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.