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smartygirl

the chronicles.

Happy Holidays!

Funny, Mum asked the other day "when would be too early to call on Christmas morning?" and I said "ten o'clock" but I thought "you know I always wake up at four o'clock in the morning on Christmas!" I said ten because I figured I had outgrown that by now. But here I am.

The last week has been a frenzy of baking and prepping. We had been planning on dining with Heather and Ian, who had dined with us last year, but then TG's uncle Jim called to say that he and Agathe would be in town and would love to have dinner with us. And so, I currently have a turkey soaking in buttermilk in the garage, and a mountain of stuffing in the fridge, and potatoes with leeks and spinach ready to be heated up, and sugar cookies, and gingerbread men, and spiced nuts, and mincemeat and pastry ready for tarts, and a bche de Nol, and cheese crackers, and scones ready to bake for breakfast, and bacon and eggs as back up, and oranges and apples and grapes, and artichoke dip, and eggnog, and probably something else I am forgetting.

I'm really excited to be doing our first married Christmas in our new home. Only trouble is, if I'm awake now, I'll probably sleep through it!

rant updated 25 december 2005. permalink

Do they not teach maths in J-school?

The current big election issue is childcare, and Stephen Harper's pledge to give a $1,200 bonus per child, taxable on the income of the spouse with less earnings.

According to today's Globe and Mail editorial (Popcorn, beer and childcare - registration required), "A two-income, two-child household with an income of $75,000 pays $5,887 in taxes; a one-income, two-child household with $75,000 in income pays $10,242," a difference of $4,355.

This only looks unfair to the one-income family only if you ignore two important points:

  1. The two-income household also has to pay for childcare, which costs between $8,880 (in Newfoundland) and $13,872 (in British Columbia)* - more than twice the difference in taxes.
  2. Let's say the income breakdown of the mythical two-income family earning $75,000 is one spouse earning $45,000 and one spouse earning $30,000. Even with the Harper programme, the two-income family will not be able to afford the luxury of having a parent at home. $1,200 is not going to make up for an income shortfall of $30,000, even if the family is saving on childcare costs.

This programme does not give average Canadians a choice. It only rewards wealthy Canadians who could afford that choice already.

And there is no evidence to suggest that it is even a smart choice.

No studies have yet proven that there is any benefit to a child to be raised by a stay-at-home parent as opposed to being in daycare. While quality of care makes a huge difference, whether or not the caregiver is related to the child - or whether the child is in a group care setting - has no effect at all.

The NICHD Study of Early Child Care followed more than 1,300 children through the first seven years of their lives to determine how variations in child care are related to their development. Some of their findings:

Center care is associated with better cognitive and language outcomes and a higher level of school readiness, as compared to outcomes in other settings with comparable quality of care. Group care is associated with fewer reports of problem behavior at age three.

Not so bad!

In terms of cognitive and language development, researchers found no benefit for children in exclusive care by their mother. Among children in care for more than 10 hours per week, those in center care, and to a lesser extent, those in child care homes, performed better on cognitive and language measures than children in other types of care, when the quality of the care giver-child interaction was taken into account. Child care experiences did not predict differently the cognitive, language or school readiness level of children from varying income groups or ethnic backgrounds.

In fact, while type of child care - parental or day care centre - makes no difference in the development of children, there are a couple of factors that do make a difference: poverty and instability. Both of these can be reduced by having both parents working.

Even families that seem financially secure are at risk if one parent is not working. Unless they have enough money set aside to support them the rest of their lives. Unofortunately no one can predict the future, and if there is only one parent earning income, if something happens - be it death, disability, or divorce - the family is at risk of poverty and instability. While the stay-at-home parent can always return to work in such dire circumstances, someone who has spent years out of the workforce will not earn at the same level as someone who has worked consistently - and certainly won't earn enough to support an entire family.

Most arguments in favour of stay-at-home parenting inevitably return to the rewards to the stay-at-home parent - the joy of seeing baby's first steps, hearing baby's first words. While these intangible rewards for the parent are undeniable - who would want to miss out on that? - this argument sidesteps two issues: the fact that personal fulfillment is not the government's responsibility, and the fact that it is somehow only important for one parent to share these significant moments. Maybe the government should provide total income replacement for both parents to stay home until the kids go to school, just to be fair. If they're in the personal fulfillment game.

Would I like to stay home with my imaginary future children? Yep. My husband would like to stay home too. Unfortunately, parenting comes with responsibility attached, and putting the child's needs first means that unless we win the lottery, we'll both continue to work.

rant updated 13 december 2005. permalink

Is it really happening?

Update:

We're in!

Aside from some drama with keys and plumbing, everything seems to be okay. We just have a ton of unpacking to do.

Many thanks are due to our wonderful, wonderful friends who helped. Our favourite people in the world are:

  • Towa, for all the wheeling and dealing and making this happen!
  • Jill, who came by to help load the truck for an hour and a half before going to work!
  • Gayle, who came and cooked dinner for us two nights running to make sure we survived!
  • Ian, who did a ton of heavy lifting after a killer day at work, and gave us and the cats a place to crash when the key didn't work!
  • and Dave, who came by to finish the heavy lifting after I had already crashed for the night!

Worn out as we are from the move, it's wonderful to be reminded that we have such wonderful generous people in our lives. Thanks guys, and expect some big big thankyous to come.

rant updated 5 december 2005 permalink

Update:

we did it!!

And now, back to loading the truck...

rant updated 1 december 2005 permalink

This has been a crazy year. A lot going on, a lot going on. Ups and downs, highs and lows, yada yada.

Hence not a lot of activity here. Far too busy with real life.

Latest update: we're moving. Into a house! After spending what felt like an eternity seraching with TG's sister, we finally seem to have found something. Offer is in and accepted.

Inspection is this morning. Cross your fingers that it all works out!

rant updated 18 november 2005. permalink

I was here first!

So I went to sign up for something the other day and the username "smartygirl" was taken.

This drives me crazy.

It's not the first time it's happened, nor will it be the last. Really, it's not like you can trademark a nickname. It's not like there is any possible limit to how many people can use a nickname at anytime.

Still it drives me nuts.

First of all, it means I have to try to think up something else for a username - not a problem for something like signing up for a mailing list ar access to a newspaper, but it is a drag when it's something where you're known by your handle.

And that's big issue number two: I feel (rightly or wrongly - probably wrongly) like these other smartygirls are impersonators. I am especially filled with horror at the thought that someone will stumble across one of the others and think it's me, think that I'm a 22-year-old with questionable taste in music and clothing, and a fondness for animated gifs and blink tags. Nooo!

But what can I do? Try to sign up to every website imaginable the moment it goes up, to prevent anyone else from doing so? As if that's possible, as if I could be bothered.

Maybe it's time for a new handle, anyway. Afterall, I'm a 34-year-old married woman now, not a girl. When I thought it up, it seemed quite appropriate. A little bit playful, hinting at the fact that I'm a smartypants a lot of the time. But I suppose everything gets outgrown eventually.

So - new name? Or fight to the death for the old one?

rant updated 2 october 2005. permalink

Who can think of anything other than New Orleans?

Whenever I hear how people "chose" to stay behind despite the evacuation orders, I think of those pictures I saw of packed parked freeways and I wonder, what would we do if we had to evacuate?

I have a car. But most people I know don't. I know many people who've lived in cities all their lives who've never learned to drive. It's not necessary for day-to-day life, so not a priority.

So TG and I would climb into my tiny Tercel with the cats. And who else would we bring?

My instant answer to that is my sister and nephew. But do we just leave our roommate and her cat behind? Seems a bit callous.

What about TG's sister? Or my cousin, she doesn't have a car either. TG's cousins. Or our friends who live right across the street. All sorts of names started coming to mind, names of people without cars. What would they do? Try to evacuate on their bicycles? Rollerskate? Just walk?

And these are not people in the depths of poverty, like most of the people trapped in New Orleans. These are resourceful people who are doing pretty well for themselves, for the most part. Cars are an unnecessary expense; you can rent one if needed, right?

People who couldn't evacuate were told to go to the Superdome, and bring five days worth of food and water. Another thing we don't have. I could come up with five days worth of food if I was going to have access to a fridge, stove and oven. But those things were not options.

Of course, I don't live in a hurricaine zone. But a huge proportion of the people of New Orleans live below the poverty line - one half of households have incomes of less than $28,000. Who could run a household for that amount, let alone setting some cash and food and water and a car aside for a rainy day?

The government insists that none of the tragedy of the last week would have happen if people had evacuated when they were supposed to. What the government didn't stop to consider was that these victims had no options.

rant updated 5 september 2005. permalink

All grown up.

The great thing about weddings is seeing people you haven't seen in an age.

When I was in Halifax for Molly's wedding, I got the chance to spend some time with people I knew in Ottawa ten or fifteen years ago. It was an interesting experience.

It's amazing to see how much everyone has blossomed. Everyone is married or engaged now to someone wonderful, everyone is working at or studying something they actually want to do, everyone is happy and content and amzed at what they achieved and what they used to put up with.

We all have our stories of the crazy people we've suffered through trying to help, the angst of not knowing what we wanted to do, the general tendency of the very young to think that suffering and angst make you "deep."

Everything seemed so difficult then. Mainly because we made it difficult, we liked it difficult. If life wasn't difficult and high-drama and angst-inducing, it didn't seem worthwhile. Didn't seem important.

How much better it is to be happy!

Could any of us have imagined that we'd be sitting around having a drink at (the queen of fear of commitment) Molly's wedding in Halifax in 2005? Nope.

But what a pleasure it is to come full circle, to be able to get together and talk for hours and see how we've all grown up and marvel at the crazy kids we used to be.

rant updated 22 august 2005. permalink

And suddenly, the whole world is watching.

I should know better. I really should. For a couple of reasons.

Number one, I've seen it happen before - someone builds a funny website, the link gets forwarded to a few people, they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, just like the old shampoo ad. For nosepilots.com, it went from obscurity to a ten-thousand dollar invoice for bandwidth, and the site went from being a funny flash animation to being a rant against the animator's webhost, and details of the legal saga he in which he found himself tied up.

Number two, I am naturally loud, which invites an audience whether I (or the people around me) like it or not. I am especially loud when I get excited about something. I remember years ago having brunch with my mother and cousin in a resto very popular with the Ottawa gay community. I was telling them about a letter I had read in Ask Isadora, the old sex advice column in the Village Voice; it was particularly lurid and described a practice which seemed improbably unbelievable to me. Of course I was unaware of how my voice rose in volume (and how everyone else in the crowded room was quietly listening to what I had to say) as I related the story and my shock, and when I concluded "Who would even think of doing such a thing?" a guy at the other end of the restaurant piped up "I would!" The entire room dissolved in laughter and I don't think I have ever blushed so hard in my life.

Anyway, I thought I had that little problem under control.

I guess not.

So last Tuesday I read about Hans Island in the news, and thought it was the silliest thing I'd heard in a while (a pleasant change from the rest of the news, really - how civilised of Canada and Denmark to fight their battles with Inukshuks and liquor!) and I though I'd build a funny website about it - a little joke, something that took next to no effort, something that maybe might make people think twice about the foolishness of war. And I made a little cafepress store with "Hans Island Liberation Front" t-shirts and stuff.

Well.

Apparently I'm not the only person who thought it was funny.

The hits went up exponentially. I remembered the nosepilots.com saga and moved the site to a free site, where it exceeded bandwidth within an hour and was shut down. I moved it to another free site and set up a guestbook which has been filled to overflowing twice so far. I was contacted by the Canadian Press, I was on CBC News: Sunday Night last night, and I got home to an interview request from .

I am a-skeert to know what I'm going to be billed for bandwidth.

The cafepress store? If all of the current orders go through, I will get a cheque six weeks from now for $10.57. Because it wasn't supposed to be about money, it was supposed to be about funny.

I never wanted to make money, but I didn't want to go into debt either. Eek.

But maybe I can capitalise on all of this publicity somehow. Maybe some nice publisher will want to buy my manuscript, and it will become a bestseller. With a big irrelevant "No Inukshuks!" sticker on the front. Or maybe I can get a regular gig on the CBC as a talking head on Arctic Satire issues.

Who knows what will happen next. Stay tuned.

rant updated 1 august 2005. permalink

Ah, the cottage.

You would think that, with the amount of sheer wilderness in this country, there would be enough for each and every citizen to go away for the weekend and not see another human for days.

Of course, it's not all within three hours' driving distance.

There are good cottage neighbours and bad. Some of ours are so terrible it's comical.

First, the broken laws - building a massive structure right on the waterline - so much for the ecosystem. Apparently, civic officials are more bribable than we realised.

Then, the toys - the biggest, loudest, most irritating things you can imagine, from the dinky roaring quad their offspring use to do donuts in their driveway, to the motorboats they use unnecessarily close to the shore (surely anyone who has ever been to a cottage knows better than to make a wake by the shore? not these people), to the hideously bright yellow huge inflatable trampoline they float instead of a normal raft. And then, to add insult to injury, when they've finally all gone to sleep, or gone off on a day trip, there is the constant rumble of their central air. The compressors are conveniently placed facing our cottage, for added volume.

Going to the cottage traditionally meant two things: relaxing in a quiet environment away from the noises of the city, and appreciating the natural world - seeing the country as it was before we Europeans invaded, and recognising our duty as caretakers.

Taking the canoe up to the locks to check out the osprey's nest, we passed by no shoreline that was untampered with (except by our own cottage, one of the first five on the lake). The shoreline itself is a crucial element in wetlands ecosystems. Apart from any of the more delicate creatures (dragonflies, for example, are born in the water and need a safe place to transform when they come on land), how are the few remaining animals left in the woods supposed to get a sip of water if the humans have blocked off the entire shore?

The osprey's nest is high atop a telephone pole by a bridge. Even at that great distant height, we were in awe of its size - it's a huge thing, almost the size of a small car. We could see the osprey's head bobbing occasionally, and her massive wing when she stretched. It's fantastic to see such a thing and consider the amazing power of the natural world.

Paddling back to the cottage, fighting headwinds and a sprinkle of rain, a powerboat swooped by us, adding to the waves, nearly tipping us over. The people in the boat didn't notice the osprey. They didn't notice any birds at all.

rant updated 25 july 2005. permalink

Sexy.

Such a loaded word.

This issue has been simmering in my brain for a while, ever since Yoko Ono ignited a bit of controversy by appearing in a magazine in hotpants at the age of - how old is she? Seventy?

Some people were offended at the photo and considered it "inappropriate."

Others defended her - and every woman's - right to be sexy at any age. They pointed out that the similarly-elderly Clint Eastwood was described as "sexy" in the same magazine, and no one found that offensive.

But Clint wasn't photographed in Speedos.

Being called sexy is supposed to be empowering for women. But why is being scantily, sluttily clad empowering for women but not for men? Why is it that a lot of the stuff that's supposed to be empowering for women is also titillating for men?

Since lots of people are busy defending a woman's right to be sexy, I would like to defend a woman's right to be unsexy, and still appreciated. Or a woman's right to be sexy without resorting to dressing in skimpy clothes. To be considered sexy without being slutty. Better yet, to be considered sexy not for her clothes, but for her power, her achievements. You know, the same way powerful men are considered sexy even when fully clothed.

Because if Clint appeared in the male equivalent of Yoko's outfit - say, the bottom half of a firefighter's uniform, chest fully exposed, posing suggestively with a firehose - we would snigger. We would feel embarrassed on his behalf. We'd react to that photo the same way we react to the old-woman-in-hotpants photo.

More than being inappropriate, it's just depressing. Don't we ever get to grow up and be seen as human beings? Will we never get past the stage where "sexiness" is our most important characteristic? Where "sexiness" is defined by the amount of visible flesh?

rant updated 13 july 2005. permalink

Who's in control?

There have been endless articles lately about gambling addicts, and what the government should do about them. Close the casinos, for starters. Or at the very least, effectively stop known addicted gamblers from entering them.

Gambling is an interesting addiction. If you ask a twelve-stepper*, all addictions are the same. They all stem from internal issues, a belief in one's "terminal uniqueness," a need to control one's surroundings, and a need for artificial refuge when one's attempts at control fail (as they inevitably do). Many drug addictions are also the result of the mentally ill self-medicating with what they can get without a prescription.

With drug addiction, however, there is the second element of chemical dependency. A friend of mine - a rational, sane, grounded person - once tried crack on the principle of trying anything once; it was offered to her in a relatively safe environment, so she thought, why not? The next day, she was scared by how strong the need for more crack was. First thing when she awoke, she thought "need more crack." She was astonished by the effect it had on her, and never did it again. This kind of chemical response, combined with the underlying emotional issues that lead one to experiment with drugs in the first place make drug addiction very difficult to overcome. It's will power + nervous breakdown + physical symptoms ranging from headaches to tremors to constipation to cold sweats to full-blown hallucinations.

With gambling, there is no chemical element.

You'd think quitting gambling would be so much easier, wouldn't you?

The problem is, the one thing necessary for overcoming an addiction is for the addict to take responsibility for the problem. And most gambling addicts don't want to do that.

In every article I've read on the subject, responsibility is shifted to the government and casino operators. They should be the ones taking responsibility and saving the gamblers from themselves.

Of course, if any of these people entered a twelve step programme, they'd learn that waiting for someone else to control their problems for them won't help.

If you attend an AlAnon meeting (for the friends and family of addicts), the one piece of advice you'll hear over and over and over again is that taking away the addict's booze will not help. The addict has to make the decision to stop; no one can do that for him. Usually, if someone tries to take away the substance, it makes the addict more determined to get it. It's a control issue: you try to take control away, the addict tries to get it back. (According to some, the same crazy logic applies to people in abusive relationships - I read up on it when I had a friend in this situation. I was looking for advice on how to perform an intervention, or something similarly dramatic: kidnap her! take her away from the madness and talk some sense into her! But the books said that any such action would backfire: a person in that situation has lost control of her life to an abusive lover, if I had kidnapped her, she would have lost control to me. What she would really need is to build up her own will so that she could take control of her own life, and not let it pass from outsider to outsider. But I digress.) Until the addict is willing to accept responsibility for his problem, he has no hope of recovery. Blaming institutions does not help.

Of course, there's an obvious reason people like to blame the government, other than the fact that it's a national hobby. The addict himself is inevitably going to look for someone else to blame; that is the nature of addiction. But what of his family? One of the hardest parts of living with an addict is realising that you could be part of the problem. That you could be making the problem worse. The vast majority of addictions - to gambling, alcohol, drugs, whatever - are caused by other conflicts. Happy well-adjusted people do not develop addictions. Problems this serious do not spring up for no reason whatsoever. Go to any twelve-step meeting and you will hear story after story of heartache - troubled childhoods, troubled relationships, troubled people. People with problems they can't control. People who look for solace in the one thing they think they can control (although they're wrong). The user has to become a different person in order to overcome his addiction. Maybe he'll realise that his parents or spouse is manipulative, or emotionally abusive, or otherwise harmful to his recovery. Maybe his family and friends will have to accept some unpleasant truths about themselves.

Sometimes it's easier for people to accept the status quo - however horrible - than to accept responsibility for their own mistakes. And that goes for addicts as well as their families.

rant updated 15 june 2005. permalink

Finally!

It's summer again, the skies are blue, the trees are in full leaf, the air smells sweet like flowers and wraps its warth around you as if to say, don't worry, winter will never come again.

It's nice to believe, just for a while.

I love summer. I go crazy when people start complaining about the heat. This is what we've been waiting for for so long! This is what it's all about! Strutting around in sandals and floaty dresses, everyone in moviestar sunglasses. Glamourous, langourous summer.

Last weekend we went up to the cottage to escape the noxious smells of the city (my alley was taken over by grafitti artists who "sort of" had permission from the city, which means they didn't actually have permission at all. What fun). Of course we had the one un-sunny day, the one day when clouds descended upon us and cloaked the world in cool mist and darkness. We stopped for breakfast at a roadside diner that left us feeling queasy and ill. Summer seemed years away. But it came back, it returned to restore us on Sunday (the official day of summer), filling us with well-being as we zoomed around town buying flowers and plants for the deck, strolling through Kensington (my old neighbourhood) and cruising down tree-lined Annex streets. the kind of day that could make you fall in love with a city.

Now the deck is festooned with blossoms, the roof bears tomato plants which will soon bear fruit of their own, and the beams streaming through the skylight put me at peace.

Days like this, you've gotta love the world.

rant updated 9 june 2005. permalink

It never ends...

Oh how I long for the days when a certain name was so far from my thoughts that it didn't provoke even a flicker of memory, good or bad. Such innocent days when a certain name would only cause me to say, "who?"

I had thought it was all over. After TG moved in in January, the anonymous crank calls stopped. Eureka! "Hm," I thought, "if I had known it would be this easy, I would have had TG move in a lot eariler."

But.

I started getting emails. Not from the Evil One mind you, but from friends saying, "Smarty, could you get the Evil One to stop emailing me? I am tired of having my in-box filled with his third-rate-junkie rambly spam."

It would appear that every friend whose website I have ever linked is a victim of the extended stalking.

So, to my friends who have suffered, I apologise. To the editors of magazines I have linked, I apologise.

And I hope this will end soon.

rant updated 25 may 2005. permalink

The shark has been jumped.

It was over a year and a half ago that I wrote about the changes in my neighbourhood.

It's now official. The charm is almost all gone, draining away like grime down a barroom sink.

The locals have been chased out by the yuppies. The galleries are moving or closing. Bar after bar in opening, without regard to what the neighbourhood can handle.

What they seem to forget is that we are a residential neighbourhood. People live here.

People are what make any neighbourhood great. People are definitely the key to this neighbourhood; the artists who moved in when the rents were cheap and turned empty storefronts into things of beauty, and the original residents who lend a sense of continuity. It's an interesting mix, and one that works.

It works so well that it attracts tourists and the businesspeople who cater to them.

Thing is, these tourists and businesses destroy the very thing that attracted them in the first place. The mix of galleries that has flourished for years here is being squeezed out by nightclubs. The hard-drinking patrons don't mix well with the families who've grown up here.

I love(d) this area. I want to stay here. I'd like to see it grow, but there are good changes and bad changes. Seven new bars in three blocks is not healthy growth. I'd like to see a deli, or a bakery, or a hardware store, or a bookstore. Or a place that sells socks and underwear. Chocky's would be a great addition.

For real growth, you need variety. Umpteen bars will kill what we have.

Of course we're doing something about it. The Queen Beaconsfield Residents Association is young, but it's growing. If you live in the neighbourhood and want to get involved, please contact us through the QBRA website (under construction for now, more to come soon).

rant updated 18 may 2005. permalink

Read all about it.

We're back from France, TG has digitised all of the photos and we're just waiting for me to get around to uploading them.

Meanwhile, check this out: our wedding was written up in today's Toronto Star! Free registration required, or you can check bugmenot.com for an existing username and password.

rant updated 15 may 2005. permalink

We did it!!

our first dance

Just over twenty-four hours ago, TG and I tied the knot! The ceremony was wonderful, the guests were gorgeous, and the food was amazing. Thank you to everyone who came. I wish everyone I know could have been there! Getting married is like jumping out of an airplane (at least for those of us who like jumping out of airplanes). You've tried to imagine what it's like, and there's a happy scary excitement when you're going up in the plane, and you just want to hold the hand of everyone you know whom you care about, and who cares about you, and give them a good squeeze before you fling yourself into space. There are a few dizzy moments and then you're in your arch and the world spreads out below you and you're hanging in the air like some fantastic soaring crane, floating on the breezes and currents and it's the most amazing feeling in the world and you can't believe you've just done it (finally!) and you're so insanely happy and excited and full of adrenaline that you want to hug everyone you know.

We have a few photos posted of the Lobola and the wedding, more to follow, no doubt.

Now, after a long day of napping, I think it's time to unwind in the bath with a slice of wedding cake and a wee glass of wine!

rant updated 18 april 2005. permalink

Speaking ill of the dead.

I am quite stunned that in all of the unending coverage of the death of the pope there has been so little criticism of his shameful reign.

This is the man who presided over the cover-up of the abuse of countless children at the hands of his henchmen.

This is the man whose tenure coincided with the rise of AIDS to epidemic proportions, yet he continued to insist that his followers not practise safe sex.

How many people have suffered - even died - because of this man? Thousands? Millions? It's unbearable to think of.

Now he is dead. Let us hope that he is replaced by someone who is more interested in doing good than in pandering to the media.

rant updated 3 april 2005. permalink

Save Brave New Waves!

I just heard that Brave New Waves is going off the air. How sad!

I have been listening since I was a kid, when Brent Banbury was a host. As a misfit growing up in the country outside of a small town, I didn't have access to much, culture-wise - a couple of fuzzy television channels (no cable), and some staticky radio stations (mostly country). The CBC was the only thing that came in consistently, and thus the only thing to listen to. I remember spinning the dials late at night when I got my first radio in grade eight, and stumbling across some strange sounds, and being completely hooked, and then stunned to realise I was listening to CBC Stereo - the station of choice for my staid dad.

It was the only opportunity I had to hear something outside of mainstream pop culture, and it was my saviour in high school. It saved me the first Christmas I spent away from my family - I still remember the special Christmas edition that year, featuring such holiday classics as King Missile's "Jesus was way cool."

I know BNW "saved" other kids too - a musician friend of mine was visiting relatives in rural Manitoba when she was stunned to discover that some of the local teenagers had heard of the indie band she played with in Montreal - because they'd heard them on BNW. BNW is just about the only thing that misfits and freaks across Canada have to share.

I spend a lot of time defending the CBC for that reason - it's the only thing that every single person in Canada can access, whether you're in Toronto or Prince George or Edmunston. I can talk to anyone who grew up anywhere in Canada about our memories of "The Beachcombers." It reaches the small towns and rural areas that the commercial broadcasters and cable companies can't be bothered with. Rural people have just as much right to access culture as people in cities. And when it's hard to get, it's that much more important for Crown corporations like the CBC to step up to the plate.

Before we let this groudbreaking programme die, please think of the people who will be affected. The skinny, sullen kid with the all-black wardrobe. The girl in the baggy sweater who hides behind her hair and eyeliner. The shy kid. The lonely kid.

Don't let it happen. Save the Waves!

rant updated 11 march 2005. permalink

From bad to worse.

I have already complained here about the lack of true reporting in the newspapers these days. No longer do newspapers offer simple news. Instead of facts, they offer badly-written tugs at the emotions.

Now it appears some "reporters" have gotten so wrapped up in their own emotional attachment to the case, that they're unwilling to let go of their feelings. They've become willing to distort the truth.

Everyone in Toronto has heard about the Johnathan trial. It's awful: a boy, accompanied by two friends, killed his brother, and then attacked his step-father.

The facts are these: The Brother has admitted to killing Johnathan, all by himself; although he says he doesn't remember the details, he is certain his friends did not help him. When the step-father arrived home, one of the friends (we'll call him A) was already leaving the scene, and mumbled "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" to the father when their paths crossed at the door. The Brother then attacked the step-father, but the step-father managed to escape the house and get to a neighbour's.

At or around this point, the police arrived, having been tipped off by a girl (G), A's girlfriend, who had taped a telephone conversation between A, the Brother, and their other friend (B), in which they bragged of a plan to kill Johnathan and the Brother's entire family. G made this tape because B had been bragging about their plans, and she was concerned.

On the surface, it all seems clear. The murder was planned and carried out. The defence had argued that the Brother had a mental disorder in which he was subject to sudden explosive uncontrollable rages. They had argued that A was making up stories to impress his girl, and it was their phone conversation with G that wound him up into the rage that led to Johnathan's death. They even argued that G "abetted" the killing, by encouraging them to talk about what a bloodbath it would be, and inciting the Brother's rage to the tipping point.

When I first read that theory, I thought, preposterous! How could they possibly blame this girl, variously described by reporters as "poised," "courageous," and even "regal," for something she clearly had nothing to do with? A had been bragging about the murder plans before she taped the call. What kind of crazy brags about blood being "on tap" to impress a girl? Especially a lovely girl like G, who testified that she did not like that sort of thing at all?

Except that, "blood" and "knives" are among G's favourite things, according to her (now deleted) profile on vampirefreaks.com. In fact, her username on the site was "biteforblood." A different newspaper discovered the profile and broke the story two days ago. Suddenly, it is quite possible that A, the one who left the scene early and apologetically, was just making stuff up to impress a girl. The defence's contention that G abetted Johnathan's murder by inciting the Brother's rage makes sense with the new evidence brought to light. It is indeed quite possible that she was setting A up, or at the very least, knew that her encouragment was likely to incite violence. Standing back and looking at her behavious with a bit of objectivity, what seemed courageously clever when the crucial details were missing, now seems horribly deceitful and conniving. Secretly taping a conversation in which you encourage someone to commit murder?

A mistrial has been declared. Whatever the new trial determines to be the truth, the situation remains horrible.

I've been following the trial with a sort of morbid fascination. It seems to unbelievable that kids would behave in this way; maybe I'm hoping that a happy ending will magically appear somehow so I'll be able to sleep better at night. It's hard to process such a terrible, terrible story.

Maybe that's why some journalists let their objectivity slip by the wayside. Maybe they just want to believe that somebody, just one person, is pure of heart and willing to do the right thing. Or maybe they're just too close to the case.

(Or maybe some journalists are embarrassed that, after covering a story every day for a month, they missed the big scoop.)

In any case, when a journalist dismissed new evidence in favour of their own emotions about a subject, it's time for that journalist to be removed from duty.

A journalist who writes:

In the on-line diary she kept of the trial, the girl noted one day that the Post reporter was a hottie (he is) and that another, me, "is in love with me. She called me regal! Me!"
Still love you, kid.

is a journalist who can not be trusted to deliver the truth.

rant updated 17 february 2005. permalink

My need for cheese.

My New Year's resolution this year was the same as it is most years: the health thing. No drinking. A proper breakfast every morning. Five to ten servings of fruit and veg a day, just like they say you're supposed to eat. Only eating things that have a high number of nutrients per calorie.

Some of this is easy. Avocados, mangoes, strawberries - all nutritious and tasty.

However, eating an entire loaf of malt bread toasted with butter is not really healthy.

So, I gave up toast. Didn't even buy butter for a full month. Didn't buy bread. No bagels or muffins from the commisary at work. No grilled cheese sandwiches. No junk food of any kind. No refined sugar, for crying out loud. White or brown.

Well and good. And then I got sick.

Now, I started out the flu season being smug. I was one of the first kids on my block to get the flu shot. I got it last year, and didn't get sick once. I was looking forward to the same kind of success.

Instead, I got cold after cold after cold. Sinus pressure. Constant congestion. Misery.

I ate garlic, drank orange juice, drank chicken soup by the gallon. It didn't help.

Then last Tuesday, February arrived, and with it, the monthly meeting of my writing group. That morning, feeling sorry for myself and my sickie state, I had had a toasted cheese bagel with butter for second breakfast. I had been so good for so long, I felt a deserved to treat myself to a grilled cheese sandwich. And that evening I decided, what the heck, to have a drink, at which point poutine seemed like a good idea.

The next morning I woke up feeling wonderful.

I could breathe through both nostrils. My head was clear.

I have learned my lesson.

I will never go without cheese again.

rant updated 8 february 2005. permalink

How to save the institution of marriage.

Since every other idiot is ranting and moaning about the death of the family and how same sex marriage is going to turn Canada into a cesspot of depravity, I thought I'd jump into the fray too.

Make marriage more difficult. It is so easy to get married these days, that people do it for no reason at all (cf Britney Spears). There should be significant waiting periods and also significant requirements the couple must meet, say, six months of engagement, and three months of weekly marriage prep courses, with a strict no absenteeism policy. If you can't commit to that, you can't commit to a lifetime. There should be additional counselling required for couples who have been married more than once before, to ensure that they are perhaps taking marriage seriously this time. The marriage prep courses should be graded, with couples who don't do well being referred to mandatory counselling before they are permitted to marry. Some couples could even be denied marriage.

Make divorce more difficult. One of the reasons people get married so casually is that it is easy to divorce. People should take marriage seriously, and that means taking divorce seriously. Part of this would be to re-think the idea of alimony, that is to say, throw it out. Unless there are very particular circumstances (e.g. the classic "I worked 12-hour shifts as a cleaner to put you through law school, and the deal was that you would similarly support me when it was my turn to go to school" is a fair reason for support while the spouse finishes the promised education. Anyone else who wants to be kept in the manner to which they have become accustomed can get a job.

Make common-law marriage irrelevant. Common-law spouses should not be accorded the same status as actual marriages. Marriage is a binding step in which two people promise to take care of one another till the end. Common-law partnerships come with no such promises. The idea of "palimony" is insane.

Consenting adults who meet the qualifications laid out above should be able to marry regardless of orientation. This includes polygamy. It's not my thing, but who am I to say it's wrong, if it involves commited consenting adults? People who are in commited relationships deserve the rights and protections that marriage law offers, regardless of their orientation. To force people to live outside the law is foolish and unfair.

Okay, that's it. Now you can all write and tell me what an idiot I am.

rant updated 22 january 2005. permalink

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* Yes, I know lots of people find twelve-step programmes annoying, or hokey, or consider them an addiction on a par with whatever addiction they replace. But twelve-step programmes are still the most successful way to overcome addiction.

* when I worked in market research, this was an actual question I had to ask, along with, "How sexy do you find buttock hair on a man?"

* Estimates of annual child care costs based on provincial administrative data provided to CRRU for 2001

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