27 June, 2005

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...

I would have been eleven or so the year I was run over by a cop.
It happened off Grandview Drive in London, Ontario. It was the kind of summer afternoon made especially for bicycling--sunny and warm, but with just the right amount of breeze to cool you off without impeding your progress.
I was rip-snorting along Grandview at something close to the speed limit when I decided to make a right-hand turn on to some crescent or other. At the speed I was going, controlling the bike through the turn was somewhat of an issue. I was just starting to straighten up when my eyes picked out a yellow Honda Civic backing out of a drivew--holy shit, right IN FRONT OF ME---
I had enough time to apply my brakes, snapping one cable and actually flattening my rear tire. Then I was rolling on the ground, with no clear idea how I'd got from there to here, and that little Honda Civic was suddenly a very large Honda Civic, a positively ENORMOUS Honda Civic, and its right rear wheel came up over my right leg as if the driver was backing over a speed bump.
We owned a Honda Civic once, and the running joke around our house was "when's it going to grow up?" Now I found myself thankful I'd been run over by a baby car; it hurt, but it was nothing I couldn't walk off. I was lucky, I told myself. Really lucky. And I was going to tear that driver a new asshole. You're supposed to look both ways, shit-for-brains, I rehearsed in my head. My father is a police officer and he'll be very interested to hear about this...
Then the cop got out. In full dress uniform. My bowels turned to water along with my stupid bravado. I thought about asking him to run me over again instead of fining me. Hell, he could back over me all day if he didn't tell my parents. But I found I couldn't speak at all.
The officer made sure I was okay and then went into Full Cop Mode, lecturing me about the responsible handling of a bicycle and doing his level best to make my hair stand on end. He told me about all the charges he could lay--the potential fines added up to more money than I'd ever seen in one place. Almost absentmindedly, he added that my bike didn't have a sounding device and that was worth another $65.
The cop observed my face, falling with each charge. By the time he finished his spiel, I was in tears, and not only from my leg. He concluded by saying he was going to let me off with a warning. "Let this be a lesson to you, young man."

It was.
Since that summer day, whenever riding a bicycle, I have done my best to observe every rule of the road. I use hand signals. I don't run stop signs or red lights. I claim my little bit of lane and stick to it.
And I haven't rode a bike now for going on ten years.
Oh, through my teens and early twenties I was a constant cyclist, commuting all over creation. Neither rain nor wind nor snow would stop me, although slush certainly slowed me down. It helped that during a large chunk of that time I lived in London, a city whose planners must have included a bunch of two-wheelers. At the time, you could get most of the way across the city without riding on more than three hundred metres of city street. The bike paths were everywhere.
I moved to Kitchener-Waterloo in 1990 and discovered a whole new world, one not especially habitable for cyclists. The drivers here acted as if I had a bulls-eye painted on my back and the rules of the road that had served me in such good stead for eight years had suddenly undergone a total change. Drivers screamed at me to "get the fuck on the sidewalk where you belong!" Hand signals were ignored. After several near-collisions, not one of which was my fault, I decided to call it a cycling career. The four-wheeled menaces could have the damn road all to themselves.
Thing is, I don't blame them. I've seen far too many cyclists who have obviously not been run over by cops, blatantly ignoring every last traffic law, a world unto themselves. Every day I see at least one cyclist roaring along on the sidewalk and I sometimes have to restrain myself from giving them a little stick in their spokes. I don't say anything to these idiots--they're on a bike, they can outrun me--but Lord, I want to.
Bikes are vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act. As such, their place is not on the sidewalk. It is on the road, and they are to be given their space. In fact, should a cyclist have to make a left turn, he is suppsed to enter the left-hand-turn lane, just as a car would, and make his turn from there. Like a car, a bike is supposed to turn into an inside lane and then change to the outside when the way is clear.
Nobody does this, of course. The few cautious ones walk their bikes across two streets; the rest just let their imagination be their guides.
What we need is a bicycle licensing system like that in the Netherlands. There should also be phalanxes of bicycle cops--God knows they could write up enough tickets to more than pay their own salaries. With such a system and strict enforcement in place, maybe drivers would begin to accept the two-wheeled vehicles sharing their roads.
In the meantime, there's a brand new bike residing in my shed. I've never ridden it; in fact, it's not even put together. I'll drag it out the day I think I might be able to get to work without being run over.
Once was enough.

26 June, 2005

Good Lord, am I a dunce or what?!

I have just discovered how to allow ANYONE TO COMMENT on my blog. You'd think I would have found this out long before now; I've been blogging for over a year. Anyway, things are all set up now; folks, PLEASE LEAVE ME YOUR COMMENTS, positive or negative. I will endeavour to answer all of them.


24 June, 2005

Here we go again...

God please save me from your followers.

I keep having to stomp this particular fire out. I don't know why I bother--debating these people who are putting aside every critical issue facing this country because, at root, they feel vaguely uncomfortable at the mere thought of Jack and Gil getting married--debating these folks bears an uncanny resemblance to banging my head against a brick wall. But I'll keep trying. Here are 31 "reasons" to vote against same-sex marriage, with my thoughts on each of them. My apologies at the repetitiveness--there are really only ten or so "reasons" here--but hey, the first sign of an argument running out of steam is a resort to repetition.

The government has no authority to change the definition of a religious term such as marriage. They have no right to change the definition of "baptism", "communion", "bar mitzvah", "marriage" or any other religious term.

Okay, right away we've come up against a specious assumption: that "marriage" is a religious term. Says who? In order to be married, one need not enter a place of worship nor invoke the name of any god. So how can marriage be a religious term?

Same sex marriage is not a "human right". The United Nations’ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms make no mention, directly or indirectly of such a right.

Y'know, it's really funny. I just sat down and read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms through. It makes no mention, directly or indirectly, of any kind of marriage. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights put forth by the United Nations does, however. Let's look carefully at what it has to say:

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Now, you will note the first clause does not specify that men must marry women, or that women must marry men. It simply says that men and women have the right to marry.

Back to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sexual orientation has been "read into" the Charter for some time now, probably on the basis of the equality rights in Article 15:

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

I'm going to come right out here, so to speak, and suggest that gays and lesbians form a "disadvantaged group". Given that the suicide rate of gays and lesbians is six times the national average and hate crimes are still common, it's hard not to argue otherwise. This group of people is not specifically included in the Charter, but it is not excluded, either. Given that the Charter holds equality as a fundamental right, it is only correct that sexual orientation be considered.

Anyway, all this suggests to me is that according to the United Nations, marriage is a fundamental freedom for all and according to the Charter, gays are not to be discriminated against. Draw your own conclusions.

When women gained equal rights in Canada, they were not renamed "men". Laws were passed to give them rights. Same sex couples do not have to be called "married" to receive rights.

When homosexuals get the right to marry in Canada, nobody will rename them "straight", either.
We can set up a whole set of laws codifying--we'll call it "gayage"--and make sure that they are identical insofar as the rights and obligations they grant same-sex couples. Or we can just extend marriage rights to gay people.
Obviously, we're arguing over a word. And words are funny: they mean whatever you want them to, no matter what the dictionary may say on the matter. If I say "marriage", you'll imagine certain things; if you say "marriage", I will imagine certain things. Much of our respective mental pictures will overlap, but there will be differences.
It really does seem much simpler to me to allow gay couples the freedom to marry. You know most of them will consider themselves married, not "civilly unionated" or some such. Where's the harm?

If marriage is redefined, it is redefined for everyone. Are your [sic] married? If so, to a man or a woman? To properly identify oneself every married couple in Canada will then have to define their marriage as a "same sex marriage" or an "opposite sex marriage".

I identify myself, properly, as Ken Breadner. Whom I choose to marry, or not, is quite frankly none of anybody's business unless and until I choose to tell them. And the same goes for any two married people. Period.

To change the definition of marriage is a violation of Article 16 of the United Nations’ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". This article demands government protection of "family" and "marriage".

Those damn homosexuals! They're plotting to overthrow marriage! Hurry! Protect it!
Oh, sorry: that was vicious sarcasm, but I just realized quite a few people actually believe this. I'd like them to show me how extending marriage threatens it. I still haven't heard any kind of answer to that question.

To change the definition of marriage is a violation of Canada’s "Charter of Rights". The first line of the Charter reads "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:" It is a violation of "The principle of the supremacy of God" to re-define a sacred institution.

See the rebuttal to the first paragraph: marriage is not a sacred institution. And "the supremacy of God" is a null statement. Who or what is God? Take as long as you like to answer. I suspect that the people who spewed forth this elaborate justification of bigotry have a very good idea who God is. Problem: there are many competing visions of the same God...not to mention other Gods, the belief in which is--surprise!--guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Re-definition of marriage violates the first "fundamental freedom" listed by the "Charter of Rights" that states "Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: a) freedom of conscience and religion". By dictating religion the state infringes upon the freedom of religion.

The state is not "dictating religion" here, since...again...marriage and religion have little to do with each other.

Re-definition sets up a "two tiered" Charter of Rights where homosexuals and lesbians have powers over the religious.

Look, at some point, Joe Gay Catholic is going to want to be married in his church. That point is not yet, but I'm sure it's coming. We'll see how the court rules. In the meantime, Christians in particular have a lot of hard Bible study to do.
What they shouldn't do is ask themselves "what would Jesus do"...because in all but a few, that question is magically transformed into "what would I do if I were Jesus?" Instead, they should read carefully what they think are prohibitions against homosexuality, particularly those in the New Testament. It helps to read them in Greek. Fair warning: you'll be surprised to find there is no prohibition against homosexuality in the Bible that can be attributed to God in any of His three Aspects.

The Prime Minister has betrayed his colleagues attempting to force cabinet members to go against their religious convictions and vote to redefine marriage. If he will not protect religious freedom for his friends he will certainly not protect ordinary Canadians.

It's a failing of our political system that "voting one's conscience" is so rarely permitted. I'm not defending Paul Martin, but he may have told his caucus that religious freedoms--guaranteed, after all, under the Charter--will not be infringed upon, in an effort to get them to accept his legislation. That's politics. In any event, the actions of the PM do not constitute in and of themselves a reason to vote against (or for) same-sex marriage. Let's keep to the issue at hand, here, okay?

Two-tiered rights regimes suppress the underclass. Religious institutions are being forced to host same sex nuptials such as the Knights of Columbus hall in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Religious schools such as the Catholic School in Whitby, Ontario are being forced to accept same sex relationships. Religious individuals such as Scott Brockie are forced to print material against his conscience. You and your Church, Synagogue or place of worship may be next.

Oooo, suppression of the "underclass", whatever that is. Sounds nasty. Reminds me of Monty Python's Constitutional Peasant. I'll admit I have not read up on the cases of the Catholic School in Whitby (what, only one?) or the KoC hall in PoCo, nor do I know of Scott Brockie. I'm curious to know how one is "forced" to print anything. Do they do it with guns? Knives?
I think it only fair to point out that same-sex marriages have occurred in Christian (admittedly, not Catholic) churches. I'd like to be a fly on the wall at the confrontation between Christian ministers who have performed such services and those who are vehemently against them. Is one set or the other not Christian? Discuss.

Two-tiered rights are currently violating freedom for those who conduct marriage ceremonies. Religious commissioners of marriages in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have already been threatened with loss of livelihood if they do not succumb to the dictates of the state and agree to marry same sex couples.
Religious freedom for Clergy will not be upheld. On December 9, 2004 the Supreme Court clearly articulated that the federal government has no ability to protect Clergy from marrying same sex couples. The Court says this is a Provincial responsibility however no province in Canada has legislation in place to protect Clergy. In fact at least three provinces have already attacked Clergy freedoms.

Lock up the priests! The gays are coming!
I don't mean to be flip, I really don't. But all this talk of "protection" grates on my nerves. Pass a same-sex marriage law. Write into it that no priest or pastor may be forced to perform a marriage ceremony against his or her will. It's really that simple. Churches already discriminate as to whom they marry. Some insist you be members of the parish; many won't recognize your marriage if it's performed in a church of a different faith. All of this is just as wrong, as far as I am concerned, as refusing to marry same-sex couples, but nobody's challenged it.

Religious freedom in education is being debased. Religious students are forced to study same sex values, relationships, activities and homosexual and lesbian way of life. There is no protection or conscientious objection caveat to alleviate students from being exposed to objectionable material.

AND THERE BLOODY WELL SHOULDN'T BE. If you are absolutely determined to keep your little ones under your thumb. better buy them a bubble. See, this paragraph here gives us a clue as to what motivates these people: fear. They're afraid their sons and daughters might be exposed to what they deem objectionable and find it...not so objectionable. It scares these people witless to think that each generation--each individual--charts its own moral course. The purpose of an education is to get students thinking for themselves, not to parrot their parents' selected Bible readings.

Same sex education is commonly used as a proselytizing tool. Much of the material leads the student to question their sexuality by their dreams and level of stimulation when exposed to explicit material.

Oops, there's that sarcasm again. I keep forgetting people really do think this way. Well, if you are exposed to explicit sexual material in school, hey, let me know where your school is, eh? I want to sit in. I might learn something.
Seriously, if you're aroused by gay porn, you could very well be gay. Not necessarily--I am, but I'm not--but you could be. And, as Seinfeld so memorably said, "not that there's anything wrong with that." No matter what your parents think.
At the very least, everyone ought to question and come to terms with their sexuality. It's an important part of who you are.

Re-definition of marriage undermines the foundation of society. Our civilization is based on the traditional definition of marriage. Social engineers are now attempting to demolish society as we know it and build their own "Brave New World".

I've said this before and I will say it again: marriage is NOT the foundation of society. The foundation of society is the individual. He/she may be married, or not; it makes no difference as far as human rights and social obligations go.

Family is our foundation. The United Nations’ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights",Article 16.(3) states "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

Dare we define family? I dare you to tell me that my wife and I don't constitute a family. You better run away real quick while you say that: I have a hell of a right hook.
The people who wrote this drivel are perfectly entitled to their vision of a "family"....only insofar as they apply it to themselves alone. And don't keep using that word "protection" without telling me what you're trying to protect families from.

Marriage is the foundation of family. The place for pro-creation and development of children. Same sex couples cannot pro-create.

Red herring. So what? We can't procreate either. It doesn't make our marriage less valid in the eyes of the State or--get this--in the eyes of the Church, either. Last I looked, people could get married in a church without the immediate obligation to "start a family". In fact, up until recently, having a "family"--by which these folks mean children--before you married was very much frowned upon.

Marriage is the foundation of government where members are governed.

Say what? This is gobbledygook made to sound important. "Marriage is the foundation of government"??? What the heck does that mean? You have to be married to run for office? So what, anyway? Boy, we're really stretching now, aren't we?

Marriage is the first level of implementation of the law where members are encouraged to keep the law.

What bizarro world are we living in here? This makes no sense whatsoever and would be perfectly irrelevant if it did. I was taught to obey the law long before I married!

Marriage is the first level of education where members are taught civilized behaviour, morals and ethics.

Are we speaking in code? Are "members" children? Why not say so?
(Aside: civilized behaviour may well be taught, but morals and ethics are self-taught.)
No matter: saying "marriage is the first level of purpleness where members are taught the essence of pure purplehood" does not advance the case against same-sex marriage one iota.

Marriage is the first level of healthcare where the sick are cared for.

If you're single, you die on the street? Is that how this works?

Marriage is the first level caring for the poor.

I give up. You know what this sounds like? "Neener-neener-neener! If I cover my ears, I won't hear you! I reject your version of reality and insert my own!"

Radical social-engineering cannot be enacted without full debate, discussion, involvement and participation of vast majority of the citizens in a free country. Dictatorships have attempted to radically change society in other ways and the result is catastrophic. Not even the most corrupt Communist or fascist dictatorships have attempted to redefine marriage.

Mostly because the most corrupt communist or fascist states don't care one bit about human rights.
You can't force meaningful political participation on people: they'll resent it. Many people have tuned out this debate on account of they simply don't care; they've come to the conclusion that same-sex marriage will not affect them in any way, so they don't pay attention to the diatribes pro or con. Sorry to say this, but I don't think these arguments will influence them.

Re-engineering society is not a priority of the people however it has become the number one priority for the Prime Minister. Instead of focusing on Canada’s vital issues such as healthcare, education, security and taxes, Mr. Martin is fixated on same sex marriage.

Umm, pot? Kettle? Look, you can accuse the Prime Minister of 'fixation' all you want, but it's the people opposed to same-sex marriage that are doing at least as much to keep Parliament from dealing with all the critical issues facing this country. The courts have been ruling on this issue for four years now, and no ruling has yet come back against same-sex marriage.

If same sex marriage was a "human right" then most same sex couples would exercise this so-called right. In fact same sex marriage has been legal in parts of Canada for almost two years and only a couple thousand have become married. Over 99 percent have not entered into so-called "same sex marriage". Now the social engineers want to re-define marriage for the .006 percent of the population of Canada.

Just because I have a right does not obligate me to exercise it. Canadians have the right to vote, and they've been doing so in fewer and fewer numbers.
At least get your figures right: 0.006 percent of the population of Canada is some 217,000 people, a far cry from "a couple of thousand". Anyway, if this redefinition of marriage affects so few people, doesn't hurt anyone (and doesn't affect you at all), why have you got your knickers in such a twist?

The majority of Canadians do not want marriage to be redefined. Virtually every poll has indicated this fact with as much as 69% of the nation in objection.

Majority rules, then. The majority once thought blacks weren't fit to marry whites. The majority can be wrong.

Statistics Canada released its findings that only one percent of Canadians are homosexual or lesbian. Another .7 percent of Canadians are bi-sexual. Even this community does not wholly support redefining marriage.

Again, if this is being done for so few people, what's the big deal? They're not criminalizing heterosexual marriage, you know.

There is an electoral consequence to violating the will of the constituents. Numerous Members of Parliament lost their seat subsequent to voting against marriage.

Really? Did the government kick them out? Or did their electors stand up against bigotry?

Betraying the trust of the people creates an electoral consequence. Many Members of Parliament voted for marriage before voting against it. Mr. Martin and 215 other Members of Parliament voted for marriage in 1999. Over 130 Members voted for marriage in 2002. Now some are changing their vote. Their word yesterday appears to have no bearing on their actions of today. Who knows what they will do tomorrow? Such subterfuge will not tolerated by the electorate.

Maybe not by you. At least some of the electorate will be comforted that their elected MPs finally came to their senses. No matter: that's for the next election to decide. And the Liberals will win it, same-sex bill or no. Mark my words.

Radically changing the Liberal Party will bring demise. Throughout its history the Liberal Party was moderate and centrist. Now the Prime Minister is bringing in an extremist agenda of redefining marriage, talk of polygamy, decriminalizing marijuana and discussions on euthanasia. In addition they grant 582 work visas to Romanian strippers and pay $250 million dollars to Liberal friends. These are not Liberal Values they are Extremist Values.

Hey. wow, we've thrown in gay marriage with AdScam and Strippergate. Next on Channel Seven: Gay marriage causes global warming and tooth decay.
Incidentally, since we've brought all this up, polygamy should be legal; marijuana MUST be legalized, never mind decriminalized; and euthanasia is the benchmark by which compassionate societies are judged. (If your life isn't your own, what is?)

Now...anybody got any real objections to gay marriage? Anybody? Bueller?

The Ticketmaster and the Slave

I've already offended one friend in private email with my take on Live 8--essentially, that it's pointless, since zero money will be raised--so I won't expound on that theme any further here.

Now, the actual Live 8 concert, as opposed to the politics surrounding it, was something I had a modest interest in. I mean, I like some of the groups that are scheduled to perform. A few of them--the Barenaked Ladies in particular--hearken back to what I think of as the golden era of Canadian music, before grunge turned popular music into nihilistic noise. If it was possible to strap duct tape over the mouths of any concertgoer under the age of thirty--the better to actually hear the music--and if I didn't have prior commitments, I might have considered "buying" the free tickets.

Now I hear a rumour that this Live 8 concert will be televised--which, if true, would make it possible to watch the proceedings from the comfort of my own home, without braving the colossal traffic jams, the carnivorous crowds, and what is certain to be searing heat and humidity. An attractive proposition.

But let's say that, like many, I really, really wanted to go to Park Place in Barrie and see this concert. To do it, I would have needed to procure tickets through ticketmaster.ca. And to do that, I would have had to be extraordinarily lucky.
The tickets went on sale at 10:00 a.m. sharp the other day. It is reported there were 35000 of them. They sold out in twenty minutes. Let's do the math together: that's over 29 tickets a second.
Ticketmaster doesn't give out this information for obvious reasons, but I'd really like to know how many people tried to get tickets and failed. I'm betting it beat the number who were successful by at least an order of magnitude.
Actually, I was a tad surprised that the concert tickets lasted as long as they did. Coldplay tickets went on sale in a similar mass stampede a month or so back--the difference here being that people had to pay for these tickets, at hefty prices, too--and the supply that time lasted just a notch over three minutes.

How exactly is this fair?

You have to figure that those folks with T1 connections have a huge advantage in such ticket wars, especially over the people with dial-up. Which is really rather ironic in the case of something like Live 8, which is ostensibly being put on to help the poor.
Moreover, and quite predictably, Live 8 tickets showed up on Ebay within minutes of the sellout, and bids made it all the way up to $126.50 before Ebay got wise and yanked them. This sort of scalping is detestable; the mere attempt should be punishable by a fine of twice the highest bid.

Look, I love the Internet. I think, used properly, it's a fantastic tool. It has the potential to do more for the people of Africa than any aging ex-Boomtown Rat ever dreamed of. But there are some things that should have been left alone, among them the old way of getting concert tickets. In situations where the demand is certain to exceed the supply, it's simply wrong to incite an electronic riot. "Scrambles! Keepsies! Get your Coldplay tick---"

22 June, 2005

Kenny in Wonderland

Last Sunday, Father's Day, was also Sobeys Family Day at Canada's Wonderland. (Oops, sorry, Paramount Canada's Wonderland--they really get antsy if you forget the first word.)
Last year, Sobeys Family Day coincided with Chinese Day. Half of our store went, and was confronted with half the population of China, or so it seemed. At any rate, some people only managed three or four rides for the day: a huge waste of money, even with the deep discount thrown in. So the interest was considerably lessened this year...in fact, I was the only one to get tickets.
Eva dropped me off on our way back from the in-laws. Note to Paramount: create the drop-off zone so prominently and repeatedly signed as you enter the park off Rutherford Rd. If you follow the signs as they presently read, ("MUST LEAVE LANE BEFORE TOLLBOOTH"), you find yourself kicked out to Jane St. Hobson's choice: pay $7.50 for parking we'll use for four seconds, or walk roughly a kilometer across the parking lot.
Anyway, we hit TOP GUN first. I'd only rode this once before. While it does feature some interesting elements, the roughness of the ride is very off-putting. You are warned to remove hearing aids and earrings before riding--the only coaster I've ever seen that does this. Rather than put guests through this inconvenience, they ought to, oh, I don't know, smooth the ride out a bit...
Next up, a surprise. TOMB RAIDER: THE RIDE was considerably better than it looked. To get on this coaster, you climb up a ladder while the car is moving. A cagelike structure is is lowered into place against your back while you are still standing. The ride then starts to move, and you are thrust forward and down until you are in a prone position, face down.
This is a novel posture for a coaster. You really do feel like Superman, especially during a couple of quick corkscrews. Pretty neat ride.
You can't visit this park without a ride on the MIGHTY CANADIAN MINEBUSTER, celebrating its 25th year. This is a direct copy of the famous Coney Island Cyclone, and it packs quite a punch for a coaster less than a hundred feet tall. Two things struck me as I was taking my seat:
One, I'm fat. Two, they've added TOTALLY UNNECESSARY SEAT BELTS!!! I've ridden this thing maybe three dozen times over the past quarter century with only a lap bar for company. I'm sure of it. While some of the bunny hops do throw you a bit, it's nothing compared with, say, the Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point, on which seat belts are an absolute must.
Still, this ride seems to be running faster than I remember it. Nary a trim brake as we neared the second drop. You get a fine da capo effect--that's roller-coaster-ese for "holy shit, that's gonna take my head off at the neck!" as you rocket under some Soak City waterslide or other. Very enjoyable ride.
A change of pace followed: I got suckered on to PSYCLONE. This is a cross between three venerable midway traditions: the Pirate Ship, the Round-Up, and the Uck-I'm-About-To-Blow-Chunks.
I don't handle swinging rides very well. I've never actually puked, but I have tasted lunch on a few occasions. Even a playground swing provokes a touch of nausea in me. Anyway, this thing, in hindsight, wasn't too bad, actually. I survived it. I could tell Dad was just waiting for me to yark. I never would have lived that down, so I kept my ruminant inside by iron force of will.

DON'T buy food at PCW. Unless you're rich. Really, I fully expected to get gouged, but they really know how to ream you: two cups of New York Fries and two medium drinks run you almost $18.00. What is this, a damn movie theatre?

We then hit THE ITALIAN JOB, this year's new addition and our longest line of the day: just over an hour...about the longest I'm willing to wait for anything. This coaster was only a minute long, but it was a pretty eventful minute. For one thing, it's got linear induction motors a la Top Thrill Dragster (albeit, of course, much less powerful). Still, you get shot out of the station and hit top speed of about 80 km/h (I'm guessing) pretty much instantly. I had no foreknowledge of this nifty feature, so its effect was doubled on me. Very shortly you come to a complete stop. Cue the special effects: jetting water, bursts of gunfire, gouts of flame, an incoming helicopter, and then you're off again, another linear induction boost into a dark "parking garage" tunnel, twisting and turning most enjoyably. You re-enter sunshine just before the statiom brakes and are treated to one final neck-popping sudden lurch. All in all, a fun experience.
The last ride of the day, as it turned out, was the VORTEX, a very slick, disorienting suspended coaster that is among the fastest rides in the park.
I stood and watched people--including a roughly ten-year-old girl--become EXTREME SKYFLIERs. In the end, I wussed out. More swinging, for one thing. For another, you're supported by gossamer-thin WIRES. For a third, I don't like venturing on anything the physics of which I don't understand. Bungee jumping is one thing. I get it. I'd never do it--what do you think I am, nuts?--but I get it. This--
Well, they don't even appear to WEIGH you. All too vividly I can imagine the result of them guessing your combined weight wrong. The bundle containing our precious bodies wouldn't skim the ground: it would hit and bounce, several times, snapping things as it went. My torso would arrive the Pearly Gates limbless. Not a nice image.
In the end, though, the thing that most dissuaded me from doing this was MONEY. It costs well over a hundred dollars to ride and get a video of your experience. This is skyway robbery--simply unconscionable. Just to ride this would cost nearly twice what it cost us to ride everything else together. Even though my Dad was okay with this--prepared to spend the money--I wasn't.
We left the park early as both of us were getting tired and we wanted to hit a restaurant before they all filled up (it was, again, Father's Day). I had a great time, though, and look forward to doing it again next year.

16 June, 2005

To your health

You all would have had my views on the earth-shattering Supreme Court of Canada decision a while ago, but I've had to wait for a suitably empty evening to come along. Now it's here, and I'm here, and you're here, so here we go.
Paul Martin was quick to proclaim "we're not going to have a two-tier health care system in this country". Gee, Paul, if that's the case, you've got your work cut out for you:

  • QUEBEC, ALBERTA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, AND PRICE EDWARD ISLAND allow doctors to set their own fees and work outside the public health system.
  • ONTARIO AND MANITOBA allow doctors to opt out of public health and refunds patients' monies paid to these doctors.
  • NOVA SCOTIA allows private insurance for private services.
  • So does NEW BRUNSWICK.
  • In ONTARIO, the Liberal provincial government has, in effect, privatized huge areas of medicine previously covered under the public plan, most notably chiropractic, physiotherapy, and optometry. While there was a huge outcry at first, people seem to have adjusted to it.
  • THROUGHOUT CANADA, "very important people" such as athletes and polititicans routinely jump the public queue. Ask Paul Martin if he or any member of his family has ever set foot in a private clinic and dare him to lie.
  • ALSO THROUGHOUT CANADA, anyone who chooses to purchase an extended benefit plan through their place of employment is actually aiding and abetting the dreaded second tier of health care. Consider: these plans cover you for items not insured by the public system. You and/or your employer pay for this coverage on a monthly basis--the government doesn't. How "public" is that, exactly?

The following is an excerpt from this eminently sensible decision:

We conclude, based on the evidence, that prohibiting health insurance that would permit ordinary Canadians to access health care, in circumstances where the government is failing to deliver health care in a reasonable manner, thereby increasing the risk of complications and death, interferes with life and security of the person as protected by section seven of the[Quebec] Charter.

It's only a matter of time before patients at risk of "complications and death" launch a barrage of cases to extend the right to purchase and use private insurance clear across Canada. Given that, as shown above, we already have two-tier health care in this country, the debate on its purported arrival is moot.

What we can debate, what we need to debate, is what form our current two-tier health care system should take. It's patently obvious that nobody wants the American system. Even if that system worked (and it doesn't), it's American, and no self-respecting Canadian would have anything to do with it unless he or his sister was dying and a Detroit hospital could fix their condition in a timely manner...oh, never mind.

I think we all agree that the most prominent touchstone of the Canada Health Act is universality...the idea that we do not turn away patients simply because of their inability to pay. It's not too much of a stretch to suggest that our marriage to this idea is what makes us Canadian.

I think, too, that we all agree that our health care system is ailing, in spite of billions of public dollars being poured into it at every opportunity. We all have experienced the vicissitudes of the system, or at least know someone who has: the seven hour waits in Emerg; the seven week delay waiting for a vital MRI; the seven month waits for the first consultation with a specialist.

Not many people realize that the sacred cows of India are walking cases of tuberculosis, among a host of other diseases, not despite their sacredness but because of it. It is forbidden in India to so much as touch one of these creatures...which would include administering care, no matter how needed it may be.

The parallels with our health care system are striking, n'est-ce pas?

The Supreme Court of Canada has done us a great service by daring to poke and prod our most sacred cow. Now it's up to Parliament to decide how to proceed. Paul "I reject your reality and insert my own" Martin is clearly not up to the challenge.

14 June, 2005

Smooth Criminal?

So Michael Jackson got off. Legally, this time.
Really, was anybody even remotely surprised?
Just once, please God, I'd like to see a real case mounted against a famous man. I say "man" because...well, let's see now. O.J. was on trial for murder and was acquitted; Robert Blake was on trial for murder and was acquitted; Michael Jackson was on trial for diddling little boys and was acquitted; Martha Stewart was on trial for lying and trying to save her financial hide--and got nailed.
I think Michael is guilty as sin and nothing the jury said convinced me otherwise. (In fact, one of the jurors said she felt Jackson was a pedophile, while another noted doubts about his innocence.) But the general consensus was that the prosecution's case was too weak for a conviction.
The court of law that exists in my brain is a little simpler. Let's see...okay, he said (on air!) that he shared his bed with children; pornographic magazines were found nearby; he paid off his last accuser...*ding ding ding ding* GUILTY!
How is it, exactly, that the defense were allowed to bring out all the plaintiff's mother's unsavoury details, while not a peep was mentioned about the previous round of allegations against the defendant?
Given those prior allegations, and the hush money Jackson paid out to silence them, I think it only fair that this boy's mother be charged with negligence at the very least. For her to allow Michael Jackson a week's unfettered access to her son baggars belief.

I wonder what Family and Children's Services would say about this sort of parental behaviour. You know, since they've found US unfit to raise children and all. *

Anyway, the taxpayers of California ought to sue everybody associated with the plaintiffs and get their money back. Maybe that would compel the prosecution to build itself a better case, next time around.

I hear that Michael has resolved not to share his bed with children going forward. Wow, Mikey, whatever gave you that idea?

*People have told me I should stop beating myself with the Children's Aid rejection. I'm not really doing that. Basically, with each and every case--and I see them daily--I reaffirm to myself that I am right and they are wrong. Pity, though, about all those horrendously abused children out there...

11 June, 2005

One fan two fan red fan blue fan...

I'm having the devil's own time researching my topic for today's entry. Fitting, because the temperature in our kitchen has just passed 31 degrees Centigrade: the only logical conclusion I can draw is that we are slowly descending into Hell.
We have three ceiling fans, three standing fans, and a Honeywell "Twindow" fan currently operating in our home. I've determined that the ceiling fans use about as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb and the oscillating fans about twice that. What I'm trying to determine is just how much energy I'd be using if I replaced all of it with central air. A lot more, I'd suspect.
Not that this is an option for us--at least, not a feasible option. To install central air, you need central heat, and we have electric baseboard heating. Installing forced air gas would cost somewhere between seven and twelve thousand dollars.
I'd do it, except I've asked around to find out what people who have forced-air gas are paying in utilities each month. The answer surprised me and will probably shock you. Yes, we are paying more on a monthly basis...by an average of about ten dollars. Assuming the difference in pricing between electricity and natural gas remains constant, the work would pay for itself through lower utility bills in a little over a century. I plan on being worm-food long before that point.

Yes? You there, towards the back of the roasting peanut gallery, you had a question?

How much is my comfort worth to me, you ask. Good question.

I can't deny it really has been uncomfortably hot everywhere above basement level for the past week. (The temperature down there is currently a more bearable 22 degrees.)
We are a family that sleeps with the bedroom window open and at least one fan running on the coldest of mid-January nights, so this kind of heat is especially stifling to us. And yes, in my more selfish moments, I long for the kind of cool comfort that central air provides.

Selfish? What do you mean?

Just what I said. Central air conditioning is monstrously selfish. By running it, what you're saying to the world is this: I don't give a fart in a glove how hot you are...because I'm nice and cool.

Surely you're being irrational here---

Look, just what do you think central air does with the heat it extracts from your house? It pumps it right outside, that's what it does. As if it wasn't hot enough out there already. But who cares, right? You're cool. That's what matters. (I take that back if you have one of those neat newfangled central air conditioners that uses its waste heat to heat your water supply...now there's intelligent thinking!)

But I'd MELT without my central air!

Yup. Like we're melting now. Hey, no problem...go ahead and use your central air. Just don't pretend it's a zero sum game. And when you tell your friends how much you love summer, don't forget to mention to them how nice and un-summery you keep your house.

07 June, 2005

Now we're down a Liberal...

On the one hand, I suppose you have to admire Pat O'Brien, the (now ex-) Liberal MP for London-Fanshawe. After all, he stood up for what he believes in--traditional marriage--and forfeited his party and possibly his career to prove it.
On the other hand, you can just as easily argue his gesture was pointless and immature, since his leaving will in no way impede the passage of the same-sex marriage bill and he certainly didn't make any effort to explain himself.
Oh, he said that the government was moving too fast. FAST? Gays have been getting married in Ontario since January 14, 2001. If that's fast action on behalf of the government, I'd hate to see slow.
Moreover, O'Brien didn't say anything--at least not that I've seen--as to why he feels denying marriage to a segment of the population is so important.
I make an effort to see more than one side to any issue. Here, I can't find the other side with both hands and a flashlight. Call me a Liberal elitist if you want: I don't care. As far as I'm concerned, traditional marriage needs no "defense", is not "under attack", and has not suffered one iota in the nearly four and a half years since the first registered same-sex union in Canada.

The Sun chain is saying that the O'Brien defection proves once again how pro-Liberal our media in Canada are. After all, nobody's saying that Martin should have done anything possible--or indeed, anything at all--to keep O'Brien onside, the way they argued Stronach's defection was a failure on Stephen Harper's part.
I concede the media in Canada are predominantly Liberal--if Stephen Harper nabbed a murderer, the Toronto Star would surely editorialize that he did it solely for the reward money--but in this case the Sun's missing something.

Martin doesn't need his social conservatives the way Harper needs social moderates. Sure, there are about 30 MPs on the Liberal team who, to varying degrees, oppose same-sex marriage, but it's unlikely any more of them will quit over it; the Liberals appear safe for the time being. Whereas Harper will never gain power without, at the very least, the convincing appearance of a move to the social center.

O'Brien, as an Independent, may well be re-elected. London is a notoriously socially conservative city, and I'm sure his move brought a groundswell of support. But he's soon apt to discover that he's cast himself into the political wilderness.

05 June, 2005

Seven Deadly Political Sins,

Or, Why I Could Never Be A Politician

There's a girl I work with at Price Chopper who is as politically astute as anyone I've ever met. This despite her still attending high school. She has a solid grasp of political history and theory and, most refreshingly, she is resistant to dogma of any sort. Whenever I read oft-recurring stories detailing how today's youth are completely ambivalent to politics, I remind myself that there are many Kathleens out there who are setting out to make a difference in the world.
The other day, in the middle of some political debate or other, she challenged me to put my money where my mouth was and run for office.
I'd like to: I really would. But I don't think it'll ever happen. Here are some few reasons why.

1) I'm not telegenic. I'll put what ought to be the most trifling concern right up front. Lamentably, the electorate increasingly expects movie-star looks out of their politicans. Brains count for little in this era when politicos rarely have any input into their own public speeches and ten seconds of pithy wordplay almost always outweighs ten minutes of impassioned reasoning.

2) Within Canada's political framework as it now exists, I am best classed as an Independent. I reject social conservatism while also rejecting Liberal/NDP entitlement. I used to be most comfortable as a Progressive Conservative, but that party is no more. That's not to say I've adopted the prevailing Ontarian view that Stephen Harper is somehow "scary"...just that on key social issues, I don't share his vision for the country.
In any case, Independents may certainly be elected, but they rarely manage to stay for long, and by definition never make it into the governing party's inner sanctum where real power is wielded and real change can be effected.

3) As a corollary to the above, I support a wide range of ideas and objectives from across the political spectrum. Assuming for a moment that a fit could be found for me inside a given political party, I'd likely refuse to toe the party line if I felt my party had it wrong. The upshot of this is that, unless I was elected Leader of my party, I'd be cast out on short notice.

4) I am a person who would do what I felt was right, regardless of what was popular at the time. I see nothing wrong and many things right with same-sex marriage, for example. Many have tried, but nobody has convinced me otherwise. I would support same-sex marriage even if polls suggested the Kill All Faggots Party was poised for a landslide majority.

5) I'm kind of blunt when I detect bullshit, and it seems to me like all parties are busily spewing bullshit at unprecedented levels. At some point, probably about three minutes into my first Question Period, I would stand up and tell people to go stand in the corner until they remember how to be good little boys and girls. My lack of political correctness wouldn't just get me thrown out of caucus: it could very well get me lynched, just after I step on the wrong toes.

6) Shibboleths and sacred cows beware: I have no regard for you. I wouldn't outright privatize health care--the American system is at least as dysfunctional as ours, in differing ways--but I would search long and hard for new sources of funding and new methods of delivering care to patients, bleating sheep be damned.
Quebec would be told in no uncertain terms to shit or get out of the outhouse. And if they choose to shit, they would need to bear in mind they'd be walking out of the outhouse with a hell of a long string of toilet paper trailing along behind them: their share of the national debt would be the least of their worries.
Multiculturalism: you want what used to be your own culture, before you left it to come to Canada, represented? No problem! Just not on the government's dime, okay? That goes for bilingualism, too: I'd keep it where it was necessary, but you wouldn't see Red Deer Centre-Ville traffic signs under my watch, I'll tell you.
Unless Quebec decided, of its own accord, to put up "Chicoutimi Downtown" signs. Then I'd at least think about it...

7) I would never seek power for its own sake; if I ever achieved it, I would use it to make what I feel would be a positive change. This is at odds with the prevailing political attitude in Ottawa today, best exemplified by the Machiavellianations of Paul Martin. Anybody who wants power that badly should never be given it.

01 June, 2005

Shut the F**K UP!!!

There are times when I wish the media in this country would just SHUT UP.
Actually, there seems to be a story nearly every day that I don't consider news and never will: who Paris Hilton (or anyone of her ilk) is/is not screwing; who won/lost the latest installment of any reality series at all; and perhaps most annoying, who wore what to where. I don't know about you, but for me, that stuff was stale in high school.
Then there are the stories that never die, the old stalwarts. Car bombs in Baghdad. Murders and attempted murders and rapes and muggings and child molestations and teenage swarmings and corruption in high places. The names and faces change, but the general layout of the news never seems to.
My wife wonders why I watch it, day in and day out. I have my excuses. Mostly I watch it for the same reason people watch soap operas: I need a daily dose of wow-my-life-is-so-much-better-than-that. Also, and don't laugh, I try to keep a close eye on geopolitical events. If 9/11 is ever repeated (exceeded), I hope to see it coming and take evasive action. If Ebola (or Marburg or avian flu or Captain Trips or anything else of that nature) ever gets to be anything more than a minor nibbler of the old and infirm, I want to bloody well know about it. The news can be a burden--not many people want to know who's got the nukes and who's threatened to use them--but it's my burden, damnit.
Unfortunately, carrying this burden can get to be a bit much when every media outlet in view suddenly goes crazy.
That's what's happened over the last two weeks. The craziness has a name, and that name is Karla Homolka.

If you've turned on a radio or a television in the last fortnight--or so much as glanced at a newspaper--you'll know that the female half of Canada's most notorious couple is slated to be released on or about July 5th. Still over a month away, As far as our mediocracy in Canada is concerned, this is Christmas rolled into Canada Day wrapped in Valentine roses. Only thirty three shopping days left!

There's been so much babblage about Karla's propensity to re-offend, her recent love-letters to a convicted murderer, her hair style, for Christ's sake. Not only that, we've been subjected, once again, to every last detail of her sordid and disgusting criminal career. I wonder, will The Donald be waiting at the jailhouse door to audition her for an all-new The Apprentice? Will FOX step forward with their new pitch, Who Wants To Marry A Schoolgirl Killer? (She's had dozens of proposals to date!) Stay tuned, you'll be the first to know!

Look, I'll be the first to admit that I once had an unhealthy fascination with the whole fiasco. Like a good Canadian, I abided the terms of the publication ban that cloaked much of the case in mystery, but once it was lifted, I did read more than my share of material, including a full-length book. I went through a phase where I read everything concerning the Holocaust that I could get my hands on, too. The sheer depth of evil in both cases kept me reading and asking myself what kind of minds consent to such utter depravity.

I can state with absolute assurance that Karla is a psychopath in the clinical sense of the word. She is also narcissistic in the extreme. All this media attention must be making her giddy. Why are we glorifying a psychopath?
Oh, they'll tell you that's the last thing on their minds, that they're only "getting the facts out there." Except the facts are known, and have been known for twelve years. Why the need to mull over them for six weeks? Why reward Karla with scores of camera flashes as she takes her first step as a marked woman?

For a marked woman she is, have no doubt of that. I'd like to see an expert sniper planted among the phalanx of media. That likely won't happen. But Karla will find that the real world, now that it knows what she is, will be much less obliging to being manipulated than has been her prison world. And there are a lot of people out there who agree that sickness like hers must be expunged by any means necessary.

Should she be released? Hell, no. I think the justice system made a terrible mistake when it agreed to the plea-bargain in the first place. And it should have reneged on its "deal with the devil" when certain facts Karla had been withholding (like the rapes of "Jane" and "Stef Doe") came to light. I for one would have applauded, hearing the judge cry "Booya! You get eighty years, not twelve!" And never mind the precedent. The Bernardo/Homolka case is its own precedent. It stands alone in the annals of Canadian crime.

In any case, I've heard just about enough. And there's still more than a month left to go. We'll hear from everyone who ever had any contact with Karla, Paul, Leslie, Kristen, or any of the legal team. We'll know Karla's favourite breakfast food and her shoe size. We've already seen the baby pictures, but I'm sure somebody out there wonders if Karla was breast-fed. All Karla, all the time.

Shut up, already.