February 2006 Archives

Sophie Kinsella's Can You Keep a Secret


Can You Keep a Secret is the first Sophie Kinsella book I've read, although I am aware of the Shopaholic series, and have always intended to read at least one.

I read this one namely because a friend lent it to me and promised me a quick, fun read. That's exactly what I got. The book is fun to read - and a little irresistable, as my getting-to-sleep-at-God-knows-what-time last night will attest. Yes, I finished the book in one sitting.

Most of the time, this book feels very much like another Bridget Jones' Diary, which is not necessarily bad. It does mean, however, that predictability is an issue - it's really easy to see what's coming in the next chapter, not to mention how it will all end. Of course, knowing what's going to happen doesn't change the fact that you want to see it happen.

There are a couple of great characters in the novel, although the main character is not necessarily one of them. Emma, our heroine, is very much a Bridget Jones clone, albeit skinnier. Her roommates are fun sketches, though, and her coworkers are nicely awful.

There are moments of hilarity, many of them contingent on variations on the "how will she get herself out of this scrape-that-is-not-at-all-her-fault" theme. What surprised me were the moments of emotion. I felt tears well up more than once while I read this book, although I am willing to admit that tiredness may have been a factor.

Recommended, especially if you enjoyed the Bridget Jones books or movies.

A close shave

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I know I'm not the first to comment on the increasingly ridiculous 'technological advances' in men's razors, but I can't resist asking - just how hard is it for you guys to shave?

Gillette now has Fusion, with five blades on one side, and a single blade on the reverse for 'precision.'

Five blades? Really? FIVE?

Of course, for the man who really wants a better razor, there's the battery-powered Fusion.

At least there is some comfort in the fact that nothing really changes when it comes to how to sell, if not what to sell. The Fusion site is rife with buttons and cool graphics. Narrated by Cassandra, the short-skirted, high-heeled, long-haired 'director of the lab,' the story of Fusion apparently begins in a secret desert lab (a la Moonraker, perhaps?) with hi-tech holograms of Cassandra in a fetching lab coat over a skintight red minidress.

If you choose to enter the 'holosphere,' as invited to by the ever-beguiling Cassandra, you have the option of selecting 'Fun' - which, according to Cassie, is why you're there in the first place.

What constitutes fun? A screen full of links to on-line gaming sites.

So it comes down to this - if you want to convince men to buy yet another pricey razor, you need (1) more blades, (2) a new twist [in this case the reverse 'precision' blade], (3) optional batteries, (4) a spokeswoman who is both obviously smart, since she's the lab director, and obviously hot for you, (5) cool graphics and effects, and (6) links to other manly pursuits like on-line card games.

Five blades?

Confessions of a grammarian


Yesterday morning, Dr. T and I were having our morning coffee and paper in bed, listening to the local radio news. The news included an item about a convicted pedophile who is now facing new charges. The news reader said something about a group of children, "three of which gave statements" leading to the new charges.

I sat up in bed and yelled at the radio "OF WHOM!!!"

Dr. T looked at me and said "that's what disturbs you about this story?"

I may have to reprioritize.

The glare at unprecedented resolution


The first Heidi picture with the new guy
Click for the full Heidi

I don't see the cat that clearly in real life.

The new arrival



Stupid two-and-a-half-hour battery charger...

Winning/whining in Turino

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We're doing OK at the Winter Olympics, probably because the winter games involve a lot of snow and ice, with which we Canadians are regrettably familiar. Take skeleton, f'r'instance - it's called 'skeleton' because the equipment is a bare-bones sled, no bells, no whistles, no design to speak of, which means our team can almost afford new ones. I bet that during the off-season, we send our skeleton sleds to the Canadian military.

So, kudos to our athletes who are willing to throw themselves headfirst down a long track of ice, or strap Katzenjammer Kids skates to their feet, as our medal-hauling spped skaters have done. Congrats also to Jeff Buttle, who stayed relatively upright most of the time and bagged the bronze figure-skating medal.

A big fat raspberry, however, to perpetually whingeing Emanuel Sandhu, who is still bitching about not being selected for the 1998 Olympic team. 1998!!

Here's an idea - any other Canadian athletes that compete but don't medal, no matter what the sport, should also place the blame on the '98 COC and their decision to leave Sandhu at home. Fall down in the downhill? '98 OC's fault. Lose the hockey gold? '98 OC's fault. Miss the biathlon target? You get the idea.

A lesson in etiquette

In case you are ever shot in the face by a vice-president, please remember to apologize. It's only common courtesy.

And I quote:


"Dear Ms. McDonnell:

Although we were not able to offer you any courses in the current semester, we are pleased to inform you that we have put your name on our list of teachers whom we would like to hire in the future. Please continue to apply to postings, and we will contact you when we have courses to offer."

Yes, to paraphrase Sally Field, Dawson likes me! They really like me!

Of course, I'm still a little peeved at the month of feeling useless, talentless and depressed while I waited for the letter that arrived yesterday.



Yesterday was my second anniversary. Two years, no smoking. To make this occasion even sweeter, I have actually managed to shed the weight I gained when I quit.

Not bad for someone with no willpower to speak of. I think I'll go shopping to celebrate ;)

New recipe!!


One of the benefits of all this time on my hands is that I can try some new recipes. I've discovered a couple in the last two weeks that will definitely become part of our regular repertoire.

Last night's was a lentil and rice casserole (all stovetop, no baking). It's pretty easy, and the list of ingredients isn't too daunting (Dr. T. frequently accuses me of making things up to add to the shopping list, just to test him. But I swear, fenugreek exists! So do collard greens! And vegetarian eye of newt... ok, maybe not that last one).

Anyway, check it out, and remember new recipes are always welcome!

Reflections on Rubrics


My second journal entry for the Assessment as Learning course is comprised of questions upon which we were asked to reflect and my responses. The questions are about feedback and rubrics.

For the unintiated, a rubric is essentially a grid that indicates what the specific criteria are for a given assignment, cross-referenced with a description of what constitutes meeting the criteria. For instance:

Criteria Excellent 8-10 Satisfactory 5-7 Unacceptable 0-4 Value
Sentence structure Uses a variety of simple, compound and complex sentences correctly and effectively. Uses an adequate mix of structures, generally correctly, but does not stray from 'safe' structures. Uses only one structure, or uses more complicated structures incorrectly. Meaning is lost or obscured. 10%

So, without further ado...

Curse you, Superman!*


This was the culprit responsible for the defeat of our washing machine - or should I say near defeat! Yes! The pump has been replaced, and all is right with the world.

...until next time...

*Alternate post title: Sock it to me!

What we did this weekend


performing otter
We went to the Ecomuseum and saw many, many cuddly creatures. The otters were particularly playful, and were a large factor in our decision to buy a family pass for the coming year.

The peasants appliances are revolting!


In my last post I mentioned in passing that the dishwasher is on the blink (literally, since it's blinking "ER" at us non-stop).

Well, yesterday the washing machine quit in solidarity.

This washer has been with us since before we were us. It's a basic 3-temperature wash-rinse-spin Maytag that has handled our laundry from the time we were two relatively clean adults through two spat-up-upon parents with poopy babies to our current two-small-but-active-boys + parents household without complaint. But yesterday, our loyal friend stopped pumping water out, and then tried to spin a full load with a tub full of water, thus burning something that smells horrible.

While I have a handle on the dish washing situation - I even bought one of those fancy wooden racks for drying - I am not prepared to flip the laundry onto my head, stroll down to the river and find a suitable rock. There are limits.

So now we wait for another repairperson - and since the blinking dishwasher is a different brand, we can't do a two-for-one...

It's only a matter of time before the fridge melts or the dryer decides to burst into flames. It's no doubt a Luddite conspiracy.

Me 'n' Nigella, we're like peas in a pod

I'm kind of enjoying my imposed vacation. I'm being very domestic - cooking, baking, cleaning, fixing things around the house, knitting - and since the dishwasher is currently awaiting repairs, I'm even handwashing the dishes.

I got a call from Lennoxville yesterday. One of my former colleagues is considering an extended sick leave, and my former coordinator wanted to know if I would be interested in taking over her two courses.

My initial reaction was to agree tentatively, because although it would mean living away from home again, at least I would be working. But after a brief discussion with Dr. T, I realized that although it would mean working, I'd be living away from home again.

I should point out that Dr. T has never been anything but entirely supportive, and he did not ask me to refuse. He did, however, make it clear that he likes having me at home.

I don't think I could really be a fulltime stay-at-home Mom. For one thing, I don't think Dr. T's insurance would cover the cost of all the psychological counselling we would all inevitably need. But I really am enjoying this interim, perhaps because I know that it's temporary. Last semester was a little too crazy, with the extra course; and the two years prior were definitely worth doing in terms of my career, but I still feel residual guilt about abandoning my children for that period.

Suffice it to say that I called back and said that upon reflection, I had to decline. My family needs me more than they need the money (it helps that two courses wouldn't pay all that much, especially once we deduct gas and room & board).

I hated having to make the call - I was sitting staring at the phone, and Robert asked why I was just sitting there. I told him I had to make a phone call to give some one bad news, and that I was not looking forward to the call. He said "Ok, Mummy, you're off the hook - tell me the news and I'll call them for you."

Which made the uncomfortable phone call absolutely worthwhile.

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