Saturday, July 12, 2008


I was once told by a guy I was dating that the really interesting girls like cats. I’m definitely a dog person. But anyway, even though the guy who told me this wasn’t exactly Mr. Fascinating himself, as I’d always fancied myself to be at least a moderately interesting woman, I was bothered by his comment. Mostly because I felt that he was implying that I was uninteresting.

Actually, since he made that comment, I found that I was constantly stopping myself in the middle of my recounting of personal anecdotes. I became self-conscious that I was boring the listener. Inevitably when I would comment about how this story must be a bit boring and sorry for going on for so long, the listener would take great pains to assure me that, no, they were really interested and to please keep going. But by then the momentum was lost and who are we kidding, no story about laundry mishaps can really be that interesting anyway. So it was really like a curse. I became the girl who stopped short of the punch line. Which, if there never is a punch line, means that you tell pretty dull stories.

I stopped getting invitations to parties. I found myself sitting at home alone every night - paralyzed by a combination of social phobia and extreme unpopularity. I had no energy. I thought about putting a profile online to try to get a date, but felt like it was too big of an effort.

One Sunday afternoon I was lying in bed and got a call from my mother who was concerned about me and told me I couldn’t stay all alone like that in my apartment anymore and that I was only twenty-seven and that I should be out there meeting people and having fun. She said she was coming over with a surprise.

The surprise was Yoni the cat. Yoni had come from the Orthodox Jewish family who lived beside my mother and who was making Aliyah and couldn’t take Yoni with. My mother told me that Yoni needed very little care and that I just needed to feed him once a day, change his water and scoop the cat litter whenever it became smelly.

Yoni liked twist ties. It was kind of crazy how he could spend the whole day batting around a stupid twist tie and never get bored. I brought some twist ties into my bedroom and put them on the floor beside my bed so that I could watch him bat them around while I was lying down. At some point I got the idea that maybe Yoni would like to play with some string, so I found a ball of yarn and watched as Yoni played with it and nearly got himself completely wound up in a mess of blue yarn. Yoni also loved to play with boxes. One time he got his head stuck in one of my Lean Cuisine frozen TV meal boxes and he looked so funny wandering around the kitchen and bumping into things. But most of the time, Yoni just wandered around the apartment or gazed out the window thinking his own cat thoughts.

This is what I tell Mark, who is sitting across from me at the coffee shop. U of T law grad. Setup by my mother.

"Wow," breathed Mark. "Cats are such interesting and mysterious animals."

He said this while looking deep into my eyes, as though he was trying to unlock a door into my soul.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I remember the first time we tried to do it. I say "tried," of course, because it didn’t work . You were way too nervous.

But after that, you lay behind me and kept your hand on my back until I fell asleep. Well, at least you thought I was asleep. I couldn’t actually fall asleep but I pretended because I knew you were a romantic and liked the idea of me falling asleep in that way.

I read about this study where scientists found that babies who do not receive touch and affection stop growing. The theory is that touch signals to babies that they are being well taken care of, so they can invest energy in growth (thus increasing their energy intake requirements) because their future food/energy needs will be met.

But lying there I thought that this really just illustrated the broader phenomenon of all humans needing touch. Before that warm afternoon, I’d felt a bit like an energy-conserving shell myself.

There was also something about the fact that I lay with my back to you. You could have done anything to me- cut off all my hair, stabbed me in the back with a big knife, or stolen my clothes and run out the door. But I knew that you wouldn’t. I totally trusted you.

But you never let me lie like that with my hand on your back.

You said it was because you had bad back acne and you were too embarrassed. But I wouldn’t have been disgusted. And the fact that you never let me made me feel like you didn’t trust me. I still think you didn’t.

I don’t really think about this moment all that often. And I’m definitely not one of those visualizing ‘breathe and go to your happy back rubbing place’ kind of people either. But just the same, when I think about heaven I imagine it as a place where it is always a lazy Sunday afternoon, and we are all lying on a giant plush bed, dozing in an endless chain, hand-to-back, with the smell of fresh coffee wafting up through the clouds.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

April Challenge -

I can't believe April has come and gone and I have not managed to write a single thing about time. I took a quick look at my archived posts and realized that I actually seem to be obsessed with the topic. It is not that I don't have lots to say about time - I have just run out of it. In a very lame way I suppose this is my post. May will be better.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Here is my March Writing Challenge Post.


OTTAWA - According to witnesses, Dr. P.K. Langa was picked up by police at the city park late this afternoon. He was found wandering in circles around and around the gazebo. Dr. Langa had been reported missing by his wife late yesterday afternoon.

"Yo, it was like the dude was short-circuiting or something," said Ted who apparently noticed the scientist while passing by the gazebo on the way to the skate park. "Yeah, it was like the lights were on but nobody was home, if you know what I mean. He just had this totally trippy look on his face."

Indeed, this accords with many reports from those who interacted with Dr. Langa during the last few days of his decline, prior to his disappearance. Some described his look as "glazed," "blank," or "other-worldly."

Dr. Floban, a rival Bio-Computoficiency Investigator in the Milton Research Institute, was less than sympathetic towards Dr. Langa.

"Dr. Langa was never one who could accept his failures. Plus he was lazy. He simply didn’t take the time to work out the glitches and safeguards in his Compu-Life™ System," said Dr. Floban.

Lily Ambrose, a graduate student in Dr. Langa’s laboratory, who is currently testing the Biocompu-Lumination™ System (a system in which a micro probe in the computer-user’s arm senses levels of melatonin and vitamin D in the body and regulates the office halogen lights according to bio-need) still speaks with pride about her boss’ invention.

"The Compu-Life™ System is really an invention whose time has come," she said. "We’re talking the latest in fully-integrated, computolife real-time synchronicity, plus biofeedback monitoring. It’s beautiful," she said glancing at the photo of Dr. Langa that appeared as the screen saver on her desktop computer. In the photo, Dr. Langa is wearing a white lab coat and holding a giant clock in one hand and giving a big ‘thumbs up’ with the other.

From the preliminary reports of Dr. P.K. Langa that were submitted to the Ethics Board, and obtained by reporters through the Freedom of Information Act, we are able to gain some insight into the functionality of the invention. In general terms, by monitoring all aspects of the user’s life in real time, the computer does instantaneous calibrations and spits out time-minimizing and efficiency-enhancing instructions for the user.

The System requires the user to wear an armband at all times. The device has a voice-activated display that connects wirelessly back to the main central computer. It also requires the wearing of a tiny camera that takes real-time video of everything seen by the user as well as Compu-Pit Pads™ - thermal monitors that are worn under the arm pits that detect the user’s pulse, scent, and temperature. This device had been validated as an excellent proxy for physio-chemical states key to human decision making. The main computo-output interface is through a simple earpiece that the user keeps in his or her ear at all times. The computer has a synthesized voice, used to communicate the instructions.

In terms of daily use, every morning, before the user leaves his or her home, the user would program in their approximate schedule for the day. The computer would then monitor the user's life events as they unfolded.

For example, the computer would know about a scheduled 9 a.m. meeting- and using fairly standard optical-GPS technology, could detect if the user was running late. If such was the case, the computer would send directions to the user’s remote earpiece that would guide the user to take the best alternative route.

"But," Lily said, "the real advantage of the Compu-Life™ System is the fact that the computer integrates so much information that it is able to perform much more nuanced decision-making functions."

As one example, Lily described the advantages of the system’s face- and voice-recognition software. Using this technology, the camera monitors the user’s interactions with others throughout the day and can assess characteristics such as the sincerity of the person with whom the user is interacting. Based on the facial-voice analysis, the system would analyse any decisions that were to be made based on the interaction and provide the user with the best statistical course of action. As a trivial example, Dr. Langa, who hated to be ‘taken for a ride’ apparently used the system to buy a used car at a good price.

"It’s true," said Lily, "the earpiece kept barking ‘don't accept, don't accept’ after each offer until the system recognized that the salesperson truly had no ability or intention of being talked down any further."

It appears from the records that the Ethics Board refused Dr. Langa’s application to conduct full-scale experimentation of the Compu-Life™ System on user subjects. The consequences of such a refusal meant that Dr. Langa would have to go back to the laboratory to do many time-consuming refinements in the technology and protocol before he would be allowed to proceed to market. In reality, experts say, this refinement process could have taken years.

"The problem," said Dr. Floban, "was that the Compu-Life™ System had no override. The dangers of such a deficiency would have been obvious to any reviewers."

In general terms, what this meant was that in any given decision-making situation, efficiency analysis would be simultaneously performed and commands would be sent to the user’s ear piece. As a result, the user would be met with a constant barrage of instructions.

"One couldn't, for example, just decide to turn the System off for dinner with the wife and kids," said Dr. Floban.

This, of course, was both the genius and the danger of the Compu-Life™ System. The ability to perform accurate statistical life-analysis is dependent on the fullest integration of all aspects of one’s life. On a more metaphysical level, the idea was that trivial comments or commitments made at dinner with the wife and kids, could significantly and unpredictably affect the decision-making nexus at the next day’s business meeting. Full compliance, i.e., wearing the device at all times, is essential to the accuracy of the System's outputs.

"This is really the first time that such an attempt has been made to capture the nearly infinite factors that affect the course of one’s life," said Lily.

Dr. Langa’s wife was interviewed in their suburban home.

"He was just so damned determined. He became totally obsessed with proving that his Compu-Life™ System could make life better and more efficient. After the Ethics Board rejection, he insisted on wearing that armband, camera, and earpiece 24-7. I, for one, was never comfortable with it. Especially where it intruded into, um, private matters," she said, lowering her voice.

Of course, being fully integrated, physical decisions of all kinds, including those made in the bedroom, were also the subject of Compu-Life™ System directions.

Dr. Fanny Bubs, a prominent psychologist at the South Beach Institute was able to provide an explanation for what had befallen Dr. Langa.

"It is classic psycho-physio detachment," she said. "Prisoners and those subject to extreme authoritarian control have displayed similar characteristics in the past. This is where subjects alienate their own decision-making power and invest it totally in another human being. But in the case of Dr. Langa, of course, he has simply invested it in the Compu-Life™ System."

"All day that stupid thing was shouting instructions in my dad’s ear," said Billy, who was interviewed while chewing gummy Coke bottles in front of the Max Milk store. "If dad didn’t agree with the instructions, the computer would just keep repeating them over and over. I saw my dad have ugly panic attacks those times he disagreed with the computer. I think he eventually just kinda decided it was easier to do what Compu-Life™ said. I know he didn’t want this to happen. He was too stubborn to take that darn device off. It would have been like giving up on his dream."

Dr. Bubs was less certain about the possible treatments for Dr. Langa. "How can you re-invest in someone their own free will?" she asked rhetorically. "Anything we do for him will necessarily be a kind of reprogramming. We may have to accept that the former Dr. Langa may never truly return."

Tonight at 7 p.m., a vigil is being held in front of the King Street Psychological Hospital, where Dr. Langa is currently undergoing observation. Speakers will pay tribute to Dr. Langa’s many innovations and Reverend Burns will lead prayers for his speedy recovery.

Those who wish to contribute to Dr. Langa’s Recovery Fund can do so through Dr. Langa’s homepage:

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stitch n' Bitch

My new favourite thing to do is to buy old sweaters and t-shirts from Value Village and refurbish them. This sweater was my first project. Unfortunately the photo doesn't really show the best part - i.e. the sweater flower that I used to cleverly cover up a big whole/scissor mishap. More to come...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I thought I was just incredibly vitamin D deprived.

Let me explain.

I work in a space called the Top Secret (TS) Room.

To get to the TS room, I use my key to unlock the door to one windowless closet-like room. Then, I walk to the back of this room where I use my key to unlock the door to the TS room - another windowless closet-like and radiation-proof space.

In the TS room I sit and work on a laptop that has been specially built so that no electromagnetic waves escape. No secrets radiate out of the TS room.

And no natural light gets in.

For the months of November and December, I sat, often alone, in the TS room and worked. And that was all I did.

Mid-December rolled around and I sat in the TS room and missed my friend’s Chanukah party. He was planning a group candle lighting – something I look forward to every year.

When I was younger, my mom wouldn’t let us go to sleep with the Chanukah candles still lit. “Big fire hazard,” she’d say.

So I’d stay up with my family until the candles burnt themselves out. I have memories of the very specific warm light that would fill the kitchen, emanating from just above the microwave where the menorah sat.

But this year there were no candles.

I celebrate the winter solstice every year in Toronto’s Kensington Market. There they hold an annual parade where the street is shut down and everyone carries paper lanterns of all different shapes, sizes, and colours.

My favourite are the big dragon lanterns that make coloured patterns on the faces of the lantern holders.

But despite the passing of the solstice, the length of my days and nights stayed the same.

Finally, I emerged from the TS room – sometime just before the new year – feeling weak and very ill at ease.

I rubbed my eyes and squinted at the sun. It was about 8 in the morning on a Sunday. I bought a coffee and began what I'd decided was to be my restorative walk.

I started my day by walking east. I walked in the direction of the light. Sometime later, the sun was overhead and then, soon after, it was in the west.

I turned around and walked back home.

The next morning I studied my face in the mirror. It looked slightly less sallow. But I still felt out of balance.

I thought that maybe my steady diet of coffee, chocolate pecan squares (from Bridgehead), and cereal might have left me lacking in one or two vital minerals.

I went to the grocery store and bought some organic vegetables, lentils, and spices. I also bought some pomegranate juice. (Incidentally, does anyone know how pomegranates so suddenly became the new “it” fruit? Is there some powerful pomegranate marketing board that was recently formed? Seems everyone is pushing them these days. I, personally, don’t get what all the fuss is about.)

That night, I ate a giant nourishing meal.

The next morning I woke up and took stock. My energy levels felt a bit higher. My face was definitely starting to have a bit of colour.

But still, I felt decidedly ‘off.’

Last Sunday I arrived in Vancouver very late at night. I’m here for work.

Yesterday, still not adjusted to the time change, I woke up at around 5:30 a.m., local time.

The sun had not yet risen and the coffee shop had not yet opened. I brought my laptop into bed with me so I could check my emails.

The electric cord not being long enough to reach, the screen gave off only a dim battery-powered glow.

But then something remarkable happened. A message was sent from many provinces away. It traveled through space encoded in bits of zeroes and ones and landed on my screen –

Cordlessly, Wirelessly.

And then I realized what had happened – I’d come unplugged.

I had that afternoon off. I called my best friend and caught up on our news. I made plans to see family. I went to the coffee shop and chatted with the man beside me who was reading the paper.

I started writing.

This morning, again, I took stock. And I feel more like Myself.

This year, I’m making an effort to get my vitamins, buy halogen lamps for the office, and take regular walks in the sun.

But more importantly, I want to keep control of what is important- my personal (and virtual) connections to myself and others.

And that may be the first real illumination I’ve experienced in the last two months.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

This isn't a real post. It is a guilt post. One of those I have not posted in a million years and feel like I'm neglecting all things important to me post. I do that with people too, I'm ashamed to say. I realize late at night that I have not made contact with friend X in a very long time and then I send a rambling place holder of an email that merits no response but is really just meant to be an "I'm thinking about you and feel guilty that I'm such a poor friend" contact. This is also a please-don't-cancel-my-blogpage Blogger post. I'm not sure if they do that with blogs - shut them down for disuse, that is. They do that with hotmail. When I forget to check my hotmail account for 30 days they shut it down. Well, I can re-activate it but then all the emails that were there before are lost. Maybe They are less likely to shut abandoned websites down these days because it seems that space is no longer at a premium on the net. Yahoo not too long ago gave me approximately a zillion times more space than I used to have. How is it that space keeps expanding when the junk (not unlike this semi-random splat of words) keeps being added? Perhaps They keep finding ways to scrunch these little bits of data into smaller bits? Did you know that if you roll your clothes you can fit a ton of extra stuff in your suitcase AND the clothing does not wrinkle. It is true. And that is because the clothing rolls fit super tightly together. I'm sure it must be the same with the internet.

Alright. I think I've made my point.