Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All About Astrology

Yesterday, I drove out to the Forest Heights branch of the Kitchener Public Library to hear Bryan Trussler discuss the art and science of astrology.

A professional astrologer for about twenty years, Brian has bachelor's and master's degrees in religious studies. He started by discussing some of the problems with horoscopes that appear in newspapers and magazines. It is very difficult for an astrologer to distill the necessary information into a handful of sentences.

Interesting comments...
  • Carl Jung referred to astrology when counselling his patients.
  • To produce an accurate chart, an astrologer needs to know your day, time and place of birth.
  • It is possible to predict death from a chart, but astrologers do not share this information with their clients.
  •  Astrologers had predicted problems with the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. While their signs, Cancer and Scorpio, are compatible, they are in each other's 12th house. The 12th house deals with hidden enemies.
  • The expression, "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus" makes sense astrologically. The male and female gender identification signs correspond to Mars and Venus.
  • We often hear the expression: "Mercury has gone retrograde." Mercury rules communication, mental acuity, and speed of thought. The expression is appropriate when cell phones or BlackBerrys don't work, Internet is slow, and there are misprints in the newspapers.
When one of the audience members challenged Bryan, he commented: "The stars impel, but they do not compel."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Impressed by Dave Farrow

Dave appeared on today's Dr. Oz show. This memory expert is known internationally for his ability to retain large stores of information. In 1996, he set a new Guiness record when he memorized the order of 52 decks of playing cards (2704 cards), randomly shuffled together and recalled them correctly.

A bit of his background...

In high school, he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. He was told that he would never excel academically and was advised to pursue a blue-collar job. Dave decided to prove the experts wrong. He started reading everything he could find on the topic of memory. He mastered all the known memory techniques and invented a few of his own.

On today's show, he talked about three super foods for memory...
  • Beets lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain.
  • Cashew nuts and butter are a good source of thiamine, a B complex vitamin that boosts brain function.
  • Avocados are good sources of Vitamins E, K and folate. Dave likes to substitute crushed avocado for mayonnaise in his tuna sandwich.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Iron Lady

 Meryl Streep delivered an outstanding performance as Margaret Thatcher in the film, The Iron Lady. She captured all the nuances of the former British prime minister, including her accent. I wouldn't be surprised if she received the Oscar for Best Actress.

But I was disappointed in the film. It focuses, too much I believe, on Lady Thatcher's continuing battle with dementia. Based around a series of imagined conversations with her dead husband, she appears as a frail, confused woman. I would have liked to have seen more footage of her rise to power, in particular the early days of her career.

I can understand why the film was criticized in Britain. Her family, friends and supporters would find it very difficult to sit through many of the scenes in this film.

Watch the trailer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Earlier this evening, a group of us gathered at the East Side branch of the Guelph Public Library to talk about Karen Armstrong's book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

We all agreed that it was a challenging read. The book is well-researched with many historical references. Truthfully, I would have preferred less historical content and more of Karen Armstrong's personal experiences.

Last January, I heard Karen speak at St. George's Church's in downtown Guelph and was impressed by her eloquence. She is a former Roman Catholic nun who has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions. I enjoyed reading her memoir, The Spiral Staircase, and looked forward to reading Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

At the book club, I admitted to skimming over the history and reading the anecdotes, especially those in the Empathy and Action chapters. A few of the other members admitted to reading only a few pages out of each chapter. Much discussion was generated about the need for empathy and forgiveness in our society.

Monday, January 23, 2012


 My article, "How to Get Job Fair Call Backs," appears in today's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

Read the article.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

You...In Six Words

In November 2006, writer and editor of the Web publication, SMITH magazine, asked his fans to describe their lives in exactly six words. Since that time, he has received more than half a million responses.

A few of these mini-memoirs appear in the February issue of Oprah.

Seeking the fullest expression of self. Oprah Winfrey
I am definitely in my zone. Gayle King
Might as well eat that cookie. Paula Deen
Stumbling into everything, falling into grace. Martha Beck
Write, mother, sleep. Repeat as needed. Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey's Anatomy)

When I decided to write my own six-word memoir, I discovered just how challenging that can be.

Enjoying the process of reinventing myself. Joanne Guidoccio

Any other six-word memoirs out there?

Saturday, January 21, 2012


My book review of Karin Altenberg's novel, Island of Wings appears in today's Waterloo Record and Guelph Mercury.

Read the review.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Preventing Alzheimer's

While I missed the first part of today's Dr. Oz program, I was just in time to catch a few of Dr. Gary Small's tips for preventing Alzheimer's. His book, The Alzheimer's Prevention Program, will be released this coming Monday.
  • Have two servings of salmon, halibut or anchovies twice a week. Bake or grill. DO NOT FRY.
  • Consider having baked russet potatoes. They are high in antioxidants.
  • Include colorful fruits and vegetables and garlic in your daily diet.
  • Eat foods high in curcumin which is found in curry powder. In India, the rate of Alzheimer's is lower than that in North America. Researchers also discovered that students who ate Indian food performed better on tests.
  • Spices such as vanilla bean and oregano are also high in antioxidants.
  • Coffee in moderation--one to two cups a day-- protects the brain and reduces the incidence of Alzheimer's.
  • Alternate between different types of brain activities--crossword puzzles, learning a new language, video games.
Dr. Oz also referred to the following research finding: diabetes and high cholesterol can raise your risk of Alzheimer's. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hope for Aspiring Writers

 I enjoyed listening to Amanda Hocking on today's Anderson. Her writing journey is an inspiring one for all writers struggling to publish that first book.

Amanda received more than one hundred rejections when she tried to get an agent or publishing house interested in her first novel. But that did not deter her. She continued to write six other books and send them out. In total, she received about one thousand rejections.

She was determined to be a published writer by the age of 26, the same age that Stephen King was first published. So, she decided to self-publish her books. At first, she sold only a couple of copies a day, but soon was selling thousands of books each month. In the past eighteen months, she has sold 1.5 million books.
And St. Martin's, a traditional publishing office, offered her a contract for her trilogy.

Her genre--young adult/paranormal romance.

Words of Wisdom from Amanda Hocking and Anderson Cooper...
  • When no one gives you a break, create your own opportunity.
  • Believe in yourself enough to put yourself out there.

Monday, January 16, 2012


 My article, "Complaining Effectively," appears in today's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

 Read the article.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Inspired by Ofelia de LaValette

In last month's Psychology Today magazine, I read about an amazing woman who reinvented herself in her late thirties.

Born to struggling Cuban immigrants, Ofelia de LaValette dreamed of becoming a dancer, but her family couldn't afford the expensive lessons. Ofelia married young and built a successful career as an insurance agent. At age thirty-four, she wanted to get rid of some stubborn baby weight and decided to take her first dance class. She enjoyed the classes and threw herself into training during the evenings and weekends. At one point, she was taking a dozen dance classes per week.

In her forties, she decided to close down the insurance agency and began teaching professionally. At age forty-seven, she opened her own studio, Dance 101, which is geared toward adults.

Inspiring quote

I wanted to teach people that it's never too late to discover a new passion in your life. The age you start is just that: a starting point.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Evening with Alison Pick

Last evening, the Friends of the Guelph Public Library presented a reading and discussion with award winning author, Alison Pick. This young Canadian author, who graduated from the University of Guelph, won the Jewish Award for Fiction and was long-listed for the man Booker Prize.

While I have not read any of her four books, I was very impressed by the back story behind Far to Go. The book has echoes of her own family history and alternates between 1939 and the present. The historical novel follows a Czechoslovakian family as they send their children to safety in a rescue mission known as the Kindertransport.

When asked about her writing journey, Pick told us she loves writing and experiences it as a pleasure not a discipline. She writes the first draft longhand and then transcribes to the computer. She did extensive research before writing Far to Go and, according to many audience members, she did an excellent job of weaving the research seamlessly into the plot.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All About Vitamin B12

I paid special attention to today's episode on Dr. Oz.. Along with two other specialists, Dr. Oz talked about potential problems with Vitamin B12 deficiencies.

A few years ago, I learned that I was on the bottom end of the acceptable range and took a supplement for three months. My levels are now closer to the higher end and I am determined to keep them up there.

A few interesting facts from the show...
  • Almost 47 million Americans are deficient in this super vitamin. I suspect the Canadian percentages are similar.
  • In Japan, the average Vitamin B12 levels are higher.
  • Left unchecked, Vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead to irreversible nerve damage and dementia.
  • Up to 30 percent of people over the age of 50 do not secrete enough stomach acid to absorb adequate amounts of B12.
  • There is no upper limit of safety with this vitamin. We do not have to worry about having too much in our system.
Kate Geagan, the nutritionist on the show, recommended 1000 mcg of B12 a day if you are deficient. She recommended sublingual B12 which can be obtained without a prescription. Dr. Oz suggested that older adults or anyone with stomach acid problems may wish to consider B12 shots. These offer a quick boost of energy and bypass any problems with stomach absorption.

I was interested in the three recipes Kate presented on the show: B12 Boosting Parfait, Bason Slides and Clam Pasta. She strongly believes that bison is the "meat to eat" and recommends that we buy 100% grass fed bison or 99% extra lean grass-fed beef. In addition to clams, she also recommended sardines, trout and salmon.

Check out the Recipes section on the Dr. Oz website.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This Cake is for the Party

Last night, I met with with The Bookshelf Book Club to discuss Sara Selecky's debut fiction collection, This Cake is for the Party. Selecky was one of the 2010 Giller Prize nominees.

Selecky catches her characters in the midst of acute crises--adultery, alcoholism, loneliness, death, religious fanaticism--and reveals the back stories. Many of us agreed that "Where Are You Coming From, Sweetheart?" is the most compelling piece in the collection. A fourteen-year old Christine is coming home to Sudbury after spending the weekend with her aunt and cousin in Mississauga. While plotting to escape from her overbearing, religious fanatic father, she learns that he has died.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Message of Hope

Listen to the sermon Joel Osteen delivered when Oprah and Tyler Perry attended one of his Sunday services at Lakewood Church.

Theme--Staying Positive About Life

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Inspired by Grace Massa-Langlois

Yesterday, I read an article in the Waterloo Record about an amazing woman who successfully reinvented herself in London, Ontario.

In 2003, Grace Massa-Langlois faced a debilitating medical condition that forced her to leave a successful career as a financial services manager. The following year, her husband died, leaving her with two young children to raise on her own. After spending several years in a  fog, she started watching television food programs. She became interested in Italian cooking and invested in cookbooks, gourmet magazines and the latest kitchen gadgets. She also did extensive online research and experimented with different Italian desserts.

In April 2010, she started blogging about her Italian cooking adventures on a website called La Mia Vita Dolce. The following spring, she received an email from Ulysses Press, a publisher in California, asking if she was interested in writing a cookbook on Italian desserts. Her book, Grace's Sweet Life, will be in bookstores soon.

Check out her blog.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dinner with Writers Ink

Last night, three of us met at Symposium Restaurant for our monthly dinner meeting. While the cold temperatures and other commitments kept some of our regular members away, the conversation was a lively one as we discussed the latest movies, books and our respective writing journeys.

As always, I leave inspired to continue writing and submitting my work.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Great Coffee News

In yesterday's column, Dr. Oz proclaimed coffee to be one of of the most beneficial weapons in the war against cancer.

I love reading these statistics about heavy coffee drinkers...
  • They are less likely to develop endometrial cancer than those who have less than one cup a day.
  • They run a 20 to 50 percent lower risk of getting breast cancer after menopause, versus women who sip less than a cup.
And equally important...

In 2011, coffee was confirmed to ward off Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and Type 2 diabetes.

While I don't consider myself to be a heavy coffee drinker, I do enjoy my three cups every morning.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Two of my articles appear in today's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

Read Frugal Fitness and Internet Time Wasters.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We Bought a Zoo

This is a great family movie for the holidays.

Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson star in this movie based on Benjamin Mee's experience of buying the dilapidated Dartmoor Zoological Park in Plymouth, England. Director Cameron Crowe decided to move the story to California.

Favourite line from the movie....All you need is twenty seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will happen.

Watch the trailer.