Saturday, October 31, 2009

who would i be but without a book?

i have not posted about the books that i have finished lately and i think it is about high time i did so, don't you?

first, we have Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo.  and i give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up.  Moyo's arguments against providing more foreign aid to africa are concise, easy for the non economist to read, and make a hell of a lot of sense to me.  we all know (and by we, i mean those of you who have either read my beefs with international development here or who i have had the conversation with) how i struggle to understand how such well meaning intentions can go so disastrously wrong and end up making people either poorer than they were previously, or do a whole lot of nothing.  if you want to read a more eloquent and educated view on this same dilemma, read this book.

next up, we have The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper, a native liberian who has spent the majority of her life in the us.  i was first turned on to this book when i moved into the new nest and didn't have tv so i watched a few podcasts from itunes u (a great source of FREE and informative podcasts on tonnes of topics, if you ever find yourself in a similar position as i did) and saw her interviewed about her memoir of life in liberia just before the civil war.  it is a relatively easy read and sheds a lot of light on the situation between the colonists and the native liberians and how that affected the break out of violence.  for anyone that thinks that all conflicts in africa are simply between two ethnic groups should read this book.  and if you have any interest in the colonies of freed north american slaves in the 1800s, this is also an interesting read.

and last, but certainly not least, is Ignorance by Milan Kundera.  it was lent to me by a friend from work and it is a short novel about two emigrants who return to the czech republic after the fall of communism.  i loved the way the author juxtaposed their experience to that of odysseus of The Odyssey fame (which i never thought i would be grateful for having had to read in grade 10 advanced placement english...).  as someone who has left and returned to a country (although not nearly under the circumstances that the main characters do or for nearly as long), the theme of the novel struck a chord with me and perhaps even more so as i have now been to the czech republic and experience prague in capitalist times.  the book really felt like a piece of literature that i need to revisit and rethink one day.  when i turned the final page, though, i felt an incredible sadness for the characters in the story, but i think that that is what a good piece of writing can do to you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

this, too, is a true story

here are some things that happened to me yesterday:
  • i tamed my crazy and it worked out for the best
  • well, this
  • i met a really nice, really handsome police officer and felt a bit like a voyeur seeing his badge
  • i ate a cheeseburger at the hockey game and man, was it ever delicious
  • i was sort of asked to join another board, but this time because of the way i am always dressed so nicely and they thought that that might encourage men to join the board as well... i think it was mostly a joke
  • i got another package in the mail from california from a lovely etsy seller.  and it is double exciting because it is going to be a gift!
  • i managed to answer a lot of tough questions from a tough crowd at a workshop i facilitated

the story of a date

boy 'meets' girl and asks girl out to a nhl game.  girl suggests that they grab a drink beforehand (in case he is crazy and she needs an out so as not to have to sit next to the boy for 3 hours in public trying to make conversation).  boy agrees and they meet and ask the usual questions that you do when you first meet someone over a pint of beer.  boy suggests they take a taxi to the game and girl figures that he is harmless and nice enough and will be good company for an evening.  boy lets girl walk in front of him through doors and up stairs and is quite a gentleman. 

as the girl is walking up the many stairs to their seats, she begins to think it looks rather familiar and somewhat like the same area where her family has seasons' tickets.  and then she looks up and straight in the eyes of her step father and their good family friend and realises that not only is she going to spend the next 3 hours sitting next to someone she only just met, she is going to be sitting in front of someone she only just met directly in front of one of her parents for the entire 3 periods of the hockey game!

and that, my internet friends, is a true story.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


the past two weekends have been great, the first i had my girlfriends over for wine and cheese and i was furiously running around getting all my pictures hung, bringing a rather large bench up two flights of stairs, tidying, and preparing my nest to welcome its first official guests.

then this past weekend i threw a housewarming party and i think it went really well.  again, i tidied, made my bed, hid my messes in closets, dusted, arranged my 'stuff,' and got the nest ready to welcome about 40 people on saturday night.  things are still not entirely back to normal around here, but i finally got through the dishes last night.  and man, do i miss my housekeeper in kenya!  (we used to have her come over the day of a party to do all the tidying and then the next day to deal with the aftermath when we were still sleeping it off).

in addition to attempting to be a good host, i have also been overwhelmed with work lately.  i was down in brooks, medicine hat, and lethbridge to facilitate workshops and although i love doing that type of work, the driving was rather tiresome (even though i listened to my first audiobook, Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, which made me smile with memories of life in nairobi and although that story might not make others smile the same way, i still recommend the book as its short stories do a decent job to describe life in african cities without all the usual pity and condescension). 

i am not leaving calgary anytime soon and am ecstatic about relaxing, enjoying all the nesting i have been doing, and just resting.  once i catch up on sleep and feel a bit stronger, i need to get outside and back running because nobody likes an indicator pant!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

surefire ways to ensure you do not get a second date

  • tell me dan brown wrote your favourite book
  • ask me, 'what was africa like?'
  • wear pleated pants (ok, this one hasn't actually happened, but i do fear that it will and i will have to deal with it)
  • tell me that you want to volunteer in africa one day
  • you don't drink

q: what makes a good day?

a: dinner with my family, who are funnier than anyone i know.  really.

a: praise and recognition from not one, but two, of my bosses.

a: two of my orders from etsy arrived in the mail today.

a: my mama's roast beef dinner.

a: so you think you can dance AND glee on tv in the same night (and i didn't even need to pvr them!).

a: a cheque arrived in the mail.  and who doesn't love cheques arriving?

a: two requests for dates.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

what i do well

the term 'networking' used to make me break out into a rash, but i have learned over the years that i am good at it and can make connections that benefit me and others rather effortlessly.  which is even more impressive when you consider that most of my anxiety is brought on by new social situations.

today was another one of those opportunities that i managed to walk myself into.  i have spent the last two days at a course at the university and met a lot of interesting people from various sides of the same industry.  there were a lot of opportunities to participate in discussions and as they related not only to my current jobs, but to my previous jobs abroad as well, i offered a lot of examples and asked a number of questions.

at the end of the day (and after we had a mini 'graduation'), the convener of the training approached me and invited me to become more involved in his local organisation that consults on international development projects and mentioned that he needs a new board member, hinting that i could potentially be it.  i am not sure exactly what that would entail or if i would be a suitable candidate, but i am definitely going to look into it.  i always thought board members were old people with grey hair and lengthy cv's, not 28 year olds who just like to talk!

Monday, October 19, 2009

it will revolutionize your life

what will revolutionize your life, you ask? the PVR, i tell you!

the ability to save television programmes for later viewing with the push of a button is really fantastic and is totally changing the way i live. really. and for the better. instead of watching more tv, like some people suggested, i tend to watch the stuff that i actually want to watch rather than the crap that is on when i feel like sitting on the couch and relaxing.

for instance, i caught up on So You Think You Can Dance Canada and Oprah on sunday when i felt like doing little else than napping on the couch under a warm blanket.

and with the beauty of the PVR, i can now watch my newest television crush, Mike Rowe and his Dirty Jobs. he is hilarious and i love his off the cuff humour along with his honest reactions to doing some of the grossest things i can imagine!

it also makes it a lot easier to watch Grey's Anatomy. not that i am too thrilled with this season... i knew they would get rid of Izzie, but this newest plot twist of her taking off on Karev just seems way too easy and i don't buy it. i am not buying many of the storylines apart from Callie and Arizona right now, come to think of it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

food for thought... or not

i liked this as i have often wondered why the flight attendants tell you there is a floatation device under your chair because how on earth would you ever get it if you needed it and get out of a plane that was crashing into the ocean??

Welcome aboard
Sep 7th 2006
From The Economist print edition
In-flight announcements are not entirely truthful. What might an honest one sound like?

"GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.

The flight attendants are now pointing out the emergency exits. This is the part of the announcement that you might want to pay attention to. So stop your sudoku for a minute and listen: knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survival if we have to evacuate the aircraft. Also, please keep your seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not illuminated. This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form of disturbance that can cause severe injury. Imagine the heavy food trolleys jumping into the air and bashing into the overhead lockers, and you will have some idea of how nasty it can be. We don't want to scare you. Still, keep that seat belt fastened all the same.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft's navigation systems. At least, that's what you've always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn't sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.

On channel 11 of our in-flight entertainment system you will find a video consisting of abstract imagery and a new-age soundtrack, with a voice-over explaining some exercises you can do to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis. We are aware that this video is tedious, but it is not meant to be fun. It is meant to limit our liability in the event of lawsuits.

Once we have reached cruising altitude you will be offered a light meal and a choice of beverages—a word that sounds so much better than just saying ‘drinks’, don't you think? The purpose of these refreshments is partly to keep you in your seats where you cannot do yourselves or anyone else any harm. Please consume alcohol in moderate quantities so that you become mildly sedated but not rowdy. That said, we can always turn the cabin air-quality down a notch or two to help ensure that you are sufficiently drowsy.

After take-off, the most dangerous part of the flight, the captain will say a few words that will either be so quiet that you will not be able to hear them, or so loud that they could wake the dead. So please sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. We appreciate that you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing Veritas, a member of an incomprehensible alliance of obscure foreign outfits, most of which you have never heard of. Cabin crew, please make sure we have remembered to close the doors. Sorry, I mean: ‘Doors to automatic and cross-check’. Thank you for flying Veritas."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

telling africa's stories

she is no burt, but i love the way that Chimamanda Adichie articulates and speaks. she is the author of one of my favourite books, Half of a Yellow Sun, and here she speaks on the danger of hearing a single perspective of a different culture, a different country, or a different group.

The Danger of a Single Story.

if you have 18 minutes to spare, it is my recommendation that you watch and listen to this. i doubt you will be disappointed.

Friday, October 09, 2009

i want a burt

i have had a rather melancholy week. it could be due to the grey, miserable weather. it could be because of poor drug compliance. or it could be blamed on that awful dream i had earlier this week.

i do know that a large part of my mood has been related to a bit of loneliness. and not because i moved out of my family's house or that i now live alone, but more that i wish i had someone with who i could share my sunday afternoons or to negotiate thanksgiving dinners with. all other parts of my life are pretty fantastic and i just feel like i have more to offer.

and friday evenings at walmart would be a lot more enjoyable if i had a partner in crime, surely.

i was running around nesting again this evening (i spend all my free time putting together furniture, shopping, and rearranging things lately) and came home and felt like a movie. luckily, there was something i had wanted to see on shaw on demand and i ordered Away We Go, cracked open a bottle of wine, and got my tool box out to assemble an end table.

i loved this movie. loved. i am not surprised when you consider that Sam Mendes directed it, Dave Eggers wrote it, Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski star in it, Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels make appearances in it, or that Alexi Murdoch sings in it. and perhaps i loved it even more because it was just what i needed after this past week, a story of regular love that, although punctuated with some sadness, was essentially positive.

if you haven't seen it already, i would suggest that you do. i loved the way that the couple in the film treated one another, spoke to one another, and were in it together, even if they were still trying to figure out what 'it' was. they felt like a team and i loved the dry humour that poked you in the nose every now and again as well as how they dismissed much of the images of perfect families or of the self righteous who seem to know not only what 'it' is, but how exactly to go about 'it.'

the music is great too and i am now listening to the soundtrack that i've also downloaded. now all that is missing is my very own burt.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

just go away already!

i had the worst, neverending dream last night. i even woke up at one point and went back to sleep and the damn bad dreams continued.

it all came down to having to relive the experience of having someone choose to go and fight in a war thousands of miles away rather than proceed with the plans of life that we had made. but this time, i was there and then had to go and live alone in germany, where i just did not want to be.

it just makes me wonder when this whole ugly experience will stop rearing its ugly head and just let me get on with my life. blech. one, big, gross blech that took me hours to overcome today. just put a damper on my day and i had a hard time shaking it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

what a week

ramen noodles and new almodovar movie screened at the calgary film festival

first day of a week of early mornings for the united way campaign
coffee with the mounties

meetings upon meetings
dinner with my ma and bro
mild concern about the security of my job

chaos at our volunteer worksite
an afternoon with the dalai lama and his wicked glasses

concern about my job security alleviated
child trafficking bill makes it through 3rd debate and heads to the senate
first photography class. pixels! sensors! green idiot box!
grey's anatomy (medium, at best)

painting on 3 storey scaffolding for 8 hours
very tired arm
framing of some of my photos
a much needed glass of vino to celebrate a successful 2 week painting project

invitations to my housewarming party sent out
the return of saturday projects
pickled beets and homemade salsa!
celebratory red wine and beer and a hockey game
lots of laughter

laundry and tidying
a trip to the farmer's market (blackberries, fresh herbs, and wax beans, oh my!)
napolitan pizza
one tired, tired lady