Your interesting facts of the day!

Buddhism is not a religion. It is a way of looking at the world. Buddha is not a God. He is a spiritual teacher.


In order for it to be a religion, Buddhism would have to presuppose the existence of one supreme entity that is superior to all other entities. And since Buddhism posits that we are all equal, this presupposition cannot be made. The continuous emphasis on the difference between the Supreme Being and mortal, undeserving you is not built into Buddhism. Neither is the demand for blind faith than comes with most pre-packaged religions.

Secondly, the Buddha is simply a teacher who attained true enlightenment. We - you and me - are all capable of attaining that same level of enlightenment. Whereas we all have the potential to be a Buddha, we have no hope of ever becoming Jesus. Although he's a great guy, Jesus, like Paris Hilton, was simply born into the right family. With Buddhism, pedigree doesn't count so much as your willingness to rise above the conditions you were born into.

Please feel free to use this information as an ice breaker at your 5a7 tonight.

(now if you're very lucky, next week I'll share some interesting facts about ayurveda, which I must study as part of the yoga teacher training. Take that, gunas!)


Palanca starts a meme!

Show me what you have on your desk!

I have a little gallery of creatures given to me by friends.
Meet Bouncing Buddha, Buddha No. 2, Francoise and Wobbly Lobster Guy.

(btw: the white pin in the background reads: Put on your BIG GIRL PANTIES and deal with it)

And as all good memes must, please copy and paste this message into your post and add a trackback to this post. You may also want to leave a comment on this post, with a link towards your desk image.

Wobbly Lobster Guy waves 'bye!'


Tango Lesson 1

The first obstacle: centre of gravity

Yoga: In many positions, when you push your sacrum forward, your sternum naturally pushes upwards and your shoulders open. It's also important to keep your weight centred over your hips. Your feet keep your grounded and a strong core keeps your back long.

This natural tendency is not so good in tango.

Tango: From the hips up, your weight moves towards your partner. Even when he is pushing you backwards, it's almost as if your torso does not want to follow. This resistance is important to understanding your partner's cues. Grounding happens in the core. Puffing your chest out is not helpful. Neither is trying to balance your weight equally at all times.

So not only must I learn how to relinquish control to my partner, I must also teach my body to be even more versatile.

Hmmmm, I cannot wait...

Lykke Li

Brought to you courtesy of Mister M:


Bad Facebook!

While checking my FB profile this morning (on my break, of course!), I was dismayed to discover that an advertisement was preventing me from seeing the notification and chat status bars in the bottom right corner.

No big deal, right? "Just close the window, Adriana!"

Except no “Close window” option. No matter where you clicked on the ad, it redirected towards the contest landing page. After three attempts, I learned that to make the ad disappear, I had to click on another page of my profile.

What would Jakob Nielsen say about this?

(and don't get me started on how Facebook doesn't seem to understand that I want my page displayed in English, SVP)


When inspiration hits

I haven't done much writing in January because I was unravelling the many knots of Chapter 7.

First, the characters were arguing about one thing when they should have been arguing about something else. Second, I had the wrong characters arguing. And last, I had misunderstood the real reasons why my characters wanted to argue about this matter in the first place. It's important that this argument takes place at this crucial moment, but basically every detail surrounding it had to be re-imagined.

So I didn't write, but every day I asked myself the important questions and waited for the answers to present themselves. Some mornings I brainstormed possibilities for my brain to process. I read quietly. Napped. Practiced yoga. Took baths. Snacked.

Some questions cleared up over time, but one detail bothered me still. Then one night, while watching Coronation Street, my thought process went something like this:

"Oh, right -- that's the actor that was on the original Queer as Folk. Vince, I think was the character's name. Hey! R should just have her meltdown in front of C."

No segway. No warning. My brain was finally uncluttered enough to produce the answer I was looking for, and there it was. A writer friend of mine, Paul, experienced the same thing the other day when the idea for a short story to bring his collection together suddenly appeared while running in Verdun.

You can't yank inspiration our of your brain. Some days I hate my slow writing pace, and wish I could muscle my way through the writing, but such is my process. All I can do is create the ideal setting for that idea to appear.

And with that, I really must take a nap.


Thinking and knowing

A few months ago I was getting a haircut when my coiffeuse Samantha mentioned a segment she heard on the 'Ceeb in which the interviewee stated the following (more or less):

'Nowadays people tend to say what they think and not what they know.'

Considering the proliferation of blogs, wikis, and model/movie star/handbag designer/professional volleyball players being interviewed on the evening news, these words ring eerily true. The media landscape is awash with mouthy commoners (like moi) and sparkling personalities who have plenty to say about everything - and an attentive audience ready to take their words and pass them on regardless of their truthiness.

Example: Tom Cruise's assertion that post-partum depressed woman should be treated with vitamins and exercise so diminished the scope of this malady in the media that Brooke Shields and experts had to step forward immediately and make counter-statements to prevent further misconceptions.

If the Unabomber had said something similar, people would have curled their lips in disgust and ignored him completely. But since it was handsome-actor-slash-hero Tom Cruise, no chances could be taken. TC never studied to be a doctor, but I don't think that really matters when you can persuasively play one on tv.

That being said, I don't think "nowadays" is the correct term. Broken telephone has existed since the beginning of time, as have big talkers, know-it-alls, and smartasses.

What's changed is that nowadays, technology has multiplied the rate at which information flows (and it's only getting faster) thus exponentially increasing the number of people who will be exposed to that information.

What's amazing is not that humans like to think they know more than they actually do.

It's that they now have unlimited tools to spread that particular illusion.


Things my mother tells me

Those of you that have had the pleasure of meeting Maria Palanca know the adorable gems that regularly flow from my mother's mouth. Cutie-pie things like, "Have a Coke, it's a nice drink for ladies" and "You don't eat meat, ok! Don't get upset! I'll make you chicken instead!".

Needless to say, I love her to death. Most of the time, her advice is completely off the mark because she doesn't quite grasp what my life is like, but her intention is so genuinely affectionate that I love her even when she says crazy stuff.

One thing she does get right is when something terrible or unfortunate happens, and she says:

"Sono le cose che succedono à quelli che vivono. À quelli morti non succedono più."

Which means:

"These are things that happen to people who are living. They don't happen to dead people."

Translation from Maria-ese: "It's better to be alive and be dealing with terrible things, than to be dead and not be able to do anything at all."

Strange logic, but oddly comforting. Happy 70th birthday, ma!


New underwear

So I'm test driving new underwear all this week. I bought four new styles from LaSenza and now I'm putting them through the paces.

Testing what they look like under yoga pants.
Checking to see if they make my butt look lumpy under nice pants.
Making sure the lace isn't itchy.
Worrying about wedgies.

The usual. Ladies know what I'm talking about. Men are laughing.
Now my question is - why do we go through all this trouble?

One pair has passed all tests. Three more to go. BLURGH.

Waiting in line

What happens to people when it comes to waiting in line?

Whether it be at the bank, the P&A or IKEA, there's a crazed flicker in the eye of every man or woman that approaches the cash area.

We've all had the thoughts before.

"Which line is moving faster?"
"The customers in that line have too many items."
"I'll stand in this line, you stand in the other line - we'll see who gets to the cash first."
"Cashier changing! But I committed to the other one!"
"COUPONS! Are you kidding me?"

Is there any other "everyday" place where human stress is so quickly manifest? And where it's so unnecessary to boot? It's like everyone's in The Amazing Race. Even once they're in the best-perceived line-up, customers are still twitchy and looking around in case they have to make a last-minute change.

"I always get in the slowest line!"

Waiting in line is like everything else in life. You choose a line, sometimes it moves quickly, and sometimes it doesn't, so you might as well relax and enjoy the scenery. Flip through a magazine. Watch the domestic spats unfold in the fruit section. Imagine what people are going to do with all that stuff. Compose a poem!

Are you really in such a rush to get to the pharmacy next... and wait in line some more?


Tortured Facebook grammar

The good people of Facebook decided long ago - probably to simplify programming - that they would use the gender neutral third person (they and their) in their newsfeeds and such.

For the most part, it's anodyne, but this week I got a big laugh when a friend SuperPoked me.

This is what the notice read:

Maggie McDonnell has gotten their hair did with Adriana Palanca.



New week, new music

While I wait for Nystrom's Top Ten of 2008, I am listening to:

Sleeping sickness by City and Colour


I sing I swim by Seabear

Go ahead! Watch! Treat yourself!



Anyone who works in translation will tell you that there are certain words (or phrases) in French that have no direct equivalent in English - and vice versa. For example, la relève, coup de coeur and écoeurant. Or in English, there is insight and queer, among others.

But the term that causes the most difficulty for our copywriting room is concepteur-rédacteur.

For the 90 Degrees style guide, we've decided on creative copywriter, but I've also seen:
  • concept editor
  • advertising copywriter
  • creative writer
  • idea man
  • and just plain copywriter
None of those formulations quite capture the French term though. Any suggestions? Or other words you would like to throw into the mix?



Ever notice how the om chanted at the beginning of a yoga class is different in tone than the *om* that closes the class?

At the beginning of the class, before we've begun the process of moving our minds inward and listening to the sound of our breathing, we are still heavy with the stresses of the world. The *om* sounds more pitchy and sharp. It also carries the expectations of the chanter. As in, some people think they need to impersonate Mariah Carey when they *om*. Or Barry White.

Everyone is trying too hard. The sound is not coming from the right place.

At the end of the class, however, the *om* is more mellow and softer in tone. The "trying" has melted away. It is not forced. The sound reverberates in your ribs, your belly. The mark of a good practice.


God, religion, etc.

A talented writer I know recently addressed the subject of church-going in her blog. An excellent piece of writing that touched on many of the same questions I've been unravelling these last few years.

Questions that had already been re-opened on Christmas Eve when I agreed to attend mass. My purpose was to see my niece and nephew in the Christmas pageant, so I had no shame in sitting on a way-back pew with my brother and going through the paces.

I was not surprised to discover that I still remembered the prayers, the ceremonies and the sitting-kneeling-standing protocols. I was a little more taken aback however, when I realized that the words I murmured no longer echoed with meaning. I felt nothing. The only emotion I could muster was discomfort when I heard, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

So when DB wrote the following about Unitarianism, I understood the attraction:

So the focus, as far as I could see, was upon creating a strong community of independent-minded individuals: be who you are, follow your own path, and come hang out with us because we will value and support you as you do it. I mean, how cool and comforting is that?

The Catholic Church and I parted ways for many reasons, the chief of which remains little-or-no acknowledgment of the power of the human deity. I could never reconcile myself to the concept that I had to be good enough to be let into heaven, that I needed God's forgiveness to live my life in peace and happiness, that whatever I achieved, I achieved thanks to God.

In my world, everything I achieve is thanks to my hard work - and the support and love of others around me. I make my own heaven here on earth. And I only need the forgiveness of my fellow beings - and myself - to live in peace and happiness. I try to make the world a better place on a daily basis. That is our superhero power as human beings - our ability to positively impact our lives and the lives of those around us with actions and words.

But I never learned about that in the churches of my youth.

Bref, I don't believe in the God that my parents sold me. I think there is a place for God in my universe, but I haven't figured out how our relationship is going to work yet. I just wanted to thank DB for reminding me that I am not alone in this quest, and that we must all find a spiritual outlook through which to see the world - whether it be through the church doors or while listening to your heart beat and waiting for the light to turn green.

Seriously, read DB's post and let her know what you think.


Knowing when to let go

I made a decision today while revising Chapter 7.

There’s this passage I wrote in the original draft and it’s always been one of my favourites, describing how Reggie and Colin, being born only 10 months apart, slept in the same crib for many years. A custom-made crib with cut-out moons and stars. Reggie remembers the comfort of having her brother's breath on over her face, how warm her hands felt tucked beneath his pillow.

As I have moved through the revision process, the passage has been modified and shortened to suit the evolving prose, but today I made the decision to cut it entirely.

And it’s a good thing.

However lovely a passage it might be, it is not contributing to the action of Chapter 7 in any way. Sometimes you have to let go of passages in order to give your story greater truth. When I originally wrote that passage, I was still discovering who Reggie and Colin were. Although this passage allowed me to gain greater insight into the motivations of – and the relationship between – my characters, it is not necessary to the storytelling.

I am sad to see it go, but I am more pleased by my improved ability to make good writerly judgments. It was a hard lesson to learn, but my vision is getting clearer every day.

Tranquillement, pas vite, you know what I mean?


Tattoo explained

So why a tattoo after all these years? I finally found the one image that I could see being important to me for the rest of my life.

First, I decided on a flowering branch. It had to be a branch with both leaves unfurled and leaves still in bud. To remind me that there is always new life – new creation – about to be born. That it is never too late to be surprised by new hope.

I also decided early that I wanted the branch to start near my ankle and to climb around my shin. Almost as if the branch were growing from the roots of my feet. Why? To remind myself to stay grounded, to not get carried away by the making of stories in my mind. An eternal reminder also of why I do yoga, of the respect I have for my body and its strength.

I just didn’t know what kind of branch. Until one day, Melissa Trottier said, “Didn’t you say you wanted an olive branch?” I hadn’t but…

An olive branch, of course! Why didn’t I think of that?

For the Mediterranean blood that runs through my veins. For the colour of my skin. For peace. Leaves both open and unfurled. Tiny white flowers hailing the imminent budding of more exotic fruit.

So perfect I wanted to cry. (Melissy, have I thanked you enough?)

A day has been booked – a Friday in April – to seal my new pact with myself. It will be based on an illustration I discovered online (above). An inked promise to be always grounded, always creating, always myself.


Maria + Serafino Palanca, May 18, 1963

I'm finally starting to decorate at home. After almost a year, I finally have a feel for how I want my home to look and I'm starting with photos. I ransacked my mom's photo albums and came up with stacks of vintage snaps. Family members at various ages. Taken in Italy, in Canada. Black and white, sepia, and colour. I want to surround myself with reminders of who I am, and where I came from.

This picture from my parents' wedding day is already a favourite.

My dad is so handsome, my mom so beautiful. I wonder what became of the little boy peering back at the camera from the left side. I can feel the sumptuous fur of the woman's shawl on the left. You can almost hear the whisper of her wedding dress as she strides up the aisle.

Such elegance.


Ms. Julie on CBC Living Montreal

Ms. Julie will be presenting book recommendations for your "manly-man" on Friday, January 9. And recommendations for kids will air Monday, January 12 (repeat Fri, Jan 16).

Who know what craziness she'll get up to this time.

If you're too busy with your fabulous lives to catch it live, watch in online here.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go visit Ms. Julie's blog.


Animal Collective

In listening to Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective, I get the impression that I've heard it all before. Sounds a little like The Fleet Foxes, no? Or is it Okkervill River I'm thinking of?

Regardless, if you need to numb the throbbing horror of waking up to a cold-cold January morning, the music feels nice.

Thanks to Porkchop for the fresh tunes this week.


Resolutions 2009

  1. Get the tattoo. Booked for April 2009.
  2. Complete yoga teacher training. Booked for June 2009.
  3. Finish decorating my home. In progress. Psst! Anyone good at hanging frames?
  4. Forget how to macarena. One day at a time, lotus flower, one day at a time.
I am so good at this. Does anyone need me to do their resolutions too? I already don't smoke, if that helps.


Slippery sidewalks

No, I am not going to rail about the state of Montreal sidewalks. I'm going to rail about the people who can't stop railing about the state of Montreal sidewalks instead.

Oh, the irony, I know.

As Powell and I were driving back from Vermont today, we happened upon another talk radio show urging callers to share their complaints about icy sidewalks, snow-bound streets, etc.

Perhaps the radio show host doesn't really care about the sidewalks. Perhaps he simply needed a hot topic that would get the phones ringing. But I've had it with all this complaining already.

Allow me to make a few friendly reminders:
  • The Ville de Montreal does not run this city. Nope. Mother Nature runs this town. We live in a place that experiences deep winter, so stop complaining that getting around is hard. Sometimes all the salt and gravel in the world cannot counteract the whims of the Big M, so don't waste your time pointing fingers and muttering. Hello!? Any of you remember the Ice Storm of '98? In the Tremblay vs. Winter bout, I'm putting my money on the white giant. 
  • If most of you wore decent boots, walking would be a far simpler task. For example, UGG boots and leather booties with three inch heels were not made for our harsh winters. So don't give me that shocked look when you wipe out in your dainty footwear and I fail to shower you with compassion.
I love listening to talk radio and engaging in debate (even if it's only yelling "You tool!" at my car radio), and as an avid walker, I too get frustrated with slipping and sliding, but I am soooo tired of listening to the world complain incessantly about situations that can only be accepted, and not modified.

But icy sidewalks? Leave earlier. Take public transit. Buy crampons. And be grateful that winter is the least of your worries.


New year, same old pretension

Overheard in the Provigo
Trendy gay male: Where are you going for New Year's? We're going to a rave.
Trendy white female: I'm looking more for a reggae-old-style-dancehall kind of thing.

Comment: So who is more cool in this showdown?

Overheard at our office Christmas party
Unknown party crasher: Will any world music be coming on?
Drunk colleague: You don't like Justin Timberlake?
UPC: I can't ask a girl to dance unless it's world music.

Comment: Lonely, lonely man. Is that why you're crashing office parties?