Sunday, November 27, 2011

The 7 Link Challenge

Links by Clips

OMG, my friend Holly Jahangiri, the author and blogger, has nominated me for the 7 Link Challenge. Given how many blogger friends she has, I am humbled and amazed that she thinks I can do this. The least I can do is give it the ol' college try, as they say.

Here are the rules - you should especially pay attention if your name/blog are at the bottom!

So I went back and read all my blog posts. I started back in August, and here it's the end of November already. They have definitely become less tentative as time went on and the Lizard Brain got a little quieter. But let's see if I can find some for each of the categories.

My most beautiful post? I think it is probably the one I wrote about the first snow of the year. I just love that first snow - although, as Hawksley Workman said, by February our thoughts on snow will be contrary!

How do you gauge the most popular post? Looking at which post had the most comments, I ended up with this one on choosing a day of rest. Well, there's one with more comments but that's mostly a conversation with my sister ;-).

I don't know that I've written too many controversial posts. I think I may go with this one about the connection between type 2 diabetes and lack of self-care in women, specifically my mother.

Most helpful? Oy vey. I hope to be helpful one day, but so far I don't know that I have been, particularly. Of course, there's the post that I wrote to help my friend Holly win a blogging competition. Yeah, I'll go with that one ;-).

A post whose success surprised me was the one about Jack Layton. Not that it got read by many people, but my friends said such nice things about it.

A post that didn't get the attention it deserved was probably this one about treating young people with respect. Kind of ironic but there you go.

So far I am definitely most proud of the latest one, about G-d, the universe and everything.

There, that's done! Now to come up with 5 bloggers whom I dare bother with this ... I'm just going to put my favourites and hope for the best. These are mostly blogs I've come to know through Flylady, who has changed my life (for the better) beyond recognition. Marla herself has a blog but hasn't updated it since August, so I suspect she has given up on it. She does send wonderful essays out to her followers.

Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida Low Carb blog
Leanne Ely's Saving Dinner blog
Leslie Gonzalez's MissusSmartyPants blog
Sarah Fragoso's Everyday Paleo
And finally, the only blogger whose name I don't know, who writes the Comfy Tummy blog.

If you are reading this and you are a blogger whom I didn't name, I ask your forgiveness and ask you to consider yourself invited! Leave me a link in the comments and I promise to read your blog ;-).

So, any thoughts, friends?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Logic and Wonder - the How and the Why


A friend of mine recently asked me to talk to her teenager about believing in G-d while also believing in science and logic. He's trying to figure things out for himself and she thought a few role models of intelligent, educated people who worship the glory of the Universe, whether they personalise it into a G-d or not, might be a good thing to have.

I was honoured that she asked me, of course, but now I have to figure out what to say. It's always difficult to articulate such things, but I will give it a try.

I have a complicated relationship with the Management, given that whoever is in charge of the Universe doesn't seem to do the best job sometimes. At least, that's how it looks from our perspective when a child or a young parent dies for no reason that anybody can fathom. A lot of people conclude at that point that there is, in fact, no reason and no Management and the Universe is completely random and probably hostile. That was my mother's opinion and she had some basis for it in her life, maybe.

My life has been very different. I've made mistakes, of course, some quite bad ones that I hope my children will not duplicate - it's up to them to make their own mistakes, after all. But I have definitely had times in my life that I knew I was being pushed in a certain direction, that things were falling into place like puzzle pieces and I was being steered. There is no logical explanation for that feeling, for the inevitability of certain actions and choices. Maybe my brain was playing tricks on me, or maybe it was real. I don't know. Flylady calls it a G-d breeze, the Midnight Editor filling her sails. Julia Cameron calls it the Life Force. At the very least, the universality of the experience tells me that it is a powerful effect, regardless of its origin.

I do believe that science can and should be the way to find out how the Universe functions. There should not be any leaps of faith in explaining the movement of planets, the migration of animals, even the weird and wonderful world of subatomic particles where causality and other cherished notions seem to go by the board. It still can all be captured in the math, and not quite as described below.

 (Copyright Sidney Harris, 2006).

I don't believe in the G-d of the gaps. That G-d gets smaller and smaller and more irrelevant as we understand more and more about the miracles of Creation. Newton thought that the orbits of the planets would be unstable without G-d to keep them where they belonged. Now we know there is a much greater miracle - those orbits work very nicely all by themselves, without any fine-tuning. I don't see a need for so-called Intelligent Design. I don't know whether there was a Creator or just a blind explosion behind the Big Bang. I think that people who spend their precious brain cycles trying to reconcile the literal words of Genesis with the latest scientific ideas about the early universe are missing the point. Our appreciation of the miracle of Creation does not depend on a literal interpretation of a set of stories. As the great mathematician and astronomer Laplace is alleged to have said, we have no need for the G-d hypothesis to explain the how.

Don't get me wrong. The stories are beautiful and thought-provoking, regardless of how well they happen to fit with current scientific thought. I believe that the Torah (can't speak for the books of other faiths) is a blueprint for a good life, and that it is good for me to follow it whether Moses literally wrote it down or not. I believe that something happened at Sinai, even if I don't know whether G-d spoke to the people from the mountain or they just imagined it. As Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge. That imagination has come down to us through the generations to lead us into a life that has meaning beyond the mundane.

Is the aurora art? Does the fact that I believe it is caused by charged particles striking the upper atmosphere make it less beautiful and inspiring to look at? Why do I find it inspiring? That, I believe, is where a belief in something larger than yourself (whatever you want to call it) enlarges your soul. You can believe it is concerned with your affairs and you can talk to it; or you can consider it some kind of abstract, indifferent universal force. It doesn't matter. What does matter, to me, is that people think and imagine beyond their everyday affairs, to the beauty that lies beyond.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Ants for Competitive Picnicking

Humans are funny creatures. Some of us just can't leave well alone, and feel a need to measure ourselves against others. Take my friend Holly Jahangiri. She's in the middle of an exhausting blogging competition that won't even let her do NaNoWriMo properly. This on top of her day job as a technical communicator and a wife and mother. Why do we do this to ourselves? This is pretty much a case of the pot calling the kettle black, though. While I'm not killing myself like Holly, I have entered a couple of writing competitions, just to see where I'm at and to give myself a deadline to work against. See, I'm a master procrastinator (this is apparently common to writers - it was even in the instructions for one of the competitions I entered). If I don't have to get something done by a certain date, it tends to fall off the edge of my world. Calendars and reminders help with this, but only somewhat. How about you, do you need competition to get you off your duff?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The First Snow of the Year

Nobody can express the excitement of the first snow of the year like Muskoka-born musician Hawksley Workman.

It has been the summer to end all summers – warm, sunny, no mosquitoes. It has been the mother of all autumns – warm, sunny, dry, and most importantly, long. 

I remember my first Halloween in Winnipeg, October 1995. The snow was so deep the few intrepid kids who came to our door were wading through it. We concluded that was normal to our new home, although in most years since then the snow has not been quite so deep in October. This year we whined over a few drops of rain. How quickly we forget.

This year, September turned to October turned to November, and the amazing, double-digit temperatures went on and on. We began to think, somewhere deep inside, that maybe it would stay like that. The leaves turned gold and then dropped, but we didn’t believe it. It was still warm, wasn’t it? Maybe this year, things would be different. Maybe this year, the inexorable logic of life above the 49th parallel would relent. Wasn’t there some massive climate change going on? Bad news for the polar bears, but maybe good news for us.

The tease went on. Our local meteorologist displays the most impressive accuracy I have ever seen in weather forecasting – almost certainly because he lives here rather than looking at satellite pictures in Edmonton. He told us that the Colorado low coming up would mostly just give us rain on Sunday night, with maybe just a sprinkling of snow on the city. Western Manitoba was going to get it, as usual – 15 to 30 cm, those lucky people who live near those big, beautiful, overflowing, not-yet-frozen lakes. 

Sunday reminded me of life in Western Europe – grey, drizzly, warm. My family went out to visit friends Sunday evening and drove home in the pouring rain and sleet. Snow? We didn’t want to think about snow.

Monday morning it was finally here. Only a couple of centimetres in the city, but oh, what a picture postcard. The roads were black, but all the trees, boulevards and roofs were a gorgeous, virginal white. I wanted to pick up the city and shake it like a snow globe. It’s quiet like a snow globe, too, when the snow dampens the sound of traffic.

Of course, the driving was abominable. Every year the good citizens of Winnipeg act like they’ve never seen snow before. It takes a day or two before everyone remembers what this place is like for six months of the year; they start keeping their distance and slowing down well ahead of intersections. But there are always a few spikes in the accident rate beforehand, usually minor, fortunately.

Welcome, snow. We will curse you by February, but for now we’ve forgotten those unseasonably high temperatures from last week in the joy of your beauty. Time to go dig out those mitts and tuques – I know I’ve got them around here somewhere …

Friday, November 4, 2011

On Being Edited


I am now happy to say that I am a published author! I got to see some of my words in print. It’s only a little community newspaper that comes with our local rag every Wednesday, and I’m afraid there’s been no talk of monetary compensation as it’s a “readers’ column”. But I got to see a piece I wrote printed on dead trees! It also brought home to me quite forcefully that I need to get some decent headshots taken. Note to self: contact lovely photographer who did such a magnificent job on son’s Bar Mitzvah pictures. But I digress.

So why am I whining about being edited? Because I had the unpleasant surprise of seeing some of those words I had so lovingly crafted … altered. Changed to formulations I consider pedestrian or even ungrammatical, or cut altogether. I was well within the word-count limit I was provided, so length is unlikely to have been a factor. Somebody just went to town on my words, because they could. How dare they!

I really shouldn’t be surprised. The CBC did that once while I was blogging for them, I complained vociferously and after that they didn’t alter a single comma. But my sig tag in recent weeks has been a quote from H.G. Wells: “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.” I have edited and cut with little mercy in other people’s copy. So why am I so upset about taking my medicine? I think I would have been completely fine with it if I thought the column actually improved from the editing. As is probably already abundantly clear, I don’t think so. But don’t take my word for it, as they say; judge for yourself.

Compare the published article with the original. It’s not a bad article as it stands, really it’s not. Many people have read it and expressed kind words to me. I am just exceedingly frustrated because I think my original was better. Maybe I’m being arrogant and elitist, but I really do. I’m trying to figure out how to express my feelings to the editor without alienating him to the point of never writing for this particular group again.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!