31 December 2008

Should we be worried?

This is a screen shot that I took of my iGoogle page yesterday morning. Pretty innocuous, right? Nice and festive for the season. I've blurred personal references for obvious reasons.

Here's what I want to draw your attention to:

WHAT?! Who screens these ads? I'm actually too afraid to click on the link because I'm worried about what I'll find. It could be some ultra-fundamentalist cult. Or just a really religious economist. My real fear is that it has something to to with Barak Obama becoming president. That would just make me cry.

18 December 2008


I had an "I'm old" week last week.

1) My cold. I called in sick Monday for it, but lucked into a snow day. I went to work Tuesday and was told repeatedly by various and sundry people that I shouldn't be there, so I left that evening with my genius plan of staying home on Wednesday. It was the tiredness that made me feel old. By the end of Wednesday, I had discovered that activity made me very tired, but that I was otherwise capable of living as usual. Then Thursday happened.

2) My neck. As I was getting out of the shower Thursday morning (at a decent time because I was back to work!), there was a loud CRACK! A series of them, actually. One giant crack, and two loud pops. It's not unusual for my neck to crack. It's the routine sound of my over-tight tendons snapping over my vertebrae. It's not a pleasant sound, but relatively harmless and, I've been assured, unlikely to give me any form of arthritis.

This crack was different. As soon as I heard it, I immediately started twisting and stretching to try to stop what was quickly becoming the inevitable tightening of my neck muscles. Inevitability won out. I stood tensely in the bathroom trying to figure out what to do. I decided that lying down and getting the weight of my giant head off my neck and shoulders could only help. Gasping and mewing, I made my way to the bedroom, with a quick, semi-conscious detour to the living room to grab my cell phone. I can't explain why I did that, but it turned out to be a good idea.

Once on my back on the bed, I started some deep breathing to try to relax and counteract the jolts of pain that were emanating from my left neck and shoulder. The radio was on, so I tried to concentrate on that and not the pain. After about 10 minutes went by, I started making attempts to get up again.

To no avail. I was basically paralysed from the waist up. Any movement ignited another flash of pain. I screamed and yelled practically every time I tried. I was glad my neighbour was away. She probably would have thought I was being murdered. Probably by my ex since she has no use for him.

I tried over and over to get up. I had three ongoing thoughts: "There's nothing wrong."; "I have to go to work." and; "Fuck; I can't move, I can't get up. Fuck, this hurts." All those thoughts were in my head. Out loud there was lots of swearing, screaming, whimpering, and groaning.

This is where my Blackberry comes in handy. I first tried to find the e-mail with the phone number of the guy I was supposed to call if I needed a sub. No luck. Then I called my friend who tends to get to school pretty early to see if she could inform someone. No luck. Then I tried to bypass that and call my friend who subs for me on occasion. No luck. Then I called another friend I work with and asked her to look up the number for me. She did. I called the supervisor and told him I needed a sub. I apologized for not letting him know earlier. He said no problem, asked me to e-mail a lesson plan, and didn't ask any other questions. Typing a whole day's lesson plans on a Blackberry was fun....

Then, after all this, I called my parents. And promptly started to cry and panic and freak out and all that good stuff. My dad handed me off to my mom, who offered to come over. I told her to wait until after rush hour, since I couldn't move then anyway. While I waited, I shivered (I was still only wearing a wet towel) and dozed.

When Mom showed up, she helped me get up (much screaming ensued), get dressed (how embarrassing), and eat. She called her chiropractor and made an appointment for me. Then she left me on the couch with an ice pack for an hour while she went to yoga.

A couple of hours later, I was face down on a massage table after a scan of the nerves in my back revealed wide-spread inflammation, compression, and misalignment of my vertebrae. The bulk of the problems were in my upper back and neck, with a few problems lower down.

After a chat about my various aches and pains over the years, the link was made: my problems are related to my jaw. The same jaw for which I am currently being treated. It really is all in my head. Years of pain and the resulting ridicule most likely originate from my crooked, off-centre lower jaw.

Actually, knowing that makes me feel less old; less like I'm falling apart before 30 and more justified in feeling the pain. It also makes me want to smack all the people who were ever rude to me about my poor health, calling me lazy, etc.

I'd just like to say that I'm glad that I live in a country where I can have this pain and someone will fix it for me without my having to prove anything to anyone. I'm just sad that dental isn't covered, because I now owe a lot of money for these teeth.

Oh, right. Bills. That's the other thing that makes me feel old....

17 December 2008

I hope he hates his parents when he grows up

I can understand lots of things. I can understand wanting to be original. I can understand wanting to stand out. I can understand wanting to be known for something that sets you apart from other people.

I can't understand wanting to be know for this. A set of parents in New Jersey named their son Adolf Hitler Campbell. And they're annoyed that it upsets people.

They think they should be allowed to name their kids what they want. I think they named their kid so they could make a big deal of it when the kid was denied service or discriminated against because people found it offensive.

12 December 2008

Someone else already had his kids...

... but if Jon Stewart is up for another round, I'll have some too.

Watch this clip of his interview with former US presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. The Comedy Network won't let me embed it (and if you're outside Canada, you'll have to look elsewhere for it). The interview aired on Tuesday 9 December 2008.

It's so worth it for even the one question: "At what age did you decide you weren't a homosexual?"

11 December 2008

Buy foreign. You'll spend on domestic anyway.

From matthewgood.org comes this lovely poster:

That's what it feels like to me, too.

It kind of frightens me that companies of this size can't follow market trends and predict an outcome. This started before gas prices skyrocketed over the past few years. The fact that the so-called "Big Three" American automakers pissed around for so long is a pretty sad commentary on the state of business and ethics.

I fully understand why it's better for the governments to bail them out. They'd be looking at thousands of job losses that would ultimately have a worse economic impact than the money being thrown at this fiasco by the Americans (and subsequently the Canadians, since we have no real auto industry of our own and rely on international investment for our auto sector jobs).

I hope the unions are prepared to make some concessions to justify this expenditure. Before you pull out your claws, I'm pro-union -- within reasonable limits. I'm a teacher. When I do the calculations, I make just over $26/hr before taxes. When I hear of auto workers making upwards of $80/hr, I do have to ask why. Why do some of them make more than 3 times my salary when I was in school for 7 years? How can they justify the swollen salaries when their employers are asking for billions of dollars from the government. And in a capitalist society at that. What ever happened to letting the market determine the winners and losers?

No, I agree that the cost of letting these car companies fall apart is too high. And as I lie here on my second sick day this week in excruciating pain with the luxury of my unionized benefits to pay for 80% of the massage and chiropractic I spontaneously needed today because of the domino effect of my myofascial malocclusion which is being treated in part by orthodontic benefits of said unionized health plan (gasp for air!), I will contemplate what I would be willing to give up. For example, the news came down today that my own union pension plan has a $1.5 billion unfunded liability (read: deficit). Will I be asked to vote on a proposal to top that up at the expense of something else, like dental or acupuncture? I guess it's a real possibility, if not for the current round of negotiations, then at some point during this apparent extended economic decline we're facing down. But if the government can't tell me that my money isn't about to be well-spent on some flagging car manufacturers, I'm prepared to fight that point all the way to the bank.

09 December 2008

Compelled to Act

Earlier this year, I watched Hotel Rwanda, about a man who bargained almost everything he owned and used every connection he had to keep people alive in the face of the Rwandan Genocide. Of course, it was given the Hollywood treatment.

Last week I started Shake Hands with the Devil. I had to turn it off partway through because of how disturbing the images were. I finished it up this afternoon. I'm sure it had its own cinematic flourishes, but it was treated very seriously and respectfully. It's based on the autobiographical account of Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian Major-General who was the Force Commander of UNAMIR -- the UN's mission to provide support and stability to the country -- when the genocide took place.

Something very stunning caught my attention. When Dallaire (played by Roy Dupuis) was talking to a reporter about the situation, they discussed the use of the term "genocide" in respect to the civil war. Apparently the Americans were instrumental in preventing the label from being attached to the crisis, much like they have been in Darfur, Sudan. It turns out that, if the UN applies the label to a crisis, nations are compelled to act. As such, certain nations fight tooth and nail to prevent that label from being applied. I guess if the conflict doesn't serve an underlying economic purpose, there's no point in taking action. Why should we try to uphold principles enshrined in legal documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Or even the Golden Rule.

I can't begin to unpack the politics and the pettiness that leads to this level of atrocity in one blog entry. People have been writing articles and dissertations on it for years. It all comes down to the same hand-wringing and lamenting, "How could we let this happen?!"

Well, we did. The government officials did, the media did, and the complacency of people too far removed from the situation, too busy doom-saying about NAFTA and too busy crying about Kurt Cobain* allowed them too.

I often get blank stares when I talk about my involvement with Amnesty International. But the people who work for and with AI are trying to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. Like, for real. They are trying to point out the abusive regimes that treat their citizens (or certain groups of citizens) like crap. They are trying to motivate more progressive governments to intervene and to set the right kind of example. They are trying to make people all over the world aware of things that are going on so that they don't happen in silence anymore.

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day. It is the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. I didn't meant to turn this blog into an appeal, but if you're interested in knowing what you can do on this one day to make a difference, check you the Write for Rights.

I really wanted to draw attention to Romeo Dallaire for his courage. I wanted to thank him for standing by what he believes. I know he didn't do it alone. I know that many other people chose to stay with him to keep working for peace in Rwanda. I wish I knew all their names too. On behalf of all of them, and all the people who have fought and still do like Romeo Dallaire did and does, Senator Dallaire is my Hero of the Week.

*I am not trying to downplay Kurt Cobain's death. I happen to believe that he was an incredible musical and artistic force that gave voice to another disenchanted (my) generation. But in the grand scheme of global events, and the events of the following days -- should have been a blip.

07 December 2008

New Beginnings

I feel like doing a personal post.

My friends know about my affinity for Felicity. This isn't the first time I've mentioned it on this blog. I'm now sure there's a reason I didn't watch it when it was first being broadcast (which kind of scares me -- what's in store when I watch Dawson's Creek and Gilmore Girls?) because it sure makes a lot of sense to me now. Or, maybe, if I'd watched it then, I would have been completely insufferable as I extolled my learnings.

I'm not trying to say that the universe is telling me something when I watch WB (now CW) shows. I don't think that I'm going to meet a man from Krypton or that I'm going to raise a family in Bed Stuy. But beneath all its preachiness, there's something powerful that I get from watching this show. There is definitely a theme of independence that emerges from the show. Unfortunately, it often ends up being subjugated by the continual story arc of Felecity + Ben = Meant to Be.

There's all kinds of love and hooking up and unrequited feelings in the show, which I guess is not dissimilar to real life. I know there things are happening every day. I've been to a bar the past two weekend and watched it play out for dozens of people. The dance continues.

Every so often, I encounter it myself. I can hardly say that I met my soulmate this weekend, but I didn't expect what I ran into, and the yawning abyss of possibility opened up to me again. But no matter what, I still have to do it for myself. We all do. That's the theory put forward by Felicity. It's what I keep forgetting.

Of course, because it's television, we only have to watch the episode to see how it ends:

Reality dictates that we don't get to know when someone will realize how desperately they need to be with us that they would take a bus to New Jersey to atone for past sins. In reality, we have to sit tight, and keep going. Nothing stays the same for long.

It's funny how those same words would terrify me under different circumstances.

I can't embed this video, but here's the mantra.

06 December 2008

Who needs democracy?

Should we have a coalition government? Should the opposition suck it up and pack it in, like Stephen Harper hoped they would do?

Rarely, to some, does Canadian politics warrant the level of interest and excitement that leads ordinary citizens to tune into CPAC to hear the next low blow in the debate, but it happened. Sitting in my staffroom, I heard people get excited and expound on the necessity of either prorogation or new government. "Facts" and numbers were thrown around with the ease and simplicity which usually has people turning over to take a nap. Had I attempted a conversation about politics a few weeks ago, the force of people's yawns would have blown me out the door. Now they all want to talk about it -- loudly.

What gets to people are the reasons. Some will go on about the attack on collective bargaining embedded in the financial update. Others will point to the trampling of hard-won women's rights. The most popular arguement -- because it was at the top of the list of Conservative talking points -- is funding to the other political parties.

Whether you believe that political parties should get all their funding from those who support them, or think that all political campaigning should be meted out equally so all parties work from a level playing field, I think the point was best made (as far as I've seen) by Rick Mercer this week on his show.

04 December 2008

Tell us, Jesus

It's been a while since I've posted. I've been so busy that I rarely get to see the inside of my condo in daylight. I hope to rectify that starting next week.

Until then, let's hear about Prop 8 in an amusing way.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die