December 31, 2006

All's Well That Ends Well...

Dave Barry does a nice year end round up for the American end of things here. Of course, from a Canadian perspective, the look back is shorter, quieter, duller and probably a little more inebriated, though quietly so. We don't do much in large measure.

With our newly-minted Prime Minister sitting contentedly in Dubya's Snuggly, many of Barry's quips might as well be ours. The best we can muster for scandal is ANOTHER Domi brother dominating the headlines, day in and day out. Someone is really going to have to explain their chick-magnet status to me. I look at them, and see some extras from The Lord of The Rings.

The other half of the population finally opened the Sports section for awhile there, because Janet Gretzky seemed to finally have found a career. False alarm; she's back to marketing her daughter.

I love seeing more women go into politics. I especially love when they understand what they're doing. I hate the ones that haven't got the memo that we have to work twice as hard to get half as far. I've no idea what Rona Ambrose thought being 'Environment Minister' was going to mean, but it's clear she spends more time picking her outfits than her policies. My favourite dodge has to be, however, her way of handling tough questions. She doesn't show up.

So, who's gone? Saddam is silenced, former President Gerald Ford will never trip again, James Brown isn't feeling all that good anymore, Steve Irwin pissed off the wrong creature, Wendy Wasserstein, a broad who's run was cut much too short, Shelly Winters, a broad who had a wonderful run. Peter Benchley, who in writing Jaws scared everyone out of the water, and Gino Empry, that odd little publicist guy who just scared everyone, period.

Canadian soldiers have moved from peacekeeping to coming home in body bags, our most important economic partner is bankrupting itself to save face, my kids are riding their bikes in December as ice shelves break away, people still insist on their right to drive Lincoln Navigators, fools still believe if they can afford their electric bill they have the right to waste whatever they please, 2% of the world's adults own 50 % of the global wealth, while the poorer half own barely 1%. No, the kids are not alright. Tweak the stats anyway you like - the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and as the gap widens, more and more 'normal' people are hanging on by their fingertips.

So, what dominated headlines in too many publications this year? Britney Spears' hoohoo, of course. I mean, it's not like we have anything else to talk about.

May 2007 be spent at the grown-up's table.

December 29, 2006

It's All So Simple, Really...

Let me play psychic for a moment and tell you what is missing from your 12 Days of Christmas, or whatever you celebrate.


Think about it. It's like taking a vacation but staying home. Strange food, strange hours, strange people and running on someone else's schedule. You don't feel sluggish and mopey because of some emotional onslaught, or the ghosts of Christmases past inflicting their lengthy shadows. You feel lousy because you've upset the delicate balance you strive all year to keep in place.

When I was a kid, I hung out with a lot of seniors. Don't ask. I've already admitted to being a weird kid. We would talk about weather, and the olden days, odd food, and pooping. Well, they would. I'd listen. But it became rapidly apparent to me that some topics were mighty important to the elderly. And visits from their kids were second on the list.

When I had kids, the only things that mattered to them were eating, sleeping, punishing each other, and pooping. Not much has changed. As a parent, you monitor what goes into, and out of, your kid like some Olympic coach. You want good results, you pay attention to the details. And limit the cheese.

And of course, somewhere in between toddler and senior, the discussion evaporates. Everyone is JUST fine, thankyouverymuch. Except at holiday times, where you turn your body into a giant theme park and wonder why there are such long lineups.

When my sister was here on Christmas Eve, she made a giant salad and plunked it onto the table. 'Eat', we were instructed. We ate.

So, put down the Paxil, or leave the dose alone. Stay away from the buffet tables, stop at the second glass of wine, and steer clear of the nuts. Even if you're related to them.

Instead, pull up a chair next to grandma. She'll tell you what's what.

December 28, 2006

Worth More? Or Worth Less?

I was actually toying with the idea of leaping into the fray of the pay raise recently voted for by our beloved politicians. For themselves. By all parties, except the NDP who know they can squeak and squawk and remain chaste, while still getting all of the same stuff as the other guys. Kinda like wading through puddles and never getting your feet wet.

Anyway, I was considering it. I'm of two minds (just two, which must be a good day, actually) about salaries of those in the public eye, making decisions about public policy, and about vast quantities of money. And especially when that money is landing in their own wallets. Do we want corporate heads in government? Is there any bait sweet enough to lure someone from the private sector over to the fires of hell of being a politician?

I'll tag onto some of the arguments already made: Some politicians work their butts off and deserve far more; some are lazy trough-dwellers who should be kicked to the curb, not given a raise. In fact, we've already noted several who should be refunding us. And I'm sure that 'several' is far more. Some have mastered hopscotching among various levels of public service, staying just long enough at any one tier before hopping the fence to be a fresh face in a new arena. I suppose it is a skill to leave before being booted, but there are times I wish some of these little piggies would just run all the way home.

One of the biggest arguments I think they have going for them is the time they spend away from home. If you work long hours, your family is suffering. I've known tradesmen who work insane overtime on projects, because the nature of the work is transitional. I've known others who have travelled and been away for months for the same reason. You do what you have to do, and most of these tradesmen earn a lot more than the politicians. When you have a family, every decision you make impacts them. Stop being surprised that you will have a tug-of-war over how your time will be spent as your money is being earned. We all live it.

But today, I find this little snip. Apparently, PM Harper, feeling all Christmas-y and warm in a new cardigan, is lamenting how much time he spends away from his family.

Awwwwww. Back when he was first elected, there was a video op of him taking his kids to school. His kids are pretty young, 6 and 8 I think. He shook their hands. Yup. Shook their hands. At least now I know what he was really doing.

He was introducing himself to them.

December 27, 2006

The Other 364 Days

For Christmas this year, we got Jackson, 12, a crokinole board. Those are those big wooden octagon-things with little wooden disks. It's a really old game, but it doesn't take batteries and there is always the fun of the disk launching off the board and hitting his brother between the eyes. Even though he'd never played, I had a hunch it might be a hit.

It was. I was relieved.

I pulled the papers in this morning, and staring up at me from the front page was this story from the Star. A young 17-year-old lad from Oakville had died during a hockey game. A similar thing happened closer to home a couple of months back, and I am always shocked at how gutted I can feel about a child I've never met. But I look into pictures of boys who could be mine. Who are mine. We've all lost so much.

This was followed by a story about small knitted dolls being sent to orphans in Malawi. A Canadian peacekeeper in Croata in 1994, Mark Isfeld had taken a picture of a broken doll in the rubble of war. His mother began crocheting tiny, bright dolls in a peacekeeper's beret for her son to hand out to the children. They are now called Izzy dolls.

Mark was killed in June of '94 clearing mines. In a wall of grief I can't imagine, Carol Isfeld continued to make the dolls and Mark's troopmates continued to hand them out. Women's groups across Canada are helping using Carol's pattern.

Often, these tiny dolls are buried with the terminally ill children they comforted. It is all they have.

And I was worried about a crokinole board.

December 26, 2006

Power Shift: Survival Tips

As outlined in Power Shift today, I'm going to go into more detail on what you should have in your car. I'm going to make a first distinction, though, that some help sites overlook: If you're not a long distance traveller every week, there are things that probably take up more space than need be.

And that's the number one complaint I hear - many of the things you're told to have take up all of your trunk. So, be reasonable. Assess your life, understand the weather where you live, and make sure you cover all the bases.

If you're setting out on a road trip - whether cross country, or a three hour tour (look what happened to Gilligan), you need to be expecting the unexpected. Weather is tricky to predict, and conditions can deteriorate rapidly. Make sure you have ready access to at least the following:

1. Fresh water. Don't depend on melting snow, it's probably full of chemicals.
2. Food. The chocolate bars I mentioned are good, power bars will actually taste far better if there is nothing to compare them too, dried fruit lasts forever as well.
3. Clothing. I can't stress enough proper footwear. For women especially, have snow boots in the car. Keep some big socks stuffed in them. All of your body heat escapes through your head, so keep hats and mitts (how about all those ones in the bin that nobody wears?) in a bag. You need to be able to layer for warmth.
4. Candles and matches. A flashlight. Road flares. Most of these things can be found in a store bought kit you purchase, and will tuck under the seat. The more you spend, the more you'll get.
5. A whistle. Bright tape. As the proberbial needle in a haystack, you may end up having to do anything you can to let people know where you are.
6. LET PEOPLE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. File a route map with someone you trust. If you change paths, even for a posted detour, tell someone. Carry a charged cell phone and a charger. IF CONDITIONS DETERIORATE, TURN BACK.
7. Blankets. Also carry a couple of those little solar blankets that come in a pouch. They're as big as a pack of gum, but open up huge and really work.
8. Jumper Cables. You're going to run your battery down.
9. GAS UP AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Here, you must think like a parent with toddlers. You would never pass a bathroom without making everyone go. In iffy weather, don't pass up any opportunity to gas up.
10. A knife, and duct tape. If something is loose, tape it tight. If something is tight, cut it loose.
11. A tool box. Even if you don't know how to use the stuff in it, someone that finds you may need it. Keep a collapsible shovel. They are really handy.


Make sure you still have a blanket, boots and hats, a collapsible shovel, water and some foot in the glovebox. In winter, keep the gas tank topped up. If you drive small kids, have spare warm clothing for them. The cell phone is still important, and keep an eye on the weather. Jumper cables can be invaluable - but learn how to use them. (If you don't know, tell me and I'll post how to do it.)

In all cases, don't drive over your head. Stay out of areas you don't know, don't overestimate the ability of your vehicle, and err on the side of caution. Listen to the local news, and read the local paper. You will be informed of road closings, construction and delays. Don't drive if you've been drinking, don't drive if you're tired, and don't drive angry. That may sound a little crazy, but angry drivers make stupid mistakes and take dumb risks. Cool off somewhere other than on the road.

In any case, if problems arise, stay with your car. There are very few times when leaving makes sense, and your odds drop dangerously when you abandon the easiest way for searchers to find you. Put an 'x' on the roof of your car with bright tape, pray the person you told of your trip details wrote it down, and stay positive.

I welcome additional tips in the comments section. I hope everyone had a great Christmas - more blogging later.

December 24, 2006

Ho Ho Hopeless

I once thought that men had a shop-the-day-before-Christmas gene. That it wasn't their fault, their hard-wiring made it impossible for them to say, plan ahead. I have never peered under my tree and expected to find anything engraved.

Then as I watched a few lazy arse boyfriends reveal that it was actually a show of strength, that men did this the same way they lift more if someone is watching, I realized it was a passive aggressive power struggle: You can do all that sissy list crap, but I'll still just roll into the drug store late on the 24th and do just fine, thank you.

I'm back to the gene theory. Yesterday, we had some new appliances delivered. I don't know of a worse time of year for this, but my stove was officially pooched, and you can't cook a 24 pound turkey in a toaster. We knew there would be a little retrofitting for the stove, but as Brad has been here for 6 Christmases now, that meant he has 6 power tools at the ready. Surely we could tackle anything.

Or not. In theory, you tug out the old stove, sit in on the front lawn, and when the lads bring the new one you plug it in. Yeah, that would work if there was a plug. No plug. Needing an electrician two days before Christmas, I watched my life turning into a bad TV sitcom. But without the fat husband and hot wife combo.

One of the many upsides to Brad working in the trades, is that he knows others that do. Within a couple of phone calls, we had an electrician on his way over. I couldn't believe it. And he came in half an hour. I couldn't believe it. He had the parts on his truck. I couldn't believe it. And he was sweet and helpful and did a perfect job. I couldn't believe it. I could have wept with joy. I decided that was seasonal, so I did.

We were switching the fridge to the other side of the room, where my computer is located. Which meant all the phone and computer wires had to be moved as we transferred the computer 7 feet away. The cords are all in the basement. Ever notice when you NEED stuff, you get peeved at all the people in the store doing their Xmas shopping? I want to stand there and yell "Not buying fun stuff - let me through, cables and connectors are NOT stocking stuffers" like I have some special pass.

No special pass. Just long lines. The good news, is that after spending all of yesterday fitzing about with the stove, we hooked up the phone and computer again. It worked on the first go. Now, I don't know about you, but that's about as close to a Christmas miracle as I've ever had.

As we were buried in sawdust and tools, Jackson stuck his head in the kitchen. He asked if he could use some old towels. I asked what for. He wouldn't tell me. I said no. He finally explained that he wanted to use his Dremel in his bedroom. A Dremel is a little sanding tool for carving. And sending plumes of sawdust all over the room, and right into the ventilation system, which carries it throughout the house. Uhm, no, no Dremelling in the bedroom. Turns out he was starting his Christmas carving. Last night, he asked me if I'd like mine stained. I watched the relief slide across his face when I said no. Definitely genetic.

The appropriate things are now cold, and the appropriate ones will be hot. And I will be able to send and receive tidings of good joy, or troll notes from those who's mothers don't love them. Either way, I wish everyone a great Christmas - hug someone you love, and tolerate someone you don't.

And if you can't return it, don't worry - you can always make jokes about it.

December 21, 2006

Slate - The Explainer

The following article is from today's Slate Magazine. They have a regular feature, The Explainer, where strange questions are answered. It's very cool. And apparently, sometimes the Explainer gets stumped. So today, they have posted the questions they've been unable to answer this past year. I have helpfully answered them in their stead. My answers are in red.

The Explainer's Unanswered Questions From 2006

Q: What comes after 999 trillion?
A: 1. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Q: Why do train whistles at night always sound lonely and mournful? Not so in the daytime.
A: The same reason a child crying in the night makes you want to rip your own tonsils out. When everything else is silent, the noise has much more noise-space to take up, and therefore sounds louder.

Q: Given the exchange and dispersion of matter, how likely is it/how often do we inhale/consume and/or incorporate into our own protein structure molecules that were once in some historical figure, say Abraham Lincoln?
A: Why is it when someone asks questions like this, they never want to know how many molecules of breath they've shared with say, Ted Bundy or Lizzy Borden? The scientific fact is that the air has gone in and out of too many of us, and the sagging of my breasts is actually a further indication of personal global warming.

Q: Lasers are now powerful and small (at least I think they are), so why don't our troops carry laser guns?
A: Because everyone would want to be Luke Skywalker, and nobody would want to be the angry little runty guys.

Q: Why is smooth peanut butter cheaper than nutty?
A: I've no idea where you live, but it costs the same here in Canada. Even if it didn't, I would gladly pay more for chunky. It doesn't slide off of hot toast, and I do not like to have to buy bread with guardrails just to keep the peanut butter onside.

Q: If we taught animals to talk, how would that affect the world?
A: We would all be trapped in a never-ending version of the movie Babe, which is initially quite cute, but after you watch it a few times, you realize it is quite creepy.

Q: What would happen to the stock market if a meteor impacted the earth? What would happen to the global markets and the U.S. market? Say a meteor hits inside U.S. borders and takes out two states.
A: People like me, who choose not invest in the stock market, would stand around and say 'told you so'. And, do the two states have to be adjacent? I can think of several I can live without, but I'll need to know if they have to be touching.

Q: Is it possible to collect all the cookie dough in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and actually bake cookies from it?
A: It is possible, though while your children are playing in the run-off of ice cream like they're trapped in some Willy Wonka Wonderland, the cookies will end up tasting like something Rachal Ray dumped EEVO on and is passing off as homemade.

Q: How clean is bar soap in a public bathroom? Is it "self-cleaning," since it's soap? It seems like a health hazard to me.
A: You're just asking that so you can pretend you wash your hands. I don't believe you.

Q: Why did Zidane head-butt his opponent in the World Cup final? Do the French not fight with their fists?
A: I believe there was a 'yo mama' comment that preceeded the contact, though it is well known that the French do not, in fact, fight. They drink copious amounts of rather nice red wine, smoke stinky cigarettes that would get them booted from any establishment in North America, and sit around ogling very thin French women. They really have no reason to fight.

Q: When we are approaching another person, like in a hallway, why do we step to our left? That is, try and pass right-shoulder-to-right-shoulder.
A: The right is our jousting arm, and we all secretly want to be in the Knight's Tale movie, even if just for a moment, because that was when Heath Ledger looked the cutest with that medieval hair.

Q: I have been pondering this situation for as long as I can remember (maybe age 7-8) and it drives me nuts. It makes me feel like my head will implode if I think any harder. Is the universe infinite? It must end somewhere. But when it ends … there must be something on the other side … right?
A: If you believe that age 7 to 8 is a very long time, you have bigger things to worry about than a definition of infinity.

Q: If a group of passengers on a hijacked plane wanted to, could they bring a plane down by all of them using their cell phones at the same time?
A: Only if they had the old fashioned phones that weighed as much as cement blocks, and they coordinated their aim and threw them at the hijackers at the same time. Otherwise, they will just be snapping pictures and watching reruns of the O.C.

Q: Why do humans die so young? In biblical times, people lived for several hundred years; now living to 100 is considered a long life. What happened?
A: The fact you are getting your science facts from the bible makes me realize that the ongoing educational debates in some states is warranted.

Q: How can I tell if I was the first person to use the term "K-fed-up" in relation to Britney's divorce?
A: You have never had an original thought in your life. The fact you would like to have one, and you would waste it on something like this, makes me realize you will never have one. You don't deserve one.

Q: Why is the No. 8 always the same combination (tamale, enchilada, rice, beans) in any Mexican restaurant I visit? This includes primarily the southeast United States but not obvious franchises.
A: Someone really sent you this question? Who the hell reads Slate for this?

Q: Hi, how does nature make water? How does nature combine one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms to make water? If we knew how nature makes water, then perhaps we can then find an efficient way of separating hydrogen from oxygen, thus creating the ultimate source for energy.
A: Nature doesn't make water. Niagara Falls makes water. Water is literally like stones. You just find it lying on the ground.

Q: Why is grilled chicken tasting increasingly rubbery and odd?
A: Because you are a lousy cook. Actually it's because when you eat at crappy restaurants, you're not eating chicken. You're eating nearchicken, which is injected with water and chemicals, than par-cooked so that by the time your order up your 3-minute meal, it's a feast for the eyes. They haven't perfected making it a feast for the tastebuds just yet. Stay out of fast food joints.

Q: i need more money.....what business can i start that will not take a lot of time...i have internet access daily...........and i have saturday morning free before 12 noon to run around. i work from 7am to 9:30 pm..............
A: Become a writer.

Q: Just suppose, one day someone wants to sell you an old gold bar. You don't know if it belongs to any treasure, and you can't find out if there is any reward for it, if it was a lost treasure. How would you go about melting it and selling it? The same would go for a gemstone about the size of a dinner plate. How would you go about selling it? If you're living in a country that is corrupt and you cannot trust the government, or anyone else, what can you do?
A: You set up a hotmail account from Nigeria. Send out an email, and watch all the suckers rush to help you. You may have to profess your love to someone, but its a small price to pay to unload a gemstone the size of a dinner plate. Are you serious? A dinner plate?

Q: Can you tell me how long it will take if you eat rat poison to see if it is going to affect you? Please e-mail me back. Because my niece ate some.
A: Dear Uncle Fabulous: If you didn't want to babysit, you should have just said so. Whatever you do, don't give her anything to drink.

Q: Hi. I just wanted to know if our eyeballs roll back when we are sleeping (or closed) or do they shake? Or …
A: We are like those ugly dolls from 40 years ago with the big plastic heads and the painted- on hair. Our eyes roll back, because that's where they run the movies that we call 'dreams'.

Q: PYGMIES: How/when/where/still in existence/do we mate with them?
A: Even pygmies have standards.

Q: Do dolphins actually save people? If so, why do they do this?
A: They save us so we don't eat them. They've seen what happens to everything else out there, and eagerly point out which way the sharks went. They are selfish.

Q: I have a sister that stresses the hell out of me. For example this one sister out of three knows that I am recovering from a serious car accident. I thank God for saving my life, and healing me each and every day. My question is can a person who complains and talks about the same complaining crap every day stress you completely out? About four days ago I had to tell this one sister (Annie) basically to get a life and stop bugging me with her problems and everybody else's. I reminded her that I am still in a neck brace and healing … I really need to know if a person can really stress you out with the same old thing over and over and over again. PLEASE ANSWER BACK ASAP.

A: Get a life and stop bugging me with your problems.

Q: Can someone be forced to masturbate?
A: Only for a few seconds.

Q: Why do we make a "lip-smacking" sound when kissing closed-mouth? We do make the sound; it doesn't happen on its own ...
A: It is the only way humans have of communicating that something is good. We are virtually incapable of speaking, writing, making music or art, singing or writing on overpasses. So we make that smacking noise.

Q: What's likely to happen to people, or what might they feel, when they're killed instantly?
A: I believe it's like when the plane lands after a 20 hour flight, and your seatmate finally puts away the photos, surrenders the armrest, helps you put away your untouched book and offers to trade addresses. And you give him the wrong one.

Q: Can a state in the United States split into two or more states? If so, how? I think Texas has a special provision for being able to divide into up to five states. But I am wondering about the others.
Click Here!
A: This may in fact be closer than we think, because if we lose the two states in the meteor-and-stock-market-question, we will be required to find two more. The flag has fifty stars, and this cannot be changed.

Q: I have noticed that a lot of mainstream movies feature men peeing. Are the actors really peeing?
A: Of course. And everyone in moves is also having sex, vomiting, driving into walls, falling out of planes and drowning. Why do you think it is such a tough business to break into?

Q: yea i have my own 620 gang and i dont know how to run it to make not look like a little bitch gang joke it is just me and my friend how do i run it?
A: A 620 gang. Is that like a retirement fund thing? If you have a pension plan, I'll join your little gang. Then you'll be up to three. Little bitches.

Q: Hi. How did the horse in the movie about dreams make it to not only survive but to win again? Was this movie true?
A: Sorry, it's just not true. You know how sometimes you wake up and think you've won the lottery? And you haven't? And you're sad? It's like that, but you're a horse.

Q: Working in my yard yesterday, I killed a gnat in my ear canal, where it had flown. I couldn't remove the body as my finger was too fat. What happens to it now?
A: You must put something bigger in there to eat it. If that gets stuck, well, you get the idea.

Q: What is the richest religion? Scientology has a lot of Hollywood stars and I think they actually make their members give money, but Catholicism is a very old religion with its own country. Also, Islam has a lot of members but I don't know about their money situation.
A: Interesting question you pose, and perhaps worthy of an experiment. Get all your friends and family to send me some money, and we'll see if we can't give that old Vatican a run....

Q: Is chicken considered meat?
A: Not to the chicken.

Q: Hello ... Could you tell me if there's been any kind of medical discovery in the last 30 years besides DNA.
A: Apparently a coconut that can use a keyboard.

Q: Are UFOs confirmed to be from other Alien Planets?
A: Certainly. Fox Mulder called the other day to tell me. Why do you think they say the truth is 'out there'? Because it's not 'in here'. Silly.

Q: How do you get to write articles for Slate. Do you have to go through a process?
A: Articles, yes. Questions, apparently no.

Q: I met a 40-year-old stripper back in February of this year. We had a special connection. Yet, she was homeless, going through a divorce and bankruptcy. She has three kids who live in Alabama and she pays $500 a month in child support. Moreover, she used cocaine. At one point, she was arrested for forgery. She spent a month in jail but was released under the condition that she become a narc for the police department. She gave the names of her dealers and would wear wires when drug deals were going down. I let her stay at my place and kept food in the refrigerator. This past Monday she took all her clothes, my money, and left. The night before, she hung out with some friends. I called her, and she said I was too good for her. She said she had never been treated so well. She said she would drag me down and she couldn't bear to handle that. I told her my hopes and dreams the night before. I wonder if I scared her off. I don't know what to make of it. I don't know if she met someone else the night before and doesn't want to tell me. It's killing me inside. I cried for her. I really cared for her. Can you give me some advice?
A: Never, ever tell a woman your hopes and dreams. You will scare away all the good ones.

December 20, 2006

Gobble Gobble

When you have small children, they tear around the house from the day after Halloween telling you how many more sleeps until Christmas. The upside is that you have a walking, talking, squawking calendar that never lets you forget. Of course, that's also the downside.

As the boys have gotten older (15 and 12 now), there isn't such an urgency. They put in their request for some overpriced gadget, remind me not that socks and underwear do NOT belong in a stocking, and generally carry on with their lives. In the middle of the night, I sat bolt upright and realized it is only 5 more sleeps until Christmas.

I am in charge of the turkey. Before you make cannibal jokes, you should be made aware that I can actually cook a turkey. I mean, I get loads of help from my sister, and my other sister directed me one year to the fabulous practice of brining a turkey. It makes it goof proof. Which is another joke that writes itself.

But I like fresh turkeys. That means you have to plan a little ahead, in order to get one big enough. You should probably be planning while the thing still has its head on.

I called the store this morning. The kindly man in the meat department started laughing. When he realized I was gently weeping, he stopped laughing. I told him I needed a 22-25 pound bird. There was silence on the other end of the phone.
"Do you know Christmas is on Monday," he asked me.
"It's not my fault my sons are teenagers," I replied. It made sense to me.

He trundled off, and came back with the Christmas Miracle. He found a 22 pound fresh bird hiding in the corner of the fridge. He told me he had affixed my name to it, and I could get it on Sunday.

Somehow, it seems appropriate that there is a turkey somewhere with my name on it.

December 19, 2006


Where to start? Donald Trump has decided to give Miss USA a second chance. Seems this year's tartlette has been out boozing and hounding around, actions apparently unbecoming of a beauty queen. Trump, that reknowned purvayor of classy behaviour and stellar judgement, has decided that she just wanted a slice of New York, and it went to her purdy little head, and like many before her, she's just fallen victim to all those sparkly things that temporarily turned her head from chasing world peace. Or another bikini. Or something.

They still have a Miss USA? Are you joking? I thought girls just got their implants and went straight to Hollywood. Silly me.

It gets better.

A report from the Independent in the UK outlines the terrible news that millions don't read well enough to perform a very important part our culture. Employment, you might ask yourself? Are they unable to keep a job? Fill out a government application? Maybe they're sadly unable to read bedtime stories to their children. Perhaps they are a menace on the roadways, unable to read simple highway signs.

If any of this were true, it would indeed be sad, dangerous even. But no, the literacy problem apparently translates into millions being unable to participate in karaoke. I can read quite well. I've never performed karaoke. You're welcome.

I wonder if Miss USA can do it?

December 18, 2006

Live @ 5:30 Monday

Tune in to CH11 tonight Live @ 5:30 for the fun, or at not-so-live-at 11:30...

All the Elements

The only thing worse than having to buy new appliances is having to buy new appliances the week before Christmas. Talk about a drag.

My stove is about 35 years old. I have been running on 3 burners for 18 months now, and because no culinary sensations emerge from this kitchen, that's a doable thing. And then two days ago another burner went. So, no large burners. And yeah, we've replaced and rejigged. I have little sparks that fly.

I hate shopping with a passion. Christmas shopping is relatively okay around here, because there aren't that many of us, and my love does not extend to lavish displays. But amidst all the festive shoppers, Brad and I have been getting a crash course in stoves. Flat tops, convection ovens, hidden elements, handles and racks. Snore.

We finally settled on something that was affordable (meaning, as much as I was willing to go into debt). And then I spied the fridges. I hate my fridge. Truly. It's too small, and I hate it. The spot carved out in the present configuration of cabinets is big enough for something not much bigger than a bar fridge, and it makes me crazy. I'm exaggerating, but barely. The dream of a new kitchen is just that.

Being realistic, the time frame of getting the counters/cabinets/floorplan of my dreams won't be happening for a loooooooong time. So I bought a fridge too, to stave off the pangs.

I called my 12-year-old from the store to check on the width of the space. He told me. It fit. I was happy. We ordered it. We got home. It was too tall. I cried. I am shallow. Between sobs, I told Brad I just wanted to pull into the driveway and yell 'move that bus'. I wanted the hell to be someone else's hell.

We finally re-ordered a fridge that would fit. It is bigger. I have decided to move it to the other side of the room, move my desk into the fridge cubby, and live happily ever after.

If only it were that easy. Now they're going expect me to cook.

December 17, 2006

Rogue, rogue, rogue your boat

I love articles like this one, about rogue waves. It's the perfect combination of things I love - science I don't understand, and a funky reminder not to mess with the universe. I have to admit, I read Peter Calamai's stuff every Sunday, and love to troll through National Geographic, Discover, and I was bummed when Equinox quit printing.

Anyway, the waves. We've all heard sailors stories of rogue waves, monstrous killers that can seemingly just arise out of calm seas and take a ship in one gulp. Because scientists couldn't strap numbers and formulas to them, for years they did the only noble thing they could: They called the old salts liars.

Seems it's not quite as it seems. These things do exist, and at a far more frequent rate than was originally thought. They have been able to categorize, define and describe them. Everything but predict them. Now, this should be of interest to Canadians; we have one of the largest coastlines in the world, many, many oceanic interests (fishing, oil platforms), as well as the notoriously stormy Great Lakes.

As reporting becomes more reliable, scientists are looking back at some of the history of these freak waves, and realizing the sea is still a scary place. These waves can take out massive tankers, as well as cruise ships. While this would probably make getting food poisoning seem okay, it doesn't guarantee Kathy Lee would be swept to a watery grave. (I will confess: The whole cruise ship idea leaves me cold. Wouldn't go for free.)

Apparently, rogue waves are not tall tales by drunken old sots trying to explain the disappearance of a crewman or two, or a way to tell an owner the whole ship has been misplaced.

I believe in them. My whole life has rogue waves in every part of it. Think about it. You're trundling along, doing your thing, and then something out of nowhere topples your keg. Happens every day. Who the hell controls every atom in their universe? Who is so arrogant as to believe they can, or boring enough to want to?

Come to think of it, I've survived several rogues.

December 15, 2006

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor...

Okay, time to pile on with another round of miserable commercials.

If I see that sappy little kid in the Leon's ad one more time ('Santa? Ith that wiwwy ewwwwwwwwww?'), I'm gonna barf.

And Knorr, products I ONCE bought, with their bleeped out 'frozen' ad annoys the heck out of me as well. Not clever - annoying.

In a twisted way, I'm starting to love the Native Indian in the Lakota ads. Jeopardy just wouldn't be the same without him.

There's a fake teeth guy in Toronto that looks like he did a barter with a guy that does fake hair. Please stop.

Oh, and they can pull all the weight loss ads still running that promise you can lose 30 pounds by Christmas. Only if you get out the carving knife early, I'm afraid.

So? You?

The Office - Party

Look forward to your work Christmas party? Or Holiday party, or whatever PC thing they're calling it this year?

I was reading in Slate last week about all the lawsuits that can be filed now, from drunk driving to sexual harassment, and how to avoid it. Basically, let everyone stand up at their desk at 3 in the afternoon, hand each a can of Sprite and a Twinkie, wish them a generic happy holidays, and tell them to sit down.

Humbug. We used to have a blast at our Christmas parties. Then again, we owned the company, so we would just pick a restaurant we liked, make reservations, and everyone would meet for a party. If anyone got drunk, we'd send them home in a cab or make sure someone sober drove them. No biggee.

When I worked retail as a youngster, the Christmas parties were a blast. Our poor put-upon manager Frank (still miss you) would tolerate a bunch of idiot teenagers tearing up his house while his wife Barb would try and hide her shock at the outrageous gifts we gave each other.

I don't have too many pitfalls of corporate holiday parties anymore. It's just me and the cats. My webgod Jeff works at home as well, so we figured we should merge our Christmas parties this year. Which means Jeff and I sitting in a Kelseys wearing Santa hats and drinking beer.

This article from the LA Times is funny - there is a deep, deep loathing of all forced functions. Hardly surprising. Most employees would just as soon you handed them a fifty dollar bill and kept the jello salad and crepe paper for another time.

The Office (hands down my favourite show) was on last night, with an hour long Christmas special. They covered it nicely - one too drunk, too many ugly festive pieces of clothing, and the whole forced comraderie of people that can't wait to run from each other at 5:00 every other day. You don't find your friends at work. It's dangerous. And you certainly don't find your dates there - it's that old Latin saying about not pooping where you eat. Or something like that.

I just think it's a deadly combination of high expectations, low booze thresholds, questionable party wear, and emerging from the bathroom at 5pm with glitter eyeshadow on. And that's just the men. Most places I know have the official office party, from which people deke out as soon as their career trajectory enables them to, to meet up where the other party is.

With the people who can't wreck your life if you dance on the table wearing (only) a wreath, or tell the boss' wife you can hardly see the scars at all.

December 13, 2006

Alberta Hound

Everyone's friends until the old buzzard croaks.

In Alberta, we apparently have our own version of Anna Nicole Smith. ANS is that odd, odd woman who keeps appearing in the media, famous for being famous, and generally making a living by publicly screwing up her life. She was a peeler who managed to marry a guy who was older than Moses (seriously; he was about 97 when the 22-year-old ANS crouched down by his wheelchair, pushed his oxygen mask aside, and posed for their wedding photos. I may be making up those ages. But not the rest of it). Anyhow, somehow she has managed to get huge boobs, a reality show, and several drug habits while all the time sue, sue suing her dead husband's estate for her share of the millions. She is fighting his son, who himself is about 80. I say wait it out.

Being Canada, our version is tamer. From today's Globe & Mail comes the story of a widow left penniless, after living the good life for 22 years. The records show the life she lived, and why she is pursuing what is rightly hers now the geezer is gone. In true Canadian fashion, her description of their life together is a little less champagne-ish than Anna Nicole's; she speaks in a whisper, so we don't get jealous; that they had backyard BBQs with a pig on a spit. A WHOLE pig. Those Canadian millionaires really know how to spice up the story. My family, being rather plebish in comparison, usually only manage porkchops. I figure it will cut back on future lawsuits.

She of course if fighting the kids. They are duking it out over $40 million. She has sued in various countries, produced phoney stock certificates, been unable to prove a wedding she says took place, and probably can't even find the pig bones.

Twenty-two years? Lady, if you didn't get something legal in 22 years, you're stupid. Was he some kind of selfish bastard to cut you out of his will? Of course he was. But what kind of stupid idiot lets that happen?

She describes a life of trips and lavish gifts, and describes their extreme conjugation. She doesn't use the word 'extreme', but the desperation to prove they boffed regularly is clear. Hmmmm. Lots of sex, trips, gifts, trinkets, but no official status.

I'd call that something else.

December 12, 2006

Oh Say Can't You See...

Texas is going to help its blind hunters.

Ah, sometimes, the comments just write themselves. But I'll wade in nonetheless. From the land that gave us Dubya, we now get not only a gun in every house, but one in every blind person's hands as well. They are proposing letting blind hunters use laser sights to make hunting more fair. They didn't mention what they've proposed to make it more fair for the game.

Apparently, blind hunters in this great state are already allowed to hunt if they take along a seeing eye hunter. But they think it would be more productive if the guns now had laser sights on them. Why not let 'em just drive to the hunting site as well?

I don't agree with hunting for sport. Everyone has limits on the activities they can partake in, whether they are hampered by size, age, access or money. Suck it up.

The most blind man in Texas is already running that country.

December 11, 2006

Gwendolyn Landolt (Name's Half Right)

It's a drag when your day starts at 3am. It's a drag when you're peeking out the blinds, waiting for the paperman to come. Remember when it used to be a paperboy?

So, as if 3am isn't a stupid enough time to be up for no reason, how do you think I felt when that long-awaited paper delivered a steaming pile of opinion that goes like this? Apparently there is something called REAL Women of Canada. The author of the piece is the National Vice President. Now, please don't think this group is representative of any REAL women I know. They didn't even call me to join up.

It's the usual goulash of malleable statistics insisting that same-sex marriage is detrimental to our communities, our children, and no doubt our midnight madness shopping sales. Yeah, that's how irrelevant it all is.

And poor put-upon Gwendolyn Landolt, the REAL woman who birthed this nonsense, feels all twisty that nobody is allowed to say they're against same-sex marriage. In a really beautiful tango that hauls in religion to government offices, because, you know, everyone knows that's where THAT belongs, she asserts her ferocious belief that same-sex unions are bad. Bad, I tell you.

I say, Gwendolyn? None of your damned business. Are you seriously going to try and make me believe that if Billy has two moms he will turn out poorly? Only if Billy has two moms - who are crackheads.

How about a little of that righteous indignation for those lucky kids raised by a mom and dad - who beat the crap out of each other in front of them? That better for you? And read through this whole diatribe. My favourite 'fact' is that sexual faithfulness is not required in same-sex relationships. I just want to follow this woman around with a bucket to catch her 'facts' as they fall out.

This country, and indeed this planet, could use more people who would join strengths for worthy causes. We could use more people who give a damn about something other than getting their hands on a new video game system, or who the Trashy Triplets are flashing their cooters at this week.

But Gwendolyn? Wrong issue. You think a referendum is 'clearly required' on this issue. I think a referendum is 'clearly required' on how you can dare to call yourself part of the administration of some association that pretends to speak for REAL Women. No REAL woman I know would support something so intolerant, so judgemental and so unkind. Let your children or grandchildren know that if they are gay, they will find a sympathic ear in my kitchen. They obviously won't find one in yours.

You aren't being ignored because you're being muzzled. You're being ignored because you deserve to be.

December 9, 2006

Playing Dress Up

Okay, THIS is why women fall down in the cred department. Apparently at some White House Christmas shindig, FOUR women, including the First Lady, all wore the same $8,500 dress.

First, shame on you all for laying out that kind of money on a damned dress. There's a war going on. Kids in your own town aren't going to see Santa. And you've gone and handed over $8,500 for a dress that SOME high end boutique had the audacity to sell to four of you? In most towns, that would be a hanging offence. Apparently Laura Bush had to scamper off to change. If I'd forked out that kind of money for a dress, the only thing I'd have left to change into would be my bathrobe.

I wonder how many of the men wore the same suit? What's that? You don't know, because who would notice, and WHO WOULD CARE? Exactly. Apparently George Clooney just wears the same tux over and over. I don't mind.

I like fashion. I used to like it more, when I had less on my mind. I used to like it more before I realized there are far more important issues in the world, in this country and right here in my community than if my jeans cost $300.

I remember when I was a kid and I'd see all those big Christmas trees in department stores, and at the Santa display. There would be all these presents around them, and my mom patiently explained that they just wrapped-up empty boxes. For show.

Empty boxes wrapped up pretty.

You want me to take you seriously? Be more than an ornament. Read more than you shop. Pose questions, instead of, well, just posing. Take an interest in the world you live in, and the future of it beyond the next sale. We have some critical issues before us, and if you give a damn about your kids and your grandkids, you're going to have to start changing your mindset. What do you wear to the falling of an ice shelf?

You really could be all dressed up with no place to go.

December 7, 2006

Sheela Basrur

This story made me very sad today. Dr. Sheela Basrur is fighting a rare cancer. She is Ontario's Chief Medical Officer.

When we were dealing with the SARS crisis, this lady was the front line spokesperson for the government. Usually, I don't give a rat's arse for what spokespersons have to say. It's filtered through a thousand spin cycles, and it's more informative to stick your fingers in your ears and hum when they open their yaps.

Not Sheela Basrur. Anyone that knows me knows I have a pet interest in the medical/scientific areas of viruses and bacteria. It started when my Dad contracted a resistent form of a virus while hospitalized 12 years ago, and I believe it's vital for all of us to keep informed on this front. SARS cemented my belief that the bugs will win, and it's time for us to drop the superior attitudes we've been lulled into accepting.

Sheela is a politico of a different stripe. She not only knows her stuff, she has an accessibility that made me trust her. She's smart; she's human; she's warm.

In an era of processed propoganda that can leave all but the most diligent journalistic researchers left in the dark, Sheela Basrur brought a different breath of fresh air to the game.

I hope she knows her hard work over the years has been very much appreciated, and I wish her only the best in her current battle. She deserves better than this, and my thoughts are with her.

Crazy Christmas

I complain about Extreme Lighting - check out this video and be glad you don't live near this doofus...for full effect, put your speakers on.

December 6, 2006

Children's Non-Aid

Wasted tax dollars is not shocking. It's barely news. But discovering just how much gluttony exists in our Child Protective Services sector is vicious. Rosie DiManno does a good job of nailing it here. Read the 'defense' position of Carolyn Buck, the Toronto Children's Aid top exec here. I know I'd need 158K a year and an SUV and personal trainer to rescue kids in need. Oh wait, they don't usually bother. Do I really need to link all the stories we read consistently? The only time we hear from these people is at the autopsies of the kids they ignore.

Let me throw out a whole bunch of challengable thoughts here. Get as angry as you like, at least you'll be thinking about them. Most of the kids who are at risk are in impoverished situations. Maybe immigrants, maybe single parents, maybe the offspring of the dregs. We don't give a crap about the parents, so it's hard to give a damn about the kids. "You shouldn't have kids you can't afford to take care of". "Teenagers have no business having babies". "You made your bed, now lie in it". "What do you expect from those kind of people?". "These people expect government to pay for everything".

Go and hate on the parents all you like. But get your head out of your ass if you think children aren't owed something decent. Do you really believe you are only responsible for your own? If for nothing more noble, at least be angry that so many of your tax dollars are being flushed away on resort vacations and car detailing while children are being left in dire straights, and sometimes killed.

I have a question. Why do we have a Children's Aid Society and a Catholic Children's Aid Society? I don't agree with two school boards either. Neither issue is about religion. I know families of many religions who pay to educate their children outside of school. Why the wasted double administrations? Why is being Catholic more special than being Jewish or Muslim? I say educate the kids and leave religion to the parents or church. Period.

Same with the CAS. Resources are being wasted, sometimes criminally if my reading this morning is leading me anywhere, and still we're running on this archaic, quaint notion that a duplication of bureaucrats is actually going to help anyone? I've seen who they help - themselves.

Social workers are underpaid and pushed to burn out daily. It's a brutal profession, usually entered by people who want to make a difference, who end up leaving when they realize they can only swim upstream for so long before they drown.

These reports today show how much we value our children. And believe me, they are all of our children. We can only be judged as a society by how well we treat the weakest among us. Not an original idea, I know. But how can anyone who heads an agency that deals with the most fragile dare start to explain her indulgences with a sentence about keeping good people in such a disagreeable job requires some perks?

Get out.

December 5, 2006


Do you ever hear reader comments on a news show, and start yelling at your TV? But you realize it's futile to carry the debate on any further, so you sadly have to let it go.

Unless you have your own website.

A woman called into Live@5:30 last night, a show I occasionally guest on (oh, Lawrence? How about more occasionally?). She was taking umbrage at remarks the previous night from one of the hosts, Donna Skelly.

Apparently, she felt that Donna had no right, no right at all, to take smokers to task for lighting up in their car with their kids in there. Or their homes. Those are her kids, dammit, and she will abuse them any way she sees fit. Or something like that.

For the record, I like Donna. She's funny, she's smart and she's never at a loss for words. It's handy to have those attributes if you're going to spar with people. Politically, Donna and I are pretty much opposites, which makes for better interaction. I respect her, which means we can disagree without resorting to the blundering, stupid name-calling some of the viewers have mastered. And then I ask her where she got her shoes.

Anyway, to the viewer? SMOKING IN YOUR CAR WITH YOUR KIDS? No, lady, I do not have to wait until I'm making your car and insurance payments for you before I tell you what you are doing is immoral and should be illegal. I do not have to pay your mortage before I tell you that subjecting your children to a cocktail of toxic by-products is abusive, dangerous and selfish. Your habit, your choice. Sure, for YOU. Children tethered to carseats (you do put them in carseats, right?)in a gas chamber? Not so much choice.

Do me a favour. Take a trip to the Firestone Clinic, or any other facility that specializes in respiratory illnesses. Spend a little time with anyone who has emphysema or other related lung disease. Watch someone die s-l-o-w-l-y, as my father did, strapped to an oxygen tank and gasping for every breath, in between coughing fits that make them spit up little pieces of their lungs, bit by bit.

My father never smoked. Ever. He worked at Dofasco - the air in this town, indeed in this whole Windsor - Hamilton - Toronto corridor is toxic enough to kill us.

My father lived, and ultimately died, protecting and providing for his family. He never wanted any of us to have to work in that environment, but he knew by choosing it, at a time when it was one of the best jobs around, that we would never have to.

There was a nobility in my father's death that I didn't really see in his life. He was my Dad. But every decision he made was to take care of his family, keep them safe from harm, and protect them from all the things parents imagine they have any control over.

To listen to you spewing that you have the right to subject your children to this is intolerable. When you have a child, you enter into a convenant to do the best you can with the information you have. You are certainly entitled to make mistakes, to learn as you go, to ask for help. But to intentionally decide to place their health in danger, in the face of all the information you DO have is more noxious than the cigarettes themselves.

And we wonder why some kids don't respect their parents. The parents don't deserve it.

December 4, 2006

Toronto Star & All Hat

I have a featured piece in today's Toronto Star. Here's the link...

December 3, 2006

(Sm)Arty Pants

Argh. Here we go again.

I do not have an art collection. There are things I like, and things I don't, and I surround myself with objects that make me feel good. I think art, be it painting or sculpture or photography, calls to people. You look at a piece, and you feel something. Or not. But the thing is, it's totally subjective. If you don't get it, move along.

There's a piece in the LA Times today with the classic 'My kid could have done that' tone. If you need your trees to look like trees, you're gonna say things like that. Fine. But shut up.

There's a current fuss in my city right now, with the usual bunch of I-don't-get-its deciding their taste is everyone's taste. We've apparently been offered a Keith Haring sculpture. Virtually for free. And the local paper is full of the standard 'this is crap' letters you expect from people that only think art is Thomas Kincaid or Robert Bateman.

You know what? If this is the stuff you like, more power to you. I don't want it, but I sure wouldn't spit on your parade if this is your taste. But please, would you at least venture out of your comfort zone and acknowledge that there are other forms of art, even if you don't like them?

The late Keith Haring's work in instantly recognizable. Big, bold childlike drawings and sculptures that many times echo a grafitti feel. It is modern. It sings with life. The proposed work, shown here, has been called a bunch of ridiculous things by people. The first time I saw it, all I envisioned was my younger son tackling his older brother. Little guy trying to take out the big guy.

I wouldn't put it in my living room (it's huge), but it's been proposed for a park. Pefect. Instead, all I've heard is the tsking from the pursed lips of those that demand their art be the only art. Nice attitude. Any windows in those closed minds? I hope this isn't the way you're teaching your kids and grandkids about tolerance and acceptance.

Our world is a complicated, scary place these days. There is little room for light, and even less for the joy of innocence, the spirit of play. If anyone's work captures these things, it's Haring's. If you don't like it, off you go. But if you seriously can't entertain the idea that there are artistic practices, whether in writing or sculpture or painting, that can coexist with yours, don't bother sitting next to me.

December 2, 2006

Future Shlock

Okay, it's time to divulge a deep dark secret I've been keeping. I have sordid ties to the insurance industry.

What were you waiting to hear? We don't know each other THAT well.

My sister has worked at the corporate level of insurance for decades. In the past year I wrote the website for a brokerage, and have toiled in the industry as a student.

What am I getting to? I'm getting to what everyone eventually has to get to. Things like global warming and the pandemics and shortages and other meltdowns are going to affect you in ways you could never imagine. In today's Washington Post, there is an interesting article on an issue I started researching after Katrina last year. Guess what? Katrina has had an impact on you.

Start listing all the trendiest places to covet a home. Malibu? Virginia Beach? Vancouver Island? The Gulf Coast? Guess what? Insurers will no longer touch you. They are paid to be psychics - they assess risk, and deliver the answer with a finality that make your investment, or your inheritance, vanish overnight. Just like that.

Before you start thinking "well, I don't have anything to worry about - I don't own a beachfront condo/hotel/mansion", think again. Places that were once considered totally safe have fallen under new rulings that *instantly* lob them into the real estate netherworld.

As weather patterns change, you can argue all you like whether it's manmade ozone problems or nature going about her business. But the bottom line is that insurers are going to protect their bottom line. We all could be crowding onto the few square inches left on the map that are considered out of hurricane/earthquake/flood/twister/drought/polygamy territory. Okay, I made that last one up. But that's storming back with a vengence as well. See here. Natural disasters never cease.

My point is to put everyone on a smug alert. Things can happen to you. You can get lung cancer even if you don't smoke. You can drop dead of a heart attack running a marathon. You can lose your home even if it's not in Kennebunkport. And worst of all, you could have someone decide with the stroke of a pen, or an insurance table, that the biggest asset you have is worthless. There will be repercussions for all of us, and they are happening now. 'Them' is us, and 'later' is now.

Forget waiting for a planet realignment. We need a priority realignment.