Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Did Santa forget that purse you wanted?

This is pretty cool:

Basura Bags are made by a women’s co-op in the Philippines. They use recycled foil juice packs that are purchased through a network of local school children. Indestructible by nature, these foil packs could clog landfills for thousands of years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another great movie to recommend ...

... is Good Night, and Good Luck. Exceedingly timely, well-crafted, and compelling, with an impeccable lead actor. Directed by George Clooney!

Side note: my buddy Hawkeye and I joked that cigarette smoke should be listed in the credits among the actors in this film; it was like a supporting character. After the movie, I felt I should almost go have a shower to wash away the cigarette smell I was sure would be in my hair!

Nonetheless, an excellent film - two very enthusiastic thumbs up!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Some people just should not be allowed to use technology

From the IT publication Baseline Monthly:

Megachurches like the 25,000-member World Changers of Atlanta can teach corporations the true meaning of customer relationship management. How? They can look at their data and identify members, determine who could be volunteering more, contribute how much in donations, and track who's becoming discontent and may abandon ship.
Entire article here.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Run, don't walk to see "Walk the Line"

Tonight my friend Brendon and I went to see the movie, "Walk the Line", which is about country music stars Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. I'm not a country music fan, and I don't know if the portrayals of the characters and the facts is accurate, but I really enjoyed this film. The story and acting were compelling, and Joachim Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are highly gifted actors. To my surprise, they can also sing! (They sounded great - perhaps even better than the real John and June.) I would definitely recommend this film.

The real reason MP3s are so popular ...

... is because the shrink-wrap is so stupidly difficult to get off brand-new CDs.



Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My latest addiction

Several months ago my sister-in-law introduced me to herbed flatbreads served with tabooli/tabouleh/however you spell it. It is deadly. I just gorge myself on this stuff. I particularly like Santa Fe's Rosemary Sesame Flatbread. It's salty and crisp and crunchy and flavourful and I should buy it by the case!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Why Abortion Must Remain Legal

Excellent blog by Maha. Summary: making abortion illegal won't stop abortions, but protect women from unsafe basement abortions that sometimes cause serious health complications or even death.

About one-third of women undergoing unsafe abortions experience serious complications, but fewer than half of these women receive hospital treatment.

Of the estimated 600,000 annual pregnancy-related deaths worldwide, about 13% (or 78,000) are related to complications of unsafe abortion.

78,000 women!!!! That's insane!!! That's roughly the number of people who were killed in the first week after the Pakistani earthquake. That is approximately 173 jetliners of women killed each year!

I know that there are intelligent, compassionate people who believe that abortion is murder and desperately want it to be outlawed everywhere and in North America in particular. There are also those (to whom I cannot give the benefit of the doubt concerning their intelligence and compassion) who also want to make birth control - even condoms! - illegal. To these people, I say: what alternatives do you think many of these people have? What alternatives are YOU providing them?

That's my rant for today.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bullying in the Workplace

I won't get into why I was looking at this website (it's not really my story anyway), but just in case you need it, here is an excellent site re. bullying in the workplace.

See how helpful I am??? ;->


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Damn "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" ...

... makes me cry every episode.

(Now that's great TV! LOL)

My heroine Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were rumored to be planning their wedding for this weekend. But what they did instead was way more cool.

Jolie is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. In case you think that this is just some meaningless title, I'd invite you to look at her extensive travel history to places of incredible pain, suffering,
and poverty. I'd also invite you to read some of her travel diaries. She's an intelligent, compassionate woman who does what she can to help people who have nothing (sometimes not even a country).

My girl Angelina took her boyfriend Brad to Pakistan to tour the earthquake-devastated area:

Guterres, Jolie pledge support for Pakistan "in time of suffering"

ISLAMABAD, November 25 (UNHCR) – UNHCR chief António Guterres and Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie today shared their shock at the scale of earthquake destruction in northern Pakistan and pledged support for the country that has generously hosted millions of Afghan refugees for over 25 years.


Goodwill Ambassador Jolie added, "Nobody watching TV at home has any idea what this really looks like. It's just unbelievable. You fly in a helicopter and you see house after house, just rubble, nothing

Both Guterres and Jolie were visibly shaken by the devastation they saw in quake-hit areas yesterday.

The people in Batungi village told Jolie they had received some assistance, but were worried about the coming winter. "Another disaster could happen very soon, if money and aid are not on the ground by then," said Jolie. "There are so many wonderful pledges of money that could come in the next few years, but winter is in the next few weeks."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fog + Flying Standby Do Not Mix

Well, here I am, sitting in the SeaTac airport (Seattle). Had a really lovely weekend with my brother Joe and sister-in-law Lisa, and am now trying to get to Vancouver to meet my boss (and his daughter who’s going to university in Vancouver) before our business meetings tomorrow.

Since my brother works for an airline, he was able to share a guest pass with me so I could fly from Vancouver to Seattle at about half-price (maybe less). The problem with guest passes is you’re flying on standby, so if there’s a customer paying full price who wants your seat, s/he gets it. With the flight loads as they were, it didn’t look as though it would be a problem. Getting to Seattle wasn’t too bad, but flying out of Seattle – at least at a reasonable time – is looking dicey. There’s enough fog to make flying conditions “marginal”, so a couple of flights have been cancelled. This, of course, pushes all the paying customers into the seats that were only claimed by l’il ol’ me. So … when I arrived at the airport, I thought I could fly out at 11:30, but was told that the next available flight is at 4:30. That’s IF the weather holds. So thanks to wireless Internet in the waiting area, I have been able to locate a shuttle bus that will take me from the SeaTac airport to Vancouver! The travel time will be longer, of course, but I’ll be leaving at 1:00, my seat is assured, and I’m more certain to arrive in Vancouver at a decent hour. :) This is important to me after some late nights in the past week. :)

So now that I’ve got THAT out of my system, how has the trip been so far? Excellent!!! As I’ve said, it was great to spend more time with Joe and Lisa (Lisa is also a terrific cook, and Joe’s French toast is amazing!). Also, Lisa and I went out with Monika and Tracy, who seriously rock!!!!

Well, it might be time to forage for some snacky things (or at least escape the tired, frustrated parents and their tired, noisy, restless children who are sitting in this waiting area) and then catch my shuttle.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

U.S. Using Chemical Weapons in Iraq?

[Note: See update below]

And burning babies????

See article on the BBC website
Then read more about the effects of white phosphorus
Then read this brilliant blog entry

Impossible? It wouldn't be the first time children have been caught in the chemical crossfire by the U.S. military ...

Sorry if this blog entry sounds shrill - there's something about child abuse that raises my ire.


UPDATE 11/14/05 7:01 AM - I’ve been thinking about this post overnight (yes, I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this), and I would like to make one thing clear: I do not blame the rank and file of the U.S. military if Iraqi children have indeed been burned or killed by the use of white phosphorus. I blame their leaders who got them into such an untenable, indefensible situation in the first place by ordering an invasion of choice into an urban society.

When I was teaching English in South Korea, my fellow expatriate teachers and I would often go to the cities of Osan or Kunsan. There were U.S. military bases (or “stations” or some other term I forget now for the Air Force camps) near these cities, and so enterprising Koreans set up many businesses outside the bases appealing to Westerners (bars, tailors, restaurants, craft shops with amazing pirated cross-stitch patterns for sale). So we would go shopping and/or dancing, and meet up with quite a few American servicemen (and a few servicewomen). Some of us were single, but these poor U.S. soldiers were so lonely for female company that they were thrilled just to have some conversation, mild flirtation, and maybe a dance or two. I expected them to be jerks (cultural bias, I guess), and was quite surprised at how decent and polite the large majority of them were. Some were even gallant. They joked, they teased each other, they spoke of missing their families back home. Most of them seemed very young to my 27-year-old self.

Now I think of those faces, those people. I know many of them got out of the Air Force long before the Iraqi War. But maybe there were a few who thought they’d make a career out of it, and ended up in Iraq. Or, more likely, their replacements are very much like them. And I think of them in this urban war, ordered into places they’re not sure from which they’ll get out alive. I think of the “mental conditioning” that must take place to ensure that they will do the job they’ve been sent to do. And I think of veterans of other wars, who years after their service become broken men as, in a time of peace, they were able to consider the horrors they committed in a time when they felt vulnerable and targeted by the enemy.

And I feel grief for so many lives ruined by a war of choice built on lies.

Don't tell Mr. Covey this, but ...

Stephen R. Covey was another one of the speakers at the leadership conference I mentioned in the post below. He's the one who wrote the popular book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" (which I obtained during last weekend's orgy of book purchases).

As a speaker, I found him kind of distracting for two reasons. First, he kind of looks like Yoda:

Covey's picture here doesn't really portray how much the tops of his ears point out from his head. You might have to take my word on this.

Secondly, Covey has such a measured, solemn delivery when speaking that I kept expecting him to say, "Let us pray."

Not that I have anything against priest-like pointy-eared men; all I'm saying is that it was distracting ... Does that make me a horrible person????

Carly Fiorina on Leadership

The other day, my employer paid for me (and group of colleagues) to attend a day-long leadership conference. It featured several well-known CEOs and other figures, such as Richard Branson (owner and CEO of various companies under the Virgin banner), Jack Welch (retired CEO of General Electric [GE]), and Rudy Guiliani. All the speakers were somewhere in the U.S., and the satellite feed was beamed to hundreds of locations around the world to thousands of participants like me.

Some of the sessions were interesting and thought-provoking. One of the speakers was ridiculous, others were inspiring. To me and everyone I spoke to, Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was the best of the whole day. I don’t know if anyone out there reading this blog will find my thoughts on this day of interest, but I’d like to summarize some of the notes I made myself while I was there, and this is just as good a place as any to keep them. Besides, you’re all free agents and can scroll down to the next post if you find this one boring. :-> So, without further ado:

  • Leadership, as she defined it, has nothing to do with power; it is a choice to make a positive difference. It is the courage to take risks, to see what others might not see (or want to see), to do what others might not do (or want to do). It is unlocking potential in others.
  • In college, she studied medieval history and philosophy. But once she graduated, she needed a job, so she worked as a receptionist. From this she learned that there is dignity in all work, anyone can make a difference in an organization, and what can happen when someone takes a chance on you. There were people at her first job who believed she had the potential to do more, and asked her to take on more responsibility, and allowed her to explore more of her potential.
  • No matter what job she had, she focused all her energy learning as much as possible from those around her, doing the best job she could, and pouring her passion into her work. She said that over time she's become convinced that it’s vital to focus on what you’re doing at the time, rather than fixing your sights on the next promotion/step (She said something to the effect that people who are always thinking of the next advancement don’t usually do their current job very well.)
  • There are two ways to look at every job: 1) to see its limitations, or 2) to see its possibilities. Those who focus on the possibilities always achieve more than those who don’t.
  • She compared leaders and managers: Leaders create something new, see possibilities and make them happen, take risks; managers mitigate risk, operate within a set of boundaries, and ensure that what’s currently in place continues to work.
  • She said that as we’ve entered the 21st Century, we’ve entered unchartered territory. Up to and including the 20th Century, leadership was vertical, or “mechanical. Information went up the vertical chain of command, and orders went back down it. This was inefficient, because it meant that the leader was responsible for knowing everything that was going on among the rank and file, and for arranging for the transfer of information between groups that eventually reported up to him/her.
  • In academia today, the greatest innovations and breakthroughs now come through collaboration between different departments (I forget the example she used, but it was something like biology and mechanical physics). Today’s problems are more complex, and therefore horizontal collaboration (vs. vertical chain of command) is more important.
  • Important questions yet to be answered in the 21st Century: How do we share information/power? How do we enforce accountability?
  • We now have a “biology” (I think the word “ecology” would have been better) of a complex network of relationships
  • Eventually, every physical/static/mechanical/manual process will become digital/mobile/virtual/personal. Example: photography … At one time, very few people had cameras; now camera-phones are ubiquitous
  • The ordinary person has become far more enabled/empowered than in the past
  • Information is no longer power, as with the Internet, we all have access to information. Neither is authority the source of power, as authority can now be questioned.
  • Technology can unlock human potential; the barriers of time, distance, power, and wealth are falling. Anyone can choose to lead.
  • Leadership requires going beyond subject matter expertise. It requires the understanding that common sense and asking the right questions will make up for expertise. Leadership requires the courage to believe you can probably figure it out, or find others to help you figure it out. Rely on others to help; people like to talk about themselves and their area of expertise, and they like to help others.
  • It is not enough to identify a problem; a leader always provides a solution or a positive alternative. Criticizing solutions is easy, but a leader must overcome fear, take risks, “put yourself out there, stand behind the bet that you make”
  • Leadership requires TRUST. People must trust you, but you must also trust them. If you can’t trust others, you can’t lead.
  • Leadership requires balance between optimism and realism. You must believe that positive change is possible, yet have a clear-eyed understanding of the barriers and weaknesses facing you.
  • Leadership requires balance between consistency and flexibility. Consistency allows others to anticipate how you will react, or what you want. Consistency in goals is essential so that everyone can work toward something and achieve it. However, things happen, and you have to work around them and be flexible. Yet your end goal should always be the same. She compared it to sailing – you zigzag (instead of going in a straight line) across the water to get to and end destination.
  • Do NOT surround yourself with people like yourself; today’s problems and enterprises require a diversity of perspectives and approaches.
  • Balance strategy and execution (big picture and details).
  • Whenever she is asked for the one piece of advice she would give to anyone in leadership, she says never to give up one’s internal compass: “Never sell your soul, because no one can pay you back.” There are many things that can throw a leader off course. A leader gets lots of advice. But the most important decisions a leader will make is when s/he is alone. “Don’t make choices that don’t feel right to you.”
  • Ultimately, leadership is about authenticity, not style. You can’t fake it. It requires you to bring all of yourself to the job (your head, gut, all of your capabilities).
  • The best leaders ask their people to bring all of themselves to the task as well
  • Leadership is not power, title, number of people reporting to you
  • Leadership is raising people’s sights regarding themselves, the possibilities of their organization, and helping them to achieve more than they thought possible.

Travel Update + J&L Wedding Photos!

So you may have read this blog entry a couple of weeks ago, and started to wonder, “Why hasn’t she written about Calgary or Banff?” Well, the truth of the matter is that the trip has been postponed for a couple of weeks, and Vancouver has been added to the itinerary. We’re supposed to be in Vancouver on Monday, the 21st, then in Calgary on the Tuesday, and back to Toronto Tuesday night. This means that there won’t be time to go to Banff. :-( However, since I’ll be in Vancouver for Monday, and my brother and sister-in-law (and Tracy and Monika!) live in Seattle, I’m taking a couple of vacation days next week and visiting them before meeting up with my boss in Vancouver. So it’s all good, and I’m very excited!

Speaking of my brother and his wife, they’ve finally shared their online wedding pictures! (They were shamed into it by virtue of the fact that I’d posted some of Tracy and Dave’s wedding photos, and I hadn’t even attended their ceremony! ;->) Here are just a few … I’m selecting those that don’t make me feel uncomfortable as Joe’s sister (i.e., none of the kissy ones – eww! LOL)

"Tickle tickle tickle!"

Damn fine photo.

Cute and sweet.

Joe's trying very very hard not to cry here:

"Bwah ha ha! Take that, U.S. Government! Try to deport him now that we have THIS!"

Lisa with her lovely mom/matron of honour:

"Yes! This party is finally about me! ME!!!!" I look very pale in this photo (more so than usual), but so does Lisa's sister Lori, so I will blame it on the lighting rather than the sinking feeling that now my relatives are going to start asking me when it's MY turn to get married. LOL

I love this photo. Lisa's twin nieces, Elizabeth and Victoria (Lisa has 6 brothers and sisters, and thereby nieces/nephews galore), Joe's parents (and mine) along the wall, and Joe's best friend/man and his wife across the table. All kind of homey and chaotic - none of that formal head table crap. :)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Watching "Someone Like You" on TV and ...

... Hugh Jackman is HOT!!!!!!!!! Whoa!

... but that's because of his intelligence and personality. Uh hunh ...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

It's too late for me ...

but you can still save yourself!

  1. Do NOT buy – or even sample – President’s Choice Chocolate Fudge Crackle Vanilla ice cream. This product should come with the following label: “WARNING, DANGER: This substance is irresistible and highly addictive. This product is not directed for anyone without amazing willpower.” It will call to you from your freezer. It is an expert manipulator. Trust the voice of experience here.
  2. Do NOT go to the World’s Biggest Bookstore this weekend. They’re having an anniversary sale in which all books are 25% off. If you have one of those membership cards, you get 35% off. You will spend hundreds to save money. You will wander for hours through the store looking for just one more bargain or item to slash of the list of books that have been on your wish list. Your hands will chafe and blister as the basket of books you’re carrying becomes heavier and heavier. You will even consider inviting the flirty store manager home with you just so he will carry all your new books for you. Again, this is the voice of experience. You have been warned.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

And so this is Fitzmas, and what have you done?

So … the first indictment against a member of the Bush administration came on Friday. This one was against I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff (until recently, at least) regarding the illegal leaking of the identity of a covert CIA agent in retaliation for her husband’s public opposition to the Iraq War.

I’ve been following this story for the past two years. Like many other progressives, I’ve anticipated these charges with eagerness, almost glee. (Fellow progressive politics addicts have been speculating about the timing of Fitzmas for weeks [Patrick Fitzgerald is the special prosecutor assigned to investigate the leak and prosecute those responsible.])

And now … I feel strangely flat about the whole thing. It could very well be the beginning of the end of the Bush administration as we know it. (And wouldn’t that be a good thing for everybody?) And yet … Even if the whole lot of them were thrown in the slammer today, there are still over 2000 American servicemen killed in Iraq.

The posthumous Purple Heart rested near the folded American flag on the modest dining-room table of his parents' home in Cleveland. Edward (Augie) Schroeder, a Boy Scout turned Marine, was killed along with 13 other soldiers on their fifth trip into Al Hadithah, Iraq, to clean out insurgents. Their fifth trip. "When you do something over and over again expecting a different result," Augie's grieving father, Paul, told me, "that is the definition of insanity." As the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq reached 2,000 last week, Paul Schroeder concluded that the military had not sent enough troops to Iraq to do the job properly and that the president was incompetent: "My son's life was thrown away, his death was a waste." Then, noting that he shared a birthday with his boy, he broke down and said he would not be able to celebrate his own birthday anymore.

There have been an estimated 26000 – 30000 innocent Iraqi civilians killed in this misadventure. A fascinating city of priceless antiquity has been trashed and its educated, dignified people now held hostage to hoodlums and terrorists. (Don’t get me wrong – Saddam was no prince, but I can’t believe that most people there feel their lives have improved since he was deposed.)

And then there are so many other casualties of this administration. The city of New Orleans. People needlessly dead due to the incompetence of FEMA (run by a Bush crony). Attrition of skilled public servants from every federal agency (CIA, FBI, EPA, etc.) The environment has been shafted at every turn. America fiddled while North Korea worked on building nuclear bombs. And it goes on and on and on …

I just wish the damn fools had been competent and interested in governing in everyone’s best interest in the first place.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Next Stop: Calgary!

Hey, guess what??? The trip my boss and I made to Halifax and Montreal was such a success that our director wants us to go to Calgary too!!!! (I’ve never been there before either.) We’re looking at being at the local office Monday, November 7th, and flying in the Sunday before. We might leave first thing Sunday morning and then go to Banff for the day!!!! (Though of course we would not be able to expense any costs we incurred traveling there.) I’m so excited!!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My Xmas List

I know it keeps you up at night. The same question drums through your soul, over and over again. How can you possibly find the right gift to show me how much I mean to you and how to thank me for all that I bring to your life???? It has to be sufficiently worthy and thoughtful. I know it's important to you to get this right and to see my face light up as I open your gift. ;->

So let me make this easy for you. I know you probably don't have it within your power to grant me the first two things on my Xmas list (world peace, a Republican-free White House and Congress [the latter probably going a long way to achieving the former]). So instead, may I humbly suggest that you go to the Foster Parents Plan website for a convenient list of potential gifts?

It's convenient, and there's something for every budget. For example, a hen and a rooster for a needy family is only $15! (Doesn't that sound a lot better than yet another scented candle???) For $20, a dozen tree seedlings can be planted to reverse the devastating effects of deforestation. For $25, you would give me the chance to provide an entire family with mosquito nets to protect them - for years! - from horrible diseases. For $65, two women could be provided with literacy training; for $50, two health professionals could receive additional training - can you imagine the impact these could have on a small village??? Don't these little things capture your imagination???? Did I mention that these prices are all in Canadian funds? Should I also mention that you'll be able to claim any gifts over $10 as a charitable tax deduction?

I like the Foster Parents Plan because they are non-political and non-religious. However, if you would like to show me how much you care for me by donating to the Red Cross or UNICEF, I would be honoured. Hell, it doesn't matter if you buy a gift for me, but that you give to those who need it most. We've had terrible hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, an earthquake in Asia, and an ongoing famine in Africa. I will not judge you if you ask for one for yourself, but I cannot think of a time when a scented candle meant less to me.

Another pic

Last weekend, my boss and his lovely wife invited me and a few of our co-workers to their place for dinner. James (on the left), Alan (on the right), Lisa (James' wife, who took this picture) and I were able to go for a walk through the woods behind Alan's home. Alan's dog Farley is peeking around James' elbow. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time.

What Life Has Been Like Lately

Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been rather quiet lately, or that you haven’t heard from me very much. Basically, life has just been about work. I really, truly like my job – I love the people I work with; I love the opportunities and responsibility that I’ve been given; I love the way I get to use my creativity, organizational skills, ability to read and nurture people, analytical skills, and penchant for process improvement every day at work. I love the chance I’ve been given to lead not only the people on my team, but in some ways, people across the department. (My team is involved – one way or another – in about 90% of everything the department does, so we’re pretty important in the overall picture.)

Without question this is the best job I have ever had, or ever dreamed I could have within a business environment. There is an enormous amount of work, and my manager and I are planning even more to try to improve the way that things are done in order to continually improve service, stability, security, and efficiency. By now you might be getting the picture that it’s a demanding job.

I’ve also been trying to increase my fitness level and to deal with a few stubborn pounds, so I’ve been going to the gym a lot in the last month and a half.

So while I find my job fascinating and interesting, and I enjoy the benefits of increased physical activity, together they’re pretty exhausting and time-consuming. They don’t usually provide fodder for conversation either – who outside my place of employment really wants to hear about all my proposed process improvements, for instance? LOL Sometimes it's just easier to socialize with people from work ... LOL (Good thing I like them a lot!!!)

However, I do have a number of things to share this weekend, so please read on. Also, I have no intention of becoming a workaholic (there are too many other things that I want to do/be in life!), so please just hang in there with me as I try to make the most of the current opportunities and to establish a better balance.


Fascinating Website

Maybe you've heard about this already, but just in case you haven't, check out this website where this guy uploads postcards that have been sent to him anonymously. They are about secrets. People share a secret that they have told no one else. Here's a link to a very good article about the site.

New postcards are uploaded every Sunday.

The Best Wedding Pictures Ever

When I was out west for Joe and Lisa's wedding (my brother and sister-in-law), I had the tremendous pleasure of meeting Lisa's friends Tracy and Monika. I actually blogged about them here because they are so great. I also got a chance to meet Tracy's fiance, Dave, and Monika's boyfriend, Joe (not to be confused with my brother), and liked them both very much as well.

Since then, Tracy and Dave got married, and made their wedding photos available online to a bunch of us. They were so much fun to look at - and truly reflected the humour, wit, and high spirits that I enjoyed about this group of people. So I'm going to steal a few of them and post them here because everyone should have an opportunity to meet these fun and wonderful people, even if it is vicariously!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Business Trip, Part I

Last night, I got back from a whirlwind business trip. Late Wednesday night, my boss and I arrived in Halifax for a day of meetings Thursday with colleagues in the office there, and then we left late Thursday afternoon to catch a flight to Montreal, where we had meetings on Friday. It was a very productive and valuable trip. It was also the first time I had ever been to either city! In Halifax we took our colleagues out to lunch, and then wandered along the Halifax downtown for about 45 minutes looking at some of the beautiful old buildings (and one very new, very luxurious yacht docked in the harbour!). Thank goodness I brought my camera … Alan, Lisa, and Linda were very patient as I kept stopping to do the Japanese tourist thing. Here are my Halifax photos:

Linda, me, and Lisa

Business Trip, Part II - More Halifax Photos

Business Trip, Part III - Montreal

So on with the rest of our story ...

We weren’t so late arriving in Montreal, so after checking in to our hotel rooms, Alan and I went out for a leisurely meal and a bottle of wine and sat in a lovely downtown restaurant and talked about work and life in general. I can’t imagine a better boss than Alan. He’s pretty high on my list of favourite people. :-> He’s incredibly smart and tenacious and he can be quite intimidating, but he’s really a very kind man, and very respectful and open to suggestions and input (which … of course I always have! LOL)

We had our meetings with the Montreal staff on Friday, took them out to lunch (ribs at the Baton Rouge!!! Mmmmmmmmmmm … And a great glass of Australian wine as well – a Wyndham Estates Bin 555 Shiraz that was amazing!

After lunch there was another meeting, and then Alan and I had some free time. We could have stayed in our meeting room until it was time to head for the airport (there’s always a ton of work to do!), but instead Alan decided since I had never been to Montreal before, we would go for a walk around the downtown instead. Do I have the best boss ever or what????

So of course I took my camera along to take some photos:

There was a film shoot happening in the park to the left, and a long row of vintage cars lined up against the sidewalk.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Delicious speculation

W and Cheney not friends any more? Where could this lead???

Monday, October 10, 2005

My current favourite quote

Only those of you who are avid lefty fans of American politics may appreciate this quote I found:

The Book of Revelation is NOT a foreign policy manual.


The latest celebrity codename

First there was Bennifer, then there was Brangelina, and now:

Will Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes get hitched before they have their baby?Professional gamblers are betting that they will. Hours after TomKat announced that they were expecting, professional wagers had already started placing their bets on the details of the unborn child known as TomKitten.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sorry, WHAT did you just say????

I love Howard Dean, but this was a humourous but unfortunate choice of words:

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the president can claim executive privilege?

DEAN: Well, certainly the president can claim executive privilege. But in the this case, I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it's called. He's got to go out there and say something about this woman who's going to a 20 or 30-year appointment, a 20 or 30-year appointment to influence America. We deserve to know something about her.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Funny but True

Atrios re. the latest candidate for the Supreme Court of the United States:

I have no idea what kind of judge Miers will be and nor probably does anyone else in the commentariat. We probably won't know for a few years either way (assuming for the moment that she's confirmed) unless the nice people in the press do some digging to try to find out. All we do know is she's a reliable Bush fixer.

Wingnuttia is rather angry at the choice. I don't think this is because they're really concerned that she's not conservative enough for their tastes, although that's part of it. They're angry because this was supposed to be their nomination. This is was their moment. They didn't just want a stealth victory, they wanted parades and fireworks. They wanted Bush to find the wingnuttiest wingnut on the planet, fully clothed and accessorized in all the latest wingnut fashions, not just to give them their desired Court rulings, but also to publicly validate their influence and power. They didn't just want substantive results, what they wanted even more were symbolic ones. They wanted Bush to extend a giant middle finger to everyone to the left of John Ashcroft. They wanted to watch Democrats howl and scream and then ultimately lose a nasty confirmation battle. They wanted this to be their "WE RUN THE COUNTRY AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT" moment.

Whatever kind of judge she would be, she doesn't provide them with that.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

E-mail from Jen

Hi there, just wanted to let you know that though I am in Bali at a CUSO conference, I am staying/working nowhere near the places where the bombs went off last night and though some of the CUSO staff were out in areas near the bombs to have dinner, they are all back safe and sound - though some were quite near the blasts and are quite shaken up from the noise, chaos, fear and trauma of being on site. Sadly, it seems that there have been quite a few deaths and injuries as a result of the explosions. My plans haven't changed: I intend to fly back to Bangkok Monday evening and return to Laos early Wednesday morning.
Miss you! love, Jen

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Monday, September 12, 2005

Tantric pizza

You may have heard the saying, “Sex is like pizza. It can never be bad, but some is better than others.” I will leave it to you to decide whether there is such a thing as bad sex, but there is definitely such a thing as bad pizza – and until you have the really good kind, you just don’t realize how bad most pizza is.

I used to work in a place called the Whitby Mall. It’s in Whitby, ON at Thickson and Dundas Streets. The place is a hole as far as malls go (some would even say it’s cursed), but there’s a little restaurant called “Under Wraps” that revolutionized my expectations of pizza. It’s delicious, it’s phenomenal, it’s the tantric sex of pizza. Instead of using dough, they use pita shells as crusts, so after baking, they’re thin and crisp. Then they load up the pita shell with all sorts of fresh vegetables (tomatoes, onions, green and red peppers, olives, hot peppers, whatever you want) and then lots of shredded cheese.

Tantric pizza is one of the things that I really miss about living in Whitby. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping by Under Wraps, saying hello to my very funny friends Liz and Rob, and trying a personal tantric pizza for yourself!

If you try to make it at home (as I’ve done tonight, with results almost as good as Under Wraps), here are a few hints:

  • Use white pitas unless you can find whole wheat pitas that taste really good. A pizza isn’t tantric if its crust tastes like recycled cardboard.
  • For meat, you can just chop up some luncheon meat. For instance, tonight I used 3 slices of honey-roasted chicken.
  • Chop/slice your vegetables thinly so that they soften a bit in the oven. I’ve been keeping sliced peppers, onions, etc. in the fridge so I can quickly use them in salads or on pizza.
  • Cook the pizza at 300 degrees F until the cheese is melted and starting to crust over.
  • Use at least a little bit of onion (not you, though, Joe) – it really adds to the flavour.
  • Send me a thank-you card for introducing you to the best pizza you’ve ever tasted! LOL

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Recipe for maple-glazed salmon

This is an amazing - and easy! recipe. My roommate Farzanah and I just tried it out. Five stars!!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Have No Shame!

No, I’m not modeling this year’s Hallowe’en costume, nor am I auditioning for the latest Star Trek movie – I am wearing a mask that goes with my CPAP machine! This device has started to have a tremendously positive impact on my life – I have more energy and am able to be more physically active, even with my demanding job. So much so that I’m willing to humiliate myself a little (and probably jeopardize any chance I ever have of dating again LOL) in order to share the benefits of getting treatment for sleep apnea, and encouraging anyone who feels tired all the time or has been told by a partner that they stop breathing while sleeping to get help that will change your life!!!! But let me start at the beginning …

Several months ago, my cat Cleo kept waking me up multiple times every night. There were more than a few nights that I thought I’d surely take her to the vet the next day and not bring her home! But then I realized that the poor thing was just as exhausted as I was by morning, and I began to wonder if I was unknowingly doing something in my sleep that was waking her up. So I talked about it with my family doctor, and we arranged for me to attend a sleep clinic (see here for the blog I posted about that). And sure enough, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. According to the lab results, I stopped breathing an average of once every two minutes during REM (personally, I think if I’d slept more comfortably at the clinic that night, the frequency of apneas would have been higher, but that’s just my uneducated opinion!). After consulting with an ear/nose/throat specialist and ruling out surgery as an effective solution, I decided that the best course of action was to get a CPAP device.

The CPAP machine provides continuous positive air pressure that helps keep the patient’s air passage open when it would otherwise collapse until s/he woke up just enough to activate the muscles that would open it back up again. The air is sent through a hose to a mask that is held in place by Velcro straps. In my case, the mask just covers my nose – breathing through the mouth is not an option! LOL In my case, I even bought a machine with a little humidifier to moisten the air before it gets sent through the hose.

When I picked up the CPAP device at the medical supply company, the consultant there assured me that I would notice changes in my energy level right away, and that over time I would feel dramatically different. She told me she could see physical changes in her patients after they started to use their CPAPs – they looked more refreshed, and the bags under their eyes would go away. She even told me about an extreme example of a client who lost 120 pounds (!) after he started to use his CPAP device – he had the energy to be more physically active than he had been before receiving treatment for his apnea. No, that wasn’t a typical result, but she said that most patients do in fact lose weight after starting to use a CPAP, as they tend to be more active as their energy levels increase.

At the time, I couldn’t even allow myself to believe what she was telling me. I think I’ve been continually tired since 12 or 13 years old. People would tell me that I was too young to be so tired. My hobbies, my activities, even my social life were limited by my fatigue. I was even told by doctors in the past that I just needed to exercise regularly in order to increase my energy levels, and when I told them that I tried, but sometimes was too tired, they said just to force myself to go to the gym, as though I were just lazy or lacking in willpower. (I don’t really blame them – I certainly don’t fit the profile of a person with sleep apnea.) I would crave carbs and sweets and drink colas to keep me awake at work. And throughout, I would feel a sense of shame and embarrassment that I couldn’t do as much as everyone else.

So now I’ve had my CPAP device for two weeks. I’ve noticed that the bags under my eyes aren’t as bad as they’ve been for years, and my face looks somewhat younger. I have definitely had more energy to exercise, and have started going to the gym at 5:00 AM on weekdays – and I feel better all the time! The last couple of months have been extremely busy for me at work, and yet I’ve recovered in a fraction of the time it would have taken me without the CPAP.

So … you may not be a middle-aged overweight male (the typical profile), but:

  • if you feel tired all the time
  • if you’ve ever been told that you stop breathing in the middle of the night or that you snore very loudly
  • if you have problems staying awake or alert during the day even when you’ve had a decent number of hours of sleep
  • if you consistently fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed
  • if your head always starts to bob if you’re in a darkened room (I always found it hard to stay awake in training or meetings if the lights were turned off for presentations)

then I say run don’t walk to your doctor and talk with him/her about a possible sleep study. It might not be sleep apnea for you, but if it is, there is treatment for it that really is successful!

For those who are curious, a CPAP device can be $1500 - $2200 Canadian. In Ontario, OHIP will cover $780. I am fortunate enough to have a benefits package through work that paid for the rest.

I am so excited about what I will be able to accomplish now that I have made this discovery. I can't say my energy level is 100% yet (I'm still getting used to everything, but it's coming along ...) My first objective is to get in shape – I can’t wait to see what adventures I’ll take on after that!



Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Jen C. gets big opportunity

And some amazing changes also for my awesome friend Jen C:

No I have not disappeared off the face of the earth - I'm still here in Vientiane, Lao PDR. One term at Vientaine College to escape infinite thesis hell has turned into one term at a provincial hospital plus five months (so far) with the ILO on their anti-trafficking project... and despite my best intentions to at least visit home this summer/fall... well... not happening. Mass mailings aren't my bag, but I thought I wanted to share some cool news with you - that some of you may already have caught wind of. Though it's not 100% (I need to be approved by Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs), I have been offered and accepted a position with CUSO as Lao Country Director. It's going to be tough, a huge change and loads and loads of work - CUSO's had a rough past 5 years in terms of high turnover of Country Director - and the projects and programmes in country are tough to manage, too. Anyhow, conference/training in Bali at the end of this month; then one more month with ILO (to finish up three months' worth of work!) and then picking up at CUSO (depending, of course, on ministry approval). So, based on my work obligations, I think that I will probably never sleep again.
I'm sooooo proud!!!!!!!!

Melissa and Jeremy: It's a boy!

From Jeremy:

We're happy to announce the birth of our second son, Lucas Trent D.

9 lbs 5 oz

24 inches long

Mother and baby are resting comfortably, pics to come soon.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Was it all just a photo-op for Bush?

Senator Landrieu from Louisiana is a Democrat, but she's always been Bush-friendly. However, while touring the devastation in New Orleans with George Stephanopolous (ABC) this Sunday, she had this to say:

“Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.

“I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims – far more efficiently than buses – FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

“But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government.

“Mr. President, I’m imploring you once again to get a cabinet-level official stood up as soon as possible to get this entire operation moving forward regionwide with all the resources – military and otherwise – necessary to relieve the unmitigated suffering and economic damage that is unfolding.”

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The current head of FEMA had no previous experience in emergency management

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo writes:

Earlier we asked who would track down the story about FEMA Chief Michael Brown's apparent firing from his last pre-FEMA employment.

The Boston Herald is on the case. The lede from this morning's piece by Brett Arends ...

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.

The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.

A bit further down, there's this ...

Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.

``He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.

Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.

Takes your breath away, doesn't it?

I'll say! But, unfortunately, the current American administration is full of people who are not qualified for their positions, starting with the President himself! But they all have their connections ...


"Look in this baby's face"

You have GOT to watch this video - two journalists in New Orleans who refuse to stand down from the assertion of what they can see with their own eyes - that thousands of people are still without help.

More on the Gulf Coast tragedy

I have spent a lot of time the last few days watching CNN coverage of the Gulf Coast tragedy, as well as visiting a number of websites on the topic. The conditions in New Orleans are apocolyptic. The federal government's response has been incompetent and inexcusably slow. People are dying due to lack of potable water, food, and medicine. It is a blight on western civilization.

Two nights ago, I was watching Paula Zahn interview Michael Brown, the head of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association), and he said Wednesday was the first his staff knew that there were people holed up at the New Orleans Convention Centre! (Nevermind that there had been hundreds, if not thousands, of people there - at the instructions of the city mayor - for two days!!!!)

While horrified that such suffering continues, there are a few aspects of this story that fascinate me. One is just the logistics of the rescue operations - over the last few years I've developed an interest in urban planning and emergency response. (Yeah, I'm a lot of fun at parties ... LOL)

Another aspect of this story that captivates me is what can be learned about leadership (or lack thereof). Truly, this sad, sorry episode is a cautionary tale. You can read some interesting comments on leadership in relation to this tragedy by retired General Wesley Clark here. (He's an extremely intelligent man - it's worth a look.)

The critical importance of government has also been underscored by this event. There are those (particularly in the U.S.) who have preached for years that government is useless, a waste of money, etc., and that "the market" (!!!) is a more effective regulator of all things public and private. The very influential Republican Grover Norquist is famously quoted as saying, "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Well, Norquist and the Repulsivecans have been very effective, as we all can see, yet there's no private corporation stepping in to coordinate the rescue efforts, to organize shelter for refugees, to provide for their basic necessities such as food, water, and clothing ... Wal-Mart, where are you????? Hmmm ... Hear that crashing sound? That's idealogy coming smack up against reality. The truth of the matter is that it is for this cause that government exists and should exist - to ensure the safety and well-being of its people.

There are two corollaries to this, in regards to poverty and law-and-order:

It's very evident that most of the victims who have been or still are trapped in New Orleans were too poor or too sick to get out when the warnings came. (And there was no organized effort to evacuate those without transportation.) These people don't have money, skills, or political clout - and so they were left to rot for a couple of days before the public became outraged. I saw Laura Bush in a press conference yesterday be asked about this, and she said something to the effect that the poor are always the most vulnerable, and that this "always happens". Well, for a party that has a sick fixation on saving fetuses and brain-dead vegetables, saying "every life is precious", they seem just a bit cavalier about hundreds (if not thousands) of people (including babies) dying day by day of dehydration and lack of medical care. Too bad they're not the "haves and the have-mores" that Bush considers his base.

In terms of law and order, it's now patently clear how thin the tissue of civilization can be. Rescue workers have been shot at, women raped, etc. I don't blame hungry people for walking into abandoned stores looking for food and water - what else are they to do? And I have never seen such an idiotic display of total denial than people robbing stores of big-screen TVs (yeah, good luck with that!). But it also underscores for me how I should not take our governments and police forces for granted. My roommate and I are two single women, living apart from our families and not really knowing anyone else around us. We don't carry guns, we don't have men/bodyguards to protect us, and yet we can travel freely around our neighbourhood, without (much) worry of being attacked or victimized. That's because of the law and order maintained by our police officers/justice system, and the fact that the government ensures that *most* people's basic needs are met.

I am sure that this has just been a long-winded diatribe, but lastly, I am thrilled that the American press actually is calling the Bush government to account for something!!!! The journalists are witnessing desperation and incompetence, and they're not giving anyone a free pass. (Check this out on the CNN website - "The big disconnect on New Orleans"). While for the sake of the victims, I hope Bush gets his act together, I still hope that rat bastard and all his sick cronies get their asses nailed to the wall but good!


P.S. - Another couple of thoughts on leadership:

Lt. Gen. Honore a "John Wayne dude"
Mayor to Feds: "Get off your asses"

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush administration made New Orleans disaster inevitable

See this blog and this article for more ...

Will someone please impeach and incarcerate this bunch of a-holes??????

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Movie Recommendation: "In Good Company"

Just finished watching “In Good Company” on video. FANTASTIC cast of Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, and Marg Helgenberger. Great story about real people and situations – very funny and also moving. Two thumbs up!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The website you probably don't want to know about

So I have an awesome roommate, Farzanah, who's lived with me now for almost 1.5 months. She's a sweetheart, but for whatever reason my cat Sabrina hasn't taken to her. To protest the continuing cohabitation situation, Sabrina had started leaving little presents in the middle of the floor (the kind of present that should have gone directly to the litter box). So today I went looking for advice (where else?) on the Internet, and found this site (you'll have to finish the words yourself, as I don't want my blog registered as tasteless or inappropriate:


It's juvenile, but it made me laugh out loud. Think what you will of me ...



Wednesday, August 10, 2005

See a pattern?

This is my team. It seems like my boss (far left) had to waive some kind of height regulation to hire me ... LOL

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ways you can help

Maybe you've already heard about this, but there has been a bad famine in the African nation of Niger over the past year, and the situation is now dire:

At the latest count, 160,000 children in Niger were still suffering from serious malnutrition, and the lives of 32,000 were at immediate risk.

Things were quieter but even more grim at the nearby emergency-care center run by Doctors Without Borders. Even in a relatively good week, the camp's directors say, more than a dozen babies there succumb to the effects of hunger and related diseases. Desperate relatives often bring in 18-month-olds who weigh as little as a healthy 3-month-old. The camp's extreme-care center held 48 tiny children last week. Many were on intravenous feeding tubes. Only a few were crying. Hunger had reduced the rest to motionless silence. "These babies' metabolism has completely changed," says Dr. Chantal Umutoni, the head of the intensive-care unit. "They don't eat on their own. They are letting themselves die."

- Newsweek

If you would like to give, and are able to, here are some charities I'd like to suggest:

Doctors Without Borders
Foster Parents' Plan
Canadian Red Cross

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Ever feel a little "modification" would make you look so much better? Then check out this website. (Note: due to references to "b--b jobs" and "the ugliest t-ts in America", you may not want to view this website from your workplace.)

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Exercise Gone Wrong

So this morning I was walking to my gym. I live in a very nice area of town - it's not the Bridle Path, but it's upper scale. Anyway, this woman jogs past me on the sidewalk, and I see she's wearing those flowsy running shorts, which can be somewhat revealing - except hers were about 2 - 3 sizes too small, so you could actually SEE her butt cheeks (or about 75% of them) as she ran down Yonge St. There were a couple of old ladies hobbling down the sidewalk, dressed in their Sunday best, looking a little shell-shocked at the unexpected sight of mostly-naked ass jiggling down the street.

Lady, why not just wear a thong as you go for your weekend morning jog? LOL

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The joys of apartment dwelling

It's 11:00 on the Saturday of a long weekend in the summer. The night is dark except for the light shining from rooms in an apartment building a couple of blocks away, and in the distance, the flashing lights on airplanes as they ascend eastwards from Toronto Pearson International Airport. And from the balcony of the apartment above mine, I hear someone playing his guitar and softly singing "Daniel" (by Elton John). He is off-key and doesn't transition to new chords in time with the lyrics, but somehow it's still fun to listen to ...

Some thoughts on Shakespeare's "Othello"

I was looking for some light summer reading, but couldn’t handle yet another chick-lit read with some neurotic heroine put through a series of humiliating events before she finally gets a man (the pinnacle of achievement for all single women, no?). So I looked on my bookshelves for something I always meant to read, and picked out Shakespeare’s Othello.

Othello, as you probably know, is the story of a man who believes his wife is cheating on him and basically goes postal. Now, I’m no advocate for adultery by any stretch of the imagination, but Shakespeare really goes Taliban with Othello’s reaction. As I was reading all Othello’s speeches about being cuckolded by Desdemona’s evil ways, there was part of me that completely could not relate to such excesses of emotion (I think the sense of a man’s honour being violated by an adulterous wife is a thing of the past in my culture, though not being a man, I can’t be sure), but another part of me saw this play as a window into contemporary domestic tragedies that are played over and over again in all parts of the world. Which doesn’t make Shakespeare great – just human nature unaltered across time and place.

What DOES make Shakespeare great, in my humble opinion, is the voice he eventually gives to his female characters. It is spectacular. For the first four acts of the play, we see the villain Iago plotting the destruction of his superior officer, Othello (I could be wrong, but I think the reason he gives is the age-old office complaint that Othello was promoted above Iago despite Iago’s longer service). Iago informs Desdemona’s father of her elopement with Othello in the most inciteful of ways, and of course Brabantio falls for the bait and freaks out. Othello handles the situation calmly and rationally, and averts that crisis. Then Iago, not yet ready to give up, incites Othello against Desdemona by offering “proof” that she has had an affair with another man. And of course, the formerly rational Othello teeters on the brink of insanity as jealousy consumes him.

The first half of the play builds up Iago’s deception and the audience is fully immersed in Othello’s passionate reaction. But then Shakespeare lets his female characters speak – and I find it so powerful. First, there is Desdemona’s bewilderment and hurt at Othello’s jealous accusations and strange behaviour, and her vows of innocence (which are moving in their simplicity and her helplessness). And then there is Emilia, Iago’s wife, his unwitting accomplice, and Desdemona’s companion. In my opinion, Shakespeare uses her as the voice of conscience (or at least his own voice) in the play.

For example, Desdemona asks Emilia whether there actually are women who would cheat on their husbands (underlining, of course, her innocence). Emilia’s response is that there definitely are, and moreover:

But I do think it is their husbands’ faults
If wives do fall. Say that they slack their duties
Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
Throwing restraint upon us? Or say they strike us,
Or scant our former having in despite?
Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them. The see, and smell,
And have their palates for both sweet and sour,
As husbands have. What is it that they do
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is. And doth affection breed it?
I think it doth. Is ‘t frailty that thus errs?
It is so too. And have not we affections,
Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
Then let them use us well; else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

I dunno. Maybe the concept of women being human and subject to the same frailties, affections, and jealousies as men wasn’t all that radical in Shakespeare’s time, but it’s such a departure from all Othello’s and Iago’s speeches, I have to believe Shakespeare’s really trying to make a point here. And once Othello murders Desdemona, the playwright gives Emilia lots of opportunity to call Othello a fool and a dumbass … LOL

It all makes me wonder about places where women are considered chattel today … are there artists who are speaking out with their art about the value and humanity of women? Perhaps they’re not able to do so overtly for fear of repercussions. But maybe there are some who are able to - at least I hope so.

Truth Stranger than Fiction?

Entertaining stories from world travellers on the Lonely Planet website. Check them out!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Thinking of France

Watching the last stage of the Tour de France had a delicious bakery croissant for breakfast as a treat for having to go to work first thing this morning.

I recently got a roommate, which seems to be working out really well. The plan is to take advantage of the help paying for rent and save up for some more travel, maybe a trip to France to start (I’d love to go to Spain, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, and back to Washington state/British Columbia as well, but I think France has to be my first stop.) Target dates are April, May, or September next year.

So … any thoughts/recommendations from folks out there on when to go, places to see, guidebooks to use, etc.? I’ve never been to Europe, so all advice is welcome!



Tuesday, July 19, 2005

How does pollution get to the Arctic? Bird poo, that's how!

This article is probably of interest only to a narrow range of my "audience", but I found it interesting. Not because it's about bird poop, obviously, but because here is another example of the amazing complexity and interconnectedness of life. Well, it also tickles my darker sense of humour a bit, I guess:

Bird droppings are a major route used to spread chemical contaminants such as mercury and DDT to the High Arctic, Canadian researchers have found.

Scientists had assumed winds were the main way that the chemicals spread.


The contaminants are washed into the ocean, where the birds feast on fish and then return to the Arctic to feed their young.

When the birds return north, the contaminants they've accumulated are released on land in a "boomerang effect," said the study's lead author, Jules Blais, a professor of environmental toxicology of the University of Ottawa.

Thoughts on the Tour de France

I've started watching Le Tour de France. I will admit that I've been drawn in by Lance Armstrong's compelling personal story (and even more compelling good looks! ) I still can't figure out exactly how the scoring/rating works, but what a sport! The strength, the stamina, the doggedness, the sheer bloody-mindedness that this competition demands!!!! It's fascinating and inspiring.

Anyway - er - ahem ... what was I saying ... oh yes, don't understand the sport too much (and despite Internet searches over the weekend for some sort of primer or TDF101 article), but I find it very cool. It's obvious based on the fans actions on the side of the road that they have a tremendous appreciation for the talent and skills of the competitors. Apparently cycling in Europe is considered a "macho" thing, and I can understand why! It's no wimp who can compete in the TDF!

Well, work is really busy (my boss is away on vacation), so either I call it an early night and go gung-ho early tomorrow, or I do at least an hour of work tonight before I go to bed. Somehow I think bedtime is going to be earlier rather than later!



Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Too ... darn ... HOT!!!!!!!!

Walking outside is like taking a stroll through someone else's bathwater ... Yuck!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The parents' party/the party parents

Not only did they feed and house us for the weekend, but they also organized a great dinner party for us and 80 or so other people to celebrate Joe and Lisa's wedding. Since only 5 of us from Ontario were at the actual ceremony, this was the first time most friends and family had seen Joe and Lisa since the engagement. Many had never had a chance to meet Lisa before. It was a great time, Joe and Lisa made Mom and Dad proud, and yours truly tried her best to personalize the festivities as M.C. with a few stories and slideshows.

Despite Joe's misgivings, he had a fantastic time. Thanks, Mom and Dad!!!!



Mama Extraordinaire

This is Lisa's mom, Marcia. She had seven children in ten years and lived to tell about it! :-> I really enjoyed spending time with her this past weekend - she's a lot of fun, as well as being a very caring person.

The Sapsters

See what I put up with all weekend????

They put the "sick" in lovesick!!!!



Amazing quilt

This is a picture of a quilt that Marcia and Lori (the mother and one of the sisters of my new sister-in-law ... did you get that???) are making. They've been working on it for three years, I think, and in separate parts of the U.S. (Marcia in Washington state, and Lori in Wisconsin and California, I believe). It is gorgeous - and huge!!! Each little diamond shape is a separate piece of fabric sewn to the other little pieces of fabric.

Really neat to see!