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All In Hand

Here you'll find the sum total of Miss Vicky's Remarks thus far.

Comfort Desserts

Miss Vicky Fri Feb 25, 2005

So, I'm writing this from Halifax, where I've spent the last few days with my Mother in her oh-so-stately Victorian home in downtown Halifax. She recently retired and has been spending time getting reacquainted with All Things Domestic.

Actually, she's turning into her mother. I think I've mentioned my Gran before - wife of the Brigadier General and hostess extraordinaire? Well, lurking beneath the surface of all women in this family is a genteel hostess just waiting to jump out (with a tray of canapes in one hand and a cocktail shaker in the other). Now that my mother has parted ways with her hyper-stressful professional career, renovated this extraordinary home and polished all of our ancestral silver, the Gran genes are taking over. Big time. Not only is she curling, playing bridge and polishing her golf game, but she's put aside the 20-minute-meal-on-the-go in favour of the Big Supper. I'm sure she's spent more time stirring, roasting and baking in the last year than she has in quite some time. Of course, the Gran within my mother was always ready for family gatherings and special occasions, but now.... well.... Let's just say it's a good thing her partner likes food!

Anyway, tonight I was treated to a lovely roast chicken, accompanied by sweet potato and cauliflower. I contributed one of my famous salads, of course. Then Mom brought a little bit of my childhood out of the oven, in the form of a Chocolate Pudding Cake. Now, anyone who grew up in the 70s may remember these: moist chocolate cake oozing with melted pudding-like chocolate filling?

It's so good, I just had to share the recipe with all of you:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp butter, melted
3 squares bittersweer chocolate (chopped)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 cup cold water
3 tbsp cocoa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 c). Lightly butter an 8 cup (2 litre) casserole dish. To make pudding, stir flour with 1/2 c granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Beat in milk and vanilla until thick and smooth. Stir 3 tablespoons cocoa with melted butter until blended. Stir into flour mixture. Add chocolate and mix until evenly distributed. Turn into dish and smooth top.

To make sauce, stir 1/3 cup granulated sugar with brown sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Slowly pour water over top.

Bake until cake appears slightly glazed on top and sauce is bubbling around edges (25-30 min). Serve hot.


The Webgeek's Guide to Commenting

The Webgeek Fri Feb 25, 2005

There comes a time in every community driven site where the creators realize that, no matter how well they designed the site, some people just don't get it. They need things spelled out in black and white (or black and beige, as is the case here). Now, I don't think we've quite gotten to that point yet, as Miss Vicky's faithful legion seems to be a pretty astute bunch so far; but there may be some out there that are missing out on the fun. Also, I've just upgraded the commenting capabilities (HTML!), and figured some of you might want to take advantage of the new features. So without further ado, here's the guide...

  1. Create an account
    While Miss Vicky does believe in the right to free and open dialog, she also like to know who she's talking to. For this reason we ask that you create an account on this web site. If you haven't already, doing so is pretty easy. You can click on the "create an account" link at the top right hand corner of every page; or you can click on the "Click here to create an account" link strategically placed inside the comment forms; or you can click this link right here. Then simply fill in the appropriate information and click the "Join Us Today!" button. All done.

    Please remember your user name and password, as you'll need it later: but, if you've forgotten, you can always remind yourself later.
  2. Adding a comment
    Ok, to add a comment, simply follow these steps:
    1. go to a "Care to add a comment?" form (conveniently placed at the bottom of most pages)
    2. type in your user name and password
    3. Enter any remarkably insightful witticism that springs forth.
    4. Click the "Talk to the Hand!" button.

    For your convenience, you can also choose to have Miss Vicky's Offhand Remarks "Remember my login info" This will require that your browser accept cookies. For more information on internet cookies and how they work go here.

    Once the site remembers you, it will fill your user name and password automatically. Alternately, you can also log in to the site by clicking on the "Login" link at the top of every page. This will also make the server remember you.
  3. Editing your comments
    Perhaps you just noticed a problem with your prose. That's fine. Just make sure you're Logged in and you should notice a little pencil image (Edit comment) to the bottom right of your comment. Click on that. Fix away.
  4. Making your comments Pretty
    So you want to make fancy-shmancy comments, do you? No problem: I've allowed you to enter some basic HTML into the comments to do some formatting. If you don't know HTML, that's ok too; just follow these simple guidelines.
    • Bold, & Italics
      To make words bold, simply type in the following:
      <b>text to emphasize</b>

      To make words italic, simply type in the following:
      <i>text to emphasize</i>
    • Links to other pages
      To make a link to another page or site simply type in the following:
      <a href="(page url)">text to link</a>
      where (page url) is the location of the page you want to link to.
      note: please make sure you include the http:// at the beginning of the location, or else it won't work.

      If you want the link to open in a new window (some people like that...), you need to add the following text to the link tag:
      <a href="(page url)" target="_blank">
    • Images
      To put an image into your comment, add the following:
      <img src="(image url)">
      where (image url) is the location of the image you want to link to.
      note: not all server's will let you link to images on them, and may replace the image you want with another one. This can get ugly. Don't say I didn't warn you.

      To make an image a specific size you need to add the following text to the image tag:
      <img src="(image url)" width="(x)" height="(y)">
      where (x) and (y) are the desired width and height in pixels, respectively.
      note: The comment section is only 500 pixels wide. Please respect this boundary.
    • Lists
      There are two basic types of lists. ones with numbers, (or ordered lists) and ones with bullets (or unordered lists).

      To make an ordered list, type in the following:
      <li>item one</li>
      <li>item two</li>
      <li>item x</li>
      This will appear as:
      1. item one
      2. item two

      3. ...
      4. item x

      To make an unordered list, type in the following:
      <li>item one</li>
      <li>item two</li>
      <li>item x</li>
      This will appear as:
      • item one
      • item two

      • ...
      • item x
    • Other HTML
      Oh, so you're an HTML guru, eh? Good for you. Unfortunately, I don't know if you intend on using your powers for good, or for eeeevil. For that reason I pretty much strip out all other things that remotely look like HTML.(there's a few exceptions, but not many).

      Unfortunately, this means that sometimes I pull out things that are meant to be cute little add-ons, like <end rant> or <grin> That you added to emphasize the meaning of your comment. If you really need to add something like this, you'll need to use the following character replacements:
      • &lt; (less-than) to enter a literal "<"
      • &gt; (greater-than) to enter a literal ">"
      • &amp; (ampersand) to enter a literal "&"
        just in case you actually want to type out "&amp;"

      Now don't worry, if you don't want to remember these replacement codes, you can always just leave spaces around the normal characters as you type, and I'll do all that replacing for you. (see, I use my powers for good!)
    • Line Breaks and Extra Spaces.
      I automatically add a line break every time you hit the enter key. This may seem like a no-brainer, but HTML normally doesn't do that. It compresses all white space down to a single space on screen.

      If you need to add two (or more) spaces together, you can type in &nbsp; (non-breaking space) and it will force an extra space on screen. You can also use this to "glue" two words together; typing
      will ensure that the two words appear on the same line.
      note:I also break arbitrarily long strings at the 30 character mark. This includes all the characters in a replacement code like &nbsp;, so be careful how you use it.
  5. Practice makes perfect
    Now I know all this sounds like fun, (and it is...) but we don't need a bunch of "Just testing" messages peppered through out the site, nor do we want really badly mangled comments either. So, in order to contain the insanity as you try out these features, please feel free to use this entry as a "comments scratchpad"

    Have fun.


Wedding dilemma

Miss Vicky Fri Feb 25, 2005

a reader writes:
Dear Miss Vicky,
I am thinking of getting married AGAIN. In the past you have cancelled some of my engagements due to the inappropriateness of the intended gentleman. My dilemma is whether it is not okay to marry yet again (I dare not reveal the number at this point in time) and is it okay to start marrying men with the same name as previous partners? It does save my poor brain some energy.

Oh my. Clearly I have left you to your own devices on the other side of the Atlantic for far too long. I am glad, at least, that you recognize the necessity of consulting Miss Vicky before strolling down the aisle yet again. Remember what happened last time, when Miss Vicky didn't get a good look at the potential groom until she turned up to act as Maid of Honour? (Yes folks, it's true... Miss Vicky is always a bridesmaid...)

I shall require a detailed description of said gentleman and may have to high-tail it to England to check him out myself. Try not to set a date before then!

I will make no comments about the name business. Miss Vicky has had to swear off Richards and Steves, herself.


Budgeting conservatively

Miss Vicky Fri Feb 25, 2005

Well, it seems the Liberals have decided to play it safe, and table a budget designed to make it politically uncomfortable for Harper's Conservatives to oppose. Corporate tax cuts, defense spending - what's not to like?

Goodale also tried to throw a bone to the more progressive voices in the House, by committing to funding on Child Care and devoting some spending to Kyoto initiatives. Of course, much of the spending occurs in the future. Way in the future - plenty of time for the Libs to recycle these commitments as election promises and find excuses to break them later on. And much of the spending falls far short of what is needed to respond effectively to the social and environmental challenges we face as a nation. Sure, this is a budget with the future in mind - if your future stops at voting day for the next election (whenever that will be).

Am I disappointed? Not really. I didn't really expect the Finance Minister to post an exciting, innovative, forward-thinking budget. This is a minority government, after all, and all of the parties are just figuring out how this works and trying to avoid an election... or figuring out when it's safe to let the government fall and send us back to the polls. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if they did make a commitment to governing? To using the minority to accomplish a few things we can all get behind? Something more than a ban on trans-fats, perhaps?

I know, I know. Miss Vicky's put her pollyanna specs on again. But they make me feel good. And they do look fetching.

Nothin' but Star Wars.....

Miss Vicky Tue Feb 22, 2005

OK, so Frank McKenna (former New Brunswick Premier, fellow Xaverian and the PM's pick for the next US Ambassador) appeared before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee today. In response to questions regarding Canada's participation in George Bush's ballistic missile defense program, McKenna indicated that we had pretty much already agreed to everything the Americans want!

Excuse me?

And Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham seems to think there's no contradiction between McKenna's statements and the our PM's assurance that the jury is still out on this issue.

Yeah. Right. That's like saying there's no contradiction between signing an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and relaxing rules for polluters. No, wait a minute...

This whole Star Wars/BMD business boggles the mind. It's bad enough that legwarmers have come back....we gotta fight the same disarmament battles we did in the 80s, too? As much as I look back fondly on my first demonstration (Winnipeg's annual Peace March, June 1983.... ), I don't relish the thought of another arms race. I think a lot of Canadians would agree with me.

So. Time to send a message. Here are some links for you:


NDP campaign and e-petition



Miss Vicky Sat Feb 19, 2005

It's time
Wednesday is Federal Budget day. Will Martin's government give the NDP their Kyoto implementation plan? Will they bow to Conservatives' pressure for tax cuts?

With all the brokering, posturing and pontificating we're going to see next week, it's tempting to forget that budgets are about choices. Just like our own budget, right? We can buy that nice dress for the family wedding and look fabulous for one night, or we can get that leaky tap fixed, thus ridding ourselves of annoying dripping sounds while reducing waste and water bills. I know, I know, the dress is tempting. Like those tax cuts. We can even talk ourselves into "needing" it. And many do.

Anyway, for quite some time now the folks at the Alternative Federal Budget have been reminding us that choices do exist. Budgets are a reflection of political priorities, and they demonstrate every year that responsible budgeting does not need to mean reductions in government services, privatization or putting tax cuts ahead of social programs.

This year they're focusing on fixing the much-ballyhooed "fiscal imbalance" and reducing poverty. It will be interesting to compare their model with the one Ralph Goodale presents next week.


What was I doing again?

Miss Vicky Thu Feb 17, 2005

You know what it's like.... you come back from a few days of vacation in some sort of bizarre fog and can't seem to kick yourself back into daily life? That's where I've been for the last few days. Thank goodness work is busy; I am at least getting something done. But the rest of my life is still shrouded in the post-Cozumel blahs. So I apologize in advance for the semi-incoherence of my Remarks for the next little while.

So.... some random offhand observations:

It seems the Opposition has given the government a little wakeup call, to remind them they are in a minority situation after all, and need to make the odd effort get their members in their Commons chairs when voting occurs. A minor power play before the Budget, perhaps? Or just an indication that this government doesn't quite have its act together? I hate to say it, but if we do find ourselves thrust into election mode before we're ready, it won't be the result of a conscious effort by any party in the House. It'll be some kind of screwup. And this worries me, because I do think this minority government business can work. If they want to make it work.

Kyoto took effect this week, and we're churning out more pollution now than when we signed the darned thing. And now we find out that the targets for heavy industrial polluters are being reduced. Not to worry, we can keep on polluting and just buy those emission credits! As long as individual Canadians take up the One-Tonne Challenge, turf their old, inefficient fridges and start carpooling, we'll be just fine! Yay for us!

Cabin Fever

Miss Vicky Tue Feb 15, 2005

a reader writes:
Dear Miss Vicky,
I have a certifiable case of cabin fever. I'm a Montreal gal (where the weekend starts on Tuesday) stuck in responsible Ottawa. I don't wanna go out to eat (I'm stuffed) I don't wanna go to a bar (nothing happens anytime other than the weekend), I don't wanna go to a movie - late show at 21:35? Don't make me snigger.
Where are the legions of smoky underground lairs with live poetry readings? Where are the museums open late? Where is the public space that doesn't close at 1800? Where are the salsa clubs? Where are the upstairs swing dance meccas?
If there is anyone who can help me with my cabin fever, its Miss Vicky. Where are the lefty, subaltern, culture-rich and inspiring nooks in Ottawa on a Wednesday or Thursday night?
Where is the LIFE in this city !!!!????

Oh my, I do understand your predicament. It does seem that this city closes its shutters at 6pm when folks hop in their cars and rush back to their 2.2 kids.... And it does seem at times that the social life here is very pub-oriented. But there are some hidden gems in this city, really. Sometimes it just takes a while for new folks to warm to Ottawa, and vice versa. At least, that was Miss Vicky's experience when she moved here.

So, just for you I will begin a new list. Hopefully some of my faithful legion will chime in with suggestions.

Smoky underground lairs: well, you won't find much of these since the ban took effect, but you can't have everything. I know that Cafe Nostalgica at the UofO frequently has readings and other funky fare. This place has listings of events. I note one upcoming event in particular: John Akpata, local poet and former Marijuana Party candidate in Ottawa South is reading this Sunday as part of the Dusty Owl series. Saw him at a few events and he is progressive, funny and smart. I'd probably check him out if I didn't have a family wedding to attend this weekend.... There is also the Capital Slam series. I've seen Oni the Haitian Sensation perform a few times and she is definitely worth checking out.

Actually, Miss Vicky hasn't been to a poetry reading/slam in a while, so if you check these out (or if any of you other folks know of good spots), let me know.

Museums open late: Thursdays the National Gallery is open late.... maybe other museums as well. It is always worth paying attention to what's up at the SAW Gallery.

Public space that doesn't close at 18:00....hmmmm..... Are you looking for indoor or outdoor?

Salsa Clubs: Well, there's Club Caliente in the Market. Used to be a good one on Preston Street but I think it is closed. As for Swing Dancing, there aren't any small clubs that I know about but I have heard that the Ottawa Swing Dance society has regular events (including lessons) and they are pretty fun. Miss Vicky does enjoy an occasional Lindy Hop, come to think of it.

I know you said no restaurants, but the Shanghai on Somerset has a dj spinning on Thursdays, I believe, with a great cocktail selection. Once you get out of Elgin St and the Market, you can find some good spots, even on a weekday. Well, OK, the Manx is on Elgin and that is a great spot any day of the week. Watch for live music there on Mondays and sometimes Sundays. And say hi to some of Miss Vicky's favourite bar staff.

And as for Thursdays, Miss Vicky can often be found at a certain potluck.... but more about that another post.

So, readers.... any other suggestions for our restless hipster?


Miss Vicky Thu Feb 10, 2005

So I've put recycling and Rae and other assorted annoyances aside for 5 days, got myself to Tampa and swept my grandmother away on a cruise for her 80th birthday. I'm writing this from Cozumel, where we've stopped for the day. Now, cruising is not really Miss Vicky's bag, but heck, she does have an over-developed sense of kitsch and she sure does love her Grandma...

Actually, all of this was my Dad's idea. "Let's do something special for Mom", he said. So he found us a 4 day cruise, recruited my sister, a couple of aunts and some of Grandma's longtime friends and we all bought tickets as a surprise.

Only problem is, the day we were all supposed to leave for Florida to meet up, Dad had an unfortunate incident in a hockey tournament.... perhaps I shouldn't have given him a copy of Slapshot for Christmas. Fractured rib and partial lung collapse. Sigh. He's OK, but quel bummer, non? After all that organizing....

Anyway, Sis and I trooped down here, and after a few misadventures trying to find folks, we've been having a great time letting my grandmother know how special we think she is.

More about Grandma (and the Jeep/Snorkeling eco-tour my sis and I just did) soon. Verdict thus far: cruising's not bad. You have to have a keenly-developed sense of irony, a tolerance for cheesy decor and a yen for people-watching. Oh, and a good credit card balance. Those Margaritas can add up....

Talk - Action = Nothing

The Webgeek Wed Feb 9, 2005

Vote for DOA's Disco Sucks

If I — The Webgeek — may borrow Miss Vicky's soapbox for a second, I'd like to humbly ask her faithful legion to go to CBC Radio's 50 Tracks web site and (as of Friday Feb 11th) start stuffing the ballot for the seminal Canadian punk rock legends DOA and their song Disco Sucks. Thanks to a nomination from the CanCon former metal queen Lee Aaron, (ooh... how she used to make my overly pubescent, mulleted heart swoon back in the day) this bouncy little ditty is up for consideration as one of the 70's essential tracks.
UPDATE: It appears that DOA already made the list somehow. You (ok — I) can stop harrassing Jian Ghomeshi now.

While I must admit to becoming a fan of DOA's (and punk's) music and message later into the eighties, their influence on me and my politics cannot be denied. I may have mellowed with age and become more rounded and subtle in my philosophies and approach, but the initial activist desire to get off my ass and do *something* was sparked by this, and other great Canadian punk bands. Their anger at the state of the world mirrored my own back then — as it still does now, in fact. As with all truly prophetic messages, their simple slogan and rallying cry in the title above — Talk minus action equals nothing — still rings true today. This slogan is at the heart of DOA's music and politics. The simple, heartfelt message cuts to the very core of activist sentiment. It's not enough to just spout rhetoric; put your money where your mouth is.

It is obvious to me that the harsh sound of these DIY three-chord greats may not be for everyone: it is an acquired taste. You, our gentle reader, may even be one whose musical taste shys away from such growling and simplistic aural assaults. However, like the art world's Voice of Fire, one need not appreciate the particular aesthetic to see the importance of such true innovation. Quick, punched up, guitar heavy songs that felt as angry as the lyrics within them. They stripped music down to its basics and made it as mean and brutal as a drunken hit and run accident. Songs about effecting change in society that had an emotional tempo strong enough to make you want to go out — right now! — and do the effecting. They were the initiators; the originators; the prophet-kings of the Canadian punk scene. While bands like Sum 41, Avril Levigne and Billy Talent may have watered down and corporatized the sound, (no, punk's not dead — but it might as well be) in their day Joey Shithead (nee Keithley) and pals blew the doors off the over-produced 70's music industry and introduced many young angst ridden Canucks, myself included, to the concepts of political activism and resistance.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to dig out my ancient, button-festooned, badge-emblazoned, model-paint-encrusted, black denim jacket and try and figure out how to convert my old vinyl EPs to MP3 format.


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