The Wisdom of Trees

We’ve had a difficult and emotionally draining week relocating Hubby’s elderly mom, who has early dementia.  My sense of humour suffered a slight sprain in the process, so I didn’t feel up to spewing my usual nonsense this week.

I created this video instead – I hope you enjoy it.

The Wisdom of Trees

Hello, Garlic, My Old Friend

There’s pretty good evidence to suggest that Hubby is a vampire:  He’s basically nocturnal, and garlic repels him with the force of a speeding Mack truck.

Unfortunately, I love garlic.

I try not to inflict it on him often, but every now and then I get a restaurant meal that’s redolent with my favourite allium.  This week was one of those times:  I knew as soon as I took my first mouthful that it was going to be a sinus-burner.  But at that point it was too late to stop, so I chowed down and enjoyed every bite.

Later, I was marinating in my own fumes when a little tune popped unbidden into my brain:  The first line of “The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon.  Only instead of his lyrics my brain supplied, “Hello, garlic, my old friend”.

And just like that, a blog post is born.

I give you my latest masterpiece:  “It Pounds The Sinus”, sung to the tune of “The Sound of Silence”.  Look out, Weird Al Yankovic; I may be even weirder than you.

Here’s the instrumental version* so you can follow along with the tune:
*The meter is a bit off because the guitar player didn’t exactly match S&G’s original version, but you get the gist.

It Pounds The Sinus
(Sung to the tune of “The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon)

Hello garlic, my old friend
I’ve gone and gobbled you again
Around my tastebuds softly creeping
From my pores nastily seeping
And the odour that was planted in my veins
Still remains
The stench confounds the sinus

In all my reek I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp
I was accosted by a deadly vamp
Though his fangs were lit by the flash of a neon light
He couldn’t fight
The stench that pounds the sinus

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People gawking without speaking
People fleeing after sniffing
People hiking on, who only turned and glared
After I aired
The stench that pounds the sinus

“Fools,” said I
“You do not know, garlic eaters like me blow
Vile miasma that can leach through
Breath mints, Febreze, and full-strength bleach, too”
And my breath like violent raindrops fell
A deathblow
To the suff’ring sinus

And all the people were afraid
Of the horrid stink I’d made
And a sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said
“Bad breath is a problem that a normal girl forestalls
With strong menthols
But garlic still dumbfounds the sinus”

Any other garlic-lovers out there?

True Confessions

I just finished confessing to a complete lack of literary sophistication over on my blogging buddy Carrie Rubin’s latest post, and it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing).

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I lack taste in most areas.

I hide it well enough in public most of the time. During my lengthy and painful sojourn as an interior designer I managed to build a veneer of deceptive behaviours that masqueraded as good manners and (somewhat) refined taste:

  • About once a year I went to a nice mid-range clothing store and bought a few things in whatever colour/cut/style was purported to be ‘in fashion’ for the season so I could blend into the professional community.
  • I suppressed coughs, sneezes, burps, farts, and every hint of my dirty mind and twisted sense of humour.
  • I feigned fascination and deep concern over furniture and paint colours and carpets that were fundamentally the same and would be indistinguishable from the alternate choices within minutes of being installed.

While I was a computer geek the rules of taste were mercifully relaxed, but in my next incarnation as a business owner I forced myself to attend networking events and dinners and seminars in the hope of convincing other business owners that I was sufficiently socially aware not to be an embarrassment while providing them with computer training.

  • I sat through presentations on everything from team building to angel channeling to economics to unleashing the power of my femininity: straight-faced, asking pertinent questions, and nodding seriously at the replies.
  • I suppressed my natural urge to pig out at dinners and ate politely, nay, dare I say daintily.
  • I never, not even once, stood up and shouted, “All in favour of throwing on some jeans and pounding back some beers, follow me!”

Fortunately I’ve always had good friends who know the real me and therefore find my fakery hilarious, or my brain probably would have exploded.

These days I hire others far more qualified than I to interact with the normal human race (thank you, David and Sharon, for being the public faces of my computer training business), and I lurk happily in my sordid home-office lair, wearing comfortable clothes and writing things that make me laugh.

It’s far too late to impress anybody now. So, inspired by Carrie’s honesty, I hereby confess:

  • I hated the literary classics. All of them.
  • I cheerfully wear the same T-shirts, fleece jacket,  yoga pants, jeans, and sneakers week after month after year without ever desiring any newer or more fashionable clothes.  In my defense, I do wash them after each wearing.  I may not have fashion sense but at least I’m clean.
  • I enjoy poetry, but my true love is limericks.
  • Farts make me snicker.
  • I love fine food and wine, but I love burgers and beer just as much.
  • My liking for classical music might make me look as though I have taste, but the truth is I like rock and pop just as well. And blues and country and metal and reggae and ragtime and big band and just about everything else including polkas and accordion music. Sad but true.
  • I’ll choose a stupid sitcom over a serious drama every time. (Does anybody remember WKRP in Cincinnati? “…As God is my witness, Travis, I thought turkeys could fly.”)
  • In private, I lick my fingers instead of using a napkin.  Sometimes I lick the plate, too.  Especially if there’s rare-steak juice.

How about you?

  • Dress-up or jeans?
  • Haute cuisine or pub grub?
  • Comedy, drama, action, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, or romance?
  • Classics or genre fiction?
  • Shakespeare or e e cummings or doggerel?
  • Adolescent humour or… wait, never mind. If you’ve stuck with me this far, there’s no hope for you.  (Sorry about that.)

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

I’m worried.

Being the cynical geek I am, I was sure Big Brother was watching us long before the “news” broke about the NSA and PRISM.  No surprise there.

That’s why ever since I started writing the Never Say Spy series, I’ve joked semi-seriously that I’m probably on a no-fly list somewhere.  Anyone watching my browsing habits will know I spend a disturbing amount of time researching untraceable poisons, the characteristics of C4 and other explosives, sonic grenades, Tasers and stun guns, specifications and ballistics tables for firearms, and a host of other unsavoury topics.

Throw in my YouTube viewing history of martial arts, shooting techniques, self-defence against knives and guns, military training videos, and some other odds and sods that are definitely non-typical for your average middle-aged female viewer.

Then add my frequent searches on computer networks, hacking, cracking, and encryption, and I just bet they’re watching me.

Meanwhile, and (until this morning) completely unrelated to this… I’m a big music fan.  I love just about all genres, and, as I’ve mentioned before, my MP3 player contains everything from rock to reggae to ragtime, country to classical, metal to Motown, pop to polkas, blues to barbershop harmony.  But (*gasp*) I’ve never been a huge Beatles fan.

Sure, I like their music, and I respect their impact on the music scene, but I’ve never actually gotten around to buying an album.  So yesterday I thought, “Hmm.  What kind of self-professed music lover doesn’t have a single Beatles song on her MP3 player?  Maybe I’d better go and buy an anthology.”

So off to Amazon I went, and I found a remastered 2-disc set that looked good.  I checked the track list and discovered the song “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”.  I’d never heard of it before.  So I played the preview, then messed around a bit and got distracted.  And forgot about the whole thing.

Until a mere 18 hours later.

Sometimes I like to get out and do some new things and meet new people (bear with me; I’ll establish the relevance of this momentarily).  So I belong to a couple of Meetup groups.  They send me updates on upcoming events.

Here’s what I found in my Inbox this morning:


What the hell are the chances of that?

My idea of getting a Beatles album was completely off-the-cuff.  I went to Amazon and clicked on the first Beatles album in the list without any conscious selection process; I’d never even heard of this song before yesterday; and I arbitrarily chose to listen to its preview instead of any of several other songs that were unfamiliar to me.

And within 18 hours, I get an invitation with the very same title?!?

And what are the chances of two different Meetup group organizers emailing me on the same day about gun-related activities?  I just joined this group.  They shouldn’t have any way of knowing I like to shoot.

I thought the alien butt sensors and the NSA were bad, but now I’m totally creeped out.

Who else is watching me?  I don’t know, but I’m suspicious of the jackrabbit that’s been living under the spruce tree in our front yard.  He has a shifty expression…

I Feel So… Versatile!

Update #2:  Thanks also to Chris9911 for another nomination on April 27/12.  I never get tired of praise!  And I will do another “7 things” post to catch up on my obligations – I promise.

Update:  Thank you also to Let’s CUT the Crap! over at How The Cookie Crumbles for a second nomination on January 13/12, and to RVingGirl on January 18/12!  I’m flattered, delighted, and… pushed for time, so it might be a while before I keep this circulating.  Meanwhile, here’s the post from my first nomination.

The Versatile Blogger AwardMany thanks to Nancy over at notquiteold for nominating me for The Versatile Blogger award!

As she points out in this post, when you do the math, it becomes apparent that within a very few iterations of this award, theoretically everybody in the blogosphere could receive this award.  Twice.

But I don’t care.  I’m pumped that she liked my blog enough to nominate me.

The rules are that if you accept this award, you are committed to the following conditions:

  1. Thank the person who shared the award with you by linking back to them in your post.
  2. List 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass this award to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know that you included them in your blog post.

Here goes:

  1. In the category of “awards that sound more prestigious than they actually are”, I won a silver medal in the 2003 team archery event at the Multi-Sites Indoor Championship of the Americas (MICA).  There weren’t a lot of participants, and the medal isn’t really silver.  It’s not even silver-plated.  But, hell, it’s in my drawer, and I’m proud of it.  Shortly thereafter, I was sidelined with a wrist injury.  It’s taken me a long time to get back into it, but I’m hoping to compete in some archery tournaments again this year.
  2. The only food I don’t like is black liquorice.  If I had to choose only one thing to consume for the rest of my life, it would be milk.
  3. I’m a car nut. I love to watch drag racing, and I’m in the process of rebuilding a 1953 Chevy 210 sedan.  The engine is done, but the body is waiting for a budget.  Has been for years.  Sigh.
  4. In my rare moments of spare time, I paint in oils or play the piano, both of which I do with more enthusiasm than talent.  Here’s one of my paintings:  Mountain and lake painting
    My talent level is the same for both painting and piano: I’m exactly good enough to realize how bad I am when compared to a real artist/pianist.  But hey, I have fun.
  5. I have a helpless, uncontrollable addiction to gardening.  I’m incapable of leaving a patch of dirt undisturbed.  I grow and preserve my own fruit and vegetables, and I make hard cider from the apples from my backyard tree.
  6. My MP3 player contains blues, rock, metal, country, barbershop quartets, classical voice and orchestra, Gregorian chants, folk, ragtime piano, reggae, jazz, and some stuff that I can’t even put a genre to.  I love it all.  The only music that makes me retch is the vapid, limp-wristed whining of 80s boy bands.
  7. I have worn a dress or skirt about nine times in the last thirty years.  Twice to get married (the first time didn’t take), once to my sister’s wedding, a couple of times to funerals, and a few times to black-tie parties.  I enjoy dressing up approximately as much as I enjoy listening to 80s boy bands.

Regarding Condition #3:  I follow tons of blogs, and my perennial favourites are in the blogroll at the right.  Here are the ones I’ve discovered most recently.  There aren’t fifteen in the list, but I’ve never been much good at obeying chain letter instructions.

Recipients, please treat this like the thinly-disguised chain letter it is. If you want to play along, great. If not, please accept my admiration for your writing, and ignore the conditions.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Big Ugly Man Doll – A fabulous males-eye view of marriage, parenting, and manhood.  Don’t miss ManFAQ Fridays.  And don’t drink hot beverages while reading (I learned that the hard way).

Carol Henders – Faith, inspiration, and recipes for yummy food.  How can you go wrong?  You wouldn’t believe it by our blogs, but we are actually sisters.  Carol, feel free to not link back to me.  You probably don’t want to do that to your readers.

De Libertas Quirkas – Since I’m a geek myself, I love Kavya’s engineering take on life.

Diana Murdock – Sometimes touching, sometimes raw, always thought-provoking.

Sierra Godfrey – A great sense of humour about writing and life in general.  Don’t miss her Friday Google Reader Roundup.  She also writes an excellent blog about design, communication, and usability here.

Me! Me! Me me me! – Is it a bird? Is it a plane?  No, it’s Aquatom!  Poetry, musings, and days in the life of a superhero.

Murrmurrs – You never know what you’re going to get with Murr Brewster.  From poop to politics, and everything in between (oh, wait, those aren’t actually that far removed), Murr says it loud and proud.  Her blog subtitle says it all:  “Snortworthy”.  And you will.  Oh, you will.

notquiteold– It doesn’t make a lot of sense to bounce this award back to the person who gave it to me, but I just discovered Nancy’s blog and I love it, so she’s going on the list.  If you’re looking for an irreverent take on life from somebody who’s getting better with experience, don’t miss this one.

Visiting Reality – Funny double entendres… and a disturbing fixation on camels.  Don’t miss Wednesday Hump Days.  Hell, don’t miss any of it.  Linda Grimes is a blast!


As I look at this list of blogs, it’s apparent that music isn’t the only field in which I have eclectic taste.  Hope everyone finds something here to enjoy.

Ride A Cowboy!

The Stampede is on in Calgary this week, so the medical clinics are bracing for the annual surge in syphilis cases.  No, I’m not making this up.

Forget your sensuous blues, your hard-pumping rock, and your suave, sophisticated classical music.  The true aphrodisiac is cowboy boots and country music.  Apparently, something about the Stampede just strips off your inhibitions, rolls them up in a ball, and kicks them under the seat, steaming up the windows and rocking the pick-me-up truck.

Except for those people who get direct economic benefit from the Stampede, like western-wear vendors and penicillin manufacturers, most Calgarians fall into one of two camps:  those who love the Stampede, and those who loathe it.

I’m firmly in the “Love the Stampede” category.  No, it’s not because I partake in the randy rodeo.  It’s because during the ten days of the Calgary Stampede (inexplicably referred to as “Stampede Week”), the entire atmosphere of the city changes.

All the suited-up, buttoned-down businesspeople vanish from the downtown core, to be replaced by swaggering folks in western boots, shirts, and faded jeans.  The smell of horseshit and pancake syrup floats on the air, and country music blares from every restaurant and lounge, regardless of its musical orientation prior to Stampede Week.  Bales, rough wooden fences, and hand-daubed signs drawling, “Howdy” crowd the lobbies of the sleek highrise office buildings.

Every morning, there’s a free pancake breakfast somewhere.  Just go downtown at 7:30 in the morning, listen for the music, and follow the smell of bacon and syrup.  Every afternoon, there are dozens of Stampede parties.  No need to follow your nose; you can hear them from across town and navigate toward them by following the trail of inebriated cowboy wannabes staggering along whooping, “Yaaaa-hoooo!”.

Some suggestions for safe Stampeding:

  • Don’t stand close to anybody in an enclosed space.  You’ll get drunk just from the fumes wafting off them.
  • Don’t light a match, either.  One of the staple foods at Stampede parties is baked beans.  Flammable fumes abound.
  • Use protection.  Or, if you really want the gift that keeps on giving, try

Stampede strips away food inhibitions, too.  Fifty-one weeks out of the year, the thought of eating a corn dog makes me gag.  During Stampede week, I salivate uncontrollably at the mere thought.

Also, after dedicated research, I have determined that there is, in fact, no upper limit to the number of mini-doughnuts I’m capable of eating at one sitting during Stampede. A couple of years ago, I topped out at twenty-five, but that was only because the bag was empty.  If there had been more, I would’ve eaten them.

If your tastes are a little more adventurous, there’s a bar down on 10th Avenue where you can eat prairie oysters.  (For the uninitiated, prairie oysters are bull testicles.  Or… ex-bulls’ testicles, I guess.)  Mmmm-mmm good!

And the midway vendors vie each year to offer the newest, oddest foods.  A few years ago, it was deep-fried Coke.  I haven’t been down to the grounds yet this year, but I hear they have deep-fried Pop-Tarts.

Hell, those aren’t new.  You can find them after any Stampede party.  Just follow the sound of hiccups and look for the Daisy Dukes.

It’s Stampede time!  Save a horse, ride a cowboy!  Yaaa-hooo!

Highway Child(ishness)

(Apologies to Bob Seger, Jimi Hendrix, and the Stones)

Before you read any further, I’d like to note that my travelling companions are (usually) mature and admirable people.  Please don’t judge them harshly.  You’d be a basket case, too, if you had to spend fourteen hours in a car with me.


A couple of times a year, I drive from Calgary, Alberta to just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The trip is about 800 miles one way (1,200 kilometres).  When I’m driving by myself, I do it in about twelve hours.  If I have company in the car, it takes closer to fourteen.

The mind does frightening things when it’s cooped up in a car for that long.  When I’m on my own, I beat my brain into submission with loud music.

When there are other people in the car, things get… strange.

I frequently drive with my sister and a friend whom I’ll identify only as Swamp Butt, in order to protect the guilty.  Since she can’t retaliate without revealing her true identity, I’ll also disclose her nickname for me:  “TB”, short for “Tiny Bladder”.

Three grown women in a car for fourteen hours.  What a wonderful opportunity for deep discussion, bonding, and meaningful dialogue.


There’s something about the trip that makes us revert to the mental age of ten.  Some examples:

When you drive directly into the sunrise, the angle of the light reveals the fact that we all spit when we talk.  And not just on plosive consonants.  It’s a constant, fine spray of spittle.  There’s no way to prevent it.  Sorry, but it’s true.

Being the refined and sophisticated person that I am, I pointed this out within seconds of discovering it.  My sister heaved a huge sigh of relief.  “I thought it was just me,” she admitted.  “I’ve been trying to stop doing it for miles.”  She then proceeded to demonstrate various facial contortions designed to reduce the spray.  Much merriment (and aerosolized spit) ensued.

Later in the day, we passed the umpteenth pasture with cattle dotted across its expanse.  I glanced over and said, “Black cows…”  Fateful pause.  “…Look BETTER in the SHADE.”  At which point all three of us did the head bob as we chanted the instrumental part:  “NAH-nah-nah-nah-NAH-nah-nah-NAH!”  Swamp Butt followed up with the solo from the back seat, “Dee-DEE-dee!”

I’ve never really liked Gino Vanelli’s music, or the song “Black Cars”.  To me, the 80’s were a musical wasteland, mercifully relieved by a few outstanding artists like Bob Seger.  But the point is, the “Black Cows” segment was repeated over and over, apparently getting funnier each time.  It’s now a tradition.  Such is the hideous danger of long-distance driving.

Eventually, the brain becomes so sodden with fatigue that it’s not actually necessary to have a stimulus for mirth.  We’ve dissolved in helpless giggles while standing in line at Subway.  Not talking.  Not even looking at each other.  The mere words, “I’ve been in the car too long…” are enough to make us weep with laughter.

Oh, and Swamp Butt?  She snorts when she laughs.  Not every time.  The snort is reserved for special occasions.  But when it finally erupts in all its raucous glory, pandemonium ensues.  Hysterical, helpless hilarity.  We haven’t actually had to pull over yet, but it’s been close a few times.

And then there’s the reason for Swamp Butt’s nickname.  Farts become excruciatingly (and I mean the word in all its connotations) funny after too many hours in the car.  They’re also pretty much unavoidable.  Medical science tells us that humans pass gas 15 – 25 times a day*.

Well, guess what?  Fourteen hours is over half a day.  Times three people.  Equals somewhere between 26 and 44 farts in the car (‘cause I’m a geek and it’s math.)

Here’s another thing you need to know.  Canola smells like cabbage farts.  (Honest.  Those pretty yellow fields?  When it’s cut, it reeks.)  And there are a lot of canola fields between here and Manitoba.  So the next time you let one slip while driving, just nod wisely at your passengers and murmur, “Canola”.  You can thank me now.  Note:  This may be less convincing in the wintertime.

Anyway, on our last trip, Swamp Butt seemed to spot a lot more canola fields than there actually were.  And just as we drove into the parking lot in Brandon to drop her off, she cracked off another one.


Seconds before she got out of the car.

We all tumbled out, laughing, shrieking and choking.  I’d like to say that we drew some attention, but we didn’t.  Guess folks in Brandon are used to that sort of thing.

We have not yet devolved to burping contests (well, usually not), armpit noises, or mooning other drivers.  We’re much too mature for that.  I hope.  Please, God, let me be right about that.

What’s your pinnacle of silliness while long-distance driving?

*Who gets paid to do these studies?  There’s one for the ol’ resume:  “Undertook in-depth research of human gaseous emissions.”

Die-Hard Bob Seger Fan

This past week, I was in Toronto to see Bob Seger in concert.  For me, Bob Seger has always been (and probably will always be) the complete package.  The music, the lyrics, the voice – nobody else quite measures up.

I’ve been a fan for a few decades, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen him live.  When I found out he was coming to Toronto, I bought my concert ticket and booked my flight from Calgary ASAP.  Could I afford it?  Not really.  Did I think twice about it?  Hell, no.  He’s saying that this might be his last tour, and I was willing to do whatever it took to see him.

Little did I know.

First, there was the cost of the concert ticket and the plane ticket, as well as taking four days off to get to a Tuesday-night concert on the other side of the country.  No problem.

Trying to save a bit of money, I stayed with a friend in her studio apartment.  I slept in a narrow walkway on the floor, on a makeshift bed of two cushions scavenged from the loveseat.  I’m 5’10”.  The loveseat?  About 4’6”.  But it was fine once I stuffed a chair cushion under my feet.

Her two cats had never witnessed someone sleeping on the floor.  I was thoroughly and frequently inspected.  I sleep on my back, which would be an unimportant piece of information unless you also know that the cats’ climbing tree was right beside the spot where I slept.  You don’t know the meaning of “rude awakening” until a six-pound cat drops from a great height to land on your unprotected belly at three o’clock in the morning.  Lucky thing I really like cats.

My friend kindly offered to pick me up after the concert, reasoning that it would be difficult to catch a cab downtown at that hour on a Tuesday night.  I stood at the corner of Bay Street and the Gardiner Expressway waiting for her, watching the long line of cabs whisk all the other concert-goers home.  The parking lot across the street emptied.  Soon I stood completely alone in the darkness in an unfamiliar city.  It was okay.  I only had one proposition, and he graciously took no for an answer.

On the way home, I was singled out for the “random” physical search at the airport.  Four out of the last five times I’ve flown, I’ve been chosen for this search, so I have to question the randomness of the selection process.  Normally, I’d be mildly flattered that they can’t keep their hands off my body, but… really?

I figure the Airport Authority is missing a huge customer-service opportunity here.  If I have to get groped, they should offer me a lineup of attractive security guys to choose from.  Getting felt up could at least be an enjoyable experience.

As my plane descended in Calgary, I kept glancing out the window and seeing only whiteness.  “Must be low overcast,” I said to myself.  The jolt of wheels on landing strip alerted me to the fact that there really was only whiteness out there.  A foot of snow had fallen the previous night.  I wore runners.

It was the best trip ever.

Seriously.  I loved every minute of the concert.  He put on a great show, and the joy of being there was well worth a few minor inconveniences.  I didn’t come down from my concert high (non-chemically-induced, thank-you) for days.  Hell, I’d pay good money to hear Bob Seger sing anything.  Even “Happy Birthday”.

Any other Seger fans out there?  What’s your best/worst concert experience?