Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Mark the day ....

I saw
in the fields by Fallowfield and Greenbank.

Spring is coming.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I need a Thank You card from Lisa's collection for the ducks I saw in the fields at Fallowfield and Greenbank on my home from work today.

It would say ..


And it would accompany lots of warm wet mud and all the things those beloved ducks like.

There were hundreds of those lovely ducks swooping up to the bright blue sky. It was too pretty : a wave of small brown ducks,rising and sinking , wings spread, out of deep horizon of golden yellow corn stalks against a huge bright blue sky.

I had all sorts of emotions then. Of course, I felt like I had just witnessed a miracle or one of the great mysteries of the world, but I also felt like I was finally hitting the last run on a long brick workout, or like I had just finished scrubbing the last of the sticky vegetable skins from the vegetable crisper or maybe even the end of a horrible a novel that I couldn't stop reading because there was still some small part of it that was interesting or because it wasn't nearly as bad some other novel that I had thrown out. It was definitely a sense of relief.

So... spread the good news : Spring is on its way!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Waiting for Spring

I'm afraid to admit it : I'm tired of winter.

The outdoor rinks are closed because the weather is too warm during the day, yet there is too much snow on the ground to be able to wear regular shoes. I'm tired of wearing my heavy boots, my big jacket, warm hat and snug scarf. Worse, I'm sick of clearing snow off the car.

Winter was great just a few weeks ago when I went skiing with my pal Paula from Toronto.

Then it got icy...

And then one winter storm came ..

And then another one ..

Then the time changed.

Now, The sun is up before I am and that makes me expect to see crocuses and buds on the trees. Whenever I hear the crows caw , I search the clouds for the smallest of V-formations and imagine that I hear that familiar honking that means spring is on its way. I'm still waiting..

In the meantime, Easter is coming to distract us from the delay.

We went to a fundraiser breakfast for Renee Stocks, a little girl with a unfortunate disease. Her experimental medicine costs $200 a day , so some of the local businesses have been hosting various events to collect some money for the cost.

Breakfast was great : pancakes, ham, hashbrowns, egg sandwiches, juice and coffee all free! And you could meet the Easter bunny, who was giving out some pretty chocolate Easter eggs or get your face painted. One butterfly did just that!

Another nice thing about Ottawa this time of year is Cabane a Sucre. Today, we went to a local historic farm with D's playmates. The farm offers a big brunch followed by a horse drawn sleigh ride and maple taffy , but we got there late so we just walked around the farm, toured a historic house, and saw a big dirty pig and some horses.

We have at least 2 more weeks of snow. Perhaps if I get my skis out one more time, I might not begrudge its bountiful presence everywhere.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Canada Disappoints

Please remind me not to listen to Canada Reads next year. I remember now why I stopped following it years ago. The conversation is lame and the selection is disappointing. Thankfully, the popular choice redeemed our nations readers : Icefields (Wharton) won!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Canada Reads-2008

I was quite excited about Canada Reads this year. I read all of the books and have been eagerly awaiting the start.

Finally, the panel discussions have started airing every night at 19h30 on CBC. I have been playing them from the podcast on the webpage on my laptop , after Kiki goes to bed.

Well... it's been disappointing...

Is it just me , or are they all gettiing all of the books wrong ?
Except for maybe Steve McLean...

I adored Mavis Gallant's The Fifteenth District, but I wonder why Lisa(defender) couldn't understand Not Wanted on the Voyage. I think she named herself the authority on feminism and decided to brand Zaib (NWOTV defender) a misogynist. I bet she's worried Jian so much that he's treating her with kid gloves. I can almost hear her complaining that no one lets her finish. But then again, he is rather patronizing sometimes.

There's too much interpersonal stuff going on.

Zaib seems too pompous and to suffer from a severely limited imagination. I got the impression that he expected no one to dare question him after he spoke with such dramatic flair.

Although I very much loved Brown Girl in the Ring, Jemeni (defender) couldn't appreciate the beauty in Icefields (Steve) or The 15th District (Lisa). She thinks novels have to be high-drama. Does she watch too much TV ? She surely lacks any appreciation of the subtle. And that's why she can't defend this wonderful novel.

And finally, I made it through King Leary (defended by Dave) but only with great discipline. Unlike NWOTV , there was little reward for reading it. Yet the panel seems to really like it.

Sometimes, the panel discourse sounds like a bunch of teenagers who go to Alternative High School are dissing their English reports after too many iced lattes.

Maybe these people are not the sort with whom I would spend my evenings?

I'm very glad that I read all 5 books, but I'm not sure I'll do the same next year. I might just do the French edition.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fat to Fit?

First , my confession :
I put on 20lbs between American Thanksgiving and Christmas!!!

So of course, I wasn't too happy and promptly went for a run and did sit-ups. I lost 5 lbs almost right away. Even my belly started to pull up a bit!

But that was the end of it. For one month, no weight loss, no muscle gain despite
1) changing my diet,
2) swimming 3 times a week and
3) doing some weights at the gym!!!

So... I hired a trainer.

My husband immediately offered alternatives, because after all, I've done this before and simply wasted hundreds of dollars. I could eat more protein, cut out the sugar, go to bed a tiny bit hungry... But I was tired of stabbing in the dark. I was willing to work hard, but I wanted to see results.

I did some research first(online mostly) and decided that the plan was to meet the trainer every week and get a workout plus nutritional guidelines every week.

Well, I found a trainer with experience and certification who worked out of my gym. It's been about a month since I started and I have lost about 5 more pounds, but more importantly : I actually fit in some of my old clothes again!!! CRAZY but true! I'm not starving either. In fact, I eat quite a bit!

Here's what I've been doing :
Swim :
1h 2x a week, and 1.5h on Sat morns

Weights :
2x a week : brutal, high rep, low weight.
It's all about form though. I have no injuries in spite of the workout!!
  1. squats till my legs burn
  2. more squats,
  3. lunges with my legs on fire.
  4. stagger to do chest press,
  5. flop to the bench for lats,
  6. glue myself to the mirror for shoulders,
  7. stick myself to the wall for biceps ,
  8. yank on a cord until my triceps lockup,
  9. yank on the rope for more triceps
  10. core, core, core for about 5min.-- I'm completely whipped and lifeless now

I am just adding cardio now, in tiny bits of 15-50 min cruises with nothing in zone 5. I won't venture there until next week, I think..

The Kite Runner

I listened to a tiny bit of a clip of Dion's opinion on the extension of our stay in Afghanistan and it reminded me of The Kite Runner, which I finished last week.

I couldn't put the book down soon after starting it, which was wonderful relief from The Secret River. It left me with vivid images of beautiful Iran and Afghanistan, of deep family love, of hardships and challenges overcome. It's not a poetic novel, but the writing flows between colourful scenes and one gets to love the characters. As an added bonus, one gets a brief overview of modern Afghani history. It is told in a tone that I would call "typically arabic" because all elders and family are deeply retvered. Few words judge or condemn them. Instead, the author seeks to understand the wisdom of his father. Initially, rit is palatable because it is after all being narrated from the eyes of a young boy. As the novel progresses, the narrator shows how he doubts his father at times, feels pressured by him and so on, but in the end "Father knows best" or at least most of the time. But this tone is just in the background. The boy grows up and faces his demons. Of course, the novel hints at a happy ending. It is a bit too Walt Disney, but I do recommend it. The best parts that remain with me now are : the escape from Afghanistan, the flea market, the general, the secret he bears, the kite races, Sohrab and especially the way he describes hearing about the war in the news. It could be inspiring enough to make it to Oprah's book club.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Secret River

I just finished The Secret River. It was a horrible novel. Well, perhaps not horrible, because it was well written, but I didn't enjoy reading it. Initially, I was drawn in by the prose while the plot wavered but when it finally mounted a track and found a destination, it steadfastly and predictably stuck to the plot with no surpri ses or character development on the way. The author had a message and relayed it, sparing no details and frequently dwelling on the obvious and macabre. There is no redemption. The character persistently lets his selfish ego direct his actions and his "sweet" wife either follows or encourages him along the way. He is repeatedly and predictably surprised by his wifes "talents", by how she has her own thoughts and dreams. He consistently suppresses any questions on his ill character and never tries to better himself morally. He ends a rich and powerful man which Grenville juxtaposes to his doomed and helpless start in England. So , in the end, the reader hates the man and has an ugly view of Australia. It's not a bad novel, but I had to skim through the last 50 or so pages because I just couldn't bear to be dragged through all the details of the last aboriginal slaughter to claim his land.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Kiki Skis!

Kiki and I grabbed some bagels from Tim Horton's and then headed out to Moonie's Bay after church today. We donned our skis and did a nice loop. It was sunny but the wind by the bay is always strong and cold. Dominique didn't mind though : as soon as I snapped her into her skis, she took off down the tracks smiling into the bright sun. I literally ran after her so that I could video tape her scooting off before I even had a chance to get my own skis on! I offered her a chance to turn back on the smaller loop, but she said that she'd rather do the bigger loop. She and I started singing some of our favourites with a few modifications ( eg , J'aime les galettes became Ugh-ugh ugh-ugh ugh-ugh.. due to our Backyardigan influences) . I sang to Ainsi font font font les petites marionettes.. with some jumping that caused me to nearly fall. That got a lot of giggles out of the munchkin. She ended up carrying on the singing herself making up tunes and lyrics as she went along. I took a few more videos and someone was kind enough to photograph us too.

Beautiful Music

How about Bach ?

Yo-Yo Ma plays Cello Symphony No. 1 by the Great One

Prokofiev Symphony No. 1

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Swimming Drills

I am posting up these YouTube videos because it's got some good and fun drills : Mallorca Swim Drills and Kicking Drills

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I just kissed away $180 at the vet. Why ? Because vets are crooks. Here I was at the vet, verifying that my cat had either a bladder infection or stones , when I discovered that he was setting me on my way to a $600 vet bill. I thankfully stepped away from $400 of it, but unfortunately, I paid $80-$100 too much!! After finding out that the big plan was for me to do first a urine analysis, then some x-rays and additionally some bloodwork, I would then be prescribed either medication, surgery or a simple diet change. From what he had said so far, it sounded like the diet change would be the place to start, so I proposed that we start with the new diet and if that didn't work, I'd come back for the next step. If he had agreed, I would have felt that he was trustworthy, but he refused to give me the "prescription" diet unless I had at the very least a urinanalysis. He then confessed that he could find out everything he needed to know from the simply urinanalysis. Well, I am kicking myself now for giving in to that crap. He didn't even need the flipping urinanalysis after all! But I agreed to it, so after sitting in the waiting for half an hour, he called me back in to the office to recommend the prescription diet. By then, my brain started to wake up and I started to ask questions about the diet formula. Apparently, it would cost $30/month to feed her and it had special ingredients in it that would encourage her to drink more water (ie, salt) and to do other things which he couldn't explain to me because in his words, he is not a nutritionist. He might not be nutritionist and he might be a vet, but one things certain : he's a crook.

Post Script : If I had read this link, I might be even more than $100 the richer :

A snowy morning in February

I wake up anxious that I will be late for my morning swim with the Nepean Masters Swim Club. Since I'm practically blind without my contacts on, I press the light switch on my HRM and read 3h39. Phewph, I relax and let myself go back to sleep knowing that from now on I will sleep lightly and wake up frequently to check the time. 4h41 and then 5h11 marks the time to turn off the alarm clock. It goes off a minute later anyway, but Greg doesn't wake up. I lay in bed thinking that it's best not to get to the pool too early, because that means sitting around the pool, shivering and grumpy until the lifeguards are ready. At 5h21, I get up, sinking the mattress beneath me, causing Greg to stir, and then I promptly stumble into everything on the way to the bathroom : corner of bed, laundry hamper, bathroom door. Greg sighs. In the bathroom, the pep talk starts : As soon as you have your swimsuit on, you'll start to wake up! Just a few sips of Gatorade and you'll be in great shape! I strip and look at the scale for good news : yes, I haven't gained anything since yesterday. The rest of the morning's activities : warming up the car, getting water bottles, mixing in gatorade, finding clothes and sweatshirts somehow seems to involve many noisy trips into the dark bedroom, when Greg finally gives up and turns on the light to help me find my things. I tell him the pretty news : Snowstorm ! So we need to trade cars! He stares ahead for a few seconds, squints at me, pale and heavy with sleep. Then he agrees with a slight nod of his head as he stiffly gets out of bed. I leap down the stairs, stuff everything in my big black Adidas bag, wrap my pretty scarf on tight to keep the chilly flakes from tickling my neck, pick up my soft knit hat from the wet entryway , doubtfully push it over my hair, don my ski mitts, and slip my feet into the my big warm Kamiks. By now, the car is toasty warm and buried beneath several inches of airy light snow. The neighbourhood is so pretty in thick layers of white at this pitch black hour of the morning. I feel like a kid as I clear the car with the big red snowbrush. The snow flies into the air with every stroke, lingers for a second and then reluctantly floats down to the ground. This is a good omen : I am never grumpy at swim practice when I start my morning playing in the snow. The drive to the pool is not unlike riding a toboggan down a long shallow slope through mounds of fluffy snow. At every stop , I hold my breath in anticipation : will the tires slide or will they stick ? The snowplowers rush down Greenbank ,but it hardly shows since the snow is piling up so fast behind them. Finally, I slide my way into the parking lot. Snowflakes kiss my cheeks as I walk to the building. Today's swim is bound to be fantastic!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ubuntu : Getting the keyboard to work!

The keyboard solution was far from obvious and I had to dig around the ubuntu forums to find a solution.

Here it is (uses System->Preferences->Keyboard)
1) Set the keyboard model to Macintosh(not Macintosh old, just Macintosh)
2) Set the layout to US English

ubuntu on acer aspire 5920

I just bought a new laptop less than 2 weeks ago and I installed Ubuntu right away.. well, as soon as I could anyway (I´ll share the story about all my adventures some other time!)

My latest problem was: How do I get the sound to work??

After much ubuntu forum searching, I found the solution...

Open volume control (double click on the speaker icon in the upper right corner of the screen)
In volume control make sure that in File -> Change device the "HDA Intel (alsa mixer)" is selected.
Go to Edit -> Preferences and select all tracks in the list.
Unmute and increase volume on "PCM", "Surround", "Center", "Side" and "LFE". Sound should work nicely now. Optionally mute the micophone sliders.

Thanks ¨DrunkDelirium¨... now if only I could get the keyboard fixed...