Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Comment Problems

I'm having some trouble with my new comment section sometimes not accepting comments. If this happens and you want to say something righthisveryinstant, email me at landers5 AT gmail DOT com.

This weekend looks increasingly like I'm going to be spending it uninstalling Haloscan...

Hello Old Friend

I can’t remember not being able to read. Although I have memories from an age where I know I couldn’t read, I don’t remember looking in books and not knowing the magic of letters making words making stories.

My first day of school is still clear in my mind. The incapacitating nausea of excitement and nerves, the green A-line dress I wore, my parents’ beaming faces trying to persuade me how great this was and being glued to their sides, not at all sure I liked this strange place. Then our teacher asked how many of us could find our seat by reading the signs on each desk with our names on it. I was one of only two children who knew how to spell my name and it was at that moment I realized that reading was special.


When I was 11 years old, in a hospital far from home and hating everything about it, I discovered that reading could be a refuge from an unbearable reality. I still have the book that got me through the first month in that place. The obsession was cemented.


My mother used to tease me about the compulsive reading. If there was writing anywhere, I’d be looking at it – books, street signs, cereal boxes, anything. When it comes to words, I’m not a gourmet, I’m a glutton. I used to read for hours every day - at meals (when I could get away with it), waiting for the bus, in the bathroom (I grew out of that in my teens, thank you very much), in bed before falling asleep, instead of going out/watching TV/watching movies/talking to other people. I couldn’t pass a bookstore without having to go check things out (and buy one… or two… or ten books) and would usually have 2 or 3 books on the go at once. In general, I have shown a complete lack of restraint when it comes to absorbing words.


I love everything about reading: losing yourself in another world, the feel of a book in your hands, the soft crinkle as you turn the pages, the scent of the ink and the paper. Every book would get a moment of reverence before I opened it – a sometimes unconscious moment of gratitude and expectation.


2 years ago, reading started to hurt. Not the usual aches that could be ignored – real, loud, lasting pain. My shoulders hurt from holding the book open, my neck from bending and in the end, I stopped reading. I substituted online material – webpages, newspapers, opinion pieces. Short reads, factual reads. It was reading, but there was no disappearing into other worlds. I read an ebook or two, but that hurt, too.


The arthritis has taken many things from me, but this one, I've resented most of all.


Six months ago, Ken (problem-solver extraordinaire) gave me a 12 book package from Audible and I got myself an iPod.


I’m reading again. Not as fast as before – having to wait for people to say the words, rather than reading them myself, is slowing things down. But I’m reading.


My old lack of restraint is back. I have a 2 books per month subscription to Audible and the bastards keep having great sales. I have a pile – if digital books can be ‘a pile’ - of about 30 books waiting for me and 90 more on my wish list. My only problem now is time (well, and money). In the past two years, I’ve filled the hours I used to spend reading with other things – clawing that time back is proving to be a challenge, as these things still want doing and there aren’t any more hours in the day. But really, who cares?


I’m reading again.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Visit From Nemesis

I have several questions, all related to yesterday's post, in which I perhaps a smidge too happy about the ease with which Haloscan installed. To wit:

1. Where did my old comments go?
2. Why does the blasted thing not display the accurate number of comments?
3. What is trackback and why would I want it? (this is mostly rhetorical - I vaguely know what it is and don't particularly see the point)
4. If I got this.... thing for the sake of easy access to commenters' email addresses, so I could actually reply to those peoeple who don't have blogs of their own and reply to people with blogs without having to go through 17 steps to do so, why on earth can I not access email addresses of commenters? I know I can't, because I did a test with my own name. I can find my webpage, I can make a link to the comment, I can freakin' trackback, but the reason I got this magical add-on? Nope. Can't find it.
5. Did you know it's possible, after an extended period of time with very mild migraines, to completely forget the spectacularly destructive power of a real migraine? Ok, so that was only tangentially related to yesterday's post, but in between the incapacitating nausea, the avoiding of light (all blinding) and sound (all deafening), the way words do a whirling jig on the page/monitor and general whimpering, I find it fascinating that I've forgotten what this feels like, to the point where I briefly considered an aneurysm before I clued in.

If you have any helpful hints on the Haloscan issue, please feel free to comment. I'll keep checking obsessively, even though the lying pie... thing claims there is only one comment.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Finally

A while back I whinged about not having an email field in my comments and someone (sorry, I've forgotten who) suggested Haloscan, for my comment section. Naturally, I promptly checked it out, saw that it involved placing HTML code into my... er... thingy (I'm sure there's a much more professional-sounding - and less kinky - name for it, but I have a migraine and have decided not to think today) and equally promptly bookmarked the page and got outta there with the speed of light. To be done later when I felt up to spending a few hours tearing my hair out, because that's what I do when I mess with the template (oh! That's what it's called!).

So given today's aforementioned vicious migraine, I naturally decided to go back to Haloscan and mess with code. I learned this from my father: if there's a choice between doing something the easy way and the hard way, make life difficult for yourself. Maybe it comes with having the attention span of a gnat. Doing things the hard way is more entertaining and the feeling of accomplishment greater.

Turns out that the wonderful people at Haloscan have developed an automatic install for Blogger. I gave them some information, clicked a few buttons and not only do I now have an email field, there's also trackback!

Oddly enough, I don't feel cheated out of my hair-pulling, sailor-swearing, hours' worth of messing with tech crap as much as one might have expected...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Yay!


A second post in one day - and so soon after the first - rarely happens around here. Well, it's never happened around here. But I just discovered something that made me very happy.

Rick Mercer has a blog!

I'm beyond excited. Immediately bookmarked it. He's just started and I can't wait to see more. Go read it. And then check out the clips on the Monday Report site. The man's funny. And so smart, I think I might want to marry him (and I mean that in a completely complimentary and non-stalkerish way).



A Riot of Roses



One day, they're all buds, the next, they exploded into blooms.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Woof!


I feel like a dog.

Perhaps I should provide a wee preamble. I have asthma, which is triggered by all kinds of smells – perfume and cologne, scented products (lotion, soap, shampoo, etc.), cleaning products, flowers, you mention it. If it has a smell, I’m likely to start wheezing. Especially when my lungs have already been provoked by previous exposure to a trigger factor. Smog’s a big one, being in an elevator with someone who has marinated in scent, is another.

This also makes me very sensitive to smells and brings us right back to why I feel like a dog. I imagine that if a dog could talk, it’d spend most of the time it wasn’t licking its naughty bits (which I do not, by the way), eating, barfing and sleeping (I do eat and sleep, though), asking people “do you smell that? Don’t tell me you can’t smell that?? It’s positively REEKING!”. I can see it now… all excitedly dancing about, nose in the air, sniffing away, yelping about the SMELL and becoming increasingly convinced it’s insane because no one believes it about the damned smell.

That’s why I feel like a dog. I can smell things that no one else can smell - except, I suspect, animals and other people with asthma. I currently have a mystery smell in my wall that I first noticed Thursday evening. It wasn’t until 48 hours later that others could smell it. I’m sure some people think I’m nuts. God knows, I often feel like a complete looney.

Argh.

But staying in the metaphor, I’m planning on spending today thinking about what kind of dog I’d be. Any suggestions?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Stories of My Father



This is my dad, or as I (mostly) called him, far. Today is his birthday.

My father was a pretty complex man. He was fiercely intelligent, generous, funny, quick-witted, proud, stubborn, had a wicked temper and a severe case of verbal diarrhea. With the exception of the last few years of his life, most of my memories of far involve him talking. He had an incredible ability to use words and could verbally run circles around anyone. He could persuade you that you were wrong, even when he wasn’t right. Far was not always easy to love, but he was never, ever boring.

There was a time when I thought he knew everything. Later I realized that although he did know an awful lot, he had mastered the ability to state his opinions with such certainty and confidence that you couldn’t help but believe he was stating facts.

He taught us the debate game. About playing with an idea, an abstract concept and pushing it as far as it could go. He taught us how mental gymnastics is one of the most satisfying past-times there is.

He believed in living life large. He taught me that if you’re going to bother having an opinion or emotion, you should be passionate about it. Some people say “less is more”. Not so my father. One of his favourite sayings was “more is better”.

Some of the best laughs in my life have come from being with him. He had a quick wit and wasn’t afraid to look ridiculous (often with props). Some of my fondest memories of him are him laughing so hard he was crying and the rest of us laughing/crying, too, even though we weren’t always sure what was so funny.

He believed in chasing your dream and was a bit of a rebel. A famous story about my father happened in New York City in the 1960’s and starts off with him being at least three sheets to the wind. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow, he came by a fire truck – one of the big ones – climbed up and was about to take it for a spin (sirens on of course). Luckily, his friends persuaded him to come down before he got arrested.

My father was a flirt. Once, on a pedestrian street in Copenhagen, he flirted with the Queen of Greece. He always had a sparkle in his eyes and an appreciation and genuine like for women. Which was a good thing, since he shared the house with 3 of them (and two female dogs).

Thanks to my father’s belief that women are endlessly interesting, my sister Janne and I grew up believing that we were never in any way less because we were female. He taught us that we could do anything we wanted, then did everything he could to make sure that we had what we needed to chase our dreams and expected us to do so.

We’re Danish. This means that we don’t really talk about our feelings. I can’t remember my father ever telling me he loved me, but it wasn’t necessary to hear the words. He was the master of the touch on the shoulder as he passed, coming into my room just to give me a kiss and he spoiled us all rotten.

Far loved travelling and passed that love on to us kids by showing us the world. My first trip with him was to Greece when I was 11. As the plane took off, he pointed out to me how the sailboats were getting smaller and smaller, not noticing that I was busy clenching the armrest in fear. That was the last time I was afraid of flying. His love of new places, foods and cultures was so infectious that I quickly forgot the fear and never looked back.

My father loved a party and in my family, we don’t believe it’s a coincidence that when he died four years ago, he chose to do so on St. Patrick’s Day – one of the largest party days in North America. On March 17, we celebrate with him. As we do today.

Tillykke, far.



Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My Choice

Stephanie said to pick one and hate it more. I picked, but not exactly in the way she’d intended: I hate weather extremes.

(Well, I have a sick obsession with watching anything about extreme weather on TV, which is also why I’ve seen Twister about 5 times and why I wrote down the opening day of The Day After Tomorrow in my calendar and saw it on opening day, but in real life? Not thrilled with it. Except thunderstorms)

I hate that one month during the winter where being outside will cause various appendages to fall off, hitting the icy street with an audible ‘clink’. I hate that time during the summer where it’s too hot to be outside and yet inside, even though the A/C is on, your sheets are clammy (at least they’re cold-clammy, not hot-clammy). I hate not being able to breathe freely, either because the cold’s so bad it takes your breath away or it’s so smoggy, you can taste the air.

Gotta admit though… that thunderstorm we had last night was rather incredible. A little before dinner, I looked out the window and saw a beautiful, tall cloud that looked like whipped cream that’s been whipped to the point of almost-solidity. Thought briefly to myself that it looked like one of those tornado clouds you see in shows on the Discovery Channel about storm chasers, except white (and white clouds are by definition innocuous, right?) and went back to making dinner.

An hour later, I was watching an equally tall cloud the colour of charcoal (way less innocuous) chase its way across the sky with the speed of the bullet train (well, maybe not quite, but it sounds good) and then the lightning started. When I was living in Denmark and watched old Hollywood movies, I always thought the thunderstorms were… shall we put it diplomatically and say “depicted with excessive artistic licence”? Essentially, I thought the beautiful one minute, insane storm with high winds, torrential downpour, continuous lightning and thunder that rattles the windows the next, was someone’s idea of an archetypal thunderstorm – a complete fabrication. The best kind of story there is: take reality and then crank it up to 11. Couldn’t possibly be like that in real life could it? Imagine my surprise when I moved here…

Anyway, the storm last night was incredible. Scared the crap out of the cat, though. Literally.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Summer in the Big Smoke



Too busy trying to breathe to blog. There's something deeply wrong with being able to see the air.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ack!


The forecast for the next several days are temps in the mid-30s, with a humidex of around 40 degrees Celcius. For the Americans around us, that means it'll feel like it's a damp 104.

Whoever invented airconditioning should be sainted.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Stuff & More Stuff


No wonder I’ve been gallivanting about, taking pictures of trees and waxing poetic. I’m avoiding something. Namely, spending too much time in my apartment.

My place is an absolute tip. I love British slang, in this case because it exactly describes the state of my home: it looks like someone tipped a dumpster in here. My desk is buried under stuff, I’ve treated the dining table as a horizontal filing area for a longer than I’m comfortable admitting, my old computer is standing in a corner, waiting to go to its new home (this weekend, yay!), a pile of summer clothes are airing out after 7 months in a box, the couch is half-buried under miscellaneous artifacts and there are about 47 magazines lying about in various stages of read-ness. If something horrible should happen to me and CSI: Toronto came in to investigate, they’d probably get lost in here.

I keep intending to Do Something about it all, have even devised a clever bit of subterfuge to slowly erode the dominion of the mess. My secret? Throw out one thing a day. That works really well, except for the days where I pick up the mail or bring home more than one thing or get busy and forget about the damn rule for a day or two (or 9) and before I know it, I’m back to living in a style best described as Early Landfill.

I’ve considered moving – it’s the only way I know of forcing myself to go through everything I own and be ruthless about it (not to mention get it done sometime in this millennium), but I really like my apartment and the neighbourhood is a dream. I’ve tried pretending to move, but seem to have trouble believing myself. Most days, I just marvel at how much crap you can cram into a one-bedroom apartment.

I’m a packrat who adores minimalism. A walking (so to speak) oxymoron.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Contrasts





The first time I saw a honey locust, I was gobsmacked by its elegant beauty. The leaves made of light and air, glowing against the starkness of the contortionist branches. It makes me think of enchanted sprites, treed by day, dancing in the moonlight when the world's asleep.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

My European Vacation

To start things off, I got my summer clothes out of storage (helped/hindered by The Supervisor)



and then I took a trip to Europe, without leaving the city. First, I went to Greece.



Well, it was actually a fountain, but it could pass for the Aegean Sea and I was eating souvlaki.

The next stop was the Parisian Street Fair on King Street East, which turned out to be really fancy design and decor shop language for "sidewalk sale". Despite the snob-factor, we happened upon what must have been the best bargain of the event and Michele bought a beautiful old chair for the staggering sum of $5. We decided to shamelessly plagiarize Stephanie and "show the chair a good time". Here it visits a French restaurant, although "visit" might be too strong a word for something that was essentially "two grown women making spectacles of themselves on the sidewalk in front of a French restaurant":



This naturally reminded everyone - the chair included - of their rumbling stomachs and we jetted to Ireland for lunch:



where the chair made a complete pig of itself:

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Follow Your Nose


I was reading a book in the park, enjoying the obvious: reading a book in the park after months’ worth of freezing various appendages off just thinking about being outside. I’ve found a place next to some wooden benches and a picnic table that smells divine when baked by the sun – brought me right back to cottage vacations when I was a child.

The company my father worked for owned cottages in various areas of Denmark and every couple of years or so, we’d get the opportunity to rent one for two weeks. We preferred the one in Djursland – it was far away from our home near Copenhagen, beautiful and my father’s family came from that area. The “far away” aspect meant a long drive (during which I often got carsick), a ferry and another (shorter) drive. The cottage was traditional, small, one level, made of wood that had been treated with something that stained it a dark colour – I assume to weatherproof it. It lay back from the road a bit on a large, rarely mown lot surrounded by pine trees – a little like this. The smell was incredible. We’d run a hose out the kitchen window for showers, eat new potatoes with parsley and cold butter for dinner, strawberries for dessert and I’d sleep in a bunk bed. I have a vague memory of the road (dirt, not paved) leading down to the beach – more mind-blowing smells. The only smell better than sun-warmed wood is ocean and sand.

I get Proust and his madeleines on a cellular level.

I have no idea where I was going before I mentioned the cottage, but if I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

What smell blisses you out?