Thursday, February 26, 2009

Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

From Conan, and stolen from my friend's facebook page... Really funny and really true. Watch and appreciate your life:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Books to Love

I've been able to get back into a reading groove, and I thought I would list out my current suggestions of good stuff to read if you like novels, in case anyone else is having difficulty finding goodness.
1-Bel Canto: By Ann Patchett. I've rambled on and on about this woman's brilliance and this book is currently my absolute favourite. Vivid, great characters, great story, great writing. I want to write a book like this (well, I just want to write a book, and beggars can't be choosers, but if I could have written any existing book, this is the one I would want in my name). I think the best word to describe the writing is 'lyrical'. Warning: you have to be up for a bit of sadness.
2- March: Little Women may be a classic, but every time I've tried to read it, I've found it absolutely insufferable. It's pretty ironic, then, that I loved this book about the father of those "Little Women" and his imagined experiences while he was away during the civil war. The character attempts to be so noble, it makes your heart ache. And yet it shows a lot of different view points: man vs. woman, north vs. south, black vs. white. A very different tone than Bel Canto, and, I thought, a harder book to read. But excellent.
3- The Book Thief: I'm reading this book about a little girl growing up with her foster parents in Germany in World War II. Her family is poor. They're also hiding a Jewish man in their basement. It's devastatingly sad, and yet the writing is so creative, and so lively and so so so different than anything else I've read in a very long time. You know the books that take "normal" things in childhood and magnify them and make them exceptional. This is one of those books. I can't put it down.
4- Catch 22: I read this sometime last year - borrowed off K's bookshelf, and I loved it. Set during the Vietnam war, following American soldiers. The best way to describe this book is irreverent and absurd. And so much fun in such a strange way.
5- The Glass Castle: This is a true story by Jeannette Walls, more of a biography than anything else, but it reads like a novel. Absolutely impossible to put down. You can't believe all of this happened to a real, modern day public figure.

Some general observations:
I seem to love books set during epic wars: WWII, Vietnam, you name it. I think just having those settings, something so huge that all of us are so aware of and devastated by in some capacity, lends these books a huge gravity, and helps us confirm all the tragedies of war. I do, however, find it sad that we don't seem to feel the same devastation towards the wars and battles and conflicts going on write now. It's like we can only ever see the human suffering in hindsight, and we tell ourselves 'lest we forget' even as we 'forget' the pain and loss of life happening in our time every day every minute every second. I wonder why we always have to look back before we admit wrong.
I also love books that go through whole lives and/or whole family histories. Another one that comes to mind is "Fall on Your Knees" by Anne-Marie MacDonald. She covers three generations of a family in the book. The plot is not a plot as such, but an entire lifespan. I completely admire people who can thread out such a long story.
I read the kind of books I wish I could write, in style and tone. This is why Ann Patchett appeals to me so much, because her writing is a similar style to mine, only a million times better. Same with Ann Marie MacDonald. Same with the author of The Book Thief. Maybe it's a bit self-centred, but the other reason I do it is because I am so impressionable, I start writing like whoever I'm reading, so it's easier to read in a similar style than a totally different one I have no hope of imitating.

Anyone with other good book suggestions? Next on my list are the Joseph Boyden books. He's Canadian, the books are about WWI and family relationships, and they've won awards. Right up my alley, I think.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Noha 1, Cell Phone 0!

And she might have lost to the throat and sinuses, but Noha bravely rises from defeat to overcome the cell phone's refusal to talk to the computer... Below, Little Angela's Marvelous Works:

Throat and Sinuses 1, Noha 0

So it turns out that that annoying sore throat was really just building up the energy to launch a full-blown offensive. I am on my second cup of "gollum juice" today, and third in the last 24 hours. It's slowly doing it's work...
I also tried to upload my little angela's piece of art, but my computer and cell phone (on which the picture currently resides) seem to have gotten into a fight and aren't talking to each other... The picture will come soon, I promise. I would hate to rob you all of her genius abstract work. (I say abstract because none of us would have been able to figure out that the circles were a boat, but they are, they are!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Moth is Not a Butterfly

Random-Noha-Fact #8, in my last post, is about songs with beautiful words. Here's one I loved:

By Hawksley Workman

A moth is not a butterfly
And I know why, I know why
It kind of makes you want to cry
That a moth is not a butterfly

But some are happy in the bluest sky
And others search in the dark of night
And sadness is a silent right
A moth is not a butterfly

A stone is not a grain of sand
It's hard, I guess, to understand
Both broken parts scatter the land
A stone is not a grain of sand

And one has lived for longer still
The other longs to break until
The wind can lift it in its hand
A stone is not a grain of sand

A desert's not a mountainside
And I know why, I know why
'cause one is vast and one divides
A desert's not a mountainside'

cause one has need for open space
The other simply in its place
It must be known far and wide
That a desert's not a mountainside

A moth is not a butterfly
And I know why, I know why
It kind of makes you want to cry
That a moth is not a butterfly

Saturday, February 14, 2009

100 Random Things About Noha

Inspired by COTW's list, which was apparently inspired by someone else's list, here is my own list of 100 random things about me.
  1. I love parentheses. They were created for people like me who can't finish a though without launching into a second (and third) tangential thought.
  2. Nested parentheses are even better
  3. Sometimes I wish I had was a starving artist and the whole world read my writing and thought it was beautiful, instead of a gainfully employed civil servant working in IT
  4. Most of the time, my practical side wins out and I am happy to have more than 1/2 a month's rent in my bank account, or be subsisting on beets. It's a romantic notion, but I'm actually not that romantic a person
  5. I now love certain foods I was completely indifferent towards in my childhood (exhibit a: the date)
  6. Though I fancy myself a creative person, I have very few original ideas. Most of what I say was read/heard/seen elsewhere first
  7. I don't think this contradicts being creative
  8. Songs are really just poems set to a tune. The ones with beautiful words can make me cry
  9. I used to be afraid of daddy long legs.
  10. I am still afraid of centipedes
  11. I have a tendency to be very silly
  12. I hate serious confrontation. It literally makes me sick to my stomach
  13. My favourite people in the world are my family (hubby, parents, sisters, and all their kids, hubbies, families, etc.). We're close in ways most people I know find unreal.
  14. When I was little, I could get so engrossed in books that two of my sister's could stand over me, insulting my favourite hockey player at the top of their lungs, and I wouldn't even hear them
  15. Said player would be Doug Gilmour
  16. There are teachers who I will never ever forget for how much they contributed to my childhood and by extension, my personality: Mr. Falls (6th grade), Mr. Knox (9th grade science), Mr. Fitzpatrick (9th to 11th grade lit), Mrs. Alexander (high school chemistry). I truly respect and admire these people, and if I knew where they were, I would walk up to them with a box of chocolate and say thank you.
  17. I read Quran really well, but have a bit of difficulty reading regular Arabic, because the writers usually don't include the accents.
  18. Strangers in Egypt can usually tell within 15 minutes that I'm not a native
  19. My parents are my heroes
  20. I constantly read other people's blogs and think - Man! How did she think of that great idea/phrase/concept?
  21. I tend towards being very vibrant or very quiet. I have a small "in between" window.
  22. I'm working on that
  23. I'm addicted to coffee
  24. Lately, I'm also liking tea
  25. and ice cream
  26. I am sometimes inexplicably sad for no reason.
  27. When this happens, a conversation with one of my favourite people is usually in order to fix it
  28. I took gymnastics as a child and still know how to do some of the stuff - cartwheels anyone?
  29. I also did track and field, and usually made the team more on effort than on talent
  30. I made the tennis team in 9th grade because not enough people tried out. My doubles partner and I lost every match. Badly
  31. I LOVE water sports
  32. My favourite place in the world is Calabogie lodge. Been going there with my favourite people in the world since I was 8 or 9. You can probably trace our family story by following our summer vacations through the years...
  33. I used to write for at least an hour every day. Not always good, but forced quantity used to produce at least a bit of quality
  34. I love The New Yorker
  35. I love The Far Side
  36. If there's a new alternative health craze out there, you can bet I've at least read about it, if not tried it in some capacity
  37. I have a whole slew of food sensitivities, which I regularly ignore.
  38. My favourite thing about Montreal is the bike paths that are all over the city. I'm the girl in the hijab you see biking all over the place in the spring/summer/fall downtown.
  39. My favourite hockey team is the Montreal Canadiens, even though I was actually a Leaf's fan the last time they won a cup.
  40. I get caught up in political stuff. I can't separate it from life or turn it off since I see how much it affects some people's lives. Maher Arar used to pray at the same place as my family in Ottawa before he was sent to Syria for a year of torture. I go to Egypt to visit extended family and I see the corruption everywhere (in non-collected garbage and crumbling buildings and taxi drivers complaining about how to make ends meet). It's impossible to close my eyes to this. Politics is life for the part of the world that isn't as lucky as the other part (aka, us).
  41. I get very upset at injustice, whether to me, or those I know and love, or strangers.
  42. I have a good memory for useless trivia
  43. I have three handwritten unfinished novels in notebooks under my bed. My younger sister, aka my audience, has yet to forgive me for leaving her hanging.
  44. I cry a lot. Not because I'm easily sad, but because I'm easily moved.
  45. If you have a cough, drink Gollum Juice.
  46. Also, Oregano oil is the most disgusting tasting thing on earth, but insanely healthy and good for germ-killing.
  47. I am the run-on sentence's biggest supporter.
  48. My ability to sleep has nothing to do with the noise/light situation around me. The position of my neck and something to use as a pillow though? Absolutely necessary. On my weekly bus rides, I have devised ingenious pillow variations.
  49. I know random small talk in Russian, Swedish, and German.
  50. I am trilingual (English, Arabic, French)
  51. I LOVE names and their origins.
  52. Also, trying to figure out what language someone is speaking when I don't recognize it (is that Polish? Russian? Croatian?)
  53. I am currently buying books way faster than I can read them.
  54. I have a very low tolerance for heels, or anything that hurt the soles of my feet.
  55. I have chronic back and neck pain from a dislocated rib/neck incident in 9th grade. It sounds sinister, but it came about in the most mundane of ways. Also, slightly embarrassing.
  56. I've gotten stitches on multiple occasions, but never broken a bone or needed a cast (yet!)
  57. If I'm reading a book by an author, my writing (if I'm writing at the time) inevitably takes that author's tone/style.
  58. I started writing to be like my older sister, who is also my best friend.
  59. Whenever I hear a song/poem I like, I immediately email it to said sister. Given she has two little ones under 4 (my Little Angela and Little Angela) her inbox is probably overflowing with these emails.
  60. My favourite blog is by this lovely Canadian woman living in India with her husband and children. Moving. Funny. Exceptionally written.
  61. I can't draw to save my life
  62. I can, however, cook. I make up my own recipes.
  63. I never thought I'd be a good cook and am mildly proud (and surprised) of this accomplishment.
  64. I get a lot of joy from reading Scott Feschuk's hilarious columns in MacLean's Magazine.
  65. I feel like we're living in a very momentous time in history. I think that over the next few years, the world will change a lot.
  66. I hope they're good changes
  67. I want to be part of it.
  68. I love looking at beautiful pictures.
  69. CBC Radio 1 is absolutely awesome.
  70. Bel Canto is the most amazing book.
  71. I second guess myself a lot
  72. I buy recipe books, look through them once, and then rarely go back.
  73. My husband continuously befuddles me with his ability to do 4 page mathematical proofs. I happily left these behind in 1st year university.
  74. I have been an A+ student my whole life.
  75. I never took biology because I was too easily disgusted. The bit of dissection we had to do in general science never ended well for me.
  76. and yet I can prepare meat without problems.
  77. I am a wannabe health freak.
  78. I am also a wannabe environmentalist.
  79. My favourite verse in the Quran is the second last verse of the Chapter called The Cave: Say, "If the ocean were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid."
  80. I am a big believer in always remembering that you don't know everything (or even most things)
  81. I love chocolate, but also salad.
  82. I love Canada fiercely, but I make a distinction between love and pride for my country and criticism of it.
  83. I get homesick easily when I travel.
  84. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is perfectly up my alley when it comes to humour.
  85. Corny jokes are also brilliant.
  86. Jon Stewart is a genius. Also Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and any political sketches on SNL
  87. This one is stolen with modifications from COTW's list: I would happily take a job at the Ministry of Silly Walks.
  88. I love calla lilies and irises.
  89. I want to go to New Zealand some day for a very nature oriented vacation (hiking, rafting, etc)
  90. I have seen the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean sea, but not the Atlantic.
  91. My favourite season is summer, but I think winter is extremely pretty.
  92. I didn't have a cell phone until a year ago, and now I can't live without it.
  93. I can go on a small amount of sleep, but I become either silly-hyper from too much coffee, or somewhat cranky.
  94. My toes are the first part of me to get cold. Once this happens, I become extremely cranky.
  95. My sisters and I are all daddy's girls. He used to whisk us off to Timmy's for warm, sweet treats every chance he got when we were still in university.
  96. I love to sit in small cafes with a hot cup of coffee, either reading a good book, people watching, or trying to write.
  97. My favourite place to do so is Planet Coffee in Ottawa. I'm still looking for my *favourite* place in Montreal.
  98. I am still very close a couple of my closest friends from high school, though we almost never see each other.
  99. Everyday I get to know M better, I am amazed by new similarities I discover between us. Deeper ones that didn't surface before.
  100. I miss carrying my Little Angels and Little Angelas around, hugging and kisses them to bits, giving them horsey rides and other invented silly games. I can't wait to see them again in a few months when they all converge at my parents' house.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My most precious piece of art

I'm not a huge collector. I tend mainly to go for small handmade things from Eid bazaars and the cool pictures that almost everyone has from Ikea. (In fact, M and I are in love with Ikea art. At least 3 separate walls in our apartment are graced with Ikea art. Imagine if we had more wall to cover! We'd probably buy out the entire collection.) Anyway, my hubby is definitely the one with the skill (and the knack) for decorating, and he's managed, with precious little of my assistance, to give our home a beautiful aesthetic, which I can wholly appreciate but couldn't have dreamed up for my life.
But yesterday, I got a new piece of art that I fell immediately in love with. It's simple and small, 8.5 X 11, on a blue background, and some with more refined taste might consider it amateur. Not me. This piece is going up on my cubicle wall at work.
It's from my Little Angela in Dubai, a jumble of red circles (roughly circles... maybe 'circle-like shapes' is a better description?) with some smaller, green circle like shapes around the edges. Then, there is my sister's annotation (probably word for word recitation of my niece's description of her work) along the bottom of the construction paper. In Arabic:

"This is a boat named jeen hay.
(Noha's note: this is not an Arabic word. Not one I can think of, anyway. It's simply Little Angela's wild imagination running away with her as usual... Correct me if I'm wrong, sis!) There are people in the boat named grandma and grandpa and me and my brother and mama and baba and my uncle and my cousin. I'll let Khalto Noosa and Khalo M (Noha's note again: that would be myself and M) ride on the boat too. I'll let them."

There are other annotations, informing that the green circles are waves, and then along the top there's a dedication to me.
I love it. Simple pleasures, man. Simple pleasures.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

But the Chips Were So Much Cheaper...

Is this not utterly depressing? Apparently a new study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation has found that food pricing across the country can vary hugely for a lot of healthy foods. How much, you say? Well, in Toronto, you pay about $1 for a bag of 6 apples. In Calgary, you pay over $5. Sorry, but what? And it's not like this is a "who cares" item of interest either. We're hardly eating well as a country as it is.
My favourite quote from another article on this study:

"You have to wonder why we control the price of alcohol but allow such price inconsistencies for healthy food - and not just in remote regions of the country - but even between larger metropolitan areas."
Well, at least we know we all pay the same amount for something, eh?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Random Thoughts of Random-ness

  • My throat is out to get me. Two weeks ago, there was a temperature involved, and since then, even though every other aspect of me seems to have recovered, the throat is not doing the same thing. I am reminded of the stuff the actor on Lord Of The Rings used to drink for the days they would shoot 14 hours in the rain and horrible weather. It was a combination of honey, lemon juice and ginger. He called it "Gollum Juice", since he'd make Gollum's voice all day so his throat was extra sore... I think that's probably going to be the only solution for my throat too...
  • It rained yesterday. Rain. In Montreal. In early February.... Not the first time it happens or anything, but it's been unseasonably warm for 3 days. After being unseasonably cold for about two weeks. I think the earth is trying desperately to tell us something. It has a flu. It's bouncing around between hot and cold, clammy and feverish, desperately needing some lozenges and lots of chicken soup. We can't ignore it forever. We won't be able to, not in the face of rising temperatures and hurricanes and floods.
  • The Habs are NOT playing up to their loyal followers' dreams these days. I was hoping for better, but not necessarily expecting it. The truth is that I'll cheer for them no matter what.
  • Remember this? Well, that was a year ago last Monday. That's right, we've now officially been married more than 1 year. It's cool to be past the first milestone, cool to look at each other and look back over a year of shared and built memories as a unit, and think about all we've experienced and how much we've changed and grown. We celebrated by sleeping in, watching an awesome movie that really ought to win the Oscar, eating insane amounts of sushi, and going skating. We're both horrible skaters. It's been years since either of us has been on an ice surface (Not including the typical Montreal or Ottawa sidewalk). But it was SO MUCH FUN! My sisters and I used to skate at the outdoor rink in our neighbourhood park in Ottawa all the time when we were little. Someday, I hope to teach M and I's kids how to as well...
  • I'm trying to get back to reading a book the whole way through without getting so horribly distracted. A few months ago, I developed the horrible habit of starting a book, getting 10 pages in, picking up a second one, getting 20 pages in, picking up a third one, going back to the first one... you get it. I seem to have developed ADD for anything longer than a magazine article, or Jen recommends a new book, and I'm so excited by her glowing review that I go out and buy it and start it when I'm barely two chapters into her last recommendation. The problem is she reads much faster than I do, and I don't have the patience to wait to pick up the latest little brilliant nugget she throws my way... So right now, I'm excercising discipline. I've resolved to reading March the whole way through before I go back to the two other books I've started and abandoned, as well as another three left un-started, taunting me from my bookshelf. I'm still early on in it, but not embarrassingly so anymore, and I think I'll be able to pull it off.
  • I need to speak more French. I am now confident enough, and good enough, at understanding the great majority of what is said around me in French, but the next step is one I have to push myself towards, and that's using it myself when I speak. It's a choice. Most of those around me will understand me just fine if I choose to speak English, and they're perfectly happy to indulge me and let me continue on in my more fluent language. I probably sound a lot better in English, considering I'm not prone to silly grammatical errors, and can express myself a lot more fluidly. Of course, I'll never reach that point in French unless I start. And stumble. And say stupid things and get laughed at. Not just in French class. Not just for 4 hours a week. Out in the world. Ditto for Arabic. I have to push myself if I expect to get better.