Friday 29 August 2003

1,000 words

I got an email recently from a chap called David who runs A Picture's Worth, where you can submit photos along with a bit of writing. From the About page:

"�A Picture's Worth� is a personal project that aims to highlight the inspiration that can arise from a photograph and to capture it in the form of words which in turn can reveal the true beauty of a photograph. Ultimately, the project seeks to inspire and enhance captivating story writing and beautiful photography.

In line with the idea that �a picture is worth a thousand words�, visitors are invited to share the memories, emotions or creative stories triggered by a photograph of personal significance. It is hoped that a new photo essay will be posted on the site daily."

It's an interesting, creative project that I think captures what I see on a lot of good blogs - photography with personal meaning (that also happens to be very well done) combined with excellent writing. Go take a look.

Thursday 28 August 2003

as if the pic isn't usually bad enough

According to this story (and several others that were sent to me by friends around the globe), we aren't allowed to smile on our Canadian passports anymore, nor can we frown. I can only assume that it must have been a very slow and incredibly dull week in parliament, and someone decided to pass a law just for kicks. What constitutes a "neutral expression", anyway? What if I don't smile but I hold up my hands in a "eh, what can ya do?" kind of way? Can I wear a shirt with an amusing slogan like "Smile if you like our current government!"? Does this mean that we have to look totally deadpan whenever someone inspects our passports so that they can match our faces to our photos? Will the world think that we're a nation of sour-faced old cranks?

I am so looking forward to renewing my passport next May. No really, I'm smiling on the inside.

Tuesday 26 August 2003

oh, so that was the long weekend, eh?

This weekend, we were mostly doing DIY and making sure that Jasper wasn't eating paint and/or Polyfilla (he didn't - hurrah). The lovely highlighter yellow ceiling in one of the spare rooms (the "rainbow room" as we like to call it) is now white with a hint of cornflower blue. Which means that it's a very light bluey white, to you and me. The living room and dining room have been partially painted a warm cream colour, and the difference is amazing already. We had the floor to ceiling brick fireplace covered in plasterboard, and it almost disappeared into the wall once it was painted. The evil artex has been scraped back and covered, and now sports a new coat of white paint. It's all coming together nicely...ah, but then there's the carpet. It's still there and will be there for at least the next couple of weeks. Frankly, I don't mind it being there until we're sure that Jasper's housebroken and it's sort of become a bit of a conversation piece. More DIY pictures coming soon.

Speaking of pics, there are new pictures of Jasper here.

Thursday 21 August 2003


I have started a separate blog for all things Jasper-related here. That way, you doggie people can read all about our puppy adventures, and the rest of you won't get bored silly by stories about how our dog farts a lot and how goshdarn cute he is.

Tuesday 19 August 2003

calgon, take me away

Now I know why stay at home mothers always look so frazzled. Not only are you using up every ounce of your energy making sure that your kid isn't about to drink bleach, stick his tongue in a socket, or poke out an eye, you've got people banging on the door trying to sell you stuff all day long. I saw two women wandering around the neighbourhood with clipboards this afternoon, and this is never a good sign. It's either someone trying to convince you to discover their religion or they're trying to sell you something you don't need. The first two times they rang the doorbell, I ignored it. When they came around the third time, I very stupidly decided to answer the door (I think I was too tired and fed up to overcome my curiosity). The woman identified herself as being from NPower, and if you thought the double glazing salespeople were pushy, they are nothing compared to the NPower people. We encountered them at the Ideal Home Show where a rather large NPower woman sank her hard sales pitch into us like a pitbull and wouldn't let go no matter how many times we told her that we didn't have a new house yet (no really, apparently this doesn't mean that you can't sign up with them). So the scrawnier but just as relentless NPower woman today stood at my doorstep and wouldn't leave, no matter how many times I politely told her that no thank you, we weren't interested. She asked what part of America I was from. A glimmer of hope lit up in my mind as I acted really offended that she had mistaken me for one of those horribly uncouth Americans, as I was certain this would cause her to flee from my house, begging my forgiveness. Instead, she said "Oh you're Canadian sorry that must be such an insult ooh what part of Canada are you from because I used to take care of the travel arrangements for my office to Toronto and I always wanted to go to Qu�bec what was the name of that town again oh I can't remember but Canada is so lovely and who takes care of the bills in your household 'cos it doesn't matter where you get the bill from, it's how much you're paying, right?"


In the most forceful and slightly rude tone of voice I could muster up (I am Canadian, sorry), I said to her, "We are really, really, really, really not interested. Really. Honestly. I need to go look after my puppy now." Surprisingly, the scrawny pitbull unclenched her jaws and went on her merry way, perhaps startled by the puppy excuse that few people have ever utilised.

So I went back to work, keeping one eye on the pup and the other on my monitor (with several glances out the window in case NPower lady was lurking in my shrubbery), with a bit of a headache and the resolution that I will never, ever answer my door in the middle of the day again.

Monday 18 August 2003

a dog's life

At the risk of becoming puppy bores (just wait 'til we have kids), I shall waffle on about our fantastically brilliant dog. So maybe he hasn't quite figured out that he needs to go outside when it's toilet time (either that, or he's making an editorial statement about our hideous carpet), and maybe he enjoys eating clumps of dirt and bits of wood, and maybe he scared himself by barking at his own reflection, but he's the smartest and cutest dog in the world. No, really. Ask Jack and Heather - they can vouch for this.

He's wonderful. He's brilliant. We fell in love with him straight away. Yes, you can come visit him and introduce yourselves.

Jasper pictures can be found here.

Sunday 17 August 2003

puppy love

Presenting Jasper, our black Labrador Retriever born May 22/03.

Smitten. Totally smitten. :)

Friday 15 August 2003

but the beer store will be open, right? RIGHT?

So I was just reading that Canada (and some other country called the United States) had a big power failure yesterday. The cause? I think it depends on who you ask, but apparently no one blames terrorists. So to all of my friends and family in Toronto, I hope that you've got your power back and that it wasn't too horrible. The good news is, the Beer Store will be open as usual. You can take away electricity from the Canadians but touch their beer don't even want to think about it.

This story brought to you by the "Canada is Actually Not Part of the US, and There is News to Report Outside of New York City, You Know" coalition. I thank yew.
meme time

Courtesy of the lovely Green Fairy who found this over at Feministe.

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment saying "interview me."

2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.

3. You will update your journal with the answers to the questions. [Lisa's note: Hope I can do this, but I'll add a slight amendment to this one. If you don't have a blog/journal, you can either email your answers to me or leave them in the comments.]

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Questions from Green Fairy:

1. What has been the hardest thing to adjust to, living in a foreign country?

Discovering that no one was interested in the fact that I was from a foreign country (nor did anyone find my accent to be "charming" in the least), and that some English people take great joy in calling Canadians "American" because they think we'll be greatly offended and get all huffy about it. Note to the English: we know that we sound American (even I can't tell the difference sometimes) and we really don't care if you refer to us as Americans. Or at least I don't.

2. Why do you keep a blog? Is the reason you do now different from the reason you started?

This site started as a rather sad collection of pages containing fonts, wav files, and a bit about me back in 1996. I started a "Thoughts" page; a list of bulleted random thoughts updated every few months. As more people I knew discovered that I had a site, I updated this page on a more regular basis. It was mostly to keep people back home up to date with all the exciting events in my life. At that point, I could count all the visitors on one hand and I knew who every one of them was. Now I get 50,000+ hits a month, so this page has become a lot less personal (e.g. I won't lament about my deepest thoughts and feelings and write sad poems about my cat). I now blog for a variety of reasons and people back home use it to see what's up with me, but it's mostly a way to sneak in some creative writing when I'm not writing software user guides.

3. If your hairdresser suddenly went insane on you halfway through an appointment, what's the very worst hairstyle they could give you?

I'm pretty sure that hairdresser insanity accounted for most of my hairstyles in the 80s. The worst would be anything very short or involving a pudding bowl.

4. What's the first thing you do when you wake in the morning?

Lie there and try to remember what day of the week it is, then kiss Paul.

5. Would you rather be Father Jack or Mrs Doyle?

Oh Mrs Doyle, for sure. Out of all the Father Ted characters, she's the most insane and has the best wardrobe.

Thursday 14 August 2003

come on feel the noize

According to this article from The Register, blogs are creating too much "noise" in Google search results. For example, you decide that you really need to find information about vomiting jackals, so you type "vomiting jackals"* into Google. Amongst the hits listed is my site, leading you to click on my link and discover that you're at some chick's blog that has absolutely nothing to do with mammals with stomach disorders. How annoying. So the idea is to remove blogs from search engines, thus reducing the "noise".

Grand idea, with a slight hitch - some of the search strings that have led to my site actually provided meaningful information for the searcher. Someone who found my site on Google wrote to me thanking me for having a picture of Camille Claudel's sculpture "The Gossips" on my site, as she needed to see what it looked like for an upcoming art exam. Many people have found my trip diaries whilst searching for travel destinations, and have come across my blog after searching for various restaurants and shops that I've mentioned. Granted, I get hundreds of hits per month from people searching for totally unrelated information (sorry, I don't have any links or useful data regarding conjoined twins, how to build a recessed shelf in your shower, cheesy road trip songs, games about microwaving hamsters, or pictures of a wooly hat)* but I do get hits for information I do actually provide.

The fact is, many people have sites that contain more than blog entries. Should these site be excluded from Google searches because they have a blog section? Should blogs be excluded full stop, even if some have relevant information and links? Of course not. A web site of a certain "genre" should not be banned because of the assumption that sites of this type are never informative. Even some people read Playboy for the articles, for goodness sake.

*(Actual search strings leading to this site.)

Wednesday 13 August 2003

i'm sure it made sense at the time

Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and wondered what the frickin heck you were doing when the picture was taken?

Monday 11 August 2003

hot dogs and bbqs

We went to visit our puppy's Mum and Dad this weekend, at a farm about 5 miles from our house. It seems a bit silly that our pup was born just down the road, went all the way up to Leeds, and now has to come all the way back here this weekend. The woman in Leeds who bought the litter intended to send them to her partner in the States so that they could be trained as bomb sniffer dogs, but the deal fell through. So now she needs to find homes for these pups, and we're going to take one of them. The breeder near us (who is a lovely lady called Vivianne), took the time to show us our pup's parents (you can get an idea of adult size and temperament of your puppy by looking at the parents) and very kindly showed us the rest of her dogs and a new litter of chocolate Lab pups. The pups were kept in an open air "room" on the farm, and Paul, his parents, and I found ourselves surrounded by little fluffy dogs. You know those kiddie play areas where they stick children in a room filled with multicoloured balls? It was like that but with puppies. I could have stayed there all week (and could have shoved a few puppies in my bag, but no one created a suitable diversion) and it made us even more eager to get our pup. Saturday feels like a long time from now.

Paul's Mum and Dad bought us a BBQ as a combination housewarming and birthday present (for Paul). I have never owned a BBQ myself (my parents always had one but I never had the garden space for one on my own), so this was pretty exciting. I feel like such an adult now - I have a mortgage, a Ford, and a gas BBQ.

In other outdoor news, we found these fantastic torches you can fill with citronella oil to keep the mozzies and other biting things away. Here we are, posing lovingly next to a torch.

By the way, is it hot enough for ya? I have never been so happy to be at work, only because it's air conditioned.

Friday 8 August 2003

this event was brought to you by...

I'm an ex-smoker, and even I think that this is completely insane. What's next - getting rid of brewery-sponsored events because it'll encourage us all to be alcoholics? Although I do appreciate the notion that perhaps it's slightly ironic for tobacco companies to sponsor athletic events (as smoking is a rather unhealthy habit), but to me it's no different than being sponsored by someone like McDonald's (not exactly purveyors of healthy cuisine). It's just corporate dough from big companies and the F1 brings in loads of dosh for Montreal every summer. C'mon Ottawa - put your efforts into laws that actually accomplish something useful.

Thursday 7 August 2003

a thousand times no

I understand that telephone sales people are only doing their jobs (I did it once for two weeks and it was the worst job I've ever done), but please, I'm begging you all you telesales people, learn the fine art of knowing when to hang up the phone. Someone rang from Zenith, a notriously pushy windows installation (as in actual house windows, not the blue screen of death variety running on your PC) company. I explained that we are having our windows done on Monday by Yorkshire Windows - which we are. I actually didn't make that up. At this point, telesales person should have put down the phone. Instead, she asked if she could send someone around to measure up and give us a quote. Umm but we're having our windows done on Monday, I explained. Oh yes, she understood, but it wouldn't hurt to send someone over because it's always good to shop around. There's absolutely no point in sending someone over, I said. We're definitely not interested. Okay then. But could she send someone by? HANG. UP. THE. PHONE. You have not made a sale. Move along, nothing to sell here. I finally said, in no uncertain terms, that I did not wish to have anyone round measuring anything. I understood that she has a job to do, but really, there is no point. Best of luck and hope it all goes well, and thank you she said.

Now why do I get the feeling that someone will come by at some point anyway?
and if it isn't weddings or babies...'s puppies. Just got off the phone with a breeder who has some pups available. This is great news as it seems Lab puppies are a bit hard to come by (they're a popular breed, dontcha know) and it was starting to look like we'd have quite a wait before we could get one. So the nice lady called Julie (no, not the one getting hitched in Texas) is bringing two pups by for us to choose from in the next week or two. If all goes well, we will have a furry new addition to the house - and I don't mean those dust bunnies hiding under the bed.
if it's not babies...'s weddings. Congratulations to the gorgeous Julie and the dashing (yet oddly Quorn-obsessed) Wallace who have just become engaged. In honour of their home state of Texas, I offer a yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwww in celebration. (Sorry 'bout the weird accent.)

Tuesday 5 August 2003


Not quite the frog equivalent to Glastonbury we had going here a few weeks ago, but a few little critters came back to enjoy our pond last weekend.

and it goes on

Before and after pictures of our main bathroom can be found here. Please remember to wash your hands when you're finished. Thank you.

Monday 4 August 2003

pass it on

Paul's sofa was fairly old (over 10 years old, to be more precise) and we decided to get a new one when we moved. There wasn't really anything wrong with it apart from some slightly worn cushions (and the fact that it was purchased with an ex-girlfriend, but I digress), so it seemed a shame to send it to the dump. We thought about putting an ad for it in the local paper, maybe getting a couple of quid for it or giving it to whomever could come and get it. We then realised that some charities will come and pick up donated furniture, so I rang the local chapter of the Salvation Army to see if they were interested. Sure enough, they were happy to send a volunteer over with a pickup truck the next day. A young lad (who couldn't have been more than 20 at the very most) showed up with the truck owner, and I assumed that they were doing the Salvation Army a favour by picking up the sofa for them. Sitting in the truck were two women, one of whom thanked us profusely and another young girl who was on her mobile saying how the sofa was "really nice". We realised that these people weren't just Salvation Army volunteers, this sofa was going to the young couple who came along to help move it. The older woman said that it was a big help, and the truck driver smiled and said "We've all been there, haven't we?" Most definitely.

So with the departure of the old, the new sofas arrived this morning (try not to gag too much at the carpet - the wood floors are coming soon). We've been sitting on wood and canvas folding chairs in our living room for the past 4 weeks, and I cannot describe how much I'm looking forward to planting my tuckus on a nice comfy cushion. Mmmmmmmm.