Sunday, 25 December 2011

Keeping Christmas by Henry Van Dyke

I posted this on my old blog last year (or maybe the year before), and I'll probably post it again next year (or maybe the year after). I'm not a religious person, and this comes from a Christmas sermon, but it's one of my favourite things to read and re-read. It gets a little churchy at the end there, but you know what? I think Jesus was a cool guy and I don't mind one bit celebrating him, whether he was ever a real person or not. I'm down with cults of kindness.

There lies in this sermon, as at the heart of that little known philosophy called Christianity, some great advice for making the world a better place. And that's worth hearing without considering the source. Or do consider the source if you like the source. It's your call.

Merry Christmas, every day!

“Keeping Christmas”
by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness–are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open–are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world–stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death–and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011


What made me laugh this year, hm?

I had kind of shitty year, so there were days when I was in search of things to make me laugh. Here are a few that made me happy and chuckly:

Amy's Blog
And just Amy herself, actually. I "met" Amy on Twitter, and soon after she started her blog, and it is pure awesome. She's extra funny. And we share two boyfriends: Dr. Spencer Reid and Jason Bateman. Yes, that's how cool she is. She shares her imaginary Hollywood boyfriends with me. Only your better Internet friends will do that.

Bo Burnham's YouTube
I know I keep mentioning him. I guess I hope he has a Google alert on his own name, and if he sees my site enough, he'll check it and yadda, yadda, yadda, we'll get married. He'd obviously have to be okay with my aforementioned boyfriends. And, for the record, I would totally share him with Amy, too.

Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe
My standby "cheer me up when I'm sad" read used to be Deep Thoughts and Steven Wright quotes. I was introduced to Mark Leyner by the awesome Dr. Stanley Fogel, who taught me more about literary criticism in the few classes I took with him than I learned in the rest of university altogether. You can buy his books here, if you're into that hokey lit crit stuff. Or Cuba. One of them's about Cuba.

Anyhow, the first time I read Et Tu, Babe, I was sitting in the cafe in the Dana Porter library at UW, and I had to leave. I was laughing so hard that I was bothering people. So I went outside, where I laughed until I cried so much that a random passerby asked me if I was okay. This endorsement is ringing.

My Kids
I don't have a link for them, but you sure should wish you knew them. They're awesome to the extreme. And SO FUNNY. And not just in a "Oh, that's so cute, did you hear how stupid what she said was?" kind of way. They have amazing senses of humour and prodigious comedic timing. Bria's mind goes at a mile a minute all the time, and she floors me with how fast she can think of a witty retort or zingy one-liner. Marissa has sarcasm nailed better than any five year old I've ever heard of, and even I envy her deadpan.

And, yes, sometimes they just say or do things that are funny because kids do weird shit.


Okay, that's it. I mean, sure, other things probably made me laugh. Life just kinda makes me laugh, which is something I'm very grateful for. I hope I never take life so seriously that I don't see how beautifully absurd it is anymore. But when I do have those days when I'm just too pissed off or disappointed to smile, these are the things that turned my frown upside down.

Maybe they can do the same for you. Except not my kids. Get your own. Unless you're really young or incredibly irresponsible or sociopathic or otherwise not fit to be a parent. Then just maybe stick with the blog and the youtube and the book.

Monday, 5 December 2011

I like pleasure spiked with pain. Pain of guilt, that is.

This is Day Five of Reverb11, but I don't blog on weekends, so I missed two, and I'm not going to go back because I didn't have good answers for them anyway.

Today's prompt was to list 5 guilty pleasures. That's difficult for me because I don't really feel guilty about too many pleasures. I mean, as I understand it, these are things that you wouldn't want people to know you enjoy, right?

These are the best I could do. Five things I enjoy that I don't normally want people to know about:

1. Ice Cream from the Carton
I pretty much eat ice cream exclusively from the carton. I don't like it in a bowl. Sometimes I even put toppings on it right in the carton. I just think that's how it's meant to be done.

2. My Sleeping Bag
I've got this sleeping bag that I bought in Australia in 1999 for a camping trip. It's the most amazing bed companion I've ever known. I sleep in it almost every night. I will be intensely sad when it withers into bare threads. And I will use it until then. Sometimes in the middle of the day, I tell my kids I'm just going to the bathroom, and I go get into my sleeping bag for a few minutes. It's like my happy place and a safe warm hug all rolled into one. And I'm the filling.

3. Baaaaaad Movies
I love really, really bad made-for-TV movies. Not B-movies (although I like those, too) but really, truly terrible, boring movies with insipid, awkward dialogue and mediocre acting. I love them. Especially on a Sunday afternoon in the winter. I love seeing mics in the frame, and not caring at all about atrocious inconsistencies, and feeling like if I fall asleep, I'm not going to miss anything.

4. Twitter
Most of the people who will read this are probably Twitterers anyway, so maybe you get it. I feel some shame over my Twitter usage. Mine's excessive and could probably use some curbing, so maybe you don't get it because you're a normal person who just tweets a normal amount.

5. Drinking Alone
I don't get drunk when I'm alone, but I enjoy having a beer all by myself at home. I don't know why, really. Something about it just feels very relaxing. I feel kind of like I'm not supposed to drink alone, though. That's a rule, isn't it?

So what I'm saying, basically, is that my perfect day is a Sunday in my sleeping bag, watching bad movies, sipping a cold beer, eating ice cream from the carton, and tweeting about it. And actually, that does sound pretty damn awesome.

I feel like this post was extraordinarily boring, probably because I just answered the question and talked about myself, and I'm pretty boring. Next time I'll just ramble incoherently again.

Friday, 2 December 2011

I meet a lot of people, but so far no fairy tale endings.

I know! I just blogged and you're all like, "Ahh, I can't take anymore of this fabulous in(s)anity!" But look, DEAL WITH IT, okay, because I'm behind and I need to catch up or else risk humiliation in front of some of the greatest blogging minds in the 'verse.

So, Reverb11 daily prompt #2, here we go!
There are several lists floating around of prompts, so I got all of these:
1. Who did you meet?
2. Who are you? Describe yourself.
3. Recall a fairy tale-esque moment from 2011. 

So, here's the thing. I am a person who does not believe in fairy tales, except the Grimm kind. That actually describes me pretty well and broadly if you apply it to all areas of life. I don't believe in love at first sight, I don't believe that your suffering will be rewarded with happiness, and I don't believe that chipmunks will make my bed while birds do my hair every morning. Even though my hair usually looks like I let chipmunks do it.

So that takes care of two questions. I'm so fricking good at this!!

This is the most I believe in fairy tales: coincidences can sometimes lead to awesome things happening, and that relates to the people I've met. I met SO MANY people this year. For me, anyway, it was a lot. Most of the people I met are folks whose existence I originally came to be aware of through the miracle of the interwebs, and more specifically, Twitter.

Because I don't get out much. Actually, that's not true, I do get out kind of a lot. But I go out with my friends, and to be honest, we're a bit cliquey, and when we meet other people, I look at them and think, "You are nowhere near as awesome as my current friends, and therefore, I shall not speak to you, as I already have them here to talk to." My inner monologue is curt, but proper.

So I do get out much, but I also stay in much. And it's nice to have company and/or a place to toss random thoughts against the binary wall and see which ones stick. And then sometimes there are people to whom many thoughts stick, and theirs also stick to me, and they become almost like friends. And sometimes even I, though I do not exactly play it fast and loose with the word friend, would call some of those people actual friends.

And I dare not list any or I'll undoubtedly forget someone, but needless to say, there are people whose presence in my life has enriched it greatly, and I would miss them if they were gone. This is where I want to say "You know who you are" because when people say that, even on the Oscars, I pretend they mean me. So, go ahead if you like, and pretend I mean you. Maybe I do. If you're someone who's reading this, I probably really do mean you anyway.

I am the master of answering these extremely personal questions without actually revealing anything of a personal nature, aren't I? Years of practice, yo. These things don't come naturally.


Pretend I posted this yesterday. I was going to, and then I fell asleep. It happens.

I'm blogging for Reverb11. Reverb is a thing where you get a blogging prompt every day of the month through December, and you're supposed to (I think) reflect on the year gone by in response to said prompt. I didn't do it last year, or any other year, but I've been a blog-slacker for months, so I figured what the hey, let's do it.

The first prompt was to sum up your 2011 in one word. So here's mine:


Certain aspects of my life are now dead and gone, and I'm stuck in the Waiting Place, which if you're up on your Seuss, you know is a terrible place. But that's where I am. I'm very in-between things right now. If someone said to me, "So tell me about yourself," I'd have to say, "Oh, I'm actually in-between selfs right now. Yeah, lost the old self--recession and all--but really looking forward to moving on to a new self. Lots of irons in the fire for a new self."

Which would be an utter lie. There are no irons. I don't think there are even any fires. But there will be, I'm sure. In 2012. Because purgatory has to END eventually. You can't just be stuck at the starting line forever. Eventually the pistol fires, and you're off, and you know what? That actually sounds like a lot of work. Scratch that metaphor. Eventually, the hot tub lid gets taken off and you get to sit in it sipping margaritas and listening to Enya. Ahhhh... that's better. Relaxing!

I figured since Purgatory was going to be my word for the entire year, I should learn some things about it. So I quote that great oracle of all things knowable, Wikipedia:

Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven.
I like this word even better now, for the following reasons:

  1. It is a process of purification, which means that I should come out the other side of 2011 a better person, and by golly, I think I already have. I've grown and matured emotionally, as one is wont to do when one's limits are tested. And one's were. I've learned to control my temper, I've developed greater self-discipline, and I've learned to let go of things both emotional and physical. And I even gave up sex. Sex! That's pretty pure!

  2. It is also temporary punishment, which as far as I'm concerned means the universe and I are all squared up for everything I've ever done wrong. Right? That's how it works. Trust me. And though I say that in jest, I probably did spend the last year having my mistakes catch up and wreak consequence on my life, so it fits like a sock. What? Those tend to fit much snugger than gloves.

  3. I have to have died in a state of grace.

    Unrelated: do you know what happens when you study a lot of lit from around the 16th century? You just automatically associate the verb 'to die' with sex. Because they did. Like when Benedick says, "I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes" which is very romantic, and I quite like it, he doesn't mean he's going to cease to live while on her legs. He means... you get it. Anyhow, dying in a state of grace is lovely either way.

    For our purposes, let's say that I lived up until 2011 in a state of grace. We won't talk any more about the dying.


    I thought you could go from purgatory to hell. I didn't know you for sure got to go to Heaven. So if this is purgatory, then... Next stop, ENLIGHTENED BLISS! Which would be lovely. I've done ignorant bliss, and I've done enlightened. I would like to take the best of both worlds and have enlightened bliss.  I do so look forward to 2012.
So there you have it. My 2011 was Purgorative. It was Purgatorific. It was Purgatorrisome. No, I don't think there's a subjective complement there. It was purgatory.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Little girl, would you like some candy?

I haven't blogged in a while, so please allow me to return with a harrowing story of fear and betrayal.  My friend Jane* and I recently had a brush with grizly, painful, serial-type death. But let me begin where all great horror stories doat a fairly run of the mill mall in an average city in North America.

Jane and I were walking through the mall when a pleasant-looking woman in her forties approached us, and with an accent that placed her origins distinctly in some country that ends in 'akia,' asked us if we'd like to take a survey, and promised to give us five dollars if we did. I glanced quickly at Jane, whose eyes revealed no strong opposition, and then, seeing the word Chocolate on the top of the paper she was holding, agreed to be surveyed.

"First we have to make sure you're eligible," she said with her Akian accent, and she proceeded to ask a series of personal questions that I found rather intrusive, but I kept my eyes on the word chocolate, so it all felt pretty worth it to be a cog in the great candy machine.

We qualified to take the survey, and were ready to begin.

"Now you'll have to go with my colleague," the woman said to Jane, "and you'll come with me," she added, to me. "We're just going to go over here."

I began to follow her, assuming that we were just going to go a few steps away so that Jane and I couldn't cheat by consulting on answers through a series of glances and hand gestures.

We walked a few steps away.
We kept walking.
We walked a little further.

"Follow me," the Akian woman repeated repeatedly, as I began to slow down and glance back at Jane, a little concerned whether I'd see her again soon.

But I didn't want to be rude. So we walked a little further. Soon we approached a door that led out of the mall's main drag and, as I could see through it's window, into a long, sterile hallway which appeared to be an area prepped for internal probing.

"Uh, where are we going?" I asked.

"Our office is back here," the Akian woman told me. "Come on."

And again, I didn't want to be rude, so I followed her through the doors, down the hallway, through another set of doors, down an aisle, and into a cubicle that seemed innocuous enough aside from the fact that the path to it had been designed by Daedalus.

Despite its innocuousness and the more or less pleasant manner of the woman, I couldn't help but wonder, "What the hell kind of survey is this? A survey is when you answer questions. What in the name of Q is going on here?"

The Akian woman left the cubicle, then returned with a jug of what appeared to be water, poured me a glass, and set it in front of me. I had what I assume is the normal response to being handed a beverage from a complete stranger who has just led you through a labyrinth on what were beginning to look more and more like false pretenses: "Well, I'm not fucking drinking that."

She left the room. I heard her whisper something. She came back. She pulled out a manila envelope. She left again. She said to someone, "There's only one in here... Oh, that's okay? We'll just use one for this one?"

ONE WHAT?? I thought, and I debated whether I should pull my phone out and call for help now, or if I'd be risking getting caught and having it taken away, and I should wait until I'm moved to the second location and possibly left alone for a while and then call 911. But they say never let them take you to the second location, don't they? Oh, shit, this IS the second location. What now? What is a girl about to be sold into white slavery in Akia to do??

I was very disappointed in myself for not having planned for this. Years of horror movies and crime dramas should have left me better equipped to deal with the situation. Or for that matter, the Stranger Danger program should have. When someone approaches you in a mall and offers you candy and money, RUN AWAY AND TELL A GROWN UP.  Why didn't I tell a grown up?

The Akian woman returned, carrying the manila envelope containing only ONE THING. Maybe that was good. Maybe it was only one razor blade that I'd be forced to swallow. But maybe it was only one injection of morphine and I'd spend the rest of this ordeal semi-conscious and painfully aware.

"Your friend will be here soon," she promised, with a tone that I thought I recognized as the smug satisfaction of a serial killer. And I wept a little on the inside, because they got Jane, too.

She put a container of soda crackers beside the still-untouched 'water' glass.

"The like you to have a clear pallette," she said.

THEY WHO? my eyes pleaded. CLEAR FOR WHAT????

"This is your first survey, isn't it?" the Akian woman asked.

"Yes," I replied in my terrified, weak voice.

She looked me in the eye, and reaching into that manila envelope, declared, in her thick accent and with an ominous tone, "Make a wish."

I peed myself a little.

This is the end, I said to myself, and I thought of all the things I'd never had the chance to do in my lifetime. And how glad I was that I'd spent that money on that concert that I shouldn't have spent, because you can't take money with you, neither to the afterlife nor to the Far East to be someone's unwilling caged concubine.

I stared at her.
She stared at me.
My hands trembled.
Hers pulled something wrapped in paper towel out of the manila envelope.
My heart pounded.
My palms sweated.
My eyes darted.

I wished.
Just like she told me to. I wished to live. I wished it so hard that I peed myself again.

"My mother always said that when it's your first time doing something, you're entitled to make a wish," she said with a warm smile, and she unwrapped the paper towel and there were two chocolate candies, and then she pulled out a whole bag of chocolate candies.

And then she explained that we were doing taste-testing for these new chocolates about to go on the market from a certain company I can't name because eventually I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the top secret new chocolate.

And this story's pretty anti-climactic, huh? Well, hey, they can't all be winners. If it helps, the top secret new chocolate was pretty damn amazing, and it should be available soon for what I personally 'Strongly Agreed' was a fair price.

Also, I lived. And I did get $5.

No pants were actually soiled in the making of this blog post. Any event of pant soiling is purely exaggerative and does not represent any other pant soiling, real or fictional.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Because love is just like apple jelly.

This morning, I took my niece out to breakfast, and we went to one of those places that has a rack of jam on the table. I always thought those were so fancy when I was a kid. I couldn't believe they had all those jams available, just sitting there. You could use four different jams if you wanted to. It was all very decadent to my sheltered little mind.

My niece was searching through the packets of Kraft goodness and came upon apple jelly. She turned up her nose, and I asked her, "Have you ever tried apple jelly?" And she hadn't. Neither had I. So I asked her if she wanted to, and she said no. So then I channelled my inner going-into-the-fourth-quarter-of-a-losing-game football coach and delivered a speech:

You should try apple jelly. Because there is apple jelly. And if you don't, someday years from now, when you're very old, you might think to yourself, 'Why didn't I try the apple jelly?' Because life is all about experiencing this whole beautiful world and everything it has to offer, and you never know what will bring you happiness. So don't leave yourself thinking, eighty years from now, 'I had this one short life to spend on Earth,  and there was apple jelly, and I never tasted it.'

We tried the apple jelly. And it was gross. But that's okay. Because now when we're eighty, we can both look back and say, "Hey, maybe this life went by in a blink, and maybe I didn't get to everything, but by God, I tried the apple jelly."

But what's this got to do with love?
So when a friend asked if I would accompany her to a speed dating event, it was like the apple jelly. Also, it was like something from TV. And I will do anything that's like on TV. And since I grew up in a very small town--and because the only place I ever got away to was that area we affectionately refer to as the "Near North" of Ontario and it was for university, so if it was like anything on TV, it would have to be The Real World Northern Exposure--almost everything is like on TV to me.

As previously stated, I've pretty much given up on the idea of dating, but how could I waste this opportunity to feel like I was in that episode of Reba where she goes speed dating with her friend? I couldn't.

You try the jam; you are the jam
Once you arrive, although the experience itself was apple jelly, you're confronted with more jams to try. Except this time, the idea is that you just pull the corner of the package up a wee bit, stick the tip of your tongue in there, and if you don't like it, you seal that puppy back up and leave it for the next person. It's neat and clean, nobody's the wiser, and nobody gets hurt.

But the thing that makes the world fold in on itself is that the jam tastes you back. You have to choose the jam, and it has to choose you. It's all very zen, in a way, except how it's not.

(I did not, to be clear, literally stick the tip of my tongue in any of my speed dates, nor did any of them stick the tip of their tongues in me.)

This ain't no commercial brand jam
Many things about the speed dating experience were not at all as seen on TV.

In the picture shows, there is always a little bell that gets rung when they deem you've had enough time to figure out whether that particular jam is a jam you'd like to stick your tongue farther into. There was no bell. The jam lady had a recorder that she blew somewhat tonelessly when it was time to move on to the next packet of preserves. I wanted the bell. I nearly asked for a refund--fine jam be damned.

Nobody hit it off immediately and just ripped their jam open and dove right in, then said to it "Hey, let's get outta here. You're the jam for me." I didn't expect me to form an instant bond with any jam, but I was disappointed that nobody did. I really wanted to see someone go to town on their jam. 

NONE of the jams were House, Wilson, or Chase. And I'm pretty sure I'd have hit it off like tee-ball with any one of them, and they'd have loved my jam back. And let me tell you, they could spread me wherever they wish.

(Is it just me, or is this jam metaphor getting increasingly dirty? Someone needs to wipe my fingers, I think, 'cause I'm smutting up this keyboard.)

But then again, it was a little like Smuckers
Some things were pretty much as advertised.

One guy sat down across from me and we immediately pointed at each other and said, "HEY, I KNOW YOU!!" That would TOTALLY happen on TV. But then we spent most of the rest of the four minutes trying to remember where we knew each other from. It was drama class in college. We were in a group together. He walked out of our final performance and we all failed the assignment. So poo on him. And then don't eat that jam, Johnny--that's poop.*

I kind of felt like everyone else was jam and I showed up as that lone package of honey in the rack. Still kinda sweet and deliciously sticky, but more the sort of thing that goes with mustard or garlic than any kind of jam. I spent the "mingling break" downing a Kilkenny (which is kind of a honey colour) with awkward haste, and pretending to care about the baseball game on the big screen, while the friend I came with chatted up boys. On TV, one of the people always feels that way. I pretty much knew it was going to be me.

People asked silly questions, like they do on TV. Look, when you're tasting jam, you don't get all "What percentage of my recommended daily intake of Vitamin B5 do you contain?" do you? No, because that's a very senseless way to get to know your jam, just like "What do you like to do for fun?" is a mundane question to ask a person. That is perhaps a peeve unique to me, though, so you keep asking people that if that's your thing.

Damn, Jam, don't try so hard. Some people are just peanut butter eaters.
It was phoney, just like TV. So points for that, I suppose.

I couldn't have counted the number of times I heard forced bonding over having gone to the same LOCAL university. "Oh, you went to Waterloo? I went to Waterloo!! Like, Oh. My. God. Becky!" We all went there, okay? Get over it. There aren't that many jam factories in town.

I overheard a couple girls talking outside afterward, and they were actually discussing the speed dating strategies they'd employed. Strategies? We were supposed to have strategies? My strategy was that I wore clean clothes. Although, I'm thinking after all that jam-licking, they should be dirty. 

(Somewhere along the way, I forgot which parts of this jam thing were real and which were metaphor.)

Just get to the jam verdict
To sum up, it was pretty much a bust. But as we accept the suckishness of the apple jelly in the spirit of adventurousness, so too do we accept the feelings of cold rejection at speed dating. I wouldn't undo it--like I wouldn't undo tasting the apple jelly--but I probably wouldn't do it again. 

(Thanks to writing this blog post, I think jam either arouses me or disgusts me. I'm not sure which.)

*that was a very special reference put in solely for the benefit of my sister Tracey who recently subscribed to this blog, and if ANYONE ELSE gets it, please let me know that you read it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

I don't want to be a paperback writer

I like to write. I would like to do so professionally. However, when people inquire about my career goal, I never say "I want to be a writer" because that is easily misconstrued. I say "I want to be someone who writes something" which is as vague as my ambition and, more importantly, steers minds clear of unintended connotations.

You see, I don't want to write novels or poems or whatever thing it is that fits this stereotypical typewriter-key-clacking, tweed-jacket-wearing vision of a writer that people have. I have written fiction--short stories here and there, a poem or two in my angsty teenage years. But it's not something I really enjoy doing or would ever want to depend upon financially, primarily because I have no good ideas. I think if someone gave me their idea, I could write the proverbial poop out of it. But that, my friends, is not generally how people want to do things, and if you ever asked ME to come up with a lengthy piece of fiction--with characters and plot points and a climax and a denouement--you'd be sadly disappointed by the result.

(Also, don't give me your ideas because I think I just admitted I'd steal them.)

Aside from fiction, I would--as my vague ambition suggests--write pretty much anything. Manuals, website copy, book blurbs, entertaining fake news, anything. I get the sense that a lot of people who want to write want to be expressing themselves. I don't care about that. I express myself all the time. Too much, probably. I just want to play with words. And work with words. And take extended vacations on private islands with words. I love them that much.

I get the kind of satisfaction out of finding just the right phrase that I imagine a hurdler gets out of clearing a jump. I enjoy the writing process (although the quality of this blog suggests that I more likely just spit these posts out like text-based diarrhoea and then flush them away into the Internets, I actually do have a writing process) and I never get bored with it. I never procrastinate about it. There is no part of sitting down with a paper and pen and turning an idea into words that I don't love more than I could ever love even the perkiest perk of any other job.

I just wanted to say that. Put it out there. Not in a The Secret kind of way. That is bunk-aloney (which is doubly fictitious and fallacious). I am not asking the universe for anything. I'm just saying that's what I want to do. I want to be someone who writes something.

I've gotta work on conclusions, though.

Monday, 12 September 2011

No, sorry, I can't go on a date on Friday night. I'm busy trying to CHANGE THE WORLD

This is going to be a short blog post.

I spent a lot of the last couple months furiously dating. I also spent a lot of it being disappointed that nobody seemed to want to date me so much, even though I really only met a couple people in whom I was genuinely interested. I spent a lot of the last few weeks in particular thinking about how I maybe just don't have anything to offer a partner in life. And I probably don't. Honestly.

But the other day I realized that I think I have something to offer, like, the world. Or at least my corner of it. And maybe it's a self-defense mechanism talking, but I think that's more important. That's probably why I will never have much to offer in the way of domestic living. I just feel like I can fry fish that are SO MUCH bigger than that.

I don't think I can be somebody's perfect wife and still try to change the world.
And I'd rather change the whole frigging world than learn how to make a pot roast.
I'm kind of the sort of person who could do it, too.
The world, not the pot roast.

 I could do something worthwhile if I stopped worrying about finding someone to watch a movie with on Friday nights and remembered that I don't even watch movies on Friday nights. Know what I do on Friday nights? I read world news, and look up facts and figures, and review legislative transcripts.

Okay, sometimes I go out and get irresponsibly drunk and do crazy things.
But most times--nope, it's pretty much the stats and transcripts.

And I don't want to give that up. Sure, sometimes I like to watch a movie. But I don't want just that. Don't misunderstand: family is really important and I would never put anything--not even the fate of world--before my kids.  But I don't ever want to feel that all I need is my own comfortable life when I know I could be making so much more than that happen. And marriage seems to breed that attitude while it's breeding little humans.

I don't know--maybe someday when I've figured out exactly how I'm going to change the world, some guy will come along who'd be okay with me having more to offer it than to offer directly to him. If he does--cool. I bet I like that guy. If he doesn't--whatever. I think I'm still okay.

That's all. I guess this wasn't that short. It was short for me. And short on pointfulness. But that's pretty much standard for this here blogarooni.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

It's a Great Time to be a Geek

Geeks are the new black. They're cool now, and they're everywhere. They're your neighbours, your dentists, your grocery store clerks, and your friends. And they're terrific. They're enviable, even, in their coolness.

Good for them.

You know what will never be cool?

That sucks. Because I'm not a geek. I'm a nerd.

Geeks know things about stuff--geeky stuff, but stuff nonetheless. They tend to know a lot about video games and zombies and cult-hit movies and internet lingo. And then geeks also know a lot about mainstream popular culture, which is almost unfair, because why do they get both? And when they get together, they all get along and have geekgasms about various mobile devices and new releases of operating systems.

I'm not a geek.
I do not know anything about zombies. I have not seen Shaun of the Dead.

I have also not seen most other movies that are enjoyed by cults of geeks. Actually, I've seen remarkably few movies--full stop.

I have never purchased a gaming console of any kind. There's an Xbox in my house. It belongs to my sister. I played Charlie and the Chocolate Factory once. It was really hard.

I don't know what any of the weird smileys ( like <.< ) mean, and I always have to get people to explain internet shorthand to me, or I have to look it up on urban dictionary.

I do have a BlackBerry. I like it just a normal amount. I would not defend it to the death. I would not even  camp out overnight to get one if a new colour option were introduced. I have no other devices that are even remotely mobile. Unless my car counts.

I'm a nerd.
I don't know anything about anything that could be considered useful.

I do know darn near everything about a few topics that are dull and could not by even the stretchiest of imaginations be put to practical use.

When people talk about anything pop culture, I get to practice my "try not to have a blank stare" face. I'm getting so good at it.

I only love Buffy because of the wordplay and the genius of the writing in a very literary sense. I don't give a damn about vampires or demons outside of the Buffyverse, and I don't intend ever to do so.

I am, in pretty much every single possible way--including but not limited to the way I dress, the way I talk, and the way I dance--undeniably uncool. (And I'm not a geek, so when I say UNsomething, I actually mean not that thing, and do not mean that it really is that thing, but in a supposedly unconventional way. I'm not cool in an unconventional way. I'm just not cool.)

I want to start a Nerd Revolution.
Make us cool, too, you know? Like the geeks.

But none of us know how to interact with others. Even among our own kind. I, for one, am usually too busy reading literary critical theory and legislative transcripts to organize a whole revolution.

In a way, we are the ultimate hipsters (hey, look at me! I know that word!) because we really TRULY don't know what the hell you're talking about and we are only interested in things that you've probably never heard of and would never care about.

The Nerd Revolution is probably not going to happen. I'm never going to be cool.
In light of the fact that real nerds will never be where it's at, I think I should shoot for "pretty girl with glasses" nerd, like in the movies--yes, I've seen enough movies to know that the nerd is just a smoking hot chick with bad hair and glasses.  

I'm smoking hot.
I've got bad hair.
I can buy some horn-rimmed glasses.
(Okay, one of those things wasn't true.)


It's been 23 years and I need to get this off my chest.

Hey, remember this? This, I mean:
I wrote a letter to my love,
And on the way I dropped it.
A little doggy picked it up
And put it in his pocket.
He won't bite me
And he won't bit you
But he'll bite the one who's got it
So drop it, so drop it
It must be dropped by now.

I distinctly remember playing this game on the black top at my primary school when I was in grade one, and not being able to concentrate on the game because all I could think was "WAIT A MINUTE!! NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!!!"

Let's line by line, then, shall we?

I wrote a letter to my love,
And on the way I dropped it.

Well, that's fine. It makes sense. It's disappointing that this letter was apparently very important to you and your love, and you couldn't keep track of it. But maybe it was a long trip, or a very small and easy-to-miss letter. I'm sure you have a perfectly good explanation.

A little doggy picked it up
Was it beef scented? Why would a doggy pick up a letter? Unless it was a postal doggy maybe, or like the Neo Citron dog, and just trying to be helpful.

And put it in his pocket.
Dogs don't have pockets! What the hell?
Why is this messed up dog going around picking up people's personal shit and putting it in what I can only assume are imaginary pockets? He's obviously not being helpful as we'd previously assumed because if a dog's got pockets, he's clearly pretty serious about keeping stuff hidden. I doubt he's planning to deliver that to it's rightful owner, or he'd just carry it in his mouth like a normal dog.

He won't bite me
And he won't bit you
Really? Cause he sounds like kind of an asshole.

But he'll bite the one who's got it
But, but, THE DOG HAS IT!
We've established that this dog is stealing people's personal effects and either depositing it into imaginary pockets or has gone to the trouble of procuring real pockets for some underhanded purpose. And now he's either forgotten he has this letter (best case scenario: rabies) or he's hiding it in his fucking pocket and pretending he doesn't have it so he can accuse people of having it and bite them.

So drop it, so drop it
It must be dropped by now.
Excuse me, but I don't respond favourably to ultimatums from jackhole dogs.
I'll drop it when I want to drop it.
Oh, wait... no, I won't. I don't have it.
That shithead dog has it.

Thank you for reading. I feel so much better now that I've said that.
You may now return to your usual business.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

It Turned Cold and That's Where It Ends

Summer--the societal construct, not the season--is over.

Today was back to school time, and I was so excited for it. I'm not good at routines, so I need to have them forced upon me. My life has become a mess of spontaneity and irresponsibility over the past two months. It was fun, but I'm all funned out. I need to get back to BUSINESS.

Maybe it's because I feel like I've ALWAYS been in school--well, I don't just feel like that. There were only two years that I wasn't in school out of the last 24--but the year always starts in September for me. Summer is for fun and craziness and beach trips and lounging about and staying up too late. And then at the end of it, I turn another year older and get myself back on track in the Fall.

So now I'm getting my goal on. (What does that even mean? Why do I talk like that?) I'm going to tell you my goals. Why? Because it's my blog and I can do what I want, no matter how self-centred it is.

Goal 1: Think More
Don't tell this blog, but one of my goals is to keep my other blog more up to date. I started it a really long time ago as a place to write through the process of learning about things like politics and world issues and current events. I posted to it six times. Then summer hit. See above for what I spent the summer doing instead of thinking. The goal, in measurable terms, is to post at least twice a week to that other blog.

Goal 2: Do Winter Things 
Normally the only winter thing I do is hibernate. Almost literally. I've spent entire weekends wrapped in my sleeping bag. You think I'm exaggerating, but you can unzip just the bottom, so you don't even have to take it off to pee. Not exaggerating.

Last year I started learning to skate and I even got to the learning to stop part, which I think you'll agree is the hardest part. This year, I want to skate more and get really good at it.  I also want to go toboganning because I don't think I've done that in close to twenty years, and that is just way too long to have not literally hurled oneself down a slippery slope.

Goal 3: Get a Job I Like
I've never had a job I really liked. Truthfully, my favourite job was working at Tim Hortons because I really like customer service. My current job is okay, but irregular and lonely. I want to get a job doing something that is at least mildly challenging and in which I get to work with people. I think I can find one of those.

Goal 4: Establish Routines
As already stated, I don't have routines. None. Sometimes I have coffee in the morning; sometimes I don't. Sometimes I watch a particular television show; sometimes I skip it. Sometimes I go to bed at 9PM; sometimes I stay up until 4AM. Sometimes I brush my teeth before I shower; sometimes I brush my teeth after I shower. The only thing that could be defined as "my way of doing things" is doing things in a state of utter chaos. At times, I genuinely like that about myself, but I want to be grown up now. I at least want to have the option.

That's all. Four goals is more than enough for me for one winter.
Happy Fall, Folks!

Monday, 5 September 2011

This is (the Soundtrack to) the Story of a Girl

I was just sitting here thinking about a certain someone who used to be a significant person in my life and is now something other than significant, and I was more specifically thinking about songs that reminded me of said certain someone. And measure by measure, I was getting sadder and sadder.

And then I said to myself, "F*ck this. Why am I sitting here thinking about songs that remind me of him? I'm gonna think about songs that remind me of ME."

So I did. Here they are.

My Twitter friend Mark will appreciate this first one because he thinks that I "talk like an engine with a never ending gas supply." So, rest assured that talkativity is not something I've recently developed. When I was a toddler and a wee lass, my family used to sing this song to me:

That was probably kind of mean of them, but as I understand it, I really never did shut up.

Paradise City was my favourite song when I was five. It was my first ever favourite song, as far as I can remember. There wasn't a lot of Sharon, Lois, and Bram in my house. I totally remember rocking out to Guns N' Roses all the time when I was young enough that head banging didn't hurt.

After that, my favourite song was We Built This City. I needed to make sure y'all know that I was marginally cool for a while before Tiffany became the absolute coolest thing I had ever heard of or thought could possibly be imagined into being. I wanted to be her. I remember getting a Tiffany tape in my stocking one year and squealing like a very happy stuck piglet.

For years, I would hear the original version of songs (yes, sometimes even by the Beatles) and be like, "Hey, why is this dude singing Tiffany's song?!?!?" I learned about covers and shopping mall music sensations later on.

I did, like most girls of my approximate age, go through a New Kids on the Block phase. I think I remember having an entire set of NKOTB paperback biographies? Anybody else have those? Then in high school, I discovered music of the 70s and 80s. I had grown up, in large part, listening to music of the 50s and 60s because that was what my parents listened to, so I guess I needed to go back and fill in the decades I missed.

I think I mentioned before that I Touch Myself by the Divinyls was MY SONG for years. Not because of any lyrical associations, but I just loved dancing to it. I also loved You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles) by Hot Chocolate. I could have used a better video that would really showcase this song, but it would not have been THIS video, which may have ruined the song for me, but also made me giggle:

That's probably it. As my musical horizons broadened, I stopped having favourites, and I think the advent of personal music devices (not to mention general anti-social-ness) has destroyed, in large part, shared musical experiences, and I guess that's where a lot of my favourites come from.

Oh, and also at the end of high school, I met aforementioned certain someone, so there's a ten year gap in the story of me really having anything to do with me because I was THAT girl. I suppose I should find some new songs that are very me. I'm sure in ten years I'll have some that remind me of these current high happy times.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


I dislike the word Nice. I had a teacher in grade seven and eight who actually docked marks on our writing assignments if we used that word, and his lesson stuck. That one did. I remember there was also something about trees or motors or something one time... it didn't stick. But the thing about not using the word Nice stuck with me.

His reason, which has now been officially adopted into Amanda's Linguistical Code, is that Nice can mean so many different things that it really means nothing. Especially in writing, where there's no inflection or tone to indicate meaning.

By the way, I'm still looking for a publisher for Amanda's Linguistical Code, and please don't hesitate to contact me just because my book about language includes an un-word in its title. Part of my Linguistical Code is the acceptability--nay, the unrelenting excellence--of neologisms and sensical alterations to the language.  (Like, for example, the use of the word 'sensical' because nonsensical is a word, so why in the world would sensical not be a word? That in itself is nonsensical. Oh, hey, I see what you did there.  Good one.)

I'm a big fan of a subtly versatile word, but the word Nice means too many things. Allow me to demonstrate:

Today I had a nice golf game at a nice course with a nice friend, Alice. The weather was very nice, and I got some nice shots because of my nice clubs, and our skills were a nice match. We had a nice time at lunch, where the food was very nice. My friend spilled her drink on the nice tablecloth, though. They were nice about it, but geez--nice one, Alice! I gave the waiter a nice tip because his bum was quite nice, too.

See, it already means NOTHING to you, doesn't it?

Today I had a leisurely golf game at a picturesque course with a really kind friend, Alice. The weather was beautiful, and I got some impressive shots because of my well-crafted clubs, and our skills were a suitable match. We had a pleasant time at lunch, where the food was delicious. My friend spilled her drink on the elegant tablecloth, though. They were understanding about it, but geez--nice one, Alice!* I gave the waiter a generous tip because his bum was attractive, too.
*Some things, like idioms, don't change.

Isn't that more meaningful? I know--it's too overly describey, but at least all of the words MEAN SOMETHING. Of course, nobody would ever write the first paragraph, and hopefully, nobody would ever write the second one either, because it stinks in terms of readability and cohesion. But I think my point has been made, and so now I sign off and leave you with the same lesson that was impressed so indelibly on me so many years ago.

If you wince every time you accidentally say "Nice" for the rest of your life, well, I'm sorry. I shouldn't be passing out hammers from my bag.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

On this day in history (well, not THIS one)

I recently had a birthday, and I was bored, so I plugged my birth date into Google to see what else may have occurred on the very day that I was making my grand entrance into this world.

"August 20, 1982" on Google

Start big! The ozone layer looked like this (rollover so see what it looks like now, unless that didn't work):

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial was number one at the box office!
Without my knowledge of that, ET became one of my favourite movies of all time. I have the collector's edition DVD set. It's pretty sweet. Other notable box office hits of the week included Star Wars (it had been re-released a week earlier), Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was a good time to be a geek. Or Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, or George Lucas. Take your pick.
You can check historical box office data at The Numbers.

The #1 Song:
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.
Rock on.

Also, ABBA's "The Day Before You Came" was recorded. Woot!

A mass murderer (who I choose not to name but you can probably Google the date if you're interested) killed eight people at a welding shop in Miami, evidently because they had refused to repair an engine for him the day before. He was shot and killed, and run over, actually, by witnesses while he was riding away on his bicycle. I have to get on my gun-control soap box for a moment and point out that the killer, who had a documented psychological problem including paranoia, went to a gun store that morning and bought two guns. Just like that. Because he had said the day before that he was going to kill everyone at the shop, and I guess he meant it.

Additionally, an Indian Airlines 737 was hijacked, and the hijacker was subsequently shot down by commandos at the airport where the plane landed. I guess it was a good day for killing the bad guy. That's morbid.

Ye Olde Barber Shoppe in Crestline, California was founded. And they've been providing quality cuts and shaves these last 29 years.

The following image, as part of a video of Chessie (the Chesepeake Bay Sea Monster), was viewed and analyzed by experts at the Smithsonian. Regrettably, the quality of the video was not sufficient to make any solid determination about the serpentine creature pictured. After some initial enhancement by some fellas at Johns Hopkins University, it has been left untouched--due to a lack of funds--since 1983. Guess we'll never know whether Chessie is real or not.

MO' MONEY... MO' PROBLEMS. Or at least mo' money problems.
Mexico became the first Third World country to default on foreign debt when Treasury Secretary Jesus Silva Herzog told foreign bankers that the country could not repay its $60 billion. I'm pretty sure his exact words were "Oops! Our bad!"

The CIBC Prime Rate was set at 16.00%!!  Holy interest, Batman!!

A 1968 CIA document regarding the communist forces used in the Tet offensive was declassified! At long last! This was super important because now the masses had access to this information and could make important decisions on what they would do if they ever encountered a real life Delorian and found themselves in Northern Vietnam in 1968. They would be so prepared. Somebody write the movie. Quick.

Also, a multinational force landed in Beirut to oversee the PLO's withdrawal from Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War. Thank goodness they got all that stuff taken care of way back then!!

Former Indian Affairs Minister John Munro was awarded seventy-five large in libel damages from the Toronto Sun newspaper. My assumption is that they used him as one of the Sunshine Girl's likes in an effort to make her seem classy and worldly. I could be wrong, but there's no way to know now without checking a credible source.

Kinda makes a person feel pretty little in a big old world to know that some sort of important things happened, and all I did was get born. I mean--who hasn't done that?

Monday, 29 August 2011

What's More Important: Love or Silliness?*

Love songs are silly. I like to sing along to most of them, but very few of them ever have me saying "Yes! That!" in reference to their lyrics. For example, I've never known my heart to beat like an 808 drum, and I would not stop a grenade for anybody. I also wouldn't stay awake just to hear somebody breathing, and I'd really rather nobody stayed awake to listen to me breathe, either. That's kind of creepy.

Likewise, I do not wish to be hosed down with holy water if I get too hot (okay, I guess I'd take the holy water, as long as it was cold, but I think regular water would be fine, too). I think the wise men are right--only fools do rush in.  And I don't even know what a kiss from a rose on the gray is supposed to mean or how anyone would compare to it. That makes no sense.

I do embrace the silly, even in its extremes. For giggles (many, many of them!), Bo Burnham's "Love Is" takes the spot of number on love song in my heart. Bo Burnham is the funniest guy ever. And I'm not just saying this because people have told me that he's a "successful, male, funnier, all-round better version" of me.

Silliness aside--and even though I don't advocate putting silliness aside very often--most love songs, however great they may be, are just kind of generic and "Oh, I love you so much, blahdiblah blah blah" rather than deep and meaningful. There are, however, two "love songs" whose lyrics resonate with me as being about something more than superficial. I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that do it for me.

One is "Something in the Way She Moves" by James Taylor:

My love of James Taylor is probably a big factor in why this song makes the very short list, but I think the lyrics are about something grounded and realistic and simple and lovely. I think it's because he says "I feel fine" and not "I feel some ridiculously hyperbolic way."

My number one, forever, all-time favourite love song, though, is "Somebody" by Depeche Mode. I first heard this song when I was a teenager, and it's the only one that after fifteen years still makes me say "Yes! That!" every time I hear it. It's also the only song whose lyrics I know from beginning to end without the recall aid of the music, so it's my go-to shower-singing song. I'm sure the neighbours are very happy about that.

*That's a quote from Friends. For the record, I think love and silliness are both equally important. You can't really choose one or the other, because a life without either would be boring and that would be, well, just plain silly.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Jack Layton

This won't post until Sunday, but as I write this, I'm watching Jack Layton's state funeral on CBC. I've teared up a few times already, just like I did when I first read last Monday's shocking news that he had passed away. That day, I found myself having to explain to my kids, who are five and seven, why I was crying because someone I didn't know was gone.

"I had a lot of respect for him," I told them. "He was a good man."
"Was he nice to people?" my daughter asked.
"Yeah, he was. To everybody. And he just wanted to make things better."
"He wanted everybody to be able to be happy," I told her.

It was a simplified five-year-old version of what made Jack Layton great. But when I think about it, his simple view that things could be better was why I respected him. He maintained an optimism that I sometimes worry gets trodden out of too many people too soon in life. I've heard him called an idealist a lot, and I suppose he was, but that's what I admired about him. He was a smart, well-educated man--he knew about everything wrong with the world and the country--and he still believed that you could take away all the "buts" and just do your best to make the world better.

I've seen a lot of people, in the media and elsewhere, asking how the NDP is going to replace Jack Layton. I don't know how Canada is going to replace Jack Layton. I'm pretty young, but I don't remember a time when the name Jack Layton was not virtually synonymous with the ideas of inclusiveness and caring, and with the importance of always working to improve this country for everyone. And, maybe I'm naive, but I don't think that needs to be an exclusively NDP disposition.

I hope that someone will replace him as a voice of LOUD optimism with a plan, as someone who reasons the imperativeness of generosity and helpfulness and paying whatever cost it takes to make the country and the world better. I hope that Canada gets a new beacon of hope.

More importantly, though, I hope that the outpouring of support and regret over the past week will become something more than last week's news as we move forward. I hope we all keep with us the knowledge that his optimism is something we need.. We can't all be the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, but we can all be the kind of person Jack was, in whatever we do.

Near the beginning of the state funeral, Myer Siemiatyck read from Isaiah 58:12: "You," he said, as he stopped to glance at the casket draped in a Canadian flag, "You shall lay foundations for the coming generations."

I hope so.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Boogedy Boogedy Boo

One of my favourite things to do when I have guests at my house is tell them that someone died in the house once.  Not just died, either. Some time ago, a man hung himself from the bannister in my house. You can actually still see the marks on the railing.

The reaction of my guests never fails to amuse me. This past weekend, a full-grown and kinda tough man panicked a wee bit and couldn't get out of the house fast enough.  If you've been following along at home, you probably know that my yella-bellied self should probably be scared, too. It doesn't bother me at all.

I don't even not believe in ghosts. I freaking love playing Ouija and believe in it as the result of a very convincing experience that I can't relate without divulging way too much personal information, but the ending is that now I believe.  I also used to live in an apartment that I think was haunted (which is related to the Ouija experience) and it actually made me feel safer when I was there alone. Also, because I don't really have religion, maybe believing in ghosts provides something a little closer to tangible evidence that there is an afterlife, which I find to be a comforting thought.

I think it's a bit crazy that so many people are scared of ghosts, though. It makes me laugh--sometimes just on the inside--when people discuss ghost lore as if it's scientifically proven fact. To the best of my knowledge, none of it is. I thought I'd look some of it up and attempt to determine whether I may or may not have a ghost in my house, while also mocking people. I thought I'd bring you all along for the ride, too.

I found a list of 16 Signs That Your House is Haunted on Here are the first seven, which are listed as signs that your house might be haunted. The remaining nine were signs that like, totally pretty much for sure, your house is haunted. Most def.

1. Unexplained noises - footsteps; knocks, banging, rapping; scratching sounds; sounds of something being dropped. Sometimes these noises can be subtle and other times they can be quite loud.

Okay, my sister and I have convinced ourselves, if only in a mostly mocking way, that we have a Tell-Tale Heart style tapping in our house (not that we killed anyone--we didn't). It's just an unexplained quiet knocking that sounds like it's coming from inside the wall--too regular to be a living thing hanging out in there and too irregular to be something building-technical. It moves around the house, following us--mostly in the living room or my bedroom, and sometimes in the car. 90% of the time, we're totally kidding about it. But 10% of the time, we freak the shit out of each other talking about it. I'm kinda freaked out right now.

However, in general, houses make a lot of noises. Use your imagination for something more useful, like figuring out what you're going to do if aliens and zombies attack at the same time. Or aliens attack and turn people into zombie-like pod-people. The undead are much more fearsome than the dead.

2. Doors, cabinets and cupboards opening and closing - most often, these phenomena are not seen directly. The experiencer either hears the distinct sounds of the doors opening and closing...or the experiencer will return to a room to find a door open or closed when they are certain that it was left in the opposite position. Sometimes furniture, like kitchen chairs, are perceived to have been moved. Very rarely will the experiencer actually witness the phenomenon taking place.

Of course VERY RARELY because you just forgot you left that cupboard open, moron. I know, you are ABSOLUTELY SURE you remember closing the cereal cupboard door this morning, right? Here's what you need to do: get a video camera and put it in your kitchen or whichever room you think the ghosts are amusing themselves by opening your cupboards and doors. But you have to get a nannycam-type camera, because the ghosts are dead, not stupid. Put it in a cookie jar or something. Send me video evidence of this phenomenon, and I will take back calling you a moron.

3. Lights turning off and on - likewise, these events are seldom seen actually occurring, but the lights are switched on or off when the experiencer knows they were not left that way. This can also happen with TVs, radios and other electrically powered items.

Likewise, you're a moron. Listen: electricity is a funny thing. Sometimes things like that happen. Also, I bet you live in an old house if you think it's haunted. I live in an old house. I can sit in my dining room and watch the light turn on and off of its own accord. It has never not even once occurred to me that the man who killed himself in this house might be conducting some form of light-flickering torture on me. Because that's stupid. Also, you probably forgot to turn it on or off. I mean, honestly, if you were going to hang around here after you died, is that how you'd spend your time?

4. Items disappearing and reappearing - ...the familiar experience of not being able to find a regularly used item - say, your set of car keys - which you believe you placed in a spot you routinely place them. But they're gone and you look high and low for them with no success. Some time later, the keys are found - in exactly the place you normally put them. It's as if the object was borrowed by someone or something for a short time, then returned. Sometimes they are not returned for days or even weeks, but when they are, it's in an obvious place that could not have been missed by even a casual search.

I have this purple shirt that I really like. It's a tank top, and it's got this crocheted thing at the back and the straps are all crocheted, and it's kinda flowy, but not too flowy. It's very cute. I know where I keep it. I know where I saw it one day, and then later I went to get it, and I didn't see it there. And I searched everywhere for it, and then I had to go out on a date wearing something I didn't like as much, which was probably no less flattering, but still, I'd had my heart set on wearing that purple shirt, so I just felt like the whole thing was a bad omen, and the date went remarkably poorly. And then the shirt was right back where it was supposed to be the next day. So, OBVIOUSLY, the ghost doesn't want me to date!!

OR I was in kind of a hurry because I was madly trying to get ready--as one often is when looking for a variety of everyday items--and I missed it. This seems more likely to me than my house being inhabited by an evil romance-hating ghost.

5. Unexplained shadows - the sighting of fleeting shapes and shadows, usually seen out of the corner of the eye. This phenomenon has also been discussed in some detail in "Shadow People." Many times, the shadows have vaguely human forms, while other times they are less distinguishable or smaller.

UGH. Seriously? This is something we're offering up as evidence? "I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye"? I'm sure there's a word for when that happens, and that it's perfectly scientifically explainable. I wonder how many people have left ocular diseases untreated because they thought it was just ghosts.

6. Strange animal behavior - a dog, cat or other pet behaves strangely. Dogs may bark at something unseen, cower without apparent reason or refuse to enter a room they normally do. Cats may seem to be "watching" something cross a room. Animals have sharper senses than humans, and many researchers think their psychic abilities might be more finely tuned also. 

Okay, I'm inclined to believe in this as I've previously stated, but animals behave strangely all the time. They lick their own bums and eat their own vomit. We're going to get all weirded out about them staring off into space or not wanting to walk through a doorway? They've got bigger things to worry about.

7. Feelings of being watched - this is not an uncommon feeling and can be attributed to many things, but it could have a paranormal source if the feeling consistently occurs in a particular part of the house at a particular time.

Know when I feel like I'm being watched? Whenever I think Hey, I wonder if I feel like I'm being watched. So if there's some part of the house or time of day when you want to convince yourself that you feel like you're being watched, it's going to work.

Also, I don't mean to freak anybody out, but if you rent your place of residence, there's about a 4 in 7 chance that you ARE being watched most of the time. Sleep well.

To reiterate, I actually believe in ghosts. Well, I don't know if I believe, but I know I don't NOT believe. So I'm not trying to argue that ghosts must not be real because all these things can be explained some other way. I'm just trying to argue that if you think any of these things are definitive proof of an ectoplasmic infestation, then you're a moron.

Did I say moron enough in this blog post? I don't know. I think it needs one more. Moron.
There. All done.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Maybe I try being mayor of my own life for a while; see how that goes

Until three years ago, I had a Motorola Flip Phone that I used like it was just a phone. It had a web browser, but I didn't have a data plan. It had this snake game on it, but I didn't play it. I could text on it, but I almost never did. I left it in my car console, turned off, all the time. If I wanted to use it, I'd almost always have to plug it in and charge it for ten minutes so that I could make a call.

I didn't get the news, read emails, tweet, update my Facebook status, check into places on Foursquare, or Google anything from my phone. Ever. I didn't text people just to see what was up, and I didn't carry on all-day-long BlackBerry Messenger conversations with anyone.

I survived this. Know what I did instead? I was actively engaged with my kids, like, all the time. Or I went to work and I focused on what I had to do while I was there. When I was hanging out with  or having a conversation with someone, I paid attention to them.

Then I got a BlackBerry smartphone.
And it was an awesome toy, and I wanted to play with it. And the novelty apparently never wore off. While I used to love going out (or even staying home) and being unavailable, now I panic a little at the thought of leaving my phone behind for a walk to the park. What if I miss a call? What if I think of something I need to share on Twitter? Dear Lord, what if someone else is the mayor of the playground?!?

I'm not as good a parent as I used to be before I was always connected to everything outside of my house. I report with sincere shame that my kids beg me to leave my phone at home when we go out. They also comment on the fact that I'm always texting people while we're doing things together. And that sucks. That's some pretty awful parenting, right there.

So I'm returning to my old ways, at least when my kids are with me.
I'm still going to keep my BlackBerry, but I'm not going to be signed into Twitter and Facebook on it. I'm going to leave it at home unless we're driving. I'm going to put it in the drawer where I currently store my old Motorola flip phone, and I'm not going to check it constantly.

I'm posting about this so that I have to hold myself accountable. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and I don't know what grain of sand finally tipped the scale, but I need to do it now. Starting today.

So, big deep breath, Amanda, and remember--the world is still there. You don't have to check on it all the time.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Foursquare / 4square / 4sq / WTFEver (Review)

I used to bash Foursquare a lot. I thought it was really the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Why would anybody care where you are, and why would you want them to know? But I felt bad for knocking it having never tried it, so I downloaded it and started using it.

So, basically, for anyone who doesn't know, it works like this:

  1. You go some place, as we all do from time to time. Unless you're homebound, in which case, really, I don't think Foursquare is probably for you. I suppose you could use it to check into the various rooms of your home. I myself have considered adding my bathroom to my places.
  2. You open up Foursquare on your mobile device. Did I mention you need a mobile device? I think that should have been obvious, but I suppose I ought not take these things for granted.
  3. A list of places near you (perhaps including the one you're at) comes up OR you can search for the place you're at OR if it isn't in the list, you can add it.
  4. You "check in" and the app lets all your friends know that you're there. If you want to broadcast your whereabouts beyond the limits of your approved Foursquare friends, you can also send it to Twitter, Facebook, and BlackBerry Messenger. And possibly other social media sites/apps that I don't use.
  5. If you go there enough (more than anyone else within, I think, a 7-day period), you become "mayor" of that place, which is quite the thing for your resume or list of personal bragging rights.
  6. You get badges for various activities and accomplishments, like checking in a certain number of times, or to a given variety of places, or the first time you check into a particular kind of place. These are not physical badges, but virtual badges. However, I must say that if you convert them to embroidery patterns and sew them onto blue felt, they will make fine additions to your Girl Guide sash.

It's a pretty simple process, really. But why bother, right?
There are some benefits to using it:

  • Some places have deals for the Mayor. Usually kinda lame stuff, to be honest, but some of them are decent deals, too.
  • People can also add Tips for places. For example, once I was at a restaurant and one of the tips said that the service was really slow and another one said that the eggs were really good. I wasn't in a hurry and I like eggs, so I stayed and ordered some. Later, I added a tip saying that the dish I ordered tasted like God made it. I don't know whether blasphemy is allowed on Foursquare. I never checked to see whether my Tip was still there later.
  • I've never had that experience of being somewhere and having a person say "Oh my gosh, I'm right near there! Let's totally have lunch and be best friends forever!" but apparently that happens, too. Or something like it. I'm fuzzy on the details of how it all goes down.
  • I think this goes without saying, but if you yourself are a stalker, it sure does make the whole thing easier if you can get the object of your psychopathic affections to add you as a friend. That part might be hard, especially if the person you're stalking is the subject of some imagined connection and not someone you actually know. I'm not recommending this. I'm just saying--potential benefit for some.
  • I admit it: it's kind of fun. For someone like me, who is honestly kind of an Internet exhibitionist with their personal life, why the heck not just tell everyone where you are, right? Just like with your news about jobs and dating and what you had for lunch, nobody actually cares. I mean, maybe a select few care, but mostly, no--nobody does. So there's not really a reason not to do it.
There are probably other things I should be saying. Oh, like for example, the BlackBerry app is not the most awesome. It's pretty good, except that it never seems to want to update my actual location and instead routinely positions me at the beach where I was when I downloaded it. So as I'm standing inside the theatre, it's telling me that it's a hundred kilometres away, which is kind of annoying. It doesn't always do that, but often enough, it does.

My overall ruling on Foursquare is "En, whatever."
It's not going to change your life, but as long as you make sure you don't add your stalker to your friends list, it's probably not going to ruin it either. If you feel like it, do it. If you don't--well, you're not really missing out on much.

Helpful, huh?
These are the posts, folks.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hm. Maybe. Maybe.

Okay, this is the most vulnerable I could ever make myself, but whatever, here goes:

I would actually like to be in a relationship. I don't need to be in a relationship, but I've come to the conclusion that I find it fulfilling to be in one. You know, I've got all this love to give and nobody to give it to. Gag yet? Throw up in your mouth a little? Cool. Then you're right where I wanted you to be to understand how I feel when people try to offer me advice or words of encouragement about the fact that no matter how many people I date, I never seem to get past a third date. And three dates was a record. Usually I don't get past one.

When people offer me their platitudes, I generally give an understanding nod while I furrow my brow thoughtfully and then after a contemplative pause, I reply, "Hm. Maybe. Maybe." Then I say, "Whatevs, at least I'm getting laid!" because it's good for a laugh since everyone knows I'm not.

Here is what I would rather say to the people who offer stupid advice that doesn't make anything feel better:

They say: You just haven't met the right person yet
No fricking kidding. Which detective school did you go to?
If I have at all created the impression that I've met too many of the right people and I'm just having trouble choosing, then I apologize for the misrepresentation.

They say: You probably just intimidate people.
How? How would I intimidate people? Is it all my smashing career success and hoards of money that's putting people off? No, it can't be because I have neither of those things.

And even if I do intimidate people, what am I supposed to do to fix that? Put on a pastel dress and pink nail polish and twirl my hair and act like this head is just a hat rack? No thanks. I'm good.

They say: Maybe you're just not putting yourself out there.
Okay, you've got a point there, actually. I don't go to bars and try to pick up men, and I don't engage in other group activities where I might meet men. And I'm not just going to university to get my MRS if you know what I mean. (And I'm sure you do because that's a stupid saying that everyone's heard.) So, okay, valid point. But I'm not going to go out of my way to do things I have no real interest in just to meet men. I have 99 problematic scheduling conflicts already, and I don't need another one.

They say: Are you really ready for a relationship, though?
That's like saying, "Aren't you too fucked up for a relationship?"
The answer to the first is yes, yes I am ready for a relationship. The second is no, no I'm not I'm probably not I might not be too F'ed up for a relationship. But the fact that you assume I am is annoying. Knowing that you perceive me as being too mortally wounded to ever date again when I've been single for THREE YEARS is disheartening and discouraging.

They say: Your standards are too high.
Oh, oh, because I'm not good enough for a guy who's smart and funny and kind and who would treat me with respect? Is that what you're saying? Should I lower my bar to exclude only beating and cheating? Also, this is essentially like telling me I'm playing out of my league, which is, by extension, essentially like telling me that I'm not very desirable, which is, again by extension, also like telling me you're a giant douche.

They say: Did I ever tell you about how Fred and I met?
Of course they don't really say Fred. Nobody is actually married to anyone named Fred. Except my Uncle Fred's wife, I suppose. But the annoying thing is that they feel the need to tell me how they met the person with whom they have found ultimate lifelong happiness, and I just want to say, "Rub salt in the wound, why don't ya?"

I get it--you were just walking down the street or picking out melons or sitting in a bar and the love of your life walked up to you and introduced himself. Bully for fricking you. I feel soooo much better now knowing that other people just stumble into this shit, and I go out and meet awesome guys who I think are terrific and they just sort of vaporize. It's just so good to know that other people are happy. Enjoy your making breakfast together and raising babies with someone and having a dual income. I'll be over here with a shot of tequila. Because that's what perpetually single chicks do. They drink tequila.

I apologize for being ranty and personal and possibly offending someone who has said any of those things to me. But you know what would be a better thing to say: NOTHING. Don't ask me about my dating life (because I tend not to just offer this information readily, except on Twitter) if all you wanted to do was give yourself a feelgood by being the expert on dating.

But if you must ask because you're married and bored and these things amuse you, then a good response is "Sounds like that sucks." That's it. That's all you've gotta say. Or, honestly, NOTHING is still an option. You could just give an understanding nod while you furrow your brow thoughtfully and then after a contemplative pause, reply, "Hm. Maybe. Maybe."

Friday, 19 August 2011

Stop! Grammar Time!

If you've been following along at home, you've probably noticed that I'm not exactly a grammar stickler. Sort of. I make up a lot of words (yes, in case you were wondering, I know those words aren't real) and I use sentence fragments a lot, and my paragraphing is less than academically appropriate.

Nonetheless, there are certain grammar faux-pas that really bother me. They tend to be the things that remind me of rural grammar. I don't want to make any blanket statements, but I can sometimes pick out which small town near me someone is from by their usage of certain words or phrases. It's like my own home version of Name That London Dialect.

So here is what is sure to be the first of several posts about my grammar pet peeves, featuring the WRONG way, the CORRECT way, and where applicable, exceptions to the rule. Enjoy!

WRONG: Should of, Could of, Would of
CORRECT: Should have, Could have, Would have
Exception: Should of, could of, would of ever correctly follow the words should, could, or would? No, no, of would not.

WRONG: The reason I went there is because I needed a new hat.
CORRECT: The reason I went there is THAT I needed a new hat.
OR: I went there because I needed a new hat.

WRONG: Suppose to
CORRECT: Supposed to
Excepion: I suppose to be fair, I should drown all the cats.
(But then good God, man, what the hell is wrong with you?!?!)

WRONG: I seen a big dog. Did you seen a big dog?
CORRECT: I saw a big dog. Did you see a big dog?
OR: I've seen a big dog. Have you seen a big dog?

WRONG: He really dropped a bomb on you and I.
ALSO WRONG: You and me really dropped a bomb on him.
CORRECT: He really dropped a bomb on you and me.
ALSO CORRECT: You and I really dropped a bomb on him.
Exception: He really dropped a bomb on you and I going to that party.

But really, what the heck does that even mean? I'm tired or I probably would have come up with a better verb/noun clause combination there.

Look, it's not that hard. Forget about the other person involved. If you were just talking about you, and you would normally say "I" then it's "you and I." If you would normally say "me" then it's "you and me."
I will admit that this is one of my pet peeves primarily because I make mistakes with it a lot--not in writing, but in casual conversation for sure.

WRONG: To coin a phrase, I let the cat out of the bag.
CORRECT: To use a phrase, I let the cat out of the bag.
I see this one a lot lately, and honestly, who doesn't know what "coin a phrase" means? I'm not even explaining it. Google is your friend.

ALMOST ALWAYS WRONG: That is exponentially worse
USUALLY CORRECT: That's a whole lot worse
Exception: if you actually mean that whatever you're talking about grows worse by exponents, or at least something similar. 'Exponentially' doesn't just mean 'really a whole lot.' Stop diluting the language.

WRONG: Anyways
Exception: None. Nothing. Never. Don't say anyways.
(this one even comes up in spellcheck, folks.* No excuses.)

*Know what doesn't come up in spellcheck? Spellcheck. I don't care. I'm using it that way anyway. You're allowed to break the rules as long as you know you're doing it. Except not the rules I just talked about. Because, obviously, I'm the controller of the grammatical universe. You should curtsy or something, probably.

Because humiliation is sort of my gig, I'm sure there are ridiculously obvious grammatical or spelling errors in this post. I will give something shiny to anyone who points them out. For real, I will. I support grammar vigilantism.

I normally write my blog posts quite a bit ahead, and I had one for today and when I was giving it a final proofread, I decided I didn't like it. So, I finished this post instead, from a draft I'd started a while ago, at about 4:30 in the morning after coming home from being out last night. And the extent to which I was tired and my judgement was poor, therefore, is the only reason that I'm not going to punch myself in the face for giving it that title.  I felt like I needed to explain myself there.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

To Meat or Not to Meat

My seven-year-old daughter recently decided she's a vegetarian. It's not a huge stretch in our family since we don't eat much meat to begin with, which is a conscious decision I've made for reasons that people generally think are lame.

Bria's reason is the usual one: if she eats meat, she has nightmares about chickens attacking her and scratching her face to shreds with their talon-like claws. What? That's not the normal reason?  Well, anyway, it stems from the fact that she feels it's immoral to raise animals solely for the purpose of killing them for food.  The idea of eating a living thing, to her, is unthinkable.

And the kid has conviction. She asks whether there's meat in everything we eat:
"Is there any meat in this spinach?"
"No, it's just spinach."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's not a genetically engineered spinach-cow hybrid."

When it comes up that Bria's a vegetarian (like when other people try to feed her and then I get an angry So did you know your kid's a vegetarian when you sent her to my house?!? text message) people offer advice about how to trick her into eating meat, or how to explain to her that she MUST eat meat, or how to starve her into submission.

Nobody ever says, "Wow, good for her for following through on something she believes in." Except her Dad, which is fortunate for her since he makes half of her meals. I don't understand how I'm supposed to raise a kid to have a solid moral compass, and be able to make her own ethical decisions, and to stand up for what she believes in if the very first time she ever develops a principle, I grind it into sad little pieces with my parental veto. It absolutely floored me that almost everyone disagrees with me on this.

Also, a lot of people seemed to feel the need to ask me whether I was consulting with some kind of guide about what my daughter should be eating. This annoyed me because obviously I would do that, and it made me laugh because I know that some of their kids don't exactly eat according to the Canada Food Guide. Meat is not some kind of cure-all contains-everything magic food, people! Your kid isn't for sure healthy just because he/she can pack away a steak.

I also feel I should mention the fact that I've spent the last seven years telling my daughter that her body belongs to her and her alone and she makes the decisions when it comes to her said body. Wouldn't I be undermining that message if I told her that I and I alone control what goes into her body? Telling her that she can choose what she eats (within reason and in broad strokes--I'm not saying she can just run amok with the food choices) reinforces the lesson that she's in control of herself AND, believe it or not, that she needs to make responsible decisions for herself.

When your kid makes an intelligent decision about something they feel strongly they should do or not do, don't teach them that they shouldn't bother if it's inconvenient or unprofitable. Support them. Help them get educated about how to successfully do the thing they want to do (or not to do the thing they want not to do). And praise them for the effort they're making!

They're little spirits will get crushed by a wide variety of people and events--don't be one of them. I bet there would be a lot more people in the world doing things that they think are the right thing to do if--as young idealistic children--they hadn't had surly adults crush their belief in the importance and power of standing behind their principles.  So instead, be the person who taught your kids about moral integrity and ethical strength and believing in themselves. That's much cooler.