Friday, September 30, 2011

Simple Minds

There's a saying "simple things amuse simple minds". I suppose that clearly explains why so many things entertain me. I don't find this to be an offensive quote. In fact, just the opposite, particularly in view of another saying that goes, "only boring people get bored."

I have a cell phone. This is not big news since over two thirds of the population of Canada has cell phones. Many of these technological marvels are much more sophisticated than mine. Doesn't matter. I like mine. I can text and I can talk. That's all I need at this point, although I know my phone has much more untapped potential.
While searching for the volume control recently, I found a "display" feature that amused me. I immediately saved it so that I might view it whenever I wanted to use my phone. It was a monkey sitting on a bench, trees in the background. Monkey did nothing. He just sat. One day, I looked at my phone and saw the monkey's tail move. I stared in disbelief wondering how to get him to do that again. Another day, I noticed a duck swimming back and forth in front of the monkey. And on yet another occasion, there was a city instead of the small forest behind the monkey. Cool ! 
Monkey on bench, duck in lower foreground
When I left the phone turned on but plugged it in for charging, I made the best discovery of all. A cherry picker type of machine brought a banana, the monkey tilted his head back, opened his mouth and gulped the banana. Wow ! This was far better than a video game. It required no effort and there was no possibility of losing the game. It got even better as the monkey's tummy started displaying signs of having eaten by filling up. I especially enjoyed his facial expressions as he anticipated the arrival of the next banana.

When monkey was finished eating, and the battery was fully charged, he went back to his spot, awaiting the arrival of his bench so that he might rest once again.

There might be some people with phones that have advanced graphics or gaming capabilities who wonder why this entertains me. There might be others who look at me and wonder how much my brain matter has deteriorated since I've retired. I, on the other hand, am simply looking at and being amused by the wonder of that which is a simple thing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall Flies and Friday Frivolity

They arrive every September, at about the same time as our flowers bloom bountifully, and the lawn is lush. One group annoys us in the kitchen while another keeps us from enjoying our decks and patios. I'm speaking of course of fruit flies and hornets.

I always found Mendel's fruit fly studies really fascinating. I did not, however, enjoy hearing that each female lays 500 eggs...very frequently. Each year as the annoying little insects show themselves, I recall that particular statistic. In an attempt to erradicate our annual fruit fly infestation, I used the dregs of a container of  juice to drown them. I've heard that anything yellow, including wine, works. What a waste of wine! The juice seemed to be trapping them quite adequately, although I'm fairly certain, considering their reproduction rate, that I'm not winning the war.

I checked the internet for further information and found someone who actually wrote about a humane way of catching and releasing fruit flies. Are you serious? Who in their right mind would think there aren't enough fruit flies in the world, particularly at the laying rate mentioned above? There are other options...cold temperatures and excessive heat kill them off. I'm not ready for either, so I will do what I always do...wait. Eventually, they disappear although I'm mystified as to where they go. I guess they all just decide to die out one day.

In the meantime, I think of and chuckle at the joke, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana".  I guess I'd better bake something with those three very ripe bananas in the kitchen.

The weather's been lovely and we have had company on a number of occasions lately. We have been unable to enjoy our deck. The reason? Hornets. They seem to hover in droves at this time of year. Ask any child in a school yard as they innocently attempt to eat their snack at break times.

I tried the tuna, oil, borax and baking soda concoction I've heard about. Apparently, the hornets have also heard about it and stayed away. All I managed to accomplish was to waste tuna while creating a massive stink. It also piqued the interest of a few houseflies. Just what I need!

I noticed that we have no hummingbirds around our feeder, only wasps and hornets. Seeing that, I devised a new plan...."like a bee to honey" as the saying goes, had to work for hornets as well. I had a bit of honey left. At first, I just left the open container outside. It's amazing how they can squeeze in through the tiniest hole. But of course, they never get back out. Then, being somewhat sadistic, I decided I wanted a better look. I used a jam jar, put in a bit of honey, covered it with cello wrap and poked a small hole. It worked. They congregated inside...and stayed.
One full day later, the jar looks like this. I'm not sure whether I'm making progress in getting rid of them, or whether I'm just attracting hornets from the entire neighbourhood. At what point do I give up? When the jar is full? Or do I give up when they do?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Missing Blogs...Updated Digs

There are a few activities that keep me from blogging. These include travel, opportunities for new experiences and/or adventures, fun with friends, assorted hobbies and being home alone. This past week, it was the latter. I was left to my own devices. Hubby has figured out that there's usually some surprise every time he gets back from a trip. Here's the most recent.

Our bedroom is small and has been drab, beige and out of date. I decided to remedy this situation. I did nothing too drastic. The wall colour I selected was based on hubby's opinion as "nice". I made my decor choices using two criteria. As mentioned, the paint shade had prior approval. I needed a co-ordinating colour so I checked some home decor magazines and finally, the colour wheel. I know you're supposed to select colours that are generally opposite on the wheel.
Another criteria which I have recently heard intrigued me. When you want two colours in a room and can't decide which two to put together, think of the colours on fruit and vegetables. It works. is my veggie choice.
Although I would have preferred the aubergine as an accent wall behind the bed, I decided to stick with a lighter shade of "Shrek green" and use the eggplant shade for accessories.

After I mentioned on facebook, that I "made a mess" friends commented and requested photos. It didn't occur to me to take any pictures until that point, so here goes. This is more of a "during" rather than a before shot.

I had to work in tight spaces and figure out how to move heavy furniture by myself.

I have now managed to reassemble everything and am fairly pleased with the results. A few things are still going to be done. I'm planning on painting a mural for over the bed and replacing a cheval mirror with a wall mounted one. A small perfume cabinet needs to be repainted to match the furniture and added to the wall decor. I like it a lot and hope hubby does too.  And yes, I still had time left this week to spend with friends.

White, Green and Aubergine!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Frauds and Scams

I usually hang up on these people. This guy was a little more convincing. He talked fast and gave me a deadline of a few hours before my computer would crash and no longer be protected. I stayed calm. I asked for a name and telephone number. I noted the time 1:02 p.m.

My name is "Mike Wilson" he announced. I don't think so, my brain told me. The accent was clearly not that of a Mike Wilson. Then he gave me a microsoft telephone number beginning with the area code "209"....California. "I'm calling from microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington," he said. I have since looked up the number he gave me (209) 753-4864 Landline Likely Location: California (Angels Camp) Calaveras County.  That was Red Flag #1. When I looked up the number from which he actually phoned, the "unknown name" call came from (253) 802-0308 Landline Likely Location: Washington (Auburn) Seattle-Tacoma metro area, King County. I hesitated, although I know for a fact that microsoft has a 1-888, 1-877 and 1-866 numbers (looked it up while he was talking). I have heard that some calls can be rerouted from such countries as...oh...let's say India, through U.S. lines.

"Your computer has been hacked by someone in China. It has been used to transfer funds from different accounts. We will have to call the cops immediately if you don't respond and do as we ask right now. Click on the windows sign on the bottom left and go to computer."  Red Flag #2 - Representatives of a legitimate company calling police officers "cops"? I don't think so.

"How do I know that you're legitimate? You could be anyone phoning. Why have I received no other information regarding this?" I asked.

"We notified you on your computer many times. You didn't respond."

My brain starts to think. Could be I suppose. I don't pay attention to everything that comes up.

"I don't think so. I have anti virus and firewalls and all that stuff. Perhaps I'll call the number you gave me later and see." I suggested.

"Oh no ma' must act right now. Your computer is not protected. It has been hacked. You will lose all your data in a couple of hours. Your info is out there and is being used for illegal purposes. We will be calling the cops as soon as you hang up."

"Thanks Mike, go ahead. I'd like to talk to them."

"Wait, you don't understand this is urgent. You must act now. I will connect you with my supervisor. Here he is."

So then the "supervisor" got on the phone...same accent. I requested his name...Shelton Valentine. Right. I received the same spiel and was told I could purchase an updated security for $390. Seemed odd. I didn't think it was necessary to purchase this from microsoft every three years. Besides, my computer is only 2 years old. Red Flag #3

I told them I'd get back to them later, after speaking with my husband and hung up. I researched further. I found the following article describing my exact situation and microsoft's advice.

I contacted the police to find out how to proceed. They gave me the phone number for the Canada anti-fraud centre. I discovered that they also have a website. I clicked on this site and found this headline and info.

Scams of the week

Anti-Virus Scams

WARNING:Your computer may be infected by a virus. Take preventative action now!

"Allowing someone to remotely access your computer is extremely dangerous and can leave you vulnerable to a variety of frauds. If a service provider calls and offers to upgrade your computer's anti-virus software, be extremely cautions. It's most likely a scam..."

The website is one with which every Canadian should be familiar. I am relieved that I did not allow anyone to access my computer, that I didn't make changes on my computer or give out any info on the phone. I shall report this incident when the fraud centre office is open on Monday. Mostly, I'm glad that my computer has not been hacked by some evil foreign powers who are using it to illegally transfer funds.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Zumba Shirt Creation

One of my favourite new physical activities is Zumba. When I first went to this particular class at my gym, it was advertised as follows. "Ditch the Workout, Join the Party!" It attracted my interest. Fun is the name of the game and what can be better than singing, dancing, moving and acting foolish in dim lighting, while burning hundreds of calories?

At first, I wore a baggy t-shirt, track pants and running shoes. I have since learned that anyone who shows up in an outfit like that, is clearly a newbie. The more times I participate, the more "zumba-like" my clothing is becoming. I acquired the essential shoes fairly quickly (see post "Hip Hop Hilde" April 9, 2011). Recently, I decided that my shorts were too baggy so I shopped for some Lululemon crops, similar to bike shorts. I needed to complete my new look...flourescent socks and a zumba shirt. After doing a bit of research, here's a quick summary what this crazy lady created. 

I dug out an old shirt. I used a plate to make semi circles on each side and I cut slits toward the centre of the shirt. 
Then I cut the back of the shirt in a diamond pattern...small, bigger, smaller cuts and slit each reason, just felt like it...ease of movement. I cut off the collar and a chunk of the front and added a few slits.


Next, I wove the back once, didn't like it, so I wove it a second time. Weaving consisted of lifting one strip over the next and so on.

I double knotted the strips on the sides of the shirt.

The finished product looks like this. I particularly like the back. Not bad for my first effort. I just know my hips will shimmy faster and my zumba arms and legs will fly higher now that I have an official outfit.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Starry, Starry Night...

My friend recently showed me her new "Samsung" cell phone with all its features. Suddenly, a photo of Vincent Van Gogh's painting, "Starry Nights", popped up on her screen. I noticed it immediately as it brought back a few memories.

I remember viewing my first real Van Gogh work at an art gallery. It was one of his landscapes, a farm painting. I didn't always appreciate this particular artist, until I saw one of his pieces close up. The lines and strokes were fantastic and intricate. When viewed from a short distance away, the combined brush strokes created a masterpiece.

While teaching in later years, I had the idea that it wouldn't hurt to expose 4 and 5 year olds to more sophisticated levels of art, poetry and music. I thought, why not broaden their awareness during the "formative years" when the bulk of their learning as humans takes place? I was fortunate to be able to acquire a few childrens' art books, stories and calendar reproductions during one of my own gallery visits. These helped me with my presentations. It was great to have some resources to which these very young children could relate.

I taught them a little about a number of artists, but they seemed particularly interested in Vincent Van Gogh. Perhaps it was the flow of the name which they seemed to enjoy repeating over and over. "Van Gogh, Van Gogh, Van Gogh."  When we looked at a picture of his sunflowers they tried to reproduce it, as a group, in mural form. I had pre-sketched the blooms and it became a paint by numbers type exercise which gave them some idea as to the intricacies of his work. When they each wanted to create their own "Van Gogh", I gave them an simple outline of "Starry Nights" and some pastels.  Many did a wonderful job combining the blues and golds in their pictures.

Some time later, I remember reading the class a story. It was about a group of children going on a field trip to a farm. The illustrations were simple, appealing and cartoon like. When I turned a page, one of my students, Alex, piped up saying, "That picture's just like starry nights". This was one of my fondest teaching memories. Alex, had made a connection. After all, that's what learning is all about, making connections. He noted that one of the illustrations had the stars and swirls in the sky very similar in style to Van Gogh's "Starry Nights". Fantastic! I hadn't even realized it myself.

Since that time, I have become more observant. Thanks to Alex, I have been seeing "Starry Nights" everywhere...on dishes, on note cards, on jewellery, on a poster advertising the movie "Midnight in Paris", on my friend's new phone and on youtube.

Thanks to Don McLean, who wrote this haunting song, "Starry, Starry, Night" about a creative, sad, yet important life.

*** Added Comments  - I always print my blog and insert the pages into a three ring binder. As I did that this evening, I noticed that the cover of my 2011 blog binder has on it a rather lovely reproduction of "Starry Night." I had forgotten that.  Also, feel free to ignore or click off the ad for "Chinese lady for dating" that appears when viewing the youtube selection. That is of course, unless you are interested.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What I Think....Book & Movie

As a child, I remember hearing things on the news. I heard the terms riots, Klu Klux Klan, civil rights, beatings and murders. I had no idea what exactly was happening, but I knew instinctively that there was something seriously wrong. I became more aware of the issues, worse in some parts of the south, as a teen. Then came the shocking assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

In my "almost" adult years, I had a doctor whose secretary had a distinctly southern accent. One day, I asked her about it. She said she and her husband had moved to Canada from the U.S. I inquired whether there was any particular reason and she responded, "My husband is black."  I looked at her quizzically wondering how this could possibly be an adequate explanation. I was still young. Eventually I learned. I realized how serious and unbelievable circumstances were during my generation.

This summer, I read the book, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. It describes life in Jackson, Mississippi during the 60's through the eyes of black maids who worked for wealthy families. I found it rivetting, insightful and disturbing. It's hard to believe that the story was rejected 60 times before it was finally published, only to become a New York Times best seller. This was different from my normal reading fare. I'm glad I picked it up and I highly recommend it.

The plot centres around several black maids who were asked by one young woman, an aspiring author and member of a group of wealthy, educated white friends, to risk their lives by telling their stories. The request was that they describe their treatment by the families for which they worked. They hesitated at first, fearing retribution. Despite their fears, one by one they came onboard with the idea.

When the movie version was to be released, I was worried. I have rarely seen a well done film version of a book. Then, I read some reviewer comments and saw previews which suggested that the story was a comedy. How could this be? How could they make light of such a serious topic? I finally went to find out for myself. I was surprised to discover that the movie was extremely well done and followed the story closely. Of course, there were liberties taken and there were omissions of details, as is necessary when shortening a lengthy novel to two viewing hours. This did not, however affect the overall content. There were humourous incidents, but the story was presented seriously. The acting was superb. It fully described the snobbishness and the manipulations of the weak by those who considered themselves superior. It showed the attempts by one woman to improve her status and the struggles by a newbie to the community who just wanted to belong. Then of course, it showed the maids, their lives, their work and their child rearing expertise. It demonstrated forms of racism and abuse tolerated by the black community in order to retain their menial jobs. The maids, were in fact more down to earth, loving, understanding and competent than many of their employers.

My only criticism would be that the movie didn't fully present the frightening aspects and the danger of the meetings. The sneaking around and the lengths taken by the author and the maids to maintain secrecy were much more intense in the book than in the movie.

I am rarely interested in attending a movie twice. I would go to see this one again. The first time, I was so engrossed in the acting and the story, that I didn't get to enjoy the efforts by the filmaker to replicate life in the 60's. Part way through the film, I noticed the background details. I saw a box of the all too familiar "Breeze" laundry detergent used by my mom when I was a child. I'm certain that there are more props that I would like to see and reminisce about. It's a strange reason to go to a movie a second time, but nonetheless, I would.

I think the main message of the story is obvious. People are people. The maids wanted was what everyone wants. They wanted to improve their conditions, feel safe and make life better for their own children.