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!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The most important picture from today is the one I didn’t take

This weekend, Toronto is hosting its annual Ribfest. “Ribbers” come and sell their ribs and coleslaw and special sauce and compete against each other to win prizes for “best ribs” or “best sauce”, etc. (In this picture, each billboard represents the various ribbers … and all those people are standing in line to get their slabs of pork!!!) Proceeds go to the organization hosting the event, the Rotary Club. Since I love spare ribs, going to this festival of barbequed meat was a priority! I made some last-minute arrangements, and ended up going with my friend Nancy from work. I’m back at home now, and showered to remove the intense smoky smell of several industrial-sized barbeques from my hair and skin. The sting of smoke inhalation is still at the back of my throat, but I’m still smiling. :->

Let me say first that the ribs were delicious (we tried two different vendors, and both were pretty good, though not as good as Baton Rouge, IMHO). There were live bands and lots of people. But I have to say the day was as enjoyable as it was because of my friend Nancy.

Nancy is just great. I wish there were more people in the world like her. She’s smart, articulate, self-aware, open-minded, practical, and whimsical. She has a goofy sense of humour that I enjoy tremendously, and a sense of responsibility, community, and teamwork that I really respect. We spent hours today meandering through a wide range of topics, from work to ribs to family to faith to Tom Cruise’s meltdown in progress to teaching in the public school system to the benefits of drinking tequila (really!) to travel to finance to real estate. Not in that order, but you know … :-> I had a great time because I had a wonderful friend to keep me company and to laugh with. I had thought a few times of taking her picture to post on this blog, but each time my fingers were sticky with barbeque sauce! LOL Maybe I’ll sneak her pic at work sometime on Monday!



"There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance"

Yes, that's what Tom Cruise said this past week in an interview for the Today Show, in reference to psychiatry and his earlier comments criticizing fellow actress Brooke Shields for taking the anti-depressant Paxil to treat her severe post-partum depression. Apparently Mr. Cruise believes that vitamins and exercise are sufficient to treat any kind of mental illness. Don't believe me? Follow the link and you can watch the video like I did.

(Question: why take vitamins [which are chemicals] if there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance? To quote a poster in the Science Building at my alma mater, "What in the world isn't chemistry?")

Perhaps it's not a coincidence that, as my good friend Sophie observed, Tom has been acting like a manic depressive who has gone off his meds. 'Fess up, Tom - you stopped taking your Lithium a few months ago, didn't you??? LOL

Top marks to Matt Lauer for standing his ground in face of Cruise's bluster.

(Though, to be fair, Cruise deserves creds for refusing to compare his current and former relationships when Lauer asked him what Katie Holmes brings to his life that other relationships didn't.)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Electricity Options

This is a pic of a wind turbine that you can see in downtown Toronto. I often look at it while in meetings at work. This past Wednesday, I attended a very interesting meeting hosted by Pollution Probe, "An Evening Public Forum on Electricity Options for a Coal-Free Ontario". I learned quite a bit of interesting information there. One thing I hadn't realized was that this particular wind turbine is owned by a co-op of private citizens. Very cool.

Miscellaneous thoughts on music

I recently purchased X and Y by the British band Coldplay. Its release was really hyped, and it's the top-selling CD right now, so I thought I'd get it. It's not their first CD, but it's the first one that I've purchased. At first listen, I was surprised how truly melancholy their music is. Then I found Chris Martin's voice whiny and nasal (especially his head voice - take some singing lessons, man!!!!). Then I listened some more and really appreciated the quality of the instrumentation. Then I found myself humming various tunes from the album during the day. Now I have to listen to the album every day. I don't know what it is.

Some plugs for my favourite performers of whom I will never ever tire: Sade, The Philosopher Kings, and Nelly Furtado (yes, I know her voice can be whiny and nasal too, but I love her music!!!).

Other favourites:
- "Waterfall" by TLC
- all the hits by Hall and Oates
- Suzanne Ciani, especially the new age albums "Seven Waves" and "History of My Heart"
- No Doubt
- "Karmastition" by Alicia Keys (and other Keys songs)
- the soundtrack from "Moulin Rouge"
- "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners (did they ever have any other hit besides this one????)
- "The Four Seasons" by Vivaldi
- Alanis Morissette's CD "Jagged Little Pill" - a modern classic whose quality still dazzles me
- soundtrack to "The Thomas Crown Affair" (jazz compositions by Bill Conti)
- "The Floating Bed" by Elliot Goldenthal from the soundtrack to "Frida"
- "Stop This World" by Diana Krall (from her latest CD, "The Girl in the Other Room")
- "Get Right" by Jennifer Lopez
- Madonna's CD, "Ray of Light"
- Matchbox 20/Twenty
- Bryan Adams, of course
- Lenny Kravitz
- Ravel - "Bolero" and "La Valse"
- soundtracks from "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Dances with Wolves"
- too many more to list for now

If you ever get a chance to hear music by Raul Maldonado, do not hesitate. I have been listening to a CD of his music performed by the classical guitar group, the Lutetia Quartet, and it is wonderful. Unfortunately, I can't find a single piece of information about the Lutetia Quartet on the Internet to post. I think Maldonado is from Argentina.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Last night, I was tired and had a headache, so I decided to finally rent the video Under the Tuscan Sun, starring Diane Lane. The movie has some good points and a few bad points. At certain points in the film, the acting wasn’t very good, but I think it was that Lane missed her timing. The whole film seemed to be a bit melodramatic about divorce, but I guess I can’t judge that, not having been through one.

But there was a lot to like in this film, such as the sumptuous scenery (does the real Tuscany look like that, with the perfectly cone-like trees, etc.????) and, more importantly, the relationships with Lane’s character has with the supporting characters. Spoiler alert: don’t read any further if you don’t want to know the end of the movie!!! All through the movie, Lane is looking for love – and finds it right under her nose. I really appreciate that despite the Hollywood culture that continually glorifies romantic love as the magic bullet and the pinnacle of human experience, in the end Lane’s character finds that her heart’s desires can be met through other relationships.

After watching this film, I became determined again to save up my money for a trip to Europe – maybe a three-week tour of France, Spain, and Italy to start. I have to see these places for myself!!! Time to dust off my audio lessons for French, Spanish, and Italian! :->


Two book quasi-reviews and thoughts on women and history

I’ve read two really good books in the last month that seemed to be very different when I picked them up but had some surprising parallels in the end.

The first book, which I can’t recommend highly enough, is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I knew the name Anne Boleyn and knew she was associated with one of the king Henries in England (the one who wanted a son so desperately). That was about the extent of my historical knowledge about that time period before I started reading this novel. In this book, Gregory takes known facts about Boleyn’s life, and generates a terrific story of love, lust, intrigue, jealousy, and ambition. Anne Boleyn actually had a sister, Mary, who at one point also had been the mistress of Henry VIII and likely bore him two children. This novel is told from Mary’s point of view.

For the Boleyns in this novel, the utmost imperative was to maintain the favour and attention of the King, for this was the way to acquire more power and wealth through royal grants and gifts. The Boleyns were happy to plot and strategize the use of their daughters as ways to gain this power and royal regard. Gregory characterizes Mary as having few options, whereas Anne is more calculating and works to advance herself to become queen. Either way, both women use their female charms and their bodies to achieve their objectives. They also have to be very intelligent and witty in order to survive the treacherous environment of the royal court.

The second novel I’d like to mention is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. It’s not exactly a new release, but I read it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. This story follows a young Japanese girl who is basically sold into slavery to become a geisha, and how she suffers (particularly at the hand of a geisha who perceives her as a threat) until she realizes that becoming a geisha is her only way to a measure of independence and happiness. Again, this young woman uses her wits and intelligence, and learns to use her womanly charms and her body in order to survive.

Do you hear the subtext? I’m probably not being very subtle. I thoroughly enjoyed each novel and found them both to be well-written, compelling reads. But in the end, the women in these stories have to prostitute themselves in order to survive or to improve their life situations. I guess this is just a fact of life until very recent history, but it still drives me a bit crazy. It makes me want to try to find a copy of Iron-Jawed Angels to watch over and over again … LOL

Don’t get me wrong – both books are great, and there are elements of romance in each. They both educated about me about a particular time and place (although I’m sure there are some historical inaccuracies in each) in an entertaining way. And I guess I just appreciate all the more that I have the freedom to marry or not, and that I don’t have to use sex as a way to secure my economic survival. You know, women in the suffrage/liberation movement really turned history on its head for us in the West!


Today is a heavy day blogging day. I’ve been pretty busy the last couple of weeks (I think it’s called living), but I’ve been saving up lots of meaningless observations for this site … that - must - be - EXPRESSED!!!!


Pretty ... :) Posted by Picasa

The Living Wall

Also on our tour of rooftop gardens, we saw a "living wall" which is in the lobby of a privately-owned building. The plants are selected for their ability to fix indoor air toxins. They grow in a hydroponic (soil-free) netting. Posted by Picasa

An extensive rooftop garden

This is a picture of the second rooftop garden we saw on our tour ... The sun was starting to set by the time we got there, and the shadows make it hard to see the actual garden in this picture. So I'll try to describe it for you ... It's an "extensive" garden, which means that the vegetation tends to be smaller and support requirements for the weight are less than the intensive garden. In this instance, the soil is about 6 inches deep, and purchased plants grow with those whose seeds were brought with the wind and soil. Right now the wildflowers/weeds would be in full bloom. This garden also reduces heat, cooling costs, and absorbs toxins from the air. Posted by Picasa

Rooftop Garden, Part 9

According to the woman who maintains and designs these rooftop gardens, Europe has adopted rooftop gardens much more extensively than North Americans have. Posted by Picasa

Rooftop Garden, Part 8

The benefits of rooftop gardens are that they mitigate urban heat in hot weather, reduce cooling costs for the building below, and help fix airborne toxins to reduce risk to human health. And of course there are the aesthetic benefits! :) Posted by Picasa

Rooftop Garden, Part 7

Another view of the garden - a magical place, no? :) Posted by Picasa

Rooftop Garden, Part 6

The rubber tree in the centre of this photo has grown so abundantly on this rooftop that they have had to prune it extensively. Ditto for the gorgeous lime tree to the immediate left of the rubber tree. Posted by Picasa

Rooftop Garden, Part 5

On portions of the roof, they just had boxes of soil where they grew herbs and vegetables. These boxes are located against the edge of the roof above a supporting beam to support the weight of the soil. Posted by Picasa

Rooftop Garden, Part 3

It was such a pretty place ... too bad it's not open to the public. :) Posted by Picasa

Another view of the intensive garden Posted by Picasa

Rooftop Garden, Part 1

A week ago, I went on a tour of a couple of rooftop gardens in downtown Toronto. This particular one is called an "intensive" garden because it has trees and larger vegetation. It's located on the top of 401 Richmond (near Spadina). Posted by Picasa

Something I just don't get

… is leaf-blowers. Since when did raking leaves become such an intense physical activity that it became preferable to cart around a gasoline- or battery-powered device that requires ear-protection for its operator and anyone within a 100-m radius????????

And if you think I sound grumpy, think about the fact that today is a holiday, it’s not even 10:30 AM, and that I’m suddenly inspired to write this post. LOL