Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Week at the Gym and a Pumpkin Search

Currently this evening I am relaxing with a cup of tea after a frustrating evening of trying to track down a pumpkin or two for a jack-o-lantern.

Where-o-where have all the pumpkins in my town gone? All that I could see left on display were those hybrid "Boo" pumpkins which are coloured white and look like they've been horribly attacked and drained by the vampire bunny Bunnicula.

My only other option tonight was to actually wade out into the farmer's market field under cover of night and pinch one. But that's probably considered bad form, and probably not worth the mucky shoes to boot, so it's get up early and drive out to the supermarket across town that opens early before work and get one so I can carve it with the daycare children.


I am also relaxing tonight because I am tired out after an amazingly good-feeling workout at the gym with Melanie this morning. I am going to be SO sore in various interesting ways tomorrow. Ooooh! I can hardly wait to find out what new pains I will discover.

My guess is the killer thigh machine will come back to haunt me. Mel fondly calls it the Gynecologist.

But it COULD be overshadowed by Mr. Crunch the Ab Machine.

This is the fourth time in the space of seven days that I've graced the local gyms with my lately-absent self. I really feel like there's hope I'll get back into it like I was doing a year and half ago before appendix surgery gave me a convenient out and I just never mustered the energy again since. Well, except for a panicked few weeks right before my bellydance show in June when I threw myself into fitness briefly for the sake of my rather-revealing costume.

I'm even doing a bit of gym-hopping, going to one with Jeff and the other with Brandy and Mel. Kim mentioned that there was one in Cumberland I could drop in at with her too. Could this be the face of my new social life? :)

If so, there IS hope for the little black dress I plan to wear in Rome next May. I don't actually have the particular dress yet, but I'm sure it will be more fun to shop for after a few months getting in shape again.

Last Sunday I was watching Brandy demonstrate a new exercise that she swears by from her Pilates-aerobic class. She was lying on her back holding a medicine ball between her raised legs AND doing crunches. It was amazing. She is looking fantastic.

Small wonder. I snuck off into one of the smaller unpopulated rooms at my other gym the other day to try this exercise out and not embarrass myself too greatly. Good thing I did. I'm pathetic at it. I suspect Pilates is not for me---I know aerobics isn't.

What I do like is the rowing machine---you know why?

It reminds me of Colin Angus and his finacee Julie Wafei rowing by themselves across the Atlantic. They rowed sixteen hours a day for an ungodly long time and by journey's end they were buff. Note: If you can wear a homemade bikini made from fish-skin confidently, you know you must be in fine physical shape.

I recently went to see their film presentation of their circumnavigation of the globe using only human-power. It was rather inspiring although frankly it made me feel like a couch-potato. But it DID make me want to move more.

Now, when I row at the gym I stop after half an hour and I'm freakin' exhausted, so my hat's off to them.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Ahhh....YouTube. I'm having an awful lot of fun there.

Weird Al Yankovic's "Yoda" This is the song I was remembering the other night, Kim, the one where I was having a complete mental blank on the lyrics.

(I was just going to email the link to my friend, but who knows, there are probably other Yoda fans out there.
What's not to like?
He's cute, he's got that appealing enlightened- Zen- master thing going on, he lives a minimalist lifestyle, and he kicks butt with a light saber.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Messing with my Pictures

Me and my friends as *cough cough* Art.

In the Old Days, one would just throw out blurry/unflattering pictures. Now you can mess with them...and its very satisfying.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Halloween Socks, Giant Mushrooms, and Friends

Well, we're all well into October, one of my favourite months of the year, and the signs of Autumn are all around.

Look at me and my darling friends here for instance--we met for breakfast at the book-store/coffeeshop called Characters in Vancouver and all subconsciously chose to wear the colours that mesh with the season best. Black and orange!

"Jenkies, Shaggy!", said Kim. "I suddenly realized I'm dressed like Velma today!"

It was Tai's last weekend in Vancouver before she moves to Victoria and there was no better way to spend it than talking and laughing with friends over really good coffee, and then prowling among the bookshelves for a really good read.

There are other signs that Autumn is here:

* Socks suddenly become fun to buy again. At almost no other time of the year is it as easy to buy socks with spiders, bats, pumpkins and the like.

When a friend pulled up the leg of her pants the other day to show off the jack-o-lanterns on her ankles, I was pleased to reciprocate by showing off my purple socks with a fishbone skeleton motif.

*Giant white vaguely owl-like mushrooms sprout at the end of my driveway. They are fond of the rain.

* In my garden, fall flowers like coreopsis and tickseed and salvia are providing a bit of colour to complement the fading peony plants with their droopy reddening foliage. The red leaves off the cherry trees are making a mess, but it's a pretty mess at least.

* I'm getting paid at work to make hand-print turkeys.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Body Worlds

"During an anatomy lesson, the cadaver does indeed experience a marvelous transformation: whereas an obtuse respect for putrescence once sentenced it to decay in darkness, the daring gesture that forcibly brings it to the light of day has turned it into a luminous figure of truth--science now burrows its way through the territory that once merely filled the bellies of maggots."

--Michel Foucalt, French philosopher

These were the dead posed in attitudes of life--an archer, a dancer, a man seemingly deep in thought. You can see his brain.

These were real bodies, once alive and now eerily vital, despite being stripped of their cloak of skin and all their secret inner musculature and organs revealed.

If I really had wanted to know whether beauty is truly only skin deep, I had come to the right place. As it was, I came because I am deeply curious about the human body dead or alive. I could scarcely believe I was seeing what I was seeing. It was science. It was art (maybe). It was amazing.

Body Worlds 3 , a controversial, educational, and extraordinarily unique exhibit of real human cadavers is now at Science World in Vancouver and this is how I spent my very memorable Saturday evening.

The bodies in this exhibit were all acquired through a specific body- donation program and have undergone a special process called plastination, a term coined by a man called Dr. Gunther Von Hagens. Basically, the fluids and some of the fats in the bodies have been extracted and replaced with injections of flexible plastic polymer which changes the tissues at a cellular level. The plastination lets the bodies be posed before the plastic hardens.

It preserves bones, muscles, internal organs, eyeballs, skin, and even the incredibly complex traceries of nerves and blood vessels remain perfectly intact. The possibilities for teaching medical science must be incredible!

When you visit this exhibit, you can stand mere inches away from the bodies. A few of the more fragile items (like the entire nervous system in a fine white tracery like an exotic plant) are housed in glass cases, but most are not.

There are small Please Do Not Touch signs. I have no urge to touch them anyway. They are both incredibly realistic and incredibly sterile. If I had not known they were real, I would not have thought so. There is no smell.

Now, the cultural and religious taboos surrounding the human body in death have roused a lot of mixed emotions as this exhibition has travelled through Europe and North America, but if you can put aside your uneasiness I would recommend you come and see this.

After all, everyone has a human body and it is an impossibly complicated piece of work whether you consider it a biological machine, a fragile living sculpture, a house for the soul, or just a pretty frame to hang your clothes on and go about your everyday life.

I think I'm still intellectually processing all I saw.

Ahem, on a slightly irreverent note, I learned that when a person's skin is removed, everybody's belly-button becomes an outie . Who knew?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Superstitons, Spiders, and Nasty Feng Shui

Are you superstitious?

I can't decide if I am or not.

For instance, I believe in good luck, but not bad luck. I'm contrary that way.

This past Friday the thirteenth, the local radio station was giving away concert tickets to the group Theory of a Dead Man . To compete to win them, you had to run an obstacle course in a supermarket parking lot in keeping with the spirit of the day: spill a little salt, walk under a ladder, break a mirror, and generally complete tasks designed to tempt the gods to give you bad luck.

I have occasionally (and surreptitiously) tossed a pinch of salt over my shoulder out of habit should I spill some, but I can't help but feel that if I had wanted to go to this concert I would have been in the parking lot cheefully smashing mirrors in the spirit of competitive fun and the pursuit of musical appreciation.

I just know somehow that the powers that be would figuratively go *pshaw* and let the Bad-Luck-Whammy Rule slide for little 'ol me.

You see, I've come to the conclusion over the years that I'm a pretty lucky person. Lucky, as in 'good things happen to me'. Oh, I'm not saying there haven't been bad incidents or uncomfortable times but, as my father would say, it all builds character, and overall the good things have FAR outweighed the unpleasantries.

Gee, I hope I'm not tempting the gods by saying that. Come to think of it, I haven't won the lottery lately....

But believing in bad luck is incredibly unhealthy.

I was down by Victoria's waterfront recently and I spoke with a man who had set up a little table advertising "Feng Shui Home Readings". Basically, a prospective client would bring him a floor plan of their home and he would make recommendations to improve their living space.

Now, I think the concept of feng shui is interesting--arranging your home and environment to improve the good energy in your life, clearing the clutter and rearranging the furniture to balance the elements and all that.

I'm afraid most of the complicated Asian theories regarding the geographical and mathematical aspects of it go way over my head(I will move my sofa, but please don't ask me to use a compass), but I have enjoyed reading some of the fluffier westernized theories about it.

But this fellow down by the Harbour seemed deadly serious about the whole business and it gave me the jim-jams. He told me this horrible little story to illustrate how much bad luck you could have if you ignored the "poison arrows"(unlucky things) of the feng shui concerning your real estate. In a nutshell, he was convinced his wife had fallen ill with bone cancer and died because they had moved to a "pie-shaped lot", which is apparently just about the worst thing you can do.


Was his story a genuine belief, or just a marketing ploy to convince me to hire him for his potentially life-saving advice? I don't know. He had very sad eyes and seemed very earnest.

Regardless of his sincerity, nobody's wife has ever perished solely from the side-effects from living on a dessert-shaped piece of property. That would just be so wrong.

I believe that you can choose what you are afraid of.

I, Spider Girl, for instance, was once afraid of spiders. No longer! I decided NOT to be.

Heh, now I believe they're lucky. Maybe it's a rule I made up, but that's a much healthier attitude than screaming and brandishing a bedroom slipper like an armed maniac, as I've observed some do.

But even if you don't believe spiders are lucky--- don't step on them --it makes it rain.

By the way, the spider photo on this post was taken at the Victoria Bug Zoo. Isn't she a beaut? :)

The other photo from there is of the most bugalicious dollhouse I've ever seen---check out the Madagascar hissing cockroach peeking out from under the bed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How About Ostia Antica?

A question: Pompeii or Ostia Antica?

Tai and I talked an hour on the phone tonight--we are getting so excited about returning to Italy and it is still seven months away! We will probably be intolerable by then.

I love the anticipation before a trip---poring over maps and books, discussing the pros and cons of this place over that, deciphering train schedules via the internet, mumbling aloud as I read from an Italian phrase-book in the bathtub. I like to think I'm getting my money's worth before I even leave for the airport.

As the four of us travelling have a scant three weeks in Italy, we are trying to not spread ourselves too thin. There is SO much to see and we can't see it all. We are trying to limit ourselves to five or six stops, so we can really have a good look at the places we visit. It's hard.

So, we are questioning ourselves: What do Tai and I want to revisit? Three nights in Venice? More? What does our friend Pol (who has never travelled before) want to see most? And how long before we three girls drive poor Jeff loony?

Pol told me tonight when asked what she wanted to see most: "I want to see old things. No, not just old things. I want to see things so ancient it's hard to believe how old they are. And I want to see mosaics. Definitely."

Heh, I'm practically positive we can accomodate this wish. Old mosaics? What better place than Rome?

Tonight one of our topics was whether it is better to travel further down south to see the ruins of Pompeii (most of our travels will be in northern and central Italy) or to instead explore the ancient excavated Roman port city of Ostia Antica, which is located less than an hour by metro/train from Rome?

I visited Pompeii in 2002 and thought it was amazing. Walking along ancient streets of a city buried intact under tonnes of volcanic ash appealed to the morbid historian in me. And there is nothing quite like sitting all by yourself in the ruins of a stone villa by the remains of a once-beautiful ornamental pool, looking at the crumbling mosaics and imagining the family that once lived there. It is a recommended experience.

But I have also heard that the sights of the much lesser-known Ostia Antica actually rival Pompeii in some ways, and it is a place I would like to visit too. What I knew of it was so far mostly taken from guidebooks and the highly entertaining and historical novels of Lindsey Davis (have you read the adventures of ancient Roman detective Marcus Didius Falco?) and I was still intrigued.

I was curious what it might look like so I went online to have a look at articles and photos from Ostia Antica tonight. I have to say I'm impressed. It may indeed have just as much to offer as Pompeii and it's easy to get there from Rome .

The photos in this post are all from Ostia Antica.

What do you think Pol? Tai? Jeff?

Anybody else?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dizzily Spinning Around and a Windfall of Sorts

Spider Girl Tip for a Happier Life #436 : Check out the fine print on your paystub.

Ah, windfalls! You gotta love 'em.

And perfect timing. I was ready for one.

This whole last month at work has been a little bit crazy, you see.

A brand new batch of little kids at the daycare, the perils of toilet-training(in all my ten years at my workplace there has never been so much POOH involved), toys flying through the air (both literally and as a metaphor for perceived chaos), ear-splitting shrieks of silliness and rage (the children not the grownups), and the general settling in that rears its head up again every September. (Last September I got smart and hid out on the Serengeti plains for awhile. Not a wee child in sight!)

On top of the general dizziness of September, rhere was a week of laryngitis and general miserableness from a flu bug (there is a shortage of subs so I always feel awfully guilty about taking sick time), and Sally Spider Girl was ready to tear her hair out! I caught myself waxing nostalgic over the good old days at my minimum wage video store job. I was obviously ready for something amazingly good and work-related.

Here it is: due to a perilous accounting error concerning the percentage of holiday pay on my paycheque, I discovered that I've been underpaid for the last four years or so and I have been assured that I will have a BACKPAY cheque coming my way by the end of the month for nearly two thousand dollars!

O frabjous day! Calloo! Callay! *Spider Girl chortled in her joy*

This is the first year in ages I have NOT gone on an international trip and I've always taken my holiday pay in one lump sum--I simply never noticed or looked for an error. But this year I took my three weeks separately to spread out the rest and relaxation over the whole summer--a week in June, one in July, and one in August. And I couldn't help but notice how VERY little they were paying me for the final week. Like, er, almost nothing.

Hey, I know I'm not in the childcare profession for the money but, AHEM!

Now, when I first found out about this error, I didn't count it as a windfall. I was a bit miffed actually. Grumpy. Unsettled. Disbelieving. Peeved. If I'd quit this job and moved on to another any time in the last few years, it is quite likely I'd never have known about that lost money.

Ignorance is not necessarily bliss. Grr.

But I've decided now to look on the matter as GOOD news and move breyond the petty annoyance phase into the HEY AN EXTRA COUPLE GRAND phase. After all, most likely this would have been money already spent otherwise...

It's going to very neatly cover one of the plane tickets to Italy we'll be shelling out for soon, and then some.

I'm thinking maybe a trip to Home Depot to look at the kitchen renovation aisle...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Dream of Doom and an Old People's Survey

Last night I had a dream where an echoing voice said: "If you're going to die at age fifty-four, how are you going to change your life now?"

"What?!" I cried in my dream, "Why then, I've only got twenty years left!"

I could get all worried(like I did in the dream)and wonder if it was somehow a prophetic dream of doom, but on the same night I also dreamed:

a) that someone offered me a free African safari trip with the caveat that I had to leave my camera at home and I was both tempted and tormented by the thought of it. No camera!? What would I do without it?

b) that I was a street child in medieval China who travelled with a tame tiger and was adopted by a freaky circus with a scheming ringmaster

c)that it was my job to keep a pack of tricky black wolves from entering a school and there were all these automatic-opening glass doors on every side which made the task impossible..I'd shoo one or two wolves out one door, bodycheck another at the second door, and blimey! ANOTHER couple would sneak in ANOTHER door.

I just don't see the likelihood of a prophetic dream fitting into the parameters of that batch of dreams. It was somewhere in the middle of them. I like to think if I was going to have a portentous vision, it wouldn't feel so blurry after I snooze a bit more.

But, lying in bed in that fifteen minutes between the first alarm going off in the morning and the second, the dream about dying in twenty years was the one I mulled over. Was it a dream about getting old? About mortality? About what I've done in the past? About the uncertainty of the future?

The whole dreaming about my age of death rattled me just a little despite my mullings on dream symbolism. But the dream voice DID say if I died at that age, and so was probably speaking rhetorically. Yeah, that's it. Whew.

Think I'll go read some blogs now.

Anyway, over tea this morning I found a meme over at Dragonfly24's blog that ponders those kindof things (like wills and cholesterol and kegger parties) that older people apparently get surveyed on by these kind of internet quizzes:

"Old People" Survey

1. Do you have a college degree? Yes, I have an Associate of Arts degree. It's made my wall look very pretty with its shiny gold seal and handsome wood frame. Um, I'm trying to think what else I can use it for...
2. What was the amount of your last electric bill? I haven't the foggiest but I'm hoping it's fairly small. I'm a big fan of candles, and it makes no sense to turn on the heat when I leave the patio door open all the time. I like the freezing cold autumn wind on my nose as long as I can huddle under warm blankets. Mind you, when I do start turning on the heat, I practically live sitting on top of the radiator.
3. Do you have life insurance? Naw, I don't need it.
4. How many hours per week do you work? Thirty-five. Unless doing dishes and laundry counts, because I've really been trying to keep the house clean and those hours should count for something.
5. Favorite place to attend Happy Hour? In the bathtub with a glass of wine and a book--that's the happiest way to spend any given hour.
6. How many miles is your commute to work each day (one way)? Five minutes or less. I might as well walk.
7. What time do you get up every morning for work? Six-thirty is the time the alarm goes off and I wake up Jeff. Then I reset it for another fifteen minutes which is when I try to remember all the dreams I just had before they disappear *poof*. My morning never feels quite right if I don't reset the alarm.
8. What is your definition of sleeping in late? Ten o'clock is deliciously hedonistic.
9. Do you check your cholesterol on a yearly basis? Nope.
10. How large was your first cellular phone? Ya know, I've never owned a cell phone. I've never particularly liked them.This will probably come back to haunt me some time when I'm stranded out in the boonies somewhere.
11. Does your employer provide good health insurance? No. We are rather lacking in the benefits department at my workplace. Don't get me started.
13. Did you use the internet to write a research paper? The Internet simply didn't exist in any easy-to-use form during my highschool years, but I did write one kickass paper for my astronomy course in college that had me spending a lot of time on the NASA website doing research. Go on. Ask me anything about the possibility of finding water on Jupiter's moon, Europa.
14. Have you attended a High school reunion? I attended my tenth reunion six years back. It didn't change my life, but it was nice talking with friends I'd lost touch with. Oh...and it's deeply satisfying to see people you really disliked get ugly. shallow of me. Oh well.
15. How many jobs have you held in your professional career? I'm a preschool teacher and on October 6th I'll have worked at the same place for ten years. I'm a lifer apparently. I had a couple of very short-term jobs as substitute teachers before that but I don't really count them.
16. Have you ever been fired or laid off from a job? I once worked at a video store (many ages ago) where the guy wanted to fire me, but he didn't have a good reason so he cut my hours and cut my hours until I was practically forced to quit. He said it was because I typed too slowly on the keyboard. Completely untrue! I was a NINJA on the keyboard! Maybe he knew I secretly laughed at him because of his Batman complex---well, if you saw his car and his leather pants and his ego combined you'd know what I mean.
17. What is your favorite drink? I always drink a chai tea latte before getting on an airplane because then if I crash on takeoff I'll have had my delicious chai before dying. But on a daily basis, I really love Vanilla Earl Grey tea with lots of cream. Mmmm.
18. What is the most expensive bottle of wine that you have in your residence? It's homemade, but the love of people who give you yummy homemade wine is priceless.
19. Have you been divorced? No.
20. How old were you when you stopped getting ID'd for Alcohol? I'm still pathetically grateful when it still happens ever so occasionally at age 34.
21. Favorite casino? Honestly I've never wanted to be inside one; the only gambling I've ever done involved betting on the ponies or scratch and win tickets. I stood on the steps of the casino in Monte Carlo, France and contemplated going in (that alone was twenty euros), but I couldn't even afford coffee and ice-cream in that town. If you want to feel poor, go to Monte Carlo when you're on a itty bitty travelling budget.
22. Are you happier now than you were in high school? Blissfully more so. Do you get better karma for suffering in high school?
23. Did you ever have Hypercolor shirts? Does this mean tie-dyed? If so, my Grad shirt was swirling pink, blue and white tie-dye. Can you imagine? Ewwww. I also remember shirts that changed colour when you sweated in them. I never owned one--it was a mercifully brief trend.
24. Do you remember when Michael Jackson was black and attracted to older people? Yes, and I remember my friend wearing a little Michael Jackson button with no sense of irony. I liked the video for "Thriller" too.
25. Do you remember when MTV actually played music videos? They don't anymore? What do they do instead? How can I know these things if I don't get extral channels?
26. Have you had a will made? We were going to do this last year before we went camping in Africa. You know, in case we got run over by a rhinocerous or a lion ate us or something. The software for making our wills still sits by the computer, a little more dusty than a year ago.
27. What music was in your cd / cassette player when you were 16? It was definitely a cassette player--CD's were some new-fangled thing or possibly not even there yet---I had a thing for Bon Jovi,Enya, and Austrian band Falco of Rock Me Amadeus fame. I was *cough cough* one of the cool kids as you can see.
28. Favorite fancy / upscale restaurant? I loved The Old House, a very nice place in a local heritage home---roaring fireplace and candles and antique stuff on the walls. Now I hear they've "updated" and gone for a more modern look. Gahhhh! why would they mess with perfection? I'm scared to go see.
29. How long has it been since you attended a kegger? I can't rightly say I've ever been to a proper one--any invites?