Tuesday, June 19, 2012



Girlfriends, I have an app to share with you. If your "honey do' list includes a project involving stairs, this app will help get your man motivated. Stairs are difficult and building a perfect staircase involves finely tuned calculations, usually wrung out of time-consuming trial and error.

My clever cousin has designed an app that works on an iPhone and iPad and handles all the calculations and complexity of building stairs. It has a graphical interface so that when you make an adjustment to the staircase, you see it change in the diagram. When you get the staircase just right you can email yourself a PDF of the plans for printing.

If your guy is a DIY type, you should buy or recommend this app. It's a great guy gift.

Check it out: http://stairs.delux.com/ or download the app in iTunes

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


When we first bought the modest bungalow in Hawaii, we knew nothing of life in the jungle..nothing. Within a month, the nightly excavations started. Inside the wall between the bedroom and the bathroom, I heard loud crunching, gnawing, excavation work. This occurred every night. Jim heard it too. We were puzzled. We asked friends. Everyone said "gecko". Surely not, I thought; that would have to be one heck of a monster gecko. I protested to friends that it was too loud to be a gecko. "Oh no, they can make a lot of noise", the answer came back. Eventually, I had a chance meeting with the excavation specialist as the cat sized Norway rat exited the house via the breeze-way to our carport.

The Terminex man offered a sympathetic smile and took up his personal crusade to trap the rat. When the moment came, I heard the sharp crack of the trap in the attic and the futile thumbing of limbs and body as the wretched rodent gasped it's last effort. I was not sad.

After six months, the Terminex contract lapsed and we lived happily, until......

Two days later, as I stood at the kitchen sink sleepily filling my electric kettle, I noticed a quarter sized hole in the kitchen window screen. It was right at eye level. "That was not there yesterday", I thought. "I couldn't have missed that". As I turned to the counter to plug in the kettle, I was flabbergasted to see half of a beautiful tomato, left out to ripen for the lunch salad, carved out, gouged away, gone! "What the heck..." But before I could finish my thought, Jim nonchalantly said, "Yeah, it's a gecko." Deja vu. "Gecko?!?!#!&!^!%, Surely not", I said. "That would have to be one heck of a monster gecko."

One of the problems that comes with having a very smart husband is that he is right most of the time, but not ALL of the time. He, understandably, is not always able to determine which times he's wrong. I am sometimes in a better position to make that assessment, but it can be politically awkward to do so. Eager to block the cute, little, hungry, green lizard, I made my way to Home Depot for new screen material, nails, and the array of supplementary hardware required to replace the screen for the entire window unit.

But the day had turned very rainy. Neither of us was eager to go out in the wet weather to climb up a ladder and remove the window unit. So, I just closed the glass window louvers to stop the breeze and the "gecko" and went to bed. Before I got past dozing, Jim exclaimed from the kitchen that the prowler was between the screen and the glass trying to get in. He said "It might be a mouse." When I arrived, I could see through the glass louvers, a foot long rope like thing sticking through the original hole in the screen. When I tapped the glass, the long tail whipped through the hole and into the night. Mouse, indeed!

The man from Horizon Pest Management arrived at 1:00 PM the next day to set rat traps. His exact words were, “This rat is going down tonight.” I LOVE the pest guy. He spent half the afternoon with us describing effective deterrents to the various critters that want to go where I don’t want them. We are likely to see him regularly as life evolves here.

It's a jungle out there,

Friday, February 4, 2011


One of our regular customers, who is a late night television fan, emailed me this link to Jim Parsons' (Big Bang Theory) February 2 appearance on Craig Ferguson's talk show. I fell on the floor laughing! I've often heard this sort of thing over the years, but never from a fan who has himself become a HUGE star. Parsons has the genteel humility of a southerner and a grounded sincerity that is very appealing. And, like so many of our loyal It Figures viewers, he's smart. And it shows in what he brings to his popular character Sheldon, the super geek, on Big Bang Theory. Click the link below to see what Parsons said about his childhood love of It Figures.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Viewer's Ten Life Lessons

A precious perk of my career is the friends I make along the way. So many of my best friends have crossed my path through fitness and especially through the IT FIGURES tv show and HIGH ADVENTURE trips in the Canadian Rockies. One of my beloved girlfriends is a German gal who was living near Washington DC when she first came to Lake Louise for High Adventure years ago. She is exquisitely bright and wickedly funny.

Ever since I met Frau P (wearing red in the Winter High Adventure photo above), she has been fighting cancer. She has now moved back to her homeland where her medical needs can be met. In good times and bad, she continues to live fully and sparkle. I think she probably has every video I’ve made and awhile back, she sent me this list of thoughts she uses to keep her exercise on track. I asked if I could share them with you and she generously gave her permission.

So, all that is written below is from the delightful mind of Frau P. I hope that her words will motivate you to enjoy life fully, enjoying all the talents, skills and opportunities with which you've been blessed.

Happy New Year,


Life Lessons I've Learned From CAP's Fitness Tapes:

1. Make every workout your own. Push your envelope, but know your limits.

2. Exercise doesn't have to be perfect. It just needs to be done regularly and consistently to have some effect.

3. Something easy is almost always followed by something hard. (I think of life as the ultimate interval training.)

4. Exercise not only adds years to your life, but adds life to your years. Fitness skills translate into better living.

5. Someone in her late fifties can easily whip someone in her late forties any day.

6. Your body really will adapt to what you ask it to do after it stops swearing at you for days.

7. Failing is winning! (This applies to muscle training and not to high finance, marriage, or poor business judgment!)

8. Breathe deep!

9. Get up and go to class! In other words, walk through stuff on your off days, and rest when you need to.

10. No matter how tough it gets, smile, because the stretch segment is coming, baby!

"Get up and go to class" is what I tell myself every day, particularly post-transplant, when I've been struggling with fatigue. I'm doing much better now than I was early this fall, but there are days when I'd rather stay in bed than get up, pop in a DVD or video, and work out. On days when I was really wiped out, I would at least attempt the first 10 minutes of some of your easier videos. I found that if I could get through the warm-up, I was fine, and I could do the rest of the tape. If I had to minimize some of the movements, I did so. Afterwards, I always felt so much better. Now, if I truly could not get through the warm-up, I knew that my body really did require rest.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


As longtime It Figures viewers already know, I’m not political by nature, and I’m certainly not partisan. I vote the candidate, the issues and the platform. A middle class kid born and raised in the south and now living in Canada and Hawaii with my first husband, of 37 years, I honor the wisdom of the old Ozark saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If the issue on my mind were not critical to the future of my homeland, I would not use this forum to speak out. But, my fellow Americans, my dear smart, discriminating It Figures friends, I think the American health care system needs fixin’.

I’ve benefited from the Canadian health care system since 1975 when Jim and I moved back to North America from England where we first met. He was raised in Alberta and was head hunted by the University of Calgary. I “married” into Canada and am now a dual citizen.

Trust me, the Canadian system WORKS! It’s not perfect, but it works....quite well. Elective surgical procedures are wait listed but acute issues are dealt with in a time efficient manner. Sometimes the delay in elective procedures allows the problem to resolve on its own or with less invasive treatment. And if the patient announces flexibility and gets on the cancellation list, the wait may be very short. My friend Diane got arthroscopic surgery on her rotator cuff a week after seeing the specialist. My friend Linda, who you know from Crazy For Step, had the same experience when she suffered a shoulder injury in a fall on the winter ice. Last Christmas I saw a specialist right before the holidays, announced my willingness to take any cancellation and was in the hospital two days later for all the tests which, thankfully, were negative.

One huge comfort in this system is the continuing review of efficacy. Treatment protocols are studied to determine what is most effective so the system spends the taxpayers’ money in the wisest manner. If a treatment is shown to be ineffective or, God forbid, worse than the problem, it is not covered by the health care system. This weeds out the quacks who, even with good intentions, would prescribe wacky, obsolete or revenue producing procedures on naive patients.

I have a fabulous family doc who, in this system, serves as the quarterback and gate keeper to specialists. No one in our extended family has EVER had a serious complaint about health care in Canada. Do we live forever? No, Would we like to? Yes. Do we expect Howard Hughs-ish end of life heroics? No. Would we want that? Probably not.

The truth is...99% of Canadians whine about the Canadian health care system, but NO Canadians want a system like the American health system. When the risk of expensive, long hospital care is spread over an entire population, no one need worry about selling the farm to care for a family member who is critically ill or injured.

While I only have personal experience with the Canadian health care system , I know enough Europeans to understand that the EU countries enjoy a similar comfort level with their health care. Two of my German friends suffer serious chronic illness and are getting state of the art care in their homeland. Such care in the USA would require a very fine health insurance policy which currently would be out of reach for many Americans.

I’m not a policy maker. I’m not a politician. I don’t know what the American health care system should look like, but I know that medical systems in the rest of the western world spend less for more value than we enjoy in the United States. We Americans are a nation of bright, energetic, well educated, good hearted people. We deserve better than what we’ve got. Surely it’s wise to use common sense, to learn from others when there is better solution.

I’m just here to say that the Canadian health care system works....with no death squads, no denial of effective treatment, no threat of bankruptcy to pay medical bills.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Xanna's Thoughts On The Transfer Of Power

This was the election which got the youth of North America interested. Yes, that includes Canada too. Just after the events in front of the capitol wrapped up, I got this email from my 30 year old daughter Xanna who is, like me, a dual citizen of the USA and Canada. I’m delighted that she is emotional about it. I am too; I cried my way through the Star Bangled Banner at the end of the inaugural swearing-in ceremony. If we can’t get excited about the future of our country, what hope have we. Read what "Xanna Says".

Well, that is certainly the most attention I have ever paid a presidential inauguration, except Clinton's because I was there, but even then, too young, I think, to grasp the political importance.

I was moved by the whole tradition — the speeches, the cheering. I had goose bumps thinking what it must be like for Obama, or any president, standing up there thinking 'holy cow! I'm the leader of all this!!' It must be quite emotional.

I even felt a lot for Bush because he really had to hold his head up high in front of a ton of people who generally don’t like him. I thought he handled the day very well. After that darn W movie, I feel a little for the guy now! I didn't think he did a very good job as a president, true, but I hate to see anyone feeling sad.... I hope he's going fishing this weekend, somewhere nice!

It was very cool to watch... I think I'll stay tuned the rest of the day as well. The coverage is really great, actually. I am feeling quite proud to be an America today. It is a big day isn't it?! Very ,very exciting.

I hope the Obama's run straight to their rooms and jump on the beds!!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Update on It Figures' LORI SHYBA

Lori was a regular cast member for the It Figures tv show for many years. She taped the last series 18 with us out on the ridge above the Kananaskis River in the Alberta Rockies. There were some very cool mornings, and I remember her freezing before one show because we put her in shorts to show off her wonderful legs! For viewers who've been writing to ask what ever happened to her, here's an update on this lovely woman who was such an important part of the tv workout we all loved.

Can you tell us about how you keep fit nowadays? What is your current favorite exercise format?
I love to snowshoe and downhill ski in the winter. I hike and horseback ride all year round. I still love group exercise classes for fun and camaraderie and enjoy pressing free weights, especially with some good tunes on my iPod.

Is there any exercise you can no longer enjoy and really miss?
Like almost all my It Figures friends, I have given up on sprinting but still like to run from place to place when I have to get somewhere fast.

What research are you doing now in the field of performance and multimedia?
I have created a number of serious videogames which respond to social issues. One deals with world energy production and consumption and another, called The Booze Cruise, is a deterrent against drinking and driving. The Booze Cruise was recently licensed to the US Army to help troops returning from Iraq become acquainted with the danger and hazards of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

What kinds of classes are you teaching?
Currently I am teaching classes in History and Philosophy of Computing, Digital Rhetoric, Digital Imaging, and Human-Computer Interaction. I know it sounds pretty lofty, but we have fun making projects ranging from videogames to short films and interactive cinema. My students write research papers too, and maybe they don’t think that’s too much fun, but it’s par for the course at a top university.

What is your proudest accomplishment of the last decade?
I have raised my two boys Austin and Warwick to become fine talented young men. Austin is a photographer and filmmaker, and Warwick is a snowboard coach, training to become a helicopter pilot.

What is your greatest pleasure these days?
Like Renee, I travel quite a lot with my work to international research conferences. In the past few years I have traveled to Australia, Japan, Toronto, Vancouver, London U.K., Michigan, California and many other destinations.

What makes you happiest about our world today?
I’m tremendously optimistic about the morals and values of young people and their overall concern for environmentalism and love of the planet.

Have any advice you’d like to give other baby boomers?
From my experiences as a university professor, I’d like to say that we can share our memories in ways that do not make us seem like know-it-alls. Let the younger generations learn from their own experiments and successes.