Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Writing is a Physical Act...

So you think writing is a cerebral activity, huh? Think again. Well, don't think - do.

I've been paying to be tortured lately (okay, okay, let's not go there....) by a physiotherapist. Yesterday, I think she did a handstand on one of my pec muscles. A "minor" muscle that she has decided is the real culprit in my shoulder woes. A few months ago my "typing" arm rebelled and refused to move at all. I looked like a chicken with my elbow pinned to my side. I've worked through all that, but now am left without a certain range of motion that I want to regain in order to best enjoy kayaking this summer (more about that later).

Okay, what's this got to do with writing beyond my not being able to type at the keyboard? Well, I've learned I have a repetitive injury caused by using a mouse, hunching at the computer, sitting improperly, and over-using shoulder muscles instead of using back muscles. I'm supposed to get up out of the chair and dance around and do wild crazy actions with my shoulders when I write. So I pass that writing tip along to you.

I'm also supposed to remember to press down my shoulder blades, and tuck in my chin in an unflattering posture. And I have a whole slew of teensy weensy silly exercises to do at the gym alongside the guys and gals lifting those really big weights. There's me, sitting on a weight bench and rolling one of those big exercise balls (straight from the old TV series "The Prisoner") in little tiny circles with my palm...

Okay, now the real reason for writing. A few months ago I posted a piece about bidding on an eBay kayak, so that those of you so inclined might get away from your computers, and join me on the river. I had decided I "needed" another kayak to add to my collection so that I could put you guys (one by one, and not all at the same time) in a stable light rec boat that wouldn't tip unless you did something really silly, like standing up and dancing in it. I lost the bidding war.

Anyway, yesterday I bid on another brand new eBay boat and it's mine! I pick it up in a few days. So, anyone want to join me (and BB too) for a short paddle on the river or at a conservation area sometime? And if your body rebels, paddling or writing, I know a really good torturer, er, physiotherapist...

-Xena, aka Marianne

Friday, March 24, 2006

Writers - Be Yourselves! You just never know...

We have a new Canadian writer star up here in the Frozen North - Paul Haggis, born in London, Ontario, winner of best original screenplay at this year's Academy Awards for Crash which also won Best Picture. He was also nominated for the script of Million Dollar Baby, which he also wrote. Which won Best Picture last year.

Haggis says he never believed either Crash or Million Dollar Baby would make it to the silver screen because his topics were offbeat and even slightly depressing.

"When I wrote Million Dollar Baby and Crash, I didn't believe either one of them would ever get made," he says. "Crash - I figured no one would ever make it. It had all these characters. It was about race relations and fear and intolerance. Who'd want to see that? I thought my grandchildren would read these scripts and go 'Oh look, grandpa tried to get into the movies? Isn't that cute?' "

However, Crash and other serious best-film contenders of recent days came at a time when society began looking inward, he said. "I think audiences are ready now. We're in a time of war, and you either go in one of two directions," Haggis said. "You either head off and escape, or you start asking questions. And all the terrific films this year asked important questions about who we are, and I guess that's what we were trying to do as well."

Haggis' next project is a film entitled Flags of our Fathers. It is based on the story of six men who raised the US flag on Iwo Jima during the Second World War. Haggis wrote the script. I'm definitely going to see it. After I see Crash.

The point of this BLOG is to say to all you wonderful writers out there, be yourself, write from the heart, and don't be put off your path by anything if you believe in what you are writing. Because that's what makes good writing. Heart and soul. Your own special variety.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Who Invented the Boycott?

In the 1800s much of the land in Ireland was owned by absentee English landlords. These landlords would appoint a local agent to administer their lands, setting a fixed income (rent) to be remitted. Naturally, the rents were quite high and Irish tenants were hard pressed. The state of British law was such that tenants were unable to get redress for injustices. The high rents meant that there were many evictions. This, combined with self-conscious Irish nationalism, led to much unrest, the seeds of later violence and terrorism.

In the late 1870s the leadership of the Irish Home Rule Party in the British Parliament was assumed by a Protestant nationalist named Charles Stewart Parnell. In this period, Parnell was masterful at manipulating Parliament (a balance of power situation) to make British governance of Ireland both difficult and near the top of the agenda.

"However, though a fanatic in the cause of Irish independence, Parnell was against the more extreme forms of violence and terrorism. The technique he recommended in dealing with tenant evictions was social ostracism rather than the barn burning, cattle mutilation, and murder adopted on a large scale by his countrymen. Anyone who assisted an unjust eviction or took over a farm made available by such an eviction was to be treated as a social leper. One of the first victims of this treatment was a land agent named Charles Boycott, whose ostracism added a new word to the English language." (Quote from The Norton History of Modern Europe, 1971 edition, p. 1146.)

Parnell was jailed and became an Irish nationalist martyr, as so many have done since. However, his reputation was later tarnished because of an affair with a married woman, which caused a split within the Home Rule party when he refused to step down as leader.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Truly I Say To You Spring Is Here

There are true signs. Now I am not promising that there won't be snow anymore. I am not promising temperatures won't sink below freezing anymore. And I am not promising there won't be a winterstorm anymore. King Winter likely still has tricks on his sleeve. He is a hard one to defeat. He likes to be all powerful. But undeniably Spring Maiden is here. And Mother Nature knows it.

Early one morning just as the sun was rising...that was this morning, I set out into the slowly thinning mist with my true and faithful friend Simon. For those who may be uninformed, Simon is a dog. A golden retriever.

We went through te woods, where squirrels and birds were awakening. A tricky feat for the feet. Climbing a still icy hill takes concentration. Balancing on uneven icy trails not much better. But like magic, where no people feet have stomped down snow, there is grassy ground, springy and wet to greet those feet, longing to be free, but wisely encased in Wellies.

So you want me to come to the point, you impatient ones. Well walking by the Duck Pond, I heard them. I was pretty sure. My heart skipped a beat. But was I right? I tarried, looked up into the trees but there was no visual sign. And on I went, listening to bird sounds all around, Chickadees, Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, Cardinals, bossy Crows, and the itty bitty chirpings everywhere of Finches and Sparrows. Quite a symphony.

The trail I followed is one I often do. It takes an hour and a half, but this lovely morning I made it last a good two hours, stopping often to see new growths already appearing in sheltered nooks . A saucy Robin ran ahead of me on the path. Then flew up and settled on a backyard fence. And then, and then... I heard it again. Quite distinctly. I looked up, way up, and there was... No, not Rusty, you silly ones who used to watch The Friendly Giant, but the true messenger of spring, a Red Winged Blackbird.

And I saw the beginnings of lilies, those big orange ones, little greenish yellow sprouts sunning near a backyard fence by the creek. And in my own little wilderness yard in front of the house, tiny green sprouts are pushing up, the beginnings of crocusses, daffo-down-dillies and the likes, and miraculously, very astonishing to me, the snowbells that flowered in the mild month of January and got dumped on with snow followed by arctic temperatures, came from under that snow and frost, like it never happened. There they are, slender and beautiful, strong enough to defy King Winter, like true sisters of Spring Maiden.

The mist slowly lifted and slanted sunrays broke through boughs of trees. A beautiful day is born holding in its aura the promise of spring.

Simon now lies outside in front of the house. Greeting all that pass by. His coat is shimmering golden in the sun. True gold. Life and warm. Nothing like a yellow metal kind of gold.

And here is a wish for a good weekend to all you bloggers, from a spring feverish Wild Thing.


My fascination with Afghanistan began in the 1970’s. Centuries ago Kabul was a cradle of civilization where Buddhists, Christians and Muslims mixed in every day life. Universities of higher learning existed in Kabul before Cartier sailed up the St Lawrence River. Tolerance and education is a small footnote in the timeline of Afghanistan. Its geographical location was an intersection where cultures have collided for over two thousand years.

Contrary to what some Afghan historians would have us believe, Afghanistan was not converted to Islam the moment the Prophet breathed the word. Conversion was a slow and brutal process that took a 1,000 years. So its history is interesting because it involves the unravelling of a highly sophisticated civilization. Kabul the once tolerant society existed before our ancestors had yet heard any word of Christianity.

A clash of cultures occurs today not through geography but through our communication technologies. There is a question of whether Canadians should be there or not. The answer for me depends on the mission. If we are there to fight a “War on Terrorism” then the mission is ill designed. If we are in Afghanistan with a small hope of creating the opportunity where tolerance can gain a small foothold then the mission is a noble one. A difficult mission that may succeed or fail. Our intentions define our nature. What is our intent?


Friday, March 03, 2006

Moment of Supreme Power or How I crashed an entire corporations' email system

My fellow computer users may find this amusing:

I have an external email address at work for volunteer recruitment –

Three years ago, I had our computer blokes set up an automatic response to this email address, stating to anyone writing that I had received their email and would respond shortly – a courtesy thing.

Today, my automatic response hooked up with a sender’s out of office notice, and got into an endless loop. I went to lunch at 12 noon, got my hair cut, did office errands, came back at 2 pm and there were 30,959 emails in my inbox. To make matters worse, the endless loop had crashed the entire email system of the Corporation – including internal and external emails. I.T. could not alert anyone about the problem because they couldn’t send an email either. Neither could the mayor, the CAO or anyone else. Everyone in our department was in a snit, running up and down the halls complaining.

I noticed my inbox immediately, and called IT and they tried to fix it. But only after they tried to blame me for the problem. Until I pointed out that they had set up the protocols for that automatic response themselves - I had nothing to do with how it was set up.

When I left at 5 pm, I still had 9059 emails left in that inbox.

I never did tell the people in my department the reason why their emails didn’t work. Or anyone else, for that matter, except I.T.


Upon reflection, I realize that today was the one day, the one moment, actually, when I actually had real POWER for the first time since I started working there in 1982 … Smile…

Little Lulu strikes again...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

parallel universes

You know how I suggested that there may be life on other planets we cannot see, or sense, or perceive at all? And Larry said that that is like Buddah thinking.

I received this e-mail from Michele, a friend, on parallel universes.

Physicist explores possibility of parallel universes
Researching gravity offers weight to theories of unknown dimensions

Physicist Lisa Randall says parallel universes may really exist.

WATERLOO (Mar 2, 2006)
Parallel universes. Other-worldly dimensions.
That's weird stuff of Star Trek and other science fiction shows.
But while trying to answer puzzling questions about gravity, the force that keeps us on the ground, Lisa Randall, a Harvard theoretical physicist, has also journeyed into the possibilities of parallel universes.
And her theories could be tested.
Randall, who spoke in Waterloo during last night's public lecture put on by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, does not believe we can travel to these other universes.
They would be radically different to our own. Any life there would be unlike anything we can perceive, she adds.
But she has good reasons to believe other dimensions and universes exist.
Better still, she thinks there may be solid scientific evidence coming when the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva is switched on in 2007.
"There really could be extra dimensions and that has big implications," she says. "Cosmologically, we could be living in a much bigger universe."
Randall is considered one of today's most promising theoretical physicists. Her work is frequently cited in scientific journals.
Ever since her popular book, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, was published, she has been on a hectic public lecture tour.
Everyone is familiar with the three "dimensions" of our space. We can move left or right, backward and forward, up and down.
But there could be other universes that have with fewer or more "degrees of freedom," Randall says.
It is nearly impossible to imagine this. But Randall says 19th-century author Edwin A. Abbott provided a good analogy in his book, Flatland.
Abbott imagined a creature that could only exist on a flat surface. He wondered what that creature would see if a big ball from our universe passed through his two-dimensional world. The creature wouldn't be able to see a ball. He would see a series of flat disks on his horizon, changing in size as the ball passed through.
Likewise, we could not see something from another dimension, but we might be able to see its effects in our world, Randall says.
The standard model of physics explains electrons, protons, neutrons and other particles, as well as forces of nature like electromagnetism. And physicist Albert Einstein demonstrated how big objects like the earth can warp the fabric of spacetime to produce the force that we know of as gravity.
Yet "big puzzles" remain, she says.
Scientists would like a "grand unified theory" to explain all particles and forces in our universe, including gravity, in one package.
But to make the mathematics work out, they need to insert a big "fudge factor" into their equations. This "fudge" is 16 digits in size, Randall says. "So the question is, 'What's going on?' "
In her work, Randall builds "models" of spacetime with other dimensions that provide intriguing answers. One of the questions she is trying to answer is why gravity is so weak compared with other forces. Although people think gravity is strong, a tiny magnet can pick up a paperclip, she says.
Randall says gravity might be weak in our universe, but strong elsewhere.
One concept Randall has explored is the idea of a "brane," which comes from the word "membrane." In this concept, our three-dimensional universe could be imagined as floating in a "higher-dimensional" space. And this larger "space" could contain other universes, other branes, as well.
Imagine an Oreo cookie -- two flat surfaces with cream in between. The two flat surfaces are branes. The cream is the "bulk" of higher dimensional space we can't see. These two branes may only be separated by a fraction of a centimetre, but we are stuck on our own surface, so we can't see the other brane, Randall says.
The particles of our world are restricted to our brane, she adds. "You can imagine it like a shower curtain that has water droplets stuck on it."
But gravity is a force affected by the entire geometry of the larger space.
In the giant particle-smashing machine that opens in Geneva next year, scientists hope to create particles that might have properties that could be predicted to exist if they were affected by gravity from another dimension.
"That would be strong evidence that these extra dimensions exist," she says. Her work doesn't have practical applications right now.
Einstein's theory of gravity didn't have practical applications at the time, but today, it is used to make the global positioning system (GPS) of satellites function, she says.
So as scientists learn about the bigger picture, "you never know what will happen."

For me this confirms a lot of my own wild thinking. Thought I like to share it as a continuation of that discussion we had before

Wild Thing

Marking a Memory

It occurs to mean that many people may not have the same memories as I about specific moments. For each of us we may have different functions for memories. I remember the repairs that were done in a specific building 10-15 years ago. Part of remembering my past is part survival, and part how I make a living so my ability to remember details is highly valued by others.

Through out life I am aware of making memories and not in a manipulative way but in way I can find and access those moments. I mark the trail so I can find moments that I want or need to remember. How do you mark the trail? I have travelled in woods, deserts and have paddled in lakes where it is easy to get lost. I mark my way with stones or twigs at reasonable intervals so I can find my way back.

The same aspects of marking the trail can be done with moments and memories. We each have different ways of accessing moments. Netty for instance might write a poem or story about a hike she had and what she saw and felt. In essence she has marked her trail.

Seeing is a good method of establishing landmarks. Often we don't really see the world with our hearts and minds or open up to the full experience of how extraordinary a moment can be. I don’t advocate carving initials in trees or spray painting rocks. My type of land marking is something that no other traveler may notice.

To see and to actually make a landmark for a moment the first thing you need to do is SHUT UP! The story of us is constantly being told and retold in our head. That story makes us unaware of the moment. We miss out on how sunlight dances on water, the feeling of warmth on our skin and the distant song of a bird high in a tree.

I don’t advocate high drama to mark a moment either although it does have a role to play on occasion. I think the biggest way I ever marked a summer afternoon was to jump off a train bridge with a friend. I will never forget him and that day.