Thursday, March 31, 2005

Recommending That You Spend ...

... some quality time in the Swamp.

Because I am trying not to have one of those humongous blogrolls, I don't even come close to listing all of the blogs that I read. Some people track blogs from their own blogrolls, but I use an RSS plugin in Firefox to track updates pretty efficiently. So, please don't feel slighted if you're not listed in my sidebar. I really am trying to keep a lid on it.

That being said, there is a blog that I feel compelled to list. swamp4me posts unique blog on SwampThings. She is a
Certified Environmental Educator and amateur naturalist who regularly posts all sorts of amazing photos of snakes, bugs, fungi and what have you. It's really neat to stop by and enjoy the critters.

Another Item

I just read a funny account called Wrong cheeseburger on Bene Diction Blogs On. Enjoy reading this transcript of a pretty bizarre 911 call.


Used Beer Mats

When I use that title, Used Beer Mats, I assume that you'll think of the coaster that we often place under a glass full of beer. Yesterday, I baptized my own beer mat. In fact, I baptized two.

I have confessed that I am a Diet Coke® addict. After supper I took my nightly trip to the Coke fridge in the basement. When I reached in to the carton to grab the drink, it shifted and fell sideways, just enough to knock over two bottles of beer: onto the floor, where they broke — and spilled!

To me, beer does not smell good. On occasion, I drink a bottle or two and even enjoy it, but I never really dig the bouquet, if you know what I mean. So, when the beer seeped into two floor mats, they had to go. The mats weren't big, new, or expensive, so it was not a tragedy, but the clean-up was not fun.

This was an avoidable accident; of course, I suppose all accidents are avoidable by definition. From all of the company on the weekend, things were crammed into the fridge. I had one Coke carton stacked on top of the other. A few cans had been taken from the bottom carton, just enough for it to shift a little when I was removing a can from the top carton.

This is a reflection of who I am: one who tends to assume that things are okay and will be okay. I tend not to notice trouble brewing. Once while doing hall patrol with a diligent fellow teacher, he made the remark how he always saw everything that was wrong. Meanwhile, I observed that everything always looked fine to me; I tended to not see problems unless they were pretty obvious.

I think I'd rather be this way (seeing life as copasetic) and have to toss out a beer-soaked mat every now and then, than to always be fretting over all of the things that could possibly go wrong.

What about you? Are you the type to see potential hazards in your fridge, or are you most likely to assume that everything is hunky-dory? What do you see as the benefits or difficulties of being the way that you are?


Q&A 1

I received a questionnaire from Dale last week. I don't think it's exactly like the interviews which have been making the rounds lately, but I thought that I would make use of some of the question: not all of them because fifty is too much for both you and me to handle. I'll most likely publish several groups of three over the next few days. Feel free to respond to any or all of the same questions.

Do you trust others easily? I tend to be a trusting sort of person, and I wonder how many veterans of thirty years of teaching wars can say that. Actually, I found that if you treat kids with respect and consideration that they generally reciprocate, and I think that's true for people in general. I can't say that I have ever been maliciously hurt or abused due to my trusting nature. On the other hand, I think that I am also blessed with a certain degree of discernment that offers some protection.

What class in school do you think is totally useless? Probably none. All subjects can contribute to your knowledge and/or skills in some way. Although I took college fairly seriously, up until then I was not exactly a high achiever. I wish I had been; it was my loss.

Have you ever been in a mosh pit? Wrong guy in the wrong era for that question. I was brought up in the church and didn't follow the current music scene when I was a kid. Even then, I think that mosh pits are a later development for the most part. I have been to a concert where there was a mosh pit. It was a Great Big Sea concert. GBS is a celtic type of band that I have seen classified as Celtic Rock although I would just cast them as exuberant and entertaining. I attended this concert only a few years ago, at an age when someone is rather unlikely to bounce around giddily in a pit of any sort — unless it possibly be the pit of despair, and then I doubt that I would be giddy.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

About the Sitemeter ...

... and Blogger

As I have probably mentioned before — but I forget — I am a bit of an absent-minded, head-in-the-clouds type of guy. In other words, I'm not always fully present in the moment.

So it was that earlier, when I posted the screenshot of my sitemeter, I really wasn't thinking that some folk might not make the connection that I did. How dense of me to assume that everyone would come equipped with the same background information as I.

You see, 666 is the mark of the beast, the Antichrist of the book of Revelations. So, when 6,666 showed up on my sitemeter, I immediately took a screenshot and posted it. When I say immediately, it probably took Hello and Blogger about two hours to come to grips with this and allow me to publish the post. It became just a tad frustrating.

Speaking of the system, I am not one to pounce too hard on a free service. Blogger acknowledges their problems and commits to fixing them. But free or not, if something is worth doing, shouldn't it be worth doing well? If you offer a service, shouldn't it work well most of the time? Not complaining mind you. No, not me.


Good Grief

When I posted the previous blog, I happened to notice my site meter, something that I don't normally do. I thought, "I must post this," but Hello gave me a devilishly hard time. It took three tries and some desperate searching for more strands of hair to yank out.


The Game

Sometimes, I don't want to write. Oh, I want to have something written, and I want it to be up there in my blogspace, but I just don't want to wrestle with the words. Or more accurately, I don't want to grope for the thoughts. Perhaps I am still on a bit of a sugar and starch overload from the Easter long-weekend, but my get up and go done got up and went.

So, when I read anybodyhome this morning, I thought, "I can do that." She wrote, Okay...who wants to play "What's On Your Desk?" I looked down at my little computer desk and thought, "What a snap!" Of course, I wasn't thinking very clearly at the time.

Foolishly, I thought it would be an easy task because my computer desk is small and doesn't have very much stuff on it, but as I began to set about writing this simple description, I realized that I have two other surfaces that are really contiguous extensions to it. Pain!

So, let's start with the easy part. On my little computer desk, there is my laptop, an external CD burner (because the internal one is ill) with its cable snaking about willy nilly, a cordless mouse, a receiver for the mouse, a bent paper clip, a book holder without a book, a mechanical pencil, and a yellow sticky note reminding me to do some printing for Cuppa. There are, of course, wires behind the computer.

But then there's a adjacent storage cabinet to my left. It's really part of the desk because if I didn't have it, I'd have to have a larger desk (which I did up until a few months ago when I reorganized things. It was a regular, old wood office desk that was always awkward for typing — the surface being higher than desirable — good for writing by hand but not for typing). The printer is on top of the cabinet, and there is paper in the drawers.

But wait, there's more! Also adjacent to my computer desk, on the right, is a rather large table. Stacking trays — two sets plus one old metal one serving to store odds and ends. Phone. Graphics tablet. Kleenex box. Modem and router. Speakers. A mug holding pencils and pens. Memory stick. Box of sleeves for CDs. Checkbook. Timer (to remind me if something is cooking or else I'll either forget or not hear the stove timer). Stapler. Notepad. Computer book. Box of batteries. USB hub. External card reader (as in digital camera storage media such as Compact Flash). And a few random sundries lying about: unused Kleenex, bits of paper, pen, paper clip, elastic, tube of hand lotion.

Would you believe that there is yet another desk in this room? I've had it for over thirty-five years and in six different dwellings. It was reclaimed from an office by my father-in-law. He refinished it for me, and I have had it since I was a young, naive student at university. I use that desk when I am actually writing things, which isn't often these days. When I was teaching I would use it for preparing lessons, grading papers etc. Since it's not directly contiguous with the computer desk, I will spare both you and I the description. Suffice it to say: it generally bears its fair share of debris important and valuable commodities as well. The rather vague and foggy plan is to one day get a proper computer desk system and pass along this heirloom to one of my scions. It will regularly remind her of her grandfather ... and maybe even of me when I have passed on to where he is now.

Oops, I almost forgot the can of Diet Coke. This addiction is one of my few vices. I have begun to battle the addiction several times and then thought, "What the heck! As far as addictions go, it's pretty darn innocuous." It is my theory that we should all have at least one vice, and unless blogging and computing be considered as such, I seem to be rather short on vices — at least from my perspective. Other dear ones may disagree.

So there you have it. An entry that I thought would be short and simple became long and tedious. But, at least I didn't have to think — much.

Now according to the rules of the game, you are supposed to describe your desk, either in the comment section or in a blog.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Answering the Call

After yesterday's post, it was suggested by anon that I superimpose the boy on me. Your wish is my command. Just in case: the original boy is on the left, and the superimposition (so to speak) is on the right.

Technical Notes (added — for those who have asked )

A few people have asked about my technique for doing these morphs. It's really rather simple if you know Photoshop at all.

To morph Eric's face into me, I dragged his photo to mine. This creates a second layer.

Then, I reduce the opacity of the top layer — Eric — so that I can see my face underneath.

I manually size and rotate Eric as needed, and I position his nose above mine. This pretty well lines up the eyes and mouth fairly well, but if I need to make any other size or rotation adjustments at this time, I do just that.

Then, I restore the opacity of Eric's layer and drag it below mine.

I create a layer mask on my layer and airbrush the part of my head that I want to eliminate. This masks out my face and allows Eric's to show from underneath. As you can see, the airbrush technique blends the two photos fairly seamlessly.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Me as Pumpkinhead

My face in Eric's body

Back when I was going on ad nauseam about showers, baths, and towels, I mentioned that my son-in-law looked like Pumpkinhead in the morning. How silly of me! Nobody knows about Pumpkinhead (or is it Punkinhead) any more.

At one time, at least in local Canadian Christmas mythology, he was one of Santa's helpers who was cursed with a tremendously unruly mop of hair. I remember feeling very badly for poor, poor Pumpkinhead. Now, no one knows who he is or was — even Google!

So it was that I was moved to take a picture of the boy this morning before he showered and departed for the long drive home. Then he took one of me, and THEN I morphed the two — put my face into his head. Well, I look at it and can't even see me in it although I know it is. How weird is that?

Unfortunately, this is what I look like now. I must tell you that it grieves me to look like this. I once had a full head of hair, and not to be too braggadocios about it, wasn't exactly the homeliest boy in the class. Just look at me now. I never thought that I would look like this. Sigh.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Quick Post ...

... that I can't help but squeezing in before a busy day

The tribe descended this weekend and consumed the consumables rather quickly. That meant that I needed to make an early run to the corner store this morning to get coffee cream. I'm glad I did, for I glimpsed my first robin of the season flying right across my line of vision. It caused my heart to leap, a smile to spread across my face, and a song to form on my lips.

The song is a funny one that my little mother composed just a year or two before she passed on. She wrote it to the tune of Sing a Song of Sixpence, and it begins with the words, "Welcome little robin we hear your happy song. She sang it with much pride, wavering gusto, and quivering thin voice. It was so cute that we had the congregation sing it at her funeral.

As the family got together just this weekend, we reminisced and the song was reprised. We're sure that it was our singing that spurred the robins to fly the last hundred miles in double-quick measure to get here in time for Cuppa's birthday yesterday ... even though we didn't actually notice them until this morning.

We will soon be off to London where daughter #2, who wants a proper name for use in this blog but hasn't come up with one yet — so I'll call her Deetoo for now — and her partner (Artoo?), will catch the bus for Toronto. It's a wonderfully sunny day. Perhaps we'll see more robins. For sure we will see hawks aplenty. They sit in trees by roadside, perch on old fence posts, and soar majestically. Awesome creatures.

Life is beginning to sprout after the too-long winter. First, it was the daffodil shoots, now the robins, and just yesterday I saw all sorts of basal growth on some of my later-blooming perennials. That surprised me greatly, for a few small patches of snow still linger about here and there, fighting a futile rearguard action in a vain attempt to postpone winter's general but inevitable retreat.

Just in time for Easter too. We thought, somewhat grumpily, that it was rather early this year, but perhaps it was timed rather perfectly after all.


Friday, March 25, 2005

A Daffodil-Woman's Birthday

This solemn day in Christendom marks a happy day for me, for it commemorates the birthday of my Daffodil Woman: Cuppa.

Cuppa soon started to paint watercolours after she did this acrylic, but I have always rather liked this little painting. I revive it today to wish her a Happy Birthday. If you haven't done so already, and many of you have, feel free to visit her site to add your best wishes.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Let the Cycling Season Begin

For a while I thought that March was going to pass us by without offering us the opportunity to get out on the bikes. However, the winter-spring interlude season gave us just enough of a break to let us get out for a ride on Tuesday afternoon. The sun came out; temperatures climbed to a balmy 3°C/37°F, and the winds slowed down to about 20kph/12mph. There are still spots of snow accumulation visible behind my pose in the photo to your upper left.

Cuppa's picture (below-right) shows the boundary line between the ice and the water in the bay. For whatever reason, many seagulls and ducks chose to sit along the ice edge, but they're not terribly visible in the photo.

There were a few other bikers (when I say bikers, I mean cyclists) out; we greeted one another with broad smiles and silly words such as: "There's another silly biker." Everyone was in high spirits and good humour.

I understand that my more southerly guests will think the cavortings of these Crazy Canucks rather absurd, but the truth is that we as warm as toast in the outfits that you see. In fact, the problem with many winter endeavours is staying cool enough under the layers.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Daffodil Women

Women are fascinating but mysteriously unfathomable beings.

I couldn't help but think that once again last week when a certain female to whom I am endearingly bonded experienced a rather emotional meltdown. Let me hasten to add that neither I nor any family member was the culpable cause of said meltdown, which is probably the only reason why I durst blog about it.

The meltdown was triggered by a vexation that barely registered on my radar scope. Although it was something that I found annoying and something that I knew would have to be rectified, I was hardly on the verge of curling into the fetal position.

I couldn't help but ponder the nature of the feminine gender, which will forever remain enigmatic to those of us who are blessed or cursed (take your pick) with the Y-chromosome. The double-X gender is amazingly paradoxical to us. If my double-X mate is any example, there are times when women seem to assume spines of kevlar. They stand strong amidst the most tumultuous gales that the winds of life can summon. I have beheld this miracle more than once: beheld the strength of the kevlar spine as my own stamina and resiliency forsook me. However, I have also beheld the flower-like fragility which somehow co-exists with that kevlar.

Owing to the time of year, my mind likened it to the daffodils which have just begun to poke above the ground. In front of the house, by the street, they are subject, almost without respite, to the howling winds of April. Last year, for example, I never found one calm moment to take a photo of these gorgeous flowers, for every time I cast my glance in that direction, I saw their sunny faces being bent backwards against the cruel winds. I have seen them not only withstand the winds but also snow, sleet, and cold rain.

Yet, they thrive! They return every vernal season in greater numbers and with greater resplendency.

However, daffodils are also tender in their own way. It is remarkably easy for a careless clod to pick a flower, bruise a bloom, uproot a bulb, or crush a plant under heavy foot.

How alike are women and daffodils: strong, resilient, and becoming more beautiful with the passing of years. How alike are women and daffodils: fragile, tender, and easily crushed.

I was thinking that I had stumbled onto an amazing truth and congratulating myself for being a rather clever and in-touch kind of guy. Then I remembered that others have noticed this before. The movie was called Steel Magnolias.


Ta-Da Lists

Are you a bit disorganized? Do you aimlessly wander about trying to use some sort of blend of paper lists and computer lists to keep track of all of the things that you have on your plate? Do you have little notes posted here and there: strewn all about the house in total chaos? Can you never remember where you the blankety-blank list that you just put together? I think I have stumbled across what could be a great solution for many.

To give credit where it is due, I learned about this service from Your Total Site, a site/blog for web coders, and the killer app that they mentioned is called Ta-Da Lists. Like Blogger, it is a free service. Of course, they hope to interest you in a premium service at some point, but I think this free service will do the trick for many wannabe but hapless organizers.

I was able to sign up and make my first three lists within minutes. The following is a sample.

Unless you require sophisticated and complicated personal management software or paper planners, this little service may be tickety-boo for you.

In a sense it works like Blogger. It's free; your get your own web address; and, you can access and modify your lists from any computer, just as long as you remember the address, your login, and your password. The lists are dynamic; you can add items, mark items as being completed, make additional lists, discard lists when completed.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to give it a try. It may not simply be tickety-boo, but it may be the cat's ass too. It even prints cleanly formatted hard copies for you.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Reality of It

Well, well: according to this site that I just looked up, the Vernal Equinox occurs today. We always suppose that it occurs on the 21st , but, of course, it doesn't. Rather, it occurs near March 21st.

Officially then, this day begins the spring season, but of course, it never does: not really; not here at any rate. As far as the actual weather is concerned, it's still winter, for patches of rapidly diminishing snow remain here and there and because the day is rather unappealing: cool, drizzly, and overcast.

In fact, although this is considered to be a genuine four-season climate, I rather think that it's really more like six seasons. Starting soon, there will be a transition time between winter and spring, a time when it is neither. There will be periods when the weather is winter-like, times when it is more spring-like, and episodes when it is neither here nor there but rather a nondescript bluckiness. The same sort of thing occurs in November and the first half of December when one cannot yet call it winter, but it is no longer autumn-like either. Hence the six seasons.

I never truly feel that spring weather has arrived until around May. That makes it a rather short season because once June arrives I consider it to be summer. The spring bulbs and flowers will start earlier, for as you saw the other day, we have daffodil bulbs poking out, but those daffodils endure and thrive in some rather difficult weather in most years.

Bleak! That's the words for this time of year. Sun would help immensely, but we are to be denied that on this particular Vernal Equinox. Just to show you how bleak it looks just now, here is a photo from out the back door. I experimented with a little ripple distortion to try to make the photo slightly more interesting, but there's not much hope for it, I'm afraid. That's the reality of it.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Hyacinth and Daffodil

Just a photo from the files


Friday, March 18, 2005

This Caught My Eye

From today's Life's Laundry post, Outside My Window Before Light, which I recommend that you read, I was directed to another blog, Daydreams. The author is a Christian-lesbian who is approaching forty. She grew up in a very fundamentalist, condemnatory church, yet she is a woman of faith. I find that remarkable, yet uplifting and inspiring, and I think that there are a number of you who would, likewise, appreciate her story.

Specifically, I would like to direct you to The Result, a partial biography that she has submitted to her church for a publication called Faith Stories — from various members of the congregation. While you are there, you might also want to read her original entry about Faith Stories.

(At the time of this posting, her top posting makes four appearances, and she hasn't yet eliminated the duplicates. This is the same thing that happened to me the other day. If you haven't noticed this post yet, it may be of some comfort to know that the Blogger folks are aware of the problems and are taking steps. Read about it here.)


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Through the Detritus

I wasn't expecting it at all, not in the least. Up until a day or two ago, these daffodil shoots, if they were even there then, were covered with snow. But something caused me to peek over there today, just an inchoate hope, and there they were. They were there despite the brutally long and cold winter, despite the recent snows, despite unseasonably cold temperatures. There they were despite it all, through it all — undaunted.

No matter how long and cold the winter, they somehow know that it's their time to loom forth, time for their brief month in the sun. It is they who are the harbingers of an imminent spring. It is they who lift the heart just by being there: by being there and by being themselves — just themselves — their simple selves. They emerge through it all, out of the cold ground, through last year's dead detritus, and into the yet wintry air. They emerge to fulfill their destinies, which is to lift sunny faces that grin into April's relentless winds.

We all go through winters of the soul: sometimes short, sometimes long. If we have planted daffodils in our hearts, they will emerge when we need their smiles most. They will loom when we least expect them because they simply know that it is their time to reward us for planting them. They will emerge, even though we have not yet been able to tidy away all of the decaying debris of our soul's winter, and, by so springing forth, they inspire us to clean up our old messes — to rake up and dispose of the old detritus.

It is a good thing to plant seeds whenever warm summer breezes caress our lives: good seeds that can sprout when our winter-shrivelled soul's need is greatest. Plant a full garden for all seasons: daffodils for spring, daisies for summer, and asters for the autumn, but first and foremost, plant daffodils. They will suddenly illumine your soul when it seems that the dark has come to stay. And perhaps you will find that when your garden blooms, it somehow also touches and lifts spirits other than your own. And that is a good thing.


The Thorny Towel Issue

So, let's you and I talk about bathrooms for a change. Actually, let's talk about things pertaining to bathrooms not for a change but rather for the third (or is that the turd?) consecutive day. So help me, I cannot stop. In fact, you might say that I'm flushed with exuberance over the topic.

Today, it is the topic of towels that arrests my attention. Yes, I want to know all about the relationship between you and your towels. Stop smirking; this is a most solemn matter that the brave amongst you must find the courage to advance to the forefront of blog-dumb's conscience and consciousness.

As I perceive it , just as there are different opinions about baths and showers, and just as there are different opinions about morning versus evening ablutions, so, too, there exists a great dichotomy over the proper number of times that a towel may be used before it is required to be laundered. I perceive that there exist two, fundamentally discrepant schools of thought:

  • (i) that a towel may be used only once, at least for any major usage before being discarded into the laundry hamper to await purification;

  • (ii) that several uses — perhaps two to four — are perfectly acceptable.

I belong to the latter camp. My reasoning is straightforward. I use a towel to absorb clean water from a clean body. This does not dirty the towel per se but merely requires that the towel be freshened-up after several such uses. As far as I can determine, the one-time-users seem to regard the issue thusly: "Well, you just never know where the towel has been."

That simply boggles my brain. Is clean not clean? Even when you dry your most dark and deeply private nether regions, are they not clean? Have you not just washed thoroughly? Have you not subsequently rinsed? Wherever the spot on your body, whether it's a place that receives its fair share of sunlight or not, is it not just plain, clear, wholesomely pure water that the towel is absorbing? We simply use the towel to dry our already clean selves, long after our sweat and grime has been washed down the drain.

Please don't think me completely irresponsible in this regard, for I am quite convinced that towels get musty after several uses. Of course, they require freshening, and, by golly, I'm all for it. I'm not advocating endless weeks and months of steady use for goodness sakes, but let's be reasonable about this.

I think we should talk about toilet paper next. What?! Okay, I hear you. End of topic.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Morning or Evening?

Now that we've engaged in our seminal discourse of the relative merits of showers versus baths, surely it behooves us to further examine the conduct of bloggers in their bathrooms.

It seems to me that, if I may be permitted to add to the lexicon, there are two types of abluters: those who perform their deep-cleansing in the morning and those who scrub at night. I would suppose that all who ablute in the morning must necessarily pass their somnambulating bodies under the quick and invigorating showerhead rather than take the necessary time to draw a luxurious bath. Even if people could spare the time for a morning bath, many of them would probably fall asleep and drown themselves, and laws would need to be passed, and enforcement agencies would have to bolstered to to enforce the laws.

As usual, I'm sure to be in the minority, for I prefer to sponge my soot, whether by shower or bath, in the evening. It makes sense to me. I don't want to carry the day's grime into the clean sheets, and unless a given night's dreams call either for a wrestle with the devil or a bawdy romp with a salacious floosie (only in my dreams you understand), I normally expect to awaken fresh and clean in the morning.

The only valid rationale that I can fathom for eschewing evening ablutions in favour of morning dousings must be the old nemesis — HAIR! This is not my cross to bear, you understand, but certain unfortunate souls such as my wonderful son-in-law awake to the dawn looking like Pumpkinhead on a bad hair day. E has a rather glorious mane all in all, but not when he first stumbles groggily out of bed. Raggedy Andy has a better DO than E on a typical morning. At first blush, this makes E and me total opposites, for my hair is so sparse and short that I can (I'm being serious here) go for days at a time without bother to comb it, and nobody is ever the wiser.

Actually E and I have more in follicle commonality than first impressions would indicate, for, although you could never even be expected to guess at such if you were able to see my closely cropped chrome dome right now, at any length longer than extremely short my hair is quite curly too. Frankly, it was once a disaster to manage (when I had some to manage that is), and there were times when I had to forsake my spiritual principles and shower in the morning to try to achieve some semblance of order with my mop.

In case my meanderings around this bushy topic, leave you a trifle unclear as to my impressive thesis, it it this. It makes sense for those who can do so to shower at night — unless you have a fond predilection for being dirty in bed. I make exception, however, for those who must arise with each dawn to resume ongoing struggles with their manes.

Some people, and I can produce affidavits to prove this, actually shower twice a day. While, at first blush, that seems like overkill, I think it makes a kind a sublime sense. Shower (or bathe) at night to go to bed clean; shower in the morning to deal with those unruly coiffures.

So how about you: morning or night, shower or bath? Why?

I once wrote a blog called Bad Hair Life. Some tell me that it's funny.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Would You Believe ...

... that the previous entry posted itself four times, even though Blogger told me that it had not managed to publish even once?


Bath or Shower?

When I was still earning an honest living, grinding my stamina into powder as a teacher, I often retreated into a hot bath for a half hour in the evening. Sometimes I would read; sometimes I would just soak my cares in a state of mindless stupefaction. The bath was a place for a mini-vacation, a half-hour when I couldn't prepare any lessons, mark any papers, or be at anyone's beck and call.

I haven't always been a bath person and, indeed, cannot truly describe myself as one now. In fact, I shower much more frequently than I bathe. Given a choice of having just one or the other option, I would chose a bath-less shower stall over a shower-less bathtub. However, there was a time in my life when I had no choice. Actually, I recall two such intervals.

When I was in my mid-teens, we made a big move from the city to a more rural setting. This rural setting was actually on the encroaching fringe of a big city, to the point where I never thought of myself as rural. I always identified myself more with the city than the country. However, we did live in a sort of cottage that had no shower, and, so, I bathed — in about three inches of water, for the water pressure from the gimpy, old well could scarcely be likened to Niagara.

Much later: our second house as adults, when the children were young, was an old double-story dwelling. It had three bathrooms. The only one equipped with a shower was in the basement. Of course, I sometimes chose to use it, but, with the bedrooms on the second floor, I opted to bathe much more than shower.

As I describe this, I feel a bit like an ancient relic, for I don't imagine that many people who happen by Raindrops on their daily blogospheric migrations could even conceive of living in a shower-less domicile. The notion seems antiquated, even to me as I recall the facts now.

I suppose my story is a bit of a fluke. Blind chance twice took me to houses without showers, or at least without easily accessible showers. Prior and subsequent to both of those intervals, I had lived with and generally used the shower as a matter of preference — despite the fact that, in my experience at least, every house also comes equipped with a bathtub.

At any rate, at some point I began to appreciate the luxury with which many people never become accustomed: a long, hot bath. Ever since those periods, even when I have had access to a shower, I have sometimes preferred to draw a bath and escape from the battles of life for a spell. That's what baths do — enable you, even force you, to slow yourself almost to the stopping point where there is no other option but to relax. Showers, on the other hand, exist partly for speed and partly for their invigorating effects, which well-suits them to the frantically-paced, modern lifestyle.

Don't get me wrong! I enjoy an invigorating shower very much. I shower far more frequently than I bathe. Lately, however, I have once again found myself reverting with greater and greater regularity to the delights of long, hot soak. Today, for example, in the middle of the afternoon, if you please, I took to my bath with three books and enjoyed my mini-retreat immensely.

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool, devotee of the shower, you might like to try the therapy of a long, hot soak every now and then. Grab a good book or two, a refreshing beverage if you are so inclined, and escape the hustle and bustle for a time.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Grumble, Groan, and Grouch — NOT!

It's a beautiful Sunday morning out there, at least from this side of the pane. The sun is shining ever so brilliantly, forcing the snow to give ground. Of course, I could have said the same on Friday only to awaken to a prodigious, fresh snowfall yesterday. I guess we are in the teasing season when one day's happy harbinger is replaced by the next day's cruel coldness. But the harbingers are beginning to dawn with somewhat greater frequently, and one day in the next few weeks we will know that we have crossed the transition from winter into the next phase. Note that I say next phase and not spring. For, once we escape winter's tight grasp, we will not yet be in spring, but in that transition zone between the two seasons: a time when old-man-winter will rally to fire short, rearguard bursts during his inevitable but reluctant retreat.

When I looked out and witnessed the morn's ebullient sunshine, I felt a little joyous leap inside and thought that it might be nice enough to take a short spin on the bikes. Then, I checked The Weather Network and was quickly disabused, for however nice it looks through the glass, the exterior temperatures remain below zero. The sun's warmth will probably compensate nicely for the low temperatures and make for a most pleasant stroll by the bay or the lake this afternoon, but it's still a bit too nippy for biking. We could manage to do it, but I fear that it would not be an altogether joyous enterprise.

And so, I was tempted to grumble, grouse, and complain, but then I gave myself a rather sharp shot to the side of the head (which I find eminently preferable to a kick in the groin, and I urge you to experiment with both remedies if you are inclined to doubt my honesty and sincerity in this matter). Hadn't I just written a note of condolence to an old friend whose father has just passed away? Doesn't D1's father-in-law lie in the hospital recovering (hopefully) from a significant health hazard? So, why have I rather pathetically succumbed to bemoaning my irritating but endurable back problems, anguishing over a few paltry flu-and-tired symptoms, and pouting over Old Man Winter's seemingly unslackening grip?

Of course, we all know exactly why we sometimes permit ourselves to become less than giddy with life: because it is human to do so; because we are imperfect, and our frailties cannot help but disappoint us on occasion; because it is natural for our feelings to fluctuate; because our spirits absolutely strive for the necessary emotional balance between moments of melancholy and snatches of serenity.

There always comes the existential moment as though someone had held sharp smelling salts to our nostrils. We shake our heads as if emerging from torpor and burst forward in much improved frame of mind.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Internet and the Dictionary

It was not much more than ten years ago that the Internet first began getting hot, and I signed on for the ride. Actually, it wasn't the Internet per se but a bulletin board and email service for teachers with a limited gateway to the Internet. After several months of slipshod service and text-only browsing, I was ready for the real thing and blazed onto the Information Highway at a modem speed of 14.4 kbps.

I thought it absolutely amazing and wonderful to surf from one country to the next and to email people from all over the planet: Singapore, Japan, Israel, the UK, and of course Canada and the US. It was, and it still is, but I tend to take it for granted now.

My next computer whizzed around the Net at double the speed (28.8 kbps), and the one after that doubled the speed again (56 kbps). I stayed at that speed for quite a while. I resisted moving to high speed/broadband because I didn't want to get too used to it should we decide to move to a remote area with slow service. Even now, when we go to the cottage, the maximum speed that I obtain is 28.8, and it is sometimes below 20.

What I am getting at is this: now that internet access is so fast, I'd rather find a file online than on my own computer — it's quicker. For example: I was recently backing up some blogs. It was easier for me to re-download the picture from my own blog rather than search for it on my computer.

Searching to check a spelling, meaning, or looking for a synonym is so much easier and faster than getting up, finding my dictionary and/or thesaurus and thumbing through the pages. That's the rather obscure point of the above obscure graphic. Using Firefox, I can download extensions for an immediate search. To the right, you can see (well perhaps you can't see at this size) my current searches.

My most frequently used extended search is I simply press CTRL + T to open a new browser tab, so that I can keep the window that I was working on — say, a blog. I type the word into the search bar, press ENTER and have my definition in no time flat. Then, I click back to my blog entry or whatever, and continue my work (for that is what I choose to call it, my friend).

This is pretty darn important to me because my spelling is not getting any better. Let me see, if you want to spell occurrence, do you double the C, the R, or both? Does it end with an ance or an ence? Frankly, I no longer have a clue.

Part of it is because I am a Canadian, stuck between American and British English and not knowing which way is up. Do I spell it defence or defense, license or licence? I don't know; I have lost my way. Do we practise or practice? I think the Canadian way is to use practise for the verb and practice for the noun, but I am no longer certain of anything pertaining to this language.

This probably didn't confuse me at all at one time. Doubtless, I was taught the proper Canadian way in school and was never truly aware that there was another way. As I think about it, I am sure that every novel we ever read in school was of Canadian/British origin. These days, however, I am exposed to both varieties of English, including certain Canadian variants, and I can't seem to remember which usage is most proper for me. It must be so easy to be a Yank or a Brit and to always be certain of the one and only correct way. Now, I know both ways, but I can never recall which one is correct for me, or indeed if I might be hallucinating and there really is only one proper way and, now in my confusion, I just think that there is another.

They say that knowledge is power, but I am finding that it results in confusion.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Responding to Your Comments ...

... about the Christianity and Environment blogs

I recently published a somewhat longish and, I suppose, tedious blog titled Christianity and Evolution. Then, in Another Point of View, I quoted some of Sue Monk Kidd's thoughts (and not necessarily mine) on how Christianity tends to devalue nature. First, although neither garnered as many comments as my PANTing LEGacy, I would like to thank people for their contributions, a few of which deserve to be blogs in their own right. I would also like to respond, briefly at least, to some of the comments.

The point of both blogs was not to debate (see Anonymous comment on Another Point of Viewand please feel free to identify yourself; as long as people keep it civil and don't flame each other, you are welcome to say what you wish without fear of reprisal) whether lobsters, salamanders, or bugs should be considered to be equal with humans. Rather, I attempt to raise the general consciousness of the Christian community. I am addressing that fundamentally flawed view which so obviously misinterprets the Genesis account: that the earth is our gift to do with as we please. While I don't argue the gift part exactly, I find myself strenuously rejecting the historically typical Judeo-Christian notion that we should blindly do whatever it crosses out minds to do with this gift: ravage forests, degrade the soil, dump raw sewage into the sea, etc.

I rather like Powerdpuff's extension of my argument: that G-d created humans to tend the earth in His stead. We are to care for the planet as we think G-d would care for it. That's the real message of the Genesis account in her opinion and in mine. We don't have to debate whether squirrels, for example, are of equal value to man, but if we tend nature in a G-dly manner we will surely not consider it our domain to behave like this man:

... I was reminded of the time I stayed in a bed-and -breakfast owned by a retired couple. One morning as I strolled in the backyard gardens, I saw the man checking wire cages the size of shoe boxes, which were tucked discretely among the shrubs. Most of the cages, I noticed, were filled with squirrels. I watched horrified, as he carried the cages to the backyard pool, lowered them one by one into the water, and left them there until the squirrels' frantic little bodies stopped scrambling and they drowned. Then he disposed of the bodies and reset the traps.

That evening when the man left to go the church (that's right, church!), I went about the yard throwing open the cages and feeling the most delicious sense of glee as the squirrels shot out and up the trees, making riotous leaps through the branches (Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, 106).

Perhaps such accounts don't horrify you, but they do me. I am not upset by the man's wish to protect his garden from those pesky varmints, but I am profoundly disturbed by his most dreadful solution and by his cavalier attitude to creatures whose DNA are more like his than he would care to admit: "Mice and men share about 97.5 per cent of their working DNA, just one per cent less than chimps and humans. The new estimate is based on the comparison of mouse chromosome 16 with human DNA. Previous estimates had suggested mouse-human differences as high as 15 per cent." (

Katt believes that we should take Genesis with "a grain of salt," and I choose not to quibble with that either. My concern is not whether it is to be taken literally or with a grain of salt. My concern, rather, is that huge populations take it quite literally indeed, and I address myself to them. I contend that if you do take the Genesis account to be literal, then you have all the more reason to be very kindly disposed to the care of nature, for that is God's commission to you.

While speaking of Katt, I encourage you to visit her blog, The Far Horizon. Her most recent entry, The Forces of Nature, contains a plethora of quotes that are synchronous with this theme that I recently and somewhat surprisingly find myself dwelling on. She has also published two blogs on The Wisdom of Native Americans, part 1 and part 2 that I heartily recommend.

The Far Horizon is a unique blog. Katt primarily posts series of wonderful quotes on a given theme and usually blends them with exceptional, complementary images. I frequently find this thematic blending of images and quotes to be quite poignant and think that you might too. For the record, I am adding The Far Horizon to my blog links.

Once again, thanks for your comments. I consider this topic to be very important and thought that I should highlight and address some of the fine remarks that were posted and decided that, in this instance at least, I could better accomplish that in a regular blog entry rather than by replying in the Comments sections. I trust that no one finds my comments about comments to be offensive in any way.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

my PANTing LEGacy

The other day I changed for a walk, which basically means that I donned long underwear, and came downstairs to the door where Cuppa was waiting patiently.

"Don't you think you should wear pants?" she asked. We both doubled over with laughter, for this has been a recurring event this winter. Sometimes, I even lace up my winter boots (as in the photo) before realizing that I have forgotten to don my pants.

Now, I am not so senile that I don't eventually notice, but it's an awful inconvenience to have to remove and then re-lace those boots.

It's all conditioned reflex you know? The overwhelming majority of times that I pull a garment over my legs, it is pants (or trousers if you prefer). Therefore, when it is cold enough to wear long johns, my conditioned mind informs me that I have drawn the normal layer of clothing over my legs and that I'm good to go.

Although, I do have my head in the clouds (maybe that's why my subconscious really chose the Anvilcloud handle) much of the time, you have to wonder how a person with legs like mine could ever forget his pants.

For the record, I am ten feet tall, and, as the photo clearly shows, most of that is in leg and very little in brain.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Another Point of View ...

... for Your Consideration

How odd! After writing yesterday's piece, Christianity and Environmentalism, I came across the following passage in my bedtime reading. It doesn't necessarily align with my view, but it is so synchronous with my labours of yesterday that I wish to share it with you for your consideration. It is from Sue Monk Kidd's, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.

... In Christianity there is a deeply embedded separation between spirit and nature, a split apparent in this verse from Galations 5:17: "The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these things are opposed to one an other ..." (RSV).

... in Christianity nature is not a primary revelation of the divine. Rivers, trees, and stones are not perceived as alive and permeated with spirit but rather as dead matter. The earth, then, becomes something to be conquered, subdued, observed, and studied. It becomes a big science project.

Because of all this we begin to think of ourselves as separate from and innately superior to the rest of the planet. We lost the ability to identify with it at deep empathetic levels.

In Christianity this is even further undermined by a scared attempt to transcend the material earth and the flesh of our bodies, as it is suggested in a verse from James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: ... to keep oneself unstained from the world" (RSV).

Often the earth seems to function like a mere way station where we can grapple with our redemption before going "up there" to the realm of the Father, who is viewed as totally other than the earth and high above it.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Christianity and Environmentalism

If the Holy Bible is to be believed, we must view God's creatures as gifts to his favored children and use them for our own purposes, even if this occasionally causes this one or that one to go extinct after a while ... If one species or another of those muddly little salamanders were extinct, who would care anyway?

(Written in a note from Garnett to Nannie in Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer)

It seems odd to mention the same high school course twice in two days for two different reasons, especially when I have never had cause to mention it before. However, in that global issues course, one of the units of study dealt with environmental issues. On two separate occasions I took students to a university day conference that focused on world issues. Although it was a conference for students, as a teacher I too learned.

One session that I attended was led by a professor from the philosophy department. His main thesis was to the effect that the Judeo-Christian (the professor's term) construct is antithetical to environmentalism. His point: deep in the Judeo-Christian mind set is the conviction that everything else in nature was put here for us to use at our convenience.

... God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28 KJV, emphasis mine)

In my head, I argued with the man. In the classroom, students tried their best to offer logical counter arguments, but he was not to be swayed. He was, in effect, saying that our culture must shift to a world view other than the Christian one if we were to save the planet. As one steeped in Christian tradition who also thought himself as an environmentalist of sorts, I felt that I was proof enough that environmentalism and Christianity need not be mutually exclusive, for at the very least, even though I am not prone to discard my vehicle or to attempt to live without electricity, I have sympathy for the cause and what I believe to be fairly high levels of environmental awareness and sensitivity.

I knew, or thought that I knew, that my own belief structure gave the lie to his position. Of course, I knew, or thought that I knew, that other Christians likewise eschewed the rapacious attitude of which he accused all Christendom. Therefore, I set his argument aside and have thought little of it — until yesterday.

However, yesterday, in response to my Bubba the Lobster blog, one commenter (whom I am not trying to put down) offered the following: "We have to realize, though, that God made humans this way. We are supposed to eat other animals." I don't quibble with those particular words exactly but with the implied contention (and perhaps I misinterpret, so please don't flame me too badly) that it is our human right to do as we please with all that there is in the natural environment. (Read the complete blog and comments here.)

This is indeed a very different view of the world than the one that I encountered when we went on a whale-watching excursion on a little fishing boat off Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The captain explained that he also trapped lobsters during the appropriate season. Then, at the end of each lobster season, Buddhists from the local monastery would purchase the whole of his final catch. They would then have him take them and the lobsters out to the sea where they would release the crustaceans, "to give them another chance at life." (Click here to read more about that day and to see a few photos .)

In light of my memories, of my recollection of that philosophy workshop, of comments made to the blog, and of further reflection, I now feel compelled to re-examine the question. I doubt that my puny brain will be able to arrive at the ultimate answer, but I shall offer some thoughts and offer readers the opportunity to share their own wisdom and perceptions.

Based on the creation account, even if one must take it literally as many do, I think that I have the ammunition to refute the professor. I think that I can make the case that the Judeo-Christian world view can be compatible with Environmentalism, that Christians must not necessarily be forced to agree with the fictional Garnett or with the one who commented on yesterday's blog.

I take this view because God said what he did (in Genesis 1:28, above) within the context of the Garden of Eden. As I understand the concept, the Garden of Eden was not a typical, cultivated garden. Rather, it was a kind of utopia where they cultivated nothing and killed nothing. They merely gathered sufficient from its abundance to satisfy their scanty needs. They lived in harmony with it. Eden was paradise on earth. There was no cultivating, no killing, no ravaging, no despoiling, no deforestation, no depleting of resources, no ruination of habitats, no extinction of species, no emitting of noxious gases, no servitude to greed, and no wanton exploitation.

Genesis 1:29,30 from the NIV further clarifies the meaning of the previously quoted verse for God clearly indicates that he was speaking about both humans and animals eating of the abundant plant matter that He had provided:

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

The real problem with the Judeo-Christian account is not the original covenant in Eden, however, but the revised covenant given to Noah in Genesis 9:2,3 after the flood:

The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

That just about sums it up doesn't it? It gives us to understand the West's historical and even current attitude towards the earth. With those words, the creator imparts to us god-like power and almost prophesies how we will use it: to take what we want, how we want, in a way that will cause every other creature to cower before us. It has pretty well worked out that way, hasn't it?

No wonder the professor sees no hope for the environment as long as the Judeo-Christian view prevails, for, historically, it seems as though Christians have interpreted God's covenant with Noah in the most extremely literal and environmentally harmful way possible.

It is now up to Christians to reevaluate. Is the concept of stewardship not to be factored into this dogma at some point? When God gave us everything, he seems to have meant it. However, it also seems to me that it is up to the owner of a gift to use it wisely or unwisely. For example: if I were to win the lottery today (please God!), I could fly to Las Vegas tonight and blow all of the money by morning. Or I could invest some, donate some, and use some for modest extravagances. In other words, I could choose to honour and value the gift or treat it with contemptuous carelessness.

We must question whether it is ethical for humans to use God's gift to depredate and despoil the earth and to show no concern or respect for all of the other living beings that God created. We clearly have the power, and, just as clearly, we have been abusing that power. Is God not concerned with the rest of his creation? According to Luke 12:6 (NLT), He cares for all of creation, for Jesus said: "What is the price of five sparrows? A couple of pennies? Yet God does not forget a single one of them."

I contend that we have desecrated God's gift to us by devaluing it and by treating His magnificent creation with disdain. We have chosen to claim our legal rights to do with the earth as we will, but we have not chosen to follow the true desire of a God who created all and loves all of his creation. We have chosen to pillage rather than shepherd. We have chosen to use God's gift in a way that places little value and respect on the rest of His creation.

Is the philosopher correct? Judging by our past deeds, most definitely. However, I find the fault to be in how we have chosen to oversee the gift, how we have chosen to place little value on the rest of God's magnificent creation. With hardened and faithless hearts we use the bible to justify what I hold to be ungodly attitudes and actions.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ... then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)

And so, I have gone round and round and driven myself crazy by altering and readjusting my thoughts and probably making a mishmash of it all. On one hand, I see the philosopher as being correct: the traditional Judeo-Christian interpretation has not been friendly to the earth. However, I contend that the traditional interpretation has been flawed and incorrect from the beginning and that a theologically correct analysis will uncover the notion that there need be little conflict between Christianity and Environmentalism.

Let me conclude these chaotic and whirling thoughts by quoting Nannie's answer to Garnett in Prodigal Summer.

If God gave Man all the creatures of this earth to use for his own ends, he also counseled that gluttony is a sin — and he did say, flat out, "Thou shalt not kill." He didn't tell us to go ahead and murder every beetle or caterpillar ...


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bubba the Lobster

Sometimes, I feel downright bad, ashamed that I am part of this higher species that is homo sapiens. I feel that way right now concerning the Bubba the Lobster and the fiasco that led to his fate.

You know about Bubba, don't you? He's the 22 pound, 100 year-old lobster pulled from the water off Nantucket. With claws bound, he was put in an aquarium in a fish market in Pittsburgh. Reportedly, he was perhaps destined to be auctioned on EBay to the highest bidder? Can you picture such a buyer inviting all of his friends over and gleefully heaving Big Bubba into a huge, boiling pot?

But this big guy's days are numbered. Wholey's is keeping him on display until someone can't resist taking him home.

The price is about $500 bucks.   (ABC News Channel 6 Pittsburgh)

What is wrong with us? If you pulled up such a creature, why wouldn't you recognize that you were dealing with special and unique living thing? Why wouldn't you return him to the depths to finish out his days, whether they be long or short? Failing that, why would you bind him and put him in a squidgy glass box to display as a freak curiosity? Even then, how could you even consider selling off such a magnificent old man of the sea in order to become the main highlight of some rich man's dinner party? To be fair, his "owner" (what a concept — owner!) says that he never truly considered that to be an option.

After Bubba was bound and displayed to the masses, it was decided that he should be moved to, get this folks, "an aquarium at a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum" (Excite News). There, he would live out his remaining years, no doubt providing wondrous entertainment for the gaping masses — not to mention gate receipts for Ripley's. Pardon me if I remain unimpressed.

Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium officials picked up Bubba on Tuesday afternoon. Next week, they will send him to his new home at Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach,S.C.                                                       (The Pittsburgh Channel)

Too late. Bubba died. Perhaps his time was simply up; perhaps that's why he was caught. We'll never know. What I do know is that this is symptomatic of humankind's far-too-cavalier attitude toward the environment and the myriad life forms within it.

What is it about our species that enables us to claim the right to pluck such an venerable creature from the sea and then ponder at our leisure the next course of action? I don't understand this. I don't understand not hearing one negative comment from the press. I don't understand why Bubba's fate was almost a lighthearted media joke, which is the only way that I can read this subtitle from ABC News: "Bubba, the 22-Pound Leviathon of a Lobster, Won't Be Boiled and Buttered." Even National Geographic, of all organizations, joined in the levity: " Don't bother trying to butter up Bubba. He's already got it made. (National Geographic Website)

Not funny at all. Rather pathetic if you ask me. Which you didn't.


Equality Now Please

A woman cannot vote in Kuwait. She cannot drive in Saudi Arabia. She is barred from working on military submarines in Britain, and she is not allowed to work at night in Bolivia except as a nurse or public servant. In Pakistan, if a woman is raped she must have four Muslim adult male witnesses to secure justice, failing which she may herself be considered guilty of fornication.

(Meryl Streep, speaking for Equality Now)

In the old days, I used to teach a senior high school course on global issues. A major issue, of course, was global disparity: the wealth of the northern, developed nations compared to the relative poverty of southern, developing nations.

One aspect of the issue that I would touch upon was the role of female literacy in development. From what we were able to deduce, female literacy is critical to the wealth and development of a nation. For one thing, the boys hate to left behind, and if a country or a community takes steps to draw girls into school and set them on the road the literacy, then the boys will follow — if they aren't already there.

I would have my student produce a map that compared the ratio of female-to-male literacy in the world's countries. It would reveal the countries in which the female literacy rate was equivalent to males and the countries where it was not.

It was stark. The most developed countries showed literary equality while the least developed countries showed that females were lagging far behind — even if male literacy, itself, was low. In short, there is a correlation between female literacy and a country's level of development. In fairness, there are multitudinous factors that account for development, but there is no denying that this is one.

According to the above quote pulled from this article, and with all respect to Bob Dylan, the times they a not a'changin.

The Equality Now Website


Mr Dithers

Warning: political views contained below. This warning is issued because this blog is not normally political. It may offend both some Canadians and some Americans. We will shortly return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Our prime minister is a guy named Paul Martin. Arguably, he may have been the best finance minister that this or any modern, developed country has ever had. He slew the deficit dragon; the country now enjoys a budgetary surplus every year. While I will grant you that programs such as health care took a hit in this slaying of the deficit dragon, I look upon it as unfortunate and bitter medicine that had to be swallowed for a while and that now has to be set right.

When he became prime minister, this country had very high hopes that we had finally obtained what we very much deserve: an intelligent, imaginative, and proactive visionary. Even when his first steps were uncertain and when the sponsorship scandal emerged, I cast my vote for him. To me: it's quite clear to me that the man who sets the budget and allocates the money is not the one who actually spends the money. But I digress.

Perhaps Canadians were expecting too much too soon. If Mr Dithers had been totally new to government, I think his performance would have been accepted and perhaps even applauded. But because he had been near the centre of power for ten years and for those ten years plotted to become prime minister, Canadians naturally assumed that he had an agenda, and we expected a prime minister who would hit the ground running.

Instead, we got Mr Dithers.

I was prepared to forgive Mr Dithers many things. I was prepared to hand him my next vote, for, let's face it, the only other serious pretender is Mr Righteous Bumstead, a smooth and smarmy fellow who has nothing to sell but snake oil.

I was prepared to forgive Mr Dithers many things and to vote for him once again ... until this week. This week, he pulled out of the missile defence treaty. Just like that. No warning. Just a self-righteous announcement out of the blue that left the American government reeling in a state of angry incomprehension.

This missile defence project may be (or may not be) a silly notion, but it is the American government's notion, and they don't think it silly. I think they would have been tolerant had Mr Dithers been clear from the beginning that Canada could not be onside in this project. Instead, everything that Mr Dithers has ever said or done on the topic seemed to all to be an implicit endorsement of the agenda.

Mr Bush was certainly led to expect some that sort of partnership and cooperation would be forthcoming. Suddenly, without the decency of any sort of warning, the rug was publicly pulled out from under him. There goes Mr Dither's attempt to build a better relationship with Washington. They're damn mad, and I don't blame them.

Not that I'm any sort of Bush fan; to me, he's one scary cowboy. Not that I'm all that sold on his missile defence plan either. But if he and his cohorts want to fund it, I prefer that Canada at least have a tiny bit of input and influence, not to mention economic spinoff. In the meantime, I do want Canada to have good relations with America. I like good relationships on principle, but I see them as the only effective way to deal with border-trade disputes that erupt from time to time.

I am not happy that Mr Dithers chose this moment and this way to appear to be decisive and firm. You don't try to make cheap political points at home by alienating Washington. Sometimes we have to disagree with Washington, particularly with this administration, but we must do it with foresight and sensitivity. We mustn't give Washington every indication that we are onside, and then, out of the blue, suddenly declare otherwise, especially in a smug morally superior manner.

For the moment at least, Mr Dithers has lost my support and my vote. That leaves me in a quandary, for I am a fiscal conservative at heart, and it is the Liberals here, and it seems to me the Democrats down there, who are now the true fiscal conservatives. The traditional conservative parties have left their roots to embrace neo-conservatism, which is not the same thing. It is most assuredly not my old-fashioned type of conservatism but actually a reckless credo which is anything but.

Mr Dithers, I'm a pretty loyal guy. If you've managed to lose my support, I am at pains to believe that you have much remaining. I think you will be turfed. I think the other party will get its brief chance to screw up, just like they always do — for a brief interlude, every twenty years or so.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Pity Party

Yes indeed: I am having a pity party today.

We have recently decided to renovate a bedroom. Goodness knows that it needs it badly enough. Our eldest daughter wanted us to change the carpet many years ago when it was still her bedroom. Well, new carpets were something of a luxury on our single-income budget at that stage of our lives, so it didn't get done.

However, we managed to do some painting and wallpapering at that time. D1 used the room, and then D2. They both prodigiously tacked things to the wall and even the ceiling — especially D2. The carpet also went from bad to worse, especially after D2 spilled many a project, usually involving glue, on it. After D2 was finished with the room, and for the past five years or so, Cuppa used it — still unrefurbished — as her studio.

The astute reader can probably deduce by now that we are not avid redecorators, but even we recently came to the end of our ropes and decided to commit ourselves to the task.

To wit: last weekend we stripped the wallpaper and then filled and sanded a thousand pin, tack, and nail holes. Two days ago, I applied a primer coat. Yesterday, I was ready to roll — literally — roll the paint on. Let's say the spirit was willing [to roll] but that the flesh was weak. After completing the first coat on the cupboard, the ceiling, and two walls, and after starting on wall #3, my achilles back seized up. I managed to finish wall #3 but couldn't summon the wherewithal to finish the job by tackling wall #4.

That was discouraging enough, but once the paint began to dry, I saw spots everywhere. Although I had rolled my little heart out and tried valiantly to cover every square inch, I ended up missing a lot of square inches. To tell the truth, it made me feel pretty damn stupid. I have never had a problem rolling paint before. What was happening to me? I'm still not totally sure of the answer to that question, but permit me to proceed with the narrative regardless.

Last night, I awoke after a pithy two-hour sleep with my cold shoulder problem acting up (see here for cold-shoulder details). Even the usually wonderful heat didn't help, for, much to my distress, I could still feel the coldness under the heating pad. Don't ask me to explain; it simply is, or at least it was last night.

I eventually gave up in despair and decided to get up. Not so fast Anvilcloud. By that time, my back was so seized up that getting up eventuated into quite the problematic ordeal.

However, I eventually was able to ambulate down to the family room where the next five hours passed with me assuming different positions (yeah, don't I wish they were those kinds of positions) in search of a modicum of comfort. I was on the floor, in my computer chair, on the usually comfy recliner, back on the floor, and on the couch. I greeted the morn by watching the six o'clock news, which I now know is not worth getting up for. At some point my back began to feel comfortable enough to venture back to bed where I managed to grab almost another two hours of sleep before getting up for the day.

I found myself sitting in the family room beside Cuppa this morning: effectively prevented from continuing the job, expecting the carpet to be installed in a few days, and not having the foggiest notion of whether, when, or how I would be able to finish the task. And even if I could, what about all of those gaps from the first application? What's that all about?

We stewed for a while before Cuppa decided to take matters into her capable hands. She called around and, somewhat miraculously, found a painter who could come in tomorrow to finish the job. His price was not too terribly exorbitant, and he was also kind enough to reassure me that it was common to miss spots on the first coat. Even if he was telling me a small fib in order to mitigate my feelings of inadequacy, I appreciated the words.

But, I feel crummy (or crumby if you prefer) about all of this. Surely to goodness I can't be so old, feeble and decrepit that I can't do such a simple task without having my back spasm out on me. I am feeling somewhat forlorn and useless: having a bit of a pity party really.

... long pause to recuperate because my back couldn't stand sitting (so to speak — odd expressions we have, eh? ) here any longer ...

I had a major back problem a number of years ago when bulging discs forced me to the floor for several months with a lot of painful trips to physiotherapy sessions. Years later, I have never had a complete relapse, but there is always something going on in my left leg: numbness, pins and needles, cold sensations, nerves jumping about.

Hopefully, this incident has to do with good, old fashioned muscle spasms rather than discs slipping and sliding about. As painful and as irritating as spasms can be, they pass relatively quickly in the grand scheme of things whereas disc problems linger. In fact, they never completely vanish. Whatever it turns out to be, I can't help but be a trifle despondent. Surely, I should be able to do something as simple as paint a wall or two without collapsing in a heap.

So, I am having a bit of a pity party. Cuppa reminds me of something Christopher Reeves said (and I quote loosely): "People don't know how fortunate they are just to be able to get up and walk across the room." He was absolutely correct of course. I know that, and I can walk across the room — after a fashion. But there's something about my humanness that compels me to really have a good wallow while I'm already down here in the slough of despondency.