22 December 2006

I'm back, baby!

I got my computer back! It works!

And so, after many hours (about 6) of trying to get the internet to work, I will resurface to the online world.

It will probably take some time to get re-addicted, though.

15 December 2006

AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Staples has had my computer for FIVE weeks. It's STILL not ready!!

Maybe Tuesday.

FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!

15 November 2006

Today I am incompetent

I'm writing from school.

I feel like shit. I find it hard to believe that I am a qualified teacher because I definitely feel like I can't do it.

I'm worn odwn, I'm frustrated and I want to hit the students. I probably shouldn't admit that in public. But since I haven't yet hit anyone, I am absolving myself of any culpability.

I know that I was having a rough time when I got to school, but I don't think it was all me. I always walk into class with a smile like I'm ready to start and glad to be there. But today, it failed from the start.

It's pretty sad when you rely on a couple of students to be absent just to get through the day, but that's what one of the grade 7 classes is like. There are students who are not fit to be in a classroom with others. They can't work quietly, that can't listen with commenting, they don't respect anyone, and they don't care about anything.

I don't know where they got this attitude, but today I am fed up with it.

If it weren't for the fact that I don't actively teach tomorrow, I'd probably call in sick.

I hope there's beer in the fridge at home.

11 November 2006

My computer is dying

For real.

Something odd happened last night that resulted in needing to reboot. I thought it just stalled in the middle of going to sleep. It turns out that something more serious is in the works.

When I rebooted, I was told about the "SMART Failure" that is "Predicted on Hard Disk".

Andrew looked it up. It's not good. Basically a major awful crash is impending. I'm trying to do everything I can to get as much info and as many programs as I possibly can before the end.

On the bright side, I have an extended warranty. A joke to most people; a saviour to me. It was offered to me when I got my computer because it was the shelf model. It was free. I was happy to take it, since it was free. And now it's good that I did. I called Staples earlier and they gave me a case number. I have to bring my computer in and they will send it away to get fixed. I don't know what that means. I just hope that it will return intact, or that I get a new one out of the deal. I just can't afford a new one. :(

So, despite the fact that I don't really blog that often lately anyway, I probably won't be blogging for a while. At the least, I'll be getting some sort of replacement -- but I don't know what it will entail.

06 November 2006

I like taxes

It's true, sometimes I'd rather keep my entire paycheque instead of losing 1/4 of it to the federal government, but overall, I'm glad I pay taxes.

It gives me the right to complain when my elected representatives mess up. After all, I'm their boss.

It allows me not to worry when I have the flu or gangrene, or whatever passes for serious illness these days -- our medicare might not be the best in the world, but it's better than dying because I can't afford to go to the doctor.

And it allowed me to get a decent education that helped me get a decent job, that I'm very much enjoying.

When I'm not plotting to maim little children.

28 October 2006

iTunes fun (from Jenni)

IF YOUR LIFE WAS A MOVIE, WHAT WOULD THE SOUNDTRACK BE?
So, here's how it works:

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits:
Dirty Harry - Gorillaz

Waking Up:
I Love Rocky Road - Weird Al Yankovic (this could get interesting....)

First Day At School:
Fly - Hilary Duff (could definitely work)

Falling In Love:
Overkill - Men at Work (yikes!)

Fight Song:
Talk of the Town - Jack Johnson (the first lines makes this really funny)

Breaking Up:
Upside Down - Jack Johnson (apparently, Curious George has a big impact on my life -- unfortunately, it's ALREADY a soundtrack)

Prom:
Jungle Gym - Jack Johnson (okay, enough of JJ. I'm going to skip and try something new)
Coming Clean - Hilary Duff (okay....)

Life:
The fix is in - OK Go

Mental Breakdown:
Brian Wilson - Rex Goudie Cover (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!)

Driving:
Gone Going - Black Eyed Peas

Flashback:
Mosh - Eminem (apparently it's a political flashback)

Getting Back Together:
A Million Ways to be Cruel - OK Go (very ominous)

Wedding:
The Saga Begins - Weird Al Yankovic (the title works, anyway)

Birth of Child:
Where did I go Right? - Hilary Duff (awwwwww -- except it's a depressing sounding song)

Final Battle:
Home - Michael Bublé

Death Scene:
There's a Fire - OK Go (I guess I know how I die)

Funeral Song:
Yoda - Weird Al Yankovic (um...)

End Credits:
Fake Plastic Trees (this is totally an avant-garde indie flick)

24 October 2006

Sad World

This morning I was in a meeting about a student.

Yesterday, I was also in a meeting about a student, but yesterday the student was present. He heard what all his teachers thought about his classroom behaviour and was required to answer to it and talk about making a change. An hour later he was in the office, having been kicked out of class. He was sent home for the day. This morning before lunch, he was in there again. His eventual consequences are still unclear.

But back to the first student. I'll call him T for now.

T. is a small boy for his age. He lives with his aunt because his mother has Problems (this is common at our school). He is volatile. When he wants to learn, he can control the whole class. When he's not interested, he's distracting everyone.

All his teachers, plus his grade 6 teacher, a resource teacher, the African-NS Student Support Worker, the principal and the VP met with his social worker, and an agency-appointed phychologist. We went through, person by person, and told them our impressions and experiences. Apparently he was in foster care for a while last year and was a completely different person. When we talked about him this morning, we mentioned drug use, sexuality, dangerous mood swings, volatile, unpredictable behaviour, and how we try to deal with it. The social worker and psychologist listened quietly and took notes, they asked questions about certain circumstances and situations, took suggestions, and commented on similar behaviour they've observed.

This is a kid who should be running around and playing, hanging out with his friends, playing on school teams, and getting along with -- instead of harassing -- teachers.

It's so sad that he lives in a world where he has to be something he's not. He's putting all his energy into beng the tough guy, and his life is slipping away.

And the saddest part is that the window that we have to get him the help he needs before this becomes an ingrained aspect of his personality is closing. There will come a point in the very near future where cynicism and hatred take over and he lets his potential go to waste.

I was honestly shocked by what I heard about him. This is classist of me, and I know I don't understand the culture up here on "the hill", but to realize that he's teetering on the edge of something very dangerous, scares me. It's a lot of responsibility for teachers who see him for an hour or so per day. But it's up to us, because no one else can or will take care of him.

11 October 2006

I still hate you

I still find it hard to remember how we started, because I can't remember why.

All I remember is anger. And I'm still angry. I'm angry about how we turned out; who I was when I was with you; and how my life changed because of you.

At the end, it was hard, but then I was so happy. I didn't have to deal with or think about you anymore. I was free; and that's what it felt like: freedom. I felt light and airy and more like myself than I'd felt in years. Yes, years.

I had friends again. I reconnected with my old friends (although, in some cases it took years), and made new ones. And they were all great. Supportive of me, and understanding, and they helped me understand a bit more about who I really was and why I had become so much better than who I had been.

I resent you for trying to keep these people from me. I resent myself more for not noticing what happened. And so I hate that what you did makes me angry at myself.

If I had been watching anyone else, I never would have let it get that far without saying something. Instead, I had to let uncertainty be my sign. And even that took too long.

But this isn't about me, it's about you. It's about how the feelings I felt at the end are still so strong, and the feelings that started it all are completely numb. In other cases, the end blurs and the beginning and middle take over, but not with you. With you, it's all the end, and the recent slow realization of what happened without me noticing.

And I'm a stickler for detail.

True, I can see it all so clearly now. The red flags waving wildly, like the trees when a hurricane approaches. But in this case, I thought I was safe in the basement; windows boarded up, with a gas burner and canned food to get me through the storm. I almost thought the storm missed me completely, until the news reports came in.

Broken. Damaged. Major repairs needed.

And I guess I have you to thank for that. I guess you got the revenge you felt entitled to, when I finally clued in and got out.

I thought the best revenge was dusting myself off, moving on, living my own, happy life. I didn't think that "served cold" was an option.

And so, with a renewed sense of anger, and frustration, I'll rehash this all. Only this time I won't have your cynical input colouring everything that happened. I'll take a look with my own view and hopefuly I'll find a way to forgive you for what happened.

Or at least find a way to make you weak.

24 September 2006

My pants don't fit

But it's getting better.

In the past year I have gained about 25 pounds. No lie.

I know this specifically because I weighed myself the morning of Lew's wedding, and I just managed to meet my wedding-weight goal. I weighed myself last Sunday at my parents house and I weigh slightly less than 25 pounds more. And I know I've lost weight since I started teaching.

I mostly attribute it to my car accident. Many months of sitting around, not being able or allowed to move or do much activity. Not good.

I'm hoping that the increased activity of teaching will make a slight dent in it, but I also need to take some initiative. I'm getting a stationary bike using some of the money my insurance money paid out in order to close my claim. I also hope to get back into the swing of yoga soon.

I'm not very happy about all this. I know I can do something about it. The funny thing is that even though I know it's bad and I feel crappy about myself, I still don't feel that motivated to do anything about it. I don't expect the weight to just melt away, but I'm not very keen on working hard at it either. That's different from how I usually feel when my pants get tight.

And right now I'm looking at having to buy a new wardrobe.

21 September 2006

I just lost my job

Seriously.

But I have a new one now.

Because the grade 7 classes at my school turned out to be sooooo small, the school board forced the school to collapse them into 2 classes. On the bright side (which is how this was first pitched to me by the Principal and VP) is that no one is losing their job or even being moved to another school. The board has agreed that the school could use the extra support.

So, here's what happens as I understand it to date:
  • I will no longer be teaching French to Grade 4s. Because there is one less grade 7, the french teacher now has room in her schedule.
  • I will no longer have a homeroom. There are currently 3 homeroom teachers, and they've decided to give the homerooms to the other two teachers.
  • I will no longer be teaching grade 7 English Language Arts. The other new teacher will do that, which I think is a good thing because I think some of the kids need more male influence in their daily routine. A lot of the boys don't respect women very well, and having a positive male role model who shows respect for women will be a very good thing for them to see.
  • I will be doing lost of professional development so I can learn about how to support students on LSPs (Learning Support Program). I will be "co-teaching" with the grade 8/9 teacher, Juli, and the new grade 7 ELA teacher, David. I'm not really sure what that means or how it will look.
  • I'm losing my classroom, but apparently they will find space for me. That would be good, because I've already filled up my room with lots of food and crap. Really, as long as I have a computer with an internet comection, I'll be fine. :)

So, that's the deal. The only teachers who know now are the ones involved. The other teachers will be told tomorrow, and the kids will find out on Monday. The official changeover will start at the end of next week, or beginning of the following week. This works out well because my students have most of their assignments due next Thursday (Friday is an inservice), which means that the rollover will be pretty smooth. And I'm hoping that Dave will keep up some of the stuff I've been doing with them, like spelling and journals, and maybe the memorization.

So, I'm out of one job and into another. I hope it's interesting!

19 September 2006

The 5-minute post

I am teaching. It is hard. It can be fun. Right now I send a lot of kids to the office.

I am usually very tired when I get home, but I do most of my planning on the weekends, so at least I have some time to relax. For example, last night I went to a screening of short films at the film festival. As Lew said, "That's 92 of 95 minutes of my life I'll never get back." It wasn't that bad, but there were some films that left us wondering how they ever got accepted.

Tonight is trivia night again. It started up again last week and we came in 4th out of 10. Not too bad. Andrew works Tuesdays now so he can't go anymore, but I think Lew and Mike are going to come as long as they aren't working evenings. All are welcome, but there a cap of 6 per team.

Teaching makes me sweat a lot. I feel like I have sprinklers grafted to my armpits. I might have to move up to men's antiperspirant soon... If I can find an unscented variety. I'd rather just wear my all-natural deodorant, but I'm too self-conscious about sweat stains on my shirts.

I would like to write a blog with more substance in the near future; unfortunately, teaching does take up much of my free time. On the bright side, I can still check my gmail at school. :)

Time's up! Gotta go teach French!

15 August 2006

In which the author removes head from ass and takes a look around

My boss once called me self-absorbed. At the time, I considered it a great joke (though not a funny one) because it was a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Well, the irony is that I have been pretty self-absorbed lately. In my own little world, I don't spend a lot of time contacting friends I miss, I don't make phone calls to arrange social engagements, and I don't update my blog for weeks on end.

Bad me.

Le changement.

Here's what's been happening. I interviewed for, was offered and accepted a teaching position for September. I'll be teaching Grade 7 English Language Arts, and Grade 4 Core French. There was some murmuring about Grade 5 French yesterday, but I'm hoping that was my principal's delusional rambling. Not that she's prone to such rambling; I don't know her well enough to confirm or deny those rumours.

Within 24 hours of accepting the position, I tendered my resignation in Hell and started the process of extricating myself. I was supposed to be finished on the 7th (a holiday here, so my last day would have been the 4th), but they suddenly decided that I was Most Valuable Employee and begged (negotiated) for me to stay on another two weeks. I drove a hard bargain. They are paying me a full two weeks to work a meager 5 days. I'm gettin' paid double, baby! They basically had no choice. They ignored my earlier suggestions that others be cross-trained in some of the things I did, and because of other things going on, the two weeks I gave wasn't enough time for those applicable to learn anything.

I didn't bother to tell them that, had they not treated me like crap for the better part of 2006 (like, all of it so far) I wouldn't have even been looking for work in the first place.

So now, as this work day draws to a close, I have 2 days left and then two weeks off to rest, recuperate and plan for the ankle-biters.

25 July 2006

The Great Elsewhere: 'Assurance'

The Great Elsewhere: 'Assurance'

This is a little gross, but wow, I so admire this guy's candour. :)

11 July 2006

My response.

This is just to follow up. Since it's my blog, I don't have to respond in the comments, but I did start to write it there, so catch up from there.

Great link, Tricky. I think the UMs should stand up for themselves a little more against what appears to be a misappropriation of their doctrine. If you didn't follow the link in her comments to Saturday's post, read it now.

I suppose I could have just as easily talked about military spending annoucements in Canada and how I think some of the money could be better spent on foreign aid that might (and studies show, probably would) decrease developping nations' hostility toward the West. I did mention said spending, I guess many of you assumed I meant the US because they're the highest military spenders in the world. It's an easy mistake to make.

My point about gas -- it's not just small talk. It's something that governments feel the need to act on in order to calm people down. In Nova Scotia, the government will waste millions of dollars to set up and maintain a price regulation that will be largely ineffective in keeping costs down. It will ostensibly provide 2 weeks of stability at a time, but, despite seemingly frequent fluctuations, we're now guaranteed a change 26 times per year. I'd love to see the data on whether this is more or less stable than non-regulated pricing.

I'm not trying to argue that people shouldn't believe in Jesus, and I apologize if it did sound that way. Quite the contrary, like "Me" says, I understand why and how people find comfort in Him, and also how belief in Him might inspire some people to act where they might not otherwise. I don't personally hold that exact belief, but I don't deny that my own Anglican upbringing probably has something to do with my passion for helping people now. Obviously, the Church can have an extremely good impact on people (both those who help and are being helped).

To be fair to everyone, as Tricky says, "people are lazy", period. That laziness frustrates the hell out of me. I guess it frustrates me more from a group of people who talk about how it's part of what they believe and they -- not all Christians and not just Christians, but anyone who does this -- have a nap while the shitty stuff happens anyway. Grrrr.

10 July 2006

Change in priorities

I just met some more of my neighbours. They're an older couple who live upstairs. Actually, I'm not sure he does as she introduced him as her "friend". I don't know the context exactly, but it made me think of my Uncle Tub (that's actually what we call him, it's not a pseudonym). He's had a "Lady-friend" for many years now. One would think that they just get married since they enjoy each other's company so much and obviously care for each other a great deal, but here's what the government doesn't tell you.

If you receive pension benefits, including death benefits from the loss of a spouse, you lose them or they're greatly reduced if you remarry. Uncle Tub's friend doesn't want to lose her income or her indeoendence. So, instead, they live next door to each other in the same seniors' complex, and see each other every day. I guess if I was choosing to live like that, I might reconsider what I was looking for in a partner.

I wondered what the story was with my neighbour, but I'm too polite to ask. :P

They were extremely nice. We had a short chat about how I like the place and the weather and barbequing. They said they watched me move in, and have been on the lookout for me. I met them because I decided to step outside to enjoy the sun. It was nice to talk to neighbours. I hope to meet more of them.

When I lived with my parents, we knew all our neighbours quite well. One by one, they have left/are leaving the neighbourhood and as my brother and I got older, we didn't meet the new ones, so the neighbourhood has shrunk. It almost makes me want to bring a caserole to some of the people in my building just as an excuse to say hi.

A man smiled at me on the street the other day. Andrew thought he looked a little crazy, but I think he was probably chuckling to himself about the amount of alcohol we were carrying. Either way, it's nice to share a genuine smile with people. I think it makes everyone feel good, and make people (except, apparently, Andrew) a little less suspicious of others.

07 July 2006

What good is Jesus?

Subtitle: What Would Jesus do?

Okay, here's my VERY IMPORTANT disclamer. If you didn't read my previous post, STOP. Read it first. No joke. These posts are so inter-connected that I actually wrote them on the same day, but don't like to post multiple blogs because it doesn't look pretty. So go read it.

Done?

Okay. Carry on. Disclaimer #2 follows.

(It is my experience that when talking about religion, people get upset. I fully expect that to be the case here. I do apologize in advance if I upset anyone with the below commentary. Sometimes I'm serious; sometimes I'm flippant. I'm not trying to pick on Christians because they're an easy target, I'm picking on Christians because it's what I know, what I grew up with. I welcome comments, but if you're going to criticize what I have to say, please be respectful and back up your opinions with examples. I'm interested in different perspectives on my thoughts, but if you can't follow the rules to the right, I'm not going to entertain flame wars.)


In light of yesterday's blog, I had a thought. While I know that there are lots of staunch human rights defenders who subscribe to one religious doctrine or another, my experience to date is that they fall in the "other" category.

It got me thinking rhetorically: wouldn't our efforts be better spent making sure that people aren't jailed for wanting the right to vote than convincing people that Jesus is The Way?

Hear me out. The current POTUS, George W. Bush, is a self-professed Christian. When he turned away from alcohol, he turned to Jesus, his personal Lord and Saviour. This is a man who's political policies are unabashedly rife with his belief that God is on his side. And he's also the same man who has been allowing the ongoing detainment of Arabs in Guantanamo Bay for the past 4+ years. This is a man who wants to defend his country's "right" to use torture on other human beings. Who cuts taxes for the wealthy (seriously, watch the video -- it's hilarious), while urging against raising the federal minimum wage (currently $5.15 US). Because rich people need to buy a boat more than poor people need to buy groceries. Ahem. Sorry. Bitter.

I realize that all denominations of Christianity focus on different parts of Jesus' message. Frankly, I don't strongly remember what message my particular parish advocated, but I think it was something about being an example for people to follow so they too could enjoy what Jesus teaches. Or something.

But if following Jesus leads us to spend more time trying to convince other people to follow Jesus, and less time helping people (which are the stories I remember from the Bible), then how is a belief in Jesus helping make the world a better place? If I'm a "heathen" living in a developing country that's crippled by foreignly-held debt, suffering a drought because of CO2 emmisions caused by smoke stacks in an industrialized nation, and cowering in fear lest my neighbour rat me out to the local dictator that I criticized my inability to vote, then believing in Jesus isn't going to solve all my problems. Sure, I might be able to focus on what's promised me in heaven, but I might also be contemplating how I can get there faster, since life can't get any worse. Until my husband is up and "disappeared" (a human rights term for people who are taken covertly and held without official charges or any communication with loved ones) because he had the audacity to ask for seconds at the food ration station.

Seriously, I know that there are lots of Christians who do wonderful things in the world, and help many people regardless of race, religion or creed. I know of many soup kitchens run by local parishes; my mother's church volunteers for a school breakfast program, and the shelter I wrote about in the previous blog is run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. But overall, what good is Jesus if so many people who believe in him can't stop complaining about the price of gas long enough to really look at what they can do to help? Heresy, I know.

As for my subtitle, the Jesus I learned about in church healed lepers and blind people, he raised Lazarus from the dead, he turned water into wine so the party could keep going. He talked about compassion, turning the other cheek (as opposed to an eye for an eye), getting the whores and money changers out of the temple (oh, wait -- not my point), and tolerance. He was non-violent (let's call him a forerunner of Gandhi). In fact, he really just wanted the freedom of his people (who were the Jews, by the way, not Christians) from the oppression of the Romans. He taught people about God's extreme makeover; no more pestilence, plague and wandering the desert -- His love is for everyone!

So, what do I think Jesus would do if he were walking down the street in an industrialized nation (I think that's unlikely -- he didn't show up in Rome, he showed up in Bethlehem, a Roman-occupied territory; it's more likely he'd show up in Iraq or Tibet these days)? I think he'd remind people that the price of gas isn't worth a hill of beans, unless those beans are being sent to people in Africa to help them grow bean crops (give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish). I think he'd say, "Okay forget all that earlier stuff aboutnot spilling the seed and help prevent the spread of this disease." And if you need some further convincing, let's say his reason is, "God sent this as a test of human tolerance and a lesson for the wealthy to reach out to the disadvantaged and save the world." (Note: I DO NOT believe that HIV/AIDS is a disease sent by God to punish anyone. I think it's something that popped up when people were eating an endangered species. Please don't quote me out of context.) I don't think Jesus would think it's a good idea to bomb civilians (even if those civilians are in a wealthy country), nor do I think he would advocate retaliation (he might not say, "Offer up the subway line, too," but I doubt he'd think that destroying infrastructure in struggling nations is a good idea either).

Emily Starr talked about "Father's God" vs. "Aunt Elizabeth's God." I actually quite liked this idea when I first read it. I think you should have to read the book if you want to know what I mean, but let me summarize: "Father's God" was good and kind and compassionate; "Aunt Elizabeth's God" was tyrannical and fierce and rigid. Maybe L. M. Montgomery was a bit of a prophet when she characterized these two very different beliefs in what God wants and how he operates.

I just don't think there's anything in the Bible about letting people suffer to the extent that they do while worrying about whether a billion dollars should be spent on air transports for the military or on subsidies for wheat farmers.*


*I love farmers because I get to eat, I'm not a fan of subsidies that make it harder for those in the 3rd world to make a living.

06 July 2006

My Father Never Held a gun to my Head

I named this post two months ago and haven't done anything with it. I don't even remember my original motivation for it.

But in light of a recent blog about stalking, coupled with some horrible human rights infractions, I feel like now might be a good time to bring this up.

Three years ago, I went to LA. I stayed with Monique, who at the time was working with a Catholic order that helps women and their children escape domestic violence. It's an incredibly progressive organization that will help women get the legal advice they need, help them prevent pregnancy (some of these women had 5 or more children), and give them job skills training so they can support themselves. They also help them recognize the cycle of violence so they can avoid/escape in the future.

At the shelter (where I went to help every day), I met lots of amazing children. Some were obviously more traumatised than others, but they all seemed aware that they were now living in a secure place and were learning to enjoy being children. Monique taught in the shelter school, which was kindergarten to grade 6, plus a pre-school. She worked with the kindergarten class, teaching them their letters and numbers, plus some ESL instruction (a lot of the mothers were Mexican immigrants and spoke Spanish at home). She actually picked up quite a bit of Spanish herself.

Among Monique's kids, there was a relatively new girl who was quite withdrawn. She was the target of some taunting at times, because she didn't like to speak up. She was obviously extremely sensitive and would sometimes cry if things went awry. I rarely heard stories about the kids and the situations their mothers were in, but I did hear about one incident with this girl.

I don't know how long the abusive situation went on for this girl's mother, but at some point she must have decided enough was enough. She either threatened or tried to leave with her two daughters.

I don't know how things escalated, but somehow the older of the two girls (the one in Monique's class) ended up being held by her irate, desperate father. He held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her if the mother tried to leave. The mother gave in.

I don't know how she finally got out of the situation, but she must have done her planning very carefully, because she did finally end up at this shelter getting help for both herself and her two little girls (all are required to go to therapy while at the shelter).

This story struck me powerfully. I can't conceive of the level of desperation and need for control that would drive someone to threaten their daughter's life with a gun. I can't imagine how someone gets past the feeling that their life is dispensible if that power is threatened or questioned. I'm sure the therapists would have worked hard to help this little girl understand that she was a pawn in her father's game, that her life did have value, and that she was in no way responsible for what happened that day; still, the memory must be quite jarring.

And so, I do try to keep in mind how lucky I am. That, even in countries where humans rights and civil liberties are more accepted and respected than in others, atrocities happen; life is sometimes devalued for personal gain. I read and hear about horrible things happening in this country, and south of the border, on a regular basis, but it's not happening to me.

My father never held a gun to my head, no matter how angry or frustrated or scared he could have been about any situation. My mother never had to threaten to leave for the safety and security of herself and her children.

As I write this, I realize that it's not just about how lucky I am, it's about why I do what I do. It's why I actively support human rights. It's why I don't want to let governments become that father with the gun, threatening the rights of one in order to scare another into submission.

So I guess I'm not just lucky; I'm also motivated.

26 June 2006

I (heart) Chicken Kiev



If nothing else good ever came out of Ukraine, I'm okay with that, because there is Chicken Kiev in my life.

I just finished TWO SERVINGS of it for supper and I have to say, "YUM!"

What's there not to like about chicken, garlic, parsley, BUTTER, and bread crumbs.

A good Chicken Kiev will be nice and runny in the middle and satisfyingly crispy on the outside.

I've never eaten it with fries (as pictured). I just had it with a mound of asparagus just now. It goes well with just about any side dish, although I admit to never having tried it with rice.

Three cheers for Chicken Kiev (I suppose, to be politically correct, it should now be referred to as Chicken "Kyiv". Kiev is the Russian spelling and I understand that Ukraine has been trying to push the original spelling, Kyiv, since their independence from the Soviet Union).

On another note, I ate a quart of local strawberries in less than 24 hours. Plain (washed), without sugar or other accoutrements (whipped cream, etc.). I feel gross. I think I'll do without for a while.

22 June 2006

Time for a short story

I did indeed go on said job hunt, and I was pleased with the results overall.

I visited 17 schools in one day. I started about 2 minutes from the condo and ended up out by my parents' house, so I covered a lot of ground.

The first school I went to was P-9 (P=Primary, for those foreigners among you :P). The secretary apparently doubles as a bouncer and said that the principal doesn't meet with prospective teachers. I left my resume, and she said she'd pass it along.

Feeling discouraged (but thinking it might turn out to be a short day after all), I went to the nearby high school. The secretary there was much more friendly and open and said she'd check which of the principal or THREE vice principals (yikes) was available. The first one to she his head happened to be the art teacher at my own high school, back in the day. He recognized me visually, and remembered me better when I said my name. He invited me into his office to chat and I had a bit of an impromptu interview. This is what I'd been hoping for more of.

He was really impressed with my "specialty" in drama. As a fine arts teacher himself, he's familiar with lots of teachers who have an interest in a fine arts' discipline who turn out to be disasters in the classroom. I also told him I'd be willing to teach just about anything -- except math. He said that lots of strange combinations of subjects get cobbled together into a job.

In the end, it was very enlightening, and I had to curse myself the stupidity of not bringing a list of my references. I told him that two were from my alma mater, and I'm hoping he was interested enough to give them a call.

The rest of the day varied between uplifting and demoralizing. Depending on what school I went to and who I talked to, the responses were either, "Yeah, right," or "Yeah, great!" High schools were more interested in my drama experience, and junior highs were, by and large, more impressed with the core French. One JH principal told me to call so-and-so at the school board and tell him about my French immediately so I could go to the internal job fair at the end of the month. I sort of kept forgetting, and now said job fair is less than 48 hours away, so I think I'm too late.

I finished the day with a principal telling me that if the school board would stay out of it, she'd have had her hiring done 2 months ago and she'd have hired me on the spot. Very, very flattering, but a little contradictory.... She said nice things about the quality of my work (it's one of the mere two schools I've ever subbed at), and told me she'd call me if they were posting anything I'd be even remotely interested in.

A lot of administrators said nice things about my approach; that it was the exact right time of year to be showing my face; they liked the materials I used to supplement my resume and were mostly glad I dropped by. There were a couple who I felt were annoyed by my presence, and that brought me down a little.

But at the very least, I'm pretty sure I made enough inroads to keep my sub schedule busy next year. I've decided that if I don't get that elusive term position, I'm going to leave my current job at the end of September (take the rest of my vacation days and launch full-force after Thanksgiving). If I want to become a teacher, I can't spend all my time in the corporate world. The longer I'm out of the classroom, the harder it'll be to get back in (except for that upcoming "severe" teacher shortage). I no longer feel panicky about my finances if I were to become a full-time sub, and I heard enough good news to think that there's a term out there somewhere; I'll just have to be super-diligent about checking the job postings when they start later in the summer.

In conclusion (not such a short story after all), it was a good day.

20 June 2006

I feel sick

This is the most upsetting thing I've read in a while. I've had some horrible boyfriends who weren't nice to me in lots of ways, but I don't think I've ever felt sheer terror like this woman would have.

She makes some apologies for telling the story from a standpoint of "I should have known better", but I didn't feel that when I read it. I don't question why she did what she did at the time, because I know that we don't think reasonably when we're hurt, being hurt, afraid of hurting someone else or (worse) don't have the confidence that we're not responsible for what's happening to us.

It's an incredible story. Not because it's great, but because it's true.

14 June 2006

Start your engines

The dissatisfaction with my job continues.

As such, today the job hunt begins in earnest. I have taken the day off work and I will be visiting up to 26 schools to meet principals and/vice principals and/or drop off my resumé+intro sheet+"business card".

The goal is not to secure an actual job; it's to let people know who I am and that I'm looking and will be applying when they get posted.

Let the games begin.

28 May 2006

I don't think this is what Leonardo had in mind

The Da Vinci Code gratuitously insults Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church," said Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Birmingham, England. "It deliberately presents fiction as fact." Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

No word of a lie. This is what people fear from that over-hyped book and movie (not that either of them were terrible, per se).

In a point I just made to Andrew: Lord of the Rings presents fiction as fact. The Chornicles of Narina presents fiction as fact. That's sort of the point of fiction. To create a world in which the characters live factually. I think it would suck an awful lot to go to a movie and not be able to believe for a single second that the things the characters are saying and doing are facutal to those characters. It would be like someone whispering, "Hey! I don't mean this. It's all fiction," at the end of every sentence and action.

I'm not saying that people (i.e., Christians) don't have a right to be upset with what they consider a blasphemous interpretation of Jesus. I just think they should stop acting like wounded animals.

Some said they saw parallels with Muslims' reaction to the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in European newspapers. But in that case, the anger led to weeks of violent demonstrations that left scores of people dead; reaction to the worldwide opening of The Da Vinci Code, which stars Tom Hanks, has consisted largely of calls for boycotts and denunciations by church leaders and commentators. Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

I find this particular paragraph insulting, but blame the journalist. I feel he's drawing conclusions about the reactions of these two religious groups that is unfair, unjust and inflammatory. Draw your own conclusions. I don't like the tone.

"My question to Dan Brown is this: Would he dare to write such a book about Islam?" said Peter Jennings, a spokesman for Nichols. "No, they wouldn't dare. But they view the Catholic Church as a soft touch."

That is a lie. A bald-faced lie.

Well, not entirely.

Fine. Maybe Dan Brown wouldn't write a book about Islam and how Muhammad didn't actually prophecy, rather he was writing the worlds first fiction novel. But it's not like no one's ever written a book that didn't piss off Muslims before.

Remember Salman Rushdie? His novel, The Satanic Verses, created more than a few demonstrations (peacueful or otherwise). No, this was no minor uproar. They issued a fatwa -- a religious legal order. Sometimes fat?wa (plural) are issued to settle land disputes or who owns what livestock... you know, trivial stuff. In this case however, it was a bit more incendiary:

"In the name of God Almighty. There is only one God, to whom we shall all return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, have been sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare insult the Islamic sanctities. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing. In addition, anyone who has access to the author of the book, but does not possess the power to execute him, should refer him to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God’s blessing be on you all." Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini. The Satanic Verses controversy, Wikipedia

Khomeini offered a $3 million US bounty. The Japanese translator was killed; the Italian translator was stabbed; the Norwegian publisher survived an assassination attempt; Rushdie had to live under the protection of British Security forces for a while; earlier this year, the Iranian state news agency reported that the fatwa has no expiry date. All in all, this seems far more serious than some picketing and talking points on 24-hour cable news networks.

Now, I'm not trying to do the same thing as the jounalist who drew allusions between Christian and Muslim reactions. I'm pointing out that, in the past, an author has indeed published a novel that mixed both the text and dogma of a religion with a controversial plotline that was focused on Islam. So, just because Dan Brown didn't do it, doesn't mean that Christianity is an easy target.

Look, I don't begrudge people being upset with these subjectively bad portrayals of their religion.

"Representatives from different religions have for the first time united to fight against expressions of modern culture that they find unacceptable," the newspaper Kommersant said in an editorial, expressing "solidarity" with both Christians and Muslims. Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm even glad that people are standing up for their religious beliefs.

But I think differences are important. I think dialogue is important. Even subversion plays an important role in society. I think people definitely need to be respectful when portraying others' religious beliefs, but I don't think it should be off-limits altogether.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I lost track.

Maybe I'm ignorant because I don't hold Christian beliefs in the same way that these upset people do. But I both read the book and saw the movie, and while the arguments contained therein were compelling and entertaining (yes, even the "tedious" movie), it was entertaiment. Just like The Little Mermaid doesn't mean Disney (or Hans Christian Andersen) are trying to tell us that Mermaids really exist and that we should watch out for evil sea witches who will turn us into sea foam. Okay, I was being flippant. I apologize. But my point remains the same (I remember now).

These are works of fiction. They are not meant to represent reality. Some may use realistic situations, or build on current stories, but that does not mean that the authors or publishers are trying to pass their works off as fact.

Some people make a living preaching the facts, others make a living playing with them. I think when something shows up on the Fiction shelf at the book store. We should all take a deep breath and remember that it's there for a reason.


n.b., If any regulars or lurkers want to (respectfully) shed some light for this ignorant blogger and explain some of the reasons why works like The da Vinci Code or The Satanic Verses cause quite as much kafuffle as they do, I'd love to read some other people's interpretations. Also, if you can't elaborate, comments are always welcome. Just remember the rules (posted at right).

19 May 2006

Time out

In the course of enjoying my vacation, I decided to wile away the hours by reading some blogs.

Many of you already know my fascination with Bitch Ph.D., and about my involvement in Amnesty International, so when I came across her latest post, I had to post (partially because it's what Dr. Bitch suggests) for myself.

So, if you don't want to click the links, here's the upsetting deal:

A woman in Iran has been sentenced to death for stabbing a man to death. Besides being stidently opposed to the death penalty, the reason for her guilt is dubious to the point of madness.

The man she stabbed was -- along with two other men -- trying to rape her and her niece. Here's a fun catch-22: if they had succeeded, she could have been tried for extra-marital sex. So, it's a lovely example of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'm relatively certain that, in most Western countries, self-defense would have applied and she would have been release without prejudice. I'm being restrained because I'm ANGRY about it.

Read more here.

And do something about it. Please. It's so easy to be safe and secure when you live in a country where, if something similar (though, generally (hopefully) unlikely) were to happen to you, the law would ostensibly step in and hand out some justice.

Here's how you can do something.

Save Nazanin

If you're pissed off enough, contact the Canadian branch of the Iranian Embassy:

Mr. Seyed Mouhammad Ali Moosavi (Ambassador)
Address: 245 Metcalfe St., Ottawa, ON K2P 2K2
Tel: 613-235-4726
Fax : 613-233-5712

And, of course, there's an online petition.

Please.

12 May 2006

Death Wish

Can someone please explain this to me?

Last night, I went to my parents' for supper. Unfortunately, there were no leftovers, but it was a pleasant and delicious meal. I also stepped on the scale to discover that, not only did I gain back the weight I previously lost, but I also gained two more pounds. I am simultaneously upset and blasé about this.

That's not what needs explaining.

On my way home, I became lazy-driver because I was tired. At the turn-off to get on the highway home, I did a half-assed shoulder check, looked in my side mirror and moved over. Then the horn blared.

I cut off (possibly almost killed) a motorcyclist. I felt bad when I heard the horn and in my rearview mirror I saw said cyclyst swerve back into the lane behind me. I really did feel bad and stupid, but as I was driving, there wasn't much I could do to make amends.

Apparently, he had ideas. He drove up along the driver's side of my car (between myself and the car in the next lane) close enough that, had my window been down, I could have easily touched his sleeve. He was gesturing and shouting something, but since I was driving, I didn't look. Then he sped up and cut me off. Then he turned around on his bike and started shaking his fist. There was more yelling before he finally gave me the finger and tore off. Considering the speed he was moving along the highway, I'd say he was doing 120-140 klicks, easily.

So tell me: how was that supposed to indicate to me that what I did was dangerous and stupid? At this point, would you have felt bad for what you had done?

I'm pretty sure him flying off his motorcycle at 140 km/hr would be far more unhealthy than me bumping him at 45 while I merge into traffic.

11 May 2006

Something

Here I am, writing. I've been asked by numerous people to write a blog, so here you go.

I don't really have much to say lately.

I'm teaching later this month. Substituting, actually. I'm taking vacation days to do it. My boss is annoyed that I'm taking time off. Fuck him, I say.

I spend a lot of time playing Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. I suck at it. It's too hard. Andrew said he'll download The Sims for me. I hope he gets The Sims 2. I've never played that. It sounds fun and addictive.

I'm at work and there's been lots of yelling. It's just the guys being silly.

My friend Courtney is getting married in July. I need a pretty dress for the wedding. Actually, what I'd really like is to discover that the dress I wore to my cousin Scott's wedding still fits. Then I can save money and be bright and stylish. It's a flowy dress. I like flowy.

I'm going to have supper with Mom tonight. Dad is a away. She likes company. I like not having to cook, plus potential leftovers.

That is all.

20 April 2006

Hallelujah!

Maple Leafs fire Pat Quinn.

It's about friggin' time!

18 April 2006

Watch what you say....

It turns out that even anonymous blogging could be dangerous....

CBC News - Viewpoint

17 April 2006

Cutting Back

My life is busy. Not overwhelmingly so, but enough to make me crazy. Enough that, by Friday, I just want to sit and stare -- at walls, the tv, the ceiling, whatever. Enough that I feel braindead most of the time, now, unless I exert an enormous amount of effort.

So, I've recently decided to start making adjustments. It's not going very well so far. The issue is that Monday through Thursday evening, I am always booked. I'm sure lots of people have busy lives, but I just don't enjoy it. I need time to myself. Otherwise I get cranky and down and breaindead, and all those other things.

So, the first thing to go will be massage therapy. It will be sad, because it makes me feel better. I just need to reclaim that night, and I can't go during the day. But now I give it up to other obligations. Sure, some of them are social, but I still need time to me.

I'm going to cut back on trivia night, as much fun as it is. Tomorrow will be Jaye's last night, and with Lindsay's new responsibilities, she won't be there as often. Katherine and I will still go, but I need to cut it back -- maybe I'll go every other week.

I might move yoga to the weekend when the new session starts. Yoga is a great way to start the week, but it's also another night when I don't get home as early as I'd like.

Thursday is always the day I use for everything else I don't have time for. If I have nothing else to do, I start the staring early.

I don't know if this is "woe is me" whining or if it's something to be legitimately concerned about. I know there are lots of ways to reduce stress, but it's not just stress that gets to me. At least, it doesn't feel that way. It feels more like pressure, or a sense of being overwhelmed. Maybe I'm being naive and it's all the same thing, but it just feels different than when I had a major essay due, or when I'm approaching a deadline at work.

I'm hoping that my upcoming vacation (I leave in a month!) will help. But I also hope that I can gain some control over my life and give myself more time to breathe through the week.

I'm open to suggestions.

05 April 2006

I'm not an American, but it's still funny, and sadly true....

From Bitch Ph.D.:

Dear Red States,

We're ticked off at the way you've treated California, and we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly:
You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand.
We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.
We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama.
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.
Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of sexist good ol' boys whose macho bullshit means they can't keep a marriage together, "abstinence education" which means people can't avoid pregnancy, and hard-working pissed off single moms who are sick of the crap that put them in that situation and are welcome to apply for amnesty with us.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and antiwar, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners), 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high-tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, including Princeton, Harvard and Yale, plus Stanford, Berkeley, CalTech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with no dining options other than fast food and chain restaurants, no public transit, a culture that has forgotten what feet are for, and the resulting 88 percent of all obese Americans and their projected health care costs (we figure our big folks will be fat and healthy, since they'll be walking and eating fewer McBurgers), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11, and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties.

But just to show there's no hard feelings, we'll split the good pot with you: we'll keep the stuff they grow up in the northwest, you can have Kentucky.

So there.

Sincerely,

Author Unknown in New California

30 March 2006

Misunderstood

In my last post there is a comment about lists stiffling discussion. I was going to post a comment in reply but decided that another post was warranted.

If I somehow purported that the list was full and complete, I would agree that it cuts off discussion, but in fact I finished the IWD post by encouraging people to take a look, and to talk about women who inspired them. I asked for input from other people. So while I may agree with the principle that lists aren't the best way to foster discussion, as a trained (but not practising) teacher, I think it was a good starting point.

Further, I also wanted to point out that not all great things that have happened can be attributed to men. For example, while a certain man is attributed to "scientifically" inventing vaccinations, it was actually a woman who brought this treatment to the Western world, thus virtually eliminating diseases such as smallpox. I used International Women's Day as a catalyst to make people aware of some of these acomplishments, just as many people do, worldwide.

Mostly, I'm still disappointed that it was largely ineffectual.

28 March 2006

How would you change the world?

Since you all ignored my IWD post wholesale, here's a question:

If you could change one thing about the way the world works, what would it be and why?

I would open people's hearts and minds. I think that this would make people more tolerent, less defensive, more understanding, more aware, and less destructive. I think that people would stop killing themselves*, wasting the planet, and hurting others.

Your responses don't have to be serious and heart-felt. But if you want to know more about some people (read: women) who did change the world, go read the post.


*I don't just mean suicide

27 March 2006

The Cancer Post

What's in your shampoo?

Have you ever thought about it? Do you care? Maybe you should.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately. My hairdresser has told me to avoid shampoos with certain ingredients because they will ruin my hair. She is concerned with companies that add waxes that purport to make your hair shiny, but over time just weigh it down and make it look gross and dirty all the time. But I've become concerned about something a lot more serious and frightening.

Carcinogens.

Do you know what they are? I don't just mean, "Do you know that a carcinogen is any substance or agent that promotes cancer?" (Wikipedia) I mean, can you name one or two or five?

Some carcinogens occur naturally in the ecosystem. Others are man-made. I've become worried about the latter.

This concern started with an interview on CBC Radio One's The Current. Wendy Mesley, a CBC reporter, was diagnosed with cancer, and she started a crusade (of sorts) to discover why cancer is on the rise. You can listen to the piece here (realplayer required).

She discovered that 50% of the population is at risk of getting cancer. People are getting more and more of the types of cancer associated with exposure to carcinogens as opposed to body-breaking-down, old-cells-mutating cancers with which we've been familiar for decades.

To avoid repeating everything that ended up in her TV documentary, take a look for yourself. While the report itself was extremely manipulative in its presentation, and limited in scope, she presents a lot of good information that is worth exploring further.

  • She reveals her own bloodwork for a tox screen.
  • She looks at the politics behind cancer prevention and treatment.
  • The site lists some other cancer-related stories covered on Marketplace.

It also lists some of the known carcinogens that are found in everyday household and personal care products.

If you want to know whether something in your shampoo or moisturizer or laundry detergent is a carcinogen, look it up on Google. For example, I looked up "formaldehyde carcinogen" and found this site that says: "While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ranked formaldehyde a 'probable' human carcinogen, the World Health Organization recently upgraded its classification to 'known,' concluding that formaldehyde 'is carcinogenic to humans.'"

So, what has formaldelhyde in it? Well, that's what puts the "magic" in Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser for starters. According to the above website, it can cause "nasopharyngeal cancer and may also be linked to cancer of the nose and throat in humans." Sounds like fun. What's especially great is that the ads for this product specifically point to all it's great uses on the messes that kids make -- like crayon moreks on walls and furniture -- without mentioning that the toxic substance it contains is most harmful to developing children.

Pets aren't exempt either: "Test animals exposed to formaldehyde fumes have developed nasal cancer." So, Muffy and Rover are also at risk if you plan on using these products around them.

What is most frustrating is that most companies that use known or suspected carcinogens are well aware of that fact. They continue to do so thinking that we'd rather have "cheap" products than "safe" products. They're probably right. But without regulation, very few companies are going to change practices that take time and cut into profits to develop -- even though, in many cases, they known how to reformulate since natural formulas are often used in R&D and then synthesized to lower costs and recoup expenses faster.

And until someone launches a lawsuit that proves the link, a chemical is considered "safe". Instead of requiring testing (as we now do for pharmaceuticals -- whether the testing is effective is an argument for another day) to prove a chemical is dangerous, we assume it's safe until people start dying.

Do I really need to point out how backwards this is?

There are lots of alternatives out there. You may need to clean the tub more often, or give up the luxury of glaringly WHITE whites, but many natural products are as effective as their chemical alternatives. Home remedies are often a lot less expensive (baking soda+vinegar=Liquid Plumbr), but the store-bought natural products can be quite pricey.

Loblaws and affiliates tend to carry natural household products in the organic sections of their stores. This site lists some uses for natural, common household items, plus some naturally-formulated products you can buy. And this one has information about what's in some common products, plus some for sale.

I recently bought some all-natural dish and dishwasher detergents. I'll admit that I haven't tried them yet, and the price was hard to swallow (about double what the brand names cost), but I'm starting to think it's worth it. I'm not really in the mood to live with or die from cancer. I'm not in the mood to raise kids to expect that fate, and I'm starting to really believe in leaving the world a better place than I came into it. And if $4 extra every 3 months for dish soap is going to help, hell, sign me up.

E-mail the PM, the Environment Minister and the Health Minister with your concerns. They all require that you provide them with proof that you're a real person (name, address, etc.) if you want a response. You can also contact your local MP.

23 March 2006

The Funeral Post

I don't like dead people.

I don't mean to say that I started disliking my grandmother when she passed away. I just don't like to be near the earthly remains.

I remember clearly when Nanny died, and having to go up to the coffin to pray. It just seemed absurd. And creepy.

So when Granny died, I refused to go into the room at the wake. Thus starting a tradition of avoiding bodies in coffins. I just decided that I didn't want my last memory of someone to be of them, motionless in an ornate wooden box. Since then, I avoided my great-great-aunt's wake, and the wakes or funerals of many a family friend, family of a friend, and friends of the family.

Actually, I can almost count on one hand how many opportunities I've had, but I know how life works; people die.

So tonight, when I went to Great-Uncle Ben's wake as the family representative (what with my parents overseas, and my brother in T-Dot), I had no choice. I had to walk into the room with his ten (yes, ten) kids, and I couldn't say, "Actually, your dead father's body creeps me out, so I'm just going to stay on this side of the room, thanks. No, cousins had to show me around to see all the other cousins I've never met or don't remember (the downside to growing up far from your relatives). And, of course, some of them were standing near the coffin.

So, I dealt with it. I will probably not choose to do that on a regular basis, but I sucked it up. I did not kneel by the coffin or spend time staring at him. I did notice that he looked better than the last I'd seen him -- in a picture from his daughter's wedding. But he also looked kind of plastic-y, and very thin.

Maybe I should have had more people die around me so I would be more comfortable with it.

Tomorrow is the funeral. I hope it will be a closed-casket service. The only thing worse than knowing the body is lying at the front of the church is seeing the body lying there.

I am selfish. I hope the service is short. I hope we don't have to stand by the grave for too long. I hope my uncle -- who came into town today, and is giving me a ride, is not going to spend too much time standing around chatting after.

I guess I need to sleep. Death vacations are tiring.

22 March 2006

Toilets will save the world! ... Uh, what?

I recently heard in the news that 70% of India's population is without "modern flushing toilets". Apparently, until that number goes down, the country will not rise to the economic challenges of the 21st century.

Um, is that so bad?

Are people really aware of how much waste is produced using flush toilets? Millions of litres of water are contaminated daily because we pee in a ceramic bowl and send it out to sea in a nice "envelope" of otherwise drinkable water.

Terri Lynn was recently on an environmental compound where they used compost toilets. It differs from an outhouse in that the toilet is indoors, and rather than pooping into a big pit, the waste is collected in a container, along with the (unbleached, biodegradable) toilet paper. Then you go to your handy bucket of sawdust, grab a big ol' scoop, and proceed to smother your newly deposited waste. These toilets are about as sanitary and as smelly as what we consider "conventional" toilets. The waste is kept contained, and on a daily basis, one does not have to come in contact with feces. When the container is full, one ideally brings it out to the larger compost pile, uses it as garden manure (ideal if you eat a diet low in saturated fats and preservatives, and high in organic, non-chemically fertilized foods), or -- in a progressive society -- it is picked up with other waste and brought to a municipal compost facility.

This isn't a new idea. In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo writes an entire chapter about flushing millions of dollars (I believe he calls the "francs") down the sewers. He was frankly obsessed with the sewers. Whole areas of his plot-line arefocusedd on the damn things.... I digress.

Human waste is not much different than animal waste in its ability to restore nutrients to the soil and protect vegetation from disease. Hugo posits that we should be collecting this waste and giving it to farmers, who spend (waste) millions of dollars a year on commercial fertilizers or trying to cultivate in poor-quality soils.

Back to India. The news story I heard talked about the people in the lowest caste who find employment cleaning out the poop bins of the upper classes and scraping it into the open-air sewers that run along streets in towns and villages across the nation. These people are not allowed to work elsewhere. The only way to crawl out of the gutter (excuse the pun), is when foreign aid sets up workshops where they can produce goods that get shipped overseas as fair trade goods.

But, if the good people in government would launch a massive infrastructure program, bringing indoor plumbing and flushing toilets to even the most humble mud shack, then suddenly the caste system would crumble and the Untouchable class would be liberated in a waterfall of glory. Except they'd all be completely unemployed. Oh, except for the ones who manage to scrub the poop smell off them long enough to get a job interview with municipal water services. Oh, but they're all women, so they would probably be denied employment based on patriarchal religious beliefs. Oh, well. At least no one has to touch poop anymore.

I think we in the Western world have learned that flushing toilets carry with them a host of their own problems. The city of Boston spent about $4 billion USD to clean up hundreds of years of sewage flow into its harbour. Many cities are being forced to build massive water treatment plants that use hundreds of kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. While not a bad idea for dealing with a problem, shouldn't we be looking at solutions on the front end, instead of quick-fix building projects that benefit multinational corporations and deprive cities of badly needed tax dollars that get re-routed to such projects?

When it comes to my own toilet excursions, I'm as squeamish as anyone. I do not like the thought of coming in close contact with poop (or worse,diarrheaa). I don't like the smell, I can't imagine the texture without gagging, I couldn't pick up after my own dog without some major gagging, and the thought of changing a diaper makes me seriously consider adopting a nice toilet-trained child in the 4-5 years range. Poop makes me uncomfortable. But I'm starting to think that I'm as much socially conditioned to not like poop as I am naturally aversive.

After all this time, haven't we come close to proving that flush toilets aren't the solution? They are another one of our modern conveniences constructed as a quick fix without consideration of the long-term implications or impact. It's all well and good to flush the potential disease away, but I think we should give some consideration to our little fishy friends who are suffocating in a cesspool we're helping create and sustain with every flush.

I'm not saying that we should all rip out our toilets and indoor plumbing. But we can support agencies that offer more economically viable and environmentally sustainable solutions to India's (and others') toilet woes, and encourage governments to do the same.

I'm not the only one who thinks so, though there are plenty of dissenters. I'm not going to do all yourresearchh for you, but I will get you started.

21 March 2006

A new way to rot your brain

Welcome to the airwaves. 6 pm EST.

20 March 2006

Think again

Think abortion is a bad idea?

19 March 2006

Nothing Doing

That is to say, I have nothing to do.

Essentially, I am waiting to hear back from Amanda about going for coffee. In the meantime, I am tired and lethargic. I'm not even bored, though I am amazed at the sheer lack of speed with which time is moving today.

In the shower earlier, I started composing an imaginary resignation:

Dear Dumbass,

I am writing to tender my resignation. I feel that the situation in the last few month has been demoralizing. I feel that I am not invited to be part of the team and that my presence is, at best, tolerated. I would prefer to be appreciated and valued.

While I understand that the situation is not all about me, I do not agree with your judgement that I am "self-absorbed". I strongly resent the implication, and consider such a declaration to be a poor management style designed to subjugate as opposed to solving the problem.

During the last few months in particular, you made a decision about my level of commitment to my job without soliciting any input from me. Rather than test your theory, you created a situation that made it increasingly difficult to address the root issue. As a result, I have been relegated to a pseudo-administrative position that does not fit the framework of my job description as presented when I signed my full-time contract.

At no time do I feel that constructive criticism was given that addressed the perceived problems; rather I was passed over on projects in favour of someone whom you arbitrarily determined to be "more reliable". If my work was not up to par, I feel you should have addressed this with me when it became a problem, as opposed to avoiding the issue and creating uncomfortable and compromising situations.

I have lost trust in your ability to lead the team, or to manage in a fair, unpredjudiced manner. I feel that your statement of me letting personal feelings affect my work is, at best, inconsistent, and at worst, hypocritical. I do not feel that my standing should depend on your mood of the day.

As such, I have decided to resume my career in education.

I wish you luck as you build the events business, and I hope that you are able to find a replacement who can better suit your needs and moods.

Sincerely,

minako


This isn't what I would actually say; it's a fantasy. However, should the time come, I really hope I do get to point out that he is a pompous, self-serving ass and that I am not deficient in my work ethic or ability to shoulder responsibility.

Maybe I'll send that to my mother and see what she says about it.

09 March 2006

Ray of Light

I had lunch with my former boss today. I think he's great. I only worked for him for 4 months, but I think it may have been one of my greatest work experiences ever.

Brian was my first events boss. We did a large-scale public event for the city. At the time, I don't think I understood how large-scale it was. I somehow got through it. Mostly by ignoring the large-scale factor, I think.

My boss was a good boss. He had a sense of humour, which I consider an essential trait. He also wasn't a dictatorial boss; also very important. He also trusted me. He would give me a stack of files and say, "Go work." I wouldn't have any clue what the files were or what I was supposed to do with them, so I just worked. If I was really stuck, I felt totally comfortable asking for help, bust mostly he just let me go at it in whatever way worked for me. I think that's the last time (excepting some practice or substitute teaching experiences) that I felt so supported by a superior (who isn't my father).

So, I took Brian (the boss), to lunch today. I have owed him one for a while. Probably since last summer, because I vaguely remember us sitting on a patio in the sun and me being worried about my skin turning red and peeling off in a lizard-like fashion.

Besides just liking Brian, I wanted to ask him for some advice on how to work with my current stupid boss. We never really got that far. He asked me some questions about how work was going, and I answered in the negative. I admitted to not really liking/respecting Don that much (at all). He admitted the same, having encountered him through business numerous times.

I didn't say, "I wish Don would quit and that Bristol would hire you," but I sure thought it with vigour.

Then Brian said, "Can I ask you a personal question?"

I said, "Shoot."

He asked how much I currently make, and I told him. Not typically a polite topic of conversation, but I don't mind from Brian. Acutally, in general I have no embarassment talking about how much I make. Hell, I could look up half my friends' salaries on the internet because they either work for school boards or government agencies. I might be off slightly, but that info is all public domain. I don't really think earnings are something people should be ashamed of, as long as you're not bragging or assuming that you are somehow entitled to more respect/perks/whatever because of a number on your T4. I guess that's the socialist in me...?

He then mentioned that someone on his staff is going on maternity leave. He mentioned that I might enjoy the job. I didn't even ask what the job was; I was thinking I'd enjoy anything that wasn't working with Don. But it's maternity leave (as mentioned) so it doesn't included an sense of permanancy at all. I did mention thinking about going back to teaching sooner than later, and it would be a nice jumping point since that definitive end date would be sometime during the 2006-07 school year.

I didn't commit to anything, but I expressed interest. I also suggested that maybe I could be seconded (sih-kond-ed -- under transitive verb, 4th definition) from my current job, which would allow me to come back after the term ended. He said he'd suggest it to Big Boss (aka, Dad) forthwith.

So, it's an exciting opportunity and could solve a tricky problem for me.

But really, it's just awesome to be reminded that I don't suck and that some people do think I'm good to work with and a good worker, etc.

The thought of working with Brian again is soooo tempting though, secondment or not.

08 March 2006

Happy International Women's Day

I'm not going to expostulate at length about feminism or the plight of women. Suffice it to say, there's still a lot of work to be done when it comes to equality between the sexes.

But today, let's take a moment and thank all (and list some -- alphabetically) of the women who made/make the world a better place.

Agnodice -- Ancient Greek Physician
Isabella Andreini -- Actor, Writer
Mary Anning -- Paleontologist
Susan B. Anthony -- Civil Rights Leader
Joan Baez -- Musician, Activist
Pearl Bailey -- Actor, Singer, Philanthropist
Aphra Behn -- Author
Sarah Bernhardt -- Actor
Elizabeth Blackwell -- First American Female Medical Doctor
Agnes Campbell Macphail -- First woman elected to Canadian House of Commons
Kim Campbell -- Canadian Prime Minister
Emily Carr -- Artist
Charlotte Church -- Soprano Singer
Helen Creighton -- Folklorist, Folksong Collector
Marie Curie -- Physicist, Discovered Radium, Pioneered Cancer Treatments
Dorothy Dandridge -- Actor
Simone de Beauvoir -- Philosopher
Properzia dé Rossi -- Artist
Marlene Dietrich -- Actor
Queen Elizabeth I -- British Monarch
Ella Fitzgerald -- Jazz Singer
Betty Friedan -- Social Activist, Feminist
Elizabeth Fry -- Political Activist
Indira Gandhi -- Indian Prime Minister
Hatshepsut -- Egyptian Pharaoh
General Fu Hao -- Shang Dynasty Warrior
Felicity Huffman -- Actor
Hypatia of Alexandria -- Mathematician
Laura Ingalls Wilder -- Frontier Author
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre -- Composer
Joan of Arc -- Saint, War Captain
Frida Kahlo --Artist
Cindy Klassen -- Olympic Speed Skater
Silken Laumann -- Olympic Rower
Maud Lewis -- Artist
Joni Mitchell -- Musician, Painter
Lucy Maud Montgomery -- Author
Martha Munger Black -- Adventurer, Canadian MP
Emily Murphy -- Women's Rights Activist, First Canadian Magistrate, Author
Martina Navratilova -- Tennis Player
Sandra Day O'Connor -- US Supreme Court Justice
Rosa Parks -- Civil Rights Activist
Eva Perón -- Actor, Activist
Beatrix Potter -- Author, Illustrator, Biologist
Harriet Quimby -- Pilot, Journalist
Sally Ride -- Astronaut, Physicist
Sappho -- Poet
Sandra Schmirler -- Olympic Curler
Sophie Scholl -- Social Activist
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton -- Educator, Philanthropist
Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales -- Social Activist
Gloria Steinem -- Human Rights Activist
Junko Tabei -- Mountain Climber
Shirley Temple Black -- Actress, Ambassador
Mother Teresa of Calcutta -- Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Social Activist
Karen Uhlenbeck -- Mathematician
Queen Victoria -- British Monarch
Ruth Westheimer -- Phychologist, Sexologist
Rose Wilder Lane -- Journalist, Author
Mary Wollstonecraft -- Philosopher, Feminist
Virginia Woolf -- Author
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu -- Writer, Brought Vaccine to Western World (smallpox)
Maud Younger -- Social Activist, Suffragette
Zenobia -- Warrior Queen

I tried to find someone whose last name starts with an X. I couldn't find one.

Take a look at what some of these women have done. And tell me about some of your own favourite women who make/made our world a better place. My personal favourite, besides L. M. Montgomery, of course, is Lady Mary Wortley Montagu -- she predated the reported inventor of the smallpox vaccine by about 75 years. Take that, men!

Oh, yeah, and thanks to my mom. She's always been a pretty great woman to look up to.

02 March 2006

A real post

Sort of.

I can't really say that I don't have time to blog, rather I don't have the energy. If life required any more mental energy right now, I'd have to phone it in.

But what's happening, you ask.

A lot lot of dick all. Except that work has been terrible and stressful lately. I keep looking for that part of my job that I enjoy so much, and I can't find it. And not because it has become mundane or complicated or too much, but rather because my boss SUCKS.

About 6 weeks ago, I started feeling like I wasn't part of anything that was happening in my division. When I looked more closely, there was plenty going on, just not with me. I was sitting at the back of the office, struggling to keep my eyes open (boredom), while everyone else on the team is freaking and stressing about how much work they had to do.

I approached my sucky boss to find out what was going on and it turned out that everyone had questions about whether I was committed to my job. Now, I'm the kind of person who likes the direct approach, even if it's cause for discomfort. I would have handled this situation with a meeting and a discussion. Mostly because it's obvious that they were all going crazy with projects and could have used some help. Their (the team) choice was to exclude me. This led to much paranoia about my job security and lots of doubts about what I was doing.

When I tried to address it, I was greeted with disdain. I was offered a "performance review", which was more like a crapfest. I cried in the office of just about everyone in the division. I cried at home. I cried to my parents. I cried to just about anyone I talked to about it. I cried for a good three weeks.

I've mostly stopped crying, although I still want to tear Don's throat most days. I still sit in the back and do a while lot of nothing while everyone else complains about how busy they are. I've offered my help, but it's met with little enthusiasm. Earlier this week I got to pick photos off a CD. That was exciting. :

My talents are going to waste. My enjoyment of this job is diminishing and it has nothing to do with the job. I thought that if I left this job, it would be because I found it to be too much. Instead, it's not enough. And instead of telling me that things are fine, my employer is tell me I'm "self-absorbed" for being worried about how I'm not included in the new projects that are coming up.

Yes, he actually used those words.

22 February 2006

God's abortions

I stole this link from Bitch Ph.D.

Stress in Early Pregnancy Linked to Miscarriage - Forbes.com

I guess if you really don't want it, you might not have to have it....

22 January 2006

Election Eve

This was sent to me in an e-mail from my mother. I like the idea of people voting for what they might actually believe instead of what the media has presented.

After the last US presidential election, a poll was conducted asking voters what their thoughts were on a number of government and policy issues, comparing the Republican platform to that of the Democrats. To their surprise, a strong majority of the people who had voted Republican resoundingly agreed with Democrat policies.

So why the disconnect? It seems that many people base their vote on superficial things like "He seems trustworthy" or "That's just how I always vote". Unfortunately, trustworthiness can't be legislated but a lot of other things that are much more likely to impact your life can.

Below is a link to a "Quiz" created by the CBC to help undecided or uninformed voters determine which party platform best represents their views on actual ISSUES. For each of 12 main campaign issues, you select whether you agree or disagree (or neither) with 4 statements. Each statement represents the agenda of one party, although you aren't told which until the end.

So please take a few minutes to go through it - you'll feel much better about your vote than if you were to base it on mud-slinging and rhetoric....

CBC Canada Votes 2006 :: Vote By Issue Quiz

16 January 2006

Nothing kills a good mood like a Monday

There's something about waking up on a Monday morning that is just spirit-crushing. The thought that you have to go through another 5 days before you take control of your life again is a little demoralizing. So, even though I was fully awake when my alarm went off at 7:12 this morning, I just couldn't move. Off it went. 7:26 turned into a half-hour snooze marathon. All I accomplished was being 15 minutes late for work, and more cranky and overtired than when my alarm went off in the first place.

I was in denial. Saturday was a write-off as far as I'm concerned. I had another crying fit. I went to massage (ow). Andrew and I attempted to go to the Farmers' Market, but we were too late. After running some other errands, I decided to go for a walk. I was out for about 45 minutes and it was just about the least invigorating walk I've ever been on. Part-way out, I started wondering how I was going to get back home. I was so tired in so many ways. I was ready to let a doctor hook me up to an anti-depressant IV.

Last year I wrote a post about SAD. The more I read about it, the more I'm convinced that I'm subject to it. Of course, there's one line on WebMD that says that one should not self-diagnose SAD -- a doctor needs to be involved. They don't really explain the dangers, but I would suspect that it relates to misdiagnosing more serious, long-term forms of depression.

I meant to talk to my doctor about the possibility that I have SAD back in the late-summer/early-fall. But it seemed so irrelevent at the time. My original logic was that by talking to him early, I could avoid a prescription and get on a waiting list and be able to talk to a mental health professional by the time it started to affect me. Well, now I think it may have crept up on me and attackeed full-force over Christmas.

I'm mostly afraid that it's too late to do anything this year. I talked to my favourite Health Shoppe proprietor and he recommended SAM-e. He had a bottle on sale for half-price, so I bought it and decided to give it a try. I sure am self-medicating and self-diagnosing! I sure don't really care right now! I'm more concerned with getting back to feeling more like myself and less like a waterfall.

I did feel a lot better yesterday, but I'm not sure what the difference was. I still didn't sleep well Saturday night; the weather was still shite. I woke up in a good mood. I decided to share my good mood with Robyn. I hopped in the car and drove down to w/v to spend the afternoon with her. We tried to go to our favourite cheese farm but we didn't have the "chance" that they advertised might facilitate them being open on a Sunday in January. We took a pass on the wool shop and instead settled on painting pottery. Robyn started using pointillism to paint a sunflower on a platter. I started on a mug and intended to make it pretty with crescent moons and stars, but ran out of time so instead opted for a "C" in puff paint behind the handle. It's a big mug. I plan on bringing it to work and using it for massively quenching my tea cravings.

After the pottery place closed, we went to the pub where Kurt works, ostensibly so Robyn could get the house keys. We stayed for almost 2 hours and chatted and had a small snack. I left around 7 to drive back home, fearful of the dropping temperatures and whether the roads would be getting icy. In the 2 hours we were in the pub, there was a noticible temperature drop; like winter decided to make an appearance.

I enjoy day trips with Robyn. I don't want her to go somewhere that makes those impossible. Sure, other people can go to the cheese farm with me, and there are pottery places in town, but it will be different. Sort of how phone dates with Foo or Lani are fun, but don't compare to Foo-time or a sushi date. I know I should say "I need to make some local friends," but really I just want my friends to be closer. My weeks can be quite busy and relatively social, but I crave more.

I wish today were a holiday. Coming down off yesterday's high is proving to be anti-fun. Can we fix this, please? I don't want to wait 3 months for Easter. In some Caribbean countries they have snow festivals with the white stuff shipped from nothern climes. I think we need a tropical festival where someone sets up heat lamps and trucks in sand.