Sunday, January 29, 2006


I'm going to tag Lenny at The Getaway with the 4 Meme because he seems to be having trouble posting regularly. Right Lenny? This is an easy one. Jane's done it already.

- Four jobs you've had
- Four movies you could watch over and over
- Four places you've lived
- Four places you've been on vacation
- Four websites you visit daily
- Four favourite foods
- Four places you'd rather be

Laughs of the Week

Things that made me laugh this weeK:

My biggest laugh came when I looked at my Site Meter stats. I noticed a large number of visits coming from Google searches of a particular word. You may remember my blog a few days ago, Ladies' Man. In it, I used the "p" word. Well, it seems some men - I assume it's men, but I might be wrong - have done Google searches for enhancers and enlargers of said body part. Imagine their dismay when all they found was an old nursing story. Oh well. (I'll continue to say 'p', as I don't want to disappoint any more men mistakenly stumbling upon my humble site.)

I kept envisioning the last scene in the movie, Boogie Nights, where Mark Wahlberg unzips his trousers and displays his rather freakishly large, um, appendage. Do men really think women like that?! I couldn't stop giggling about it for the rest of the day. -- Bless those Google spiders.

Next came this phrase I saw in a local paper: ". . . the fourteen year-olds were rolling their eyes as loud as they could". Anyone who has teenagers or has had anything to do with teens can relate.

And finally, this music video by former heartthrob, David Hasselhoff:
Hooked on a Feeling

Happy Sunday!

ps. I am easily amused.

Too Late

This is a revision of something I posted elsewhere almost a year ago.

You left and I can't ask
About her favourite colour
Abut her favourite anything.
Didn't you think I'd want to know?

I tried to ask
But you couldn't-wouldn't answer.
You had a chance and I had a right
And if not a right, a need.

A photograph is all that's left.
Not enough to know her.
You could have-should have answered.
But now it's too damn late.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why Blog Redux

After my foray into the further reaches of blogland earlier today, it made me think about something my son said a while back. He was talking about the fact that he almost never reads print news anymore. He gets the bulk of his news and information off the internet. There are a vast array of news sources available from all over the world and he contends, and I agree, that it provides a much better balance and perspective of what's going on in the world than reading only local or national newspapers.

I think blogs provide something similar. They allow people from disparate lives to connect with one another. They also help connect people of similar interests who would never have met face to face. This seems to be an ongoing theme with me - the exploration of why I like blogging. At some point, I suppose, I'll stop talking about it, but not yet.

I would never find the same level of discussion and variety of perspective at my local coffee shop. Not that every blog or discussion is deep or scholarly, but they needn't be. Give me witty and insightful and I'm a happy camper. In a way, I think you find out more about people in blogs than you might in real life. The partial anonymity, somehow, allows people to be more open about how they really feel. Certainly
the longer I do it, the more I feel the interconnections between people

For now, that's all I need to remain.

Saturday morning blog-surfing

After a leisurely stroll through my own links, I went back to look at other people's blogrolls.

Since it's a recent addition, I started at The Bean Counter. She has quite a few links, but seeing how easily I get sidetracked (with links leading to other links to other links and all), I only got through maybe one-third of them. Along the road, I found a few gems that I've bookmarked to check out in more depth. I can foresee my blogroll growing in leaps and bounds.

One of the things I came across at Mindful Things was the decades-old topic of stay-at-home moms. What struck me was the fact that so many women are still suffering anxiety and guilt over their decision to stay home with their children full-time. She has a link to an interesting article that links to some other articles on the same topic. They revolve around why women choose to stay at home or not; what the current trends are/were, etc.

It's disheartening that we haven't moved beyond this. Many women don't have a choice because of economic reasons, but for those who do, why do we (meaning western society) make them feel like they need to justify their choice? We are not all cookie-cutter clones. I feel a rant coming on, but will cease and desist for now.

Brilliant blogs I came across today:

Waiter Rant
40x365 - The original x365. Read it. You'll figure it out. Or 40x365's main site: Logolalia - but you'll need to log in.

More later.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A real pain

(My first submission to First Drafts and posted in January 2006. The prompt was "imagination")

Nursing 101

In nursing school, a large number of my classmates, myself included, became closet-hypochondriacs. It's almost a prerequisite to graduating.

As a nursing student, you're immersed in learning about the body and how it works. You're required to learn signs and symptoms; develop an inquiring, analytical mind; and most of all for a nurse, learn to be observant.

Now, the body is a wonderful and complex thing. It's amazing how it goes about looking after itself - most of the time, with little thought on our part. The digestive system keeps digesting, the heart keeps beating, blood flows, the brain synapses keep firing (well, usually), and all is well. Except when things go WRONG.

I went to nursing school quite a while ago, but certain things remain the same. You go through various rotations in different areas: medical, surgical, paediatrics, etc., and the instructors try to give you a good cross-section of experiences that you can apply to future patients. Each patient you get tends to be analyzed to death (figuratively speaking). You look up signs and symptoms and all the complications that could possibly occur; you hear case presentations from your classmates; you analyze and discuss those; you do a lot of reading about what's normal and abnormal. All of this is a good and necessary part of your training.

The problem arises when your imagination gets the better of you. You start thinking maybe the indigestion and twinge you felt in the right upper quadrant is a sign of cholecystitis. You suspect that the headaches you get aren't tension headaches – but a BRAIN Tumour! Every mole looks like SKIN Cancer; every chest and shoulder pain is an impending HEART Attack. But of course, you don't tell anybody of these suspicions because what if they're PSYCHOsomatic - everyone will think you're a nut case ready for the psych ward!

The weird thing is that the symptoms you think you have, coincide with whatever rotation and cases you're learning about. It's amazing how fast those symptoms disappear and change when you move from a medical rotation to obstetrics and gynecology.

In most cases, I'd say imagination is a good thing. It's necessary for problem-solving and creativity. Great inventions are borne of imaginative and creative minds. Where would we be without imagination? But in the case of hypochondriacal nursing students, imagination can be a real pain!

Writing prompts

As some of you may have noticed, I've started doing little writing exercises the last few days using prompts. This has led some of you to wonder "what the heck is she writing about?" and where did THAT come from? I've decided to separate some of those writings from this blog. I'm not sure if I'll keep it that way or blend them together again.

But for those interested, here's a link to my writing for today's prompt: Imagination - a real pain

BTW, I can thank Diana at Seeking Clarity for leading me to these - because sometimes I need something to kick start me. :D

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Ladies' Man

In the late seventies, I was a part-time home care nurse. I often got called in to work at the last minute when one of the other nurses called in sick. I'd get my visits for the day over the phone: Patient, address, phone number, diagnosis, brief history and treatment or procedure for the visit.

Mr. 'Smith' was an eighty-five year-old man assigned to me in this way. I was to check his vital signs and help with bathing. He had heart problems and high blood pressure. But mainly, he was just old and needed assistance getting safely in and out of the shower. His frail wife was unable to help and there were no other family members willing to take on the task. This was the only basic information given to me.

It's always a challenge walking into a patient's home for the first time. You never know what to expect. Will they be nervous having a stranger in their house? Will they be relieved to have help? Will they be resentful that they need help? Will they be friendly or hostile? You never know until you actually get there.

I rang the doorbell and Mrs. Smith opened the door. She said a brief, "Hello, you're new aren't you," and pointed me downstairs; indicating that her husband was waiting, his chart and other information downstairs with him. I proceeded down, but she didn't follow.

Mr. Smith was sitting on a sofa in bathrobe and slippers. I introduced myself. He was at least six feet tall and moderately overweight (I'm five feet, nothing), so I made a mental note that I needed to be extra careful in case he lost his balance. He was distinguished-looking - at least as distinguised as you can look in bathrobe and slippers - and you could tell he would have been considered handsome in his youth. We chatted a bit and he looked me over while I read his chart. After taking his vitals, he showed me the bathroom. No problem. I turned on the shower, checked the water temperature and made sure the shower seat was okay. I asked him if he needed assistance getting undressed and taking off his slippers. No, he was fine. He only needed help getting in and out and with washing his back and feet.

Things were proceeding smoothly and matter-of-factly until he was standing and about to get out of the tub. He turned, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Well, what do you think?" I didn't know what he was talking about. He looked down at himself, took his penis in hand and said, "This. Do you think it's big enough? Would it do a good job?"

I was still young, but by that time in my career, I'd seen my fair share of all shapes and sizes of penises - a body part is a body part. But still, I was flabbergasted. No patient had ever made a remark like that to me before. I didn't know exactly how to respond. I think I said something like, looks fine to me.

Nothing more was said. I helped him get dressed and he acted as though nothing untoward had transpired. My visit ended, but I was very curious to see if this had happened to his regular nurse. The dispatching nurse hadn't mention anything when I was given the assignment over the phone and there was nothing on his chart that would indicate he was prone to making sexually provocative remarks.

A few days later, I spoke to the nurse who usually visited him. She was fifty-ish, friendly - a very good nurse. She laughed and said nothing like that happened to her and not to worry about it.

I didn't think about it again, until some months later. He was on my call list again. When I arrived at his house, he recognized me right away. I thought, well this is going to go one of two ways, but this time I'm prepared. Sure enough, after he got out of the tub and was drying himself, he made the same remarks. This time, however, I responded with a smile and, "I bet you were quite the ladies' man." He nodded his head and laughed. Nothing more.

I visited him a few more times after that, and we'd go through the same ritual. There was nothing more to it. You see, I think all he wanted was to hear some young female recognize that he was still a man. He needed to know that he was more than an aging, old geezer who needed help with his shower. He treated it like a joke. But I know it meant more to him. He needed to feel like the young ladies' man he once was.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Sometimes I drive people around me nuts with my enthusiasm.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a rah-rah, jumping up and down kind of person. I am, however, someone who gets interested in things easily (some may say I'm easily distracted). I find the world around me infinitely fascinating. I'm curious. I Google things; I go to the library; I pick up obscure magazines at the bookstore; I even read old encyclopedias. When I learn something new, I have a compulsion to share it with others.

I like to delve into things. And when I'm doing the delving, I'm sure to unearth something else even more interesting. That would be the end of it for most people - just the thought, 'hmmm, very interesting' then moving on. Not me. I MUST find out more. If I'm being very efficient, I'll make a note and come back to it later. If not, I'll get sidetracked looking up all kinds of minutiae and following every trail where it leads me.

Wikipedia is my worst enemy. Now, I love Wikipedia. But for someone like me, it can be the biggest time-gobbling, procrastinator-enabling, blackhole of lost time ever loosed upon unsuspecting internet users.

You know what the problem is? It has too many active links. It's way too easy for me to click on an interesting word or topic, go onto another page, find another interesting word, click on that one, find myself on another page with more interesting links, and . . . , well you get the idea. Pretty soon, it's an hour later and I'm at least half a dozen pages away from what I was looking up in the first place.

You may recall, a few blogs back, that when I looked up "memes", I wandered, but managed to find myself back on track. Today, I looked up "enthusiasm".

Here's where I went:
Enthusiasm - Greek meaning inspiration or possession. Enthusiast which led to possessed and divine possession; to Apollo; to Trojan War; to The Odyssey; to Odysseus; to Penelope where I stopped and read the entire article because I'm reading the Penelopiad. (But I've made a note to go back and read the article on The Odyssey more thoroughly.) None of which, except for the Greek derivation, has anything to do with enthusiasm.

You see my problem? Even as I write this, I go off in different directions.

Now where was I? Right! I'm an enthusiastic person. I can't help myself. I get interested in things, then, not only do I have to pursue the interests, I have a need to share my interest with those around me. My poor family is accustomed to me running up to them with arcane bits of information and declaring breathlessly, "Did you know that ... blah, blah, blah . . . did . . . blah, blah, blah!?" Their response being a barely concealed roll of eyes and a condescending, "Okay, mom". I'm pretty sure they only remember it as "blah, blah, blah" because if the topic ever comes up again, they never remember the details.

But I don't mind. My enthusiasm and curiosity has its uses. Guess who gets picked first for teams in Trivial Pursuit?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006



Paper sheets or
Cotton sheets?

Monday, January 23, 2006

For those who sneer at blogging . . .

You know who you are.

I must admit I didn't know what would happen when I started blogging. I entered the blogosphere with a bit of trepidation. (See my original blog in November '05).

Is it just a place for angst-ridden, navel-gazing? Maybe a place to promote ideology, to advertise a new product or gimmick, a quasi chat room for friends and family? You'll find all these, and more in the Land of Blog.

You'll also find well-written, thoughtful articles on all manner of subjects . . . and you'll find poorly-written, spelling-challenged juvenile drivel (but these you'd find anywhere online). It's the good stuff that has me intrigued. And there's a lot more of the good than I had expected.

There seem to be a lot of writers in blogland. Yes, I know everyone 'writes' in a blog. I don't mean people who just put up their daily schedule or hockey team stats. By 'writer' I mean those whose purpose is to present ideas, inner questions and images for our consideration and/or entertainment. Some are amateurs, some are would-be writers, others are retired journalists. They are of all ages. They come from different backgrounds and countries. I'm curious by nature - I'm interested in what they have to say. I like being able to comment and receive comments back on my posts. I love the interaction that's possible in blogging. How often do you get a chance to comment directly on a favourite author's book or article and have that author respond?

Personally, I wanted a space to rant and rave or be silly whenever I felt like it. I do that, but it's become more. It's become a way for me to sort out my internal ramblings out loud. -- It beats thinking in a vacuum. -- There's a tendency to get an inflated opinion of yourself - develop a god complex, as it were. When you're left to mull things over by yourself; an "If I think it -- it must be so" attitude. But when you set your ideas down in writing for the scrutiny of others, you get a totally different perspective on things. There have been times I've written things in a post, and just by virtue of seeing it in writing, realize that it's a steaming pile of horse manure. It's a reality check. What I actually post may still be a pile of dung to some people, regardless, but that's another matter.

Will I feel the same way a year from now? I don't know. At the moment, I'm having too much fun and learning from my fellow-bloggers.

So sneer if you want, I'll keep blogging.

Differences of opinion

I think this is a rant, but I'm not quite sure how it's going to turn out. So if you'll bear with me as I explore:

(the names and details may or may not have been changed to protect the innocent, or some such disclaimer)

Recently, someone (I'll call him Ray) who's opinion I hold in high regard read a book written by an author I adore. It was a book I listed as one of my favourite reads of 2005. I knew he was reading it. He knew I knew he was reading it. I even asked him to give me his opinion after he'd finished.

I know this can be problematic from the outset. I've been in similar situations. If you enjoy the recommended book there isn't a problem. You can get all gushy, gushy and compare notes about what you liked. However, if you hate it, you're left with how to explain your reaction without hurting the other person's feelings. Because, let's face it, we all get a bit emotionally invested in books that are important to us. But differing opinions are natural and can be discussed in a mature and honest way.

So, I was waiting and waiting for Ray's response. This wasn't like him. He's a voracious reader and he could have knocked this particular book off in a few days. Well, I thought, he's either too busy or he's struggling with it. I understood. So, onto the direct approach. I ask how's it going with the book? He responded with an opinion about the 'meaning' of the first chapter. He hadn't finished yet, so that was the end of the discussion.

I waited some more. Odd, I thought, he must have finished by now. Ray is usually a very forthright and opinionated person. Surely, he knew I could handle a differing opinion, if that was the case. Since the first chapter incident, I've lost contact with him.

A couple of days ago, I heard from another source that Ray had, indeed, finished the book. He didn't like it. He had good reasons why he didn't like it and had elaborated upon them in articulate detail. Hearing his reasons, I could come up with a few arguments to refute his opinions.

But, wait. He didn't speak to me about the book. I didn't have the chance to discuss it with him. Now, I'm left wondering if he knew I'd hear about his opinions in this oblique way. But maybe I'm just getting paranoid.

I'm annoyed, and maybe a little hurt, that a person I think highly of didn't have the courtesy of replying to my direct inquiry about something. It may seem petty. It probably is, but I'd rather people tell me directly that they don't agree rather than go behind my back to disagree. I'm a big girl. I can handle it.

Ultimately, I guess this post is not so much a rant as an expression of my disappointment. Disappointment that Ray couldn't have been uprfront with me and disappointment that I didn't get a chance to discuss the book with him.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Conversations overheard - #1

The Scene: A busy airport departure gate:
The Characters:
Missy: 20 something female
Guy: 20 something male
Me: Sitting with back to Missy and Guy in next row of seats. Internal dialogue only.

Missy: . . . So I was telling him the name of the company I work for? Well, you know how they have these drug companies? And you know, they make drugs, so like after a few years, generic companies can make the drugs? Well, the company is called PMS, and I thought, oh my god, he thinks I have PMS. But I don't? It was so embarrassing.

Guy: (incoherent mumblings of a soothing nature)

(Me: Wondering why she makes almost every sentence into a question? It's something I've noticed with a lot of young people. They make statements sound like questions by using a weird upturn of inflection at the end of each sentence.)

Missy: So this whole thing about a few months ago? I stopped wearing make-up and wearing more comfortable clothes and stuff? It's so, like more natural?

Guy: You look good. You don't need a lot of make-up.

Missy: But I've put on so much weight?!

(Me: Talk about fishing for compliments!)

Guy: You look good. Honestly, if you were to ask Jim or Jen or me, you were too skinny before.

(Me: Like what else is he gonna say? "Honey, you're right. You look like a cow.")

Missy: But it's like I put on so much weight? All in a short time? Ever since I moved here. It's like at the same time?

Guy: Yeah, but you look good now. Really, if you ask anybody – you looked like a scarecrow before.

Missy: But I like that look. I looked like a model.

(Me: rolling eyes)

Guy: But you look healthy now. You know you feel better.

Missy: But isn't that what fat people say? To make themselves feel better? They just use it as an excuse to be fat?!

Loudspeaker: We're now boarding flight 1234. Would those passengers travelling with children or those needing assistance come to Gate AB. Please have your boarding passes and picture ID ready to show the gate agent, etc., etc.

Missy: Thank gawd! Like, we've been here forever. Aren't we already late?

Guy: (unintelligble mumble)

(Me: Please, please, please don't be sitting near me. I'm tempted to sneak a peak at their boarding passes.)

Next announcement for boarding: Wil those passengers seated in rows 20 to 28 please proceed to the Gate.

(Me: Me, that's me! Look around. They're not moving. Yes! I'm outta here. I have a momentary twinge of guilt as I realize poor Guy has a 3 hour flight ahead of him with Missy.)

Because it's Saturday morning and I can't bring myself to do the chores:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe

-- Lewis Carroll (from Through the Looking-Glass)

One of the first bits of poetry I memorized as a child - not because I had to - but because I loved the way it sounds.

And this one:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
-- William Blake

Friday, January 20, 2006

Being who we are

"To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking." ~ Goethe.

I borrowed the above quote from one of Wenda's blogs at Daring to Write.

These statements bonked me upside the head. They felt so true.

I particularly like the second part of Goethe's quotation. Matching the inner you -- your belief system, what you know is right, your moral and ethical core -- to the outward you and how you behave IS hard.

Achieving a convergence of thought and action is tough and even tougher to sustain. Each of us has an ideal about how we'd like to behave; a set of moral dos and don'ts; a means to judge ourselves and others. As much as we may say we're not judgmental, at some level, we all are. It's when we allow our behaviour to veer too far from that inner core, that we get in trouble. More often than not, we end up miserable.

How we behave should be a reflection of who we really are. But life seems to get in the way and give us excuses.

What I call the "I would (should), but . . ." excuses:

I would recycle, but ... , I would volunteer, but ..., I would take public transit, but ..., I should visit Aunt Sally, but ..., I should be kinder, but ... , but, but, but ....

The "buts" need to be replace by "and I will". Otherwise, our lives end up full of 'could haves' and 'should haves'. I suppose it's really about the road to self-actualization.

Quite a few years ago, someone told me that I was the most self-actualized person they'd met. Hardly. I was flattered, at first, then full of guilt. I felt like such a fraud. If only she knew how much self-doubt and inner conflict churned in my head. Over the years, I've come to realize that understanding and knowing ourselves doesn't happen overnight.

It's something I've been consciously working towards - probably why this quote jumped out at me. I'm trying to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. If I think I should say something, then I will. If I think I should do something, then I will. My goal is to become the person I think I am.

Not that it's easy. Heaven knows I'm a procrastinator extraordinaire and can think of a million excuses why I can't do something.

But as I said, I'm working on it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The need to write

I sit and ponder.

Whatever happened to the brilliant ideas that woke me in the middle of the night? I know I had them. I distinctly remember one had to do with curiosity and Wenda's blog at Daring to Write; and something about a screenplay made from snippets of conversation by passers-by; and something really insightful about, about . . . . Ack, I can't remember. It's driving me crazy. I know it would have made the best post ever!

Maybe, if I sit here long enough, it'll come back to me: . . . . waiting . . . . cleaning off smudge from monitor . . . .waiting . . . . off to make some coffee . . . . waiting . . . . drinking coffee . . . . still waiting . . . .finishing coffee . . . .

Well, it doesn't appear to be working.

Why is it that we think we're so brilliant in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Online persona

I had an experience online today that started me thinking about my online persona. It's one of my "Hmmm?" moments.

I mentioned to someone in a PM that I occasionally lurk on a discussion board that he and some other online acquaintances frequent. The recipient of the message responded with, "I find that funny. (Big Grin) " . My response was, "why?" - - as in -- why did he find it funny? He hasn't replied yet, but I couldn't get it out of my head.

My initial reaction is that there's an obvious disconnect between his perception of me and the thought of me reading that site. He doesn't know me very well. One of the reasons I choose to lurk there, rather than participate is that, while I appreciate the humour and the personalities, I wouldn't be able to join in on the same level of banter. It's not me. (You may recall my earlier post about my lurking habits.)

BUT, it doesn't mean I don't like to check in from time to time to see what people are saying.

So . . ., I'm left wondering why he thinks it's so funny.

I wonder if he thinks I'm a prude. - - I'm not.

I wonder if he thinks I'm too old. - - I obviously don't think I am.

I wonder if he thinks I don't have a sense of humour. - - I do and it's a bit on the dark and twisted side.

I just wonder . . . and anxiously await his reply.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


In my short two-month bloglife, I'm learning there's a whole new language associated with the 'blogosphere'.

I kept coming across the word "meme" and "getting tagged" with a meme. I thought I figured it out in a vague way, but being the inquisitive soul I am, had to look up the official definition.

First stop, Wikipedia. Not exactly what I was looking for, but I got the derivation of the word and a nice article about memetics, genes, biological and philosophical analogies, propogation of ideas, language, viruses, etc., etc. None of it applied directly to what I was observing on blogs. Not only that, but I got side-tracked clicking on all the interesting related articles -- something I always end up doing with encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Next, a Google search. The first returned item was the Wikipedia article, but a little further down, I found this site that says, "Christianity is a 'meme', a mind virus that infects people and manipulates their behavior." Hmm, very interesting, but still not what I was looking for.

I added a few more search words and finally hit upon's definition of meme:

Pronunciation: meem
Also Known As: ideas; writing prompts; community projects
Common Misspellings: mem, meem
Examples: Some bloggers enjoy writing blog content using memes.

A few more links, clicks, examples and I've got it.

Okay, so here is a meme I'm borrowing from Simply Coll, who got it from Follow That Star. As the two of them stated, it's quick and easy, but reveals quite a lot.

The Four Meme
Four jobs I've had in my life:
1) Cannery worker - a summer job, paid 85 cents/hour sorting green beans
2) Waitress - working part-time at my uncle's restaurant
3) Nurse's Aide - another summer job
4) Public Health Nurse, Community Health Nurse

Four Movies that I could watch over and over:
1) Jaws
2) The Shawshank Redemption
3) The Joy Luck Club
4) Glory

Four Places I have lived:
1) New Westminster, BC
2) Burnaby, BC
3) Toronto, Ontario
4) Vancouver, BC

Four places I have been on vacation:
1) New York City
2) Hawaii
3) Mexico
4) French Polynesia

Four Websites I visit daily
1) The Book Forum
2) My webmail addresses
3) Most of the links on my blogroll
- but that's changing cause I'm trying out a new tracking system.
4) Sitemeter - to see who's visited

Four of my favorite foods:
1) Sashimi/Sushi - any and all. I'll try just about anything, no matter how exotic.
2) Roast turkey
3) Prime rib, medium rare - As a treat when dining out because I'm cutting down on red meats, in general.
4) Rocky Road ice-cream

Four places I would rather be:
1) Hawaii - on a beach, reading
2) Moorea - snorkelling
3) Whistler, BC - skiing on soft-packed powder
4) Kona, Hawaii - watching the sunset

Anyone else game?

Friday, January 13, 2006

I need help with tracking links and blogs

This is a general call for help from a newbie! I need help and advice about how to keep track of my blogroll and other bookmarked links.

Actually, Donny (ds) pm'ed me and asked if I use an RSS feed to keep track of my blogroll. I pm'ed him back saying I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Since he didn't (hasn't) gotten back to me about it, I did some Googling and turned up all kinds of things. - - But, I'm still confused.

I figured out an RSS feed helps you keep track of news sources, blogs, websites, etc. Now I've got to figure out how it works.

All I want to do is find an easy way to follow blogs I'm interested in as well as a few news sources without having to click on each and every link to find new posts and articles. Nothing elaborate.

I've seen various blogs using Technorati, Bloglines and Blogrolling.

What is Technorati? Is it the similar to Bloglines or Blogrolling? What are the pros and cons? Are there other things out there that are better?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Story of a Bookaholic

Hello, my name is ell.

[Hello, ell]

I’m a bookaholic. It’s been two months, three weeks and one day since I bought a book.


I didn’t think I had a problem, but now I know I was out of control. They tried to tell me - my family, that is. They told me I needed help. But I wouldn’t listen. I kept telling them it’s not a problem. Funny thing is, I really believed it – that I didn’t have a problem. How can you have a problem with books?

Thing is, normal people don’t. But I guess I’m not your normal person. I’m sick.

I should start at the beginning.

When I was little, before I even started school, I liked books. I figured out how to decipher simple words in Disney picture books that I got from an aunt. By the time I was in grade one, I was zipping through the easy Dick and Jane stories. If I finished my work early, Mrs. Mitchell would let me look at extra books she had on her Special Shelf. I liked how they smelled and felt. Sometimes, she’d have brand new ones. I was from a poor family and we couldn’t spend money on extras like books. The only time I got books was from that aunt on my birthday. But I didn’t see her much, so I didn’t have many books at home. I think Mrs. Mitchell felt sorry for me and bought books for her special shelf just for me.

New books are the best. The pages are perfectly smooth and the corners nice and crisp. Do you know how to tell when a book is really, like, brand new? When they’re really new, the pages stick together at the edges. That’s when you know for sure no one else has read it before. I guess that’s when my addiction started. It wasn’t Mrs. Mitchell’s fault. How could she have known?

It wasn’t a real problem at first. I only had access to books at school and later on at the public library. They were mostly old and tattered copies, so other than reading them, I didn’t get any extra enjoyment from them. When I think back, my problem didn’t start until I graduated and got a full-time job. I suddenly had cash to spend on new books.

What really and truly got me hooked was Duthie’s Books; a two-level store with shelves built into every nook and cranny available; the shelves brimming with books of every conceivable topic. You descended to the lower level by way of a narrow, spiralling metal staircase. If you were a fantasy lover, I’m sure it would feel like entering the lower depths of a dungeon. The ceiling was low and the lighting dim. It made sense that books of the occult were shelved down there. Every turn of a corner brought me to a new topic or author unknown to me. I loved it. I spent hours browsing new books. The browsing and touching was almost as exciting as the buying.

In the beginning, I limited myself to book hunting only after I cashed a paycheque. It didn’t take long before it escalated into stopping for a “quick look” on my way to or from work. Then I'd make excuses to stop at different bookstores to compare prices. Pretty soon I’d go in every bookstore I came across.

I started losing track of time. Some days, I couldn’t account for hours at a time. A simple trip to the grocery story would find me at home, five hours later with no groceries. Instead, there’d be a bag of books on the kitchen table from some unknown bookstore.

It wasn’t just time I was losing. Money, or the lack of it, became an issue. My paycheque was spent before it was cashed. My credit cards were at their limit. I was paying the minimum balance on every card and the total owing just kept growing and growing.

When I first started buying books, only new releases in hardcover would do. I was a bit of a snob that way. I soon realized I couldn’t afford to buy at the pace I wanted with the income I had, so I made myself wait until the new releases went to paperback. That way, I could buy the hardcovers on sale, but over time, it was still too expensive. So I started buying trade paperbacks. Still, too expensive. I began buying mass market paperbacks, then bargain bin books, then used hardcovers, and then, finally . . . I have to admit it . . . used paperbacks. My decline was rapid. And I still had a money problem.

Despite all this, I was able to fool friends and family for a long time. I was very good at hiding new purchases - backs of closets, under the bed, behind the china cabinet, the back of the linen closet. I even stashed a few older paperbacks in Ziploc bags in the deepfreeze.

I finally got caught when I didn’t show up for work the day I was to make an important presentation. My boss called home and spoke to my brother who said I’d left for work at the usual time. Later that day, my brother saw me at the local mega-bookstore. I guess I hadn’t fooled him as well as I thought.

When I got home that night, he confronted me. He said he’d found a stash of books behind the bedroom curtains and a balled up bunch of shopping bags from different bookstores shoved in the back of my closet. I went on the offensive. How dare you invade my privacy, how could you snoop in my things, you have no right, etc., etc. Eventually, I broke down and admitted that things were a little out of control. We had a family meeting and I assured everyone that it would be okay. I said I could control myself because knowing you have a problem is half the battle, blah, blah, blah.

Things improved, but not for long. I was soon back to my old ways. Unfortunately, the family was wise to me now. They were on the lookout for telltale signs – torn, crumpled receipts, bulges under the mattress. I couldn’t fool them anymore.

I went to counselling just to get everyone off my back. It was a joke, really. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to fool shrinks. Just tell them you’re sorry, your life is a wreck and you need to change. Talk about your feelings. Yeah, talk about feelings. They like that. Anyways, I fooled them again – at least for awhile. But then I’d slip up; leave the occasional receipt lying around. Yeah, I was a sad case.

But you know what was the most pathetic thing of all? I was spending so much time buying books and trying to hide my addiction that I never got around to reading them. Yep, that’s right. Books were piling up everywhere and I hadn’t read a single one of them. Like I said, PATHETIC.

I finally hit bottom when my family kicked me and all my books out of the house. I was left to fend for myself. I’d lost my job, my home, my family. With shopping carts I nicked from a grocery store parking lot, I loaded up my books. I found a place in a rooming house, but after the first night, the manager demanded that I get rid of the books or leave. There wasn’t room for both. I decided to leave.

With my shopping carts full of books, I lurched my way through the streets, pushing one cart forward a half block, then going back for another, pushing that one forward, going back for another and another, then starting all over again, until - almost by miracle - I saw a flickering sign, “Need a Friend? – Books Welcome”.

I staggered towards the light. Yes, it’s what I thought it said.

Underneath, I could see an arched doorway with a warm orangey light reflected through the glassed upper half of the door. I thought, what the heck, it couldn’t hurt. I stepped through the door and found SALVATION. I found this place, this place right here.

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be around today if I hadn’t come through that door. With the fellowship and support I’ve found here, I realize that I don’t have to constantly buy books. I can live happily with what I have.

I know that all I have to do is read the books I have – One Book at a Time.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Customer service

I was reading this post about terrible customer service at Ronni Bennet's blog, Time Goes By, and couldn't help but see myself in her shoes more times than I care to remember. In general, I'd have to agree that customer service just isn't what it used to be. In my darker moments, I think the world really is going to hell in a handbasket and service and civility have gone the way of the dodo.

Well, yesterday, proved me wrong. To counterbalance all the bad and lack-of-service tales of woe out there, here's my story:

We've had trouble with our house alarm in the past week or so.

I received a message from the alarm company telling me that there might be a low battery problem with our system. That evening, I checked the panel and everything seemed fine. I didn't think any more of it. A few days later, the dreaded yellow "trouble" light came on and the silly thing started beeping every ten seconds. So, I called the alarm company back and a very nice woman tells me that I should do some troubleshooting to determine exactly what the problem is. Meanwhile, she says, I can stop the beeping by pressing any key. She says the warning light will stay on as long as there's a problem, but the annoying beeping should stop. If the problem persists, make sure to call back.

Okay, so I stop the beeping by pressing the * key and the yellow light also miraculously goes off. So I think, maybe it was just a glitch in the system and everything is fine. But no, a few hours later, the light goes back on and the darn thing starts beeping again.

It's now late in the evening and I figure no tech person is going to come out in the middle of the night without charging about a gazillion dollars an hour. So I dig out the instruction manual to see what the problem might be. I follow the troubleshooting tips in said manual and find that I've got a "Defective Stand-by Battery". It also says the battery should be replaced every three years. We've had the system for eleven years - I guess we should have read the manual more carefully. It tells me how to turn off the annoying beeping, but that I must call the installer for further assistance. Great! My "installer" sold the company several years ago to another company, which in turn sold it to the present company. I wonder how much this is going to cost me, especially since it's not a system they installed.

The next morning (from work) I call the alarm company back and tell a different woman that, according to the alarm panel, I have a defective stand-by battery. The nice lady transfers my call to the tech department.

A friendly techie answers (which is unusual in itself - I've never spoken to a friendly technician). He tells me that I need a new battery (in more ways than one, I might add). I ask if I should make an appointment for someone to do it. Well, he says, you can do it yourself. It's pretty easy, just like changing any battery. It'll save the cost of a service call, he says. You can get a new battery at any battery store. I didn't realize there were such things as battery stores, I tell him. He reassures me there are. He even names a couple. He gives me the details: a 12V SEALED LEAD ACID battery (he even spells it out to me) and it's either a 4 or 7 AmpH. It should be about $30. Just open the panel box to find out if it's a 4 or a 7. Do you have a key? Well, no, I'm pretty sure I don't. I would have kept it with the instruction manual. Well, he says, sometimes they put it on top of the box or tape it to the side. The same evening I go straight to the alarm box to check for a key. No key.

(I must also explain that this panel box is not easy to get at. It's situated under our front stairs, behind the hall closet. In order to get to it, you have to remove all the junk from the closet floor, remove a cut-out panel door and crawl through a 2 ft by 2 ft opening. It's where I put our Christmas decorations and boxes that won't fit anywhere else.)

The next day, I call the alarm company back. I explain my predicament to the woman on the phone. She is very sympathetic. She suggests that their technicians might have a key that fits, but she can't be sure because they no longer install the system I have. If they can't open it, they'll have to drill the lock. She can book an appointment for me, but it won't be until Monday at the earliest (this was last Thursday). I really have no choice. She says the service call is a minimum $85 plus the cost of the battery plus GST (federal tax).

On Monday, a nice young man named Kevin arrives. He apologizes for being a bit early. I look at him curriously -- it's 1:58 pm - the appointment was for anytime after 2 pm. I show him the way to the alarm box and apologize for all the stuff he has to manoeuver around. No problem. I guess he's used to it. He tries all the keys he has on his key chain, but none of them work. No problem. He tries to turn the lock with a screwdriver. Finally, he jimmy's the door open. In about ten minutes he's done. The yellow warning light is still on, but Kevin assures me it's just resetting and will go off in about five minutes.

Meanwhile, he writes up the bill and I'm ready to get out my cheque book. Then he asks how I want to handle the payment. I ask, is there a choice? He says, you can write a cheque or use a credit card or we can bill you later. I pick bill me later. No problem.

We take another look at the alarm panel. The yellow light is still on. Strange, says Kevin, it should have reset by now. He rechecks the battery to make sure it's okay. It seems to be working. A worried look comes over his face as he says, well maybe it's the system itself, but I'm sure it's not. I'll just put up these security stickers for you while we wait a little longer. Ten minutes later, yellow light is still on. He goes to put his tools away and says, well sometimes it takes older systems longer. Don't worry about it, but if it's still not off by dinner time, call the office in the morning. Talk to Karen. I'll let her know you might be calling. If you need a new system we can replace this one for free as long as you sign a three-year contract for the monitoring. I figure we haven't switched in eleven years, what's another three? All the while, Kevin is acting like all this is somehow his fault and keeps trying to reassure me that he's sure things will be fine. Forty-five minutes later, the light is still on and he says he must leave, but don't forget to call Karen in the morning if the light's still on. Okay, Kevin. Thanks for all your help. He leaves and I figure either the light will go off or I'll be phoning Karen to arrange for a new system.

I go off to do other things around the house. Several hours later, the phone rings. It's Kevin - asking if the system rebooted yet. I had completely forgotten about it and wouldn't have checked again until after dinner. But he was concerned enough to call ME back.

If you've stayed with me this long, my point - and I DO have one - is that as annoying as it was to go through this, it was an unexpected pleasure to find that every single employee I dealt with was both friendly and helpful. A rarity these days. Either management is doing something right or they lucked into some very good employees.

PS. Late edit: the company's name is Protectron

Monday, January 09, 2006

Why Fair Trade Coffee?

I've been buying Fair Trade labelled coffee (NOT to be confused with free trade) for at least the last three years.

Yes, it's more expensive. Yes, it's not always easy to find. There are lots of excuses why NOT to buy it, but my family is fortunate. We live in a nice neighbourhood in an affluent country. We're well-educated and we make a good living. We are in a position to do what's right.

It's about ethical purchasing.

What is Fair Trade?
Some information and links to help you decide if it's right for you:

From Level Ground

About Fair Trade
Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional international trade which promotes social equity, economic security and sound environmental practices. Its goal is to contribute to sustainable development by improving market access for disadvantaged producers, by raising awareness and campaigning. It works to a set of values and objectives that seek to improve living standards and achieve a fairer distribution of income and influence. It is a partnership between all involved in the trading process -- producers, workers, traders and consumers. (Source: Ten Thousand Villages News (Canada) March/April 1999 pg. 1)

From Fair Trade Labelling Organisations International:

Fair Trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers - especially in the South. Fair Trade organisations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.

So how do you find Fair Trade coffee?
First of all, look for fair trade logos. Unfortunately, there isn't only a single logo to look for. Also, unfortunately, there are unethical companies who claim to be fair trade, but really aren't. There's been a movement to standardize labelling in order to assure consumers that what they're buying is really a fair trade product. However, as with all international initiatives, it's a rather long and convoluted process. Hence, there are a lot of different logos out there that may or may not be legitimate.

I'm not interested in turf wars over labelling. If you're not sure, do some research and look up the individual coffee companies. See if they belong to a recognized Fair Trade group. One group is FINE (made up of Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International, International Fair Trade Association, Network of European Worldshops, and European Fair Trade Association).

Some logos to look for:

What you can do as a consumer:
  • Look for it
  • Ask for it
  • Buy it

Don't think you can afford it?
Consider these options:

  • Consume less. Drink fewer cups for the same amount as you're spending on coffee now.
  • Buy fair trade every other purchase.
  • Buy it for a coffee lover as a gift. We seem to accept spending more if it's a gift to someone else.

Links to more information:
Fair Trade
Global Exchange
International Fair Trade Association
Transfair Canada
Article by Orville Chinenbocker
Level Ground

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Odds 'n ends

Funniest oxymoron I've heard in a while: Microsoft Works

Word of the day:
quotidian - Adjective. Found in the ordinary course of events. Synonyms - everyday, mundane, routine, unremarkable, workaday.

Your IQ Is 140

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average

Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius

Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius

Your General Knowledge is Genius

- See, guys? I always told you your mom was a genius!
(Well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad.)

Song stuck in my head:

Beyond the Sea (I hear Bobby Darin singing)

Somewhere beyond the sea,
Somewhere, waiting for me,
My lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailing;

Somewhere beyond the sea,
She's there watching for me.
If I could fly like birds on high,
Then straight to her arms I'd go sailing.

It's far beyond a star,
It's near beyond the moon,
I know beyond a doubt
My heart will lead me there soon.

We'll meet beyond the shore,
We'll kiss just as before.
Happy we'll be beyond the sea,
And never again I'll go sailing!

Early Sunday morning

This is the best part of my day. No one else is up, I've got a cup of coffee and a chance to get at the computer with no interruptions.

I started off by making my way through a few favourite blogs and - what has now become a habit when I have time - a hopscotch through other people's blogrolls. I came up with another six blogs that I've bookmarked, one that was pure, nasty crap and definitely won't return to, left a comment in another, and learned a new word (quotidian). Not a bad start to my day.

My little jaunt also got me thinking about the kinds of blogs I like and don't like:

I like blogs that seem heartfelt and sincere; make me laugh and don't take themselves too seriously; talk about something I'm also passionate about; make me think; give me a 'Yes - thumbs-up' response; are sharp with a satiric touch, and overall, make me feel like returning to find out more. It helps if they're well-written, but it's not a necessity. Good ideas are not only the purview of good writers.

The blogs I don't like are insistently angry, totally negative diatribes about everything and everybody, and angst-filled missives to those who 'done 'em wrong'. Nothing wrong with people having them and I'm sure they're therapeutic for those involved, but I don't care to read them. Now, throw in some humour and it might be a different story.

I also came upon a list of "Lost" factoids on FTS. I never watched Lost when it first aired, but my husband received a box set of season one for Christmas. Over the holidays, we watched the entire 24 episodes in a marathon of two days. You could say we got hooked. The same thing happened to me when I watched the Battlestar Galactica box set of season one. Once you start, you can't stop. It becomes addictive. The fact there are no commercial breaks makes it seem like you're watching an extended movie. I've come to the conclusion that it's the 'only' way to watch non-episodic TV shows. I get too impatient with the week-to-week cliffhangers. It's instant gratification for me, baby!

The rest of my day will probably be taken up with miscellaneous chores. We took down our Christmas tree yesterday and it needs to be taken for chipping today. Taking down the tree is always sad in our household. When the boys were young, they'd beg me to leave it up 'forever'. (If they'd had their way, we'd have had brown skeleton trees festooned with garlands, baubles falling off drooping skeleton branches, surrounded by a circle of sacrificial pine needles in the corner of our family room - right up until the next season of trees on sale in November.)

Later, if we have time, dh and I will take in a movie. We're thinking of either Syriana or Munich. I'd rather see Syriana. He'd rather see Munich. I have a feeling Munich will win out - but ya never know.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I'm a lurker

Okay, I admit it. I lurk. I can't help myself.

On my travels through cyberspace, I've found certain forums and discussion boards that I'm drawn to, but for some reason can't bring myself to join. I return again and again to the point of knowing the regulars, their tone, likes and dislikes. It all becomes a bit addictive. I'm drawn to these sites like bees to honey, ants to a honey-covered body, vampires to blood, Canadians to hockey, . . . well you get my drift.

So why don't I just join in? Possible reasons: I'm a chicken. I won't fit in. I'm not smart enough. They'll hate me. I have nothing to say. I'm too lazy.

The real reason: some or all the above.

Strange how the list reads like an adolescent's highschool whine. It only goes to show that certain insecurities never die. For as much as I think I'm self-assured and confident in who I am, there's still a bit of me that wants to be liked and to make a good first impression. Once I'm part of a group, I am who and what I am, but there's still the initial hesitation (see above) before I dive in. I have absolutely no problem initiating one on one conversations with perfect strangers, whether at a party, supermarket or travelling in foreign countries (much to the chagrin of my signifant others). It's the group thing that seems problematic.

I wonder if this is true for everyone - or is it just me? I need to think about this some more.

Meanwhile, for you forum administrators who see hundreds of 'guests' appearing regularly on your site, it's probably me lurking.

Friday, January 06, 2006

People aren't philosophical constructs

I lose patience when people turn discussions about concrete issues, like healthcare and homosexuality and gay rights into philosophical debates. We live in the here and now with real people living real lives with real problems. When I read articles or discussions by people who want to make positive change by actually getting off their arses and encouraging others to do the same, it gives me hope. When I see those same articles and discussions turned into circular, semantic debates, I grow weary.

It's not that I don't like a good philosophical debate (I can't get around it, really, with sons in the political and social sciences), it's just that there comes a time to be pragmatic and deal with the real world.

What got me started on this line of thinking was an interesting series of articles by Ronni Bennett about universal healthcare in the US and some discussions I had with others about gay rights. I realized that there is a time for intellectualizing and a time for doing. Actually, I've known this for a long time, but it seems to me that some people never get beyond the intellectualizing.

So what, if the idea of civilization and individual rights is only a societal construct? The philosophical point (if there ever is one) being that what we consider civilization and 'rights' are tenuous at best (given the rise and fall of inumerable civilizations before us with their own laws and rights) and that there is little use in championing human rights because rights don't really exist. From a philosophical point of view, it's correct. There's no such thing as a right to life or a right to freedom or a right to anything except in the context of what we as a society deem to be a right. Using such an argument, we may as well live in a constant state of chaos, despair and lawlessnes because, in the end, everything is a temporary construct of our current society.

Well, I'm sorry, but I don't live in a philosophical construct. It's too easy to let yourself off the hook for the ills of society if you remain in the philosophical realm. There's a time to stand up for what you believe in and get your hands dirty.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Open letter

Wherever you are:

Things are never as bad as they seem. Well, no, maybe they are - but you'd be surprised at how much hurt, personal folly and abuse you can take and still and come out okay. You might be bloody and bruised, but still alive and kicking.

I don't pretend to know what you're dealing with right now. What I do know is that you're going through a difficult time and you've cut yourself off from people who care about you.

Hang on. Touch base with someone.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

I don't make new year's resolutions. I used to, but not anymore. January 1 is just a date chosen centuries ago as the beginning of the year. So in reality, I figure every day is the beginning of a new year. That being the case, it makes more sense if I look at every day as a chance to resolve to be a better person and not just make promises for the year.

So, my new year's wishes for everyone, every day:

Be good to yourself and others.

and Happy New Year!

Another year gone

I had a quiet New Year's Eve.

Gone are the days of attending big hotel dinner-dances or even big house parties with over-boisterous, manic, not-quite-real cheeriness. Nothing wrong with them, but they're just not for me anymore.

I started off the day having brunch with my favourite people followed by a trip to the cemetery and time for introspection. On the way home, I picked up some goodies for our own mini-celebration.

In the last few years, we've developed our own year-end party for two. We either have dinner out at a quiet local place or an easy to make dinner at home. We watch a favourite movie or two. Just before midnight, we put out a nice cognac pâté with crackers, smoked oysters and mussels and break open a bottled of chilled champagne. We turn on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve just in time to watch the ball drop at Times Square and we toast in the new year with a sip of champagne and a new year's kiss. That's it. Not very exciting, but a warm and satisfying way to end the year.