There was an error in this gadget

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Where's the Bloody Sun????

First of all, Merry Christmas to all. Hope you had a wonderful day, wonderful meals, surrounded by wonderful friends and family. May it all have been wonderful. We had a nice quiet day, spent on the phone with friends and family across the Pond. Wonderful to hear their voices, albeit once a year or so.

Second of all - does Ontario get any sunshine in winter at all, ever??? I left Alberta (read, God's Country) on Dec. 23 and the sun was shining, the wind was chinookin' ... it was all good. Arrived at Toronto late late that evening, so I'll forgive there was no sun then. But since then, I haven't seen the sun once! This is not good for one's soul, not to mention one's Vitamin D levels.

This is why I left England, and why I left Ontario too for that matter. I carefully chose Alberta due to the high number of days of sunshine available to me annually. I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder, for those who think I'm just weepy all the time) and sunshine hours are important. I'm beginning to get a bit tetchy over here. I need to see the sun soon - or the Son, given the season. Pretty sure either would lift my spirits.

So if you find either one, send them my way, ok? Cheers, thanks very much.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

OCS (Only Child Syndrome)

In this festive season of giving, it has become all too apparent to me that I lean towards certain selfish tendencies. And as we live in a society that enjoys psychological verbiage, I have coined a term for this tendency - Only Child Syndrome. You see, as an only child, and one that has lived alone most of her adult life, I see things quite differently. For example, it's 10:00 am - I need a coffee. I go running out the door of the office to the quaint corner coffee shop run by Communists (yes, real, live Communists!! How exciting ... don't ask me why they are running a capitalistic enterprise like a coffee shop...) - and I completely fail to ask anyone else in my office if they would like a coffee too. No, I don't even just fail to ask - it doesn't even go through my mind to ask!! That's OCS.

You see, for an only child, it's all about me, all of the time. It always has been and it always will be. And when I do think of other people, it's usually in terms of how I can get them to like me. Only children have a desperate need to be liked. For the most part, our parents have liked us to distraction. Therefore, that should also be the way it is out in the big, wide world. So we tend to be people pleasers, only in order to please people enough to like us. Get it?

This has its upside for others around us. Sometimes, we're awful nice to you. See above. Also, because it is always all about us, if something goes wrong, well then, that would be our fault too. You see, as kids, if a vase ended up mysteriously broken, there was no one else to blame (well, I tried to blame my grandmother who lived with us, but that backfired ...). So we're often the ones to step up, put our hand up and take the blame. Even if we had nothing to do with the project. So you see, we can really be very useful.

Beginning to like me yet?

You see the cycle here.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ah, the Irony!

A quick follow-up to the previous hippo post. I actually watched the Telus ad today (in other words, concentrated on something other than the hippo and the song) and the tagline that came after the hippo was priceless:

Not everyone wants a hippopotamus for Christmas.

Apparently, they do, as stores across Western Canada cannot keep enough hippo stock in this season.

The ad is actually pitching that you'll get an iPod if you order something or other. Tee hee. I love it when corporate ad-dom backfires in such an outrageous way. Although, you never know - maybe iPod sales will go up too. Just thinking that whatever Telus is selling probably won't.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I Want a Hippopotomus for Christmas ...

Anyone else love that new ad by the nasty phone company that shall remain nameless? I can't get that 1953 novelty song outof my head. And you know what's worse? I'm actually beginning to believe I want a hippopotomus for Christmas. Damn you, Telus! (Ooops - quickly put both hands over mouth for blurting out previously nameless corp...) Apparently, hippos have become a hot item for Christmas because of this. Kids all over Canada are beleaguering their poor parents, not for XBoxes or iPods or other gadgetry, but just for a little ol' hippo. Warms the cockles of my heart. If you want to hear the full, original song, go to: http://www.minibite.com/christmas/hippo.htm

And reminds me of that other classic hippo ad, about the house hippos who live in closets and make nests out of dryer lint and lost mittens. It goes on to say that house hippos are friendly, but will defend their territory if necessary (hippo bares fangs at a cat that is probably hundreds of times larger than itself); house hippos live in bedroom closets, where they make nests from lost mittens, dryer lint, and bits of string; the nests have to be soft, because house hippos sleep about 16 hours a day (profile of a big yawn from the hippo) ; house hippos come out at night when they search for food and water (hippo swimming around in pet's water dish); house hippos like to eat chips (house hippo in potato chip bag, chewing; cat looking at the bag as if it is very interested), raisins, and the crumbs from peanut butter on toast. It's by the Concerned Children's Advertisers, and is designed to show how the media can wag the dog - or the hippo, in this case. Again, see for yourself at: http://www.cca-kids.ca/tvandme/english/hippo/ (note to self: must learn how to imbed hyperlinks...)

So there you have it - and now I want one too, which is dangerous, because the last exotic animal I wanted was a llama. You've met my boys Shaman and Cherokee, no? 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Why the Liberals Will Win....Again

Has anyone seen the new Conservative and Liberal TV ads? For those of you outside Canada, we're in the middle of (another) election, which will no doubt return a Parliament that bears a striking resemblance to the one that just fell. All this for the low, low price of approximately $300 million to the Canadian taxpayers. We must be mad.

I'm not really that political - yet - but I am interested in the election. And I was more than a little interested by the stark difference in the styles of two TV ads run by the two main parties - Conservative and Liberal. Both tried to appeal to "normal" Canadians (like there are any!). But the Conservative ad came across as staged and goofy, while the Liberal ad was slick and, most importantly, did not have one Liberal politician - not even Martin (our PM) - in it. The Conservative ad had their leader (and I use that term very loosely) front and centre, and he played to his strength, which is looking nerdy and condescending at the same time. They were trying to do a mock interview and kept cutting back and forth between a fake media person, Harper (arguably a fake leader) and a fake normal Canadian. Do you get the picture? Fake, fake, fake! And they wonder why everyone thinks they have a hidden agenda.

The Liberal ad on the other hand was no doubt made by some Quebec ad agency who had a hand in the sponsorship scandal, has been dissolved and is now reconstituted under another name. No matter, they get value for their dirty money. The ad focused on normal Canadians (from every different region and ethnicity) talking about how wonderful the economy is under the Libs and how well everyone is doing - and that even Saskatchewan is now a "have" province! The production was professional, without being over the top, and the tone was upbeat. No Paul Martin whining on about how much he loves Canada. These guys are good. They know exactly what message to use and when to use it, and so I grudgingly have to respect them for being so damn media savvy.

And that, Virginia, is why the Stephen Harper Conservatives will never, ever form even a minority government. Ontario voters like well-produced ads. It's just that simple.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bast's Best ....Products! Volume 1

I really do love to shop. No, I mean really love it. If I could do it for a living, that would be fine by me. And once in awhile when I am on my little shopping escapades, I come across some pretty neat things. I don't always buy them, but nevertheless, they're fun.

So I thought I would start a little mini-blog (what is a blog within a blog called?) on fun items I have come across. And I thought I'd start with a real find in the grocery store the other day. Yes, the grocery store. The product is chocolate-flavoured cream cheese, by Lactantia. You heard me right - chocolate flavoured cream cheese!!!!! They say it's good to make chocolate cheesecake with, but I can attest that it's equally good if you simply slather it over a cracker (preferably an oatcake) and devour. And it's low in those nasty carbs that I keep trying to avoid.

Yum, yum - it's all good. Go to the dairy aisle yourself and try it out. Now, where are my strawberries....?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Future Imperfect

Well, I made a somewhat monumental decision today. I'm going to become a futurist. I like the fact that futurists can never be wrong, at least in the present when they are talking about the future. That appeals to me, never being wrong. Plus, I love thinking about the future, and the past, and I think that might make me a good futurist. On the other hand, I do tend towards believing conspiracy theories and being a bit naive (read gullible) so that might me a bad futurist. No matter! Onwards and upwards ... or maybe forwards, in this case.

So I'm joining the World Future Society (www.wfs.org) and will do some self-study. There are a handful of universities offering degrees in this area, but to be truthful, I don't have the appetite to be a student ever again (kudos to my friends who are!). So self-study it is. Then maybe I'll do up some business cards, with something pithy like "Bast, Futurist-at-large" on them. Then maybe get my own radio program and build up a huge (or not so much) following. Then retire to a cave-house in Spain and build my mystique as a semi-hermit futurist. Kind of like the Stylite saints, but different. What a plan. I love it. It's bound to work, no?

So anyway, I'll keep you posted. You just never know what the future will hold ... but maybe I do.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm Baaa-aack! From Winterpeg ...

My goodness, but Canadian autumns can be weird. I went to Winnipeg last week on business (many thanks to Aunt S., who looked after Bast's Beastly Cat while away! And BTW, she's ever so sorry for the scratching ...)

It's November - perhaps I should expect a light dusting of snow. Maybe even take the boots to be extra sure. What I flew into was a full-blown wintery-type blizzard, complete with snow up the ying-yang and temperatures hovering around the -25 degree level. Sigh. Three days of this. Groan. It warmed up to maybe -5 by the time we left. My Winnipeg colleagues seemed to take it all in stride. We even had a reception at the Lieutenant Governor's residence which went off on schedule, much to my surprise given the weather. These Winnipeggers are hardy folk, there's no doubt about it. My theory is that nobody actually leaves Winnipeg and so they don't know anything of the outside world.

Back on the plane, I knew Calgary would be warmer, due the chinook winds. Chinook means "snow eater" and they blow even when there is no snow to eat. So I came home to a balmy 15 degrees, and it will be going up to near 20 degrees later in the week. Double sigh. My poor body doesn't know whether it's coming or going.

But I'm pretty sure wherever's it's going, it won't be to Winnipeg in the near future.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Off My Game

I hate feeling ill. Or rather, I hate feeling a little bit ill. Full-blown sick is easier to deal with, as you can just lie on the couch, mope and feel sorry for yourself. Feeling slightly off your game is bothersome. You're lying on the couch, but you're feeling guilty while you're doing it.

I started feeling dizzy and really tired last night, and before I knew it, had convinced myself it was either a female heart attack or avian flu. Decided not to stay for the concert I was at as I had a full morning meeting the next day. I got through the meeting and came home, feeling really tired once again. Hit the couch. Napped. Got up and made something to eat. That's the other thing about feeling ill and living alone - no one to pamper you, or alternately tell you to suck it up and get over it. There's no moral barometer at your side, so you just slide ever-more gently downwards to a state of blissful self-indulgence.

Almost ordered a pizza - a sure sign of feeling sorry for myself. But in the end sucked it up and made dinner. Perhaps you can be your own moral barometer after all?

Oh, and is anyone else out there sick to death of the fear-mongering going on about the avian flu? I heard today that it will strike those with a healthy immune system the worst, as it did in 1918. If that's the case, I'm really very safe - and am available to pass this whatever it is on to you at your convenience. I am so very civic-minded.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Ovary Tower

I had lunch with a friend who always makes me laugh, and today was no exception. Thank goodness, because I think we both needed it, and laughter can be such therapy. So there we were, two women verging on mid-life, discussing what to do with the rest of our lives, and whether or not the "third sector" was all it is cracked up to be. That's the non-profit sector.

There is a building here in Calgary that a local foundation bought, renovated and rented out at a reasonable rate to other local non-profits. And since many of the workers in said tower are women, they have taken to calling it the Ovary Tower. Well, I just about laughed my pants off! And then when we discovered that I was actually straddling the Ovary and the Ivory Towers in my career, well, let's just say the waitress was on her way over to see if we were going to be ok or if we needed 911 assistance.

I think the Ovary Tower is a wonderful metaphor for the non-profit sector. The vast majority of the employees and volunteers are female, and when you get that many women in one place, hormones are bound to fly. I wonder if there are other such buildings around the country, and if anyone has studied the phenomenom. Probably not. But if could get some Ovary/Ivory tower funding, it might just make a damn good research project!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Wanted: One Patron

Having studied the Middle Ages for a long time, one of the things that resonated most with me was the concept of patronage. Not the Ottawa-type patronage we see regularly on the CBC (Dingwall et al.) but real, honest to goodness patronage. The type where you show yourself to have some artistic talent (writing, scuplture, etc.) and some wealthy and generous soul comes along and financially adopts you so you can concentrate solely on your craft.

Now don't get me wrong - I don't mind a hard day's graft. But as I age I am finding that as life speeds by, I need to do the things I want to do now, or it may be too late. The problem, as always, is money. Now I don't exactly live high on the hog. I like my luxuries, to be sure, but I keep my expenses within my means. Comes with the territory of having been a student until I was 30. So I would be a very frugal investment for any potential patron out there.

I think about $36k/year would do it. Yes, that's frugal in Calgary. Sorry - I can't tax receipt you, but could offer certain perks (no, not those kinds of perks ...). I'm good company, and could promise witty conversation and laughter at the vagaries of our 21st life. I cook a mean Spanish tortilla, and I own two llamas that are excellent therapy pets. What more could you ask? Oh yes, and of course, a lengthy and meaningful dedication in the first book published.

So if you fit the bill - literally - leave a comment and I'll get back to you. It might just be kismet.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

An Active Dream Life

A dear friend passed away on Friday, and I just found out about it today... I think. You see, I'm pretty sure that I dreamt about her on Friday night, and perhaps, just perhaps, we crossed paths that night on another dimensional plane. Sound crazy? Not really. I believe that we live out a very active life while unconscious or sleeping. I certainly do. And I'm glad for it, because we spend approximately one-third of our lives asleep. I for one don't care to think that those hours are being wasted away, rejuvenating mind and body to tackle the stresses of the next, conscious day.

I have an extraordinary dream life that rivals my conscious one. I have vivid, sometimes even lucid dreams that I remember for weeks. I can sometimes return to the same dream in subsequent nights, allowing for a type of sequel-effect. I have told this to others, and they look at me with something that resembles pity, inferring then that my conscious life must be very sad indeed. Poppycock. My conscious life is rich and full too, and I feel sorry for others who cannot share such an equally vibrant unconscious life.

I have dabbled a bit in dream interpretation, especially as I seem to specialize in dreams with houses, and houses in which I discover secret and wonderful rooms. In the dream dictionary, this means that your subconscious mind is working through issues and you are discovering new parts of yourself. How divine. Therapy by Hypnos.

So here's to sleep - to sacking out, to taking a nap, a kip, 40 winks, some shut-eye, a snooze - whatever you choose to call it.

I'm off to bed - to my "other" life. See you soon - maybe even on the subconscious dimensional plane.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

42

So how many of you out there (really, how many of you are out there???) think I am going to talk about the meaning of life with that title? Wrong! Although that could be for another blog (reference is Hitchiker's Guide, fyi).

I am actually talking about the 42nd President of the good ole US of A, Bill Clinton, who was in our fair city today for a talk. And I, and my 3,999 closest friends, got to hear him. Of course they put him at the end of a gruelling day of motivational and inspirational speakers. I must be a hard nut to crack, because I was feeling neither inspired nor motivated by the time he came on. I was feeling refreshed though, as one of our Canadian comedians had just done a rousing stand-up routine about Canada and Canada-US relations, replete with a sprinkling of anti-US sentiments. Nice intro, dude.

Anyway, Bill came on and gave us about 50 minutes of his time. I wonder how much he got paid for that? Probably around $100,000, I'm guessing. Nice work if you can get it. But considering they probably grossed over a cool $1 million on the event, it wasn't such a bad idea.

His theme was not on globalization, but on interdependence. How we're all connected now. And need to be more so. And how 50% of the world does not enjoy the lifestyle that we in the West do, and that we need to do something about it before the War of Interdependence breaks out (my words, not his). Let's make friends, not enemies.

And that we need to do something about global warming - and that the Internet (didn't his VP Gore invent the damn thing?) has changed the world. And that HIV/AIDS is bad. And that we have the power within us to change the world. Sigh. I suppose he is right, but it all sounded so simplistic. I guess you can't get too technical in a 50-minute speech, and he is a good orator, but I've seen him do better.

I just don't think he brought his A-game to Calgary. And after we showered him with millions of our tax dollars yesterday to help him change the world.

But on balance, considering what 41 and 43 have done lately, I'm thinking 42 isn't so bad. The meaning of life? Not quite - but he can talk about bringing meaning to life quite well.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Winter Sports

I'm not mad keen on many Canadian winter sports, like hockey, skiing, skating or snowshoeing, but I do like one of them - curling. I've always said I don't have any Scottish in me (Irish, English and Welsh, yes) but I am beginning to wonder if one of the little DNA beggers didn't sneak in generations back. Because I really like both golf and curling - the only two sports, besides caber tossing and hammer throwing, to make it out of Scotland.

Curling is great fun and pretty good exercise, as long as you're not skipping (not a dance-like jaunt down the ice; rather, the leadership position on a team.) I curled last year for the first time in about 15 years, and found myself thoroughly enjoying it. I even had the right curling garb - a retro curling sweater I had picked up that says "Al Belinski" on the sleeve. I don't know who Al was, but I was assured by the person in the consignment store that he had been a nice man. And that's good enough for me.

This year, I decided I needed to go one better and purchase real curling shoes. What fun. They really do make me feel much more professional. Oh, and I had to buy a "gripper" too. Quite like the lingo of curling, don't you? Which made me think that my very first sporting axiom - it's not how you perform, but how you look when you're doing it - still holds true. I wonder if that also holds true for sex? Perhaps my non-celibate friends can enlighten me ...

So don't call me on Friday nights - I'll be at the rink with the boys throwing some rocks and downing some toy beers (mine's an O'Doul's Amber) - like any red-blooded Canadian girl does in the depths of winter!

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Butterfly Effect

I have the urge to say that I'm still enjoying my new sofa and will be back soon, but am afraid my friends will revolt and never read this blog again! But this is what happens to me, and it is a pattern I am only just acknowledging in myself. When I start something, I am very gung-ho, and do it a lot, and often. At some point, and I don't even know when that is, I tend to lose interest and am on to the next thing. My friend E calls it the "butterfly effect." I flit from one interest and/or activity to another. My other friend D refers to himself as a "dilettante". I don't know what to call it, I just know it happens to me, and frequently.

I also have this problem with food. For a period of time, I eat all I can get of a certain food. This summer, it happened to be strawberries, blueberries and sugar snap peas. All healthy foods, to be sure, but everything in moderation, right? Well, the inevitable happened - I can't look at a strawberry or blueberry now with anything but disdain. I still have an amicable relationship with sugar snap peas, but know I must manage the relationship, or the inevitable will happen, yet again.

So it is with blogging - or perhaps, no? Here I am blogging about this problem, so perhaps it's not the case. Maybe I will have a wonderful "aha" moment (like when I became a feminist) and this pesky problem will right itself. You never know. Might happen.

But then again, might not.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Blogging Hiatus

Ah yes, I have been away from the blogosphere a bit lately. I was, after all, in Winnipeg last week (and it was 30 degrees - go figure!) Not that that means I can't blog from Winnipeg, rather, I was too tired to blog in Winnipeg. Whatever.

The main reason for my hiatus has been the long awaited arrival of my treasured new piece of furniture! Yes, my new SECTIONAL SOFA finally arrived! Hurrah! Huzzah! And other appropriate cheers of joy and elation. So, quite frankly, I have been far too busy sitting on my new sofa to sit at the computer and blog. I have been sitting at all angles and in all places on my sofa. I have been having inaugural and subsequent naps on said sofa. I believe I am in love with this sofa ...

This is a Good Thing, in Martha-speak. I am a Happy Camper, in Bast-speak. More anon. And now, to bed, to dream of all things sofa ...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Delayed Delayed Gratification

Did I say four more sleeps about six sleeps ago???? What a blow - my cherished new piece of furniture is still not with me! And man, was I pissed on Thursday night when it didn't show up.

I phoned delivery services at 5 pm to ensure it was on its way - yes it was. I duly moved my old furniture (and as I am recovering from a recent back injury, I had to do this cautiously) and was ready at just after 5 pm for the buzzer to go. Six o’clock came and went; as did 7 pm, and 8 pm. Finally at 8:45 I received a call from the delivery truck saying they would be here in 15 minutes. By 9:30 (45 minutes later) I called delivery services, and after waiting for about 10 minutes, was transferred to customer service. It seems they could not contact the Calgary delivery station, as they said their phone lines were down. Wait a minute, the phone lines were not working??? This is Calgary, not the Gulf Coast! Methinks there was subterfuge going on, or incompetence.

I was so angry I got on my laptop and ripped off a letter to the CEO and immediately faxed it off, looking for appropriate action and compensation, and saying how disappointed and frustrated I have been throughout this purchase process with his company. Hrrumph. If we don't take our power back as consumers, they will walk all over us...

The next day I hoped for some action - nothing. So I phoned delivery services again. At first they said the delivery bunnies had arrived at my place at 8:35 and left at 8:43. "Blatant lies!!!!" I yelled at the poor woman down the (now-operational) phone lines. I could hear she was thrown off her game, but she recovered quickly with a grovelling apology and an offer to rebook the delivery. The earliest they had available was Tuesday. So here I sit, not on my comfy new piece of furniture from a major North American department store (hint: starts with "S", ends with "S"), but on my raggedy old Ikea one - that had been delivered exactly when they said it would be some 10 years ago...

Sigh. Being an activist-consumer is darn hard work....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pontifications

I attended a reception at a local watering hole for my alma mater this evening. It is a prestigious university across the Pond, and apparently there are some 100 of us in the Calgary area. I went to the first such event about a year or so ago, and had a perfectly wretched evening, full of flashbacks to Old Boys sitting around with their port and cigars, pontificating at will about nothing of any great value to the world. Why did I go back, I hear you ask? Well, I really couldn't be sure it wasn't PMS, or SAD, or some other diseased-acronym, and so I thought I'd better go back tonight to check for sure.

And for sure, it wasn't me. I was faced with islands of two or three alum blissfully chatting away about absolute tosh, completely ignorant a new face had joined the crowd. A more icy welcome I have never received. Well, it wasn't really even a welcome, or even a cursory acknowledgement of my existence (beginning to feel a bit Douglas-Adams-y about the whole thing ...) Luckily I breathed deeply and pushed myself into an ongoing conversation, or I would have spent the whole bloody evening talking to the wall - without anyone noticing my blatant absurdities.

This is hardly surprising or out of character for this lot. I remember hearing once that an enterprising and highly mischievous person went to a party held by one or other of the pontificators when stationed across said Pond, and decided to make up a story about a completely fraudulent 9th century Welsh poet. Fully half of the assembled actually admitted to hearing of said fake Welsh poet. No doubt the fear of being embarrassed by not knowing what they are supposed to know. These are supposedly very intelligent people, and they need to pretend to stay that way.

Pontifications abounded, especially when there was a pipe in the room. Luckily no pipes tonight, due only to the good graces and forethought of Calgary bylaw officials.

I should say that I did finally meet one or two nice people, and we had a decent chat about nothing really substantial. On the whole, I think my time would have been better spent in front of the TV with my virtual friends on Coronation Street. At least you get a good conversation, I say a good conversation, out of them.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Delayed Gratification

So there's only four more sleeps until it arrives. I've been waiting and waiting for a certain piece of furniture I ordered to be delivered and Thursday is the day. And even before I ordered it, I drove my friends crazy just by talking about it all the time. And I began to realize that part of my intense pleasure in buying this piece is actually the wait I will have in considering the purchase and waiting for delivery.

Again, this runs counter to our present-day society. We want it all and we want it now. And even if we can't afford it, we feel entitled to it so we will go into debt to get it. The average Canadian family now has a debt equal to 120% of their total disposable income (http://www.vifamily.ca/newsroom/press_jan_27_05_a.html). And we seem to have given up on saving. Yikes. This is enough to make me worry. Although sustainable with low interest rates, when they go up, so will bankruptcies.

I'm no saint (yet ...) - I do buy plenty on impulse. But on big ticket items, there is something to be said about careful thought, saving and waiting. I am really excited about this, much more so than I should be.

What is it? That's for a future post. Until then - just four more sleeps, four more sleeps, four more sleeps....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A New-found Respect

For the past while now I've been watching birds. Little ones, big ones, colourful ones, woodpecker ones. I won't go so far as to say I've become a "twitcher", but I am noticing them more, especially magpies.

I'd never been a fan of magpies. They always seemed big, boisterous birds that would take on a cat without a thought. My cat was almost the victim of a vicious magpie swooping exercise a few years back, and, well, you just have to side with your cat. But lately I've begun to rethink the human-magpie interface. And I have to say I respect them. They are self-confident, in-your- face birds. They won't back down from anybody or any fight, and they know what they want (usually nice, shiny things). They're very vocal, and take action on a whim, without thinking the whole plan through. They're also quite attractive birds, with vibrant colours that make them stand out in a crowd (or flock). And I have to say they seem to enjoy their food - in more of a gourmand than a gourmet kind of way.

I used to prefer rather petite, pretty little birds, but as I age I can appreciate the magpie for all its many merits. Perhaps you have to be of a certain age, or a certain maturity, to see the beauty in magpies. And perhaps you have to be of that certain age to understand that assertiveness does not equate to aggressiveness. If I don't come back as a cat in the next lifetime, I think coming back as a magpie would suit me just fine.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Grumpiness

Moods are very strange things, and I've been in a dandy one now for a few days. Call it hormones, call it brain chemicals, call it what you will, I seem to be mad at myself and the world right now. Maybe it's emotional fallout from the non-stop coverage of Hurricane Katrina I've been watching. Maybe it's peri-menopause. Maybe my brain is shrinking as I age and I'm just generally more grumpy.

I tend to become a recluse in these kinds of moods - not wanting to foist them upon my friends. Alas, two of my friends got the full frontal of my mood today - granted I did have to wait over an hour for my brunch (while they had already finished theirs). Ah well, it is all part of the grand tapestry of life, no?

I have never understood people who wanted to be happy all the time. Seems to me to experience all of life, you need to be in a grump every once in awhile. But again, this thinking runs counter to the society in which we live. Feeling down? Pop a pill. A little anxious about social situations (otherwise known as shyness when I was young ...) ? There's even a pill for that. There are times I really revel in my own self-pity - I've lived long enough to have earned it, and as long as I don't stay in it ad nauseum, what's the harm? Dammit, I'm going to enjoy it!

So here's to Grumpy - one of the most maligned of the Seven Dwarves and one of my personal heroes. At least this weekend.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Speaking of Leipzig ...

There I was minding my own business, looking for something else and wallop! New unique real estate, right between the eyes! How about .... a castle!!!!! There's many of them for sale in the former East Germany, near Leipzig (the real Leipzig, not the SK imitation). And apparently you can get grants to renovate them too. Those EU dollars (er, euros) at work for you! Take a look for yourself at: http://www.poshjourneys.com/castles_as_an_investment.htm And you can buy part of a castle too - a wonderful thing called fractional ownership. So much fun! If I just had the time, the money and the guts ....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chouses

I went through a bit of a phase awhile ago. Part of my unusual real estate fetish. I kept looking at old churches for sale - I nicknamed them "chouses". I didn't know what "chouse"actually meant, or even that it was a word. But it actually is. It is a verb that means to trick or cheat. Needless to say, my chouse is a noun, and is short for "church-house".

The first one I looked at was a sad little church that even I couldn't save near Medicine Hat. Bad energy. Then I almost bought one, well, two really, in a small town outside of Calgary. But then I didn't. Long story. Then I went down to see one in Claresholm, but it was a former Masonic Hall. Talk about bad energy (with appropriate apologies to all Masons out there - I'm a Rotarian, you see). But I still keep looking, as a type of hobby. There are a surprising number of decommissioned churches for sale, and even convents come up occasionally. There was a convent for sale in Leipzig, Saskatchewan a few months ago, that had been partially converted into a commercial bakery. That had many of my academic friends buzzing about buying it and starting our own private university. The University of Calgary at Leipzig - has a nice ring to it, no?

Now even my friends point out these churches to me. Perhaps hoping that I will actually buy one of them one day and they can come and stay. But I'm not sure chouses are really me after all. I have my eye on a nice little renovated cinema with a two bedroom apartment above it. Now that would be fun - Fred Astaire festivals every year!!! Hey, a girl can dream ...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Happy Birthday Alberta!

So here it is - Alberta's 100th birthday, or centennial, if you will. When I went back and thought about it, I have lived here for almost 20 years, which is almost half of my life. That's 1/5 of Alberta's life. Sheesh. That's a lot of life.

Wonder if I'll still be here for the 125th anniversary? You see, the plan is that eventually, I will buy some place in a warm locale, so that I don't have to put up with the increasingly long and bothersome Calgary winters. I actually think this is a plan shared by many of my fellow Albertans, so not at all innovative. I already have a place here in Alberta. Now I get to try and figure out where to buy elsewhere. I'm thinking Spain, and because I have dual EU citizenship (yay!), I could do it with little hassle. Oh, and I speak the language. Apparently that isn't a barrier to millions of Brits and Germans who are busy buying up their piece of paradise though...

Me being me though, I don't want a normal place. I've been looking at cave houses. Too drab and dull I hear you saying? Never - a little white-wash and you're away! Take a look: http://www.spanish-inland-properties.com/cavehomes.html I should probably go and stay in one for a month or so first. I can get a little claustrophobic - hmmm, possibly time to rethink plan ...

So anyway, where was I? (I'm so easily distracted.) Oh yes - Alberta's centennial. You'd think in a province with NO debt, we might, once every 100 years, get a stat holiday to celebrate. But NOOOOooooooo - apparently it would cost too much money. All I can say is Ebeneezer Klein (aka Scrooge) should be ashamed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fellowship of the (Blog)Ring

You'll notice I've added a couple of links. It seems that I have started a bit of a craze with the whole blogging thing. And I think that's a good thing. Previously, many of the pearls of wisdom that my friends and I exchanged were lost (horribly lost!) when the delete button hit the emails we sent. In a way, this is a much more permanent way to communicate our opinions, rants, likes, dislikes, vagaries, etc. A communal method of journaling, if you will.

I wonder what the future holds for blogging. Are we all self-indulgent (well, er, yes ...), do we have delusions of grandeur (in that we believe somebody out there in the ether gives a damn what we think) or do we simply believe in the democratization of information (ie do we want to become citizen-journalists)? Not sure - haven't figured it out. But I do have a little daydream that one day in the very distant future, an historian will stumble upon a backup CD of my little blog, figure out the long-obsolete technology, and I will become the subject of a history paper. Now that's an absolutely fabulous fantasy for historians.

So long live our neophyte Fellowship of the (Blog)Ring! I'd love to make more Tolkien-esque allusions, but those who know me know that I'm really not a fan...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Present History

Once again, I was glued to CNN today as my back recuperated. Hurricane Katrina was all over the screen, and little dramas played out continuously. No doubt we will have more over the next few days. This happens to me every time a major event happens, and, being my usual, introspective self, I began to wonder why. It happened during 9/11, it happened during Dianna's death, and I have no doubt it will happen again. I think it has something to do with the fact that I am an historian by training, and also a huge sci-fi fan. In other words, I rather like the past and the future - but I'm not too keen on the present. Except when major events like this happen.

Upon reflection (and I do a lot of that) I think it's because this is the time when I can actually "touch' history. It is unfolding right before my eyes, and I want to get as much of it, from as many different perspectives (or sources), as I can. And even then, I know I will only ever get a portion of the true story, or perhaps better, the whole story. So by extension that means that I will only ever glean a portion of what actually happened when I study any other aspect of history. And that it will be subjective, given who is reporting it, or what sources I choose to study.

This became clear to me as I was completing my PhD (little hints about Bast continue to be dropped, no?) . The more I studied and discovered about my topic, the more I believed I didn't know really anything about it. I think this is a rather general discovery of the PhD process, but it still left me feeling my limited intellectual capacity acutely.

Back to the future then, for it is not yet written.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Karma

I've been thinking a lot about karma the last couple of days. I've actually had quite a bit of time to think, as I've thrown out my back and am now on strong drugs (yay!). Whether or not my thinking is therefore clear is debatable. It was so bad that I ended up in Emergency on Friday night. I was "tremulous" as the nurse put it, and felt like hell - about to pass out, hot, cold, etc. I didn't know that pain could do that to you (but it can) and I sure didn't think my pain was that bad (but it was).

Living alone, you get to be pretty autonomous and independent. When something like this happens, you really need friends around you. I was lucky enough to have been around two wonderful people on Friday night - fairly new friends - who made sure I got to emergency, had something to eat and drink, and was well entertained during the waiting game to see the doc. And then my friend, Z (not sure if she wants her full name out!) came over after I had a bad reaction to the initial drugs given to me at emergency (it was a bad weekend.) Another visit from Z and Sarah today made me feel well looked after and generally all warm and fuzzy. Granted, that last part could have been the drugs ...

Earlier on Friday - when I was still ambulatory - I had passed a bottle-picker on campus. I had been somewhat surprised to see him, and as a reflex reaction, walked to avoid him. He sensed this immediately, and said "Excuse me, but I seem to have misplaced my smile - you couldn't give me yours, could you?" To which I smiled broadly at him and replied, "Yes, I can give you mine freely and without charge." We both felt the moment to be a happy one, as opposed to how it started out.

That's good karma, and that's why we have to pay it forward. You just never know when you'll need it yourself one day.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Slower Pace

My friend, Sarah, nudged me today. She noted I hadn’t posted anything in a week, and asked was I tired of blogging already? No, certainly not tired of blogging. But I did read In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore recently, and it has made me rethink the frantic pace at which we live life.

This book is subtitled How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed. This is the worldwide movement I have been looking for all my life. Ever since I spent a year in Spain in my mid-20s, I have tried to resist the North American ethos of work, earn, spend, repeat. The Spanish work to live – they do not live to work. They take time to savour good, slow food, good, slow wine, and I suppose good, slow sex (never got to sample any while I was there). There are pockets of resistance here in North America, but I am based in Calgary, and let me tell you that here, people wear 90-hour work weeks as badges of honour. So I am facing an uphill battle. But they’re always the most fun. I now have enough moxy to refuse to attend breakfast meetings, which are popular in Calgary, due to the fact I am rarely out of bed before 8:30. On this, I am firm. My circadian rhythm differs from yours and please respect that.

I am also seriously thinking of joining the Slow Food Calgary club (http://www.slowfoodcalgary.ca/). I just can’t seem to get around to it.

Did I mention that In Praise of Slow is right beside The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success on my bookshelf? ‘Nuff said for tonight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Saint Ulphia

Those who know me, know I have an interest in female saints (and, of course, Egyptian female goddesses). As I sit here on vacation, I have had time to reflect on them once again. Here is the first in a series of brief vignettes of my favourites.

St. Ulphia was a noble maiden in Amiens in northern France, who desired to consecrate herself to God as a virgin. Although she was beautiful and had many suitors, her mind was made up. At the age of 25, her parents allowed her to take a vow of perpetual chastity and she received the veil from the Bishop of Amiens.

Desiring solitude, she left Amiens for a secluded place. Here she lived in a simple little hut, and helped an aged hermit who also lived there, St. Domitius. He in turn used to pass her hut on the way to the first church service of the new day, matins, and knock on the door to wake her. She would then rise and follow him to church.

One night, Ulphia had a great deal of trouble sleeping. The cause? The area where she lived was quite marshy and was inhabited by many frogs. It was the noise of these frogs that kept her awake. After what seemed like an eternity, she managed to fall asleep. The next morning, Domitius, as usual, knocked on her door. Receiving no answer, and assuming the young woman had left before him, he continued on to church. When he arrived at the church, he discovered his mistake, and after matins, he hurried back to her hut, afraid of what might have happened to Ulphia. But there she stood, in her doorway, and actually chastised Domitius for failing to wake her up that morning. After the old man had explained himself, Ulphia surmised that the fault lay with the frogs and promptly fell to the ground, begging God himself to quiet them. Domitius added his prayer for the same with a hearty “Amen.”

From that day forward, the frogs were quiet, as they are to this day according to the locals.

I think what this reminds us to do is to be kind to ourselves if sleep overtakes us once in awhile. In our fast-paced lives, our bodies sometimes need more sleep than we think. Take a nap today - and blame it on the frogs.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Moderate Amount of Filth

So I'm going away for about a week and I'm running around trying to get everything tied up before I leave the city. That includes cleaning the apartment from top to bottom in advance of my lovely cat-sitter coming to stay. (Yes, Bast has a cat - how odd, no?)

This got me thinking about various levels of cleanliness. I really enjoy living on my own because I can actually put up with a moderate amount of filth. I do finally reach a threshold point where I must, and I do, clean. I think I like to see the dirt first, so when I clean, I know it's gone. I've lived with many, many people in the past, though, and that's where the different levels of clean come in. I lived with one room-mate in Spain who made each of us clean the apartment once a week. There were four of us, which meant on any given day there was a high probability of walking in on a wet floor. Granted, there were many cockroaches that bunked in with us too, so perhaps it was a good idea.

I actually had a spat with one of my room-mates in Ottawa about this very issue. I kept telling her that I could put up with more dirt than she could, and just because her tolerance was lower than mine didn't mean I had to clean in order to have the place up to her level. My Goddess it was difficult.

So that brings me back to the here and now. I must on some unconscious level know that my level of clean is not shared by others, or why else would I be cleaning now? I guess I don't want people to think I'm a little piglet - which I am. So it's all about keeping up appearances, right?

It's all very confusing - and I have to go clean a toilet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Poker Night

I've been curious for some time now about this new craze about poker. And especially women's involvement in it. Seems to me we'd be naturals, considering bluffing is a key element to the game. Not that I'm saying we're good at lying, but we are good at concealing and stretching the truth when necessary.

So I made a big decision in my life. I'm going to start a poker night this fall, just for the girls. Now this may not sound big to you out there in the blogosphere, but I don't think I've had people over to my place in about eight years. I like my space to be my space - no intrusions. Plus, I never felt it was big enough. But hey, for a poker game, what do you need? A table, chairs, a deck of cards, chips (poker and the high-fat, high-calorie potato kind) and voila! Poker Night is born.

I've started asking around my friends already, and they seem keen. (I'm assuming, and hoping, it's not because of some morbid fascination with finally seeing my place.) This is heartening. Looks to me like poker could become the bridge of the 21st century. Ever since the gang in Star Trek TNG started playing it, I've been curious. Got the rules, even read them, but I'm still a bit confused. (Does not bode well for my money-winning abilities.) Hoping my friends' confusion will equal, or outweigh, my own....

Monday, August 08, 2005

Another day, another topic. Today I'm ranting about capitalism. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a communist, but I do lean left. And even as I'm leaning I like to make a buck as much as the next little capitalist (I was even a Junior Achiever!), but I do see a fatal flaw in our beloved system. There is no cap to growth. We are all on a never-ending journey to raise the GNP and the TSX to new and greater heights. With no cap to growth, we never have "enough". Have you ever imagined a group of CEO's getting together and saying,"Well, George, we've made enough this quarter. How about you?" Never gonna happen. Must make more - must cut costs - must increase productivity - must produce bigger, better dividends for shareholders.

That mentality eventually filters down to us - you remember us, the proletariat? (Ooops, inadvertently inserted communist reference...). Well, guess what? We're never satisfied either! We're always aspiring to something that we don't have. They even have a term for it - "aspirational living". How absolutely horrible. That means we'll never have enough. Always on the look out for the next house (or the additional vacation property); the next car (or the additional sportscar); the new couch; the better refrigerator. Where will it end?

Didn't Mick Jagger once say, "I can't get no satisfaction"? Sounds like a great capitalist mantra to me.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Topic of the day - eunuchs. It really is a fascinating world out there, and we simply don't know the half of it. I came across an article the other day by a man who had been castrated because of prostate cancer. It was a fascinating read, especially where he discussed how he now views the world differently - sans testoterone. Seems that he watches faces much more intently, instead of his attention being dragged, er, elsewhere. What really surprised him was that faces of men also attracted him. Read his story for yourself at: http://www.eunuch.org/Alpha/C/ea_195222castrati.htm

This got me thinking about eunuchs in general, and if there was a movement of modern-day eunuchs out there. Seems there is one, and quite a few men voluntarily want to be castrated. There are even a few who advertise for a woman to do it to them. Hmmmm. Now that made me think. That had never before been on my life list, but one should never have a complete life list. I do very much enjoy eating prairie oysters around Stampede time....

Take a look for yourself: http://www.eunuch.org/ May the gender continuum carry on being fluid and diverse!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I've been doing some thinking today about corporations. I guess it was that Air France miracle at Pearson that started it all off. I kept thinking that if Air France really wanted to turn this into a good news, celebratory story, they would give each and every one of those 309 passenger-survivors a free flight a year for as long as they live. Now that's thinking about corporate reputation strategically. If it had been a WestJet flight, they would have been all over it. Westjet has been very canny over the years, always stepping up to the plate to give away strategic free flights that enhance their corporate reputation.

But what happens to corporations who merge and one, or both, reputations disappear? Perhaps we need a little corporation cemetery, with all these little headstones listing their first and last ticker prices. The body corporate and all that. Here in Calgary we still have buildings named for long-dead, or merged, corporations. Eerie, really, walking into the Dome Building.

So this is blogging. Cool. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Brave New World

I am a Luddite. I took the quiz in Maclean's, and it's official. My cell phone is from a different geological era, I do not own a DVD player, and I'm pretty sure an iPod is a new hybrid of peas. So why am I blogging? Look to the name - Bast - Egyptian goddess of play, amongst other things. It sounds like fun, and I'm all over that. We could all do with a little more fun in our lives. So this is my foray into the brave new world of blogging. I really have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing, but from what I hear, that's OK.

As for what I'll be posting - whatever takes my fancy, ticks me off, or makes me giggle. So keep watching. You just never know what might make it to the blog.