21 December 2005

This year's new web site

About once a year I get sick of my web site. Colours, graphics and layout mostly, but sometimes content as well. I'm tossing around a few ideas, so I've posted a link to the pages I'm testing at the moment. There's no content, but please feel free to comment on navigation, style, appearance, etc.

09 December 2005

Today is brag day

Some of you may have heard me rant and rave about a really cool magazine I've started writing for called Cahoots. It arrived in the mail last night and I was genuinely wowed. I called my sister and said, "The fact that I've got a piece in here is irrelevant; I totally LOVE this magazine!"

The brave, bright ladies who put it together deserve all the credit. I also quickly discovered that I was part of something more than a magazine. It's a network of women who care about friendship, art, literature, families, humor, imperfection, travel, cool stuff and pretty much anything that actually interests real women.

I got to read the other submissions, find a new blog to browse, embarrass my sister (there's a photo essay in there using a really old pic of us) and soak up the art (which I'm very excited to see balancing all the text).

That said, I am pretty stoked to see my very own column (there's the vanity ;)

But at least I won't send you all out to a nearby store to pick it up. Mostly because I don't yet know where it's being sold.

Cahoots Magazine

01 December 2005

Don't get attached

A former prof used to say, "Kill your Darlings." She told us that any sentence or phrase we thought was literary genius was probably just a stumbling block for readers.

I've had to do this many times. For length or flow, I've had to amputate sentences and paragraphs with reluctance and remorse. But my prof was right. A mercy shot to the temple for any beloved nugget of prose is usually a good thing.

Next time you're writing a blog post, news article or promo, try it. You'll be unpleasantly surprised.

15 November 2005

Fashion victims make web pages too

Do you ever see someone walking down the street dressed as though they genuinely have no sense of style? The visual equivalent of a hoarse cat singing? Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I feel sympathy, sometimes both. Well, these people have as much access to computers as they do tacky retail outlets. And so they build pages and sites that really bite.

It's not just an issue of having access to top-shelf software. Just like fashion isn't about having hundreds and thousands of bucks to blow in boutiques. I shop in second hand stores and off sale racks. But I'm pretty sure it doesn't show too badly, as I apply basic style and trend knowledge. The equivalent in web design is to write your own code, adding scripts from how-to sites and advice pages when you don't have Dreamweaver, Flash or ColdFusion.

Unfortunately, not all technologically challenged web editors/authors put the puzzle pieces together. Check out some really funny (if you didn't design them that is) examples of ridiculous and horrible web design at:

Web Pages That Suck

09 November 2005

Dark-sided in Ladner

I was going to call this post "Undead in Ladner", but watching a little reality TV tonight changed my mind. Jeff and I don't normally get sucked into reality shows, but we caught Trading Spouses last week and just had to see the sequel.

This completely insane (and/or outrageously selfish and closed-minded) lady named Margaret Perrin completely lost it calling herself a "God warrior" when she got home and realized that an astrologer really had been in her very Christian home.

Not that I see the logic, but I'm starting to realize who these parents are that hate Harry Potter books. Margaret Perrin and her lot are the reason most sane Christians mumble and look at the ground when they start talking about religion.

So to celebrate Margaret's entrance into pop culture history, here are a few pics of my wholesome Halloween :)

05 November 2005

People problems

I'm taking a page from a fellow blogger's book (he'll know who he is) and opting for vague societal commentary today.

As a person who often gets accused of "not liking people" and having "very little visible emotion", I pay close attention to my interpersonal relations. I've recently noticed two behaviours that have the capacity to jolt me out of my daily gap.

First is the person who for one reason or other finds a way to be needlessly rude or insulting. A friend that suddenly treats you like vapour. A former acquaintance that slightly wrinkles her nose at seeing you again. Second is the person who latches onto others out of noticeable loneliness and visible desperation. Another passenger on the bus reaching out for a companion. A classmate more interested in finding a friend than following the lesson of the day.

I know what it's like to feel irritated at spending time with someone I have nothing to say to (out of dislike or incompatibility). And I'm familiar with the lost, helpless sense of being completely alone inside a city I don't even know how to navigate. So for the most part, I feel compassion that overwhelms offence.

Whether these types illicit frustration, anger, empathy or sadness, they highlight the larger problem of mass dissociation of individuals in contemporary society. Without sounding too sociological, it strikes me that the solution is not to figure out how to tolerate or change - case by case - people suffering from loneliness and bitterness. The ideal would be to cultivate support systems in a society to proud or afraid to talk about something as simple as unhappiness.

Clearly consumerism, drugs (legal and otherwise) and a variety of electronic entertainment has failed to remedy the void most people feel. Shopping won't make you cooler. Video games can't replace friends. Maybe my clinical way of looking at the world around me is the reason I'm so often taken for being detached and unemotional. Maybe I should have been born before people were isolated from each other by industry and technology.

28 October 2005

What is The Meatrix?

Looking for an excuse to become a vegetarian or vegan? Or take on nutritional and animal rights activism?

Check out:

The Meatrix:

20 October 2005

Give me strength... no patience

Have you ever been asked to perform a task as inefficient and unlikely to succeed as relocating a sandbox with a pair of chopsticks? Contemplate that the next time you wonder what it's like to affect meaningful change in even the most receptive community.

Dabbling in volunteer work again over the last month and a half has reminded me how challenging the non-profit sector is. And how important it is for society as a whole to support their endeavours in addition to government and charitable funding.

It has also curbed my impatience for things like crowded buses, bad weather and exorbitant (I know you love that word, Jeff) airline tickets. With a wider lens to view my life, I'm able to enjoy what I have and do each day, here and now.

12 October 2005

A sense of humor

In a coffee shop this morning, I overheard a man tell the woman next to him that she had no sense of humor. This is something I hear from my boyfriend regularly. I think I may have solved the problem though. Ladies, if you hear this comment from a man I suggest the following response:

"You know what is funny? A wannabe wit fumbling over a bad joke and realizing he's not as hilarious as he thought he was."

07 October 2005

Teachers and babysitters

While listening to radio DJs discuss child care options during the BC teacher's strike, one solution seems obvious.

Do all teachers need to man the picket lines? I believe them when they say they're doing this because they care about children. Why not help care for them in the meantime? I'm not implying that teachers are glorified babysitters, but it would help if they wore that hat temporarily.

I don't envy teachers having to do battle over the education system in this province. But I also empathize with parents who haven't had to worry about daytime care in years and are suddenly faced with having to stay home from their own jobs or shell out for expensive sitters.

Not having children myself or being a teacher, I may be way off base with this assessment. While I may be oversimplifiying a situation that I have no direct experience with, I still think it would be a fantastic gesture on the part of any teacher(s) that faciliated care and supervision for students that need it.

I guess we'll see what happens if this goes on for awhile.

01 October 2005

Breathing through a flattened straw

My mother has an excellent perspective on asthma - a condition we share. "You have two choices. Breathe or don't breathe." The latter obviously solves the problem permanently, but the former requires constant resourcefulness. Which pisses me off two-fold.

1) I am treated like an addict when I seek medication, lifestyle advice and other remedies from various medical professionals.

2) Why the hell can't my lungs just work properly to begin with?

Allergies, which I was fortunate enough to pick up from my father, compound the problem. The medicine for which makes me stoned (not in a fun way) and takes away my appetite (similar to the spacers and braces diet; not a nutritional choice I'd recommend from personal experience). Besides:

Asthma is Sexy

27 September 2005

Communication quandary

Who do we speak to when we write? Who listens? This is relevant for more than just bloggers and writers. For anyone who wants a "voice" in this world, the question is crucial. I knew that people read what I wrote long before I started a blog. I also knew that many, MANY, more people on this earth had never read so much as a character of my work. So how and why does a person obtain an audience? An audience that has meaning for them? Some of us only want our nearest and dearest reading our words. Others could care less if mom and dad follow their careers as long as strangers across North America buzz about their work in coffee shops. I suggest anyone creatively unsatisfied would feel an excellent release in discovering the answer to why they create and contribute the work they do.

16 September 2005

Censorship at Walmart

Maybe some of us dislike Walmart for running small businesses into the ground and spreading more minimum-wage, retail employment. At the very least, most educated North American and British residents (ASDA in the UK) have mixed feelings about the mega-mart.

As a youth employment counsellor, I liked that my clients had a welcoming, somewhat forgiving employer. As a disillusioned consumer not wealthy enough to buy whatever I feel like, Walmart was a reasonable source of art supplies, cosmetics, drugs and clothing. However, my lefty journalist side was always bothered by their domination of the large low-end retail market. I reached the boiling point this summer when a co-worker pointed out that not only do they close down Mom and Pop, they exert a highly unethical form of censorship on print magazines.

I've been meaning to post this article for awhile. It's still timely though, so scan it and think twice about Walmart.

The Wal-Mart Thought Police

09 September 2005

Radley: The dog with cow's skin

Unpacking the last of my long term storage today after my latest move. And I came across this small leather dog. He was a present from my aunt at the end of a visit to Edinburgh almost exactly two years ago. I made a comment that I thought purses sporting those tiny scottie dogs were really cute and I was sorry for not having bought one. As she had two Radley purses, she gave me the dog decoration from one. To me, he's a souvenir of my trip and my aunt. But it occurs to me that attaching him to my purse may be the sad equivalent of painting a Nike swoosh on dollar store canvas shoes. I love him anyway.

And now for something completely different.

Last weekend I was mortified to hear that raped women needed to be rescued from a hurricane refuge centre in Texas. When I saw the article below I thought "MOTEO!" Nevermind that police and the army weren't watching carefully enough - they shouldn't have to. It disturbs me deeply that North American society still produces vicious predators in human suits.

Rapes in New Orleans Chaos Were Avoidable

08 September 2005

Wanna be a TV vigilante?

For anyone frustrated by the brain-sucking power of contemporary television, or just interested in a little troublemaking:


05 September 2005

No thanks, I'm just looking

After chatting with one of my non-blogging friends this past weekend I was reminded that many of you read these posts, yet never comment. I know I've said it to a few individuals, but I'd like to reiterate that all browsers are welcome. I know several bloggers that get annoyed by non-commenters, declaring that they don't want visitors who just hang back in the shadows. Some bloggers relieve that frustration by using some kind of tracking script to be aware who reads their site. Not to say that I never would, but I do not at this time track my visitors.

I do however, read without commenting all the time. There are several blogs I check in on without interacting at all, ever. I am always aware that anyone on earth with Internet access could possibly read my blog or geocities site.

Bloggers need to be comfortable with the fact that their audience may be bigger than the sum of their comments. If you can't handle that; if you don't want an anonymous audience for your musings, keep your journal under your mattress, not on the world wide web. I mean that more as a caution than a critique and direct it to naive bloggers who might blush to find out exactly who peeks in on their pages.

26 August 2005

Nesting habits of the urban communications specialist

Choosing the warmest, brightest habitat, most female communications specialists are surrounded by windows, several stories above the ground.

After an initial settling period, she begins to line her walls with brightly coloured marketing material. She will also layer her desk with faxes, post-it notes and business cards. A scribbled on paper calendar and a whiteboard are also commonly found close by.

Spot the communications specialist amongst other urban females by looking for business casual clothing and a slightly preoccupied demeanor. Her tendancy to brainstorm internally at random may be mistaken for absent-mindedness, but don't be fooled.

23 August 2005

Adventures on BC Transit

Yesterday's bus ride home had two very interesting moments.

The first was when a lady sat down next to me speaking broken English to an adjacent passenger about her "master" and what a "nice man" he is. I didn't catch much more of the conversation between these two Asian ladies, but it occurred to me that at least one of them was a mail-order bride. I felt genuine panic as I contemplated that this live person considered herself indentured to someone else. But judgment aside, I was also a little fascinated. All the years I've been riding public transit in Victoria and Vancouver and I had always thought fellow passengers on their way to ESL classes were visiting students, funded by parents or guardians. I wondered how many were learning English to better serve recently acquired masters.

I also saw my first hybrid bus while I was waiting for a #28 at Hillside Mall. Other than the fact that the word "Hybrid" was painted on the side, I couldn't tell the difference.

18 August 2005

Rethink Pink

Does the advertising industry have the capacity to act as a benefactor to feminism? It seems that the sheer practicality of listening to the majority of women is forcing marketers and advertisers to revise their strategies.

This isn't news. But has it finally become effective in changing the way society views female bodies? Led by Queen Latifa, plus size models have been moving into the limelight for years. Fashion magazines and major retailers have all picked up the buzz that women not only can't, but refuse to fit one size. Still, stereotypes haven't changed, but I'm optimistic that my friends, aunts, cousins and other beloved women will not have to endure body image ideals much longer. I think once Latifa's models conquer the runway, the transition will be complete. I'll be watching.

In the meantime, check out an interesting portal called Rethink Pink on marketing to women. Strange twist that the very industry guilty of creating unrealistic expectations may turn around and break them apart.

Advertising to women: A turn-on or a turn-off?

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

15 August 2005

Envy and Equality

What conceivable positive purpose could envy serve? Isn't human equality a noble higher goal - and unquestionably good?

Consider the possibility that envy, born of inequality, can create a drive to improve ourselves. Envy can be part of what urges athletes, artists, thinkers, business people and others to achieve and surpass past accomplishments. When people better themselves, competing against their own personal best or others around them, ripples of progress affect everyone.

In making each person in the world literally equal, therefore destroying envy, we take away uniqueness. The distinctiveness we all value would be lost. Equal human rights and a literal lack of differentiation are two very separate ideas. The latter being the problem utopians encountered in Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.

Read Harrison Bergeron at:

07 August 2005

Moving again

Each time I pack and move from house to house, I get another confirmation that transient international life would never have been good for me. I hate moving. So does everyone else, but it's not just the hassle that bugs me. Losing the familiarity of my surroundings bothers me too. Even in a poorly lit suite plagued by problems with minimal access to laundry, lack of privacy and unstable parking. Not to mention the nightmare of nightly screeching cat fights.

I'm a little disappointed that my desire to see far off countries is overruled by my need for stability. Dorky as it is, I need to feel at home more than I need to see new horizons. I've never lived in one place longer than 2 years in the last 10. The average being 8 months to 1 year, it's exhausting never feeling free to imprint myself on my living space. I still hope to have more overseas adventures in the not-to-distant future, but I'll be so happy when this move is over and I can settle somewhere again - for awhile at least.

27 July 2005

Dell Inspiron 5150

I am officially addicted to my laptop. I was warned; several friends and coworkers even encouraged me, swearing by their own portable computing devices. Now I'm hauling this thing on city busses, ferries, planes and happily plugging in where and when ever I can. I've even thought about buying a wireless router (I've seen them on sale at Future Shop for $20) when I relocate to Vic West this fall. The novelty of the Compaq laptop Jeff bought me still hadn't worn off when I changed jobs and cities in March. While I look forward to using the Compaq as a writing tool, I think I get a little too excited about playing with graphics and code on this Dell.

22 July 2005

High on Harry Potter

This morning on the bus, while reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I overheard two guys talking about "book crack". One was reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the other telling him how he couldn't wait to get his hands on a copy.

Jolted out of my own Rowling-induced trance, I listened to them go back and forth on how well-written, uniquely entertaining and hard to put down the novels were. Healthy envy aside, one of the reasons I read Harry Potter books and similar novels is to learn from them. Although none of the children's picturebooks, novels and poems I've written involve magic, I think any author in any genre can benefit from reading skillfully crafted stories. All my work - from creative non-fiction essays to electronic newsletters and web content - benefits from exposure to great writing.

Incidentally, I picked up The Half-Blood Prince last Saturday for around $22 at Costco. I had a copy in my hands little more than twelve hours after crowds mobbed Chapters and Bolen Books at midnight release parties paying up to $40. And I'll take my time enjoying the rest of The Order of the Phoenix while the next book waits patiently on my shelf. They're great stories, but I wouldn't compare them to crack.

16 July 2005

Who taught con artists HTML?

Copy of original "RBC" message (areas of concern in bold)

Dear Royal Bank customer,

We recently reviewed your account, and suspect that your Royal Bank Internet Banking account may have been accessed by an unauthorized third party. Protecting the security of your account and of the Royal Bank network is our primary concern. Therefore, as a preventative measure, we have temporarily limited access to sensitive account features (a little vague).

To restore your account access, please take the following steps to ensure that your account has not been compromised:

1. Login to your Royal Bank Internet Banking account. In case you are not enrolled for Internet Banking (If I'm not already banking online how could there have been unauthorized activity?), you will have to fill in all the required information, including your client card number or business card number and your password.

2. Review your recent account history for any unauthorized withdrawals or deposits, and check you account profile to make sure not changes have been made. If any unauthorized activity has taken place on your account! ! (tone of financial emails is never this excited), report this to Royal Bank https://www1.royalbank.com/cgi-bin/rbaccess

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your assistance in helping us maintain the integrity of the entire Royal Bank system. Thank you for attention to this matter.

Royal Bank Team

Please do not reply to this e-mail. Mail sent to this address cannot be answered.

I received several e-mails like this from "eBay" a few months ago. In both cases, the link in the e-mail led to a page formatted to look exactly like the company it impersonated. I build web sites for a living - that doesn't impress me. Fortunately, my curiosity worked in my favour with the eBay scam. Not wanting to give out my credit card and bank account numbers, I replied asking for more information. Why did eBay need to verify my financial information when I had only ever given it to PayPal? No one answered. I sent similar replies to at least two subsequent messages before finally cluing in that I should contact eBay through their web site and ask if they had even sent the message. So I was prepared when I got the above "RBC" e-mail.

Excerpts from my e-mail to the real RBC Customer Service:

Hello RBC customer service. I just received a message in my yahoo e-mail from service@royalbank.com that I think is fraudulent. It reads...

When clicked the link re-routes to this address: http://www.meragujarkhan.com/www1.royalbank.com/index.htm.

I did not fill in any account information. Please let me know if this is indeed a genuine message I need to respond to. Thank you.

Excerpts from RBC's response:

Dear Ms. Hart:

We have become aware of multiple emails being sent to RBC Royal Bank and non-RBC Royal Bank clients. Thank you for advising us of the suspicious email you received.

The emails are titled as "Important Security Update", "Important RBC Royal Bank Notice", "Your RBC Royal Bank Account May Be Suspended", "Confirmation Required" and "Royal Bank - Important Notice" and are asking them to click on a link and input personal banking information in order to "verify their account". The e-mail claims that failure to do so, will block access to their accounts...

At RBC Royal Bank, we always tell our customers never to share online banking passwords or any personal identification number with anyone. A bank employee will never ask for password information...

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please contact us immediately at the number listed below, so that we may change your passwords immediately. We have sophisticated fraud detection systems and measures to assist us in the detection of potential fraudulent activity.

We review each situation on an individual basis. Typically, if a client is a victim of a proven fraud, through no fault of their own, we will reimburse missing funds from their account with us.

Thank you for your patience, Ms. Hart.

I knew I was smarter than a con artist.

12 July 2005


We've all watched them. Web clips of people we don't know doing stupid, usually embarrassing stuff. It's okay because we don't know who it is, didn't shoot the video or put it online. For the same reason America's Funniest Home Videos ever saw any success, web sites that collect and catalogue these clips are a huge hit. But have you ever met anyone exploited by a home video or web blooper? Understandably, people like Gary Brolsma (who videotaped himself lip-syncing to an O-Zone dance song) aren't having fun in the spotlight.

Read about Brolsma and the humiliation industry:

That's 'Humilitainment‚' Folks!
  • "http://www.thetyee.ca/Life/2005/07/07/Humilitainment"

  • 10 July 2005

    Therapeutic properties of acrylic paint

    While I'm sure that chemically, acrylic paint is suited for little more than coating surfaces, I'm starting to remember the meditative value of the painting process. I remember listening to my dad's old records as I painted in the basement as a teen. Time at my easel was just as satisfying as filling pages in my journal. As is the case with writing, music and other creative endeavors, the artist needs to let go of the need to be certain she is creating something good or even great. I have always had a problem doing this. Fortunately, my new surroundings have allowed me to write and paint more than ever without any concern for the commercial appeal or even final purpose for the work. I was always a keen student intent on getting good grades in all my classes, especially beloved English and art courses. Not that I didn't enjoy courses in writing or visual art in the past, but I know that if I ever go back to school, I would be driven solely by the opportunity to immerse myself in the creative process.

    07 July 2005

    Military mentality up for a change?

    Now that we've seen another wave of terrorism - this time in London - we need to think about how to respond without panicking. As most of us have relatively little personal political power, what can one person do but join the fight? But these days, who wants to sign up for the military?

    It's not news that military enrollment is down in developed nations. And no country is more freaked out about this than the States. Now there is growing paranoia that they'll bring back the draft.

    I don't like war or the military, but I'm pretty sure we need armed forces.
    My question to the States - and other 1st world nations - is this: Can't you consider a less angry, hard-nosed approach to military lifestyle, defense and peacekeeping? Couldn't you make joining the military a noble life's pursuit instead of a sketchy choice for weirdos and loners?

    Many western cultures have developed to the point that, guess what, nobody likes war. Nobody wants do die for their country. So joining the military has to be about making our world better - a notion that seems a little too warm and fuzzy for stereotypical macho forces.

    Make the military something people want to be a part of and they'll join. I'm sure it's not that simple, but something to consider regardless.

    Read about draft worries:

    Oh Baby, It's Drafty Out There
  • "http://alternet.org/story/23308"

  • 02 July 2005

    Join the red revolution!

    When I switched birth control from Depo Provera to Ortho Evra in December 2004, I thought I was making a positive decision. I'd get calcium back in my bones, a healthy level of estrogen in my system and, at age 26, return to a monthly period.

    Having not dealt with it since my 18th summer, I figured it would just be mess and discomfort I'd be adjusting to. But I hadn't accounted for the fact that I'd grown into the kind of woman that notices and cares about how much she adds to her local landfill. I had forgotten how wasteful a period is. My first few purchases of tampons and pads in addition to my regular pantyliners warned me that I needed a green option for my red days.

    Considering that even organic, unbleached cotton can find its way to a landfill, I was looking for another alternative. Then an issue of Bitch magazine solved my problem when I saw an ad for reusable cotton pads.

    Check out Lunapads at:
  • "http://www.lunapads.com"

  • 30 June 2005

    Breaking-up is hard to do

    Ending a long term relationship isn't like taking off a band-aid, it's like getting gum out of your hair. My little sister is going through just such a break-up. After five years, her boyfriend broke her heart - over the phone long distance with no tact or compassion. He as good as told her he doesn't love her anymore and she's not marriage material. He wants a summer free to drink, screw, sleep and not be held accountable for even one action. The little troll still calls her with half-hearted delcarations of platonic love mixed with disrespectful digs at her emotional state. They both still have the same crowd of friends that are understandably sympathetic with my sister, but probably (as would be the case for most people's peers) have no intention of black listing him in her honour.

    I'd really like to take his clothes and furniture (we've been babysitting his belongings assuming that when he came back to Victoria in the fall they'd be living together) and fuel a beach bonfire in Caddy Bay. Still trying to retain some dignity, my sister wants to give him every consideration and remain civil. So a friend of mine suggested my energy would be better spent helping her recover. We put together a package for her.

    The Break-up Basket:

    Bath Bombs - to perk her up
    Kleenex - because she'll still be sad from time to time
    Trashy Tabloid - there are worse stories in the world
    Pocket Book of Women's Wit and Wisdom - where else would it come from?
    Chocolate Truffles - self-explanatory comfort food
    Face Mask - for pampering at home until the world seems nicer
    Crowned with a Tiara - because she still rules

    While I have to concede that I've been writing a spa newsletter for too long now to sound as much like a journalist as I once did, I'm glad the girly mindset comes in handy. The basket had exactly the desired effect and she's feeling a bit better.

    25 June 2005

    My latest acquisition

    These should be on their way from Philadelphia.

    4g or 5mm carved black horn. $4.99 USD for the pair. E-bay rules!

    21 June 2005

    A Visa works just as well

    Travel-size shampoo, shave gel, toothpaste and deodorant: $10

    Pacific Coach Lines tickets: $44

    Sky Train ticket: $2

    800 speed zoom film: $6

    2 gin and tonics @ Steamworks: $12

    Pizza by the slice: $1

    Interior design goodies from Ikea: $50

    White chocolate mocha @ Starbucks: $4

    2 strapless tops from Urban Planet: $30

    Dinner and drinks @ the Earl's on Robson: $50

    Approximately 40 pay & talk minutes: $11

    Roast chicken and fruit salad at a BC Ferries cafeteria: $13

    Fabulous weekend in Vancouver at an old friend's new place: Totally worth it!

    (but really $233)

    15 June 2005

    Some little part transmission fluid flows through

    "$320 for a freakin' coolant leak? You've got to be kidding me! How did this go from a $50 oil leak to a monumental financial disaster?"

    My sister stared back at me blankly, blinking slowly. I'd asked her to take my car in to have an oil leak examined.

    "I don't know why you're freaking out at me. First he said $50, then he said it was going to be more like $320 if he had to replace the coolant tank. You know this stuff is never cheap. It's not my fault."

    I knew she hadn't poked holes in my coolant tank or conspired with the Canadian Tire mechanic to rip me off. I could afford the repair and I knew that allowing the splotch patchwork on my driveway to grow wasn't an option. And I'd paid more in the past for other repairs to my littlest SUV.

    So why was I so livid? I realized that if any other business conducted itself the way some automotive shops do, it would cease to function quickly. No wise business person indifferently tells customers that there is no certain price or expected completion date. In that light, I feel a little more justified and a little less irrational in my frustration.

    After I calmed down and called the Canadian Tire mechanic back, I found out that playing the telephone game over car repairs is a bad plan. It wasn't the coolant tank, it was some other little tank (the guy said a mini radiator as though that gives me a mental picture) and it would cost $185 for parts and labour, before tax.

    Now I get to roll the dice again to have weather stripping on the side of my windshield replaced. Maybe. I hate driving anyway and I'd rather take the bus.

    09 June 2005

    Post-secondary paths

    Watching my sister graduate from university and my partner plan for trade school has forced me into reflection mode. Not just looking at my own post-secondary choices, but on the entire system. Last night I listened to Matt Damon's fake North Eastern US accent chastise a yuppie. "You’ve dropped $150 grand on an education that you could have got for $1.50 in late fees from the public library." I'm still not sure - even at the bargain price of $25,000 CAD - if the cost of getting smart is worth it.

    Anyone who grew up in a Canadian middle class home over the last twenty years was instructed to head off to university directly after high school. Parents and teachers told us that university was the right, respectable path and that our careers depended on it. Regardless of where the money came from, we all HAD to have a degree.

    But disgruntled grads in BC and across Canada are starting to ask themselves and society about the validity of their degrees. Demographics insist that the impending baby-boomer retirement wave will save us all. Still, regardless of optimism and statistics, the non-existant return on investment for bachelor's degrees is not currently paying off student loans for many recent graduates.

    The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation reported that nine out of ten students over the age of 26 owed an average of $20,500 as of March 2003. In October 2002, the Foundation recorded that 93 per cent of university graduates and 85 per cent of college graduates in Western Canada had a job within six months of graduation.

    But what jobs did they have? Statistics fail to capture a common problem experienced by recent graduates - underemployment. A university graduate with a major in philosophy is underemployed if he or she works in an entry-level retail position.

    In October 2003, the Business Council of British Columbia released an update to the 2001 report titled The Third Option. According to the update, 69 per cent of parents want their children to go to university while about 20 per cent of students who complete high school actually go.

    Not every student that wants to go to university is accepted. Even more unfortunate are the youth who are accepted by a university only to find very little career direction and perform poorly because university was the wrong choice for them. A huge waste of time and money.

    Meanwhile, a looming trades shortage offers career options to the 80 per cent of high school grads who don't go to university. Although the process for apprenticeships is changing in BC, occupations requiring skilled labour in around 160 trades will still provide sizable incomes over the next couple of decades.

    But what will young grads do with the degrees they already have? Retrain? Pursue a post-grad degree? Persevere until the right job opens up? Personally, I've never relied on the vague promise that someone, somewhere nearby will soon quit a lucrative job that I would enjoy and do well. Like the rest of my generation, I've tried to make myself as flexible, employable and thrifty as possible. Armed with a very expensive education that is less competitive in the labour force, I will continue to specialize and diversify at the same time. Hopefully the result will be something that feels like success.

    31 May 2005

    Felt on Watergate

    Part of being Canadian is learning more about American politics than our own. For example, we all (well most of us) know what the Watergate scandal involved and saw the famous film "All the President's Men" (Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman). What we didn't know until now was the who the real "Deep Throat" informant was. Former FBI agent W. Mark Felt has now been cast by Vanity Fair magazine in the real-life role of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's source.

    Check it out:

  • "I'm The Guy They Called Deep Throat"

  • Ex-FBI Official Says He Was 'Deep Throat'

  • 27 May 2005

    My new workplace / home

    Pacific Shores Resort and Spa

    Broughton Street Office

    Cabana Place

    Living in Victoria and working downtown is the best fit I've felt in a long time. Like breathing again after being underwater.

    19 May 2005

    I know how Dagny Taggart felt

    My sister and I went for a walk tonight in the pseudo-middle class neighbourhood around our basement suite. And it finally came out. She feels sorry for me because I rub people the wrong way. "Well you're a very smart person," and "You just talk really fast. You use too many big words," and "You're always talking picking stuff apart and analyzing everything." Lately one of her favourite complaints is that I'm "weird". I told her that I'm aware that my mind moves quickly. That I might not be the coolest kid on the block and certainly not the most popular. She didn't know that I can see the reality of who I am and how I come across to new acquaintances.

    I also told her that my intelligence is one of the things I like about myself. And I'm too old to have an identity crisis every time someone tells me I'm boring, fascinating, pretty, ugly, dainty, short, slender, frail, smart or shallow. I've heard it all and I just don't care. It's very refreshing to realize that you truly don't care what other people think. "But people find you to be a too much sometimes." "Intimidating?" I asked her. "Yeah, it's just too intense for some people." "Good."

    17 May 2005

    Going green on the ballot

    Well, I voted for the Green Party. Just shy of selecting "None of The Above" or officially declining my vote, I decided to choose something viable that wasn't NDP or Liberal. Once I made the decision, it was the first time I felt content since the election hype got into full swing. I knew I would vote YES on the new order of preference voting system. But I felt like I had to choose between the NDP that had broken my province and the Liberals that had eviscerated the people I'd spent years working with in social service roles. I'm not an environmentalist, but I'm definitely taking on the One Tonne Challenge (although it's not too tough since I hate driving and my bus pass is by far cheaper than the combination of gas and a downtown parking pass). And I support the Kyoto Accord, so the vote isn't totally random. Most importantly, I don't feel my vote was wasted. No more than a quiet soprano in a choir.

    14 May 2005

    STV (Single Transferable Vote) system

    Anybody interested in exactly what the referendum tied in to the next election is actually about? Here's a slightly creepy animation that explains it clear as mud.

    The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform:

  • BC-STV in action

  • Why are we undertaking mass confusion?

  • STV: Vote yes

  • (On a side note, take a look at the disturbing "Say Thanks to Tony Blair" link in the sidebar of the Leader article.)

    11 May 2005

    I don't love Emily anymore

    Although the irony of a loner anti-cool persona developing a cult following is not lost on me, I'm no longer a fan of Emily the Strange. I'd forgotten about her for awhile as I've been trying to wash the punk off and fit in with downtown Victoria business people. But browsing black, white and red attire that so recently appealed to me, I can't restore the connection. I still respect her. A nemesis for barbies, brats, princesses and divas everywhere I think the little Goth girl will always have a place in my heart.

    With no real understanding of why, I just don't feel the spark and I don't feel bad about it. Initially she appealed to me because she didn't want to be my friend or help me fit in. I felt betrayed when I bought an Emily wallet and found a shiny new membership card inside - just another clique. But I forgave her. After all, every person wants to find the others they think and look like. People to group with that serve as validation that our way is the right, cool, admirable, interesting way. I just don't want to run with her crowd anymore.

    04 May 2005

    What's in your food?

    Do you read food labels? I do. And I'm not sure it's for the right reasons. I think I may be deluding myself when I dawdle in the dairy isle looking for the healthiest cheese. The more I contemplate the subject, the more I doubt that I'll be able to stave off a heart attack or diabetes with the exact right balance of preservative-ridden packaged chemicals masquerading as food. Yet, in the hopes that I have a chance of resembling a healthy person, I take a multi vitamin, exercise as often as possible and try to restrain myself from flinging the contents of my desk on the floor and running down to the bistro BBQ that wafts up from the street with the sax music.

    No, I think I read food labels for some subconscious sense of control. "If I find a fat-free yogurt that tastes like butterscotch ice cream, I'll get promoted at work and have my new book published." Yes, in addition to looking like a finger-swallowing model, managing the perfect diet can also result in a self-cleaning designer home and a brand new luxury car that never needs maintenance.

    One of the many reasons I love Adbusters is the kinship I find with people who know and dislike the fact that we are all disturbingly manipulated by advertising, marketing and commercial socialization. I'm sick of catching myself worrying about money, trends, clothes and body shape. No wonder I need to manufacture false control.

    27 April 2005

    Top 10 reasons I dodge meetings

    In no particular order:

    10. Mediation is often sporadic and incidental
    9. Attendance is mandatory and composes 10% of your performance review
    8. Fluorescent lighting is the norm
    7. Contribution is required and will be assessed biweekly
    6. No actual work or fun takes place
    5. Coffee will be served with powdered "whitener" and only if getting up to use the bathroom is inconvenient
    4. Personal conversation with your neighbour results in ten minutes in the corner
    3. Most topics involve less than 50% of the staff in attendance
    2. There is no intelligence prerequisite for taking the "floor"
    1. I could ALWAYS find something more interesting and productive to do!

    Fortunately for me, I work at an organization that thrives on e-mail and requires staff to meet only when necessary. I only meet with people I'm working on projects with, need feedback, content or materials from. It's great.

    19 April 2005

    Anybody want to play Monopoly?

    It's official. Adobe has purchased Macromedia. They will now be a massive player in the publishing software industry, capable of competing with Microsoft. Is this what it takes? Fighting a humongous corporation with a mega company? It does make sense. Years of protest and boycotts by lefties, techies and generally disgruntled users have failed miserably in their quest to make Microsoft an insignificant (or even markedly less noticeable) market force. But it makes me sad - not one week after I'd just been so impressed by Adobe.

    Read about it:

    Because I'm compelled to look for the silver lining, here's a link to OpenOffice. For those of you that haven't heard of this, it's a TOTALLY FREE office suite comparable to and compatible with MS Office.

    18 April 2005

    FYI fellow Tracker owners

    Last Thursday I replaced a broken interior driver's side door handle on my GMC Tracker. As I had this done (by my boyfriend) on a nearly identical Sidekick I owned last year, I am under the impression that these are crappy parts on cheaply made vehicles. No shock there. However, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to replace the handle by myself. With no assistance from Jeff or online research (not for lack of trying).

    (This handle is identical to my new one, but for the passenger side)

    The experience was highly anti-climatic, yet extremely satisfying. I also managed to repair a jacket and pair of pants on the same day.

    15 April 2005

    Adobe joins the party!

    After decades of the Chester and Spike relationship between Adobe Pagemaker and Quark XPress, Adobe has finally created a product to compete with Quark. While dominating digital photography with Photoshop and line art graphics with Illustrator, it seems that Adobe's underachievering days are over in the desktop publishing arena. I have just installed Adobe CreativeSuite - a combination of Photoshop, Illustrator and the widely anticipated In Design. So far InDesign rocks! Only one program to suck ram now - no crashes yet. Imagine working in a desktopping program with high end graphics tools incorporated. One-touch .pdfs and instant launch for all the other Adobe products (you still need graphics software). I'm a happy woman.

    09 April 2005

    Viva la house hunt

    Not. I've just finished the grueling process of renting in Victoria. Although the sense of relief is noticeable and I'm looking forward to some cheap summer rent, I've still got one problem. I have to do this all over again in August! My sister/summer roommate will retain the place in the fall instead of the original plan for Jeff and I to keep it. August is the worst month to rent in a student saturated city. Next time I'll be armed with a checklist. And I won't be frustrated by trying to get someone else to participate in the search. But I can't shake the sense of dread (which I know will subside and then resurface with increasing strength and frequency as the summer progresses) that I will not find my cat-friendly heritage upper with a dishwasher and a fenced yard. Even more maddening is that anyone familiar with Victoria will tell you that most visible properties seem to meet that description. I can only hope I will have more patience and less stress next round. You know what "they" say about getting something done right.

    01 April 2005

    The Cluetrain Manifesto

    I've just started a book given to me by my new boss. I wasn't really excited about a non-fiction business book at first. But I find myself reading it like an engaging story. The Internet is described as a forum for human voices and, "an excuse to get together rather than an excuse not to. Think of Joel and the 'bots on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The point is not to watch the film, but to outdo each other making fun of it." Intranets are praised for being subversive and celebrated because they undermine managers and executives.

    In the first few pages a list of 95 theses includes, "21 - Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humour." Followed by, "22 - Getting a sense of humour does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view."

    I now have a more concrete idea of why the private sector and people in suits have intensely freaked me out most of my adult life. More cynical former employees of software giants should write business books. I may feel differently as I get farther into this book, but I won't feel guilty if they loose my attention. That's what the Internet is all about. If you're bored, move on.

    Check it out:

    23 March 2005

    Slices of the future

    As I complete my packing process, tick of "to do" items and make the rounds of goodbye coffees, drinks and visits, I'm starting to panic. I haven't made a big life change in a long time. I'd forgotten the sensation of, "It's okay - I'm not done just yet - I still have time." And viewing slices of the near and distant future. "This time next week I'll be... this time next month, next year." My mind is jumping back and forth. Whirring through the last four years of my life and career. Leaping into a future I can see only through a haze of possibility. I know that no change worth making is easy or soothing. Like eucalyptus flavoured cough syrup, growth is good for you, but has strange aftertaste.

    17 March 2005

    Vernon landscapes

    I'm totally excited to be heading back to Victoria's 'big' city and the ocean, but I'm definitely going to miss some of the scenery.

    Tillistar Village

    Tillistar Back Yard

    Kin Beach

    16 March 2005

    Vernon and Victoria

    I'm leaving my hometown again. Again for Victoria. This time, packing up my belongings, I know just how much I'm going to miss my smalltown life. All around me people, scenery and landmarks trigger the constant carbonation of memory. And I’m glad. I've been a part of Vernon since 1985. I enjoy seeing subtle layers of time in the architecture, politics and economy (or lack of) in my community.

    My first move to Victoria in 1996 was soul crushing. I was so incredibly alone. I missed home immediately, deeply. It surprised me that Vernon’s lakes, back roads, coffee shops and parks were irreplaceable. One of the most sculpted and entertaining cities in Western Canada offered up a cosmopolitan future and I didn’t want it. Of course, small-town life went on seamlessly without me. Like apple seeds in the sun, plazas, highways, multi-arts centres all popped up while mega stores sprouted out of overgrown fields.

    In 2001, was happy to come back to a town that felt like home and had even a small chance of offering me an occupation. Vernon had been growing for years and is still expanding. Just not enough to support my career.

    04 March 2005

    Reality and television

    Watching anything from a Michael Moore documentary to a CBC investigative report, I know I like reality. So why do I hate (and I mean that with the full intensity intended by someone who rarely uses that word) reality television shows? Because reality TV isn't insightful commentary. Voyeuristic melodrama that is anything but real has no chance of being more than annoying and boring. I used to think blogs were to e-zines what reality television shows were to dramas. Now, I think the comparison would be more effective if blogs were perceived more like independent film. And reality television scheduled in between soap operas.

    28 February 2005

    And the award for best political presenter goes to...

    Like many movie buffs, I watched the better part of the Oscars last night. Contrary to rumblings that the commentary should be less political, I thought Chris Rock was hilarious. However I also think that there may be some confusion when the Academy Awards are referred to as "political". It seems to me that most people are talking about the internal workings and politics of Hollywood and the American film industry as opposed to the American government. The problem is supposedly that the awards are distributed based on who is well-liked, part of a popular project, working in a favourable genre or some basis other than the talent and skill of the performance in question.

    I can understand disinterest in the politics of Hollywood, but I don't see why anyone is bothered by the host briefly expressing his opinion. As it is usually an intelligent comedian hosting the ceremony, a few humourous digs at American governmental politics is to be expected, or at least understandable. Even a few jabs at the formality and seriousness of the show and awards. Regardless, I think it's important for an individual or organization to draw a line in the sand as to how watered down, simplified and pacified their message becomes. Anyone who has seen Chris Rock's stand-up, knows he already censored himself substantially delivering a family-friendly, subdued presentation. I think anyone who hates politics (of any sort) that much will probably be happier if the television stays off altogether.

    19 February 2005

    Falling through the cracks

    I like people watching. Unfortunately, sometimes they look back. Unhappy, lonely, poor, disabled, mentally ill or just dissatisfied with a life too ordinary. Many people stare back. Screaming inside, knowing that nobody cares or will even listen beyond the 9-5 walls of offices, schools, retail stores and restaurants. Sometimes they let it go out loud in stoned, drunken, frustrated, deluded, helpless moments that couldn't be suppressed by North American socilization.

    People look back and their eyes cry out that they have no friends or family. I see people with no jobs, no careers, no futures and a sense of hopelessness crushing the fragile space where they once stored dreams. What is reality like for them? Can a middle-class white woman with very few problems and past traumas even understand? How long would it take for the world to distort if I were cold and alone. Totally. Bus stations, parks, malls, condemned buildings, fields, woods - places to sit, wait and move on. Nowhere to go or be. No one to talk to. Who would notice or care? Unless I got in the way by needing or wanting something, I could become invisible. And it's so hard to come back to the world. To get back in the flow of human traffic.

    Few people become invisible by being successful or charismatic. Unless they suffer from the evil fog of mental illness, most people become lost because Jesus, Darwin, Gaia, or whoever made the decision didn't give them the tools, resources or circumstances to succeed. It could've been a birth defect, abuse, poverty, disability, sickness or addiction that spreads in a person's life like ink in water. Lots of people overcome their barriers. More don't. Not everyone crosses the finish line - at least not in tact. Look for them on the street, in the park, at the mall and relax about your car's paint job, the next set of clothes you'll buy or the vacation you can't afford yet.

    16 February 2005


    Due to mounting concern on the part of friends and the media, in December 2004 I switched my birth control from the Depo Provera shot to the Ortho Evra patch. While I was initially concerned that I might have been adversely affected by over 8 years of the shot depleting my calcium and estrogen, I found a more immediate concern when a week after starting the patch the doctor who gave my yearly exam found a lump. A cyst. She said it was likely caused by the influx of estrogen from the patch. But I had to come back for a follow up around Valentines Day. Fine, I'd rather get it dealt with than stew over what caused it. The doctor I saw last night (different every time at a public health clinic) didn't seem to understand why I was there. I told him what happened in December and that I was told to come back. He finally found the report in my file. Apparently there were actually two "lumps" but only one had been blacked out on the crude diagram of my breasts. When he felt around not only did he find another lump in my left breast, but he told me cysts were normal. In fact, he said the lump I had been searching for on the armpit side of my right breast was probably just fibrous tissue.

    "What really works in favour is your age." He was convinced I was too young to take this seriously. "You're only 26. You're too young." He kept repeating my age as though he was convinced that the lumps (now at a total of 3) were a figment of his imagination and failing that, I was overreacting. By coming to the follow up I was told to? Now I'm suspicious. As doctors, drugs and treatments have all taught me in the past, cover your own ass. Do your own research. Get a second opinion, then a third and keep asking just in case. There is a difference between hypochondria and removing doctors from a pedestal they had no place being on.

    15 February 2005

    Mail order identity

    Watching last night's CSI Miami illuminated a vulnerability to identity theft I had never really conceptualized before. I black out every copy of my credit card and bank account information on all receipts and statements, but I have never hesitated to toss complete, unmarked credit applications into the recylcing. Although I'm referring to an unlikely fictional account of a woman who has her identity stolen, then tries to frame the thief for her husband's murder, I can't help but feel anxious. How many credit applications could have or may already have been filled out in my name with a simple change of address? Is there a mountain of unknown debt that I didn't actually at least get temporary bliss from accumulating waiting to bite me in the ass when I apply for a home loan. Thoughts like these make me glad I'm a little person with a low profile and nothing worth stealing. Then again, maybe that's all the more reason to watch my back.

    13 February 2005

    Sponge syndrome

    This morning I lounged in the tub with a great story. Blood Oranges by Munju Ravinda, winner of the This Magazine's 2004 Prize for Creative Non-Fiction. Her piece was brilliant, powerful and engaging. I'm envious. Not of her award, but her talent. I want to make readers feel the way I felt reading her words. And I feel guilt. Each time I read great writing I absorb a little of it into myself. I take style, tone, creativity and parcel it away in my mental store room. Next time I sit down to tell a story I will experiment with new ingredients. I worry that eventually none of it will really be me. None of my own ideas or messages. Maybe I'm destined to be a quilt of thought and text.

    11 February 2005

    Rationalizing caramel drizzle

    I've decided to switch my white chocolate mocha topping from whipped cream to foam with a caramel drizzle. The Starbucks barista I see on a regular basis suggested it this morning and I thought, "Hey, why not walk on the wild side!" While my patronage of Starbucks is not exclusive (I frequent many other coffee shops and bakeries), I do experience concern over giving my dollars to the largest coffee chain in the world instead of the mom and pop shop down the street. At least I could give my business to the Canadian Tim Horton's. But, If you can't beat 'em, join 'em right? While Starbucks is a mega multi-national corporation, they did start small. More importantly, they are environmentally minded, interested in giving me healthy options (fruit bars and drinks) that Tim's doesn't. Besides, their coffee just tastes better. Life is tough like that. While I am a die-hard lefty, I do possess a streak of laissez faire that allows me to admire a capitalist competitor that dominates the market simply because they've done a good job - despite being overpriced. Perhaps that’s why I received an Ayn Rand novel for Christmas.

    09 February 2005

    4 gauge stainless steel

    With extra large flares. My latest aquisition in my mission to find new and interesting steel.

    04 February 2005

    World of Warcraft widow

    Don't misunderstand me, I like video games. I like the palmtop Nintendo I got for my birthday and the Zelda game I got for Christmas. Because I only own two games and I have many hobbies and interests, Nintendo gets a mere fraction of my time. But like any stimulant, some people are bound to become addicted. Especially those with addictive personalities. Like my boyfriend and the online role playing game World of Warcraft, similar to the infamous EverQuest. He plays for hours. Not two or three, but ten or twelve sometimes taking breaks only when he's at risk of soiling his seat. While I prefer Warcraft over alcohol as my sweetie's main vice, I can't help feeling like I've still lost him to an addiction. Most current harm reduction models in drug and alcohol counselling suggest that instead of removing the behaviour in question, try doing it less. And to determine the severity or actual existence of an addiction, assess whether or not it affects the person's ability to work, socialize, eat, exercise, pay bills - basically their capacity to perform the daily activities that qualify as necessary. Call it a gut feeling, but I think that an addition is still present and harmful even if it hasn't destroyed one or more lives yet.

    More about gaming and Internet addictions:

  • Introduction to Gaming Addictions

  • How to Deal With Net Compulsions

  • EverQuest Widows

  • Related articles:

  • Dopamine and Online Games

  • When Games Stop Being Fun

  • Game Addiction Goes Online

  • 01 February 2005

    The art of yoga and pilates

    I had an interesting revelation today as I watched the pre-workout instructions on my new Stott Pilates DVD. I like cereal with strawberry flakes in it. I don't like exercise. Specifically abstract crap about sensing how muscles I don't even know about are sliding around on my back. I don't enjoy it, but I use my hamster wheel - correction Orbitrak elliptical machine - often in order to stay in shape. Partly out of vanity and partly out of an evolved addiction to the way exercise improves overall well-being and generally not feeling like garbage. Probably, I'm getting old. Definitely, I'm losing patience.

    If I feel ambitious, I may use my little ab roller and tiny me-size free weights. But after asking myself how much I really care, the answer is, "I really don't want to spend more than 30-45 minutes per day doing yet one more thing I don't like." No more pilates. And no guilt about not doing very much yoga.

    28 January 2005

    Baby dreams

    In my final year of undergraduate classes at UVic I had a theory. It should have been written as a psychology paper, but since I was in a creative non-fiction course, it was a writing prof that told me I wasn't functioning with all cylinders. I wrote a paper about baby dreams interviewing women between the ages of 18 and 24 and quoting excerpts from their accounts.

    Since around age 18 to present day, I have had dreams about being pregnant, giving birth and caring for small infants. Some are bland, yet lucid, others are surreal, half-remembered. Rooted in the knowledge that both biological clocks (for puberty, waking up, etc.) and dreams consist of electrochemical activity in the brain, I suggested that dreams about babies could be a by-product, not of a repressed subconcious desire to procreate, but of interacting impulses in a woman's grey matter. My theory requires the concession that another theory about a female reproductive biological clock actually exists - not proven as far as I know. I'm not a neuropsychologist or scientist or any other professional interested in gathering empirical data so the theory died with that paper. But I remember it every time I have a baby dream - like I did last night.

    25 January 2005

    Gay marriage in Canada

    My boyfriend and I have always taken for granted that we'd be able to get married just as soon as we were ready. It's our decision to make and we're free to do so. But if my partner didn't have a penis, I wouldn't have this freedom. I don't think I'd be okay with that.

    It seems to me that recent debate in Canada around gay marriage has been an effective way to reveal how individuals really feel about gay people. Rather than listening to political verbal waltzes, I've been turning an ear to the conversations around me. I heard a young girl at my office say that marriage is a religious ceremony and therefore should be restricted to heteros. So I can't get married unless I'm a straight devoted church goer? Who's side do you think I'm on? She went on to say - almost verbatim Stephen Harper's statement - that she did believe that they should have some legal union that would allow them tax benefits and inheritance. I'm sure gays everywhere are falling down grateful. I told her that, aside from the fact that I've known religious people who were also gay, marriage in Canada and the Western Hemisphere ceased to be religious as soon as civil services became popular.

    I could see in her eyes that she was sizing up just how much of a sinner and sexual deviant I could potentially be. It makes me sad that this girl feels that way because statistically, there are likely to be many more of this persuasion. Rather than thinking, "I'm glad I'm not gay," I'd rather tell people, "It may not be hate, but it's an insulting way of stating that gays aren't equal to tell them they can't get married like every other person."

    24 January 2005

    I love T-shirts!

    And Siri Agrell's article on T-shirts as a vehicle for personal expression - pop culture to politics - is pretty cool too.

  • The Clothes Make the Man

  • 19 January 2005

    Set up to fail

    Impossible standards and unatainalbe goals can be boiled down to an amount of time a mortal person wishes to spend pursuing something. Especially in the case of assignments or projects that have no impact or consequences. In my experience, if somebody sends me looking for a needle in a haystack, sometimes I come back with a needle shaped piece of hay. Good enough?

    18 January 2005

    Electronic social lives

    I recently read an article in Bitch magazine titled, "Dear Female Friendship Culture". The author laments her lack of a tight circle of friends and I sympathize with her. She criticized Sex and the City for portraying quality and quantity of friendships as a measurement of personal worth. I don't think Sarah Jessica Parker has the market cornered in pressuring us to bond with our peers. But this isn't an individual problem. It's not a matter of a few uncool people having turned into friendless losers. The fact that you’re reading this blog, whether you know me or not, indicates a shift in the way we socialize. Dialogue that takes place electronically didn't exist in my younger coffee shop days. It seems common for 20 and 30 something adults to experience a depressing disconnection from their social lives whether the cause is career, family or other. Many of our acquaintanceships and friendships now exist in intangible transmissions and white noise. The need for human contact can and will never be completely fulfilled on-line.

    14 January 2005

    Canadian cold

    There's nothing else like it. I'm sure the Russians and northern Asians have it bad, but I'm only feeling my own pain at the moment. Car won't start. Supplementing inadequate heat with the oven and ceiling fan. Feel like crap and only get relief while sleeping or in a hot bath.

    In September 2003, I went to Scotland to visit relatives and they warned me about wind and cold. I'd already heard about harsh highland weather, but I didn't let it phase me. I didn't even bring a proper jacket and didn't suffer (except this one day that was particularly windy and we were on foot to and from the local pub). But their idea of cold brings me back to the stereotype of Canadian winter weather. Specifically, the knowledge that sadly, generalizations are often correct.

  • Coping with the cold

  • 11 January 2005

    Atlas Shrugged

    I’ve recently started a new book. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It was a Christmas present, so I will make a point of reading as much as quickly as possible. I can tell right away that rather than being acclaimed for her writing talent, Rand is read for her philosophical outlook. While trying to immerse myself in the world she weaves in the first few pages, I was jolted back out of her book by one sentence. “This was a place of competence and power.” Referring to a mid-20th century urban professional building, Rand still created a timeless image. Why does competence and power, preferably combined in clean, elegant surroundings, hold relief for me or anyone else? Why do I walk through the world suppressing feelings that everyone around me is screwing up the little things that make life work? And that capability and achievement are so distant. I know I’m not alone – peers, comedians, journalists and other voices all echo my sentiments – but it doesn’t feel right either.

    10 January 2005

    My very own custom hoodie

    The text under the smiling dog on the patch says "tease me and get mauled". You can't really see it, but there are embroidered bones on either edge of the pocket. With tiny 12g captives I pierced the fuzzy ears sewn onto the hood and (using a homemade stencil) screened the skulls on the sleeves. I also painted "bite me" on the back over embroidered red droplets.

    09 January 2005

    The Jimmy Hendrix Experience

    As usual, I had Sunday dinner at my parents' house tonight. Afterwards, my Dad and I watched a Jimmy Hendrix concert DVD I bought him. We talked about how, though his music may seem like mainstream or even oldies today, Hendrix was such a pioneer. He explored what electricity could do for the guitar like nobody before him. Famous musicians - many of his peers - marveled at what Hendrix created. Yet his career was a short, bright flame. How many people who have contributed to art, science and knowledge can say that a few years of their career brought them unparalleled success and recognition? I suppose John Nash's notion of an original idea really can have that much impact. I don't imagine that I will ever affect the world with music or economic theory, but as I writer I would like to leave my mark. I think about it often. Will my writing be read? Or even matter? I feel that while it's good to admire great thinkers and achievers, I'm not doing myself any good fixating on accomplishment when so much of any writer's career is persistence and luck. All I can do is persist. Hopefully with a smile.

    05 January 2005

    Bullies and cowards

    Indifference offers a better return on investment than hate. Mostly because far too many people we might hate are self-involved sociopaths with large volumes of spare time in which to retaliate. I recently watched a friend of mine stand down from a pointless argument with just such a sociopath. He knew there was no resolution in sight and the agitated party called him a coward. I know my friend is not afraid, but an intelligent man who has no interest in engaging a fruit loop with a penchant for bullying. I wish I knew more cowards like that.

    04 January 2005

    Sympathy drained

    Empathy and sympathy are necessary emotions in the world I want to live in. Yesterday I watched my sister, out of sympathy and discomfort, dance around some indirect propositions from her friend's ex. She told me she felt bad for him when he ambushed her on MSN with the news that he used to have a crush on her and was sorry he'd chosen her friend. I told my sister not to let sympathy catalyze the situation. What reaction was this guy looking for? Should she leave her boyfriend, ignoring any repercussions her friendship would suffer?

    My response is twofold. First, people let too much crap slide in order to avoid conflict. I think placating and confronting have some grey area between them. Second, I've been working in service roles at non-profit organizations for too long. I'm burnt out. I no longer have adequate levels of understanding for the average person, who for whatever trivial or serious reason, can't make life work smoothly. By the end of most work days I'm prepared to tell people without jobs, homes, friends, families or any of the supports I take for granted to, "Suck it up cupcake. Get back in the game." So many people need help. More than most middle class Canadians realize. While the majority of us can suck it up and keep going through a bad day, week or month, a sizable but invisible wedge of the population can't achieve the basics.

    02 January 2005

    New Year ideas and energy

    Like many things I've said I'll never do, it is inevitable that I begin a blog. In an attempt to tie up the loose ends of my day to day mental electricity, I'm going to see how long I can maintain a somewhat regular blog. I imagine this is why most people take up this pastime, although many friends seem to do this as part of their social lives.

    In the past, I've focussed my creative energies on generating whole work. A painting worth framing in my home. An article to be published and read. Although I kept a journal faithfully for years when I was younger, I got out of the habit. I'm now missing the valuable catharsis of that activity. Brining it back in print hasn't been effective. I'm optimistic about engaging with the eccentric and introspective world of blogging.