November 26, 2007


Live @ 5:30 Commenters

Okay, I don't usually go here, but I can't resist.

I was on last Friday sniping about cross-border shopping. I am not a fan.

Commenters tonight made two points I won't let slide:

Basics are cheaper, they proclaimed. They should be. Compare incomes in the States with ours. Ask an American teacher how much they earn. Check out the real estate market in every state. They think we were discussing boarder crossers buying toys and gadgets to spoil their kids. It's Christmas shopping, folks. Every single person interviewed on every TV station and in every newspaper article is buying toys, designer jeans and electronics. Those aren't the basics in my house.

Point Two: "Get some real people on your panel who don't make 6-figure incomes". Oh, how I wish I had a 6-figure income. I'm a freelancer, people. And the further point that the panel should include a guy from Dofasco? That's where my father slaved for 40 years before the crap he inhaled from supporting us killed him. I'm daughter of a blue collar guy, living with a blue collar guy.

You want to wait in hours of lineups to support another economy? Go ahead. But don't complain when your own neighbours are losing their jobs because you wanted to shop for some 'stuff'.


Snooze Button

For those in the know, or perhaps just for those in the care, I am a lifetime insomniac. I listen to the rest of my household drift off every night, and fight the urge to wake them up just so I can have some company.

The lad beside me can read a single paragraph and be out like a light. My 13-year-old barely hits the pillow before he's gone. I stopped looking in on the 16-year-old when he started closing his door. Even I have limits.

Our two cats sleep on me, and even they snore. Ever heard a cat snore? It's hilarious. Unless you haven't slept in nights, and then the cute kind of disappears. My father used to prowl around the house, and I remember getting up and joining him. The world is a different place at night, and the people in it are different too.

Enough slop. I read this today, and decided I was simply born into the wrong era, and the wrong country. In long ago times in France (before the 20th century), the people would harvest grapes or farm or whatever, then when the season was over, they'd lie down around a fire and sleep. For 5 or 6 months. Like human hibernation. They could actually slow down their metabolism so they didn't need to eat much, and they'd just snooze away the winter.

There were variations on this theme; some places were a little more lively, spending the winter smoking, playing cards, hunting and sleeping. I could sign up for this, minus the smoking, and only if the hunting was hunting for a corkscrew. See, I read stuff like this, and the lure of sleep is so powerful I am willing to toss aside everything else to consider stacking myself like cordwood with people and eating peat moss for months - just for the luxury of sleep.

I am at odds with the way we are evolving as a species. I don't much like the current thinking ("work way too hard, then die"), and would prefer a slower pace that let's you smell the roses before they wilt, and enjoy your kids before they are begatting their own.

I may not be able to convince my family to lie around a firepit for 5 months with me (hell, I probably couldn't talk them into 5 minutes), but I bet a slower pace would run off my sleep demons. A slower pace would probably run off most of your demons, as well.

I have a million things due; I'm going outside to rake leaves instead.

November 23, 2007


Live @5:30 Friday

Done your Christmas shopping? Care about your Christmas shopping? Would you actually drive for hours, wait at the border, joust with surly guards (and fellow shoppers) just to get in that Christmas spirit?

Nah, didn't think so. Me neither.

Tune in to CHCH Live@5:30 and find out what Donna is putting in her stockings this year...

November 21, 2007


Question

Okay, someone explain this to me. No matter what news I watch every night, the weather guy/girl feels the need to announce the weather as if they're the understudy that's been called into a Broadway show and there's a Top Agent in the audience.

It never fails; it's weather. How dramatic can you make it? How much air time does it deserve? State the facts, move on to mayhem and murder and political subterfuge. It's gotten so stupid I'd rather see another pic of Brian Mulroney's massive chin (anyone else think we should be taking up a collection to fly him to Sick Kid's for a consult?) than hear another drawn out blow by blow of where each snow flake or rain drop may fall.

What happened to the weather guy just being the goof? Remember the Buffalo stations? The weather guy was always being dropped from a plane or buried up to his neck on some beach - that was how the weather got reported. I got peeved with Global when they had Weather Boy, and there wasn't big heartbreak when he departed to CityTV. Apparently, it was some big coup for City. Only, sorry City, lots of us were okay with this defection. The new guy is at least old enough to shave.

Now, Weatherpeople get more airtime than an Olympic ski jumper. Enough already. Report the weather. Shut up. We get it. Everyone knows that in TV news, banter=error. Which is great for youtube, but boring for the viewers.

Okay. I'm done.


World's Worst Book Title

"Cooking With Pooh", an actual book put out by Disney wins by a nose.

For the rest, click here.


Where To Start?

Oh, so many things zipping around in my wee brain this week...where to start?

Let's start at the bottom - does anyone else find those naked gopher/beaver/whateverthehelltheyare ads for Rogers incredibly creepy? If you're going to give animals human characteristics, like leering, give them pants.

Fabulous series in the NYT about the Three Gorges Dam in China. I wrote about this a year ago, when the dam was opened (it's fascinatingly devastating; there's no other way to describe the human and environmental costs, together with an undertaking of such breathtaking scope), and this article looks in a year later. We can think all we like that our relationship with China is just about how much paint there is in our Thomas the Tank Engine toys, but it's much more complicated than that. This world is changing at lightspeed, and we need to grasp the importance of that impact from places such as China and India, among others.

I'm sure you've heard of Christopher Hitchens - he's made it his business as a writer for years to make sure that you have. He has a monthly seat at Vanity Fair, and his recent book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has made him a fave on the talking circuit. He's famously dissed Mother Theresa, and a long list that includes just about everyone else. He's a crabby, shleppy, mouthy, ranty Englishman, and I read him regularly.

At Vanity Fair's behest, he's been undergoing a makeover. While beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, he has always described himself as somewhat trollish, and he has found few (none, by my last count) that disagree with him. Read this month's entry from VF - the man I've just described getting made over from top to bottom, literally. Hours of dental work, and more pain with a waxer. Yep. At that end. It's a scream. Literally.

Nice piece from the Independent on Barbara Amiel...I don't care what anyone says, she's way more fascinating than ol' Conrad. She may look like a china tea cup, but regardless of comments about her fragility, I ain't buying it. The woman has a spine of steel. Every bio tries to get a new handhold on her glacial being, and I haven't decided if she's really that complicated, or just what she seems to be - incredibly smart, incredibly materialistic, and incredibly insecure. It's worth a read, if only to see the revisions she's making to her personal history.

I'm re-reading The Stand (Stephen King) because I'm too lazy to go to the library and find some other stuff. With another H5N1 flu outbreak in England, it's oddly discomforting to realize how prescient King used to be before he started writing all the recent crap of his.

One of the best commentators on the American political scene is Glenn Greenwald, at Salon. His post here, dealing with the mess of political bias in our media, is excellent. It applies here, too. As we experience a centralization of our media, we truly can't believe everything we read. It's the equivalent of going to the movies and spending half the time wondering if what you just saw was real, or a computer-generated image. Except we don't spend near enough time even pondering what we read. We're too busy looking at the spaceships and monsters.

If you can stand one more thing, let it be this from Garrison Keillor today. Sometimes of late he's starting to sound like the butter is slipping from the noodle (stole that from a Scotsman), but today he is spot on. Delving into why some of the rich among us are so undeserving, and explaining why it's all a sham. I love the sense he finds in explaining our brain capacity ("In comes a song, out goes math"), and, as always, a gentle nudge to remember what counts.

Told you it's been a nutty week.

November 20, 2007


Live@5:30 Tuesday

Tune into CHCH Live@5:30 (repeat at 11:30)...

Are the current WSIB ads too graphic?

Well, in a word, no.

But let's see what Mark and Donna have to say...

November 17, 2007


Profile This

I came across this last week, but forgot to link it. It's a very interesting read from the New Yorker. If you've read any of the books or articles by or about the FBI profilers - those guys that look at a murder victim, then solemnly declare the butler did it - you'll really enjoy this piece.

Read it all the way - it's entertaining, and it's too cold to go outside anyway. It'll also give you a nice little slap upside the head about perception - we are all capable of being wrong, and we are all capable of being right. It all depends on the level of authority in your voice, apparently.

More later.

November 16, 2007


Crankyface

Well, for once my well-noted, oft-remarked upon procrastination has paid off. During the great toilet hunt of a few weeks back (check the Motherlode column link), we settled upon, but didn't purchase, a new toilet. The region of Toronto had a rebate program, but since we're not in Toronto, it didn't apply.

Things got sidetracked, and the trip to Toilet Land was delayed for a variety of irritating reasons. But like owed taxes, a faulty toilet haunts the edge of your consciousness 24 hours a day. That's unremarkable - they both deal with the same thing.

Some things won't wait. Like a part-time toilet. But yesterday, I got news of a rebate for our region - for once, it's going to go my way! Our toilet derby can now go forward with a surge. If you're in Halton region, go to this link for more info. For Toronto people, go to this link.

The toilet has been the high point of the week, quite frankly. Here's a little First World bitching for you (as a 'friend' pointed out) - nothing has gone right: I spent a couple of hours on the phone fighting an invoice I'd received over a broken washer. I'd been told "all warranty, no bill" over 6 weeks ago. I was a happy girl. Bill shows up, not such a happy girl. After increasingly frustrating yes-I-know-this-call-is-being-recorded-and-it's-the-only-reason-you're-being-nice-to-me interactions with a couple of customer 'service' people, I was ready to plunge my hand through the phone and remove someone's spleen. They both stuck to their script like good little autobots, but I was livid. I reminded them that I didn't care about the calls being recorded - that was to stop them from saying something rude to me.
I am usually quite calm in these instances; but I was lied to, and it scrubbed away all the calm. Let's just say there is a certain company I will not be 'singing' anything with, ever again.

Of course, this happened on Tuesday, as Monday had it's own special little surprise for me. Two months ago, we'd ordered a couch. That is a big, big deal around here. We don't get a lot of new stuff. Two months. A phone call last week informed me they'd forgotten to make half of it. It's a sectional, and the bed was missing. Okaaaaaaaay. We arranged to get the rest of it.

Two lads start lugging it through my front door. I stopped them. I didn't order - two months ago - a beige couch. I ordered a lovely mossy sage green one. Two long months ago. Back it went. I don't do beige. So, where are we now? You got it - another two months, or more, Christmas shut downs and all. One difference? This company handled all the screw-ups with fantastic customer service. Everyone's spleen was safe.

There are far bigger problems in the world. Hell, there are far bigger problems in this house. But that's why I wanted this to go far easier than it did. I shouldn't be wasting my energy on the no-brainer stuff.

So, that's why cranky girl hasn't been blogging, and it's just as well. In between yelling into my phone and pacing around and scaring the cats, I've been working away, as always (thanks to everyone who ponied up ideas).

I stopped in at the Star yesterday (I don't do that very often), and I have to tell you, Thursday is a good day to be at this place. They have a test kitchen, and the whole time I was there all these wonderful little meals and baked goods were being trotted around the newsroom. Plates and trays of food appear under your nose - yum. And staff are wise enough to let much of it go (it'd be easy to gain a hundred pounds or so in a week), but Freelance Girl wasn't going to pass up anything.

I'm out in Dunnville tomorrow for a driving school/winter training session. Should be interesting...hope the drive out there isn't the winter test. I'd prefer the snow to hold off a day.

November 13, 2007


Blow This

Geez, I really have to catch up on my sleep. I almost let this gem of stupidity get past me. Seems some late-to-the-debate idiots want to set up a hockey league where the players use leaf blowers instead of sticks. The letters to the editor that followed are spot on.

If I make a typo, it's because I'm still shaking my head. An ad agency guy thinks by inserting the word 'charity' in front of this stupidness, it will fly. Grown men armed with leaf blowers and hearing protection will play hockey.

I'm sitting here right now listening to the never-ending whine of a neighbour's leaf blower. They will chase a single leaf down their driveway at a time, then start on the lawn. They might as well just vacuum it. It is every day, most seasons and for no reason. Their infinite disregard for the environment, let alone the rest of us, is mind boggling. Unless you are infirm, get out a rake you lazy arse and rake the leaves. And if you want a picture perfect lawn, go live in a snow globe where nothing can get in, and thankfully, you can't get out.

And to the Star? Quit covering idiots like this. And to the ad agency? If this is seriously the best you can come up with at a time when these damned things should be banned, your clients should take a closer look at who their account is resting with.

November 12, 2007


What Are You Looking At?

I will now admit my secret little TV watching secrets, even if nobody much cares.

There are some awesome shows on TV that I simply enjoy way too much, and this from someone who hasn't much bothered with TV since the kids were born. I'm not a snob - I'm just asleep when it's happening.

Dragon's Den - awesome. Fun for the whole family, and if you've ever thought you had an idea to market, listen to these five dragons. The fact it's Canadian actually makes it smarter, more insightful and far more valuable than another Donald Trump piece of crap. These guys are wonderful, unlike some of the poor buggers that get paraded before them. My favourite victims? The arrogant, smug know-it-alls who just can't get it through their thick skulls that they're being offered invaluable advice. My most unfavourite part? The 'hostess' or whatever they call her, the chick that does the intros - why, oh why, does she keep wearing the same (ugh) dress and belt and shoes? If you have to pick a uniform, make it a classy suit. Otherwise, mix it up, or dispense with the role all together and just do a voice over.

I have a not-so-secret crush on Gordon Ramsey. I dunno if it's his odd little muppet face or his potty mouth, but I love the guy. His new Kitchen Nightmares is mostly fun. A little formulaic, but again, it's at its best when the the arrogant, know-it-all morons are getting their just desserts (ha! I made a pun). Hmmm. Do I detect a theme going here?

House - I will watch current Hugh Laurie, old Hugh Laurie, any Hugh Laurie. As Dr. House, it's so much fun to watch the smug know-it-alls get theirs...even when that smuggee is House himself.

I like NCIS with Mark Harmon. Actually, I love the whole cast (don't take this the wrong way, but Cote de Pablo has the best butt on TV. She does. Really). It's fun. It's a little gory, but they do the autopsy scenes so nicely, with a spotlight on the nether regions to protect everyone's dignity. And Mark Harmon is well, Mark Harmon. 'Nuff said.

When Lost comes back, I will fall back in love with Lost. Now, there's a whole island of smug, arrogant pretty people getting what they deserve. But as someone who would fall into that category faster than I'd fall out of it, I can sympathize. It's hard to be good.

I watch What Not To Wear, mostly because I know my 'friends' are going to turn me in one day. I will take my scraggy army pants to the grave with me.

I have ordered all the seasons of Meerkat Manor on DVD. Everyone that was laughing at me can carry on.



I like CBC's Marketplace, because if it matters to Wendy Mesley, I find it matters to me. Even if I didn't realize it. I love her.

I will watch The Office, even reruns, until my eyes bleed. A little Michael goes a long way, I love this show.

I'm peeved that they canned Arrested Development, one of the smartest shows around. We have all the DVDs, and it makes rainy days at the cottage a little brighter.

I will think of more. Mostly, TV is a bloodbath of lousy one-liners and stupid reality shows. There are so many fabulous books I haven't read yet, that I really can't sit there watching Two and a Half Men and justify it. My kids can, but I can't.

But sometimes....


Help!

Nah, I didn't die. Just tearing around like an idiot the past few days, and today, well, now I need two columns to magically appear from somewhere...perhaps my comments section?

Proposals, people! Here's your chance to be put in my will...only don't suggest all crabbyface 'doncha hate when...' columns, because I can do those ones all by myself.

November 8, 2007


CH Live@5:30 Thursday

Stumbled on this piece in the G&M today about the deep dark thoughts you keep to yourself about your spouse, and especially your ex-spouse. I think it's a healthy topic to air...if you don't have a knife in your hand.

Tune in to CHCH 11...repeat at 11:30 tonight.

November 7, 2007


Pregnant Yoga Stuff

If you've ever been pregnant, read this and howl. If not, well, do what you want with it.


Pick The Red One

I read this article yesterday in the NYT (John Tierney, the science writer, is awesome. Check out Tierney Lab when you have some time), and the accompanying graphic shows a monkey trying choose between a red M&M and a blue one. As Jackson walked past, he asked what the story was about.
"Cognitive dissonance," I told him. He got that scared look in his eye that his mother was about to explain something to him. He was right. He tried to run. I insisted on trying to explain it to him. He is fast, but I am strong.

Don't run. It's pretty cool. I was aware of the concept, sort of, but only in that loose-shutter-banging-in-the-wind kind of way. I forget about it unless it's banging, and I ignore it if it is.

Anyway...it's about how we make decisions. We think we're so sophisticated in our problem solving techniques, but it turns out that capuchin monkeys do the same thing we do. And so do 4-year-olds. We're not that sophisticated after all.

Cognitive dissonance explains how we can do really stupid things, and yet make it all seem so smart in our own tiny heads. We can make the lamest decisions and talk ourselves into it - it's called rationalizing. And if you've lived with a rationalizer, you know that every day is like walking through snow drifts up to your neck. Bad decision after bad decision, each one *brilliant* according to the rationalizer.

When faced with options, we assess the attractiveness of those options. When forced to ultimately choose one, we immediately downgrade the attractiveness of the option we didn't choose. Even though just a second ago it was equal to the one we did choose. By dumping on the loser choice, we rationalize that the one we selected was the wise decision.

This all reminds me of multiple choice tests in school. I've told my kids the time honoured strategy for these things: 4 choices - one automatically dead wrong, one with tricky wording to trip you up, and two that both seem pausible. You then shut your eyes and pick one with your pencil tip, and go on to the next question.

According to the scientific research in this article, adults, monkeys and preschoolers all have no problem with this. They sleep well that night having made their choice.

So where's the lab for those of us who agonize over those decisions? I'd gladly trade a cup of cognitive dissonance for my tea right about now...must be nice to think you've always made the right decision. Sigh.

November 4, 2007


Words to Live By

Because we have an extra hour today, I think we should fill it with wisdom. If some of you have already filled it with sleep, well, you're off the hook.

In spite of having a hundred and one errands I should be doing, I don't want to get dressed properly or brush my hair. I so hate Sunday shopping; it has become so normal to be able to scoot out to get stuff, that we've effectively lost our last bastion of sensible, enforced downttime: I can't go out, they're closed. We raked and bagged things last weekend, when Jackson, forced at mom-point into the yard, chose the best gardening gloves, the only good rake and proceeded to do the least amount of work. Well, that's probably not fair. I chased him around with the lawnmower, and he probably thought he was trapped in a Stephen King novel.

But back to wisdom. My mother had a saying for everything, and as I get older I realize just how smart they really were. It was a British no-nonsense, stiff upper lip kind of thing. "We lived through the Blitz, and you're whining about a hangnail?". I found this thread on Salon's Table Talk today, and started hooting. You might like it too.

My mom was this gentle, sweet woman. And if you'd gone on long enough about some imagined wrong, she'd look you right in the eye and tell your 6-year-old self "quit crying or I'll give you something to cry about". And we would quit crying, because she was right. Today, the kid would call CPS, still manage to live at home until they were 35, get fired from every job someone managed to get for them and sit around buying lottery tickets and announcing that life wasn't fair.

Through my sullen teen years, my mother had a saying for every moment. She wasn't allowed to look at me ("Can't the cat look at a queen?") and I'd get peeved if she hated my friends ("soap is cheap and manners are free"). She did teach me how to go after something ("in for a penny, in for a pound"), and she tried her best to keep us polite ("if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all"). On that one, I fell off the rails. I'll take Alice Roosevelt Longworth's advice any day: "If you can't say something nice about someone, come sit next to me".
(Any yeah, I just corrected that. I always think that's Dorothy Parker's line.)
I've developed my own aphorisms as I go along (that's what they're called).
If a guy says it's not you, it's him -it's you.
If you're not supposed to order takeout, why is there a phone in every kitchen?
Watched pot never boils, but unwatched pot starts a fire. You choose.
I don't know who said "sleeping like a baby", but they didn't have my babies.
Two wrongs may not make a right, but 4 rights will just get you back where you started.
I'm a very spontaneous person. I just like to plan my spontanaeity.
She who dies with the most boys wins. (what's that? it's 'toys?'. Oh.) Toys. He who dies with the most toys wins...well, that's just silly.

Well, blog-people? Get to it...

November 3, 2007


CTS Behind the Story

Tune in Sunday at 7pm for Behind the Story, a look at the week's news in a panel discussion. Yes, that will be me in the middle, adding two cents, and occasionally a nickel, to the proceedings. Check listings.

November 1, 2007


Forgive Me

This is from Fox News. I'm sorry. But, there is a method to my madness. Or at least a lineage. Some hunter is saying he's taken pictures of something he thinks is a little Bigfoot. Yeah, try to follow that logic. Anyway, the photos most certainly show something totally unexplainable. Except, not so much.

Now, the only reason I'm even going here is quite simple: a year or so back, I posted something in my blog about Bigfoots (or Yetis, or Loch Ness, or something like that), and some nutter got all comment-y on me. Curiosity got the best of me (it's a cat/chick thing) and I googled his weird-o arse. Turns out he really was some nutter that ran some "institute" that not only defended the existence of odd creatures, he took visceral exception to anyone that made light of it. Er, that would be me. Sorry, folks. Show me a dead one.

Anyway, following his Alice-in-Wonderland links persuaded me of one thing, and one thing only: lad's off his meds. I'm sure that's not the effect he was going for - but anyone with a blog suffers hit-and-run posters. Moi? I love my loyalists who put their name, even a fake one, so I can at least track the pattern of abuse.

Anyhoo - check out these photos of some lame bear who looks like he's been busted out of hibernation. Or, maybe, just another shoot and run camera junkie who remembered to hide the zipper this time (run the video - it's hilarious).

Do I think we share this planet with unexplainable things? Sure I do. But I'm going to believe it's with things that once were far sooner than I'm going to believe it's with things that never were.