Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We're having a heatwave.......

For some reason I have Ella Fitzgerald in my head singing the Cole Porter classic "we're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave..." In my previous blog from last weekend, I was bitching about the cold and rain during the May longweekend last week. Well, welcome to Toronto! where in a week we have had temperatures jump to 33 degrees celsius with a humidex of 42 degrees. Which means when you are outside it feels as if it is 42 degrees! It is just after 10am here in Toronto and already it is 28 degrees celsius. God bless Global warming or whatever is causing this! We have a smog alert and it is just hot, humid and nasty outside. As a true north girl, I really hate this heat and humidity...I can't wait til fall and winter. I don't mind this type of heat if I am in a place like Florida or the Caribbean where you at least have some cool breezes coming in from the ocean. Here all we have is concrete and tall buildings. As we are situated on the very large lake Ontario you would think we would get some cool breezes but we have built up the waterfront with so many towers and condominiums there is nowhere for the breezes to blow! (the waterfront mess, i will save for a future blog) As a city we do have a lot of trees but I fear with this heat and smog they are suffering and not able to perform their task of keeping the air as fresh and cool as they used to.

To make matters worse, our wonderful TTC (public transit) workers decided to walk off the job yesterday holding the city to ransom. It caused sheer gridlock throughout the city and almost 1 million people had to find alternate ways to get to work. Walking to work in 42 degree humidex temperatures is not fun. Thank god i was lucky enough to get a lift in from JB in our air conditioned car and my co-worker Platt gave me lift home in his airconditioned car. Bet all the extra cars on the road made the air even better! The photo shows the thousands of stranded commuters walking up Bay Street from the train station.

Temperatures are supposed to go down to a more reasonable 23/24 degrees by tomorrow and through to the rest of the week and the Mayor legislated all the workers back to work last night.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Against All Odds Scotland is going to the World Cup

I was listening to my favorite radio sports show "off the ball" this morning (see link at left as today's show was particularly funny). There is a big debate brewing in the UK over who Scotland should support in the World Cup as most Scots do not want to support the "Auld Enemy" aka England. Heavens to Betsy it seems this years world cup even has Rangers and Celtic fans agreeing on who to back as many of them appear to be backing Sweden as both Gers and Celtic Clubs employ players from Sweden. Many Scots are joining in supporting Trinidad and Tobago, during this years world cup as a quarter of the Trinidad and Tobago squad play for Scottish club teams, including Jason Scotland who scored the second goal in the 3-2 win over Austrian club champions Vienna on Tuesday in Graz.

Jason is now the new face of Irn-Bru and BBC Scotland Channel 4 has done a series of advertisements to be aired on television with the theme: Against All Odds Scotland is going to the World Cup!

The visual shows an empty bus coming to a stop and a lone passenger boarding. He is Jason Scotland, the Soca Warrior striker, and he is wearing a red Soca Warrior T-shirt, the back of which reads: Scotland.

The advertisement is accompanied by a song Tartan Army and T&T.


I am putting my money on Scotland in this years World Cup!

Friday, May 26, 2006

No rest for the wicked

It has been a particularly crazy week at work and I am still working 14 hours after I started this morning. The only break I have had today was when I drove home. When I got home I had to log in to my lap top via VPN to continue working on some issues. I can honestly say at least my job is never boring but I am beginning to wonder what the symptoms are for a nervous breakdown!! Does it include sheer exhaustion and one eye twitching? LOL I got to work this morning and with my usual optimism thought "it's Friday,nothing is going to happen today as the last four Fridays have been sheer hell". I jinxed it!

On the way in to the office I thought I should pick up a couple of movies before all the good rentals are sold out and my only choice would be "Big Momma's House 2" of which, god help me, they had TONS of copies. Thankfully, there were still some good movies left and I was able to rent "Narnia" and "Munich" I had every intention of watching at least one of the DVD's tonight but duty called. Ever so understanding and patient about the sometimes ridiculous demands of my job, JB was happy to just order a pizza and forgo watching one of the movies. He just popped his new NHL Xbox game in and proceeded to play hockey until I am done with my Wireless Networks Gateway switch emergency!

On the subject of Munich, I was very small when that event happened but I remember my parents watching the Olympics. I remember my Mother suddenly bursting into tears and I can remember the ABC anchorman in his gold jacket. I remember my mother crying and saying to my Dad "oh my god, who could do such a thing, how can this be happening" I have some vague recollections of the subsequent news casts and I remember it being a traumatic event for many in our neighborhood as quite a few neighbor's were Polish or Austrian Jews who had escaped or survived concentration camps during WW2. They had come to Canada to try and forget, and to make a better life for themselves and their children and this was all over the TV newscasts. It was the beginning of immediate feedback via television about an ongoing tragedy long before CNN. Very interested to see how the film portrays this horrible event.

Narnia is another film I have been dying to see as I am a huge fan of CS Lewis (should update my profile to say that) I read the Chronicles of Narnia when I was younger but may read them again as it has been so long since I first read them. I remember my sister going crazy over "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe".

I find the actress Tilda Swinton fascinating. She plays the White Witch in the movie Narnia. She is such an interesting actress and has played so many diverse roles. We recently rented the movie "Broken Flowers" and watched the entire film, of which she was listed as being in, and had to search through it again as she was unrecognizable as the character Penny. If you have not seen "Broken Flowers" it is worth a watch. She is also excellent in the movie "Constantine" as the Angel Gabriel.

I am crazy for all of those heaven and hell, good vs evil, signs of Revelations and the Apocalypse films.

My faves are :

Constantine (JB the film buff thinks this is a crap movie, he is not a fan of Keanu)

Stigmata....great performance by Gabriel Byrne

End of Days.... hate Schwarzenegger but love Gabriel Byrne

Seventh Seal...can't stand Demi Moore but love this flick....Jurgen Prochnow is great as mystery man David Bannon.

JMacK signing off............

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pet Peeve

Short blog today...Too much going on in the world of wireless taking up my time.

Decided to walk down the road and take the streetcar (red rocket) to the subway and then a short subway ride down to the office. The one thing that I hate about Public transit is the "public" aspect of it. The last few times I have taken the subway or streetcar I invariably end up standing beside some person who clearly does not own a shower nor have they heard of anti-perspirant. This morning the streetcar was not busy yet I felt the presence of someone within my "personal zone". This person felt the need to stand right in my space and then decided to cough up a lung without covering their mouth. Gee, thanks, this is just what I needed. Your nasty filthy germs coughed right into my face.

off to another dysfunctional,drama filled meeting. I am taking no prisoners! Typhoid Mary, from the streetcar, has put me in a foul mood.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Empire Biscuits

Empire Biscuit = The Russians have caviar, the French fine wine, but beating them all, the Scots have the delicious Empire Biscuit. The biscuit has a layer of jam in between two shortbread biscuits and the top is covered with white water icing, usually decorated with a small jelly sweet (known as a "jube jube")or candied cherry half in the center.

The name was originally German biscuits; however, with the outbreak of World War I it was renamed to empire biscuits, a reference to the British Empire. They are also known in some parts as 'Belgian (or just Belgium) Biscuits.

If you grew up with Scottish parents, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles you are very familiar with the Empire Biscuit. Empire biscuits were always around our house and my Grandmother in Glasgow always made the best. Not able to find a good Scottish bakery in Toronto anymore (where did they all go?)I became extremely excited when JB and I decided to drive to the wineries and stay at Niagara on the Lake (see previous posts). I said to JB "Ooooo Niagara on the Lake, know what that means? Empire biscuits from the Niagara Home Bakery!!" As there are less and less bakeries in Toronto specializing in the needs and tastes of ex-pat Scots (it appears all the older Scottish bakers have retired with their millions and moved to Bermuda or someplace)it means that if I am craving an Empire Biscuit I have to make the hour and a half trek out to Niagara on the Lake to hit the Niagara Home bakery. This Bakery, in photo above, appears to have not changed since it opened. I was reading that they used to make their deliveries via horse and cart. Inside are all sorts of Scottish and English baked goods for purchase. Treacle scones, scottish meat pies, cornish pasties are all available to munch while you walk around the town.

JB and I arrived in Niagara on the Lake on Sunday and he said "do you want to go to the bakery now" to which I replied "no, lets check in to the hotel and I can go to the Bakery tomorrow" Imagine my horror when I walked down the street from our hotel on Monday morning and upon approaching the bakery noticed it seemed quite dark inside and when I got to the door found it to be LOCKED and only then looked up at the sign stating "closed on Mondays". I looked at JB in utter confusion..."locked? closed on Mondays? how can this be?? It's a holiday Monday, look at all the tourists, how can they be closed?" I then stuck my face on the large front window and peered in still not believing the place was closed..... and there sitting in the window display almost mocking me, was a huge tray of Empire biscuits! My heart sank, no biscuits and no Barr's Irn Brew for me! Swearing under my breath I crossed the road and decided I would do some window shopping. I walked by the usual tourist trap souvenir shops, a few restaurants and then walked by the ice cream shop. I thought "wow, that place is busy. How are that many people eating ice cream in this cold, crappy weather?"...I walked on a few steps then something hit me, did I see Empire biscuits in that window?....I stopped backtracked back to the ice cream shop and it turns out that the ice cream shop is also a bakery! A bakery with meat pies, cornish pasties, scones and EMPIRE BISCUITS! I imagine they decided to take the overflow from the closed on Mondays, Niagara Home bakery. I snapped up a half a dozen of the beauties and I am having one now with my tea for a break from my insanely hectic day. These biscuits are pretty good but the Niagara Home Bakery still makes the best Empire biscuits, after my Gran's of course.

Monday, May 22, 2006

May Two Four...don't forget your Parka!!

Well, our weekend in Niagara on the Lake was lovely except for the weather! We stopped at numerous wineries on the drive through the Niagara Region on the way to our hotel, a "Vintage Inn" called Queen's Landing (photo above)

Niagara on the Lake is a National Historic District and the town has been left with many original buildings and homes dating back to the 1790's. It is also the home of the Shaw Festival which each year features live plays featuring the works of George Bernard Shaw. When we decided to take this mini-trip last week we had plans to play golf, sit on patios and sip wine or beer. Alas, the weather gods (see the weather pixie to your right) were not on our side this weekend. It was freezing cold and rained all day yesterday and although today was relatively sunny it was damn cold. Now, as a "true north strong and free" Canadian I can handle the cold. I can take walking outside in -25 windchill in January but by May long weekend I expect to be sitting on a patio drinking with my summer skirt and sandals on NOT a coat, turtle neck and long pants. I guess in some respects it was a fair trade off that when we checked in to the Queen's Landing Hotel our front desk clerk, Miguel offered to upgrade our standard room to a king size bed with jacuzzi/spa bathroom, fireplace and a view of the beautiful Niagara River. The room was massive and for an extra $25 more for a room that would normally go for $200 more than our standard room I wasn't going to complain too much. Thanks Miguel! The fireplace came in handy on Sunday night.

We did manage to get a golf game in at a par 3-9 hole course called Oak Hall. A nice course with beautiful grounds and a large stone mansion by the second tee (see link). Much to JB's protestations about it being too cold and my counterpointing "look, we are going to play damn it we made plans to play so let's play. Besides, we won't be too cold when we start swinging and walking the course. It will warm up, see the sun is starting to peek out" Suffice to say, it didn't get that much warmer and JB is such a trooper sometimes for going along with my whacky ideas. He even ended up playing a better game than me. We finished up our game and headed back to Niagara on the Lake to get a pint and some lunch before driving back to Toronto.

Back to work tomorrow and hopefully some warmer weather is coming! Would post more about the wineries and wines we tried and purchased but I am in a post vino, rich food and fresh air fatigue zone. The ol' noggin is not performing optimally at the moment but will say that Peninsula Ridge ,in the photo below, was one of my favorite wineries on our drive through wine country this past weekend.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sally Forth! See you next year in Helsinki!

It's nice to see the extras from "Army of Darkness" have found more work.....

Congratulations to this years Eurovision song contest winners "Lordi" who won this years contest with their song " Hard Rock Hallelujah". The eponymous lead singer Mr. Lordi has miniature skulls on his kneecaps whose eyes light up red, his microphone is attached to the handle of a battleaxe and he has devil horns protruding from his head. It’s not exactly Abba. Despite their frightening appearance, there’s something really likeable about the group and the crowd really warmed to them. Lordi are described as a melodic, heavy metal band.

Eurovision is an annual event and the contest takes place in the city of the previous years winner. The contest has been ongoing since 1956 and past winners have included Domenico Modugno who won with the song "Nel blu, di pinto di blu" better known here in North America as "Volare". Julio Iglesias was a winner in 1970 and Abba were the big winners in 1974 with their song "Waterloo". The majority of contestants from this year were no different than previous years competitors and included the requisite gorgeous 20 something girls and good looking boy band types singing songs such as "why angels cry" and "together we are one" but it was to be "Hard Rock Hallelujah" sung by Lordi that was the crowd favorite.

Such an outcome to a popular singing contest would never happen here in North America. Here in North America popular music's content is driven by market as well as aesthetic forces. Pop is designed to appeal to everyone and doesn't come from any particular place or mark off any particular taste. Although not a fan of heavy metal, like it or not Heavy Metal has a huge world following and I am glad to see a group like this win as all musical tastes deserve to be recognized and validated for their listeners.

To view Lordi's winning performance from the Eurovision Competition click here It's a catchy tune!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Happy Victoria Day

Well, a sure sign that summer is on it's way is the Victoria Day long weekend.

Typically here in Ontario it is the first weekend for the cottagers (people who own cottages outside of city) to head out of town and open up their cottages for the summer. They clog up all the highways with their packed cars, so packed that they can barely see in their rear view mirrors and thus chaos usually ensues on the highways leading out of the city. Since JB and I do not own cottage, we have decided to trek down to Niagara on the Lake but we are going to wait and leave tomorrow when the highways will be less busy and safe from frantic cottagers. We are going to hit some wineries, stay at a nice inn called Queen's Landing and hopefully we can catch some cool fireworks to celebrate the old queen's birthday.

Recently there have been discussions about changing the name of this holiday or moving the holiday to later in the month to align with the American Memorial Day weekend. Wee Scunner objects to this and really must question why we should be obligated to remove all remnants of our Canadian Heritage and worse adopt the same long weekend as the U.S. so that big business can all have the same day off! Even worse, I am amazed at the suggestions of some Canadians and politicians in this country who suggest we completely remove all reference to the British influence and forming of this country and change the name of Victoria Day to some lame ass name such as Heritage Day, which is ironic since Queen Victoria is an important figure in our Canadian heritage. It is a part of our history which should not be changed.

See you all on Simcoe Day!


Friday, May 19, 2006

Comic Irony

How ironic that a 1980's, White House sponsored, anti drug and alcohol video called "Stop the Madness" would feature so many known alcoholics and drug addicts. It is quite funny to see a very young Whitney Houston singing oh so sincerely about how "drugs are causing pain and everyone's a loser in this deadly game that's played" The best is known alcoholic David Hasselhof coming to life from one of his own posters. Not sure what video Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks he is in??

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An Evening with David Suzuki

Living in Canada we are so privileged to have an individual such as Dr. David Suzuki as a fellow Canadian. I believe a good majority of Canadians have grown up watching his various shows and regular series such as "The Nature of Things" shown regularly on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

My friend PZ a.k.a. "Biodiversity Babe" forwarded me the following info about an upcoming Toronto event featuring Dr. David Suzuki.

An evening with David Suzuki
Toronto, Ontario
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Are you concerned about the health of our oceans?

If you're in the Toronto area at the end of May, join life-long fisherman and scientist David Suzuki for an interactive evening of discussion on the state of Canada's oceans.

Whether it's fresh from the market or straight from your grocer's freezer, it's important to know where your fish comes from and how to choose sustainable options for the good of our oceans and ourselves.

Renowned biologist, Dr. Ransom Myers, Killam Chair in Ocean Studies at Dalhousie University, will join Dr. Suzuki for an in-depth look at the health of the high seas. Dr. Myers will share his expertise on the topics of deep-sea trolling, sustainable fisheries and Canada's role in protecting our oceans.

See you there!

When: 8 p.m. till 9:30 p.m. (Doors open at 7:40 p.m.), Wednesday May 31, 2006
Location: Theatre Digital, 555 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, Ontario (click here for map)
Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for children, seniors and students with valid ID.
Available at the door or in advance through Ticketmaster by phone at 416-870-8000 or online at: ticketmaster.ca

For more information, e-mail: fishforever@davidsuzuki.org

When Stressed take it out on G Wubya

For some odd reason this works...It is oddly calming and addicting. Fling George Wubya's body in the air only to watch him smash in to the solid bubbles and then squish him in between the spaces only to watch him fly through the air again and hit more solid bubbles...

Give it a try. click here

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I pity the fool who gets Murdock's blood

Cyberspace is a funny place. It really makes you wonder about the gullibility and intelligence of a good majority of the population. A co-worker forwarded me a hilarious link to Stuffo The Stuffo team decided to see if they could build a new "A - Team" from scratch and to help them with this mission they decided to place a job posting on Craigslist an online classified ads for various cities in the U.S.

It would appear that some poor souls thought the job posting was for real. Some of the responses by potential applicants are hilarious. Granted, some of the respondents did clue in to the hoax and offered up responses such as "did you also need a film crew to document the whole thing". They were joking, right?

My favorite "applicant" is Berny S who offered his services as a pilot but asks "does the "bouncer type" also have to be the welder? Good luck with that. Bouncer types are generally not too bright"

Surely he must be joking.....

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Golf has probably kept more people sane than Psychiatrists have"

A large number of my family were/are golfers. My Grandfather, who lived in Scotland, played every day. It helped that he lived across the street from a golf course in Glasgow. He also played regularly with his friends at the famous "Old Course" in St. Andrews. My Mother learned to play from my Grandfather and she was a very competent golfer. She scored two holes in one over the years, one of them with her 2 iron! She would constantly tell me to take up the sport. "You will be a natural" look at the rest of the family and she would list off all the names of cousins who were club champions and junior club champions and remind me how great my Father was at any sport he took up. Being a teenager means not always listening to your parents. I wanted to do my own thing and it involved equestrian, not golf. When we would go to Scotland in the summers to visit my Grandparents my Mother would always suggest that I go with my Grandfather to the golf course and my Grandfather would happily take me with him and let me practice putting on the practice greens as he stressed the importance of a good short game. Looking back I should have listened to my Mother and Grandfather as we would have been able to play together during my teens and 20's. We would have had quite a few years to spend playing golf together.

My foray back on to the golf course occurred last July when I was roped into playing for a corporate event with colleagues from work. The event was at the very swank Eagles Nest Golf Course. Both my Grandfather and my Mother must have been looking down from above that day and just shaking their heads whispering "with that swing! maybe she is adopted". Now, granted Eagles Nest is not a beginners course but I was simply awful! Something had to be done! I had to become better at this game (wee scunner can be quite competitive) So,I decided to sign up for lessons. When I mentioned to two of my girlfriends that I was planning on taking lessons they were both extremely interested and mentioned that they have always wanted to learn how to play but were afraid to go alone. For the past year we meet each Sunday at 10am for our hour lesson with Paul, the Golf Pro. And after our first 18 hole game together last Friday we are hooked! We are looking forward to many years of golf together to keep us active and young.

Although it can be frustrating when you are not having a good game I still find it a great stress reliever from the day to day craziness of my life. During those 2 or 3 hours on the course I find peacefulness and tranquility with no cell phones, no traffic, no horrible reminders of the tragedies that are ongoing in this world. I don't have to think about anything other than focusing on making myself a better player and enjoying the pastoral scenes all around me.

To quote essayist Robert Lynd: It is almost impossible to remember how tragic a place this world is when one is playing golf.

King Kong and on and on and on and on and on.....

Wee Scunner's better half ( JB) rented two movies for us to watch this weekend. "The Family Stone" which was a lovely film and very enjoyable to watch. I loved the quirky characters, loved the writing and the performances were great.

The second movie was "King Kong" the remake of the 1933 film. Having seen the original many, many times, I did not understand how over an hour into the film the characters had still not sailed off for skull island in search of Kong the "8th Wonder of the World". The original King Kong runs a short, exciting hour and a bit. As a child, I remember being terrified each time I watched the old black and white version. It was fast paced and the musical score helped to make the movie even more exciting and dramatic. It had the quick, intelligent banter typical of films from that era. This new version by Peter Jackson is too long!! Although it is somewhat respectful of the original 1933 version and includes some funny references to the original film and even to Fay Wray the lead actress in the original film. Everything appears to be over explained in this version. I have noticed this a lot in movies these days. Have we become stupider since the 1930's or is it that movies have become so expensive to make as well as to go and see that they must be jam packed with as much special effects as possible while over explaining each characters situation or motivation in each scene? Does this ensure that they get as many tickets purchased as possible? I don't need all the dots connected for me. I can pretty much figure it out. I really think that movie makers understimate the intelligence of the movie going public.

Suffice to say, it is not a good sign when I get up and go off to clean the bathroom and then check e mails, after a movie has started. That is usually my sign to JB, the film buff, that I have pretty much given up on a film and my doing this usually illicits the "what? you are giving up on the film already?" response. Interestingly enough JB seemed to be as bored as I was with the film but he gets kudos for sitting through the entire film without taking a break.


Watch the original instead, it won't insult your intelligence as much as I felt this version did mine and you will also gain another hour and a half of your life to watch another great film from the 1930's.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"The Fix" was not in.......

This past weekend was the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby. The Derby( "daahrbee" as my parents used to pronounce it) was an important sporting event in our family. My Father loved to watch the race along with the two other races that make up the triple crown(the Preakness and the Belmont). He wanted all of us to love what he and many others have called "the most exciting 2 mins in sport".

Derby day at our house was an interactive activity for us as children except for my brother who was too cool for such nonsense. My Dad would make it interesting and fun by putting all of the horses names in one of his fishing hats and having us put up $1 from our allowance as a wager. For some reason our Mother seemed to win quite a few years in a row and looking back on this my sister and I joked that the fix was in between our parents "it was a plot to get our allowance money back".

In May of 1973 "the fix " was not in..... as usual my Dad had written all of the horses names on strips of paper and thrown them in his fishing hat. My Mother was always given first pick and then my sister, myself and then my Dad. We would continue to make our picks out of the hat until we had depleted all of the folded up paper strips from the hat. It had started to get quite dramatic as one particular name had not been pulled out of the hat yet. The hat was passed to me, I put my hand in and moved around the few pieces of paper that were left and pulled out my next pick. I noticed that this particular piece of paper felt thicker than the other folded up choices I had just made. I thought " hmmm this horse must have a really long name" I slowly unraveled the paper and saw the first two letters and I immediately knew the pot of money was going to be mine as there on the strip of paper in my Dad's neat handwriting was the name SECRETARIAT

Secretariat was a revered sports figure in our house. My father loved many sports and loved and respected many great athletes and he considered Secretariat a great athlete. My Dad seemed to have a special fondness for "Big Red". I think he admired Secretariats personality. If you think a horse cannot have a personality trust me this horse did. He seemed to know he was a great horse. He was confident, stubborn and almost swaggered when he walked in the post parades before his races. My father loved strong, honest and confident personalities. For him these were important qualities to have. When Secretariat passed away in 1989 it was one of the few times that my Dad actually called me at work as he wanted to "give me the sad news".

My Dad and I would continue to watch the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont together for many, many years after the "Great Derby Race of 1973". I wasn't always able to get home to watch the Belmont or the Preakness but I always tried to make the time to watch the Derby with my Dad. I guess it was part of his "quality time" with one of his daughters. The Derby along with the Superbowl was the one event we would alway try to watch together each year. Once the field was set, we would go over the names of the entrants and look at which jockey was riding which horse and my Dad would study the bloodlines of the "hot contenders" and of course the odds. I would always ask him "which horse are you liking this year Dad" and he would give me a few names he felt were potential winners but he would always complete that thought with "he looks like a pretty good horse but he's no Secretariat"

My Dad passed away in April of 2004 and I always find myself missing him more than usual during Kentucky Derby weekend. This years winner was Barbaro, a dark bay colt and not an overwhelming favorite. As my Dad would say "he's a pretty good horse but he's no secretariat"