Monday, March 31, 2008

Indigo Girls overload

You ever have one of those days when your MP3 player drives you a little crazy???

I should first explain something: I really don't like skipping a song - especially if it has a catchy tune - once it's started because it will just stick in my head anyway. (On the other hand, allowing a song to naturally finish on its own actually helps me move on and not have the song stuck on continuous play in my brain.)

Okay, so back to my narrative: today, of the hundreds of songs that I have, my iPod somehow seemed to choose every Indigo Girls song there was. Not that there's anything wrong with the Indigo Girls - I love their melodies and harmonies - but holy crap every song seems to have a melodramatic lyric along the lines of "I take things so much more seriously than you do" and I want to reach through my headphones and shake one of those singers really hard and tell her, "FOR GOD'S SAKE FIND A SENSE OF HUMOUR!!!!"

And yes, I am fully aware of the irony of this. :->

How was your day? :)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Girl & Cow

Girl & Cow
Originally uploaded by KCzarzasty.

Have I blogged this photo before? It's extraordinary. The photographer writes:

"While visiting the Goshen Agricultural Fair my wife brought this picture to my attention. So overwhelmed by everything going on I would have missed this picture of this young girl and her cow taking an afternoon nap."

Now I'm off to get some hard-earned ZZZs myself ...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Have you ever ...

... had a password you liked so much that you wished you could tell other people what it was???

I could tell you my password, but then I'd have to ... change it. :-(

A job I would not want

For a long time, I thought the worst things about being a police officer would be the danger of getting shot at or otherwise attacked by some criminal. But a few weeks ago, during a bad snowstorm, I saw two police cruisers blocking entrance to a particular road. I assumed that there had been some kind of an accident further down the street, and they were keeping other people away.

Which made me think about what the job of a police officer must be like at the times when s/he is not facing possible murder. And I think it must include hours of time sitting alone in one's squad car wishing you had a novel or even a crossword puzzle just to keep you from going stir crazy. And I realized that I never would have survived had I chosen law enforcement as a career ... that much boredom AND a firearm???

I don't know how they do it. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Today someone said something so patently untrue that when I rolled my eyes, it was with enough force to make my head hurt.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Weirdly uplifting

Does anyone else get sentimental about the time when your kitchen was clean for more than 0.005 seconds? I'm cooking (or prepping lunches) a lot these days, which is awesome. I don't have a dishwasher (which I'm okay with not having), but I swear I do at least a sinkful of dishes every day.

This morning, when I walked into my kitchen and there wasn't a single dirty dish in sight and the counters had been wiped down, I swear I heard angels sing.

One of my favourites

Pink Martini - "Una Notte a Napoli"

I love the passion and drama in this song.

Sign the Petition to Protect the Boreal!

I am Canadian and want to sign I am not Canadian and want to sign

Canada's Boreal ForestCanada’s Boreal Forest, a 1.4 billion acre green garland stretching from Yukon to Newfoundland, is one of the world’s most unique and important ecosystems. The billions of birds raised in North America's Bird Nursery leave their nests in the fall and migrate to winter locations throughout North, Central and South America. Many of our favorite backyard birds began their lives in the Boreal.

Unfortunately, the Boreal Forest is steadily being carved up by unchecked oil and gas, mining, logging, and hydro development. While less than 8% of the Boreal is permanently protected, already 30% has been allocated to industry.

In recent years, we have seen long-term declines in many Boreal bird species. Rusty Blackbirds have declined by 95%, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Boreal Chickadees, Bay-breasted and Canada Warblers, and Evening Grosbeaks by more than 70%, and scaup and scoters by over 50%.

Evening GrosbeakIn addition to birds, Canada’s Boreal Forest hosts some of the last remaining large populations of caribou, wolves, lynx and grizzly bears on earth. It is one of the planet’s largest terrestrial storehouses of carbon, shielding us from global warming. And it is home to hundreds of aboriginal communities that rely on the land for their traditional way of life.

Fortunately, there is still time to ensure that the Boreal remains North America’s Bird Nursery. Canadian governments must take responsibility for conserving this precious natural legacy before the birds we love face extinction.

Show your concern for the future of Canada’s Boreal Forest and the billions of birds that rely on it. Sign this letter urging government leaders to protect the Boreal today.

Help me decide

Okay, folks ... I'm gonna ask you to do some work for me here. I have $150 given to me as a gift to spend with the wonderful charity, Plan International Canada, a non-religious, non-political organization aimed at helping children and their communities in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Please click here for the catalog of things I could buy. Then click on the link just below (where it says "click HERE to comment") and tell me how you would invest this money and why. If you make a sufficiently strong argument, I'll follow your direction!*

*Exception: I won't buy livestock to be eaten.

So won't you help a gal who's faced with too many cool choices to decide?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Words I thought I'd never have to say in the company kitchenette

[pleasant conversation with co-worker, then ...]

Eclecta: Dude, did you seriously just scratch your ear and then suck on your finger???

[co-worker pauses and mentally reviews the last few moments]

Co-worker: Oh my God, I think I did!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Don't judge too quickly

Thanks, Kevin! :)

Here's another you might enjoy:


Songs that have been in my head lately (for no apparent reason):

  • "I've Been in Love Before" by Cutting Crew
  • "Mellow Yellow" by Donovan
  • "O Canada" (very weird ... for a few minutes I was wondering, "What is this song???" Definitely carrying patriotism too far.)
  • "I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight," also by Cutting Crew (funny ... I didn't realize I was such a fan)
  • "Runaway" by Bon Jovi

Questions I have asked myself lately:
  • Does "dairy" include goat milk and cheese?
  • Hey, whatever happened to sweater sets?
  • Why does no one name their kid "Saffron" any more?
  • Why have I never met anyone named "Saffron"?
  • Did anyone ever really name their kid "Saffron"?
  • Why do so many cemetery monuments look so phallic?
  • Why does a possible building fire smell like burnt toast?
  • Aside from my cats, what else would I like to have outside the building in case this is a real fire? (Answer: my cell phone [just for practical reasons], a hat, gloves. I already had my wallet tucked in my winter coat.)
  • Will I ever forgive myself for leaving my cats in the apartment if this is a real fire? (In my defense, they don't really let me catch them while that god-awful siren is blaring.)
  • Who cooks at 3:30 in the morning, and why did they burn their food so badly as to set off the fire alarms and send the rest of the building out into the cold night???
  • If I were stranded on a remote island and could have only one herb or spice, which one would I want? (Answer: oregano, but with deep regret that I couldn't also have rosemary. And garlic. Ooh, and cayenne!)
  • What spice can I add to this mulligatawny to enrich its flavour? (Answer: nutmeg. The result was something of which I felt I could be truly proud.)
  • Do I post too many videos on this blog?
  • Which Gifts of Hope should I buy with the $135 raised by my party this past weekend?
  • Why are rubber boots considered fashionable these days? (I'm a farm kid; I associate them with mucking out a pig barn.)
  • OMG, how excited is Zen going to be that George Michael will be touring North America again???

More questions, chocolate cake version:
  • Would chocolate cake for breakfast really be so bad for me? (It is Easter, after all.)
  • Would another piece of chocolate cake be so bad for me?
  • Will I be able to zip up my pants in a few days if I have yet another piece of chocolate cake right now?
  • Why does this chocolate cake taste better and moister each time I have a piece? Isn't it supposed to go stale?
  • If I freeze the chocolate cake (in self-defense), will it get freezer burn? Is this a risk I’m willing to take? Do I really have a choice here???
  • How long would it take to defrost a piece of chocolate cake?
  • How many times have I thought of chocolate cake today?
  • Am I going to need some methadone in order to stop eating chocolate cake?

Final random question for tonight:
  • Am I the ultimate egocentric in finding these points amusing and/or interesting?

Acts of Kindness

I was sitting in the subway car on the train. I had just picked up a coffee cup that someone had left behind on the ledge behind a seat. The cup still had a bit of coffee in it. It had fallen over and spilled the coffee, which was in danger of getting on to the coat of the woman sitting in the seat. I was deprecating today's modern manners and the habit of leaving litter everywhere.

I heard a voice asking someone to pick up their feet. I looked around and a young man of about 12 to 15 years of age was reaching under a nearby seat. He pulled out the garbage and litter underneath it.

There were three or four other similar young men with him. They were wearing latex gloves, and one was carrying a garbage bag. They swept through the car between stations, picked up all the garbage, and accepted more from passengers. I gave them the coffee cup. One of them brought up the rear and wiped and polished the poles that passengers hold on to. At High Park they got out and vanished.

It is an understatement to say I was stunned. I've been riding the subway for 25 years and haven't seen anything like this before.

Too bad we can't encourage others to do the same, because it probably violates numerous regulations. But it was pretty amazing to see. Thanks to whoever you were, guys. We all thought you were great.

It had been snowing all day, when I hopped off the Bramalea GO Train.

All I wanted to do was get to the warmth and comfort of my home, but I knew I was going to have to spend at least ten minutes braving the elements to clear off my car before I could go anywhere.

I headed in the direction of my car and wondered how I was ever going to find it - all the cars were covered in snow.

As I approached the general vicinity, one car stood out because it was the only one that had already been cleared. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was my car.

I have no idea who cleared it off, or why. I can only assume it was a fellow passenger who came in on an earlier train, cleared off their car and then decided to clear off the car next to them too.

Whoever you are, I want to say thank you for your considerate gesture! I headed for home smiling all the way.

More here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I'm confused ...

... is this video FOR John McCain? If so, could they not find a lead "singer" without vampire teeth, or people who can actually lip-synch? And what's with the backup "singer" on the left fading to transparency and back again?

There MUST be talented and likeable people who support John McCain; that's just statistically reasonable to assume. Why couldn't they find any of THOSE people to be in this video?

Can you imagine what it must be like for those running the McCain campaign to see this video? Embarrassment and sheer terror, I'd say.


Do a Google search of "Avaaz + Tibet" and see what comes up first - even before the Avaaz website!

And to those who may be visiting as a result of this strange hiccup in Google: hello and I'm very sorry! :)

Who put vodka in this kid's cereal?

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Circle Game

This song by the great Canadian songwriter Joni Mitchell came up on my iPod today. Particularly at this time of the year it resonates with me. It doesn't make me feel sad; it makes me so grateful for the rhythms of life and to know that I'm a part of it, and that there's nothing new or unusual about any of my experiences.

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A dilemma

This morning, on my way to work, I was faced with a dilemma. I'm not sure that I handled it very well, so your thoughts and input would be welcome so I can ensure that I do not behave like an ass again. Here goes:

I actually have a seat on the subway on the way to work. At a certain stop, a bunch of people board the train, and suddenly I realize that there is a very beautiful, very pregnant woman standing in front of me, as there are no seats left. I immediately offer her my seat, but she assures me that she doesn't need it, as she has only two stops before she gets off the train again. She is totally glowing and she is rock-solid on her feet in spite of the beach ball-like protrubence under her winter coat, so I stay where I am.

My gaze drifts over to the woman standing next to her, and ... oh shit, is she pregnant too? It's a LOT harder to tell with this second woman, as she definitely is carrying some extra weight over the stomach area, but it's not as obvious as with the first woman, and frankly it looks a little lumpy. I'm trying not to be obvious that I'm staring at her belly. In the end, I stick to my policy to not mention a woman's pregnancy (or assumed pregnancy) to her face unless it is:

a) confirmed beforehand by a third party;
b) the woman herself brings it up in conversation; or
c) the woman's water has broken and the baby is about to come out.

But in the end I'm not sure whether I did the right thing.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Romance novel snickers

There's a grocery store where I go that has romance novels on display near the exit. I must confess that I am a former Harlequin novel junkie; but in my defense, it was during my youth when my brain was soft. These days, the titles just make me snicker.

Tonight's title: Hired for the Boss's Bed

Seriously. I would not make that up.

Isn't that funny? I think the subtitle could be: The Romantic Side of Prostitution, or maybe Sexual Harassment: A Case Study.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Mighty Heart - the movie

I just finished watching A Mighty Heart, based on the book by Mariane Pearl.

Despite the tragic and senseless murder of her husband, her book is one of the most beautiful and life-affirming things I have ever read. The film succeeds in this way to some degree, although its greatest flaw is that Dan Futterman cannot convey the incredible light, spirit, and intelligence of Daniel Pearl.

But what shines in this movie is Angelina Jolie. I cannot think of another actress like her. She is amazing, astounding, heart-breaking.


Can you believe my luck in working with a guy like this???

An important e-mail from Avaaz: Tibet

Dear friends,

Tibetans have exploded onto the streets in frustration--call on China to respect human rights and enter dialogue with the Dalai Lama now:
After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

The Chinese government has said that the protesters who have not yet surrendered "will be punished". Its leaders are right now considering a crucial choice between escalating brutality or dialogue that could determine the future of Tibet, and China.

We can affect this historic choice--China does care about its international reputation. China's President Hu Jintao needs to hear that the 'Made in China' brand and the upcoming Olympics in Beijing can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention--and we need it in the next 48 hours.

The Tibetan Nobel peace prize winner and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has called for restraint and dialogue: he needs the world's people to support him. Click below now to sign the petition--and tell absolutely everyone you can right away--our goal is 1 million voices united for Tibet:

China's economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy, and the government is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China, respected as a leading world power. China is also a very diverse country with a brutal past and has reason to be concerned about its stability -- some of Tibet's rioters killed innocent people. But President Hu must recognize that the greatest danger to Chinese stability and development comes from hardliners who advocate escalating repression, not from Tibetans who seek dialogue and reform.

We will deliver our petition directly to Chinese officials in London, New York, and Beijing, but it must be a massive number before we deliver the petition. Please forward this email to your address book with a note explaining to your friends why this is important, or use our tell-a-friend tool to email your address book--it will come up after you sign the petition.

The Tibetan people have suffered quietly for decades. It is finally their moment to speak--we must help them be heard.

With hope and respect,

Ricken, Iain, Graziela, Paul, Galit, Pascal, Milena, Ben and the whole Avaaz team

PS - It has been suggested that the Chinese government may block the Avaaz website as a result of this email, and thousands of Avaaz members in China will no longer be able to participate in our community. A poll of Avaaz members over the weekend showed that over 80% of us believed it was still important to act on Tibet despite this terrible potential loss to our community, if we thought we could make a difference. If we are blocked, Avaaz will help maintain the campaign for internet freedom for all Chinese people, so that our members in China can one day rejoin our community.

Here are some links with more information on the Tibetan protests and the Chinese response:

BBC News: UN Calls for Restraint in Tibet

Human Rights Watch: China Restrain from Violently Attacking Protesters

Associated Press: Tibet Unrest Sparks Global Reaction

New York Times: China Takes Steps to Thwart Reporting on Tibet Protests

Monday, March 17, 2008

Also on the CBC

This very interesting discussion with Chris Hedges, author of "I Don't Believe in Atheists", who suggests that some modern-day atheists have espoused a doctrine that is strikingly similar to those found in fundamentalist religious groups. What he says makes a great deal of sense to me (a reformed fundie from both sides of the spectrum).

We're all the same, and none of us know much for certain, especially about some of the most important questions in life.

This is why I appreciate so much another CBC program, Tapestry, which examines spirituality in such an open, respectful way that one can begin to see the commonality between Christianity, Buddhism, Islaam, Hinduism, Mother-Goddess worship, etc. I love listening to this program's podcasts (available via iTunes) while I cook or do housework.

It helps to laugh

I don't often watch The Hour now that there's a live studio audience. I don't know why, I just don't enjoy it as much as I used to do. However, I did flip it on tonight while I was eating the Biggest Bean Quesadilla in Human History (why, self, why??? Because it was so gooooood!!!!). And George said the funniest thing when discussing the other George's attempts to calm the turbulent financial markets. It went something like this:

Bush said his admistration was "on top of the situation" ... Are you sure that you're on top of the situation? Because it kind of looks like it's on top of you ... Not only that, but it's also lit some candles and put on some Barry White!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Busy, busy

Why oh why aren't weekends longer? I stayed busy most of the weekend and STILL only got through half - or maybe just a third - of my to-do list! :-S

However, not much exciting to report, other than I used my brand-new mortar and pestle today (breaking up rock-hard brown sugar [heh ... no double entendre intended]). It made me think that perhaps any future career decisions I make will have to include this consideration: Will this job require me to use a mortar and pestle regularly? Because that would be really cool!

I may be a smart blonde, but apparently I am easily amused.

Tell me about your weekend!

Matt Damon: Brilliant

Excellent follow-up on my most favourite video ever. (Mom, don't bother.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

THIS is the way to go

Several weeks ago, I blogged about Workers of the World Relax by Conrad Schmidt, which argued the social, physical, environmental, and political benefits of a reduced work-week.

This is a discussion of a company that has reduced the working hours of its staff to 4 days a week. Visionary and exciting. Take a read and be inspired.

Friday, March 14, 2008

On Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal

Tonight I have to recommend this article about what might actually happen between a john and a high-priced hooker, as many people have wondered what kind of sex act could possibly merit $3000-plus for a single encounter as in the Eliot Spitzer scandal. The answer, apparently, is not at all what you might think:

What high-end clients pay for may surprise you. For example, according to my ongoing interviews of several hundred sex workers, approximately 40 percent of trades in New York's sex economy fail to include a physical act beyond light petting or kissing. No intercourse, no oral stimulation, etc. That's one helluva conversation. But it's what many clients want. Flush with cash, these elite men routinely turn their prostitute into a second partner or spouse.

... [High-priced hooker "Melissa"] receives $10,000 per month, which usually translates into three meetings. "The last time I met him, I gave him a bath," she told me. "I told him he was the most sensitive man I'd ever met. I never tell him he's a piece of shit; I make him feel like superman." Melissa estimates that she has sex with him about once a month, but as often he will simply masturbate in front of her.
I'm not sure what to think about this, myself. Does this mean that some people are willing to jeopardize their families, career, reputation, finances, etc. just for someone to stroke their ego? Is being in the public eye or in the cutthroat business world so ego-eroding that the appeal of a compliant, obsequious woman is too great a temptation? Or are these people so successful primarily because of their ego-driven natures, and this is another symptom?

Contrary to many people, I don't think Spitzer is any less of a good person now than I did before. One of the biggest lessons for this is that I've had to learn in the past year and a half (over and over again, it seemed) is that some of the greatest, most talented people have the most destructive flaws. It doesn't excuse what they do - not by a long shot - but I can't deny the positive forces they can be as well.

(As an aside, these are always the most compelling people, because you can't trust them, ignore them, or totally discredit them - they are there goading you and making you pull out your hair and causing you to respect them all at the same time. They are Shakespearean.)

I wish Eliot Spitzer well. I hope he'll use this entire episode as a wake-up call and do what he has to do to make whatever amends he can to his family, and to examine and address what kind of emptiness there might be in his own life and heart for him to have done what he did. And I hope he somehow is able to pick up the pieces and resume some kind of public service.

Though it probably won't be via politics.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Memories of Korea: What's that smell?

This is a story about Korea that is not about Korea at all.

My boyfriend in Korea and I once watched the movie, The Ref, starring Dennis O’Leary as a catburgler named Gus. Great movie. Near the beginning of the film, Gus’ attempt to rob a safe is foiled by a couple of ingenious security measures, one of which is that Gus is sprayed with a liquid from within the safe, and he soon angrily identifies it by its odour as “cat piss”. Gus runs out of the house, evading police, but throughout the rest of the movie, as new characters enter the story and encounter Gus, inevitably they stop, sniff the air loudly, and ask, “What’s that smell? Is that cat piss???” It’s a hilarious running gag.

This boyfriend of mine had a male cat named O’Ginny (short for Miss O’Ginny, which should have been a flashing warning sign right there), whom he (VERY reluctantly) took in to the animal hospital to have neutered. Well, O’Ginny must have known that something was amiss, because on the way there he must have had a bad case of nerves and – um, soiled himself. Unfortunately for the BF, when O’Ginny got out of his carrier at the animal hospital, he immediately scrambled atop the BF’s shoulders for safety. Apparently the experience was a little messy.

A week or so after this happened, we were at work and I thought I would tease the BF a little, as I knew he was pretty vain. I stopped, sniffed the air loudly, and asked, “What’s that SMELL???”

“I do NOT!!!!”

Heh. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SOMETHING didn't work

Tonight I tried this Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the Entire World ... Seriously recipe. (I just made half a batch, and added carmelized onions and sauteeed mushrooms and onions. It was kind of tasty, but totally overwhelmed by the flavour of soya sauce. Disappointing. Maybe I'll try it again someday and seriously cut back on just that one ingredient.

Help me feel better - what's your most dismal cooking flop??? Bring out your most aggressive one-upmanship tendencies, please!!! :)

Whenever I think my own life sucks

... I will think of this story, and realize it's not so bad.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I watched this movie tonight. Through the first hour, I was sorely tempted just to turn it off - it was slow and had really awkward (but not funny) moments, and the most important plot developments were sudden, unexplained, and just improbable. And watching an abusive marriage? Not my idea of entertainment. Oh, and the pie names weren't nearly as funny as I'd expected. But Keri Russell is stunning in this movie (her radiant beauty and, yes, skilled acting, lift this movie far higher than it otherwise deserves). There are a few transcendent moments in the film, and the ending is almost exactly right.

Verdict: 2/6 pieces

Monday, March 10, 2008

Compulsive, much?

I took a vacation day today to go to an appointment and to renew my health card and drivers’ license. Thankfully, it all happened with remarkable efficiency, so I spent much of the day doing something that desperately needed to be done: organizing my cupboards.

Since I started doing a lot of cooking for myself, I’ve been doing a lot of grocery shopping, and storing things wherever there was space, and then, when not able to find (all of) them, I would go out and buy some more. The result? Eleven cans of chickpeas. Ten cans of black beans. Three six-packs of single-serving applesauce. Three bags of engevita yeast. Three bags of chocolate chips. Cans of mushrooms I didn't even know I had. Stuff I don’t even know how I’m going to use. On and on. Witness:

(Ignore the top shelf - I've got to do some rearranging there, so it'll look more impressive in a few days, trust me. Also, those cans on the third shelf? They are stacked three cans deep! The photo is cropped so you can also see the large number of bananas I have on hand, in various stages of ripening.)

This is stupid, right? It doesn’t make sense to have so much stuff when there’s no way that I can use it all any time soon. There is no black bean-chickpea-hoisin-chutney recipe that’s going to fix this.

At times like these, it would be really easy to blame my parents. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do! You see, I grew up in a hoarding household. We lived in the country (a scant two kilometres out of town), and frequent trips to the store were considered wasteful (in retrospect, this was environmentally friendly, at least). But more than that, my father had convinced all of us that another economic depression was imminent, and that we should stock up on necessities for the inevitable crashing of our economy. (If ever there was a reason to be a morose adolescent, that was it!) We had a big pantry with all sorts of storage space for every non-perishable item you could imagine. This is normal to me!

Today, I have my own reasons for stocking up. I like to buy organic, specialty products that are available only at a few locations within the city. None are in my neighbourhood, and are in fact out of my way. So I make the occasional car trip and load up.

But the reality is, even if everything I wanted were at the corner store, I’d still want to have an overstocked pantry. I'd feel ... naked or something without one. Perhaps in my next lifetime I’ll be a squirrel?

Terrible price for coal extraction

From the Toronto Star:

This is the new face of coal mining in Central Appalachia. It is called mountaintop removal. Instead of extracting coal the old-fashioned way, by burrowing, the mountain is extracted from the coal – blown up sequentially to reveal each black seam. Everything left over – trees, soil, plants and rock – is considered "overburden." It's dumped into the valleys below, filling them up.

Some say as many as 470 mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia have been flattened this way. For the industry, it's a financial jackpot – fast, cheap and thorough. But for the mountains, and the communities nestled between them, it's war.

Their homes have been flooded, walls cracked, wells poisoned, streams polluted; their jobs have been forfeited, cemeteries unearthed and communities abandoned. Many suffer from early-onset dementia and kidney stones. And they've lost their ancestral home.

"We're mountain people. You don't understand our connection with the land," says Gibson, who traces his heritage back 120 years to this very spot. He had never ventured beyond the company store, halfway down the mountain, until he was 11. "We didn't live on the land, we lived with it."

How can the engineers, managers, and owners of such destruction live with themselves???

And for the love of all that's holy why can't we invest a hell of a lot more into alternative energy sources????

Sunday, March 09, 2008

This day is done

It's been a long, intense, but incredible day, as it was my first day of my first Touch for Health course, and I have a lot of processing to do. In the meantime, this is a photo I took about a month ago. It's not the best, but I think it still captures some of the beauty of winter in rural Canada.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful ...

Driving around the city this morning was a little tricky, but I have my groceries for the next few days and even got my car tested for its regular emissions testing so I can renew its license on Monday. I love this interchange:

Eclecta: So how did it do?
Mechanic: It’s a Honda, of course it passed.

Oh, and another one:

Mechanic: Did you just drive up that hill over there?
Eclecta: Umm, yeah.
Mechanic: Wow, only one other guy has been able to drive up that hill all morning!
Eclecta [with satisfaction and a little chest-puffing]: Heh!

Anyway, another snowstorm is hitting southern Ontario as I speak. The wind has really picked up since this morning, but since I no longer have to go out into it, I feel cozy and secure, enjoying looking out at the beautiful power of Nature and feeling very, very grateful. I have a couple of DVDs to watch, some sorting to do, some cooking/baking, some reading, some meditating, etc. so I could really be holed up here until June. It’s the perfect afternoon to putter and relax to the music by artists like Sade, Michael Jones, and Pink Martini.

I wonder about you, friends and Internet vagabonds, and how you’ll spend this afternoon, maybe holed up from the same storm, or in a place of the world where there is no storm. Wherever you may be, I hope you are safe, warm, and happy.

This man has the most beautiful spirit

Friday, March 07, 2008

One of the best posts I've ever read

I’m talking to you. I know you don’t know me, but I know you.

I want you to leave her alone, to stop this mess you’ve lured her into. To stop dangling the carrot in front of her face knowing full well that you aren’t enough for this woman, knowing full well that you keeping her at arm’s length only draws her in closer. I want you to man up and tell her to move on, tell her you’ll never deliver, because you won’t. Sunday crosswords and hands held tightly at the market and wine over dinner with friends – it isn’t in the cards. She will never meet your parents or be your date for the wedding you’ve talked about for the year, a picture of celebration and friendship you’ve painted repeatedly, although never with her in it. She will never see the Maldives with you and your favorite couple. You will never agree to hit the favorite haunts in her hometown.
There's more here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Now THAT'S entertainment

When a video still makes you giggle just thinking about it on the way to work four days since the last time you watched it, you know that it's awesome. Or that my life is really boring. :)

Memories of Korea: My most outrageous acquaintance

One of the most interesting Koreans I ever met was a thirty-something businessman whom I tutored. “Ken” was nearly fluent in English (quite uncommon in the backwater town where we lived), and our “lessons” were one-hour chats at a table in his restaurant.

Ken claimed to have once won the “Mr. Korea” body-building contest. He said he had a photo of himself with Arnold Schwarzenegger to prove it, but I don’t think I ever got to see it (he mentioned it in passing only months after we’d known each other, and I left Korea shortly thereafter). Ken also claimed to have spent three years in Kenya working in the (illegal) import-export business. In addition to owning a restaurant, Ken also owned a study hall in the same town where hard-working Korean students could go after school (I know, this last bit doesn't sound all that interesting, but it's important for later, so don't forget it).

Shortly after taking Ken on as an English student, I noticed that he had an exceedingly short span of attention. He would look bored after 5 or 10 minutes of discussion on almost any topic other than sex. But whenever we spoke on that particular subject, I had Ken’s whole-hearted concentration.

To be clear, we weren’t talking about sex between him and me, just sex in general. I would ask him questions about some of the things I’d heard from other teachers and other students. Were sexually transmitted diseases really as prevalent among Koreans as I’d been told? (He said they weren’t uncommon.) Were there really such things as hymen repair surgeries, and people willing to pay for them? (Definitely, Ken said.) Exactly what went on in those rooms where two people could go to rent and watch a movie in total privacy? (Exactly what you think … where else were young people going to go???) On and on … he was up for it, so to speak. He sometimes confessed to me that he had cheated (yet again) on his girlfriend who lived in Seoul. (I was someone safe for him to confide in, because who would I tell?) It became clear to me that he had a sex addiction. And yet … I have to confess that in our lessons, I pandered to this addiction by returning the discussion to the topic because it was so clear that was the only thing he was interested in (and he paid well … LOL).

But the most colourful conversation we ever had was when I asked him about public baths in Korea. I had heard about them, but never been to one. I asked him what they were like, and he tried to describe them to me. However, he was somewhat vague, and explained that he couldn’t go to public baths himself, so he wasn’t entirely sure what they were like or what people did in them. Naturally, I asked him why he couldn’t go to a public bath. Again being very vague, he said he had some anatomical abnormalities that, if exposed to public viewing, might cause him to lose his study hall business, as parents would likely pull their kids out and not let them return.

I’m sure I hesitated, not really sure if I should ask about this abnormality, or even if I wanted to know. But suddenly Ken laughed and shrugged and told me this story:

He and his friend, as teenagers, wanted to be circumcised, but no doctor would do it for them. So one night they broke into a clinic and stole some anesthetic, and circumcised themselves. But apparently it wasn’t quite done properly. At this point, Ken started flipping through the Korean-English dictionary and came up with this word: FRILLY.

Even now I laugh and shake my head. Surely he was making it up. It’s one of the most outlandish stories I’ve ever heard. But it was almost too bizarre to be fabricated. Ken quickly offered to show me proof, and I declined just as promptly.

But now I’m kind of sorry that I did, because I’ll never know whether any of it was true … LOL

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

It wouldn't be funny if it didn't have some truth :)

Shared by the awesome Yvonne:

Memories of Korea, #2

During my first year in Korea, I taught a lot of university students, who were a lot of fun. From time to time, I would go out socially with them.

One such evening, we were sitting around a table in a restaurant, when the discussion turned to hair colour, specifically blonde hair. One of my students asked, hesitantly, if he could just touch my hair. I shrugged and said, "Sure!"

Tentatively, he reached out and lightly, gently touched my hair. Reverently, as if in awe, he said, "This is first time I touch blonde hair!!!"

I wonder now whether he ever thinks back on that moment, ever tells his friends about this western woman who was once his teacher, and how she had very blonde, very fine hair. Somehow - and I hope this won't come across as arrogance - I think he might.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Memories of Korea

On March 28th, it will have been 10 years since I returned to Canada from South Korea, where I was teaching English. Wow.

People often ask me if I enjoyed my experience there, and my short answer is that I’m happy that I went. I had a lot of stuff going on in my life at the time, which Korea no doubt helped to precipitate, and I was really, really young experience-wise. I worked for people who were likely stealing from me or otherwise not acting in my best interests, and I had a relationship with someone who was an amazing friend but a really awful boyfriend, but it all came together to be a terrific learning experience, and I made some lifelong friends as well, so … overall, I am truly glad that I did this.

I have a lot of cool stories from that time of my life, but I have less and less occasion to tell them now. So I’ve decided to reach back in those dusty shelves of memory and bring a few out to share. Here’s the first:

But before I get started, a little bit of background: When I lived there, Korea was going through accelerated social change, but society was still very conservative and patriarchal in some ways, with lots of taboos (e.g., it was considered shocking and brazen behaviour for women to smoke in public, it was common and relatively accepted for husbands to have mistresses, etc.). I expect that many things are dramatically different today.

I used to teach civil servants in the city hall where I lived. The public health nurse was a spirited woman in her 50s who probably had her work cut out for her, but she had a lot of energy and was a lot of fun. One day, we were working on vocabulary, specifically the rooms of a house and the furniture therein. We were working through the furniture room-by-room, with me giving my students a chance to call out vocabulary that they already knew. Everything was going well and without anything noteworthy (other than the gratifying excitement of students developing confidence in their own skills) until the bedroom. That’s when the public health nurse yelled out “Condom!” as her contribution to the list of bedroom furniture.

Well, you should have seen the reactions in that room. The nurse was such a likeable, irrepressible person (no doubt seizing every opportunity to get her message across) and yet for her to actually yell out this word in mixed company??? The room convulsed in laughter. There were some 50-something men in business suits sitting next to her who actually turned away from her because they couldn’t look at her, even as they laughed because they were so embarrassed.

And the nurse sat there among the furor, enjoying her moment and knowing that she’d made her colleagues think a little bit more about safe sex. :)

Monday, March 03, 2008

New green smoothie

Today I made an awesome smoothie, adapted from this one at HappyFoody:

  • 5 leaves kale (centre rib removed from each leaf)
  • one lemon (peel removed, but lots of pith left for nutrients)
  • one banana
  • one apple (cored)
  • a handful of ice
  • approx. 1 cup of water
All blended noisily to perfection with my Vita-Mix blender. It was awesome!!! Yummy and healthy and very slightly tart.

Updated: I use two apples now, as it tends to be a bit too tart without the second one. Now it's perfectly yummy! :)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Food, cooking, Bob Loblaw's law blog :)

Last week was the first time in a LOOOOONG time that I brought my lunch to work every day and ate it every day.

I’ve been a little Suzy Homemaker lately. I've wondered about it, and realized that there are several reasons why:

  • Without a roommate, I now have full access to all the fridge and cupboard space. This means I’m not limited in my supplies.
  • With my new deep freezer, I’m not as painfully limited in my long-term storage space. I can make that big pot of soup and not worry about having to eat the same darned thing day after day until I want to throw up.
  • Now that I have my Roomba, I’m spending far less time on other housework. Yay!!!
  • I’ve been reading about modern agriculture and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and have decided to buy organic produce and products as much as possible. Since none of the food courts where I work offer any such guarantees about their food, I’m left to schlep my food in every day.
  • I actually find cooking rewarding* and sometimes even meditative. Plus, I am just amazed at the countless delicious recipes that are veggie-friendly (and to think when I became a vegetarian I tried to resign myself to the fact I’d be eating boring food for the rest of my life!).
  • There’s a lot of hidden fat in most food-court fare, and I *know* I can avoid 90% of the fat and still enjoy what I’m eating if I make it myself.

(*And to think that when I was growing up, I steadfastly refused to learn how to cook! Mind you, I think I was rebelling against my father's idea that all women should know how to cook. His argument that I should learn how to cook for when I was married was probably not the best argument to use on me, the poor antiquated dear. LOL However, I think even my cooking these days would not gain his whole-hearted approval, as it is without meat. I guess I'll always be a disappointment. LOL)

Today I made a chickpea gumbo that was divine. I froze most of it in individual portions, like much of what I prepare for myself. I find that if I have sufficient variety (say, a different soup for each day of the week), I’m quite happy to forego the food court. And now basically all I have to do is cook one pot of soup for freezing a week, and the variety is sustained. I’d call myself a genius, but it kind of happened without me realizing it. :)

The next step in my food-court independence is baking. I used to bake quite a bit (though nothing challenging or extravagant), but got out of it for several years. Now I’m doing a lot of reading about using alternative flours, healthy sugar substitutes like stevia, and how to reduce the amount of butter or oil that’s needed in some recipes. Baking is going to take more trial and error than my beloved soups, but ever since my last trip to Seattle (where I gorged myself on Lisa’s oatmeal raisin cookies without hardly a vestige of restraint), I’ve been craving baked goods on a daily basis. Not good for the wallet, the blood sugar, or the hips unless I find some healthy alternatives that I can make myself! :) Today I made oatmeal brownies, which totally addressed my chocolate craving (after the second one), but it was far too crumbly. I will try the recipe again sometime with a couple of adjustments, and I’m sure it’ll be terrific.

Okay, I’m done blathering. Sorry for the inane post. It must be quite the disappointment after the Matt Damon videos! LOL

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I suddenly wish I were ******* Matt Damon

A weird thing happened after watching the video in my previous post.

When Matt Damon became People's sexiest man of the year, last year, I truly wondered if the editors were even coming in to the office any more. I mean, him? I didn't see anything extraordinary (although he always did seem to be a nice guy ... although we all know that being "nice" alone, sadly, just doesn't create much of an allure).

Now, though ... after watching him be such a goof and after he's made me laugh hysterically, I find myself thinking, Ooh, look at those muscle-y arms! and He has a nice smile! and Rrrrrroooowll!!!!

So yup, sense of humour does it for me. We now have proof. :)