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BY Maria

01/01 Direct Link
Today is a perfect day for doing... well, you could call it nothing. Lying on the couch, reading people's entries on this site, playing with the cat, having another cup of coffee (long live decaf). At the party last night, we had an interesting conversation with a girl who does her PhD on the effect of the plague on the development of drama in Renaissance England. It reminded me of my love for history and literature, and of how I could have made other choices in my life. It's a perfect New Year's Day, and time to get Chinese food.
01/02 Direct Link
We have a strange rhythm these days: going to sleep at 2.30 am, and getting up after 11.00 am. Include a slow morning ritual with coffee and reading, it leaves us little time to get anything substantial accomplished during the day. Today we did manage to do laundry and grocery shopping. Yeah!
I also took down the Christmas tree and decorations tonight. Unplugging the lights always feels like killing the magic. But, as I walked outside with the tree, I found out what they mean by "blowing snow". We are bound to have over 10 cm tonight. The magic continues!
01/03 Direct Link
Today we visited the Ontario Science Centre. At one of the exhibits, there was an 'aging machine', where you could get a computer-generated image of how your face would look in 50 years. Fun! It worked especially well with children. At 30 and 33, we are probably already too old to start aging. Our faces came out pretty contorted and weird. But who knows, maybe that's what the future has in store for us... The rest of the exhibits was also fun. Lots of buttons to touch and things to do.We were running around like little kids, trying out everything.
01/04 Direct Link
I bought a book on Canadian history today. I could choose between a very factual book, or one that reads more like a story. I decided to go for the latter, and, as always, found that it is a nice read, but that I don't remember a whole lot of it. Full of tales of politics and rebellion, and in the next chapter you have to thumb back to see who was who again. I have yet to reach the uprising of Riel and the Metis, which interests me because of another book I read, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence.
01/05 Direct Link
Since I am here, I've mostly read Canadian literature. Mainly becasuse I want to join a bookclub and this is what they read. I like it because it opens up a whole area of books and writers I hadn't heard of before. Also, it tells me a lot about Canadian ways and history (like the Metis I mentioned). The story behind the bookclub: they meet at an evening I usually work late, so I missed all their meetings so far. But I'll keep trying. Work starts again tomorrow, and I already miss the holidays... There's so much I have to do.
01/06 Direct Link
Started work again. However much I like my job, it's always tough after a holiday. Even if this wasn't a true holiday, because I've been to the lab quite a few times. But it's amazing how soon you're back into gear. Might have something to do with the fact that I have to give a presentation on Thursday and another one next Tuesday... I also screwed up sleeping thoroughly by starting to reread Part 3 of Lord of the Rings. Couldn't quit cold-turkey after the movie. So now I read in bed, in the streetcar, and when I get home.
01/07 Direct Link
Although almost nobody knows I'm writing this (and I'm not even using my real name) I watch myself when I think about what to write. Just in case some people might get to read it after all. It's too bad for the content of these words, but better safe than sorry. I wonder how people ever dare to write a novel that is based on personal experiences - however loosely. People are bound to be offended, and all hell will break loose. Or am I just too much of a coward? No conflicts please. Let's keep it nice. Yep, coward.
01/08 Direct Link
This was the birthday of my grandmother. When she was still alive, she would celebrate her birthday on the Sunday following it. This was usually the weekend after the first full week of school, and it would feel like an extra bit of holiday. The whole family would come together, and since she had 13 children who almost all have children of their own, it always was quite a gathering. An afternoon of play with cousins you saw once or twice a year. Trying to recognize everybody. And afterwards, driving home in the dark, sometimes through the snow. Good memories.
01/09 Direct Link
Gave my talk at work. Almost felt like a sort of entrance exam, like I now belong to the group, am not a newcomer anymore. There's much less pressure on my talk for Tuesday, but still, I will need most of the weekend to prepare it. And afterwards, I want to start doing fun things again. Going places, seeing things. I'm still contemplating a course of creative writing. And I still want to go to the Art Gallery. And I need to write people back home, and send in my tax forms, and… and I need to go to bed.
01/10 Direct Link
Sometimes it feels like no matter what you do, you'll never live up to some people's standards. You'll always disappoint. Maybe it is my own perception, a feeling of guilt that colors my interpretation of their words or their silences. Yes, maybe I could give more, but I don't, and that doesn't make me care less. I just don't like to be depended on, I still want to be free. Max says in some ways I'm still a teenager... and maybe that is true. I should be over that at 30, but those patterns from youth last so damn long.
01/11 Direct Link
We used to have to go on holiday for this small pleasure. We always went to big supermarkets in different countries, looking for products we didn't have at home. Preferably in cans, so we could take them home to try. Now, every new supermarket chain is a discovery. Today we found rice with spinach in a can, a whole frozen salmon for next to nothing,
1 kilogram coffee creamer, soy milk with coffee flavour, tapioca pearls in all sizes, green rice crisps, pink apple sauce (with raspberry), freezer paper, squid in ink in a can, and lots more. Great fun!
01/12 Direct Link
We both came down with a cold. I always like being a bit ill (just a bit of course), and it was quite cozy to spend a Sunday afternoon in a warm room, coughing and sneezin, with a box of tissues to share. Later, we went out after all, all bundled up, because the movie we wanted to see only screened today. We ate amazing perogies in a Polish restaurant, I did some work at the lab, and now it's back to hot lemon drink and cough drops. And as an extra bonus, I get to work at home tomorrow!
01/13 Direct Link
Ever tried putting together a presentation with a head full of fog?
I could read the same article three times and still not know what it was about – even if I did read it before and marked it as important. Anyway, I did manage to make some sort of coherent thing –by 2 o'clock at night it was finished, as was I. That's why I am writing this the day after....
It went over rather well, given its conception. I had the eery feeling of being detached from it all while I spoke, but that was probably still my cold.
01/14 Direct Link
I'm wearing my new jeans and winter boots. New for 30 dollars all together at the second hand store on Parliament. I've always liked buying in stores like that, and now that we're more or less living of my salary only,
it comes in very convenient.
It's a challenge to live on a budget after 2 years of double income, no kids lifestyle, but the budget is not that tight, so it's also nice. I like to look for things and then deciding not to buy them, or not yet. And I did by groceries at the expensive store today.
01/15 Direct Link
I only had 10 minutes to get from the lab to the movie theatre. Almost decided not to go, but I had promised myself this movie, so I went anyway. Running for the subway, change at Spadina, made it just in time. While waiting in line to buy my ticket, I was offered a free ticket by a couple which friends apparently didn't show up. Thanks! I'd never seen this old cinema so full, had to sit on the second balcony. The movie was cute, about a primary school teacher in France whose whole school consisted of only 12 kids.
01/16 Direct Link
When I was young, I always wanted to be a teacher. And it's still at the back of my mind nowadays. I have done some teaching at the university, and I quite liked that. I would never want to teach high school, though. Never! I want to convey knowledge, not be the subject of adolescents practicing their sense of independence. But primary school still holds the biggest magic for me. To teach children how to read, write and calculate. To see them grasp those concepts, like it was shown in the movie yesterday. And I would read them great stories.
01/17 Direct Link
It's finally really cold, and I love it. No leaving the house without thoroughly bundling up: coat, bodywarmer, hat, scarf, mitts, boots. Walking carefully over the slippery icy snow. Feeling the cold wind sting your cheeks with thousands of tiny sharp needles.
Once inside, your can feel your face begin to glow while you stand in line for coffee. And that cup of coffee feels so nice and warm in your hands. Now I want to get a toboggan and go to the hill at Riverdale to have some more fun. Max thinks I'm crazy. I just love the winter.
01/18 Direct Link
This cold weather is not fun for everybody, of course. This city has its share of homeless people, and it's hell for them now. I still don't know about the whole situation of homeless people. I think government should provide adequate welfare, food and shelter (and we should pay tax for that), and make it available to people without too many bureaucratic barriers. People shouldn't have to rely on charity. But if they slip through the –big- mazes of the safety net, or choose to stay out of ‘the system', should I give them money? I admit I never do…
01/19 Direct Link
Political awareness is a strange thing. When I was young, I didn't understand the difference between newspapers. There's only one truth, isn't there, so how can they differ? I have always voted left, for equal treatment and chances for everybody, no benefits for the rich and pro-environment. But it has taken me some time to realize that socialism goes hand in hand with a strong government. And I had to come to North America to learn about the big role of charity, and how that's opposite of government assistence. There are so many sides to it, and I'm learning everyday.
01/20 Direct Link
Trivia Night again! For the first time in weeks, we had a full team, and we did pretty well. It is funny to see how much Canadian "culture" you pick up in a couple of months. I knew at least the first name of the woman Mel Lastman won the last elections from (alas, no points there...) and I begin to recognize some names of the comics that run in the paper. As far as hockey, baseball and football go, I am still at a complete loss, though. Soccer and speedskating simply go over so much better in the Netherlands.
01/21 Direct Link
It's beginning to get ridiculous. For four months now, I've been wanting to attend this bookclub and tonight, for the 4th time in a row, I missed their monthly meeting. Maybe it's just not realistic to expect I will ever make it, and I should find one that's a bit closer to downtown. I used my free time well this evening, finally writing a piece for a friend's wedding, something I promised to do this last weekend - at the latest, of course... I also did a little culinary experiment with tapioca pearls. More fun than good, but fun counts.
01/22 Direct Link
We finally gave in and went to see The Two Towers for the second time. It wasn't as overwhelming at the first time, and I didn't get carried away as much (meaning, I didn't cry all the way through Sam's speech about great stories this time). But it certainly was a great movie to see again. Halfway through the movie, we suddenly lost the projection, and when they got it back up again, we had skipped about five minutes. Booing galore, but in the end everybody got a coupon for a free admission. Not bad at all for five minutes!
01/23 Direct Link
Bad night. I woke up at 5 a.m., and,
not wanting to wake Max, went into the living room, checked my e-mail and sent a few messages. I couldn't face going back into the bedroom and lying awake staring in the dark, so I got a blanket and a book and curled up on the couch. I finally fell asleep at 6.30 and had to get up at 8. No wonder this day felt like endless mud I had to wade through. Back home, I turned on the TV and watched it for about 5 minutes before I fell asleep.
01/24 Direct Link
We've decided he's the funniest, softest, most curious and most mischievous of all cats. Of course we do! Most cats I know do not like to be rubbed on their belly for extended periods of time: they enjoy it, but in a way they can't take it. Timbit loves it, he rolls on his back asking for more, more, more! And he likes to be carried around the house and be shown all the places he can't reach on his own - yet. Although, when he has his 'wild eyes', he can amaze himself by what he can do...
01/25 Direct Link
This promises to be a Scottish weekend. Tonight we have an evening of whisky-tasting (single malts, of course), and tomorrow we plan to attend a Robbie Burns Day celebration, eating haggis and listening to fiddle music. I fondly remember our trip to Scotland to celebrate New Year's Eve 2 years ago. We ended up at a ceilidh, dancing with drunken old Scots and listening to bagpipes and spoons. On New Years Day, we drove to Skye, went into the only bar that was open and were told we couldn't have a coffee: 'Only alcohol, love!'. Well, what can you do?
01/26 Direct Link
Compared to the real ceilidh we attended in Scotland, Robbie Burns Day at Mackenzie House today was a bit fake and touristy. However, they had bagpipes, real haggis, and the Adress to the Haggis was recited and explained. And I guess the haggis was authentic. According to the taste it definitely was… I wonder what’s in it? We washed away the taste at Second Cup and went in search for some Magic Carpet - only to find that it was all sold out. Which Max didn't mind too much, 'cause it was freezing cold today. Too cold to his liking...
01/27 Direct Link
Trivia Night! With the following categories: Music: the Deep Freeze (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Madonna’s Frozen, Frank Zappa’s Yellow Snow), All about Scotland (and yes, Robbie Burns Day was in it), Wine (grapes and regions), Cartoons (I should start reading Peanuts…), brand names of drugs (and what they are good for or against), Coronation Street (and no, I will not start to watch it now), and in the miscellaneous category: The Netherlands! Yeah! I ended up with 4 deuces, so that’s not too bad – I am still learning to be more Canadian (that is: know more about sitcoms, cartoons and sport)
01/28 Direct Link
Today my supervisor presented at our groupmeeting. Off the cuff, using only the whiteboard, she gave an excellent overview of a particular research topic, with special emphasis on all the matters of debate. It was very inspiring to me, and made me see what I still have to learn: most of all to have a good overview of the literature, and to know who did what in the field. Names are suddenly very important, and I'm not used to that. I always thought of it as name-dropping, stroking each other's feathers, stuff like that. But I guess it really matters.
01/29 Direct Link
Writing 100 words is tough these days. I keep putting it off, and it seems to get harder every day. I wonder why that is? I definitely don't want to give up now, three days before my first full month! And I'd like to continue into February, but I need some more self-discipline then.. I understand why people start a storyline that they can add to each day, but when I read other people's entries, those are the ones I always skip. But maybe I should get into some larger topics and add my thoughts each day. We'll see next month!
01/30 Direct Link
Today some brainteasing for those who read this:

Two guys are in a cabin in the middle of a forest. There's nothing around for miles (well, trees). In the room, there are windows, a door, and 2 seats in which the men are sitting. Both are dead. The door is locked and there is no sign of forcible entry. How did they die?

It wasn't a bear, or other animal. Neither was it murder, suicide or old age. The idea is to narrow it down with questions. That won't work here, but I'll include the answer in my February words...
01/31 Direct Link
So this is the final entry for my first month. Ninety-or-so more words and I made it! I found it it quite hard to keep up the discipline of writing every day, and to juggle personal stuff I can put up for all to read and too-personal stuff I don't want to become public. I like the limit of one hundred words. It is just like rhyme and metrum: it forces you to be selective, and by its limits boosts your creativity. I plan to continue to write these words, to see if I can also make it next month...