26 June 2012

Three Things Very Dull Indeed

It's a Box Hill kind of day. Oh, not because it's so hot and sticky - quite the opposite: apparently we've just had the coldest and wettest June in forty years here. Which, perhaps, has something to do with my boxhillian state. It's a Miss-Bates-Box-Hill state: I don't have anything clever to say today - not one thing very clever, or even two things moderately clever. I might, however, manage three things very dull indeed.

Actually, talking about the weather might count as the first dull thing for the day.

The second is something that I've been meaning to tell you about for a while: Songs I Can't Stand Hearing Any More. Oh yes. There was, back in my teen years, "Morning Has Broken", which was the theme music of the early morning radio show which I had running on my little transistor radio when I got ready for school at 6:30 AM. And trust me, 6:30 AM is not a time at which much of anything is endearing to me. That song became associated with having to get up when I'd rather be sleeping, having to hurry when I'd rather be leisurely dawdling, having to leave the house when I'd rather be staying snugly inside. "Morning Has Broken", indeed, and nobody would fix it for me.

The next song like that was ca. 1997, "My Heart Will Go On". Eeew. I never watched the Titanic movie, but that year, the song was incessantly blowing out of every single loudspeaker in every single store one might conveivably set foot in. And then in the spring of '98, I took a trip to Germany, thinking I'd escaped the inundation of the syrupy song for a couple of weeks, only to find that the movie had recently been released in German. Aaaack! They don't dub songs, so "My Irritation Will Go On..." Nothing against CĂ©line Dion, oh no. I just couldn't stand the song any more.

And right now, it's a toss-up between about three of them. There's "Rumor Has It" by Adele; there's "The Harbour Boys" by I dunno whom; and there's "Death To My Hometown" by Bruce Springsteen. They're great songs - about the first dozen or so times you hear them. After that, I, for one, have to fight a nearly irresistable urge to scream and pound my head against the nearest horizontal surface whenever I recognize those sounds. And as those sounds are, in my case, coming through the speakers of my car radio as I'm driving down a short stretch of narrow and winding provincial highway at 80km/h, said surface is the steering wheel, and cranial impact not recommended on account of road safety.

So that was dull thing number two: there's songs I can't stand hearing any more.

And dull thing number three - dull thing number three... I can't even think of one, my brain is so dull today. Let me go ask Steve, he might have something to tell you. Oh, he's busy talking to Horatio. We'll get back to you on that.

Life, the Universe, and Three Things Very Dull Indeed. Hope your day's a little more interesting than mine.

22 June 2012


When I was younger, I used to wish I could write songs. Music, for so much of my life, has been an expression of who I am, but I've always been dependent on others to express my thoughts for me in that medium.

Part of my problem is that I can't rhyme to save my life. Well, okay, maybe to save my life, if some cannibal had me in the cook pot and said "Rhyme, dammit, or we'll click the barbecue lighter and you're stew!" But at that point, they probably wouldn't ask for anything better than, oh, rhyme and chime, or heart and start (or fart? cart? part? See, I even had to think a minute to come up with those ones. Point proven.).

But then, I was driving in the car the other day, and a song came on the radio that gave me hope. Not because it was such a hopeful subject (although it was that, too), but because the lyrics were such that I could aspire to perhaps, someday, write something like it. It went like this:

"Love, love, love, / love, love, / love, / love, love, love, love...."

No, it didn't say "All you need is..." first. It was just that. "Love, love, love..." A whole song's worth.

I could do that, don't you think? Let me try. Here's a song about one of nature's miracles which never fails to move me:

"Sunset, sunset, sunset, / sunset, sunset..."

Alright, you composers out there, doesn't that inspire you? Come on, boot up your keyboards or midi players or garage bands or whatever you use to create your wondrous melodies, and gimme some tunes!

Somehow, the silence is deafening. No takers. Do you think I need to hone the rhythm of the lines a bit more? Perhaps break it up a bit? But then, that would spoil the simplicity of expression, the purity of feeling. If nobody likes this and wants to write music to go with my lyrics, I must conclude that my art is simply not appreciated. Dagnab it, as my offspring would say. Perhaps I should write a song about that.

"Drat, / drat, drat, drat, drat..."

Life, the Universe, and Song Lyrics. Song, song, / song, song, song...

20 June 2012


Comparatively... I'm not doing so badly. On the other hand, comparatively, I'm a loser.

In case you missed it, I've been comparing myself again. I just popped onto the blog of a homeschooling mom who has kids roughly the same age as mine. Unlike me, she doesn't seem to have had nervous breakdowns. Unlike me, she didn't end up sending her kids to school because they needed more structure than she could give them. Unlike me, she can handle holding down a part-time job, drives her kids around to all kinds of fascinating activities which they're all fascinatingly successful at, and writes a damn good blog to boot. Unlike me...

Unlike me. That's the point, isn't it? She's unlike me, because she is not me. And I'm not her.

See, I could also go on someone else's blog, someone who, unlike me, never homeschooled in the first place because it's too much work, or who, unlike me, really can't stand having their kids around, or who, unlike me, couldn't make a pan of spaghetti sauce if they were starving on an island with nothing but tomatoes, onions, oregano, parsley, chives, thyme, salt, pepper, ground beef, an electric cook stove and a frying pan to hand. But noooo, I never compare myself to them. Because if I did, I might end up feeling better about myself, and then I'd run out of reasons for being depressed.

Well, okay, I've got a long ways to go before I run out of reasons for being depressed. Or at least before I stop ever feeling depressed, reasons or not (as reasoning seem to have comparatively little to do with my moods). I can be depressed any old time, thank you very much! But comparing myself with people who make me feel small, that's a sure-fire way to feed the bog.

Carefully looking at "them", at what "they" have accomplished, what "they" are like, and beating myself up over not being that way myself, that's an area I'm especially talented in. Some fifteen years ago, I worked myself into a state of utter burnout by comparing myself to Caroline Ingalls, she of "Little House on the Prairie", and trying to live a lifestyle like hers. Yup. Let no one say I have no special abilities. If nothing else, I'm a champion guilt-tripper.

Oh, if you're prone to that kind of travel yourself, I'll let you in on a little secret: Ma Ingalls is dead. Yup. Dead & buried. And what's more, when she wasn't dead, she lived in the nineteenth century. Another little secret: the nineteenth century, it was different from now. For one, they had no internet. No, really! And no electricity. The reason Ma Ingalls made everything by hand is because she didn't have no Bosch Kitchen Machine to do her bread kneading for her. I'd be willing to bet that if she'd had one, she'd have been only too glad to use it. Or even, given the opportunity, get her bread from the store.

Comparing myself to Ma Ingalls was downright ludicrous. But not a whole lot more so than any of the other comparing I so often do. Just a little more obviously spotted, and, for me, a bit more easily kept in mind as to its detrimental effects. But comparing myself is unhealthy, no matter to whom. I'm going to stop doing that right now - after all, that other blogger-who's-so-successful, I'm sure she never does it. Uh, wait...

Incidentally, Steve is shaking his woolly head at me. It would never occur to him to draw comparisons between himself and others, and even if he did, the fact that Benjamin is ten times his size, in all dimensions, doesn't faze him in the slightest. Ah, for the self-confidence of bears...

Life, the Universe, and Comparisons. Comparatively, it could always be worse.

17 June 2012

Picture This

I'm in the middle of a conversation with a new friend about pictures. It all began with a metaphor which cropped up in a discussion we had - a metaphor which I found somewhat startling, but which hadn't been meant to be taken as such, not in the way I saw it. He was just painting a word picture, but I saw the visual one. Now, I love metaphors. In fact, I talk in metaphors all the time; so much so that I sometimes fall afoul of academia, because my default mode is to explain something with something else - for example, it's like I can't make a general statement without saying at least once "for example" or "it's like". I understand the general through the specific.

But in this conversation, I also realized something else, namely the importance of images to the way I think. I'm a visual thinker as well as a verbal one. Yes, I have words running through my head all the time, but what goes with the words is pictures. This conversation with my friend is taking place via email, and when I write to him, I'm seeing him in my mind, sitting in the easy chair in front of the patio door at the house where we met. I'm talking to the mental image I formed of him.

On internet message boards, it really bothers me not to have a picture of the person I'm talking to; I will go out of my way to find some image to attach to them. So just be aware: those little avatars you use around the web, people like me will use that as their image of you in their heads. On one of the boards where I occasionally go to look for information on ebooks, there's a really irritating person who uses a penguin as their avatar. For all I know, in reality he is drop-dead handsome with a most charming smile, but to me, he's a penguin. An irritating penguin.

And there's the CBC radio host who has lately been doing pledge drives on one of my favourite TV stations. It really messes with my head, because she looks utterly different from the way I had pictured her when I only heard her on the radio. Seeing Shelagh Rogers' voice coming out of a body that doesn't fit my mental image of her is very disconcerting.

To top it off, this morning I was trying to post a comment on a blog, and I got one of those "Please prove you're not a robot" things. I mean, check it out! It used to be just skewed letters and numbers which you could actually read and type out. Now they're giving you pictures! And pictures of who-knows-what at that. What was I meant to do with this one? Type "dendsB ventilation-grate-in-plastered-wall"? That's what it looks like to me! I don't know where that robot gets off asking me to prove I'm not a robot. Talk of the pot calling the kettle black! (And to understand that particular metaphor, you'd have to know something about open-hearth cooking. At my house, the pots are stainless steel, and the kettle is white plastic, so the pot calling the kettle black would just be nonsensical slander.)

Life, the Universe, and Thinking in Pictures. It's all highly metaphorical.

12 June 2012


It's a day for randomness. Here are some tidbits of thoughts running through my mind today.

I'm mourning the death of a magnificent maple tree by the side of the road in the middle of town. It fell to the march of progress, and died for the safety of our children. By which I mean to say that it got chopped down to make room for a widening of the road and the addition of a sidewalk, both of which are sorely needed, as this is the road along which a lot of kids walk from a large residential subdivision to the highschool. I just wish they could accomplish the upgrades without murdering those lovely trees (the maple was just one of many), but I guess they couldn't. And as much of a tree hugger as I am (yes, I wear Birkenstocks), I value children above trees. I suppose you gotta do what you gotta do.

On a more cheerful note - well, sort of - I've got another task to add to my rota of "Jobs That Really Suck". This morning, there was a maintenance person painting the metal gate that closes off the highschool parking lot. Painting it a fluorescent orange, to very clearly let people know that when the gate is closed, IT'S CLOSED. Now, painting gates, that's not a bad job. However, another noticeable thing about the highschool parking lot these last few days is that there are literally snowdrifts of cottonwood fluff blown up against the sidewalks, white piles of light feathery stuff inches deep. There were several of those fluffy cotton piles right beside that gate. And there was a breeze blowing. Get my drift? Wet orange paint + fluffy white cotton - hmmm... Maybe a tarred-and-feathered highschool gate could serve as a warning to delinquent students that if they don't shape up and follow the rules, that's what their fate will be.

When I was a kid, we had a cottonwood in the backyard. I remember gathering the fluff once to try and stuff a little pillow with; but it didn't stay fluffy long. It compacted into a little lump, which was rather disappointing. I wonder if cottonwood cotton is actually any good for using as fibre?

And to go with today's tree-hugging theme, our illustration is Steve hugging my Lucky Bamboo. Don't worry, Steve, that bamboo is in no danger of being chopped down. I'll be only too happy if it lives and doesn't succumb to my brown thumb.

Life, the Universe, and Randomness. Have you hugged a tree today?

11 June 2012


We had some kitten drama this past week. Took Morty to the vet for his SPCA-mandated checkup, and the vet diagnosed a fever. Did you know cats have higher body temperatures than humans? I didn't. Their normal temp is about 38.5; but Morty was at 40.0. None of us could figure out why, as he wasn't showing any symptoms of standard cat illnesses. He still seemed fine that day, just a bit lethargic. Over the next day-and-a-half, he got a lot lethargic - all he wanted to do was sleep. And this is a kitten we're talking about, he's supposed to bounce off the walls and make a right pest of himself! So we were concerned, but still thinking he'd get over it - until Thursday afternoon, when he barfed up all his food, and looked like he had trouble going poo. So back to the vet we went in a hurry! A sizable vet bill later, Morty had some fluids injected into him, and we had a bottle of chalky-white antibiotic stuff to squirt into his mouth every twelve hours. All this fuss over a little less than two pounds of fur and big round eyes...

And it only took a day for him to get back to proper kittenhood. Boing, boing, boing... He's a proper nuisance again, and we're so glad for it. Incidentally, I found out just how hard kittens can clamp their little jaws shut when they don't want to take their medicine. But I'm quite merciless; he gets wrestled to the ground (well, to my lap, anyway), have his teeth prised apart, and the drugs squirted right into the back of his mouth. Blch, yuck, pfui! You can just see it in the expression on his little face, he's NOT impressed. Too-bad-so-sad, little guy; medicine has to be taken. So he shakes his head, and makes a beeline for his food dish to get the nasty taste out of his mouth. And I laugh at him for it, cruel person that I am.

Speaking of drama, and of weather, I've been noticing (once again) how movie dramas tend to use weather almost like background music. Main character is happy: all is sunshine and roses; MC is sad: cue rain. I wouldn't mind seeing a movie which either completely ignores weather, or reverses it, so that the sun shines brilliantly for the funeral and the wedding takes place in a rain storm.

There is, of course, another option, one that Jane Austen utilizes brilliantly in her writing, and that is to make the weather a character in its own right. Or perhaps not a character, but a very important plot point. If it wasn't raining the day that Jane sets out for her visit to Netherfield, Mrs Bennet wouldn't make her go on horseback on purpose to get wet, and Jane wouldn't catch a horrible cold and have to be visited by her sister, thereby precipitating (get it? Precipitating. Hah, I'm so witty.) precipitating the furtherance of Elizabeth's acquaintance with Mr Darcy. And without the summer heat on the day of the strawberry-picking excursion to Donwell Abbey, and the even worse heat on the day of the Box Hill Picnic, Frank Churchill wouldn't have an argument with Jane Fairfax, wouldn't behave like a jerk and inspire Emma to do the same, and Mr Knightley would have no reason to tell off Emma so severely it makes her cry (and finally see the light). And so on and so forth. But I don't think you ever find out in the books just what the weather is like during any of the weddings - because Austen knew full well that it really doesn't matter if the sun shines when you say "I do", as long as you mean the "for better or for worse" bit. And I suppose that includes better or worse weather, as well.

Incidentally, it was pouring rain the day kitty made his recovery. Which just goes to show, I'm sure.

Life, the Universe, Drama and Weather. Today it's sunny, and there's no deep meaning to that at all.

07 June 2012

Talking of the Weather

I've learned something in my twenty-five years of living in Canada: when in doubt, talk of the weather. It's a legacy of Canada's English ancestry. Apparently in England, that's what you do; and the early Brits, after they kicked the French out of Ottawa - wait, the seat of government wasn't Ottawa then. I can't remember what it was, but the Brits kicked the French out of it. And first they made them sing "God save the King" (it was a king then, George III, not the Queen, may-her-diamond-jubileed-head-be-blessed), and then they taught them how to talk of the weather. Except it probably ended up being talk of ze vezzer, instead.

I realized the importance of English weather-speak the other day, while reading "Emma". Just to give you a bit of background, at this point in the story Emma is in the middle of a huge knock-down drag-out argument with Mr Knightley (except they're of course being genteel and refined about it), which is all about Emma's airheaded interference in her friend's love life. She's just persuaded Harriet to refuse an offer of marriage from the guy Harriet has a massive crush on and who would be the perfect husband for her, and all because Emma thinks that he's not refined enough for her. Which is, as Mr Knightley says, "Nonsense, errant nonsense, as ever was talked!" but of course Emma doesn't see it that way; she thinks she's doing her friend this big favour. (This is the part of the story where I most want to slap Emma upside the head, but that's beside the point at the moment.) Mr Knightley is furious with Emma (the guy in question is a friend of his), and Emma is - well, see for yourself:

"Emma made no answer, and tried to look cheerfully unconcerned, but was really feeling uncomfortable and wanting him very much to be gone. She did not repent what she had done; she still thought herself a better judge of such a point of female right and refinement than he could be; but yet she had a sort of habitual respect for his judgment in general, which made her dislike having it so loudly against her; and to have him sitting just opposite to her in angry state, was very disagreeable. Some minutes passed in this unpleasant silence, with only one attempt on Emma's side to talk of the weather, but he made no answer."

Are you getting this? They're sitting there, fuming at each other - so mad they could spit - he thinks she's a conceited featherwit (which she is), and she thinks he's an interfering, preachy bossyboots (which he is) - and Emma tries to talk of the weather. It must be some kind of knee-jerk reaction in refined Brits: there's silence in the room? "It looks like it might be cloudy today!" Haven't seen someone in three years? "Think it's going to rain?" Drop a rock on your foot? "Lovely sunshine we're having!"

And it works around here, too. I don't know how many times I've used the phrase"Looks like it'll be a nice day," or, conversely ,"It's just a bit chilly out today!" (that one works best if it's about 10 degrees below freezing). The thing about weather-talk is that it provides a friendly atmosphere - talking about the chill in the air can take the chill out of human interaction (even though Emma has to work a bit harder at it that time). And the general atmospheric conditions in weather-talking nations seems to be favourable to politeness. Sunny with a chance of friendliness. It's one of the things I like about Canada.

Life, the Universe, and Weather Talk. Looks like it'll be cloudy again today; we might get to see a nice rainbow.

04 June 2012

What's In A Name?

May I introduce... well, I don't know what to introduce him as. This is our new kitty. He's small, he's extremely cute (well, d'uh, he's a kitten), and we can't agree on a name for him. Some of us wanted Napoleon, Leo or Leon for short. My son, who stumped up the cash for the SPCA adoption fee, wanted Wilhelm, to be called Villi (this is Kaiser Wilhelm we're talking about, so it would have to be pronounced German). But nobody else likes that. I suggested Boney, for Napoleon Bonaparte, or Willy, for William the Conqueror, but it didn't really fly.

In case you haven't caught on, we like naming our cats after royalty- preferably emperors or other really famously imposing characters (blue blood mandatory). So far, we had a Julius Caesar, a Charlemagne, and a Cleopatra. And a Later, but he was our first cat and outside of the line of royal felinity. (His name was the counterpart to that of an extended-family dog, which was called Sooner - as in, Sooner-Pee-on-the-Floor-than-Go-Outside. Which was slander in her case, but the name stuck.) I've considered Augustus Caesar and Ludwig (the mad Bavarian king who built Neuschwanstein. Remind me to rant about that place some other time.), and for females, we still have Boudicca, Victoria and Elizabeth available. For the boys we could also go for Henry or Edward (Wars of the Roses, anyone?), or numerous Georges. But those are kind of boring, as far as cat names go.

You see, it amuses me to bestow the appellation of some really bombastic, magnificent, even megalomaniac ruler on someone as small, fluffy and utterly adorable as our cats are when they arrive at our house. The more imposing the name, the better. But in this case, we just can't seem to agree.

So finally, I said: "How about we just call him He-Who-Has-Not-Been-Named?" And of course, everyone knows that's Voldemort. Bombastic? Check. Magnificent? For a given value of it, check. Megalomaniac? Through the roof. So it could, perhaps, fit. Except that You-Know-Who is fictional, and not blue-blooded (in fact, he's mudblooded, but don't tell him that, it'd upset him). But, whatever. Voldemort also conveniently shortens to Mort, which sounds kind of cat-ish, and besides, is the name of Death's Apprentice in Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and Death, as everyone also knows (that Everyone, he's awfully knowledgeable!), is very fond of cats. They're some of the few creatures who can see him.

We still haven't agreed on a final name for Small-and-Fluffy. I think it might boil down to Napoleon, Mort for short. Or perhaps, he'll just be Kitty, for the rest of his life. When you come to visit, you may feel free to call him whatever you please. Or Whatever-You-Please, What for short. What? Wat! Wat Tyler? Hmm...

Life, the Universe, and the Naming of Kittens. A cat by any other name would be as sweet.