August 2005

Your name here!

by DaniGirl on August 31, 2005 · 13 comments

in Uncategorized

Have you seen this? Starting September 1, sixteen American authors, including the inimitable Stephen King and John Grisham, are auctioning off the right to have your name published in one of their upcoming novels. Funds raised will support the First Amendment Project, a US non-profit raising funds and awareness for the freedom of expression.

The e-Bay page for the auction has some pretty funny requirements from each of the authors. For example, while Peter Straub warns that the name supplied may be attached to a character of “dubious moral character” and Andrew Sean Greer will be attaching the winning name to a soda shop or bakery that houses a pivotal scene, my idol Stephen King says, “Buyer should be aware that [work in progress] CELL is a violent piece of work, which comes complete with zombies set in motion by bad cell phone signals that destroy the human brain. Like cheap whiskey, it’s very nasty and extremely satisfying. Character can be male or female, but a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female. In any case, I’ll require physical description of auction winner, including any nickname (can be made up, I don’t give a rip).”

Ahem. I know what I want for Christmas. Infamy at the hands of a zombie in a Stephen King story? Where’s my chequebook?

And that may in some part explain this quiz result, care of Andrea (who always finds the coolest toys first). Turns out on the Nerd-Geek-Dork continuum, I am:

Pure Nerd
75 % Nerd, 43% Geek, 34% Dork

For The Record: A Nerd is someone who is passionate about
learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the “dork.” No-longer. Being smart isn’t as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


So? Are you a nerd, a geek or a dork?


Everybody’s comin’ to Ottawa

by DaniGirl on August 30, 2005 · 22 comments

in Uncategorized

Well, this is certainly an exciting week to be in our sleepy little government town.

On Sunday night, the Rolling Stones played to 43,000 fans to close out my favourite summer fair, the SuperEx. Then yesterday, a few scant metres from my humble cubicle, they filmed the video for their new single Streets of Love in the Byward Market. They pulled about 100 random people off the street to be extras in the video. And where was I during all the excitement, you ask?

Looking obtusely in the other direction, as usual.

I had no idea. Hadn’t had the radio on, was busying away like a good worker bee, and was completely oblivious. I often pop down to the Quiznos on York for a veggie sub at lunchtime, and the Quiznos is right across the street from Zaphod’s, where the video was being filmed. But not yesterday. Yesterday, I brought my lunch. Coulda been checking out the Stones, but I was eating microwaved cabbage rolls and working through lunch. How hip am I?

Aside from all that, looks like we’ve got another visitor on the way. The remnants of hurricane Katrina are apparently tracking this way, looking to dump a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Good thing I spent all day Sunday draining the pool (and scrubbing algae off the liner – ick!) According to the precicise and highly scientific forecast, we could get anywhere from no rain to 100 mm (4 inches) of rain, and winds anywhere from gentle breezes to gale force.

Apparently, Ottawa is where all the cool kids are hanging out these days. Well, at least the aging, once spectacular but now mostly spent ones.

Have you ever had a celebrity encounter?


I read a review of David Layton’s The Bird Factory in the newspaper, and managed to get a copy from the library in fairly short order. When I read the review, I knew it was something I’d have to read because it touches on a couple of themes dear to my heart.

First, the author is a 30-something Canadian, and Canadian-ness is often enough of a selection criteria to just get me to open a book. Second, he happens to be the son of one of the grand old men of Canadian poetry, Irving Layton. Third, the review was generally positive. Fourth, and foremost, was the subject matter: The Bird Factory is about a 30-something guy whose life starts to spin out of control when he and his wife have trouble procreating, and he finds out he has lazy sperm. Among other things, the novel is about going through in vitro fertilization (IVF) from a guy’s perspective.

For the same reasons I wanted to read this book, I wanted to dislike it. See, we Canadians have this deeply ingrained quirk that makes us want to see successful Canadians knocked down a notch or two. I had hoped I’d risen above this nasty little peccadillo, but I fear not.

By way of illustrating the point, let me retell this story of a friend’s first visit to the east coast. He was watching the men fish for lobsters. They’d haul up a trap and open it and shake the lobsters into a wide, shallow bin then they’d drop the open trap back into the water. (Pardon me if I gloss over the details. The lobster fishery is not something I’ve studied in any amount of detail.) The point is, the man watches the lobster fishermen (fisherpeople, I guess) for quite a while before his curiousity overcomes him.

“Excuse me,” he says, “but do you mind if I ask a question? That bin is so shallow, the lobsters should have no trouble climbing over the side. How are you keeping them from escaping?”

To which the lobster fisher person replies, (insert salty east coast accent here) “Well, me boy, these ‘ere are Canadian lobsters. Any one of them gets too close to the top of the pile, ‘tothers will just drag ‘im back down agin.”

More succinctly, as my dad recently put it, a Canadian is someone who will knock you down to size, then apologize for it.

So for reasons that are ingrained in me culturally, there’s an odd little piece of me that wanted this to be a bad book. Thinks he’s clever, does he? Writing about infertility? Thinks he has some insight, maybe some talent?

Turns out, he does have both insight and talent. It really is a good book. Layton’s wry humour, clean writing and genuine charm have me hooked. I’m a little more than 10 pages in – more like 60 – but just thinking about it as I’m typing makes me want to curl up and read another chapter to find out what happens next.

According to the review I read, Layton has gone through IVF himself, so he knows whereof he speaks. I found myself at various key points in the narrative thinking, “No, that’s not how it was for us,” then realized that he’s not narrating this from the woman’s perpective, he’s narrating it from the man’s – something to which I can’t really speak. I know what Beloved said and did, but I can’t claim to know how he felt. So when I was getting a little agitated with the protagonist’s laissez-faire attitude, it served as an interesting reminder that maybe my husband had a different way of experiencing that chapter in our lives.

I love a book filled with quirky characters, and this one has them to spare. Luke Gray, the protagonist, has a little lost boy quality that I would have found irrestible were I a literary character or he a real person. His wife Julia is a classic high-achiever who attacks the problem of infertility with a a single-minded focus that reminds me almost painfully of myself. Luke’s father, an erstwhile film-maker, builds a river in their suburban basement when Luke is a boy. Luke has made a business of constructing large decorative bird mobiles, and he seems to adopt employees like stray cats – odds and sods of societal rejects who seem even less engaged in their lives than Luke is in his.

You don’t have to have any experience in or even perspective on infertility to enjoy this book. It’s an insightful, darkly funny and poignant examination of one guy’s life and the forces that drag him through it.



Friday photos

by DaniGirl on August 26, 2005 · 9 comments

in Uncategorized

A little end of summer photo essay, because sometimes they really are worth a thousand words…

Tristan has given Simon some potty training tips this week. Most important: you gotta take time to look at the trains.

Two boys + one garden hose + one hot summer day = priceless.

Tristan’s first day on his big-boy bike.

Fun at the Ottawa SuperEx:

Not as sexy as Marla’s Charlie’s Angels pose, but yet more proof that we were separated at birth (both photos taken at an Ex on Sunday, half a province apart and with no prior consulation).


I believe

by DaniGirl on August 25, 2005 · 7 comments

in Uncategorized

I was trying to resist this, really I was. But it’s so on topic that I can resist no longer. You see, I too have converted to the Cult of FSM – Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. No idea what I’m talking about? Then you haven’t been paying attention.

You might remember I have issues with Intelligent Design. I have found an ally and bloggy mentor on this topic in Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer. It was under his tutelage that I was first exposed to the growing FSM movement back in the first week of August.

I’ve been looking for a devotional outlet for a while now. Catholicism was good when I was young and naïve – and not divorced, and not mother to a child created through assisted reproductive technologies, among other things. I needed something more inclusive. Here’s what FSM founder Bobby Henderson said in his open letter to the Kansas State board of education:

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

From the moment I first read about His Noodliness, I knew. And yet despite the obvious draw, I waited. I’ve been burned before, you know. Could I trust FSM, or would it leave questioning myself in the quiet dark of sleepless nights? But now that FSM has it’s own Wiki entry, I know it’s for real, and it’s here to stay. Far be it from me to reinvent the pasta wheel, when I can quote Wiki to tell you what FSM is all about:

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is a parody religion created to protest the decision by the Kansas tate Board of Education to allow intelligent design to be taught in science classes alongside evolution.

The “religion” has since become an Internet phenomenon garnering many followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (sometimes referring to themselves as “Pastafarians”, a pun on Rastafarians) preaching the word of their “noodly master” as the one true religion. FSM is primarily the invention of Bobby Henderson, a graduate of the Oregon State University with a degree in physics.

At last, I have a community to call my own: the Pastafarians. And I’m in good company. When the Lincoln Sign Company offered FSM stickers with the logo you see above and offered them to the first 100 people who sent an e-mail, they were inundated with over 3,500 requests in seven hours, and the 100 decals were gone in the first eight minutes.

Boing Boing has offered a $1M reward to anyone who can prove that Jesus Christ isn’t the son of the FSM.

How could you not love it?


(stretches, rubs eyes, peers blearily at the screen)

Oh god, I am so very tired. I thought the days of sleep deprivation were mercifully behind us, but I fear not. I’ve been up since precicely 4:15 am. I know it is 4:15 because Simon has an atomic clock stashed under his crib somewhere and wakes up at EXACTLY the same time for days on end. These past days on end have started in the ungodly hours before dawn, at precisely 4:15. Not 4:13 or 4:16, mind you. Every single day this week, 4:15 am.

He’s got this idea in his curly little head that when he wakes up at 4:15, he gets to go sleep with mummy, a myth perpetrated by mummy herself staggering around in the dark trying anything to make the baby go back to sleep for a little while longer. Some days the soother does the trick, some days the blanket does the trick, and some days only crawling into bed with mummy does the trick. How many of you are nodding along as I whine that once baby snuggles under the comforter he falls blissfully back to sleep, leaving mummy wide awake and grumbling in the gloaming? And no wonder I can’t sleep – he’s such a twitchy little sleeper. He grunts, he rolls, he hoots (there is no other word for it, he does in fact hoot) and he sticks his little feet in the middle of my back and kicks. He’s worse than his father! And inevitably, just as I finally drift blissfully back to sleep, the clock strikes 5:45 and the radio clicks on and another day leaps out of the bushes and exposes itself to us.

I’m not one of those people who functions well when sleep deprived. I can quite clearly imagine all the little synapses in my brain letting go of each other, breaking connections and disrupting mental traffic, so information traveling along its usual neural network highway gets as backed up as the 401 on a long-weekend Friday rush hour. That’s what my head feels like today – traffic congestion.

It’s better than it was. I went for more than a year without getting more than two or three hours of sleep consecutively, and averaging five or six hours of sleep a night. I was chronically and constantly sleep deprived. And it was not pretty. What I remember most is thinking, “I’m off work for a year at almost my full salary, staying home with my two spectacularly terrific children – this should be the best year of my life and I’m completely miserable.” And then I would feel guilty about being so miserable, when all I really needed was about 30% more sleep than I was getting.

I remember feeling such anger toward Simon when he woke up, when he woke me up, in the middle of the night. That part was scary. The sound of his cry would cause a violent release of adrenaline into my system, giving me that same nauseating rush you get after a bad scare, but three or four times a night, every time he woke up. I’d have to force myself to think of the “daytime” Simon, as I thought of it, the one who cooed and smiled and laughed, the one that I loved beyond reason, and not think of the nighttime Simon, my opponent and nemesis, who was not sleeping out of some form of infant spite. So many hours of silent and frustrated rage were spent in his room, rocking him endlessly in the darkness, while I wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed and let somebody else be the one responsible for taking care of him. Dark nights indeed.

It seems like it happened to someone else. I’ve never admitted to the anger before, never wanted to acknowledge it, but I can see from this safe distance that it was entirely the sleep deprivation. I regret those dark nights, regret not being better equipped to deal with and overcome my own tiredness. But that’s kind of like regretting the sky is blue, isn’t it?

So today I am tired. Oh so very tired. But I have learned that I can function on a whole lot less sleep than I ever, in the time before children, would have given myself credit for.

Pass the coffee, wouldja please?


Ten years ago today – The End

23 August 2005 Uncategorized

It’s been hugely entertaining for me to relive my trip of a lifetime, even if it left some of you scrolling endlessly downward looking for something more current to read. Alas, ten years ago today, my trip ended – but not without a final dramatic turn. This is the day I decided Beloved was going […]

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New feature – categories!

23 August 2005 Uncategorized

You might have noticed that I’ve started tagging some of my posts with categories. This is a feature I’ve coveted from Typepad and other blogging software for a while. (Not that I’m easily categorizable. I came up with more than 20 possible categories just looking at my list of post titles. I do ramble on.) […]

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Ten years ago today – still Paris

22 August 2005 Uncategorized

The penultimate entry in my great Canadian Eurotour 1995 travel journal. 9:15 pm, 21 August 1995Pont Neuf (again) Here I am, setttled in at my favourite Parisian perch, the Pont Neuf, watching the sun set. Had an amazing day today: spent 9.5 hours (from 10:30 am until 8 pm) in the Louvre – I loved […]

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Paying the price of indecision

22 August 2005 Frostie

Last week, I sent another cheque for $300 to our fertility clinic, and bought myself another year of indecision. Tristan was conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the summer of 2001. At the time he was conceived, a total of three embryos were created. Because of my relative youth and reproductive health, the doctors […]

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