Monday, June 29, 2009

Citizenship --- in this case, US Citizenship

In 1980 my daughter left Canada for the United States of America. She already had a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in 17th Century French Literature from UBC at the tender age of 23, but finally she was ready to leave home to pursue her doctoral studies. From the list of universities which had accepted her into their graduate program she finally chose Stanford University in California.

During her time at Stanford she met an Italian graduate student and when they had both finished, after six long years, they married and settled in the USA, firstly still on student visas and then work visas but eventually they obtained the coveted "green card" as it is commonly known, or Lawful Permanent Residency.

Finally, after 19 years in her case and 20 years in his, her very pragmatic husband thought that it was time for them to become citizens of the USA, so that they could eventually enjoy some of the benefits for which they were paying large amounts of tax but which were available only to citizens. I think my daughter saw the wisdom of this and so the process was started.

After many months and final interviews the process was completed, save for one thing, taking the Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens. At this point, I started to receive frantic telephone calls from her. She did not care for the wording of the oath at all. Not one little bit. Now this child of mine at that point held two citizenships, Canadian and Australian, with passports of both countries. The Americans were aware of that and said she could continue to hold those citizenships.

It seems the USA is a little schizophrenic on the topic of dual citizenship. It used to be the case that US citizens could not hold dual citizenship, except in certain specific cases. However, most of the laws forbidding dual citizenship were struck down by the US Supreme Court in two cases: a 1967 decision, Afroyim v. Rusk, as well as a second ruling in 1980, Vance v. Terrazas.

On the other hand, if an American takes up citizenship in another country, then the US will consider that person to no longer be a citizen. Incidentally, the same is not necessarily true the other way around. If a person of another country becomes a US citizen then, depending upon the laws of the home country, that country may still consider her/him to be a citizen.

However the official US State Department policy on dual citizenship today is that the United States does not favor it as a matter of policy because of various problems they feel it may cause, but the existence of dual citizenship is recognized. But for all intents and purposes dual citizenship is accepted totally now in the USA.

So what was the problem for my daughter? Why was she freaking out about taking the Oath? Well just take a look at the wording.

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

That is pretty strong language indicating that you are certainly renouncing any citizenship you hold when you take the oath, wouldn't you say? She had been frantically looking online to make absolutely sure that she was not giving up her Canadian or her Australian citizenship by swearing this oath. I suggested that the oath was simply anachronistic in light of the fact that dual citizenship for US citizens has been in effect for quite a few years, and that it had not been changed to keep up with these changes. It does seem strange that changes have not been made to it.

Well she did take the oath and she has applied for a US passport and so in the tradition of our immigrant family, another one has officially changed citizenship. But I think, like me, she will retain the strong attachment to the land of her birth. She will always be a Canadian. As I asked in the linked post, where will my granddaughter end up, she of the three citizenships, American, Canadian and Italian. Will she continue our immigrant experience by living elsewhere? Time will tell.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Flags


Once again I was scratching my head about this one. It seems I don't take photos of flags. But then I suddenly thought of the perfect idea for this theme, although I'm afraid I had to scan in these very old photos (taken in 1984) and they could do with some "editorial" help if only I was good at that.

These photos were taken in Siena at the running of the Palio di Siena which I wrote about so long ago. It is a horse race between the various contrade (zones) of Siena, taking place twice each year since the 1600s and the prize is the Palio, a banner which hangs in the clubrooms of the winner.

Click and you will get a very big view! I forgot to reduce it in size before uploading.

Before the race there is a parade with everyone in period costume, and many carry the flags of their contrada. We have a close friend from Siena and he belongs to the Istrice contrada, or Hedgehog contrada and this is their flag above.

Well this is not exactly a flag but it is flag like and it is the banner which was made for the Palio we attended in 1984.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Belted Galloways --- An Update

Tuesday is usually a golf day for the Old Scientist but today his partners were not available, so I suggested we go to Steveston for walk on the dyke, followed by lunch on the Steveston wharf.

Along the way we saw my favourite Belted Galloways, enjoying the fresh grass which grows in the tidal marshland adjacent to the dyke road so, as usual, I took a few photos. Yes again. Please endulge me.

There always seem to be birds around these cows, today no different

The Belted Galloways of Steve's farm spend the summer grazing in a paddock fenced off from the rest of the marsh. For the first time I saw a box by the fence which contained pamphlets with information and inviting you to place your orders for frozen beef from these lovely cows. Luckily I am not a farmer else they would all die of old age.

Because it is quite wet in this spot they are rather muddy on their undersides and legs

According to the handout, these cows are pastured on grass during the summer and are fed local hay and ranch alfalfa during the winter, with their diet supplemented by barley mash from the beer brewing process of a nearby brewery. Because of their thick coat of outer hair, these animals have reduced outer body fat and lean tender meat. They are all raised from birth by the Steve family and receive no growth hormones or antibiotics.

This one with the itch was especially muddy

A young one was right by the fence

I counted 21 animals in the field today, at different stages of development. I'm afraid that they have all been sold this year but you can place your order for 2010. A side of beef, approximately 160 lbs, will cost you $800, cut, wrapped and frozen. No I am not a vegetarian and I eat beef, but these animals feel special to me so I won't be placing my order any time soon.

Not all the animals were in the soggy field nearest the river. Some were still in the drier fields on the land side of the dyke, where the herd spends the winter. Click to enlarge the photos to see them more clearly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Creamy


Our hostess, tn chick, is making things more difficult for us each week! Creamy???

I do have a quite charming creamy-white coloured orchid in my house

I did enjoy some of this delicious creamy Pavlova Roll, made by my friend
for a lunch she hosted recently

Well if it wasn't for these animals, in this case Belted Galloway cows, creamy
would not exist in the English lexicon.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Shrinking Woman .... ARRGhhh!

Recently I was at my annual physical checkup. As usual I had my list of possible concerns and questions which my long-time physician expects and he always insists I go through them all before the examination commences or we get down to specifics.

My mother suffered severely from osteoporosis, being severely bent over for many years before her death at 85. So I assume that is part of my medical legacy and for twenty years I took Hormone Replacement Therapy for bone loss prevention. But two years ago I stopped and so I suggested that perhaps I should have another bone density test, since it is three years since my last.

First of all, let's measure you, was his reply. How tall were you at your tallest? Five foot six inches, I replied. Mmm. Five foot four inches now. Normal, he said. What?????

Yes it is normal to lose two inches of height without necessarily having osteoporosis. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging found that the cumulative height loss from age 30 to 70 years averaged about 3 cm (1.18 inches) for men and 5 cm (1.97 inches) for women (Sorkin, Muller, & Andres, 1999).

The reason for this is that the discs which cushion and separate the vertebrae of the spine compress, and over time, shrink. This results in what we think of as normal age-related loss in height, which is not likely to be preventable.

However loss of height can be caused by the compression and deterioration of the vertebrae as a result of bone loss which is known as osteoporosis and this latter can be treated and prevented.

So for years, besides the HRT, I have taken calcium and Vitamin D supplements as well as consumed vast amounts of yogurt and dairy products, hoping to avoid my mother's fate. As well I have always done weight bearing exercises which are very helpful in making bones stronger.

Osteoporosis is a serious matter, not only causing loss of height (dowager's hump, although this is a disease which affects both sexes, usually at a later stage in men) but more commonly osteoporotic fractures of the hip, the vertebrae, or the wrist. Hip fractures are especially problematic since they can cause loss of mobility and consequently independence in the elderly. Did you know that 30% of all hip fractures are in men? Not only that, but these result in a 31% mortality rate by one year post-fracture in men, as opposed to a 17% mortality rate for women at the same post-fracture time.

Cutting straight to the chase, my physician recommended a spinal Xray to check if there were any signs of compression fractures, which is a definite sign of osteoporosis. Luckily there were none but now I have to go for bone density studies and depending on those results I might consider taking Fosamax, or alendronate, one of the class of drugs known as bisphosphonates which slow down bone loss in the body. Like every drug, bisphosphonates can have adverse side effects and one must consider those when making the decision to take the drug, as will I, especially if the results of the bone density tests are borderline.

So there I am, the incredible shrinking woman. With my increase in girth as well as my loss of height am I going to be Ms 5 by 5?

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is not to be considered definitive or all-inclusive, although it is accurate to my knowledge and has been checked. Please consult your physician for information about osteoporosis and bisphosphonates or any tests mentioned.

Now I may be shrinking in real life but in Second Life I am five feet ten inches, over six feet in high heels.

Pretty cute too, even if I say so myself.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose*

Hot Cocoa in all its glory last summer

In the garden of the first house I inhabited here in Vancouver I carefully nurtured 23 roses, with all that entailed: pruning, spraying, deadheading, etc.

When I moved here more than 30 years ago, the garden was barely established and there were a couple of roses which did not do at all well. Since this house has an east/west location and not really enough hours of sun, especially as the trees grew, it became more of a shade garden. Eventually I reefed out the roses and decided no more.

But last year, on a visit to the nursery, I was tempted again to consider them. After a long conversation with someone I met there who was a member of the Vancouver Rose Society and who assured me they would do very well in containers, I bought two roses: Hot Cocoa (above), a gorgeous floribunda, an All America Rose Selection winner in 2003 and Indian Summer (below), a large flowered hybrid tea rose with a lovely scent.

As you recall we had quite the harsh winter last year and sadly Hot Cocoa succumbed while Indian Summer seems to be made of sterner stuff and is blooming again faithfully as you can see here.

Indian Summer, in all its glory, except for the holes in the leaves!

Now the newer roses are supposedly more resistant to pests and disease. I now take a rather hands off attitude to my roses, since I don't like to use poisons or rather I am too lazy to go to all that fuss. But I would not say that the roses I have at the moment are exactly pest/disease free. In fact quite the opposite.

How ugly are these leaves, for whatever reason

Since I loved the unique colours and the floriferous performance of Hot Cocoa last year I decided to buy another (below). What the heck? As you can clearly see this is marked (well you can if you click on it to enlarge) Hot Cocoa but the rose is white!!!!! Next time I'll wait until there is a flower in bloom before I buy.

Early in the season a friend said to me, "I am going to buy one of the new roses. I don't care what colour it is but it has to be one of those new pest/disease free ones." Great idea. So I bought one too. Carefree Celebration, introduced in 2007 and guaranteed to be very disease resistant. What I did not notice is that it grows rather large in size, not quite suitable for a container. That will teach me to read the whole notice and not get sucked in by the carefree assurance.

Carefree Celebration, flowering quite nicely but a bit chewed too

Oh well, there is always next year.

* A quote from Gertrude Stein (probably her most famous), now part of the lexicon meaning, "things are just what they are".

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Lock


tnchick is testing us with these themes lately. A very pedestrian post today I'm afraid.

When I bought my car new, it had this keyless entry system which I had never had previously. I was very suspicious, imagining teenagers playing around and getting into the car and driving off after a mere couple of tries. Although why they would want to steal a Ford Taurus I could not imagine, even though it does have a 3.7 litre engine and is very fast away when the red light changes which I do appreciate.

The other thing was this remote thingy which unlocks all doors plus the trunk which I have loved and is still working after 15 years. All in all, despite being a very pedestrian car, it has been an excellent one and so far no one has cracked the code.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Music II. Just when you thought it was safe...

Inspired by JMB's visit to a concert I thought I would re-visit the top 10 meme I did a post on previously.

Firstly, just to show I am not totally sad, I will mention that the last comparable 'do' to JMB's I went to recently was an IL Divo concert at the O2 Arena. It is a pretty good venue with a huge car park and great public transport connections, one stop down from Canary Wharf and all the facilities there.

It was just marvellous and Il Divo are so great and so cute!

Managed to wangle tickets to a corporate box. Along with arena seats it had a lounge, TV and a bar! How cool is that? Though why you would want a TV at a concert I don't know.

Unlike the Old Scientist's musical tastes mine are pretty catholic. Like I said before, I can think of examples of almost every genre that I do like and enjoy.

So... My 'No hidden messages' Top Ten, for this week is:

Knock you Down – Keri Hilson, Kanye West & Ne-Yo
Remedy – Little Boots
You Please Me – Dragonette
Number One – Tinchey Strider and N-Dubz
Paparazzi – Lady Gaga
Crazier – Taylor Swift
Soon We'll be found – Sia
Sometimes – Matinee Club
Every Word (Wendel Kos Radio edit) Ercola
Everybody but Me – Lykke Li

Bonus track:
The sands of Time – United DJs vs. Pandora

Monday, June 8, 2009

Early Mozart and Prokofiev -- What a Combination!

Recently the Old Scientist and I were given tickets for a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concert. As usual he asked suspiciously, What's the program? All I knew was Mozart and Prokofiev. Mmm. This is a man who is not eclectic in his musical taste, in fact if the music is composed after the nineteenth century he does not care for it at all. So the Mozart should be satisfactory but the Prokofiev merely to be endured, well to his mind.

After the disaster of my last visit to the Symphony, when it took me 65 minutes to get from the top of the parking lot to the paybooth at the bottom after the concert, I was determined to be very early, which is highly unusual for me. I had not paid much attention to the location of the seats but to my surprise and a little to my horror we were in the second row of the orchestra and towards the right. In fact we were right opposite the double bases. All seven of them! So we became intimately acquainted with that instrument during this concert and since the double bass is the lowest pitch stringed instrument we listened to this concert with a heavy bass emphasis.

However I did observe some interesting things due to this seating arrangement. There were two different styles of bowing technique used by the players. Some used the "French" or "overhand" bow which is similar in shape and implementation to the bow used on the other members of the string instrument family, while others used the "German" or "Butler" bow which is typically broader and shorter, and is held in a "hand shake" position. I also noted that the double basses all seemed to be rather "worn" with very dull scratched varnish. I wonder if there is a Stradivari of double basses, although a cursory look did not yield anyone.

But what about the music you say? While the conductor was a guest for the evening, he is well known in Vancouver, since he was the orchestra's permanent conductor from 1972 until 1985. He is also the musical director and permanent conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, a post he has held since 1974. Kazuyoshi Akiyama opened the concert with the Overture to the opera Colas Breugnon, written by Dimitri Kabalevsky (1904 -1987). No, I had not heard of him either, although the OS had, despite him not being in the required time frame for his preferred composers. Kabalevsky was a modern Russian composer who managed to retain favour with government officials all his life and this opera had the typical axe to grind, namely unfair oppression of common people by their masters. This piece involved the full orchestra and they performed it vigorously. Enough said there.

Then followed Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 in E -flat Major, performed by the young Israeli pianist Benjamin Hochman and with a much reduced in size orchestra. The concerto was written by Mozart at age 21 and so it was fitting that a young pianist interpreted it for us. Yes, by age 21, Mozart had already written 8 previous piano concertos and went on to write 27 in all. While rarely performed today it was a groundbreaking work in its day and changed the way piano concertos were written by others from then on. It was the first concerto to mount an equal dialogue between piano and orchestra: in fact the soloist begins to play after a very short prelude by the orchestra and the melodies weave back and forth between piano and orchestra for the whole piece. Since it is so highly regarded I wonder that it is not performed in concert more often. Most enjoyable.

The second half of the program consisted of the Symphony No 5 in B-Flat Major, by Sergei Prokofiev, written in 1944 and certainly his best known symphony. The full orchestra was back on the stage and I have to say I think this is a work that the performers must enjoy playing tremendously as they all seem to be involved most of the time. It is quite a grand piece in feeling and the fourth and final movement is a very energetic (I have even seen it described as "frenzied") triumphant conclusion to the whole. I enjoyed it but of course the old scientist was not enamoured of the piece at all. He even emailed his sister afterwards and told her if the opportunity to hear this arose, to give it a miss. Sigh!

Due to my forethought we sailed out of the parking lot after the concert and were home in no time at all for a cup of tea. I still think Mozart and Prokofiev a rather strange combination. Andante, the first movement of the Prokofiev, for your "enjoyment". Just shy of eight minutes.

So, do you agree with the Old Scientist?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Advertisement


I was a bit stumped for this week's theme and I'm sure you all will have some wonderful photos which will make me say, why didn't I think of that? But I'm afraid this is all I could come up with when pressed.

This certainly is a huge advertising banner, inviting you to come right in to the King Tut Exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, which I visited almost two years ago. Click for a better view.

Not only was there a big banner but each riser of the steps into the Institute were covered with a metal image, reproduced from a photo of one of the artifacts and greatly enlarged, which made a truly impressive advertisement for the exhibit which was one of the finest I have ever had the privilege to see.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Walk with Lunch

This past Thursday our walking group met here, at the Anchor, for our walk along Spanish Banks which form the southern foreshores of the Vancouver Inlet. After the long winter and a rather cold spring it was a beautiful warm day.

We enjoy this is the view across the harbour towards the North Shore mountains when we take this walk. Afterwards we were invited to lunch by one of the members of the group. We were very much looking forward to this as our friend is a very fine cook and in fact teaches at a local cooking school.

She lives in a townhouse with a small patio but manages to grow many of her own herbs to use in her cooking.

Well she does have some flowers too, lovely hydrangeas in containers.

Maybe real men don't eat quiche but they are surely missing something, especially my friend's quiche. It has the most amazing texture and she generously shared her secret with us.

It was accompanied by a simple salad and french bread.

Cheese and crackers followed along with grapes but the pièce de résistance
was the Pavlova Roll below

My friend is a New Zealander and of course both Australians and New Zealanders claim this dessert as their own creation. However the rolled version is slightly different in that the meringue is cooked for a shorter time, since it would be impossible to roll one which had been cooked to the crunchy stage. It is normally filled with whipped cream and fruit, whatever you like, but on this occasion raspberries were the deliciously tart fruit and hazelnuts had been sprinkled on the top to give some added crunch. Even though our servings were very generous we took slow small bites so as to savour every mouthful and make the delicious taste sensation last.

There is nothing better than a good walk on a wonderful day followed by a delicious lunch in the company of good friends.