Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Does Conrad Black have a Discworld Doppelganger?

and can Jill spell Doppleganger properly? We think not.

A few years ago, when it was hot off the presses (in paperback -- I'm cheap) I bought and read Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal". It is book 30ish in his wonderfully good Discworld Series. Many of the books in this series randomly pick up and drop stories from the lives of a few major characters -- the Witches (primarily Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg), the Watchmen (mostly Sam Vimes, but also his fellow workers), Rincewind, and Death (and more recently his grand-daughter Susan). Once in a while he also write a novel from the perspective of a new character, and introduces us to some new characters. Going Postal was particularly exciting becuase it was going to be a novel with a new main character -- Moist Von Lipwig.
I must say, on first reading the book I was disapointed. Many of the main characters were reworked versions of characters we have seen before -- Stanely was a lot like the "Phantom" in Masquerade, Junior Postmaster Groat was a bit like Sgt. Colon, and the golems were like, well, Golems. Moist was different, but also similar to many of Pratchett's protagonists -- an ordinary, self-made man driven into a powerful position by the force of his personality and ablility to think quickly and properly apply "headology" to any given situation. The plot was fun, but did not have the sparkle that I've come to expect from a typical Pratchett plot. I finished the book disapointed and a bit confused.

Then, this year, Conrad Black appeared back on the scene. For those of you who don't know, Conrad Black is a Canadian "media baron", who basically bought up almost all the newspapers in Canada, homogenized and streamlined them until they became a cash cow, sold the lot of them for a tremendous amount of money, and took the money (rather than giving it to shareholders) and moved to England where he managed to become "Lord Black". He is presently in Chicago being charged with fraud, racketeering, etc, etc.

When I heard about this case in the news I realized that Going Postal was a completely different beast than I had thought it was. It was a study in character. It asked the question, "Where do people like Conrad Black come from, and how in the world do they get away with soaking people for so much money?". So we have the minor fraudster, Moist von Lipwig, and his nemisis, the major fraudster, Lord Reacher Gilt. Reacher Gilt has, incidentally, bought his title and appeared on the scene in Ankh-Morpork out of the blue with large amounts of cast to throw around. He, of course, meets his match in Ankh-Morpork because he runs into one of my favorite characters, Lord Vetinari, Patrician of said city.

Reading the book from this perspective made it a lot more fun and interesting. The question "what motivates a person to spend his life soaking others for money, especially when he is obviously intelligent enough to rise to power and money some other way?" Pratchett's answer: because he can. Because he is facinated by humanity's ability to beleive patently ridiculous things if it appeals to their emotions or their pocketbook, and he is waiting for someone to stop him. The thrill is in the game, not the money or power that may come at the end of it.

In Going Postal there are several levels of the game. There is Moist's game to become trusted by the postal workers and the city, there is Reacher's game to take over the Grand Trunk, there is the game between these two con men, and overarching it all, there is the Patrician's game.

My second read of the book was much more enjoyable, and I would now suggest that you read it and see if you agree.

Monday, May 28, 2007

In Case you're wondering where I've been. . .

I've been working on this. This is a quilt for my niece, Kaylee. She is two months older than Aaron, and I am making them "matching" cousin quilts. Kaylees is green, as that is the colours of my sister-in-law's baby room, and Aaron's has the same blocks, but will be blue, just because the fabrics will look good with blue.
Kaylee is the second Chapman grandchild, and Steve and Amanda's first baby. When I was making this quilt, I had to try to strike a balance between my own desire to do something really funky, and the reality that Amanda would probably like something a little bit more traditionally babyish. So I settled on making a flannel quilt with a traditional block and really cute fabrics in the pinwheels.
Originally this quilt was going to have a white and yellow honeybee print where you see the soft yellow checks, and dark green sashings (that's the borders for you non-quilters). But the green fabric was in the same line as the red fabric in my monkey quilt that bled through and ruined my quilt, so it is sitting in my basement in the corner where it will stay indefinitely. I tried a block with the honey been fabric, but it was way too busy, and would have clashed and competed with my pinwheel prints. Of course, I did not try making a block until I had cut about a thousand squares of the honeybee fabric (completely ignoring the admonishment in every pattern on earth to "try one block before cutting the whole quilt") so I am now bound to make a pinwheel or one-patch quilt with it using 4 1/2 inch squares.
After that, there were really no major problems with this quilt. I think that's mostly because I took the extra time to do all those little picky things like square off my blocks (which was necessary because they were very crooked -- many had been sewn together while two children sat on my lap), and clip corners. I really like the quilting I did -- I just quilted around the pinwheels , the edges of the blocks and the little squares, which emphasized the cute little fabrics in the pinwheels. I am also especially happy with the backing fabric, which I think is very cute and funky.

I have all the blocks for Aaron's quilt finished, I just have to cut the strips of blue, put the thing together, quilt it and bind it (well, okay, so maybe "just" is not the right word). Anyway, you should see it coming soon in a blog post near you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Can someone please

give me permission to throw out some yogurt containers? In BC you could recycle them, along with all other 2, 4, and 5 recyclable plastics by putting them in your bin at the curb. Here I've been thinking I'll find a use for them, but my "tupperware" drawer and the cupboard next to it are now crammed with yogurt containers, plastic egg cartons, and coffee tins. One day my house is going to burn down as they combust from the sheer pressure of me cramming one more yogurt container in that huge stack and shutting my cupboard door. Oh yeah, and can someone explain to me why the President's free range eggs come in plastic containers instead of paper? Is it too much to ask that we get TWO things right in the same product?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Winnipeg, in breif

I was hoping to be able to do a big long, reflective post about my trip to Winnipeg. However, my children have chosen to become monsters, and I'm in the midst of quilt fever (when I can almost taste that the quilt is coming to an end, but still actually have about 6 or 8 hrs of work left and become a quilting fiend). So here's the short version:

Friday night I left my town and headed for Yorkton after youth group. All went well. The boys slept, I did not, and we got to Yorkton around 2:30 am and checked into a hotel.

Saturday we woke up and watched some tv while mom tried to rest for a while longer (like, until 7:30). Then we went to Smitty's for breakfast and were on the road by 9am. 7 diapers, 9 pairs of pants and 8 hours later we arrived in Winnipeg with only 2 crying jags. Andrew refused to read or play with any toys because he was determined that we were going to Winnipeg, and I guess he thought this should take his full concentration for the day. Aaron was exhausted after being up until 11 the night before, and slept or played quietly for 6 hours. Then, right around portage, he woke up and stated fussing. Ironically, we had to stop in Portage at the Days Inn 5 min. from my sister's house, where we were going later in the week. After that we got the rest of the way to Winnipeg. Kym and Jeff's house was welcoming, warm and lovely as ever, and they were very gracious about Andrew's 30 min. crying jag upon our arrival (he had finally fallen asleep just around when Aaron woke up), followed by supper and putting the kids to bed and having the initial "Wow, Kym, you're a mom. Tell me about that" conversation, which took until about 1:30 am.

Sunday morning, after lenghthy preparations and a thwarted attempt to walk, we drove the 10 or so blocks to Kym and Jeff's inner city community church. It was Baptist, and so both familliar and newly strange to me. We got through the service and I actually got to sing 2 songs before chaos broke loose, which I guess is about normal. Sunday afternoon I went to visit my brother Derrick and his wife Deb and three teenage sons. We had a great visit, and it was fun to see my nefews growing older. Also, because I"m a bit of an oddball, it is always good to see other members of my family and realize that there are other people out there like me. Andrew was very excited to see Marc's toys (Marc is 12 now, but still has lots of soldiers, little cars, etc), and Aaron was happy to be licked and mauled by Chipper, their dog. It was a great visit, the highlight of which was, unfortunately, when I started laughing while drinking and spewed lemonade everywhere. Classy, Jill. Then Kym and I had a great visit again that evening after all the babies were alseep.

Monday we had been planning to go to the zoo, but it was raining and miserable, so we were going to go to the mall. Instead, Kym remembered there was a children's museum in town and we headed out to the Forks (the best place in the world) and checked it out. There was a big, old engine and coach from a turn of the century train, and a construction section that kept Andrew occupied for two or three hours. He was dissapointed that the train didn't have a steering wheel (which makes sense, since there isn't really any steering to do when you are driving down tracks) but instead there were a ton of little buttons, switches and levers which were a bit over his head yet. The construction section, on the other hand, had the seat and levers from an excavator, which was attatched to a small arm and bucket in a glass case full of little beads. Andrew loved it, and meanwhile Aaron rode in the sling and looked around and Sam (Kym's son) had a nap. We tried their story time, but the woman who was telling the story had a really strong Spanish accent, and Andrew was the only kid there, so it didn't work very well. By the time we were done there, the sun was out, so we went for a walk and checked out this great toy store and also a fare trade shop at the forks. We did lots of what I like to call "parenting in public" -- diaper changes, breastfeeding, snacking, stopping to play and let babies kick on the ground -- in the middle of stores, museums, malls, fields and picnic sites. That night Kym almost burnt down her house but I heroically rescued her with only a wine glass and Kleenex box as casualties of the incident.

Tuesday morning Andrew and Aaron and I went for a wander through Kym's downtown neighbourhood to the park. The coolest thing was that I was carrying Aaron in the sling, and on my way back from the park, there were 3 aboriginal people sitting on a bench. One older man started yelling a word at me, and I just kind of looked at him but didn't know what to say. Then he called out "You carry baby -- in my language, a ______" and repeated the word. He was excited to see someone, especially a white woman, carrying her baby. It was cool. In the afternoon we went to see the Winnipeg zoo. Andrew was not very impressed with most of the animals, but he was very taken with the plastic carts I wasn't willing to spend $4 to let him ride (since I had a stroller and two baby carriers with me). Everyone told me he would LOVE the monkey house, but he spent our whole time there playing with the wheels on my stroller. Aaron loved the monkeys, and they loved him. Andrew was interested in the camels and liked seeing Zebras, but I guess he's just not much of an animal person. That night Jeff's friend Chris came over and Andrew was initially scared of him, but since he has a 3 yr old daughter he knew how to warm Andrew up. By the end of the night Andrew was out playing in the back yard with Jeff and Chris and crying that he had to come in. Kym and I both crashed that night after our marathon of public parenting and late night visits, but we had a great time.

The next morning I left for Portage la Prarie and visited my sister Donna and her very extended family (Donna has 5 of her 6 children living at home, plus 4 or 5 foster kids, one former foster kid and an old man who didn't have a place to stay and now pays room and board to them, plus 8 cats, 6 dogs and an auto mechanics shop plus Don and Beck who dropped by to visit). It was great to see them all and find out what they were doing, although my visit was kind of cut short by my hellish attempt to put Andrew and Aaron to sleep. Aaron's tummy was not happy because I had eaten (duh) coleslaw with horseradish in it, and Andrew was wired because he was in a new place. It was about an hour and a half ordeal full of 5 diaper changes, lots of manic 2 year old laughter and baby screams and mommy yells. By the time I got back Lost was on, and the next morning Andrew was fully ready to go home, so that was the end of our visit. It was fun to watch Andrew play with Don and Mel's toys from when they were his age (some 20 years ago) and to watch him run around with the kittens. As usual, he couldn't just pat the kittens and play string games with them like a normal child. No, instead he ran around with them saying "We're three kitties playing, we're three kitties playing.". It was very cute and let me visit with Donna, which was nice.

Thursday we made the epic trip home. I was going to eat breakfast at Donna's and then stop at the grocery store before we got on the road, but Andrew was done with strange places, so we got in the car and stopped at Tim Hortons and got on the road. It took us a full 13 hours to drive the 650 kms home. We stopped in almost every little town along the way and encountered a great organic bakery in Neepawa, a log cabin style resteraunt where the waitress confided in me that she was 3 weeks pregnant, a gas station where the power had gone out and I had to breastfeed Aaron and put Andrew on the potty in the back corner of their convenience store because there were not lights in the bathroom and the wind would have blown us all over (thus the power outage), and eccentric giant swing made out of tractor equiptment, a very small town gas station with only one pump, and a bus load full of people who got to watch Andrew go potty as they got off the bus (I didnt' realize we were parked right in front of the back lane where the Greyhound stopped). It was a very long, but generally good trip home. We were all extremely glad to be home in our own bed and to see our dad again. Whew. It was a good, but very full and tiring week.

I realzied that as long as you are willing to unabashedly parent in public and it is nice outside, you can do almost anything with your children. And I was glad to get in touch with people from my past, who know me as someone other than "the minister's wife" or "Andrew's mom", and who I could really talk to about things because of that. And it was great to catch up with all my dear friends and family in Winnipeg and introduce them to my new son.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Feeling Lost

Ever have those days when you just feel lost? You feel like some part of you has been hidden somewhere else, and you are just sort of wandering through the day, watching your empty body go through the motions? I'm having one of those days. I'm just kind of blank today. I feel like if someone looked at my face they would just see two black eyeballs and a line where my mouth was supposed to be and nothing else.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It Hurts.

My inner crunchy mamma is suffering today. I had to make 13 cheesecakes for a tea I'm organizing on Saturday (have I ever been to a tea? nope). And rather than make real baked cheesecake I went the cream cheese, sugar, cool whip and pre-made crust route. You know, it is just wrong to feed people something that, once unfrozen, "keeps for two weeks in your refrigerator" and smells vaguely like marshmellows at room temperature, yet is supposed to replace a dairy product. Edible oils, anyone? Would you like some whipped petrolium topping with that hydrogenated crumb crust? But seriously, for $3 a head and with two small children, did I really have the time to bake 13 cheesecakes? And if I had, you know what would have happened? Someone would have complained that they weren't "real" cheesecake. I just know it. I hope I can get away with using strawberries in syrup instead of strawberry pie filling.

Now, on to creating some suitably sweet centerpieces. I thought about being ironic and doing candles wrapped in steel wool with some sort of gold painted cleaning implement on either side, but I don't think your typical "Mothers Day Tea" attendee around here would get the joke. The ladies in my church would think it was funny, but not everyone has such a good sense of humour.

You know you live in a small town . . .

or at least a town with a small amount of younger families when you run into a woman you haven't seen in 3 months and she asks you how your trip to Winnipeg went, and you ask her how her 4 week old baby is doing and know how premature he was and what his name is.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Bewildered by Freedom

Dave took both the boys on a drive to the closest town. They're going to get a snack and come home so I can have a little bit of alone time after having full care of both of them for a week. This is my first longish seperation from Aaron (2 hrs) and I feel kind of lost without him here to check in on and kind of naked without him in my arms. I'm sure all will be well.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Facebook and Enviromentalism

Okay, so what is with this? I had heard of facebook before, but all of a sudden this week I got 4 invitations to join from my irl friends on email and there was a big discussion about it on "Q" on CBC. How does this happen in our culture? Something is sort of on the fringes, or only really relevant to a certain segment of the population, and then suddenly it explodes into both the media and our every day life.

Its been the same with the environment. Like we haven't known we were destroying our planet for the last 15 or 20 years? Yet all of a sudden everyone is interested in going green. Every flyer, magazine, and news show suddenly has all these articles and reports on how to be "green". But we've all known we need to be green for years and years. Or maybe the rest of us knew and the Baby Boomers (the only people that really matter) finally figured it out, and since they're in charge of everything (and will be for the forseeable future) it finally hit the collective conciousness. I just hope people take it seriously this time. Last time around, everyone soothed their consciences by recycling their cans and paper and continued to consume even more than they had before. I'll bet this time people will just switch to ethanol in their SUVs, put flourecent lightbulbs in their giant houses and then keep consuming. I wish people would figure out that we have to rethink our entire society and lifestyle in order to save the planet, not just buy recyled toilet paper and rechargable batteries.

Um, oh yeah, so should I join facebook or what? I kind of agree with the Gen Xer they had on the CBC interview who said "all the people I want to be in touch with know how to get a hold of me already, so why do I need it?". But then, I wouldn't mind finding some of my UCFV friends who might be out there . . . but then, I don't really need to waste any more time on the internet than I already do. I might give it a try. But then, I might not because now its just so mainstream -- what would be the point?

We Survived!

Well, we are back from Winnipeg in one piece and with no emotional scars! Andrew is a little bruised up from falling down Kym and Jeff's stairs, and I am a little disoriented returning to our home after being at the Lukins. You know in those home decor magazines and tv shows they have the "before" and "after" shots? My entire house is a "before" shot. The Lukins entire house is an "after" shot. They are the kind of people who just know how to make things simple and beautiful and organized. So it is kind of depressing to be back in our barren home after being at their house. But it was a good trip, and I was glad to reconnect with Kym and meet Sam, their son (the one I made the monkey quilt for). It was also good to see my brother and sister, and to check in with all my nieces and nefews (9 of the 15 of them live in Winnipeg or Portage). Andrew had a blast at the Children's museum and an ok time at the zoo (I love zoos). Aaron did very well considering that he was in so many new places, and that his older brother was taking up (even) more attention than usual, and that his mom kept forgetting that red wine makes him fussy the next day (oops).

I'll write a little photo essay later this week once I emerge from the giant piles of laundry that I still have to do. Hopefully I'll get to it between that and making 13 cheesecakes and finding some kind of centerpiece and distributing posters for the Mother's Day Tea I'm running next Saturday. Fortunately after that there is a momentary break in the madness. Whew.