My First '45's

David Essex
I still love this song.

Cliff Richard - Devil Woman

Elton John & Kiki Dee - Don't Go Breaking My Heart
I don't know why I bought this one.

First Album.  My mother hated it.  She smashed my first one.
So I now own two NATO album jackets and one album.

Smokie Videos

Smokie, a UK band, enjoyed a lot of success in the '70's.  Soft rock, glam rock and/or generally easy listening - my parents approved of them which was enough to discredit the band and seven following generations of offspring after them - the lead singer you see in these videos, Chris Norman, is no longer with the group but has appeared with the band for various performances as late as 2004.

Alan Barton, of Black Lace, replaced Chris Norman in 1986 and continued as lead vocalist until Barton died in March 23, 1995, at the age of 41, from injuries incurred when Smokie's tour bus crashed during a hailstorm in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Mike Craft is the current lead singer.  Mike craft wears glasses, has a social security number, pays his taxes and he...helps his landlady carry out her garbage.

So what brings us to this sad, nostalgic post about sappy, love song, singing glam rockers?  The song Needles and Pins was going through my head, Smokie's version, and I thought I would look it up on YouTube.  And because it was going through my head, you get to have go through your head.  Ear worms are for sharing.

"Needles and Pins" is a song written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono. The song was originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon. Other hit versions of the song were recorded by The Searchers, Cher, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Stevie Nicks, Willie DeVille, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, our friends Smokie and the Ramones.

If you weren't into 70's glam rock, and I wasn't, you might know Smokie by the song Living Next Door to Alice.  Needles and Pins was on the B side of Living Next Door to Alice. I still have the '45. I, um, bought it for my sister.  Yeah.

The version of this song with Chris Norman singing is unavailable for embedding.  This is the version with Alan Barton.  He manages to raunch the song up.

In 1995 Smokie paired with some Brit comedian named Roy 'Chubby' Brown for a sort of parody of the song.  You can see it here if you want. Embedding is disabled.  I like when artists can laugh at themselves even if this particular spoof is rather uninspired.

Now With More LEGO & Sex!!

I'm tricking the internet into giving this post a look by adding the word "sex" in the title because that seems to be the only thing that gets anyone's attention. Don't let the piano theory or the fact that Bobby McFerrin is in it scare you. You won't regret it. Click play, it's only about 3:04 minutes out of your day.


Improvisational Harmony - Bobby McFerrin

And when it says "improvisational" it means no rehearsing, on the spot, without warning, Bobby McFerrin and a random audience perform a duet.  Which leads experts to ask the question:

Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment? 

This demonstration of improvised harmony between Bobby McFarrin and an audience happened at the World Science Festival 2009 and shows that humans have an innate understanding of the pentatonic scale in his opinion and personal experience.

Music theory can be a dry subject unless you're a musician and even then the motivation is that you need to know it not that you necessarily want to know it.

Dr. Octave

The pentatonic scale is basically made up of the black notes within an octive.  Most Negro (Black? African-American?) spirituals are written on the pentatonic scale also known as the Slave scale. Amazing Grace was written on the pentatonic scale. The man who wrote Amazing Grace, while he was actually a white American, was a slave ship captain and was obviously influenced by what he heard on the job. Old Suzanna and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot are other examples.

A lot of rock songs also use the pentatonic scale. Let's face it, rock musicians aren't really known for their actual writing skills and it makes sense. If clever song writing were an awesome LEGO set, rock writing would qualify as Primo.  You know, the really big easy LEGO pieces that even a baby can use.  Cocaine, Pink Floyd's Money, several AC/DC and Led Zeppelin songs use it.  Godley & Creme's song Cry is an obvious one and I know that because I actually stumbled onto that melody playing with the black keys long before that song was released. Totally a LEGO Primo, baby, built melody. If you will.

Made really big for humans with very little skill

This is a symphony by Nathan Sawaya

LEGO, making sculpture look pixelated since the 1940's

Bobby McFarrin says no matter where he has used this demonstration, no matter what audience and what country, they all perform exactly the way they did in the video above.

I think that's kind of amazing.

Cheaters never win and I'm looking at you Godley & Creme

All Canadians Will Be Penniless by The End of The Year

This penny and 24 others like it will get you
25 cents toward a purchase of anything

It costs 1.6 cents to produce a Canadian penny and it hasn't been pure copper since about ten years ago. There seems to be no good reason for keeping it around so Canada has opted to remove the penny from circulation.  As of the fall, businesses will be required to collect and turn in all pennies to the bank.  So now instead of constantly running out of pennies at work, we will be amassing them in numbers heretofore unheard of. I'll be glad when that's over.  So long, penny.

Interesting fact: The maximum allowable amount of pennies you can use to pay for a purchase is 25.  So the clowns who like paying for their orders in pennies can suck it.

Push to Walk Buttons DO Work - Just Not Like You Want

Pedestrians often approach intersections and see "push to walk" buttons and actually push them thinking this will make a difference in stopping traffic just for them.  Silly pedestrians.  That's not how they work.

I would like to see traffic come crashing to a halt on my whim - who wouldn't? - but it would be dangerous for vehicles and can you imagine the mischief kids could get up if they did work that way?

During less busy times, some traffic cycles don't include a walk phase at all.  The button is for those times.  Pushing the button forces a 'walk' phase into a traffic cycle that does not include one, or ironically, during a time when nobody will be requiring a walk phase because nobody is out walking at those times.  It will not speed up an existing traffic cycle so a pedestrian can get across the street sooner.

So yeah, go ahead and keep pushing that button.  It will give you something to do with your time while you wait for the walk button which will appear exactly when it was programmed to appear and no sooner.

Why Do People Have Kids?

Neither me nor two of my sisters (I have three) ever felt the urge to have children. My youngest sister has a kid and is done having more.  We all cite the fact that our mother was so messed up that we didn't trust that we could be good mothers.  How can one acquire the skills to do something when a person has had no role model?  But I was wrong.  I ended up with a delightful son in my thirties because there came to be a time when either I had kids or it would be biologically too late and after 14 years of marriage my spouse decided he kinda wanted kids.

I was the oldest of five children and had no illusions about what kind of work went into raising a child. I also didn't much like the children I had been exposed to over the years. I never understood the women who loved babies and wanted babies. I never understood babies either. Why did people get all nuts with a baby around?

So, when it became clear there would be a child in my life I had come pretty well defined standards of what I would or would not tolerate in the way of behavior. My friends told me that it's all well and good to have these silly ideas, when you actually have a child that all changes and all your best plans go out the window.   

No.  No they don't.  Yes, I was fortunate to have a kid who was very verbal at an early age and I think that more than anything helps with the terrible twos. He could make himself understood. I wouldn't tolerate tantrums and when he tried it I would make sure he was not in danger and leave him to his drama. I would come back and ask him: "So, hows the tantrum working for you?  Have you gotten what you want yet?". I looked after children in my home so I could stay home with my son and at a very young age he came to laugh at other children when they were having fits. He saw the futility. Never giving him what he was tantruming about pretty much insured the death of tantrums. At least for him. 

Which is basically what raising a kid is about. Unless you have a special needs child, it's the same as raising pets.  Reward the behavior you want to continue. Don't reward the behavior you don't want. I told him if he didn't like an answer I gave him, I would be open to a calm, reasonable, discussion about why he thought it was unfair. If he made valid points I would reconsider. If he didn't have any reasons, then when I said "No" it was no. Conversely when I said yes, it was yes.

He was a pretty good little kid to have around most times. Happy, smart and a decent conversationalist. Now that he's a teenager there are rarely dramatic moments where tempers flare and angry words are tossed around. We still have calm, reasonable discussions when problems need to be addressed and he often responds with: "I can see what you're saying and you're right".  

Getting a kid like this is 75% luck.  The rest has been the fact that he was raised by 30 something adults who dealt with issues calmly and reasonably themselves, and who required that their child meet a standard of behavior or face the consequences.

I do not understand people who have children because they think that's what they're supposed to do, not necessarily what they want to do. Mandatory parenthood if you will. If you don't want kids, don't have them and don't let anyone guilt you into it. Chances are they're envious of your freedom. For a certainty they will not be raising the kid they guilt you into having. If you don't want kids, don't have them. There is nothing wrong with choosing not to be a parent and you can have a fulfilling life without children, don't let anyone tell you differently. I've heard all the bull shit from people who push children on you. Don't believe them.

You'll hear every normal parent tell you that they would never trade their kids. Of course not. Having a child changes you forever but don't think you're missing anything if you are not inclined to have them. It is a different kind of life not a better one if you do something likewise fulfilling with your life, that is. 

Having a child is a gamble. It's a gamble to invest so much emotion, expense and time in a project that might not turn out very well and you have control over a lot of that. However there are many things a parent has no control over. Like mental, emotional and physical disabilities which take a huge toll on parents and children.  The fact remains however that you can do everything right and still have child that turns out to be a monster.

I have no problem with people who think they will not be a good parent and opt not to have children. My mother should not have had children. But she did and her children have the choice to be good people or not. So far 3/5 have opted not to use her as an excuse to be defective humans. Me, and two of my sisters are productive adults and don't let how we were raised define us. Two of us have had children and are good mothers. It's a choice but it's a choice only if you recognize that the way you were raised was defective and if you educate yourself about what is normal and what isn't and then work consistently to stay in that groove.

I have a brother who is the worst kind of man.  He got married and together they bring out the worst in each other. They have three children they brought into their dysfunctional relationship and one of those has had two of her own.  My brother and his wife are prime examples of why I believe we should be born sterile and when we prove ourselves able to adequately provide for children, and pass the tests and get licensed and meet the minimum age requirement, we have our reproductive powers restored to us.

That will be the platform on which I run when I get into politics.

I Can't Use My Hands At The Moment

I can't use my hands well at the moment and am finding it difficult both to be inspired to write and to actually type. I believe it's a tendinitis thing. I'm on anti-inflammitories for ten days. Doctor Isooba BBwaddene (not his real name, but pretty close) at the clinic seemed disinclined to do much thinking about my problem. He wrote me and my problem off as a 'repetitive motion injury' and acted like that was all that was needed from him. I asked if I should ice my arms/hands?  He said only if it makes me feel better, it won't actually help.  Then he wrote me a prescription for pills. 

It won't help??? Ice is almost the single most important thing you can do for a muscle or tendon issue. Hello? Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation with the focus on rest and ice??? So I'll be making an appointment with my own Doctor. And I'll be protecting, resting and icing my hands.

Funny thing, I can't open the bottle of pills because my HANDS AREN'T WORKING. I'm not someone who has ever had much issues with their health.  No issues at all, frankly. So I'm not handling the helplessness well.  But it's much better today than yesterday and that's the kind of progress I can live with.

Update: It's tendinitis

Rest, immobilize with a brace - especially at night so you can sleep, ice and over the counter anti-inflammitories like Advil or Aleve

Today is National Spinach Day

Featuring national food days might seem like I'm phoning in a blog post, but I'm not really.  

Spinach is enjoying some well deserved popularity these days. No longer confined to the canned cartoon variety known for imparting instant super human strength to old salts spinach, in all it's dark green glory, can be incorporated into almost any dish.

Spinach is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids and a host of additional good stuff you never knew existed.

Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, is considered to be a rich source of iron and also has a high calcium content. 

The really great thing about spinach is the ease involved in making it a regular feature in your diet.

If you're looking for something easy and healthy to add to your meals grab some pre-washed packages of baby spinach and throw one of these salads together. Or conversely, grow your own and reap the harvest of vitamins and nutrients. I'm all for easy so I buy it.

I throw spinach leaves into simple chicken soup - even canned varieties - just before serving.   

Spinach pairs well with either fruit/sweet ingredients as well as savoury flavours for salads. I have a standby Spinach and Ricotta stuffing for chicken that I have used for years but I also enjoy spinach with fruit in salads where its velvety texture is sensuously pleasing as well as delicious.  

Traditional spinach salad. Alton Brown's recipe here.  Not entirely traditional but still good.

Spinach and strawberry salad, reciphere

Spinach salad combos like the one above are refreshing. Here are some other ingredient combos for spinach salad all of them served with your choice of home made dressing or any type of slightly sweetened dressing you can buy. Like poppyseed, or raspberry  vinaigrette . I have a maple syrup vinaigrette that would kick ass with any of these combos:

baby spinach
canned mandarin sections
sliced onion
dried cranberries
sliced almonds
dressing suggestion: Poppy seed 

baby spinach
sliced strawberries
sliced red onion
sunflower seeds
dressing suggestion: Citrus vinaigrette

baby spinach
crumbled hard cooked egg
bacon bits
sliced mushrooms
dressing suggestion: Dijon vinaigrette or Bacon Ranch
(personally I don't like bacon flavoured anything unless it's actual bacon, but you might and it's easy. Bacon dressing is an excellent combination with traditional spinach salad)

Spinach and Ricotta stuffed chicken breasts recipe here.

This recipe makes more than you need for four chicken breasts.  I freeze the remaining filling and then cut it into cubes, throw them in a ziploc bag for use later.  When I want to make the chicken recipe I just stuff a cube under the skin and bake.  Easy gourmet!

Today is National Melba Toast Day

Also, if melba toast isn't your thing, it's also National Chip & Dip Day.

Did you know melba toast and peach melba is named after Dame Nellie Melba, the stage name of Australian opera singer Helen Porter Mitchell? Its name is thought to date from 1897, when the singer was very ill and it became a staple of her diet.

I make my own by slicing baguettes, buttering them and adding some seasoning and baking them on a rack until they're dry.  If you cut them up into cubes you have croutons. They have a lot more body to them than the store bought melba toast (or croutons). Or you can try this: lightly toast bread in your toaster. Once the outside of the bread is slightly firm, remove from the toaster and then cut each slice laterally with a bread knife to make two slices that are half the original thickness of the bread. Toast the two thin slices again to make Melba toast.

Seriously this is something almost gourmet that you can do with a toaster with bread you already have almost going moldy in your cupboard. Get on it. Challenge yourself. Just don't put any freakin' goat cheese on it. Goat cheese should be taken out behind the barn and shot in the head.

You know what I like even more than melba toast?  Holland Rusk.

They're found in these cylinders in the melba toast section

They look better than this speciman

They're crispy and light and slightly sweet and if you google them you'll get pics of rusks tiny beads of pink and white. Or blue and white.

They're anise candies and I wouldn't give you two cents for them. I like my rusks with butter. Maybe a little sea salt. That's it. Candied anise?! Who thinks up this stuff? Someday I might do a post on why five spice powder is the Antichrist of spice blends mainly because it contains anise.  

-Doesn't like goat cheese
-Doesn't like fennel (actually fennel doesn't like me)
-Doesn't like terragon
-Doesn't like anise

This, my friends, is why I don't have my credentials as a chef.  Yet.

This Is Why I'm Broke

So much little few credit cards!  These are some of the reasons why I'm broke.  Actually, not really.  I am able to resist most things but this site is cool as hell and they've collected awesome all in one place on a site called This is Why I'm Broke plus they link you to where you can buy these items, the bastards.  A lot of items come from ThinkGeek a site I have had bookmarked since forever.

Bubble wrap calendar

Glass slide 'blood sample' coasters

Companion Cube Cookie Jar from Portal

More from Portal: Turret Flashlight

Oh yes...

Not just a garden gnome.  A zombie garden gnome.
Bonsai Redwood Forest

Surreal fish bowl

Totally cool!


Steampunk anything rocks

Knife block

Mario earings

zombie door stop

No Damn Way

There's something seriously wrong with my sponsored links.

A marathon and two golf ads.  I think not.  Anyone who knows me knows I'm not the least bit interested in sports and have not checked anything out remotely related to sports in the last few months.

Video game, yes, guilty.

The Boeing Store?  Why, because I have recently flown?  Booking WestJet flights gets me a Boeing ad?  I guess...seems like a stretch though.  

Sunday's Philosophy Discussion - Lying

It's my Sunday, so shut up.

Kant, shown here avoiding your eyes and looking generally morose.

Immanuel Kant believed in a moral philosophy that included something called Categorical imperative. According to Kant humans enjoy a privileged position among living creatures and are, or because we are, endowed with morality and reason. An imperative is a behavior, action or inaction required in any situation and all our necessary responsibilities and obligations are derived from that imperative.

Kant believed that if lying became universally acceptable, then no one would believe anyone and every single thing stated by anyone could be assumed to be lies. (and this was before the internet) Kant denied the right to lie or deceive for any reason, regardless of context or anticipated consequences including negative consequences.

According to Kant, if you were relaxing at home with your beloved spouse (for example) and someone arrived at your door with the intention of murdering your spouse and asked if that person was home it would be a moral imperative that you tell the truth even if it would result in the death of that person. Assuming a murderer would bother with pleasant formalities like small talk.

The question is: Is lying morally acceptable at any time?

I think yes there are times when lying is acceptable and may even be the moral imperative. If lying thwarts the plans of the evil then it is acceptable and does not unbalance the honesty that morals require.

That said, I think that evil is subjective, and that's where humans run into trouble. The occasions where lying would be acceptable will be extremely rare  and would have to meet a universal accepted standard for what defines evil.  Perhaps that can be next Sunday's Philosophy Discussion.

Cartoon by Mike Twohy

I once ran into a situation where a woman, Rose, was far from home and not adjusting to her new life well. She lived among a supportive community who shared her culture, religion and standards so she was not alone. She had returned from visiting her family in Iran a few months before and was feeling better when her father suddenly died. I was friends with a young woman, El, who was close to this person and El told me about Rose's father dying and that her family did not want Rose to know about it for fear of upsetting her further. So the community where Rose and her husband were living, banded together to keep the secret and this went on for months. I was horrified.

I would visit with El and ask if Rose knew about her father yet and the answer was "No" every time. I told El that at some point Rose will find out. Then not only will she have to deal with the fact that her father was long dead but that this news was kept from her by the very people she relied on for love and support. Add to that the fact that she was kept from grieving and paying her respects to her father and all that that implies and you have a situation that made NOT telling her completely not worth the deception.

El was uncomfortable considering the ramifications as well but she was obligated to respect the wishes of the community. It was not my place to inform Rose myself as much as I disagreed with the way it was handled. I hoped that culturally this was not unusual behavior and when Rose came to find out the truth she would forgive everyone based on the fact that they meant to protect her already fragile state of emotions and in the end she did.  But she was so angry and hurt at first.

I told El that if it was the family's intention to keep her father's death a secret then none of us, including me, should know about it.  It should have been kept to the very few people who HAD to know.  Her husband and her family. I felt that the more who knew about it, including me, the deeper the betrayal. If that couldn't be done then she should have been informed. The more people who knew about it the more chance that it would slip out accidentally and then what?

I have to be able to sleep at night and I tend to tell the truth about everything and if I don't want you to know the truth I don't talk about it and yes that can be considered a lie by omission but do you really need to know if I have a horrible headache today? I don't even try to misrepresent details to make things seem better for me than they are.  If I'm being funny all bets are off but I will make sure you know it's a joke.

If you don't want me to tell you something you're wearing makes you look terrible, don't ask me.  I will also tell you that your father has died in the most sympathetic and decent manner I can regardless of your emotional state at the time because not telling you would be far worse in the long run.

I would not tell a person intent on murder where their victim can be found even if my life is threatened as a result.

I would not tell a pedophile where they can find children. Kant is wrong.  There are some people who do not deserve to know the truth and I think if pedophilia is not a universally accepted evil, it should be.


I'm going to apologize for my lack of typing as I have some serious tendinitis in my left hand.

Often considered a garden pest and removed with vigour, thistles are a bit of a sleeper in the beauty department. Their thatch of thorny foliage gets all the attention but left on their own to grow, their fragile blossoms are as delicately fragrant as their leaves and stems are harsh and hardy.  They come in an array of pinks and purples.

Artichokes, one of my favourite things to eat, are a member of the thistle family.  You can see the resemblance below.  I wouldn't give you a cent for marinated artichokes in the jar, I don't know why I don't like them but I don't.  Perhaps they use a seasoning I can't tolerate.  Tarragon for example.  Also, there is a popular hot artichoke dip made using these artichokes, I believe Olive Garden had it at one time.  I don't like that either.  If you have tried these two products and do not like them, I assure you unadulterated artichokes will not disappoint you.

The artichoke is actually the flower bud of the Cynara thistle.

Artichokes may sound exotic and complicated to eat but, trust me, if I can do it anyone can.  They take a minimum of preparation and the rest is done in a pot of water.  

Trim approximately one inch off the top of the artichoke.
Cut off stem and remove tough outer leaves.
Using scissors, trim the top off the remaining leaves.  
Once you're hooked on the heart, you might want to 
cook the stem then peel and eat that too.

Boil in salted water for 20-40 minutes or until tender.
Some people add lemon, bay leaves and garlic to the water

While the artichoke is cooking, decide what dipping sauce you wish to use.  Me?  I use melted butter to which I add cracked peppercorns, a bit of salt and the juice of one lemon.  Some people use mayo, or Green Goddess salad dressing.  Once your artichoke is tender, drain it upside down.

When you peel off an outer leave, it looks like this.

Dip the base of the leave in your dip

And scrape the tender meat off with your teeth.
Don't worry, the tender part of the leaf
comes away easily.
Discard the rest of the leaf in a bowl.
The further into the artichoke you get,
the larger the edible area of the leaf.

Once the tougher outer leaves are gone,
you come to the more tender, lighter coloured leaves.
You can continue to eat these if you wish.
I'm too impatient.

Once the leaves are gone, you will come to the 'choke'.
This is the immature blossom of the flower.
You do not want to eat it.
It is easily scooped out from the base of the artichoke.
Do that now.

This is what the choke looks like once removed.

Now you are left with the foodgasmic heart.

It is tender and mild and delicious.
Cut it up and dip it into whatever sauce you're using.
You'll wish you had made more at this point.

If tattooing where my thing, and it isn't, I would seriously consider a thistle.  Both delicate and beautiful, thorny and harsh it is a contradiction in nature to which I can relate.  Stylized renderings of the thistle abound in Scotland where it is their national symbol and appears on heraldic badges.

The Scottish thistle represents 
independence, strength, protection and healing.

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