Saturday, September 26, 2009

Swine Flu Humour

H1N1 was formerly known as "Swine Flu". The new name was given since there is no real threat to humans who come in contact with pigs and/or eat pork products. However, the media and medical profession are still referring to it as "Swine Flu" so that the general population realizes that they are still talking about the same illness.

So are all the humourists, comedians and punsters out there. They are happier than a pig in mud to be hogging the hummour and having us poor humans squealing with laughter.

Here is just a sample of some of the humour that I've found in my emails and on line:
Question: What is the difference between Bird Flu and Swine Flu?

Answer: For bird flu you need tweetment, and for swine flu you need oinkment.
If you receive an email from the Department of Health telling you not to eat canned pork because of swine flu - ignore it.

It's just spam!!!

- Swine flu is spread by capitalist pigs.
- I had a bad day yesterday, I made a pig's ear of everything I tried.
- I think I have the swine flu. I have the sudden urge to eat bacon.
- I think I have swine flu: I've broken out in rashers.
- Will there be a mass outbreak of Human/Avian Swine flu? When pigs fly…
- Swine Fever is a song by Piggy Lee. (Peggy Lee had a hit with 'You give me fever')
- For a normal flu, we say "achoo", but for swine flu we say "achoink".

The Latest Pig Flu Movie Titles:
- Swinedler's List Pig Trouble In Little Mexico
- Silence of the Hogs
- In Ham's Way
- Babe: Death In The City
- Swiney Hog, Demon Butcher Of Fleet Street
- Memoirs Of A Butcher
- Snout Of Africa
- The Pig Sleep
- Swiney Todd
- Swine Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest
- Days Of Swine And Roses
All will either star or be directed by Kevin Bacon

The turkeys have bird flu,
the cows have mad cow disease.
I am telling you boys...
unless you want to see more pork served on Thanksgiving,
we are going to have to get our own disease.

First celebrity casualty of swine flu now confirmed.

Direct contact with infected carrier suspected.

I knew that pig was nothing but trouble!!

If you wake up looking like this....
....don't go to work!

The evolution of man....

H1N1 is a serious illness and should be taken seriously with common sense precautions like frequent hand washing, coughing into your sleeve and staying home and away from people if you do feel sick or have a fever.

But at the same time, there is so much paranoia out there that it is hard to sort truth from fiction.

Am I worried about getting H1N1?
No - this guy has been flying around my apartment for almost 20 years and I'm fine!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn Is Here

For the last week or so, I have been hearing the Canada Geese honking as they begin their fall migration to the south. There is a hint of change in colour to the leaves and a feeling of change in the air. The crispness of fall is on the way.

Today, September 22, is the first day of fall. It officially begins at 4:18PM central.

I have always loved fall - it is my favourite season and I wish that the beauty of the season could last much longer than it does.

If you are lucky enough to live in a climate that has the spectacular colours of the fall foliage, please don't miss the opportunity to get out and enjoy Mother Nature's artistic paintbrush at work.

Even if you live in the city, there are lots of places to go and enjoy the array of colours. Take a walk down a tree lined street. Or a stroll through a nearby park. Get on a bus and go to a park if you can't walk there. If you drive, take a trip just outside the city and see the countryside in brilliant shades.

But whatever you do, don't miss the beauty while it is here....


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fall TV

It's mid September and that means that it is time to start rolling out all the new series and the returning shows. When I was younger, this was always an exciting time of new beginnings. A time to see what kind of stories and plots had been created as well as seeing what changes were being made to returning shows and characters.

As I've grown older, I find that I am less and less enthused with each passing year. Am I getting jaded by countless rehashes of the same old concepts or just plain getting too old to care? Frankly. I think it is a bit of both. Advertisers are only interested in younger demographics so they really don't care what those of us over 50 think. That's a sad commentary on society and their values but I'm going to throw my two cents worth of opinions into the mix anyway!

I've taken a bit of a look at some of the new series that the networks are touting as the next big hit - and well for the most part, I'm glad I have a computer to occupy the time I used to spend watching TV. The networks aren't offering a lot of new series, but there are a handful that I think I'll check out.

Three Rivers is a medical drama that focuses on the surgeons and patients at a top transplant facility. The concept isn't completely new just narrowly focused. It may be interesting in a dramatic, touching, three hankie sort of way, but since it is scheduled against Desperate Housewives on ABC, it really doesn't have a long life span to look forward to unless it gets transplanted to a better time slot with less competition. Premiers October 4.

Community is a sitcom from NBC that features Chevy Chase and a few other known comedic actors. The premise: a group of misfit students form a study group at a small community college. Premiers September 17 on NBC and CityTV.

Hank stars Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) as a recently unemployed Wall Street CEO who relocates his family back to his small home town in Virginia while he plots his comeback. This fortune in reverse comedy has possibilities but it may be a little too close to home for a lot of viewers in this economy. Kelsey Grammer is a very talented actor, but he will always be best known as Frasier Crane and that could also be a problem. Hank premiers on September 30 on ABC.

ABC actually has a two hour block of comedies on Wednesday nights. The night kicks off with Hank, followed by The Middle (Patricia Heaton), Modern Family (Ed O'Neil, Julie Bowen) and Cougar Town (Courtney Cox Arquette, Christa Miller). None of them are really new concepts, but they all have big names in their casts and the lineup may prove to be interesting and good for a few laughs. These three premiere on September 23.

The network closes out the night with a one hour drama called Eastwick which is based on the successful book and 1987 movie The Witches Of Eastwick. Rebecca Romijn, Jamie Ray Newman; Lindsay Price and Paul Gross star, but even that combo may not be enough to cast a winning spell over audiences. Debuts Wednesday September 23.

Accidently on Purpose (CBS/CityTV) stars Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Gregg) as Billie, an older woman who has a one night stand with a boy toy (Jon Foster) and discovers she is pregnant. Zack, the boy toy, wants to be part of the babies life and they agree to move in together - platonically. Elfman, who is also pregnant in real life (Now that is timing!), is a talented actress and the show has a decent time slot between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men, but I'm not sure if I and the rest of the viewers can get past her as Dharma or the whole pregnancy and platonic relationship wrought with sexual tension plot. I'm willing to give it a shot though as I'll already have the TV on for How I Met Your Mother when they both debut on September 21.

The Good Wife is about the only show that is getting almost all positive buzz. It stars Julianna Margulies (ER) as the wife of a fallen political husband. His scandals land him in jail and she is forced to pick herself up from the embarrassment and return to her former career as a defense attorney. The cast also includes Christine Baranski (Cybil) as a senior member of the law firm. The Good Wife premiers Tuesday September 22 on CBS and GlobalTV.

So much for the new shows. My guess is that several of these and others will be gone by January - if not sooner.

There aren't a lot of returning shows that I'm still watching. One of my former favourites - Without A Trace - didn't get renewed by CBS, but here is a look at what I will still be tuning into this fall.

Criminal Minds left us with a cliffhanger that no one saw coming. The profilers had just returned from a grueling case. Hotch (Thomas Gibson) walked into his apartment and was greeted by a masked man shooting a gun at him. There have been no real signs that he is leaving the show and it is highly unlikely that a lead character would be killed off - although stranger things have happened - but my guess is that he will live to tell the tale. Criminal Minds returns on Wednesday, September 23 on CBS and CTV.

Desperate Housewives returns on ABC and CTV Sunday September 27. The final scene of last season was Mike and a veiled bride at the alter. Was it Susan or Katherine? Apparently a stand in was used for that scene and neither woman was present, but both have been spotted in wedding dresses on the set for the upcoming season so Mark Cherry is keeping us guessing. Personally, I hope it is Susan that gets Mike. We also learned that Lynette - who had just returned to work - found out she is pregnant AGAIN! Tom had been playing house husband and debating his future. Gabby, Carlos, Bree, Orson and the rest of Wisteria Lane residents will all be back and I'm looking forward to seeing what juicy plots Mark Cherry has cooked up for us this year!

Survivor, kicks off another season with 20 castaways on September 17. CBS and GlobalTV have been promoting the season like crazy with the promise of the biggest Villain in Survivor history. From what I've seen and read, the villain in question - Russell - makes Richard Hatch and Johnny Fair-Play look like amateurs! On his first night there, he tells his tribe that he was living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The story is a total lie, but he plays it for all its worth to gain the sympathy and trust of the tribe.

I've watched Survivor from season 1. Some seasons, I've watched more closely than others. The network has tried to keep the series fresh by adding new twists and locations, but frankly the concept is getting tired. I'm just not sure I want to sit through another season of lying, cheating backstabbers all in the name of a million dollars and 15 minutes of fame.

Amazing Race on the other hand is still a guilty pleasure. Sure there have been teams I've hated and then cheered when they were eliminated, but there is always at least one team every season that I really want to win like Season 14's Margie and Luke (mother and deaf son) who finished in third. Season 15 kicks off on Sunday September 27 on CBS and CTV.

How I Met Your Mother, is going into season 5 on September 21 (CBS/CityTV). Ted takes on a teaching job in architecture and is yet to meet "The Mother". Marshall and Lily are contemplating starting a family. Barney and Robin have finally admitted their feelings for each other, but given how commitment phobic these two are don't expect a smooth ride.

Obviously, I have only listed the shows that I found interesting, but you can check out full reviews and schedules at or go to each of the networks to read the buzz on each show and view video clips for some shows.



Sunday, September 13, 2009

dn's Oatmeal and Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is one of my favourite cookie recipes! It is perfect for school/work lunches and it freezes well. Like most of my recipes, this delicious cookie recipe has been slightly modified from the original. You can find the original version on page 101 of "The Search For The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" by Gwen Steege

dn's Oatmeal and Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup quick cooking, rolled oats
1 1/4 cups brown/golden sugar, firmly packed
1 cup block margarine, softened
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup FAT FREE sour cream
4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sultana raisins, washed, rinsed and dried (I wash them to remove any grit/sand from the commercial drying process then lay them on a paper towel to air dry for an hour or so)
1 cup chopped almonds

- Combine flours, soda and salt.
- Stir in oats and set aside.
- Cream sugar and margarine until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
- Stir in dry ingredients just until blended.
- Stir in sour cream and mix just until blended.
- Mix in chips, raisins and nuts.
- Drop by heaping teaspoons onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.
- Bake in 350F oven for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
- Carefully slide the parchment paper and hot cookies onto a wire rack to cool.

Yields 9 to 10 dozen delicious cookies.

Freezes well.

Note; if you don't have a stand mixer this recipe is better cut in half to prevent overworking the moter of a hand mixer.



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

School And The Teachers Who Taught Me - Part 3

Continued from September 1, 2009 and September 5, 2009

Art, Music and French were optional after Grade 9. I dropped them all. Art wasn't really that much fun even though the teacher was a bit eccentric. Music was interesting, but it was focused on band music and learning an instrument. When we first started music in junior high, the teacher - a former symphony conductor - and supposed descendant of a renowned classical composer - had looked at all our hands, lips and body types to determine what instrument we should learn. He didn't care if that what wasn't what we were interested in - it was what he believed we would be suited for. I was given a clarinet. I didn't mind that too much, but I had wanted to learn the saxophone. He informed me that there was no room in a real orchestra for a lowly saxophone. Reading the music while attempting to coordinate my fingers on a clarinet wasn't working for me. The second music teacher was a lot more open minded and I probably would have kept going, but he only stayed a year. His replacement was somewhere between the two, but I had enough classes to keep me busy so I dropped it.

I do regret dropping French, but I was having enough trouble with History, Science, Phys. Ed and mastering the spelling and sentence structure of English - all of which were required subjects - let alone learning another language as an option!

Once we were in high school, all the students were required to take either home economics (cooking and sewing) or industrial arts (woodworking, electronics/mechanics and graphic arts). Of course being a country area school, this was almost strictly gender divided. By Grade 10, we were allowed to choose, but norms were rarely crossed.

As a female, I of course took Home Ec. The year was divided into two sections. Half the year would be spent in cooking and the other half in sewing. My grandmother had been a home economist, and she and my mom taught me many of the basics. I had also been in 4H for several years during elementary school. Home Ec. was a natural for me - at least part of it was! I enjoyed the cooking much more than the sewing, but I had a really great relationship with the sewing teacher. She didn't pressure me or push me beyond my abilities. She judged my work fairly and allowed others to help me with things like threading needles or seeing really small print for patterns. I made a pair of plaid pants in Grade 8. In Grade 9, I made a skirt and top. In Grade 10, we were allowed to create our own designs or make something completely different. I made a bean bag chair. That was harder than it sounds and I'll write about that someday.

Anyways, even though I didn't really like sewing - and haven't touched a needle and thread since - I really liked the teacher. She was easy to talk to, a good listener and a level sounding board for our teenage angst. I often went to talk to her after school and think of her as one of the best teachers I ever had. She met her husband while teaching there - he was also a teacher and together they spent their entire teaching careers at that school. They just retired a year or so ago.

I didn't ace all of my courses, but I did pass everything. I was exempt from writing final exams from Grade 8 through 12 and graduated with honours. It took a lot of hard work, but I couldn't have done it without some fantastic teachers who took that extra step to bring the subjects alive or to help a student better understand the subject.

Teachers are greatly under appreciated, overworked and underpaid. Sure they get the summers off, but many take upgrading courses over the summer or work on their curriculum for the coming year. During the year, they spend countless hours doing preparation and grading. Many volunteer their time for extra curricular activities in sports, arts, clubs and any other number of interests to the students.

They are there to shape our minds and prepare us for life beyond the classroom. Some are obviously gifted at what they do and make learning an enjoyable experience. Others, well, you can't help but wonder why they became teachers.

The trick is to be a sponge and absorb everything you can while you can and not to let the tough ones discouraging you from doing your best.

So to all my teachers - thanks! Ya done good!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

School And The Teachers Who Taught Me - Part 2

continued from September 1, 2009

My first elementary school science teacher was tough. He really didn't like explaining things twice. He had a short fuse and was known to yell or make you feel very stupid for being late for class, unprepared/late homework, or asking him to explain something again. Science was never one of my better subjects, so that made it a little bit rough to say the least. For the most part, I stayed off of his radar, but I also was not one of his favourites. He didn't waste much time with me and that was fine by me as long as I passed. Even in high school, science was a hard course for me. In fact, if I hadn't gone to the Grade 9 teacher for extra tutoring, I never would have passed! He actually used to tell me when he was planning a quiz so that I could do extra studying. His help really made a difference. I took a very simple science course in Grade 10 - Physical Science 101. It was an intro combo of all the sciences - Physics, Biology and Chemistry. The teacher was good, but also a bit of a slacker as there were only 5 of us in the class. It was the only time I actually enjoyed science - and the last time I took it as it wasn't compulsory after that unless you were in university courses. I passed that one with a C+!

History was another one of those subjects that I just didn't get. It takes a special kind of teacher to make it come alive and feel real or relevant. I passed, but it took a lot of extra work. Grade 10 History 101 was a bit better as the teacher made it more interesting by relating stories rather than straight facts. The problem for me was that he said we needed a B average to get out of writing the final exam. He had made that clear early in the year - keep your grades up to a "B" or you write the final exam in June. Near the end of the year, I was getting a little nervous as I was on the border line. I knew the teacher had a sense of humour, so I caught a "bee" in a jar and went to see him after classes one day. I said; "Sir, we need a 'B' to pass right?" He said yes. I pulled out the jar with the "bee" in it and said: "Here's my 'bee' - do I pass?" He doubled over laughing. He said that wasn't exactly what he meant, but assured me that I was close enough to the mark that he wasn't going to make me write the exam! Phew!

One of my best friends was also worried about her science mark, so I lent her my "bee". She took it to our science teacher. He laughed even harder and assured her that he wasn't writing an exam for only one or two out of the five of us, so she passed as well! Amazing what a little creative thinking can do!

English was okay I guess, but it wasn't a simple course for me either. I could write stories/poetry, do book reviews and contribute to class discussions of books/literature but my grasp of grammar rules was pathetic. I couldn't tell what a dangling participle was or identify some parts of the sentence. I was lousy at spelling and identifying misplaced punctuation. Then there was my penmanship which even I had trouble reading! My marks weren't great, but I always passed with at least a C.

I tried taking typing in Grade 10, but that was a disaster. My left eye is the good one and yet the tables were all set up with the typing books on the right side. I had to do a contortionist routine to even see the book. The teacher finally managed to set up a special desk for me, but the type was still pretty small. There were no large print editions available. At the end of the year, she let me take a typing test from near the beginning of the book so that I could get my minimum 25 words/minute to pass with a D+. That was the lowest final grade I ever got in all 12 years of school.

In Grade 11, I took a current history course that was actually interesting. It focused on the last 50 - 60 years. We started at WW1 and worked our way up to the Vietnam war and Watergate. In Grades 10 and 11, I took business principles and an economics course. The teachers made the courses interesting - even though I really don't remember anything I learned!

Math was always an easy subject for me - it was always my A subject - but a lot of other students really struggled to get the basics. The teachers really make a difference in how they approach it. One of my junior high teachers was a no nonsense, by the book, old school teacher who taught by methods and formulas. If you didn't grasp the concept you were really in trouble and she let you know it. Luckily most of the teachers were pretty good at finding unique ways to relate the concepts and most kids were able to pass with at least a C.


September 9 - the conclusion of my tales from school

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

School And The Teachers Who Taught Me - Part 1

Forty five years ago this fall, I started school. I could have started the year before, as my birthday was right near the cutoff point for that year, but my parents decided to wait that extra year to give my eyes a little more time to develop. When I started in September 1964, there was no kindergarten offered in our school division, so I started in Grade 1.

Our elementary school was Grades 1 - 8. Each grade had two home rooms. Once we got to about Grade 3, we would switch rooms for some classes such as art and music. By Grade 5 we were switching three or four times/day depending on the subject. The classrooms were all either next door to each other or across the hall, so it wasn't a big deal - just a semi unruly bunch of kids passing in the hall while the teachers tried to keep our volume to a dull roar. The Grades 1 - 3 were in the oldest part of the school, while the Grades 4 - 8 were in a newer edition. The sections were divided by what used to be an old gymnasium that had been converted to the lunchroom and small assembly room for guest speakers and watching school films. The newest addition to the school was a gymnasium - quite modern for early 1960's. It was also used as an assembly hall and school dances for the upper grades. We never had a school library, rather each classroom had a few shelves of age appropriate books for us to read.

I don't remember a lot about those first few years. I can't quite recall all the teachers names, but I do remember that they were very kind, compassionate and understanding. One thing that did strike many of us kids as odd was that until about Grade five, all of our previous home room teachers retired or left the division after our class went through! I don't think we were that bad as kids, but then again some of the little darlings could be quite a handful. Not me of course! I was a perfect child. (Stop laughing!) Actually the grade 1 teacher was an older lady - a widow - who was close to retirement anyway. The next three were all young single women who left to get married. Most married women weren't working in those days.

By the time we hit Grade 5 we had specific teachers for art, music, French and physical education. In Grades 6 and 7 we had teachers for science, history, math and English as well. I don't recall if we still had art and music in those grades but I do recall that there was a choir we could join and of course I did!

In 1971, the same year I reached Grade 8, a very large edition had been built and was ready for use at the local high school. It was now a huge school with a large library/study hall, a full size gymnasium, science labs, business/office department, industrial arts and home economics. There were three large open air areas for English, Math and History. Each area was subdivided, by portable blackboards, into four classrooms. There was a band room and a full sized theater with graduated level seating for 350 people in plush chairs with pull up writing tables on the right arm. That area could be divided into three sections for additional classroom space or additional seating could be added for performances and assemblies. The theater boasted a raised stage, lighting panel and other necessities for putting on full theatrical performances.

So, in September 1971, the Grade 7 and 8 classes were moved to the new high school. It was a whole new universe with grades 7 - 12 and over 650 students from all over the division.

It is important how much effort you put into your studies, but some subjects just don't come easily for even the best of students. The teachers can make all the difference in how well you do and how much you actually learn in any given course or subject. Some teachers were great and some - well - left a lot to be desired. I had more good teachers than bad, but there were a few that I really could have done without. There were also a few that I couldn't have passed courses without their help and understanding

Physical Education was never a good class for me. I was very uncoordinated and couldn't do a lot of the sports that other kids could do. Until about Grade 3, our home room teachers would take us to the gym for exercises and games. The first full time phys. ed. teacher started working with the kids at about Grade 4. He was a real by the book drill sergeant type. If you couldn't meet the minimum standards you were on his hit list and he worked you harder. I tried to talk to him, but he didn't get it. I think it was the principal that finally intervened along with my mom over one parents day meeting, but he did let up on me a bit. I passed but hated phys. ed after that.

In high school we were only required to take Phys. Ed. through Grade 10. The teachers were actually pretty understanding of my abilities (and lack thereof). I was close to failing in Grade 10 - I had a D- by early May. The teacher had given several tests through the year which involved knowing rules for various sports and other basic physical education stuff she had taught. She told me that she would let me rewrite all of those tests. If I got and A in all of them she would pass me. If I didn't, I would have to repeat the whole Grade 10 class while I was in Grade 11. Talk about incentive! I passed them all and never took Physical Education again!


September 5 and Septembr 9: More tales from my school years!