Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What the Hell???

... is happening to our society?  Every time I think we’re making a stride forward, some idiot just has to go and prove me wrong.  No, its not what you think.  I am not going to bitch about the American election results.  Okay, that’s a lie.  I am going to bitch about the American election results, but only for a little bit.

“My fellow Americans (hey, I am a North American!) ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”  Sound familiar?  C’mon folks, it took the Republicans in the House twelve years to run your economy and country into the ground.  After two years, in the middle of the biggest recession your nation has seen since the Dirty Thirties, you are ready to go back to the people who put you there in the first place because President Obama didn’t instantly fix everything with his Harry Potter magic wand???  Jesus!  The Democrats brought you tighter financial accountability and an actual health care plan!  Not to mention getting you back some actual respect in the international community.  Oh, I forgot, that’s Communist/Socialist rhetoric.  My bad.

At first I thought this was a modern phenomenon - “I need instant gratification!” owing to the fast food, high speed internet, Twitter and Facebook and Instant Messaging world we live in, but it turns out this is a historical fact.  Throughout American history (and maybe throughout other countries too, its hard to compare different electoral systems though) the President’s party loses significant support mid-way through the first term - people are just that impatient and that unwilling to cut some slack.  So its not a new thing. 

Maybe it’s the American “love it or leave it” ideology - look at what happened to the Dixie Chicks for a prime example of this.  Why can’t it be “love it or leave it or maybe work to make it better?”  Can’t we have fundamental disagreement without having death threats?

(To my American and ex-pat Canadian friends, I don’t mean to lump you all together here, just talking about the overall trend and some of the larger ideologies)

So now we have members of “The House” who are Tea-Party members... just like the Mad Hatter.  He was crazy too, but at least he had a reason - working with all that felt resulted in mercury poisoning...  So what’s these folks excuse?  Bigotry?  Intolerance?  Lack of education or understanding of the fundamental principles their country was built upon???

Bah.  Enough American politics, it just gives me indigestion.  And no, the Yanks aren’t the only ones with leaders with their heads up their collective behinds, Mr. Harper, I am looking at you and your creepy hair and creepier policies which are eroding the rights we’ve spent generations building upon.  But it is time to discuss something far more serious.

Our iron died this morning.  Plugged it in to iron my shirt, and nada.  Nothing.  No heat, no light, no steam.  Its about ten, maybe twelve years old, so it gave good service.  A twenty-one steam salute will be held as we toss it into the recycling.

I went onto Canadian Tire’s website to find another iron that will do the job, only to be bombarded with so many options that it boggled my mind.  “Digital temperature readout”, “Intelligent electronic controls maintain and inform you of actual and selected temperatures”, “T-Fal durilium soleplate with active lines for easier and faster 2 way ironing” and “USB interface for continuous monitoring of power and water usage, as well as built in Mp3 and DivX capability.”

Okay, the last one is a joke, but what the hell is a “durilium soleplate” and why do I need a digital temperature readout??  What happened to the two dial system???  “Silk/Rayon, Polyester, Cotton, Linen” and “No Steam, Little Steam, Lotta Steam”, right?  Why does my iron need to be intelligent?  I thought that was my job!

And that’s what has a stick stuck in my proverbial craw.  As we design things to get smarter and smarter for us, it feels like we are getting dumber and dumber.  Spelling and literacy rates are plummeting in the first world countries, after all, our software checks our spelling and grammar for us, so we never have to learn these basic skills.  Math?  Bah, who needs it, my iPhone has a built in calculator, currency and temperature converter and world clock to track what time it is here in my home town, in my dad’s home town and in Sri Lanka, just... cuz.  Map reading skills?  Why bother!  Damned iPhone has a built in GPS, accurate to within ten feet that can tell me where I am, and let me know when to turn, where to turn and how to turn.  Yet despite all these advances, my damned toaster still burns one slice of toast into a solid piece of charcoal while leaving the other a pale and slightly warm piece of bread!

Of course, intelligence isn’t, and shouldn’t be, defined by what we know.  It is, and always has been, our ability to use logic and reason to solve problems, to learn.  So maybe I am just being a boring old fart when I say that I don’t need a durilium soleplated iron with digital readout of projected ironing time and pressure sensitive steam modulizers to get a nice crease on my Dockers.  Maybe its just me, old before my time, sitting on my rocking chair on the porch, pining for the days when you heated your iron on top of your wood stove and yelling at the kids to get the hell off my lawn. 

Of course, they can’t hear me - they’re all texting on their iPhones with earbuds in.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Now that's Queer...

My work, as I have mentioned before, exposes me to situations and people that can be very challenging.  Racism, bigotry, hatred and ignorance are the things that fill my work days.  It can be draining some days to even open my filing cabinet or turn on my computer at work.  I know I am going to spend another day examining the darker side of human interactions, rolling around in hate and intolerance until the stink of it fills my nostrils and makes me want to scream or punch out.

Enter S. Bear Bergman.

Bear, and hir husband j wallace, came to my office when one of my colleagues encountered them at a health and sexuality conference in Ottawa (or maybe Toronto, its been a while).  Bear immediately captured the audience’s attention by beginning hir talk with “In a male to female trans surgery, the penis is split lengthwise and the internal tissue is scooped out.”  Needless to say, ze got our attention.  Bear laughed and joked that the comment always stops the chatter in the room and makes most of the men in the room squirm.  Bear was right.

For those of you who don’t know, Bear is a writer, advocate and storyteller.  Bear’s books Butch is a Noun and The Nearest Exit May be Behind You are about gender issues, gender identity, gender bending and life as a gay/lesbian/trans/queer person.  At least, that’s what they are about on the surface.

My wife recently brought home a copy of The Nearest Exit May be Behind You and I started reading it on the bus last night.  My seatmate gave me some very odd looks indeed.  I don’t know whether it was the laughing out loud or the crying that did it.  I am pretty sure she thought I was having a melt down of some sort.  I gestured to the book a couple of times, as if to explain that it was the cause of my emotional rollercoaster, but I think she just thought I was having some sort of shaking fit.

Bear’s book establishes just why ze is such a successful storyteller, and makes such a wonderful advocate for the queer community, hell for humanity as a whole.  Bear’s stories and experiences remind us that we’re all, in our hearts, the same.  We all want to be loved and accepted.  We all want to be recognized for the work we do, and helped when the work gets too hard.  Bear reminded me that we need to stop and help each other out - not just when its convenient, but when people need us.  Bear reminded me of the importance of family, and made me think about the ways that we define family, and what that means to me.

Most of all, and its for this reason that I am writing this blog, Bear reminded me that the sorts of situations I deal with on a daily basis are not the truth of all humanity.  Many people, maybe even most, are good, decent, caring human beings.  There are people out there who are fighting for equality and the rights of themselves and of others.  The world is getting better, making strides forward.  Sometimes it can be hard to remember, and sometimes it seems like we’re backsliding, but when I read Bear’s book, and listened to hir and j wallace speaking in my office boardroom, I knew that things were going to keep getting better.  With outstanding people doing amazing things every day, the future looks brighter and brighter every day.

I don’t usually shill products - not since I left sales on that fateful day so long ago - but I can’t say strongly enough that these books should be read by everyone.  They are both available at Venus Envy here in Halifax, and online from Amazon and Chapters (or at least I found them both there).  Go and get them.  If you can’t afford them, let me know and I’ll lend you my copy.

I also know that some of the terminology above may be new to some folks.  “Ze” and “hir”???  What the hell is that you ask?  I am pleased to answer.  Bear, and presumably other folks in the queer / trans community, are challenging the way we identify people by gender, after all, what is gender really?  Ze and hir are gender neutral ways of using pronouns, plain and simple.  If only all our gender based battles could be solved so easily!

That said, I note that in Bear’s “Pre-approved version” to be used for introducing hir at a speech or presentation, Bear is now using the pronoun “he.”  Not being sure which version is more up to date (as gender identity and expression can and do change for some people) I decided to err on the side of caution.  Which is unusual for me, I know.

Either way, I just wanted to say “Thank you Bear” (and I am sending an email at the same time to say it to Bear’s face) for being a good person, for reminding us to look past our preconceptions and for challenging the world to do better, to be better. 

As I tell my sons all the time - “You can do it!”

Friday, October 22, 2010

To be or not to be...

The recent attention being paid to teen suicides, particularly the suicides of young LGTBQ people in North America is... in a word... interesting.

I've held the view for years now that being a teenager, despite our parent's assertions that it was "the best time of our lives", is the scariest, most challenging, most dangerous and hardest part of our lives.

Lets face it - its no cup of tea.  Yes, many teens have a boat load of fun. We engage in behaviour that we look back on as adults and wonder "How the hell did I survive doing that to my body?" and we do it with huge, often drunken, grins on our faces.  We forge friendships and bonds that, in many cases, will last a lifetime.  We tan, we drink, we date, we fornicate our faces off, we buy our first cars, we have our first jobs, we fall in love for the first time and we are firm in our belief that we are invulnerable.  Except when we aren't.

Those firsts are all accompanied, unfortunately, with their darker "first" counterparts.  We - usually - lose our first love, sometimes to another person, sometimes to a drunken car accident.  That first job is our first real taste of having responsibilities and not being able to do what we want when we want.  That fornication sometimes leads to far greater responsibilities than we are prepared, or able, to accept.  That new car needs work, which takes more money than you have, which means a loan, which means you have to work more hours... That's part of life, right?  Well... yes it is.  Nothing is permanent.  Nothing stays the same forever.  But here's the thing that many of us forget when we become adults - we didn't know that when we were 13.  Or rather, we knew it, but we didn't understand it. 

It takes age and experience to learn how to deal with the crushing pain that loss brings.  It takes dealing with dozens of assholes to learn how to deal with a bullying boss or a bullying classmate.

Teens are still learning who they are - and that's the hardest part of all.  They have friends telling them to be this way, media telling them to be that way, parents telling them to be another way and, if they listen hard, a little voice inside themselves telling them to be their way.  That little voice is the only one that they really ought to listen to, but it gets drowned out by all the others, which are much louder and more capable of enforcing their views.  The lucky ones have a support network that lets them listen to that inner voice, and that encourages and assists them in making that voice truly theirs.  Unfortunately, most don't.

For kids who want / need to go against what society is telling them, that's hard to accept.  Whether its not taking over the family business so you can go to art school, not dating a guy your mom introduced you to because you are lesbian, wearing pink instead of blue or picking up The Origin of the Species instead of The Holy Bible these are the moments, and decisions, that define teens' lives, and the roadblocks that they face in these moments are huge.

Add to that being bullied, and it gets even worse.  Now you have a teen, unsure of themselves, wanting desperately to feel appreciated, supported and loved, and you push their faces in the mud, often literally.  When these teens have no one to turn to, when their social networks, their parents and their teachers won't stand up for them, then the situation goes from terrible to tragic.

I was bullied in school.  The fat kid, the smart kid and the wiseass, I had a target for bullies on my back about as wide as the seat of my "husky fit" jeans.  Add in a fear of physical confrontation, and it was made even worse.  Physically assaulted, called names and teased, I went through much of junior high trying desperately to avoid pain and humiliation.  When I tried to talk to my family about it, I got nowhere fast.  I thought about suicide, even halfheartedly tried it once.  Until I was in my late twenties, I really thought I was the only one who felt that way.  To my surprise, almost every person I speak to relates similar stories.  I was not the only one.  Hell, in comparison to some, I had it pretty easy.

US President Obama just did an PSA for the "It Gets Better" campaign, and, despite my growing disdain for PSAs in general, I liked what he did.  He didn't focus on any particular group, didn't overly single out the LGBTQ community for comment.  And that's the right way to look at it.  All teens feel these tremendous pressures, and all people, regardless of age, deserve and need support from the rest of us.  We all made it through, scarred and battered, so we know that it doesn't have to be as bad as it is.  And we do know that it does get better.

Now, adulthood has its own challenges, no question about it.  And the responsibilities can really crush you sometimes.  But at least you have the experiences of your past, and some greater security in your own abilities, as well as a greater understanding of your recourse when a situation exceeds your capacity.  And its important that we remember all of that, when our kids come to us and tell us that they're upset or frustrated by their situations.  Its vital that we, as adults and thus the holders of all the power, stand up for our kids and all kids, and not accept bullying, not accept intolerance. 

Bigotry and hate are everywhere.  Small minded people the world over are spouting messages of hate and ignorance, and other small minded people are listening to them.  But the voices rising against them are getting louder, more persistent.  They are yelling back, and shining lights on the dark little caves these bigots are trying to hide in.  And their messages are getting through, slowly, a little bit at a time.

And yes, different people are still being singled out, and the urge to conform, to just do what people seem to want of you is huge. But the world is changed, every day, and in every way, by the very people that refuse to conform, by those that stand up and demand change, by those who listen well to that inner voice and act on its demands. 

Nothing ever stays the same.  But nothing ever changes, really changes, over night.  And I just hope we can tell that to our kids, and remind them that it does get better, and support them with our love and our actions while that happens.  So that they'll be here when it does.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Political Integrity

Peter Stoffer.  I assume that everyone knows the name by now.  For the seven people out there that don’t watch any news in Canada (and those of you that can’t access Canadian news at all), he’s the NDP Member of Parliament for the Sackville - Eastern Shore riding here in Nova Scotia who has had a long history (as in his entire political career) of denouncing and calling for the abolishment of the Long Gun Registry.  He’s also the same fellow who voted against scrapping that same LGR on September 22, 2010.  His was the deciding vote, and he’s taking a lot of heat on the issue.

Why did he do it you ask?  His answer is that  62% of his constituents, when polled on the issue, were in favour of maintaining the Registry.

Now, before we discuss Mr. Stoffer’s woes, its time for me to have a little rant.  The LGR cost one billion dollars to set up.  Was there some mismanagement of the set up?  You bet your Canadian butt there was.  Is the final cost of the set up grossly higher than its original projected set-up cost?  Affirmative.  But scrapping the LGR based on the money already spent to create it is ridiculous.  That’s like burning down your house because the contractor’s final bill was higher than the estimate.  In other words, its insane.

Set-up costs aside, the LGR costs four million a year to maintain.  Lets be honest folks, in the grand scheme of government spending, that’s a drop in the ocean.  Four million a year to maintain this registry vs. 181 billion spent in 2009 on healthcare.  181,000,000,000.00 That’s a lot of zeroes.  And our GDP is about 1.3 trillion dollars.

Now, I know what you are thinking, 181 billion for something as essential as healthcare is money well spent.  And you are right.  Universal healthcare (and no, we’re not going to discuss the accuracy of that title, nor the quality of that care) is generally regarded as a necessary issue, but registering firearms is perhaps a bit less necessary.  So let’s compare that to the budget spent, just in Nova Scotia, on registering vehicles.  The Registry of Motor Vehicles (a division of Service Nova Scotia) has an approximate budget of 20 million.  And Nova Scotia ain’t that big folks.  Assuming that is roughly proportional across the country, that would mean we spend about 600 million dollars of tax money to maintain a vehicle registry.  Vehicles, of course, are designed for transportation.  Guns, of course, are designed to kill things. 

Does registering your firearm mean you are being criminalized?  The ever witty Bruce MacKinnon said it best with his cartoon in today's issue of the Chronicle Herald so I won't bother to answer it beyond that. 

A lot of folks, probably all responsible gun owners, argue that there isn’t a lot of use to the LGR.  Yet the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police voted unanimously in favour of supporting it.  They said that police in Canada make approximately 11,000 inquiries a day to the LGR as part of investigating crimes.  11,000 a day.  That’s 4,015,000 inquires a year.  That’s a buck an inquiry.  If even one of those inquiries either prevents a death or solves a murder, that’s money well spent.

Now, back to Mr. Stoffer and his “flipflopping” as has been described in the media.

Mr. Stoffer doesn’t like the LGR.  Still says he doesn’t like the LGR, even though he voted to keep it.  He’s vowed to try and fix it, to make it better.  He still hates it.  But here’s the thing folks - when we elect people to represent us in government, we elect them not to present their own ideology and opinions, but to represent our ideologies and opinions.  And if 62% of Mr. Stoffer’s constituents wanted him to vote in favour of keeping the LGR, then he had an ethical obligation to - wait for it - do his job and represent that opinion.

Was he pressured?  Maybe, maybe not.  Is he lying about the 62%?  Maybe, but I’ve seen no proof of that.   Is the figure skewed in some way?  Possibly, but again, I have seen no proof of that.  And until I do, I just want to say bravo Mr. Stoffer.  Thank you for being the one politician that remembers what his job is.  Thank you for putting your constituents ahead of your personal views.  Thank you for remembering what democracy is all about.  Maybe your example will remind the rest of your colleagues.  And if I ever have the chance to do so, I’ll gladly vote for you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dove, a symbol of peace?

Terrorism: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

That’s the definition of terrorism from Websters-Miriam dictionary.

Recently a particular asshat has been in the media, announcing to all and sundry that he and his faithful flock of fifty parishioners (which means that my Facebook "Friends" list has more members than this idiot’s church) were going to engage in a day of book burning. Old news for conservative Christian groups in the US. But this book wasn’t Harry Potter, or Darwin’s Origin of the Species (the aforementioned conservative Christians usual targets), no, this book was the Qu’ran - the holy word of Allah as given to Muhammad - a sacred text to over a billion people on the planet. I’m going to say that again - a billion people.

Of course, the good news is that media got involved. When haven’t they made a potentially explosive situation better by covering it from every possible angle, and broadcasting their generally ill-informed and often ludicrous opinions to a few billion people? Thankfully, this idiot managed to get these right minded and forward thinking media people to take his message beyond his fifty BFFs, and broadcast it to the world. Which had, as you have probably noted, a result.

Denouncements of the plan flew from every possible angle. The US President, our own Prime Minister, heads of state from all around the globe, including both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hammas leader Ismail Haniya, the military leaders of at least four nations that I know of, the Secretary General of the United Nations, movie stars, rock stars, media pundits, and every religious leader, up to and including the Vatican and several prominent Imams throughout the world, along with every single human being on the planet that has any shred of respect and integrity.

On the flip side, the Taliban loved it. They called for an attack on every Christian everywhere, regardless of how they feel about the book burning. The head of a militant Islamic group in Indonesia has proclaimed a death sentence on the idiot, though they note that it is targeted at the idiot himself, not at Christians or Westerners in general - a nice touch on any death threat I think.

So yeah, the moderate world (read almost all of it) is aware that the idiot is, in fact, an idiot, and is begging him not to do it. The extremists out there killing in the name of their perversion of Islam will use it to further their own political aims, and likely manage a few more recruits from the uneducated and down-trodden.

Now it looks like he may have called the whole thing off. That’s the right decision to make, Mr. Idiot. But why has it been called off? The Associated Press (and likely a lot of other sources by the time I post this) have reported that the burning was called off when the imam involved with the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (see Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on how this is incorrect) agreed to meet with Mr. Idiot, apparently to discuss the moving of the mosque to another location. Which of course, is not happening - the imam and the other organizers for the cultural center have been very clear that the location is fixed and they can't be intimidated into moving it.

So lets look at this, and maybe go back and read the first sentence... Here we have an individual, actually a small group of like minded religious persons (the Dove World Outreach Center is ostensibly a church, albeit very ironically named, based on the idiot’s behaviour) who are threatening an act of violence against a particular group, an act which will very likely kick off futher violence as extremists and disillusioned people around the world react to it, and he’ll only call it off if his demands are met. “Move your mosque or I burn these books, and set a fire that will cost human lives!” How is this any different than the actions of the other extremists that we send the military after?

Coercion of this kind is always wrong. There is never an excuse to threaten to kill (or cause to be killed) innocent people to get what you want. And, Mr. Idiot, it doesn’t matter what name you call the Almighty, or which book you preach from, terrorism is still terrorism.

My only real plea here? Media, don’t show up - no matter what. If the burning goes ahead and there is no media coverage, there’s no problem. Why give the idiot and his idiot congregation more coverage? Its not news, its hate. And reporting on hate simply amounts to spreading that message, rightly or wrongly. Just let him have his stupid BBQ, and let him reap what he sows - don’t involve the rest of the world in his idiocy.

And to his supporters (yes, believe it or not there are people who agree with this message of hate) - I don’t actually have words to express how disappointed I am in the current state of humanity. If you are Christian, regardless of flavour, hate isn’t what your God teaches. Jesus preached that one should love one’s enemy as one’s brother (Matthew 5:43-47) and that you should love your neighbour as you love yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). And for those American’s out there in favour of this burning, and who aren’t themselves Christian, remember your own founding father’s words....

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Secular or theocratic, we can all agree that the world would be a better place without the misguided hatred that is being espoused in this issue. So reach out today, and embrace the other. Learn about another culture. Take ten minutes to learn how to say hello in another language. Spend thirty seconds on Google to find out the meaning of Ramadan. Learn what Buddhists think about reincarnation. Read a few pages of Darwin’s Origin or Dawkins’ God Delusion.

Take a minute, just sixty seconds, to reflect on what kind of world you want to live in, what kind of world you want to leave for your children and grandchildren. And then think about what you can do to make it a reality. Because if the idiot has shown us anything, if we can take one positive thing away from this entire situation, it is that one person can make a difference. His is a message of hate and intolerance. What will your’s be?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How Things Change

When G woke me up at 5:30 this morning (it was my turn to get up, so naturally he chose to wake up two hours before his usual time) the sky was overcast and the fog so thick you couldn’t see the houses across the street and I just knew the day was going to go badly. But then G snuggled in, and we watched some Diego. There is nothing, nothing in the entire world, as satisfying as your child snuggling up with you on the couch, especially when he still smells fresh from his bath last night (just a hint of watermelon bubble bath remaining) and he puts his little arms around your arm to make sure you hold him just right.

G and I followed that with a breakfast of home made bread (OK, OK, it was made by the new bread maker, but I still poured in the ingredients damnit) toasted with jam, while Bug (who had sleepily stumbled out an hour later and immediately came and gave me a hug, telling me that he loved me) had his usual “square cheese and a wiener please dad”... yeah, he’s kinda that odd. Then off to work.

The ride to work this morning was breathtaking. The fog had burned off (or so I thought... cue the foreshadowing) and the wind was light. The speedometer on my bike (yes, I am a geek) hit a new high speed going down the big hill - 56.1 kms/hour! Passing cars on that stretch is always awesome. But then, as I rounded a corner, the most amazing thing greeted me. Someone, presumably someone with magical powers beyond my own “Very Minor Superpowers” had put up a perfectly vertical and, to my naked eyes, perfectly straight wall of fog across the road. The fog was so thick that the cars moving into it were completely veiled within inches of entering it. I hit the brakes hard and thought about walking the bike down this part - its sketchy even at full visibility. But something in me rebelled at this choice, something didn’t want to play it safe. This tiny little voice said “Fuck it! Let’s roll!”

Now usually the voices in my head give me much saner and far more sensible advice than this. Usually they are sober and pretty reliable. Yeah, they repeatedly tell me things about myself that I don’t want to hear, and they almost always make me worry about things that I don’t want to worry about. I make a habit of listening to them - even if I don’t always follow through. While what they were saying was crazy, for some reason it resonated with me. And so, the brakes were released, the pedals were pressed, and I hit the fog at a solid fourty clicks an hour.

It was almost physical, the cold and damp slapped me in the face like a thrown blanket. Visibility was restricted to about a meter, and even the sound of the cars inching along beside me, and the steps of the very surprised pedestrian (sorry about that if you chance to read this!) were muted.

The sheer exhilaration of flying down the hill, with no way of seeing what was ahead, relying on my memory and the feel of the road, was incredible. Stupid? You bet. But it reminded me that sometimes, you just have to say the hell with it, and let go. Let go of inhibitions, let go of fears and insecurities. Let go of the things that tell you “You Can’t!” and let go of yourself. Sure, sometimes you crash and burn. But every once in a while, you fly.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Finding "Extra" Time

I need to be exposed to gamma radiation, bit by a radioactive spider or go on an archaeological dig to a newly discovered ancient tomb that is surrounded by warding signs in a language that no one living speaks, and may well be extra-terrestrial in origin.

Those mediums are apparently the most reliable methods of acquiring super powers. Which I have determined, after lengthy study, I need.

Superpower A: Time Stopping.
This power will be used to have more time with the boys and my lovely partner.  "But they'll be frozen in time SRD!" you cry.  Indeed they would be.  So some creativity will be required.  But I think I can iron this out.

Power will also be used to get more work done, both at work and at home.  No time to finish that report?  Frozen time!  Drywalling still not done after three weeks?  Frozen!  Dishes are piling up again?  Flash frozen clock!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sleeping.  Nothing says "ultimate power in the universe" like a well rested SRD.  The rest of the world can remain frozen in time while I catch just a few more hours of sleep.

Superpower B:  Splitting Yourself Into Many Copies
Too much work?  Not any more.  There is very little that twenty of me can't accomplish.  Hold down six full time jobs, take care of the kids, finish my writing projects, take a nap, go out to dinner with my lovely wife, see four movies, finish the basement and have time to just relax with a good book, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine with cheese, some beer with nachos, alone and with a hundred friends - all before dinner.

Superpower C:  Controlling Reality
For everything else.

Now, the harsh reality is that I don't have these superpowers - yet.  In the meantime, I will have to be content with my very minor superpowers.

Very Minor Superpower I:  Turning Into a Horse / Wolf / The Hulk
Thanks largely to Bug's imagination, I have the ability to mimic the sounds and general demeanours of a wide variety of opponents in his battles, friends in his adventures and allies in his stories.  The sheer number of persona that I have unlocked is staggering, and grows by the day.  Of course, this ability appears to be infecting the boys as well.  G has discovered his inner "Zombie Monster Baby!" and Bug is, of late, Sheriff Marshall Ship Captain Bug.  White hat, laser gun and cool sword included.

Very Minor Superpower II:  Making Frozen Things Hot
Thanks to the miracle of the oven, and at the urging of my sons, I have the ability to take a frozen lump, completely inedible in its current state, and in a mere 22 - 24 minutes, turn it into a tasty Pepperoni pizza, with extra cheese!  SHAZAM!  Of course, the inevitable clean up of pizza sauce from G's face makes for some interesting times, as well as some dramatic and deeply personal performance art.

Very Minor Superpower III:  Causing Laughter
Whether through falling down while playing "chase" or tickling sensitive bellies, I have unlocked the power of laughter, and a mighty weapon it is indeed.  There is no sound in the world as full of sheer joy and as satisfying, as the sound of my boys both laughing with me.  Now if only I could capture that sound for all time!

So until that spider comes along, or that bolt of lightning strikes, I guess I'll just have to be happy with my meager abilities.  And a big thanks to the universe for that.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Tao of Cycling...

I ride my bike to and from work. That's pretty much the extent of my cycling, as I never seem to find the time to take that long ride out to Sambro that I have been promising myself, nor do I get a chance to hit the highway out to Peggy's Cove for a day trip. I keep saying I am going to do it, but somehow, life always gets in the way.

So I commute on my bike. Its a short ride, maybe 5 kms each way. A lot of hills to work with, but hey, that's Halifax for you. Its a decent work out, generates a good sweat and gets the heart rate up there - both of which I am reliably informed are "good for me." Not sure about that some times going up Herring Cove Road, but I'll believe those wacky doctors for just a little while longer.

My daily ride is supposed to be a source of calm for me. Time alone, just me and my bike. My muscles doing all the work. Knowing that I and I alone am responsible for my journey. Free in the moral high ground of non-pollution, lowering my eco-footprint and getting exercise all at the same time. Yup, its a win-win. Or at least it is supposed to be. You see, there is this one tinsy tiny, niggling little thing that gets in the way of all of that. Other people.

Cars belong on the road. So do cycles. We can share that road very handily. There is enough space on nearly every street that I ride on where I can ride close to the sidewalk (always within one meter of the edge of the street) and cars can pass me, at their normal speed while staying within their lanes. I signal my turns and stops. I obey all traffic rules and regulations, and almost never ride on the sidewalk (save for one short portion of my commute that has no shoulder at all). Is it too much to expect that the vehicles I am carefully sharing the road with do the same??

Sure, I haven't yet seen a car driving on the sidewalk. But what about just obeying the basic traffic rules? I have been clipped five times since I started riding my bike out here, twice quite seriously. Once I actually ended up almost on the roof of a vehicle that decided to make an illegal turn directly in front of me - illegal in that they were turning the wrong way onto a clearly marked one way street, and cut me off to do so.

The bus driver that stomped on the gas to surge ahead of me, just enough so that he could swerve back in front of me and nail the brakes at the stop, causing me to actually impact the back of the bus - well that one I reported.

Then this morning, I get yelled at by a driver behind me. Took me a couple moments to realize that his honking and yelling was directed at me. We were both in the regular flow of traffic, stopped at a powerless (normally) lighted intersection. The drivers had mostly forgotten to treat it as a four way stop, and there was some significant congestion as a result. The three cars ahead of me were just sitting and waiting. My loud friend behind me yelled at me to go between the lanes (the left turning lane and the straight lane). When I tried to explain that was a) dangerous and b) illegal, he became distraught and accused me of making him late for work. Apparently the ten seconds it would take for me to go through the intersection when it was my turn was enough to get him fired...

But the human tendency for ignorance continued when I arrived at work. While standing, waiting for the elevator, I huffed a sigh, still out of breath from my ride. The woman waiting with me smiled and said "You ran to work today?"

As I stood there, pannier in one hand, water bottle in the other, and BIKE HELMET ON MY HEAD, I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. Finally I decided that discretion was required, and just smiled.

It was a rough start to a Friday morning.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

One Step Forward - Three Steps Back...

Now I know this is old news now, but I can’t stop ranting about this one... Quebec, la belle province, is set to ban the wearing of cultural head coverings in a new bill that is being tabled shortly. You can read all about it in the various media, my personal favorite was The Globe and Mail article about two weeks ago. I'd link it in, but have lost the ability to link a story for some reason... I'll assume you can do a Google search and find it. :)

This flurry of anti-Muslim leanings (and lets face it, there aren’t any other folks being targeted by this legislation) was kicked off in Quebec when a Muslim woman who wears a niqab (a full face covering which shows only the eyes and is worn by an extremely small percentage of Muslim woman here in Canada) was kicked out of a French language class because the teacher “needed to see her face to properly instruct her.” OK, first rant. What? My computer is teaching me Japanese. Its doing so without the ability to see me at all, let alone the ability to make judgement calls about me or my ability. It is simply listening to the sounds and comparing them to what the word in question is supposed to sound like and then correcting me when necessary. I could be wearing a Storm Trooper helmet from Star Wars and still get the proper coaching.

The woman then attempted to enroll in another class, and the Minister of Immigration actually intervened in this new course to have her removed once more. Suffice to say, she’s filing a Human Rights complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits do la jeunesse (Quebec’s Human Rights Commission).

Now let us put this in perspective... this is a woman attempting to learn one of the official languages of Canada. Language is frequently cited as the means though which one can most easily understand a culture. So she’s making an attempt to learn more about Canada, to become, as it were “more Canadian” and we’re telling her no.

I won’t say that I favour the niqab or the burka. I personally consider them to be dehumanizing and can’t condone their use. That said, I also respect a woman’s right to wear one if she chooses to do so, particularly if that woman is making that choice out of a religious obligation.

The last time I checked, Canada was involved in a war against the Taliban and its supporters in Afghanistan. One of the reasons that Canadians were so incensed about the situation in Afghanistan was the way women were treated. We were inundated with images of these poor women, trapped behind their burkas, not free to choose. We sent troops there, and many have died. We’ve spent billions of dollars, and have cost thousands of lives, to (among other things) give women the right to choose. Now, here in our own country, we’re taking away that right?

Where does the line get drawn? I am offended by many things each day. I think the manner of dress of many young people these days is deplorable and borderline pornographic. Yet I respect their right to choose, even if I can’t understand their choice. Why does Sally Smith get to walk through the mall wearing only a belt and two pasties, while Najiira can’t wear her niqab? Safety? Security? Come on people, lets try and move past the culture of fear and oppression.