Sunday, April 16, 2006

U.S. preparing to invade Iran?

Yes, folks, IraN ... another clusterf--k is probably coming our way. As much as I would hope this isn't the case, Billmon's post makes far too much sense.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Not Ready to Make Nice

Today I heard a song that gave me goosebumps on goosebumps. I'd heard it before, and liked it, but today I really listened to the words. The song is "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks. According to the radio station I was listening to, the song was written as a response to the brouhaha that took place almost three years ago when lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience that she was ashamed that President Bush came from her state of Texas. The lyrics are, in part:

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I have tremendous respect for the fact that the Dixie Chicks are not backing down on her criticism of Bush and the Iraqi War in the face of death threats, etc.

But you know, I think this song has a more universal application. Who hasn’t been in a situation where they’ve offended someone who’s really and truly overreacted? The pressure can be immense to “make nice” when you know, in your heart of hearts, that you didn’t do anything wrong. In the past, I would try to be conciliatory or doubt myself and behave like a scared little rabbit, etc. These days, though, I have to say I’m trusting myself and standing up for myself more. (Although I do pick my battles.) Standing up for myself and insisting on being treated with respect is both scary and exhilarating. In my twenties, I may have stood up for myself when pushed to my limits, but endlessly questioned myself thereafter. Now I do less of the rehashing, thank goodness. I wouldn’t go back to my twenties for a million dollars unless I could bring with me the lessons that I’ve learned! (And then, boy, things would be a lot different!)

Feel free to comment on the song or any of the thoughts in this post.



Hiking at Forks of the Credit

Great hike today at the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park! I needed some time to myself, and it was perfect.

Here’s a picture of the Kettle Lake (obviously too early in the season for there to be much green). According to Brad Cundiff in Walks Around Toronto:

A kettle lake is a lake created by glaciation that has no in- or outflow. Instead, a pocket carved in rock by glaciers is filled with meltwater and, later, rainwater to form a small self-contained lake.

Funny, I thought a small land-bound body of water with no in- or outflow was a pond, but what do I know?

Here’s a photo of the Bruce Trail, which crosses the park.

And here – sorry for the quality guys (my camera was about $170) – is a pic of the falls that used to be used for a couple of different mills, and then a power station. It’s quite pretty.

Today was the first time I used my brand-new hiking poles. I love them! As noted in a previous post, I tend to have weak ankles and not-so-great balance (thanks to a relatively mild case of Charcot Marie Tooth disease). I found the poles really helped me to keep my balance, walk faster, and spend less time looking where I was stepping (so I could spend more time looking around me instead). I had a great cardio workout. I’m thrilled.

All in all, a great way to spend my Saturday!



Friday, April 14, 2006

Response re. global warming

I just read a newspaper article in which several 20-somethings were asked about global warming. Anna, 20, in Ottawa (with picture of her standing on a sidewalk somewhere, perfectly outfitted in a jacket and low-rise jeans, holding a can of Pepsi):

Dose: Can we stop global warming?
Anna: We can try to stop it but I think it's probably too late. It's impossible.
Dose: Does that worry you?
Anna: It does. We're not going to be able to do things like skiing and snowboarding in the future.

Virtual bubble wrap!

At last! Why didn't anyone think of this before???? It's almost as stress-relieving as the real thing!

Thanks to fellow blogger Linda for the link.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Feeling like an old lady

Today my friend Brendon and I went hiking in the Albion Hills Conservation Area north of Bolton, ON. It is in the beautiful and ecologically-important Oak Ridges Moraine.

We saw two woodpeckers, a chipmunk, geese, ducks, and a beautiful (great blue?) heron. We also heard a lot of intrepid frogs (it seemed a bit chilly to me for frogs to be busy with mating calls, but maybe after hibernating all winter, they were feeling a little frisky ;-> )

I think we hiked for about 3 - 3.5 hours. The paths alternated between muddy and dry, there were lots of hills for us to climb and descend, and whenever the ground was uneven I struggled with my balance as my ankles were a bit weak from not hiking in a long time (yes, I fell a few times, but Brendon had to help me up only on the last time after I'd twisted my ankle a bit).

Three hours of hiking. I shudder to think how I'll feel tomorrow, because already I feel like an old woman. LOL However, it was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to the next hike! :->

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The kindness of strangers

I won’t go into the details, but work has been a bit stressful this week (thank goodness the budget process is done for a while at least). This afternoon, I was feeling edgy and felt the need to return to the mother ship (i.e., Godiva’s). I decided on my purchases, and the sales clerk asked me, “Is this for work?”

“Well, part of it is, yes. Why do you ask?”

“Well, when people come in and make a quick decision on what to buy, and then give a big sigh, I figure it’s for work.”

Hmm ... hadn't realized the sigh (or the stress) was so obvious.

We made some little jokes about how a chocolatier should be part psychologist, and he slipped a little chocolate square into my shopping bag for free.

His kindness made my day.

Thanks Godiva guy!

By the way, I went back to work, had a good chat with my director, and stress levels are slowly edging down. :)

UPDATE April 7th: Last night as I was falling to sleep, I thought that I should add a bit to this post. Yes, this past week has been somewhat stressful, but I'm exceptionally proud of the way I handled it. I didn't walk away from a fight, I trusted myself, I kept a sense of perspective (I even placed my copy of A Mighty Heart on my desk to remind me of true suffering, choice, and bravery), I continually chose to be happy and to be a cheerful presence in the office, and I ended up using this conflict as an opportunity to show one of my strengths and to offer a solution and a perspective that was unique and holistic. Not to toot my own horn ... I just didn't want anyone to think that I was crumbling under the stress. LOL

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Amazing ice cream

In a weak moment yesterday, I bought a new container of President’s Choice Chocolate Fudge Crackle Vanilla ice cream. I've blogged about this stuff before here.

This morning I actually debated whether this ice cream would be suitable for breakfast.

This stuff is more addictive than crystal meth!

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Mighty Heart

One of the books I currently have on the go is "A Mighty Heart" by Mariane Pearl. She is the widow of the Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, who was beheaded in Karachi, Pakistan by Muslim Extremists in early 2002. Their love for the world, truth, and peace are remarkable, and their love story is a poignant one in contrast to the hate that shattered their lives. Mariane Pearl is a remarkable and strong woman who will inspire you. If you don't have time to read the book, check out this audio interview she gave with Oprah Winfrey.

UPDATE: Oh my gawd, read this wonderful book! Despite the horrible murder of her husband (or because of it?), Mariane Pearl has written one of the most beautiful, moving, inspiring, and life-affirming books I have ever read.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A special birthday greeting

I had a birthday a while ago, and received this lovely e-mail from my cousin Marlene, who was ~12 years old when I was born:

Hi Cindy. I couldn't let the day end without sending you birthday greetings! I hope you had a proper celebration, and wish you all the best for the year to come.
I was thinking tonight about how utterly adorable you were as a toddler in your red corduroy overalls -- how I loved looking after you!
Of course, you're still adorable, but I wouldn't recommend the red overalls at this stage in your life.
Cheers, and happy, happy birthday! Love, Marlene
Marlene, I haven't gotten back to you since, but it's a birthday greeting I will always treasure. :)


Another of the books that I currently have on the go is “Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics” by Sasha Cagen. It is a fun, witty look at single life that I picked up in the neighbourhood discount bookstore.

In one of its first pages, the book offers you a true/false quiz to determine your degree of “quirkyaloneness”:


  1. Display a talent for self-reflection.
  2. Believe that life can be prosperous and great with or without a mate.
  3. Create and maintain chosen families of friends.
  4. Treat life as one big choose-your-own adventure; there is no single road map for adulthood.
  5. Are not opposed to dating, but prefer not to date for social convention.
  6. Would rather be alone than be in a relationship in which you have to hold back an essential part of yourself.
  7. Generally feel a sense of compulsion to make a mark in culture and society, to express yourself, whether through art, writing, a small business, or activism.
  8. Recognize the ways in which society prescribes happiness primarily through romantic love, and understand the failings of such an approach.
  9. Have had a taste or a glimpse of a great love relationship (or encounter), which intensifies your desire to remain open to the possibility of finding a similar experience.
  10. Possess a talent at deconstructing love songs equal only to your vulnerability to them.

So guess my score? To the “very quirkyalone” (that would be me), Cagen writes:

At long last. You have found your tribe, a brave breed to resist the tyranny of coupledom in famour of independent self-expression. Relatives may give you quizzical looks, and so may co-workers, but in your heart of hearts, you know that you are following your inner voice. You may or may not be participating in a conventional romance, but always you are romancing the world.

Hawk watching at Beamer Memorial

In the past year, I’ve realized two important and surprising things about myself:

  1. while I had considered myself in general a serious and risk-adverse person, I still need "mini-adventures" to energize me and to buoy the enthusiasm I feel for life. Now I don’t mean bungie-jumping or treks across the Sahara desert – just getting outside my comfort zone and doing things outside the everyday routine.
  2. while I had considered myself pretty much a city person, I am energized by being in natural surroundings (forest, beach, etc.).
So about a week ago, after seeing some hawks along the highway, I did a little research and found that there are a few places in Ontario that are particularly good places to view migrating hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey. I love seeing these birds because their freedom and power inspire me, and they’re also pretty easy to spot and identify. After reading about Beamer Memorial Conservation Area on the website for Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch, I decided that I should check it out. It was a beautiful day, I had the day off, and it would have been a shame to stay inside. So I packed my car with a few things and headed off, not entirely sure what I would see.

What I had not expected was this:

There was a tower. There were lots of cars and people. Most of the people were men. Since it was a weekday, there were several retired men. Most of them seemed to have known each other for years. They came supplied with binoculars and expensive-looking cameras with huge zoom lenses. They had packed lunches and thermoses and lawn chairs. They had their own vernacular (“TV” for turkey vulture, “shoulder” for red-shouldered hawk, "Gary" for a Cooper hawk, “gashawk” for airplane, etc.). When someone spotted a bird of prey, they called it out with the location so everyone else could see it, confirm it, and identify it. Counts were kept to track bird populations from year to year.

I hadn’t brought my own lawnchair, so I ended up sitting on a picnic table with a couple of greybeards. I listened in on their conversations, started asking a few questions here or there, and gradually they opened up and started sharing with me hints on books to read more on the subject (recommended were “A Year at the Cape” [not sure, but maybe they meant this book?], “The Wind Masters,” and “Hawks in Flight”), the best weather conditions in which to watch for raptors (overcast because the birds are easier to see against the clouds than against blue sky, cool so the thermals that lift the birds to higher altitudes are weaker), how to differentiate between the species, where to park my car so it wouldn’t be vandalized at the conservation area, etc. When they realized that I didn’t have binoculars, one of the gentlemen loaned me his extra set. They were exceptionally kind and willing to introduce a newcomer like me to the hobby they enjoyed with such passion.

As we sat in the sun and it became increasingly futile to look for the migrating birds (it was a warm day, and the thermals were lifting them to such heights that most could not be seen, even with binoculars), I sat listening to them talking about T-shirts they particularly liked (one where native Americans were depicted with bows and arrows, saying “Fighting terrorism since 1492”), about trends in nature (“Studies now show that the turkey vultures are moving further north while the ravens are moving further south.”), cars, current events, etc. They were intelligent, articulate, discussed a wide range of topics, and weren’t afraid to take a piss at each other (“Two loons above the tower!” “Six loons on the tower!”). They reminded me a great deal of the personalities I had worked and studied alongside when I was working on my biology degree.

And it was a really good day.

Patrizia at the AGO

A few weeks ago I met my lovely friend Patrizia and we went to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). The gallery is undergoing extensive renovations at the moment, so there actually wasn't much to see, but there was a kids' room where there were toys and an assortment of capes, bizarre hats, and tutus. Patrizia was unstoppable! :)

How to poach an egg

I paid over $40 for a pot specifically for poaching eggs, but this technique is far superior. Yummy!

(It's best to view that web page using IE; in Firefox the frames aren't properly spaced.)

El Convento Rico

My ears are still ringing, but I had a great time last night with my friends at El Convento Rico.

Going there was the brainchild of my friend Kevin (man, that guy can DANCE!), and I invited some friends that I’ve met recently through Two for the Show and the Toronto Ethnic Dining Adventure Club. So it was an eclectic group of people who mostly didn’t know each other before last night. However, thanks to some social lubricant (alcohol), the fact that I invited some truly awesome people, and the shamelessly silly antics of yours truly, the ice was broken and, I think, everyone had a great time! (Even though there were very few straight men in that bar … LOL)

The tranny (drag queen) show shortly after midnight was a lot of fun – wish I’d brought my camera!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Power of prayer overrated?

Kinda funny to my twisted mind:

In the largest scientific test of its kind, heart surgery patients showed no benefit when strangers prayed for their recovery.

And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.

Maid in Canada

This article by The Globe and Mail's Jan Wong is great. Yet another thing to think of when I think my own life is rough. :)