31 May, 2005
At the time, we were neck-deep in the adoption process, so naturally I chose to write on adoption. And because I wasn't feeling particularly creative that morning, I titled my work
I came and wept
And laughed and slept
I ran and played
And dreamed and prayed
You took me in
As your own kin
You let me be
Both loved and free
We'd fully grown
You'd fully shown
My mom and pa
Who never saw
I sent this thing off and promptly forgot about it.
Two months later, some "junk" mail came for me from poetry.com. It almost got thrown out. I opened it, though, and found out that my poem had been judged and found worthy of publication. I was, furthermore, a semi-finalist for a top prize of $10,000.00 U.S. The book containing my poem would be published this spring and I would be eligible for a discount.
Oh, was I ever naive. Visions of being a published poet danced merrily in my head and I never stopped to think, not even once. Had I but considered that even hole-in-the-wall magazines pay their contributors with copies, if nothing else, I would have dismissed this whole thing for the scam it is.
Instead, I sent off a proof of my poem, along with instructions to charge me for a couple of copies of the book. That was very early this year. Since then, no book, no sign of my Visa being charged, but I've receieved invitations to a poetry convention in Orlando "where I would be awarded a Silver Bowl (retail value: $200) as a Poet of Merit". Cost to me: $2600.00 (U.S.) And just today, I got a near-identical letter inviting me to ANOTHER convention, this one in Washington, D.C. Apparently I'm up for Poet of the Year. And if I act now and don't delay, my shit will turn to gold before my very eyes.
As a public service, I'm spreading the word: don't bother entering contests from poetry.com.
28 May, 2005
We ordered pizza from Pizza Pizza for lunch. It's a toss-up between Pizza Pizza and Pizza Hut as to which is my favourite among the chains. Today's order was not up to par...not even close.
Tomatoes provoke a gastrointestinal festival with me, so I get my pizzas with very light sauce. My usual toppings are really simple: ground beef and a whole lot of cheese. Well, I think the order taker misheard my wife, because I got ground beef and a whole lot of GREASE. Not to mention the damn thing wasn't cut at all. It was a giant round slab of grease. Yecch.
This swimming pile of pizza-zit put me in a foul mood. I had to eat it with a knife and fork...trying to cut it just oozed grease everywhere, and I looked stupid in front of both family and a total stranger. Not the high point of my day.
Anyway, the talk turned to tattoos and piercings. Eva's got four tattoos now to Jim's three. And both of them have piercings. Nothing exotic (what qualifies as exotic these days, anyway? an eyeball?), just ear piercings.
Nothing here, thanks. No holes drilled in my flesh, no subcutaneous ink.
My attitude towards tattoos has really changed since I met my wife. I used to think that only a sordid sort would choose to ink himself up. I still harbour some wariness of people with dragons painted across their entire backs, but a little kitten or some Chinese characters denoting a "beautiful spirit" don't faze me at all. I understand the need for a personal statement.
But I don't have one to make--not one I feel comfortable making permanent, anyway. I've given it some thought, because Eva has said she'd like to see me get one.
Hmmm. A musical note is the first thing that springs to mind, but it's kind of blase. A few of them? The opening bar of the Hockey Night In Canada theme? Post-lockout, that doesn't appeal much. A Canadian flag? I'm a patriot, but not that patriotic. After that, I come up empty.
(Piercings are absolutely out of the question. Blinding pain aside, I just don't see the point. I wear my wedding ring proudly as a symbol of the biggest accomplishment I've made in my life thus far; no other jewellery could possibly mean anything next to that.)
I mentioned my inability to come up with a suitable tattoo that says Ken Breadner to all and sundry. And Jim had to speak up. He prefaced his remark with a "no, I won't say it"--the only effect of which, in my experience, is to attract maximum attention before it's said. When pressed, he uttered two words: Mr. Magoo.
The very room dissolved in laughter, a kind of laughter that brought back bitter, bilious memories of high school and times before. I joined in it--the hard-won ability to laugh at myself is all that separates me from a total wreck, some days--but inside, I wasn't laughing at all. That barb struck a little too close to the old scab where a million such arrows had unfailingly found their marks.
Of course, Jim didn't mean to be mean about it. And he's right, in some respects, at least: a Magoo tattoo makes sense. I am, after all, the personification of absent-mindedness. Coming from Jim, though--a man whose thoughts run always to the practical--those words stung more than they should have.
Occasionally I am reminded that all of Eva's previous boyfriends were largely interchangeable, mechanically-inclined, strong, competent...well, jerks. And very occasionally I need to be reminded that my not being a jerk does outweigh my not being mechanically inclined, strong, or particularly competent at much of anything....Eva did, after all, marry me. Whenever my self-esteem is ebbing, I thank God that Eva never happened to fall in love with a mechanically inclined, strong, competent nice guy before I showed up. I'm glad my self-esteem doesn't ebb often anymore, because when it does, I turn into...ironically enough...a jerk.
I'm better now. Really, I am. And I accept the Magoo in myself. I'd caution people that absent-mindedness does not mean an absent mind--a mistake I've seen made time and time again. Rene Descartes said it best just before he ran into a tree: "I think, therefore I am...elsewhere."
26 May, 2005
TUESDAY was one of the busiest weekdays I have ever seen in over four years of working for Price Chopper. And most of the volume came between 4 and 9 p.m., so I didn't really see the full effect until I walked in the next morning and immediately wondered
WHERE DID ALL MY STOCK GO?
Tux went to the vet Tuesday evening. He had a moderate limp and the eye infection we had already treated him for had recurred in the other eye.
The limp came from sheer wildness. He's sort of within reason waking up in the morning, but even then he can cover the thirteen stairs to the main floor in just over a second. In the afternoons, when he's been cooped up all day, he can better that time significantly. (Give him two minutes in the morning and maybe five in the afternoon and he's reverted to his standard attitude of "but if I do that, it means I have to...move!" But before that, he's hell on four legs, and I'm sure he hurt one of them in that seven minute span of time.)
The vet diagnosed, of all things, a food allergy, so our pet is now on hypoallergenic food which, suprisingly, doesn't cost too much more than the Purina we'd been buying. To clear the eye infection, we give him drops twice a day (and let me tell you just how much Tux hates this...) And until one week after he stops favouring his leg, he is to be leashed at all times. Again, this is not what the dog would prefer.
Going to work today brought more than its usual share of unpleasant surprises. As I said above, the sheer magnitude of the sales Tuesday evening had to be seen to be appreciated. To make matters ever so much worse, cashiers started calling me up to their tills about three seconds after we opened, all of them with the same complaint: leaky bags of 2% milk.
As of open Wednesday morning, I had 219 bags of Neilson 2% milk in the store. On a usual Wednesday, we'll sell about 160. Barring a continuation of Tuesday's barrage, I felt reasonably comfortable with the stock level.
Unfortunately, as I discovered right quickly, there were more than three leaky bags amongst that 219. Considerably more. It took two of us almost two hours to get a full count of damaged bags: 183.
A quick bit of math will show my level of saleable 2% milk to be 9 crates, or 36 bags. Once again, anticipated sales for the day: about 160 bags. You can perhaps see a problem here.
How come I didn't notice all these damaged bags when the delivery came Tuesday morning, you ask. Good question. The simple answer is that all the bags looked fine. Not one of them was leaking milk on to the floor. Somehow, one of the interior sacs in almost every 4L bag had ruptured in such a way that the milk had simply displaced the sac. Until you picked the bag up and felt a certain...squishiness...you simply couldn't tell there was an issue.
That's not to say there was any excuse for that milk ever to have left Neilson Dairy.
Of course, I called Neilson Dairy the instant I even began to suspect the magnitude of the problem. They told me they'd get a replacement skid out to me as soon as possible. From Georgetown: charitably an 80 minute drive away.
It took exactly 472 minutes to get that milk to me. By some miracle, Wednesday daytime was even slower than Tuesday evening was busy, so we didn't run out of milk. Still, we could have and certainly should have; we would have, had I not gone through all those damages to pick out the few saleable units.
This is just the latest in an ongoing series of problems I have had with Neilson since I started at Price Chopper. If I had any say, we'd have changed milk suppliers long, long ago. Unfortunately, there are vast sums of money at work here, and in the grocery industry, money often trumps common sense.
We all know just how I feel about heat, humidity, summer, sun, and anything along these lines. Still, I don't generally bitch about the temperature until it gets above 20...room temperature, that is, 68 for all you folks who haven't noticed Canada went metric 29 years ago. (At least once a week, somebody asks me for a "pint" or a "quart" of milk and I have to restrain myself from informing them that we haven't carried that size of milk for nearly three decades...)
Anyway, why was it that tonight, with an outside temperature of 13, a window wide open, and not one but two fans blowing air around, I seriously considered going to sleep in our chest freezer? Honestly, I thought I was going to go up in a fit of spontaneous human incineration.
Hooray: I have milk! And none of it's leaking! But what's this? None of Wednesday evening's work has even been touched! And I have five skids of ice cream coming in today (novelties on sale next week), two large skids of yogurt, and...oh, do I really have to list all of today's shit when yesterday's shit is staring me in the face?
I got through it. Somehow. With help. Now there's just one more day until the weekend. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
21 May, 2005
- long leisurely country drives performed, in the immortal words of Ron White, at half the speed of smell;
- long periods spent on hands and knees pulling up innocent weeds and replacing them with (arguably) prettier plants;
- if you are of a younger set, blowing up fireworks at any and all hours, making maximum racket and maybe aiming a few at people's houses or faces, just for fun
I'll make something clear here: I am the farthest thing from a gardener there is. I admire those who have the patience and ability to landscape their lots. I will never be one of them. For one thing, I absolutely hate the feeling of dirt on my fingers. It feels as if my pores have expanded and sucked all the dirt deep inside, maybe never to come out. For another, I regard plants the way I do zoo animals and naked women who are not my wife: with indifference. Oh, sure, they're pretty enough, I suppose. But show me the well-decorated inside of a home and I will remember that far more vividly than what was growing on the outside.
All that said, something must be done about our front "lawn". I'll never have a golf green for a yard...ever...but even with my disdain for gardening, I recognize the front of our house is embarrassing. It's weeds, dirt and more weeds, with the odd blade of grass struggling meekly to show itself. One of these weekends, I fully intend to put down some kind of low-maintenance grass out there. If we have a drought, it'll burn, because I regard lawn watering as an almost criminal waste of water. But that's in Nature's hands...and I'm not doing it this weekend, because, umm, why was that again? Oh yeah: THREE DAYS OFF!
Tux woke us up the other night barking at a bunch of clods across the street who decided, at 12:30 in the freaking morning, to get a jump on the fireworks festivities. I woke up from a very deep sleep hearing Tux whining and barking from the front bedroom. I silenced him with a bang and a NO! and then stumbled towards the bathroom, already most of the way back into slumber. Yawning tremendously, my hearing deadened and I actually missed most of the noise from what must have been a colossal explosion. But I didn't miss the flash. To my dazed and dozy mind, it looked like a muzzle-flash. That woke me up...a bit. I crept downstairs and peered out the window of the front door. I didn't bother to turn on the exterior light: no sense in making myself a target.
The word "fireworks" never so much as crossed my mind at that time. I saw a car pulling away across the street and a small crowd dispersing. Whatever the action was, it was over. I was, quite honestly, afraid of going outside in the morning to discover the damage. Owning a house has made me paranoid. I'll freely admit it.
If "fireworks" had occurred to me, my nightime naivete would have kicked in. See, in the daytime, it's pretty hard to shock me. But sometime after midnight--at least when I'm home and half-asleep--I regress to a state of painful innocence. "But fireworks are for Monday night," I'd tell you seriously, "and what's more, it's ILLEGAL to discharge them tonight, and what's more, nobody in their right mind would be out here AFTER MIDNIGHT doing it, and even if they were, NOBODY shoots those things off so close to people's HOUSES..."
I've never been much of a fan of fireworks, either, to be honest. I like the lightshow, but could really do without the accompanying deafening bangs. Of course, teenagers don't seem to notice fireworks that don't sound like God's artillery, and I'm already looking forward to a near-sleepless night on Monday from the neverending barrage. (One year, it didn't stop until nearly dawn.)
Amyway, today has been a nice relaxing day. This morning we went to Future Shop to pick up season one of Joan of Arcadia. They didn't have it on the shelves. At first, I was actually quite pleased at this. "It must be selling like hotcakes", I enthused to myself. I asked on the off-chance that they had more copies behind the counter...maybe somebody wasn't aware the shelves had been picked clean. The cashier, whose name was Tiffany, regarded me blankly. Enunciating carefully, I said "Joan...of...Ar...CAD..i..a" and told her the DVD came out a week ago. She called somebody and then told me he'd be coming up from the back with a copy for me.
It occurred to me that not only were there no copies on the shelves, there wasn't any space for even one. This bothers me. A lot. I wonder if they had it on display for a few days and didn't sell any at all and they were now turning them into mulch. Shit. I'm glad I managed to get my hands on the damn thing.
Our next stop: Bouclair. I could feel my scrotum trying to fold in on itself as soon as I walked through the door. Any more girly and that store would just lift up on its high heels and flounce away.
We were there for some curtains for the library (and, as it turns out, what's now the junk room, will soon be the dog's room and will eventually be the guest bedroom...and the living room to boot.) Everything was 40% off...we got three sets of curtains for what I'd thought we might end up paying for one.
Then off to King's Buffet in Stratford, a monthly date for us and the only decent Chinese food place anywhere remotely near us. My fortune today said "all my hard work will soon be paid off". That sounds much better that "will soon pay off", don't you think?
The best fortune I ever got out of a cookie came from there, too. It said "Beware of small cookies bearing fortunes".
On our way both to and from Stratford, we ran into more than a few of those misplaced Sunday drivers I mentioned above, not to mention three or four people so pissed off by all the slowpokes who dared to drive AT THE SPEED LIMIT that they passed five or six at once...on a hill...endangering their own lives and those of everybody on the road around them.
The line to get into the city dump was beyond all imagining. I can't think what they were giving away out there, but it must have been valuable.
I finally saw Kinsey, a film I'd been clamoring to see since it appeared in theatres. For good reason, as it turns out. Both Liam Neeson and Laura Linney give great performances. The pacing is a bit slow, but I found the movie quite engrossing.
Also saw Team America: World Police. This effort, from the guys who brought you South Park and Orgazmo, is by turns hysterically funny and almost unwatchably disgusting. Those of you with even a slight prudish streak should probably give this one a pass. Even I found myself sickened in places.
Next up, tomorrow: National Treasure and Blade: Trinity. And a whole bunch of housecleaning. I can't relax for three days straight: that'd be just lazy.
20 May, 2005
In the wake of last night's tie vote on Jack Layton's budget, a few things need to be said.
1) It seems to me that the hard-won reconciliation between the Reform and Progressive wings of the Conservative party may have been all for naught. The division still exists, and there's no easy way to span it. Scrapping Harper and replacing him with someone moderate--Bernard Lord, perhaps--would certainly win some Ontario and Maritime votes, but only at the expense of alienated Western voices. Either keeping Harper or replacing him with another of his ilk (Manning, Day, and Harper are peas in a pod, politically) will satisfy the West but disenchant Ontario. No matter what, the party could well split again, thus ensuring Liberal dominance for another three terms.
2) I'm one of the few people of a Tory bent willing to defend Belinda Stronach to some degree. She approached her then-leader and told him she accepted 'parts' of the Liberal budget. Rather than engage her in dialogue at this point, Harper reportedly blew his top and accused her of having "too much ambition" for the Conservative Party. A real leader, recognizing Belinda's importance to his party, would never have said such a thing. A real leader would have sought compromise.
3) I've lamented a couple of times now that Canadians overwhelmingly don't want an election, and that Ontarians are actually increasingly willing to trust the Liberals over the Conservatives (or anyone else). It still baffles me--how could Harper be any worse, after all?--but I am at least beginning to understand it.
The Conservatives haven't said much about what it is they actually plan on doing if they win power. They are making a critical error here. They're doing exactly what Belinda accused them of: forgetting how big and complex Canada is.
In their home province of Alberta, the Tories have unqualified support. A Tory has been running the province for years now; it's booming. Naysayers may chirp all they want about how trained monkeys could ride soaring commodity prices into the economic stratosphere, but the fact is that Klein's Tories have done it.
Out in B.C., a Tory who calls himself a Liberal has just won a much deserved re-election. His policies have revitalized the B.C. economy to a point where, on certain indicators, it's running neck-and-neck with Alberta's. No wonder voters support these two.
The thing is, out west--and in the few remaining rural parts of Ontario, for that matter--the thinking is simpler. If you have an infestation on your land, you remove it by any means necessary. If you have rampant corruption in your politicians, you remove them by any means necessary.
But voters in the cities are more jaded. They think "corruption? All politicans are corrupt, so getting rid of one bunch won't change much."
In Ontario, too, people seem more willing to be bribed with their own money. Indeed, many seem to feel that's the essence of politics. In the wide open spaces, the distrust of government is at least as high, but so is a certain entrepreneurial go-it-alone-iveness that is anathema to the whole notion of government dependance Ontario is increasingly built on.
I guess what I'm getting at is that Ontario wants to see this Parliament--which it alone is responsible for electing--work. I'm thinking it's not really Stephen Harper's fault that he can't see that or understand it...he is from Calgary, after all.
The kind of Conservative Leader Ontarians could get behind is one who masters the fine art of compromising without selling out. Jack Layton got his deal; Harper should have been next in line, saying "we'll support this budget--yes, even the NDP amendments, as distasteful as we find them--if you'll guarantee broader powers for the Auditor-General, an opening up of all those foundations you're hiding money in, and, oh, yes, a 2% cut in the GST." Or something like that. The fact that Harper has done nothing of this sort indicates to me that he is not suited to be the leader of a party in Opposition in a minority Parliament. Until the Conservatives come up with one who is, we're doomed to Liberal governments forever.
Don't get me wrong. There should still be an election, and I hope there will be, just as soon as Gomery has issued his report. At that point, one hopes the Conservatives will have given us something to vote for rather than relying on us to simply vote against Martin.
18 May, 2005
CBS has cancelled it.
It started out with gangbuster ratings and was nominated for an Emmy after its first season just one year ago. That first season contained quite possibly the most riveting hour of television drama I have ever seen, the episode called Night Without Stars. And every episode made me laugh, made me cry, made me think.
For whatever reason, the second season started off with lacklustre ratings and fell like a stone from there. Granted, the writers were unusually prone to braincramps--plotlines would start up and vanish four episodes later without a trace--but Joan at its worst was still eminently watchable. And I'm not ashamed to admit I bawled my eyes out after Friday Night, the episode in which they killed off a major character I was growing to like and respect.
At the end of the second season, great and terrible things were afoot as Joan and her friends were set to face off against real evil for the first time in the show's run. I was very curious to see how that story arc would have been handled. Now I will never know. Thanks a ton, CBS.
I never agreed with the Friday night timeslot. It should have been a Sunday evening show. It's too bad CBS saw fit to cancel it before at least trying it somewhere else.
At this point, there's little I can do but suggest you rent Season One on DVD (Season Two is slated for November release.) I plan on writing CBS, for what little good it'll do. I guess I can hope against hope that another network picks it up--hey, it happened with Buffy--but I'm not optimistic.
Thanks, Amber Tamblyn and ensemble, for a smart, well-acted show that dared to explore serious issues without descending into preachery even once. You will be sorely missed.
17 May, 2005
So much of a shock that when I was informed that Belinda Stronach had crossed the floor, I checked my leg for pulling devices which may have been attached. When the third person announced that she was the new Minister of Human Resources in Paul Martin's cabinet, I was forced to rearrange the geography of my mind. That's hard work.
Stephen Harper claims Belinda's move has nothing to do with him and everything to do with her own ambition. That's grade-A, 100% certified organic bullshit. Consider: The polls show that Harper's Conservatives have no hope in Ontario and thus very little hope of forming the next government. When the Conservatives lose the next election--whenever that may be--they'll be out for blood, and Harper will be the first to be gutted. The party will then search coast to coast for a leader that can win over some Ontarians. Belinda Stronach is that leader.
Or she would have been. Very likely she could have succeeded Martin as our next Prime Minister. If she really had ambition, that would have been her path.
Instead, she's discovered her inner Liberal, and at what couldn't have been a more disastrous time for her old party.
I've got a real problem with elected politicians changing parties. Belinda's constituents voted her in as a Conservative; there should be an immediate byelection required if she suddenly wants to be a Liberal instead.
Regardless, her defection from Tory ranks means the NDP's budget will pass. There were ominous rumblings for Harper on that before his star MP deserted him...two Tory MPs from Newfoundland were strongly considering voting with the government anyway, in order to procure a whole whack of oil money for that province.
So, let's follow the bouncing ball: Martin's government stays afloat until at least November and possibly much longer. (I know Martin promised to hold an election within 30 days of Gomery's findings, but Chretien is determined to quash the inquiry before it gets to that stage. Even if he fails, do you really expect a Liberal to keep a promise?
Stephen Harper will lose that election, whenever it comes, because the media in Ontario paint him as "lusting for power" (what do they think Paul Martin's been scheming for the last, oh, fifteen years?) and has a "hidden agenda". In Ontario, we believe everything our media tells us.
So...exit Stephen Harper, bloodied. The Conservatives will (rightly) figure that the election was supposed to be a slam dunk. They will replace Harper with someone more moderate that can win some seats east of Winnipeg--if they can find someone who fits that bill. That's doubtful.
Meanwhile, the Bloc will rule Quebec, the Conservatives will rule much of the west, and the Libranos will rule Ontario. Little change from what exists now, in other words.
Except for the anger.
I fully expect a western secessionist movement to gain in popularity in the aftermath of the election. There's only so long Alberta can be expected to wait for Ontario to come to its senses, after all.
Gilles Duceppe is already planning the next referendum. It's not too much of a stretch to suggest another one might be forthcoming from the west. Confederation as we know it is now an endangered species.
All because one woman crossed the floor of Parliament.
14 May, 2005
A couple of weeks back, trying to locate the manuals for our high speed internet service to transfer it to our new computer, I was forever stumbling on things that had been misplaced for months. Like the first volume of Spangle, by Gary Jennings--one of my favourite novels, and it's almost time to re-read it again! Alas, the other two volumes are still counted among the missing.
(Try as we might to keep the books in this place in some semblance of order, the sad fact is that they migrate all over the damn place, until finding a specific tome might take longer than reading it.)
Or you find things you didn't even know were missing. Pictures, cards, a pair of socks, about thirty pens, the commemorative Y2K pin I got from 7-Eleven for working New Year's Eve, 1999-2000.
Today, Eva's brother, Jim, came over to help us move a few things. Yeah, I can carry bookshelves up two flights of stairs on my own, but my heel is apt to speak up halfway through the proceedings and demand help.
Besides, there were other things to move. Like a couch. I've written of this monstrosity before: the starburst-on-black braincramp that squatted in our last three living rooms. Now you can add "wet" to the list of uncomplimentary adjectives describing this sofa. It's sitting out on the lawn, looking lost and lonely and so damn ugly it's likely to remain that way.
Anyway, as we picked up this couch to move it, we heard a few things clunking around deep in the works. We had to cut the bottom lining to gain a handhold to move it, whereupon those few things revealed themselves...
- Two houses and nearly four years ago, we receieved a letter from an old friend of Eva's, someone she'd lost contact with years before. Before she could answer this letter, it vanished. Now here it was.
- Sixty loads of laundry and almost eight months ago, another pair in an endless line of black MacGregor HappyFeet (the most comfortable socks on the planet) disappeared. Don't ask me how they ended up inside the couch.
- So long ago it's almost lost to memory, I lost a wallet for the nth time in my life. I swore up and down that it had never left the house. Nobody believed me. No money was lost (does anybody ever carrry cash dollars around any more?), but we did have to replace all the identification. Both before and after doing so, I tore the house apart, convinced the wallet would turn up on the very day the last card came through in the mail. It never did. Because while I dug around in the couch at least twice, I never considered actually dismantling it. So that wallet came through two moves with us...hidden deep within a black hole.
12 May, 2005
One year of blogging. No idea how many entries I've made--Blogger stopped counting them at 75 a hell of a long time ago, and trying to count them myself leads to eyestrain, dizziness, and possibly death.
I'd like to thank all my readers for sticking with me through what has been the most eventful year of my life. I've tried to balance coverage of my life with coverage of the world around me, and I apologize if any of you would have preferred more of one and less of the other.
From the outset, I approached this as a chance to air a few of my quirkier views, keep myself centered, and hone my writing skills...in that order. It's only recently that I started reading a wider selection of Canadian blogs, some of which are getting upwards of two hundred hits a day. I notice that many of these popular blogs make little mention of their bloggers' existences, preferring instead to focus entirely on entertainment or politics. Despite the political bent I have taken lately, that's not really my style.
This really has been an up and down year. We've purchased our first home, gone through a great deal of the adoption process before being told we were unsuitable to adopt children, and adopted a puppy instead. Work for both of us has been stroyful (that mix of stressful and enjoyable which is embodied in the phrase "I'd quit...if there existed a better job out there.") The individual days seem to drag out to infinity, and yet six months ago seems like last week. Time is strange that way.
I hope I'll be seeing you around in another year, or two, or five, or ten. Thanks again.
11 May, 2005
I am sick to death of political nonsense.
That said, the situation we find ourselves in since 5:45 p.m. yesterday is unprecedented in Canadian history. As such, I feel a comment is required.
We are currently being "governed" by a party deeply rooted in scandal. That in and of itself is far from uncommon: most governments descend into scandal after a long time in office. Because of this particular scandal, which is one of the worst since Confederation, the government faced a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons yesterday...and lost it, 153-150. This, too, has happened before.
Never has a government ignored a confidence vote and tried to pretend it never happened.
Oh, the Liberals will tell you that this vote was a "procedural" matter and not a matter of confidence. Very loudly they will tell you this, in tones unsuited to a kindergarten classroom. And they'll keep repeating it, because everyone knows that if you say something often enough, it becomes true.
Here is the motion:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following:"the First Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented on Thursday, October 28, 2004, be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with instruction that it amend the same so as to recommend that the government resign because of its failure to address the deficiencies in governance of the public service addressed in the report.”
Yeah, I know, fantastically wordy, isn't it? You'd think that they could have just said something like: Be it resolved that the government must resign.
Except the Liberals made sure that the Opposition could not introduce such a motion, by unilaterally cancelling what are known as "Opposition Days"...days on which the non-governing parties may introduce motions to be voted on by the House. But the Conservatives were permitted to draft and present procedural matters...I guess even Martin believed censoring that ability would smack too much of dictatorship.
So the Conservatives took a procedural motion and changed it into a statement expressing non-confidence. (Why would you ask anyone to consider recommending the government resign if you had confidence in their ability and authority to govern?) They put this motion to a vote, and won it. It can therefore be said that a majority of the House has lost confidence in the Liberals.
The Liberals, who said upon forming this minority Parliament that they had every intention of governing as if they were a majority, predictably chose to ignore this reality. So the Leader of the Opposition challenged Martin last night to introduce his own confidence vote as soon as possible. There was no response from Martin until today, when he promised a vote on the Liberal-NDP budget..in eight days.
Eight days is a long time in Ottawa, as Martin well knows. Anything could happen in eight days. There are two Conservative MPs and a (possibly) right-leaning Independent who are currently receiving treatment for cancer. It's entirely possible that those three will not be able to vote on the budget in eight days...something else Martin and the Liberals are surely aware of. Three fewer votes for the government to resign would mean a tie, and tie votes are settled by the Speaker of the House, who is a Liberal.
That Speaker, Tony Valeri, said today that
"The leader of the opposition has shown how low he's prepared to go by suggesting that anyone would take advantage of someone's illness."
As PGS, a Toronto blogger notes,
"Actually Tony, suggesting that anyone would take advantage of someone's illness isn't nearly as
low as your party actually doing it."
Today, Harper showed that the Opposition, not the government, is in fact controlling Parliament now, by moving (again, a procedural motion, all the Tories are permitted to introduce) that Parliament be adjourned. They won that vote, too. And they've threatened to keep doing this every day.
You may think this childish. As it so happens, I do too. But Harper has a clear point, and he's making it. The Liberals are unable to govern. They should step down and call an election immediately.
The Canadian public does not agree with this, for some odd reason. Many seem to think that we can't afford the $250 million an election would cost. My take is: we can't afford not to have an election. Paul Martin is plundering the treasury in what just might be the most blatant attempt to buy votes ever. There's been better than a billion dollars a day pledged since Martin made his pathetic television address. Eight days to go until the government falls: could that be another ten billion dollars pledged before the campaign even officially starts? Yikes!
07 May, 2005
This in itself should be illegal. As a Canadian voter and taxpayer, I resent the fact that billions of dollars are getting spread everywhere in an attempt to buy another term. I resent that the Opposition feels they have to honour Liberal bribery in order to buy power.
I'm sick of power being bought.
Paul Martin came to power promising to do, oh, about a million things. One of his biggies, though, was a pledge to fix something he called the "democratic deficit". It sounded so noble at the time, didn't it? Of course, he called that election to shut down an Adscam-related public accounts inquiry that was getting a trifle uncomfortable, but we didn't know that at the time, did we? No, we thought PM was going to ride in like a white knight, sweeping out all the rot that had accumulated during the Chretien regime and replacing it with vision and integrity.
Well, many of us thought that way. I have to admit, I almost voted for him. He seemed like a fiscally responsible Liberal--almost an oxymoron.
I've long since realized the truth: that any good Paul Martin did as Finance Minister was largely illusory. He eliminated the deficit...on the backs of the provinces, who then had to download to the municipalities, who then downloaded several loads on to us taxpayers. He built up mind-bogglingly large surpluses, which looked to some people like prudent management of our money, but was really just gross overtaxation. Martin is still trying to portray himself as far above the muck and mire of his party, even as Gomery gets closer and closer to directly linking him to the sponsorship scam. (In fact, the direct link seems to have been established, and long ago at that. Please see the following: http://bluemapleleaf.blogspot.com/2005/05/undeniable-link-between-paul-martin.html)
There's still a yawning democratic deficit in Ottawa. And it pains me to note that it extends through all three major parties. Jack Layton has endorsed rampant corruption in offering to prop up the Liberals in return for vague promises of monies likely never forthcoming. Harper threatened repeatedly to bring down the government over the budget amendments, but has since said he'd honour the Liberal spending spree.
It's that spending spree that really irks me. It happens every time an election looms: money gets thrown around like so much confetti. Promises seep out of every orifice. Often they're recycled promises, which really hurts. Two examples: a national daycare system has been promised since Chretien first took office. So has a major revitalization of Toronto's waterfront. How is that that we can be so gullible as to fall for the same claptrap, year after year?
Here are a few things that can be done to make our system more accountable to us, the voters.
FIXED TERMS (with FIXED ELECTION DATES). This is imperative. No longer would ruling parties be able to call elections when it best suited them politically.
BUDGETS for a MAXIMUM ONE YEAR IN ADVANCE. Yes, I'd like to see long-term goals discussed, but I for one do not want to hear actual figures bandied about for the fiscal year 7273-7274 as if they meant anything.
NO NEW FISCAL COMMITMENTS (barring national emergencies) IN THE FINAL SIX MONTHS OF A GOVERNMENT'S TERM. This would prevent the blatant vote-buying that's going on now.
Food for political thought.
This is a three bedroom house. The idea was pretty standard: one bedroom for us, and one bedroom for each of our two children. Children's Aid decided to throw a brick wall instead of a rug-monkey wrench into those gears, however. So now we've decided to make one room a library and the other into a guest bedroom. We've started on the library.
What it will be is a room with shamrock green walls and yellow curtains, filled with books and eventually a fake fireplace with a couple of wing chairs in front of it. What it is now is a mess.
We've stripped off the flowery wallpaper to uncover an absolutely unearthly shade of--
Well, wait, before I tell you that, I have to tell you about the house I spent from age zero to eight in: 1972-1980. We had the requisite harvest gold appliances, the barfy blue bathroom, and those weird floor-to-ceiling gold-flecked mirrors. The living room had (get this) dark brown shag with black diamond pattern, a grey faux-stone wall, a whole lot of wicker, and a bunch of disembodied plaster Negroid heads. And we thought this was the height of interior design. The mind cringes.
This slowly-becoming-library is worse.
Three of the walls are...how do I put this? Depending on how much sunlight's coming through, they can be the exact colour of earwax. Or they can be a more vibrant shade of yelpy yellow. Or they can resemble a neon pumpkin. Combined with a yellow carpet, the overall effect is that of a wicked hangover.
Stripping wallpaper...oh, now THAT'S fun. Why, oh why, does wallpaper come in two layers, a thick waterproof one and that cursed backing that sticks like KrazyGlue (tm)? Uck. The smell getting released as the wallpaper comes off is, as Vincent Price so memorably intoned in Thriller, "the funk of forty thousand years". Or thirty five, anyway. Dusty, musty, nicotiney, fusty, gusty, quite obscene-y.
Once this is done--and we're taking our sweet time, as time is not currently a problem--we will be filled with pride in a job we've done ourselves. It's unfortunate that there's so much work to do first. It's even more unfortunate that we have to do this work in a room filled with rancid 1970s eye candy.
Tux is, and will be, a good dog. He's also had a hard six months of life. I think he might have belonged to a student--he was found in a very studential area of town. What is certain is that he was abandoned at four months old, and before that, he'd been abused. Not tormented: he still loves humans. But he cringes and cowers if you have to discipline him.
There are three problems I have. They are most emphatically MY problems and certainly not the dog's.
One is that I don't handle change very well. This is no big secret, but it does present issues when change comes stampeding into the house in the form of a Lab cross puppy. He really is much like a child would be: I feel like I have to be around him every second, especially since he is, quite understandably, anxious to the point of hysteria when I'm not.
Another problem of mine is that I have put absurd expectations on myself...and by extension, on Tux. I felt I'd be able to get him socialized--housetrained and calm in our absence--in less than a week. I felt, in fact, that I had to accomplish this, since on Monday we go back to work. I have extensive experience with obedience training on older dogs, but I've never started from scratch and chew before. So I'm also working from some degree of ignorance, which has never been my strong suit. As usual when I'm in this position, I've tried to research my way out of it. Sometimes there's a gulf between what I read and what I can do.
The thing with housetraining a puppy is that you have to catch it in the act of having an 'accident'. Even two minutes afterwards is no good...the dog would have no idea why you were so upset and you'd be doing much more harm than good disciplining him.
Of course, in order to excrete, you have to eat, and until this morning Tux has done precious little of that. Again, no big surprise: he's been in a pound for seven weeks. They feed their dogs whatever they can get--usually wet dog food, which is the canine equivalent of a strict McDonald's diet. Plus, he's stressed out beyond all belief, which has seriously disrupted his appetite. He's only now beginning to understand that those little brown crunchy things in his bowl are food.
One accident so far. Stupidly, I cleaned up the mess and threw the stool away. I should have put it outside. I got away with that one, though. Twice now, he's 'done his duty' outside. The book says not to consider him houstrained until he's succeeded at this for fifteen days straight.
We ain't got fifteen days...to catch him in the act sort of implies we have to be here. We go back to work Monday, which will undoubtedly raise his stress level. It's sure as hell raising mine.
That brings up the third issue, again mine alone.
Tux is an indoor dog. I've never had one. In the back of my mind I'd always considered it cruel to deny a dog, especially a big one--the space to run. Our dogs came indoors only when the weather was extreme.
I've had a bit of a change of brain on this issue. For one thing, I realized that while yes, our Shepherds were outside, they actually spent most of their time in a 15' by 4' kennel. Not too much room to run in there, is there? For another, the dogs of my childhood--for all their being outside--had no more companionship than Tux is going to get.
Shit washes off.
And most encouragingly, Tux has been by and large a very good dog. He definitely knows "NO" and "SIT", which gives me something to start from. He is starting to understand "COME"--that one takes a while. But it's made easier because Tux wants to be around me.
His first two nights, we shut him up in an unused room. After some scratching at the door and just one good BANG! and NO! from me, we didn't hear a peep out of him all night long. But he was like an unguided thermodogular missile in the morning. So last night, we put his blanket down on the floor on my side of our bed. MUCH better.
As of now, the last real hurdle is control when we're gone. We went to see a movie yesterday and came back to find the house had been ever so slightly ransacked. But progress is being made. I expect some backsliding in a couple of days...and I'll deal with it.
06 May, 2005
But the first three books are pure comedic gold, if you like dry Pythonesque humour. One of my favourite lines: "Nothing happened. And then, after a minute or two...nothing continued to happen."
In grade seven, our class put on a stage version...yours truly had a minor role as Prosser, the man who tries to convince Arthur Dent to let his home be bulldozed, about ten minutes before Planet Earth gets figuratively bulldozed.
In spite of the play and the high esteem in which I held the books, I never even considered the idea that they'd make a movie. I figured the whole thing was way too madcap for a film to do it justice.
It took them the better part of thirty years, but The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is now a Hollywood production. I saw it today. I'd give the movie about a six and a half out of ten.
The screenplay, partially penned by the late Douglas Adams himself, presents a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario. The parts that are faithful to the novel lose a good bit of their humour when us Hitchhiker addicts see every joke coming a megaparsec off. (There was a guy behind me reciting just about every spoken Guide entry verbatim. I could have done so, but I'm not...quite...THAT much of a geek.) And the parts that depart from the book just jar. The whole Humma Kavula character and plot felt like a little scrap of soap that's been imperfectly grafted on to the bar.
All that said, the acting was very good throughout. Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android is casting perfection.
I'm not sure what non-readers would make of this film. It captures the spirit of the book, but feels rushed in so doing, so those who haven't read the trilogy would probably be left with a giant HUH? at the end.
If you've read the book, you've probably seen the movie already--and if you haven't, you might not want to.
A sequel is all but certain and I for one can't wait to see what they make of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which is probably my favourite installment.
05 May, 2005
91% have a bathtub. That suggests that three percent of American families need to seriously re-evaluate their priorities.
In this Internet age, it may seem quaint--archaic, even--to rail against television. After all, in the last ten years, TV watching has declined somewhat dramatically. Sadly, children in particular have simply replaced one screen with several. The sedentary life that today's children and teens overwhelmingly prefer will cost them dearly. Studies have suggested that life expectancies will be seen to decline for the first time in recorded history, thanks in part to diet, perhaps in larger part to...screens.
Television started it all.
If you survey science fiction from the years 1880-1930, you'll find literally dozens of authors who predicted some sort of television device. But nobody, to my knowledge, predicted that a mere half-century after its popularization, society would (a) depend on it and its descendants for the vast majority of our information or (b) devote a huge part of our waiting life to its inhuman glow.
(Science fiction's infamous for this sort of thing. Many predicted a successful moon shot; nobody even dared to consider that after reaching the moon and reaping all the rewards the space race brought us, we'd abruptly losse interest. Cars were widely imagined, but few dreamed of suburbanization. Some people conjured up something resembling a personal computer, but spam email snuck in under the radar.)
Technology has clearly run well ahead of common sense.
And television started it all.
Consider: most people of my generation started their TV viewing with Sesame Street. This programme, one of the most watched (and studied) in the world, purports to educate kids in an entertaining fashion; what it really does is grant them a three-minute (at best) attention span. Sure, kids learn the alphabet, but once that alphabet is transferred to a boring old black-on-white page, with nary an animation, how many kids care to learn further?
There was such a thing as "attention deficit disorder" before Sesame Street (although a way back in 1902 they called it "Morbid Defect of Moral Control"--yike!) But it can hardly be a coincidence that the rampant spike indiagnosis of ADD came after Sesame Street and a myriad of copycats infested our televisions.
Perhaps television for adults is of a better quality.
Sure, there are good shows on television...lots of them. But most of them reside nowhere near NBC, CBS, ABC or FOX. They're up on the Discovery Channel, History Television, or A&E, where ratings aren't the be-all and end-all.
(Yes, there are many smart dramas and even a few intelligent comedies left on the networks. But it seems like every year, a few of them die off and get replaced by the demon weed called 'reality' television--which is anything but.
A couple of years back, CBC ran a series about a suburbanite family 'transported' back to the 1800s. It was called Pioneer Quest, and hardly anybody watched it. Why? Lots of reasons. No "immunity challenges", no nudity, and no cutthroat, campy competition. In short, it was too much reality for reality TV addicts.
But, you know, the world of reality television keeps evolving, in lockstep with the Webcam universe. It's just a matter of time before we see The Running Man on Thursday nights--not the movie starring Schwartzenegger but its titular game show. And maybe some others that Stephen King dreamed up some thirty years ago: Treadmill to Bucks, wherein heart patients are forced to run on treadmills, with an audience looking on and feverishly placing bets on who will last the longest. Or Swim the Crocodiles...self-explanatory. At that point I'll stop bitching about the fakery on Survivor and start seriously considering emigrating off-planet. Fear Factor is bad enough, thank you...but people watch it.
TV has dumbed down politics. Honestly, do you think Lincoln or Churchill would last long in this age of ten second sound bites?
If, God forbid, Paul Martin is re-elected, we'll have television to thank. First of all, there was his oh-so-sincere-looking television address, when he hijacked the nation's airwaves to give him a chance to stand in front of Canadians and look prime ministerial. Then there's the Gomery inquiry. It's televised in Quebec, and it's quite a hit; it's certainly convinced a goodly number of Quebecois not to vote Liberal. Ah, but try to view the inquiry in English Canada. Kind of hard to find, isn't it?
Do we really need all of the following: CTV Newsnet, CBC Newsworld, CNN, CNN Headline News, FOX News, and CP24? There's only so much news at any given time; before long, they have to resort to whatever Paris Hilton is up to lately. Six 24-hour news channels strikes me as overkill, especially when every local channel already devotes at least four hours a day to news.
Consider all the things television has begat...
LAUGH TRACKS. I used to wonder, as a kid, if my sense of humour was deficient. Listening to the sounds of hundreds of people laughing five times a minute will do that. Now, I just find them annoying as hell.
REMOTE CONTROLS. These were first marketed under the name "Lazy Bones". Did you know that there are now televisions that will not work without a remote?
PRODUCT PLACEMENT. Sure, Hollywood has done this too, but television has raised it to absurd heights...to the point where plots are specifically laid out to show off various products.
INFOMERCIALS. "But wait, there's more!" Several times I have found myself interested in a product showcased on one of these smarmfests. But then I stop to think to myself, "if this product is so good, how come no reputable store carries it?" Eventually, of course, some of them do make the leap--at which point I might buy one.
MUSIC VIDEOS. Forgive me for this--it's out-and-out blasphemous, I know--but I'd like to go back in time and shoot the guy who first shot one of these. Because of music videos, the first question producers ask has nothing to do with the merit of the record. Instead they wonder how to get a bunch of bare-assed sluts to dance to it.
I'll end my rant here...Living With Fran's on.
04 May, 2005
Jason and Brian's wedding was slated for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday on the third floor of Toronto City Hall. So as to make absolutely sure we weren't late, we left home shortly after 9 a.m.
We parked at Yorkdale and did a mall walk, stopping for lunch at the Rainforest Cafe (www.rainforestcafe.com).
If you haven't been, I highly recommend this place. Rarely have I been somewhere that combined an enchanting atmosphere, delicious food, courteous and quick service and affordability all in one package.
Bring the kids...they'll love the huge assortment of animatronics (we sat not far from a couple of elephants, trunks a-swinging) and the giant fish tanks, filled with exotic fish)...although very young children might be frightened by the thunderstorm which strikes every half hour.
Yorkdale has always been a ritzy shopping centre. It seems to have gentrified even further in the past decade or so; there is a huge collection of stores that perform a credit check on anyone walking through their doors. There's this place called Williams-Sonoma..."for the serious chef", it says, so I was thinking a set of pots therein might retail for $300, maybe $400. As the saying goes, if you have to ask, you can't afford it...but for $1499.99 (save $500!), I'd expect these things to come with a year's supply of meat and clean themselves besides.
The insane prices continued. At PJ's Pet Center, we found what would have been our dog, if "robbing banks" was a respected profession: a golden retriever for just $2500.00. Fair price for a dog that retrieves gold, wouldn't you say? Unfortunately, we couldn't afford it.
Off to the subway, disembarking all the way downtown, at Queen Station, from which I'd read that I could see Nathan Phillips Square--and I could have, had I the ability to elevate myself a few hundred feet and punched a hole through several pesky skyscrapers. We eventually found our way there...only two hours early. Time to drag out the books.
Jay and Brian met us half an hour before they were to be wed and we made our way to the wedding chamber, to be greeted by a multitude of people in full wedding regalia. I know how silly this sounds in hindsight, but I never expected to be confronted with gowns and tuxes at City Hall. No, I didn't think that a church wedding was somehow more dignified than one performed by a justice of the peace, but I did think that maybe other people thought that way. It was something of a relief to discover I was wrong in this regard. The semi-casual dress among our party of five (the wedding couple, ourselves, and Brian's mom) didn't signify an occasion any less important, nor did the simple ceremony, standard in many respects. Consider: here was a couple who had travelled a couple of thousand miles not just to be married, but to be somewhere where they could be married. I don't know about you, but to me that means commitment!
The wedding supper was at Elephant and Castle: my second very good meal this day. After that we subbed back up to Yorkdale and made the trek to Barrie's Travelodge, yet another pleasant experience in a day full of them.
You know how most motel rooms are damn near identical? This one was about thirty percent larger and was blessed with what might be the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in away from home. It also had a shower that almost knocked me off my feet: the pressure yielded pleasure that bordered on pain.
In the morning we made our way northward to my father's for a couple of entirely stress-free days, the kind they specialize in up there and just what we needed. What did we do in Britt? Strictly R and R: reading and relaxation. Or C and C, if you like that better: conversation and contentment.
There are no pups up here, either. A caboodle of kittens, but no puppies.
We had thought about getting our pet at the Toronto Humane Society. Surely, in a city like Toronto, there would be a lot of dogs on offer. Checking out their website, we found this to be true. Unfortunately, those that weren't pit bulls were at least partly pit bull. And the ones they were really desperate to get rid of were labelled 'American Staffordshire Terriers'...the fancy name for pit bull.
Now, I am not entirely against pit bulls. I think the impending ban is a piece of something that rhymes with stoop and scoop: I'd much rather see owners of vicious dogs unfailingly charged with assault or worse, no matter the breed. Few people seem to remember or care that the pit bull was once advertised (in the 1920s and 30s) as the ideal family dog. Many of them still could be, with proper training.
But if I'm getting a dog from a pound, with no knowledge of its bloodline or prior behaviour, I want a dog of some breed that hasn't earned a nasty reputation. A Labrador retriever would be great. Better yet would be a mutt with a lot of Lab in it. I've raised purebred dogs, several of them. Their immune systems tend to be weak, in my experience.
Nothing like this in Toronto's pound. Nothing even close.
So we took the back way home, leaving the 400 just south of Barrie and taking 89 across to Mount Forest. This route may take marginally longer--and that's doubtful, given Toronto's traffic--but it's a much easier drive.
Shortly after we got home, we sat down to watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
My best friend often bemoans the number of movies I have never seen. If it was made before I was a teenager, chances are I've never seen it, no matter how much of a classic (or in this case, cult classic) it is.
This is one movie that now I can only wish I'd never seen. I think that in order to appreciate this film, one must first induldge in a great quantity of some mind-altering substance. 'Cause my rational mind just gibbered.
This morning we took a run out to the Kitchener pound to see if they had anything that wasn't a pit bull. The same dog we'd checked out a couple of weeks back was still there: a black Lab cross they'd named Sawyer. We were told that this dog needed a firm hand and probably hadn't seen a day of training in its life. Also, several families had been turned off by the dog's initial rambunctiousness. Well, I wouldn't have expected anything different: he'd been in the pound for almost two months. After he took me out for a walk (see: training needed), he calmed right down. Somebody at the Humane Society had taught him to sit, and he (sort of) understands that command.
We brought him home. He's alternated being a tad crazy with being perfectly docile. I can already tell he's intelligent. We didn't like the name Sawyer, so he's now Tuxedo: "Tux" for short.
The cats have no idea what to make of this thing. He's six months old, so he's already a big boy, but Streak's not afraid to stand up to him. He largely ignores both of them, though...probably a good thing.
The training begins in earnest tomorrow.