Monday, May 30, 2011

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

My sons occasionally throw temper tantrums. Like any parent worth their salt, I am mostly immune to Zarf and Klaxon's ham-fisted attempts to vent, to get their own way or to get attention. In some respects, Saturday's post about zip.ca amounts to nothing more than a temper tantrum. By me. To blow off steam. To feel like I had some power over the situation. To get the attention of zip.ca.

As a parent, I'm more than a bit chagrined that it worked.

I made contact with zip.ca through via twitter:


This afternoon I had a chat with a representative from zip.ca. I hope he hung up the phone, walked over to the zip.ca management office lunch room (where staff were eating donuts and a fruit platter brought in by "Momentous Rob," as is his Monday ritual because he's a very nice man who is probably a bit cross with me) and announced, "That lady with the blog? She wasn't nearly as crazy as we'd all feared!" A cheer went up from the zip.ca staff, especially Nichelle who mans the Zip.ca twitter account.

(Yeah. That TOTALLY did not happen.)

The zip staffer confirmed that my account had been pinged by zip.ca's new service algorithm because several of my DVDs have taken longer than average to return to the zip.ca warehouse in Vancouver. Oh, the joys of living in a small northern town. Zip.ca is aware that some people who are legitimate users were snared by the changes to their programming code and they are tweaking the system.  By the time I'd posted my rant, I'd already been removed from the Big List of Gamers (my phrase, not theirs) and my ZipRefill privileges had been reinstated. Isn't that funny?!

HAHAHA...ahhhh...

Well, no. It's actually a little embarrassing. Maybe someone should send me to my room for a time out.

Please?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lie Back And Think of Zip.ca.

Taking a company to task in a blog post is kind of tacky. I always assume the author is blackmailing a corporation for graft. But today I feel I have no other recourse than to use my blog as a forum for my complaints about Zip.ca, a Canadian company that rents dvd via the mail, in the manner of Netflix in the United States. Emails and twitter messages to Zip.ca result in canned responses. Discussion of the situation on their community forums is not fixing the problem. By their own admission, the people manning the Zip.ca telephone lines don't have the ability or the knowledge to fix my account. I'm writing this post because I want:
• to know how many other people are having problems with Zip.ca's service,
• to inform possible customers of ongoing issues, and
• to have Zip.ca stop labelling me as a crook.

Here's the background:

Almost four weeks ago I mailed two Zip discs from my local post office. Upon returning home I logged onto their website to update my account to show the DVDs were en route. Usually within 24 hours, I receive an email listing the new titles being shipped to me. This system -- wherein Zip.ca ships out new DVDs before your old ones are returned to their warehouse -- is a courtesy feature they offered to all customers as an acknowledgement of the inefficiency of Canada Post and the vast geography of this country. DVDs shipped under this system are called ZipRefills.

I didn't get an email. Five working days passed with no response.Thinking this was an odd oversight, I contacted a customer service rep via twitter, then email. I was told that a ZipRefill is not a guaranteed rental and is only shipped when available inventory permits an early shipment.  This puzzled me since I've come to regard ZipRefills as standard operating procedure.  I printed off my rental history and started to count the various types of shipments I'd received with my 2 DVD Unlimited Plan.  If Zip.ca stuck to their One ZipRefill At A Time policy, then I should have no more than 50% of my rentals as ZipRefills. The other 50% should be Regular Shipments, Preshipments, and Gotta Have It discs.

WRONG!  In fact 79% of all my rentals were ZipRefills. Only 12% were sent as Regular shipments. I was sent Preship DVDs 8% of the time and 1% of the time I received Gotta Have It DVDs. 

I began to wonder why the service was discontinued.

To find the answer, I went to the Zip.ca community forums. Turns out that in April, Zip.ca suspended the ZipRefill option for some accounts. No ZipRefills means the number of shipments a customer can expect in a month has decreased by 50%. In essence, I am now paying twice the amount for every disc rented.

It took Zip.ca two weeks to respond to complaints on the forum. In a thread called The Last Zip Refill, a staff member called Momentous Rob posted on page 5:
"Recently, we discovered some gaming of the zip refill system and we made changes to our systems to eliminate it. Don't get me wrong, I love a good game and strategy. But when it crosses a line and starts to effect other customers negatively, we will act. So we started temporarily suspending the zip refill privilege for some users based on a pattern in their behaviour. These users still get the standard zip.ca service, which is when we get a DVD back, we send another out. But they have lost the privilege of getting and advance shipment."
As you can imagine, people weren't thrilled with this accusation. 

Seven hours later Momentous Rob commented (on page 6 of that thread):
"There are other reasons I said in my post that effect zip refill and how it works. I have certainly not labelled all of you "gamers"."
This was a nice attempt to retroactively qualify his earlier blanket statement calling heretofore loyal customers cheats. In that first comment he did not say some people were gaming and some were not, but both lost their ZipRefill rights. Nope. He said gamers lost their ZipRefill rights. The logical interpretations of his statement is: Gamers lost their ZipRefills.  I lost my ZipRefills. Ergo I'm considered a gamer. 

Five hours later -- on a day I assume Momentous Rob calls "one of the worst freakin' day of my career at Zip.ca" -- he posted:
"We have suspended zip refill ability (all of it, not throttled) for some users that were attempting to game it. This suspension is temporary and will automatically lift after a period of time. It is not permanent."
 and
"Just because you have not seen a zip refill lately does NOT mean you have been suspended from zip refill. Please do not try and over analyze this."
Bullshit, I thought when I read this post. This weak-kneed admonishment to not over think why I've lost my privileges is infuriating. They've only given one explanation for lose of ZipRefills: attempts to play the system to get more DVD shipments.  What? I'm not suppose to be annoyed that I'm no longer getting the same level of service for my subscription fee because a computer algorithm says I'm a crook?

Here's what Zip.ca should do if customers are playing the system:
1. people who are blatantly gaming the system are suspended. Point blank. Don't keep taking their subscription fees, with the hope that when you eventually return their ZipRefill rights, they'll suddenly become model customers.
2. educate customers who might be erroneously labelled as gamers because of behaviour that might be suspect, but might be innocent.

Personally, I average 6 DVDs a month -- a pittance compared to most users. I always post my discs from the mailbox INSIDE the post office. My borrowing record is clean -- none of my DVDs have been lost or stolen. I update the status of my discs to help their tracking software. I rate the movies I watch. I'm a loyal, low-maintenance customer. Until two weeks ago I considered Zip.ca to be a great company whom I trusted. Not anymore.

I call bullshit on everything Momentous Rob wrote in that thread. I believe ZipRefill rights were culled by an algorithm designed to cap rentals.  I don't believe that my ZipRefills have been removed because of gaming. I think that Zip.ca are gaming their customers.

I have two theories to explain why Zip.ca might be throttling services:

1. The management is capping rentals to increase their profit margin. Fewer zip rentals = fewer disks to be mailed = less overhead = more profit. Digital downloads and online content are hurting the rental industry, and Zip.ca needs to conserve capital. Especially now that they're doing a deal with Samsung to stream new releases digitally.

2. Fewer ZipRefills means fewer discs in the mail system and more discs in the Zip.ca warehouse or in the hands of Zip.ca customers.  This is important because Canada Post is threatening strike action. Zip.ca says they've made alternative delivery arrangements if the strike goes ahead.  That's a band aid solution that might hold them for a few weeks. It won't amount to shit if they've got thousands and thousands of their DVDs sitting in Canada Post mail boxes, sorting rooms, and delivery vans where they can't touch them till a labour contract is signed. 

If you think both of these theories are far fetched, I'd like you to consider two things:

• wouldn't a company -- upon learning a computer algorithm is penalizing the wrong clients -- either alter the algorithm in the name of good public relations, or attempt to educate their customers so their behaviour is no longer suspect? Why have they not offered to fix the problem? and
• from June 2010 until March 2011, Zip.ca purchased over 100 newly released titles every month. In April they bought 26. In May the added 16. Does this sound like a company with a healthy bankroll?

At this point I don't know if I'm sticking with Zip.ca. I don't think I want to give my money to a company who thinks I'm a crook.




Follow-up post is here.



02/14/2013 -- Comments have been disabled to thwart the spammers who try daily to comment on this post. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Homeschooling Magic.

Yesterday was a sunny afternoon so the boys spent a few hours running around the yard with (SUPRISE!) weaponry, while I gardened. A passing neighbour asked if the boys had a day off school.

"No, we homeschool." I said.

"Oh. **long pause** Really?" was the response.

"Yes. But we are normal. We're not even Christians. We're not loons. We don't hate science. Mr Wrath doesn't have 4 other wives. It's just me! And our totally normal children who do totally normal school in our TOTALLY NORMAL HOME!"

Like a three-legged unicorn trying to open a bag of Junior Mints, I am magically awkward.

Despite my inability to succinctly explain why we homeschool, I'm not ashamed or uncomfortable speaking about our decision. I merely lack the conversational adroitness to express it in a neutral, breezy tone of voice. I'm afraid people will assume I'm a Michelle Duggar-esque, anti-educational, pro-fundamentalist dogma misfit. When I attempt to establish that I'm not a freak, I come across as an anti-Christian, anti-teacher, quasi-libertarian who is judging other people's educational choices. I'm none of these things. I'm just awkward.

To sort out my thoughts, I composed a "Homeschool" page for this blog. See it's up there on the "tab" menu at the top of the page! What if I print off copies of that page and hand it out to anyone who asks about homeschooling? That wouldn't be awkward, would it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gardening Posts. A Victoria Day Tradition.

It took me a while to enjoy gardening.

We moved into this house in January, 2003. We'd toured and purchased the house in autumn, then waited three months before moving in because there were tenants in place. As the snow melted that spring, we were shocked at the number of flower beds scattered about the front lawn, backyard and side lawn. There were 18 beds, 16 were crammed full of perennials. There was one annual bed, and one vegetable patch.

I was pregnant that summer, and I didn't do much in the garden except play a few rounds of "is this a weed or is this a perennial?" with Mr Wrath. My sister-in-law -- who is an avid gardener -- was amazed by the variety. She said there were thousands and thousands of dollars worth of perennials in the yard. This only heightened my paralysis, and I worried about throwing out valuable plants. Valuable plants, I didn't much care for. But still: valuable.

The next summer -- no longer pregnant (on account of my not being an elephant) -- I went through the beds and removed any plant that was listed on the British Columbia's site for noxious or nuisance weeds. Then I began taking out low growing cedar shrubs and rose bushes. I fuckin' hate rose bushes. They're ugly 10 months of the year, a pain to weed around, and god help you if you back into them while wearing shorts. I took out 6 beds, chucking the quarry stone over the fence to our neighbour L. who was building a rubble retaining wall. We turned about 20 linear meters of flower beds back into lawn.

The third summer saw me remove three of the flower beds at the front of the house. These were various scruffy looking shrubs (god damn rose bushes, AGAIN!), and hearty perennials surrounded by landscaping fabric covered by crushed gravel. Landscaping fabric is a scam, by the way. It might look good for a year or two, but when it starts breaking down, removing or replacing it is hard work.

For the fourth summer I continued dismantling beds. The front fence was lined by 8 meters of a two tiered rock garden. I took out the top layer, filling the truck repeatedly with edging rock (L.'s wall was done by this point) and soil and various noxious weeds (KNAPWEED! So many different kinds of KNAPWEED!) plus perrenials I didn't like (peonies, shasta daisies, and mutantly large poppy plants). I kept only the plants I liked: hostas, tiger lilies, rose root, stonecrop and irises. They stay green till the first snow fall and survive with minimal pruning.

I kept on top of the gardening for the next few years and began to enjoy it. I had only three beds. We began to mix in a few vegetables and annuals with our perennials. I became adept at keeping our rock edged gardens presentable. I was a whiz with the garden claw and a bag of bone meal. Two years ago -- to the horror of my husband -- I added a flower bed to the front of the house. Then I gutted the primary flower bed, and turned it into a vegetable garden. I enjoy gardening even more if I get to eat the fruits of my labour.

Last year husband dismantled our old shed, and built a deck. I seized the opportunity to add a 2 meter square patch just for herbs.

Yes, I've got the gardening bug.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and I spent a few hours cleaning out the main vegetable bed. Today I took advantage of the rain to map out the gardens:


For most of the beds, this is just about noting where I relocated plants in the autumn when I did some trench composting. With the vegetables, I try not to plant the same crop in the same place every year. I hope to have everything planted this week (all from seed, since transplanted specimens never survive here), just in time for the plants to go crazy as the days lengthen through June.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Boom, Bust, Shop, Garden.

It wasn't my intention to take a week long break from blogging. It just happened.

For part of the past week we were out of town. The boys distributed learning school sponsored a trip for the students and their families to visit Barkerville. Founded in the mid-1860s this mining town was once (according to the brochure) "the largest city north of Chicago and west of San Francisco." As usually happens with towns in northern British Columbia whose economies are based on resources (*cough* My Town *cough*) eventually the boom gave way to bust. Barkerville became a ghost town, and in 1958 it was designated a heritage/museum site.

We visited Barkerville years ago, but this time the boys had more of an appreciation for the old-timey fun of riding in a stage coach, watching a blacksmith at work, attending a one-room schoolhouse,  attending a theatrical performance (insert jazz hands here), panning for gold, and learning a few words in Chinese. Though both Zarf and Klaxon think the best parts of the trip were the Jian swords they purchased in the Barkerville's China Town, watching Smallville episodes back at the motel and running wild up and down the streets of Barkerville with other weapon-toting boys.

Mr Wrath and I enjoyed hanging out with the other homeschool families enrolled with our distributed learning academy, which is administered by a public school board. Because of the nature of our school (secular) this was one of the few homeschool gatherings where I wasn't concerned I'd offend someone with my crush on Stephen Jay Gould. I could speak of Darwin and evolution and natural selection without risk of social censure. Our eternal damnation.

En route for home we stopped for the night in the Big City to enjoy a few hours of crass materialism, unchecked capitalism, and the hotel pool. After four days away, we were happy to get home to our dog, our beds and our washing machine (okay, maybe I'm alone in this sentiment).

• • • • • •

After I typed this last bit, I stood up to stretch my legs. My thighs ache from a morning of gardening. In particular, digging up, and re-laying the stone pathway through the garden plot to the faucet. I walked to the window, to see if it's still raining and spotted two hummingbirds at the feeder. After a brutish winter, a late spring, and cooler-than-usual temperatures, there are very few blossoms around for the hummingbirds. I'm glad at least a few have found our feeder.

The rain has brought a smile to my face. For one thing, it helps stave off the threat of forest fire. Watching the news about the Slave Lake fire has brought home the risk we take by living in a small town surrounded by forest. The rain also gives me an excuse to abstain from the Canadian ritual of spending Victoria Day doing yard work. My thighs. My burning thighs!

Alas the rain does mean I can't truly enjoy the bistro table Mr Wrath's parents bought us for our birthdays:


I want Mr Wrath to buy a beret and role play being a flirty Parisian waiter who serves me red wine, and baguettes with expensive, smelly cheeses. So far he refuses. Harumph.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Growing and Going.

Zarf was a month shy of his first birthday when we moved into this house. Klaxon was born in the 7-bed hospital five minutes away. Both remember no home other than this one. Both have spent their entire lives considering our next-door neighbours members of our extended family.

When we bought this house, L. was a single father to 2 pre-teens. All three welcomed our little boys casual excursions through the garden gate to the fort built amongst the birch and spruce trees in the farthest corner of their park-like lot. L. grew accustom to two boys hanging over the fence calling out "Hey, L. What are you doing? Wanna come play with us?" Once he accepted their invitation to come over for "blueberry muffins and orange Tang". When they became teens, L's son and daughter babysat for us.  We often saw the kids around town, and they were never too busy or too cool to stop and chat with Klaxon and Zarf.  L. found a new partner, and she (and the peas she grew in their garden) became fair game for Zarf and Klaxon's attention. Their whole family travelled internationally, en masse and individually (only in their late teens, both kids have done solo trips abroad). They sent us postcards that made us green with envy and inspired us to rear globetrotters. When L's kids started to drive, they (and their friends) learned to slow down when they reached the cul-de-sac because the odds were pretty good some little person was riding a bike, chasing a dog, or throwing rocks in the middle of the tarmac. Sometimes it was me.

Today they moved.

We spent the weekend together. We checked out photos of the new house they've bought in Alberta. After 7 years, L's dog finally let my boys pet him. But only briefly.  We laid claim to various bits and bobs they no longer needed and which we MIGHT need. "Hey, it's either coming to us or going to the dump!" is the reason we now have (amongst other things) a new filing cabinet, 300 garbage bags, and 12 ten-foot long bamboo rods. There was a going-away party yesterday and I (Mr Wrath is free of any blame) gave them this:

(The bow is flagging tape -- which both boys associate with L., a forester by trade and temperament)

"This is something you give to someone you really hate, or really like." said L.

"Like. REALLY like," I assured him. 

We got up early this morning to see them off. Partially because I wanted to ensure that he didn't stick that painting in my shed. But mostly because I was already missing them. Zarf and Klaxon posed for photos. First with Chico. Then with L. and his partner. They climbed in their car and L. left the home he'd owned for 20 years. Where he'd raised his kids. Where he'd been an uncle to our kids.

As they drove away, the boys waved good-bye. Then they took off running. Waving and calling L's name. Chasing L.'s car down the block. Then they stood on the corner and waved until he was out of sight.

By the time they'd walked back up the block to where I stood on the front porch both needed a good long hug. And I needed one, too.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"No one can resist the golden lasso. It binds all who are encircled and compels them to tell... the truth!"


This post was composed May 12, 2011 when Blogger was down for maintenance, and published on May 13, 2011.


A new box of curriculum arrived today as part of my now yearly ritual of "ARGH! I've got to spend the rest of our Distributed Learning funds by the end of May" shopping spree. By far the most interesting item -- if you are a 7 or 9 year old boy and live in my house -- was the Antropolis kit. Essentially it's an ant farm, but instead of dirt it contains a nutrient ant-gel developed for use in experiments in outer space! Zarf was pretty skeptical.


"So we have to add extra food for the ants?" he asked.

"No, they can eat the gel."

"Eat the jello?" he looked with renewed interest at the farm. "What's the flavour?"

"No. Not jello. Gel. That's the blue gelatinous matter in the kit. The ants will dig through it and eat it "

"Could a human eat it?"

"No. It doesn't have the right nutrients for a human."

Then from down the hall Klaxon yelled, "It does if that human is Formicida!"



• • • • • • •

I have a small obsession with buying dvds. Particularly television series dvds. For me television is akin to comfort food. I can watch the same show over and over again. If it's been a rough day, I like to settle in front of the tv and watch Remington Steele or Murder, She Wrote or Simon & Simon or (obviously) Star Trek. It's the ritual of returning to a narrative that charms but doesn't challenge, characters who makes me smile, a tidy universe that calms my fragile nerves.

I'm amassing quite a collection of seasons of various series. This impulse to buy tv series is fortunately curtailed by the slim retail opportunities in our small town, but I have found a few gems at our local Field's. It was there I came across Lois & Clark: Thew New Adventures of Superman, Season 1 for the delightful price of $8.  I watched this show sporadically in the early 90s, when I was in university. I remember mostly watching it because I like Lois' clothes. To this day I have an unfashionable interest in blazers with contrasting piping or embellishments and shoulder pads. But I found Clark to be too wholesome (I was cultivating a taste for grunge music, and boys who wore flannel and artistically ripped jeans). Turns out the cure for cynicism is growing up, parenting young children, getting your head out of your own ass, and the sight of Dean Cain in his Superman costume.


I wasn't sure that Mr Wrath was quite as thrilled with this purchase, so I defended it by saying, "It could've been worse. I hemmed and hawed between this and the old Wonder Woman series." And so it was that after 11 years of marriage, Mr Wrath surprised me by confessing that he loved Wonder Woman.  Mr Wrath's been very tolerant to me brainwashing the boys to love Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Men, and The Avengers. He's been good-natured when people remark, "Why you boys know a lot about super heroes and mutants and Spock. Your dad must really like comic books." And all this time he's been hiding the fact that the one and only super hero he loves is Lynda Carter.

So naturally I used this an excuse to buy that dvd set as well. HEY! It was a bargain at only $6.

I was worried that the boys wouldn't be interested in Wonder Woman. Well, in truth I was worried that they'd be too interested in some PARTS of Wonder Woman, but that they'd balk at a show with a female heroine. They didn't. They're just an enamoured as me, and Mr Wrath (who may or may not be too interested in some PARTS, but he keeps it too himself). The aforementioned reference to Formicida (the alter ego of an chemical engineer who can communicate with ants) is evidence that the stories are percolating into their big brains.



• • • • • • •

Despite the boys enthusiasm for Lynda Carter's version, I was less likely to let Klaxon and Zarf watch the (now shelved) Wonder Woman reboot.


(I'm juxtaposing the new costume with Lynda Carter's 
original outfit. After this photo of Adrianne Palicki was 
universally scorned the costume was slightly altered.)

GAH! In theory this new costume should be less suggestive then the 70s version. After all Wonder Woman's no longer wearing short shorts. But the bustier and the shiny vinyl pants borrowed from a dominatrix are obscene. Based almost entirely on this costume, I'm okay that the series probably will never air.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Exercise In Mental Digression.


On May 12, 2011 Blogger crashed. Some of the comments for this post were lost.


I'm not feeling very good. Is it possible that I'm coming down with a cold? Or with a case of general malaise? This would be quite a coincide since General Malaise is my Sith Lord alias. Also the weather is NOT helping my spirits or health. It's rainy and grey and even though the last of the snow in our yard only melted on Saturday, I already have pollen allergies.

Aaaaah. And this concludes the whinging part of this post.

Now I shall buck up.

Last year (or was it two years ago?) Mr Wrath didn't get me a present for Mother's Day. Up until the moment he'd confessed his oversight I was pretty blase about this faux-holiday. But for reasons I'm still not sure of (I am, after all, biologically incapable of nostalgia or sentimentality) it made me very upset. There were tears. And a side order of martyrdom. This year Mr Wrath brought his A-game. He, Zarf and Klaxon gave me a very pretty wrought-iron lantern to use on the deck. It looks quite pretty. Then Mr Wrath made one of my favourite dinners: spinach salads with grilled sirloin steaks and freshly barbecued corn.



I gave myself the Mother's Day gift of No Laundry. Since Sunday is usually the day I fold massive amounts of laundry, this required staying up late on Saturday night to sort and fold and put away clothes, linens, towels that I washed through the week & just let pile up in the laundry room. I also held off on stripping the beds (my usual Sunday morning regime). But somehow there's still a mountain of laundry (including fitted sheets, oh, how I hate folding the fitted sheets) requiring my attention. I'm thinking that No Laundry Sunday was kind of a dumb concept.

I realize that I have been remiss in mentioning our latest attempts at pet ownership animal husbandry not killing things. We're raising 19 Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars:

The yellow stuff is their food.

I hope to repeat our success from last year when 11 of the 12 specimens survived. I think that one of the smallest caterpillars isn't going to make it, and am trying to bolster Klaxon's emotional reserves for this possibility. At present this involves referring to the sickly caterpillar as a Red Shirted Ensign.

This past week I learned that people are very curious about CBC on-air personalities. Based upon the number of people who came to my blog, I was not the only person who thought that Rex Murphy was cat napping in the midst of last week's election coverage. Even more exciting then this validation, was two people coming to my blog searching for confirmation that "Rex Murphy loves Laureen Harper." OHMIGAWD! I hope this is true. If there must be rumours about Ms Harper's side interests (and there are, and they appear to be baseless and influenced by misogyny), let it be that she is in love with my fellow Newfoundlander, Rex. I bet Laureen creates fake personas and calls Cross Country Checkup to engage in witty, verbose, sexy repartee with Rex. While Stephen is listening! That would be amazing.

So what are your thoughts on Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver splitting up?  I am about to write something very uncharitable, so look away if you are easily offended: I really hope that Maria isn't one of those women who lose a whole bunch of weight when her marriage ends. She's positively skeletal, now. If she loses any more weight her cheekbones are going to poke through her skin.

The saddest part of this divorce -- at least to me, who neither knows nor cares for these two -- is that now no one will be inclined to broadcast the Schwarzenegger-Shriver wedding videos. I'm particularly fond of the footage of Maria's friend Oprah Winfrey wearing a voluminous, tiered, beige outfit with the biggest pair of earrings known to humanity. As it is, I can't find the photos on-line. Damn. I only hope that when Maria appears on Oprah's show for the inevitable kiss-cry-confess interview, they show those photos. Because it's all about me being amused by dated fashion.

In case you are keeping up with the Celebrities Who Think They Are Cool By Giving Their Kids Shitty Names competition, I've added three names to the roster since Mariah Carey birthed Moroccan and Munroe:
- Alicia Silverstone cursed her son with the name Bear Blu. Was she watching Bear in the Big Blue House while in labour? While snorting injecting licking ...consuming crack? Bear is not even all that original, because Jamie Oliver's Buddy Bear is 9 months old. And why is there no -E on Blu?
- Bryan Adams and his personal assistant (who may be his girlfriend or he may have another girlfriend and he just likes the Victorian-era habit of sleeping with the hired help) have a child named Mirabella Bunny.
- C-listers Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox named their new son Meredith Daniel. It's cruel to give your son a name that is now almost universally used for girls, but I give them partial points for not using the hyphenated surname of Mohr-Cox. I would be sorely tempted.

This concludes the rambling portion of today's post.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Diet is "die" with a -T. Honestly, I'm too old for this shit.

I don't know that I have ever dieted.

The previous statement is not indicative of a faulty memory.  I don't know because the definition of the verb to diet is not universally agreed upon. Is dieting a renewed commitment to eating healthy and getting more exercise, because you suddenly realize that you have put on a few pounds or have forgotten to work out for a few weeks? Does dieting apply only when you count calories, ban certain kinds of food and/or eat vast quantities of another, ie the Grapefruit Diet, the Dukan Diet? By the former definition, I have dieted. By the latter: hell no.

At this point in my life, I'm just glad to have all my original organs, and my original husband. I workout five times a week. I eat healthy. I enjoy an occasional square of dark chocolate or a mug of vodka. What I eat is determined by the need to control my high cholesterol and hypoglycemia ("CHEESE! I need MEDICINAL CHEESE!," I've been known to shout when I begin to feel light headed),  not because I want to wear skinny jeans and relive my early 20s. Admittedly, no one is knocking on my door asking me to be Giselle Bunchen's body double. I'm okay with that. I don't want to be called a Yummy Mummy (*insert vomiting sounds*) and if someone called me a MILF, I'd kick him in the groin.

• • • •

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

So Precious.

When it comes to celebrity baby names, it takes a lot to shock me. This was not always the case, of course. Once upon a time, I thought Apple was the worst name ever. "Naming a child after a piece of fruit is cruel. It's child abuse!" said 2004 Nan, "That girl will be teased about being an apple martini."

Seven years on, I think the name Apple -- while asinine -- is jejune.

I'm so jaded that I barely reacted last week when I read that Kevin James (Huh? Who? Am I suppose to recognize this name?, was the response from 95% of my readers) named his son Kannon.

In 2011 it takes a lot to shock me.

Alas, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon have helped set the celebrity-baby-name-idiocy bar really high. Their new born twins are named:

Moroccan Scott Cannon
Monroe Cannon

Awful, right?

You know what makes it more hideous? Monroe is a girl. Yup. A girl.

The glittery, pink icing on this ugly name? Mariah chose it to honour Marilyn Monroe. Why would you name your child after a drug addicted, mentally unstable, long dead starlet? A woman best known for her sexual persona, lack of intelligence, and promiscuity is not a good role model for a child. Mariah and Nick should probably speak with David Boreanaz, whose daughter Bardot (as in Brigitte) is now named Bella. I wish Mariah and Nick called her Marilyn, it's a lovely, classy name.

I take some small comfort that Monroe's brother didn't get off any easier. Moroccan Cannon is a mouth full. When I try saying it out loud, it comes out sounding more like "Menachem Begin." I understand why Mariah and Mr Mariah are going to call him "Roc." My favourite part is that Moroccan's name was inspired by the décor in his parents' living room.

On that note, I'm going to conclude this post by thanking my parents for not naming me Shag Carpet, Faux Wood Panelling or Antimacassar.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guest post, by Laureen Harper.

My fellow Canadians,

Are you -- like me -- suffering an emotional hangover from the election turmoil of the past 6 weeks? Were you -- like me -- up late last night celebrating the re-election of my husband, Stephen Harper? Or were you -- unlike me --  up late mourning the demise of the Liberal Party?  Or were you  -- like Nan -- up late watching CBC's coverage not because you were overly invested in the election, but because you were making lascivious comments about the sexual prowess of the on-air commentators?

To wit:
• Peter Mansbridge -- charismatic as usual, prefer him with his just back from the cottage beard. Watching him converse with ex-wife Wendy Mesley is fascinating. He alternates between easy going banter and "CRAP -- better tone this down or Cynthia's going to thwack me upside the head when I go home" stiltedness.
• Wendy Mesley -- all smiles with Peter, but kept it professional. Bet she wishes she could sleep with him one more time just so afterward she could roll over and say, "That was good. But you're no Ian Hanomansing."
• Terry Milewski -- No. Just no.
• Chantal Hébert -- sexy, French accent, new feminine hairdo, but still lacking in even an iota of good humour. Is she a Vulcan?
• Evan Solomon -- physically attractive. Based upon his usage of that smart screen, he lacks the manual dexterity to satisfy a woman.
• Rex Murphy -- asleep in the back corner for most the night. Probably very thorough when it comes to making lurve. Also inventive with pillow talk. Vulgar metaphors! Dirty literary allusions! Historically accurate, lewd jokes about philosophical paradigms and schisms and other big words I don't truly understand! He's a bobcat in bed, I just know it.


At present Stephen's run out to pick me up a double-double. Well, he's really just supervising the enterprise. Stephen will wait in his Prime Ministerial Hummer (he only goes into Tim Horton's for carefully arranged photo ops and even then only during elections), while his pet Jason Kenney dashes inside.  Hope Kenney doesn't screw this up.

So while I'm alone, I wanted to take a moment to communicate directly with you.

Thank you, Canada, for returning my husband to power. Thank you for giving him another mandate. A majority government means there is no chance of an election for four years. Hence I now know -- with utter confidence -- that I will meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Will and Kate when they come to Canada this July.

Oh, thank God. I'm so relieved.

I was really looking forward to the Royal Wedding. I had already purchased my ensemble when the election was called and we had to cancel our plans. I had made careful notes that not everyone was charmed by the dress I wore for the G20 Summit gala.  That dress was a homage to my Ukrainian heritage. I was deeply hurt when Jon Stewart on the Daily Show referred to me as the Canadian Prime Minister's "beautifully gift wrapped wife, Lauren." Firstly my name is Laureen. Secondly, in Alberta we like our belt buckles, our guns AND our dresses to be shiny!


I should also take this opportunity to send out some apologies.

Firstly, to my husband Stephen. I'm sorry I yelled at you. I don't hate you. Nor do I hate your budget. Stupid though it was. I had Royal Wedding fever.

I also regret making threatening phone calls to the 156 Members of Parliament who voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.  I realize that they did not set out to ruin my dreams of attending the most important nuptials of the decade. In particular, I apologize to Jack Layton. I was not in my right mind when I confronted you that day in the Centre Block, Jack. Rest assured -- even if you'd not wielded your cane in such an impressive display of strength and speed  -- I would not have followed through with my threats to shove my Royal Wedding fascinator up one of your more sensitive orifices. Tell Olivia I'm sorry for pulling out a clump of her hair.

Well, Stephen is back from his "beverage and refreshment run" (his phrase, not mine) so I'd better publish this post quickly. Then I shall turn my attentions to my two main tasks:

a. once and for all banishing the decor installed in 24 Sussex Drive by Mila Mulroney. Really? Mila, leopard skin carpet? Were you planning on turning this place into a brothel or a casino?

b. planning all the wonderful AMAZING things I shall do when Will and Kate visit. I'm already working on my curtsy skills, developing a taste for shitty  English  shitty chocolate (Ugh. Cadbury is the worst.), and buying non-shiny dresses.

xoxo

Laureen Harper.