Monday, 21 April 2014

Pet Vet Day

It begins in early January with the dreaded postcard reminders from the veterinary office. When these are ignored, there is a tactful reminder call from office staff asking if we would like to schedule an appointment for our five pets for their annual shots and check-ups. No longer able to procrastinate, we set a day aside for the annual Pet Vet Visit.

This annual event has taken on a somewhat legendary status complete with war stories and survival bragging rights. It begins with a search for cat kennels which we have dutifully packed away in a storage shelter outside. The trick is to remember which shelter and then to excavate the cages and remove the mouse droppings.

Once the cages are located and brought inside to be cleaned, previously bored cats become hyper-vigilant. THEY KNOW WHAT'S COMING. For those cats unlucky enough not to have moved quickly, this means going directly into the cages. For the cat who is a grizzled vet (no pun intended), there is a hasty retreat upstairs. Quick question: how many people does it take to coax a cat from under a bed and then get it inside a cage? Answer: at least two, but reinforcements are always welcome.

Now all three of our cats are inside their cages and meowing in unison. They are NOT amused.

The dogs are next. Our black Lab Charley actually loves to go to the vet's to socialize. Cody, on the other hand, hates going there and is already looking very worried.

The dogs are on their leashes now, and we've spread an old blanket on the back seat of the car. Two cat carriers are perched there, and the dogs jump in too. My wife sits in the front passenger seat, and I balance the remaining cage on her lap. After a brief discussion with Cody as to who will actually drive the vehicle, he moves to the back again while I take over the driver's seat. The cats start meowing in tandem, and a pungent odor alerts us to the fact that one of them has found a new way to express his or her displeasure.

We're off now, and my wife is serving as navigator because I can't see past Cody's head. When we finally get to the vet's, we're already exhausted. We shuffle them all inside. Charley has meanwhile changed from his usually sleepy self to being a whirling dervish, and he requires two hands on the leash to keep him from sacking the office.
Two hours and $900 later, it's finally over for another year. All of our guys are well, although Sammy the cat has gained three pounds instead of losing the six extra from last year. The vet will call us later with details of a DIET, which will no doubt involve exorbitantly-priced cat food and will probably not lead to weight loss.

Oh well, at least we have another whole year before we have to do this all over again. . .

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Uni Project

Photo courtesy of Uni website

The April edition of the Goodreads newsletter has an interesting article on the Uni project, which is bringing books to the people by setting up reading rooms and seating in public places, including parks, farmers' markets, and city plazas. Currently the project is placing pop-up reading rooms at various locations in New York City. The project is non-profit, and it provides high-quality books and knowledgeable staff. Moreover, the reading rooms can be shipped across the world.

For more information on the project, including how to donate books, please click here.

It's always nice to see books shared among readers.

Monday, 7 April 2014

No More Selfies!

I am probably not the only one among you who is sick to death of "selfies", supposedly candid (but often posed) shots of oneself alone or with a group. Even President Obama has succumbed several times to the craze, only to learn that his latest selfie with David Ortiz was a Samsung marketing ploy. (The President is not amused: see

With spring here, it would be nice to see people, especially adolescents, moving outdoors to see what's awakening in the world. So far, I've spotted robins and red-winged blackbirds and that sure harbinger of spring, the Canada goose. The snow is gradually melting (unless you live in Newfoundland) and, fingers crossed, we've hopefully seen the last of snow storms.

You can even take non-selfie pictures of birds and wildlife outside. . . 

Monday, 31 March 2014

Elementary, My Dear Watson?

Jerome Caminada
The Telegraph has an interesting article on Jerome Caminada, the real-life detective who may well have been the inspiration for the fictional Sherlock Holmes. Author Angela Buckley has written a biography of Caminada entitled The Real Sherlock Holmes, which underlines the similarities in character, methods, and case work between the real and fictional detectives.

Buckley states that “Caminada became a national figure at just the time that Sherlock Holmes was being created. There are so many parallels that it is clear Doyle was using parts of this real character for his.”

Caminada spent most of his career with the Manchester City Police Force, later operating as a consulting detective. He relied on an extensive network of informants to keep him apprised of criminal activity and would often move among the underworld in disguise. He was purportedly responsible for putting 1225 criminals behind bars.
For the full text of the article, please see

For an article on Angela Buckley and her book, please see


Monday, 24 March 2014

Historical Crime Fiction, Anyone?

Historical crime fiction writer S.J. Parris has recently published her latest Giordano Bruno novel in a series set in Elizabethan England and featuring the unlikely detective duo of a monk and a courtier-poet. (The latter is Philip Sidney, whose poetry you probably read if you were an undergraduate in English literature.) The novel is reviewed in The Telegraph.

The Telegraph recently carried an article by Parris entitled "The Best Murder Mysteries Are Historical" in which she postulates that reading about crime in an historical setting is more satisfying to the reader. 

Parris states:

Writing history is a kind of detective work, so it’s no surprise that the murder mystery lends itself so well to historical settings. Part of the pleasure of historical crime is that it allows a return to the golden age of the amateur detective, before investigations depended on forensics and CCTV.

Among her favorite historical crime novels are Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, based on the murder of the Princes in the Tower (Edward and Richard); Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, a tale of ritualistic murders inside a 14th-century monastery, and novels by Iain Pears, Charles Palliser, and Matthew Pearl.

For the full text of the article, please click here.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Science of Aging Wisely

There is an interesting and very positive article in a recent edition of The New York Times which examines the topic of wisdom as it relates to age. The article looks at various studies and how wisdom encompasses not only cognitive knowledge, but our ability to gain insights from that knowledge as a basis for our decisions and behaviors.

Among the observations of researchers are the following:

- Older people have much more information in their brains so retrieving it naturally takes longer;

- While younger people are faster in cognitive performance, the quality of information in older people is more nuanced;

- One neuroscientist has postulated that there are "cognitive templates" based on pattern recognition that develop in the older brain, and these "templates" form the basis for wise behavior and decisions;

- One of the impediments to wisdom in older people is negative thinking and dwelling on the perceived negatives of aging; and

- Showing compassion to others is an important element of wisdom: "Wise people try to understand situations from multiple perspectives, not just their own, and they show tolerance as a result."

For the full text of the article, please click here.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Breezy and Other Animals in Need

If you live in the Ottawa area, you have probably been following the story of Breezy, who was severely beaten with a shovel and left for dead in a dumpster by her former owner. She was nursed back to health by the staff of the Ottawa Humane Society and got a second chance when she was placed with new, loving owners last week. She will always be blind in one eye as a result of the beating, but is fortunate to be alive. (A few years ago, a Boxer was beaten so severely with a broom handle that he lost one eye. He too was rescued and placed in a new home.)

Charlie the Great Dane
Currently the Ottawa Humane Society is nursing back to health a Great Dane that was starved to the point of death. Charlie has now gained 50 pounds and is making a good recovery after he was rescued.

Animal abuse and child and spousal abuse often go hand-in-hand. A few years ago a man stalking his ex-girlfriend, who had fled their abusive relationship, broke into her apartment and killed her two cats. Animal rescue agents are always on the lookout for other types of abuse in the home.

You've probably passed by homes with dogs chained constantly outside with no protection from the elements, and wondered "what's the point"? Neglect is also a form of abuse.

Not everyone is meant to own an animal. It involves commitment and responsibility.