Thursday, October 30, 2008

Five Great Gift Ideas for People with RA

My latest HealthCnetral post is up:

"The season of gift giving is almost upon us - sorry, I didn't mean for that to sound ominous. Am I the only one who gets surprised every single October that it's here again already? And then I usually hurry up and repress it, which inevitably renders my December busy and stressful. But this year, I've decided to get on top of things well in advance and, unlike last year (and the one before that and the one before that), I've vowed to be done with my shopping by December 1st! Maybe..."

You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Whippersnappers

I think I’m getting old.

It could be argued that turning 46 years old might've been my first clue that I wasn't knee-high to a grasshopper anymore, but I always thought that when I was in my mid-40s, I'd feel adult and mature and as that feeling has yet to settle in, I’m pretty sure chronological age has nothing to do with my current issue.

It all started when I tuned into the new season of Grey's Anatomy. Although seasons one and two were clearly superior to what came after (talk about jumping the ferryboat), it's been good, undemanding entertainment, occasionally thought-provoking, occasionally funny, occasionally heartwarming. And then I sat down (metaphorically, as I tend to be sitting down most of the time) to watch the new season and… is it just me or did it get really silly and irrelevant? Were they always this self-absorbed, vacant and obsessed with getting laid? This young? Does no one at Seattle Grace focus on their career? Sure, I have my moments of "it's all about me", but hijacking the spotlight to the point where you're telling a terminal patient about your boyfriend problems really seems to be stretching the boundaries of believable, acceptable and cute.

I've also been watching Private Practice, the spinoff from Grey's Anatomy. Not quite as sprightly as the mothership, it seems to be directed to an audience about 10 years older then GA, women in their 30s and perhaps maybe early 40s and I love enough of the actors on the show (especially Amy Brenneman) that I gave it a chance. Until last week, when – and I’ll make this so short as to be nearly incomprehensible to waste minimum amounts of much time on it - when Addison is on a lunch date with the SWAT guy and he explains how the reason he hasn't called said he's had a horrible week in which he watched two people died. And Addison says "I know exactly what you mean, I've had that kind of week, too. I work in an office where nobody speaks to each other" and she goes on about the colleagues not speaking. To a man who has just told her that he's watched two people die. And who is staring at her adoringly while wanting to date her some more – what man worth his salt would accept that sort of self-absorption? - and I know that it is said that men think with their nether regions, but that seems just a little too much to believe and I'm going to stop now before my blood pressure gets out of hand. I know about suspension of disbelief, I know about just going along for the ride without expecting too much, but this was the point where all of that came to a sudden stop, complete with the sound of screeching brakes, because I just cannot watch a show where I'm supposed to forgive that kind of writing, where I am supposed to accept that this is what an intelligent woman in her late 30’s/early 40s with her shit somewhat together would actually say. And then I got the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly in my mailbox with a cover picture of the new Kirk and Spock for the reimagined Star Trek and they look to be about TWELVE!

And that’s when I realized that in the eyes of Hollywood, I am now officially the next generation and maybe even the one after the next generation. The age of invisible when any thought is put into audience demographic for mainstream entertainment. Which dooms me to a choice between mutilated people (usually women) or silly, irrelevant and ridiculous shows if I want an evening of undemanding entertainment (the former, with the exception of CSI and Bones, definitely not being entertaining).

Does nobody in Hollywood realize the thing about the baby boomers? That there is this bulge of the population moving towards its 50s and that although seemingly youth-obsessed, what with all the Botox and the plastic surgery making everybody look like plastic dolls, many of them have an actual brain and an actual education and that maybe their issues aren't all about screwing someone in the linen closet. Maybe there’s more to life and maybe even - imagine this! - nice, undemanding entertainment could revolve around things the other than your nether regions. That maybe once you grow up a little (not completely, I don’t think we ever do) although said nether regions certainly have a role to play, you might actually be using the organ located at the other end of your body – y’know, the one in your skull - to cope with the demands of a life that includes more than drooling over the cute boy/girl. Can we have a bit of an imagination, please?! And can we please, please see said relevant issues acted out by somebody who’s past 25?

Effing whippersnappers should get off my lawn...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home Again

You don't have to read this blog for long to see that I have a thing about the ocean. It's more than merely a 'thing', though. Growing up surrounded by the sea and all that comes with it - the smell of wet sand, the wind, the sound of waves and the scent of salt in the air - does something to a person. Like calls to like and the 70% of the Earth that is ocean calls to the 70% of us that is salt water, the rhythmic whoosh of waves echoes the rhythmic whoosh within our pumping hearts and when I am near the shore, it is as if there is no me and no Other, there is just one. I disappear within it, it absorbs me, there is no me ending or it beginning, there is just being within and around and together. It is home in a way no other place has ever been. And living landlocked so far from salt and wind and waves, I am cut off from the sea. Cut off from my home.

After I moved downtown, I found a substitute. I live close to Lake Ontario and for years, when the weather was nice, I'd walk down to Harbourfront, find a relatively quiet place away from the tourists and all that comes with them (noise, music, talking) and read a book to the soundtrack of small waves splashing against the dock. There was no scent of salt, but it was water, it was waves, I could tune out the sounds of the busy area and although my view of neverending water was blocked by the Toronto Islands, it was okay. It was almost-home and it was a salve for the soul. And then things got bad and my arm couldn't handle driving the chair to the lake and back and I needed Mandatory Rest Periods and about six years ago, or maybe seven, I could no longer pop down to the lake and I lost my almost-home.

But you adapt and I found other ways there. I found peace in the blue walls of my bedroom, cool serenity in my green-on-green bathroom painted to look like it's under water. Found rest for my eyes in Google images, doing search upon search of the words beach and ocean, found rest for the ears in CDs with the sound of waves and was giving a gift of tangible water the colour of the cold ocean of my home, water I could hold and wear when Alison sent me a shawl that I always keep near me. And it helped, they all helped. When the longing becomes too much, they make it less and easier to bear.

Last weekend, Michele took AB and I to Ward’s Island, a place I've never been despite my 26 years of living in the city. I booked Dignity - expensive, but their punctuality is worth it - and off we went. And on a still day, where the water was as calm as glass, I went back to the lake, back on the lake


And we went to Ward’s Island and was surrounded by water and I saw my city from the other side


And we entered a magical world. A land of beautiful small cottages, respectful of the world around them, tucked within nature, instead of buildings substituting nature, at times so tucked within that they seem to have organically grown into a house shape


And it was a world much in tune with the water, an upside-down rowboat here, a deck with a view of the lake there and just over on the right, a boat in the yard almost the shape of a Viking ship


And then we turned the corner and came to the other side of the island and this is where I smelled wet sand on the breeze, a scent I haven't smelled in over 15 years and yet, the sense of peace carried with it was instantaneous and filled the place in my heart held empty for just that moment. And breathing in the wet sand, with the wobbling sound of the wooden boardwalk under my tires, I felt as if I were in a holy place, a sanctuary


And a little further down the boardwalk, just past the place where the other point of the half moon bay glides into the lake, we reached the place where there was nothing but water. No shore on the other side, no land to see, just water and water and water.

And the world opened up, I stepped inside and I was home again


Thank you, Michele.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Winner & The Postcard Project

A short post today - I'm running off and spend every minute I can with AB before her flight leaves.

First, the winner of Monday's contest. It could be argued that Michele's entry required a win for here lovely description of our friendship. However, that sort of smacks of cheating, especially considering the random choice aspect of the contest. AB chose comment number six and the winner is another outspoken female, who also wrote an excellent entry about her friend Jane. Email me at landers5ATgmailDOTcom with your choice of photo and I'll get on that as soon as possible. Note: you might want to wait until Monday-ish with choosing, as I haven't gotten around to updating my Flickr page yet.

And second. Beth is on a mission: to send out postcards to anyone who needs or wants one (including, in an amazing fit of generosity) George Bush should he ask for one. The goal started beng 1000 postcards, although considering how this project has taken off, it's possible the goal has changed to many more than that. If you or anyone you know needs a reminder that someone cares, if you just like getting mail or know a child who'd be tickled to get their own mail, hop on over to The Postcard Project for more information. No cost or obligation to you, just pure joy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Random October

Yesterday, it snowed in Toronto. Not downtown, so I didn't see it and can therefore pretend it isn't real. But it was. I need a drink.


Best Tink line in a while. On Sunday at lunch, Liam wanted a grape tomato. Janne cut one in two, at which Liam, who's currently very three, disconsolately claimed with tears in his eyes that it was "broken". His dad then explained that if it wasn't cut, it would be a choking hazard. And Liam wailed "I want my choking hazard!!". I believe grape tomatoes now have a new name in our family.

A Fresh Explosion (sent to me by Barbara in Nova Scotia). It never gets old.

Man succumbs to 7-year battle with health insurance (via Not Dead Yet).

My friend Michele and I once plotted a small business called Hate-A-Cake, in which customers would order a cake for specific nasty occasions and would get a confection designed specifically to commemorate said occasion. The boss you hate, the man who gave you an STD, that Mean Girl who bullied you endlessly in highschool. Dynamite optional. This is a little like that (sent to me by AmyAria, one of the community members at HealthCentral).

Some US cereals more than half sugar. Oh! My! GAWD!!!

Henry Morgentaler gets Order of Canada. I love my adopted country, but there are times where I feel compelled to rise and sing the national anthem. Damn, you made me proud, Canada!

Saw a reference to the G7 in a paper the other day. Isn’t it G8?? Did I miss something?

Rosanne Cash on why McCain should dump Plain and pick her as vice-presidential nominee instead (via Broadsides).

City Creator. Hours of obsessive fun.


Monday, October 20, 2008

A Friendly Contest

I don't remember becoming friends with AB, just being friends with her. When I entered grade 1, I didn't know her and her name was Anne Birthe. And soon after, all I remember is her being AB and my best friend. AB, though, remembers making friends with me. In Denmark, there is a tradition on your birthday to bring candy for your classmates and I had brought licorice (much like Twizzlers, except better and I'm not biased - if you've tasted Danish candy, you know I don't lie), one for each student. The way AB tells the story, she noticed that I had a few left over and decided to come over and say hi. Presumably I shared the leftovers with her and the rest, as they say, is history. That was 39 years ago.

When we were kids, AB would come by our house in the morning and we'd go to school together, walking or biking home after school. Then we’d hang out at my house or her house and if it was the latter, we would torture her two-years-younger sister, KL (short for Karen Lise). There's a neon green (and very tasty) Danish popsicle called Champagne Fizz - I have no idea why, it has very little to do with Champagne - and we once told her that she couldn't have any until she got older because of the alcohol. She believed us. It was great. When I joined the family at AB's parent’s cottage, AB and I would climb up a ladder to the tiny attic at night and fall asleep to the sound of the waves in Roskilde Fjord (a tiny fjord, not nearly as imposing as the Norwegian ones). They had a red rowboat anchored a ways out and every day, we would wade out and spend most of the day there. The cottage was close to J√¶gerspris Castle, occupied by King Frederik VII's wife “to the left hand” (by which was meant any children wouldn’t be heirs to the throne – more about them here) and one of our favorite games were pretending we were them (I forget who was who). Basically the game involved bossing around KL, including making up a specific name for her (meaning serf), which we used mercilessly throughout the year. Still slips out sometimes, much to mine and AB’s amusement (for some reason, KL doesn’t laugh as much about it). Near this castle was the best ice cream stand in Denmark, complete with just-baked waffle cones, whipped cream and homemade strawberry jam. You could smell the waffles from the parking lot. And when my sister was born when we were about 10 years old, AB became her sister, too. We didn't torture Janne quite so much - with that big of a gap, it's just not fair.

(by the way – the fact that the above was very food-oriented is apparently very Danish. If you’ve been out, the first thing someone will ask about the evening was what you had to eat. Makes sense to me)

As we grew older, our friendship not only survived, but flourished despite much of the time between ages 11 and 16, I was in the hospital. We stayed friends through high school, even though I was in the language department and AB took math. Then she went to Paris for a year to be an au pair and when she came home, my family and I went to Canada. And that's when our friendship became even closer. AB has been here several times - I don't even remember how often anymore – the first time in 1986, when we all went to Expo ’86 in Vancouver. When she and her husband Bjarke invited us to their wedding/christening of their oldest, Camilla, they didn't expect we'd come, but we did. And when Janne and John got married, AB came to their wedding, flying on 9/11 and ending up in Gander, Newfoundland for a couple of days before being able to continue to Toronto. She arrived just in time for our traditional trip to Chinatown for crab with black bean sauce and then the wedding. When it became clear that my dad would not recognize us for much longer, AB came again and three years ago, she brought her kids, Camilla and Christoffer, who felt that we should be adopted as official family. It was a high honour to be named officially so by children who knew us, but likely didn't remember meeting any of us in person.

Whenever she goes, AB makes friends because she's that kind of person. She's kind, warmhearted, generous, smart, funny and has no qualms about showing her love. She is my sister-friend and one of very few people who have known me so long and so well. I don't remember much of my life before I was seven and that means that to me, there is almost nothing of my life in which AB hasn't been an important part.

We talked when my uncle Poul was here and she got so inspired by hearing about his visit that a few days later, she called us up and asked if we would mind her "popping over" for a week. Are you kidding me? Mind?? So she arrived on Friday and we've been having a grand time.

In honour of AB's visit, I'm having a contest. Prize is an 8x10 print of any of the images on my Flickr page (which will be updated sometime this week). To enter, leave a comment with a story about your best friend. Contest closes 6 p.m. Thursday evening and the winner will be chosen randomly by AB (seen below with her arms full of Tinks) before she hops on a plane at the end of the week.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax

What if there were parallel universes? What if in one of those universes, Homo Sapiens became extinct and Homo Neanderthalensis lived on to create a complex civilization? What if one of those Neanderthals came through to our universe? This is the central idea in the Hugo Award winning Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax
by Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer and the thought behind my mentioning “books that entertain, educate and move the boundaries of your mind” in Monday’s post.

In the depths of a nickel mine, Ponter Bodditt, a quantum physicist, is working with his partner Atticor Hold, researching parallel universes when something goes wrong (note: as I read this on audiobook, I'm fuzzy on the spellings). In the depths of the same nickel mine, in another universe, Louise Benoit is working in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory when something goes wrong and in that moment, Ponter stays in one place, but moves between universes. Back in the Neanderthal universe, Atticor is accused of murdering Ponter, while in ours, Mary Vaughan, at geneticist at York University in Toronto, is asked to test Ponter’s DNA in order to authenticate his genetic makeup (that it partly happens in my home province was ridiculously fun). The book takes place over the next week or so, examining our culture through the eyes of Ponter as he learns of the world he's traveled to and through the humans getting to know Ponter and the story of Atticor’s trial, we get to know the Neanderthal world.

And what a world it is! Sawyer has taken the little we know/theorize about Neanderthals based on the structure of their skeletons and skulls and surrounding archaeological findings and spent a lot of time thinking about what these facts would mean for a culture created by such a people.

For instance, although in the past it was believed that Neanderthals had a religion, this has since been discredited. What does that mean in terms of the development of a civilization? How does a culture develop a moral code without a deity? Sawyer argues that if you have no idea of an afterlife, this life becomes so much more precious with a subsequent intense focus on nonviolence. As well, he makes a rather excellent argument that in a religious species like ours, science will inherently be contaminated by religion (e.g., the Big Bang theory essentially being a creation myth). I mean, think about it! What if early Homo Sapiens hadn't found religion? It’s been rattling around in my mind ever since I finished this book.

And what about the method of subsistence? I remember learning about the !Kung Bushmen’s slow integration into the Bantu agrarian lifestyle, how the transition from hunting and gathering to animal husbandry and agriculture influenced the culture, among other things, changing a more egalitarian culture to a patriarchal one. The notion of property, of owning things, changes not just gender roles, but what about worldview in general? How many of our inventions and social mores are predicated upon ownership? How much of what we have done to this earth is based in the idea that we own it and its resources?

There are two major geek-fests in this book, physics (apparently quantum and regular) and anthropology/archaeology. I know nothing of physics, so much of it went completely over my head (sounding much like the adults do in Charlie Brown), although I have to say this: I know more now than I did before I read the book and was thoroughly entertained while I learned. Back in my undergraduate days, I took a couple of anthro courses for electives, fell in love with the field and if it wasn't because the activities of this particular profession tend not to be overly accessible, I would've switched majors in a heartbeat. And although I enjoyed the physics part in a sort of befuddled way, I geeked out all over the place when it came to the anthropological part of it.

Sawyer’s Neanderthal universe is incredible and best of all, we discover it slowly as the story alternates between Atticor’s experiences and what happens in our universe. Knowing that the description of the Neanderthal culture and belief system is extrapolated from something real left me awestruck with Sawyer’s depth of knowledge and imagination. More than just a good book, reading this story felt like a master class in how to make an imaginary world makes sense.

And it is. A good book, I mean. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a great book. It's a damn good story, the science is easily explained, integrated in the story and doesn't make your brain hurt at all and it's stuck with me, making me think deeper on the different theories presented, wanting to learn more. And I'm also pretty excited about Hominids being the first book in a trilogy - I can't wait to read the other two.

Go get it!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Beginner's Guide to RA: Friends & Family

My latest post on HealthCentral talks about the impact RA can have on the relationships in your life:

"I'm not going to lie to you: having a chronic disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis can be hard on relationships. Your friends and extended family -- partners and children will get their own Beginner's Guide -- have to go through the same emotional adjustment and learning curve as you do to understand your disease and the impact it has on your -- and their - life."

You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Turkey Day!

Today’s the day Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Well, it all depends on your perspective – if you’re a turkey, I guess you’d spend the day mourning the annual mass slaughter of your fellow fowl. However! As I’m pretty sure no turkeys read this blog, I’ll stick to the former interpretation.

When I first moved to Canada - back when the hills were mountains - I remember watching the Thanksgiving episodes of television shows where the family would go around the table, each member saying what they were thankful for. I always felt sort of embarrassed by proxy - not by the feeling of thankfulness, but the saying it out loud. Where I come from, we don't talk about things like that and for years, I thought people on this continent were emotionally incontinent. However, after 26 years, I've been North Americanized enough that now I sort of like the idea. So today, I am thankful for:

A globetrotting family who, when we can’t come to them, hop on a plane and come to us.

Readers like Hannah - if you have a blog, Hannah, please link in the comments, because I can't find the URL - who, when I put out an SOS about Mojo’s digestive issues, put me in touch with Margo, an expert in cat nutrition and as omniscient as a goddess about the wee beasties. To the point where in a few emails she told me more about the nature of cats and the particulars of Mojo’s problems than any of my vets ever have. And who told me about this:

FortiFlora. This is a probiotic supplement for cats made by Purina (they have one for dogs, too). I take acidophlus religiously to prevent my stomach from trying to eat itself and since part of Her Royal Catness' issues had to do with a hyperacidic stomach, well... I hesitate to say this (due to rampant superstition), but am knocking wood frantically and will include some qualifiers as I write, so hopefully, it'll be alright. For almost 2 weeks now, I've put a bit of this powder in Mojo's food in the morning - Purina recommends a whole pouch, but it doesn't seem to be necessary to give that much, in fact, the first pouch lasted me a week. And it's helping. She's not completely well, but part of the time, she's better than she's been in years. Mojo is eating (like a horse), usually not hiding in the closet feeling crappy after she eats, often playing spontaneously several times a day, is alert, talkative, pushy - in other words, she is herself after years of being unwell. I've been up against the wall for several years, as have about five different vets in the clinic I take her to and it might be as simple as a supplement (I hope). Hannah and Margo, you rock!

The Tinks. As always. I keep going back to watch this video. And this one. Damn, they're cute.

My body which despite 40 years of RA damage and frequent episodes of rather intense levels of stupidity on my behalf, keeps pulling me through and supports me to do the things I want to (except things like the trapeze flying). I'm often frustrated by what I can't do, but when put in the proper context, it's pretty amazing that it keeps going. I should be nicer to it.

A fantastic family and good friends. Old and new, online and off.

My other good friends codeine and cyclobezaprine that help heal me after abovementioned stupidity wrecks something.

Lazy three-day holiday weekend with decent weather. Really decent weather.

Books that entertain, educate and move the boundaries of your mind.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking that allows me to write.

Your comments that make me feel in touch with the world every day, but particularly on days where I've been stuck inside for reasons of snow or above-mentioned stupidity. They mean a lot.

The quiet of a holiday Monday leaving my downtown neighbourhood virtually deserted.

Cloris Leachman on Dancing with the Stars, especially her jive, which had me crying with laughter. If I can move and entertain like that when I’m her age (82), I’ll be a very happy woman.

And you?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dreamscapes

I had a plan. I was going to start this post with a pithy and pertinent quote, which should be easy to find in Google. Should be a matter of mere minutes until I hit the right link and then we'd be off. Except I have now spent way more time than is reasonable trying to find this particular quote, doing untold permutations of what I'm looking for and can't find it. It's making me nuts. So you know that quote about how there's nothing more boring than people who tell you their dreams over the breakfast table? Yeah, that one. Imagine that in neat italics just below the post title and we'll move on (and if you know the quote I'm talking about, please leave it in the comments so my brain will stop trying to figure it out).

Because that's what we're going to be talking about today. Dreams. I've had a couple of weeks with highly active, detailed and quite interesting dreams and if only I could remember them in more detail, there'd be enough material for an anthology of short stories. But since only the broad strokes remain, I'm going to bore you with them instead and I hope you'll join in so we can all "bore" each other over the metaphorical breakfast table. If you're one of those people who don't dream, feel free to pretend.

A virus has hit the world, transforming human beings to a sort of chittering monkey-like creatures with eyes of neon blue light. I'm a member of a group from somewhere else, come into this world to explore, to help. Only a few of the inhabitants were not affected and in one area, large and devastated, ruined buildings slowly being consumed by vegetation, there is a boy of about 13, hair in tangles, large brown eyes in a dirt-smeared face, holding his arm outstretched so one of the creatures can grasp it with one spindly hand, hanging there, peearing at us curiously and chittering excitedly at the boy. He is a modern-day Mowgli, alone in a post-apocalyptic jungle of stone, surrounded by groups of naked tail-less bodies, throwing themselves from perch to perch, incessantly screeching, chittering, their eyes strobing a white-blue light wherever they turn their face.

I am back at university for some reason, I don't know what. The friends I used to know are there, too and we are having lunch on the black leather couches place by the walls of windows looking out over the valley. The trees are turning, the valley a riot of yellow, orange, red. I need to go, need to meet someone for an appointment and then head to the front entrance to await my ride. But the large buildings made of concrete and glass are now made of glass and tubes of steel painted white, so you can see everywhere, endlessly. I see the people within through the halls of glass and overlapping pipes upon pipes, the building a living sculpture, a living hive of people and I keep thinking that I have to come back with my camera because this, this is one of the most visually interesting things I've ever seen. I am disoriented, having trouble superimposing my mental map of the campus I attended 25 years ago on top of this nebulous landscape where the glass and the pipes have transformed the known hallways, corners and departments into an abstract nebulous world. I miss my appointment, I miss my ride, and lost in the levels of the hive, almost there, just around the corner, almost, but never there, endlessly continuing down yet another hallway. I don't have recurring dreams as much as recurring themes and this is one of what I call my "punching Jell-O dreams". I have them when I'm stuck, when I've tried to solve a problem over and over and over again, but nothing ever changes. I suspect this one may have had something to do with 11,000 e-mails.

I am a Russian cosmonaut, on a solo mission in my shining metal ship, blasted off from somewhere far away. I crash, a gentle crash, more a glide, really, caused by lack of fuel, in a small village in the Scottish Highlands and am both one of the villagers and the cosmonaut alternately and at the same time. The cosmonaut is welcomed in the village, taken to the pub for a pint and a meal while fuel is found and it turns out that all that was needed was one of the old tires from my wheelchair that I kept when I got new ones. For some reason I am not pleased with the cosmonaut taking my tire - I've no idea why, it's not as if I'd be using it again anyway, as it is quite bald - but sulking, I give my permission, the tire is placed in the appropriate location on the ship and I, back in the cosmonaut's body again, enter my ship, strap myself in at the front by the windows at the pointed nose and blast off, feeling the force everywhere in my body, exhilarated by the speed, a trail of black rubber smoke pluming out behind me. I can see the village below, surrounded by mountainous forests, the landscape dotted with deep blue lakes and the ship hesitates, reducing velocity, but by a great effort of will I press my body forward, physically and psychically making the ship accelerate again and I fly into the heavens.

Your turn! And afterwards, go check out Gutter Vista, where my friend Mary has just established an online home. Be nice to her - I've nagged her to get a blog for a while and want her to get sucked into the blogosphere, just as addicted as the rest of us.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Just. Fabulous.

According to the astrologer in my local paper, Mercury retrograde means "[it's time to improve and revise your plans, strategies and dreams." I've noticed they do that now, put a nice spin on what used to be described as a three-week episode of holy hell going on in the spheres of communication and technology. Not anymore! These days, Mercury retrograde is all about time to consider, to reflect, to finetune your plans so that within a few days of the planet going direct again - remember those extra buffer days! - you can confidently stride forth and implement your polished plan to the awe and applause of the general populace.

Well, they're not fooling me. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet and so does a pile of poop. Well, not that it smells sweet or anything, quite the contrary in fact, but you get my drift.

And why am I nattering on about astrological happenings that nobody believes in unless it happens to dovetail exactly with what happened to them that day? I'll tell you why. This is not the first time that Mercury retrograde has seen fit to interfere with my life, but so far this year, they haven't been so bad. I had therefore started to believe the propaganda, prepared to concede that with the right attitude, even the heavens could rehabilitate themselves. I’d even relaxed my normal Mercury Retrograde instinctive duck-and-cover reflex.

I should've known better. It turns out that the reason the bastard had been so relatively innocuous in 2008 was that it was busy cooking up a humdinger.

Friday afternoon, just as I was about to head to bed for my Mandatory Rest Period, I decided to do a quick check of my other e-mail (I'm sorry Gmail, you're not the only one). And downloaded 1000 messages. All of the variety of "Delivery Status Notification (Failure)" and "Undelivered Mail Return to Sender". To my knowledge, I had not sent out 1000 messages and as I was pretty sure I hadn't been taken over by an alternate personality (I checked the sent folder just in case), clearly, I had a bit of a problem. Spoke to a nice man at my IPS’s technical support line and he helped me do some thingy online that should keep some of these messages from being downloaded, thereby cutting down on the number of messages actually arriving in my inbox. Which it certainly did, as when I got up again two hours later to check how well that worked, this process we’d done had cut 603 messages from arriving on my end. That's the good news. The bad news is that 4532 messages were not blocked. And that was just the beginning.

Since then, I've received many (many) more, totaling by the time I post this, somewhere north of 11,000 emails. Which I have combed through to make sure I didn't miss any real email (of which there were about 30 this weekned). Initially, I designated them as spam, meaning I also had to send a similar amount out to help my spam filter organize things. That was a whole other nightmare and at some point during the whole mess (and the exact timing is fuzzy to me, as the weekend is just one big blur of neverending email, but I think I cottoned on to it fairly quickly), I decided to just delete the blasted things instead, to avoid that particular bucket of nastiness. And in so doing, accidentally deleted all my other sent messages, as well. That I hadn’t backed up.

The next guy at my ISP’s tech support line told me I had a mailerbot virus and to do a system restore. Any time before the meltdown happened? I inquired, to which he replied "I guess so". Which infused me with all kinds of confidence in his level of expertise (by the way, as the flood of emails has now slow to a trickle, it appears doubtful that it's a mailerbot virus). Doing a system restore screws with the user files in Dragon, rendering it inoperable, so I uninstalled to prepare for later install next time an attendant came and could put the disk in the drive for me, which means I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t write anything. And all of a sudden, I could breathe again, when the ever-present feeling that I ought to be doing something productive lifted. So I popped on my headphones, listened to a book and started cleaning. You can actually see the surface of my desk now and everything has been discarded or neatly organized in a thingy with 'file' and 'do'. Actually? Quite fabulous.

After this blissful interlude, Mercury Retrograde picked up the pace again. Saturday evening, I unpacked my birthday present to myself (Dragon v.10 with Bluetooth headset - I will write untethered!), installed it only to have mysterious messages pop up, not able to turn the computer off becuase Dragon was "busy" and long story short, it turns out that in order to use my birthday present to myself, I need a new computer! As this particular version of the AMD Athlon processor does not have something called an SSE2 (despite buying my computer over a year after Wikipedia says everyone else had incorporated the SSE2. Whatever that is). Since it is the fourth Dragon product I've bought, it didn't occur to me to check if there were different tech specifications and it wasn't as if the promotion e-mail I got with this special offer mentioned it.

So since Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., I have done two virus checks, two system restores, uninstalled and installed Dragon twice (had to get v.9 back on), spoken to three tech support staff (only two of whom actually seem to know anything), spent an inordinate amount of hours researching miscellaneous technical problems and I want to you to know that I am a cautionary tale. Believe Mercury retrograde. Do what I didn't.

Duck and cover.

Friday, October 03, 2008

What I'll Miss About Summer

This week, Fall seems to have arrived with a certainty, which prompted me to think about what I’ll miss in the next 6-7 months.

Being warm
Being in less paim
Sunshine, strong, clear and bright, not pale and washed out
Not wearing socks


People walking slowly, with a smile on their face
Running errands in the morning before my hair dries (in the winter, it’d freeze)

The smell of freshly cut grass

Not taking 5 extra minutes to get dressed before I go out
Open windows

Connecting to joy being as close as watching dogs in the park


The smell of hot pavement after the rain starts
Patio restaurants

The sun setting well past dinnertime
Leaves the proper colour (green) and in their proper place (on the trees, not off
)
Reading
in the park
Short shadows

Sunlight shining through petals and leaves

Birdsong

Black thunderstorm clouds
lit by sunshine
Stopping to chat with friends, acquaintances and strangers about the lovely weather, their dogs, travel, food, pigeons and other important things

The smell of sunshine on my skin

Popping out to the grocery store for something I forgot late in the evening
Summer blue skies


Being able to go out whenever I want to instead of constantly checking forecasts for impending snow in order to stock up on groceries before I get housebound

The warm wind caressing my face
Laughing (easier to do when -40 winds aren't snatching the breath from your lungs)
The sound of cicadas
Purple sunset stormclouds hit by lightning
Waking up to blue skies
Open windows
Warm rain
Nature being awake

Did I mention being warm?

What I’m Looking Forward To About Winter
Christmas
Wearing handknit socks
It being over

What will you miss?