Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Zoom asked at her blog the other day, what did you believe when you were a little kid? I can't remember anything I "believed" that wasn't supported by evidence. Of course, I am pretty sure my parents never told us stuff that wasn't true, except maybe for Santa Claus and even then, I was like that kid in "Miracle on 34th Street". Even though I had read stories where there were monsters under the bed or that the kids in the stories believed there were monsters, I never thought there were because, 1) there are no monsters ("Aliens" notwithstanding), and 2) I always found an explanation for the mysterious or unknown. And I don't think this sounds like a dull childhood at all! Why is a childhood where you believe in things that don't exist more exciting than mine?

At any rate, I was reading this book recently where the guy reiterates that most people dream in black and white and it made me think of my dream world. I remember my dreams all the time, several times a night in fact, if I wake up during them. They are in Technicolor, I can feel things, smell things, hear things. All my senses are involved. And while the stories that play out are inevitably very odd, they have an internal logic. When I was very young (I guess I start remembering this at about the age of 5), I had a recurring nightmare. It was the same thing every time and lasted into my 20s. After I got control of this nightmare (and you CAN control your dreams) in my late teens, I understood it to come from stress and then I could get rid of it at will.

It always happened while I was falling asleep, in that brief time after you close your eyes and start to nod off. I would see a pale ochre coloured field. It was like a sheet or a canvas. I was IN the dream and the object of the dream but I couldn't see myself because it was happening to me. The canvas would start to crumple around the edges and the crumpled or wrinkled portions of the canvas were constricting on me. As the wrinkles got closer to me, a weight descended on me, making every square inch of my skin seem to weigh a pound or more. At this point, I could even wake up and yet I would still feel the weight. I remember one time in particular that my mother came in to help me. Usually I had the nightmare and woke up and got over it. This time, I think I was about 7 and I woke up and turned on the light which woke my sister up (we shared a room) and I was still in the grip of this weighty feeling. The light and us talking brought Mum in and she sat with me until the feeling went away. Along with the incredibly vivid and realistic dreams I had of flying, you can see why I had no need of imaginary monsters under the bed.

I am also a very literal person. Oh, I get metaphors and understand analogies but sometimes I have to be made aware that a person is using one. Likewise with puns. As a child, I didn't get a lot of jokes right away because I could only see their literal meaning. A person in a joke is trying to explain what leather is, that it is also called "hide". The explainee doesn't get it and the explainer says, "hide, hide! the cow's outside" and the explainee says what I would have said, "why should I? I'm not afraid of a cow." ba-da-boom. Weirdly enough, Zoom had some "guy walks into the bar" jokes on her blog comments the other day and she wrote one in there herself where Descartes says "I think they're for 1 a.m." and I STILL thought it said "I think they are for one o'clock on the morning" until Peter explained it to me. Yikes.

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Friday, April 25, 2008


I'd heard of this meme before but it was also over at Orange Crate Art recently so I thought of it again. The idea of the meme (never mind the promulgation of it) is:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.

I looked around at the dining table behind me and I had three books on it, all within reach. Here are the results. Can you guess the books? (And I don't mean you, P., who knows exactly which books they are!)

"The ancient, fortified, traffic-free village perche of Grimaud is yet another legacy of the ubiquitous Grimaldi family after which the village is named. Gibelin de Grimaldi, a doughty Genoese knight, was rewarded with a fief here after helping William the Good of Provence drive the Saracens out of this part of France in AD 973..." etc. etc.

" 'Part of Duma's development problem is simple overgrowth. The sea oats belong, but the rest of that shit has no business growing without irrigation. Somebody better investigate, that's what I think.' "

"It was a saddened Menicucci who telephoned a week later to tell us that the House of Cardin no longer made our lavatories. Une catastrophe but he would continue his researches. A further ten days passed before he reappeared, now in triumph, coming up the steps waving another catalogue above his head."

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Monday, April 21, 2008


The more I look at The Daily Coyote, the more I realize what a good job of drawing the animators did on the cartoon Wile E. Coyote.


Thursday, April 17, 2008


My husband is home sick with a nasty-sounding cold. I think I also have the germ but I have managed to stave off the manifestations of the cold through clean living and a liberal ingestion of Cold FX. The whole "clean living" thing is sort of a joke but not really, in that I have been working at making myself fit, not drinking (much), going to the gym, and contemplating running outside. So I think it is paying off in increased resistance to germs.

Interestingly, today when I visited A Dress A Day as I am wont to do, she was writing about athletic wear. The things you find on the internet! There is a company I have never heard of making athletic skirts! Fun stuff, I say. Also apropos of what Erin wrote on her blog, I too have never thought of myself as "athletic". I always associated athletic with organized sports like basketball, football, some kind of ball. I don't have that kind of coordination - you should see me throw something for a dog! Early release, late release - I never know where the thing will end up. And yet, I always rode a bike, I rode horses for a while, I figure skated - not very well but good enough to be in the novice category on the university team. In fact, I am proud to say I lettered in sports at university. Now I am into my own version of yoga, I lift weights, I still ride the bike, I get out.

I guess the "lesson" here is not to label yourself. If you don't fit into a category, so what.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008


I am feeling misanthropic today. General crabbiness and a lot of sighing are evident. This week is my last week teaching which is nice because then I have time to myself. But not nice is that I suddenly will have no income. So that brings up the whole job-income-employment-'maybe I should be writing a book' crap. Somebody I have never met but feel like I know through her blog is worrying about the existence of the blog and how that might impact on her. I have these same worries so I have been censoring myself as I write. And am doing it now, I suppose. There's the fear of being judged and getting nasty email too.

Interestingly, I haven't been to "Small Dead Animals" is a long time because I'm just not interested in that back biting in which the opposite ends of the political spectrum love to indulge. However, for some reason I clicked on it today and I find out that she is being sued for libel by some lawyer, blah, blah, blah and that reinforces the above-mentioned fears. I'm afraid to even make a link to SDA for fear of reprisals so you'll have to Google it. The defenders of SDA make a good point when they say all she did was link to the libel but then, I am no expert in libel and in reading the statement of claim, there was the assertion that it was a republishing of the libel, blah blah blah. I feel like I should have better things to do with my time. Although, defending free speech is pretty important.

But as I often say, it's not just one thing. The weather isn't helping - cold and windy. Thankfully it is not raining or snowing. I'm worried that the herbs I started last weekend as seeds and which have already sprouted are going to be too big too soon for planting. And anyway, I'm going to be away so I can't plant them. And I don't trust anyone to plant them for me. Argh.

And then there's the whole upstairs reno to consider not the least of which is the plumbing leak. I don't know about plumbing so I have to rely on someone else and it was crappy plumbing in the first place that made for a leak, probably. I have to cut a hole in the ceiling to start to find out.

I am happy I took the electric blanket off the bed when I changed the sheets this morning. I haven't turned it on lately so that's a sign that winter is leaving. And I want to wash the blanket and lay it out to dry on the patio on the drying rack. But that has to wait until the weather is better too. No clotheslines here with condo-townhome restrictions. But I plan to use my drying rack a lot this summer. Of course, something is irking me about that too - where to put the rack when it is not in use. Do I just prop it up in the living room (ugly, eyesore) or do I haul it up from the basement every time I want to use it which I was hoping would be more than once a week (work and banging of knuckles and such).

I have that Naymz Profile website sending me emails every day, telling me people have looked at my profile and so I should send them money to upgrade. Almost as bad as the constant requests for upgrading from Classmates dot com. More argh.

But I did ride my bike on the weekend and Thursday so I am happy about that. And really, I have nothing of import to complain about. I am healthy, my husband is (apparently) happy to support me financially (although if I suddenly got a real job, I don't think I'd hear any complaining) and we are taking a holiday in a month. If I count my blessings, they far outnumber the other.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008


Ever since I became convinced about climate change by James Lovelock, I have been thinking even more than usual about the state of the planet. I was always partial to thinking about the planet, especially in terms of respect for it, and in that sense, I am completely in synch with Lovelock's metaphor of the planet as Gaia, a self-regulating organism. I am also pleased that he thinks we should go with nuclear energy to make electricity instead of stupid windmills that only make 3% anyway.

But I've also been musing about growth and economic growth and why everyone says that's so good but how it's really ruining the planet. I read the business section of the newspaper and everybody goes into a tailspin when growth slows down. But I figure there has to be an upper limit for growing, just as there is with an individual's life time and that of a species. When deer get too numerous, wolves eat them - like that. There is a balance for everything, including we humans and our economies. There is a lot of fretting about how there are soon going to be "too many" old people and not enough young people to support the old people, especially in terms of CPP and other social payments. But if we always maintained a balance of more young than old people, we'd end up with 7 billion people on the planet... oh wait, that's where we are now!

There was a big kerfuffle in the 70s about zero population growth but no one could figure out how to manage it, not even the Chinese with their one baby rule. And no one seems to think it is a good idea now and there are even regular editorials in the paper about how we (meaning white folks anyway) aren't having enough babies. Somehow, people have shied away from the obvious and now no one is talking about how there are too many humans on the planet.

As for economic growth, I understand the need and the quest to sell more and more of a product. But I don't think it's natural. As George Carlin might say (he did in Toledo Window Box), "it's normal without being natural", meaning according to Nature. In the olden days but long after we invented the division of labour, if I made wagons, I could only make enough wagons that people would want to buy. If I could get my product to a larger market, then I could sell more. But eventually, everyone would have a wagon and I would have to just repair them and make a new one once in a while. We have totally ripped by that model and left it in the dust. I think it's time to resurrect it and rethink it.

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I got my final exam off to the printer and I don't even need it until the week of April 21. It'll take some hours of marking once all 70 students write it, so I am glad to have the drafting part of the project out of the way early. I don't teach on Thursdays so I am leisurely going to the gym tomorrow and I may EVEN ride the bike. Which means I can buy kleenex in bulk. You don't know how thrilling that can be, after a long winter of buying small things, one at a time, that can fit into a backpack that already is holding gym shoes and stuff.

I notice that our television seems to be going. You have to crank the sound bar right up to hear anything. And I don't think both of us have suddenly gone deaf. I'm glad it's not only one part of the sound spectrum and not another - that would really be annoying. But now we have to decide what new tv to buy. Do we get one of those flat screen LCD things that you can hang on the wall but that won't fit into the giant wall unit we have right now? And if we do that, what do we do with the giant wall unit that is perfectly good? That's my biggest issue with renovating or redecorating - what to do with the stuff that is still perfectly good? When I did the kitchen, I called Habitat Re-stores and they came and got all the old cabinets which was very nice as they had zero value for me and I'd always hated them. But this wall unit is really nice so I am conflicted. And then there's that whole digital signal only of the future thing. And of course, there's always the issue of how much tv we watch and shouldn't. I really enjoy some tv and I don't want to cut myself off from that aspect of popular culture. So maybe we'll get a regular tv and later, when we do redecorate the living room (there's a plan in the works) we'll get the fancy new type.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Today I took a bus I'd never been on before so I had a little adventure. Little being the operative word. But I noticed that it is more tiring to do something new than the same-old, same-old. I had to pay attention more than usual because I was on a different route. Maybe I wouldn't have felt that way if I hadn't missed the first stop where I was supposed to transfer. I wasn't thinking much and I figured the bus would stop at a station where there were numbered platforms where you could run up and down stairs to catch all sort of other buses. But it didn't stop and we sailed by, so I had to get out at the next stop and backtrack. Thank goodness I had left early. Or maybe that was why I forgot to ring the bell to make the bus stop - I subconsciously knew I had lots of extra time.

Anyway, now in a state of high alert, I developed a tension headache waiting for the bus I had to transfer to. As I waited (with all that extra time I had not even used up), I noticed a police cruise roar by with its hair on fire. Then a few minutes later, another one went by and so when we ground to a halt after I got on the bus, I knew it was because of the accident ahead. Sure enough, just before we got off the Queensway at Kirkwood/Carling, we passed an accident by the side of the road. So in spite of everything, I was late to where I was going.

Travel or doing new things may be fun and all but I think it's the exhaustion that makes you glad to get home again. And that was just a bus ride. For our big trip abroad, I think I will plan for plenty of down time in cafes and pubs and just watch other people rushing by on a mission.

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[Should have put this up yesterday...]

There are only two more weeks of teaching in the semester. Then I give the final exam and I'm done. Of course, that also means I am done getting paid, as I only get paid for the actual hours I teach in the classroom. So then it will be time to start something new. After we go to Europe and come back, of course. So - June it is then.

In the meantime, I only have two more sessions on Saturdays of "boot camp" at the Goodlife gym. It has been a good shake-up, to do circuit training for an hour on Saturday but I haven't started anything new otherwise, in my routine. And the gym changed the schedules of all its classes so until I end teaching in 2 weeks, I can't take the Body Flow classes I was taking until last week.

I write this because I was reminded by Zen Habits that we were supposed to write down our goals, or why we signed up for Boot Camp. Shoot - I just checked my calendar and I'm going to miss the second last boot camp because I signed up for a course in how to be a director of a condominium. That kind of frosts me. I forgot all about them overlapping. Gack, now that I look at it, I thought we only had 6 classes of boot camp and that means I will miss the very last one. I really dislike not finishing something.

Anyway - goals. I wanted to lose some actual pounds. I have lost fat and gained muscle and my clothes are fitting looser but I am not able to slide that weight on the scale over to the left any more than usual. This is frustrating, even though I know that the answer lies in fewer calories in than out. I think I want to start running comfortably outside and I don't want to be gasping for air 3 minutes after I leave the house. And should I decide to become a personal trainer, it will give me ideas about what else I can do with clients.

On the weekend, I planted herb seeds in little peat pots. Some of them were so small, I'm not sure how many got into each peat pot. I hope that by the time we get back from Europe, they will be good little seedlings and ready to put outside. It is so tempting to plant before the end of May but you really do run the risk of a killing frost and then there goes all your earlier effort.

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Friday, April 04, 2008


As I watched my students writing their midterm exam this morning, I thought about the benefits of experience. If you have any at all, in any area, you know what I mean.
Hmm, at Dictionary dot com, the fifth definition says:
Philosophy. the totality of the cognitions given by perception; all that is perceived, understood, and remembered.
"ALL that is understood." That's one heckuva lot.
Anyway, as I watched my students puzzle and scribble, I wondered if one can pass on the benefits of one's experience? Or do people simply have to experience things themselves in order to learn or understand the thing? Now that I've written this, I think the answer depends on your personality and how you learn things generally. In the Myers-Briggs lexicon, if you are a "Sensor" instead of an "iNtuitive", then you probably would have to experience the thing itself to learn what it is. Which is why I am even asking the question, because I am the opposite of the "Sensor" type.

So I started to muse about whether I can pass on the benefits of what I have learned but now I realize that it depends on the passee - who are they, what do they know already, are they ready to learn, what is their learning style, do they even know? So people can be taught about a subject but they have to be willing to learn and they have to make an effort too. Learning is not passive, but even when you tell students that, some of them still refuse to engage. Such will be the story of teaching the human residents of this planet what they can do to make it a better place, even for themselves.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008


A couple of things in the paper this morning to comment on: older driver kills person at bus stop, city council saves money by eliminating minutes of meetings. I'll work on the latter issue later.

I think driver's licences should be much more difficult to get in the first place and I think everybody should have to re-up every 5 or 10 years. Age should not be a factor in issuing licences. The sole criterion should be ability to drive and drive well. Most people don't pay attention while driving and that's what causes the accidents. The up-side of licences being more difficult to obtain is that there may end up being fewer drivers on the road and therefore less burning of fossil fuels. Also, people will have to walk and bike and they will be fitter. I think it's a win-win for everybody. BUT taking the test every 5 years should NOT turn out to be a money grab by the government. There should be some small fee - what I call earnest money - but the fees shouldn't prevent people from driving and they shouldn't be a cash cow.

On a completely different note, I dislike people who think they are superior to others, especially if they aren't. Some people try to build themselves up by tearing others down. Sometimes, they do this by using practical jokes to poke fun at people who take the joke seriously. They feel superior because they are in the know and they see that it is a joke, while at the same time they fail to acknowledge that they set the joke up in the first place.

I think we learn how to behave with others very early on and this sets a pattern for the rest of our lives. I suppose it is possible to change this pattern but I think it involves a humongous effort. And if you already feel superior to others, why would you change your behaviour? I know someone whose father put him down all during the time he grew up. I suppose it was how the father had learned to behave - put others down and keep them down so that you don't get put down there with them. Unfortunately he never had the wit to see the damage he wrought in his own child, who forever after felt he was never good enough for anything. It's interesting that the child didn't adopt the same behaviour pattern and instead, feels great empathy for all creatures who are downtrodden. Of course, we are all individuals and react to the same stimulus in different ways.

How you behave successfully with other people and how you learn to be a good driver are both a result of paying attention. The more you pay attention to what is happening, the better results you will have in whatever you are doing.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I've been thinking about convergence, in the sense that everything putters along in life but all of a sudden, you start noticing patterns and repetitions and mundane things gain a sense of importance because of their juxtaposition with other things. It started with emails and Proust and how can I get writing again and has continued with Lovelock and climate change and what can I do about that. I am not sure I believe in cosmic karmic fate. I know I don't believe in a higher power and so I don't think anything is directing me. And I certainly don't believe in Determinism. What I do believe is that it's a natural survival function of the brain to see patterns in things and we humans love to attribute meaning to everything. So maybe I am seeing patterns because I want to see patterns because I want to make a change in my life. That's certainly duller than the nice fiction that I am meant to be or to do. But I am nothing if not dull at times. Or shall I say "overly earnest" or a stickler for truth.

It is interesting that someone who is slavishly devoted to the truth at all costs, also loves complete fiction like time travel and The X-Files. Can I find meaning or direction in this observation? Or is it just the way things are?

Since I gave a midterm exam today (and wrote an exam as a student last Sunday), I am also thinking about effort and how we rarely if ever give 100% effort into anything. We hold back a reserve for emergencies or for when it "really matters". But when is that? Intellectually, I know that the only life we can live is the one that is happening right this moment. But I also know the odds are pretty good that I'll still be living a few moments from now and so I futurize - "I'll do that after I lose 10 pounds, or after I get that job, or after I win the lotto". Am I afraid that if I don't wait, if I do everything "now", there won't be anything left for later? That's pretty silly. So I conclude that it's fear of failure that holds me back. And now that I've expressed that out loud, I've got nothing left to hide behind. I think.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I was going to write about garbage in the hood over on my hood blog but have decided that that blog should maintain a higher tone than complaining. Plus I noticed that my crocuses were up so I could post about that joyful event. It has been a long, snowy winter and right now it is jean jacket weather and I have the windows open to enjoy it. If I could sit on my patio, it would be bliss. But except for the corner with the crocus, it's still under a foot of snow so I am reduced to leaning out the window and sighing. I did write "mooning out the window" and if you look it up, it means to yearn or pine in addition to its ruder meaning. I prefer the older more romantic use of the word, thank you.

I am nearly finished Lovelock's excellent little book about climate change. I have decided to become convinced that global warming is happening and now I have to decide what can I do about it. I am already doing quite a lot personally so what I have to think about is how I can persuade others. How do you persuade people to do anything? You show them that there is something in it for them. However, for something this broad in scope, I think it's going to take a lot of thinking. And it won't end up being only one thing anyway. It never is, just one thing. I think I have to concentrate on something simpler to begin with. How can I persuade people to stop littering? It's on my mind with the melting of the snow exposing garbage everywhere. But we can't even manage to persuade our neighbours to pick up their own garbage that doesn't get collected for whatever reason.

It doesn't even help (I don't think) for me to examine why I pick up not only my own garbage but other people's because I don't think I am normal in that regard. I do things like that because I have a sense of responsibility and connexion with the Earth and cannot stand to see it insulted like that. Can you teach such a thing? Sometimes. You see programs where high school students go out and pick up trash once a year to beautify a park or path. Maybe some of them take it to heart. But who ARE all those people littering out there? If I staked out a spot on the bike path and asked anyone I saw actually throw trash, why they did it, would I learn something useful? I may have come up with a project for myself. I wonder if I can get a grant for the research.

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