Friday, August 29, 2008

A Great Angry Song

Still on a political tear... I have a feeling the next couple of months are going to be very intense as the election(s) gear up... Harper won't say anything officially yet, but we're almost definitely having one in Canada too. If only Dion wasn't so.... what? Nerdy? Un-charismatic? I'm afraid the Liberals will find a way to lose this even though most people aren't thrilled with the Conservatives either.
Anyway, I'll be off in TO for the long weekend, but wanted to leave you with one of my favourite angry songs, a perfect "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" song.
This is "Excuse Me Mister" by Ben Harper.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Politics - Lots of it

I think I've always been mildly interested in American politics, if only because it affects the rest of the world so much, but this year (and I can almost totally say this is M's fault) I've switched from "mildly" to "very" interested. Like, possibly "ridiculously" interested considering this is not my country...
I've watched all the key speeches at the Democratic National Convention so far: saw Michelle, saw the Clintons, saw Jo Biden. I plan on watching Obama's speech tonight of course. I'm not just watching because it's important though, I'm watching because I'm honestly, actually moved. Because (and I'm sorry, this is cheesy, but it must be said because it's true) this version of the Democrats gives me hope. This isn't Kerry-Edwards '04, where I wanted the Democrats to win simply because they weren't Bush-Cheney. No, this time around, I actually think Obama-Biden have good ideas and a more sympathetic, merciful, cooperative outlook towards their own country and towards the rest of the world. This time around, I actually like the politicians.
I never like the politicians. Never.
I came home from the book signing and panel discussion for Dark Days, and the politics seemed infinitely more important, because I had just finished to some very knowledgeable people talking about what happens when politics get out of hand, when the wrong policies turn into law unchecked, and the truth is it's frightening. It's easy for us to forget that because we're comfortable, but last night I was reminded that some of my fellow-Canadian citizens found that out first hand. And they'll spend the rest of their lives trying to recover from that knowledge.
Politics matter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Today: Book Launch in Ottawa

This is tonight at 6 p.m. Should be fascinating. I will be there.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I wrote to be more like you, started it because it was something I could copy you at and then realized - wow, this is actually something I might be good at! - and started to enjoy it myself but even then, it was always linked to you in some way...
you were always the first ear to listen to my voice re-reading the words off the page, the first critic with a verdict - It's good. It's sad. It's strong - always so kind about it, lifting the grade of the words a point or two above what I would have given myself, turning average into nice, nice into moving, moving into powerful. I would read you those words still fresh off the page, still scribbled in my illegible handwriting, read them to myself aloud for the first time in that recital, for the first time since writing them, stumbling over the scratches and the underlines, the changes in mid-sentence, the run-ons, the flows that didn't flow and needed fixing.
For years, you read your novels through me, through the dog-eared pages of the latest book under my pillow, and I would breathlessly explain the circumstances of the last 2 pages, the lead up to that perfect sentence I had highlighted, that perfect sentence I needed you to hear... When the book was just "ok" I might have two passages to share, when it was amazing every second page was dog-eared, every second page needing reading aloud and after twenty-or-so sessions it was just "You need to read this book!" - to which you might answer "you're reading it to me anyway".
I still underline and dog-ear. I read more now that you're away, actually, read in some of the time we might have spent talking, some of the time I might have spent on the floor of your living room, playing dress up with my Little Angela or giving pony-rides to my Little Angel. Maybe when you visit I will greet you with a barrel-full of books and say "here, read the underlined parts". Maybe you'll move back someday and we'll spend the next three years working our way through the pile slowly, between our day-to-day. Maybe you'll never read them, but it makes me feel better to mark them up for you just the same.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Hands up whoever loves Seinfeld...
That's what I thought, everyone. Such the most hilarious show about absolutely nothing. Have you ever tried to explain a Seinfeld episode to someone, and after five minutes of ranting looked up to see their bewildered face as proof that you should stop, that this show really is about nothing, that it's the absolute "you had to see it" show, because if it was actually about something then it might actually make sense in an explanation later. Have you ever had that same person later see the episode and then, and only then, understand that it truly was hilarious and brilliant? I'm blabbing... I should stop.
So, what brings me to Seinfeld today? Well, news that Microsoft is paying Jerry Seinfeld $10 million to promote Windows Vista. Except, well, except that Seinfeld had a MAC on his desk for basically the entire duration of the show, so.... who's gonna buy that he really likes Vista versus the idea that he's just getting a ton of money for it? This guy over at Computer World made a great list of 10 reasons this partnership won't work... Take a look.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eat Like Mike

So if you're living under a rock, you don't know that Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals at this year's Olympics. Ok, so everyone knows that, but did you know that he eats 12,000 calories a day? I read this hilarious article about a journalist who decides to attempt the Phelps diet for 1 day, and suffers brutal consequences, and liked it so much I had to share:

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
August 20, 2008 at 2:50 AM EDT
In bloated, panting-for-breath retrospect, it was crazy to think I could match Michael Phelps.
Not in the pool, of course. That would just be stupid. No, I had the audacity to think I could tackle Phelps at the kitchen table.
Where do I stand against Phelps? He is: 23 years old. I am: 31 years old. He stands: 6 foot 4. I stand: 6 foot 4. He weighs: 195 pounds. I weigh: 198 pounds. He has: more gold medals than any Olympian in history. I have: too much time on my hands.
But I've been swimming laps all summer in an effort to work off my gut, so it really did seem possible. I know, I know. I can hear all the incredulous voices and the head shaking that goes with them: Do you know how much Michael Phelps eats?

It's a whopping 12,000-calorie-a-day diet.
The average 23-year-old man consumes about 2,000 calories a day. And even on the best of days I have to wake up pretty early and work pretty hard to reach the category of an average man.
But who knows, I thought, maybe to swim like Phelps you first have to eat like Phelps.
Breakfast: Obviously, if you're going to attempt the Phelps breakfast you have to work up an appetite. So on Saturday morning, I begin the day with 30 minutes of yoga, 30 push-ups, 90 crunches and a three-kilometre run, burning 936 calories, according to an online calorie counter.
I probably expend more energy prepping breakfast: It takes 45 minutes and uses every single kitchen utensil I own.
I start with the fried-egg sandwiches. I feel it might be possible to eat the whole meal. After polishing two of them off, I move on to the French toast. After eating all three pieces, I'm doing some pretty laboured mouth breathing.
Forcing myself to buck up, I start eating a chocolate-chip pancake the size of my face. Both cups of coffee are done.
What's missing from the meal? Fruit. Seriously, Mike, would it kill you to eat an orange wedge? Parading your bazillion gold medals around is no fun when you've got scurvy.
On the verge of nausea, I force myself to take one bite from a bowl of Cream of Wheat (my substitute for grits, because good luck finding grits north of the Mason-Dixon line).
Feeling like Mr. Creosote from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, I'm one bite away from asking my girlfriend for a bucket. I call it quits after an hour of eating in earnest, leaving one fried-egg sandwich, two chocolate-chip pancakes, most of a bowl of Cream of Wheat, and a five-egg omelette on the table, laughing at me from the heights of Phelpsian wonder.
“Dude,” I curse my Olympian nemesis, “how do you not weigh 700 pounds?”
Lunch: It takes about two hours after breakfast before I can even think about going to the pool, but eventually I get there. I feel more energetic than usual, my front crawl moving me through the water with more power than it has all summer.
Nor am I as tired as I usually am when I hit the wall to turn. But with this many calories coursing through my veins, I should be able to tie a rope around my waist and tug a freighter in to harbour.
My go-for-the-gold confidence crashes when I decide to try the butterfly stroke. I'm able to do about four strokes of what must easily be the most embarrassingly awkward misrepresentation of the form before nearly sinking. The teenaged lifeguard is suppressing laughter.
I swim for 45 minutes, burning 472 calories. When I get back from the pool, I go through my morning exercise routine again, shaving off another 936 calories. By 3 p.m. I'm not even remotely hungry, but I have to have lunch because dinner is fast approaching.
I eat the two ham-and-cheese sandwiches and drink two Gatorades while out on a friend's boat, which surprisingly is not heeling to the side I'm sitting on. When I get home, I eat the pound of enriched pasta with tomato sauce, which works out to be three heaping platefuls.
Starting my third plate, I'm forced to ponder a question I've never faced at a meal in my entire life: Am I having hot flashes? A strange sensation of heat is emanating from the pit of my stomach and working its way up through my shoulders. This can't be good.
Just before the clock strikes 9 p.m., I've consumed in 12 hours almost the same caloric intake I would normally eat over the course of three days. The mouth breathing continues. I have to lie down on the couch.
It's only a mix of what willpower I have left and the sheer terror of eating dinner that forces me out of the house to go running again. My 30-minute run burns just 562 calories. I feel like an over-stuffed sausage.
Dinner: What, no dessert? I'm surprised the guy doesn't finish off the day with 16 quarts of double-churned chocolate ice cream topped with an M&M the size of a country ham.
Still, the carb-heavy menu would have most South Beach dieters making the cross with their index fingers in horror.
OK, throw that pizza in the oven, and let's do this. While the pizza cooks, I turn on the TV and see the U.S. Men's Olympic swim team – fit, trim, healthy as oxen, none of them looking like they would cry like a toddler at the sight of another plate of spaghetti. I don't even bother cooking the pasta.
I manage to drink three Gatorades. After you've been eating all day, each big chug of an energy drink feels like a mouthful of pot roast. I decide to eat only as much of the pizza as I can. I make it halfway through. As I look at the other half, my girlfriend looks at me as if she will never find me attractive ever again if I so much as try to cram just one more piece of pepperoni into my gullet.
I need to lie down.
As I collapse on the couch, Phelps wins his eighth gold medal. My awe for him has tripled.
If he ever retires from swimming, he could make a killing at those competitive eating contests. That hot dog guy's got nothing on him.
I've spent an entire day pushing myself to the limits of intestinal explosion and I still fell short one fried-egg sandwich, two chocolate-chip pancakes, a bowl of grits, a five-egg omelette, a pound of pasta, half a pizza and more than four litres of Gatorade. I feel humbled and crestfallen, the way you do when forced to confront your limitations.
I wonder if I will spring out of bed tomorrow ready to run a marathon, or if I will hide under the covers in fear, trembling at the prospect of eating again. Both seem like distinct possibilities.
Michael Phelps now has 14 gold medals from two Olympics, the all-time record.
He should bring me one of those medals just for eating what I did today. But I'd settle for a bucket.
Special to The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Catching Up

I, too, have succumbed.

It's like my willpower was only as strong as the self-control of those around me. I always swore I wouldn't get on Facebook, that I wasted more than my fair share of time on the Internet as it was. I even had allies in the resistance. And then the unthinkable happened:
I found out that my kid sister had signed on. Then...
I found out M had signed on (Gasp. Cough. I could hardly breathe!)

I lasted a week after that point. And now, I, too, have a Facebook account. But believe it or not, Facebook is not responsible for my temporary lapse in posting on this blog. No, that has more to do with the general blogapathy that seems to have taken over the blogosphere... That and general beautiful weather in Montreal for a few days, followed by my sudden panic that the summer is about to disappear and so I have to take advantage of what's left of the fabulous weather.
As if to prove my point, the fire alarm went off at work today and we all FROZE in the 10 or so minutes we ended up standing outside, every one of us missing our pullovers/sweaters/light jackets that we'd left at home/on a hanger in our office... Anyway, I digress, back to Facebook:

In my first log in after signing up, I spent about 1 hour surfing to find some friends and rooting around other's pages. But the real kicker, the part that made my new "facebooker" status all worth it, happened a few days later, when I had an impromptu chat with a great friend who's been in Japan for over a year teaching English. There I was, on my bed in my old room in Ottawa, while she was typing away at a desk (in the staff room?) at her school in Japan, and we were writing as though we were talking. It was our first true conversation since we spoke the night before my wedding. Catching up is soooooooooooooooo delightful, and that, alone, was worth the sign-up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Little Angela Dialect Mix up

The latest adorable phrase out of my Little Angela's mouth in Dubai, via my fabulous, beloved sister whom I miss enormously...
Little Angela speaks the Egyptian dialect of Arabic, but in Dubai is being exposed to other dialects on a more regular basis. She heard them here too when her family was around the Arabic community, but in Dubai she hears the other dialects everywhere, including on TV. There's a great station that plays a lot of kid's music, including a song called "Baba, telephone" (That's Arabic, by the way: Baba = Dad, and Telephone = surprise, surprise, telephone... heheh) about a kid who answers the phone for his dad and then calls out "Baba, telepone."
There's a line in the song that says "tell them I'm not here", using the Palestinian dialect. This is said, "Uleelo moo hon". In Egyptian dialect, this would be said "Uleelo mish hina".
Now that I've laid the foundation, the following conversation took place between my sister and my Little Angela:
Little Angela: Mama, what does "moo" mean?
Sister: It means not
Little Angela: It means not?
Sister: yes, we say "mish" but Palestinians say "moo"...
Little Angela pauses to consider. Then: and cows say "moo" too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Minor Non-Joy of Summer

Have you ever had a great creative spurt interrupted by the incessant music your neighbour plays at full volume ON THEIR PATIO for the benefit of all around him? Musical taste is definitely in the ear of the beholder, and while "I love Rock and Roll" is not an unpleasant song, it certainly shuts off the creative juices for me, and so my lovely typing is now hampered by the fact that I can't hear myself think. Instead, I can hear a fantastic collection of 80's and 90's music. I'm too lazy/nice to actually go outside and figure out which neighbour this is, and then request a volume modification, but this is one of those things where you expect the courtesy of those who live nearby, is it not?
I'm reminded of a family that lived across the street from us growing up. We were good friends, playing constantly with their daughter at their house, having her over, riding our bikes up and down the street together. One thing though, her father decided to take up the clarinet one year, and he liked to practice with the windows open at 9:30 p.m. He was a novice. End of story.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

About the Tea...

I started taking this a while back and posted about it. I've been taking it for a few weeks now, so I think I'm ready to step back and assess, and my assessment is (drum roll, please):
It's a hit! The tea tastes rather plain, which is a good thing. Nothing too unyummy about the flavour, it's like you're essentially drinking mildly flavoured water, so it's easy to just swallow it down hot or cold. And as for the results, it does clean out your system. I feel more energized and I think my system is digesting better now than it normally does.
A moderate change I would make: take less at the beginning depending on your weight. They recommend two 8 ounce glasses with lunch and dinner, and one 4 ounce glass with a snack. I think this might have been aimed at people who are larger than I am (5 foot 4, average weight), so this amount kinda cleared me out a little too fast. I was very low on energy for a few days. The pharmacist recommended Gatorade which got my electrolyte balance back up after I'd been completely wiped. I'm now drinking about 16 ounces a day instead of 20.
Do I recommend it? Yes, especially if you're someone with a sensitive stomach. I'm going back to buy more tonight, about a 6 week supply. I don't know how long I'll keep doing it, but so far, so good.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Can I at least consider it a healthy addiction?

So M and I went to Paragraph, our favourite Montreal independent bookstore, yesterday, so that I could buy or order the remaining Ann Patchett books. Unfortunately, the only ones they had in store were Run and Bel Canto, two of the three I already own. I left the store having not placed the order, but instead with three other books. One, a classic that I've always loved and always wanted on my bookshelf, To Kill a Mockingbird. Two, The Gathering by Anne Enright, winner of the Man Booker prize for 2007, and three, a non-fiction, the latest by John Esposito, called Who Speaks For Islam.
I still have to finish Run before I can start any of these, but I think I'm actually dangerous to myself in a bookstore. If you left me there for a few days, I could easily run myself into debt. I can't stop...

You've been Barack Rolled

If I had a vote, I'd vote for this guy. Since I don't, here's my version of spreading the love:

Saturday, August 09, 2008

More of my favourite pictures from Calabogie last weekend... Although these were taken with my dinky digital non-fancy camera... Check out M's pics for the good stuff...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Everybody has a story

My usual Thursday afternoon bus ride had a slight twist yesterday. I often pass the time sleeping, reading, or listening to the radio, but once in a while, the person I am sitting next to exchanges a few words and the conversation doesn't end, and so continues on in one form or another until we arrive. Yesterday, I was sitting next to a lovely Francophone woman who was going home to Repentigny after visiting her grown daughter in Outaouais. We spoke on and off the whole bus ride, mostly about the weather, about whether she'd catch her connecting bus or whether we'd get to Berri on time, about where she lived, about her niece and my niece. In short, lots of small talk.
At one point, our conversation turned to the importance of a positive outlook. How some people manage to get really upset about small things and how we really rarely experience catastrophe's in this part of the world, and so really, we ought to stay relatively calm when we're faced with the small "not good" situations that we're sometimes faced with.
Until this point, the main reason we kept speaking was not because the conversation was particularly interesting, but to pass the time (for her, I suspect) and to get some French practice, for me. A few minutes later, she told me two things: One, her husband had died 7 years ago from prostate cancer that had quickly spread to other parts of his body, and two, she had lived with epilepsy until the age of 42. She'd had three brain surgeries, here was the scar on her head, and she showed me a minor mark which I'd been looking straight at most of the bus ride without noticing anything was there, and was now fully cured and needed no more medication. Her husband had taken such good care of her for close to 20 years, that when he'd become sick, it was as simple as being her turn to take care of him.
The rest of the way home I thought about my own health. My biggest issue is my food restrictions, and honestly, everyday I realize how tiny something like that is. I have never known catastrophe, but this woman had faced difficulties I only imagine. It was very eye-opening.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Ugh. Blogger stole my post, so this is my second attempt at it:
I can't stop. I can't help it. It started with Bel Canto, the Ann Patchett book Jen suggested I read when I put out my plea a while back. and it was fantastic. Brilliant. (Hyperbole, XUP, I know, but I really, truly LOVED it). After that, I read another good book by another good author, but then I stumbled upon more Ann Patchett in the form of her non-fiction book Truth and Beauty. And it was on sale. And it was really good too. I finished it yesterday and went on my quest to search for more today. I can't get enough. This woman writes the way I wish I wrote. I flatter myself to think we have a similar style, only her writing is 18 million times better. Today, I started Run.
The good news, and the bad news, is that she's only published 5 novels. I'll be done soon. And then I can come up for air...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

As Promised (the ultimate cover)

A few posts back, I posted Native Deen's version of Tala'albadru Alayna, and in the comments there was a discussion about the Yusuf Islam version, which some of you weren't able to find. Well, here it is.
Basically, he uses voices and percussion drums as the instruments in the background. Enjoy:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Too Funny Not to Post

Stolen from one of my favourite hockey sites:, here. Don't actually know if this is a true ad, or someone's brillaint photoshop job. Regardless, too good.

I'm trying

to improve my French in simple ways, and all of my French teachers have suggested that letting the radio play in the background is a great idea. My problem is that almost all of my radio listening takes place over the internet, streamed from the station's website, and while I've found, once I click on the "Listen Live" icon (okay, okay, it doesn't say listen live, it says "ecoutez en direct", but you get what I mean) it basically freezes. The best I've managed is to get a 4 minute clip of a segment from the night before to play, but nothing resembling live streaming. Very annoying. I'll have to give it a shot again soon, but until I muster up the energy, my English radio listening continues unabated...
P.S. If anyone knows how to get radio canada, premiere chaine, to stream, I'm listening!

Monday, August 04, 2008

This Was Saturday

We're back now. It was awesome. I spent 2 and a half hours at a walk-in clinic this morning only so that the doctor would refuse to give me a referral for the chiropractor without first sending me for X-rays. The X-rays would have also been a walk-in, so I really didn't feel like spending 5 hours of my day off in various waiting rooms. I got to read in my fabulous book, Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, while I waited (thanks for the suggestion Jen. It's nearly impossible to put down). I also got my other referrals, so not all bad, but still... I know the chiropractor works for me: exhibit A is having my jaw reset after my bike accident... I love the system (sarcasm, sarcasm). They tell you to be proactive in taking care of your health, and then they make it harder for you to do the things that help your health. Not impressed.
After that, I bought more groceries then I could carry back comfortably home on my bike, and so tottered home. But we needed them. And now there are cherries in the fridge. Mmmm... Nice to have a day off for nothing, which becomes all the loose ends you planned on doing at some point, but never had a chance to get to. What I haven't done yet: write. But I always comfort myself that all the reading is necessary to get to the writing, so really, I'm doing my homework.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Calabogie 2008

It's that time of the year again. We're going to be in Calabogie (see it here and here), but this year, we go for only the weekend. Our internet access is dial up there, so if I happen to have something brilliant to communicate, I will. Otherwise,highly unlikely...
On Monday, I have a holiday, and it's another perk of living in Montreal but working in Ottawa... M, my sister, and my brother-in-law will all be back at work. I'm planning a cross between some laziness and some getting things done for my extra day off. Maybe cook? Maybe sleep? Take an extra-long bikride? Maybe read and write? We'll see what happens...