Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Here We Go Again

What I really resent about the Canadian electoral system, apart from the fact that it is first past the post, is that every time we call an election, we lose months worth of work on legislation that has been wending its way through the process, but isn’t finished yet. Now, if I think about this topic, I suspect that there would have been times when I’d be glad that a certain piece of legislation was killed by the dissolution of parliament. Hypothetically speaking, if I hated the current government, and the election succeeded in removing the current party from power, then I might be glad that legislation initiated by the previous government was simply vamoosed. On the other hand, when we end up with essentially the same composition of government after the election as before, it is just plain waste.

And even if there is a change of party in power, couldn’t they just whip through defeating the legislation that they didn’t approve of, and get to work on the legislation that is seriously addressing a topic of value?

I originally intended to write this blog entry a few days ago, immediately prior to the non-confidence vote. At that time I was mad. I didn’t want an election in January; like many people, I look at all three federal parties and am disgusted. I suspect I’m disgusted by the media also; it’s hard to tell, but it seems likely that the media is part of the reason that I’ve never gotten to see electoral campaigns that actually addressed the issues and policies facing our society.

My anger has fizzled out now, at least the part of my anger that didn’t want to have to wade through another election campaign. My sense of disgust, on the other hand, lingers. And to some degree, it is waking my sense of guilt.

I’ve always voted, since I became eligible, on the theory that it was my responsibility as a Canadian citizen and I wasn’t about to shirk it. However, I haven’t always invested much time in researching the policies of each party, and I’ve never spent any time in getting to know the candidates in my riding. Much of the time, I have felt it wasn’t worthwhile – living as I always have in liberal strongholds, I’ve basically felt it didn’t matter how I voted. I believe (hmm, scary that I can’t remember for sure) that I’ve variously voted NDP, Liberal and Green in the elections of the past decade. I still feel like my vote doesn’t matter, and I’d sure as hell like to see electoral reform as a major platform plank in whichever party wins the election (and well-reasoned electoral reform, not electoral reform designed to improve that party’s results and power, without thought to the dynamics of democracy).

But this time, I will be different. At the very least, I’m going to work my way through the party websites (yes, including the Conservative Party), and make sure that I know in detail the policies of the party I vote for.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I Should Know Better

In general, I’m a huge fan of buying DVD sets of my favourite TV series. The advantages are legion: I don’t have to be home to watch them, I don’t have to remember to set my VCR, I don’t have to pay for cable, I don’t have to watch the advertisements (and I don’t have to fast forward through them either).

On the other hand, occasionally I get to the end of a series and wish that I didn’t watch TV at all. What is with the evil tendency of TV producers to pack a whole bunch of plot developments into the final episode, and then leave you hanging for months? I mean, I know that the stock answer is that they want you to wait with baited breath for the next season, but I think the true answer is more likely to be that they are a bunch of sadistic torturers who delight in leaving their fans with a gaping hole in their psyche for months at a time.

Yes, I watched the end of season four of Gilmore Girls last night. Great season, very enjoyable, but argh!!!! At least there is still another season to come (and conveniently, it is being released Dec 13th, so I have a hope of receiving it at Christmas).

I was not much of a fan of the series end for Angel… Was that it? The apocalypse? What about Buffy? Does Angel ever get to be a real boy again?

And those are questions that I have to imagine my own answers for… I hate that.

I was talking with a friend last night, who told me that when she was little, she would go straight to bed immediately after watching a sad movie, without fail. ‘Why?’ you ask? It would never have occurred to me, but her mother knew what was going on without ever asking… she was rewriting the end of the movie in her end, to fix it up so that it ended more satisfactorily.

I’ve never had the capacity for that kind of imagination… I just rail against the reality that was presented on screen.

Friday, November 25, 2005

On a Happier Note

Happy Birthday, Karen! Wishing you all the hugs and puppies in the world :-)

Hair Pulling and Teeth Grinding!

While I have within me the content for many lengthy rants on the nature of RFPs and Proposal Writing in the IT industry, I am at the moment actually working on one such proposal, so I only have time for one short burst of frustration.

Why on God’s green earth, when your resume contribution consists almost exclusively of clipping three pages out of your 24 page resume and changing a few words here and there, would you make me wait five days for your contribution?

If I was going to have to do it all myself, couldn’t you simply have said that? Or has this travesty occurred because you didn’t read the instructions and template documents I so helpfully provided…


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Winter Wonderland

It was a nice feeling to lie in bed this morning, listening to the radio reporting dozens of accidents across the city, and reflect upon the fact that I didn’t have to drive anywhere to get to work. Sometimes it is awfully handy having a client whose offices are two blocks from your home.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Could I Just Get Sick Already!

Which is not to say that I like being sick, no, quite the opposite. But I am damn tired of being just sick enough to have a headache all the time, with sneezes, queasiness and sore throats that come and go, and that feeling of being feverish which actually means that not only do you not have a fever, but that your temperature is down half a degree.

After more than a week of this, I’m done! Either let me be ill enough to take a sick day, or buzz off!

Monday, November 21, 2005


I’ve been planning for some time to write a blog entry musing on the merits of doing versus thinking, but as I have an astonishing headache at the moment, this is going to be the short, short version.

I find it important to be the kind of person who is engaged with the world. I’ve always believed in the theory that you can achieve your goals if you only work hard enough, and that if you aren’t willing to work that hard, you didn’t really want the outcome that much in the first place.

Conflating these two principles has led me to be the kind of person who fills her life to the brim with things to do. It’s okay to take time to relax, but only if you have done and achieved enough to justify the break. Non-stop guilt-free coasting is not permissible in my lexicon.

But here I run into a problem; if you spend all of your time doing things, you can arguably run out of time to be engaged with the world.

Every time I am “doing something” whether that something is volunteering in a school, taking singing lessons, playing ultimate, taking dance lessons, renovating a kitchen, my focus narrows inevitably to that one thing, and particularly where that one thing is a skills-based or physical activity, I feel like I’m losing sight of the outside world.

One of these days I’m going to find a way to stay engaged with some of the political and social issues that grab my attention.

All suggestions on this topic are welcome.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mmm - cookies!

Since my singing lesson was unfortunately cancelled last night, I decided to spend my time preparing for Christmas. After a fruitful (and expensive!) trip to the bulk barn I found myself equipped to make almond paste and rum balls.

Normally, I don’t do my own Christmas baking. Traditionally I have an enviable relationship in which Omi sends me a care package stuffed with cookies.

However, I find myself in the unusual position of doing my own Christmas baking because in September my grandmother had an unfortunate encounter with a set of basement stairs. This was an encounter which the stairs won decisively, leaving my Omi with a fractured leg wrist, cracked rip, and enough soft tissue damage in the right arm to render it mostly useless.

Therefore, I am determined that this year, I will be the one sending the Christmas care package.

Now, rum balls are without a doubt the thing I most look forward to receiving in the Christmas cookie box, so I started with them.

I find the whole process astonishing, as they end up very tasty, but they sure don’t start out very good! Not only do they involve walnuts (a nut which I traditionally don’t like very much, but which fortunately is ground into anonymity for this recipe), but they taste almost exclusively like corn syrup if you make the mistake of tasting the dough as you are preparing it.

I do understand, having read the recipe thoroughly, that they need to age before they will reach their full flavour, but the metamorphosis is truly incredible. And they have to be the easiest thing in the world to make; toss a few ingredients together, mix ‘em up, and voila!

I also took advantage of the hour that you have to let the dough sit before shaping it into bite size pieces to make almond paste, on my way to making marzipan. I’ve decided this year that not only am I going to ice my fruit cake with marzipan, I’m also going to experience with molding the marzipan into cute X-mas shapes, coloring it, and crystallizing it. I’d have been happy to do the whole thing last night, but unfortunately almond paste is another thing that has to rest for a week before you use it.

In retrospect, the title of this post may not be so apt, given that I neither made cookies, nor got to taste anything that I did make. So much for instant gratification.

I had good intentions of doing some sewing after the baking marathon, as I’m not even close to my goal of making two skirts this week, but instead I got distracted by Gilmore Girls. Just my luck that all of the episodes I watched ended in tears, trepidation, or gloom. I finally had to resort to watching the opening scene and then turning it off as soon as it reached the opening credits, in order to get myself to bed in a half-decent frame of mind.

Anyway, ta for now, and hopefully my next post won’t be so domestic.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Prognosis: Good! … or maybe bad

I’m almost afraid to admit that I really like my ultimate team this year. We have one or two people who aren’t as advanced as the rest of the team, but for the most part we’ve got a good bunch of athletic, competent players. And better yet, there isn’t one person on the team who is irredeemably annoying!

Sadly, I expect this spells doom for the chances of my team staying together. I can only hope that I am not one of the people who gets traded away: I think I’d rather adjust to a few new people than have to try to adjust to another team entirely.

Plus it appears that on this team there might be an active tradition of going out to the bar afterwards. (Though come to think of it, I think there might have been such a tradition on my team last year, except that I never went because we always had one of the two late games – you may think I’m exaggerating, but I assure you, our schedule last year was disproportionately weighted towards the last two time slots).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


For reasons I don’t understand, the upwelling of sadness that afflicted me halfway through Deepa Mehta’s Water has continued to affect me today. It was actually quite a weird experience: normally movies that make you cry do so with a traumatic event, something that puts a lump in your throat before expressing itself as tears. In this case, I think my overactive imagination was instrumental in my feeling an overwhelming aura of sadness and hopelessness in response to the visuals and stories provided by the movie. It was like the movie filled up a well of sadness and despair that had been sitting empty inside of me, to the point where it overflowed and out came the tears, not only regardless of my will, but regardless of whether the movie itself was sad enough to cry for at that point.

Or maybe today's echoes of sadness are just a normal part of the vicious circle of crying. Since I had tears dripping down my cheeks for at least an hour at the movie yesterday, I have all of the classic unpleasant after-effects of crying: swollen eyelids and itchy eyes, which make me tired and grumpy and inclined to cry again.

I learned during the one period of my life in which I was sad enough to cry every day or two for at least six months, that if you are going to cry at all, it is a good idea to cry all the time. Eventually your body purges itself of whatever toxins or other substances normally cause the swollen eyes, and you can enjoy crying without any of the physical repercussions.

At any rate, though I have not actually been crying today, my mood is matching the dreary weather; with an unformed sadness sitting heavy inside my chest.

This despite the fact that I had my first visit back to Carson Grove Elementary School, reading individually with the kids in the Grade 1 class. I really enjoy reading with six-year olds, even the ones who don’t believe they can read yet and have to be pulled and prodded into even giving it a try.

I'm sad also despite the fact that I have my first night of indoor ultimate tonight, which I've been looking forward to for a couple of months (given that I missed most of fall league with a sprained ankle, but was determined to be back in time for indoor). Based on my team list I think I might really enjoy playing with Team Blue.

Unfortunately my memories of last season have fueled a little pessimistic voice inside my head, which is muttering repeatedly that even if the team does gel, I shouldn’t get used to it, as I’m sure to get transferred off the team again. And probably to team Black, since in all of my years of indoor, I’ve always been assigned to team blue or team black, with the single exception of my five weeks on Red last year (and I foolishly gave back the red team shirt, so I ended up down a shirt for the season, not that I needed another black indoor shirt).

On the other hand, I’ve just looked at team black, and I do like many of the people on that team, and I don’t recognize any terrible head-cases, so that might not be so bad.

On the wonders of indoor ultimate, I will report back tomorrow. Sayonara

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Catchup Routine

I got lost yesterday when I tried to write a post to describe my weekend, so instead of overwhelming you (or me!) with detail I’m going to pick a few highlights:

Friday night: Korean BBQ
A quick heads up to all you meat-eating men out there (particularly if you are the sort of meat-eating man who refuses to eat vegetables): Korea Gardens on Rideau St. will sell you a huge plate full of meat and let you cook it over a gas grill at your table, with very few vegetables in sight (unless you count bean sprouts and kim chi, which I have to say I do not). Perhaps Maria and I should have been more circumspect, but as we were not I ate an overwhelming amount of tasty meat.

Saturday morning: Rohan at the park
After four hours Saturday morning, I was left with the delusion that baby sitting Rohan wasn’t all that hard. Change a diaper here, take him to the park there, offer him some crayons, put on a movie, how hard was that!

Sunday all day: Rohan at the friends’
Delusions dispelled! I guess I’m not all that great at coping with a toddler who simply refuses to nap, and although I tried Chris’ suggestion to lean on him until he got bored and fell asleep, I was too frail of constitution to put up with more than 10 minutes of red faced screaming, so Rohan ended up skipping a nap that day. On the other hand, we did enjoy the pantomime! I would have liked to see the whole thing but we left after an hour and a half at intermission, because there was no way Rohan and Cate would have made it through another hour and a half.

Sunday night: Mmm beans!
Mike and Arlene do cook up a fabulous mess of beans! Even better when eaten by dipping baguette and havarti :-)

As for last night, I forced myself to finish writing the story I started Saturday night. That was very difficult and I’ve decided that I’m going to go away for a couple of weeks and pretend that I’m not the person who wrote that story.

Ta for now!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More or Less a Success & Computer Woes

You will all be pleased to know that the creme brulée was extremely tasty. Unfortunately, not all of the six servings had set properly, so some of them were more cream and less custard, but tasty nonetheless. And the kitchen torch was fun. Any cooking endeavor that involves open flame has to be good, yes?

On an unhappier note, my computer decided to reject my USB key last night. I was in the middle of using it, and had not touched it in anyway, when Windows 2000 brought up the scolding error message about not disconnecting your removable drive without first stopping it, in peril of screwing things up on your computer. Removing it and putting it back in did not help in any way: the key was detected, but was starred with the yellow exclamation mark indicative of a problem in the device manager. Attempting to reinstall the driver consistently fails, with the cryptic message:

An error occurred during the installation of the device.
The installation failed because a function driver was not specified for this device instance.

I rebooted into Windows 98, but it provided me with the same disappointing error message.

Of course, when I brought it into the office this morning, it is working just fine.

All of my googling on the error message has taught me that many people experience this problem, but not many figure out how to solve it; or, at least, if they do figure out how to solve it, they don’t post the answer. Blech.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Crème Brulee Bravery

Somehow, after getting on the topic of tasty vanilla extract with Darcy, I ended up going home with a Kitchen Torch, a container of heavy cream and an ambitious plan to make crème brulee from scratch.

It didn’t seem like such a difficult task, until the time came when I was struggling with the ceramic casserole dish and French onion soup pots that I was using as a substitute for a baking dish and ramekins. Adding to the complication, the casserole dish was full of boiling water in addition to the soup pots.

The next scary moment came when I had to decide whether the pots were “set around the edges”...

Though I do have to say that some very tasty meringue cookies resulted as a side effect of this endeavour, so in one way, I have already succeeded.

And as for the crème brulee, Chris and Darcy will have to be the judge of that.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Classic Landlady Moment

Last night, 11:15 pm; much banging and thumping is heard.
11:25 pm, just as I start to get really annoyed; there is a knock at the door.
11:26 pm; Julie sheepishly admits that her friend closed and locked the door to the bathroom on his way out. Now there is no way to get back in.
11:27 pm; I try to slide a credit card through the doorlatch. No dice.
11:28 pm; Linda comes up from downstairs and asks if we could cease all of the banging, as she has to get up at 5:00am. We apologize profusely (as I’m mentally thinking, I wouldn’t have been doing any banging if I’d been asked earlier).
11:29 pm; I try to slide a knife through the doorlatch. No dice. Meanwhile, Louis has been trying to get the door off its hinges (hence all of the banging previously). Despite heaving and pulling, the door stays put.
11:30 pm; I call City Locksmith and ask for an emergency visit.
11:35 pm; through Herculean effort, Louis gets the door off it’s hinges.
11:37 pm; I convince Louis and Julie that it would be best to cease amending the door/latch situation until the next day.
11:38 pm; I call City Locksmith and cancel the emergency visit.

Sigh. You’ve gotta love self-starting tenants. They replaced the door to the bathroom, but unfortunately when they did so they chose to put a key lock on the bathroom, with the kind of quarter turn handle lock that locks you out on your way out the door. I’d have been happy to get a bathroom privacy lock if they’d asked! Spending ten dollars on a door handle is much cheaper than paying a locksmith a hundred bucks to visit at midnight.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sewing Assembly Line

Last night I embarked on what I expect to be a long sewing journey. I have the fabric for at least 8 new skirts, and I’m bored of the clothes in my closet, and I’m too fat to wear some of the skirts I already own, so I am now motivated to make something of my pretty pieces of cloth!

I can only sew the simplest of patterns, preferably only with straight lines (not that I can sew in a perfectly straight line either, but anyway), and it has been so long since I sewed my last skirt that I was reduced to trial and error to figure out how to get the zipper in.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling optimistic right now, so I’m planning to complete two skirts a week until all of my fabric is gone. Wish me luck!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Wiggly Fun!

Wednesday evening I had the privilege of taking my goddaughter to see the Wiggles concert, in company with her grandmother, Karen, and Karen’s 17 month old son Rohan. The plan was to meet at my goddaughter’s and pick up the tickets from her father. Ominously, the evening did not start well. After a couple of accidents early in the rush-hour, Ottawa drivers stuck in the downtown core were doing their best imitation of a herd of confused lemmings. In theory I was meeting Myrna and we were driving together, but I arrived at Myrna’s to see a note on the door instructing me that she had left without me as she was late. To which I say: I have a cell phone now! Call me when you make decisions like this! At any rate, I am apparently a much more insane driver than Myrna, or perhaps I know better routes through the city, as I arrived at the rendezvous only seconds after Myrna and Karen.

When we first got into the Corel Centre, I had a few moments of irrational fear (we were only three rows from the edge and I do not deal well with heights), but once we got sitting down, I was much better. Catherine sat and stared, mesmerized, for at least the first half hour of the Wiggles, sitting on her grandmother’s lap and clutching her hand for reassurance. It was exceedingly difficult to tell whether she was scared or was delighted but was simply overwhelmed. Fortunately, the distinction was made clear when, after moving to my lap for a couple of songs, she got down and started to dance. From there the way was clear, and despite occasional distractions from Rohan (who was trying to pet her hair and give her hugs) and from snacks, Catherine enjoyed the show so much that when it ended she stood there yelling: No! More! … More!!!

Grandma bought her the DVD for the show, and as soon as Catherine saw it she was imperious in her desire to hold the DVD (and open it, and watch it). I tried to tell her during the car ride home that she wasn’t going to be able to watch her new “Wubbles” DVD when she got home, but she would have none of it. We left her home with Dad, strongly convinced that he was going to have a rough time getting her to bed.

Sadly, I managed to lose my brand new cellphone on the way into the show - doh! Even after retracing my steps and talking to Guest Services, I could not find it. I called the Corel Centre Thursday morning to ask about lost and found and they directed me to the Command Centre, which did not have my cellphone, leaving me somewhat dubious about ever getting my cellphone back. However, when I called my cellphone, the Corel Ticket Centre answered. All is well that ends well, though I must say the Corel Centre should organize itself to have one, and only one, lost and found service.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Stirrings of Guilt

It was my brother’s birthday yesterday. I managed to completely forget this phenomenon, but it is not the forgetting that makes me feel guilty.

I would call my brother the black sheep of the family, but upon consideration I think that the phrase “black sheep” indicates someone who has chosen a life path which conflicts with family mores. I’m not convinced that my brother can be considered to have chosen a life path so much as having failed to get on a life path at all.

The guilt comes from the fact that it is so easy to forget my brother entirely; to block the fact that I even have a brother out of my daily mind. And from the fact that I don’t miss him. For so many years my every contact with my brother has come at a time when my brother is in need; in need of money, in need of a place to stay, a new winter coat after foolishly losing the old one. Note that none of my brother’s neediness takes an emotional form.

My parents tell me stories of how excited I was to be getting a new baby brother, how I was so taken with the two and a half year old that came into our lives when I was three and a half.

Sadly, I have a pathetic memory. I have only the untidiest of fragments from times before I was eight or nine years old. What I remember about my childhood experiences with my brother was the times when we were twelve and thirteen; expected to be old enough to get ourselves off to school successfully after our parents left for work. In those few minutes between the departure of the parental units and our departure for the bus stop, we heaped physical and verbal abuse on each other without any restraint.

To my shame, I must note that the physical fighting stopped after we moved to Hong Kong, a fact which I attribute to my brother’s continued growth for years past the time when, at twelve years old, my height stopped dead.

One of the very few fond memories I have of my brother is of an occasion when we were visiting our grandparents’ cottage at Lake Ena. The cottage was on a tiny island in the middle of the lake, with no means of departure or arrival save a boat. (Technically I suppose that a very strong swimmer might have been able to swim the distance, but as it took at least ten minutes travel while whipping along in a motorboat, my brother and I were never at risk of attempting the feat). Two kids trapped alone on an island with only grownups for company; though we didn’t necessary hang out much during the day, the nights were different. We’d talk our way through the initial shock of going to bed in an unfamiliar cabin that made unexpecting creaking and thumping noises, and then I’d sing my brother to sleep.

I have traditionally had the habit of staying awake until everyone else has fallen asleep before trying to sleep myself. This is a habit that I’ve broken after a couple of relationships; there’s nothing like sharing a bed with an insomniac night after night to convince a person that they’d better get their sleep while they can.

But I’m not sure I ever really knew my brother on any kind of emotional level. And years of being the sole pipeline to the bank of Mom and Dad have soured me on any thoughts of having a relationship with my brother.

I think it is only sensible to disconnect from someone who consistently causes me pain and distress; but I can’t help feeling guilty for having abandoned my brother in this fashion.

As for birthday wishes, I can only hope that my brother gets lucky enough to find himself on a path to a comfortable life. It seems clear that he will not be searching out that path for himself.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Moving my nose in a book

Most of the time when I get my nose stuck in a book, the entire universe stops until I’ve finished. However, there is the rare occasion when I am still aware enough of the other tasks I must do that I end up trying to read and do things at the same time.

I don’t think there are many times when I look more foolish than when I’m trying to read at the gym. Running on the elliptical trainer, stretching, lifting weights… all of these things can be done while reading; though I must say that it requires a special kind of dexterity to hold the book steady in one hand while running and swinging the other hand on the movable arms of the machine.

On the one hand, I get a lot more stretching done when I’m reading a book, and the time on the elliptical trainer seems to pass a lot more quickly, but on the other hand, I get a basketful of strange looks, it takes me twice as long to complete my workout, and the intensity level? I’d have to say it takes a hit.