Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Grand Disaster!

At the moment, my very favourite thing, even above my iPod, is my Dell laptop. Well it was until a couple of days ago.

When I bought it, 8 months ago, I needed a new computer like a hole in the head. We had bought a new desktop computer 6 months before that, so we were up-to-date technologically speaking. As always we kept our old computer and set up a network for the first time. But A, who watches little TV, spends an inordinate time playing Mah Jong, Solitaire, and FlightSimulator or doing Sudoku puzzles on the computer. Frankly, I was having trouble getting time on the new one and neither of us likes to use the old one much except to look for a old file, or some such thing.

Just as an aside here, it's most important use is when we Skype video my daughter's family and my almost 4 year old grandaughter, says "Nana, I want to watch the fish." This, of course, is the screensaver, very hokey by today's standards, on the old computer. She watches it on the screen, opposite our new computer since the webcam also shows that screen in our picture feed.

Well back to my Dell story. Longing for my first laptop, I kept visiting the Dell site, looking at the options, and saying to myself, "You don't need this." Finally, I told A about it and in his usual laid-back fashion, he said, "If you want it, buy it!" So we put together the order from the multiple choice options, gave the credit card number and hit the complete order button. Hey, I even bought a computer online .

Several weeks later it arrived and, luckily, the arrival coincided with a visit from my daughter and family. I say luckily, because my son-in-law is a research scientist at IBM so he helped me set everything up just so, connected me to the network and I was up and running in a flash and have never looked back.

Yes, yes, I'm getting to the disaster! While I was using the laptop recently I was drinking a glass of soy milk. Yes, you can just see it, can't you? I knocked the glass over and soy milk spilled into the keyboard. Of course, A wasn't home so I had to deal with this myself. Mopping madly, uttering language totally inappropriate for a "little old lady", but totally consistent with being Australian, I closed everything down and started on clean-up. I turned it upside down to drain out the liquid, I had the battery out and even had the screwdrivers out, taking off the back. Luckily everything seemed fairly well enclosed so I couldn't see any liquid. When A came home, with the manual in hand, we took out the keyboard. There was a little bit of soy milk under the keyboard, which has a metal plate behind it but with a few small holes in it, perfect conduit for liquid. Cleaning it as best we could, we left it in pieces for a while and finally, after reconstruction, we turned it on. Thankfully everything came on and I was congratulating myself on not being punished for my clumsiness and extreme stupidity. All too soon I'm afraid.

Because I keep my speaker volume turned down unless needed, it wasn't until a few days later, watching a video on YouTube, I found my speakers had and continue to have laryngitis! Yes, they're working, if you can call it working, but the sound is totally muffled and the speech is incomprehensible. You see there's a grate-like opening on the upper right hand side of the computer which took a hit of soy milk. I had always assumed the opening was a vent, one on each side of the computer, for heat to escape as they are not mentioned in the manuel, the speakers being at the front, left and right. But I guess somehow there's a connection from the vent to a speaker and the cone is no doubt covered with dried soy milk.

Of course, I, being cheap, only bought the basic service contract, and to get service from Dell you have to send the laptop to Ontario and wait and and wait. Since spilling soy milk into the computer is not covered under basic warranty, only the extended three year one, I think I'll try looking into local solutions. I sure hope there is a solution, else I'll have to start saving my pennies. At least computers are getting cheaper every minute.

I never was totally convinced that soy milk was good for you and I was right, wasn't I? At least not for computers. Those phytoestrogens are really messing things up. And now the AHA is saying consuming soy has no effect whatsoever on cholesterol levels or blood pressure! Sheesh! And my speakers are obviously allergic to soy, so I'm never feeding soy milk to that laptop again!
And I'm feeling so sorry for myself.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The "Short Book" Club Update

I'm giving a brief report of the meeting of the "Short Book" Club since one of my commenters asked. Skip to the next post if you don't want to read this.

Sky Burial is a true story, narrated to the Chinese author Xinran, by a Chinese doctor, Wen, who goes to Tibet searching for her husband. He is a doctor who has gone to help in the war between the Chinese and Tibetans. The time period is the late 1950s. She is told he is dead and she lives with a nomadic Tibetan family for 30 years before she finds out how he died and how he had a sky burial. She ultimately returns to China.

Most of us were glad that we had read it, although we found it quite dry. We thought that the author did not give us a feel for either the country itself or the people and we felt little connection to the Chinese doctor or the Tibetan family she lived with.

However, what turned the whole discussion around was the fact that our young book club member, an ESL teacher, had spent 3 months teaching English in a Tibetan refugee camp in the north of India. She described with such eloquence and enthusiasm what she had experienced with these people and how it had such a profound effect on her. We learned so much from her about life in Tibet and the way Buddhism has such deep meaning for Tibetans that we were able to see and feel more of what it would have been like for Wen.

She brought photos and letters from her former students, some of whom still keep in touch with her. So I think we all came away from the discussion with a deeper understanding of the situation portrayed in the book, thanks to her.

She also brought with her another friend of her own age so now we have two young ones to keep the "old ladies" au courant.

The book for the next meeting is another non fiction, The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong, 306 pages. Karen was a Catholic nun who left her order and went out into the world. She became a writer of books on different religions and is considered an expert on the subject of Islam. Along the way, she had health problems to solve and a spiritual journey to make. The book is highly recommended so we are all looking forward to reading it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The "Short Book" Club

A few years ago, a friend retired from her job teaching ESL and she decided to organize a book club. She invited a few friends who were also ESL teachers and some friends whose husbands were faculty members at the university, as were hers and mine. Neither group knew members of the other group, so in order for us to get to know each other a little, she invited us to her house for a simple supper before the meeting.

The first book she chose was Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, with 480 pages. Some of us had already read it so had to read it again, or at least browse through it, to refresh our minds enough to discuss it. Others, still working, found a 480 page book a bit onerous, since we all wanted to do our regular reading in addition. The next several books chosen were around the 300 page mark and everyone was happy about that. Pretty soon it became accepted that the book chosen was to be a maximum of 300 pages. A non-member friend started calling us the Short Book Club and the name stuck with us.

It's not as difficult as it sounds, you know. There are an incredible number of books of this size and we have no difficulty coming up with suggestions that fit this criterion. In addition, each year we try to include a couple of non fiction books in our choices. We still meet for supper beforehand, at our convenor's house, although I host one meeting a year, because I feel guilty that the convenor always cooks supper and hosts at her house.

Most of us are grandmothers but we have one young member who, during this time, has produced two children and brought each of them to book club for the first year of their lives. We don't know why she comes to spend the evening with the old ladies but we love her and she seems to have fun with us. She has the distinction of being the only one of the 12 of us who has never missed a meeting, even for giving birth.

One of the highlights of the meeting, before we begin the discussion, is the sharing of any books of interest we have read in the past month. This is an opportunity for us find out about new books and new authors and we all enjoy contributing to this section as well as listening.

So tonight is the February meeting of the Short Book Club and the book is one I've already mentioned recently in this blog, Sky Burial by Xinran. I look forward to hearing what the others thought of it as I found the story interesting but the book rather dull on the whole. I'm also wondering what we will choose to read for next time.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Perfect Mother-in-Law

This is the entry promised in a previous post, which is the introduction to this:

The Perfect Mother-in-Law

When A and I got married in 1961 I acquired Grandy as my mother-in-law. But she lived in Australia and I lived, firstly in England, and then in Canada. In fact, when she and I first met, I had been married for two years and my son had been born. So I was very much a daughter-in-law but also very much an unknown quantity. Of course, she welcomed me, most lovingly, to her family and we tentatively established a rapport.

After a few weeks I returned to Canada and once again it was a long-distance relationship. So despite the fact that she and I missed out on a close relationship, A and I never argued about our mothers-in-law. "We went to your mother for last Christmas, so we should go to mine for this one!"

All the mother-in-law jokes had no significance for me. My mother-in-law didn't tell me what to do, what to wear, what to say. Instead she wrote cheery, newsy letters and sent cards at the appropriate times and was generally for me a person about whom I learned in the stories told to me by A.

So I learned to know, not first hand, but through these stories, the amazing woman who had been mother to four children during the Great Depression and had given welcome to many strangers and less fortunate people who somehow arrived on her doorstep during those terrible times. She was a loving wife to her husband, cared for him in sickness and in health and, after his death, showed us all what a really strong, resilient woman she was.

In the early years of our marriage we did not come often to Australia. All our spare money went into getting a house and taking care of our family. But as the years went by we were able to travel and came more often to Sydney. So I developed a more personal relationship with Grandy and she even became more adventurous and travelled twice to Canada, once in the dead of winter, to spend Christmas with us. It was very cold and snowy that year and I think she wondered what kind of winter wasteland she had come to visit. We also came to Australia to join the family in the celebration of the 90th birthday, the 95th and now, at last, the incredible milestone of the 100th.

I think that now, after 39 years, we do have a personal relationship, although be it, an intermittent one. Those mother-in-law jokes still have no meaning for me, and I am sure that, if we had lived down the street from Grandy for all those years, I would be able to say the very same thing.

I once said to A, of my mother, with whom I had a difficult relationship, "I'm not sure that she really loved me." He replied to me, "I know my mother loves me!" I think in retrospect that is the nicest tribute you can say about your mother. Grandy truly loves all her family and every member knows it, even the in-laws.

This was supposed to be a very tongue-in-cheek look at a long distance relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and the fact that the distance makes it perfect. In fact, now I am not so sure that the losses do not outweigh the gains.

jmb, the "perfect" daughter-in-law

August 10, 2000

Daughter-in-Law by Chance
Friends by Choice

Grandy is lovingly remembered by four children, twelve grandchildren, eighteen great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

My Mother-in-Law, a Remarkable Woman

No, this is not my mother-in-law and frankly this woman looks better than me, the ancient daughter-in-law!

Today I'm again taking the easy way out and going to post a piece I wrote a few years ago about my mother-in-law. She died in 2005, at the ripe old age of 104, just shy of her 105th birthday. Yes, she was born August 10th, 1900, within a few days of the Queen Mum, for whom she felt a great kinship, even though their lives couldn't have been more different, and whom she outlasted by a few years.

From the year she turned 90, and on, a big celebration was held every five years and we always went back to Australia to attend. For her hundredth birthday, my sister-in-law, the second of her four children, put together a book to give to her on the occasion and she asked my husband to contribute a piece. She said all the children, grandchildren, etc were going to write something. Of course, she didn't ask me, since I don't really think in her mind I'm part of the family, just the Australian woman her younger brother married when he was in England. In high dudgeon, I decided to write something anyway and send it along and she did include it.

This truly remarkable woman lived in an apartment by herself until she was 101, totally taking care of herself. Her husband died when she was 74, so she lived alone for all those years. The apartment was part of a retirement community on the outskirts of Sydney and at 101 she was persuaded by her daughters to move into the hostel part, where she had her own room and ate her meals in the dining room.

Sadly the last two years of her life were not pleasant as she suffered from colon cancer and at her great age cells divide very slowly, so she endured a long dying process. Everyone prayed for her to die, especially she did herself. She always used to say,"I don't know why I'm still here." I think after she reached the goal of 100 she was ready and willing to go.

This introduction has grown longer than I planned, so I'm going to put it up as a teaser and you'll have to wait to read my earlier piece in the next post. Please come back, you're always welcome to jmb's world.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Repost of Introducing the Book, the new technology explained by the help desk

I'm very grateful that, for whatever reason, this video has been reposted to YouTube. Enjoy

Busman's Holiday

I'm going to take the lazy way out for my post today. I'm going to practise my linking skills. Well just be thankful it's a short post and stop whining. It's boring but necessary. So don't go, link to the good stuff.

This post about a book meme over at Sarabeth's inspired me to write a previous post about books. Meanwhile Ian, over at Failure is the Key to Success, linked to Sarabeth's post and put up his version of the meme. I wanted to do it myself, but needed to know how to copy and paste from a website and move it to my blog. So with suggestions in a comment from Sarabeth and a post over at Ian's website, this newbie was up and running and my version of the meme will be here shortly. I know I'm late going to the party but I'm grateful to have learned the knowhow to be able to get there.

So thanks for all your help, Ian and Sarabeth. This old Westie is learning new tricks every day. Now I'm off to find a picture to gussy this up. Result? No Westie, but almost as cute as me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Online Shopping

As soon as my bank offered online banking I signed up immediately. I loved being able to sit at my desk, at midnight, paying my bills and moving money from one account to another. So I had no difficulty in moving to online shopping, when it became available.

I worried a little bit about security so I used a specific credit card that I used nowhere else, so that if anything bizarre happened in cyberspace and I needed to cancel it, it would not leave me without a credit card. To this day, I have never had a problem.

At first, I only bought books. After all a book is the same in a store or a virtual store and there are no surprises when it arrives. There is also the fact that there is no customs duty on books arriving into Canada, so I bought books not only here but also from the States, from Scotland and from Italy.

My daughter and her family live in the States so I quickly moved onto sites there in order to send them gifts, thus avoiding duty problems and often getting free shipping. I've bought toys, fly fishing supplies, china, slippers, boots, fabric, quilting and sewing supplies, computer mice, digital memory cards, even a digital camera, CDs, DVDs, the list goes on and on. When I go down to visit her I always order online, in advance, lots of things for myself and have them delivered to her house, as prices are often better over the border, even factoring in the exchange.

My most amazing purchases are two different Akubra hats, bought from two different sites in Australia. I have already one that I bought there and they have very specific sizes, so they always fit. The hats, made from felted rabbit fur, start at $100 and up and the $20 postage is an acceptable extra cost. In fact, one of these hats was my most amazing online experience. I ordered the hat on Monday evening (don't forget Australia is 18 hours ahead of us in time, so late afternoon Tuesday there) and it arrived on Friday and duty free to boot. I don't think I could have received better service from across town. I have this one above right, the Pastoralist, in fern green, the other style, left, the Gymkhana, is red. Not this dull beige!

So am I an aficionado of online shopping? You bet! I will be devastated if anything ever goes wrong because I would miss it so. So you haven't tried it yet? Give it a go. I highly recommend it. You'll have lots of fun and it's so easy!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Books: Some eclectic thoughts

If you are not into books I guess you can skip this post. But books have always been a big part of my life, so I guess I'll blog about them often.

That said, I saw a book meme on Sarabeth's blog and set out to look for the original. I found it but I also found some different ones and I've cobbled together answers to a mixture of book meme questions. This may be a post topic which will appear again, and then again. Sarabeth's meme was a list of 100 books and frankly I couldn't face all that typing. Maybe I can copy and paste it if I can find out how to do it. Frankly, the IT Help Desk at this establishment is not up to snuff.

Total number of books I own: Thousands, uncountable, in a total of 12 bookcases, each at least two layers deep, some even three layers, with books on all surfaces in piles. You see I never get rid of my books. Trying to organize this chaos, not physically but psychologically, I bought a program called Bookbag for my Palm PDA and have entered some data but frankly the task is extremely daunting, so I am only entering new acquisitions at the moment. I did this to try to avoid buying the same book twice, which has happened more often than I care to admit.

Last Book Read: The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion, about the year after her husband and daughter's deaths, within months of each other.

Five books that mean a lot to me: Well actually eight: the eight books of the House of Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett, beginning with Niccolo Rising. I've written a little about this before.

Book that had the most impact on me: African Genesis, by Robert Ardrey, written in 1961, read by me in the 70s. The subtitle is A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man. This book led me to others like it and I still consider this the most important book I have ever read.

Book that made me laugh: a memoir, Five Men who Broke my Heart, by Susan Shapiro, a New York writer, who followed with the equally hilarious Lighting Up -How I Stopped Smoking, Drinking and Everything Else I Loved in Life, except Sex.

Book that made me cry: Truth and Beauty, a book by Ann Patchett about her friendship with Lucy Grealey who wrote her own book called Autobiography of a Face. Two very worthwhile reads.

Books that I've been meaning to read: The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova and The Master, by Colm Toibin. Both books are highly recommended and I own both but they haven't got to the top of the TBR pile, as yet.

Do you buy books online or in the store: Both, even buy discarded books at the library! Just can't help it. However, I do buy most of my books online from Indigo or because they are much cheaper (so I can buy more) and there's free shipping on orders over $39 Ca.

book bought: Family Tree, by Barbara Delinsky. An author whom I enjoy, although the books are not heavyweight at all.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Why do I blog?

The other day I was reading a post on a blog, called "Why do I blog?" Readers were invited to say why they had a blog and I started to comment and then realized I could write the answer on my own blog.

Towards the end of last year I discovered blogging, medblogs in particular, and became totally hooked. I talk about that here in my introduction. So my initial post was meant to be my one and only.

But, suddenly, ideas for posts began to spring to mind. Sad to say, but each post sits as a draft for ages as I change a word here, a sentence construction there, polishing it to my satisfaction. For heavens sake, it's only a blog post, not the Greatest Novel in the English Language. Why do I agonize over the whole thing? Well if anyone does stop by, I don't want them to think I'm a total fool, even though I'm anonymous and no one is going to track me down and out me as they did Dr Anonymous. But you know, I have ten posts in the draft stage. True, some of them are only titles, some with a picture in place already, some with a few sentences. But they are ideas and I would never have believed I could come up with so many.

A few years ago, I said to my daughter that I wish my mother had told me about some things in her early life, but now she was dead and I would never know. She said that I should write some stories about my life for herself and her brother. She even sent me a beautiful leather covered blank book from Levenger. But I could never write in that. It's just too beautiful. My handwriting is abysmal and I can never write one sentence without changing my mind halfway through, so for me the computer is the only option. I never write by hand, except the occasional card and even then I have to write what I want to say on scrap paper first and copy it laboriously.

So perhaps this is a warm-up for "my life story". Probably not. But I do feel that if I get to know something about the bloggers whose sites I haunt, they should know something about me, if they are interested enough to follow the links.

Still reading and trying to digest Blogging in a Snap, the mere mention of html makes my eyes glaze over. I always read at least three books at once and one of the current ones is the non fiction work, The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion, who lost her husband John Gregory Dunne and their only daughter Quintana in the same year.

Monday, February 19, 2007

MyBlogLog Verification Post

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification

Book Circulation Day

In the month of September, 36 members of the Book Circulation group, of which I am a member, have their one meeting of the year. This group is one of the interest groups of the Faculty Women's Club of the local university. (My husband is a retired chemistry professor.) It's run by two convenors who, in the month or so before the meeting, choose and buy 2 copies of 18 books. Often Canadian bestsellers, often not. Some fiction, some not. We each pay $25 to cover the cost of the books and at the end of the year we have a draw and get to keep one. We get a list of the 18 people in our subgroup and the dates to exchange each book and every three weeks or so we pass the book on. Each time you pick up your book from the same person and another person picks up from you and it is arranged so that we live close to each other. So you get to read 18 books for the price of one and get to keep a book as well.

This is such an incredibly simple system I can't believe that other groups don't do something similar. It lends itself especially to book clubs, but I have never heard of another group like it. It has functioned superbly for years, members coming and going as they went on sabbatical or for whatever reason. Yes, it's true that not all the books you, yourself would choose to read but even if you only read half, to my mind, it's a very good deal.

So today is Book Circulation exchange day and someone is picking up, from under my front mat, Freakonomics, by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner while I am picking up The Communist's Daughter, which I'll tell you about later. Heh, two books for one today!

I have decided my posts , on the whole, are a bit long, quite a bit too long. So I'm going to try to throw in a short one regularly so you don't all, my faithful readers, roll your eyes when you come to this site, saying what's she going on about now!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Going to the Gym

No, I'm not the tall blonde or the short brunette for that matter. In fact, I don't wear those posh workout clothes either. My T-shirt says "So many books, so little time" ( a gift from my daughter, another bookaholic) or is from the Bronx zoo (a gift from my grandaughter). Another one has an Escher drawing. Still another has a mortar and pestle, with the comment, The Daily Grind, an in-Pharmacy joke. All of them have seen better days.

But I do drag my old body to the gym three times a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are my inviolate gym days. Two years ago, I joined a program at the local university called Changing Aging, run by the Human Kinetics department. It's for the 55 and up and designed to keep us functioning healthily as long as possible. I pay a yearly fee which actually is quite reasonable and for that I get two body assessments, two personalized training sessions, access to spinning classes (which I hate, besides I have lousy knees and also it's not weightbearing, so I only went once to those), Tai Chai classes (which I would like to try, but don't like the time they are given) and unlimited use of the gym.

Now the gym is not the student gym but a special one for the Changing Aging group plus another group called Bodyworks. The Bodyworks members seem to come from the worker bees at the university and you know who they are because they are not 55 plus, although some are, but they always come at the lunch hour so you know they are Bodyworkers.

The gym is in quite a large space, has masses of exercise bikes, three treadmills, two steppers and an elliptical. The weight machines are Keiser which I love, so easy to change the weights, with a few being machines with plates, easy to change but not so flexible with weight range. Also there are lots of benches and free weights and Swiss exercise balls, BOSUs, exercise tubes, bands, etc. You name it, it's there. The complete gym.

We always seem to arrive at the gym about 11.30am. Yes, I persuaded my 70 plus husband to join me in this torturous exercise and he joined three months after I did. We are night owls and since we are retired, we get a slow start. As well, we can't leave until he's finished the Sudoku puzzles in both daily papers. So we toddle off to the gym for 11.30. Well, we drive actually, it's four miles away. Free parking since he's a professor emeritus, thank goodness.

It's also relatively quiet at this time and I get to use the treadmill I like, which has a great place to put my book. So I walk for half an hour, reading away and listening to my iPod, the most remarkable invention of this century! Can you believe, it's only six years since the first one rolled off the line, so to speak? Well, can you imagine how miffed I am if someone is using my treadmill, the only one with the "bookstand"? Luckily I'm the only one who uses the treadmill for a half hour so usually the interloper is gone in 10 minutes, after a warm-up and I hastily stop my "undesirable" treadmill and thankfully leap aboard the "right" one and finish my time.

Then I'm off to use the machines. By this time the Bodyworkers have arrived, so it's a little busier. Now comes the interesting part. If I come after another CA person whose weight is less than mine, I congratulate myself on how well I'm doing, especially if it's a man. If I come after a BW person I agonize over the fact that I can't manage that weight, which is totally ridiculous since they are all men and all younger than me. I know, I know, I'm so competitive even now. Totally crazy. Totally pathetic.

Next I'm off to the free weights, and do just what Blondie and Brunette, pictured above, are doing. For some reason, I don't care if my fellow free weight lifters are hefting bigger dumbells, it's those numbers on the Keiser machines that get to me.

Lastily I spend 10 minutes on the stretching mat, where I carefully remove my shoes but no one else does. So when I'm doing my stretches and Pilates and Yoga moves, I keep feeling the grit under my hands and face when I'm face down. Gross!

So I don't think, for my age, I'm in too bad condition and I'm very grateful indeed to be so healthy. But I know I'm on the downhill run and I'm trying to stave off the decline as best I can. Mixed metaphors, I believe. Well the old grey mare, she ain't what she used to be, but she's giving it her best shot.

Ah yes, the book. Sky Burial, by Xinran - an epic love story of Tibet. The true story of a Chinese doctor who goes to Tibet to find her missing husband in the 1950's and lives for years with a nomadic family.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The New Technology Explained by the Helpdesk

Brought to you by the Book Lover, you just have to watch this.
It's too funny for words! It's a video from YouTube and soon I'll know how to load one directly into a post. Well, I live in hope.

Today's reading, Blogging in a Snap, by Julie C. Melonie. No description needed, I'm sure. Look for amazing new things next time you drop by. Well maybe not, "they" say you can't teach an old dog new tricks but this old Westie is certainly going to give it a shot.

Update, 20th February, 2007: Sorry, the video above has been removed from YouTube by the poster. It still exists there but unfortunately only in Norwegian. I am desolate, it was the funniest thing I have seen in ages.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Comment Section

I've decided to tell you what I am reading each time I post and I'd like to put this with the image at the end, but don't know how yet. The book is Iran Awakening, by Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. It is the mesmerizing tale of this incredible woman, who went from being a judge, in the time of the Shah, to a human rights lawyer today.

Now to the main feature presentation.

The comment section of a blog adds enormous interest for the reader, as well as for the blogger. I always read all the comments as well as the posts, which wastes a lot of extra time as I wing around my favourite blogs. Some of the commenters are very funny and you tend to see the same people on different blogs, so you get to know them very well, in fact, as well as you know the bloggers. You see the interplay between the visitor and the blogger and a real rapport developing between them over time. Of course, some of the blogs I read have serious posts, with serious comments added by serious readers who have something important to add to the original post. Enough said.

Some bloggers never respond to their commenters, others always respond and some respond selectively. Of course, since I mainly read medblogs and these people are extremely busy that's totally understandable. In fact, I've decided that they are very high achievers who need very little sleep, because they write well, have families and practise their medical specialty, whatever it is. Plus they zing around reading other medblogs and leaving witty (or serious) comments too.

After a few months of lurking, I started to poke my nose out and add a comment or two, here and there. Lo and behold, I turned into a monster. I kept dashing back to the site ( and totally screwing up the statistics) to see if anyone had answered the comment, especially the bloggers themselves. If they didn't and they usually answered everyone, I obsessed about whether I had said something stupid or offended them inadvertently. Now why on earth would I care? I'm anonymous, so it doesn't matter if I do look stupid, besides I'm "of a certain age" plus actually, so why should I care, I'm past all that nonsense. Well, apparently not!

Could things get worse? Fraid so. I started my own little blog but didn't expect to get any readers, so I added a comment to my own first post, since I didn't like looking at the zero comments at the bottom. But surprise, surprise. One of the bloggers I read regularly noticed me on his site via his bloglog and came over to visit and leave a comment and then another came. Well that was it, but after another couple of posts, I turned into the same fiend with my own blog, checking it several times a day to see if anyone had left a comment (and totally screwing up my own statistics). Now this is totally "beyond the pale" stupid, since an email alerts you to a comment on your blog, but I can't seem to help it.

I suppose, like everything else, I'll eventually get over it. I'll settle down to leaving the odd comment and travel on, without doubling back. I'll start to rely on the email system for alerting me about comments on my blog. But I do hate to see those zeros, not only on my blog but on other people's blogs. I don't think I'll ever get over that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Maybe you're wondering why I chose to represent myself as a West Highland White Terrier. Well, maybe you're not, but too bad, I'm going to tell you anyway.

This anonymity thing in the blogging world seems to be a big thing, although lots of people are right up front about who they are. While others, like Dr A, are outed anyway. So while I seem to be a bit half-hearted about it, I do plan to be anonymous. However, I didn't get all my ducks in a row before I lept into blogging. (I only have "Blogging for Dummies" from the library for 21 days, so I have to hurry.) I have yet to set up a new anonymous email and plan to do it soon, that is, as soon as I can remember the password to get into my settings!

Well, back to Westies. I've had four dogs in my lifetime, all different breeds, and I couldn't have loved them more. But the last one we had, Cleo, the Westie, was by far the best. We got her when she was five months old, via a "for sale" ad in the newspaper. I didn't want a puppy again and I had always wanted a cairn terrier, but each time we were looking for a dog, there were no cairns around. So when I saw the ad for a young Westie, I thought to myself, ahah, a "white" cairn, it's fate. We had her for 14 1/2 years and she was a delight for every minute of them. She weighed less than 20 lbs, was very low to the ground (every night we had to help her up onto the bed, where she slept with us) but every inch and every ounce of her was an alpha dog. She was incredibly stubborn and we had to repeat dog obedience several times --no hardship for her, she loved other dogs. Dog obedience night was the highlight of her week! She loved children and I never had to worry about them when she was with them. We had to put her down just over a year ago. She had a huge mass in her abdominal cavity which we didn't find until she stopped eating. I held her in my arms while the vet injected her, one of the worst moments of my life.

So when it came time to add a picture to my newly created blog, the first thing I thought of was a picture of a Westie. Surfing the google image library, I came upon the perfect picture. A Westie, lying on the grass, the spitting image of my Cleo. How could I resist it? It makes me smile every time I see it.

There you have it. As I go crawling around the blogosphere, leaving the odd comment here and there, I am accompanied by my faithful Westie photo and I hope it brightens someone else's day.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Comfortable in the Blogogsphere

Despite the fact that I'm " long in the tooth", I feel very comfortable in the blogosphere. For many years I belonged to a listserv group (can't remember if that's the correct word to use) which discussed the writings of the Scottish historical writer, Lady Dorothy Dunnett.

The group, called dunnetworks, consisted of about 200 plus contributors, from all over the world, with two administrators who moderated the group. There was no anonymity, we all knew each other's names and email addresses and often people formed little local groups, who met regularly and we visited each other in our travels. It was a very eclectic group, with some very intelligent people posting very interesting ideas. Besides university professors and other erudite people, there were even a few authors who were members (I'm going to name drop here, sorry), with Guy Gavriel Kay being the most well-known. Let me tell you, only a few brave souls were willing to debate him!

When we joined, we wrote an initial post introducing ourselves and as time passed, we all felt we knew each other very well from our posts. On the whole it was a very polite group, with everyone respecting each other's ideas, even if not in agreement.

Not too long after Lady Dunnett published the last book in the series of 14, the first six known as the Lymond Saga and the next eight as the House of Niccolo ---the books which made us such passionate aficionados of her writings---she died, in 2001. The group, although it still exists, ran out of steam. For now we all knew how the story ended. dunnetworkers, who used to speculate endlessly about how she would handle this or that or why she did this or that, either ran out of things to say or just got on with their lives.

Yes, an email from dunnetworks appears in my box every so often. Usually it's a local topic, perhaps a member asking did you know there was an exhibition about X on at Y or sometimes a post about an article or book which might interest the group. But basically the group in "on hold".

So, in a way, lurking about in the blogosphere is not unlike being a member of dunnetworks. It seems that I must be missing it, since I've taken so delightedly to reading blogs and poking my head out occasionally to comment on some one's blog.

I'll have to consider posting more about the House of Niccolo, my all time favourite books. I love to make converts to Lady Dunnett's writing, although my successes can be counted on one hand, not even needing the thumb!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Venturing into the Blogging World, at the Shallow End

I'm not sure why I have created this blog. But just having a profile seems a bit wimpy. It's not likely that I will post anything, other than this rambling introduction. But here goes nothing.

I am a compulsive reader and have been all my life. So that's a very long time, since I'm 71. If it's a gene -related trait, then I am lucky to have passed it on to both my children. Although frankly, my husband is also a constant reader, so they probably got a double whammy dose of the love of reading "gene".

What didn't come to me, along with the love of reading, was the ability to write, or to write "well". Sure, I can spell well enough, although you don't have to be able to do that today, what with "Spellcheck", and all. I actually spent two years as a proofreader at a publishing house, 50 years ago, so my spelling is pretty good on the whole. Yes, I know the basic rules of sentence construction, but I cannot think of anything interesting to write about. "They" always say, write about what you know. Well, trust me, it takes a lot more than that to be interesting.

Besides, what do I know? One of the regrets of my life is that I've never been an "expert" in anything. We all secretly wish that we could win a gold medal at the Olympics, or be an opera singer, or a world-class tennis player or...... But, what I would like to be is an "expert" on something. You know, the one they phone up to interview on the radio or the tv and introduce as the "expert" on whatever it is they want one to comment on. I don't think that's too much to ask, do you? Well, it's a bit late now, I guess. One more goal I'll never achieve in this life.

But, back to the old writing bit. I envy people who can write well. I always wished I could write a book. Not because I had something to say, but because I admire good writing and the ability to tell an interesting story. But what has amazed me, in this past few months, is the incredible number of articulate bloggers out there. Often they are just ordinary people, but they write in an entertaining way about what interests them, or aspects of their life. I must be some kind of a voyeur, but I enjoy reading these blogs, if they are well-written.

Luckily, I have always been relatively computer literate, at least in front of the screen. I worked with computers in my job and my husband is a retired chemistry professor. So we've had home computers for many, many years. We've been doing email, since the beginning, when the universities first linked their computers to each other to form the Internet. Although we couldn't do it from home until dial-up connections became available. In 1985, when my son went off to graduate school, in the Physics dept at U of T, I wrote emails to him on the home computer, put them on a disc and my husband sent them from his work computer.

When the program PC Anywhere became available, with dial-up we connected to the work computer and did email from home. We thought this was a great advancement.

We've lived in our house since 1977 and we've always had a "computer room". Currently we two 70 + seniors have two desktops and one laptop, all connected wirelessly. Along with this we have two scanners, two printers, a webcam and a Skype wireless phone. These days I do all my own downloading of programs and loading of software from disc, since it's so much easier than before, instead of yelling for my husband to "come load this program for me".

So back to the topic of blogging. A few months ago, I read an article about medical bloggers in the National Post and I decided to check some out. I graduated from university in Pharmacy, back in the dark ages, spending the last 18 years of my working life in hospital pharmacy. So I was delighted to read these great medical bloggers since it took me back to my working days in the field. I chased links from one site to another and ended up with a huge folder of medical blogs, from all different types of medical professionals. I also have a folder with patient blogs and assorted general blogs are bookmarked by me.

Of course, although I'm mostly a lurker, I was tempted to post a comment every so often and had to create a blogger/google account to post on some sites. So then, I decided to look at "how to create a blog" for interest's sake, you know. And, what do you know, here I am writing away.

If anyone has wandered by, via the next blog button, or by whatever way, I'm sure your eyes glazed over long ago. But that's how I found the blogging world. Maybe I'll leave a comment myself, to make sure this commenting thing works, assuming I decide to turn it on.

Maybe be I'll come by again and talk about what I'm reading, have read or am planning to read. At least I'll be entertained.