February 2007



At the moment, my very favourite thing, even above my iPod, is my Dell laptop. Well it was until a couple of days ago.

When I bought it, 8 months ago, I needed a new computer like a hole in the head. We had bought a new desktop computer 6 months before that, so we were up-to-date technologically speaking. As always we kept our old computer and set up a network for the first time. But A, who watches little TV, spends an inordinate time playing Mah Jong, Solitaire, and FlightSimulator or doing Sudoku puzzles on the computer. Frankly, I was having trouble getting time on the new one and neither of us likes to use the old one much except to look for a old file, or some such thing.

Just as an aside here, it’s most important use is when we Skype video my daughter’s family and my almost 4 year old grandaughter, says “Nana, I want to watch the fish.” This, of course, is the screensaver, very hokey by today’s standards, on the old computer. She watches it on the screen, opposite our new computer since the webcam also shows that screen in our picture feed.

Well back to my Dell story. Longing for my first laptop, I kept visiting the Dell site, looking at the options, and saying to myself, “You don’t need this.” Finally, I told A about it and in his usual laid-back fashion, he said, “If you want it, buy it!” So we put together the order from the multiple choice options, gave the credit card number and hit the complete order button. Hey, I even bought a computer online .

Several weeks later it arrived and, luckily, the arrival coincided with a visit from my daughter and family. I say luckily, because my son-in-law is a research scientist at IBM so he helped me set everything up just so, connected me to the network and I was up and running in a flash and have never looked back.

Yes, yes, I’m getting to the disaster! While I was using the laptop recently I was drinking a glass of soy milk. Yes, you can just see it, can’t you? I knocked the glass over and soy milk spilled into the keyboard. Of course, A wasn’t home so I had to deal with this myself. Mopping madly, uttering language totally inappropriate for a “little old lady”, but totally consistent with being Australian, I closed everything down and started on clean-up. I turned it upside down to drain out the liquid, I had the battery out and even had the screwdrivers out, taking off the back. Luckily everything seemed fairly well enclosed so I couldn’t see any liquid. When A came home, with the manual in hand, we took out the keyboard. There was a little bit of soy milk under the keyboard, which has a metal plate behind it but with a few small holes in it, perfect conduit for liquid. Cleaning it as best we could, we left it in pieces for a while and finally, after reconstruction, we turned it on. Thankfully everything came on and I was congratulating myself on not being punished for my clumsiness and extreme stupidity. All too soon I’m afraid.

Because I keep my speaker volume turned down unless needed, it wasn’t until a few days later, watching a video on YouTube, I found my speakers had and continue to have laryngitis! Yes, they’re working, if you can call it working, but the sound is totally muffled and the speech is incomprehensible. You see there’s a grate-like opening on the upper right hand side of the computer which took a hit of soy milk. I had always assumed the opening was a vent, one on each side of the computer, for heat to escape as they are not mentioned in the manuel, the speakers being at the front, left and right. But I guess somehow there’s a connection from the vent to a speaker and the cone is no doubt covered with dried soy milk.

Of course, I, being cheap, only bought the basic service contract, and to get service from Dell you have to send the laptop to Ontario and wait and and wait. Since spilling soy milk into the computer is not covered under basic warranty, only the extended three year one, I think I’ll try looking into local solutions. I sure hope there is a solution, else I’ll have to start saving my pennies. At least computers are getting cheaper every minute.

I never was totally convinced that soy milk was good for you and I was right, wasn’t I? At least not for computers. Those phytoestrogens are really messing things up. And now the AHA is saying consuming soy has no effect whatsoever on cholesterol levels or blood pressure! Sheesh! And my speakers are obviously allergic to soy, so I’m never feeding soy milk to that laptop again!

And I’m feeling so sorry for myself.
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At the moment, my very favourite thing, even above my iPod, is my Dell laptop. Well it was until a couple of days ago.

When I bought it, 8 months ago, I needed a new computer like a hole in the head. We had bought a new desktop computer 6 months before that, so we were up-to-date technologically speaking. As always we kept our old computer and set up a network for the first time. But A, who watches little TV, spends an inordinate time playing Mah Jong, Solitaire, and FlightSimulator or doing Sudoku puzzles on the computer. Frankly, I was having trouble getting time on the new one and neither of us likes to use the old one much except to look for a old file, or some such thing.

Just as an aside here, it’s most important use is when we Skype video my daughter’s family and my almost 4 year old grandaughter, says “Nana, I want to watch the fish.” This, of course, is the screensaver, very hokey by today’s standards, on the old computer. She watches it on the screen, opposite our new computer since the webcam also shows that screen in our picture feed.

Well back to my Dell story. Longing for my first laptop, I kept visiting the Dell site, looking at the options, and saying to myself, “You don’t need this.” Finally, I told A about it and in his usual laid-back fashion, he said, “If you want it, buy it!” So we put together the order from the multiple choice options, gave the credit card number and hit the complete order button. Hey, I even bought a computer online .

Several weeks later it arrived and, luckily, the arrival coincided with a visit from my daughter and family. I say luckily, because my son-in-law is a research scientist at IBM so he helped me set everything up just so, connected me to the network and I was up and running in a flash and have never looked back.

Yes, yes, I’m getting to the disaster! While I was using the laptop recently I was drinking a glass of soy milk. Yes, you can just see it, can’t you? I knocked the glass over and soy milk spilled into the keyboard. Of course, A wasn’t home so I had to deal with this myself. Mopping madly, uttering language totally inappropriate for a “little old lady”, but totally consistent with being Australian, I closed everything down and started on clean-up. I turned it upside down to drain out the liquid, I had the battery out and even had the screwdrivers out, taking off the back. Luckily everything seemed fairly well enclosed so I couldn’t see any liquid. When A came home, with the manual in hand, we took out the keyboard. There was a little bit of soy milk under the keyboard, which has a metal plate behind it but with a few small holes in it, perfect conduit for liquid. Cleaning it as best we could, we left it in pieces for a while and finally, after reconstruction, we turned it on. Thankfully everything came on and I was congratulating myself on not being punished for my clumsiness and extreme stupidity. All too soon I’m afraid.

Because I keep my speaker volume turned down unless needed, it wasn’t until a few days later, watching a video on YouTube, I found my speakers had and continue to have laryngitis! Yes, they’re working, if you can call it working, but the sound is totally muffled and the speech is incomprehensible. You see there’s a grate-like opening on the upper right hand side of the computer which took a hit of soy milk. I had always assumed the opening was a vent, one on each side of the computer, for heat to escape as they are not mentioned in the manuel, the speakers being at the front, left and right. But I guess somehow there’s a connection from the vent to a speaker and the cone is no doubt covered with dried soy milk.

Of course, I, being cheap, only bought the basic service contract, and to get service from Dell you have to send the laptop to Ontario and wait and and wait. Since spilling soy milk into the computer is not covered under basic warranty, only the extended three year one, I think I’ll try looking into local solutions. I sure hope there is a solution, else I’ll have to start saving my pennies. At least computers are getting cheaper every minute.

I never was totally convinced that soy milk was good for you and I was right, wasn’t I? At least not for computers. Those phytoestrogens are really messing things up. And now the AHA is saying consuming soy has no effect whatsoever on cholesterol levels or blood pressure! Sheesh! And my speakers are obviously allergic to soy, so I’m never feeding soy milk to that laptop again!

And I’m feeling so sorry for myself.
I’m giving a brief report of the meeting of the “Short Book” Club since one of my commenters asked. Skip to the next post if you don’t want to read this.


Sky Burial is a true story, narrated to the Chinese author Xinran, by a Chinese doctor, Wen, who goes to Tibet searching for her husband. He is a doctor who has gone to help in the war between the Chinese and Tibetans. The time period is the late 1950s. She is told he is dead and she lives with a nomadic Tibetan family for 30 years before she finds out how he died and how he had a sky burial. She ultimately returns to China.

Most of us were glad that we had read it, although we found it quite dry. We thought that the author did not give us a feel for either the country itself or the people and we felt little connection to the Chinese doctor or the Tibetan family she lived with.

However, what turned the whole discussion around was the fact that our young book club member, an ESL teacher, had spent 3 months teaching English in a Tibetan refugee camp in the north of India. She described with such eloquence and enthusiasm what she had experienced with these people and how it had such a profound effect on her. We learned so much from her about life in Tibet and the way Buddhism has such deep meaning for Tibetans that we were able to see and feel more of what it would have been like for Wen.

She brought photos and letters from her former students, some of whom still keep in touch with her. So I think we all came away from the discussion with a deeper understanding of the situation portrayed in the book, thanks to her.

She also brought with her another friend of her own age so now we have two young ones to keep the “old ladies” au courant.

The book for the next meeting is another non fiction, The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong, 306 pages. Karen was a Catholic nun who left her order and went out into the world. She became a writer of books on different religions and is considered an expert on the subject of Islam. Along the way, she had health problems to solve and a spiritual journey to make. The book is highly recommended so we are all looking forward to reading it.
I’m giving a brief report of the meeting of the “Short Book” Club since one of my commenters asked. Skip to the next post if you don’t want to read this.


Sky Burial is a true story, narrated to the Chinese author Xinran, by a Chinese doctor, Wen, who goes to Tibet searching for her husband. He is a doctor who has gone to help in the war between the Chinese and Tibetans. The time period is the late 1950s. She is told he is dead and she lives with a nomadic Tibetan family for 30 years before she finds out how he died and how he had a sky burial. She ultimately returns to China.

Most of us were glad that we had read it, although we found it quite dry. We thought that the author did not give us a feel for either the country itself or the people and we felt little connection to the Chinese doctor or the Tibetan family she lived with.

However, what turned the whole discussion around was the fact that our young book club member, an ESL teacher, had spent 3 months teaching English in a Tibetan refugee camp in the north of India. She described with such eloquence and enthusiasm what she had experienced with these people and how it had such a profound effect on her. We learned so much from her about life in Tibet and the way Buddhism has such deep meaning for Tibetans that we were able to see and feel more of what it would have been like for Wen.

She brought photos and letters from her former students, some of whom still keep in touch with her. So I think we all came away from the discussion with a deeper understanding of the situation portrayed in the book, thanks to her.

She also brought with her another friend of her own age so now we have two young ones to keep the “old ladies” au courant.

The book for the next meeting is another non fiction, The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong, 306 pages. Karen was a Catholic nun who left her order and went out into the world. She became a writer of books on different religions and is considered an expert on the subject of Islam. Along the way, she had health problems to solve and a spiritual journey to make. The book is highly recommended so we are all looking forward to reading it.
A few years ago, a friend retired from her job teaching ESL and she decided to organize a book club. She invited a few friends who were also ESL teachers and some friends whose husbands were faculty members at the university, as were hers and mine. Neither group knew members of the other group, so in order for us to get to know each other a little, she invited us to her house for a simple supper before the meeting.

The first book she chose was Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, with 480 pages. Some of us had already read it so had to read it again, or at least browse through it, to refresh our minds enough to discuss it. Others, still working, found a 480 page book a bit onerous, since we all wanted to do our regular reading in addition. The next several books chosen were around the 300 page mark and everyone was happy about that. Pretty soon it became accepted that the book chosen was to be a maximum of 300 pages. A non-member friend started calling us the Short Book Club and the name stuck with us.

It’s not as difficult as it sounds, you know. There are an incredible number of books of this size and we have no difficulty coming up with suggestions that fit this criterion. In addition, each year we try to include a couple of non fiction books in our choices. We still meet for supper beforehand, at our convenor’s house, although I host one meeting a year, because I feel guilty that the convenor always cooks supper and hosts at her house.

Most of us are grandmothers but we have one young member who, during this time, has produced two children and brought each of them to book club for the first year of their lives. We don’t know why she comes to spend the evening with the old ladies but we love her and she seems to have fun with us. She has the distinction of being the only one of the 12 of us who has never missed a meeting, even for giving birth.

One of the highlights of the meeting, before we begin the discussion, is the sharing of any books of interest we have read in the past month. This is an opportunity for us find out about new books and new authors and we all enjoy contributing to this section as well as listening.

So tonight is the February meeting of the Short Book Club and the book is one I’ve already mentioned recently in this blog, Sky Burial by Xinran. I look forward to hearing what the others thought of it as I found the story interesting but the book rather dull on the whole. I’m also wondering what we will choose to read for next time.


A few years ago, a friend retired from her job teaching ESL and she decided to organize a book club. She invited a few friends who were also ESL teachers and some friends whose husbands were faculty members at the university, as were hers and mine. Neither group knew members of the other group, so in order for us to get to know each other a little, she invited us to her house for a simple supper before the meeting.

The first book she chose was Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, with 480 pages. Some of us had already read it so had to read it again, or at least browse through it, to refresh our minds enough to discuss it. Others, still working, found a 480 page book a bit onerous, since we all wanted to do our regular reading in addition. The next several books chosen were around the 300 page mark and everyone was happy about that. Pretty soon it became accepted that the book chosen was to be a maximum of 300 pages. A non-member friend started calling us the Short Book Club and the name stuck with us.

It’s not as difficult as it sounds, you know. There are an incredible number of books of this size and we have no difficulty coming up with suggestions that fit this criterion. In addition, each year we try to include a couple of non fiction books in our choices. We still meet for supper beforehand, at our convenor’s house, although I host one meeting a year, because I feel guilty that the convenor always cooks supper and hosts at her house.

Most of us are grandmothers but we have one young member who, during this time, has produced two children and brought each of them to book club for the first year of their lives. We don’t know why she comes to spend the evening with the old ladies but we love her and she seems to have fun with us. She has the distinction of being the only one of the 12 of us who has never missed a meeting, even for giving birth.

One of the highlights of the meeting, before we begin the discussion, is the sharing of any books of interest we have read in the past month. This is an opportunity for us find out about new books and new authors and we all enjoy contributing to this section as well as listening.

So tonight is the February meeting of the Short Book Club and the book is one I’ve already mentioned recently in this blog, Sky Burial by Xinran. I look forward to hearing what the others thought of it as I found the story interesting but the book rather dull on the whole. I’m also wondering what we will choose to read for next time.


This is the entry promised in a previous post, which is the introduction to this:

The Perfect Mother-in-Law

When A and I got married in 1961 I acquired Grandy as my mother-in-law. But she lived in Australia and I lived, firstly in England, and then in Canada. In fact, when she and I first met, I had been married for two years and my son had been born. So I was very much a daughter-in-law but also very much an unknown quantity. Of course, she welcomed me, most lovingly, to her family and we tentatively established a rapport.

After a few weeks I returned to Canada and once again it was a long-distance relationship. So despite the fact that she and I missed out on a close relationship, A and I never argued about our mothers-in-law. “We went to your mother for last Christmas, so we should go to mine for this one!”
All the mother-in-law jokes had no significance for me. My mother-in-law didn’t tell me what to do, what to wear, what to say. Instead she wrote cheery, newsy letters and sent cards at the appropriate times and was generally for me a person about whom I learned in the stories told to me by A.

So I learned to know, not first hand, but through these stories, the amazing woman who had been mother to four children during the Great Depression and had given welcome to many strangers and less fortunate people who somehow arrived on her doorstep during those terrible times. She was a loving wife to her husband, cared for him in sickness and in health and, after his death, showed us all what a really strong, resilient woman she was.

In the early years of our marriage we did not come often to Australia. All our spare money went into getting a house and taking care of our family. But as the years went by we were able to travel and came more often to Sydney. So I developed a more personal relationship with Grandy and she even became more adventurous and travelled twice to Canada, once in the dead of winter, to spend Christmas with us. It was very cold and snowy that year and I think she wondered what kind of winter wasteland she had come to visit. We also came to Australia to join the family in the celebration of the 90th birthday, the 95th and now, at last, the incredible milestone of the 100th.

I think that now, after 39 years, we do have a personal relationship, although be it, an intermittent one. Those mother-in-law jokes still have no meaning for me, and I am sure that, if we had lived down the street from Grandy for all those years, I would be able to say the very same thing.

I once said to A, of my mother, with whom I had a difficult relationship, “I’m not sure that she really loved me.” He replied to me, “I know my mother loves me!” I think in retrospect that is the nicest tribute you can say about your mother. Grandy truly loves all her family and every member knows it, even the in-laws.

This was supposed to be a very tongue-in-cheek look at a long distance relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and the fact that the distance makes it perfect. In fact, now I am not so sure that the losses do not outweigh the gains.

jmb, the “perfect” daughter-in-law

August 10, 2000

Daughter-in-Law by Chance
Friends by Choice
Grandy is lovingly remembered by four children, twelve grandchildren, eighteen great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren.

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