Saturday, June 7, 2008

XUP's New Home


I think I've successfully transfered by blog to Wordpress. It seems like the right thing to do. I hope it works because I'm kind of a learn-as-you-go pseudo techie and sometimes things get really messed up. Here's the new link. Please bookmark and/or add it to your blogroll and let me know if you experience any difficulties.

Thanks & see you there...........

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Avoiding the Doolallies of Living Alone

(Ya, I know it’s long, but I won’t post for a couple of days to make up for it)

A lot of the people I know live alone. I lived alone for a long time and I look forward to living alone again in the not too distant future. I’m madly in love with my daughter and everything and I’m totally happy to have her with me as long as she wants to be, but I do like living alone. A lot.

I like coming home and finding everything exactly as I left it. I like not having to live around anyone else’s schedule. In this wacky old world, I like having my own tiny oasis surrounded by a few, personally chosen, beautiful things. However, like all perfectly good things, there is one tiny drawback to living alone – the very real potential of cracking up, going looney, losing your marbles. If you’re not careful, all that lovely solitude and freedom can make you a little bonkers after a while.

So, here are a few tips to help keep you functionally normal if you live on your own or expect to live on your own sometime soon:

1. Hoarding: Don’t start collecting things to make up for the lack of humans in your home. I don’t know why, but a lot of people who live on their own become pack-rats, accumulating bizarre collections of things. I think they think of this as a viable hobby. It’s not. It’s just one step away from rooms full of old TV guides.

2. Pets: Don’t get more than one pet. The number of animals in the house must always be less than or equal to the number of humans. If you have a fish, that’s it. No more pets for you. In fact, a fish is an excellent pet for a person living. You can’t get too gaga over a fish. There aren’t a lot of cute fish clothes or toys for fish. Fish don’t make good subject for more than one photograph and they’re not interesting enough to talk or blog incessantly about.

3. Food: Go grocery shopping every week and/or spend some time at the market accumulating fresh food. Not having any real food in your home is not healthy mentally as well as physically. If you don’t have food, you won’t cook for yourself. Then when you suddenly get hungry you’ll end up eating weird stuff like beets, (from the rusty can in your cupboard that you forgot to give to the Food Bank), mixed with toaster crumbs and take-out packets of soy sauce. Or you’ll sneak over to the corner store late at night and buy a large bag of Doritos and something from the bottom of their freezer for supper. You are what you eat and eating weird food on the sly eventually will make you both weird and sly.

4. Socializing: Go out sometimes with friends, but don’t fill up your evenings and weekends with back-to-back social activities to avoid being home by yourself. People living alone tend to swing either this way or completely the other way, where they just get too comfortable to ever leave the house unless they absolutely have to. Hermits are quirky and fun to read about, but if you’re paying attention you’ll notice they tend to end up as uni-bombers or something.

5. Entertaining: Invite people over to your place once in a while – once a month is good. People who live alone don’t entertain much. Usually because they have their place so compulsively organized they resent anyone being there who might possibly disarrange things.. Or they have their place in such a disgusting mess that they’re afraid to have company. Also, people living alone never have anything to feed guests. If someone drops by, they panic, stick their head out the door and wait for you to state your business and be on your way. If they can’t get rid of you, sometimes they let you sit on their porch and after a while they’ll bring you a glass of water.

6. Sex: Don’t bring people home for casual sex. This is really important to your mental health and the overall feng shui integrity of your oasis. You might think it will be nice to wake up to a warm body for a change. The reality is you won’t be able to sleep all night because once your immediate needs have been met your bed will suddenly become very crowded. Also, in the morning the other person will be less than half as attractive as he or she was the night before. Now you’re stuck with them and will be expected to feed them breakfast. They’ll use your shower and towels and leave god-knows-what behind. And who knows then they’ll decide to leave? No, if you’re going to engage in casual or not-so-casual sex do it at the other person’s house. Then you can go home right afterwards and enjoy a good night’s sleep in your own clean, fresh sheets.

7. Holidays: Don’t get mired down and depressed on weekends and holidays imagining all the wonderful things the coupled people are up to while you’re on your own. Chances are they’re at each others throats, scrapping about whose turn it is to pick the TV show and fighting over the last piece of pizza. If you find yourself alone at Christmas or your birthday or some other day that’s special to you, organize something special for yourself. Make a really nice meal, watch a distracting movie, get lost in a good book, buy yourself a gratifying surprise at your favourite adult toy store.

8. Crime: Don’t spend your time peering out the window checking for crimes in progress. I know it’s tempting since there is a potential for lots of excitement if something happens that will let you the police or fire department, but chances are slim. If you really want to stumble on a crime scene you’ll need to get up really early and either jog or walk a dog. Only early morning joggers and dog walkers ever get to report crimes. You’d know that if you spent more time watching TV and less time at the window.

9. Paranoia: Don’t spend your time obsessing over ways you imagine people have wronged you. People alone seem to do this a lot. They get hyper-sensitive to what may really only be a bit of thoughtlessness on the part of friends, family or co-workers. They start making lists of “toxic people” in their lives after watching too much Oprah. Then they start shunning these people or, later on, when they’ve really lost the plot, start planning elaborate revenge schemes.

10. Nakedness: Whenever you read or hear anything about the joys of living alone, they always, but always mention how great it is that you can walk around naked all the time. Why is this such a great thing and does anyone ever really do this? Okay, if you’re alone, you don’t have to wrap up to leave the bathroom after your shower and maybe on a really hot day you just let it all hang out, but do people cook and eat naked? (dangerous) Sit around watching TV with nothing on? (yucky) Sit at home alone at night reading blogs naked? (creepy).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Your Horoscope for the Summer of 2008

Gemini - May 22 - June 21
The dual nature of your personality will cause you a lot of grief this summer, Gemini, as you are torn between lazing on on the beach with a case of beer and some tunes and showing up for work every day while everyone else is on vacation, causing the tension within you to build to such a degree that you will harm yourself or someone close to you. Romance with a Libra looks promising at the end of July, but beware!

Cancer - June 22 - July 22
Your star sign name may prove to be a bit of an omen this summer as you find yourself with yet another sunburn. Take heart, though, as this will be your last one, ever. The skin you have left after the surgery mid-August will need to be covered up with goofy safari-wear from now on. A trip to Rangoon is likely as summer ends.

Leo - July 23 -August 21
A haircut later this month will divest you of more than just your lionly mane. Indeed, people will begin looking at you in a completely different light. You will feel like everyone is staring at you all the time, whispering behind your back and plotting things against you. A new hobby, and a prescription from a Gemini, will ease feelings of alienation by August. A small pet may be involved.

Virgo - August 22 - September 23
This is the summer that you finally let loose and rid yourself of that virginal cloak forever. The thing that’s been holding you back is cured with some over-the-counter salve and you’re on your way to a summer of love like a rutting pit-bull. Come September you’ll find new acquaintances in the legal or medical professions. A recent purchase will cause you a serious injury.

Libra - September 24 - October 23
The love interests in your life become weary of you weighing the relative merits of each and not being able to make up your mind. They move on leaving you quite alone the entire summer. You are shattered and lonely and so naturally begin stalking each to try to force them to come back to you. Frustration and anger builds causing you to begin drinking heavily. Take extra care after July that your home doesn’t become cluttered with empties.

Scorpio - October 24 - November 22
Surprisingly, your acerbic personality is “in” this summer. You’ll wow them at the beaches, BBQ parties and patios over the next 3 months. Members of both sexes want to be close to you and you’ll let them. This will make you happier than you’ve ever been in your life. Happiness will cause you to lose your edge, though, and soon all your new friends will drift away leaving you back to where you started – bitter and alone. Your solution lies with Aquarian Oprah’s New Vegan Diet.

Sagittarius - November 23 - December 22
Your overall laziness will keep you from getting too overheated this summer. Your inertia will cause you to gain some weight however by mid-summer. You worry about this briefly and get up to try and exercise, but then bump into something. It hurts and makes you cry. You feel like giving up on life at this point, but by the end of August realize that would be too much of an effort.

Capricorn - December 23 - January 20
Stubborn, stubborn Capricorn. Your refusal to believe in summer won’t make it go away. This may be the year you acknowledge the heat and buy a few summer clothes and maybe an air conditioner. But you won’t enjoy either because the new feeling of comfort leaves you less miserable than usual causing you unhappiness. You compensate by eating things that irritate your ulcer.

Aquarius - January 21 - February 19
The age of Aquarius is over, baby and it’s high time you moved on. Another summer of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll just isn’t on. Your mortgage is overdue, the kids have been taken away by social services and your spouse is working 3 jobs. Listen to a canny Scorpio who offers sound advice. Get a flatiron. Heed the wisdom of Nietzsche who said, “ Straight hair is the gateway to a straight life.”

Pisces - February 20- March 20
Because of a new job opportunity, you’ll be spending a lot of time on, and in the water this summer, Pisces. Romance will fizzle out, however, as your slippery nature becomes too frustrating for your love interest. But then, oops! You find out a guppy is on the way. What to do? What to do? Once again, water will provide the answer sometime near the beginning of August. Choose a night with a lot of cloud cover.

Aries - March 21 - April 20
Your reputation as the most disliked of all the star signs takes a hiatus for a few months as you remove yourself from society and spend some time on quiet personal reflection. You will come to realize a lot of unpleasant things about yourself during this meditative period, but will deny them all. Then as autumn approaches you will write a book about yourself which will have no bearing on reality and which no one will buy. Don’t listen to Leo when he tries to talk you into selling the movie rights.

Taurus - April 21 - May 21
Like the bull in the china shop of the world that you are, you will blunder through this summer like you do every other season. While driving drunk in July you will maim a family of 4 in a mini-van and you’ll be sent to jail for a week. Your cellmate, a Virgo, will fall in love with you. At first you are repulsed, but Virgo begins to grow on you by the time you’re released. The two of you begin a life of unmitigated disaster by summer’s end.

Feelings. (whoa-whoa-whoa Fee-Lings)

So, according to a University of Buffalo study, it might be better to bottle up your feelings after a traumatic event than to go the trauma/grief counselling route.

The study followed 2,138 people who were closely affected by 9/11. About two thirds chose to talk about their trauma, while the rest didn’t. Turns out the ones who didn’t talk about it were much better off years later, while I guess the others were still talking about it.

This whole trauma counselling thing is relatively new. Every time there’s a school shooting or tragedy befalls someone in a community, counsellors are rushed to the scene.

I’ve often wondered if this was entirely healthy. I’ve found that children, (and a lot of men) don’t want to talk about stuff. They might have a couple of questions, but their natural instinct is just to get on with things. Maybe they have the right idea?

Language is a rational/cerebral medium. It’s great for expressing thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, but not so great for expressing feelings. And, the more intense the feelings, the less adequate language is to express them. Feelings are physical/emotional and can really only be expressed physically or emotionally.

So, you suffer a great trauma and spend years talking about it, but only become frustrated because nothing you or anyone else says can express (in all senses of the word) those feelings. The trauma takes on greater and more disturbing dimensions. Meanwhile the person who just let himself feel soon works through it in non-language directed ways.
Case Study #1: Sally’s home has been burglarized. She could:
a) Go to a support group and try to work through her feelings of anger, violation and fear; or
b) Hunt the bastard down and smack him upside the head with baseball bat when he least expects it.

Case Study #2: Jane is very attracted to Jim. She could:
a) Text Jim saying: im hot 4 U; or,
b) Invite him over and answer the door by tearing off her clothes and clutching him in a naked, four-limbed embrace whilst using her tongue in expressive and imaginative ways.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Word About Eggs

You don't hear too much about eggs -- the occasional Get Cracking ad, maybe. Eggs got a bad rap back in the anti-cholesterol days and they never quite recovered, even though they proved themselves to be artery-friendly.

Eggs just keep a low profile now. They're seen as kind of comical. I don't know why. Maybe because the way they're shaped or because it's so easy to draw funny faces on them.

Some people don’t like eggs. I didn’t like eggs when I was young; a) because I had to look after our chickens and they were ugly and stupid and the eggs often came out covered in poop and they tasted like whatever the chickens had been eating the day before which could have been anything from dog food to soap; and, b) because my mother believed eggs had to be eaten plain and very runny.

Then, when I was a teenager I had a job going to the Kitchener market with a neighbouring farmer. We’d leave home around 3:00 am and stop for breakfast on the way. The first day the farmer ordered breakfast for the whole crew so I ended up with a plate of fried eggs, over hard. Then they passed the ketchup. Always being up for a new taste sensation, I gave it a try. And lo – I discovered eggs were not bad when cooked to solidity and smothered in ketchup.

My enjoyment of eggs grew in proportion to the time elapsed since I tended chickens.

Some people eat quail eggs and duck eggs and ostrich eggs. I’ve never tried them.

There’s a lot of mystery about an egg. Why are some white and some brown? What’s better – organic, free-range, free-run, Omega-3 or the cheapest ones on the shelf? Is there a real difference? I always get organic free-range when I can.

Do fresh eggs float or sink? And why? (I’m going to turn this one over to the Crack Watawa Life Research Team)

Which part turns into the chicken? Is it the yolk? Is it the white? Turns out it’s neither. A tiny white spot on the yolk called the egg cell, when fertilized grows into a chick. The yolk is food for the chick and the white stuff holds water for the chick and also protects it. The little holes in the egg shell let in air and at the fat end of the egg there’s a little space for an air sac. Who knew?

Then there’s that stringy squiggly thing attached to the yolk that keeps it in place. I hate that thing. I found out it’s called the chalazae. I always pick that out before making anything with eggs.

Eggs are kind of a super-food. They contain all the amino acids a person needs at only about 75 calories for a medium egg. They’re a good source of the different vitamins and minerals we need, except Vitamin C. Eggs are 11.2% fat: 17% of which is polyunsaturated, 44% monounsaturated, & 32% saturated.

You can make hundreds of things with eggs. Some are simple, some are not so simple. My favorite simple egg thing is an omelette, preferably with goat cheese and/or mushrooms. One day I want to go to Provence and have a fresh black truffle omelette.
Here’s another yummy egg thing:

Huevos Rancheros[1]
(serves 4)
3/4 cup bottled salsa
1 medium plum tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4, 7- to 9-inch flour or corn tortillas
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (packed) hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first 3 ingredients in medium saucepan; set sauce aside. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tortilla and cook until just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds. Using tongs, turn tortilla over and heat 10 seconds. Transfer to large sheet of foil. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Enclose tortillas in foil and place in oven to keep warm.

Divide remaining 2 tablespoons oil between 2 medium skillets and heat over medium heat. Break 4 eggs into each skillet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until just set on bottom, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover skillets; cook until eggs are cooked as desired and cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Bring sauce to boil.

Divide tortillas among 4 plates. Top each with 2 eggs, then warm sauce.

[1] From Bon Appetit Magazine

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Forest of the Damned

Did ya’ll see this news item on the weekend? New photos of a tribe of people living deep in the Brazilian rainforests near the border of Peru.

Apparently, the country’s National Indian Foundation has known about this tribe, and three others like them, for over 20 years and is releasing photos now to bring attention to the fact that their existence is being threatened as the deforestation of the rainforest accelerates.

The government of Peru/Brazil is claiming the tribe doesn’t exist. The National Indian Foundation wants to ensure that the tribes are left isolated. Contact with the rest of the world would quickly wipe them out. Other isolated tribes who came into contact with “civilization" quickly died off – many of them from the common cold.

A British lobby group called, Survival International says there are more than 100 uncontacted indigenous tribes throughout the world.

I think this is awesome, in the true sense of the word. With all the crap that has gone on, and is going on in the world, there are people who are blissfully unaware of it all.

Of course, the experts are saying that the tribes "ethically" can't be kept from contact forever and that the answer is to have the kind of contact and change that the tribes themselves manage the pace of.

Given a choice, I wonder if the tribes might not just ask to be left the hell alone.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Products that scare me a little

1. The Babykeeper Basic. A baby carrier that transforms into this handy thing that lets you dangle your baby from public washroom doors when you have to go.
2. Mac a Cheezee. I really thought this was a joke the first time I saw them in the grocery store. All the fat and salt of regular mac ‘n cheese with the added benefit of deep-frying!
3. Lunchables. Apparantly a $750 million a year industry. Notice how you don’t get more than a teensy glimpse of the product. Parents assume it’s real food. As long as the kids are happy, let’s not enquire too closely.
4. Bodyperks nipple enhancers. “As worn on the nipple episode of Sex and the City”, it says, “Don’t settle for an imitation product.” They’re only $20 a pair.
5. And while we’re enhancing our bits and pieces, let’s not forget the dog. Neuticles, to give Rover back his macho mojo after he’s had his boysectomy.
6. The Lady Taser. O.M.G.! (this one scares me a lot)

7. Backpack Shield. You can buy just the shield or a lovely variety of bullet-proof backpacks. They’re for your kids. To give you piece of mind when sending the little ones out in the scary world.
7. Jonny Glow – helps men to see where they’re going.
8. Ontario Ministry of Health’s new home colon cancer home check kit – as seen on those see-through-people tv ads. You poop on a stick and send the poop-loaded stick to a lab, through the mail, in a postage-paid envelope that comes with the free kit.