Thursday, July 29, 2010

Things that make you go.... huh?!

So, I know I've been a horrible blogger... this is nothing new, though. Today I have time (or at least, a lack of inclination to do any of the other stuff I should be doing), so lucky you, you get a post! ;)

This morning on the way to the subway station my mother and I encountered a 'gent' who has inspired this post full of "WTF" traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) moments of the past little while.

This morning's winner: As we drove along in Mom's van, a black Honda Civic in the lane beside us pulled partly into our lane. Mom slowed down (good woman!). Civic drifted back, drifted over again a little further, drifted back a bit, drifted all the way into our lane. Mom was a tad flustered. I looked at the driver-side wing mirror of the Civic. Huh. Looked at the edge of the steering wheel on the passenger side. Double Huh. "You know, if he'd put the phone down and stop trying to read that document he might drive better." Yup... not only was he doing the illegal by driving with a cell phone clapped to his left ear... he also had a multi-page document balanced on his steering wheel that he was reading. Drifting all over the farking road.... including into oncoming traffic. I'd say candidate for a Darwin Award, yes?

Last week included such winners as:
- the guy who seemed strangely confused by the red octagons mounted on poles at intersections. You know... the ones that say "STOP"? Or maybe he's just illiterate. He actually flipped off the guy in front of him at one T-junction because he came to a full stop instead of driving out under the large truck barrelling on through (they didn't have a stop sign... just us). How silly of him not to try to dive in front of a vehicle 20 times the size of his own! How dare he come to a full stop and force Mr. Oblivious to apply his brakes!

- the cop (just the latest in a long string of cops I've seen do this) who jay-walked across Dundas in front of the local cop-shop. Dude! You are not above the law. If you saw a regular citizen do the same, you'd slap him with a ticket... maybe you should consider setting a better example? Nah.... of course not.

- Chica who got off a streetcar (while on the phone) right in front of me and proceeded in the same direction as me swinging her arm so wildly in the process that she hit me. I stopped and said (quite loudly) "EXCUSE me!", at which she turned and said "oh so sorry" before continuing both conversation and passage. So obviously she KNEW she hit me... but chose not to say anything until I objected? WTF? Anyway, she walked all the way back to the previous streetcar stop, which confused me even more. Must've been one hell of an interesting phone call.

- the kid, perhaps 6 years old and the same height as my legs who was walking along in front of me one morning, trailing behind granny. Fine... I move over to pass... he meanders in front... I move back, he meanders back. I swear I nearly stepped on this kid about 5 times in 7 paces. I finally said (not loudly) "do ya think you could pick a straight line, maybe?" He turned, schooled his face into a mask of abject horror, and scurried to catch up with granny, who turned and gave me a look of death. Meh. I can dish 'em out well enough, I figure I should be able to take 'em ;)

- and then there was the subway. I got on the subway one evening at about 4:30 to find it fuller than expected. 2 stops later, I saw someone stand up to exit and moved over to take advantage of the newly vacated seat. As I got to the seat, a child sitting the one of 2 seats perpendicular to it lifted a shopping bag and landed it on the seat. I looked at the bag. I looked at the child. I looked at the people standing. I looked back at both bag and child. Child, bright girl that she was for the age of 7-ish, lifted the bag again and I sat down. At the next stop, a woman got on and asked the woman (about 50-ish) at the other end of the set of 3 seats in which I was seated if she could move her shopping off the seat between us so she could sit down. You'd think she'd asked if she could eat one of the kids for dinner. Yes, that's right... In Toronto, on a fairly crowded subway during summer rush-hour this woman of about 50 and her (I'd guess) grandkids aged about 5 and 7 thought that the 3 of them should be able to take up 5 seats. Guess again, grandma! We paid a fare, your shopping didn't.

Just a few of the events of my commute in the past week or two that make you say "Huh. Huh? Huh." and shake your head. I don't understand people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mood Music

People often talk about mood music... but most of them mean jazz or Barry White... music to set a romantic tone for a meal or an evening with an 'other' of more or less significance.

But have you ever noticed that music often creates a mood or is chosen for a mood?

When D and I are off to play paintball, we often have what my mother lovingly refers to as "angry music" playing in the car on the way there... Industrial, Metal... loud, driving beats, heavy guitar lines. It gets the energy levels up and sharpens the attention levels.

Mighty Mighty Bosstones always evoke a 'summer' feeling for me. Doesn't matter what the weather's doing outside... it could be a blizzard... but MMB always makes me think of summer. Could be because the first time I saw them was one Canada Day... at Edgefest when Ontario Place was still home to the Forum.

Or the songs that resonate with events or timeframes in life. Kim Stockwood's "Jerk" got played a lot in the time following the break-up of my first engagement (an abusive relationship I was better off out of, but also proof that I had wasted 2+ years of time and energy on a hopeless cause)... and hearing it still takes me back to reminiscing about all the assholes I've had the misfortune to date.

Queen's "I'm Going Slightly Mad" was an off-beat favourite in high school and can still take me back to chats with friends sprawled across the hall on the top floor of the school where we had our lockers in... grade 11, if memory serves.

Yesterday I heard two of the songs that evoke powerfully painful emotional 'moods' in me. Back to back, thanks to the randomizer in my iPod... and oddly timed, considering recent discussions and tentative plans. "The Impression That I Get" by Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Queen's "Show Must Go On" . I've been through a lot of shit in life. I like to think that I'm a stronger person for it... that I've managed to learn something from most of it, either about myself, or that I can use to help someone else in some way. But these two songs always make me stop and think... the first because it makes me wonder "have the things I've fought through really been all that big? If I were faced with something bigger, would I be up for it?"... the latter because it makes me wonder why every time the world has shattered I've managed to pick up as many of the pieces as I can and move on. Is it just because 'the show must go on'? Have I really DEALT with any of it? Or have I just picked up the pieces without putting them back together?

There are other songs that provoke different responses. Songs that make me dance (it's a fight to sit still when one comes on)... songs that make me sing (ok, reality check, most of them do that *laugh*)... songs that make me smile... songs that make me think of specific people (there's an Eve 6 song that always made me think of D, and for the life of me I can't think why... or 'Wipeout' which always makes me think of Andrew who died when I was in grade 10... or "Forever Young" that always makes me think of Lisa, because she requested it and dedicated it to me and an ex she was trying to get me back together with mere hours before she died in a horrific traffic accident...)... and at least one that always makes me cry. Depeche Mode's "Precious" is just plain painful... evokes all the emotions of our miscarriages and the strain they put on us as individuals and as a couple... makes me cry every time.

So... what's your 'mood music'? What songs evoke an emotional response in you? What songs make you reminisce? What songs always make you think of summer, or winter, or fall, or Christmas (without being specifically Christmas songs *laugh*), or other events in your life? I'm a curious kitten, I want to know! :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Odds and Ends

Today I'm going to buckle and talk about TV. Worse, 'reality' TV. Worst, Survivor.

But first, let me tell you about the house 3 doors up from us. The house 3 doors up from us went on the market last Wednesday. It's the same age as ours (40-ish). It's the same # of bedrooms as ours (3). Fewer bathrooms. Smaller kitchen. Bungalow (ours is a back-split). It sold before their open-house on Saturday... so less than 4 days on the market. Generally, that indicates that they got their asking price (or pretty darn close), if not more. The asking price for this smaller-than-ours house was about $70,000 more than we paid for our place 3.5 years ago. Which means, if we did a good clean & stage and put our place on the market now, we'd get more... possibly as much as $100,000 more than we paid for it... that's (give or take) a 30% increase in that time! *boggle* Now, I know when I sold my condo back in 2001 I got 50% more than I'd paid for it 3 years earlier... but I also know I got a bargain on it and made massive improvements (like the bathroom was no longer beige with dirt *shudder*... there was no longer a washing machine full of water in the laundry closet... the oven worked... and the ceiling was no longer bare stucco *laugh*)... but I also know we didn't get a deal on this house... at all. So I'd say a 30% increase (theoretically) would be pretty damn impressive!

Of course, we wouldn't actually get that much because the house next door has been vacant for the past 2 years (effectively... except for 2 short periods of time... and while the guys set on flipping it were doing the work)... and it looks it. Inside, it looks great... the guys did some nice upgrades and staged it really nicely... it just didn't sell (I blame the neighbour on the other side, who doubtless scuttled any potential deals by broadcasting "it used to be a grow-op"... although that was never actually confirmed). The yards (both back and front) are sorely in need of mowing... and a few weeks back were nearly solid yellow with dandelions which have since, sadly, all gone to seed. Thankfully, we seem to be mostly up-wind ;)

Anyway, on to Survivor. Today people are talking everywhere I turn about "did the wrong person win?" and Russel's suggestion that there should be a fan-vote component in deciding who leaves or at least in who wins.

1/ No, the wrong person didn't win. In fact, I'll even say "the right person lost". Despite his very vocal claims that other people weren't playing the game as hard as he was, Russel overlooked one key element in his game-play. He may have Outlasted. He may have Outwitted. He did NOT Outplay... because he ignored the role of the jury when engineering his eliminations... he treated everyone like dirt and then expected them all to vote him a million bucks richer for lying and manipulating them. His arrogance was a key element in his downfall. He walked through the game with the attitude that he was the de facto winner and that it was just a matter of time before they all voted it so. If he was paying attention, the final tribal council moment when Parvati told Jerri that she was sitting on the jury not because she was a threat... not because she would be a challenge to beat either in a challenge or at tribal council... but because Russel was 100% sure she'd vote for him to win... that moment, and the look on Jerri's face, would have told him his critical mis-calculation.

Do I think Sandra was necessarily the best player out there? No. But she understood the value of the "no BS" approach... she didn't play mind-games... she didn't threaten... when Russel asked her if she was with him or against him, she told him she was against him (he just chose not to believe the honesty of the response)... when she found a hidden immunity idol, she treated it as a HIDDEN immunity idol and didn't tell people she had it so that they could 'flush it out'. She may not have played an often two-faced puppet-master game like Parvati appeared to play (editing is a wonderful thing, though)... she may not have played "queen of the castle", but her strategy was effective. She made sure nobody saw her as a significant threat, while simultaneously planting the seeds with key people that she wanted everyone's favourite hate-target Russel gone... so when it came to the end, she'd be able to say (and no-one could really contradict her) "I tried right from the merge to get rid of him, but I couldn't get the heroes to listen".

2/ As for Russel's assertion that obviously if Sandra could be anti-social, athletically and logically deficient in all challenges, devote herself to one single goal as her strategy and still fail to achieve it, but still win the top prize TWICE, there was obviously a flaw in the game. He flat out said that the public should have a say in it. Jeff equally flat out told him "not gonna happen".

And here's why it wouldn't work.

Yes, audience voting is employed in some reality shows... but generally they're performance shows... the audience votes each week based on short performances during that week's broadcast. Survivor is a completely different beast. Each week's show is made up of 3 full days worth of activity whittled down into 40 minutes of show, at the end of which the people involved vote and eliminate someone. To allow audience participation in the elimination in that scenario effectively means that the editors choose the person eliminated each week and the eventual winner.


Yes. With the power of a good editing suite, you can pretty much make anyone seem any way you want, given 3 days of footage, 2 challenges, 'confessional' interviews and just around-camp observations. Sure, it's easier pre-merge to manipulate the image and the audience because you've got footage from 2 distinct groups, so nearly twice as much camp observation and 'confessional' footage with which to concoct an 'image' of any player... but by the time the merge comes along, the audience have already formed opinions of who they like and don't like, so that's not so much of a challenge. So by allowing audience participation in a game like Survivor, you're not "letting America decide"... you're letting the editing team decide.

Or that's my thinking, anyway ;)

Friday, May 14, 2010

The funny things in life

I found this amusing. I realize I may well be the only one. I also realize that some of the people involved may well read this and be irked... well, to that I say, you know, if you couldn't be bothered to touch base for 18 months, but were plenty happy enough to talk about me behind my back, explain why I should give a flying rat's ass whether you're irked and I'll happily edit in a way I feel is appropriate.

Anyone who checks my profile on Facebook will know a few things... they'll know that it was horrendously cluttered (and I'm working on it... still)... they'll know that I have people on my 'friends' list from a variety of aspects of my life... and they'll know that I've hardly been on in the past... oh, I don't know... eon?

So, about a week and a half ago I finally managed to get on and posted about feeling the need to do a FB purge and clean up my profile. Not the least reason being that my job now requires me to do stuff on FB and it'd probably be helpful to add some work-related contacts, but I don't particularly want them all to know everything there is to know about me.

So I posted... and then promptly wasn't online much for about a week.

Anyway... I started slowly... I set up a few groups and started assigning people to them with the intention of playing around to allow some people access to some things, and others access to others (more, or less, or just different)... because I don't necessarily want my young cousin knowing certain things... or my aunt... or my boss... or people who weren't involved in the events/stories/pictures. Makes sense, no? I figured I'd do this, then play around a bit with who was in what group, then eventually remove a few people who I couldn't identify etc.

Well, it seems that some people have decided that if they can't see everything about me all the time, I'm just not worth having around. My 'friends' list has shrunk by a half-dozen or so... and the funny thing is, it's people who haven't bothered to say so much as 'boo' for months upon months upon months (although they've lurked, and talked... and I know that 'cuz it's been reported to me unsolicited, 'cuz frankly I don't care).

I just find it funny. No bad blood (at least, not on my side... things were said, choices were made, life goes on)... but the timing's kinda funny (and that's both funny 'ha ha' and funny 'peculiar').

So, I had my chuckle (just like I did months ago when I heard someone was blaming their 'lurking' status on not wanting to upset someone by posting... because they'd be more ok with a lurker than seeing posts by someone they may (or may not) be upset with? Give your head a shake! That logic is... well... illogical!)... and now I'm continuing in my efforts (however misguided or pointless they may be) to clean up and 'sanitize' my profile.

Just thought I'd share the laugh... assuming anyone reading this can see the humour, too ;)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wacky Notions that struck me on my way home yesterday...

Wacky Notion #1: When driving one's car along a busy road during rush hour, perhaps it would be wise to observe the TRAFFIC signals more and the PEDESTRIAN signals a tad less... particularly from the centre lane where pedestrians are considerably less likely to suddenly appear in front of the vehicle.

As I was driving home from the subway yesterday, in the centre lane of 3 lanes headed in the direction I was travelling, the car in front of me suddenly stopped. This confused me. The light was green. There was no vehicle in front of him and plenty of space on the other side to clear the intersection. Why did he stop? Because the pedestrian signal about 15 feet to our right changed from 'walk' to 'don't walk' (well, graphical depictions generally interpreted in that manner). Dude! Are you carrying your car? Are you living in Bedrock and your car works on foot-power? The light for VEHICULAR traffic is GREEN!!!!

Wacky Notion #2: When the sole custodian of a child whose mother likely still measures his age in months (i.e. under the age of 2 years), perhaps the wisest course of action would be to pay less attention to scrolling through emails on your Blackberry and more attention to stopping the child from wandering out into traffic. Again.

I kid you not. I left the office yesterday and watched a man in his 60's so engrossed in scrolling through emails on his Blackberry that the toddler in his care actually got about 10 feet away from him, paused at the curb, stepped down, and started out across the street. I gasped. Loudly. I wasn't close enough to do any more. Thankfully, as I gasped, he looked up and hurried to bring the child back to the sidewalk before the car accelerating through the intersection got too close. Unfortunately, he then went right back to his Blackberry and the child made another beeline for the curb. As kids are wont to do. Because now it was a game to get grampa's attention. Yes, that's right... I said grampa. The man in question was, I'd guess, in his 60's. Definitely "old enough to know better".

I guess Dad was right... while wisdom does generally come from age (in that it's most often gleaned from experience), advanced age does not necessarily indicate heightened wisdom.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day... Father's Day... Grandparents' Day...

Ok, this is partly inspired by the fact that Mother's Day is emotionally difficult for me... but it also got me thinking.

Why does our society feel the need to dedicate a day to showing love and respect for someone who should already be seeing/getting our love and respect on a daily basis? Why do we need to set aside a day to "show Mom how much she means to you" (or Dad, or Grandma/Grandpa...)?

Ok, maybe I'm odd. I grew up doing things for Mom & Dad... buying little gifts of the "Happy Thursday" sort... silly little gifts/cards/treats for no other reason than I love and respect them. This is, in my mind, only as it should be.

So, with that in mind, another day that the marketing people can latch on to and over-advertise and pump up into an event as big as Christmas seems... well... silly. Not to mention downright insensitive to all the women out there separated from their children by distance (physical or emotional) or death. Or the women battling infertility or the sometimes seemingly endless hoop-jumping and breath-holding of the adoption system?

I freely admit, my thoughts on the subject are strongly coloured by both my struggles with infertility and my miscarriages. Mothers Day, for me, sucks ass on a monumental scale. I spent the weekend painting my nails black, hiding inside, afraid to turn on the TV or go anywhere that sells anything for fear of being reminded, yet again, that I'm not recognized by society as a Mother because I have not managed to birth and raise a child. 'Cuz that's a boot I don't need to be kicked with any more, thank you very much.

I imagine Father's Day would be addressed in much the same way in our household, were it not for the fact that both my brother and my father-in-law have birthdays around that time, so poor D isn't allowed the luxury of hiding from the larger-than-life, completely unnecessary reminders of what we have lost and have not achieved.

So, if you buy into the Hallmark Holiday tradition of setting aside a specific day to show love and respect to the people you should always show love and respect to anyway, take the time to show a little sensitivity to the folks for whom it might be a rough day. The parents with kids in prison... the kids with parents in prison... the parents and kids of service men and women on deployment... the parents of the dead... the kids who've lost the parent in question... the people struggling with infertility or pregnancy- or infant-loss, the parents who gave a child (or children) for adoption... show them all a little love and respect, too.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another double-complaint day... and it's only 10 a.m.!

Today's double-rant... audio pedestrian signals and the dumbass who approved the Gumball 3000 passing through Toronto.

Let's start with rant #2 first, just to be different.

This morning on my way to work I was walking up University to Dundas. Just at the South end of "Hospital Row" (there are 4 hospitals in the block and a half between Queen's Park and Dundas). Just South of Dundas, I was passed by 3 "luxury sports cars" sporting the "Gumball 3000" logo. As I approached Dundas (a mere block from a police division, I might add) I saw another 3 stopped at a red light. The light turned green and instantly (so instantly, in fact, that I'm not actually sure he waited to see the light) the lead car hit the gas so hard that he spun the tires and the back-end stepped out ever so slightly before traction kicked in and he took off with the squeal of tires and the roar of an engine that really has no place in a city at rush hour. Or anywhere without significant 'crowd control', for that matter.

Ok, the engine isn't the problem... but the fact remains, during rush hour, downtown in a very large city (the largest in the country, actually) where there are pedestrians (a universally unknown quantity as any driver will tell you... pedestrians can rarely be counted on to fully obey traffic signals and crossing areas) is no place for rally drivers to be showing off. Especially in what is technically a 'hospital zone'. I guess this driver (and the 2 behind him who exhibited similar behaviours) learned nothing from his fellow 'competitor' (although reports and fans assure me 'rally' is just a name, it's really more of a 'road trip'... yeah... right) who yesterday had his licence pulled for 7 days and his vehicle impounded for doing 170 in a 100 zone ('stunt driving' under Ontario's laws) a scant hour after being ticketed and warned for doing 140 in a 100 zone.

Quebec City pulled the plug on the rally events that were scheduled to take place in that city due to concerns over the safety of locals (citing an unfortunate fatal incident in a previous iteration of the rally). I really wish someone in Toronto had had the brains to do the same.

Don't get me wrong... I like cars... I like speed... I like Rally and other racing... but with defined routes which have been cleared of non-participating traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian).

Now on to the other rant. In Toronto several years ago they introduced pedestrian signals for the visually impaired that had an audio component. Great idea! Successful in countless other cities around the world. Now, when the first introduced these, I was working near one of the pilot intersections... there was a 'chime' that sounded from green to yellow, then stopped... then a different 'chime' for the same segment the other way. This way the visually impaired could tell which direction it was safe to cross, and whether there was enough time to complete the crossing safely.

Now, I noticed this a few days ago, but this morning's incident with the speed demons drove it home again. Somewhere along the line, someone dropped the ball in a very big way. As I was crossing at the intersection just South of where the speed demons showed their mettle, I heard a chime while I crossed the smaller street... it continued right through the "countdown" that is now provided for pedestrians (visual only)... right through the red... right through my crossing of the significantly larger University Avenue (4 lanes each way)... right through the countdown there (which, incidentally begins before I can get to the centre median... if I, an able-bodied individual with a meter-plus stride can barely get across on one change of lights, what hope do most women, anyone in heels, kids, the elderly or anyone with a mobility handicap have?). No longer is there any difference in tone to indicate which direction it's safe to cross. No longer is there any audio cue to say "you know, you're probably not going to make it across before the traffic gets a green light, maybe you should wait"... nothing. It might as well not be there at all... it would, in fact, be SAFER if it WASN'T. Because the way it is now, visually imparied visitors to the city familiar with how these signals SHOULD work, are likely to step out into moving traffic... possibly in front of some dumbass with more horsepower than sense... and could quite possibly find themselves becoming acquainted with out healthcare system at best... and our funeral homes at worst.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Air Canada strikes again!

No, no... not THAT kind of strike... ;)

Air Canada, with no warning or publicity decided that as of May 1st, they will no longer accept any form of payment other than credit card... for IN CABIN purchases. So, if you want to eat, you have to buy a meal... but you've got to put it on your credit card. Junior wants a chocolate bar? That'll be $2... on your Visa. You want a pillow? A blanket? That'll be $5... on your Master-card. You want to buy that duty-free bottle of perfume in-flight? That'll be $87... plastic only, and no, we don't take debit.


I don't make purchases under $10 on my Visa. Why not? Because it tends to make the fraud department suspicious, and personally I'd really rather not find myself in a foreign country with a cancelled credit card because my airline wouldn't sell me food for cash. yeesh.

but my favourite bit is this... Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick was quoted in the Toronto Star thus:
"“This move is a benefit for customers and limits currency issues. Most people don’t travel without a credit card. This policy speeds up the service. Flight attendants don’t have to make change.”"

Really? A credit card transaction is going to be faster than a flight attendant making change from the bucket on their cart? So I guess you're not taking imprints of the cards and/or requiring signatures, then. Nevermind checking that the signature on the card matches the one on the receipt. Oh, wait... you're mid-air... are you going to do authorization requests mid-air on the air-phones? 'cuz that seems financially safe to me. [/sarcasm] Umm... pass. I don't even like this new policy a lot of places seem to have adopted of not requiring signatures for purchases under $50 (or whatever insane threshold they're using... I saw a signature-less $120 transaction last week). And no, those weren't chip & PIN cards.

So I can't bring a carry-on big enough to include a sweater, blanket, travel pillow, and food... and now I can't buy any of those things on the plane for CASH (you know... ACTUAL MONEY instead of THEORETICAL money a la credit card)... explain to me again why I'd be willing to pay more to fly Air Canada?

Oh, and before anyone suggests WestJet (which I will never willingly fly again for a whole other set of reasons)... they're also looking into adopting the policy, apparently.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

(un-)"common" courtesy

Yes, boys and girls... today's episode is about courtesy... common courtesy... or uncommon courtesy, as it seems is increasingly the case.

Let me tell you about my trip home from work yesterday. I encountered 5 people clustered at the corner, chatting, completely blocking the path... who glared at me when I said "excuse me". I then encountered 2 girls and a boy with a puppy who refused to surrender any part of the sidewalk they were spread out across to oncoming pedestrian traffic. Numerous people of the "walk up and stop" variety. And then one real peach who managed to irk me 3 times in the space of less than 60 seconds. At the subway station I use there are (from left to right) 1 turnstile that is token access only, 1 turnstile that is token & metropass access, and the ticket booth. People with tokens or passes generally avoid the booth path because it moves slowly, with people making purchases and asking questions of the collector and such. This peach of a 'gentleman' (and I use the term in all facetiousness) was a metropass user. I am a token user (because for someone who only uses the TTC for work and consequently uses at most 10 tokens per week it's less expensive than a monthly pass... but that's a whole other rant). He was with his buddy (also a pass user) stepped up to the turnstile to scan his pass... and rather than step up behind him, this *cough* 'gentleman' stood BESIDE him... blocking the other turnstile... the one that I could use to bypass the line of pass-holders. Fine. I'm irritated 'cuz I've got places to be, I plug in my token (eventually) and push through the turnstile... or at least, that was the plan. I am now the proud possessor of a significant muscle-bruise on my upper thigh *sigh*. Anyway, I hurry down the stairs to find that the subway I want is at the platform... I rush over... this same 'gentleman' is ahead of me, walks (slowly) through the doors and stops dead to contemplate the car. Leaving me nearly running into the back of him and still on the platform as the warning chime begins to sound. Quick step left and I'm on the subway. I turn right, but he's meandering through the car ahead of me. I see a seat to the right. He's heading to a seat on the left. I set course... he reaches the seat to the left, picks up a newspaper that was on the seat... and cuts in front of me to sit in the seat on the right to which I had been headed and from which I was, indeed, mere inches away. Yup, 3 discourteous events in less than 60 seconds.

Courtesy, I think, comes down to respect. Respect for the people around you, respect for your environment, respect for yourself. I'd love to say it's only an issue with a particular age or ethnic group... that it's an age or cultural difference thing... but it's not. The same people who for years were in the age group most vocal about the loss of manners (aka courtesy) in young people are guilty of the same breeches of conduct, themselves. Black, white, brown, yellow, red, purple, pink with green stripes... all showing the same tendencies.

I was on the subway home one day last week and was treated to the sight and sound of a young couple (of the sort where it's hard to pin down ages, but at a guess I'd peg her at 16 or 17 and him at 23 or 24) laughing and touching and fondling each other in the middle of the subway. Yes, fondling. As in groping. As him him grabbing her boobs and her grabbing his crotch. Oh joy. Thanks for sharing. Discourteous, party of two! Their behaviour showed not only a lack of respect for the people around them, but for themselves and each other.

Daily I see people cutting in front of others without so much as an "excuse me" or "thank you" or "sorry" or even a glance that says any of those things. I see people rushing to get through doors before the person who opened them can (as opposed to waiting to see if the door was being held for them, or waiting for that person to walk through and potentially hold the door or pass it off to them). A woman on the train this morning answered her cell phone at a volume roughly triple that at which she had been conversing with her friend... and then continued to bad-mouth her husband to same friend once the call (from self-same husband) was done... AT THE SAME LOUD VOLUME. Loud enough, indeed, that I am fully aware of the content of the conversation in spite of having Rammstein playing directly into my ears. Loud enough to overpower Industrial music played at loud-ish volume from closer proximity. I'd be surprised if the upper deck could also hear the whole monologue.

Chivalry... an extension of courtesy... is, as I told my mother last week, not just dead, it's been lying out in the sun for 6 days. It's bloated and smelly and rotting. I can't remember the last time a guy held a door for me... but I know he got a smile and a thank you in return! And then, probably another door held for him a few feet away, 'cuz that's just how I roll *laugh*

Please. Thank you. Expressions of regret or sympathy. The little social niceties. Those little actions that hardly take any effort, but tell the people around you "I respect you. And I respect myself enough to SHOW you the respect I have for both of us." Those actions of which people say "it's a little thing... but it's a nice thing." Let's bring them back! Let's not look at people who do them like they've got 3 heads (a look with which I am well familiar). Let's make the little effort... and revel in knowing that we probably brought a little sunshine in someone's day by being courteous and showing them some respect!

(to put it in more pop-culture terms... remember that ad where someone smiles at someone and they later smile at someone else, and that person and someone who sees it go do something nice for other people and so on and so on? It's like that. You're doing something really small... but it'll send ripples farther than you can imagine... and might have a bigger impact on someone than you ever thought possible)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Another Day, Another Rant... or two...

Rant #1... scooters/mopeds/whatever you want to call them. Motorized two wheeled vehicles of limited speed. I understand the environmental appeal. I understand the "I can get through backed up traffic and then park it pretty much anywhere" appeal, too. But if the damn thing can't go faster than 40, keep it close to the damn curb!!

Today, on my way in to work (driving... it's a rare occurrence, since it costs about $10 to park for the day... but for reasons of personal safety coupled with convenience for the trip home this evening, it was the best choice), I was tootling along Eglinton Ave. East headed towards O'Connor Drive. I was in the left lane, in the centre lane was one of these things (and I don't mean one of the uber-cute old VW Things... they rock). Not the curb lane, but since he was turning off to go to O'Connor, I could forgive it. Until he wobbled over across a solid line into the left lane, where he stayed for 3 blocks, doing his maximum of about 37 km/h... in the fast lane... in a 60 zone. I've got 2 problems with this... one is that travelling slower than 20 km/h below the posted limit qualifies you for a ticket for obstructing traffic and potential dangerous driving charges. The other is that travelling slower than any other traffic on the road in the LEFT lane is just plain dumb.

Of course, so is driving with your mirrors adjusted so that you can see.... yourself, and nothing else. Yes... that's right boys and girls, this braintrust also couldn't see anything but his own damn melon in his wing mirrors... certainly not the traffic he was wobbling out in front of without either indicating or turning his head. *sigh* Darwin, where are you when we need you?

Rant #2... the current publication ban on the scheduled appearance in court of one Terri-Lynne McClintic in the case of the murder of 8-year-old Tori Stafford last year. More accurately, the media outcry over the publication ban. I am willing to grant that "the people have a right to know"... and I truly believe that child killers deserve the worst things in life. BUT (and this is where I'm likely, yet again, to ruffle some feathers)... the accused also have the right to a fair and unbaised trial by a jury of their peers. Now, I'm sure some of you might be wondering what that has to do with a publication ban... well, here it goes... recently there was another case before the courts in Toronto. The case of the murder of one Joran Manners. The accused's identity is protected by age at time of the incident. In any case... a mistrial was declared. Now, in the event of a mistrial, the crown may regroup and re-lay charges and re-present their case to a new jury.

So here's where the publication ban is a good-ish thing. Child murders are polarizing events. They cause tremendous public outcry. Accused are deemed guilty until proven otherwise... and even in the event that they are acquitted, they're social pariahs at best, and murder victims themselves at worst. Are you familar with the notion of "tried in the media"? In the event (unlikely, if the crown have done their job well and thoroughly researched all evidence and presented a 'water-tight' case) of a mistrial, the accused in such cases has no hope in hell of a fair and unbiased re-trial with a jury of their (geographic) peers... their peers have all become biased and prejudiced by media coverage.

So, and I say this with admittedly no idea of the motivation of the ban in this case... let's say that during discovery the presiding judge says to the crown "yes, you have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial", but does not feel the case is, in any way a 'slam dunk' because the evidence is unstable, or the accused is likely to prove a sympathetic figure or whatever, it's in the best interests of ultimate justice to impose a publication ban until a verdict is returned and appeals are exhausted, at which time, details could be published. The way I see it.

And, I'll admit, my thoughts on the subject are at least partly coloured by the case of one Robert Baltovich, convicted of killing his girlfriend (and my childhood fellow parishioner) Liz Bain... and later granted a re-trial, on the first day of which the crown said "umm... we're not going to present anything" and consequently he was granted a summary acquittal. Now, I met Mr. Baltovich once, back in the day. Seemed a nice enough boy... madly in love with a beautiful girl. And I also know (thanks to media, ironcially enough) that Liz was acquainted with one Paul Bernardo, who moved from Toronto right around the time of her supposed murder (no body has been found), which also coincided with the cessation of escalating activities by the so-called "Scarborough Rapist" (later shown to be same Paul Bernardo), a short time before the deaths of Tammy Lyn Homolka, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. But Mr. Baltovich's initial trial was before any of that came to light, and no other suspects were considered (hardly thorough investigative policy).

Mistakes happen. Juries fail to reach verdicts. In cases likely to have a significant polarizing effect or which are likely to rouse a mob with pitch-forks and flaming torches (figuratively speaking... I hope), I think it's only right in the interests of fair judicial process to impose a media ban or "gag order". At least until the case is well and truly over or the right to trial by jury is waived in favour of bench trial.

So, news folks... get over yourselves and "the public has a right to know"... because any one person's rights are only rights until they infringe on the rights of another... like the right to a fair and unbiased trial.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A breakthrough... I think

So.. on Saturday I attended a babyshower for a friend. A lovely girl... very sunny, and sensitive, caring and generous. A girl who has had a number of challenges in her life, but has managed to not let them grind her down. I've known her for a few years and she's always been supportive when I needed support... when people were attacking me, when we were going through A.R.T., when we inevitably miscarried both resulting pregnancies. And I like to think I've returned the support... when she had to put down a beloved pet, I went with her so that she wouldn't have to be alone, and in case she wasn't able to drive (safely)... when a family member was facing a legal issue that was monumental... and when she announced that she was pregnant and was faced with hundreds of catty and abusive and demeaning remarks (both to her face, and behind her back).

I have always thought that this girl would make a wonderful mother... that any child would be lucky to have such a source of pure love in their life, regardless of the circumstances preceding that involvement. Yes, I think she had some growing up to do... but at the age of 24, most people DO still have some growing up to do... and a lot of people don't do all their growing up until faced with situations requiring it.

Anyway, Saturday was her baby shower. Baby is due in about a month. I expected it to be a difficult day, as other baby showers have been. But it wasn't. Not even a little bit. Shopping had one brief moment of "it's never going to happen for us" angst, but it really was a brief moment... and Saturday was just plain lovely... with blessedly few "shower games" *laugh* One OMG moment, when I realized that this adorable 8-months-pregnant girl has the same abdominal girth now (give or take a cm or so) as very non-pregnant me. Yes, I know she's about a foot shorter than me, but still... if ever there was motivation to lose more weight... *laugh*

Maybe it's because for all this was an "oops" and didn't involve invasive testing or procedures to obtain or months of active trying, it wasn't an easy challenge to face... divorce not final, fairly new relationship, family challenges going on at the same time. Maybe it's just that I've done some more growing up of my own. Maybe it's because I've come to terms with our own situation. Or maybe it's just because she is such a truly wonderful woman. In any case, I couldn't be happier for her and her daughter and her fiance as they become a growing family.

Now I just have to finish that damn baby-blanket I started for her and then abandoned when the new job started *laugh*

In other news, D and I finally had a conversation about how to move forward on our own journey as aspiring parents. Or, I finally tabled the subject and he agreed to devote some thought to having a discussion ;) Small steps. I'm not off probation until next month, anyway, so we don't want to start moving before that employment security is there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Today's rant has been brought to you by the letters 'T' and 'C' and the number 6

More blatantly, it's been brought to you by the letters T, T, and C and the number 6 repeated a few times. *grumble*

You know, I've lived in this city for the better part of 33 years. I've always tried to give the TTC the benefit of the doubt... I've had surprisingly few issues with the service or the staff... I've been a little distressed by the slamming they've been taking in the media and at 'town hall' meetings held by the union recently.

Suddenly it has all become very very clear.

To set the stage, thanks to my new job, I travel from downtown (near the Art Gallery of Ontario) to Kennedy Subway station daily. Most days, there's car travel involved on the Kennedy end of things as well in the form of me getting a ride from someone. For the trip home, I can (and generally do) ride North 3 stops, then East, or I can ride south, around the loop at Union, and back up the other side to Bloor and then East. For the sake of convenience, it's best if I'm at the back of the subway when I get to Kennedy (as exits to the parking lots and the passenger pick-up are at that end of the platform)... I tend to prefer that anyway ever since the train I was on hit someone pulling into Kennedy and failed to kill them instantly (knowing they hit someone was bad enough without hearing the weakening wails of pain after walking through 9 cars to get off the train... not that I'd wish anyone actually dead, but it might have been better for them if their goal when jumping in front of a subway had been accomplished :( ).

So, I get to the subway station closest to work, reach platform level and it is painfully obvious that there hasn't been a Northbound train in quite some time. There is, however, a Southbound train pulling in. So I figure "Hey, I'll hop the Southbound and if I get to a station where there's no crowd on the platform before I get to Union, then I'll hop off and head back North". Odd, you might think, but part of the logic is that I can't get onto a train going North unless I get on it before all the people who have it jam packed before it gets to my regular station, and part is that I absolutely hate Yonge-Bloor station. With a passion that defies description do I hate that station. So I try my damndest not to change trains there.

First station South... nope, lots of people on the other side.... second station South "attention subway passengers, upon arrival at this station, this train will be out of service... there is another train right behind us that will pick you up". Yeah. Right. Super. Off we all pile (I, of course, was right by the doors, so first off... and pushed furthest from the subway). The "out of service" train sits there for several minutes with the doors closed. The other side of the platform is also crowded with people. The train finally pulls out... I figure "ok, whichever train comes first, I'm gonna try to get on". Turns out, several minutes later, to be another Southbound train. Looks like I'm riding the loop and changing at Bloor *sigh*. Of course, this next train is well filled when it arrives... and now there's another trainload of people to get on. But I manage to squeeze in... and at the next station (Union, where the subway and GO Transit intersect) the crowd clears a bit and, good passenger that I am, I move further into the car.

Several more stations. Pushing. Shoving. Bloor. And nobody wants to let me off the damn subway. Many "excuse me"s. A little irate shoving. I finally manage to leave the train. Only to discover that I'm at entirely the wrong end of the platform to switch lines. Of course. Trudge, trudge, trudge... fight my way down the stairs... discover that I'm now at the FRONT of the Eastbound train. Not where I want to be for the two reasons mentioned earlier. BUT... it's rush hour, it's crowded, a train has just pulled in, and I'm not a very good salmon. For some reason, tiny people in the subway system just won't move for 6' of me bearing down on them. Boggles the mind. ;)

Anyway, fight my way on to the train. Again, no seats. In case you were wondering, chivalry is on life support and the prognosis is not good.

Ok... leaving Bloor... only 11 stops 'til I'm out of this nightmare and into a car! Alas, nothing so easy for me. 5 stops later.... "attention passengers, upon arrival at this station, this train will be out of service". Seriously? Seriously! Gah! 33 years with ONE "this train ain't goin' any further" (and that was a train changing lines... to go in a direction I wanted to go anyway, so I didn't have to leave it), and now TWICE IN ONE TRIP????? Yeesh. And during Rush Hour, at that! So, the jam-packed train disgorged us onto the also quite crowded platform. I figured "Hey! Excellent opportunity to get my butt to the back of the train for arrival at Kennedy" and off I set. Weaving in and out of people who generally were leaving enough space for a person or two to travel along the platform.

Reached the first TTC Employee on the platform. Not enough space to pass. "Excuse me, please"... no response. "Excuse me"... no response. "I'm trying to get past, could you please move? Thank you". *grumble* Second TTC Employee on the platform... same drill. Third TTC Employee on the platform saw me coming... made eye contact... I figured this'd be easier. Nope, not so much. He actually stepped out in front of me and turned his back. Asshat.

Anyway, finally made it to the other end of the platform just in time for a train to pull in... a full train... into which anther full train was trying to crowd. See previous comment on chivalry. I didn't make it. Awesome, I'm now a half-hour later than I should be, with a list of things to do before dinner that'd have me eating at 8:30 at the earliest. Perfect! *grumble*

Finally manage to squeeze onto the next train. Standing all the way to Warden. Not a whole lot of point in sitting down from Warden to Kennedy. My knees, which are not great to start with, are killing me. My ankles have locked up. My back is killing me. And then, at the end of it all, when I finally get to Kennedy, there are people standing at the top of the stairs, blocking my exit, who won't move... because they want to go down the stairs... on the left-hand side. The cherry on top of a frustrating trip home at the end of a long day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is professional baseball dead in Toronto? And if so... whose fault is it?

As a change of pace from my usual weighty or irate posting, today I'm going to wax philosophical about a question I saw on the front page of a local paper recently. I'm going to pretend I have a knowledge of marketing beyond mere common sense. I'm going to pretend that anyone reading gives a flying rat's ass about my thoughts on the subject, too ;)

Question: Is professional baseball dead in Toronto

Answer: It certainly looks that way. The Jays played a sold out Home Opener (because, let's face it, it's been months without baseball... people have forgotten how painfully mediocre (at best) the team usually is... and hope springs eternal). But then drew barely 10,000 - 11,000 for their next 2 games. A drop in the bucket at the SkyDome... sorry, Rogers Centre... with a capacity for baseball of nearly 50,000.

So, assuming that the answer to the first question is 'yes'... it sparks another question: Whose fault is it?

Answer: I'd say it's the fault of the Blue Jays organization. Not the team, per se. The marketing department and the folks who set prices.

I'll be the first to admit that the team hasn't done a whole lot for the fans in the city since, oh, the back-to-back World Series'... but it's been more than 15 years since that (damn I feel old *laugh*). I'll be the first to admit that I find the sport of baseball more boring than watching grass grow, and that my opinion of both the sport and the team was not helped by the last time I went to a game... I showed up 15 minutes after the opening pitch was due to be thrown only to find them at the bottom of the 2nd already... and the watched the designated hitter strike out in 3 at-bats. Wow... and that's the designated 'hitter'? Not good. I have no love for the sport or the team.

But sports teams in this city seem to labour under the mistaken impression that just because the Leafs are (incomprehensibly) adored, ALL the sports teams will be adored regardless of how poorly they perform. The folks who set ticket prices seem to believe that just because the Leafs manage to be the most expensive team in the league to watch and still manage to sell out, that they can charge whatever they like and people will pay it. Not so, my friends. This is Canada... as we've all been told a zillion times, hockey's not a sport here, it's a religion.

When was the last time you saw an ad for the Blue Jays or for an event at one of ther games? No, wait, before you answer that, let me clarify... NOT an ad for ONE player... an ad for the team, for the organization, or for a 'deal'. Frankly, I can't remember. All I remember seeing for the past years beyond count (mostly, I'll admit, because I can't be bothered to count) is ads featuring a particular player. Hmm... ok, if you can GUARANTEE that I'll see THAT player when I go to a game, then it's a worthwhile ad-spend. I'm thinking, though, when the featured player is a pitcher and you've got 3 in standard rotation, you can't make that guarantee... so... no, I'll keep my money and catch the highlights on the news. I remember when "nose bleed seats" used to be cheap. $13 to sit high enough to suffer from being in the smog layer and watch ants run around a patch of pseudo-grass doesn't seem like much of a deal to me. $5 for a 500-level seat, I could maybe see... if there was something to draw me in... some give-away... some small chance of catching a ball... or a t-shirt... or anything other than a cold and the ash from indoor fireworks (assuming they do that still... and assuming if they do, that there's a home-run to prompt it).

Concessions are over-priced. Tickets are over-priced. Events and features are under-publicized. Example, "girls night out" features... to encourage groups of women to go out, take in a game, get a few perks... meet a few players... ok, I heard about it because of a friend trying to organize a group and because I happened to be tuned in to a radio station on the one morning when they gave away one package. Other than that... if you don't haunt the Blue Jays website, there's not a whole lot of publicity going on. At least, not on non-baseball related locations. Not that I've seen. So, fewer ads, fewer draws to the stadium... means fewer butts in the seats. But, rather than take a risk on profit margin and buy into the Wal-Mart or Zeller's scheme of small return but more sales and drop the ticket price to get more butts into the seats and make it an experience they'll want to repeat, they seem to instead buy into the "OMG, nobody's buying tickets, we need to charge more to make up the difference" school of thinking... which is really one of those evil death-spiral ways of thinking. You don't give people a reason to buy tickets, so they don't buy tickets, so you increase the price, so the people who were kind of on the fence about the value fall off into the "I'm not paying that much for a mediocre team" side, so fewer people buy tickets, so you increase the price, so the people who were on the fence... you see where this is going? It's going to $25 nose-bleed seats and an empty stadium.

So... I say professional baseball's dead in this town, and the Blue Jays have no-one to blame but themselves for approving questionable ad campaigns and pricing themselves out of the market.

But that's just me ;)

Oh... and since I've just looked at the Jay's website. My bad... $14 for nose-bleed seats. No group discounts for less than 20 people, and even with 20 people, you only get a discount of $2 - 4 (based on nose-bleed seats) per ticket (depending on who they're playing and when). Wow. There are no words.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Revelation (or a very dark place... tough call)

So yesterday was Easter. As per what has become 'tradition' for D and I, we trekked out to the KW area for 'brunch' with his extended family.

It was both a good and a bad day.

There are members of his extended family I truly love and enjoy spending time with. And then there are the ones who just make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. Meh. It's family, right?

Anyway, as most of you know, about 5 years ago we got on that Baby Train. And as all of you know, we have no children. There are a lot of kids, mostly under the age of 10 in D's extended family.

2 of these are the kids of two of the people I enjoy spending time with... they got married around the same time as us... they have the most adorable kids... two of them... under the age of 5. Yup, they have the kids we want. Same age, even. And it's both awesome and heartbreaking to watch them.

On the other end of the spectrum are several kids whose parents would quite happily let anyone else watch/raise them. These kids have no concept of boundaries. No concept of acceptable behaviour. No concept of respect for other people's belongings.

It breaks my heart to see kids of an age that would coincide with our hopping on the Baby Train. It breaks my heart to see kids the ages that ours should have been if I hadn't miscarried (either time). But more than that, it truly breaks my heart to see people who are so lucky and blessed to have these kids not appreciate what they have.

Last night I had a breakdown. Not the first. Probably not the last. And yes, on the usual subject... kids. Or more accurately, our lack of them. D said all the right things. He said it's not my fault (because, of course, I feel responsible because I couldn't keep them safe when I WAS pregnant). He said it'll happen. All the right things. But part of me has given up hoping. I thought I was ok with things. I thought I was doing well. Obviously I'm either a really good liar, insanely gullible, or quite possibly both.

I'm old. I don't feel old. I don't actually feel any older than I did in University. I don't see myself as old. But in the procreation game, I'm old. Time is running out. And that makes me sad beyond words or comfort. There is very little in this world of which I have been as sure, and nothing of which I have been more sure than this: I was meant to be a Mom. So, in the face of that sense of truth, how can I possibly give up on the dream? And yet, part of me has. And that realization is somehow a whole new level of devastating, more so than the loss of hope itself in a way.

So. In another 2 months I'll be off probation at the new job (that's been keeping me crazy busy, what with the 9-5 day and the 90 minute public transit commute at either end), hopefully with a fairly permanent employment situation. Which means that the involuntary hiatus we've been on in our quest while I was out of work is over in the foreseeable future. But now I find myself wondering... do we bother trying to pursue the same dream? Do we modify it to pursue the adoption option? Or do we give up, wave the white flag, and commit to living as D.I.N.Ks? ("Double Income, No Kids", for those unfamiliar with the term)

Ok... enough armchair philosophy and self-pity wallowing for one day. It's a gorgeous, sunny, warm Monday out there, and I have the day off (working for the Catholic Church has certain advantages ;) ). I'm off for a walk.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Drought Is Over!

After some 21 months without a traditional reason to get up and out of the house in the morning (i.e. a job... since we also don't have kids, the other traditional reason to get up was also lacking)... I am now, officially, once more gainfully employed!

In the end, it was quite a whirlwind, right-place-at-the-right-time kind of event. An unofficial "we're going to be looking for someone for this position" email went out and found it's way through a few other people eventually to me. I applied. The next day I was invited for an interview. 2 business days later I went for said interview (11 - 12)... the same afternoon I was invited to come in for a 'trial run' (because it's a very small office, personality mesh is critical to functionality), which happened on Thursday... and at the end of that trial run, the job was mine (once some paperwork was out of the way). Paperwork to make it all official happened yesterday morning and my first day is Monday. So... all told, less than 2 weeks from application to starting! *boggle* After nearly 2 years of a mind numbing number of applications sent out... in a work environment where second and third interviews before contemplating an offer are commonplace... where a month or more can elapse between a position being 'posted' and it being filled.

Just proves, you never know what can heppen.

So... a bit about what I'll be doing (for at least 3 months... hopefully longer!). My official title is Administrative Assistant. My Employer is the Edmonton-Toronto province of the Redemptorists at Redeemer House. I will be working with their Coordinator of Youth and Vocation Ministries and the Director of the Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies, working on 4 different websites and the database for the certificate courses, as well as general office admin duties. The office is downtown in the Dundas & University area, which has a great, young vibe thanks to being so close to both UofT and OCAD. It's close to the subway, close to Queen, close to both the financial & entertainment districts and Yorkville. It's also conveniently close to pretty much every doctor I could ever need, but most importantly my GP, Dentist, and the most recent specialist (Rheumatologist).

Now I just need to figure out the best way (balancing cost & time) to get there. GO would be fastest, but then I'd have to pay to two different transit organizations, which means double-ish the price. But TTC bus service in Outer Scarberia kinda sux, to put it bluntly.

Anyway... there is it... I AM EMPLOYED!!!!!!!!!! *happy dance*

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Women in Sport

Have you ever noticed that women and women's sport generally (and I know... generalizations are dangerous) don't get much attention? They don't get a whole lot of TV coverage. They don't get the big professional leagues with the big media attention.

I'd just like to point something out about Canada's Medal Standings at the olympics at the moment.

Currently, Canada has 7 Gold, 6 Silver and 2 Bronze. Taking the pairs Ice Dance gold out of the equation for the time being.... 4 out of 6 Gold, 5 out of 6 Silver, and Both Bronze medals have been won by women (individually, or teams of women). That's 73.33% of our medals (excluding ice dance. Throw Ice Dance back in...11.5/15.... 76.67% of them... women.

Canadian women are guaranteed 2 more medals, too... since we've made the Gold Medal Match in both Women's Curling and Women's Hockey.

In a nutshell... Canadian Women Rock!

A man may have won the first Gold on Home Soil, but with 3.5 days left, I think it's safe to say that for Canada, the Women are the Heros of the Olympics.

And you know what's sad? If the Men's Hockey team make it to the gold medal match, no-one will give a flying rat's ass that we're as high as we are in the medal standings for the 21st Winter Games because of the Women.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This will probably ruffle some feathers

Disclaimer: This entry is perhaps more... inflammatory than strictly necessary, or indeed than I necessarily feel (if you know me, you know I tend to take things to extremes to provoke honest thought), but I hope it gives the reader pause to think.

Let me start by saying that I feel very deeply for the people of Haiti in the wake of this most recent disaster. I am heartbroken to think of the lives altered utterly and irrevocably by the loss of parents, children, siblings, spouses, homes, limbs and livelihoods.

I think it's wonderful that the world in general, and Canadians in particular have responded so generously.

But I can't help but wonder... what about the needy in our own back yards? What about the people who have found themselves homeless and hungry in the past year? What about the people who were homeless and hungry even before the recent economic downturn? What about the people here who can't afford medications? Who can't afford the associated costs of significant medical treatments (after-care, for example... or physio... or crutches or prosthetics or... the list is not insignificant).

Charitable donations are down. Have been down for 2 years running, now. Demand on Food Banks is up and climbing at a startling rate.

I don't begrudge the Haitians the donations pouring in for them... they so obviously need any help they can get. I honestly wish there was more I could do (but, with me being unemployed for the past 20+ months, we're not in great shape here, either). Maybe it's our own precarious position that makes me a little irked at the outpouring of funds and star-studded appeals for the latest 'fashionable' cause... but I doubt it. I wondered the same thing after the Tsunami of 2004.

The government of Canada is generously matching civilian donations to Haiti. Let's not forget about the needy at home in our race to be charitable... donations at home aren't being matched. A dollar here is a dollar. A dollar for the latest cause would go further on it's own already, and the government are doubling it.

While Mohammed Ali appealed last night on George Clooney's telethon saying that "Charity begins at home... but it shouldn't end there", let's also not forget that it SHOULD begin at home. We have poor, disadvantaged, and starving people here, too... we have a climate with its own harsh realities of temperature and people living without shelter... we have children who have been bereft of family support here, too. Let's not forget them. The increase in need here isn't quite as sudden and dramatic... but the increase is possibly all the more devastating in it's creeping advance because nobody seems to notice it. Like a band of guerrillas creeping up on a village so quietly that they do not notice until they are surrounded and in mortal danger with no hope of escape.

So give... give generously... give as much as you can... but don't take from another worthy cause to which you usually contribute (but were thinking you might not get around to this year) to do so. There will be people in the world who will need the support of 'stronger' communities in the years to come (Haiti will be in recovery for a long time, just as there are still places in South Asia striving to recover from the Tsunami... just as the deep south is still recovering from Katrina)... don't ignore the need at home in the rush to help them now... or we might not be in a position to still help them later.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tragic Losses... and the insensitivity of Trolls

I wasn't sure how to write this. I wanted to remember an old acquaintance (I wouldn't presume to call him 'friend'... I wasn't privileged to know him that well, but we attended the same school for 2 years... a small and close-knit school). But, not being a close friend, I wasn't sure how best to accomplish it.

Last week, this old acquaintance made the news. Was it for his brilliant mind? No. For his tremendous accomplishments? Sadly, no. He made the news for plunging 16 floors to his death in New York. He became merely another event to support "the NYU Curse". Nobody's really sure what happened... I won't speculate. He deserves better than speculation and gossip. As do his widow and now father-less infant daughters.

Sam Roweis was, like many of his fellow UTS Alumni, a brilliant mind. He was the sort of person (when I knew him, and by all accounts right up 'til last Tuesday) who had a smile for everyone... and a contagious one, at that. a PhD from Cal-Tech under his belt, he became employed by U of T in 2001, and with the exception of a year as visiting faculty at MIT in the middle of the last decade, he was at U of T until accepting a position at NYU in 2009. He was 37 when he died. Think about that for a minute. 37 and he had already been a researcher/lecturer/professor for nearly a decade. 37 and considered "an expert" in the field of machine learning... "artificial intelligence"... a leader in cutting-edge research.

More than his academic accomplishments, though, he was a good person. A person who will be sorely missed by the people in whose lives he featured prominantly, who will be missed by past students and research colleagues, who will be missed by anyone who shared conversation with him, by his family, and most dearly by his wife and through her memories, by the daughters who never had a chance to know him.

And yet, complete strangers feel justified in bashing him in the comments section of various media & blog sites on the 'net. They feel no qualms about posting such comments as "nice jump Einstein" on articles which would be read by his friends and family. To them, obviously, he wasn't the man we knew. To them, he wasn't a man at all... he was just a new item... a statistic. To them I say... this was a man... a man with family and friends who loved him... an man with tremendous accomplishments to his name... and sadly, a man who apparently had problems to which he saw no solution. Apparently. Because, nobody really knows what happened or what lead to his death, except Sam.

Regardless of their personal views on suicide in general as an action, could they not take 2 minutes to consider that there might be people seeking articles about his death in a quest for answers in their grief? :(

This article, though, was linked in the comments to a story at Huffington Post about Sam's death, and in a strange way, inspired me to write a tribute of sorts to this man with whom I shared friends and a school for 2 years in my youth.

So I have a request for anyone who might read this... before you post a comment on a public site, consider your possible audience. Whether that means the family and friends of the dead, the family of people whose actions you may find abhorrent, or people whose personal tragedies you simply don't understand... regardless of how you may see the 'news items', for someone, the situation may be tragic... and they might be hurting quite enough without reading your inane and frankly insulting comments.