Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Olympics

Nim and I live on the west coast of British Columbia, so of course we're inundated with Olympics propaganda. One city, Vancouver, chose to host the Olympics, but our tax dollars have somehow been dragged into this to the tune of damn near 580 million dollars. Hell of a lot of Gummi Bears that would buy.

Now, there are a lot of people unhappy with this decision, especially since there are a lot of Olympic protest censorship attempts going on behind the scenes. There are many people who are up in arms about the cost in the midst of a serious recession, environmental damage, insults to the native peoples of the lands where the Olympics are going to be held.

In the wake of all of this opposition, there are Olympics apologists writing about the 'whiners' who aren't 'team players' and are making the rest of Vancouver/BC/Canada 'look bad'.

I'm on the side of the protesters. I resent the use of my tax money for this. I have a boyfriend with kidney failure, a mother and aunt in their 70s, friends with student loan debts, friends with mortgages, bills to be paid, people to be cared for. I could not give two shits about who can skate the fastest.

Maybe the people bemoaning the 'whiners' have never had to choose between paying the rent and eating. Maybe they haven't had to wear ratty old shoes for a year longer than they should have because they didn't have the money to replace them. Maybe the loans we needed were just paid for by indulgent parents for them. I don't know and I don't care.

When we have a system where people could get post secondary education for little or nothing, when we can afford to keep competent doctors here and pay nurses what they're worth, when we have the resources to make sure that kids in the adoption and foster care system get more one-on-one care, when battered spouses and their children and their pets can easily find shelter and when we have more money to spend educating people so that they are less likely to fall into the traps that the world can lay for them - then, maybe, I will support the Olympics.

Future benefits of the Olympics don't mean very much to me. I don't bet on the outcome of profligate spending for the sake of having the "right" skating rink and the "perfect" ski run. I look around at my friends and family and think of the relief that even a fraction of 580 million could give to them.

So I won't be buying the red mittens or those unbelievably moronic "mascots" or anything with an Olympics logo or that damn license plates (I'd have to have a car first, ha!). No snow for the Olympics - if I was a believer in such things, I'd say it was a sign.

Being Proud of Yourself

I remember being a child and hearing mothers talk about their children like they were the most amazing creatures in existence. One mother's child was in dance, and from the way that she talked about it you'd think that the girl was a prodigy on the verge of a professional contract with a ballet company. Another woman's child played a musical instrument and according to her he was just the most talented child that had ever taken a lesson.

I remember wondering how my mother talked about me to her friends when I wasn't around. I'd heard my mom tell her friends and family about things I was doing, sure. But I'd never heard my mother brag about my accomplishments like that before. It seemed to me, even then, that there was some kind of competition going on before my eyes that I couldn't understand; I wonder even now if it makes much sense.

I suppose that it's human nature to brag about your offspring to some degree. I've honestly never gotten over the fact that those totally competent almost-adults are somehow derived from my DNA.

But I think that this activity sometimes turns into repulsive sort of "my kid is better than your kid" as if, by proxy, YOU are somehow better as well. My own kids have noticed this same trend going on around them with other people's moms; they told me that they were glad that I don't embarrass them that way.

Don't get my wrong, I love my kids like crazy. I think that they're some of the most awesome people that I know, in fact. But I don't use their accomplishments to pat my own back with.

Any accomplishment that a child makes is, I think, their own. By a parent taking that accomplishment as their own personal success, I think that they diminish their kids' achievements.

Your child should feel proud of themselves for their achievement not because you brag about them, not even because YOU say that you're proud of them.

In a related thought for moms.. remember that you are a person outside of whose mother you are.. or who's wife you are.. whatever titles you have. You're your own entity, so please, act it. If you use social networking, use your own picture, use a status that reflects what YOU are doing or thinking, not just your kids or your spouse.

Don't just be human tofu, picking up whatever flavours or personalities you come into contact with. Be yourself, trust me, the people around you will find you more interesting that way.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Best is Yet to Be.

Something that someone said to me recently got me thinking lately about what the expectations are in our society when individuals get older. I’m turning 40 this year, and other than my renewed enthusiasm for getting into better shape for this milestone occasion, I don’t really feel too much that I’m changing in a way that will result in me “acting my age” in any sort of way that world around me seems to be saying that I should.

There are so many jokes and stereotypes around about being “over the hill” that involve people stagnating in their fussy little conservative lives. I’ve found it funny that every year since I turned 30, there’s been at least one person who made the joke about how I must be 29 again this year.

Why in the world would I ever want to be 29 again? Not that 29 was a bad year by any stretch of the imagination; my husband and I were a pretty brand new item back then and life was very good. But I love the *me* that I’ve evolved into since then too.

I learned a very important lesson from my Nana that I think helps to temper my views on aging. When she retired from her career as a nurse, she returned to University and got another degree and set out on another career path. She’s 91 now and still pursuing a related career in dispensing advice to seniors in her monthly column of Senior Living magazine called Ask Goldie. When I am an old lady (which she swears that she ISN’T yet) I want to be just like her.

In the meantime, I’m just going to keep learning all the new things that I want to know how to do and doing all the neat things that I enjoy doing for hopefully the next 50 years or so.

I refuse to take up lawn bowling, listening to Kenny G, or Sunday mornings at church; my plan is to continue enjoying the things that I love now, however much of an odd mishmash of activities that they are. Besides, I love the funny looks I get when I’m in the staff room reading my firearms manual or a weight training guide and listening to Viking metal on my iPod... there’s nothing like being yourself.

"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" ~ Satchel Paige

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Little Diplomacy Never Hurt Anyone

I've always been a fan of the theory that a little bit of consideration and manners never hurts, particularly when you're dealing with people that you don't know.

Case in point: A lady calls up an SEO company looking for, crazily enough, some web services that likely included search engine optimization! However, when speaking to the nice young man at the front desk who informed her that the person she wanted to speak to was on a meeting call, instead of being courteous, she was a snotty bitch. And then, when she got a cutting reply from the boss, she had an eTantrum at him.

Funny thing about people who use the interwebs for a living, they might just tell other people about how rude you are. All I can say is, Barbara Feldman Realtor, thanks for showing your true colors before anyone invested any time in helping you out.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Today is Saturday, my one day a week that I have off, my one day to sleep in and laze around the house and be a total couch potato.

Instead, I got up not long after I normally get up for work, got dressed up(ish), and sans-coffee went off to the movie theatre to sit still, in a packed theatre full of little old people for four hours. Whew, am I glad to be home!

And while the waking up part of my morning was rather unpleasant, the experience itself was pretty fantastic. My husband and I met my parents at the wee hours of 9:30 am to see a production of Carmen (in HD no less) piped in from the Met. It was a rough 4 hours, admittedly; mostly due to the fact that we'd been too lazy this morning to put on coffee and so we had to do without. Also, the fact that movie theatre seats tend to be built more for cramming as many of them into a particular space than actually making them comfortable to sit in for long periods of time. Oh, and I could have done without every single little old lady there bathing in lavender eau de toilette when she got up this morning. Thankfully, I never travel without an inhaler! And then there was the two elderly ladies beside me who apparently didn't know how to turn off their cell phones and so pretended that it wasn't *them* that was the source of that stupid little ring tone for two mins straight... TWICE.

All bitching aside (and apparently more bitching than I realised was warranted) it was an amazing show; even my husband loved it, and he's not an opera fan by any stretch of the imagination. I haven't had the pleasure of attending an opera in a few years and had a very poor experience the last time I went and saw it live. There's a few reasons why I would highly recommend this "version" of an opera, actually.

The number one reason I really appreciated this type of production is that it was so easy. I didn't have to travel to the city, as is usually the case for a live opera and then secure somewhere to stay as well. The tickets to the show today were just over twice the cost of a movie but still cheaper than if you sat way up in the nose-bleed section at the Queen Elizabeth theatre and the view was exponentially better to boot.

The other reason that I'd really recommend this version of the opera to anyone is that during the breaks they did some really neat "behind the scenes" looks at the stage and scenery and talked to some of the major performers. Really a great way for anyone who's new to the opera or even just that particular production to get a better understanding of the whole thing.

All in all, Carmen was a perfect reason to get out of bed early (even if I do maybe need a nap now). The current cast for this production is utterly fantastic and I highly recommend that if you can see any production with Elīna Garanča in it, that you do. She's stunning.

Now forgive me, but I am off to go try to nap with Habanera playing in my head for the rest of the day...

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Unobtanium"? That refers to the plot, right?

*******SPOILER WARNING... KINDA*******

I'm putting a spoiler warning on this, although any adult with a functioning cerebellum could figure out in the first half of the movie what was going to happen in the last half.

The main problem with objectively viewing Avatar is the fact that the special effects blow your mind and you don’t really notice how predictable the plot is until about a third of the way through the movie. This is because the special effects are absolutely stunning and definitely worth watching on the big screen.

The plot, however, was stunning only in terms of its complete predictability.

With a movie of this calibre, the plot should have surprised and charmed me. There should at least have been one surprise, a twist, a play on an old plot device, a cut scene to a psychologist in a chair, saying, “Well, Jake, and when you realized that this was all a schizoid episode after your movie marathon of Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, Ferngully and The Last Samurai, how did that make you feel?”

I want a movie where someone comes into a native culture and doesn’t make it better on a global scale because they are The Chosen One. I want someone who has to deal with the gritty reality of two conflicting cultures that both have people who walk the fence, who are sometimes good, sometimes bad – you know, real personalities. I don’t want Noble Savages, extremely convenient coincidences or Evil White Men.

I don’t like heavy handed attempts to emphasize that the invading culture is bad, mmmkay? The line "fight terror with terror!" line really capped it for me. Might as well start chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" and include a scene where Jake and Neytiri rescue a bunch of children from the first Na’vi residential school and burn all the pox-infected blankets.

I would like to think that by 2154, some human people might have held in their pointy little heads a notion about invasion and annexation and the fallout that we're still dealing with hundreds of years after the first conflicts between Europeans and the native peoples of the Americas.

"Hey, this situation reminds me of history class..." "Wow, this is kind of like when Great-grandad used to tell us stories about the residential school he had to go to..." "Gee, I wonder how I would feel if someone came to my world to rape it for parts..."

The fact that only a tiny, isolated group of characters on the “human side” feels compelled to actually DO something without being bonded to a genetically modified Na’vi doesn’t work for me. Apparently there is no Facebook in 2154 and no Twitter. No one seems to be getting any information like, OH HAI IZ ON PANDORA WATCHIN RDA KILLZ TEH NA'VI HOMEWRLD OMGLOLZ back to dry, dead, dull Earth. Doesn't 2154 have some kind of envirofreaks with their own cobbled-together interstellar transport with SPACEPEACE painted on it?

Avatar is well worth watching for the stunning special effects, but as a movie, it failed miserably for me. I may buy Avatar several years from now when it’s on sale in the bargain bin, but I’ll be watching it with the sound off.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have a new cat. This is a pretty accurate representation of how he wakes me up.. ok, maybe not the last bit, but it feels like it at 6 am...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Personal Responsibility

On another blog, I am chronicling the adventures of my ne'er-do-well foster brother who is currently waiting for a trial in Brazil for drug smuggling. Seems 10 pounds of cocaine fell in his bag.

Long story short, he was desperate for money due to some very poor decisions involving working while claiming to ICBC that he was disabled and physically incapable. He would post sob stories to Craigslist, claiming to be the father of 2 young children (he doesn't have any) in order to get items that he would turn around and sell. He sold his pain pills - percocet, oxycontin - off the Internet. I'm guessing that last was what led him to 10 lbs of white powder in the bottom of his duffel.

Last August, my mother got a call from D's MIL. Brazil. Jail. It was news to us, since he had no money and had not bothered to tell us "Oh, by the way, I'm going on an all-expenses-paid trip to Peru, Brazil and Amsterdam with money I got from an undefined source for no particular reason." His story: A friend of a friend offered him and his wife a honeymoon and then he was "threatened by bad men" when he was in Peru and "had" to take the drugs to Brazil. Ah huh. Not buying that one. When you're offered a legitimate trip, you tell your friends and family. He hadn't told us anything.

Over the ensuing months, his letters got more absurd and offensive. He wanted his cell phone suspended, NOT cancelled because "he had a good plan". He had bills that needed paying. He needed money for stuff in prison. I had fucked him over by not rushing to his storage locker (2 years behind in rent) and selling his stuff (when I have a job I'd like to keep and live across a large body of water).

In a letter, he told me, "I made one mistake. Don't judge me until you know the facts." No, he had made dozens of mistakes. Hundreds. Thousands. And they started with the assumption that he "deserved" the good life. Now, D thinks that we should forgive him just because he said, "I'm sorry".

And this is where I said, "No."

I've been told that I'm too angry, too judgemental, too emotional... but when do I get to say, "Look you piece of shit; you have betrayed us, you have jeopardized us, you have lied to us, you have caused a huge drain in our finances and you think that I am not entitled to judge you? If you don't want to be judged by the people who are paying for you to have a decent existence, then feel free not to accept their money."

I don't think that people "deserve" a second chance. I think they are entitled to ask for one, but they are not entitled to receive it. No one is. Especially if they refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions.

There are way too many movies where a resource-sucking leech is presented as comic relief or as a ha-ha-every-family-has-one. You know why every family has one? Because they don't erect boundaries and then verbally, physically or emotionally kick the shit out of Relative Leech if they try to breach them. This is not out of what I think is not misguided family loyalty, but the fear of what other people will say.

I've not had anyone saying that I'm not "loyal" enough; quite the opposite, in fact. I have had people say, "Well he's not even related to you!", which I don't think is the point. Up until now, we considered him family, with all the bonds that entailed - a genetic link does not have to be present to make a family. No, what makes me less and less eager to support him is his attitude. We treated him like family and he treated us like a credit card that he could draw on when he needed extra money.

Unfortunately, I am a hypocrite enough to donate money to support him or, rather, my mother's ill-advised spending on him.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hell is other people, more specificly "customers"

I've been meaning to write a post about working in retail for a long time. I'm not sure why I haven't actually sat down and written one before now, maybe because it felt too much like bitching and moaning; whatever, I guess it is what it is.

Although I have some pretty snazzy looking fancy papers hanging on my walls, with my name calligraphed on them and fancy shiny gold seals in the corner, for the past year I've been working a retail job. Let's just say that having a fancy piece of paper doesn't get you a job in your particular chosen field by default and working in retail is much preferable to living in a damp alley behind the local pub in a mouldering cardboard box.

So, in the fall of 2008, when my EI was running out, I desperately sought a new source of income for myself so that we didn't have to sell the children off to gypsies. It wasn't the selling them off that concerned me, it was more what I would do when the gypsies came back wanting their money back when they discovered that they'd been swindled.

So, I set about to urgently find myself a new job. Luckily for me, there were jobs to be found and I rather quickly found myself the newest employee of a decently high end shoe store.

This was rather a shock to my system, having never worked in retail ever before; I'm not afraid of hard work, but all that running back and forth and climbing up ladders will just about kill you if your first exposure to the retail field is Christmas shoppers, I assure you.

I've since had a lot of time to get used to this job, having been there for over a year now; but I am still completely flabbergasted by the way that some customers behave in our store. The following are some good tips for shoppers in general that I'd like to share:

1) If you are a customer in a store, trust me, you are *not* always right. Do not attempt to tell the person who is helping you that you think that you, as the customer, are always right. I've overheard an amazing number of people tell MY BOSS this fact right before they ask to speak to her manager. It's really hard to keep a straight face when this happens, as my boss is likely to politely tell you to GTFO.

2) Do not ask me if these are "all the shoes you have" while waving a display shoe at me. The last time I checked, we do *not* merely sell only left size six shoes. Trust me, I have more in the back; some of them are even 'rights'.

3) Likewise, don't ask me if I have more colours in the mystical back of the store. Do you think that I'd keep the pink sparkly ones in the back if I have a particular shoe out in black, brown, red, purple, green, blue, chartreuse, and maroon? People have too poorly developed psychic powers to be able to request colours of shoes that we hide in the back, so we determined that this method didn't work well. We now keep them all out front on display. At least the left ones..

4) Don't tell me that no one told you that your shoes were a final sale if *I* sold you the shoes at closing the night before and I know that I told you ten times that they were a final sale. YOU are calling me a liar, and I really really don't like it.

5) Don't bother looking all shocked and hurt if I tell you that the shoes that you brought back in are for exchange or store credit only. Hell, some stores won't even take back shoes that were bought on sale at all, be thankful that we will give you a credit that never expires. Being a bitch to me is not going to make me change my mind, trust me.

6) In general, don't be a bitch to people who're helping you out in a store. If you treat me like crap and YOU need ME to get things for you from the back room... you can be sure that I'm going to not give you the service that you so obviously think that is your right. Trust me, it isn't. In fact, if you're a big enough bitch, I'll go stand in the back room for a few minutes and then come out and tell you that I don't have your size, even if I do. You know why? Because some people aren't worth having as customers. And do you know who told me to do that? The owner of the store.

All in all, it comes down to the fact that if you're going shopping... even if you're spending gobs of money on Italian shoes.. be considerate to the person who's helping you and think a little bit before you ask questions. A little bit of critical thinking goes a long long way.

Friday, January 8, 2010


As a resident of the current century, I am fully aware that breast cancer (among MANY other kinds) exists in the world. Hell, I'm a dragon boater.. so I get a huge double whammy of this message during boating season because so many of the teams are cancer survivors. This is great to see, btw, there are a lot of older women out there who can totally kick my ass at paddling, and it gives me a goal for when I'm an old lady too. But, I digress...

Yesterday, just about all 40 or so of the women who are my facebook friends had their status set to the colour of their bra as a statement for "breast cancer awareness". I was a little confused at first; who in this day and age is NOT aware of breast cancer? Anyone who has breasts certainly knows about it. I'm pretty sure that anyone who LIKES breasts is aware of it. Anyone who likes someone who HAS breasts probably does as well.

What this silly little meme failed to take notice of however is.. MEN get breast cancer too! Oh sure, not nearly as much as women do, but it happens. I think that holding up breast cancer as some kind of all-girls club is pretty damn insensitive to humans in general. Many of us female types would be pretty devastated to lose a man in our life to this disease too.

The other thing that seriously bothered me about this meme was that it didn't DO anything. Virtually flashing my unmentionables doesn't help anyone find a cure; at the very best it's a titillating look into someone's lingerie drawer. So, consequently I didn't post the colour of my brassiere for a hundred or so people to see. I felt like the whole thing had been set up by a horny teenaged boy to get information about girls undies; it felt icky.

Although far ickier, I couldn't help but think of all the PETA ads I've seen that have naked or sometimes merely half-naked women in exploitive situations all to protest meat consumption or animal cruelty. Sometimes I really don't see the connections that people claim to be making.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who's Fault is it Anyways?

So lately I've been staggeringly overwhelmed by the lack of personal responsibility going on around me. I have heard a lot of rumblings about this topic over the last few years about how "the kids today" just don't have any concept of this ideal, but really, I think it's a lot more than just the kids and I think that we all need to step up and fix this problem where we can in our own lives.

One of my pet topics when I was taking my teaching degree was the concept of teaching kids the whole idea of personal responsibility. Because really, if you do something wrong, even if it's an accident, you're still the person responsible for it. (my other pet topic was critical thinking.. but that's a whole other post.) However, I cannot get over how many adults that I know in my life who don't seem to have a firm grasp of this concept at all. These are all grown people with children.. old enough to "know better" you'd think.

My kids, luckily, are pretty astute about the poor behaviour of people around them. There's their father, my ex, who rarely calls them and this year neglected to send them Xmas presents. And then there's their aunt, who tells them every time that she sees them that she's going to come and visit.. or calls to make a date when she can come for tea, and then doesn't show up. Both of these people are adults, in theory; both of them should realise that just picking up the phone and explaining yourself would make a world of difference to the people that it matters to. KIDS.

I realise that my ex grew up in a household where if you ever got into trouble, his parents were there to bail him out; but my sister didn't come from that kind of environment. My parents were always sticklers for "doing the right thing" and having manners. Hell, my mother still to this day reminds me to say thank you when someone gives me a gift (much to my annoyance, I assure you).

I know a woman in our local hobby group who voluntarily took on a job months ago to plan a post-Xmas event. For some reason (and probably a very good one) she didn't get it planned. Now, when contacted by the president of this group, she didn't tell him that something in her life was going on and she couldn't do the job. She stalled. And now, because she didn't come forth and tell anyone that her life was in some sort of turmoil... there's no event. So, now we have about 50 disappointed people (more than a few who would have helped out) all because one person couldn't suck it up and say, "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be able to plan this." before it was way too late.

I don't claim to be perfect in this regard... I've probably been a no-show when I was supposed to be somewhere (though not that I can actually remember). But I try to make good on my word when I give it and make it up to people when I fail. I guess that my only solution for my own little world is to make sure that my own kids realise how rude it is when someone disregards other people like that and to make them think about how the problem could have been solved.