dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
Today I received an email with the subject line "Perfect Last-Minute Gifts".
dreaminghope: (Flying)
Dear fellow adults,

It is OK to admit you don't know something. It is even acceptable to say "I don't know" to kids.

Russ, Craig, and I take our wings to Vanier Park on sunny days to practice ground handling. It helps with launching, with recovering from problems in the air, and with flying in general. We are quite the sight in our harnesses and helmets and gloves with our big 'gliders spread out. A lot of Vancouver paragliders use this park, so the regular joggers and dog walkers are pretty much used to seeing us, but a lot of tourists and occasional visitors are seeing this kind of kiting for the first time and we get some attention. We're in a lot of strangers' vacation pictures.



(There's a longer video of Russ kiting on the same day as the video above here.)

We don't mind answering questions. If we notice someone lingering, we will often greet them and give them the opportunity to ask us what we're doing. Russ carries our teacher's business cards for people who want to know more.

My pet peeve is hearing people tell each other what we're doing when they are wrong. It is especially annoying to hear parents telling their children with great authority that we're parasailers, that we're going to fly away, that our harnesses are filled with rocks to keep us from flying away, or whatever else they've decided is true. I'm sure it must be wearying to always be answering "what's that?", "why is that?", "what are they doing?", but I notice the missed opportunities to say "I don't know, but maybe we can find out together."

I don't correct overheard errors; I just grumble to myself and get on with what I'm doing. I do love when kids watch us, though. They get the magic of what we're doing: the wonderful sound the wing makes as it snaps open and rushes up into the wind, the beauty of the wing hanging overhead. The other day, a whole group of kids were watching and every time a wing went up they went "oooo..." and every time we dropped it back down they went "oh!". Since I'm still in the beginner's stages, they ended up saying "oooo – oh! Oooo – oh!" in a cheerful chorus. One of the kids, who was maybe nine years old, wanted to try, convinced that he could do it – no problem – and his mom helped me explain to him that my wing is too big for him and would carry him away and that he'd need a helmet and gloves too – "safety first!" (Kids roll their eyes at that even at only nine, as they are, of course, invincible.)

We've been getting out to practice as often as possible, given that we're entering the rainy season in Vancouver. Last Saturday and Sunday, we went to a new park Russ found. It has good wind off the ocean and is a less busy park, so we didn't have to compete for space with other paragliders and with regular kite-flyers and with the kite trike people. I managed to keep my wing up for at least a whole minute at a time while still reversed, which was a new record for me. I'm eager to get out again as soon as possible and hope to take the next step towards keeping the wing up as long as I want to, but the weather isn't always cooperative.

In the meantime, I'm practicing my para-waiting.
dreaminghope: (Default)
I blame Margaret Atwood.

Don't get me wrong; I'm a fan of her books. But she's still wrong about one thing.

It's not even necessarily current-Atwood who is the problem - she has apparently softened her stance somewhat - but past-Atwood, who insisted that The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake aren't science fiction books but are instead 'speculative fiction' because "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen."

I blame Atwood for making it sound like science fiction is a limited genre and that any book with literary merit - or literary pretensions - actually belongs to a different genre: "speculative fiction", "distopian fiction", "magic realism" (the academic name for a certain kind of literary fantasy).

It's good marketing: Ms. Atwood surely knows that science fiction fans will read "Oryx and Crake" no matter what she calls it, but literary fiction fans and awards committees don't take genre books seriously. It just bugs me that so much well-written, intelligent science fiction gets pulled out of the category, furthering the (incorrect) assumption amongst much of academia that what's left is pulp. To some, if something's not trashy, it can't actually be science fiction, and if it is science fiction, it can't be smart or thoughtful.

It is also interesting that distopian science fiction is often elevated over more optimistic visions of the future. Not to say that their writing is equal, but consider that The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood is held to be literary, where Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson is firmly situated in the science fiction and fantasy section of the bookstore. That doesn't surprise me; cynicism and pessimism are often considered marks of intelligence, where optimism means that you aren't smart enough to grasp how awful things really are.

I like science fiction, whether it be literary or trashy or something in between. So whatever, Atwood: You have written three science fiction books. Distopian speculative fiction, sure, but that's a science fiction sub-category. Deal with it.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
This week, the Canadian federal government proposed to review the wording of the national anthem. In particular, they were considering returning the phrase "true patriot love in all thy sons command" back to the original words "thou dost in us command" in the spirit of greater gender-neutrality.

The dog was wagged; the news coverage of the possible change overshadowed the budget discussion, and the public outcry that followed gave the government good reason to back down on the proposal.

Words do matter.

A game of "one of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn't belong":

1. Some of those people are pregnant.

2. Some of those humans are pregnant.

3. Some of those folks are pregnant.

4. Some of those men are pregnant.

"Men" isn't gender-neutral. Neither is "sons". It is true that our national anthem could be more inclusive.

But - and it's a big Conservative butt - we're just talking about changing one phrase in one song. Instead of pay equity and a complete national daycare program - things that could create real changes for real Canadian women - the Harper government wants to spend money debating a word. Or, they don't, really. Perhaps I am cynical, but I think they achieved exactly what they were aiming for: they distracted from the budget and made an empty gesture towards equality, and they changed nothing.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I'm watching the opening ceremonies on TV... the madness is officially beginning.

The sound of helicopters plucks on my nerves. Living so close to downtown, and to BC Place in particular, they have been nearly constantly overhead today: military and media. If you watched the opening ceremonies, you probably saw at least one aerial view of the stadium... I was probably cursing at the helicopter that took that shot.

Yesterday, I ventured to the Olympic superstore downtown for a birthday present for my brother-in-law. First, I couldn't find my way in, having missed the signs that said that there was no entrance from within its host department store. Once I figured out where the external entrance was, I was confronted with a half-block-long line to get in. I've never stood in line to get into a store before, but there was no back-up plan for the present, so I joined the end of the line.

Aside: There is a guy from Kazakhstan in the athletes' parade who is talking on his cell phone. "Oh, sure I can talk; I only need one hand to wave this flag. So, what're you doing?"

It was only about a fifteen minute wait before I was in the store. It was madness inside, with people trying things on in the aisles and then tossing unwanted items aside every which way, and staff scrambling in every direction to just keep the unwanted merchandise from being trampled. It was about a five minute wait at the cash. Altogether, I was in the store for a shorter amount of time than I waited to get in, but I was successful.

Aside: I'm beginning to feel really sorry for the dancers in the ceremony; this is a long time to be bouncing around.

Today, I saw part of the torch relay. Today was the last day of a record 106 day relay, and I was seeing some of the last of the 12,000 torchbearers.

Before heading out from my house to the route a block away (very inconvenient that they didn't actually come by my house so I could watch from my living room window, but such are the sacrifices we must make), I watched some of the live feed from downtown, where it was madness - crowds packed in, screaming and waving flags. The torchbearer at that point seemed to be about 80 years old, and he was soaking it all in and taking his time - I'm pretty sure that's why the relay was considerably later than predicted reaching my neighbourhood.

Our crowds were much thinner through Strathcona than downtown, but we all got to hang out with our firefighters. The Union Street Market closed down so their staff could come out too, though that led to some good-natured grumbling: "See what the Olympics get us? The coffee shop closes down for a half-hour!"

Our crowd was maybe a little more cynical than downtown's: "I just wanted to see what one billion dollar looks like."

First through was the sponsor vehicles, giving out triangular Canadian flags as re-envisioned by Coke. I overheard a mom explaining to her kids that they couldn't drink the Cokes they'd just been given because the aluminum bottles were souvenirs.

Then the first police escort, so the firefighters turned on their lights. Then another long delay, so lots of kids got their pictures taken with the firefighters while they waited. The pictures looked like old-style "United Colors of Benetton" ad.

Aside: Dear CTV announcers: The cultural portion of the opening ceremony will either stand or fall on its own merits - please stop narrating! The LED puppet bear is kind of cool.

The 80-year-old torchbearer had obviously passed off before my area, and I think the new runner was trying to make up time. She was past us so fast, my camera didn't catch a shot.

"Time to re-open the shop."

"Coffee!"

"That was it?"

The Olympic ads keep telling me that we were made for this... maybe they haven't noticed that there's no snow at this winter Olympics.

The Olympic ads keep asking me if I believe. I don't know if I do.

Vancouver's Olympic experience has really just begun, for better or for worse.



Aside: Dear designers of the opening ceremonies: You had me with the punk fiddlers and tappers, but I don't understand where Peter Pan over wheat fields fits in.

ETA another aside: Recovering from the Peter Pan thing. As someone on Twitter said: "Queers, punks, and poetry... Perfect opening to the Olympics. Props."

More asides: Do you suppose the French part is usually spoken first to make a point about Canada being decidedly not the US? - See, we speak French here! In my experience, most Vancourerites can't speak French (as seen by the number of times "Bienvenue" was butchered during the ceremony).

I can't stop: Rick Hansen rolled in with the Olympic torch, which reminded me of one of the funniest things I've ever seen on TV. If you've never seen "The Rick Mercer Report", watch the first segment of this episode.

More: Really, announcer? It isn't some special torch that Wayne's carrying; it was switched out during the ride. We all saw it get switched out on camera. Pay attention!

Last (maybe) aside: We just watched the ceremony - we don't need a clip-show re-cap. Also, now I've got firework noises and helicopters!
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I am writing to express my support for restoration of funding to the arts, as recommended by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in its recently-published Report on the Budget 2010 Consultations.

I am referring specifically to recommendation number 26 in the report: "Make funding of the arts a high priority in the 2010/11 budget by returning to overall actual funding levels of 2008/09."

BC Arts Minister Kevin Krueger, defending the 90% cuts to the arts and culture sector in the last budget, said: "Is it right to borrow even more deeply than that to provide grants to the adult community of today that will have to be paid back by people who are now children and grandchildren?" But that is a misleading question. When studies show that every dollar spent in the arts sector returns $1.36 to the economy, grants aren't charity; they are an investment.

Every year, I attend the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival at Granville Island. In the lead-up to the weekend of events, I buy more books than I do for the rest of the year combined, and often books I wouldn't have otherwise purchased. During the weekend, I often eat out for two or even three meals a day, plus coffee. I buy fancy sausages and other gourmet treats from the market. I often buy a couple of other little items - yarn, gifts, etc. - from the various shops on Granville Island. If the festival didn't happen, I would probably spend that weekend cooking at home, reading library books, watching TV... I would have a much less interesting weekend, and I would also generate a lot less economic activity. If money is all that matters here, than cutting the arts budget makes no sense at all.

Vancouver is about to welcome the world to our beautiful city. They might be coming for the Olympics, but this is our chance to showcase everything we have to offer: natural beauty, some of the best restaurants in the world, multiculturalism, and arts and culture of all kinds. This is the worst time to devastate such an important part of what makes British Columbia great.

British Columbia, especially Vancouver, often seems to mistake high housing prices and real estate booms for wealth, but sustainable growth and real wealth means investing in people through education, health care, and arts grants.

Our Liberal provincial government has said that "This government's commitment to the arts is abundantly clear". Actions speak louder than words, and it seems that this government's opinion of arts funding is crystal-clear. I would like to see arts funding restored for the economic and cultural health of our province, and because I believe it's what the residents of BC want. If the Liberal government is not willing to support our artists, our storytellers, our performers... they may very well find that they are lacking support in the next election.

Premier Gordon Campbell
Fax: 250-387-0087

MLA: Kevin Krueger (Tourism, Arts, and Culture)
Fax: 250-953-4250

MLA: Rich Coleman (Gaming)
Fax: 250-356-7292

MLA: Jenny Kwan (NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant)
Fax: 604-775-0881

For more information about the BC government's choices and the effects of the cuts, see Stop BC Arts Cuts.
dreaminghope: ("I hate everything")
I had better not be getting sick. My dear co-worker is simply too British to stay home when ill; The Boss had to virtually force him to leave when he heard The Brit throwing up.

Hopefully it was flu poisoning and I don't have anything to worry about, but I am feeling achy and tired.

Of course, my illness may be more psychological than physical. Last night's election had extremely disappointing results. Not so much the renewed Conservative minority government, because, though personally undesirable, it is a better case scenario; what's really got me feeling sick is that only about 59% of eligible voters bothered to go to the polls. That's the lowest turnout recorded. One riding was decided by a mere 68 votes.

Past American voter turnout has been even worse, of course. The US hasn't had more than 59% of their voters actually vote since 1968. But as a guest at last night's election party pointed out, it isn't very becoming of us to be constantly comparing ourselves to the US. And 59% is still pathetic.

The election party was very successful. Much good food and drink was shared, the youngest guest, who won't get to vote for another 16 years or so, was adorable, and every time Stephen Harper appeared on the TV screen, he was greeted by a barrage of Nerf arrows that would quiver on their suction cups. That was satisfying.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
In business, it's a good idea to always hire people who are smarter than you are. Hire a marketing director who is smarter about publicity than you are, a sales person who will sell more than you can, and a customer service rep who is better than you at calming people who are hysterical about their mushy tomatoes. That's just good business.

Over the next six weeks or so, both Canada and the US will be hiring our new leaders. We will be stuck with these leaders for four years* and the results of their decisions for quite possibly a lot longer than that. So, to the voting public of North America, a simple plea: Hire someone who is smarter than you are.

This may not be the person who is most likable or relatable.

This may not be the person in the nicest sweater vest.

This may not be - is almost certainly not - the most "just like us regular ol' folks".

Please, voters on both sides of the border, choose a leader who will be better and smarter than you would be, or at least smarter than the other candidates. And, my dear neighbours in the USA, if you think that means voting for Palin, then I must conclude that your education system is even worse off than formerly thought, and all sharp objects should be removed from your country forthwith before you hurt yourselves.

*Assuming a majority government in Canada.

Where I am

Apr. 2nd, 2008 12:02 pm
dreaminghope: (Dancing Cat)
Where I learn that cookies won't keep you together

Two people who were customers of mine as a couple split up recently. He moved out, and she kept their old apartment and account. He opened a new account from his new apartment across town. They order the same ginger spice cookies in their deliveries every week.

Where I feel bad for the dog

The dog next door has a thick, tightly-wound tail that coils on his back. When he is happy or excited, his tail twitches like a snake dreaming of swallowing a fat mouse.

Where I am pedantic and get a new enemy

Someone called me "caustic" yesterday and told me that I must be a very unhappy person... or maybe it was a very angry person. To be fair, I was rather condescendingly correcting her grammar and spelling in an email at the time. I maintain that I was provoked: she works for a book publisher and she sent me an unsolicited sales pitch wherein she spelled the title of the book wrong, spelled "distributor" wrong, and neglected to use full stops on half her sentences (amongst other problems). In the final email of our correspondence, she told me that "grammer [sic] doesn't matter in emails", which is when I gave up - anyone who believes that good writing doesn't matter when selling a book cannot be saved.

Where I want the unwanted

This week, I keep encountering random cases of black jellybeans being used as a metaphor for something or someone unwanted and left behind. To that I say: Send me your black jellybeans. I always leave them for last because they are my favourites. I always like the underdog.

Where timing oneself by others gets confusing

I know that I am going to be on time for work when I pass Marionette Man at the corner of Hastings and Clark. We pass each other somewhere along Clark every morning. It is a non-encounter; we don't even nod to each other. All too often, I pass him many blocks farther up, as he turns off Clark towards his workplace and I start walking faster towards Hastings because I must be running late.

Today, I got to Hastings and Clark and Marionette Man was nowhere to be seen. He is distinctive: more than six feet tall, lanky and long-limbed, and his is arms only swing forward of his hips and his knees seem to bend too much. This peculiar rise and fall to his step makes him appear to be controlled by invisible strings and a not-entirely-talented puppeteer.

I finally saw him a couple more blocks along, turning on to Hastings from McLean. I wasn't early for work, so he must have been the late one today. I wonder if he knew that by when he saw me. I wonder if he'll notice when I'm not around for the next two weeks.

Where I realize that even if I write this in an email while in my office, it does not count as work, and I have far more tasks to complete than I have time to do them in as it is...
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
In light of the shooting at Dawson College on Wednesday, all kinds of issues are being stirred up in the Canadian media: teen violence, gun violence and the gun registry, sub-cultures, alienated youth, and past rampage killings. I tried to read the many news articles about it all from my Saturday "Globe and Mail", but I'm finding it all very overwhelming. I'm hoping that writing it out will help me where reading hasn't been.

There are two main comparisons being made to past rampage killings:

December 6th, 1989: A man walked into L'Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal, and killed 14 female students: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte.

This comparison is made due to physical location and the horror of the citizens of Montreal, facing their second rampage killer. However, the Polytechnique killings were committed by an anti-feminist who specifically targeted female students. I don't think anyone believes anything similar about the Dawson College killer.

April 20th, 1999: Two students entered Columbine High School, Colorado, and killed 12 students and 1 teacher: Rachel Scott, Daniel Rohrbough, Cassie Bernall, Steven Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Velasquez, and William David "Dave" Sanders. They also injured 21 others.

The newest rampage killer is said to have admired the Columbine killers. He emulated the things about them that were focused on the media immediately following the Colorado crimes, such as the "trench coat mafia" and the Goth images. Some of the first news reports to come out following the shootings described the shooter as a man in black, with a mohawk. I said to Russ: "Why can't they dress like a preppy when they decide to go kill people?"

In the days immediately following Columbine, the Goth kids and similar sub-cultures of high schools in the US and Canada (and probably elsewhere) found themselves more on the defensive then usual. They, who had probably been the victims of bullying for years, suddenly found themselves suspected of being the next ones to blow. The bullying continued or worsened.

Many of these bullied teens found themselves in a weird situation. They want - need - to condemn the murderers and distance themselves from them, and yet... what bullied kid hasn't fantasized about revenge?

Russ and I, two years out of high school at the time of Columbine, and many of our friends, found ourselves sympathizing with the killers, though we didn't want to. We knew who they'd been before they were murderers; we'd been through the kind of things that made them into monsters.

September 13th, 2006: A man killed 1 student - Anastasia DeSousa – and injured 19 others at Dawson College, Montreal.

In the aftermath, revelations that the killer was a member of VampireFreaks.com has left the Goth community scrambling. The home page of VampireFreaks has two messages about the tragedy. The Officers of Avalon, a Pagan organization, has been preparing information about Vampyre spirituality. Other organizations have press releases circulating.

Many of the counter-culture people seem to be saying to their tormentors, as represented by the mainstream: "You can't reject me; I reject you." There's a lot of angry, disaffected kids growing into adults within these communities. Some find a place to belong. Some use the sub-culture as an excuse to be deliberately bizarre, to shock "the mundanes". Some stay angry. Eight years after he finished high school, Anastasia's murderer was still expressing anger at the "jocks" and "preps".

Knowing from experience what teens sometimes go through, I feel undesired compassion for the killers. This competes with my disgust at what they've done and my empathy for the families who have lost loved ones. Is it possible to feel bad for the criminals without being disrespectful to their victims?

We have to find a way to do exactly that, I think, because if we keep making the killers into monsters, unworthy of our compassion or understanding on any level, we will continue to seek ways to blame their crimes on their internal flaws or on a variety of external factors (pick your favourite: violent movies, video games, Marilyn Manson, the Internet, lax gun laws) that have nothing to do with what made these kids so angry to begin with. And if we act as though these kids are natural monsters, then it is too easy to label kids in the same sub-cultures, with the same taste in music or fashion, as potential monsters too, and maybe think that we have to target them to fix the problem.

At the same time, I don't want to give the individual killers more fame for their crimes. Though I feel bad about what they went through prior to picking up the gun, their choice is still their responsibility. That's why I haven't named any of the gunmen in this post.

I could get Wednesday's killer's name from dozens of articles in Saturday's paper, but I had to do a web search to find his victim's. It was probably in all the articles on Wednesday and Thursday, but was already gone by Saturday. I had to do a specific search for the victims to get the Polytechnique names; a general search for information about that crime gave me information about the killer and his motive, but not anything about who he killed. Columbine was a little quicker, for there are memorial sites for a lot of the victims.

I was only ten when Polytechnique happened, so I don't think I knew anything about it at the time. Dawson College hasn't hit me very hard on its own: maybe because the victim was a little older, maybe because only one person died. But it is taking me back to the day of Columbine, when I cried during hours of coverage: news footage of the kids running out of the school, the parents and students sobbing on screen, and the news reports that followed, analyzing the killers. And that's when my anger started, as the killers were called "Goths" and everyone talked about their violent video games, and reports started coming in about new school dress codes, increased problems with bullying, copy-cat killers, suspensions over behaviour that would have been considered innocent the month before. And little being done to cure the problem.

Will this time be any different? Some of the analysis articles are talking about the bullying, the isolation, the anger, the disaffection. Others are still talking about gun laws (not that greater gun control isn’t a good idea, in my opinion), video games, etc.

I wish I had a conclusion to draw from all of this. Tonight I'm going to post this, hope that the links help clear up misconceptions, and then I'm going to pray for the families of the victims and for the lonely kids who aren't sure that they will ever belong anywhere.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
"I'm behind again. I can't keep up," it is Melinda, the woman at the far end of the table. She just doesn't get it, and is completely unwilling to be quiet or cheerful about it.

"You aren't really that far behind," the teacher says. She goes over and helps the woman with the next step.

"OK, now we are going to glue the pages together, insert the cutting mat, and cut out your window," the teacher addresses the other three of us as we finish the previous step.

"What! What was that?" Melinda looks up from also finishing the previous step, "I'm behind! What's the next step?"

"Don't worry; you aren't behind. Just finish what you are doing, and I'll come explain what happens next," our teacher is infinitely patient.

"I'll never get it! I'm so far behind."

I want to yell: "Do you want to be behind? Just shut up and listen!" Instead, I quietly rip and glue.

"I don't understand! I'm behind!" Melinda starts again, "What do I do next?"

---

"Can you just close the blade on that knife?" our teacher requests of one of the crafters, "I can't stand to see those exposed blades just hanging around. Someone could cut themselves."

"I always use a hairdryer for this step and not a heat gun. Heat guns are faster, but they are just so easy to burn yourself on," she comments later.

"If you're disposing of knife blades, make sure you wrap them in cardboard and packing tape. Otherwise, if they get through the garbage bag, they could cut someone."

"I never use hot glue guns. Too easy to burn yourself. White glue is slower, but it's safer."

"Make sure you always use a ruler with a cork back. If it doesn't have one, it'll slip and you could cut yourself."

---

"You are a beast, Jesus! Fuck you, Jesus, you are a beast!" the man behind me on the bus tries to muffle his exclamations behind his hands.

The woman in front of me looks alarmed. She turns in her seat and tries to whisper something to me, but she is interrupted: "Shit! Fuck! Shut up Jesus, you are a beast!" She spins back forward, looking scared.

The man gets off the bus a couple of stops later. Once on the sidewalk, he removes his hands from his mouth and screams: "Fuck you! Shut up! Fuck you, Jesus, shut up!" He is still yelling at the top of his lungs as the bus pulls away.

---

I get home and walk into a kitchen much cleaner then the one I left. The previous day's dishes are done and put away. Jamey’s rinsing a cutting board from the dinner Russ is making.

"Did you do the dishes?" I ask Russ.

"Ah, Jamey, um, beat me to them."

"I just couldn't help myself," she says cheerily.

Finally, a compulsion in my favour!
dreaminghope: (Clueless)
I am preoccupied by something in much the same way as a popcorn kernel caught in your back teeth seems to preoccupy your tongue. You just can't seem to get your tongue to forget that the kernel's there, even if you can't feel it between the teeth, and even though you know that poking it with your tongue won't do anything but make you look stupid. Instead of my tongue wandering to this particular distraction, it is my mind wandering to focus on a two-inch bit of skin on my right shoulder blade. That's where my shiny new birth control patch is stuck.

Actually, my preoccupation is split between my shoulder blade and another two-inch square patch of skin on my lower abdomen. This bit of skin is where last week’s birth control patch was located, and the area is beautifully decorated with a delicate red rash. The skin feels annoyed under my jeans. Perhaps I should have worn a skirt today.

I am having a "if they can put a person on the moon..." kind of day.

I decided to try the birth control patch this month because, after eight years on The Pill, I am losing my ability to remember to take daily pills. Not wanting to prove my psychic correct by becoming pregnant less then a year after buying a house that has no room for a baby, I decided to try an alternative delivery method.

The ads and informational inserts for The Patch show a subtle patch stuck to a lovely woman’s back, stomach or ass, looking clean and non-irritating. Obviously this lovely woman simply stands around in her underwear all day, for my patch does not look that perfect for more then a few minutes. I move and my skin shifts, so the patch shifts slightly, leaving a thin line of adhesive on my skin all around the patch. This adhesive acts as a magnet, drawing to it the darkest fuzz and the fluffiest lint. Now my patch has a dark fuzzy trim that stubbornly refuses to come off.

Even before the skin under the patch got itchy and the rash broke out, the ugly-factor made a pretty clear-cut case for returning to my former method*. Rational as that might sound, I haven't given up yet. Now that I've proven to myself that I cannot count on myself to remember a pill every day, returning to The Pill means being preoccupied every day with the internal nagging: Did you remember last night? Will you remember tonight? My internal nag is very persistent, though useless when actually needed.

Personally, I think we need a new holiday where all the men who rely on their female partners for birth control do something nice for those reliable women who make sure there are fewer unwanted babies in this world by taking pills, sticking on patches, or inserting things. Sure, it is for our own good too, but it is a big responsibility, often accompanied by annoying side effects, and I want a present, damn it!

Now I'm going to go back to trying to work, pausing every fifteen minutes to poke at my shoulder blade and make sure the patch is staying stuck.

*Hormonal birth control has been very good to me in many ways, so I'm not eager to seek out other methods of protecting my uterus.

Toothpaste

Jan. 12th, 2006 10:48 pm
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
OK, enough with the toothpaste! An aisle (a big aisle) of toothpaste, and it is all just absolutely silly.

First, cream versus gel. Does anyone care? I’ve had both, I can't tell what would make someone have a preference for one over the other. Whatever.

Then: "whitening" and "sensitive" toothpastes, toothpastes that offer "24 hour protection" and ones that promise better tarter control. Really, I want all those things (don't I?), so why doesn't every toothpaste have them? Why would I buy an inferior toothpaste that doesn't have better tarter control?

I also wonder about how white are teeth should be. Maybe they should reflect light. Maybe they should generate their own light. From all the whitening products out there (luminous?), I think that might be the goal.

Toothpaste companies say our teeth should be white, insensitive and straight... sounds like some right-wing nut's version of the perfect government.

Now, on to the packaging. Brands are choosing different colours for their different types of toothpaste (silver for whitening, blue for sensitive, red for whatever is left), and then they are adding holographic stickers and scratch & sniff patches. Each brand must have a dozen different boxes. The toothpaste aisle looks like it is being used as a testing site. I feel like someone must be watching me and taking notes:

She’s reaching for the red box. Oh, wait, she's hesitating. The blue box has caught her eye. And she's looking, comparing, and she's made her choice: the silver box! Two minutes to a final decision, and one more point for silver.

That might make me seem paranoid, but I'm at peace with that perception.

Now: brand names. I want whoever decided that the two big names in toothpaste should both start with a “C” how much trouble and anguish they've caused me. I prefer one over the other (for good reason: one makes my gums very tender), but when standing in the aisle, with all those boxes towering above me and spread out to each of me, I can never remember if it is Crest or Colgate that I want. I get it wrong about 50% of the time.

Finally, I wonder what was wrong with mint toothpaste. There was variety; you could choose mild mint or spearmint or peppermint. And toothpaste was a beautiful, clean colour, like blue or green, and mint made your mouth feel clean and fresh.

I have "lemon ice" toothpaste in my medicine cabinet right now. I am a victim of clever marketing: the scratch & sniff patch on the outside was simply too intriguing and fun to pass up. The toothpaste is clear yellow on your toothbrush. It smells and tastes like mostly-unsweetened lemon pie filling. It is weird. Though I am sure it is cleaning my teeth adequately, I don’t have that icy freshness in my mouth after. My mouth doesn’t feel clean.

I will say this though: Whoever came up with the idea of a flip top toothpaste is my hero. Not only does that prevent the infamous fight of who left the cap off of the toothpaste*, but it prevents little blind me from losing the cap when I'm brushing my teeth without my contact lenses in. This makes me happy, so not all toothpaste innovation is bad. But, really, vanilla toothpaste? Fruit punch? Were these necessary?

*I wonder if anyone actually has that fight or if that’s a sort of odd domestic legend. Everyone I’ve lived with has always put the cap back on.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
In the past week, I have seen two dramas on TV (one a couple of years old, one brand new) about child killers. The CSI franchise seems particularly fond of this storyline. That got me thinking... of course.

I was a Disney child. Many people in their 20s probably were. We grew up watching Disney's animated movies. Disney's films are known to be lacking in active parents: in the vast majority of cases, one or both parents are missing or dead. A lot of the child heroes are orphans. In fact, the death or absence of the parent either launches the child's adventure or is crucial to allowing it to happen.

Forward to a more recent phenomenon: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. In the final years of the show, in order to allow the "kids" to complete their process of growing up, the show killed off or sent away all the parental figures. The heroes are not completely independent and grown-up, despite everything they had accomplished in the course of the show, until all the adults are gone and they are left standing on their own.

I suspect that the fate of the adults in Buffy isn't unique to that show, though I don't watch a lot of the teen and coming-of-age shows that would prove it. Feel free to provide evidence for or against my theory on this section.

The result is that we have a media set-up where children or young people are the heroes, but they cannot completely take that role until the adults are "out of the way". The Disney phenomenon alone is a pretty strong cultural driver; any other shows are simply reinforcing the theme.

It is my theory that this may pose a subconscious threat to mainstream grown-ups. After all, who wants to think that they are merely an obstacle to be disposed of so the next generation can get on with it? This subconscious threat is reflected in the current crime shows, where there seems to be a trend of showing ever younger killers and an increasing number of youth killers. In my livingroom, it has become cliché: if there's a person under the age of 25 on a CSI episode and they aren't the victim, then they are the killer. The shock value of seeing a cold-blooded killer of 12 in a TV show has worn off - we can predict the outcome of more and more episodes - and there must be plenty of stories that can be told that involve adults, so I am convinced that there must be something else behind this trend.

Any thoughts, anyone? I invite evidence to support my theory, evidence to refute it, and any alternative explanations for the rash of child killers on TV.
dreaminghope: ("I hate everything" - Happy Bunny)
Good manners can be summarised in just a few phrases: Be considerate of others and of your surroundings, and wait your turn.

In the past, good manners were much more elaborate. There were a lot more rules and they were much more specific. There were different rules depending on your social status, your gender, and the circumstances you found yourself in. The rules weren't intuitive; they had to be taught.

There are some manners that still have to be taught specifically: no elbows on the table, for example. But, generally, a person can enter any situation and as long as they are considerate and patient, they will be considered relatively well-mannered. Most people acknowledge, subconsciously if nothing else, that manners beyond that are culturally-defined social conventions, and not rules written in stone.

There's always a tendency to think that in some romantic past, when the light was always soft and flattering and the children were seen and not heard, that people had better manners. We say that "people are so rude nowadays." I don't know if that's actually true.

I think that some people have always crossed the boundaries of good manners, either willingly or through ignorance of the social conventions. The difference is that in the past, bad manners would be using the wrong fork at dinner or introducing an unacceptable conversation topic around ladies. Now, bad manners is running red lights, swearing loudly in public, verbally abusing store clerks, and generally being dangerous or obviously unpleasant. It isn't behaviour that can be overlooked; it is loud, obnoxious, unavoidable rudeness.

What do you guys think: Do people mistake simple standards for no standards? Do they think their behaviour is acceptable, or are they consciously rude? Will some people always be bad-mannered, so if our standards are low, they will simply sink even lower? Or am I missing the point here?
dreaminghope: (Little Miss Helpful)
The people who design contact lens products very clearly do not require contact lenses to the extent that I do.

Background: I have very poor eyesight (-7.5 and -8.0); bad enough that my cheap-ass provincial government pays for my eye exams. I've had contact lenses for almost 15 years. I can't seem to wear glasses, as the distortion of even the thinest lenses makes me so dizzy that I can't wear them long enough for my brain to adjust. Clearly I should force myself through that, but that's a different post. So, I put in my contacts first thing in the morning (before my shower, before coffee even) and wear them until the last thing before bed. Oh, and the other relevant fact about me is that I tend to be clumsy and I drop things a lot.

Rant )
dreaminghope: (Clueless - Get Fuzzy)
There's a possibility of a further, hidden tragedy following from last year's tsunami and this year's (continuing) hurricane tragedy.

It is all about money. )
dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
Walking down 12th Ave., a sign: "Room" for rent.

I wonder about this so-called room: Perhaps it is tiny, a former closet, that they are trying to trick someone desperate into renting. Or perhaps it is missing a wall, thus necessitating a questioning of its room-ness. Or maybe it is a shed or tent in the backyard, meeting all the standards of a room (four walls, ceiling, floor) except one: it is not in a building.

Walking down Commercial Dr., signs outside the grocery store: "Fresh" lettuce, for example.

I question the actual state of this poor lettuce. Is it very old, but still resembles its fresher, younger self? Or is it young, and straight from the farm, but looks wilted? Perhaps it has been frozen, or dried and re-constituted, or otherwise treated so that it is neither fresh nor not fresh.

Lesson: Do not use quotes as emphasis.
dreaminghope: (Firelight - Cinnamonsqueak)
Looking around me at people who are also in their twenties, I wonder what's going to happen to my generation in a couple of decades. Already, many of the people I know who are twenty-five are far less healthy then my parents are at fifty-five. Many of my friends suffer, or have suffered from asthma, chronic ear infections, multiple allergies and food sensitivities, moderate ongoing medical conditions, learning disabilities, mood disorders, cancer...

As a generation, we are probably going to still live to eighty, but will we have any quality of life? My generation may spend an increasing portion of their middle years taking daily medications, then more medications to control the side effects of the first medications. I know people who are caught in this cycle at twenty; what's going to happen to us all at seventy? My generation may also spend an increasing portion of their "end years" on life-sustaining machinery, or going through operations and recoveries.

Is my generation ruined before it is even really started? Pollution has surrounded most of us from childhood (asthma, cancer, multiple chemical sensitivities); our water and food has been tainted with chemicals for "pest" and "weed" control (cancer, other diseases we can't fully explain yet); we have been fed neuro-toxins, trans fatty acids, "plastic" food (obesity, diabetes, allergies, digestive disorders) and have been missing real nutrition (chronic immune deficiencies, learning disorders).

I am always an optomist, so I do not believe it is too late for us to fix what we've done to the world and to ourselves. But I fear it might be too late for my generation, as a general whole, to live up to its full potential.

What this rant is headed towards is my personal goal to work towards improving my own minor health issues: building some muscle, caring for my tendonitis, learning to cope better with my stress and anxiety, trying to eat better and sleep enough so I will be generally healthier. Towards that goal, I am now headed for bed!
dreaminghope: (Default)
[Inspired by a man on the street who probably had no idea how his actions could be perceived.]

Many people, in particular female people, have been taught from childhood to fear strangers (even if you are statistically more likely to be attacked by someone you know). As a result, many women have a great deal of awareness of what is going on around them, especially while walking down a dark, mostly empty street alone, and they react with fear to certain actions.

So, to all the wonderful men out there who would never harm anyone except in self-defense, some tips to avoid frightening pedestrians (note, these are probably good tips to apply no matter who the other pedestrian is, but I've used "woman" because they are more likely to notice you and be frightened or at least unnerved by these actions).

1. If walking up behind a woman on a dark, empty street, try to avoid suddenly speeding up. On an overactive imagination, this appears to be you trying to catch up to them to do some harm.

2. If walking up behind a woman on a dark, empty street, try to avoid suddenly slowing down right behind her, as now you appear to be stalking her. Just pass her, with as wide a gap as the sidewalk will allow.

3. If walking up behind a woman, etc., and she suddenly crosses the street in the middle of the block, there's a chance she feels uncomfortable with someone she doesn't know following her on an otherwise empty street. For goodness' sake, don't follow her across the street! Now she's really going to think that you are stalking her! If you actually need to be across the street, wait until you are parallel to your destination and cross the street and go straight to the house, side street or whatever.

4. If you are driving down an dark, empty street and you need to pull over to look at a map, try to avoid slowing down as you come parallel to the only person on the whole street. We've all heard stories of women being pulled into cars; this is going to make us nervous, to say the least.

I have experienced all of the above by men who were probably just innocently going about their lives, completely, blissfully, unaware that their actions looked suspicious and dangerous. None of them did me any harm, but they did cause my pulse to pound.

I'm sure there are other examples; please feel free to add your own tips in the comments if you wish.

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February 2014

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