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[14 May 2008|07:56pm]
Here's the latest (and last!) addition to my menagerie: Opal Eulalia Whiteley! She's five years old and was adopted last week from the Toronto SPCA. Silas and Elsa are still getting used to their new house mate-- and I'm still getting used to having white hairs floating everywhere-- but I think she'll fit in quite nicely.


Miaow!Collapse )
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Paging Chuck Palahniuk [06 Jul 2007|06:40pm]
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[14 Jun 2007|11:44am]

Why liberal parents are now breeding a generation of little horrors

My husband and I started trying for a family eight years ago, when I was in my mid-30s. We left it fairly late, and four miscarriages down the line, there is only a fool's hope that we will ever become parents. 

I know it may sound callous after the emotional trials we've faced, but I am beginning to see childlessness as a blessed relief.

In a UN survey of 23 countries, Britain was judged the worst place to be a child.

I am pretty sure it is one of the worst places in the world to be a parent.

Why? Because somehow our liberal society has created a tribe of monstrous kids. Parents have become terrified of their offspring, in thrall to their every want and desire, which they scurry to fulfil. And the thanks they receive? A constant litany of abuse, much of it woundingly personal, and publicly delivered, casual disobedience.

I know this from my personal experience of seeing friends abused. Meeting them with their children in tow has become an ordeal. I don't like hearing the people I love and admire described as 'pathetic' by their six-year-old offspring.

But this has occurred on more than one occasion. 

So how did it come to this? Born in the mid-1960s, I respected and adored my parents: the idea of telling my dad to **** off, slapping my mum or calling her an "old hag" (another phrase I've heard uttered in anger) was unthinkable. But such behaviour is now par for the course.

Why have children changed so radically in two short generations? Partly, I suspect, because they have been encouraged to do so by well-meaning but misguided 'child professionals'.

Since the advent of the 1989 Children's Act, there has been an endless caravan of Bills and initiatives aimed at achieving a 'child-centred society'.

This has left many adults - particularly professionals such as teachers or police - feeling defenceless when they deal with 'challenging' (that is rude and violent) kids. The same legal system treats children as if they had a hotline to God.

Of course, there are always abuses in need of stamping out, and we certainly should do all we can to protect vulnerable children.

It should be recognised that the Children's Act did valuable work, in enshrining a child's right not to be physically abused, for example.

But we have lost sight of how things should be.

"Child-centred" has become a buzz phrase beloved by educationalists, psychologists and just about anyone working with children.

Our friends Jim and Charlie are child-centred parents. They came to dinner, bringing (uninvited and unwanted) their eight-year-old boy and four-year-old daughter. Plus the nanny. Because it took at least three adults to control these two brats.

The eight-year-old breezily announced: "Everyone loves me." Pointing suddenly at my husband, he demanded: "You love me, don't you?" When he got over the shock, my husband lukewarmly agreed.

What else to do? The entire evening was spent preventing the four-year-old climbing the stairs. Upstairs was my office, bedrooms - the usual private spaces of a house - and more importantly the cat, who had taken one look at the visitors and wisely fled.

The little girl's parents were laughably apologetic, proud of her 'intellectual curiosity' and 'adventurous spirit'.

Inevitably, at some point during dinner, she escaped.

She was upstairs tormenting the cat. She'd thrown the contents of the litter tray, water and food bowl round the bedroom.

"What are you doing?" I demanded. She burst into tears and left for home two hours later, still crying. Was it the first time she had ever been admonished?

For the past 30 years or so, everyone from lofty academics to Oprah Winfrey has taught us that we are not to blame for our sins and misfortunes.

We are the product of our upbringing and early influences - for good or ill.

But absolving the young of all blame for their actions - and failing to discipline them when they do wrong - has created a generation of brats.

Paralysed by guilt and fear, and spurred on by a gloopy sentimentalism which decrees that anyone under 12 years of age is, at core, an unsullied sweetheart, we give a latitude to children which they simply don't deserve. The results are not pretty.

I recently saw a small boy hit his mother full in the face with a cricket bat at a local fete. He'd been twirling the bat, ignoring her nervous pleas for him to stop.

Eventually, he deliberately flung the bat straight at her. As she sat, stunned, crying into the picnic, others ran to help. The small perpetrator just stood there, interested in the drama he'd produced.

Then there was the besuited dad out with his son. The boy was maybe six.

For some reason the child lost his temper, and the father tried to squat down and calm the boy.

He was struck in the face and quickly stood up, only to find himself repeatedly being kicked in the shins by this mini-tyro.

The astonishing thing was the man made no attempt to stop him, too scared to apply the kind of discipline that came naturally to previous generations.

Do not forget that the law now says that if you strike your own child and leave a mark, you can be arrested for assault. The power to discipline your own children is being eroded irrevocably.

These parents have turned into the family equivalent of a doormat girlfriend who snivels about how her man is misunderstood as she tries to hide the black eye.

No doubt our overwhelming love for our offspring is essential. And undoubtedly the struggle many now go through to have a child makes that child still more precious.

And children are precious, and I have a godchild and other children in my family whom I adore. But all this love should be tempered by strength and guidance, and the power to say 'No'.

In China, the single child per couple laws have created the phenomenon of the 'Little Emperors', the longed for baby (boy) who is the centre of the household - a generation of obese and horrendously spoilt young men.
Perhaps it is time we shouldered our responsibilities, learnt to say 'No' more often and began to behave as adults.

After all, these wayward children aren't the only ones who need to grow up.

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Wow [13 Jun 2007|12:03am]

Weapon fragment found in whale reveals it was more than a century old

BOSTON (AP) - A 45-tonne bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt - more than a century ago.

Embedded deep under its blubber was a 13-centimetre arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale's age, estimated between 115 and 130 years old.

"No other finding has been this precise," said John Bockstoce, an adjunct curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts.

Calculating a whale's age can be difficult, and is usually gauged by amino acids in the eye lenses. It is rare to find one that has lived more than a century, but experts say the oldest were close to 200 years old.

The bomb lance fragment, lodged in a bone between the whale's neck and shoulder blade, was likely manufactured in New Bedford, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a major whaling centre at that time, Bockstoce said.

It was probably shot at the whale from a heavy shoulder gun around 1890. The small metal cylinder was filled with explosives fitted with a time-delay fuse so it would explode seconds after it was shot into the whale. The bomb lance was meant to kill the whale immediately and prevent it from escaping.

The device exploded and probably injured the whale, Bockstoce said.

"It probably hurt the whale, or annoyed him, but it hit him in a non-lethal place," he said. "He couldn't have been that bothered if he lived for another 100 years."

The whale harkens back to far different era. If 130 years old, it would have been born in 1877.

The 15-metre male whale died when it was shot with a similar projectile last month, and the older device was found buried beneath its blubber as hunters carved it with a chain saw for harvesting.

"It's unusual to find old things like that in whales, and I knew immediately that it was quite old by its shape," said Craig George, a wildlife biologist for the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, who was called down to the site soon after it was found.

The revelation led George to return to a similar piece found in a whale hunted near St. Lawrence Island in 1980, which he sent to Bockstoce to compare.

"We didn't make anything of it at the time, and no one had any idea about their lifespan, or speculated that a bowhead could be that old," George said.

Bockstoce said he was impressed by notches carved into the head of the arrow used in the 19th century hunt, a traditional way for the Alaskan hunters to indicate ownership of the whale.

Whaling has always been a prominent source of food for Alaskans, and is monitored by the International Whaling Commission. A hunting quota for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission was recently renewed, allowing 255 whales to be harvested by 10 Alaskan villages over five years.

After it is analyzed, the fragment will be displayed at the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow, Alaska.



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A summary of recent events: [13 May 2007|06:57pm]
[ mood | lonely ]

Six weeks in Toronto and I haven't yet been moidered.

My dad, my sis, and my nephew, Morgan came for a (too short !) visit earlier this month, and Eric's work has him "on the road" far too much for my liking. I've taken a little while to settle in to my new surroundings and acquaint myself with the city, but this coming week I'll begin in earnest my search for employment. Is phlebotomy like riding a bike ? I shure do hope so.

Speaking of bike-riding... Satan himself had better invest in snow tires and a toque because I've just purchased me a gym membership. Ugh. This is the girl who's avoided any kind of physical exertion since grade five phys. ed. ("Melissa can't participate in class today due to an enlarged prostate. Signed- Epstein's mother") so this is a real leap. I still think yoga and pilates, etc, is a bunch of hippie crapola, but if running in place to the beat of "Move This" for a few hours each week will make me feel better about the ol' carcass, why not ? In addition, I've secured for this purpose the ugliest pair of sneakers imaginable.

They're so repugnant they're almost beautiful, no ? And only $20 at Winners ! If all goes as planned, my atrocious fashion sense will be enough to keep the glistening, flexing, bicep-kissing *Jack LaLanne types far, far away.

*Apologies, Jack. Your Juice Tiger looked really neat. Definitely worth the odd facial laceration !

In other exciting news... courtesy of our dear father, Sis and I will be sailing the briny Atlantic this September ! We'll get things started with three nights in New York, then board the Grand Princess for a ten day cruise to Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, St. John, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and finally, Quebec City ! I can't wait !!! Dad kept all this a secret for months, only to surprise us during his recent visit. He'd prepared for us both a hand made folder, filled to capacity with pictures and maps and various details of our upcoming adventure. Also included was a CD of songs he'd carefully chosen and paid someone to burn to disc (he doesn't own a computer.) Among the titles are "New York, New York", "Ain't We Got Fun", "The Sunny Side of the Street"... and Paul Simon's "Father and Daughter":

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you

I'm incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful family; I wish only that they weren't so far away. =(
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You think I'm cute ?... [11 May 2007|11:51pm]
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - The police log entry said it all: "Deceased fawn was dressed up like an infant and abandoned at the Pantages" Theater. Why would anyone dress up a dead newborn deer, lay it in a basket and leave it outside an ornate downtown landmark?

"Your guess is as good as mine," said Tom Sayre, a spokesman of The Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.

The outfit included an infant sleeper and a bib that read, "You think I'm cute? You should see my aunt," Sayre added.

An officer found the fawn Tuesday night, said police spokesman Mark Fulghum.

It was unclear how the animal died but the odor indicated it had been dead for awhile, he said.

A Humane Society vet thought it might have been stillborn.

"It's just bizarre," Fulghum said.
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My Oma [06 Apr 2007|01:22pm]
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HAMM, Louisa Margaretha
- 84. It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our loving mother, who passed away peacefully on April 2, 2007, in the Halifax Infirmary, QEII, while surrounded by the love of her children. Born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to parents Jan and Dirkje Spier, she met and married Lionel Hamm in 1946. She came to Sambro as a war bride and devoted her life to her family. Her home-baked bread and pies were second to none and we will think lovingly of Mum when we see a perfect line of clothes blowing in the breeze. Louisa was predeceased by her husband, Lionel Rupert Hamm. Louisa is survived by her children, Yvonne Hamm, Karla Patterson (Ernie), Loraine Smith (Larry), Ava Smith (Dave Whalen), Perry Hamm (Wanda), Michael Hamm and Joanne Hamm; 12 grandchildren and three great- grandsons. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the medical and nursing staff on 8.2 and 8.1. At Louisa's request, there will be no service. Cremation has taken place. A private family service will be held at a later date. As Louisa was an animal lover, a donation to the SPCA would be appreciated in lieu of flowers.

Many years ago Oma taught my sister, who in turn taught me a little Dutch counting song. I was very young and of course knew it only phonetically; I think I'll always remember the tune:

'Een, twee, drie, vier,
Hoedje van, hoedje van...
Een, twee, drie, vier,
Hoedje van papier
Is er dan geen hoedje meer
Maak er een van bordpapier
Een, twee, drie, vier,
Hoedje van papier'

'One, two, three, four,
Little hat of, little hat of...
One, two, three, four,
Little hat of paper
Is there no longer a hat
Then make one from cardboard
One, two, three, four,
Little hat of paper'

I wish I had a picture to share of Oma when she was a beautiful young woman in Holland, or even the photo that was displayed for many years in our living room; the one of her as a child of six, perhaps, with her little dolly cradled in the crook of her arm and a characteristically drawn expression about her features. She told me the story of that photo, about how one rainy Sunday she suddenly decided she wanted her photograph taken. Her father, who doted upon her, cut short a card game to indulge this whim. The doll she held had been without clothes until a local woman stopped her in the street and inquired as to why the toy was naked, why her mother hadn't made some clothing for it. "My mother is dead." little Louisa replied, and not too long after she was presented with a new, hand-made outfit for her dolly.

I love you, Oma. I'll miss you. I'm so sorry I wasn't there to say goodbye.
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[25 Mar 2007|10:04pm]
When books are concerned, the prudence with which I usually govern my spending flies clear out the window. That said, I must point out I never buy new unless dramatic price cuts are involved; you sure as hell won't catch me plonking down $20 for a contemporary soft cover. Without a doubt my weakness lies in the discount and used book shops such as I visited this afternoon. How could I walk away from a coffee table sized tome showcasing the work of Outerbridge when the affixed sticker said $7.50 ? (Still in shrink wrap. Original damage: $65.) Anyway, here's today's haul. All are new and not one was priced over eight dollars !

Hey, big spenderCollapse )
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[14 Mar 2007|12:18pm]
Early last Thursday, after a visit to Emploi Quebec, I was all set to enroll in a *six month French course to be funded by the province. A sizable undertaking, maybe, but I must confess: I felt myself growing eager at the prospect of accomplishing this.
Plans changed drastically when Eric invited me to meet him for a dejeuner date at Wendy's. As I inhaled my mandarin chicken salad he sheepishly confessed that his boss had just offered him a plum position at the... wait for it !... Toronto office.

Oy -- whatta roller coaster ! 

So, it looks as though I'm destined to remain unilingual for at least a while longer. This also means I'll be able to get back to work post-haste, though, as luck would have it, Quebec and Ontario are the only two provinces with regulations concerning who can perform phlebotomy (scary, eh ?) I imagine I'll have to take --and foot the bill for-- some sort of test irrespective of the fact I've punctured literally thousands of arms, hands, and feet in my day. An email has been sent to the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories and I'm awaiting further details.

Eric's been in T.O. since Sunday and on Friday I'll be joining him. If all goes well we'll find an apartment this weekend and be outta here by April 1st. I've been browsing various rental sites and am flabbergasted by Toronto's high cost of accomodation; for the price of a hideous basement dump there, one could rent spacious and immaculate quarters in Montréal or Halifax. Anyway, this place looks like it might have potential...  that is to say I don't see any brobdingnagian cockroaches posing for the camera.

More later. Now I need to get out of my jammies and head to the bank where I will engage in epic battle with the manager:

Darling Fascist Bullyboy,
Give me some more money, you bastard.
May the seed of your loin be fruitful in the belly of your woman,

*Will elaborate on this at my next writing.
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[14 Mar 2007|03:34am]
Although I'm fascinated by all cetaceans, the sperm whale piques my interest especially. I was taught quite a bit about marine mammals for my stint as a volunteer at Halifax's Museum of Natural History; there I led elementary school children though the exhibits, explaining that 'whalebone' isn't actually bone, passing around examples of scrimshaw and tiny plankton in a big glass jar, and introducing them to the haunting songs of the humpback. In addition, I relayed the following extraordinary sperm whale facts:
  • They're the largest carnivores on Earth, and the largest ever toothed mammal... males growing to more than 70 ft long.
  • They were named for the milky-white substance (spermaceti) found in their head and originally mistaken for sperm. Though its precise function is still unknown, spermaceti is now thought to help the animal control buoyancy, or possibly aid in echolocation.
  • Sperm whales possess the largest and heaviest brain in the animal kingdom (weighing 15 lbs on average in an adult male), and three tonnes of blood course through their veins.
  • They are believed to be able to dive up to 8 000 feet (approx. 1½ miles !) and remain submerged for 2 hours without coming up for breath.
  • Ambergris-- a waxy, cheese-like substance-- is formed in their digestive tract to protect them from the sharp, indigestible beaks of their favourite snack: giant squid. Ambergris was/is used as a a fixative in fine perfumes, among other things.
  • Sperm whales are among the most aggressive whales; they battle 30-ft squid to the death and have been known, when threatened, to sink a rowboat full of whalers.
Click here to watch amazing footage of a panicked sperm whale capsizing a boat containing well-meaning rescuers. Sadly, one person was killed in the mêlée. It's a testament, however, to the sheer might of these animals; the same beautiful creatures man has driven, in some cases, nearly to the point of extinction.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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[06 Mar 2007|03:30pm]
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
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Will you ever heave a sigh and a wish for me ? [16 Feb 2007|10:56am]

People that build their houses inland,
People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
Tons of water striking the shore--
What do they long for, as I long for
One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
Spanking the boats at the harbour's head,
What do they long for, as I long for,--
Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning--
One salt taste of the sea once more?

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Howie [15 Feb 2007|01:38pm]
[ mood | sad ]

I've been volunteering with the Montreal SPCA for a just over a month, photographing animals and composing accompanying profiles for inclusion on petfinder.com. So far it's been a wonderful experience. I'm the sort who'd like to adopt every cat and dog myself... failing that, however, I feel the least I can do is help these little souls find loving homes.

Once an animal's ref. number has been input to the system, it's filed under one of four categories: hold (for profiles under construction), adoptable, adoption pending, and adopted. Each time I see a name or face I recognise moved from 'adoptable' to 'adopted' my heart soars. But the sad fact is, I've also seen animals returned mere days after being rescued; placed back into the stainless steel cages and fated to begin the process anew (if they're lucky.) What are people thinking ?

My own dear Elsa was returned to this same shelter less than one week after her initial adoption. She was hardly four months old at the time... and was branded as having a 'behavioural problem' by the idiots who discarded her. Her crime ? Being too playful. Isn't that what kittens do ? Regardless, she was labeled 'hard to adopt' and given to us at no cost because of this. Had Eric and I not taken her, however, I'm sure she'd have found a home quickly; she's cute and young. But what of the older animals, the less 'attractive' ones who are overlooked time and time again ? They languish in cages while other critters come and go... and, eventually, are given a date with the needle.

Obviously, homes cannot be found for every cat, dog, bird, and rodent that comes through the SPCA's doors, and euthanasia is a sad but inevitable reality. However, it doesn't need to happen in these numbers ! If only people would realise that pets are a lifelong commitment, and that responsible pet ownership includes spaying or neutering !

Ironically, when an animal is put down its ref. number is moved into petfinder's 'adopted' category. Today I logged in to write a profile for a stray cat whose picture I'd taken only a few days ago. He was sweet-tempered, handsome, and young. To my untrained eye, he seemed in good health, too, but apparently that wasn't the case. A note was made on his incompleted profile this morning, saying he'd been very ill and had to be euthanised on Valentine's day. This little guy died without so much as a name, and cases like his break my heart. So... if you care to look, behind the cut are the photos that were to appear on his ad. Sometimes putting a face to abstract situations and cold statistics can urge people into taking action: I encourage you to look into what you can do to help abandoned animals in your area.

And give your pets a big hug.

I think he looked like a Howie.Collapse )

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...with some fava beans and a nice chianti. [14 Feb 2007|08:31am]
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[11 Feb 2007|06:00pm]
Eric and I were sitting in the living room the other morning when he called my attention to something adorable. He swears he wasn't behind this, and I know I didn't do it. Silas has no interest in the stuffed dog... so that leaves Elsa. I mean, it is her toy and her bowl.

yumCollapse )
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[07 Feb 2007|08:25am]
In the interest of starting your Wednesday on a good note, I suggest you watch this:

I wish I had pals like Iona and Duckie.

Also, I wish it were 1986. This century stinks.
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[06 Feb 2007|10:58am]
Oooh... check out the photography of Julie Blackmon !

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[18 Jan 2007|08:35pm]
Do you know your mort ?

Take my quiz!

Take This Quiz | See Scores | Make Own Quiz
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Shoot the talcum to me, Malcolm [18 Jan 2007|03:44am]

I can't sleep.


Where's Virginia O'Brien when I need her ?

(If you're not up for watching an entire clip of Groucho and the gang, let it load completely then fast forward to 4:00. That's Ginny's part, and you shan't be disappointed !)

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Pussies galore ! [12 Jan 2007|01:32am]
When I relocated to Montreal last September I brought Silas with me but made the decision to leave Pola in Halifax. Though it breaks my heart to be away from her I know she's being well loved and is, in turn, providing invaluable companionship for Jay. As for Siley boy, I figured he'd take the move/separation in stride.
Not so.
He missed his big sis a lot more than I'd anticipated. Almost overnight he became very vocal and very needy... crying and scratching incessantly at any barrier which stood between himself and human company. The last straw was when Eric and I came home one evening to discover he'd rubbed his paw pads raw on the front door-- there was blood smeared everywhere. We at that point decided to bring another cat into the mix, for Silas' sake (and because I'm warming up to be the Crazy Cat Lady.) Within a week I found myself at the SPCA, and as soon as I entered the room my gaze fell upon a black and white kitten among a plethora of older felines. Just as I approached her, a woman stepped up and affixed a hand-written sign to her cage. Since it was in french, I inquired as to this little cat's story and was told she was a special case; a "permanent foster" rather than an adoption. Though still only a baby she'd already been adopted out and then promptly returned to the shelter.

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