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No thank you, Amy Poehler

poehlerAutobiographies and biographies are among my favourite reading genres. And as you’ve observed in my earlier book review postings, I really enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me and Sylvia Jukes Morris’s two-volume biography on Clare Boothe Luce, How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran and numerous other books about strong, successful women. Such was not the case with Amy Poehler’s recent best-seller Yes, Please. As the star of various TV comedies including Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation, BFF of comedienne Tiny Fey and co-host of The Golden Globe Award Show, Poehler has acquired a sizeable fan following.

The book gives a strong sense of having been written under duress. She constantly refers to the writing process as being hard work and cops out by getting both Seth Meyers and her mother to each write a chapter, and uses various lists, handwritten notes and other material to fill space. There was little of the insight displayed by Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey in Poehler’s writing and at times I found it hard to soldier on. She’s boringly over-the-moon in love with her two boys which is understandable but reading about it is a yawn for anyone but her family. She dispenses divorce advice, drug-use advice and motherhood advice, but none of it was particularly interesting or ground-breaking. But maybe that’s just me. I could be dead wrong about this book when I say I was totally underwhelmed and I’m really glad I borrowed it on-line from the library rather than laying out hard cash. Read it and judge for yourself.

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Do you ever get ear worms?

ear1I’m not talking about the kind that require getting into your husbands’ ears with manicure scissors and hacking a path through, or even worse, the kind that require a doctor’s attention. I’m referring to those songs that get stuck in your head and play over and over until you think you’re going to scream. When I was working, it would be the last song I heard on the car radio before I pulled into the underground parking garage at the office.  Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow’s Copa Cabana would keep looping through my brain all morning. It made me understand why Van Gough tried to cut off his own ear.

ear2My classic go-to ear worm is Paul McCartney’s When I’m Sixty-Four. That song has been playing over and over in my mind since the days when it was still a nod to the distant future. Decades later, when it’s now become a nostalgic look at the past, it’s still my most persistent default sound track. Often, it’s songs I hate like the theme song from the musical Annie or Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. Then I have to stop the record, put on a new one and consciously shift gears. Christmas can be the worst time when Burl Ives sets out to drive everyone over the sugar plum edge with Holly Jolly Christmas.

Sixties music is a treasure of big fat juicy ear worms. The music from our youth was and always be the best music ever penned. Right? How could anyone ever top Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum, the gentle harmonies of The Beach Boys’ In My Room or Simon & Garfunkels’ Bridge Over Troubled Water? Then there’s Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and anything by The Beatles or the Stones. Do you get ear worms—the kind that don’t require manicure scissors? Care to share what yours are?

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It’s March Madness time again

For the benefit of new readers I’m reposting my annual March Madness message.

Please tell me I’m not the only person in the world who thought March Madness was about special annual retail sales—like Black Friday. For weeks leading up to the big event and for the duration, I keep waiting for the flyers from my favourite retailers to arrive in my mailbox. With visions of bargain-priced sugar plums dancing in my head I couldn’t wait to hit the mall to stock up on half-price underwear and my favourite jeans. Surely all the big cosmetics companies would be having extra-special promotions with yummy shades of lipstick in their give-aways.

Excitement turned to disappointment when the media started talking sports in the same sentence as March Madness. My suspicions were verified when I asked my husband who gently explained that the “real Marchmeaning” of March Madness was the narrowing down of basketball teams competing for ranking in their respective cups—as in athletic. Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus but not in March.

 

 

 

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Want to waste hours of precious time? Try on-line help

Dear Mr. Gates:

computer5It’s me again, Lynda, for the umpteenth time. This isn’t funny anymore. Our friendship is really straining at its limits because you have ignored my earlier pleas for providing technology that works like it’s supposed to. Two simple computer problems are driving me crazy and dipping into the on-line help sites is making me even crazier. I’ve wasted hours, entire days trying to resolve my issues through on-line manuals, user forums, manufacturers’ websites and Google searches. The only result I’m getting is my hair falling out, I’m getting old and cranky really fast, my back hurts from being hunched over my computer for hours at a time, my skin’s breaking out from the stress and my husband is questioning whether he made the right decision in marrying such a bitch.

Every couple of days I naively regain my resolve and dive into another futile attempt at resolving my problems. Several hours later I’m frustrated, angry and no further ahead. This only serves to strengthen my appeal to all Baby Boomers to encourage your grandchildren to study computer sciences in college or university so they can help us out—hopefully for free. Then, don’t move too far away from them. And I refuse to waste any more time on Microsoft or HP’s website help lines. They are too technical and only confuse me and send me in circles. I can get quite enough of that trying to figure out how to watch on-demand TV. If you’re a regular reader of my blog (which I’m sure you are), you’ll recall that I’m a right-brain thinker and following linear instructions is not my strong suit.

computer6Problem No. 1: Why won’t my laptop recognize my wireless printer as a scanner? I’ve tried reinstalling drivers and software as well as updating and deleting old stuff. And stop telling me to install a disk. I no longer have a disk and my laptop doesn’t even have a slot. I’m not the only one with this problem. My girlfriend recently had to close a real estate deal using a neighbour’s old-fashioned fax machine (remember them?) because she too couldn’t get her computer to recognize that her printer is also a scanner.

Problem No. 2: About a year ago I purchased a little gizmo called Chromecast which is supposed to wirelessly transmit my computer screen images to my TV from the Google Chrome browser. It used to work. Now it doesn’t. The little casting icon evaporated from my screen and I can’t bring it back no matter what I do. Hours have again been wasted searching on-line, trying various tricks and tactics that I can never complete because things don’t happen the way the instructions say they should.

Computer2Mr. Gates, Bill, where can an old lady turn for help? If you would build your equipment to simply perform like it should, you wouldn’t keep getting my hate mail. Your time would be much better spent providing vaccines or safe drinking water for third-world countries, which only makes me feel guilty about bothering you all the time. But my life is in a shambles because I can’t manage my electronic equipment’s technical issues. I may be forced to abandon technology altogether and spend all my time eating brownies and plotting the downfall of our federal and provincial governments.

Then, last night, for reasons known only to select members of the high Jedi Counsel, my wireless casting icon reappeared on my screen. I have no idea what combination of mouse clicks I employed and I’m doubtful I’ll ever be able to repeat that sequence again in my lifetime, so I gently minimized the screen and I’m keeping my finger crossed. And now, to my ever-loving horror, my laptop is starting to chug, chug, chug which means the built-in obsolescence fairy is getting ready to crap on my equipment any day now and we all know what that means. Life in the fast lane just keeps getting better and better. It looks like I’m going to have some time on my hands. Please send cases of wine. By FedEx. Immediately.

Your soon-to-be-ex-friend, Lynda

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My husband caught me cheating

Mona knew the real truth.
Mona’s smile reveals she knew the real secret to happy relationships.

There are certain things a husband/partner just doesn’t need to know. Like how much time you waste on Facebook every day or the real price of that lovely sweater you bought a couple of weeks ago. Personal bank accounts were invented for that specific reason—yours, mine and ours—which allows for a level of privacy (mine) along with sharing (yours and ours). A certain amount of deception is critical to a harmonious relationship. One of my girlfriends has been substituting soya milk for real milk in recipes for years and her husband doesn’t have a clue. If he did, he’d think he “didn’t like it”. This way he’s blissfully happy with his soya Mac n’ Cheese and her life is infinitely easier.

Then there’s the sensitive issue of “recycling” some of hubby’s valuable junk taking up space in the garage or basement. Would he really miss that twenty-year-old set of left-handed golf clubs that never get used? Or what about those old spare tires? I know that if I put them at the curb they’d be off to a new home within the hour and he’d never miss them. “They must have got lost in the move.”

qualityHusbands are also a good outlet for recycling things that are no longer of value to us. In fact, that’s how I got caught cheating. My own bath products are made of rare and highly formulated organic ingredients from remote mountain flowers and are often accompanied by equally rarefied price tags. Sometimes these products don’t measure up to their advertising claims or we simply don’t like how they smell. It’s highly subjective. My solution has always been to dump unwanted products on to my husband’s side of the shelf. Don’t like that kind of bar soap? Put it in the shower and before you know it, he’s used it up. Bingo! Don’t care for those cookies? He’ll eat anything.

I’ve poured disappointing brands of shampoo into his Head & Shoulders bottle many times and he never suspected he wasn’t getting his usual brand. Until I recently made the mistake of pouring a slimy purple shampoo I was bored with and specially formulated for blonde highlights into his Head & Shoulders bottle. Stupid and lazy mistake on my part. It obviously wasn’t the real McCoy and he demanded restitution. I got caught purple-handed.

There are certain kinds of information that are best shared only with girlfriends.
There are certain kinds of information that are best shared only with girlfriends.

And there is no useful purpose in husbands/partners knowing how much it costs to get our hair professionally coloured every couple of months. Nor does he need to know how many pairs of shoes we have. This information can only cause strife and is best kept secret. From now on I’m going to be much more careful in my deceptions. He’ll never know his sandwiches are made with the leftover bread I really don’t care for or that his clothes don’t get washed in the same load as mine. I’m happy. He’s happy. And, by the way, do you like my new necklace? He thinks I’ve had it forever and that I bought it on sale. Yes, ladies. Cheating is definitely the key to a happy marriage. Just don’t get caught. It’s our little secret.

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Like father, like son . . .

Trudeau The First once madet an off-handed comment about throwing "candy" to the voters that still stings.
Trudeau The First once made an off-handed comment about throwing “candy” to the voters, that still stings. And we’re still paying for it.

Canada’s federal election last fall marked a much-needed time of change. We needed to get rid of Harper and his brand of lite fascism, and Justin Trudeau seemed like a ray of sunshine, despite the fact I’ve long been a critic of his father’s legacy. I clearly remember Trudeau mania the first time around and its resulting fiscal spiral downward. We’re still paying for all that increasing debt to buy votes in the sixties, seventies and eighties. It’s like making the minimum payment on your Visa every month—you can’t actually remember what you went into debit for in the first place and you’ve accepted you’ll never get your head above water again. And it’s not just the Liberals; take a look at the recent Conservative Senate scandals.

My Dad was allowed to vote at the age of eighteen during WW2 because he was in the army. When discussing with his grandmother how to cast his first vote, he indicated a leaning toward the Liberals. She gently suggested he reconsider for a number of reasons, the main one being the Liberals’ propensity for overspending and incurring debt. That brief discussion permanently affected his voting perspective for more than seventy years. My great-grandmother was right and her words still resonate today.

debtchainNow that the Liberals are in power provincially and with a federal majority, the taxpayer is nothing more than a serf to be duped, deceived and taxed to death. Imagine if we ran our household budgets like the government manages our country’s budget? While I appreciate that governments have a benevolent responsibility to ensure we are taken care of, I don’t agree that it has to be done on a platinum credit card. I’ve always maintained that money earned is infinitely more valuable than hand-outs. We appreciate things more when we’ve worked hard to earn the money to buy them.

Justin Trudeau, like his father grew up with a silver spoon. The family never had to worry about making the rent or mortgage payment, having their phone cut off or dealing with collection agencies. I doubt they ever had to choose between buying groceries and paying the hydro bill. For them, the money was always there and always would be. It’s like Monopoly money, play money that magically materializes when you want something or when bills come in. Not a problem. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Did neither of you take math at school? Or is it a simple dearth of ethics.
Did neither of you take simple math at school? Or is it a simple dearth of ethics you don’t comprehend?

And now we hear that our federal deficit is going to be more than five times what was promised during the election campaign. Top that off with Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario government being deemed one of the worst managed (from a fiscal standpoint) in the world. Ontario taxpayers shell out $11.7 billion annually in interest payments alone. Imagine the good work we could do with that money if it wasn’t being wasted in interest payments.

Looks like Justin and Kathleen could use a little pre-emptive dressing-down from their employers—the taxpayers. So I’ve drafted a little letter of warning to be included in their hiring documents:

Dear Justin and Kathleen:

We hired you to make things better, not worse. You’re failing miserably so take this as a warning that your employment will be terminated unless you get a handle on responsible financial management of our government services/household budget. Imagine you’re a lowly taxpayer on a limited fixed income and you’re facing unemployment. Which of these options would you chose?

  1. Create and stick to a financial plan that includes socking away ten percent of your income off the top in a special automatic deduction account for emergencies?
  2. Sell the McMansion in the city and buy a modest townhouse in the burbs? Use the resulting net profit to pay off the credit cards?
  3. Watch the old movie Dave starring Kevin Kline about how a stand-in U.S. President injected some common sense into government spending.
  4. Buy a copy of The Wealthy Barber and put the advice into practice?
  5. Start paying cash from your savings account for all purchases and show us the receipts?
  6. Apply for an extension to your line of credit and go on a spending spree?

If you picked Item 6 (which you obviously have), then you’re wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here’s what we want you to do.

  1. Stop throwing money at chronic losers like Bombardier. With a captive market and an increasing demand for their product, why are they consistently losing money and now being sued by the City of Toronto for non-delivery of transit vehicles? Because they’re a poorly managed, coddled and over-fed bad investment. And don’t even get me started on Ontario Power Corporation and the gas plants.
  2. Redirect funds to areas of genuine need like public transit (excluding the hair-brained Union-Pearson diesel express train), health care, elder care, affordable education that focuses on market requirements, and industry-training programmes.
  3. Stop posing for photo ops with Vogue magazine and the Toronto Star, get back to your desks and do some real work. Get out that pocket calculator and start figuring out how to stick to a budget in line with your income. Money in/money out. No debt or deficit allowed. It’s not that complicated. And you’re not getting a raise, so deal with it.

    Has responsible fiscal management in government become an oxymoron?
    Has responsible fiscal management in government become an oxymoron?
  4. Stop lying about your quarterly statements and ‘fess up. You owe a lot of money and it’s high time you developed a plan for paying it off. Our children and grandchildren don’t deserve to pay for that new Lexus you really couldn’t afford but bought to impress the relatives.
  5. Show me your books. If you can’t figure out how to live within your means, then I’ll do it for you and I guarantee it will hurt.
  6. If you fail to listen to our mandate, then we’re going to send you to a third world country and reacquaint you with living hand to mouth, before we become a third-world country.

If you fail in our expectations, then all hell and damnation will rain down on you and our future generations. Oh! That’s happening already. Merci beaucoup M. Trudeau et vos amis. C’est un faît accomplis? If you don’t start doing to job you were hired to do, consider this your last warning. We’re not stupid and we’ve had enough of your empty promises and boondoggling. The next letter will be to advise you that you’re fired—and your little Ontario lady friend too!

Your employer

The Canadian Taxpayer

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