“Ponderable” Offence


A few months ago we catered a surprise birthday party. Birthday girl was clueless – all arranged by her fiance. Fiance ordered heavily to the meat side – pulled pork sliders, chicken satay, lamb skewers, blue cheese stuffed figs wrapped in bacon, smoked salmon – aside from a few spreads and dips, a meat-lovers delight.

Following a much anticipated “surprise”, one of my servers offered a platter of tempting appies to the guest of honor. Her reaction floored every last one of us – ” I DO NOT eat anything that has EVER been alive ” she snarled. It seems fiance neglected to tell us she was Vegan. Her outburst; packed with venomous rage, smacked for its rude fury – a delivery fitting a fairy tale evil queen rather than a birthday girl. Uncomfortable silence evaporated almost immediately – I suppose her friends and family had seen her in action.

A brief “chat” with husband to be, followed my “holy crap” moment. He apologized for his “over sight”, confirming my fear that she was indeed Vegan and had a bit of a temper. I barely hear as he tells me “find her anything Vegan, she hardly eats”, all the while stuffing pulled pork in his mouth.

Rendered senseless – not for pork juice on inconsiderate husband to be, not for daggers hurled across the room from bride to be eyes, not for shaken server or the fact we didn’t have a Vegan option to save our lives. I was knocked on my ass by her leather boots. Vegan she devil was rocking leather boots!

Rudeness aside, I would have cut her some slack if she were vegetarian  I might even have felt sorry for a vegetarian girl whose thoughtless carnivore fiance throws her a surprise party featuring meat. I draw the line at outrageous hypocrisy.  Birthday girl’s lifestyle choice dictates an animal free diet; not so much as a nibble of cheese, buttered toast or milk on her Corn Flakes. Throwing a righteous vegan hissy, wrapped in animal hide, gives bat shit crazy a whole new meaning.

Have some self respect vegan princess; if you can’t help making a spectacle of yourself, at least lose the leather boots before blowing a gasket. Lots of vegans wear leather – who cares – I give them points for trying. In your case birthday girl – it pissed me off.

“Bored” Games


As a child we played a lot of board games – Monopoly for the most part – more often than not, it ended long before any satisfactory conclusion. Not that it mattered, the rules were simple and it was something to do.Every family had a Monopoly game; expressions like “get out of jail free” or “do not pass go” became part of popular culture.

Monopoly wasn’t something I would ever classify as fun; the premise of collecting property by forcing others into bankruptcy struck me as vicious – perhaps explaining why the game rarely reached a conclusion. I can’t recall a single game with an amicable parting of players. If we didn’t lose interest, it was guaranteed someone stormed off in a huff.

Before Christmas, shopping found me in a game store. Years since I’ve paid the slightest attention to boxed games on store shelves. I’m can’t say for certain what I expected to see; board games never really went out of style – judging by my twenty something kids and “gaming” cafes or bars popping up all over town – boxed games are big business.

I know what I didn’t expect – Dogopoly, Catopoly, Princessopoly – row upon row of “opoly”, knock offs as far as the eye can see. Hard as I pondered, I couldn’t imagine playing Catopoly; in hindsight, I wish I’d taken a closer look at what exactly these cats were trying to accomplish. Likewise the hundreds of “hopefulopoly” speculators trying to cash in. The Monopoly franchise; seemingly unstoppable despite being one of the most boring games in history.

Monopoly began with the best intentions; often playing when we were bored, once in a while the entire family sitting around the kitchen table – full of anticipation, happy to be doing something together. It was a recipe for disaster – games took far too long, financial calamity gripping unlucky children with unparalleled vengeance, attention drifted as the rich got richer – polite players were bored, the rest were sulking or walking away from the game.

Monopoly is a strange game; kids don’t want to land in jail, go bankrupt, face a punitive banker, or live on the wrong side of the tracks. The game drags on for eternity, the only happy players being those with property and money to back it up. Seeing countless versions on the game store shelf left me asking – why?

I have great memories of playing Scrabble, Checkers, and Risk. Card games never caused problems, never sent any of us storming out of the room or feeling defeated.Board games are supposed to be fun; we settled on a game called Theories – players take turns reading a historical or scientific statement with 4 possible answers, others place their answer face down on the table, the reader reads out the answer which may or not be true. Points are awarded for calling a bluff on the reader, or having the correct answer. Dull as that may sound it was lots of fun – fast, silly and never leaving anyone with the urge to storm off.

Parker Brothers marketed the first Monopoly game in 1935. In 1941 the British secret service had UK licensed  manufacturer John Waddington Ltd. create a “special” edition for Nazi held prisoners of war. Distributed to prisoners under the guise of fictitious charities, the games contained hidden maps, compasses and real money useful for escape. In 1994 Hasbro – parent company of Parker Brothers – gave a license to USAopoly for a San Diego edition of Monopoly. Since then, several more U.S. publishing licenses have been granted, licenses exist in the UK, France, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and Nigeria.

I found a blog post claiming  the definitive list of Monopoly versions; a total of 2433 –  written in 2006, I would guess hundreds more are collecting dust today.

http://jergames.blogspot.com/2006/02/monopoly-versions.html

Learning of wartime Monopoly shenanigans makes me feel a little happier;  knowledge of the world’s most popular, boring, rage inducing game, able to find a useful purpose , means Monopoly has one redeeming quality.

http://militaryhistorynow.com/2012/12/20/how-allied-fliers-used-monopoly-to-escape-from-german-pow-camps/

Smart Bug


Left field might be the place my pondering mind landed; suddenly I’m in search of the world’s smartest insect. Without a lick of research, I’m certain there are many species of surprisingly astute creepy crawlers. Naming the ant, bee or termite lacks imagination – invading colonies might as well be Mongrel hordes yet a single ant or bee is nothing without the collective to back it up. I’m looking for outstanding individuals, bugs serving no master but themselves.

Portia Labiata is a “jumping spider” found in southeast Asia – this is one smart bug. This guy is straight out of Starship Troopers – ponder an adaptive predator who excels at trickery and problem solving  –  Portia Labiata at your service. This smarty pants lures other spiders into it’s web with reconnaissance and adaptive learning. Patiently waiting, motionless and alert, legs tucked in to avoid detection – watching other insects come and go – Portia Labiata “plucks” at the web of  her targeted prey. Tricking unsuspecting spiders into thinking something is caught in their web.

Known as problem solvers, they learn through trial and error, remembering routines of other insects. Portia Labiata can even swim – laboratory experiments liken Portia to raptors in Jurassic Park – creatures able to employ tactics based on experience. Remarkable for an insect with a brain the size of a pin head. Portia’s sesame seed sized eyes are larger than it’s brain; explaining why it has ten times the visual acuity of a cat.

I’m sorry I ever pondered smart bugs. Knowing an adaptive little spider ranks as one of the brightest creatures in the world –  sits like greasy pork chops when I have the flu. Portia is no larger than my thumbnail and lives half a world away. Knowing a smart ass bug is out there, capable of strategy and problem solving gives me the willies.

http://arthropodagroupc.wikispaces.com/Portia+Labiata

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Portia Labiata

Snowman


As kids we never considered our snowmen monoliths; looking back, I realize they were. Never mind technicalities; so they weren’t stone and were going to melt away – we worshiped, named and danced around them with wild abandon.

Limited only by depth and quality of snow, wet mittens or dinner time – no patch of snow escaped snow rolling. Snowmen were always the last thing to melt – packed tightly, gargantuan blocks of winter magic enduring long past mere snow drifts or covered roof tops. Sometimes – if we were lucky – puddles of winter’s first snowman hung in until spring.

There’s no doubt in my mind – snowmen were monoliths. Worshiped, revered, tended to and presented with offerings.

The first historical image of a snowman – a book dated 1380 called the Book of Hours –

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Koninklijke_Bibliotheek_Book_of_Hours_snowman_illustration.jpg

For centuries snowmen have dotted winter’s landscape; ponder why we’ve always made “man” and not rabbits or foxes. It never occurred to us that snow was meant for any other purpose. If that’s not worthy of monolith designation, I don’t know what is.

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    Photos by my husband – http://www.flickr.com/photos/15574096@N00/

    Merry Solstice


    Picture yourself thousands of years ago at a settlement on Orkney Islands in the British Isles. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people gathered at a great stone temple to witness the winter solstice. Hear the music, breath oily fires. Fall silent as the sun rises, illuminating stone after monolithic stone as far as the eye can see. Ponder the world with a Neolithic eye, in a place built hundreds of years before Stonehenge.

    http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/scotlandorkneys.htm

    The winter solstice marks the shortest day, and longest night in the northern hemisphere. The point when the sun in the dome of our sky, reaches the southern most point every year. The solstice is not a day, rather a “moment in time” – a moment observed and captured by ancient civilizations on every continent.

    The magnitude of precise observations; the ability to erect structures whose only purpose was to capture a fleeting moment – should shame us all.  Most of us know Dec. 21 is the first day of winter; we hurry about knowing there are only a few shopping days till Christmas. How many of us stop to think that once upon a time civilizations thrived on understanding of celestial events. People who valued everything we seem to have forgotten.

    We can never be on ancient Orkney – we can imagine the thrill of revering our world. Stop for 5 minutes to gaze at the night sky, throw caution to the wind and learn to recognize a constellation or note the length of afternoon shadows. Listen to the wind, howl at the moon – I don’t care – just pay attention.

    Merry solstice to all, and to all a good night.

    Everything solstice by Deborah Byrd at earthsky….

    http://earthsky.org/earth/everything-you-need-to-know-december-solstice

    Vancouver Snowfall Warning


    Tired of waiting for official status, winter laughed at the sticky note on our calendars, December 21 meant nothing – who were we kidding, it was time to stir up a little trouble. This afternoon Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for the Vancouver area.

    One would think this wasn’t a big deal; a regular occurrence in Canadian winters, expected and prepared for. Precisely the reason I chuckle every time it happens – it never gets old, so ridiculous is the frenzy that follows such an announcement.

    Vancouver isn’t like the rest of Canada – sensible people who buy winter tires, snow shovels, and possess the common sense to navigate snow covered roads. Vancouverites live in a state of denial, a fantasy world where all season radials suffice and a bag of ice melt miraculously evaporates the foot of snow on your sidewalk. Vancouver people somehow manage to buy cute little coats and matching paw covers for their Pugs, but can’t grasp a need for snow tires or shovels.

    As I write, the sound of snow plows rumble in the distance – barely an inch on the ground and it’s started already. This afternoon the radio announced several school districts were considering cancelling classes in the morning. If I didn’t have to work it would be fun to watch panic stricken residents fight each other for the last shovel at Canadian Tire, or scan the blocks long line up of cars desperate for snow tires.

    This isn’t a blizzard or ice storm warning – merely a predicted 5 – 10 centimeters of snow turning to rain by late afternoon. Granted, Vancouver weather tends to make for icy conditions; nothing to worry about if you have a glimmer of common sense – my favorite experience is ending up behind someone in a Range Rover who panics and slams on the brakes instead of taking a run at a hill. If I’m not in a hurry to get to my destination, watching cars over-drive conditions, sliding side ways into intersections is a guaranteed head shaker.

    Vancouver snowfall warnings are ridiculous –  the roads will be slippery – so slow down. I don’t know where these people think they live but it sure isn’t the great white north.

    If You Need a Chuckle


    I thought the woman who believed moving a “deer crossing” sign from the highway, directing animals to cross the road in a safer location was incredible – this little nugget gives deer crossing lady a run for her money.

    Anyone who missed “deer crossing”, click on the link below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDLc9rkcXdY