Amateur philosopher, deep but impatient thinker, not much time on my hands, exremely opinionated on certain subjects (America, dog food, pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, math education ....)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Hoping to Get Back to Normal

Things just haven't been "normal" lately. I can't get over this low-level feeling of just not feeling well, not 100%. I'm waiting for spring so that I can get back to long morning walks in Fish Creek Park with the dog. I want to smell the spring earth. I want my usual level of energy back. This in particular bothers me ... it seems to have fled sometime around Christmas and has yet to return.

I have about a million things to do today. The physician that I edit papers for has once again been clamouring for my time and attention. In January I promised him five hours a week, which I think I've managed to do twice. The thing is, the more I avoid the work, or put it off, (it's not that I don't want to do it, or don't enjoy doing it, it's just that I have so little time) the harder it becomes to do because I have to reorient myself as to what paper is in what stage of editing, which paper was sent where, and should we have heard by now? ... that kind of thing.

I also have some music papers to copy (time to start on new pieces) and a couple of exams to write, a few phone calls to make, and the usual shopping to do. I finally finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell!!!!! What ought I to say about this book. The Misanthrope was reading it and recently asked whether I thought it worth going back to, as he'd abandoned it (too slow-moving). I suggested that he give it another go. Hmmmmm ... well, the book does take a great deal of commitment. It is a heavy book in certain ways; Misanthrope is right -- it doesn't move along quickly. It's also slightly uneven, though not badly. I also think that some of the supporting plots could have been done with fewer words (fewer paragraphs, fewer chapters). It's a bit overlong. However, for those who enjoy academic writing, it's sure to please as it has an academic feel; the writer also has a deliciously, typically British, dry, droll sense of humour and it was this I particularly liked. Do I recommend it? With caution. It is NOT, as I at first suspected, Harry Potter for adults. It's not nearly so entertaining. I recommend it to those who like well-crafted prose and dialogue and who enjoy the subject matter. Far from being just about magic, it drifts into the ethereal at times, and this has a spooky effect. This aspect is well done.

Deepest condolences to blogdog who lost her beloved Doogie yesterday. Boy, do I know what you are going through, blogdog. It has got to be one of the hardest things in the world to do. You were on my mind constantly yesterday. I hope you're doing okay. Remember, in the end we know what's best for them, and they know that everything you do, you do because you love them.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mr. P, the Human Forklift

Hello all. My illustrious hubby, Mr. P., today tried to single-handedly keep a stack of nine 3/4 inch sheets of plywood from falling onto the floor from where they'd been stacked up against a wall. He failed. This of course after he tried to pry out something from behind the stack of plywood and holding the stack of plywood with one arm while attempting said feat with the other arm. As I said, this failed. The stack started slipping, and he used his head (literally) to keep them from falling, but only for a moment or two. Then the whole works came down, first on his head, then on his leg. So he's off work for a day or two. Sheesh. He's all bumped and bruised but he drove himself home so no big worries.

Also, this is a big day. This is the 10-year anniversary of when Mr. P and I met. If I've never mentioned it, he sold me my Ford Ranger (still in pristine condition and in our garage), and later he asked me to marry him. I figured the after sales service would have to be good, so I agreed.

The Asked for Sanity

Canadoam Prime Minister Paul Martin has finally made a decision (he has earned the reputation of Mr. Dithers in Canada, particularly among those who keep an eye on what our politicians are doing; in his case not doing) regarding the U.S. missile defence plan which Martin said months ago (i.e., at election time) he would be not willing to endorse, and then said, well, maybe, worried about alienating powerhouse conservative voters. Apparently Martin has finally done something right. Seventy-five percent of Canadians oppose participation in continental missile defence, and he will deliver a firm 'no' in reponse to Mr. Bush's asked-for participation of earlier this year (or was it last year; gosh, these things have a way of dragging along, don't they?). It's funny, though, when I read the news (believe me, I was relieved: what the world needs is fewer weapons, not more), there was also a small part of me that wondered, will Bush retaliate in some way? What will this do to relations between our two countries?

Also apparently, though I'm not sure why (it must have to do with corrupt spending; everything does) the budget which is being delivered today will be "fatal" to Martin and his ilk. If anyone has any comments on why this should be the case, I'd be interested to know the reasons ...

People will buy anything

Thanks to Dave Barry's blog for this jem of an item for sale. What's really scary is the large print beneath the pictures. Oh, for some sanity in the world ... (I notice that as of this posting 0 bids have been made. Gosh ... I wonder why).

Also thanks to Dave for more evidence of our collective order of priorities. A good collection of body parts will always bring out the long lenses.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Familiar Fear

When I was a teenager in high school and also on into my 20's, I remember a sort of low-level buzz, like the hum of neon lights in an office building, which was with me all the time, a sort of nameless apprehension which when I stopped to consider its source, was fear of the possibility of nuclear war. I took part in anti-war demonstrations in Vancouver, B.C. I still have pictures of all the neo-hippies in their Birks dancing, filing past little booths set up by the NDP and groups like Greenpeace and PETA. Of course, as you get older, you swing to the conservative side. I thought it would never happen, but there you have it.

I read the news with trepidation, at best. I often wonder if we're meant to know things (this on a philosophical level, in a how-the-world-has-evolved sense) that happen half way around the world and that the vast majority are (1) not in in a position to do anything about and (2) couldn't change even if we had the will or motivation or energy or time or money or all of the above to do so. However, a story I read this morning about Bush's recent visit to Europe raises familiar fears I'd managed to forget since a lit professor mentioned it a few years ago in one of my classes (we are the same age, him and I). Apparently Russia is selling nuclear fuel to Iran and Russia is also "consolidating" power, while at the same time limiting press freedom. This is a dangerous sign. I am not one to fret about the news too much, for reasons already mentioned, but this gives me pause. Another worrying news bit is that apparently the embargo on sales of weapons to China is about to be lifted. What does THAT mean? What COULD it mean?

Not so Sudsy Anymore
My husband and I don't drink. At all. We have our reasons, but none are of a fundamentally moralistic bent. However, when you don't drink, you begin to see in perspective just how damaging alcohol is in our society. You see how many car wrecks are alcohol related; that alcohol-soaked individuals are more violent, more apt to beat children, spouses, parents; that it accounts for countless days off, illness and disease. While I don't go around telling people they shouldn't drink, I think the world would be better off without alcohol. A story in this morning's paper made me smile (call me nasty, I don't care). Apparently beer sales are down and breweries blame the NHL strike! Surely this comes under the category of "Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining".

Vegans a Little Too Strict?
A new study has found that vegans who force their young children to adopt a vegan diet (i.e., free of all meat, eggs or dairy products) affect and endanger their health in a permanent way and that feeding such a diet is being called unethical.

Question: What do you think of this? Is it a little like vegetarian pet owners refusing to feed their dog meat and endangering their lives in the process?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Shakespeare, anyone?

I must tell everyone about the unbelievable performances by all those in the DVD Henry V. This movie is a must-see for anyone who is a lover of history, and in particular history seen from a Shakespearean perspective. Kenneth Branagh is absolutely superb in the lead role of Henry V, Katherine is played by Emma Thompson, though it is a small role, by comparison. It is hard to follow at times due to the unaltered Shakespearean language used throughout the film and of course often has the feel of play, rather than a movie, but what power! This movie reaches out of your TV screen with both hands, grabs onto your collar and doesn't let go until the final credits are rolling. The music is a must-have, too. I have always been a lover of choir music, in particular men's choirs, and the main theme, of which there are two complete cuts in slightly different forms, makes my whole body run with goose bumps.

We are also just finishing up I, Claudius, which is about the best thing I've ever watched, in any genre, ever.

Finishing up learning the Canon now. Almost got it. A student gave me a copy of a fantasy game theme song for piano solo which I think my piano teacher would approve of as it is an excellent reading exercise, and I think I may add that to my list, once the Canon is done.

No rants about the news today. Happy Family Day, all those in Alberta, and happy Monday to all my US friends.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Little Rant and a Little Rave

Regular readers of my blog may or may not remember that Mr. P and I cancelled our satellite dish approximately two months ago. With my tutoring in the evenings, our mutual TV watching had dwindled to nearly nothing, and with no NHL season (hockey games being the only thing Mr. P might watch without me there beside him -- he says tv's just not as much fun when you're watching it by yourself), the only thing left to have cable or satellite service for vanished. So we have no TV, but of course we have DVDs, which means we're always watching what we choose to watch; never do we 'scan' a bunch of channels and settle for something just because it happens to be on. I think this is a good thing. As I may have said in a previous post, it is amazing what happens when you take people's TV away. When Mom and Dad were here (avid TV watchers, particularly news), they were forced to do other things, including ... reading!!! Piano playing!!!

Anyway, the point of all this is to throw in my two cents' worth in this fiasco situation that the NHL season, indeed the league, has become. Can I just say, DIE ALREADY!!!!! I feel like getting out a gun and shooting some poor, thrashing animal that has been in its death throes for months while people fought over the rights to the publicity by pretending they were trying to save it. What a joke. What a sad, stupid joke. It's all the lawyers' fault, who are the scummiest of scum anyway (apologies to the handful of lawyers out there who are upright, honest, dignified individuals). Also the players, who are such a bunch of whining, snivelling, prima donna, overpaid brats, that it defies description (well, not really, I've made a valiant attempt at it anyway). I couldn't care less about the NHL season now and haven't for a very long time (and I used to be a big fan; we had what was called an NHL package on our satellite service, and we watched every single Vancouver Canucks game that was broadcast ... sigh ...). The league will find out, if and when it ever gets back on its feet, that many people watched hockey out of habit, not out of passion. It will never, ever be what it was. What a shame.

Gay Penguins
Did anyone else hear about this? Up here in Canada, there is a raging debate going on about allowing or not allowing gays to marry. I don't have particularly strong opinions on the subject one way or the other, but unlike so many others, I am not threatened by the prospect of gays marrying (though to own the truth, it feels a bit weird, the thought of it), but let me go on the record by saying, why not? Who does it hurt? Public declarations of love and the commitment that marriage entails are what the world needs more, not less of. And, please, I'll hear none of the "let's use a different word" argument. After all, a rose by any other name ...

Could this be any sillier, though? Could this be a case of a group of people, or a "few" groups of people, taking themselves far, far too seriously? Apparently there is a particular species of penguin which has, and always has had, homosexual tendencies. In Bremerhafen, Germany, there is a zoo. In this zoo, they have several pairs of these penguins. Turns out, though, all the pairs are male. Now, the zoo, in its effort to save the species from extinction (remember, this is ostensibly what zoos are for) wish to mate the males with, ahem, females. Sounds reasonable, no? They have flown in females to see whether the males might mate with them.

Oh boy, bad news. How dare they!, rage the gay rights groups. They are outraged! Letters and threats via all media have been bombarding the zoo. How dare they not allow the penguins to mate with whom they wish? How dare they try to break up these happy unions!!!

Are you serious?????? Give me a flippin' break. I read this story with only slightly more increduility than the one about the neighbour who sued over cookies left on her doorstep (by the way, this one has a happy ending: apparently a radio station in their hometown raised enough money so the girls wouldn't be out of pocket on the damages; also the woman who sued has received so many harassing threats and phone calls that she is considering moving!!! HA! Thanks, K, for this news).

Anyway, I'm done ranting for now. Opening the newspaper is hardly worth it anymore. It may soon go the way of the satellite dish ...

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Glenn Gould on the CD Player

Man! Could this guy play piano! Extraordinary ability and talent. I have a book about him my piano instructor has lent me, which I'll have to try and get through at some point.

Just finished The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith. I'd recommend these books to ANYONE who takes pleasure in life lived the old-fashioned way -- where people respected one another, were kind to one another and acted with dignity and integrity. See a previous post for the series of the books (the first is called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency), and the series now goes by that name. They are absolutely delightful. Like visiting with an old friend, curling up in a comfy chair on a spring day on a porch somewhere, without care of the time, and just chatting and relaxing.

Don't have too much to report. Busy. Busy. Busy. I have a full complement of students again, complete with a waiting list. But life is good. That's all for now. No knitting projets just yet, blogdog. Hopefully I'll have the time ?!?!? to start one soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

At Sixes and Sevens today

I am lost without my music sheets. Tuesday I went to my lesson and inadvertently left several music sheets behind which I have yet to get back. I feel incomplete and a little sad without them. I need them back! My music teacher was not up yet when I called this morning. Darned late sleepers. I'll have to work on old pieces and out of my Enya books until I get them back. I need my Canon!!!

Had several weird dreams lately. Have been sleeping extremely deeply the last few nights. Still recovering from the cold, I think.

DVD Report

Yesterday, Mr. P and I started watching I, Claudius, the BBC production (about 10 hours long, I think). It's good so far; we're into it about 90 minutes, but it has the feel of a staged set, like a soap opera, not like that of real life. I think it was originally written as a play (or was it originally a book? I don't even know now); it definitely has the feel of a play rather than of a movie. But the acting is SOOOOOO good. The woman who plays Caesar's wife is the same woman who played Smiley's wife in the BBC production of Smiley's People and Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy. Derek Jacobi his not made his entrance yet. We also recently got Henvy V, which I'm really looking forward to. British productions are such a nice break from the Hollywood ones. Troy, in particular, I found VERY disappointing. A lot of extras, huge sets, big budgets, big name actors, and it all added up to ... nothing. It was just a nothing movie. Boring and pointless. Oh well.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Getting the Facts Straight

My apologies. It turns out the girls in question referred to in my last post were 18 and 19, not around 10, as I'd said. Boy, this just steams me. I would like to have that woman and her lawyer alone in a room for an hour. Then again, what on earth could I say? These people are clearly beyond hope. No sane person would do this ...

Went for a long walk in the park with the pooch today. It was a beautiful day for it. Blue sky, about -10 (that's Celcius, Misanthrope), and no wind. A great day for a long walk. Lots of crisp snow to crunch through. Very nice.

Scum of the Earth

If we needed any more convincing that lawyers are the scum of the earth, a story out of Colorado ought to do it.

A girl and her friend, aged about 10, baked chocolate chip and sugar cookies for a neighbour. They went to the neighbour's house, set the cookies, along with a card, on the neighbour's porch, as a surpirse, rang the doorbell and left. The woman in the house was apparently so terrified at the sound of the doorbell and the sight of the fleeing girls that she was sick to her stomach and "had to spend the night at a relatives." Guess what? She actually found a lawyer willing to sue the girls (does this make her or the laywer scummier? hard to tell). After winning the case and $900 in damages, she said she hoped the girls learned their lesson.

This leaves me speechless. (a rare occurrence)

The ONLY lesson the girls ought to take from this is that lawyers will sue for just about anything (wonder how much the lawyer's contingency fee was?). The only lesson they are likely to take is that kindness doesn't pay, after all. What a shame.

I am feeling better after my rotten cold; yesterday I spent the entire day reading and playing piano. Didn't even go out grocery shopping, as is the usual routine on Sundays. What a nice day. Very relaxing and rejuvenating. The Canon is coming along. I now have two pages fairly solidly, as long as I don't try to play it too quickly.

Life is back to normal with the parental units having returned home. The house is quiet and peaceful and a new semester is in full swing. I am getting more boy students now, and more and more calls for junior high math. Either it's getting harder or kids are having a harder time concentrating or teachers are having a harder time teaching. In Alberta, I think it is that the curriculum is getting harder. More and more is getting pushed down through the grades to the point where what was once late grade 10 material is now being taught in grade 9, and what was once not touched until university is now taken for granted as being part of the grade 12 curriculum.

I want to answer the Misanthrope's question from a couple of weeks ago about whether I intend to compose music. The answer is yes. I have snippets of melodies popping up in my mind all the time. I now have to get in the habit of going to the piano, playing them, and jotting down the notes. I guess the rest will develop from there.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

More from Morality for Beautiful Girls

This about Mma Ramotswe:

She finished her tea and then ate a large meat sandwich which Rose [her maid] had prepared for her. Mma Ramotswe had got out of the habit of a cooked lunch, except at weekends, and was happy with a snack or a glass of milk. She had a taste for sugar, however, and this meant that a doughnut or a cake might follow the sandwich. She was a traditionally built lady, after all, and she did not have to worry about dress size, unlike those poor, neurotic people who were always looking in mirrors and thinking that they were too big. What was too big, anyway? Who was to tell another person what size they should be? It was a form of dictatorship, by the thin, and she was not having any of it. If these thin people became any more insistent, then the more generously sized people would just have to sit on them. Yes that would teach them! Hah!


Need I say more? Read these books! The first is called "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency", the second is "Tears of the Giraffe", the third "Morality for Beautiful Girls", the fourth "The Kalahari Typing School for Men" and the fifth "The Full Cupboard of Life". He has another series, too, set in Scotland, which is excellent as well. I just finished this book and had to share this passage. This is a link to the author's web site.

You are looking very beautiful. Very fat.

This line is from "Morality for Beautiful Girls" by Alexander McCall Smith. I really love this guy's books. For all women who carry a few too many pounds for the painfully-thin image portrayed by "celebs" (and men, too -- apparently, anorexia in men is on the rise; 1 in 5 anorexics are now men; used to be 1 in 20), you should read these books. They are set in Botswana, and the main character is Precious Ramotswe, head of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. There are five books in the series, this line is from the third.

Mma Ramotswe meets an old friend on the street. A man.

"Dumela, Rra," she said politely. "Are you well?"

Mr Pilai looked down. "Mma Ramotswe," he said. "Please let me look at you. I have just been given these new spectacles, and I can see the world clearly for the first time in years. Ow! It is a wonderful thing. I had forgotten what it was like to see clearly. And there you are, Mma. You are looking very beautiful. Very fat."

"Thank you, Rra."


This really is a compliment in this part of the world. Woo-hoo!!! All us normally built women should move there and leave the skinny minnies behind in North America.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Shocking News: Woman Seen at Hockey Arena!

With apologies to those who are (a) sick of this or (b) don’t know about it (most people will fall in one of the two categories), haven’t we had enough of Dar Heatherington’s picture large as life on the front page of our morning newspaper? Can the Calgary Herald really think of nothing better to report on with one-inch headlines than that this poor woman (who, admittedly, is hard to like) broke house arrest to take her kid to the local arena for an afternoon ice skating session? This Lethbridge woman and the mischievous and irresponsible decisions she continues to make are not front page news. She gets more press than homeless people who are beaten, stabbed, degraded. She gets more press than the wife beaters and people who get their kicks assaulting or killing prostitutes. Do we really care more about the comings and goings of a 40-year old Lethbridge woman than we do about the fact that people in our own cities go to bed hungry, cold, or in fear each night? What is it with society?

I guess we are all a bit voyeuristic. I remember when the murder trial of Laci Peterson was in the newspapers, there was an editorial that sought to answer the question: why has this captured the public so? Numerous reasons were given as possible explanations (we’ve all heard them), but what struck me as absolutely unbelieveable was a line embedded deep in the story that said, “Hundreds of women in the United States die each year at the hands of their husbands; why has this story in particular, captured the public imagination to such a degree?” (I may be paraphrasing the last part, but not the first.) I was appalled, shocked and somewhat numbed to read the casual nature the writer used to refer to the “other” hundreds of women who die each year, killed by their spouses.

Anyway, what a maudlin way to start the day. I have a super rotten cold and EIGHT hours of tutoring today. There is a winter storm warning for Calgary. Yay. Oh well. I shall endure.

Mom leaves tomorrow (unless her flight is cancelled) and then life returns to a normal routine. The piano is wonderful and I love it; and of course I don’t have enough hours in the day to play it.

Since questions in blogs seem to be becoming more and more popular, here’s mine today:

What’s the one thing you wish you had more time to do?