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All In Hand

Red Wine and Recipes?

Miss Vicky Tue Mar 8, 2005

dear miss vicky
after perusing your site, I realise how much I long for those university days when we used to share a litre of El Cato and discuss recipes and fashion. Would Miss Vicky consider having a special place on her website to put such items of our past like the 3-bean-casserole and secrets for making ones own Christmas gifts? Those were the days, weren't they Miss Vicky?

Indeed, it was just that desire to reconnect with the domestic goddess within that inspired me to start up my Offhand Remarks. Or rather, a need to find the perfect balance between work, home, community and politics. Think of this as a virtual living room, complete with my comfy 50s sectional and boomerang formica coffee table. As for the vino, you'll have to add your own. Although I just might start a thread about the perfect Manhattan at some point.

Dear Miss Vicky is just that place for exchanging ideas, tips and gossip. Got a recipe to share, or some domestic dilemma? Lay it on us.

Miss Vicky is also open to the idea of Finishing School alumni and affiliates posting in the other sections (the Webgeek has already started his own threads, hasn't he? And he didn't even ask permission....). So if you have a rant, recipe or reality check you want to add to the Offhand Remarks, email me and we'll see what we can do.

Happy Procrastination week...

The Webgeek Mon Mar 7, 2005

I'll try and get to writing something witty about this holiday later on in the week. In the meantime, here's an interesting take on it's timing. If you find the time, try sending someone an e-card.

Goodale's Wardrobe

Miss Vicky Sun Mar 6, 2005

Had meetings in the same hotel as the Libs' convention this weekend. Seen on escalator Saturday: Finance Minister Ralph Goodale sporting a two-toned fleece vest. Red on one side; blue on the other.

[insert musing expression here]

A Truly Canadian Car

The Webgeek Fri Mar 4, 2005

While listening to the CBC this morning — yes, Miss Vicky and I are bonafide Radio One junkies — The Current's intro sparked an interesting conversation. As that gravelly disembodied voice spouted, in usual tongue-in-cheek style, the possibility of GM using it's new cash infusion into its Canadian plants to design a car specifically made for the Canuck market (available in three shades of beige and unable to run without government support) it made us think; what would a Canadian specific model actually be like? What would it be called? Would it actually be functional, or simply turn into The Homer?

First we agreed on it's basic shape: a four-door hatch-back. Ever since the Chevrolet Chevette, and it's Pontiac counterpart, the Acadian (our prototype perhaps?), Canadians have had a love/hate relationship with these little utilitarian vehicles. Inexpensive, surprisingly roomy, and able to hold the entire contents of a two bedroom apartment if packed properly; they've become indispensable to us. Also, their (usually) base model engines graciously allow for the occasional block-heaterless cold weather start and, more importantly, cheap Moto-Master replacement parts. Lets face it, if we Canucks can't do basic vehicle maintenance in a Canadian Tire parking lot, we're not truly happy with our cars.

Second, we tried to figure out it's name. Would they simply re-introduce the Acadian, or give it a new "exotic" name? We bandied about the Chinook, the Cariboo, and the Portage before realizing that, no matter what it was officially monickered, we'd probably just simply refer to it as the Stubbie. It'd be a quintessential hoser slant on the VW bug (which, coincidentally was officially named the Type 1 originally). Sure, some irony impaired people may frown on the idea of naming a car after a booze holding container, but then they can use whatever "official" name it gets tagged with. The rest of us would simply enjoy the nickname with quiet, nostalgic pride.

After these two crucial decisions, the added features started coming fast and furious. Some, like Four-wheel/all-wheel drive, great fuel economy & complimentary maps to every major Canadian city, were no brainers; but a few of our ideas were quite ingenious, if I may say so myself. Some of them were:

  • Super duty rust-proofing
    I'm not talking Some namby-pamby after-build spray-on stuff here. Dip every single part, from frame to antennae, in a tank of rust-proofing goo before the car even gets built.
  • Heated everything
    We've all sat in heated seats. They rock. It should be written into the charter as a basic right that they be standard in all Canadian vehicles. But there are so many other things in a car that could use a bit of warmth. Specifically:
    Side mirrors: Go ahead, try and scrape frost off 'em — you can't. And even if you do manage to smear off a pencil thin sliver of ice, you need to spend the next twenty minutes adjusting their position back again. Hooking up the heating of side mirrors in with the rear-window defrost just makes perfect sense.
    Washer fluid tank: You know the drill. Scrape off the windshield; start the car; drive off to work; twenty feet from home you spray the wiper juice on to clear off the grime; then panic as your field of view instantly crystalizes into an obscurity far worse than the grime you tried to wash off. Until the defrost fans heat up the windows, even that -40° stuff seems to freeze on contact with the windshield. Wouldn't it be nice to have the fluid heated up so that the wipers could do their thing before old man winter did? In fact, go one further and tie this feature in with the block heater. That way the stuff's toasty warm before you even start the car.
    Cup Holders: Come on. There's nothing worse than that last tepid sip of Timmy's as you leave the car. It ruins the whole coffee experience, doesn't it? Wouldn't be nice to hit a button next to your morning drive-through double-double that keeps it nice and warm? Damn straight it would.
  • Timed block heaters
    The block heater is indeed a wondrous thing. Problem is, you don't need to plug the car in all night to benefit from it's abilities. It really only needs to be on a ˝ hour or so before you start the car; but whose going to go trek out to plug in your car before you jump in the shower? So we all just plug in the car when we get home at night and suck up a tonne of extra energy in the process (especially if we're going to be heating the washer fluid too). Having an easy way to set a timer on your block heater (a dial of some sort on the plug perhaps) would make so much more sense. You could even go one further and add a "Block Heater" button to the automatic car starter remote that would heat the engine first before revving her up.
  • An extra set of winter rims & snow tires
    We all know snow tires are a good idea. All it takes is one highway fishtail on well worn "All Season" tires to realize this. But given our genetic propensity towards frugality, we Canadians rarely actually pony up the dough for them. How many accidents could be avoided if we simply just got them free with the car? Even as an option on the car, this makes perfect sense.
  • Higher ground clearance, reinforced bumper bottoms and protective undercarriage plating.
    No matter how diligent you — or your oldest child — are in your snow shoveling duties, there are days (or nights) when you just have to blast through that plow mound at the end of your drive. It'd be nice to do it without the latent fear of leaving your muffler behind in the process.

    And as an ancillary bonus, the higher ground clearance would also give the more mechanically minded among us ability to do the holy grail of Canadian Tire parking lot maintenance; an entire oil change. You know you've wanted to do it. Park right next to the maintenance bays; buy 4 quarts of 10w40 and a plastic bin; slide under the car; drain, then replace the engine oil; swagger over to the gawking high-school aged jr. mechanic and ask if they've got a disposal tub for your old oil; and drive off with the smug satisfaction in knowing you've just saved yourself $22.50 and an hour and a half in a broken, split-cushioned, waiting room chair reading an issue of Car and Driver from two decades ago.

Now, I could go on and on... but I think it's time to open up the floor to you, Miss Vicky's faithful legion. What do you want in a Canadian made car?

Let us know.

21%? Not good enough!

Miss Vicky Thu Mar 3, 2005

Equal Voice
It seems the political glass ceiling in this country is not only fixed, but at least a kilometre thick and stronger than concrete. Women currently hold 21 % of the seats in our House of Commons, and we've been stuck around that number for many years now, with no real indication that things are going to change any time soon. In fact, it seems to be getting harder for women to succeed politically, no matter which party they choose.

A recent poll by the Centre for Research and Information on Canada says that 9 out of 10 Canadians think that electing more women would help us achieve a more well-functioning political system. So what's the holdup?

I could go on about the barriers women face when considering entering the political arena... but I'll save that piece of vitriol for another day. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Equal Voice is a national organization dedicated to improving the representation of women in politics. We've formed a chapter here in the Nation's Capital, and are hosting a lunch to celebrate International Women's Day. I hope members of my faithful legion (from both genders) will attend, and consider joining the organization

Here are the details. RSVP by March 4 if you'd like to attend!

EqualVOICE National Capital Region cordially invites you to a special lunch celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Nikki Macdonald, Chair of EqualVOICE NCR and Vicky Smallman, Vice-Chair of EqualVOICE NCR are pleased to be able to host the Honourable Liza Frulla, Minister for Canadian Heritage and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, who will provide the keynote address for the luncheon.

Location: National Press Club restaurant, 165 Sparks Street, 2nd floor
Date: Tuesday March 8th, 2005
Time: 12:00pm – 2:00pm

Tickets to attend this lunch are $25. To purchase a ticket, please contact Susan Korah at (613) 241-4967, or by email evottawa@yahoo.ca.

EqualVOICE is a group of women and men across the country who are deeply concerned about Canadian politics, and who have formed a multi-partisan action committee devoted to the still-bold idea that more women must be elected to every level of government in Canada.


Old Home Week

Miss Vicky Tue Mar 1, 2005

So I'm flipping between channels this evening, trying to find something to snap me out of these midwinter blahs.... and there's this familiar face on CBC Newsworld. Not one of the usual politicos or talking heads I cross paths with from time to time in this town, but my old university pal, Ed Hawco, talking about the blogging phenom. Ed was one of the first bloggers I knew - in fact, mutual friends put me on to his site a few years ago, and I've been quietly following it since.

Ed's the type of person well suited to blogging - quick-witted, tech-savvy, with a quirky grasp on reality (I mean that in the nicest possible way, really) and a talent for wordsmithing. Back in our university days, Ed had a weekly column in our student newspaper. Random ramblings, really, but a nice change from the usual sophomoric drivel folks tended to churn out at our alma mater. He was also a talented photographer, reluctant student politician and fun-guy-at-large. He was the kind of person you always liked in school and regretted losing contact after graduation. We reconnected several years ago when I discovered the internet, exchanged an email once or twice a year, that sort of thing. Last time I saw him we tried to get together for a beverage in Montreal - only I had a mere 15 minutes before running to catch a train. Alas. He hadn't changed in the fifteen-odd years since I'd last seen him. This pleased me.

It was kind of funny to see this face from my past tonight, as I spent last week helping the faculty at our alma mater certify their union. I have been back and forth to the campus a few times in the last year and a half, and each visit has yielded some rather interesting emotional responses. A jigger or two of nostalgia, a conservative dose of melancholy, a dash of bitters.... Shake well and serve chilled. Well, I felt a little chilly, at least. Not much had chanegd since I graduated. Familiar faces in greeted me in the hallways, as if I had not left. It felt right to be there, even though I never felt quite right there.

Since moving to Ottawa I've made all kinds of reconnections - old friends from high school, university, grad school. I've met them on the street, in meetings, in the airport, at parties. I guess it makes sense - so many people move here from elsewhere, to work for government or national organizations. These political circles are smaller than one would think. And Miss Vicky has had the privilege of living and working in a lot of different places, right? When you meet as many people as I have, you're bound to cross paths with some of them a few times.

The 'net has its own culture and its own way of connecting people. I suppose that's why I took to it (that, and it offered a wonderful form of procrastination and stress relief during my grad school years), why I participate in various boards and lists and why I chose to follow Ed's lead and dip a toe in the blogosphere. Since Miss Vicky's launched, a few old friends have surfaced, a few of whom I rarely get to see. You know who you are.

It's kind of cool to see you all interact with each other - kind of like those parties I used to have during grad school, where the physicists mixed with the English types, with a few sociologists and geographers thrown in for good measure. I suppose healthy amounts of Hungarian pinot noir helped get the dialogue flowing, but whatever. Our incomes and tastes have evolved since then (thank goodness), but the desire to laugh and debate and make a difference in the world and enjoy the company of interesting people remains. Ultimately, that's what keeps me connected to the people I care about. And what keeps me reaching out for new connections.


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