Tag Archives: habits

January the Two-Faced Month Looks Back and Forward


Photo: Bust of the god Janus, Vatican museum, Vatican City. photo by Fubar Obfusco.

Janus (sometimes depicted beardless on one side), Vatican Museum. Photo by the charmingly named Fubar Obfusco.


As January comes to a close, let us consider that January means “the month of Janus”.

Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings, of gates and transitions. He is the god with two faces (aren’t they all?), one looking back and the other to the future. He represents the transition from youth to adulthood, and from barbaric to civilized.

In ancient times, when Rome was at war the gates of the temple of Janus would be open, in times of peace the gates were closed (the origin of the “status update”; only one side closed meant “it’s complicated”). Ancient Romans held, as one might, that the way things begin bodes how things will continue to unfold, so as the new year began they would wish each other well and give figs and other little gifts.

So this is the end of the beginning of 2013. I am going to endeavour to keep both my Gemini sides less Janus-faced. I am going to try growing up a bit more (in my own Bohemian way), I am going to strive to more closely approximate my definition of civilized, I am going to close the gates on belligerent impulses, wish well to all, and generally give a fig.



Filed under beginnings, habits, Optimism & Inspiration, tradition

Happy World Fair Trade Day!

World Fair Trade Day, take a step

World Fair Trade Day, Take a Step


I discovered today is World Fair Trade Day as I was having my “breakfast” of the Fair Squares (brownies) I made yesterday.

World Fair Trade Day (WFTD) is the largest Fair Trade event in North America, with events happening from May 6 to 20. But the most important event is when spend money on chocolate, coffee, sugar, bananas, and other products that are farmed in far away places, too often in conditions you wouldn’t want to perpetuate, even if it would save you 20 cents a kilo.


As my Fair Trade Day gift to you, here is my recipe:

Fair Squares


  • 1 cup flour (unbleached)
  • 2 tablespoons Fair Trade cocoa Fair Trade


  • 2 eggs from humanely raised chickens
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ brown sugar Fair Trade
  • ¾ cup melted butter from humanely raised cows

Combine, pour in prepared square pan.

Bake at 325°F for 35 minutes. Don’t overcook.

Icing, prepared just before the brownies come out of the oven and poured on while icing and brownies are hot (if you time it right, the icing will spread itself out in a smooth glaze).

In a small sauce pan melt and heat till bubbling

  • 2 tablespoons butter from humanely raised cows
  • 1 tablespoon  Fair Trade cocoa

Without delay, mix until smooth

  • 1 cup icing sugar Fair Trade is available, so if you don’t find it, request it
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 1½ tablespoons milk from humanely raised cows

And to be completely fair, share them. And don’t be shy about letting people know that the treat they are enjoying is not the product of abuse, exploitation and child labour.*

*Unless you had your kids make them.

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Filed under conscious consumption, fair trade, sustainable

Water WAnTER: Waste Not Want Not

Water: Think Globally, Drink Locally

Whenever I think about what’s important, water comes to mind. Nothing does a body more good than water. I fill myself with water, I immerse myself in water. The closer I live to water, the happier is my life.

UN Water World Water Day

UN Water World Water Day

Water is it.

I would not claim that I use less water than others, but I think about how I use water, and I appreciate water. We use water the way we use the word “it“, without thinking about it, without considering what it means or where it came from or how we would get by without it. It’s crazy how it is always there for us.

Will water always be there for everyone?

If you don’t know what happened in 2000 when an American corporation bought all the water in [Cochabamba,] Bolivia, including the rainwater, then you have not yet seen the most important film so far this century The Corporation (2003).

Another film that should interest all fresh-water drinkers is Blue Gold: World Water Wars (2008), just one of the films being shown at the Ecologos free Thursday evening film series Water Docs in Toronto from March 22 World Water Day until April 22 Earth Day.

If documentaries aren’t your thing, consider the political weight of Canada’s water as examined in the dramatic Paul Gross mini-series H2O(2004).

Paul Gross mini-series H2O

What can one person do?

Appreciate your water. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/freshwater/

Let others have their water. http://www.blueplanetproject.net/Involvement/index.html

Don’t stop bathing, but think about how much goes down the drain. Here are a couple of habits I’ve acquired:

  1. When running the water till is gets cold/hot, I collect that “waste water” in a pitcher and save it for my plants.
  2. BYOTW. I almost always bring a bottle of tap water whenever I leave the house. I’ve rarely had a day when I didn’t wish I had some water, so I try to always have some with me. (The only time to buy bottled water is when travelling in regions where the local water system carries little beasties my gut is not accustomed to and the other options are dehydration or dysentery. I’ve learned to go for sparkling water to make sure it is not bottled tap water).
UN Water World Water Day, How Much Water Is Needed For That

How Much Water Is Needed For That?

But water is wasted everywhere you look, and it’s not just about tap water and bottled water. Water is inextricable from agriculture, food security, the oil sands, etc., etc., etc. Water is everywhere wasted.

Happy World Water Day!


Filed under conscious consumption, documentary, habits, sustainable

Consistency, in Moderation

It is good to be consistent, sometimes.

Mixed nuts

Odd nut. (Photo by Evan Andrew Mackay)

Consistently washing your hands is generally commendable. As for the desirability of consistently laughing at my clever remarks, opinions vary.

Consistently driving on the right hand side of the road, in a forward motion, is helpful in some countries, but would likely be problematic in others.

Consistently comforting a crying child might seem a good idea, until (as I learned over the holidays) the child catches on to the potential for manipulation.

What about in my writing? I aim (with limited success) for my writing to be consistently satisfying – consistency of quality – but there is some expectation that a writer should maintain a degree of consistency in quantity, to produce a certain quantity of words within a certain time frame.

Should I write one blog post every week, every second week, or every three days? Or should I write a blog post when I have something I think would be of particular interest to, um, say, you for example?

In defense of the irregularity of my postings I could quote Oscar Wilde, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

If one is too consistent, they get called “extremist” like when Lisa Simpson insists her mother pay for the two grapes she ate at the grocery store – “I need a price check on two grapes. Yeah, you heard me, Phil. Two measly, stinkin’ grapes.” Lisa is just sticking to her principles. As Ayn Rand fairly observes, extremism is merely consistency.

I’m not extremely extreme, myself, but I am consistently inconsistent. So as my New Year’s resolution, by which I mean to say my first New Moon resolution of 2012, I will aim for consistency – in moderation – regarding the regularity of my output. And I mean that in an entirely non-medical way (but stay tuned for my upcoming Fringe show blog).

And now, in the spirit of “Moderation in everything, including moderation”, let’s open another bottle of Amarone.


Filed under beginnings, habits, writing

Woody Allen Fired Me and my Day Begins

When Woody Allen fires you, it’s time to wake up and start writing.

Woody Allen Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen at work

The room was full of people and a bunch of us hired to write for Woody (yeah, ’cause that’s how that works) were sitting down for our first meeting with him. Woody came close to me, looked at me much like he’s doing in this press photo from the set of his latest film “Midnight in Paris“, and gently explained that I hadn’t been pulling my weight and he couldn’t afford to keep me on staff. “You haven’t given me anything to work with here. You’re the only one who hasn’t been giving me funny lines.” “But,” I feebly protested, “you haven’t told us about the characters or the plot or anything. We haven’t started yet.”

“That hasn’t stopped the others.” Then he took out a handkerchief full of change, shook 11 loonies and some pennies and dimes into my hand and told me I could drop by the production office next week to pick up the rest of the 40 bucks he owed me. I co-operatively shuffled out through the crowded room of happy people who were about to begin their career-making work with Woody Allen, and I woke up.

Woody Allen told me I wasn’t producing any material and everyone else was coming up with great stuff. Never had the meaning 0f a dream been so clear to me. It was a great wake-up call. I woke up and started writing.

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Filed under beginnings, habits, Optimism & Inspiration, writing

Moving Experience

We were roommates in this west Montreal neighbourhood when the 90s had just begun. Now at an age when we measure our friendship in decades, she is moving home (does that phrase make anyone but us hear a Beatles tune…in reverse?). Home to our little east coast hometown.

Is this good? Is it bad? It’s home. Home is where you go.

What is she leaving behind? Fantastic restaurants and cafés, a plethora of festivals, magnificent architecture, and a mountain of joie de vivre! And a life partner who, like her, is beginning a new life.

Why? Because that’s what happens. When people say “you only live once”, they are speaking metaphorically. Right now she is taking a break from packing and watching TV, from which I hear strings playing Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. She is not the same person who walked down the aisle a decade ago, nor am I the same person who walked down a different aisle in Mexico a few months after that. When you get married, it’s not just to the person with the matching ring, it’s to the person they will become, and the person they will be after that. Sometimes you are lucky enough to love all of the people you marry. “Forever” is not always for everyone.

What is she taking with her? Cats, books, dishes, music, and a friend whose love for her has been deepening for 25 years. If we could pin down the exact date we became friends, this would be the Silver Anniversary of our friendship.

I won’t stay with her in our hometown. I’ll move her and her cats into their new place, visit my family and other old friends for a couple of days, and then I’ll hurry back to the person I’ll marry next (I love the people she’s been so far).

My oldest friend is back to fussing about what to pack and what to leave behind, but one thing that won’t get left behind, and won’t get lost or broken in the move, is me.

Happy Anniversary M.


Filed under beginnings

New Moon Resolutions

Here we are, 2nd day into the 2nd week into the 2nd month into the year. How’s that New Year’s Resolution working out for you?

Mine was to start and maintain a blog. How am I doing so far? I’ve made other resolutions this year, and I’m sticking to them too.

New Year’s Resolutions are too few and too far between. It doesn’t take a year to make a resolution stick, and it doesn’t take a month to let it slip.

Try this. A New Moon Resolution. Make a new one every month. A habit can be formed or broken within less time than that. Some may say it takes three weeks, but cut yourself some slack and give it a month.

Within that amount of time, you can establish an exercise routine, or improve your diet, or change your sleeping pattern, or learn the basics of a language, or straighten up your home or your finances or almost anything! OK, maybe you can’t do it all within a month, but you can firmly establish a habit of taking care of whatever item of business you choose as your focus for the month.

Want to loose 100 kg? You won’t do that in a month (without cutting something off), but you could start walking. Set a reasonable goal (e.g. walk 15 minutes 3 times a week). If you can keep that up for three weeks you can keep it up forever. And if you can stick to that routine, maybe you can do more the next month.

Jumping Boy, by Arnold Burrell 1968

“I can’t” is usually a lie. If you can walk, you can walk three times a week. If you can do it for a week, you can do it for three.

“But” is not a lie, but it’s cheating yourself. “But I sprained my ankle.” Then save the walking for another month and make a different resolution in the meantime. Make the goal something you can do now, and do it now.

You will probably get off track, probably more than once. Now what? Get back on track. Stick with it until you can do what you promised yourself you would do for three weeks. If you can’t go three weeks without slipping up, then renew the resolution for the next month. If the first goal was too hard, make it easier — more realistic.

If it works, and you find you continue the new habit effortlessly into the next month and the month after that, then it’s time for a new New Moon Resolution!


Filed under beginnings, habits, Optimism & Inspiration