Skype is Terrific . . . Unless You’re a Dog

007Penny recognizes my sailor’s voice during our daily Skype sessions, but dogs (at least this one) can’t distinguish a 2-D image on a computer screen as a real 3-D human face. Her giant ears perk up when my sailor calls her name and asks her how she’s been, what she’s been up to and if she misses him. (Yes, we talk to her as if she’s a little furry person.) But she looks for him out the window, not on the screen less than a foot in front of her pointy snout.

Dogs are olfactory creatures. Maybe if she could access my sailor’s powerful pheromones over the internet she’d recognize him and enjoy their regular Skype interactions.

Smell-o-rama is accessible at certain high-class tourist venues, so why not on home computers?

At the Jorvic Viking Centre in York, England we were treated to the scents of a Viking village. The sweet perfume of apples at the farmer’s market and the cozy fragrance of a wood fire on an autumn afternoon brought Viking village life delightfully alive for us.

Unfortunately, the stink of an open latrine (complete with a huge hairy Viking grunting behind a half-wall partition) provided an intimate vision of the daily Viking experience we could have done without.

(At this point, I should probably apologize to every postal worker who handled the scratch and sniff latrine postcards I mailed to everyone I knew in Canada and the UK.)

In the absence of smell-o-rama, I may have to put an item of my sailor’s intimate apparel on the keyboard to give the dog the ultimate bonding experience the next time he Skypes.

I’ve Been Unfriended!


By most people’s standards, my Facebook friends list is pretty short. I haven’t gathered them. Each has found me and sent a friend request. That’s just the way I work. Asking someone to become my friend would leave me open to rejection. I’m too sensitive to chance a rebuff like that.

Because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I’ve accepted every friend request I’ve received except for two from people I’ve never actually met. A little FB digging revealed they were friends of friends. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I can’t consider someone I wouldn’t recognize in the Tim Horton’s line a friend.

D, an actual in the flesh friend as opposed to a Facebook friend who may in fact be a mere acquaintance, has a glamorous cousin.

Glamorous Cousin lives in Europe and travels extensively. I’ve met her a few times. She’s a little overbearing, but other than that, seems okay. She sent me a friend request a while ago. Although she’s not an actual friend, I accepted because we’ve met. I was fairly confident she wasn’t some kind of creepy stalker.

She posted a few family photos. The usual stuff: New Year’s Eve in Barcelona, Easter Sunday in Rome and that mid-winter break in Paris to see the museums. I made concise comments. (Looks like a great trip. The kids are sure getting big! Did you see the medieval fortress walls in the basement of the Louvre?) She never liked or responded to any of my comments or posts.

I’m not a prolific Facebooker. When I post, it’s either extremely interesting (like a photo of a freak April snowstorm) or funny (a warning not to drink the water over a public toilet).

I thought Glamorous Cousin was taking a break from Facebook as she hasn’t posted anything in ages. Perhaps that demanding vacation schedule doesn’t leave much time to muck about on the computer.

Then yesterday D mentioned something about Glamorous Cousin’s latest trip. She’d seen pictures on Facebook.

“That’s odd,” I said. “I wonder why they didn’t show up on my news feed.”

Awkward silence from D.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’m checking my friend list. . . She’s not on it. Did she unfriend me? Can you do that without telling the person?”

“If you unfriend someone, they’re not notified.”

“But she sought me out and asked to be my friend. It’s not like I went looking for her on Facebook and then swamped her with messages. The least she could have done was send me a note to say she’s condensing her friend list or something before she chopped me.”

“Don’t take it too hard. Maybe it’s not personal.”

Not personal? How can something as brutal as being unfriended not be personal?

I googled reasons to unfriend someone. None of them are good. Some are unfriended for posting vulgar language or polarizing religious or political messages. Yikes!–I wouldn’t want a friend like that, either. Cluttering news feeds with daily (or more) photos of cute kittens, mind-numbing “today I brushed my teeth” type posts or endless boasts about your better-than-everyone-else’s life can also get you unfriended, as can threatening or abusive behaviour.

As none of those apply to me, I am left with the real reason Glamorous Cousin unfriended me: I am uninteresting. She invited herself into my online life, looked around and decided it was too boring for her. I was too boring for her.

Thanks a lot, Facebook for bringing the highschool experience of not being good enough for the popular girls to adult life!

When WASPS Move into Your Hood

004001I have an irrational fear of bees, wasps and hornets. Truth be told, I don’t like any creature that has the ability to hurt me.

My dysfunctional relationship with stinging insects began the summer I was seven.

My dad found me playing in the backyard and decided his little princess would look cute in a series of outdoor pictures. At some point in the photo shoot, I stepped on a bee. It stung me–ouch!

Screaming and crying, I no longer looked picture perfect hopping around with a red, tear-stained face.

My dad, a former soldier, was one of those gruff men who believed that the best defence against female tears was a strong offence.

“I told you not to walk around the backyard barefoot,” he yelled, waving a finger at me.

“No, Dad, I’m pretty sure you told me to go stand under the cherry tree because it would make a pretty picture!”

Fast forward more years that I’m prepared to admit and I find a papery grey mass hanging outside the front door. Wasps have moved into our hood!

Online research indicates that given the opportunity, these nests can develop to the size of a La-Z-Boy recliner so waiting for my sailor to come home to deal with it isn’t an option. We could end up trapped inside our house by a giant wasp’s nest!

I head out to buy wasp spray. When the guy in the pesticide department at Canadian Tire flatly refuses to follow me home to spray the nest for me, I realize the awful truth: I’m the one who’ll have to do the deed.

This leads to my first how-to post.

How to get rid of a wasp’s nest:

1. Wait until sundown so all the insects are tucked in their little buggy beds for the night. (I know this sounds cruel, but it’s you or them!)

2. Don’t stand directly under the nest when you’re spraying as you don’t want angry, escaping wasps landing on your head. (This never even occurred to me until I read the warning on the can. It’s one more thing to worry about.)

3. Be prepared to run away screaming like a girl as soon as you’ve saturated the nest with the highly toxic mist.

4. Spend the rest of the evening looking at happy family photos, including wedding portraits in an effort to convince yourself you’re lucky to be married to such a wonderful man even if he’s hardly ever around.

Repeat step 4 every time you have to do something gross, scary or with the potential for personal injury because your husband is in Afghanistan.

Books I Adore

003I’m a quiet, bookish type. Although I admire extroverts (they seem to have such fun!), I have given up hope of ever joining their exuberant ranks. My comfort zone is a quiet corner with a thick novel.

Are book worms born or are they created? Researchers haven’t solved the nature vs nurture puzzle. In my case, I can attest that my mother had a hand in moulding me into a book lover. I don’t remember her ever reading to me, but she promoted me reading to myself from an early age.

She signed me up for my first library card the day I started kindergarten and took me there regularly to exchange books. As I got older she provided a constant stream of novels and it wasn’t unusual for me to come home from school to find a new book or two waiting in my room for me.

Back then my taste ran to historical fiction and childhood classics. Favourites were the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, LM Montgomery, particularly the Anne of Green Gables books and anything by Louisa May Alcott.

Books and reading were such a big part of my life that I requested a new bookshelf for my thirteenth birthhday when other kids my age were asking for clothes and make-up.

Over the years my tastes evolved, but the one constant was my love of reading. No matter what else was happening in my life, I could lose myself in a good book . . . until recently.

I’m having trouble finding books and many that I start fail to interest me. This concerns me. I can’t lose my favourite solitary pastime, especially now.

To rekindle my interest in reading, I’m going to post reviews of books I adore.

I’m open to suggestions of great books.