31 December, 2008
So, I'm back on the bicycle and trying to move with the mood of the gym; with its bodybuilding commando, its perky personal trainers, and, sigh, yes, it's television screens. But, now the sports channel is showing reruns of ski jumping, another an advert channel for Canada tourism, and on two more MTV reality shows.
In the last weeks, just about any time I've gone, there has been this lesbian-bi-you-get-to-sleep-with-Tira reality show on the screen while I am pedaling away in the studio. With subtitles. Everywhere you look. I just do not get it. I really wish I could option out of this whole reality show stuff.
Here's a wonderful adieu letter to hip hop that is a very powerful voice of someone who had decided to stop trying to unsuccessfully move with the mood.
29 December, 2008
Debbie, a fellow engineering student, was a Mary Tyler Moore, cheerleader, a cute-as-can-be Born Again. At first, I admit, I tried to ignore her. She was really too cute for my cynical self. The thing was, there just wasn’t enough women studying engineering back then to ignore her. So, what initially started off as tidbits of small talk in the student lounge between classes became, over time, warm heart-felt comradeship.
A few years down the line, on the eve of her wedding to a member of her church, she confessed that she was scared of getting married. After some probing on my part, she told me that she and her husband-to-be had decided to wait to have sex until after they were married. I was rather shocked. The concept of abstinence until marriage was hard for me to understand. It wasn’t the sex that scared her.
It was the fact that she feared that on her wedding night her husband would realise she wasn’t a virgin. Then, yes then, she confided in me that not only had she had sex before with her one-and-only boyfriend from high school, but that she had become pregnant twice over their four-year relationship and had two abortions. She became pregnant because, she and her boyfriend kept on pretending they were not having sex, when they were. For them to take precautions or use contraceptives would have been impossible thing to do, for it would mean admitting they were actually sexually active, which they couldn’t admit, since they were both poster teenagers for their churches.
I remembered all this today when I read this short article in Huffington Post. Amongst other things it says,
“Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.”
I thought of Debbie and the guilt and horror she experienced as a teenager of those two pregnancies and abortions. It was a deep sense of guilt she carried her whole adult life. I wish someone had helped her along the way.
She and her husband went on to have six children; all of whom she loved dearly, cared for greatly, even home schooled. Yet, she told me, she never forgave herself for those two abortions. That is, until she died last year from breast cancer. I hope the God she believed in has granted her peace now.
To finish off, I want to recall a conversation I had with my young daughter (13 years old) about Ms. Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy. My daughter, in all her innocent wisdom, couldn’t understand why there was such a media hoopla about Bristol Palin getting pregnant. When I told her about how people like Ms. Palin do not condone sex before marriage, nor encourage proper sex education or planned parenthood, my daughter’s puzzlement grew. I told her they believed teenagers should make pledges of abstinence.
My daughter reaction to this idea was total disbelief, “Don’t they know that sex is natural?” This from a girl who has no experience with sex, but knows deep down that a some point in time she will, and no pledge of abstinence is going to stop her.
To Debbie, in fond memory.
28 December, 2008
The programmed crashed four times. I was feeling smug because I didn't lose any of the information.
I just decided to send off the file to various people as an attached file in an email. I open the file to make double sure it is the right version. The bloody program has changed back some of the formatting. Leaving enough in the form I changed it so that I know it is the right version, but the WinWart program has stubbornly, randomly changed my formatting back to something it likes, but is totally unacceptable! Grrrr!
I'm sorry, but couldn't the software engineers have figured out this bug by now. It's been there in one form or another for the last 15 years! I just hate WinWart, PowerPint, and all of this company's other products.
27 December, 2008
The winters of my late childhood were spent in and around Montreal. Cold and snowy winters with long luxurious frozen landscapes to walk or ski or toboggan through. Cold breath. Frostbite cheeks. Icicles hanging down from house roofs. Late afternoon, playing down on the lake, when I’d want to cry; for my mittens were soaked and snow had gotten into my boots. I was so cold and tired and so far away from home.
That is so long ago. We do not really have a winter here in Luebeck. We just have damp, dark, dismal months to contend with. I don’t want to complain, for admittedly, the sun shone today, and what a joy that was. Still, I still can spend a moment thinking of those Real Winters that blessedly left behind many wonderful memories.
I've spent the day setting up an new project, Kimilili Nutrition and School Garden project, on the Nabuur site.
I happen to know there is are some fabulous gardeners, teachers, nutritionists amongst the readers of this blog. Is there any possibility that some of you would be willing to go over to Nabuur and read in detail about the project and offer us some advice or information (can be left as a comment on Nabuur or in this blog's comment window) about carrying through such an analysis and setting up and the garden? Perhaps one or two of you would like to become Nabuur Neighbours and help on the project? (Well, that is my best shot.)
The project description is,
Community Breakthrough Support Mission is a community of people helping to educate and care for 250 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Kimilili, Kenya. With the help of Nabuur neighbours we are going to analyse our present method of feeding the children and come up with practical solutions to improve the quality and quantity of food we give our children, as well as plan for better efficiency and lowering our costs.
The central question we are posing is,
"How can we improve the nutritional program of the school by analysis and presentation of a school gardening project?"
The CBSM Nutrition and School Garden Project includes the following three steps:
1. Analysis of School Nutritional Program
2. Setting up a Small-scale Farming Project Plan
3. Proposing a Long-term Small-scale Agricultural Business Proposal
The result of each of these steps will be a documented and published on the Nabuur site or on a website we are creating.
25 December, 2008
An old, but well worn Christmas song. Some of my childhood Christmases and all of my Christmases between the ages of 20 and 35 were spent in Grenada (the country of my heart). Maria of Letters from Grenada post today reminded me of all the wonderful Christmas songs I used to hear in the shops and on the radio.
"I want a piece of pork" was also one of my favourites. I know they are rather silly, but please listen to the text and let yourself float aways with the tide of silliness.
Christmas is officially over in our household. Phew! It was lovely, but I am so enjoying a few days off to do some work on various projects. Will let you know a bit more about them soon.
24 December, 2008
A very merry joyous time for each and everyone. We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. There is food on the stove. The tree has been decorated. Our family and friends are due to arrive in a few minutes. So, to all of you all the veryvery best.
21 December, 2008
I thought I'd try and see how it works. And, I must say, very well. I'll definitely consider using issuu in the future.
P.S. You have to click on the story to go to a screen where you can actually read it.
20 December, 2008
Do enjoy. I wish each and everyone a very 4th of Advent. (Yes, people around here do send good wishes each of the four Sundays in Advent.)
18 December, 2008
My late childhood and teen Christmases were spent dancing various rolls for The Nutcracker at the large theatre in Montreal with Les Grand Ballets Canadiens. We started rehearsals in September. We had our normal daily course load, as well as extra rehearsals, which meant that we were at the studios All The Time. It also meant, I suppose, that I heard the music thousands of times.
The performances started about a week before Christmas and carried through with matinées and evening performances from Christmas to New Year’s Day.
As to the roles I danced, just about all except the solo roles. When young we got to play “the children” and we worked our ways up to “the angels”, “the lambs” (Les Grand Ballets Canadiens had a storyline twist to their version), “the snowflakes”, and “the waltzing plums” … actually, I seem to forget what those roles last corps de ballet were; I doubt we were the snowflakes or waltzing plums.
For many years, anytime I heard even the opening notes to any of the musical pieces of The Nutcracker, I’d run in the opposite direction. Yet, I love this video because it sort of treats Tchaikovsky’s music with sound portions of gusto and irreverence. Tchaikovsky would turn in his grave. And that thought makes me smile.
17 December, 2008
A dear friend sent me this article and podcast called After The Forgetting. Erica Heilman, the producer of the show, writes,
"It seems that once your memory goes, what’s left are the basic beliefs you’ve carried around for a lifetime about yourself and the world. Both Marj and Greg approach their lives with a lot of passion and curiosity and it’s what Marj is left with now that her memory is gone."
It is a hymn to mother/son relationships. Do listen. There are many stories contained in and between the words.
16 December, 2008
15 December, 2008
What an trip it has been, will have to write about it at a later point in time.
14 December, 2008
12 December, 2008
09 December, 2008
The trees lining the streets are strewn with white fairy lights.
The window decorations are often made of natural materials, like wood, or plants, glass or cloth.
Definitely, not the colourful plastic glaring glitter I so well remember from my Canadian childhood. (Sigh.)
Even so, there are a few glitches in tastefulness to be discovered in Luebeck.
A carousel squished in between a beautiful cathedral and historical monuments of the Middle Ages.
Or, how do like the new fashion of seat warmers looking like St. Nicolas’ hat?
“Special”, wouldn’t you say?
Note: I wrote this last Saturday, on St. Nicolas’ Day. A joyous celebration, when children wake to their boots filled with candy and small treats. Well, that is in most households. St. Nick actually showed up in our household after lunch. He must have been busy elsewhere.
06 December, 2008
Yesterday, I made up this video for the Community Breakthrough Support Mission I work with:
The school closed down for summer vacations two weeks ago.
Then we set up a new Nabuur project. This one is a clean water project. I am excited about this project because of the obvious benefits to the community.
I was also in contact with various turtle sanctuaries about using Florence's oceanography grade school science lessons. Please, if you have grade school children or are a teacher in grade school, you should check out these marvelous stories about sea turtles and ocean currents.
04 December, 2008
Luebeck is a beautiful city at any time of year, but particularly charming during the holiday season.
For instance, a brass band plays music every Saturday morning in Advent, in the open living room windows of a resident down the way from our apartment. Crowds gather and listen to the golden tones, with smiles on their faces. We just have to open up our widows to hear the band play the classical compositions. It is a delight. This is one of the many traditions residences and business folk follow here.
I really think I could like Christmas, if I could just be an observer and there was nothing to do. Instead, I’m plagued with feelings of inadequacy about not finding any pleasure with the Whole Hurrah. My daughter had to remind me on Dec.1st that she didn’t have an Advent calendar yet. Ugh! Here it goes: scramble, scramble, stumble, thud… that’s me trying to dance with the Holiday Spirit.
02 December, 2008
28 November, 2008
The DB employee patiently suggests that the woman should find out whether it is 25% or 50% before purchasing the ticket. The woman is obviously distraught at the prospect of having to come back again.
The DB employee sees the old woman’s disappointment and offers to let her call her daughter. She asks the woman for the telephone number. She doesn’t remember. The, how about the name and address? The old woman says “Meyer” (like Smith) and the city, but she doesn’t know the street name. The DB employee checks an online telephone book on her computer for the name. She blinks twice. Then puts on a brave face, “Oh, there are a lot of Meyers in Fulda. Why don’t we start at the top. Does xxxx Ave. sound familiar?”
They were still at it, after I purchased my ticket and I am leaving. I’m a real Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I’m glad the DB employee is not.
27 November, 2008
25 November, 2008
Ugh! Seventh grade! Can there be anything worse than being in Mr. Tournier’s 7th grade class? Mr. Beer Breath Tournier. The class where all the delinquents (children with behavioural problems) or “retards” (children with learning disabilities) are in.
The school thinks you cannot read or write, just because you cannot read out loud with fluidity or spell correctly. It is strange that they think this, since you spend all of your free time reading. You are a member three libraries, for Pete’s sake.
Don’t despair. You are not a “retard”. You just are dyslexic. They don’t know about dyslexia in your school yet.
It will take another ten years before another teacher tells you about your dyslexia. So, scrape through high school. Go off to dance. Wait a few years before you return to your studies.
Just so you know, better days are ahead.
the older lilalia
22 November, 2008
Dear Deutsche Post,
Oh ye of little faith! Just because I lavish a bit of praise on the Deutsche Bahn (German train company), doesn’t mean that my affections and appreciation of your services have waned. In the 26 years since I moved to Germany, you still can deliver a letter anywhere in Germany in a-day’s-time or two at the latest. Not only do you do your normal duties thoroughly, but you also have little German elves working in the backrooms individually handling the following situations:
Wrong or Incomplete Addressed
Taking letters addressed to me with the wrong house number, or “near the electrician shop” written in place of the street name, or my name/ city/Germany written on the envelope, and asking your elves to write my proper address per hand for the postwoman to deliver with only one-day’s delay.
Broken Package Shelter
A package arrives per sea freight with the carton split at all seams and the package contents no longer contained. Your elves gather up the contents, send them to a broken package shelter in Frankfurt, where they are stored in the interim. They write to me with the news of this unfortunate manhandling (which obviously is not their own, but some bully Scotsman in the Orkney Islands post office who didn’t give a hoot) and then send me the remains in a new carton with apologies for any inconvenience. At. No. Extra. Cost.
A vacuum-packed plastic envelope arrives with the burnt remains of a letter I wrote to my mother and sent off to Grenada the week before. My return address, written at the top left-hand corner of the letter, is the only recognisable part of the charred remains. Someone had set off fireworks in the post box during New Year’s Eve celebration, and your elves wanted me to know that the letter wouldn’t arrive.
So, please stop sulking and feeling neglected. You are my stalwart friend and I love you to bits and always will.
Your faithful friend,
Ye who believes in elves
20 November, 2008
Dear Other Side of The Story,
Not wanting to spend one more day or hour feeling any regret for deeds ill done or words left unspoken, here is an official apology to,
Karen, for convincing you to eat the garden snail, Daniel, for making the suggestion that you sample the yellow-coloured snow, Laura Lee, for being a terrible roommate at boarding school, Mme. Gautier, for contributing to your nervous breakdown through participating in adolescent antics during French class, Mrs. K., for never telling you what a marvellous teacher you were and how you became one of my heroes, Steve, for not being able to fall in love with you, Neil, for not falling out of love with you sooner, Keri, for not loving you enough, Liz, for speaking truthfully and thus losing our friendship, Christiane, for not speaking the truth early enough and losing our friendship, and, Kim, for the loss of our daily contact.
love and affection,
wiping the slate clean
19 November, 2008
Dear Dean of Admissions,
I did wonder during those first few semesters why you, the dean of admissions, accepted me into your university electrical engineering program. What made you blindly overlooked my lack of academic qualifications? Perhaps you thought I was old enough to qualify for a mature student status. What made you believe me capable of learning theories of quantum physics and thermodynamics?
This remained a mystery until years later, when I met you at a party of a gay friend of mine. You introduced yourself and confessed the fact that you accepted me into the program solely because I had been the first ballet dancer who had ever applied to your program. The ballet buff and the closet queen in you, jetéd over the hurdle of professional propriety and let me into the program.
To this day, I don’t quite know whether that was such a wise decision you made. I never did fit in to the baseball cap-toting, beer-guzzling mob of that time, but I did, strangely enough, find my place.
I learnt a lot in those years and for this I am eternally grateful to you. Maybe you did propel me into strange world of engineering on a whim, but it also profoundly widened my horizon.
in deep gratitude,
the ex-ballet dancer
16 November, 2008
15 November, 2008
The night shifts were the most nerve racking. We agreed on wearing lifelines while out on deck. Something you forgot to do over and over again.
During the day, when you would wander forward to fix a frozen cleat or adjust a line that was caught, I’d wait anxiously at the helm for you to trip and lose your balance. I lived under the illusion that I could somehow execute a man-over-board manoeuvre quickly enough to find you in that mass of ocean. Even though it was possible to count the seconds before some object drifted away out of sight amongst the waves.
Nights, when it was your watch, I slept softly. Waiting for the thunder of your feet on deck as you rushed off in some emergency. Thump. Thump. Thump. Then silence as you went about fixing the problem. Silence, during which I held my breath. Silence, during which I imagined an erratic wave throwing you overboard. Silence, praying down my panic.
And then, after an eternity… thump, thump, thump, your tuneless whistle underneath your breath, back on the helm again. I’d fall asleep until the next emergency.
I never feared going on a voyage, for you would be there. In all those years of sailing of along coastal lines, across oceans, and through endless storms, the only thing I feared was you not being there to guide me any more.
There have been times in the last nine years since your death, when I will myself to breath again, when I pray down my panic. I don’t want to live softly any more, waiting for the next emergency. I want to hear the thunder of your feet again on the deck.
Love and affection,
Your Sailor Girl
14 November, 2008
There were moments,
Our minds sparked,
Our hands touched,
Our limbs danced,
Our eyes lingered,
Oh, the lingering…
Yet, we did not listen.
Our shyness deterred us
From claiming what was
Ours. A kiss. It was there.
Hidden in our hesitation.
Years later, on this
Cold and rainy autumn day,
I long again for the lingering.
Love and affection,
From The One Who Was Too Shy
13 November, 2008
Dear Ballet Dancer,
There really are just two states of existence, “in the ballet studio” and “outside the ballet studio”. There are those fleeting “moments on stage”, but they are almost not worth mentioning. Filling the dark spaces between in and out of the studio, are numbing doubts and insecurities. Not knowing whether you are good enough, even though you are one of the best. Not being able to surrender yourself in the movement for fear of losing you inhibitions, and thus, the required restraint.
I would wish you more joy and less loneliness. Take care. It takes a leap of faith to find your way to a more happy life. Start now. Don’t delay.
Love and affection,
From One Further Down The Way
The reason I am interested in making this series is because there are times when I feel that I have lived numerous lives in just this one. These postcards are a way of connecting the dots between these past lives.
P.S. Thanks, Pam, for triggering the idea.
12 November, 2008
07 November, 2008
This time it is John Francis: I walk the Earth talk, whose argument thread is,
“If we are the environment, then all we need to do is look around us and see how we treat ourselves and how we treat each other (to know how we treat the environment).”
Quietly and with a endearing sense of self-deprecation, he tells a story that includes 17 years of living in silence and not riding in motorised vehicles on the way to become an environmental activist and UN Ambassador.
I tried to tell my walking friend about Mr. Francis last night. Unfortunately, I created the impression that he was a crazy person. We had a laugh over this. Yet, it is true that Mr. Francis’ tale is difficult to grasp. Listening to his story though, made me realise how wrong it is to think the solution to our over-spending of our precious ecological resources is a difficult matter. Mr. Francis tells us different. He says it is less rocket science and more equal doses of self-reflection, common sense and a willingness to step in changed direction.
06 November, 2008
In mid-sentence, the woman reaches over and taps his hand gently. He ceases to talk for a split second. His body registers the gesture, informs the brain of its significance, which thankfully then closes down. At last, at the end of this pause, he asks her a question about herself. Happily, she leans back into her seat and begins a long tale. One, she has perhaps told many times to men such as her date this evening. He leans forward across the table, hanging closely upon her words.
03 November, 2008
This is a thank you note to say how much I am grateful to you and all the people working for you for the hard work you have done in the last 21 months. It has been inspirational to witness how your actions and words have influenced people near and abroad in a positive and communal spirit.
I hope millions and millions of voters in your country come out tomorrow and vote for you. All the best.
02 November, 2008
Our life savings, modest as they were, were invested in low-risk banking fonds, which were unfortunately tied in with the American banks. We've taken a beating for sure. The notion that we will not be able to retire takes concrete form.
31 October, 2008
Until recently, I thought of childhood memories as pieces of a vast puzzle that are neatly stored in my brain. Since my brain’s workings are complex, so is that memory puzzle complex. Often, I’ve felt defeated by how little I remember of my past and how little I use the memories to help overcome day-to-day challenges. Then, a short while ago, a dear friend of mine told me something that pierced my confusion.
She told me about how memory resides in every cell in our bodies. When we remember an incident, for example, we recreate or relive the experience all over again on some cellular level. This concept is not new, but the way my friend describes cellular memory, acted as a key to opening the door to new thought.
The following presentation presents these thoughts in context to trust:
I hope you have enjoyed these reflections. They’ll probably be the last for a while, for I’d like to get back to doing more storytelling.
29 October, 2008
The Oxford dictionary defines trust as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. How do I know whom I can trust? How do I decide, not only to what extent I can trust someone, but what this person can be entrusted with?
The easiest answer to the question, “How do I know whom I can trust?” is to ask, “Who do I trust at this moment?” and “Who have I trusted in the past?” If the list of people you trust presently contains the same names as the people you have always been able to trust, you’re probably one happy trooper.
In my case, I tend to trust people near-and-dear to me with information or in situations where I need a shoulder to cry on, or their truthful opinion, or their knowledgeable judgment. Sometimes I have trusted wisely, at other times very unwisely. What I have learnt is that even though it would be wonderful if we could trust our loved ones with everything, it is not always prudent to do so.
This is because trust has many dimensions. First, we must find someone who is equally committed to the outcome of the situation we are entrusting them with, as we are. I trust my husband with my worries about my impending unemployment (my work contract is coming to an end in two months’ time), not only because he loves me and cares about my concerns, but because our financial livelihood is dependent on my contribution.
Secondly, the person we trust has to have the required skill or ability to carry through that which we are entrusting them with. It is not prudent to trust someone with my life-savings, if they’re always living on the brink of financial disaster. Lastly, there is always an element of unpredictability, or risk, when we trust someone to do something. If there weren’t risk involved, then we wouldn’t be entrusting them, but just instructing or informing them.
When I reflect back over the last ten years on situations or persons who have failed to live up to my expectations, I asked myself why did they fail: lack of commitment or lack of skill? And, as it turns out, it is nearly always the lack of skill that is the central cause for the failure. Not only their skill is lacking, but also my sense of judgement. Why would I trust someone with something they have no ability to succeed in?
Going back to the Oxford dictionary definition of trust (a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something), the question is where does that firm belief come from? I can only conclude through experience. Since childhood, I’ve trusted those near to me: my parents, my siblings, and my friends, with aspects precious to my wellbeing. And, the outcome of those experiences becomes memory.
No matter how distorted these memories are, they are all I have to navigate by. Thus, it is important to consider what I remember about these people, particularly their abilities, when I decide to ask them for constructive help and quiet solace. It is as simple as that.
27 October, 2008
The reason that I chose Trust as my word arose from a short conversation I had with a physiotherapist, not long after reading Christine’s blog post was published. The therapist was treating me for tension in my neck and shoulders. She uses a form of massage called Craniosacral, which has helped relieve the tension in the past. It not only works on specific areas of the body, but also on metaphysical organisms. At the end of one session, she tells me she thinks I have difficulties with my kidneys.
According to her, kidneys are sources of energy. They should radiate energy like a warm oven. Mine were hearths of cold ashes. She goes on to explain that in Chinese medicine, each organ is associated with an attribute. Kidneys, apparently, denote trust; did I, she asked, have any problems with trust?
Upon returning home, I made myself a hot cup of tea and asked myself this very question. Surprisingly, I started to cry when I posed the question. And, it became very clear that somewhere along the line, over the last decade, I had lost my ability to trust certain people near-and-dear to me, and, more importantly, I had lost trust in myself, in my ability to overcome existential challenges. It was equally evident, that I had to rediscover this ability.
Yitzhak Rabin said,
“If you have the same problem for a long time, maybe it’s not a problem; maybe it’s a fact.”
It was evident that it was time to go off on a fact-finding mission. One whose goal was to find out what Trust actually is, from both a theoretical, as well as, a practical point-of-view. I gave myself this year to study the scholars, to converse with friends, and to participate in solitary contemplation about the meaning of trust, and its importance in life.
There has been much I’ve studied and much I’ve been told. It has been a full year in this concern. Yet, I don’t wish to list the information, but rather I wish to write in the next two posts about two aspects of trust that I have learnt through experience, as well as study.
To be continued...
26 October, 2008
I’m very much enjoying reading the book after such a long time. In particular, what draws me is the discussion on war between Merlyn and the newly crowned King Arthur.
“There is one fairly good reason for fighting – and that is, if the other man starts it. You see, wars are a wickedness of a wicked species. They are so wicked that the must not be allowed. When you can be perfectly certain that the other man started it, then is the time when you might have a sort of duty to stop him.” (spoken by Merlyn)
Later, there is a discussion between St. Toirdealbhach and Lot’s sons about why he (Toirdealbhach) stopped fighting wars. Toirdealbhach says that when the numbers fighting the war increase to a number where people fighting are no long knowledgeable about the true reasons for fighting, nor do they know who they specifically were killing, he (Toirdealbhach) lost heart.
Which brings me to a conversation I had with a dear old friend of mine in Montreal. She stipulated, if Mr. Obama is elected and if he wanted to send a resounding message to Americans and the rest of the world that America is absolutely serious about taking decisive measures to re-establish its integrity and dignity as a world leader, the first measure Mr. Obama could take would be a fairly easy thing to do. He would just have to close down the prison at Guantanamo. If he did that, he would not only instill great hope to the people of the world, but also achieve great applause.
25 October, 2008
23 October, 2008
This is the last of the photos I'll print here. After spending hours yesterday going through the ones my son had stored on my laptop, I couldn't resist putting together a slide show about leaves.
The day has risen sunny in Luebeck. Time to get out for a long walk. Maybe it will be possible to shake off some of my jet lag with exercise and sunshine in my eyes.
How long does it take you guys to "land" back into our home and daily routines? I'm still seeing the common sites and luxuriating in my household chores through rarefied lenses.
22 October, 2008
My son takes interesting photos. Or, at least I really think so. I've spent the whole day listening to podcasts* and going through hundreds of photos he took last week in Montreal.
This slideshow is a series of photos he took at a playground near to where my sister lives. I love the fact that he climbs up, or under, or around the playgound and catches the beauty of the slides and climbing equipment from other angles.
* Today's listening include podcasts from: Speaking of Faith, The Moth, The Daily Mayo, Writers & Company, and This American Life.
21 October, 2008
20 October, 2008
19 October, 2008
I am gone now, but will, the gods willing, return sometime this week to writing and reading and commenting again.
16 October, 2008
Then came a day of stormy weather. Winds tore through streets and woods we were walking with the dogs.
Now the winter bareness becomes exposed and it is a sad thought, how brief is the actual passing of the seasons.
15 October, 2008
Rev. Wasike had little knowledge about the workings of internet technology and I had even less knowledge about running an organization that cares and educates 250 OVC (orphans and vulnerable children). This did not deter us from forming a working partnership. The work and the communication with Rev. Wasike have altered my perspective of the world concerning poverty and abundance of spirit. Since we met, I’ve been learning many lessons about how enriching meaningful social interaction can be, especially if it is with others living far away.
One of the key lessons I’ve learnt is just how simple it is to interact with others. Online communities like Nabuur, Roots & Shoots, AIDG, Change.org, Architecture for Humanity, etc. makes it remarkably easy for us to connect to other people all over the globe. Even though I am fortunate to work together with people within my circle of friends, my family, and community, reaching out further, to people living in countries I’ve not visited, had been transformational.
In particular, I see such global volunteer platforms as potentially being of great help for those of us, who seek creative and constructive interaction with others. If we could all become engaged to some extent or another with social communities, we would not only enrich other people’s lives, but we would enrich our own.
14 October, 2008
(photo taken by my son down by the lake near to my sister's home)
There is fog out this morning. The occasional car driving by is muffled in its early morning secrecy. Off to work. Back to school after the Thanksgiving celebrations of yesterday.
The bodies and spirits, are also muffled after all the eating. Thank heavens I'm vegetarian; there is only so much potatoes and veggies one can eat. It was a lovely and enjoyable fête.
The gods willing, we are off to visit with friends today. The children, when they were small, really enjoyed being together. It will be interesting to see if a commonality remains.
13 October, 2008
It's Thanksgiving Day in Canada. There is next to no activity going on in the kitchen. As far as I know, the turkeys (yes, there are two) are not yet thawed out and the rest of the food is still lying in wait. Think I might start cutting the vegetables or washing the potatoes, just to send a subtle message.
12 October, 2008
The trip went well. We had those new individual entertainment centers at each seat. What I noticed was that most people chose The Nanny Diaries, Nimm Island, and Indiana Jones as the first few movies to watch. As the eight-hour flight continued, people started channel skipping. The one film that only came up on two or three screens, was Eddy Murphy's film, Meeting David. Other people seemed to go through all of the other music video clips rather than turn this film on.
Trip over Greenland, Labrador, and down the east coast of Quebec was too beautiful to describe.
The photo above is a vertical panorama of the lake shore view near my sister's place. Photo taken by Nomad Son. I love the reflection of the clouds in the water at the lower right corner of the photo.
10 October, 2008
My children and I are going back to visit my family in Montreal. It's the first time, in far too long a time, I will be back there in autumn: my favourite season in that area of the woods.
In all the years of living in Germany, I've changed my preferences. Spring is the season that I truly love. For spring here takes place over months and months and it is always aspiring towards creating beauty.
Maybe, this is also why I like autumn back in Quebec. It starts somewhere in August, perhaps only with a whiff in the air, and progress somewhere into November. Even if a warm spell happens, a startling Indian summer, or a rash snow storm, autumn is still a drawn out endeavour.
07 October, 2008
In times like these, this is what the world needs. Not a Mr. Graham whose viewpoint on deregulation are disastrously relentless. Not a Ms. Palin who obviously is not in a position to understand the crisis, let alone lead us out of it.
I've tried to not say anything negative about Mr. McCain on this blog. Still, enough is enough.
06 October, 2008
Here are two projects that are intrinsically different, but both articulate and inventive in their own way.
30 Reasons is a 30-day email and internet campaign to encourage people to vote for Barack Obama. Our goal is simple: Use design to build a logical, multi-faceted argument for Obama and make it easy to share each reason with another person.
Carrotmob organizes consumers to make purchases that give financial rewards to those businesses who agree to make socially beneficial choices.
Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.
I don’t know if these projects make you feel better, but they did me.
04 October, 2008
01 October, 2008
(Knowing the way some of the fellows I work with think about their cars, I can see that the image of going off with their cars for a drink might hold some appeal.)
In the one strip of sunlight on the journey down to Berlin, there is a harvested field, green with a light powdering of grass, spotted with sea green/blue plastic-covered hay rolls. The herd of cows in the foreground are dwarfed by the size of the hay bails. It looks like a painting of rural modernism for the Tate Museum. As the train rides past, a fleet of birds fly up high, adding a poetic accent to the surrealistic landscape.
A tennis club’s clay courts lie lonely on this late autumn afternoon. Fallen autumn leaves are sprinkled over their wet surfaces. There is so much rainwater on the courts that the clay shines an intense orange-red hue.
30 September, 2008
28 September, 2008
Rev. Wasike and I are rather excited about what we have managed to put together so far. Especially, if you consider we are doing this all online, he has apparently (though you wouldn’t notice) much experience with Internet technology, and I have no experience setting up a website.
So, as raw beginners we need your help. I would like to ask you the favour of go over to the site, especially to the community blog, and leave a comment for Rev. Wasike and the people of the community.
27 September, 2008
"Hal Taussig believes that CEOs have a responsibility to do more than earn wealth for themselves. He created a successful travel company called Untours. The company has a budget in the millions and maintains a healthy profit margin - but Hal does not keep any of the profits. He donates them to charity."
One of the difficulties I’ve struggled with over the last ten years, is the reduction of income and loss of future security. Unforeseen economical crisis, like the one we are presently experiencing, irresponsible spending from a close family member, and increasing age and decreasing job possibilities, have created a chronic situation where my family and I live with a lot of uncertainty.
Listening to Mr. Taussig speak about how vital he thinks life is, if we choose to live our lives in the midst of such uncertainty and insecurity, has been a revelation. In the end, it does not matter whether we choose to live humbly of our own volition, as he has chosen, or through practical necessity, as my family does, the concept he proposes is wonderful.
For the first time in ten years, I feel intrigued to spend time reflecting upon what those losses signify in practical terms of momentary changes, rather than bitterly mourn those losses in intellectual consideration of “things we will never have, trips we will never take, a type of retirement we’ll never enjoy” in future times.
If you do go and listen to the show, please leave a comment and tell me what you think.
24 September, 2008
He’s obviously derives much pleasure in hearing himself speak. More so than listening to what the other two at the table have to say.
Speaking forcefully, vehemently, he expounds upon the charms of New York, while sitting in a charming café in the middle of Charlottenburg in Berlin. The sun is shinning. The cappuccino lush. Where does this pompous old fool find the energy to continue his tirade?
His table guests try to change the direction of his bitter words. First, by posing leading questions towards other directions. These, he ignores. Then, they offer light humour. An insult to his immense (ego) intelligence.
He snaps his fingers impatiently at the waitress. More bread. His soup is not quite to his satisfaction. His table guests slide into their own conversation, while he arranges things to his satisfaction. He interrupts their conversation to complain about mundane idiosyncrasies of his life. Their facial expressions become strained. Not noticing, he continues on and on.
His voice carries across the room and invades my solitary side order of salad. Making me close my eyes and feeling his abrasiveness scrap across my mind. Leaving traces of irritation.
I wish him well. I wish him gone.
23 September, 2008
They’ve been friends for years. Ever since they worked together in the same office at the university. Long retired. Surprisingly, both have managed to keep up their youthful appearances. That is, considering their age. They exude a lively intellect. They are the type of professionals that have worked long, but never hard.
Today, they’ve met for coffee and cigarillos. As they do every Thursday. Sharing the newspaper. One reads the current events section. The other prefers the editorials.
A homeless person wanders from table-to-table asking for money. Many of the customers look the other way when he is addressing them, as if the man is an annoyance to be pointedly ignored. Others just shake their heads denying their inclination.
When the man arrives at the professors’ table, the one invites the fellow to sit down at their table. He offers the man one of his cigarillos, then asks the passing waitress to bring another cup of coffee. The three men sit in comfortable silence. When the homeless man finishes his coffee, he nods his head in thanks, gets up without disturbing the professors any further and leaves the café.
19 September, 2008
Quiet day spent indoors. The sun came out momentarily, but I ignored it.
Evening falls early, so much earlier than just a few days ago. I think wistfully of the summer that pasted without much notice. Should I say adieu?
We are travelling, the gods willing, back to Canada soon for a family visit. Little or no wistfulness about this venture, just possibly a sliver of trepidation. Only my personal trepidation. My son and daughter fly over with a lightness of spirit that is almost enviable.
They are not conscious as yet of the difference between family dynamics and family history. The one appears so universally enigmatic, the other tragically insufferable and most often, irreconcilable.
Adieu this summer of my heart. Please return to warm us again.
17 September, 2008
The days have been speeding by. I’ve been busy as a beaver on various projects. Some of the projects are for my work. I’ve helped some teachers and students begin the following projects:
- Stop-motion animation project for an art class (topic metamorphosis)
- Helping the students plan and organise an urban orientation race (using mobile phones and various digital devices and Google maps during the race)
- Creating a Ning community for students to work in groups, studying and presenting various material focusing on life in post-centennial America
- Creating a wiki for students to collaboratively write down study material for examination purposes
On top of this, I’ve become involved in two more global communities. This is on top of the three I’m already involved in. Admittedly, I’m going to have to reduce these activities sometime in the future. For now, it is all rather interesting.
If any of you are interested in finding out specifics of any of the above-mentioned projects, just drop me an email.
15 September, 2008
These last two week or so things have been so askew with the coverage of the Rebublican’s campaign. Even though I haven’t written anything about my distress and discomfort with the McCain/Palin campaign, I have been, as so many, rather obsessive with following the hype.
This is why it felt good to see this video from the New York Times this morning stating the hope that all of the hype has peaked. I wonder whether it is possible for is to accelerate the decent from the height of this Palin Mania. It’s time to make a statement, and mine is to give a cold shoulder to a campaign not deserving of attention, and focus once again on discussion of important issues.
For instance, in this chart, it appears that Mr. Obama(172) is leading Mr. McCain (148) in solid electoral votes, Mr. McCain (79) has more leaning electoral votes (Mr, Obama 66), and there is 73 tossup votes. Does anyone know what can be done to help sway those voters in the tossup states and help assure those voters who are leaning?
I think that what I will do, is try and write some more posts about Mr. Obama and how his person and his promised political strategies are influencing my personal and political beliefs. I will also start focusing my comments on articles written by bloggers who write with concern about political issues rather than extrapolating upon the ludicrous choice of the VP candidate.
It’s time to go on the offensive and create interesting discourse again.
14 September, 2008
Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.
Last Year's theme was "Environment" and I wrote a post telling about how my knowledge about environmental issues and practices had changed in the 25 years since I moved to Germany.
This year, I am not sure what I will write about, other than it will be something dear to my heart rather than a piece of study. I've been thinking about poverty and abundance a lot in the last weeks. Mainly because of the US election where an astronomical amount of money is being spent promoting the candidates rather than the politics of changing the government with such astronomical debts.
I'm looking forward to writing something for Blog Action Day. I'm looking forward to reading the many other blog posts throughout that day as well. Please join.
12 September, 2008
11 September, 2008
Staying with friends of a friend who live in Charlottenburg,. This is one of the many charming neighbourhoods of this marvelous city. Though, I believe Charlottenburg is perhaps the most charming neighbourhood of them all. And my hostess and host and their two hosting boys are absolutely charming too.
The sun is shining. I am sitting in a café. I've just ordered breakfast. I am in heaven.
08 September, 2008
Then I look at his legs and realise he is wearing tanned silk pantyhose. His legs are shaved and there is an ever so slight sheen shinning off the back of his calves.
I remember seeing this photo yesterday in The Satorialist blog. At that time, I questioned how many males would have the nerve to wear fishnet stockings. Now, a day later, here is the first brave man walking down the street in front of me.
The whole effect is very elegant, almost unremarkable, except for the sheen. That is what catches the eyes of all the people passing him in the opposite direction, and the café customers people-watching. I start to watch people’s reactions to the pantyhose.
It is both an astonishing and heart-warming experience. First, it astonishes me how many people notice. I would say that nearly 90% of those he passes notice. Secondly, it is a heart-warming experience because the people’s universal reaction is to smile. Not a strained there’s-a-freak-if-I-ever-saw-one smile, but a ear-to-ear smile that speaks of tolerance and love of idiosyncrasy. I’m no sure how many of the people realise the pantyhose is a fashion statement, rather than a person quirk. It really matter if they do, does it?
06 September, 2008
So, I thought I’d write about yesterday’s effort. The photo above was the original motive I used.
I had this idea to produce an enamel effect of the photo. As this enameller explained, what was need was to create an effect of melting glass and stark contrasts of metal oxides.
The work started out fine, but eventually just got away from me. I think I will have to start out with objects with simple geometric forms.
05 September, 2008
04 September, 2008
- If someone asks my age, I’d say “nearly fifty” instead of forty-nine
- Find some role models of elders who were aging in a manner I could inspire
- Start researching issues concerning lifestyle, health, politics, and society for elders
- Discuss with friends and family what their hopes and fears were concerning age and aging
- Figure out some adventures I wanted to do over the next few years
It seemed important that I figure our some strategies to support a gradual transition into old age. In the past, I tended to bull headedly rush into new experiences or phases in my life. For example, the transitions into puberty and young adulthood were studies in rash belligerent solitary over-confidence. At forty-nine, I just did not have the heart to repeat such fiascos. If I couldn’t age gracefully, at least I could age wisely. I didn’t quite know what that implied, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone.
Two years later, after recently celebrating fifty-first birthday, I am amazed at how smart that those steps on the list were. It has been two years of inward searching, establishing new friendships, and even partaking of a few adventures.
My role models have become friends. They have shown me the necessity of looking at the physical changes not with dismay, but with a certain amount of detachment. They are living proof that intellectually elders are as sharp as can be; and, most importantly, they have been kind and supportive towards my foibles and me.
02 September, 2008
01 September, 2008
The two videos I particularly liked were:
Yet, the following videos are also intriguing:
30 August, 2008
This avalanche of change has perhaps been a quiet revolution to date, but there is no denying a shift has occurred over the last decade empowering all individuals to break barriers and find voice. And, it is the Americans who have led this revolution. The notion of social participation to entice change began, I believe, nearly a decade ago, in part, through developments in Internet technology.
The IT crash of 2000 signaled a shift in conscious thinking concerning the use of Internet. This shift resulted in innovative ideas such as the Read/Write web (Web 2.0) and open source (e.g., SourceForge) coming to being. Many new innovations followed: micro-financing (e.g., Kiva), global community work (e.g., Nabuur), and grassroots political activism (e.g., Change Congress). All of these programs are powerful in their simplicity and completely, convincingly empowering for anyone willing to participate.
It has been fascinating for me to see how this quiet revolution has evolved. At a time when I found no hope in finding leadership in America as a nation, and Bush/Cheney as a government, when it came to environmental and military practices, I found hope of change through the common folk* already creating it.
And maybe, just maybe, it was necessary for America and the world to experience these last eight years of the Bush/Cheney administration to waken us up to our individual potential for creating change. As Mr. Obama said, “…it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.”
These last years has already created so much change in my life, I don’t think there has been any time in my adult life where I have learned so much and participated in so many new creative endeavours. Some of these experiences have been questionably disappointing, but overall and most irrevocably they have changed my life and my actions.
(*I’m not sure what is the pc word for common folk is anymore, but let me assure you these common folk are in no ways common, but rather they are heroes of mine.)
26 August, 2008
A teacher approached me a few months before Girl's Day 2008 was to run, with a dilemma. Apparently, the girls from her school (grade 7-8) had not left a very good impression with the professional women they had visited the year before. The women stated that the girls came to their companies appeared overall to be disinterested and distant. They wondered whether the only reason the girls agreed to come to their workplaces was to get a day off school. The girls had not asked any questions or expressed any interest in what they had heard during the professional women's presentations. When asked, many of the girls admitted that they found the presentations boring and they didn't know what questions to ask in the Q&A sessions, so they didn't say anything.
The teacher came to me to ask how the project could be made more interesting using digital media. And, as happens so often, the solution did not lie in introducing all sorts of new media into the activities, but by changing the learning format to one which would encouraged collaborative learning.
The previous Girl's Day activities were so structured that the girls were sent off to various companies without previous knowledge of the companies or the professional women. The professional women introduced themselves, gave a presentation of their company and their particular job positions, carried through a Q&A session and then sent the girls on home.
This year's Girl's Day was structured so:
- Professional women introduced themselves and their professional field in short biographies and sent them to the school two weeks before the event.
- The girls divided up into small groups and chose which professional women they would visit and sent the women emails with their names and questions they wished to ask them during Girl's Day.
- The professional women had time to think of how they would respond to the questions and also created a list of their own questions that they could ask the girls when they came to visit.
- The different groups went to the different companies and interviewed the professional women they were allocated.
- The girls returned to school and each group made up a presentation that was a story about the professional women they visited and the profession these women worked in.
- Each group presented their presentation to the other girls, teachers and the professional women at an evening event.
Even though the girls did use media (cell phones, digital cameras, mp3 players (recorders), cc photo material from the Internet, and Open Office presentation program), and the use of media did motivate them to be more alert, this only played a peripheral role. It was the fact that everyone prepared themselves for the day and the fact that professional women created a dialog with the girls and not lectures that made the exchange so successful.