Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year! (aka, It's a Girl!)

Just wanted to wish everyone (all 6 of you who read this) a Happy New Year! Hope you all have nice plans. Though no one's plans will be as nice as my good friends Jen and Mike in Hamilton, who are the proud brand-new parents of little Allison Hayley. Allison was due to arrive tomorrow, Jan. 1, but decided yesterday that she'd had enough and was born at 8:05 p.m., December 30, at a respectable 7 pounds 8 ounces (after less than 12 hours of labour, I might add). Poor Jen had to have a C-section and so is spending New Year's Eve and Day at the hospital. However, I suspect that despite this, she's happy to be there. She emailed me a few days ago and mentioned that she was hoping to ring in the New Year by holding a newborn baby, and well, she got her wish!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Books I have known and hated

Recent entries on pixxiefish in the stacks notwithstanding, I tend to make a point of finishing books I have started reading. And if I do stop reading a book, it is usually a result of lack of time more than lack of interest. Sometimes I've had to shelve a book (pun fully intended) for a chunk of time only to return to it and realize I have to start over from the beginning, which is not always appealing. Or I just get caught up in too many other things. Some books I read over a very loooong period of time, just reading here and there, now and again. Most books, however, I will try to read in a concentrated chunk of time, which is why I try (as you will note from my "Currently Reading" sidebar) not to read more than a few books at a time. Even if I'm desperate to stop reading the book.*

Three notable exceptions:

1- Beach Music by Pat Conroy. First, I must apologize to my aunt, who gave this to me about seven years ago for Christmas. I settled down one night in my Halifax apartment to read it. It's a big book (about 800 pages) and Pat Conroy is apparently "America's preeminent storyteller" (according to the jacket cover). But I should have known - he also wrote Prince of Tides. Anyway, to make a long story short, I lasted about 13 pages whereupon I am ashamed to admit to hurling the book across the room and later quickly hustling it into a bag of items that were being given away to charity. There was just something about Conroy's tone that rubbed me the wrong way (to put it lightly), and his characters made me want to scream.

2- Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. I don't think I can really find the proper words to express my disgust with this book. However, the revulsion was not as sudden as in the case of Beach Music, though it is now no less developed. In this case, I felt I ought to read some Salman Rushdie and so, despite the dire forebodings of my good friend Paul who warned me at length about Rushdie, I dove in. My brother will attest to the one week I spent trying to read Midnight's Children. Every morning on the subway (we commuted to downtown Toronto together for a few months) I would take it out and start reading, choosing to fall asleep instead for the remainder of the ride about 3 subway stops into the trip. By Friday, I confessed to him that I wasn't going to continue at all. His sage advice: "Yeah, why read a book you don't enjoy?"

3- That advice was exactly what I heeded about two hours ago when I decided, about 112 pages in (with another 170 or so to go), that I was not going to continue reading No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life by Heather Menzies. Please note - and rejoice in! - its removal from my "Currently Reading" list. I have decided that I, in fact, have no time to read No Time. You know there's a problem with a book about the need to destress and uncomplicate life when every second sentence is roundabout, confusing and just plain perplexing. The introduction to the book caused me to have a minor panic attack. The sentence that caused me to quit? "The nanosecond speed with which symbols can move, morph and be recombined into new patterns of daunting complexity leaves no pause in which these largely anonymous abstractions can be checked out for their relevance to us personally, or as professional teams or institutions." 'Nuff said.

* The book that I finished but desperately wanted to "kill off" much, much sooner: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Soooo disappointing. I'd wanted to read it for a long time. It sure was a nice thought, me having one 800-page book to read during my 24-hour train trip home from Halifax to Toronto. By about page 500 (I can't believe I even lasted that long!), I was desperate to find a way to throw myself from the train. I had ceased caring about the characters by about page 350. But I was bound and determined to finish it ... and I did. I quite enjoy the Indo-Canadian writers that have been around the past few years, but man oh man, that book was lacking both fine-ness and any sort of balance whatsoever. It still makes me shudder.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Baby, it's cold outside...

Earlier this fall, I heard a news report that it was going to be a mild winter for most of Canada ... except southern Ontario and Quebec. So here we are, temperature according to CBC radio online at a mere -16.9 degrees Celsius.

Because I am a dingbat, even though I knew it would be miserable cold out, I decided to wear a skirt today, since we have a Christmas party at work later today and I thought it would be nice to wear something a little dressier. There is a lot of "gear" associated with wintertime: this morning, my particular mix included a big thick multicoloured scarf with matching gloves and non-matching but equally multicoloured hat (note: Julie needs a nice solid-coloured dark brown or beige hat for Christmas, since the two patterns really don't match but it's the only hat she has), a long full-length charcoal grey jacket, really thick hiking socks, and sleek black knee-high boots. Despite this, my knees were a screaming red colour by the time I arrived - I thought the era of the legwarmer was (happily) over, but what else is one to do when all wrapped up snugly except for little knees poking out every time I stepped forward? I guess I need to learn to float to work, just gravitating my way forward.

Well, at least I am headed for warmer weather. Tomorrow night we fly to Toronto for an early Christmas. Oh wait - that's still southern Ontario, isn't it? Right. And then next Wednesday we fly even further west, to Winnipeg where we will spend a week with Randal's family. At least Winnipeg is supposed to be benefitting from this "mild winter"; though in Winnipeg terms, I think that means it will be -25 rather than -40. (I'm not exaggerating!) So alas, there's no escaping it. I think I just need to get this winter nonsense over with entirely and move to Vancouver. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Makes you wonder...

No matter how many times a day that I check my pixxiefish blog, I still haven't posted anything new!*

* Obligatory link to keep my fans amused: You've probably received this already in an email (I did, twice) but if not (and even if you did), it's pretty cool. Make sure the sound is on!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gonna lick you all over...

So I'm sitting on the couch, having recently finished eating a bowl of ice cream, and am reading my book on Japanese art and minding my own business, when the dog jumps up suddenly into my lap and then starts licking my right hand. Very intensely. He has it pinned between his paws at some points, turning it so that he can get his tongue into all the contours. This lasted about 20 minutes.

Then he watched intently over my shoulder as I booted up my laptop and began to blog about this first incident.

If he doesn't think he's human (which he often clearly does, as anyone who's seen him sit belly-up, legs splayed out in front of him, on the couch next to me), then he obviously thinks I am part of his pack (and Randal, too).

A minute ago he was running around the living room, tearing up a piece of cardboard we'd given to him earlier.* Now he is collapsed on his doggy-bed in the kitchen. I wish I was a dog.

I'm sorry to report that other than this recent 20-minute incident, nothing very interesting has happened recently. But I'll let y'all know if something does...

* Despite his obvious enjoyment of the cardboard, it only lasted about two minutes (the enjoyment, that is...and the cardboard, for that matter). Unlike last night's escapade where he obstinately held a sock (banned dog booty) in his mouth for almost an hour (we decided to ignore him, since he knows it's not allowed, to see if he'd eventually lose interest) and then afterward his jaw was so sore he kept flexing it in an attempt to loosen it up again. Well, some dogs just never learn.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday night shuffle-dance

I don' wanna clean my room,
I don' wanna clean my room,
I don' wanna clean my roo-oooo-oom,
and you can't make me!

This moment was brought to you by Julie Is Procrastinating Again Because Her Apartment Is A Disaster And She Don' Wanna Clean It Despite Her Promises To Do So All Weekend, a proud member of the Canadian Group of Guilt-and-Denial-Based Assocations.

And now, I must go re-alphabetize my collection of rare and exotic pixxie paraphernalia.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Every year, without any warning, it happens again...

It is snowing slightly heavily this morning. There is already a few centimetres on the ground. I had to upgrade to the "real" winter boots as a consequence (as opposed to the sleek, Trinity-esque, black ones I often wear.

We've had a few sprinkles of snow over the past week or two, but this is the first real serious looking snowfall. Unfortunately, the canal, which I cross over by way of the Laurier bridge, is as much of a windtunnel as I suspected it might be.

Gotta love Ottawa.*

* Here is a better webcam. Go to Zone 4 on that page and click on Elgin & Laurier - that is the intersection right before the bridge over the canal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I musta been ...

...a beautiful baby :)

(happy birthday to me!)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Happy 30th ...


It's my good friend Jen's 30th birthday today. How time flies. We first met each other in grade 8 (or "secondaire II" for those in the Quebec high school system know) in 1989 or 90, though apparently she was also in my French class the year before. We were 13. And now, she is 30! (And I am not - teehee!)

This is a picture of Jen and I from last year (September 3, 2004) at her wedding.* This year, just over a year later, on the occasion of her 30th birthday, I am pleased to say that Jen is extremely pregnant, from all reports (I last saw her in June or July when she looked less pregnant). She is due to give birth to a baby girl on January 1, 2006. You will all be sure to get the update as to whether or not she did manage to have the first New Year's baby!

* Added Nov.13: I am ashamed to say I wrote the wedding date was September 1st, 2004, when it was in fact the 3rd. My only excuse is that my brother's anniversary is on the 1st, so I just wrote a bit too quickly without thinking about it, but really: mea culpa. However, I did get Jen's birthday date correct, and she is still due to give birth on the first of January ... two outta three ain't so bad ...

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Howler

Last night, at some ungodly hour, I was fast asleep, Rion was curled up in a tight ball next to me and Randal was just coming to bed, when the saddest sound started: "ah-ooo-oo-ooo-ooh". It was the dog. Rion had lifted his head and was suddenly howling, the saddest, lowest, deep howl I've ever heard (having shared my home with a beagle for many, many years, I know from howls, so to speak). It was absolutely a heart-breaking sound. Plus he is a Jack Russell terrier and they are not known for being howlin' hounds. Nor has Rion ever howled before (at least not while we've been home). Anyway, needless to say, lights went on, caresses made, soothing words spoken, then we all went to sleep. ...Or not. (Maybe Rion did. He is a dog, after all.) Randal and I lay there for a while, feeling saddened by the whole event. First of all, why did our dog howl at that point, and second, why did his howl sound so sad? Like all good parents, we want our child to be happy, and we certainly don't want him being haunted by ghosts (figuratively-speaking, of course) late at night.

However, tonight, walking home from work in the 5:00 late dusk, I started thinking about it more and decided there must be a more rational explanation to the howl than your average canine angst. The first conclusion I reached was that it was obviously 3 a.m. when this happened, an hour well-known to be the hour the demons come out to play. Could our little darling snookums be possessed? ...While this would certainly explain certain other bizarre aspects of his behaviour - eg., the wild tail-chasing that ends up with him collapsed bent backwards at a strange 90-degree angle that should logically also include the ability to fully rotate his head (a la Exorcist), and the strange litany of grunts, whines and half barks in which he engages when he is displeased with our behaviour (especially if we've made him stay in the kitchen while we eat dinner in the living room) - there were certain holes in my theory that could not be ignored, not the least of which was that I had no idea whether it had actually been 3 a.m. at the time of the occurence and in fact it was fairly likely it wasn't 3 a.m., considering the fact Randal was just going to bed. 1 a.m. was a more likely possibility, and neither demons nor witches tend to be out at that hour.

A more likely conclusion was the second - that Rion was merely communicating with the house ghost. See, we have a resident ghost. Generally, he isn't scary. He's mostly helpful. Mostly he confines himself to the kitchen, but recently he's made some forays into the bedroom. One night, Randal went to turn on the light hanging over his computer (which is in our room). The light went on, then dimmed suddenly, before going out. Upon further inspection, Randal realized the light wasn't even plugged in. Also, for the past few weeks, whenever he takes his computer out of "standby", the computer speakers start crackling and playing staticky radio, even though he doesn't have a radio program on his computer. I have attributed these (and now the dog's howling) to the Kitchen Ghost (as I fondly call him). The Kitchen Ghost has a microwave fetish. He is especially fond of setting the microwave for 1 min 20 seconds, and he does it all by pressing just two buttons, not the four that it takes me to set the same time. At least I only ever hear two beeps from the microwave before it starts running. For a while, we set a glass of water in the microwave, and that seemed to hinder the Kitchen Ghost's plans. He stopped microwaving for many months. But he is back since earlier this fall. One day I was making dinner and I had put a bowl of broccoli in the microwave, ready to be steamed when the rest of the dinner was almost ready. Everytime I turned my back, that darn ghost started setting times on the microwave. It must have tried about 6 different times - me constantly whipping around, hoping to catch a glimpse of him in the act but never managing that, then turning the microwave off again. I even asked the ghost very nicely that if he was going to help with dinner, to please wait a few more minutes before starting the broccoli and then to do it for two minutes.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm sure it's the Kitchen Ghost who let the bats in. Yes, it's the only logical explanation, window screens be damned.

Even now, as I type, Rion is sitting on the arm of the couch, perched like a gargoyle surveying his domain. Every once in a while his nose shoots straight up into the air and he sniffs very intently, staring up at something I cannot see (I also can't smell anything worthwhile at this moment other than the tortellini I will soon be eating for dinner, but I'm sure there's no relation there). He's no doubt communing with the spirits that I and the microwave can only imagine are there. I imagine the Kitchen Ghost will soon filtrate into most aspects of our lives in this apartment, eventually forcing me to rename him (I suppose it's not very fair of me to have restricted his potential haunting activities to one area of the apartment, at least not without asking him about his abilities first). I'm just hoping somewhere along the way, he will learn to do the laundry for me.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

All Dogs Go To Heaven

After 14 years, Tyler has gone to chase rabbits in green, green fields, where beagles are free to roam large and long.

The dog loosely named for "Tylenol" after the "what-shall-we-name-the-new-puppy" game gave us all a headache, Tyler lived a very full dog's life. Often scolded for not being the smartest dog in town, Tyler knew more than he let on: for instance, he knew that Dad was the best person to sit next to at the dinner table and he knew that countertops were only to be investigated when Mom was in the other room. Both very astute things for a dog to know. He also knew that ceramic tiles were the coolest things to sleep on during hot summers, that the insides of shoes were lovely to smell and lick but that chewing on them would land you in hot water, and that a man and his popcorn were soon (and often!) parted.

Desperately and loyally faithful, he loved nothing more than being close to his family and those he loved (loosely interpreted as anyone who might happen to be in the room, whether they ended up giving him treats or not). Until his very last days, he fiercely resented being shut up in another room away from the action, which unfortunately happened more often than not, as he never really learned that, no matter how much they might love dogs, most people do not enjoy being jumped upon in ecstatic joy at their arrival into the room. But he knew his place - dogs were not allowed on the couch (well, when no one was looking) and even the sacred dog bed was to be ceded to the cat (the recently-, and all-too-soon, departed Xena) should she happen to be sleeping there first. Often the bane of Mom's existence, he worshipped the ground she walked on (much to her chagrin, as his constant licking of the floor sometimes drove her batty) and would sit sadly outside the bathroom door should she dare to go to the bathroom without his accompaniment.

Tyler watched us all grow up, from high school through university and college, and he watched us come home to visit, and he never held it against us that we had been gone so long. Whether we had gone eight months or eight minutes, he welcomed us with such postulations and excitement that we were always reminded that we were all #1 in his heart.

The last year was not an easy one for Tyler, as old age caught up with him; in addition to old creaky bones, he had lost a lot of his hearing, and would look at us while finally obeying a command on its 8th repetition with a look of stunned innocence which seemed to say, "Oh, OK, I will come to sit ... Why didn't you just say so?" He did still enjoy, however, the occasional slow-motion game of fetch with his Kong (though he never did learn that "fetch" meant you were supposed to give up the Kong after retrieving it, so that it could be thrown again), as well as rousing renditions of "Throw-Howl-Stalk-Howl-Destroy (Repeat 57 Times)" with his rawhide chewies. Till the end, still a puppy at heart.

We'll miss you, Tyler. And perhaps when you catch a rabbit in Dog Heaven, you will know what to do with it this time ...*

*I actually missed what was perhaps Tyler's finest moment as a non-hunting hunting breed dog. For a number of springs now, my parents' backyard has had visiting rabbits - they don't live on our property but probably come from the woods across the street. Well, one day a few years ago, Tyler was outside when the rabbits came to visit, and he actually managed to catch one small bunny. He held it between his paws, not knowing what to do with it now, but looking oh-so-happy. The bunny, less than content, began to squeal (who knew rabbits squealed?), and Tyler, in his confusion, let it go and it ran off.

I did catch, a year or two ago, the hilarious "Tyler and the Squirrel" episode, where Tyler chased a squirrel across the yard at high speed. Totally freaked out, the squirrel climbed up our fence but was afraid to jump down to the neighbour's yard, not knowing, I guess, whether Tyler could follow him or not. The squirrel sat on the fence, shaking and shivering. Tyler ran around below, barking like a fool. We finally got Tyler in the house, but then he ran around from window to window, madly trying to get out. The squirrel remained shaking and shivering on the fence. Dad decided the best way to get the squirrel off the fence was to spray it with the hose, but no go - the squirrel remained shaking and shivering and now dripping wet on the fence for hours. It took forever to get Tyler calmed down. "Squirrel!" was always the buzzword in our house to get him freaked out and dashing from window to window (it started the first or second year we had him, when we were in Ottawa visiting my grandparents and he saw a squirrel outside from the window), but this was the first (and last) time he'd ever had a chance to actually chase one so freely.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Happy 34th!


This is a photo of him, a few years before we even met (1999 or 2000?), in the Himalayas in Nepal, perhaps, if I am not mistaken on my dates (which is more likely than not), around the same time of year as now.*

*This is an attempt on my part to encourage you to post some pictures on Flickr.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


We finally made it out to Serenity tonight!

Unfortunately, we are headed out to Toronto tomorrow afternoon for the weekend for a friend's wedding (and Thanksgiving too, of course!), and I have yet to pack. Plus, as per usual, I must sleep. But I will endeavour to find some time this weekend to blog about the film, as well as the carousing revellers on the bus on the way back home after the movie (why is it that whenever you want some peace and quiet to mull over a great film in your mind, you are stuck in the confines of a city bus with a dozen or so very drunken 18-year-old frat boys singing the theme to "Rocky" at the top of their lungs?) - they deserve a mention, I guess, since not much out of the ordinary ever happens in Ottawa ...

For now, suffice it to say that while the film got off to a rocky start, it found its way, pushed all the right buttons, and basically managed, by the end, to knock my socks off at how GOOD it was. Really, need I say more?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Sneak Preview

For those of you who are loyal/bored enough to check my blog everyday, here is a sneak preview of what I have so far on my Flickr site. I haven't finished putting captions on the last bunch of Thailand photos. I encourage you to go through the Sets instead of the Photostream; then you'll get 'em in order (so far, only Japan and Thailand). I wanted to get the Thailand photos all up tonight properly with captions, etc., then put a nice little Flickr logo here on my blog, but I must stop due to exhaustion. Who would've thought that working in a library all day, going out for dinner, then uploading and editing pictures in Flickr would be almost as exhausting as a 6-hour hike in the Thai jungle??? Well, it is. So there.

I'll try to finish editing the Thailand pictures tomorrow or Wednesday, but no promises. Tomorrow we are finally off to see Serenity, which opened on Friday (Rebecca saw it opening night) and we can't wait! (Well, we were supposed to go see it tonight, dinner being a prelude to the movie, but it's a long (and slightly dull) story as to why we never made it there.)

Other than that, I have spent the last week or so playing The Sims (never played before - Randal gave me his old copy). Addictive but annoying if you are like me and like hard-and-fast goal-oriented computer/video games (of the highest calibre, of course, such as Rollercoaster Tycoon and Katamari Damacy). At the same time that it annoys me, I find it oddly compelling. But do not - I repeat, do not! - adopt a baby if someone telephones you and offers you this chance: your Sim will never get a proper night's sleep again. You thought you were exhausted before!

Speaking of sleep, that is where I am headed. Good night!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Happy 31st!

Jerome & Agnes

Happy b-day Jerome!

If I ever get my act into gear, you may receive a b-day present in the mail. A more likely option, however, is that you will receive it via In-Person either at Thanksgiving (if you're going to be in Toronto) or Christmas (ditto).

High-brow / Low-brow

My parents are in town for the next few days, so Randal & I met them (plus my aunt and uncle) today at the Chateau Laurier for High Tea. (Click on that link - it's a great review from the Xpress here in Ottawa.) We were a little skeptical before showing up - High Tea's not really our sort of thing. We like food, and fancy food is nice too, but there was something a little pretentious about the whole concept of "High Tea". Well, I guess there still is, but it was lovely nevertheless. We had little smoked salmon sandwiches and roast beef sandwiches, more cheese than you could shake a stick at, scones which were oh-so-deelish with Devonshire cream and jam, and some dainty desserts. Plus, of course, the tea. There is over a dozen to choose from - the waitress came by with a large trolley full of tea. She puts some in a bowl and you can smell it to see if that is really the one you want. I tried Margaret's Hope Darjeeling - it was nice and a little strong (which I like), but didn't wow me over. My dad's (Maple Maple) smelled lovely, though I didn't taste it. Mom took the Jasmine Butterfly #1 (the existence and/or nature of #2 remains a mystery). My aunt and uncle both had Berry Berry - it smells similar to Lipton's Mountain Berry. Randal had what I personally thought was the best one - the Lapsang Chu Chong, a Chinese tea. It was very strong and smokey smelling, like burning embers on a fire or an incense stick slowly smoldering. It was very nice.

We were home by about 8:00 or so and I had started to do dishes when Randal came into the kitchen and said we wouldn't be able to see The Aristocrats because it was only playing till Wednesday and I am busy every evening this week. But it was playing in 15 minutes. So I left the dirty dishes in the sink, threw on my jacket, and we ran out to grab a cab to the Bytowne Cinema, arriving about 5 minutes late but thank goodness for previews - we hadn't missed much.

Now, this is not normally my sort of humour, but after one or two renditions of the joke, I was totally into it.* The movie is well done - I had understood it more to be various comedians' version of the joke one after the other, but it is more a fusing and intertwining of tellings and reflections on the joke. No one can really tell you where the joke originated, and there are many theories as to why it keeps getting told. Bottom line: every comedian knows it, every comedian has done it at some point. Some were successful, some were glorious disasters. In the film, a couple of the tellings push the joke way too far, and a few others only provide lame observeations that don't add much; for the most part, however, the comedians seem to really have thought about why people react to the joke in the ways they do and why it has become a rite of passage of sorts for comedians.

If you haven't heard about it, here is a slightly scathing review (but it gets the premise right) and here is a slightly better one, plus here is a reviewer (the first member review on that page) who seems to have really "got it". (No, that is not a biased opinion in any way whatsoever...)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

But you can call me "Pipefish"

Recent ways in which my blog has been found online:

The other day I searched Google for pixxiefish myself, and Google asked me if I meant pipefish. Which, if you don't know, is an incredibly cute, long and skinny type of fish.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The weird small world that is my life...

Recently, I've been running into people whom I haven't seen in a while. Yesterday, at work, I am helping a student when I suddenly look up and see a prof I had at Dal. I first met Anne when she was doing her LLM at Dal. That was when I was in first-year law. In my second year I took one of her courses, Law and Technology (and wrote, I am afraid, a somewhat mediocre paper (at least I thought it was) on the feasibility of enforcing publication bans on the Internet). She has just started her doctorate in Law at University of Ottawa, which is pretty cool.

Today I had just finished doing a tour of the library with some students, when I turn around and see a girl who I also knew from law at Dal. Josephine was doing her LLM when I was in my first or second year of law, and has actually been at U of O doing her doctorate in Law for about three years now.

And finally, someone un-law-related!!! I am taking a course in Art History at the U of O (as an employee, I get to go for free!), and the first class was tonight. It's an introductory-level course (2000-level), and at least half the students there were in their first year. I was not the oldest person there, but pretty darn close. Anyway, during the break, I'm waiting to speak to the professor (I needed to ask her about the course book) and I realize the person she is talking with is someone I know. Anna is the girlfriend of a guy I know who is a first-year lawyer at the federal Department of Justice. She herself is a teacher (high-school, I think). It was nice to see a familiar face (especially one in her mid-twenties rather than 17).

At any rate, the Art History class is going to be interesting and fun ... plus I don't think I've ever taken anything so approximately equating a "Bird Course". At least it will be for me. The readings are moderate and hey - they sure do beat both library school and law school readings in terms of interestingness. (I know, I know: you're shocked to hear it.) We have two in-class exams worth 35% each (memorization of terms and selected works of art, short answer questions, etc.), plus a take-home that we have a month to do which should be about - are you ready for this? - 3 pages long.

Let me make this clear: I have no desire to recreate my law school or library school experiences in any form whatsoever. I have written 25- to 30-page papers worth at least 70% of my final mark, taken exams worth anywhere from 80-100%, and completed complex computer multimedia projects worth at least 60%. I really don't need to do any of that again, at least not at this point in my life. And I'm sure when I was in my undergrad, I had smaller assignments that made me squirm then, at which I would likely laugh now. This Art History course is going to be very interesting, I will find it enjoyable, and I am taking it for credit as well as interest, so I do plan on putting my "all" into it, so to speak. But I doubt it will keep me up late at night with worry. Right now, however, that is OK with me. (Besides, I can't stay up late anymore - I have to work in the mornings!)

The only "bad" part about the course is that, despite a number of chapters on it in the textbook, we shall not be touching upon any East Asian art. I'd been looking forward to that. If I take the second introductory course next semester (which I am planning on doing), maybe we will then.

Oh, and on a sad educational note : last night was supposed to be my first Japanese Level 2 class. But it was cancelled due to insufficient enrolment. So now I must learn Japanese on my own. Any budding Japanese speakers out there who'd like to set up an online study group???

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


In a most unusual move, I have seen TWO movies at the theatre in ONE week. (Those of you who know me well will know that I don't even usually watch two rented movies in one week, let alone make it to the movie theatre.) About a month ago, Randal started posting reviews to the website of the Xpress, which is a weekly entertainment news guide in Ottawa-Hull. He has posted a number of movie reviews (he has seen many, many more than me), since Xpress doesn't limit the reviews to just new films.* For each review, he gets a certain number of "tokens". Then, if his review gets rated highly by other Xpress readers, he gets more tokens. You can use your tokens in online auctions to win stuff - everything from CD's to tickets for sneak-preview movies, concerts, operas, and more (even a weekend getaway at a spa & resort - ooh! - but I think he will need a lot of tokens to win that one).

Anyways, so last Wednesday we went to see A Sound of Thunder and this week, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Allow me to proceed in reverse chronological order.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

I don't normally go in for horror flicks, at least not at the theatre. At home in the safe confines of my living room, sure. But, well, what the hell: the tickets were free. Though I did a bit of reading on the movie to prepare myself and I'm glad I did. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is (loosely) based upon the true story of a 19-year-old girl in Germany (her name was Anneliese Michel) in the 1970s who started exhibiting bizarre, strange behaviour, and was determined to suffer from either some form of psychotic epilepsy (as her doctors thought) or demonic possession (as she, her family, and her priest thought). The premise of the film is that Emily has died following a failed exorcism and her priest is being prosecuted with negligent homicide in her death (since he counselled her to cease using her medication).

I have seen enough horror movies to know they can be incredibly schlocky, but this one was well done. Told as a series of flashbacks by involved persons at the trial, a device which was not nearly as clunky as some critics seemed to feel, we see how quickly Emily progressed from a normal teenager, away from home for the first time to attend college, to a very sick girl. We are shown just enough to suggest that while there was likely a rational scientific explanation for her "possession", there are just enough strange elements to also suggest otherwise.

Before going to see the film, I read at least one review which likened The Exorcism of Emily Rose to an Asian horror flick, rather than an American one. I can't remember if the reviewer's tone was complimentary or not, but often that is not a flattering comparison. My sole experience with Asian horror films is Ringu, which I saw on video earlier this summer. A week or two later, the American version The Ring happened to be on TV and so I got a chance to compare (though I must admit, I lost interest in The Ring quite early on because it was so mediocre). The Ring pulled out all the proper punches in terms of showing scary, horrifying things. Ringu did not - but it did something much more horrifying - it showed you just enough to leave the rest to your imagination. And THAT was where its powerfulness lay, by deciding to not walk you through all the horrifying things but letting you fill that in yourself (which, if my mind is any indication, is probably worse than what the director would have come up with him/herself. A scary movie shouldn't be just punch after punch of scare, gore, and fright - it is much scarier with tense buildup and dread.

Of course The Exorcism of Emily Rose is not airtight. There is some fine acting (and some bad screenwriting at times) - it stars Laura Linney as the lawyer defending the priest, Father Moore (played quite well by British actor Tom Wilkinson, who has been in way more movies that I've seen than I realized). Jennifer Carpenter plays Emily Rose and was quite good (though you never really see her as, shall we say, normal). However, you must remember two lawyers went to see this movie (a courtroom drama). I know that court procedures are slightly different between Canada and the U.S., and while I won't bore my dear readers with a list of things that you would just never see in a courtroom, suffice it to say that (a) trial by ambush is a big no-no, (b) whipping out a big blown-up photo of the victim and leaving it in full view of the jury for the bulk of the trial is also a no-no, and (c) there is such thing as disclosure. Then, of course, Randal is also trained in psychology so the entire time Emily Rose is displaying various "problems", he is giving me the whispered diagnoses: "catatonic schizophrenia", "sleep paralysis", "psychosis", "hey, why hasn't anyone suggested multiple personalities?" Heehee.

Recommendation : Go see it, but bring a friend with more courage than you, and even better if it's a friend you can spend the night with afterwards (to keep you safe, of course).

A Sound of Thunder

Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury, the premise was intriguing: In 2055, big-game hunters can pay big money to get big-time thrills by travelling to the past - the way distant past, about 65 million years ago, and hunt a dinosaur.

Ben Kingsley does a fine turn as the tycoon who has financed and runs the operation of the time-travel hunting operation, despite the fact that the character is one-sided and a caricature, nothing more. The other characters are fine, and do the best they can under the circumstances, but nothing really stands out.

The plot is contrived. You know someone is going to either leave something behind, bring something back, or change something. Aaaaand, hmm, let's see how the film develops - oh yeah, there you go, one of the Golden Rules just got broken. Oh sh*t - now you've gone and done it.

There are a few dinosaurs and many monkey-cum-lizards. There is a weird tsunami-like time warp wave that hits the planet every now and again, and every time this happens - yup, you guessed it - something gets changed. Plants burst out of nowhere. And somehow, in all the chaos, Our Brave Heroes battle through, with liquid nitrogen bullets and plucky courage, and despite the fact that the state-of-the-art facility with time machine has been flooded and damaged beyond repair, Ms. and Mr. Scientist can remove a hard drive (thankfully, stored above the flood line) and then reinstall it in a monkey-infested physics lab across town and - boom! voila - we have a new time machine. Dang - if only computers were generally that easy to fix.

Recommendation : Save the $10 and stay home to watch Ringu. If you absolutely must see this, I guess a late-night video rental is OK, but have some fun with it: buy lots of beer first and play a drinking game - Everytime something impossible happens, or a piece of hokey dialogue spoken, take a sip. Lightweight drinkers should probably stay far from this one. (Then again, it may make the movie way, way more palatable.) Better yet, read the short story and leave the rest to your imagination.

*ps. I will add links to Randal's review(s) of the movie (he's reviewing Emily Rose for sure, and maybe A Sound of Thunder) if his review is accepted by Xpress.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Blast from the past...

Today I went on a "field trip" at work - went to visit the Health Sciences Library with a few other librarians. It is on a different campus from the rest of the U of O.

The best part of the whole trip, however, was walking through the Health Sciences Building on our way to the library: the walls were lined with photos of graduating classes. We stopped to look at some old ones, then I said, almost joking, "Hey, I should see if my parents are up here!" They met at U of O Medical School and both graduated in 1972 (they married in 1971, though I note that despite my mother's declaration that she graduated under her married name, her maiden name is actually hyphenated to the married one).

And we found them, on the wall on the way to the library (it's like they knew where their daughter would end up someday):

It was pretty cool. I was told that my dad looks like a total hipster (he probably was at the time, and he still is, though in different, unexpected ways) - especially with his way-cool long sideburns - and that my mom also looked cool with her glasses and long, long hair. Plus, what I already knew and shall likely never escape: that I look like my mom - hi Mom! love you! ;) - though I pointed out that I have my dad's nose (at least, a more delicate, girly version thereof).

I don't know if this was the same building they would have actually attended Med School at; I think it is a "newer" building (though not in the true sense of the term "new", judging from the bright orange carpeting throughout the library).

Happy 4th...

It is my brother Jerome's and Agnes' fourth wedding anniversary today - Happy Anniversary, guys! When I get home tonight, I may stick a photo of you two up, so beware... :)

Jerome is actually not in Vancouver with Agnes celebrating his anniversary today, but in Hull, just across the river (literally) from me in Ottawa, working on some project (he is an engineering consultant) for the weekend. So he and I will, at some point in the next few days, be toasting his four years of married bliss. Which will be nice since, considering geographic realities of Canada, I don't get to see him very often anymore.

* Added 11:15 p.m. As promised:

I always liked this photo as one of my favourite from their wedding; they both look very natural and happy.

Also just got back from having dinner with Jerome - we ate and ate and talked, and it was good fun. Tomorrow we will likely go out again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The little plum that could...

My old friend Lisa from library school and her new hubby Marcus are having a baby. Currently it is "plum-sized", but apparently in about 6 more months (if I can count correctly), it will be a full-sized baby.

Lisa, many years ago in library school, could do a mean Axl Rose impersonation after a few glasses of wine and a few plates of food (preferably steak fondue). Her child will certainly have a stellar role model and I wish her and Marcus all the best :)

Monday, August 29, 2005

In Memoriam...

Xena, Warrior Kitty Princess
Xena, Warrior Kitty Princess

A good cat who put up with us for over seven years. You were taught your keen hunting skills by practicing on my kitten-sized teddy bear. Later, once accustomed to the thought that you did not have to hunt in order to survive but merely had to meow plaintively and constantly from the dining room (where your food was placed on a buffet carefully out of the dog's reach) until someone fed you again, you enjoyed your food with such relish that a new metal food dish with heavy bottom was procured for your use so that you could no longer bat the bowl to the floor when the food it contained was not fresh enough for your liking.

Never really a fan of dogs, you were reluctant companion and tolerant housemate to the beagle Tyler. He will miss having to sleep on the ceramic floor in the hallway next to his comfy dog bed because you have chosen to nap there in his stead, and danger befall the dog who might try to join you there! Luckily, Tyler was never so rash, the memory of your first meeting and the "friendly" swat across the nose which he received from you still standing out fresh in his mind.

Xena in target practice
You once bit the vet, and you hated car rides (with a passion). But you liked snuggling up next to Mom when she was reading late at night in the family room (and, apparently, sleeping on her head). You would sit outside the bathroom when she'd be so mean as to leave you on the other side of the door. For many years, there was a basket in the middle of the dining room table in which you liked to nap, and it will be a while before we stop putting magazines on the dining room chairs in a (failed) attempt to prevent you from sitting on them.

While you often pretended to be a grown-up, mature cat, you were like a little kid on Christmas Day when you were allowed to frolic in-between the presents under the tree, batting the tree ornaments (all the non-breakable ones put at the bottom, of course) and darting through the crinkly tissue paper. There were also some stellar kitty presents through the years: the most popular involving some kind of furry rodent on a long string or catnip-filled knit mice from Nova Scotia.

Content to be a housecat, though curious about the outdoors, in Kitty Heaven, Xena, may you finally be able to catch those birds you were always keenly watching through the kitchen window...

A loaf of bread, a container of milk, & a stick of butter

Today Randal & I went and did a rather large grocery trip. It was right before dinner, and I'm sure everyone knows how those grocery trips always turn out. We bought a truckload of food. It all started when we saw hamburger patties and thought, "Ooh, let's have burgers for dinner." Then, in the frozen foods aisle, right outside the freezer full of perogies, our dinner plans changed. Finally, a third time just up the aisle from the cookies (where I'd made a pit-stop for Eat-the-Middle-Firsts) as we walked past fixings for tacos.

So we get everything home and put away, and Randal starts frying up ground beef for our tacos when he asks if we have any sour cream. Of course, we do not. It is after 8:00 by this point so our usual grocery store is closed. However, there is a smaller (more expensive) one right around the corner from where we live, so I volunteer to run over and grab some sour cream.

Back home we finish cooking dinner, I run down and put some laundry on (despite recent protestations I may have made to the contrary, I did in fact get one load (of 7) done). Back up, dinner is almost ready. We crack open the sour cream, and the seal is broken!!! Gross. I had forgotten to check it, in my haste.

So down I run again, sour cream in hand, to the neighbourhood grocer. I walk up to the girl at the counter (different person from when I'd been there before), and say, "Hi, I just bought this about 20 minutes ago and the seal is open."

She looks at me aghast and replies, "That's DISGUSTING, lady!"

I am shocked. This, clearly, was not the reaction I was expecting. I feel slightly mortified. I started to fumble in my pocket - after all, I still had the receipt in there, and there should be no reason why I can't return this sour cream for a new container - it's not my fault their product is faulty. But I have never before been berated by a cashier and, by golly, I'm not about to start now!!!

Then it hits me. The girl did not say I was disgusting; what she actually said was, "That's the disgusting lady." I relax. And she continues on, "She comes in here and opens up all the containers, breaking the seals, smelling them. The first time she came in, she bought yogurt, and I said, 'This yogurt is open - let me get you a new one.' And she told me, "Oh, no, I opened it to check." Which is fine, but if she doesn't like how it smells, she doesn't buy it and then it's ruined! Sometimes I follow her when she's in the store, so I can catch her in the act, but then she doesn't do it."

I put on my most suitably-disapproving face and tsk-tsk in sympathy with the cashier's problem. Then, as bidden, I went off in search of a sour cream container with a pristine seal. Which, I am pleased to say, did exist (I reached right to the back of the shelf, figuring the Disgusting Lady hadn't reached back that far).

The tacos were goooood. And if anyone wants to drop in for dinner sometime this week, I can't announce dates yet, but we will be serving burgers at least one night and perogies (with yummy sour cream, of course) another.

*I found this while looking for that exact quote, and it's quite captivating, and not just because it's way past my bedtime... Many many years of trying to be the one who started off with "I one the sandbox", because it didn't take me long to figure out what happened if you were second in line! (Unfortunately, my older brother figured it out first, and I still wear the emotional scars from multiple sandbox-eating moments, where I'd say "Oh yeah? Well, I SIX the sandbox!" and then gasp, as I suddenly knew what I'd be forced to say next...)

Monday, August 22, 2005


So it seems blogs can get spammed in much the same way as e-mail accounts. I just deleted 13 spammer comments of people saying "hey nice blog!" and pointing me to their site - spam, spam, spam. Now gone. Please leave comments only if you really, really do love me, and not just because your computer's algorithm for spam pulled up my blogsite address in its calculation.

* With apologies to Monty Python.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Upheavals and other such nonsense

So much (mostly not very interesting) has gone on this week. Week got off to a bad start. I had to bring my bicycle in to the shop to get a tune-up - I haven't ridden it in a while and to be honest, it is looking a bit worse for the wear. So Monday I go to do this...and someone has stolen the seat. That was the newest part of the bike (it's old and has undergone many different upgrades over the years). I was not impressed. So not only did I have to pay for a new inner-tube (which was wrecked) and minor tune-up, I had to pay for a new seat and seat POST (since the thief was kind enough to steal that as well).

Wednesday Rion went to the vet for the day to get a tooth pulled. He still had one of his baby canines.

Thursday I went bowling with some of my colleagues from my former job. It was great fun, though I remained in last place behind all the rest of them (even the one girl who listed her name on the computer board as "I Hate This Game"). I like to bowl, but man, do I ever suck. Bad part about bowling, though, was that the bar there that sells CHEAP BEER was closed! :( So we had to go for drinks afterwards at the Royal Oak on our way home - you gotta do what you gotta do. Apparently, however, I am getting too old for this kind of thing, as the next day at work, I was so tired. I just don't get out enough anymore, obviously.

Friday night I went out with two other former colleagues for dinner. Erin is still working here with the government, though with another department, and Jan is moving in less than a week back to Calgary. So it was kind of a farewell dinner, though I will hopefully be seeing Jan again for coffee later this week before she goes. Then I went to Chapters and bought a Japanese kana workbook, in anticipation of my upcoming Japanese class this semester at Algonquin College - yay!

And Saturday afternoon, Rebecca arrived! And we have been hanging out ever since. (OK, it's been 1 1/2 days, but work with me here...) Today, we went for late breakfast at Eggspectations at the Esplanade Laurier, and then we wandered around the Parliament buildings playing at "tourist". There was a Mountie on a horse! But I couldn't convince Rebecca to let me take her picture next to him. (She took a pic from afar.) After that, we wandered to and around the Byward Market. Tonight she has gone out with another friend. Tomorrow, after I finish work, we are thinking about hitting IKEA - woohoo! :)

In between all this nonsense this week, Randal & I have been trying to rearrange everything in the apartment. See, we own too much and haven't gotten around to getting rid of much of it yet. But we are in the early "weeding" stages. Now, we have finally moved our stuff into the main front bedroom and made the back bedroom, our former bedroom, into a guest room (but eventually we plan on getting rid of the bed and making it a sunroom/computer room). Currently, as I type this, I am in the "new" bedroom, and Rion is lying on the back of the couch that is in here (there's no room, really, for a couch, so we may get rid of it too) looking out the window. It's nice and cosy.

Anyway, not really that much to say, though I am out of beer and must now make a trip to my fridge to locate some more. What can I say? It's a hard life.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

If you would be so kind as to turn to page 32...

I have been a busy beaver tonight (plus a 2-hour break to go out for all-you-can-eat mussels, mmm) and have added no less than SEVEN reviews to pixxiefish in the stacks for your reading enjoyment. Which means I am caught up to partway through May! ...And now, I shall collapse in bed. G'night.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Book-reading admissions

1. A History of Western Science has fallen behind one of my bookcases (is that ironic?) and I have been too lazy to retrieve it.

2. Puppies for Dummies and Dog Training for Dummies are both on the backburner. This is not a reflection on their quality - they are both good books. But I've been reading other stuff. And the mere existence of my darling dog Rion in my life is more than an adequate reminder that I am far below the level of "Dummy" in terms of understanding dogs. (Actually, he's a very good dog.)

3. I went to Toronto this weekend by train, and read the entire August issue of National Geographic

4. I just accidentally published this post. Note to self: Do not hit the "Enter" key while updating the Title.

5. Yeah, about Item #4: I have also read most of the June (as listed) and July issues. But they are a pain to update as National Geographic does not always have a useable link to the cover. If you know of a better place I can get a copy of their cover, please let me know.

6. I have not finished Lord of the Rings yet, but really, what's the rush? I have the entire rest of my life to enjoy it.

7. As far as Item #6 is concerned, this weekend, also on the train, I read all of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, despite my announcement to the contrary. It was very good. I have the radio play (the Orson Wells version) on cassette-tape somewhere. I can't remember if I have read the book before. And I've decided that, barring late-night cheap movie rentals, the movie does not need to be viewed. (Or linked to, for that matter. This is as political as I get sometimes.)

8. I think that's it. But if I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

And now, another lame excuse...

So I got my laptop back and so far, it is working. But we'll see. And so, as promised, I went to write up a great blog about 30 min ago or so, and Blogger was unavailable! No, I'm not tech-savvy enough to do my blogging in a word document first. I prefer the crash-and-burn method (you know,the method by which I write an extremely witty blog entry in Blogger itself and then the computer I am using crashes before I have a chance to post - hasn't happened in a while, thankfully).

But now I'm tired and not in the mood ... So I shall leave you here, dear reader, until the next post, and I shall think of witty things to say next time while tinkering with my Flickr account (or playing Mall Tycoon - I haven't decided yet which is a more worthy waste of time).

p.s. Part of me is wanting to be entirely useful and figure out how to link the Flickr site to my blog. The other (larger) part of me is reverting to the diversions mentioned above instead, as likely Rebecca will give me the necessary info upon learning about my technological know-how deficiencies. I ask you, why do myself what someone else can explain to me in 12 words or less?

p.p.s. I have just become aware of the sound of thunder rolling from outdoors and Plan C is forming - it involves going to bed and, with any luck, watching a storm through the window.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A new post

I have been informed by no less than two different people in the last three days that my failure to post a new entry on my blogsite is causing them grief.

So here it is. I have posted.*

And now, I am going to bed.

*What? No one ever said my post had to have actual content.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

And now, for your edification......

I have always been a big Roald Dahl fan,* and recently was sent a link to a very excellent article on him. If only all reviews of authors and their work could be this good:

Why children love Roald Dahl's stories - and many adults don't
from The New Yorker

Once you're done reading that one, here is another excellent article recently sent to me (actually, I must thank Randal for both of these - I adore you and you spend too much time on the Internet, but I learn so much!), this time on the appeal of books and, especially, libraries that are full to the brim of 'em:

Stacks' Appeal
from The Chronicle of Higher Education

There will be a test on all this in seven days.

* I re-read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory recently. It would have shown up in my "Currently Reading" list but for the fact that it took me all of one hour to read...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The End of the (Dal) World?

The page cannot be displayed

The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings.

I sure hope this is a temporary problem and not the end forever and ever of my Welcome to Sherwood Forest. I liked that page.

Plus, I gave up on my Geocities quest long ago and so have nowhere else to put it!!!

While we are on the subject, I would like to state for the record that my precious laptop has been in and out of repairs at Staples and Sony for the past 6 weeks with no end in sight, and so I have not been able to work on the Flickr website I started about 8 weeks ago (though I'm going to upgrade to an unlimited site once I get the darn 'puter back). That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Problems with the laptop, I'm sure, shall be detailed in these pages on an upcoming date (probably once it turns out they have failed, yet again, to solve my apparent problem).

Monday, July 04, 2005


Spent Canada Day weekend in Toronto. I know, I know - I live in Ottawa and should have stayed here. But many things colluded to make me leave (including the thought of multiple evenings during which I could have martinis at Insomnia - a fine way to celebrate Canada Day if you ask me). Much shopping. Clothes and books. BBQ at my cousins' place waaay north (East Gwillimbury, which is past Newmarket - egads!).

First day at new job. Reference librarian at the law faculty of one of our finer higher education establishments.

Made yummy chicken thighs, potatoes and green peppers for dinner tonight. Randal put his plate down on the coffee table and went to get his eyeglasses from the next room. I am sitting in the living room as well with my plate in front of me. Suddenly, before you could say "Jumpin' Jack Flash", the DOG had jumped up and stolen an entire piece of chicken. Swallowed in a second. This is his First Encounter with Actual People Food, and we are not impressed. However, it hasn't wreaked havoc on his digestive system yet so that's good. (I have also been in another room from the dog for the past hour or so, so I may stand to be corrected yet.) Keep in mind he is a tiny dog (mini Jack Russell) and it was a large piece of chicken.

And I don't like or trust George Bush. 'Nuff said.

Now I am tired, so I am going to bed.

* With apologies to Rebecca for having stolen one of her titles.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

New Kid on the Blog

I used to live across the street from Rick Mercer. I saw him at the video store once (on the ground floor of the South Park & Victoria apartment building in Halifax; don't remember what it's called). And shovelling his front steps and sidewalk after a big snowstorm a few years ago (what a good citizen).

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gratuitous post, just because I can...

It is time to get off the computer (I've been doing some work from home this evening as I had to leave early today for an appointment) and set me down with a tuna-melt sandwich and read. In other words:

It is time to get through The Council of Elrond.

I stopped reading Lord of the Rings about 1 1/2 weeks ago because, well, that's a darn long chapter and I hate having to interrupt chapters partway through. I just haven't had a chunk of free time long enough to tackle it. (For the record, yes, I have read LOTR before.) But now, it is time. Especially since War of the Worlds is coming out soon, and while I can't stand Tom Cruise as a general rule, I'm going to have to see it, but first, I have to re-read the book* (it's a rule I have about GOOD BOOKS that are made into movies). But reading LOTR and WotW at the same time would just be wrong. I'm sure Rebecca would agree (the Queen of Multiple, Simultaneous Texts - I don't know how she does it).

In other news, I had an interesting meeting today with people from my soon-to-begin new job (not yet announced - I'm waiting for Day #1). And it looks like, if I play my cards right, I might be able to get my hands on some copyright work - very exciting! (Yes, I am a nerd.)

* Random complaint: If you type in "war of the worlds" (with NO quotes, mind you) to the search engine at Chapters, you get lots of hits but NOT the obvious choice by H.G. Wells classic. I demand smarter search engines that understand what I think! (God. I sound like a librarian already...)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mop Boy and Bat Girl out on the Town

In honour of our (hopefully) bat-free future, the superintendent having boarded up the gaps in our windows, tonight Randal and I decided to go see the new Batman movie. It just opened today. Batman Begins stars Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader himself. It is a prequel to the other Batman movies and shows how Bruce Wayne came to be the Batman the citizens of Gotham City know, love, and sometimes fear.

I'm not a huge Batman fan. I haven't seen all the previous Batman films. Batman, yes, but it was a long time ago. Batman Returns, I have seen either the whole thing or at least good portions of it. Ditto for Batman Forever. And I'm pretty sure I've never actually seen the last one, Batman & Robin.* I did grow up watching a lot of the old Batman TV series in reruns, starring Adam West** - WHAM! POW! BIF!

Batman Begins was pretty good. It feels a bit long, but is actually only just over two hours. Bruce Wayne's formative years, including his time in the Far East (where else did you think he learned his killer moves?) take up a good chunk of time at the beginning, but it's just about right. Then he gets down to the business of setting up crime-fighting shop in Gotham City. The movie is dark but, from what I remember, Batman with Michael Keaton is much darker. Christian Bale is quite good.*** The only thing I have seen him in previously is Reign of Fire - not the finest film, though it was entertaining. I have heard he was quite good in American Psycho but I haven't seen it myself. Katie Holmes was slightly better than your average starlet in this sort of role, though somewhat out-of-place. Anyway, for the most part, all the actors were quite good (even including Liam Neeson, though I was a little worried when I first saw him in the film).

The story isn't airtight - as Randal pointed out, a microwave emitter that vaporizes water would probably fry us all too in the process - but there are some nice touches. How the Bat Cave is developed. How Bruce Wayne is pushed to pick up the gauntlet. Why the symbol or idea of "Batman" is chosen. It even flows well into the next (or first, if you will) Batman movie, as it becomes known that the Joker is on the loose.

That's it. Go see it. It was good. Tell me what you think.

* And from what I understand, I don't think I want to either, even (yes, Robert, I do have my limits) despite the presence of "Chris O'Donnell's cute butt in rubber".

**PUT YOUR SOUND ON AND CLICK ON THAT LINK!!!!!! You will smile, I guarantee it!

***His butt also kicks Chris O'Donnell's any day, so there.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Despite outward appearances, this ain't Malaysia...

When I was in Malaysia last summer, one of the things I did was visit Gua Telings (Ear Cave) in Taman Negara, the large national park in peninsular Malaysia (a few hours' drive from Kuala Lumpur). Gua Telings, or "Bat Cave" as it is often fondly called, provided me with an unforgettable 90 minutes (or so) crawling through this incredibly small series of caves (I have heard the skill required described as being that of Spiderman-like contortions, and that's no joke) that is home to many bats. I am afraid of bats, at least in confined spaces. Outdoors where they can swoop around and be free without me having to worry about them landing in my hair - fine. But as a general rule, I like to keep my distance. However, I bravely picked my way through the caves, past the bats, and soaked up my fair share of bat-shit, plus got some great photos along the way. It was great.

So. Fast forward to June 4, 2005, approximately 11 months after Gua Telings. Saturday night, downtown Ottawa, 1 a.m. The location is not a cave but rather the more mundane location of the bedroom. We are lying in bed. Randal is reading, the dog and I are dropping off to sleep. We hear a soft ffwwit-fwit-fwit sound from the kitchen. I look at Randal, he looks at me, Rion looks at both of us.

"Shall I check it out? Probably something fell," I say.

"If you think..."

"Well," I respond, "if you're not fussed about it, neither am I."

So we remained in bed.

Not more than 60 seconds later, a BAT comes flying into our room. I shriek and do my best duck-and-cover routine under the sheets. Randal jumps up, says, "I got it!", and I hear him grab the dog and hustle out of the room.

Time passes. Eventually, after an eternity, I peek out from under the sheets. Though I do not have my glasses on, I shriek again, "I can see it! It's behind the door hanging off!!! Augh!" The bat suddenly decides not to remain behind the door (who ever thought they were attracted by the sound of shrieking girls - now all those Hollywood thrillers make sense to me) and starts looping wildly around the room. I shriek some more and duck back under the covers. Apparently at this point, the dog, who had been put behind a (small but normally effective) barrier in the living room so he could not interact with the flying rodent, decided he must jump the barrier and run to my rescue. So did Randal, thankfully, and he saw the bat swooping around the room and the dog staring up at it, tongue lolling out, tail wagging wildly, just watching it. A new playtoy!

Rion was removed from the room once more. And Randal, now clad in jeans, rainjacket, work gloves, and a Burmese conical rice-paddy hat, brandishing a mop, gets to be the Hero of this story. First, he propped open the balcony door (luckily, the balcony is off our bedroom - very convenient for bat-removals). Then he got the bat to settle down on the mop. I didn't see any of this, of course - I was busy sweltering with heat (it was REALLY hot that night) and shaking with fear under the sheets and duvet.

He tried to get me to peek out to look at the bat on the mop - apparently it was really cute. I flatly refused. Good thing, too - the bat chose that moment to swoop off the mop-head and dove right for where my head would have been had I decided to look. I screamed some more (I felt it swoop). A few minutes (and much under-cover sweating) later, he had the bat on the mop again, and ushered it out the door and back into the wild.

We figure it came in through the kitchen window. We have screens, but the windows are old and there is a gap of a few inches between the inner window and the outer screen. Needless to say, first thing Monday morning I called up the superintendent for the building and he will be coming by hopefully later this week to block up that gap so that we have no more nightly visitors.

So if you have any bats in your apartment, you know who to call. Hint: Not me. But I know this guy who has a routine down-pat, complete with Asian rice hat - this is our second bat in this apartment (I was absent for the first, thank god).

And now, I am off to a (hopefully) bat-free sleep.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Who needs sleep?*

So I just added a bunch of links to my Amsterdam posts, as promised. Soon I will be setting up a Flickr site and there you can see pics from Amsterdam (many of them are Randal's rather than mine since he has the fancy-shmancy new digital camera) as well as pics from previous trips and things (SE-Asia!!!). Been on and off jet-lagged this weekend...or just post-trip doldrums, who knows? Anyway, back to work tomorrow ... real life manages to trudge along like always. Rion misses his Auntie Jan - we don't take him for 2-hour walks every day - but he is glad to have his floor renovation project back (no such home-decor projects possible at Auntie Jan's).

And now, without further ado, I am dragging my sorry ass to bed.

* As the Barenaked Ladies would say :
Who needs sleep?
(well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep?
(tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep?
(be happy with what you’re getting
There’s a guy who’s been awake
Since the second world war)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Never enough time ...

So it's my last day in Amsterdam. Blogging has been a bit harder than I thought it might be, simply because Internet cafes aren't as widespread as I had hoped. There have been Internet terminals in the two hostels we stayed at (we went back to the Stadsdoelen after the weekend at the Vondelpark) but expensive. 1 Euro (I can see the key for the Euro-sign on my keyboard but can't figure out how to access it) for 12 minutes, whereas at the Internet cafe we like to use it is 2 Euros for one hour. Much better. Except it's only open till 10:00 p.m., which meant we showed up after it had closed quite a few nights. (When Randal was here last a few years ago, it was open 24-hours.)

So Tuesday I was in the process of writing a witty post (but of course!) about all our adventures over the weekend, when we decided on the spur of the moment to go see Star Wars : Revenge of the Sith, which was playing right away at the theatre next door. In a nutshell, better than the first two by a long shot, but still disappointing compared to the original three. Hayden Christensen is nothing short of an awful actor. I did enjoy the Emperor, however - I must find out (when I get back home) if it is the same actor who originally played the Emperor because he is certainly bang-on.* Anyway, that was exciting and the theatre was beautiful. It looks like an old refurbished church, with a balcony level as well for seating. Nice plush comfy seats. Popcorn over here is strange, though. It tasted like the stuff you get at a Kernels store rather than Movie Popcorn. Still good, though.

So, since last time I posted in a nutshell.

Thursday evening we went to the Anne Frank Museum. Friday was the move over to the Vondelpark, plus we went to the Torture Museum (nothing short of fascinating). Saturday we hit a local market, then later in the afternoon went to the Amsterdam Historical Museum. Great museum, but you must go earlier in the day, we soon discovered. Sunday we exhausted ourselves at the Rijksmuseum, then in the evening had dinner-and-a-show with Boom Chicago, a comedy improv troupe of Americans who have been performing here for about 12 years. VERY FUNNY. Monday we exhausted ourselves at the Vincent van Gogh Museum - it was marvelous, though it turns out that when I was in France about 9 years ago, and some American guy told me that I had to go to Amsterdam in order to see the famous "Starry Night", well, HE WAS WRONG. "Starry Night", according to the friendly folk at the Vincent van Gogh Museum (and they should know!), is in fact part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Figures.

Well, luckily my Amsterdam trip was not in vain, despite the absence of "Starry Night". We bought many goodies at the Museum. On Tuesday, we went back to the Amsterdam Historical Museum and spent the entire afternoon there (we still had to hurry near the end - it's one of the more comprehensive museums of that type that I've been in). And Star Wars that evening. Yesterday we asked about bike tours, since it was finally beautiful weather. But nothing really interests us. We did some shopping, and then at 5:00 went on a private boat tour of Amsterdam with a group called Sint Nicolaas Boat Club . They're a non-profit group who restores old boats, etc., that we found out about through Boom Chicago. If I had more time (my Internet money is running out!) I'd look for a website address. Maybe another time.** After the tour, we went back to Boom Chicago to see another one of their shows. And now we are here, Thursday, off to shop and wander one last time. Maybe a museum if some time. Leave really early tomorrow (have to be at airport by about 6:30 a.m.).

* Added Sunday, May 29 @ 11:01 by Julie : The Emperor is indeed played by the same actor (Ian McDiarmid) in both the original Star Wars movies and the new prequels.

** Added Sunday, May 29 @ 11:16 by Julie : As you will note, I found the website address and have added it! :)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Emails from a lonesome pup...

Received in my Inbox over the past few days :

Subject: Canine Comments
Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 19:57:34 -0400

Dear Randal and Julie,

So far summer camp has been okay but I miss you guys a lot. The first night you left me alone with these people, I walked around and around looking for you. So I was pretty tired the next day. The next night was just fine. Jan won't play tug and let me bite her hands - she is a bit of a wimp that way. But we do go for lots of long walks and I am trying hard not to lunge at birds and people. I did get to play with a Portuguese Water Dog. Jan seemed to think she was pretty cute but I didn't like when she stepped on me. And we played this "find it" game with treats in the grass. I liked that part. I also managed to eat a whole one of those rawhide sticks that I like so much in just two days but I didn't eat the kitchen floor so that's good. I hope you guys are having a good holiday. Jan says work still stinks and you are aren't missing anything.


My reply:

Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2005 5:39 AM
Subject: Re: Canine Comments

Dear Rion,

Glad to hear you are settling in and having a good time at Auntie Jan's. Here, Amsterdam is nice though a bit cool. We have seen lots of dogs, though none as cute as you - even a terrier/daschund mix (we think it was a Jack Russell). Lots of tall skinny buildings, etc. Amsterdam is a very pretty city - maybe someday dogs will be allowed to visit too (but then you'll have to take a very long plane trip, and I don't think you'll like that too much).

Anyway, I am going to post some info about our trip to date on my blog ( - you can read about it there!

licks and bites,
julie :)

And then today:

Subject: RE: Canine Comments
Date: Thu, 19 May 2005 17:32:24 -0400

Dear Julie and Randal,

I had a great day today. Auntie Jan came home early from work just so we could go out side – something about a *&&^%%$&^% file she said. Any way, we walked way far along the river and I was learning not to bark at rollerbladers and skateboarders. Then Auntie Jan was giving people treats so I would not be shy. It's funny that all the people I met were nice looking, clean shaven men in their 50's. Hmm, that's an interesting coincidence. Any way, right now I'm flaked out on the floor in the sunshine with my ball and kong close by.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Road to (and around) Amsterdam ...

So it's Day 3 in Amsterdam.

The trip got off to a, uh, stellar start before we even left. Friday was my last day of work before vacation. On Saturday, Randal and I had a bunch of errands to do - we decided to go for breakfast first. Which is when Randal discovered his wallet was AWOL. We'd gone for dinner with some friends the night before and he had paid, so he'd had his wallet then. But no longer. We ransacked the apartment searching for no avail. Back to the Royal Oak on Bank Street, where we'd had dinner the night no avail. The wallet was gone. All of Randal's cards, about $200 in cash that he'd taken out as funds for our afternoon in Toronto plus - the bus tickets to Toronto. Gone. Luckily, no one had used his cards. He got them cancelled, we bought new (expensive!) bus tickets, and I took out $200 instead.

Sunday we dropped Rion off at my friend Jan's place. Poor puppy. All by himself without his mummy and daddy for two whole weeks. He is forced to amuse himself with his Auntie Jan. :)

Monday we left for Toronto. Good bus ride up. Neither of us had had much sleep the night before. I snoozed a bit on the bus. In Toronto, it was crazy. We had a few errands to run : I still needed travelers' cheques, Randal wanted to look at digital cameras. So we split up for a bit - I had to hit FIVE banks before I found one who sold Euro TC. So, many Euros, digital cameras and toothpaste tubes later (we hadn't brought the toothpaste with us), we no longer had time for sushi! Why else bother going to Toronto if there is no time for sushi!!! It was very sad. But we drowned our sushi-less sorrows in Swiss Chalet chicken at the airport...and finally, at about 9:30 Monday night, were sitting on the plane.

Flight was good. We left around 10:15 p.m. local time. 7 hour flight. Arrived in Amsterdam at Schiphol International at about 10:30 the next morning (again, local time). Got our bags back. Bought train tickets to Amsterdam's Centraal Station. Got in a cute little cabin on the train. Pull out of station. Conductor comes by to punch our tickets and it seems there are two problems: (a) we are sitting in first-class and should be in second; and (b) we are on the wrong train. When we inquired further as to this second more disturbing "problem", we were advised, "No, you are not headed toward Amsterdam; you are headed to another part of the land." Um, that can't be good. So we were told where to hop off the train...and warned to read the train signs more precisely this time. Which we did. :)

Finally in Amsterdam, a bit of a hike to our hostel. Right now, we are staying at the Stayokay Stadsdoelen Youth Hostel in Amsterdam in a 20-person dorm. It's right near the city centre. When we arrived, we had bookings there for Tues-Thurs nights. We have since further booked rooms at the other Stayokay in town, the Vondelpark for Fri-Sun. After that, who knows? These are both hostels Randal has stayed at in the past, about three years ago when he was studying in Maastricht and spent some time up in Amsterdam.

Anyway, Tuesday we crashed around 2:30 at our hostel for a "short nap". Which lasted to about 6:00. Out by 7:00 and then proceeded to wander. We made our way over to the Jordaan area of Amsterdam. (Perhaps at some point I will post a map, but no time right now.)* Found some good eats at a little restaurant called Cafe het Paleis. I had a chicken-avocado sandwich and Randal had grilled salmon with veggies. Yum. More wandering, but we were exhausted so crashed back at the hostel by 11:00.

Up and out by 10:30 Wednesday (it was a slow morning, still jet-lagged). We wandered like it was going out of style. Over to the Vondelpark hostel to book ourselves some rooms for the weekend. Up the main drag. Up side-drags. Etc. Nice lunch at a weird little place called Foodism (in the Jordaan again). Wandered past the Anne Frankhuis (we plan on going there later today). Past the Rijksmuseum. Past the van Gogh museum (augh!). It was so tiring. We also went to the Sex Museum! It was very interesting - though mostly entertaining rather than informative. Dinner on the Rembrandtplein at a lovely little restaurant called Szmulewicz. Coffee shop, then some wandering in the Red Light District - how surreal.

Today we are looking at a few markets, and then over to the Anne Frankhuis around 4:30 or 5:00 (our discount tickets are good as of 5:00 - it's open till 9:00). Maybe a boat tour. Maybe more Red Light wandering tonight.

When I have more time, I will try to give some impressions of some of these places (esp. the RLD) rather than just name-dropping in this manner. And links. I'd like to add links. But for now, no time. Must run!

* Added Sunday, May 29 @ 10:48 by Julie : Here is a basic map (from Lonely Planet) of Amsterdam. If you are very keen on geography, here is a more detailed one.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A little home improvement DIY, just like the experts do it

So I've never been very fond of the ugly linoleum flooring in the bathroom. It is a large sheet meant to look like small rectangular grey-and-white specked tiles. Quite ugly. But ignorable.

Well, apparently I wasn't the only one who found it ugly. Friday, I come home from work, go into the kitchen, greet my ever-ecstatic-to-see-me dog Rion and then step into the washroom. My jaw hits the floor. It seems that Rion has gotten bored and decided to undertake some home renovation. How sweet. A giant patch of floor is missing. Where there used to be floor tile, there is now only whatever the underflooring is made of. The hole in the flooring is about two feet in length and one foot across. I also would like to note for the record that I found less than the equivalent amount of flooring lying scattered around the room, making me fear for the intestinal integrity of my poor little pooch.

Though I am happy to announce that while linoleum flooring is not a recommended substitute for dog food, it is not lethal. A little bit of upset puppy tummy has been experienced but it hasn't stopped Rion from nibbling on further bits when our backs have been turned.

ps. As I was about to post this, it turned out that in Rion's latest smelly deposit, there was a fully-intact ear plug. I don't even know where he picked that up, and I'm not going to think about it anymore. Oi vay.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

3, 2, 1, ........


After long days of trying to find flights and trying to find decent prices for aforesaid flights, we are finally going away on vacation to Amsterdam. And soon! We leave Monday, May 16 (Robert's birthday!), from Toronto and then back (to T.O.) on Friday, May 27. So just under two weeks of holiday. And I have oh so much work to do between now and then. It will be crazy. But so worth the panic of the next 12 days. I'm so excited!!!

I guess this means I should finally break down and get a new battery for my camera, eh? It died just before Christmas, and I simply haven't gotten around to it.