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Random Post

I've not posted in a while.  Mostly 'cuz I have little to say.  But, CBC annoyed me the other day.  I sent them a rant, which I also posted on Craigslist:

Dear CBC Radio;

Here's an unbridled, stream of consciousness rant.

You guys now, mostly, officially suck.

You're still doing some awesome stuff. Quirks and Quarks. Ideas. DNTO. Q is even sometimes pretty good. So, Radio One, you're mostly okay.

But, damn. I was listening to The Debaters today whilst driving back from replacing a key top on a piano. I had to cut out after I arrived home. And now, when I decide, "Hey, I think I might try this intertubes thing and listen to the end of that amusing, comic interlude!", I find that you fornicators are telling me I can purchase the entire program on iTunes. Seriously. WTF. I've already paid for that stuff once. I want to be able to listen to that stuff again. Ideally, without having to pay for it via iTunes. Of course, I might be mistaken, and iTunes is really an awesome Canadian Crown corporation that gives generously to the arts and ugly cancer kids and whatnot. But I doubt it.

Look. If there was an option on my tax form, I'd give you artsy layabouts every cent. I'd much rather see the CBC funded than get anally violated by Stephen Harper and his freakin' omnibus legislation (most of which seems to be focused on screwing up water, building prisons and eliminating anything resembling privacy, civil liberties, and fair and democratic representation). But I digress.

Whatever miniscule percentage of my pathetic tax dollar ends up with you. . .well, it helped pay for stuff. Like The Debaters. Which I want to listen to. Without having to pay for it. Again.

By all means, charge Americans for this stuff. If I can't get U.S. Netflix, then charge them for stuff they can listen to for free if they live in Buffalo or Blaine or wherever.

But, really, my rant is about CBC Two.

You pricks can effin' bite me. I like my classical music. Julie Nazwhatshername, yeah, she has a nice voice. Actually, she has a voice like melted emeralds. I would so tap that voice. But that voice is not why I listened to CBC for years. I miss Clyde Gilmour. He sounded, frankly, tubercular. A gravel road to Ms. Julie's emeralds. But, damn, you never knew what you were getting with him. His music, and breadth of knowledge, was breathtaking. Yeah, sometimes I was bored to tears. I don't like everything. His organ music made me wince. But whatever. Mostly it was varied and awesome.

Jurgen Gothe was, mostly, tedious. But, again, mostly good, solid, classical music.

So. What I'm saying is, I don't want to listen to the rubbish you're pedaling most of the day. I want baroque. I want classical. I'd love more medieval, and 20th century classical music. Right now, I'm going through everything I can find from Morten Lauridsen and Arvo Part. Hell, I'll even listen to some romantic music if I can get more baroque. In short, I'll put up with Schumann and Schubert if I can get more Charpentier and Schoenberg.

In the evenings, I enjoyed what I remember of jazz shows. And I still miss Brave New Waves, and Two New Hours.

So, in short, please, for the love of all that's holy, unholy, or spiritually indifferent, ditch this current contemporary music line up and go back to what you're good at. Give me stuff that fills my soul with ease, my heart with joy, and my brain with spark and vigour and imagination. Give me something different from what just about every other radio station plays.

And please do not ask me to pay for it again when I try to listen to it later on your website. Especially if it's stuff you've made.

C'mon, guys. You're so close to be so mega-awesome all the time. Keep what's good, and give me more of what's better.

Rant over.

Here's the link to the rant 'til it expires: http://calgary.craigslist.ca/rnr/4878006166.html

CBC has not, as of yet, responded...

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Rambling - Publishing.

I posted this as a response on a friend's post about the death of conventional publishing.

McMillan?  Random House?  You guys listening...?

At one time, in my sordid past, I worked in an independent bookstore.  This doesn't make me an expert, but it does (perhaps) give me some insight...

The deal with a bookstore is that they're obliged to put a book on their shelves for a certain period of time - say, three months - after which they may return said book to the publisher if it doesn't sell.  The publisher then give the bookstore a credit for the returned book.  (The exception is with many mass market paperbacks where the requirement is now for book sells (I apologize for saying this) are required to remove and return the front covers.  This cuts down on shipping costs, and the publisher does not have to warehouse and re-ship (or destroy) a bunch of paperbacks it has no chance of selling...)  If a book does sell, the publisher typically receives 60% of the cover price.
Publishers really started to get the shaft in the late 80s.  Big box bookstores started to demand that publishers provide them with thousands of copies over what the bookstores could sell; a publisher who didn't - or couldn't - provide that number of copies did not get their books ordered.  Publishers that did - shudder as you imagine a 25,000 copy print run of the latest teen supernatural romance - ended up saddled with 20,000 returned copies after the Christmas season, or after the minimum three month period on the bookseller's shelves.  These books - at least the hard covers - would get 'remaindered' and sold by the pallet - which is why you see hardcover novels, cookbooks, biographies, etc., being sold for a fiver at the big box stores and/or Costco.
Essentially, what started out as an equitable business arrangement got abused by the buying power of the big box stores.  Trouble is, the publishers went along.
(In defence of the publishers, I don't know what else they might have done; I suspect that there were editors and book reps who kept saying to the publisher's sales department and to the big stores ' you guys are on crack - there's no way you're gonna sell even 5,000 copies of this book'.  Perhaps the initial thought was 'if the bookstores are ordering this many copies, it <i>must</i> be because they think they can sell them'.  Years later, however, it doesn't seem like publishers have figured things out.)
As an independent, we were able to order what we wanted, and what we thought might sell.  'Hey; this author looks good.  Let's get a copy and put it on the shelf and see what happens.  If it sells, we can get more.'  However, we had to do this in the context of our shipping costs, and what a minimum order from a particular publisher looked like.  Often we had to scour a publisher's catalogue to find enough books to put together an order for the one or two titles we thought worthy...
Where am I going with this?  Traditional publishing houses seem to be re-tooling in the face of on-demand printing, e-books, and direct marketing and sales.  They don't seem to be very good at it yet.  But there is hope that, within the next few years, readers may have the option to order books directly from publishers they like.  And publishers will no longer be unduly burdened with the cost of printing thousands of copies that will not be read, thus freeing their resources to pursue and promote 'smaller' authors who may, in the end, be more worthy of my attention than the current crop of mass market megastars.
So, really, this is a defence of and an apologia for publishers.  I like them.  I like editors.  I like a group of people who are good at sorting the wheat from the chaff, and helping the authors they choose to invest in to grow as writers, and make a living at it to boot.  (As one example, my ex will read anything published by Picador - she is consistently pleased by their editorial and publishing vision and knows that, mostly, an author they champion - known, merely heard of, or brand-new - is going to be worth her time.)  And I hope that publishers are around for a long time to come, and that the 'book business' comes back into some better alignment between the publishers, the sellers, and the authors.  I hope for a future where today's crowdfunded wunderkind is picked up by a publisher, given a good editor, and sent on her way into a career where she can make a living as a writer without having to scramble for anything other than words...

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Well, that was unexpected...

Had a follow-up appointment with the audiologist today.  Music seems a bit 'thin', and I asked her if there was an adjustment possible.  Short version: yes.  Longer version: the hearing aids are biased somewhat towards the treble end, and use compression to clarify sounds.  So, she flattened the response such that there is much more low frequency boost and almost no digital compression such that the sound coming through is much more 'even', and certainly less fucked with.

She asked if I wanted to test it with something off of youtube.  (Sadly, I had neglected to bring my guitar which I've been using to test sound in both ears.)  I asked her to bring up Lauridsen's 'O Magnum Mysterium'.

After about 30 seconds I started crying.  Uncontrollable sobbing.  In front of a stranger.

Am I losing my sanity?  Or just heartbroken at going deaf, if even it's just partial.  But oh to lose these beautiful, beautiful sounds...


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Rambly update

This summer, in a lot of ways, has been a major bust.

I got fired from my job in late June.  Long story short, another person got a promotion that I was in line for who was, in my view, less competent and certainly less experienced.  So I started working to rule, which translated into "is not a good fit for the direction this department is going".  I would have been a lot more concerned if I had not found a new job within a week.  Also, I was the sixth person in the last 18 months to quit or get fired.  In that department alone.  With a track record like that, I'm fairly certain the problem wasn't mine.  (However, I didn't help matters by being a bit of a shit disturber; as a friend observed, I don't suffer fools silently.  Which says something about keeping my trap shut...)

As noted previously, my father - to get technical - went fuckin' bonkers.  I finally had to take a trip to Ontario for a week to find out what, precisely, was going on.  I was getting radically different pictures from my mother and sister regarding dad's state of health.

A week certainly wasn't long enough to get stuff sorted.  It was long enough to get him admitted to the psych ward.  It turned out that neither my mother nor my sister had the wherewithal to, essentially, pull the plug and get the old man admitted.  In part it seems that both my mother and sister were doing everything they could to give my father choices, to maintain independence and self direction.  But, from what I could see, he's been beyond that point for a long time.  And I still don't know whether he's suffered a major mental breakdown, is having onset dementia, or whether 30 years of self medicating with benzodiazapines has finally fried his noodle.  Shit.  I didn't even know he'd been using Xanax, let alone for how long, and practially unsupervised.  My father was always a 'do-er' - he could always 'do' something to change things, or to make himself feel better.  But he's now 71.  He can't really work at his old job any longer.  Younger people have taken over.  The contacts he had that helped to make him the mover and shaker he once was are mostly dead.  And, as is typical with the world, what knowledge and experience he does have certainly isn't valued, at least not to the extent that it is worth paying for.  So, he's worried about retirement finances (my folk's took a major hit in 2008 and saw a major portion of their RRSPs evaporate).  His back is also buggered, and he can no longer play golf.  And in a lot of ways, that last thing is the kicker; my father can no longer do the one thing that gave his retired life focus.  My father is not a reader.  He is not a musician.  He is not a gardener, or a woodworker, or an historian.  He does not sail or fish or hunt or ski.  And he does not seem to be able to make the transition, or never learned the skills necessary, to figure out how to be in his life in a way that is now different from how he's always lived it.

My father is a broken man.  And I don't know how to help fix him.  My mother and sister are, sadly, making a bog of it (again, in my opinion, and from a distance).  They aren't advocating for my father's care.  They aren't asking questions, or challenging people for better solutions.  He's been in and out of the hospital over the last two months, the last admission after losing consciousness due to low blood sugar (yeah, add Type II diabetes to the mix...sigh).  And from what I can tell, they're still giving dad 'choices' - what to eat, what to wear, what he wants to do.  I don't think he needs choices; in fact, I think they're frightening and confusing him.  But I'm not there, and these are not my decisions.  I just get to watch from a distance.

However, I shall happily remain the guy who put his old man in the psych ward.  Go me.

Last, my ENT threw in the towel, and I now am learning to live with a hearing aid.  $2000 later and I can hear.  Sorta.  Over the hissing.


Okay.  Things can only get better.  Right?


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Dear Dad; Get well soon you prick...

My father is not doing well.  From reports received from my mother and sister, he has become anxious, paranoid, suspicious, hostile and overall a very, very confused and scared person.

Short version: he's gone fuckin' bonkers.

My parents are getting on in years.  And I know that change is inevitable.  Sadly, of all the scenarios I had imagined for my folks, this is the worst one.  And in some ways the most likely; given good health overall, dementia of some form is pretty common.  I can say, at least, that as the onset of my father's mental illness was rather sudden and no one has said either 'dementia' or 'Alzheimer's' in describing what he's going through, I am hopeful that, in time, a balance of meds will be found that will help him manage what he's dealing with.

It is almost just as hard for my mother and sister.  God bless my mom; she's been through this herself, and has the patience and understanding to deal with this.  Lord grant her the strength, too; this is exhausting her.

Mostly, now, I am sad beyond words.  I am not in Ontario with them.  There's no point in going; there's nothing I could do.  I have a job and obligations here in Calgary; picking up for an extended period would be substantially taxing.  Not impossible; just difficult, and it would entail some major sacrifices.


But there's no point.  I couldn't add anything positive to the equation.  It wouldn't be 'fun' or 'useful' for anyone to have me there.  It might even agitate my father more to have a change to his environment.  Assuming, of course, that he's not in the hospital by the time I arrive.


I simply don't know what to do.  I'm going to try my damnedest to get out there early / mid September.  I'm considering driving (to at least give myself some vacation, and to give myself the freedom to stay longer or leave early, depending upon circumstances).  I don't know if that's a dumb idea.  It's inconvenient in terms of time / money / etc.  But it seems wrong to stay away.

Fuck fuck fuck.

I was really hoping to avoid this shit for another 20 years…
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On being half deaf...

My updates are infrequent.  Mostly it’s because I don’t think that I have much worth saying.


These last few months have been rather busy with a lot of unexpected changes.  So, you get a dose of three posts in relatively quick succession.  Not that anyone is reading this.  Or cares.  Mostly, it’s here for my sense of perspective.

So.  Post the first.  I’ve gone deaf in my right ear.

Short version: last year I noticed a sense of pressure in my right ear, and a small loss of hearing.  After visits to my GP and two ENTs (the first of whom was a nitwit, and my encounter detailed in an earlier post Collapse )), a myringotomy was performed last May with the hope that my hearing loss was a result of Eustachian tube dysfunction (my eardrum has, apparently, collapsed, and negative pressure due to a malfunctioning Eustachian tube is one of the theories as to cause).  No improvement.  To make matters worse, about a week after the surgery my hearing dropped to about 10% normal.  The ENT immediately put me on Prednisone (nasty stuff) under the assumption that there was an infection that had affected the nerve in the middle ear, and the Prednisone was to reduce any swelling, and return hearing.

No dice.

The next step in another operation in December or January of this year.  Dunno what it’s called, but it involves the removal of some cartilage from my outer ear, and the implantation thereof behind the eardrum in an attempt to both support it and compress the incus, malleus and stapes such that hearing will, hopefully, improve.  (While it is the next logical step, I can’t say that I expect much; the ENT suspects the problem is neurological (although I do seem to have good hearing via bone induction) and the surgery addresses ‘mechanical’ issues.  What’s next, then; hearing aid?)

So, from what my reading has told me, I have sudden onset unilateral hearing loss.  And it’s a bitch.  I can no longer hear conversations in a crowded environment.  Parties are particularly difficult.  I cannot determine the direction sounds are coming from (I’ve nearly been taken out several times crossing the street – either I’m not hearing cars, or I’m misinterpreting the sounds, and the car I’m looking at is not the only one on the road).  I’m shocked at how much information about the world I take in through my ears.  And the loss of one is proving really depressing.  Playing the guitar and piano has become – difficult – to say the least.  I can no longer hear the balance between treble and bass on the piano.  And the guitar?  Heh.  I look at my left hand, but can’t hear what I’m playing (which probably means I should practice shakuhachi more…).

Now.  I don’t mean to be utterly negative.  I can still read books.  My balance isn’t completely fubar.  I have no issues riding the motorcycle.  It is simply that a major portion of sensory input is gone.  It’s frustrating and depressing, but not completely debilitating.

And so.  I go on.  And keep poking at this ‘til I find something resembling a solution…
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Writer's regret

Just over a week ago I posted an ad on Craigslist and Kijiji.  In a fit of impatience, I whipped the thing off in five minutes on Sunday night.  The ad on Craigslist has since been flagged and pulled, but here is the original text:

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Thoughts?  I'm curious.

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So.  A week ago I went to my first metal show.  My friend devoidofthought wanted a companion.  I had never been to a metal show before.  I don't even listen to the music.  I generally like my music subtle, gentle, beautiful and intellectual.

There were three acts: two openers (Varg and Wintersun); and the headliner (Eluveitie).  Here are links for your reference:




devoidofthought had heard Eluveitie as an opening act at a prior show, and wanted to hear them headline.  The overall genre was, I was told, 'folk metal' (verified when one of the lead singers for one of the bands screamed at the audience "DO YOU WANT TO HEAR SOME PURE, FUCKING FOLK METAL?").

The show was interesting.  I didn't realize it, but metalheads are pussycats; gentle, polite and very respectful.  I've seen other shows at the Republik and found this one the least threatening (at other shows there was far more testosterone being inappropriately displayed).  For all of the volume, the music is, essentially, very melodic, pan-Celtic, and the lyrics derived frequently from epics, folk tales and whatnot.  The instrumentation was broader than drums, base and guitars (which was one of the attractions for me).  (Slow down the music, turn down the volume, add more synth and a good voice and what do you get?  Enya.)  But it is certainly the volume and the very insistent rhythms that charged up the audience: fists thumping the air; the metal sign being held aloft; thrashing about in the pit.  I was even given a display of about five guys, all in a circle, snapping their heads about to get their hair to thrash like whips.  Gender identification was a challenge, too; it was impossible to tell the guys from the girls (they all of them looked rather homely, IMHO).

Not a scene for me, really (although it was the first place I went where I could wear my hair down and fit right in...except for the black turtleneck, maybe...).  But, hey, I've done it once.  It was worth an evening.  And certainly the musicians and the audience were well worth listening to, even though I return (gratefully) to my Baroque concerti and Renaissance lute music...

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OMG I've gone deaf!

Actually, I have.  I lost hearing in my right ear in late July.  After waiting a couple of weeks for it to clear (I figured just a blockage), I went to see my GP.  She couldn't see anything external, and so prescribed some blow liquid into your nose thing.  She figured a plugged eustachian tube (as did I).  After a week, no luck.  So, referral to an ENT specialist.

FFWD two months to October 15.  I go to see ENT.  He does various tests (tuning fork, hearing sensitivity, pressure equalization tests), sticks a rhinoscope up my nose (that sucked) and, finally, looks into my ear itself.  (This, after noting somewhat dryly, "Yes.  Well.  Your hearing certainly is compromised.")  He determines that he needs to clean some 'gunk' off my my eardrum.

The first scrapes send bolts of pain into my neck.  "Is that sensitive?", he asks.  "Mildly unpleasant," I answer.  "Oh.  Well.  I guess we'd better numb that."

He proceeds to inject my ear - somewhere very deep inside - with lidocaine.  "Try not to move," he suggests.

After the searing, burning sensation subsides, the expected numbing sets in.  He joyfully scrapes away, and sticks some microscope in my ear.

"You have a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholesteatoma.  I don't do ears any more; I'm going to refer you to a colleague who does." 

(Happily, I remembered what the condition was called and started doing my own research.  To be generous, I imagine that he didn't want to say anything about risks, concerns, prognosis, etc. given that he was passing the case onto someone else.  But...damn.  While not (I'm guessing) imminently serious, it still might have been nice to get a little more information from someone who is, ostensibly more expert than Wikipedia...)

I felt dizzy afterwards.  Meh.  I just had a needle stuck in my ear.  And I'm told I need surgery.  Okay.  Fine.  So I drive home.  I stop off for fresh bagels on the way (I'm seldom in that end of town).  Meanwhile, I'm getting ever so slow, so slightly dizzier.

I arrive home, park the truck.  Pick up bagels and my bag, swing out of the truck and stand up.

I fall.  The world is no longer a flat place.  Except for the annoying presence of gravity, it feels as if there isn't any.  Feck.  Okay then.  So, looking at the ground, and my feet, I stand slowly.  Turn around.  Look at my keys.  Look at the truck.  Look at the lock. Lock things up.

Looking at my feet, I turn around.  Look at the garage door, and start lurching towards it.  I make sure one foot is planted before I more the other.  And, except for the falling, gravity still hasn't come back.  In the hallway, I see myself in the mirror.  I'm moving like an 80 year old man.  (This is the first time I have a sense of what it may be like to get really old and frail; I have a much greater sympathy for anyone moving about in a walker or on a cain.  The muscles are all fine; but there's simply no sense of where to put them, how hard, how far away anything is.  Including the floor.)

I make it up to the flat and feel extremely nauseous.  Okay.  Fine.  I have bagels.  A bagel will settle my stomach.

Slice, toast, and cream cheese my bagel.  Pour glass of water.  Sit down.  All the time with my hand on the countertop, or looking at my feet.  And the nausea keeps getting worse.  The bagel tastes like ashes.

Lying down seems like the best plan.  I text work to tell them that I'm not feeling well and won't be in for the afternoon.  So, to the couch.

I can't read.  Gravity, which does not exist, is starting to make the room spin.  The feeling is akin to the worst shooter drunk I've ever had, +20%.  And all without the drinking.  Which sucks.  And now my bowels are roiling.

Fuck.  Okay.  Fine.  Move like an 80 year old godzilla to the bathroom, whereupon the last six months worth of detritus that has collected in my bowels starts to exodus with the fervour of Russian Jews fleeing an oncoming tide of Cossacks.  And these Jews didn't pack lite, either.  Damn.

Of course, gravity is still playing non-existent room-spinning sillybuggers.  And my head is feeling awful.  And....fuck...so's my stomach.

Shit.  Fuck.  Oh....

So throw my sorry ass off the toilet and immediately heave into the bathtub.  That's right.  I'm on my knees on the bathmat, my trousers around my ankles, heaving chunks into the bathtub.  And, no...I haven't stopped defecating.  If anything, the exodus has just become panicked.

I shat on the bathmat.  I shat the carpet.  I defecated on a rug.  Fuck me.

And I don't care.  At this moment, I am so fucking ill and contorted, my stomach has cramped, my bowels have completely loosened, I'm amazed large, bagel-laden chunks of vomit aren't orbiting the bathroom, and I am so completely miserable that I don't give a flying fuck.

After this painful re-grounding in human reality, I haul (after some very basic self-sanitization) my ass into bed.  I also manage to leave a phone message with the ENT to ask them to call me and let me know if dizziness and disorientation are common after such an exam as mine, or whether it was caused by the exam.  (My theory (based upon my years of medical training) is that the lidocaine also managed to freeze the cochlea (the spiral shaped thingy in the ear that takes care of balance) and caused the severe and sudden vertigo and disorientation - a condition that diminished and finally passed when the lidocaine wore off.)

The secretary, when she phoned back, said in a very bland voice, "I talked to Dr. X, and he said that your nausea wasn't caused by the exam.  If you're feeling nauseous, you should either see your GP or, if it's serious, go to a walk in clinic."

Blow me, bitch.  Do you think I'm a fuckin' idiot?  I'm not angry that this went down.  Stuff happens.  But I get really pissed off when an alleged 'professional' immediately engages in ass covering rather than saying something useful like, 'dunno - this hasn't happened before, but based on my experience, I suggest 'y' might be a possible cause, and see if you can wait it out' or 'FFS, this is serious, get your ass to a hospital now'.

So.  What's the upshot?

  1.  I need surgery.  An appointment is being scheduled.  Given that my condition isn't immediately life threatening, I imagine I'll be under the knife in a couple / three months.
  2. Imma phone the College of Physicians and Surgeons and lodge a complaint against this - perhaps knowledgeable, certainly unprofessional - motherfucker.  'Cuz I hate lyin', ass-covering, arrogant assholes.

That is all.  Well, almost:

No matter what happens from this point forward, I will forever be the guy who shat on his own carpet.  And even though I was miserable at the time, I'm incredibly amused by this...

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Social Networking

LJ used to be my primary means of electronic social networking.  It has since been superseded by FB.  Not because FB is better; but because more people use it, and it is designed to do things like sort party invites and whatnot with greater seamlessness (although I don't doubt many would disagree with that assessment - however, for a Luddite like myself, it's just fine).  I use LJ to reach a select audience, and talk about stuff more at length.

Today, however, I was contacted on FB by a girl I haven't seen, as she noted, in close to 30 years.

I say 'girl' because, hell, when last we spoke I think we were both 15 or 16.  I think we may have run into each other a couple of times at uni via mutual friends, but I don't remember for sure.

We didn't date.  We weren't close.  We weren't even friends.  I think there was a mutual understanding that there was some intellectual capacity on both sides.  But that's really about it.  We have one mutual friend in common.

What amazed me is that we chatted pretty solidly, today, for about 3 hours.  She has become an interesting, vibrant, joyful woman of accomplishment.  She values ideas, gentleness, and being in a position to give (mind and talent and resources, too, I suspect).  There was a tremendous ease in talking with her.  Mutual, overlapping interests.  And, where there's no overlap, the intellectual ability to ask intelligent questions.  And a genuine curiousity.  Which is rare.

I do not understand where or how these connections happen, but I treasure them.

Thank you, Monique, for sharing the awesome person you've become with me.  It makes me glad.