirt particles all clustered around the detergent molecule, which held it safely away from the clean child.
Nonetheless, showers were on the way.

I'm not sure that our parents really believed that showers could get us properly clean. A shower was regarded as slightly better than an all-over wash with the flannel at the sink, but not as thoroughly cleansing of the adolescent scuzz as a proper bath, which was still required a couple of times a week, to get rid of the build-up of shower residue.
The proof of this was surely the tide mark around the bath, which must itself be scrubbed off. Evidence of cleanliness was the dirt left behind.

The other thing I learnt last night made my jaw drop. It seems that tickets to see Sarah Palin speak on 13th October cost $500.
I'm sure she was worth every penny.
AND...my nose just grew longer.

Monday, 1 November 2010

All Hallows' Eve

Yesterday, being the first Hallowe'en the Schloss has joined in with, Alex and Seth had carved a pumpkin, decorated the front steps, and waited with their treat-sized choccie bars, for kids to arrive. Instead, we came back from the Static and told them to turn the porch light on, at which point, children, cunningly disguised as teenagers, came to call.

At the weekend, at the Static, I had a mildly Hallowe'eny experience.
The outdoor swimming pools bar one, and jacuzzis are now closed for the winter. Over the family pool, a roof has been put up, one of those jobbies that is kept up by air being pumped into it. Several years old, it has a certain skuzziness, but hey, there are not many hardy souls left willing to swim now, so two weekends running, I've had the pool to myself for almost the entire swim.
The lighting is dim, like having a couple of table lamps in a swimming pool sized room.
On Saturday, I was finishing my allotted number of lengths, when at one end of the pool, I could see three shadows trudging along, elongated by the subdued lighting from inside the pool area.
It was decidedly spooky, and I hastened my pace, so that I was at the end of my last length when parents and a medium sized boy came in. The parents sat on the chairs around the pool and the boy stood shivering and complaining in the shallow water.

Later, back at the Static, the wind picked up and howled disconsolately through the trees, followed by lashing rain.
Somewhere in all of that, an eco-warrior spirit came and disconnected her next-door's ancient fairy lights again.

My money's on the fairies anyway.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Balls and the Time Traveller's Grandma

Yes, two balls.
Now that the weather is getting somewhat more autumnal rather than Indian summerish, I am able to wear the dog-walking jacket. This is a coat of many pockets, all of them full of useful items such as scooby snacks, poopie sacks and balls.

Whisky has yet to master the art of ball catching. Well, at least, he catches it and brings it back, but never gives it up. Therefore twice the number of balls are needed, one for him to hold in his gob and one to chase after and herd along. I realised after a while, that this was not dissimilar to the pastime known as Curling. Perhaps it's in the air here. He sort of jumps and skips as the ball rolls to rest, sometimes nosing along the ground, willing it to move here or there - although whether dogs have will or not is a whole other debate, and not for here. Well, at least not for now.

There was a great post on Womanist Musings today, by a feminist Muslim woman, on gender segregation at prayer and beyond. Very interesting article.

Then there are two articles that Austen has sent me today. The first defies belief, and in fact, so does the second, but in a different way.

In Hungary, a midwife has been arrested and faces up to five years in gaol, for delivering babies, at the choice of the mother, in the mother's home. There is an interesting statistical comparison at the end. In most European countries, women have that choice, but few take up the option. In Holland however, 33% are home births.
Outrageous that a government should think it has the right to dictate this.

The other article is about a film-maker from Belfast who has discovered evidence of time travel in a Charlie Chaplin film made in 1928. I would certainly agree that the clip is fascinating. I would also agree with most of the commentators who say the man is very boring and most probably just out to publicise his films - in which endeavour he is successful, because here am I doing just that for him.
Mmmm, time travel, that would be my first thought when watching this.
Or not.

What really occurred to me was that computer programmers put Easter Eggs in Microsoft Office, so why wouldn't their muckers the digital re-masterers do likewise in films?
The woman looks remarkably like Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple, and although in 1960 there were no mobile phones either, in 2010, we have wonderful digital manipulation programmes.
So I'm opting not so much for the time travel theory and more for the digital enhancement one.
Of course, if I'm wrong, I may already have found out.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Dog's Bollocks

Another day, another dog-walker. This one spoke very little English, but he asked questions. I tried to return the favour.
'What type of dog is it?' I asked, but there was no response. I don't know why I thought this would be any easier to understand, but I then asked,
'What breed?' at which the man pulled up the dog's hindparts and showed me where his bollocks used to be. He made some attempt at 'snippy, snippy', although I think he said, 'cutty'.

I could imagine this being some kind of ancient Chinese insult, like on those HSBC TV ads, where different cultures find it insulting to see the soles of someone's feet and so forth.

Sleepy thought this could be surreal, quite my favourite of the realities, so I had a little wander there.

We were always told that those small dogs were bred as lap dogs, but I can picture the ancient Chinese, all long moustaches, pigtails and silk pyjamas, walking around with small, neutered male dogs under one arm, revealing their debollockedness as a way of saying, 'fuck you, ignorant peasant!' The practice only ceased when Communism started and 'ignorant peasant' was no longer a slight.

Yep, that's all I've got, a recycled convo from earlier ;)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Shocked and Horrified of Richmond

I was shocked and horrified today, to discover that Paul the psychic octopus had died. I'm not kidding, it didn't even make it onto our news. But worse - there is a conspiracy theory that Paul actually died three months ago, and in true sitcom style, was replaced by the aquarium keepers. Jaysus, what is the world coming to?
Disturbing.

Superstore, my supermarket of choice - full name 'The Real Canadian Superstore' has finally discovered back bacon. It is being marketed as 'Wiltshire bacon' which is apparently made from Irish pigs. Hmmm... Kevin was shocked and horrified at the price I paid for it, but I felt I needed to show support. On the back of the packet were instructions for frying bacon.
Phew.

I feel that the new series of Dexter is about to dip its toe in the waters of Lesbos. I just can't believe that they would bring in star lesbian Katherine Moennig, the L Word's Shane, just for one flirtatious scene with male impersonator Dexter's sister. I mean it has to go somewhere, otherwise I'll be shocked and horrified.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Heat

That heat thing again.

We haven't yet had cold enough temperatures to warrant putting the heating on in the house, yet some shops are already running at ridiculous temperatures. I'm sure this must account for why the average per person energy consumption in North America is so much higher than in Europe.

I was discussing this with Austen and I said that I never used to be quite so aware of people having their homes at uncomfortable temperatures back home. But it seems as though the future may not be so orange. Or indeed rosy.
Austen made the point that people are starting to get out of the mind set of having winter clothes and summer clothes, and I certainly think that is a large part of the problem here.
A lot of people think that they should be able to wear just a T-shirt or short-sleeved top indoors during the colder months.
And really, it's more fun to have to put on jumpers, hats and scarves in the winter, just as its fun to snuggle down in bed with a hottle on a cold winter's or autumnal night, and have the window open.

One of the great things about being at The Static is that, although we have heating there for when it gets really cold, so far, we have only once had to use even the small oil-filled radiator. It's the place where I can actually wear a jumper and feel completely comfortable - in fact, as we are being encouraged to do by the government. It's also where we can have the window open in the bedroom, since there are no aeroplanes.

On a non heat related note, there is an absolutely brilliant post on I Blame the Patriarchy, about the Bechdel Movie Test as applied to Toy Story three. The writing is sheer, unadulterated bliss, worth reading for its own sake, but the points made are also sound and pertinent. Most of all, I love the idea of a 'handydyke utility belt'.
Fabulous post, fabulous clip.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Horror Stories

This morning it seemed as though CBC were trying to distract us from what is going on within Canada. We saw rioting in the streets in France, we saw David Cameron's pasty face and were told of swingeing cuts in public spending, then five minutes later we saw it again. Sarko's efforts to get fuel to the consumers, then Cammo again, then....oh, here's Canada's disgrace.

A high-up Air Force officer, Colonel Russell Williams, who has been breaking and entering homes and sexually assaulting women over a number of years, culminating in the brutal murder of one woman after a protracted rape ordeal, all the while commanding CFB Trenton, the largest airbase in Canada.

CBC can't even report the horrific details as they come out in court. They had a whole segment, in between Sarko and Cammo, telling us how they had decided not to give out details. A good thing too, the family of the murdered woman has suffered and continue to suffer enough.
How does this happen?

And how does this happen? The tea party are gaining support in the States. It shows lazy thinking and that lazy habit of just thinking someone can just wave a magic wand and make it all better, without any effort from anyone.

And then, another item from Britain, pointing out that excluded pupils are falling into crime. More lazy thinking and easy blame. Those kids don't fall into crime because they're excluded, they are excluded because they are already petty criminals.
Someone do some joined up thinking, please.

To make it all better - well, not quite, but it helped - Kalinda on 'The Good Wife' did a brilliant, 'fuck you, wanna make something of it?' scene on this week's episode. She's easily the best character in an already superb show, more power to her I say.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Lurkers

I'm still stuck on Zombies. I think I'm going in the wrong direction, trying to make them more interesting in themselves, maybe the point is that we have vampires for that sort of thing. And after all, I do love a good subtext. Perhaps I need to embrace the idea that when we give up our humanity there's no way back.

Ok, but I keep coming back to the 'but all we have to focus on in a zombie story is the survivors' side'.
And when I thought about it more deeply, it still seems to be oddly religiously themed.
Yeah, I know, a stretch, but this is what I mean.
If our bodies were able to keep on working after death, our brains would too, if you believe that they are mechanical. It's only if you believe there is some special aspect to mind or soul that it would be consistent for the brain to stop and not the other mechanical aspects of the body. Although, even that is self-defeating, because we don't actually BELIEVE in these beings, just tell stories about them, and really, there doesn't HAVE to be consistency within the paradigm.
Disappeared up my own backside? Maybe.

So...moving on. High fructose corn syrup. Whilst Alex has been working at a health food store, I have been learning more about healthy eating. One of the things I find most scary, is HFCS, because, like zombies, it's bloody well lurking everywhere. Earlier this year, yet another study came out, this time from U.S. university Princeton, confirmed the findings of previous studies, that this ubiquitous substance is helping to make human beings obese, more obese, and with high levels of triglycerides. The result is fifty percent more weight gain for those eating high levels of high fructose corn syrup and an adverse effect on metabolism.

It's very difficult to find foods that don't have HFCS in them. I now always look at ingredients, but I can still get caught out. I bought a salad that Kevin and I both like, from the deli counter in Fred Meyer at the weekend. You don't see the ingredients until you get your little tub with the barcode and voilà! There it was.

I'm glad to have been educated on this lurker. I'm pretty sure that we don't know half the problems it causes yet, but being at an age when my body chemistry is finding it hard to keep in balance, the last thing I want to do is overload my system with unnecessary crap.

Carpe high fructose corn syrup.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Zombie

A little while ago, my friend Gail started writing a Zombie story. The majority of the people in the writers' group were all,
'Phew, yeah, go Zombies, we are so over Vampires.' I, on the other hand, am certainly not over vamps, but was interested in Gail's story anyway. I feel that the problem for anyone writing a zombie story is finding a new way to tell it.
On TV last night, a new zombie show was being advertised like crazy. It's starting on Hallowe'en, and it's called, not terribly originally, 'The Walking Dead'.
Poor start really.
Now, here's my theory. The reason Vampire stories are so endlessly varied and engaging, is that the vampires are characters themselves, can out-think humans and have to keep their numbers small in order to be able to feed, so there's no mad rush to complete annihilation.
Also, vampires are sexy and zombies aren't.
Vampires can also control, or be at war with, other species, such as werewolves.

When a human gets turned into either, they experience a painful transition, but with zombies, when the metamorphosis is completed, the human loses reason, whereas with vampires, they gain clarity.

On the other hand, both vampires and zombies are undead. Why couldn't there be zombies as actual characters. You get it occasionally, in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels for example, Mr. Shoe, I think is the name of his zombie, and in the Canadian TV series Lexx.

This is the way forward for Zombies I feel. What motivates them? Could they organise themselves better? Is (un)death reversible? Why don't they communicate? Why must they wave their arms about so obviously?
I think we should be told.

That Cranberry's song was awfully good though, particularly when sung by Dilana. Apologies for the bad language at the end.
Mwwaah!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Empathy Pains

Kevin's flight gets in at one minute to midnight tonight. He is one stressed out camper. Some of the stresses I can empathise with, others, not so much.

The heat thing I totally get. No Mr. and Mrs. Spratt going on here. Neither of us would seek out heat, and just as the temperature gets to our most comfortable level here, he has to go somewhere hot.
The weekend I spent in San Francisco was like this for me. We'd had the first snowfall of the season here, but I was flying away from it and into uncomfortable warmth. It starts you off on the wrong foot.

Then there is the idea that you're going on some kind of jolly. This I also get. When I was taking school trips out to France and Germany, you'd always get some parents who made comments about your having a holiday during term time. That would piss me off no end because whilst I would certainly go to either place in my free time, I wouldn't take 70 kids that my staff and I were responsible for 24 hours a day. This was my work, and instead of getting to go home in the evening, I was never off duty until we handed the kids back.
Kevin, on the other hand, hasn't even gone somewhere he'd ever choose to go except for work.

I DON'T know the frustrations of trying to find information pertinent to your area of expertise from a trade show, which to some must seem like walking around looking at machines, what boy doesn't want to do that?
We would always take kids to a theme park in whichever country we were visiting, but, aside from the fact that I definitely wouldn't go to one of those on my days off, again, no fun when you're having to keep 70 odd kids out of police custody.

The other thing I can relate to is what you've left behind. Kevin's on some tight deadlines at work, and so he worries about the jobs he has left behind for various staff to do, getting done.
I was always worried about my department, because I had always left behind one member of staff who would unashamedly bully anyone and everyone, (and not in a good way) not to mention back-stabbing me. The one colleague who was most vulnerable to the bullying - I took with me.

Then there's the food. The one thing Kevin was looking forward to was some good grub. Could he find any? Not without a two-hour wait, no.
The grub was good when we took kids to France, but they hated it and would buy burgers as soon as we went anywhere, then throw them up later.
In Germany, the kids liked the food because it always took the form of some kind of breaded meat and chips, but we staff would spend our time trying to get hold of vegetables.

At the end of the day*, you do what you have to do for your job, but I'm glad it's not for any longer.

* I used to have a Head of Department who was constantly saying, 'at the end of the day...' and after a while, we would jump in with, 'it gets dark.' Now, I'd have to add, 'except in Alaska in the summer.'