Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Interesting article

I just came across an article about recent research on the self-awareness of elephants. Thought it was pretty cool! I'd love to be doing some research like that. Not that I completely hate my job now, it's certainly got some positives and negatives, and I really get into some of the day-to-day stuff (debugging? I could do it all day and night, and you wouldn't even have to pay me :)). But I think most people fantasize about changing carreers from time to time. DH actually made it happen. Going from software geek to english geek really worked for him :) But again, even in his new job there are good parts and bad parts, and you have to take the good with the bad... All that to say that I am not going to change careers any time soon, but I do find psychological research fascinating, especially when it involves animals. They are so cute! I bet the pay is pretty low, though...

This concludes my work day dressed up as a Christmas tree. Most people seemed to get it, although some looked really puzzled. Can't wait to go home and put my comfy clothes on :)


Weekend summary

I kept meaning to post an update on the weekend, but I just kept running out of time! I guess we had a pretty busy weekend :)

Friday night we had some friends over for a Halloween-themed double bill. We watched the movieThe Ring, and the sequel The Ring Two that one of our friends brought over. We had already seen the first one, but it was fun to watch it again. As far as horror movies go, I think it's a pretty good one. The sequel was a little disappointing, it didn't seem to flow as effortlessly as the first one. Still, it was fun. We had ordered some pizza, and had some munchies on hand, which was enough food to sustain us through over 4 hours of movie watching (those movies are crazy long). Then, to allow us to actually sleep that night, we popped in a DVD of TV Funhouse sketches that another friend had brought. It was a late night, but a fun night.

On Saturday, DH remembered that he had to check something at work. So we went downtown to his office. On our way back, we stopped at a bunch of furniture stores, looking for a new couch for our living room. During the kitchen renovation last year we moved our big couch into the basement, and I'd like to leave it there (it's a big pain to move it). But we need more lounging furniture upstairs, so I am trying to find another couch. I have some clear ideas in mind, and there doesn't seem to be that much choice out there. So this was mostly an exploration trip, to see what's available. I'm sure we won't be buying anything anytime soon, still not "there" yet.

Saturday night, I went to the NAC to see Swan Lake by the Kirov Ballet. It was very nice. Unfortunately, we were late for the performance, because we had forgotten that it was an early start time. All performances at the NAC usually start at 8, but this one was at 7. There were three of us going, and none of actually looked at the time on the ticket until it was too late... Luckily it's a long ballet, and we only missed a small part.

The funny thing about this ballet is that back in high school, my friend M was in ballet, and her class performed parts of Swan Lake in a big production. I was helping M with her hair (she's got a lot of gorgeous hair that is hard to convince to stay tucked in a chignon), so I saw a lot of rehearsals and the performances, and a lot of the steps became really familiar. So much so, that when I saw the show on Saturday, at times I could have sworn I was seeing my friend M dancing on the stage in front of me. I had sort of a weird nostalgia thing going on there for a while :)

On Sunday, I prepared for Junior Achivement for Monday, and we ordered some parts for our chainsaw, which meant we spent a LOT of time on the computer - everything is slow at dial-up speed. I am really getting ready to try again to see if the new high-speed alternatives will work at our house (last time we checked, there were slim pickings, but things change pretty quickly). Sunday night we watched Rent on TV. And just like that, the weekend was over.

Yesterday (Monday), we had another production session at our Junior Achievement company. We managed to get lots of production done, and didn't get out of there until around 6:30 (the whole thing starts at 2:30). It was a long meeting, but that's pretty normal, since we're still getting used to actually running the meetings. The executive is doing a good job staying on top of things.

And today it's Halloween. A bunch of us dressed up at work, but the great majority of the people didn't get into the spirit of things. I'll let you guess what I am dressed up as:


Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Ok, so big news: I have officially switched the blog to the new blogger beta. Or google-blogger, or whatever you want to call it. Should have no impact for the readers of the blog (AFAIK it'll still look the same), but it looks like there are some new options I may take advantage of as I build up the blog. I wasn't particularly attached to the existing blogger interface, so it probably won't impact me much. So far so good, anyway.

I got to thinking about yesterday about blogging, and how it's pretty much impossible to have a blog with substance without offending someone. For some unknown reason, I am usually pretty sensitive to the fact that there are always two sides to a story (i.e. if you tell me "A", I can probably make a compelling argument for "not A" - I should have been on a debate team!). So whenever I post something, I am pretty much always aware how someone might get offended by it. Which is probably the reason why I haven't advertised this to too many people...

As I was thinking about all that, some thoughts crystallized in my head. These are not new or revolutionary thoughts, more like concepts I'd been dealing with for a long time, but all of a sudden they became really clear. Not only is it impossible to please everyone, but you should not ever even attempt it. Byt trying to please everyone, all one can accomplish is lose oneself completely. Now that doesn't mean one should not be aware of others, or considerate to others, or civil or courteous. You can be all that, and still firmly stand your own ground. And you will probably insult or offend some people just by having your own opinions, but as long as you're not being obnoxious about it (feeling superior, or bringing up the subject constantly etc), you can't really be blamed for other people's feelings.

Of course that's a big caveat. I think it's hard to draw that line of obnoxiousness, because it's different for different people. I guess you have to decide for yourself where it lies for you. And revise it over time, as new evidence comes up, and you discover the sore points of people who are important to you (or maybe even strangers who bring up valid points).

I'm not quite sure exactly where my obnoxiousness line lies yet, as I am still fine-tuning it...

OK, next time I post I promise to write about something more upbeat. Maybe my new JA company :)


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


OK, so I really try not to get onto my high horse too often, because I know how annoying that can be. Plus, I know very well that I am not a saint by any stretch, and just like anyone else, I'm not too crazy about hearing sermons from others. However, this
article deals with an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Canada is sitting at the coveted #4 spot as one of the biggest over-consumers in the world. It bugs me that we, as a society, are such uber-consumers. And clearly, I am not completely immune to this, after all, we do have 2 cars for 2 people, and just this year we bought a laptop and a digital video camera. But we do make a concerted effort to:
1) minimize the amount of garbage we produce each week (by composting, recycling and re-using as much as possible)
2) if at all possible, avoid buying overpackaged, disposable and single-use items
3) always resist the urge to buy on an impulse
4) resist the hype!

I really get quite annoyed at all the commercials that try to convince us that we absolutely *NEED* and *DESERVE* the latest and greatest in _fill-in-the-blank_, especially when it comes to disposable stuff. The latest trend in cleaning supplies is single-use stuff, that you keep buying every week (lining the corporation's coffers), and throwing out every week (lining the city dump). And yet it seems to make sense to many, many people. Is it just a case of "out of sight, out of mind"?

Also, it seems to me that everything is being designed for obsolescence. As an example, when we bought the light kit for the ceiling fan on the weekend, it turned out that they didn't carry the same colour for this brand (and they have over 20 different colours). They have similar colours, but just different enough that they would clash. My cynical side tends to believe this is done so that we would buy a whole new set (fan + light kit), since we can't match our existing fan anymore... We ended up going with a complementary colour instead...

And don't get me started about the "keeping up with the Jones'" syndrome. It seems to have been getting progressively worse (caused by easy credit? mass media? spiritual emptiness?) over the last few decades. Sometimes I wonder if it can even be stopped...

Anyway, I will get off my high horse now... But I would like to encourage everyone to take one small step to lower our over-consumption. Who knows, you may even save some money! One thing that I heard one couple do, was take a look at their weekly garbage at the curb, and try to minimize or eliminate the high runners. Too much styrofoam? Try to buy things in other types of containers. Cardboard? Maybe that can be recycled. Food scraps? Consider composting... You get the idea.

Ok, no more ranting for at least a month, I promise!


Monday, October 23, 2006

Weekend update

So we had another busy weekend... But lots got done. The first major accomplishment is that the huge pile of logs under the lean-to is no more: we've finally managed to cut and chop all of the wood, and it is 90% stacked (and the remaning 2% will probably get burned over the course of this week). Luckily Saturday was really nice, so it was a pleasure to be working on the wood pile with the beautiful sun an pleasant breeze. Now we only have 3 more piles to go ;) But at least we now have some room to move around under the leanto and re-arrange the remaining wood. The original wood pile seemed so daunting for the last 2 years (at least), so it feels really good to have it gone.

So that was pretty much our whole Saturday. On Sunday, the weather turned out to be miserable. Hail, rain, icy winds, in one word "Bleh!". But we had some tickets to go skating at the local NHL arena, which we do each year, so we had to leave the house. We left early, and even managed to get DH a new pair of skates (he's never had a new pair). I think we may have been the only adults without children there, though we were having fun just like a pair of little kids, so maybe that counts ;) After skating we went to a lighting store and picked up a light kit for the ceiling fan in our living room. And we managed to get the light installed when we got back home, together with a handy remote, so now I have an actual light in the ceiling (it's only been 5 years...). So now if we have friends over for dinner, or to play cards, we can entertain in the living room, with the fire going, and with actual lighting :)

Oh, and another accomplishment this weekend: I made my first borsht (or as we spell it: barszcz). It actually tasted decent, and we're still alive, so it must not be poisonous ;) It's kind of a complex soup to make, with a lead time of a few weeks, which is why I never made it before. But now I know I can!

Anyway, that's it for the big news today :)

Till later!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

CARS (part 2)

Ok, so where was I? Oh yeah, cars I never really get a chance to drive :) ...

Well, after we left Algeria and came to Canada, my parents really didn't have any money for cars. But we needed some kind of transportation, so they bought an old and decrepid Plymouth Horizon, that had recently been in an accident. Poor little car, I think it was held together by duct tape and sheer power of will. The driver's side mirror was held in place with chewing gum... This is the car in which I eventually learned how to drive, and I vividly remember my friend always bringing an umbrella into the car, so that she could whack the dash with it whenever the radio started cutting out :) The wiring in the dash must have been a little used up as well... For one of the
turn signals, you had to keep depressing the lever, because it always wanted to get back into the "off" position. In other words, the car would always keep you on the edge of your seat when driving. On the positive side, I don't ever remember getting stuck anywhere, the little beater always took good care of me. I will always remember this car fondly, and to this day, whenever I see one drive by (which is becoming an increasingly rare occurance), I have to smile :)

Once my parents found work, and there was some money coming in, they bought a second vehicle. This time, we were riding in style: a 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier wagon. This car may be the single reason why I have a soft spot for wagons. I borrowed this car many a times, and I was pretty much always the designated driver of our group (a pretty easy choice given I don't drink). I also fondly remember driving my baby sister to her skiing classes out in Rigaud. This car almost let me down a few times, stalling in the middle of traffic for example, but certainly the good outweighed the bad. I really discovered the wonderful sense of freedom that you get when getting into a car with the wide open road ahead of you. Even though my stepfather kept a close watch on the kms I put on it every time I went out, I still had the feeling I could go anywhere and do anything... Great memories :)

The third car my parents bought (once we said goodbye to the trusty old Horizon), was a 1993 Oldsmobile Achieva. I didn't get to drive this car nearly as much as the other two, since it was the new car right until the time I moved out. I don't have too many memories of it, except that it was the car in which i had my first accident. Totally not my fault, although if I had a bit more experience I might have been able to either avoid it, or lessen the impact. It was one of those things, huge snow storm, blowing gale, reduced visibility, and I had driven all the way across town, with my Mom in the passenger seat. We were just 3 streets away from home, when a city truck decided to ignore a stop sign and drive right into my path. I wasn't going to fast, but with the snowfall, and the ABS engaging, I wasn't able to stop in time, and ended up hitting him. Believe me, it wasn't a nice night to be sitting inside the city truck filling out the paperwork and freezing to death. The only casualty ended up being our bumper cover, but to this day I am leary of that intersection (one-way stop with poor visibility). Maybe that's the reason why I was never as attached to this car as the others...

So after that I moved out, and my parents' cars stopped being my rides. I commuted by bus, metro and bike, until I came to Ottawa for my internship at Nortel. That's where I met my DH, and around halfway through my stay here, I got introduced to his car, a 1994 Cherry red Ford Probe. I have to say I was very impressed. I think I instantly became a fan of sports cars :) This became the car on which I learned how to drive a standard (thanks to the immense patience of DH), and it's the the only car we had for a few years after I moved up here for good. In fact, we're still driving it today, though it's a little faded, and the sunroof won't open anymore... But it's still as fun to drive as ever! If the Horizon hadn't convinced me that hatchbacks are where it's at, this car certainly would have :)

Which is why our next car had to be a hatchback. A 1999 ferngruen (a.k.a. green) BMW 318ti was our little princess. We ordered it in Canada, and went all the way to Germany to pick it up, drive to the port of Bremerhaven, and ship it back to Halifax. Then we went to Halifax, we picked it up at the shipyards, and drove it all the way home. It was a great big adventure, and so was owning the car. When I say the car was a princess, I mean it both in a good and a not-so-good way. The car had great handling, was a pleasure to drive, looked amazing and made us feel at home. But it also required a lot of pampering, and really didn't enjoy it when we bought our house on a dirt road. It was made to drive on the smooth pavement of the autobahn, and all the gravel and potholes made it cranky...

So when we decided to go on a cross-country trip, we decided we would trade the 'ti in for something a little bigger (so we could fit all our trip gear), and maybe a little less refined. We ended up getting a second hand 2002 Volkswagen Passat Wagon. Aside from a flat tire, the car behaved flawlessly throughout the trip, and back home as well. It convinced us that wagons are great, and that we do like german engineering a lot! Our only complaint about the car was a certain gutlessness, a lack of pep when driving it.

So.... when DH noticed that the value of the car was starting to drop quite quickly (he's an appraiser, and knows this kind of stuff), we had to make a decision: either we're driving this car to the ground (sort of what we're doing with the Probe), or we trade it in on something a little newer, and a little peppier. We decided to trade it in on a very similar, yet peppier vehicle, a 2003 Audi A4 Avant. Again a wagon, in a similar colour, but a little smaller, with a bit better handling, and all wheel drive. This car we will probably drive to the ground, it seems like the perfect compromise: it has the driveability of the BMW, combined with the utility and versatility of the Passat.

So that's it. My life as a passenger and car owner :)


Friday, October 20, 2006


Ok, so today I am going to try something different. I want to talk about the cars in my life. Why? Well, because I am a bit of a car nut, and I think cars have always been an important part of my life.

So to start with, I have to dig deep into my memory... So the cars of my childhood. I only remember my parents having one car, and that was a trabant. I've scoured the web for some pictures, and here's the best picture I could find. In Poland, we affectionately called them soapboxes. The body of the car was made out of plastic, which may explain the nickname :) You can find lots of information about the trabant at the following website. A very typical Polish car. The other two cars that I remember very well from that time, are the polonez driven by my
grandfather, and the little FIAT, or maluch (i.e. tiny one) driven by my other grandfather. I think these three cars probably represent more than 50% of the vehicular population of Poland at the time :)

So once we left Poland, we went to Algeria. There, we mostly drove Peugeots, the mainstay of cooperants there. Ours were the 504 model, a good workhorse. I really enjoyed those cars, though I am sure today I would find them quite unrefined. We took ours all over Western Europe and Northern Africa (ok, just Marocco, Algeria and Tunisia, but still), and they served us well. We had one different car in Algeria, though: an old Mercedes Benz, my first experience of a "couch on wheels". The seats in that car were so mushy, it was very very easy to get sea-sick in the back seat on winding roads... In fact, I really disliked being driven in that beast, although I am sure it was fun to drive :) Of course I was way too young to even start thinking about a driving license at the time (though I do remember being allowed to steer the Peugeot on a remote road once - a good memory!).

But the one good thing about the MB is that it saved our lives. We once had an accident so bad that the front axle broke on the car, we had three flats and the witnesses told us that we "need to kill a sheep and have a meshoui tonight" because we were very lucky to have even survived it... I remember the shocks coming out through the wheel wells, it was an unbelievable sight. But we got the car towed to a mechanic, who somehow managed to solder the axle, and promised us it would last us the rest of our life (though he made no promises as to the length of said life). I don't think we kept the car much longer after that, but we were certainly very thankful for the quality of its original built. There's no doubt in my mind that in a lesser quality vehicle we would have not survived (a few centimeters was all that was separating us from dropping down onto a highway into the path of big trucks). So if only for that reason, this car certainly deserves a special mention. And that may also be the reason why to this day I have a soft spot for german engineered vehicles... Though for the life of me I do not remember the model number of the car (the colour was something light and soft, like caramel or something). I'll have to ask my Mom if maybe she remembers.

Unfortunately, I have to conclude this episode of "down memory lane... the car version", because I have to get going. But stay tuned, part 2 will follow shortly :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Speed of life

Isn't life just crazy? I can't believe how fast it goes! I was reminded of that on two separate occasions today. Once, when we went out for lunch for a coworker, who's leaving on her maternity leave tomorrow. And I swear it seems like just a few months ago she told us she was pregnant for the first time (and this is her second pregnancy). Her first daughter is going to be 2 very soon...

And then another friend sent out the picture of her niece that she adopted. The whole adoption process was a mess that somehow got really mangled, and ended up taking forever. The little 12 year old girl that we saw in pictures has now become a 16 year old young lady. It doesn't seem like all that long ago when we first heard of her, but the pictures from then and now seem like two different girls. And as much as I'd like to delude myself, I am sure the passage of time can be noticed in my pictures as well ;)

This year was our 5th wedding anniversary. I find it hard to believe we've been married longer than we had been dating before our wedding. We've known each other for 10 years now, and the 10th anniversary of our first "date" is coming up in around 2 months. And yes, at times it does seem like we've been together forever (and then some), but most of the time it just seems like we've barely scratched the surface in our relationship. Either I'm married to a very, very deep guy, or I'm very slow at getting to know people, or there's always something new to discover because we're still constantly growing as people. Most likely, it's a combination of all three. And I really like it. When I was growing up, I used to wonder how people managed to have a simple life (especially without kids), and not get bored with the routine and each other. But now I understand better the whole concept of "the more we know the less we know", that with each discovery/understanding we only find out more to explore, whether it be about life, about the world, or about our spouse. How can one ever get bored, as long as one keeps their thinking hat on?

Anyway, I've got more musings on that, but I have to go, it's almost time for my volleyball game.

Keep exploring!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kitten pictures!

Ok, so here it is, the promised "part-two" of the story of our long weekend. Also, for your viewing pleasure, I am including some shots of mama-cat (Tiger) and one of the kittens (Tim - the neighbours decided to call the little ones Tim and Bits in honour of the donut holes you can find at Tim Horton's). It's hard to still call him a kitten, as he'll soon outgrow his Mom. His paws and his head are already way bigger than hers!

Anyway, so aside from being visited by the cats, we had all sorts of other excitement on the weekend. We went to visit friends for dinner twice, and we also spent a whole bunch of time working on our wood pile. I think we have maybe half a face cord of wood all nicely cut, split and piled, ready to be used. It's fun work, but it's still a lot of work. One of these days I'll post a picture of our growing (so far) wood pile :) We also did some repairs to the barn, because one of the logs supporting the lean-to had rotted away, and in the winter the roof was looking like it might collapse under the weight of ice and snow. So we found a suitable log, cut it to the right length and shape, found a suitable cement support and nailed it into place. Not a really big job, but one that badly needed to be done before the winter. And now it is off the to-do list :)

So on to our other activities of the weekend, namely visiting with friends. Saturday we visited my friend and coworker and her family. We really had a blast. The food was extra delicious (ham stuffed with chicken and cheese - how can you go wrong?), and the company very enjoyable. My friend's kids entertained us with many magic tricks (very well rehearsed), and after dinner we played a few hands of Uno. DH had never played the game before, and he was getting confused about the rules, to the delight of the kids. I think everyone had a lot of fun, and it's always refreshing to see such well-behaved and polite, yet still lively and vibrant children :)

On Saturday we had the traditional Thanksgiving get-together with DH's childhood friends (from here on I'll refer to them as homeys). As every year we were invited to the mansion that J owns, which is nestled in the woods just minutes from where we live. It was great to see everyone as usual, and the weather was so beautiful we went not just for one but for two walks in the beautiful surroundings. We must have been quite a sight, a 5 year old, two dogs and a bunch of grownups (some of us behaving still like 5 year olds) :) It was a riot. The dinner was a potluck, with the hosts providing a full Thanksgiving dinner and the rest of us just bringing a few incidentals. Because our vegan friend can't really eat the traditional turkey, I was bringing a vegan meal. DH suggested I try something indian for a change, so I made a chana masala (a recipe I found on one of the vegan forums on the internet). I think it turned out quite ok, although I was amazed at how long I had to boil the chickpeas (2.5 hours boiling at home, and then another hour in the oven!). This is one of the billions of great things about the internet - the ability to have all these recipes at the tip of your finger! And now that I've bought all these exciting new spices (turmeric and curry and friends), I can't wait to try some more indian recipes. I think something with potatoes and peas is going to be next :)

So I think that's it for our gastronomic adventures on the weekend (though we're still eating some of the leftovers). Hope you've enjoyed the totally unrelated pictures :)

Here's one of a grasshopper that landed in DH's hand and just didn't want to leave!


Monday, October 09, 2006

More kitten news

Just had to post this this morning. Cats are just so darn cute :)

Yesterday we were hanging out on the deck drinking smoothies, when the mama-cat came over to visit. BTW, it looks like the neighbours are going to keep the cats, so we should be seeing them around for years to come :) So mama-cat was hanging around, walking between DH and me and being all friendly and purring. So I dipped my finger in the smoothie, and let her lick it off. She really seemed to like it. I figured it was probably ok for her, as it's mostly soy milk and blueberries. I usually leave a small dish with clean water on the deck, so that if she gets thirsty she can always have a drink, and she often does, so I figured she may now come looking for water and smoothies ;)

In the evening we went to visit some friends (it is Canadian Thanksgiving after all). We came back around 10pm, to be greeted by Tiger (aka mama-cat), carrying a mouse in her mouth. She dropped it right at our feet, very proud of herself. I guess one treat deserves another ;) I think she ate the mouse overnight, because there was no trace of it this morning. We were pretty happy about that, as we're not too keen on starting a dead mouse collection in the driveway. So we're eating breakfast this morning, when all of a sudden Tiger appears behind the patio door, drops another dead mouse on our deck, and meows proudly in our direction. She also tried to shove the mouse around a bit, looked like she was trying to prove that it was freshly killed... I know the intentions were very sweet, but it's kind of hard to eat breakfast with freshly killed mice at your door...

Now I have to let DH use the computer, so I'll have to finish the whole story of the weekend another time.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Random thoughts

So here it is, I am starting to feel guilty again about not updating this thing. Really, it's cause it feels like nothing is happening. But in fact things are happening. Just nothing exiting enough to make me want to shout from the rooftops. Which is quite unusual, because it doesn't usually take much for me to want to share my thoughts with whomever is willing to listen...

I guess I've just been a little tired and worn out. Last weekend was great, but very busy. We spent a lot of time chopping wood for the winter. We keep a pile of wood on the left side of the barn, under a lean-to. Every fall, my stepfather likes to scour the land in search of fallen/dead trees, and we drag them back to the barn. After they've had time to dry for a year, we cut them and chop them into burnable pieces. Then, when the cold winter months come, we can burn them in the woodstove, for rustic charm but also to heat up the house. It lessens our dependance on the oil company :) We have a little rechargeable chainsaw, which works pretty well on the small-diameter logs we have, and we also have a kick-ass splitting axe, so the whole job of cutting, splitting and stacking is a lot of fun. But it also exercises some muscles that I don't normally use. So after the first wood chopping session of the season, I am always sore in funny spots.

As luck may have it, I also started a new session of Yoga last Friday (after a whole summer off), so I could feel that in my muscles too :) As a result, when Monday rolled around I wasn't the most rested person out there. And as everyone knows, once you start the week tired, you'll probably be tired all week... Luckily, the coming weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, so we'll have a long weekend. We already have lots of social plans, so it should be a hoot. And hopefully I can get some rest somewhere in there too :)

Hmm, I was going to put some actual random thoughts into this post. But it's getting kind of late, and I want to be on time for my volleyball game! I'll have to save my deep thoughts for later :) Maybe on the weekend I'll have a chance to sit down and ponder online ;)

And again, I have no pictures for you. The other day, my cubemate used his cellphone snapped a picture of a small snake on one of the paths at work, but when I went looking for it, it was obviously gone... That would have been a great addition to this blog, I think :)

Anyway, that's it for now!

Happy trails,