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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I think my neighbors are in witness protection

She and her 3 teenagers moved into a modest bungalow around the end of February. They say they’re from Vancouver and moved here because the oldest son, “Tyler” is going to Carleton in September and because they’re tired of the rain in Vancouver. But they have American accents.

The other two kids, “Emma” and “Max” attend a local high school. The mother, “Rae Presley” doesn’t have a job.[1]

They seem like nice, ordinary people. I’ve been over for tea a couple of times and Rae has been over to my place a couple of times. I haven’t been able to convince her to go anywhere else. She says that other than the grocery store, she pretty much stays home.

When I casually asked if that was an American accent I detected, Rae said, “No". Just like that.

One day when I was there, Max called his older brother, Kevin.

One day Rae was telling me something about her daughter and called her Brianne. “Who’s Brianne?” I asked. “Oh,” she stammered. “What? Um…Brianne is Emma’s middle name – sometimes I call her that…I should stop…she doesn’t like it.”


Everything in their house is new. Everything. They have no old knickknacks or bits of furniture or even dishes. All brand spankin’ new.

They have a lot of locks on their doors and windows; an alarm system and an elaborate spy-hole in their front door that lets them see the sides of the house, a big expanse of the front yard and whether or not someone is crouching behind the door. It always takes them a really long time to answer.

Rae has offered to cat sit for me next time we go away.
[1] All names have been changed to protect everyone, just in case.

PS: I've been having huge difficulties with stupid Googleblogger. Is it just me?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Something Short & Pithy

Dave recently mentioned something called “psychogeography” on his blog. I’d never heard of it, so I looked it up. The French invented it.

It’s based on the premise that geographic surroundings affect the human psyche and you observe this human interpretation of urban landscapes through dérive, (walking without a goal).

The sudden change of ambiance in a street within the space of a few meters; the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres; the path of least resistance which is automatically followed in aimless strolls (and which has no relation to the physical contour of the ground); the appealing or repelling character of certain places.

One or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there'. The original idea was to re-discover the city in terms of moods and atmospheres.
There have been psychogeography societies all over Europe since the 1950s. Members call themselves flâneurs.

There’s also some sort of sexual element to this, but I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. Something about voluptuous architecture and/or erotic landscaping... I'll have to get back to you.

There’s a psychogeography society in Toronto and one in Montreal and an e-psychogeography blog. I think we need one of these sexy flâneur groups in Ottawa.

Do you dérive? Have you observed distinct psychic/erotic atmospheres in your aimless strolls around your city?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Morning Nonsense

A Definitive Guide to Women's Body Language

While I still have my research team under contract I thought I’d send them out to answer the age old question: How do I know if a woman likes me? [1]

Short answer: Study their body language.

So, after the usual interviews, surveys and focus groups, we have ascertained the following:

Hair: A woman’s hair is an important communication tool.

- If she tosses it around and plays with it a lot it means she likes you.

- If she scratch her head it means you’re confusing her or possibly that she has head lice.

- If she tears out large chunks of her hair and screams, you’ve overstayed your welcome.

- If she pulls off her hair to reveal a brush-cut, she’s a Marine in drag.

Clothes: Clothes are an expression of a woman’s psyche – not only what she’s wearing, but how she’s wearing it.

- If a woman undoes the top button of her blouse while talking to you, she’s signaling a strong sexual interest in you.

- If she undoes all the buttons on her blouse and takes it off, she wants you to do her right there and then.

- If she does up buttons on her blouse and shivers it means either that she’s cold or that you’re giving her the creeps.

- If she puts on her coat and leaves, you may assume you’ve struck out.

Breasts: Women know breasts have a stupefying effect on men. They don’t really understand it, but have learned to take advantage of it anyway.

- If a woman thrusts her bosom forward during the conversation, she’s very attracted to you.

- If she takes her breasts out and asks you to feel how real they are, it’s a pretty good indication that she’s a table dancer.

- If she folds her arms over her breasts and cowers in a corner you should probably think of a better pick-up line.

Legs: Legs can be very important in gauging a woman’s intentions. Pay careful attention to what the legs are telling you.

- If she crosses and uncrosses her legs a lot she wants to attract your attention.

- If she wraps her legs around your neck she's only demonstrating her flexibility -- don't misread this move.

- If she swings her leg back and forth quickly while talking to you, she’s upset.

- If she swings her leg and her foot and connects with your groin, she’s really, really upset.

Eyes: The window to the soul, as we all know.

- If a woman looks you in the eye while speaking with you she’s fascinated by you (or more rarely, may be trying to hypnotize you).

- If a woman looks you up and down while talking to you and smiles it means she wants you.

- If she looks you up and down and laughs it means your fly is undone.

- If she rolls her eyes at everything you say she’s either disgusted with you or about to pass out.

- If she blinks a lot you’re probably spitting while you talk.

- If a woman closes her eyes and pouts her lips she wants you to kiss her.

- If she closes her eyes and snores, you’re probably boring her.

Hands: Though often ignored during courting rituals, hands can tell you a great deal about the person you’re with. Watch the hands closely and note everything from what they look like to how they move during conversation.

- If she touches you a lot, she’s warm for your form.

- If she slaps you, you need a new pick-up line.

- If she grabs your testicles and twists, you need to get your hands off her and step away.

- If she grabs her own testicles invitingly, she’s a Marine in drag and is warm for your form.


[1] The body language of the human male will be discussed in another article. Consultants will need to be hired for this project.

*** No actual testicles were harmed during the development of this guide.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Reality Comes to Ottawa

Speaking of Revolutionary New Dating Paradigms, the other day someone told me about “like, the totally raddest reality show ever” –- Rock of Love. (seen on something called “VH1”) In this brilliant social experiment, washed-up rockers like Brett Michaels, who have a hard time finding a meaningful relationship, search for love by:

Inviting twenty handpicked beautiful women to move into his rock and roll palace in the Hollywood Hills to compete for his heart. They must win over his mind and his body by proving their love for Bret, their passion for rock and their potential to be the perfect "Rock Star Girlfriend." During the course of the show, “women” need to prove they can:

- Attend red carpet events
- Live on a tour bus with roadies
- Compete with younger, hotter groupies
- Be cool around celebrities
- Get “down and dirty” with him
- Always look smokin’ hot.

As I was looking this up, I came across something even more unbelievable. As you know, Canada likes to pick up American reality show successes and make them their own (e.g.: Canadian Idol, Eh? So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Eh? The Next/First Great Prime Minister). Our version of Rock of Love, apparently is going to be something called Hill of Love.

As far as I can figure out it’s going to be on CBC and feature a series of has-been/never-been MPs who are trying to find their soul-mates by inviting groups of 20 beautiful Canadian political science students to Parliament Hill for a month.

In the first season, Ottawa-Orleans MP, Royal Galipeau, will ask women to prove they’d be well-suited to be the Deputy Speaker’s "Hill-Babe" in the fast-paced world of Canadian politics. Competitors will need to show they can:

- Sit with him in the House and nudge him awake as required
- Travel back and forth from Orleans to Parliament Hill several times a year
- Compete mano-a-mano with David McGinty next time he picks a fight
- Be cool when accidently, on-purpose brushing up against Stephen Harper in the hallway
- Get down on their knees regularly and pray with him to rid Canada of all the perverts and baby-killers
- Always look like a proper, god-fearin’ woman in public and act like a randy she-bitch in the bedroom.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Give a Man a Fish

The Food Bank's, (Ottawa) website says it “provides 40,000 people each month with emergency food assistance, 40% of whom are children.” Food banks are now worried because rising food and gas prices are making it harder to keep their shelves stocked.

The whole food bank concept makes me crazy. Food banks, care packages, soup kitchens were meant as stop-gap emergency measures -- for disaster relief… for war-torn countries…in places or times when food was scarce. So, how did they get to be permanent fixtures in Canada? Last time I checked, there was plenty of food around.

Mega-grocery stores are everywhere, groaning with edibles. There are markets, natural food stores, straight-from-the-farm home delivery services, restaurants, cafeterias, coffee shops, pubs, snack bars – food all over the place. All you need to get some is some money.

So why have we established such inefficient, costly, unpredictable systems of food distribution to people who don’t have enough money to get food? Food banks have become industries with paid employees and warehouses and transport trucks and associations with websites. All that costs money. It’s nuts.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just give people the money they need to buy food?

I guess we think that if the poor have any more money they’ll just blow it on booze and drugs. Maybe they can’t be trusted to feed themselves and their children? Is that why we’ve benevolently chosen to give them food instead? And why do we want to put people into such a humbling situation where they have to line up for a crate of food – food that isn’t even of their own choosing.

To me one of the basic freedoms of being an uninstitutionalized autonomous adult is being able to choose the food I want to eat. Canada’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights commits this country, to ensuring "the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself/herself and his/her family, including adequate food, clothing and housing."

It says nothing about letting volunteers and charities take care of the food issue so that we can all believe we’re doing something that’s solving the poverty problem in this country. As long as the food banks are chugging along, we have no reason to seriously address the social and economic reasons for poverty.

We all feel virtuous by tossing a few cans of beets into the food drive bin. And while it’s real nice that people want to help, we’re also perpetuating the problem.

People who can’t afford to buy food shouldn’t have to depend on our leftovers to survive. It grinds them even further into dependence, humility, hopelessness. People need to be able to get their own money to buy their own food. They need education and/or employment and/or affordable housing and/or affordable daycare and/or adequate social assistance.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ottawa Transit Planning: The Long and Winding Road

Ottawa city councillors are going to talk some more today about transit plan options. There was a town hall meeting last night at the Hintonburg Community Centre were the general pubic got to voice their concerns about various aspects of the plan.

Lots of people think having light rail along the Ottawa River Parkway is an eco-hostile idea. I suppose it would depend on the approach.

For sure, any plan that increases bus lines is not a good idea. Rail, whether on the ground, above the ground or underground is where the future of Ottawa transit is. If you look at the best, most efficient transit systems in the world (Tokyo, London, Paris, Chicago, New York) its subways and elevated rail that allow them to be cost-effective, efficient and integral to the life of the city.

Also, Ottawa shouldn’t spend any money on extending the transitway beyond the greenbelt. We don’t want to encourage more urban sprawl. As I mentioned in a previous post, suburbs can’t sustain their current configurations forever.

In the US there has been a New Urbanism movement since the 1980s promoting the redesign of suburban infrastructure, based largely on European models. The idea is to incorporate things like shops, small and larger businesses, parks, recreational and cultural facilities within existing suburbs, making them more walkable and eliminating car dependence, long commutes, highways, etc. Park & Ride options could be considered for those who need to work in the city core.

In essence, suburbs will become small towns/communities within themselves. This New Urbanism is making its way to Canada and eventually even Ottawa. That will change transit needs. Wouldn’t it be cool if this city had the foresight and imagination to lead the way on this movement, beginning with a really visionary transit plan?
For more opinions/ideas/discussion on this topic, see:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Bog Report

I know people who never use public toilets. They go at home or they don’t go at all. They can spend a whole day at work without ever visiting the restroom. If they go away for a few days, they say they might pee once or twice a day, but everything else they hold until they get home. I’m in awe at the size of their bladders and a little bit frightened at the possible state of their colons.

However, I can’t say I blame them. Using public facilities is humiliating. There are never enough of them for one thing. Queuing to pee is demeaning. People behind you are always looking at you like they have to go so much more urgently than you and you should let them in ahead of you.

The worst thing is by the time it's finally your turn the place is disgusting. Water everywhere. Paper strewn about all over the place, which is why there's none in the stalls. And it smells.

The average Canadian home has 2-3 toilets. That's more than the average city has for public use. My workplace has 2 women’s toilets in our section for about 30 women. The stench can reach awesome proportions at times. I peer suspiciously at my co-workers lunches to see what they’re shoveling in there that comes out so malodorously.

Out in public, in Canadian cities there are rarely public toilet facilities that aren’t attached to some business. And they’re usually ugly, not too clean and offer flimsy toilet paper on gigantic rolls that don’t roll, leaving you with a handful of tiny scraps. And the soap (when there is some) always smells like composted flowers or nuts or something equally strange and lingers on your skin for hours.

Sometimes public toilets have rough brown paper towels to dry your hands with, sometimes they have those completely pointless air dryers. Remember those real towels on roller contraptions public washrooms used to have? They were cool -- until you got to the second time around.

And, not to sound like Andy Rooney, but why do doors to public washrooms always opens to the outside so that you have to touch the handle to get out. I hate that. There’s nothing I like to touch less than public toilet door handles.

Calgary has a pilot project featuring a fully automated toilet-pod kiosk. I believe Vancouver has some of these, too. (Josie??) The entire pod washes and dries itself as soon as you’re done. It also pipes in music. It costs $210 K. It doesn’t sound very eco-friendly or very cost-effective.

Usually when we’re out and about we have very unglamorous, options. There are mall toilets, usually located in some scary, remote spot at the end of a long concrete corridor. They’re always dismal and not too clean. Grocery stores have some of the worst public facilities. I have never, ever been in a grocery store toilet that didn’t have something broken, no toilet paper, no soap and/or was revoltingly filthy.

Department store toilets are just as dismal. Gas stations aren't quite as horrifying as they used to be – at least the ones along major highways. You still don’t want to spend any more time in them than absolutely necessary.

Restaurants often have really surprisingly disgusting washrooms. Sometimes they store cleaning products, take-out containers and even food in them. I don’t eat in those restaurants. Fast food places can go either way. Some aren't too bad. Sometimes you have to ask for a key. It comes on a big hunk of wood or plastic. It’s usually damp from the last person. You hope it means they washed their hands.

I’ve never been in a McDonald’s washroom, though, that wasn’t immaculate. The only reason I ever go to a McDonald’s is to use their washrooms. I almost wish they served real food because I’d like to buy something from a place that makes such an effort to keep their toilets clean. And they’ve never said anything about me coming in only to go. Unlike Tim Horton’s who get really bent out of shape if you just come in to use their nasty, nasty toilets.

I guess if I had a business I wouldn’t want all sorts of people off the street coming in just to mess up my toilets. Especially since I’d have to clean them. I’m already kind of grossed out cleaning my bathrooms at home and I know exactly whose hair that is behind the toilet.

I don’t know what homeless people do. Why aren’t there lots of freestanding public toilets in cities where people can have a wash, brush their teeth, do their business? There are places to eat and drink on every block in every city, town and village, yet there’s nowhere to attend to the results of all that eating and drinking.

Wouldn't it be nice to have toilets that are pleasant and clean and available 24 hours a day scattered throughout our cities? Are the logistics really so insurmountable? I don’t know why some entrepreneurial type hasn’t thought of this as a private business venture. There has to be a way to make money in public toilets. You could sell advertising space maybe?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Immortality: The 12-Step Program

The other day, apropos to nothing at all, someone I was talking suddenly blurted, “I want to live forever.” I waited to see if she was going to follow this up with, “Baby, remember my name,” but she didn’t.

She did say it with such passion and conviction that I was compelled to try and help her with her goal. So, I gathered my team of crack researchers and we went off to conduct interviews, surveys and focus groups[1]. The results may surprise you.

1. One of the prime determinants of living forever is genetics. So, if one or more of your parents are dead, you will need new parents with better genes. Your best bet is to go with centenarians. Approximately 1 in every 5,000 people is over 100, so you have plenty of options.

2. Wear and tear of organs can also cause death, so use your organs sparingly. Your heart, for instance, has a finite number of beats allotted to it, so try not to do things that will accelerate your heartbeat. Your brain, likewise should not be used unless absolutely necessary.

3. Alcohol, chemicals and salt are well-known preservatives. Ingesting these regularly will guarantee your organs are preserved and protected against disease and degeneration.

4. Smoking coats your respiratory tract with a thick tar-like substance that shields lungs and bronchial tubes from viruses and bacteria. Smoke frequently.

5. Stress is a major cause of death. Work, children and spouses are the top three life stressors in humans. Remove them all from your life.

6. A LOT of people die in hospitals. Stay away from hospitals. Surgery is especially bad for you because a lot of things in your body can accidentally get cut out and also a lot of unwanted things can find their way into your body while it’s open (e.g.: bacteria, insects, diseases or hair from the last patient, loose threads or buttons on the doctors’ & nurses’ clothes)

7. Stay out of and away from cars. They kill a lot of people. I know it’s commonly thought that cars don’t kill people- people kill people, but it’s not true. Cars kill people.

8. Stay away from people. You never know when one of them might kill you, accidentally or on purpose.

9. Never immerse yourself in water to avoid drowning – don’t even bathe. In fact stay out of the bathroom because most domestic accidents happen there.

10. Candles and fireplaces might seem romantic, but one wrong move and you’re up in flames. And anyway, you should be avoiding romantic entanglements. They lead to stress and possibly accelerated heart rates.

11. Although this should go without saying, suicide must be avoided at all costs. You’d be surprised how many people don’t really think it through before jumping.

12. Finally, always, always wear clean underwear. It’s a well-known fact that everybody who dies unexpectedly has soiled underwear.

*** Use this life expectancy calculator to see if you have a chance at immortality.
[1] Immortals interviewed for this research paper include: Hugh Heffner (see #5, has also achieved immorality...not that we're judging), Charo (see #1 - has run through several "daddies"; won’t reveal actual birthdate, but dated Karl Malden in high school), Karl Malden(see #2 - has never used any of his organs) , Mickey Rooney (see #3& #4) , Liza Minelli (died several times, but claims to have been brought back from the dead), Keith Richards (currently job-sharing with Grim Reaper)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pharma Save Me

There’s been a lot of brouhaha over Bill C-51 which intends to modernize the regulatory system for foods and therapeutic products, to strengthen the oversight of the benefits and risks of therapeutic products throughout their life cycle, to support effective compliance and enforcement actions and to enable a greater transparency and openness of the regulatory system.

A lot of people use herbal and other alternative products to help manage and improve their health. Centuries of anecdotal evidence indicate that these remedies are safe and effective. Unfortunately, there isn’t any clinical evidence to support these claims.

Herbs can’t be patented like drugs so no one company can hold a monopoly on them. No monopoly means no big bucks and no big bucks means no money for clinical trials.

They say this means that a vast majority of the natural products on the market today (60 –75%) are not going to pass Bill C-51 regulations. This will make them illegal.

They’ll be taken off the market and anyone caught selling or using them is liable to find themselves facing stiff fines or even jail time.

Apparently, those that do pass would likely be put under the control of pharmaceutical companies and would be available only by prescription. Problem is that our doctors and nurses aren’t educated in natural medicine, so how or why would they ever prescribe them?

I’m all for some sort of regulation of natural products. It would be good to know that what’s on the label of a product is actually in the product and in the amounts indicated. It would be good to put a damper on all the wild claims some natural products make. And it would be good to be charged a price that’s in line with what the product is actually worth.

And, it would be most excellent if these products could undergo some clinical testing and if our doctors could be educated on natural products and incorporate them into medical practice.

Bill C-51 seems to go way over the top, though. It’s being pushed through parliament at an alarmingly fast pace. It seems to be pandering to the demands of pharmaceutical companies who are losing more and more customers to the natural products market.

Ya, some people get duped by some of these product because they’re ineffective, and/or because people don’t know enough about them to self-prescribe, but no one has ever died from a natural product, so why these heavy-handed regulations?

There’s a petition and lots of discussion and information online if you’re interested and don’t want Grandma to end up in the hoosegow for brewing peppermint tea.

Friday, May 16, 2008

from the "Strange Job Interviews" file

I was reading something last night when a name leapt out at me – Edward Budd – a name I’d only heard once before in my life. Suddenly I was transported back to the olden days when I was young, barely out of my teens. So full of verve I was back then that I went to school and held down a couple of jobs and was always looking around for more.

One day while sniffing around the local employment centre (called Manpower in those days), I saw a posting for a writer’s assistant…local author wants help typing/cleaning up manuscripts..something like that. Perfect! Right up my ally. I grabbed the notice (this was when everything was on little paper cards, not on computers – yes, I’m that old).

The nice Manpower lady gave me the particulars for the job and I called and was able to get an appointment for the very next day. Meanwhile, being the clever girl I was, I went to one of my profs who was very active in the local writers’ community and asked him if he’d ever heard of this writer – Edward Budd. Yes, he said, he had. He’s not a very good writer, I was told, but has self-published a couple of small books on local history.

The prof warned me only to make sure I get a fair pay arrangement, not some share-of-royalties deal.

Off I went to the pretty upscale town where Edward Budd lived. The house was huge and gorgeous with well-kept grounds and a shiny new car in the driveway. My spirits lifted. A woman answered the door who informed me she was the housekeeper when I mistook her for Mrs. Edward Budd. Cool, I thought. (Or maybe it was “groovy” I can’t remember)

She showed me to a lavish library straight out of Agatha Christie with walls of books, leather armchairs and a big wooden desk. Edward Budd was an older gentleman, perhaps in his 60s, dressed in a jacket and tie. He was well-spoken with the remnants of an English accent. I couldn’t believe my luck and kept my fingers crossed that I would be able to land this job.

We chatted for a bit about his previous work, how he was now retired from his engineering job and wanted to devote more time to writing. He just needed someone a couple days a week to re-type his manuscripts for him. Excellent, I thought.

What he wanted to write about, he went on to say, was the essential differences between men and women. Men, he felt were innate masochists while women were sadists. Uh-oh, I thought.

What he’d like to do, he said, was have me spend some time spanking and whipping him so that we could explore the reality of our baser natures, thereby making his book more real. “Is that the time?” I said pointedly indicating my watch. “Must dash.” (Okay, I probably didn’t say “must dash”, but I got myself out of there really quickly.)

The next day he showed up at my house with a big cardboard grocery store box. He apologized for scaring me and wondered if perhaps I wouldn’t reconsider. He told me we could start out fully dressed if that made me more comfortable and that, indeed, I never had to get undressed at all. He offered me quite a large hourly salary to be his writer’s assistant. Then he gave me the box and told me to have a look at the stuff and think about it and he’d call me in a few days.

The box, as you’ve no doubt guessed, contained a number of flogging and flailing instruments, some shackles, a collection of rubber and latex things, a badly typed manuscript by Edward Budd called Hitler’s Mistresses and a paperback novel entitled, Harriet Marwood, Governess.

I didn’t touch the toys, but I couldn’t resist the written material. The Hitler’s Mistresses thing was awful – barely readable. I could see why he’s need a typist. It was also totally crazy. The novel, on the other hand, was quite interesting.

As promised Edward Budd called me a day or two later. I told him to pick up his stuff. He upped the salary.

He called every day and kept raising the amount of money he was willing to give me. It was almost irresistible and, really it’s funny how quickly the stuff he talked about started to sound not so outrageous. Goes to show how quickly we human beings are able to normalize things. Anwway, I kept saying no thank you and would you please stop calling me. (this was in the frontier days before call display and before most people had answering machines).

After a few days of this I happen to be speaking with an older woman friend of mine, Gail, and told her all about my job interview. She reeled back in horror and told me she was good friends with Mrs. Edward Budd and that Mr. Edward Budd had a history of mental illness (no shit) and that as far as his wife knew he hadn’t left his house for nearly ten years.

Gail insisted we had to call Mrs. Edward Budd right away and tell her about this. She did. Mrs. Edward Budd arranged to meet with me that very evening at Gail’s house.

Mrs. Edward Budd wasn’t very nice. She charged in all pissed off, didn’t believe me at first. Talk to your housekeeper, I said. Talk to Manpower, I said. Come and get your husband’s box of crap, I said. Then she blamed me for everything. Gail told her she was being unreasonable. We didn’t part on good terms.

A week later, a man claiming to be Edward Budd, Junior. came to collect his dad’s box of goodies. He didn’t seem to be very friendly either.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home. Work.

Milan recently posted about how he finds he is more productive when he moves around while doing his schoolwork rather than just sitting in one spot for hours. He went on to wonder about the concept of "peripatetic" work styles in general.

I wanted to leave a big giant comment to this post, but instead of hijacking his blog, I just left a short comment and decided to carry on here.

I don’t think human beings are built to sit on one spot for hours at a time. I also don’t think we’re meant to spend most of our waking life with strangers instead of with our kith and kin.

Yet, as youngsters we’re shipped away, told to sit still, slotted into a desk with the expectation that we’ll graduate to a bigger desk as adults.

I always think there must be a better way. Milan is on to something. With all this portable technology at our fingertips why are we still working in the same old stationary, soul-sucking way?

Why don’t more of us work from home, for instance? We spend most of our incomes on our homes, yet spend very little time there. We could work in comfort at home; move around at will – get some housework done, play with the kids or pets, even go outside and do an errand or two.

We’d save money on commuting. We'd get tons of cars off the road which would do wonders for the environment. We could save money on daycare by working around our children’s schedules and/or forming some sort of cooperative arrangements with other teleworking parents.

Absenteeism would be reduced. Differently abled people would have more job opportunities.

We’d only need a fraction of the office space that now occupies our cities and we could convert that space for residential use. Then independant businesses would move back downtown to service the residents and our downtowns would be revitalized.

Ta-da! - most of the world's problems solved through telework.

I work at home occasionally. I think I’m as, if not more, productive than I am in my cubicle where every bored co-worker can drift by with a funny story or personal problem. A recent Penn State University study, The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety and the Canadian Telework Association all agree.

I’m sure there are drawbacks. Some people might miss the ongoing social interaction. Some people might not be disciplined enough to work without someone breathing down their neck. Some people might feel like they never get away from work if it’s part of their home.

I don’t know. Why don't more of us do it? Would you like to work from home? Some of you probably already work from home. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's so great about grass?

The lawn-obsessed are fretting over Ontario's Bill 64 - The Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act, 2008. Meanwhile, I think these neighbours have created something much more attractive than a putting green in their front yard.

How to be Cool Over 40

After a lot of research and hundreds of interviews, surveys and focus groups, I've compiled the following to help those of us with heartbreaking issue of Middle-aged Coolness Degeneration (M.A.D.)

Get a Cool Job: It’s never too late to make a career change. Cool jobs include rock star, gigolo, CSI investigator and fireman. Not cool jobs are things like Nigerian heir, public servant, street mime, David Suzuki[1] or mayor.

Look Cool: This is the most important one and the most difficult. General rule of thumb is to spend a lot of time, money and effort on hair and shoes and everything else will fall into place

With cool hair you can pull off the occasional fashion faux pas and still look cool. To have cool hair you need to spend a lot of money on a good stylist and lots of products and hair hardware. The aim is to have your hair look so natural and unfussy that it looks like you can’t even be bothered combing it, washing it or even looking at it.

The next thing you need are excellent shoes. You should have lots of shoes and they should all be expensive and should not hurt to walk in. They should not be designed to make you trip, stumble and fall a lot. You should also be able to walk in them on most terrains, so you are not defeated should the time comes that you might have to cross a lawn.

Clothes are tricky. An entire post or two could easily be devoted to middle-aged do's and don'ts when it comes to clothes, but alas my research hasn't taken me that far yet. In the meantime, be aware that not cool includes trendy fads or stores like Wal-Mart, Zellers, Giant Tiger, Northern Reflections or Tabi International. The easiest thing to do for now is to pick someone everyone thinks is cool, who’s kind of your age, style and size and copy them exactly.

Get Cool Teeth: In 2008, it is imperative that your teeth are so straight and blindingly white that they look like dentures. If you can’t afford months in the dentist chair to have your real teeth bleached, orthodontured and veneered, then you might as well get fake ones.

Get Cool Gadgets: It’s way cool for people of any age to have a lot of high-tech gadgets AND to know how to really use them. That includes portable gadgets, car gadgets and home/office gadgets. Not cool is to brag about how you can’t even operate your VCR or to make fun of youngsters texting because it's all so mystifying to you.

Be in a Band: There’s nothing cooler than being in a band, cutting a CD, playing a gig, jamming or talking about how you've just done or are about to do any of those things. Being the front man/woman, playing guitar, bass or keyboards are cool and being the drummer is especially cool. Playing accordion, recorder or air guitar, not so much. Karaoke is also not cool unless you're doing it in a mocking way and not because deep down you think you'll be discovered. Often it's hard to know for sure.

Stay away from Malls: Malls are cool for teenagers, not grown-ups. Grown-ups shop in stores staffed by grown-ups where the music is eclectic and funky rather than just ear-splittingly loud. Grown-up stores have doors, not gates that slide down from the ceiling. Also never go any place that makes you line-up to get food. Never line up for food.

Talk Cool: Keep up with current issues, trends, ideas. Don’t start all your sentences with “in my day…” Don’t make grammatical errors that will make people wince. Talking like a hillbilly or a teenager isn't cool. Get a pleasant voice. There is nothing more uncool than a voice that’s shrill, grating or sounds like you should be clearing your throat before speaking.

Walk Cool: Ever see those executive types in their expensive suits who spend 98% of their time sitting at desks and board tables so they have big barrel chests, bulging abdomens and wide heinies and skinny, spindly legs? When they get up to walk they lumber along on their underused pins kind of like a robot. Don’t be like that. Make videos of yourself walking in the privacy of your home. Don’t go out until you’re sure have mastered a cool strut.

Hang out with Cool People: Cultivate friendships with people who are cool and coolness is bound to rub off on you. Ditch friends who drive mini-vans, spend their weekends at Red Lobster, Swiss Chalet or Ponderosa. Also, don’t hang with anyone who’s into creative anachronism, Home Depot, Oprah or the Starland Vocal Band.

Be an Activist: Even the dorkiest dork immediately attains an aura of Cool Squared if he/she protests stuff. Joining things like PETA, the Green Party, Friends of the Earth, and Sweatshop Watch are way cool. Uncool groups would include Real Women, NRA, or the Stephen Harper Secret Cabal of Good, Clean Fun.

[1] Don’t get me wrong, I love, love David Suzuki and all the wondrous things he hath wrought. It’s just his recent TV ads are really creeping me out

Monday, May 12, 2008

10 Even Better Reasons to go Veg.

There was a very charming letter in Saturday’s Ottawa Citizen by one, Jaya Subramaniam, on the joys and benefits of vegetarianism. The letter ends:

Enjoyment of food is possible with leisure and with no commitment to aggressive achievements, military or otherwise. A peace-loving temperament and leisurely enjoyment of food thus reinforce each other. Similarly, any society, which is agricultural, develops a respect for the environment, together with a taste for vegetarian diet. Thus a vegetarian society is a peace-loving society, which enjoys good vegetarian food in addition to all the health benefits that it confers.

So, I'm thinking, “wow, there must be all sorts of hidden benefits to vegetarianism beyond all the well-publicized health, environmental, and ethical benefits."

World and inner peace, according to Jaya Subramaniam’s theory is possible if we all embrace the joys of a plant-based diet. I think we can also add the following:

1. Economics: Meat is bloody expensive.

2. Aesthetics: Vegetarians smell and taste better.

3. Endurance: A Yale University study revealed that vegetarians have nearly twice the stamina of meat-eaters.

4. Airline Food: It’s a well-known fact that if you order a vegetarian meal on an airplane you’ll get something resembling actual food.

5. Repel Insects: Insects, like mosquitoes, seem to be more attracted to omnivores than to vegetarians

6. Tidier Kitchens: Nothing messes up the stove, oven and pans more than roasting meat.

7. Feeling Superior: You can laugh at Mad-Cow anxiety; chide omnivores for their wasteful dietary practices and smirk smugly at other people’s food-related health issues.

8. Thwarting Conspiracies: You’re not a shill for the giants of transnational agri-food conglomerates -- the meat and dairy industries.

9. Element of Surprise: People assume because you’re a vegetarian you must be a weak, sensitive, pacifist pushover. You can take advantage of this gross under-estimation by kicking the shit out of them literally or metaphorically when they bug your ass.

10. Generate Conversations: Announcing your vegetarianism is a guaranteed ice-breaker at parties. People always have lots of questions, opinions and humorous/sarcastic quips to convey on the topic.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What I Did Mother's Day Weekend


The child had a friend over and they went to the park across the street to hang out with boys. So I hung out with my friend, P. We ate jalapeño chips and drank just a teensy bit too much wine.

Then the child and her friend came back and facebooked or msned or whatever they do that requires a lot of high-pitched squealing and giggling.

They kept that up long after I’d fallen asleep.


Bazel woke me at the crack of dawn and we had a nice quiet breakfast and read the paper together until the squealing teenagers woke up at ten demanding to be fed. “Ha ha,” I said. “Make your own breakfast. I have other plans.”

I know. I’m a horrible mother – letting her hang around parks with boys, drinking around her, not constantly supervising her internet usage, leaving her to fend for herself for breakfast, but, oh well, she can take it up with her therapist when she’s 30.

So, anyway, I made my way over to Preston Street where I was meeting the ever sparklingly effervescent Zoom for brunch at Stoneface Dolly’s. We had delightful egg dishes, some very large tumblers of Beau’s and then wandered aroundLittle Italy. .

As you’ll discover over on Zoom’s blog, we ended up stumbling into some tulip-related festivities. Zoom has posted some of the gorgeous photos she took.

I’d never been to Ottawa during Tulip Festival and couldn’t imagine traveling here just to see tulips, but they are pretty and flowery and almost as colorful as the many, many people who apparently did travel to see tulips.

I took the O-Train for the first time, too. I love the O-Train. I wish the O-Train would go more places that I need to go so I could take the O-Train all the time. I didn’t want to get off the O-Train. I want to marry the O-Train. I think the O-Train likes me, too. We went through a tunnel!!

After the O-Train, I went for a hair cut. Nothing drastic, just a general cleaning up so I look less like a crazy cat lady. Eventually I went home.

That night I dreamed of the O-Train.


Sunday, Bazel woke me up at the crack of dawn, pointing out that the day promised to be a lovely one. We had breakfast and read the paper. Then I watched Coronation Street, (yawn).

My darling daughter, who’s life I’m, like, totally ruining by not dancing attendance on her when, (and only when), she wants me to, gave me this lovely painting for Mother’s Day. She’s the artist.

Then to heap on additional guilt, she also made the Sunday lunch – her famous vegetarian cannelloni. It was awesome.
After I watched her wash the dishes, scrub the pots, scour the kitchen and shovel ashes out of the hearth with a teaspoon, we went out to walk off the canneloni. We ran into some neighbours who were also walking off their Mother's Day lunch. They talked us into coming with them for some beverages at a nearby coffee conglomarate whose doors I had so far managed not to darken and whose name starts with s.t.a.r. and rhymes with "sucks".

And now I'm back home and trying to psych myself up to start preparations for another dynamic week of work and school.

And, that's a slice of my weekend life. Hope ya'll had a beautiful Mother's Day Weekend.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not so Green

The National Geographic Society just released its Greendex 2008 survey of consumers in the 14 countries of the world that use 75% of the world’s energy resources.

The survey measured each country’s environmental impact, by comparing the behaviors of its citizens in 4 areas: housing, transportation, food, and consumer goods.

Housing included size of homes, water consumption and the amount/type of energy used.

Transportation measured ownership of private vehicles and usage, length of regular commutes by car and use of public transportation.

Foods looked at the consumption of foods with high environmental impacts like bottled water, meat and seafood and how far foods consumed had traveled (as opposed to consumption of locally grown products).

Goods compared the amount of things that people buy and how long they’re used, whether they’re recycled/reused or thrown away.

Here are some of the scores, with India and Brazil the top two greenest countries and Canada and the US, the least green countries in the world.

India – 60
Brazil – 60
China – 56.1
Mexico – 54.3
Hungary – 53.2
Russia – 52.4
UK – 50.2
Germany – 50.2
Australia – 50.2
Spain – 50.0
Japan – 49.1
France – 48.7
Canada – 48.5
USA – 44.9

Friday, May 9, 2008

10 things that bug me

  1. When you go to get new vacuum cleaner bags or mop heads and your appliance has been discontinued.
  2. When phones or alarms ring on the TV and you think it’s real.
  3. Stores that play loud, loud music so you get a headache as soon as you walk in and can’t talk to the person your with or the sales clerk.
  4. The TV ad where a bunch of women are “celebrating” one woman’s 50th birthday and they’re all being hags by telling her all the horrible things that are going to happen to her now that she’s 50.
  5. People who end their emails with “if you have any problems or questions, please don’t hesitate to call me”. Do people with problems hesitate to call someone who could solve them? And, if they do, would this sentence make a difference?
  6. People who send an e-mail and then call you or come over to your desk to see if you got it.
  7. When you have a lab test/x-ray/ultra-sound or something and everyone has to keep it a secret from you because a whole team of strangers has to know these things about your body before you are allowed to.
  8. People who correct grammar or typos in library books.
  9. Drivers who stop at intersections in the middle of crosswalks.
  10. Being lectured about global, social or other issues and then hit up for money by zillionare celebrities who barely know what they’re talking about.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dr. Cuckoo-Head, I Presume?

I’ve been trying to find a family doctor since I moved to Ottawa in July. I’ve checked the CPSO many times, called all the clinics, medical centres, doctor’s offices, hospitals, asked friends, co-workers, neighbours, casual acquaintances and even strangers, but couldn’t find a doctor who was accepting patients.

Finally, about 10 weeks ago, I got a name of a doctor who, I was told, might possibly consider it, but I would have to book a half hour appointment to discuss things before she decided whether or not to take me on.

So, yesterday, was the happy day. The waiting room was the usual chaotic scene – unruly mobs of sick people, stressed-out staff. At one point a little ferret-faced woman came charging out of the back and started screeching at the staff… something about a misplaced fax, a lost patient named Margaret and a file that hadn’t been labelled neatly enough.

After only 45 minutes past my appointment time, I got moved up to backroom status. After enough time had gone by for me to carefully check out all the equipment and supplies in the room twice, the ferret-faced woman came in claiming to be the doctor. She extends her pen for me to shake in lieu of her hand.

Then for 8 ½ minutes and without ever looking at me, she starts firing questions hardly waiting long enough between questions to let me give a complete answer. And not the usual questions one would expect, but really bizarre questions, too. Here’s an excerpt from the interrogation:

Dr.: Do you want a colonoscopy?

Me: (Now? I thought, looking around for the anal probe). Umm…why?

Dr. (exasperated at the stupidity of my question) To check for colon cancer!

Me: But why that in particular?

Dr. Well, do you have a history of colon cancer in your family?

Me: No.

Dr: Surgery?

Me: (Now, to me a one-word question like that conjures up endless possibilities – do I want surgery, can I perform surgery, do I enjoy surgery, can I spell surgery) No, thanks. (I finally say)

Dr: (Scribbling furiously & with another exasperated exhalation) Give me a list of the surgeries you’ve had!

Me: I haven’t had any.

Dr. (Slamming clipboard onto desk) I CAN”T BE YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU”RE GOING TO LIE!

Me: (thinking, fuck you bitch). I can have my medical records sent here.

Dr: Why would I want those?

Me: Well… they’re my medical records and they’ll tell you all about the surgeries I didn’t have and other medical stuff.

Dr: I don’t see any point in that. VITAMINS?

Me: (starting to get the hang of this. Yes – a multivitamin/mineral every day.

Dr. (scribbling furiously)

Me: And a calcium supplement

Dr. (Slamming clipboard down again) DO NOT ADD THINGS AFTER I”VE FINISHED TAKING NOTES!

Me: (Looking around for hidden Just-for-Laughs camera). I feel an aneurism coming on.

Dr. (No reaction whatsoever. She just scribbles some more then walks out)

I wait for a few minutes, thinking I might have offended her and now she’ll never be my doctor. My spirits lift. I go looking for her. She’s in the next room, rifling through papers.

Me: Are we done?

Dr. (handing me a sheaf of paperwork – still without ever looking in my direction). Get these tests done. You’ll have a tetanus shot when you come back.

Me: What about my daughter?

Dr. What about her?

Me: Don’t you need to know anything about her?

Dr. She has to come for a meeting. I can’t possibly decide whether I want to treat a patient if I haven’t met them. LOOK (she suddenly screeches pointing at her clipboard) Look at all the work I’ve had to do! I need to do this to know if I want a patient!

I back away slowly. We don't say good-bye. I walk briskly out of the clinic.

I want to break up with her immediately. Is this wrong of me? Should I be falling on my knees in gratitude that some psycho with a medical degree is willing to add me to her patient roster? Or, should I keep looking knowing full well that the chances are very slim of me finding a doctor in this city?

If anyone knows of a non-insane doctor in Ottawa who’s taking patients, please let me know. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We Interrupt Today's Regular Blogpost.....

It’s Emergency Preparedness Week!!!!!!!

Phew… I would have missed it completely if it hadn’t been for the posters and blue silicone, livestrong-type bracelets they just handed out a work.

I love it when the federal government looks after me this way. They’ve got a whole “get prepared” website (see link above) that carefully outlines absolutely everything I need to know in order to be fully prepared for an emergency. There’s even a place where you can share your emergency survival stories with your fellow Canadians so they can know what it feels like to be in a real emergency.

AND there’s a link to the Canadian Disaster Database where you can look up every disaster that ever befell Canadians (No, Brian Mulroney’s not included for some reason). It’s a fun site. Here’s one thing I found under natural disasters:

Heat Wave: Nova Scotia, Jul 26-28 1963. The longest sustained heat wave in Halifax since 1928 with temperatures of 33-34°C; greater traffic volume caused many minor accidents and several people went to hospital; four individuals drowned, and one died in a burning car.

Three days of temperatures in the low 30s (that’s like 90 or so American). Man, there must be some gripping tales coming out of that event. I'd be really interested in how a heat wave caused a burning car death, for instance. The drownings I can see -- you can't swim, but these unbearable temperatures cause you to throw yourself into the ocean. Ooops. So, if you survived the heat wave of ’63 in Halifax (JB), please share.

Me, I’ve survived the Blizzard of ’77 in Niagara, a tornado in Barrie, a hotel fire in North Bay, Hurricane Juan in Halifax and 17 years in the federal public service.

Blogville Today

I read a lot of blogs and it’s always fun to see all the smart and crazy and funny and interesting things people write about. Here are some I found especially noteworthy today:

Yoni Freedhoff over at Weighty Matters has posted a link to the Trans Canada Trail site where you can virtually walk across Canada by logging your daily walks until you rack up 18,000 kilometers – the length of the trail.

A reminder on Ottawa Street Style about Ottawa Fashion Week, starting this Saturday! Lots of fun stuff and a day pass is only $20. I don’t much care for OSS’s banner though – to leggy.

If you thought kitty blogging was fun you should try duck blogging – Ev & Kwatch’s new favorite hobby.

Say Hey! to Megan’s funky new website.

Meanie has just ended a long-term love affair with Juan Valdez. It’s very sad and she needs all the support she can get.

Jazz at Haphazard Life is having a cynical day. She (and her new actor/director/writer boyfriend) doesn’t think the UN’s motives are entirely pure.

The Dwarf has begun a new series that he claims will define a Revolutionary New Dating Paradigm. Even if he never comes up with a shred of useful material, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on him anyway.

The always pithy Deb on the Rocks has found the answer to one of the universe’s eternal questions: Where do all the socks go?

And, if you think kitty blogging and ducky blogging is fun, you should check out Carbon Capture and Storage blogging with Milan. But seriously, this guy is an encyclopedia, but with mad, mad passion.

A&J need real estate advice.

Mike Sornberger also thinks at least one side of the escalator is meant for walking. Thank you, Mike.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The OLG Racket

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (aka OLG) has a cute, Hallmarkesque TV ad on now, showing lots of happy people who’ve apparently just won millions gambling. Then the ad shows a bunch of other happy people who’ve apparently been able to have some life-saving surgery or something thanks to Ontario’s lottery and gaming profits.

The message is: Gamble – you’ll get rich AND fund a lot of vital social programs.

The OLG realizes approximately $6 billion in annual revenues. I’m pretty sure they don’t make this kind of money on people like me who occasionally buy a 649 ticket. No, the big money comes from problem gamblers who re-mortgage their homes, cash in their RRSPs and gamble away their kids’ education funds.

It almost looks as if our provincial government is actively encouraging its citizens to become serious, if not problem, gamblers. But that can't be right, can it?

An estimated 332,000 people in this province have a moderate to severe gambling problem. (Out of a population of 12 million). That’s a pretty serious issue and/or a great PR effort on behalf of OLG. Problem gambling in Ontario has increased dramatically with the increase of access to gambling.

Government locates casinos in desperate communities with promises of how good they’ll be for the community -- bringing jobs and tourist dollars, glamour and culture to the area. Of the revenues generated, however, something like 90% come directly from the people in the community where the casino is located, not magical tourists.

Overall, I think casinos end up costing a community more than they provide in benefits. The costs include increased law enforcement, government regulatory costs, suicide, illness, social service costs and gambling costs, all factors that stem from gambling addiction. Gambling addiction is associated with unemployment, financial problems. It's connected to spousal and child abuse.

But, says OLG, gaming revenue funds vital social programs. So, gambling revenue is really a form of tax that’s coerced from certain targeted groups of people?

Seems to me, originally, lotteries were run to match funds for special projects (remember Wintario?). Now, it seems the province is as addicted to gambling as their victims.

OLG claims that over the last 30 years, they have generated “more than $23 billion for physical fitness, sport and recreation programs, cultural activities, and the operation of hospitals”.

And where does the rest of the money go? Just under $1 billion per year for social funding, $248 million is spent annually on marketing and promotion and I guess the rest is administration or something. It’s definitely not disbursed in winnings.

I don’t know. I’m kind of creeped out by the whole notion of our government preying on its weak and vulnerable citizens and pushing then into an addiction in order to turn a quick and easy profit. When organized crime does this it’s called racketeering.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Walking Ottawa

I had hoped to get out to more of the Jane’s Walk activities this weekend, but could only manage one – Elements of Walkability with Chris Bradshaw. There were 13 other walks going on throughout the city Saturday and Sunday. So, if you went on any of them, I’m interested to hear what you thought.

Our walk was bright and early Saturday morning. They said they had over 70 people registered, but only about 25-30 showed up – but it was early and kind of cold and gloomy. The people who took part were obviously all urban pedestrian types, so Chris Bradshaw was pretty much preaching to the converted when he pointed out things like crosswalks that are too large or the dangers of slopey sidewalks.

I had hoped to see some City types out as well. If I was an urban planner or something for the city this would have been a great way to really see the city and meet and talk with actual people that live in the city. Maybe they all went to the afternoon things?

Anyway, Ottawa’s a long way from what I would consider a walkable city. Parts of the downtown core aren’t too bad -- the areas with low rise buildings, mixed commercial/residential, narrow streets, lots of intersections (e.g.: Bank/Elgin/Somerset). The market area would be really good if they made a nice big chunk of it pedestrian only. Cars weaving among the outdoor patios, market stalls, shoppers and buskers is unnecessary, dangerous and just takes away from the whole experience.

Dining alfresco, while two feet away an SUV is pumping exhaust into your face is unpleasant. On the other side of the coin, why motorists would even want to join in that market traffic snarl is beyond me.

Outside of the downtown core, there is little encouragement in the infrastructure for walking as a form of transportation – urban sprawl in all its glory. Perfunctory sidewalks that suddenly end, highway on and off ramps with no concessions for pedestrians, too many 4+ lane streets with crosswalks that are too wide, no buffers between traffic and sidewalks, walkways that remain snow covered in winter and flooded when it rains, et., etc.

I could go on and on. There are many visionaries like Jane Jacobs who know what it takes for a city to be alive and vital. We have all sorts of fine examples of thriving, walkable cities all over the world. Ottawa even had/has a Pedestrian Plan that’s been dragging on for years.

Ottawa certainly does a lot of planning.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I saw this photo in today's Books section of the paper and thought it was beautiful. Whatever you may think of Germaine Greer's politics, this is a gorgeous face. Her skin is wrinkled and sagging, she has dark circles and bags under her eyes, her hair is white and uncoiffed, she had wattles under her chin. She wears corrective lenses and probably is carrying a couple of extra pounds. But, isn't this a mature, intelligent, interesting natural face? Isn't she, at 70 so much more stunning than some other celebs around the same age who have put a lot of money into looking not aged?