Tag Archives: Barking Back

Universal Basic Income and COVID-19

If we already had Universal Basic Income (UBI) in place, COVID-19 would have had way less  economic effect on people, especially poor people, especially renters and students and workers in the gig economy. If everyone had a certain amount of money every month no matter what, we’d all be able to pay our rent and get some groceries during quarantine / isolation / lockdown / social distancing.

Just give every single person in the country, regardless of income or employment status, a certain set amount. The rich would end up paying it back in the their taxes, but at lower income levels, people would have disposable income (thus stimulating the economy, because disposable income and spending are what do that, NOT jobs—jobs are just a means to the money). The costs of this would be balanced out by the fact that we wouldn’t need any more welfare system, no Employment Income Assistance for people on disability or out of work, All those systems would be dismantled: no more welfare fraud lines, no more meetings to prove you’ve applied for a certain number of jobs, no more rent on huge office buildings to house these systems, , etc. And if that doesn’t save enough money yet for UBI, then tax the rich, tax the corporations, and tax the churches. Tax them at the same rates as individuals. It is fucking ridiculous that huge corporations get tax breaks while people on disability can’t make ends meet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finished this book: The Invisible Empire: A History of Racism in Canada by Margaret Cannon

The Invisible Empire: Racism in Canada book cover image

The Invisible Empire: Racism in Canada book cover image

This book was published back in 1995 and I remember quite liking it then. I was at the tail end of my Women’s Studies degree and quite impressed with my own knowledge and open-mindedness. A book about racism in Canada was right up my alley. Not only would it look impressive when I read it on the bus, but it was also unlikely (I was certain) to challenge me in any real way, given all the recent reading and learning I had done around the intersections among race, class, power, sexuality, and gender.

Rereading this book almost a quarter of a century later has been a sobering experience. I don’t recall exactly what I thought and felt about this book back then; I just had a general feeling of it being an interesting look at the then-current state of race in my country.

Now, however, I am surprised that I would have bought a book by a white woman to learn about racism in Canada. Particularly not a person who is writing from such a place of power and privilege, with access to the media as a journalist, private school for her daughter, etc. It amazes me that I thought this might be a useful perspective.

There was some interesting information and research about such things as how the Heritage Front is constituted and connected to other people and groups (and how these groups exist to basically protect middle-aged white, middle-aged women like the author), some history of  immigration in Toronto, etc. But overall I was pretty disappointed in this book now. To put it in today’s terms, I felt it smelled strongly of #notallwhitepeople.

Things that made me feel this way:

  • lots of pointing out how different ethnic groups also dislike or discriminate against each other (felt like: “they do it too”)
  • lots of “trying to find the truth” between the lived experience of POC and the feelings of white people (felt like: “both sides of the story are equally valid and have to be heard”)
  • a discomfort with naming racism, hatred, and consequences clearly (felt like “try to remain polite”)
  • not enough analysis or placing of events / issues in a context of systemic oppression, but rather more explaining the way things are. Perhaps this descriptive rather than analytical approach comes from the writer’s journalist background. But description by a member of the oppressor’s group is not neutral.
  • too many protestations of the goodness of individual white people (for example, “June Callwood did so much good for the community and is being persecuted for this mistake / misunderstanding”; and, regarding the ROM Into the Heart of Darkness / Africa exhibit: “but the curators did a brilliant job; it’s just that people didn’t understand the cleverness and intellectualism and irony of it all!”; and how opening a new theatre with a production of Showboat was was a more of a lapse of good judgement than actual racism
  • blaming multiculturalism for a lot of these problems (which felt like: “immigrants should just adapt to our ways and there wouldn’t be a problem”

 

While Cannon does seem to be pushing her own comfort zone in this book, especially when venturing out to attend Heritage Front meetings and the like, and does seem to move toward an understanding of the fact that racism extends beyond the confines of actual “hate groups” to include the beliefs and actions of “ordinary people like you and me” (with the definite assumption that “we”—she and her readers— are white people), she does not take her understanding further to embed this in a systemic context.

On the one hand, I understand that this was a fairly new concept for a lot of us white people back in the nineties, but on the other hand, at that time, I certainly owned and worked hard at understanding an expensive pile of textbooks talking about this exact systemic dynamic, textbooks which would certainly have been accessible and parseable by someone with Cannon’s writerly qualifications.

I will put this book in the giveaway pile and wouldn’t recommend it now, but it was very interesting to take this trip backward and see how much my own views and understanding of racism have changed over time. It makes me wonder uncomfortably how much more I have yet to learn, and how another quarter century will (I hope) change my views and deepen my understanding of the toxic webs of systemic oppression and my place in them.

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Very Important Note: None of the phrases in quotation marks are direct quotes from the book.


 

Being Queer on the Exam Table

During my recent medical checkup , I discovered that my healthcare practitioner is homophobic.

It has been four or five years since she asked about any sexual activity on my part, probably assuming that after my divorce I wasn’t hooking up with anyone. But now that my new partner (cis male) has moved in, she was asking about birth control, a possible STI check, and general questions about my sex life.

When I replied to a question by saying that no, PIV / penetrative sex is not the main kind of sex I have with my partner, she looked confused. So I added: “Well, I’m queer, right?” (I don’t know what I thought this would explain, but I felt sure this had come up at some time in the past, and I thought I was reminding her…?)

She still looked confused so I added “Like, bisexual?” (trying to dumb it down) “Like, I’ve had lots of sex where there wasn’t even a penis in the room?” and then she looked super surprised and said “You mean you have relationships with women outside of your relationship at home?”

No!” I exclaimed, scooching my naked butt down to the edge of the exam table for my pap test. And she looked flustered as she busied herself unwrapping the speculum: “…but if you’re…?”

I put my feet together and dropped my knees outward so she could head into my vagina with her gear. “This relationship is monogamous,” I told her. “I mean, sex is sex. If you adore blondes but you’re with a brunette, that doesn’t mean you have to sleep with blondes on the side, right?”

But then I dropped it, because the cold speculum was going in and I felt really, horribly, uncomfortably exposed and anxious and unsafe in a way that had nothing to do with the pap test in progress.

Her assumption that as a queer (or I guess “bi,” since she didn’t really seem to understand “queer”)  woman, I would of COURSE be screwing women outside of my relationship at home shocked me. Not that I want people to assume that everyone is monogamous, either, but the assumption of promiscuity—relationships with women, not with a woman—I don’t know how to explain it; it was a combination of word choice, tone of voice, and body language that made me feel as if all the negative and conservative connotations of “promiscuity” were running through her head (as opposed to, say, a respectful grasp of the concept of non-monogamy).

Because look. Being queer or bi doesn’t mean I can’t be monogamous. Being a cis woman who was married to a cis man for years doesn’t mean I can’t be queer. Being in a monogamous relationship and screwing someone else would make me a cheating asshole. Whether we’re monogamous or polyamorous or cis or gay or trans or whatever the hell we are, we deserve to have our healthcare providers ask respectfully—or at the very least, professionally—about these things rather than assuming and presuming *the worst (*it’s hard to articulate this because while in my world it’s 100% fine to fuck as many people as you want any way you want as long as everyone is honest and consenting, the attitude I was getting from my practitioner is that these “relationships with other women” were putting me in the “slut” category which personally isn’t a word I stigmatize but obviously carries negative weight for her… does that make any kind of sense?)

The assumption that a queer / bi woman has to be fucking both men and women (never mind the assumption that “men” and “women” are the only ones out there). The assumption that the sex life of a cis woman and a cis man would obviously consist mostly of penis-in-vagina sex. The assumption of heterosexuality in the first place. The confusion and surprise and discomfort she could not even suppress in this interaction.

I am disappointed that some healthcare providers are still so ignorant about LGBTQ* people. I am enraged that the same old, tired, ridiculous assumptions and stereotypes are present even in a professional setting. I am shocked that this particular provider didn’t even know enough to shut her mouth about her biases.

But mostly I am sad and hurt and feeling bleak about our continued working relationship as well as the difficulty of potentially trying to find a new healthcare provider.

She made me feel alien. Other. Misunderstood. Judged. And ultimately unsafe.

Those are terrible feelings to have about the person I have to trust with my iffy health.

 

 

 

Finished this book: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

tigana

There aren’t a lot of men on my list of favourite authors, but this guy is one of the exceptions. I’ve read most of his books many times. They are “comfort books” for me: lovely stories well-told. This is probably my tenth or twelfth re-read of Tigana, and I’m keeping it to read again.

Continue reading

“The Miracle Thyroid Diet,” My Ass!

Almost nothing makes me as hostile as seeing people wreck their health to meet bullshit arbitrary beauty standards. So I was enraged a couple-three weeks ago as I stood line at the grocery store reading the magazine headlines (my sole source of celebrity news) and saw the following:

thyroidcureimage

Really, people? REALLY?

Hyperthyroidism is no joke

I am currently in the middle of my third round of hyperthyroidism. It is no fucking joke. It can have long-term effects on your body (even after being treated) including increased risk of such fun things as heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, osteoporosis, congestive heart failure, and even serious vision impairment.

This is how hyperthyroidism feels for me

When I’m hyperthyroid, I get anxious to the point of fear, I get palpitations, shakiness, and trembling hands, I’m hungry all the time, eating four or five full meals a day and pooping twice as often (and as much!) as usual. I randomly break into sweats. At first, before the thyroid hormone levels get too high, I get up in the morning with incredible bursts of energy but it is jittery and unproductive, as if I’ve had three hours of sleep and seven cups of coffee. As time goes on, I am just tired and hyper at the same time, my heart racing but the rest of me just wanting to rest. Having a shower or folding my laundry can suddenly make my heart race and my whole body break into a sweat, leaving me exhausted. However, no matter how exhausted I am, I can’t sleep a full night, as my pounding heart wakes me up at 120 or more bpm. My already high blood pressure is exacerbated. I can hear my own heartbeat like somebody’s bass played too loud a few houses down. My arms and legs are weak and I can’t do my normal daily things like walk the dog or run up the stairs. This is worsening over time, and will not improve until my hyperthyroidism is fully treated, which can take months.

Weight loss, hair loss, and bug eyes

The first time I was hyperthyroid, I didn’t know what was going on, and it took quite a while for me to get myself to a doctor for it. By then, I was losing weight no matter how much I ate. A “silver lining,” one of my aunties called it, and I almost decked her. That kind of weight loss is horrible. I did not become fit and toned. No, I was loose-skinned and bug-eyed, and my hair was falling out. I lost close to half my hair at that time.

And back to the bug eyes for a minute: Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disorder which is the form of hyperthyroidism that I have, can also have permanent unpleasant effects on your eyes. They bug out from the pressure of inflammation. This can lead to permanent difficulties with vision. Today as I write this, I have blurred and double vision, as my eyes are not tracking together due to uneven pressure. So I’m also getting frequent headaches, as my job involves sitting at a computer all day.

Hyperthyroidism outweighs your petty cosmetic concerns

So my question is, why would anyone want to simulate this? When I was trying to find an image of the magazine cover I’d seen to include in this blog post, I was angry and shocked at just how many magazine covers there are out there touting hyperthyroidism–or, as we should be calling it here, thyrotoxicity–as a reasonable weight loss tool. I am horrified and frankly disgusted that anyone would see thyrotoxicity as a good idea for losing weight. Honestly, and with all understanding and due respect for the way society pressures us to conform to beauty standards and also for all the ways in which our own damaged self-esteem makes us feel that our worth depends on meeting those standards and and also for all the ways we can be devalued for not engaging in the project of trying to be outwardly the whitest, thinnest, blandest Barbies in town, I honestly have to say if you are that fucking desperate to lose weight for appearances, get yourself some goddam therapy, or research the Health At Any Size movement, or stop hanging around with assholes who judge you for your appearance, or god, I don’t know but just STOP

STOP STOPSTOPSTOP STOP

STOP!!!!! damaging your HEALTH and your LIFE and your HEART and your EYES for the sake of losing weight.

There is NO WORLD in which thyrotoxicity can be reframed as a healthy way to lose weight. Don’t even go there. There is no fucking silver lining, dear auntie. Inducing or prolonging hyperthyroidism to lose weight is self-destructive and ridiculous. I don’t wish this disease on anyone, but if you’re going to do it on purpose, well, one potential outcome of hyperthyroidism is death. Be careful what you wish for.

What I Learned from my Dog about PTSD

When the Brindle Dog was young, she was amazingly strong and focused. Her parents were bred for police work in the Netherlands, and that likely would have been her destiny as well if I hadn’t scooped her up as a house pet.

She could swim or train for hours. She would never give up on a task unless called off. She could joyfully chase a ball or Kong in the park for hours with breathtaking stamina and endurance. She took pride in her ability to execute commands perfectly, and she was also an enterprising problem-solver.

As she aged and got sick, her stamina waned. She weakened. She started to get confused. As her cataracts spread, as her hearing diminished, and as her cancer extended its tentacles and tumours further into her body, the Brindle Dog began to stumble and fall. Her back legs would sometimes give out. She would struggle to right herself and keep going, but I stopped taking her on walks, and just threw sticks (her favourite game) in the yard for her.

The day came when I couldn’t even throw sticks for her anymore, because she kept falling down when trying to chase them. I had to just drop the stick a foot or two in front of her, and she’d grab it.

It was heartbreaking. She used to have the strength and drive and form of an Olympic athlete. She was tireless! Her enthusiasm for work and play was incredible. And now she was a tottering little old lady, half-deaf, half-blind, exhausted from severe anemia, barely able hold her bladder for more than a few hours. I was angry and miserable. Fuck cancer! Look at how age and illness had taken this amazing dog and pounded her down!

But at the same time, I was so glad to be able to provide palliative care and to sweeten my dear dog’s last days with extra love and attention. As she drew closer to the end, and as I turned myself away from the “extraneous” things in my life to be as present as possible with her, I noticed one particular thing I had missed:

In her younger days, when she chased a thrown stick or toy, she would pounce on it with pride and enthusiasm. As she got weaker, her desire to chase that stick never waned, even though her body was failing. And near the end, when I would drop the stick pretty much right in front of her nose, she would still pounce on it with all the energy and drive she could muster, then look up at me proudly, panting from that slight effort, her gums white and her eyes cloudy, but still full of anticipation, wanting me to ask for the stick back so we could do it again.

She was always and only and forever living in the present. She was in pain, but she wanted that stick. She was confused, but her love of this particular game never left her. And whether she had raced across a field to retrieve that stick, or had pounced on it right at her feet, she was happy. She was doing a thing she loved, and it made no difference to her that she used to be able to do it better, or that other dogs could do it better, or that she would never race across a field again.

And that was the thing I had missed. It is okay to be happy doing the things I can do, even though my life will never be what it could have been without abuse and trauma. I will never have a life where my past didn’t happen to me. Therapy isn’t going to take it away or make any of it okay. What I do have, if I let myself have it, is the ability to pounce on that stick even if I’m confused or in pain.

The shit that was done to me will never be gone. I guess somehow I thought that recovery or healing meant I would be done with it. PTSD and the accompanying depression and anxiety mean that I am living with some very real limitations that have consequences in my everyday life, and I may or may not be able to change (some of) those. It’s hard not to be angry and bitter about the fact that my life is smaller than it could have been because of abusers.

But now I realise that recovery and healing, for me, are about figuring out how to live my life with joy and anticipation despite the pain. By example, the Brindle Dog showed me how to accept limitations and just keep living as fully as I can. If I can’t race across the field, I can still grab the stick at my feet with pride.

 

The Brindle Dog died peacefully last week. She carried her stick to the car on her way to the vet. She walked in to her appointment on her own wobbly legs. I cuddled her until she was gone. She was the best dog ever.

 

 

 

Finished this book: The Seventh Mother by Sherri Wood Emmons

Cover of the book The Seventh Mother by Sherri Wood Emmons

Cover of the book The Seventh Mother by Sherri Wood Emmons

 

This story is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Jenny, an eleven-year-old girl, and Emma, her seventh mother. Jenny and her dad live a nomadic kind of life as her dad takes seasonal work around the USA. Along with the seasonal work, Jenny’s dad picks up seasonal girlfriends, and although Jenny had grown attached to most of them, she also knows that none of them will stay for long. But Emma, Jenny hopes, is different.

All three of these characters are white, and the treatment of race in this book is handled in a way that is weirdly gentle and unflinching at the same time. This didn’t take up much space in the book but was probably my favourite thread.

Jenny’s dad, Brannon, is a loving and devoted father but he has an angry streak that he shows to others. Emma falls for him and excuses his angry moments (initially they are only moments, of course), forgiving him and explaining it away as proof of his love. Classic red flag stuff and the kind of thing that would have me running for the hills.

As the story progresses, Jenny wants to settle down and go to school, to have a “normal” life with her dad and Emma. Emma wants a “normal” life as well, a husband and children and a house. But Brannon isn’t a Happy Family kind of guy, as Jenny finds out when she stumbles across the real reason why the past mothers / girlfriends who were in her and Brannon’s life are now gone.

Books about dysfunctional families fascinate me, and yet I approach them with trepidation. With this one, I got nervous as soon as I saw Brannon’s temper, and I put the book down for a while because I wasn’t sure I could read about domestic violence. But one thing I really loved about the book was that Jenny’s perceptions and feelings were almost always validated by the people around her. Her dad loved and protected her, her “mothers” were nice to her, Emma loved her, and the parents of her best friend also listened to her and believed her. That part seems to be a bit fairy-tale-ish to me, since it’s not the way I think most young girls are treated in the world, but I did enjoy the fantasy.

Later in the book, there was a bit too much god-talk for me. Like, I get in when characters in a book go to church regularly the same way I understand it if they diet regularly: it’s not part of my life, I don’t understand it viscerally, but I “get” that it’s part of that character’s backstory and lived experience and will influence how they see the world and blah blah blah. But when the plot starts hinging on faith or calorie-counting in a way that assumes I, the reader, will agree that’s a legit basis for life decisions, I start losing interest. Sure, I know that these are very important things to a lot of people, I really do, but for me they are actual disincentives to stay engaged with the book. (And also with real live people who can’t stop talking about their religion or their weight loss regimes.)

Overall, it would have been a fast read if I hadn’t put it down twice for days, once when Brannon started getting mean, and once when people started ascribing events to a god. Jenny is a very sympathetic character, and Emma would be if she wasn’t so naive about Brannon. No, that’s not exactly it: I liked the character of Emma but I felt the path her life was taking was just too predictable from the reader’s perspective.

It makes me kind of sad when a book full of characters doesn’t have GLBTQ* people, or people with disabilities (in this case, one person used a cane, but that was obviously because of her age, which we know because of references to “the old lady”), or characters with some awareness of their class position, and so forth. I guess it’s always a bit disappointing when the characters in a story all seem to strive for a “normal” life, which to them and to the author means the status quo. There are ways to write characters like that while the book itself interrupts that idea of normality, but this book isn’t one of them.

It was a decent book that will now go into my giveaway pile.

 

 

The Shit People Say at Work (or, Flashbacks at my Desk)

Content warning for discussion of flashbacks, child abuse, domestic abuse, and trauma.

 

Workplace cubicles don’t allow for privacy.

On the small floor where I work, a small second floor perched like a hat on a larger building, the windowed offices ring a large area which has been packed with cubicles. At one end of this rectangle is the access stairwell. At the very far end from that stairwell is my workspace. The cubicles end, and my desk and filing cabinets are in the stub of space just past the fire exit stairwell.

It’s an old building. The heating and cooling are iffy, approximate, and likely controlled by someone in a different time zone. As a result, people tend keep their office doors open to improve air circulation.

This means everyone hears everything. We all know about each other’s kidney stones,  grandchildren, car troubles, and how well we all slept last night.

 

(Content warning for below the cut)

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Finished this book ages ago: House Broken by Sonya Yourg 

Cover of the book "House Broken" by Sonya Yoerg

Cover of the book “House Broken” by Sonya Yoerg

 

This book had a dog on the cover, alluded to dogs in the title, and has a main character who is a vet. I was sold! Also, the blurb mentioned the vet’s mother’s alcoholism, which was another draw for me. I like stories about dysfunctional families; reading them helps me make sense of my own childhood.

Before I get any further, I should mention that I read this book early last summer ( or late last spring?) and just haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet. So this will be short and vague.

It was disappointing that there wasn’t more dog- and vet-related stuff in the book, and what there was, was not always particularly convincing. I’m thinking specifically of the minor plot line involving an aggressive dog, which was not very credible. It almost felt like the dog and vet stuff was thrown in there to get the punny title.

The writing, as far as I remember, was good and smooth. But I wasn’t entirely convinced by the actions and words of the characters. Your mileage may vary, of course; what you find realistic in a character might differ from what I would believe.

The plot held my attention and I did enjoy the dysfunctional family stuff. Well, “enjoy,” right? But it’s always interesting to me to read someone else’s take on it.

This book is going into the giveaway pile. It was an okay read, but not a fave.

House Broken by Sonya Yoerg. ISBN 978-0-451-47213-7

So this guy tried to pick me up…. (or, A Tale of Three Men)

Last Friday, I played a gig with two other DJs. I was up first, and I tried something totally new (for me): a set of music from my childhood. Pink Floyd, Cream, The Animals, Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, David Bowie, The Talking Heads… Music I remember falling asleep to as a little kid. If I’d come up with the idea a little sooner, I would have loved to add some Golden Earring and Moody Blues and ELO, but anyway, it was fun.

There was a guy (we’ll call him Stripey Shirt) who was pretty drunk and trying his luck with a lot of the women at the venue. With me, it was “Wow, you got some good dance moves. I mean, I’m from Jamaica and I know you got some good moves!” while his arm was on the back of the chair in which I was sitting. I was leaning away from his arm and planning how to extricate myself when he added “You gotta give me your number. I want to you DJ a private party I’m throwing!” I laughed at him and said “Yeah, because THAT sounds totally legit!” Continue reading

Finished this book: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Cover of "The Sky Beneath My Feet" by Lisa Samson

Cover of “The Sky Beneath My Feet” by Lisa Samson

Spoilers near the end, but there’ll be another warning first.

Only a short way into this book, I realised it was full of religion. There was a moment where I considered putting it aside and starting something else, but I was already nestled into bed with my PJs and my fuzzy socks and my fleece housecoat, with the cats and the Fluffy Dog in their usual positions, so I decided to read on a bit and give the book a chance. Also, the way the writer introduced the faith aspect was kind of funny, and I wondered if it might turn out to be tongue-in-cheek (the protagonist, Beth, was on a riff about the Jesus Fish on her van). Continue reading

Finished this book: How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

 

Cover of "How Should a Person Be?" by Sheila Heti

Cover of “How Should a Person Be?” by Sheila Heti

It’s hard for me to decide whether or not I liked this book. I think partly that’s because I don’t know exactly what it is. Is it autobiography or fiction or memoir or fantasy or love letter? I feel as if it is important to know if it is factual or invented, even though “factual” memoirs or autobiographies can easily contain lies or falsifications or dramatic enhancements. But for some reason, it really bothered me to not be able to tell where Heti was telling the true story, and where she made things up or altered them to be true to the story, if that makes sense.

This reads partly like the diary of a shallow young adult, and partly like a love letter from one friend to another Continue reading

Finished this book: Flashback by Dan Simmons

Cover of "Flashback" by Dan Simmons

Cover of “Flashback” by Dan Simmons

After a long reading hiatus (as in a hiatus from reading, not a hiatus in which to read), I was suddenly in the mood for a book again. Something easy, something fast, something maybe a bit on the sci-fi side. I’d picked up a pile of books from my uncle in Steinbach after the Pride Parade, and Flashback was the hardcover supporting the stack.

This book is set in a dystopian not-too-distant future in the United States of America in which that country and indeed much of the world has broken up into warring factions, and in which many people are addicted to a drug called Flashback which allows users to fully relive the memories of their choice. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big fan of dystopian fiction (dystopian reality is a whole different thing!) so I flipped it open and gave it a go.

Was I ever disappointed. Continue reading

Feminist, Atheist, Queer

The other night, I went to a retirement party. I almost missed it, but remembered about it at the last minute, and managed to get my ticket and figure out an outfit and show up. That’s the best kind of timing for me: not enough advance warning to get anxious about it, but just enough time to make sure I have a clean bra and to polish up my boots.

I first met the new retiree, John, when he taught a few of the undergrad Conflict Resolution Studies classes I took through the U of W. I liked his teaching style, but what I really appreciated the most was how strict he was with my papers. I am a wordgeek who loves researching and writing papers. A well-crafted endnote is a thing of beauty. And a well-placed semicolon? Well, that’s better than ice cream. Continue reading

Finished this book: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic (by Emily Croy Barker)

Cover of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker.

Cover of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker.

This book had most of the right elements—the main character being transported from our world to another one, magic, a woman standing up for herself and trying to change her circumstances, the importance of literacy and education—but somehow it didn’t capture me as much as I thought it would.

One of my frequent complaints about books set in other worlds is that these other worlds replicate ours so faithfully in so many of the manifestations of power and oppression. Baker’s alternate world is no exception: in it, women are subordinate to men, the poor are hungry and overworked and ill, and the characters are all presumed white (as becomes obvious when much is made of a Black woman from a land far, far away). I guess I’m just tired and bored of finding myself in the same old feudal society, as if there is something romantic and adventurous about a world where there is so much misery and despair and fixed hierarchy. Continue reading

I Missed My Blogaversary (because I was busy having fun)

Yesterday (Saturday) was my one-year blogaversary. On Friday, I had started working on a post for my blogeversary about why I started blogging, and where I was when I wrote my first posts, and what I’ve learned and gained, and how much I appreciate the people I’ve “met” through blogging…. But it was forced and awkward, because I was writing what I felt I should be writing for that day. My intention was to fix it up and make it perfect on Saturday but here’s what I did instead:

First I went to a community rummage sale and book / bake sale fundraiser for two great causes (from their Facebook event page: “All of the proceeds from the book & bake sale go toward supporting two volunteer-run organizations that provide services to people in Manitoba jails and prisons. The Manitoba Library Association’s Prison Library Committee runs libraries in the Winnipeg Remand Centre and Women’s Correctional Centre as well as offering writing workshops, author talks, and other programs. The Bar None Prison Rideshare Project provides free transportation to people looking to visit their friends or family members in out-of-town jails or prisons“). The books were unpriced and you could just pay what you could afford. I got a dozen or so poetry and fiction books and gave them $40:

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Then I came home and my friend Qrys came over with her laptop so we could work on some WordPress issues. Mostly we sat around eating cheese and dates and olives and sweet gherkins and slices of red pepper and peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins (from the bake sale) and just talking. Then we brilliantly solved our IT problems and just hung out some more. Lovely!

Then I whipped up my famous bean / avocado / cilantro salad, had a nap, and went out to a BBQ where I spent three hours in someone’s garage listening to musicians jamming. The garage floor was a frightful tangle of cords and amps and guitar cases. There was always a minimum of six people playing, and sometimes up to eleven at a time. I lost track of how many musicians wandered in and out and took over for each other, because after I counted sixteen, I couldn’t remember who I had already counted anymore. Sometimes I was the only “audience” but I didn’t care. I clapped wildly after every song, and basically just toe-tapped and nodded and swayed blissfully for the whole time. I was so happy, you guys, you can’t even imagine! Just the ebb and flow, the give and take, the back and forth among all these people, some of whom had worked together for decades, and some of whom were meeting each other for the first time. Wonderful! I stayed much longer than I expected to stay, and only left when I knew the Brindle Dog would need to be let out. The host had asked if I had brought my DJ gear and seemed disappointed when I said no. I hadn’t realised that would be welcome! Next time.

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This morning, the Fluffy Dog and I went on a playdate, and now I’m headed off to J.’s place for my first installment of a Pandemic Legacy game. A very busy weekend; too busy, actually, but everything has been so much fun.

So Happy Belated Blogaversary to me, and thanks for reading and commenting and following and liking and just generally letting me know that I’m being heard out there!

The Brindle Dog Loves her Oma. And her Food. And her Massages. And her Stick.

The Brindle Dog’s tumour is hungry. Cancer sometimes works that way. She eats and eats but doesn’t gain weight. She eats about a third more than the Fluffy Dog who outweighs her by a good twenty pounds.

Until recently, I fed the dogs raw food. I hope to do so again soon, but there’s been a glitch in my system, so for now, they get grain-free Canadian kibble with extra toppings of delicious (ugh) organs like liver and kidney and spleen. After consulting with several vets (my regular vet, my friend who is a vet, and the complementary / alternative / holistic medicine vet), I’ve made some changes to the Brindle Dog’s diet. For the most part, she approves of these changes: Continue reading

Finished this book: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden (by Jonas Jonasson)

Cover of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Cover of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

This book was passed on to me by a friend who liked it when she first started reading it but was more ambivalent by the time she finished. I was curious and started it that same night. I read the first two-thirds of the book fairly quickly, but then put it down and wasn’t too motivated to go back to it. I wasn’t sure why, since I enjoyed the writing style (or, I should say, the translation), the plot was fast-paced, the bizarre twists were definitely bizarre but still had internal consistency, the politics involved were interesting, and the characters were entertaining. Continue reading

Finished this book: Animals Make Us Human (by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson)

Cover of Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin

Cover of Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin

Last month, I browsing the sale shelf at McNally Robinson Grant Park, and I was excited to find Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. Years ago, I read Animals in Translation by the same authors which—as far as I remember—was somewhat dryer than this book. But I enjoyed that first book very much and was surprised and pleased to see how much work Dr. Grandin has done to improve the lives of factory-farm animals. Continue reading

A Musical Adventure on Earth Day

Last Tuesday afternoon (April 19), I saw a post asking for a DJ to play at a fundraiser on Earth Day. It was for a pancake breakfast being put on by Aveda to raise money for WaterAid. I’ve been on the lookout for morning DJ gigs ever since I read an article about New York early morning dance parties that people go to before work, with smoothie bars and yoga warmups. I’m really a morning person, so night gigs are hard. I work Monday to Friday 8 to 4, so if I’m DJing on a Friday night, I have to take the day off, sleep in, have a long nap, and drink a pot of coffee with my evening meal.

So when I saw an ad for a morning gig, I jumped at it! Continue reading

Finished this book: The Art of Racing in the Rain (by Garth Stein)

Cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This is a lovely book, telling the story of Denny (a racecar driver), his partner, and their child over the span of a number of years. The story is told from the point of view of Denny’s dog, Enzo, is a canine philosopher who bases his musings about the world and the afterlife on television and racing. Enzo is convinced that in his next incarnation, he will be a human, and he works hard to practice human traits so he will be ready for his next life

The book avoids being cutesy in its use of a canine perspective, but instead manages to capture Enzo’s love for and admiration of Denny, as well as Enzo’s fervent (and sometimes conflicting) desires to both please and protect his master. The way Enzo relates his ponderings back to the words and actions of racecar drivers, whom he views as philosophers in their own right, is sometimes surprisingly moving.

This book is a quick read, and is one of the better “from-a-dog’s-perspective” books I’ve read. Very different from, but as well done as, one of the first books I reviewed on this blog: Dog On It by Spencer Quinn. I like a dog book that doesn’t rely on the stereotypes of canine simplicity, good cheer, and blind loyalty, but rather treats dogs respectfully as the complex and alien people they are. That actually goes for any animal-perspective book.

I’d highly recommend this book. Even though I have no interest whatsoever in race cars, racing, or even cars in general, Enzo’s commentary and insights on his own life and the lives of his humans used images and experiences in these areas to tell a great story. I will read this one again.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

 

 

Finished this book: Playing with Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

Cover of Playing with Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

Cover of Playing with Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

I picked up this book rather hoping for something fluffy and light. It’s set in LA in the entertainment industry, and I expected it would be a long list of designer names, descriptions of people’s clothing, wheeling and dealing, parties, romantic drama, and a predictable ending where the love interests overcome misunderstandings and barriers to finally declare their undying devotion. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Distracted Drivers

Content warning for traffic accident, gore, and trauma.

Last night, a friend and I had dinner at the Marion Hotel. It looks kind of scruffy on the outside, with the beer vendor out back, the parking lot full of pickup trucks, and the line of gleaming Harley-Davidsons out front all summer. But the sweet potato fries are fabulous, and the servers are great.

But my friend told me a shitty story. Her sister-in-law was killed last year by a distracted driver. The SIL was out cycling with a friend. A driver was weaving all over the road because she was texting. She struck my friend’s sister-in-law and killed her pretty much instantly. The friend cycling with her wrote a Victim Impact Statement for the court about how she saw her friend’s brains crushed out of her head onto the roadway, and her pretty blue eyes go lifeless, and blood everywhere, and how she now has flashbacks and nightmares in which she relives the event.  The victim’s daughters wrote impact statements, too, about how now their mom won’t ever know her first grandchild (one of the daughters is currently pregnant).

The sentence was handed down recently. The “distracted driver” got her driver’s license suspended for ninety days. That’s it. THAT’S IT. I put “distracted driver” in quotations because my preferred term is MURDERER. It’s not involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide or whatever. It’s pure and simple murder.

If you text while driving, if you drink and drive, if you smoke pot and drive, if you are distracted or impaired in any way—especially ways that you KNOW are illegal!–then you are an asshole, a shitbag, a waste of fucking skin, and you deserve to have your license revoked forEVER, your car impounded, and your name made public.

I can hear the whining now: “But the punishment should fit the criiiiiime!!! It’s not faaaair to do that to someone just for having a couple of drinks / toking up / texting!!!”

You’re wrong. It’s entirely fair. If someone puts my life at risk for the sake of their own convenience or recreation, they deserve to be charged and convicted with Attempted Murder.

 


Edited 13 May 2016 to fix a typo.

 

The Brindle Dog Smiles for the Camera

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It’s been about eight weeks since I found a lump in the back of the Brindle Dog’s left thigh that is almost certainly a mast cell tumour.

The tumour grows a bit, and then shrinks suddenly as it releases histamines, heparin, and proteolytic enzymes (which break down proteins) into her system. Eventually, as the tumour grows and more of these substances are occasionally released all at once, she might start getting allergic reactions, stomach ulcers, and other damage.

Continue reading

Stuff I Did in March, Part Three: Asking for Help

Every year, I dread February. But March usually brings some relief. Even though it’s still winter, the days are obviously getting longer, and spring is coming. March is a often sunny month here in Winnipeg, and most years, I start planning my garden, spending a bit more time outside, and generally perking up after the February slump.

This year, though, I just kept sliding downward despite the longer days, the mild weather, and the promise of spring. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Toast-Related Injuries

You know when you make the perfect toasted tomato-and-cheese sandwich? With a tasty, juicy tomato in thick slices, and some sharp old cheddar, and coarsely-ground black pepper. With the stone-ground whole wheat bread toasted to the exact perfect crispiness, and the layers of tomato and cheese perfectly constructed. When nobody interrupts your progress, so by the time you slice the sandwich in two and sit down to take the first bite, everything is still fresh and warm.

And then, with that first bite, the top layer of toast scrapes the top of your mouth raw, so that every chewing motion hurts, and the pleasure of savouring your perfect sandwich is lost.

I hate that.

 

 

Finished this book: The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Cover of The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Cover of The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

This book was wonderfully-written. It’s the story of a family whose youngest son (a three-year-old boy named Ben) disappears, and the effects of that disappearance. The book is told primarily from the perspective of Ben’s mom, Beth, and partly from the perspective of the oldest son, Vincent. Continue reading

Finished this book: Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Cover of Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos.

Cover of Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos.

This book was so gentle it was bland. Like plain potatoes. Kind of a disappointing chew.

The story was told from the point of view of three characters, Piper, Cornelia, and Dev. Cornelia’s part is told from the first person perspective, and the others from the third person, which is actually a technique I tend to like. De los Santos even manages to write that first-person perspective in a distinctive voice, which is always fun.

But the characters are… well… they are mostly nice people (or turn out to be nice people in the end), but there’s very little portrayal of how their characters develop. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Cats at Night

You cat owners out there probably know that cats are nocturnal. That was a nasty surprise to me when I got my Kittenz five years ago. The cat I knew before that, Rakkertje, was already a sedate eight or so years old when I moved in with my then-partner. Rakker spent most of her days on a sunny windowsill, and most of her nights on our bed, with an hour of hunting mice in the yard around twilight.

That’s what I expected of the Kittenz (aside from the yard bit, as they are indoor cats). Boy, was I surprised to find out that no matter how much I played with them, kept them awake, interrupted their naps, and adjusted their feeding times, there would be a nightly hour (at least) somewhere between 1 and 5 am in which they’d be running around wrestling, jumping, singing, and stalking each other. And that’s on a good night! On a bad night, their schedules are staggered, so as one finally curls up to sleep, the other stretches, jumps lightly off the bed, and commences his hour of nocturnal frenzy.

I love the Kittenz. That is a fact. And I will never give them up. But I am a light sleeper, and insomnia is A Thing for me at the best of times, so I can tell you with a fair certainty that I will never get a cat again once these pretty Boyz are gone.

 

 

 

 

Finished this book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Cover of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Cover of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Here’s another book I love, and one I’ve read many times. This month I started with some difficult books but finally remembered to reach for the tried-and-true, since February is hard enough without reading emotionally draining books.

I guess this one could be seen as a difficult book, given that it’s a dystopian story  about one woman’s experience in a repressive religious society in which women are severely oppressed based on their gender, while the country is at war on the outside, and controlled by a secret police on the inside.

But Atwood’s writing is so amazingly pure and clear. It is uncluttered, and yet somehow attends meticulously to detail. The way her protagonists view and think about the world around them is so real and recognisable that it is sometimes startling.  There are very few of her books that I do not love (Alias Grace is one of those, though). Continue reading

Old Dogs: When the News is Bad

With a clump of snow on her adorable nose.

Ten years ago this month, when she was only two years old, the Brindle Dog developed a mast cell tumour in her neck. I remember very clearly the moment I first felt it, when she and I were playing and I was rubbing and tugging at the sides of her neck. She was wiggling and wagging, and I was laughing. Under my fingertips, I felt a lump deep in the left side of her neck and I thought that’s weird, I don’t recall that dogs are supposed to have a bump there, and at the same time I was reaching for the other side to see if it was bilateral. No, it was not. No matter how hard I poked and prodded, I could not find a corresponding lump on the right side, and my heart sank. I felt a deep fear in my belly and called the vet right away to make an appointment.

A veterinary surgical oncologist removed the malignant tumour, but due to the amount of structures in the neck, the margins were not as clean as desired. My then-partner and I were advised to send her to Saskatchewan for a month of radiation treatment during which time she would be fostered, undergo general anaesthetic every day for the radiation treatment, and require intravaenous feeding because her throat would be burned from the radiation. We elected not to do this. Continue reading

Finished this book: A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

Cover of A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Cover of A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay.

This is maybe my sixth or eighth time re-reading this book. It’s one of my “feel-good books,” a go-to when I am feeling the need for both entertainment and the comfort of the familiar. Some people watch movies over and over to get this, but for me it’s books. Kay’s books tell stories I enjoy in a way that I like. The storylines linger on relationships between people and how influential those relationships are, but there are also politics and wars and romances and magic and intrigues. I always like Kay’s imaginary worlds; Arbonne and its neighbouring countries are no exception.

Sometimes I am a little frustrated that Kay relies so much on problematic gender stereotypes. While I do understand that the fantasy genre is fairly reliant on those stereotypes, Kay’s imagination and transformation of those tropes in so many other ways makes it all the more disappointing Continue reading

Finished this book: Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid by Evelyn Lau

runaway

This was a disturbing book. Evelyn Lau writes about her experiences living on the street after running away from home at the age of fourteen to escape her abusive, controlling parents.

Lau had always wanted to be a writer, and had already received some awards and recognition for her writing at a young age, but she was forced to leave home to escape an unendurable situation. She stayed with friends at first, given the network of friends and fellow writers she had already established, but as the pressure from police and child welfare authorities increased, her friends became unable and unwilling to shelter her. Continue reading

Finished this book: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

LordOfTheFliesBookCover

Cover of The Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Some plot spoilers ahead.

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I had forgotten just how accurately this book portrays the desperation rage malice of bullying and insecurity and competitiveness. A group of British schoolboys is stranded on a tropical island after a plane crash. The boys have to figure out how to survive. There’s a lot of fresh fruit, and some potable water, so the basic needs are met. This story is about the boys’  attempts at social organisation (choosing a chief, creating working teams, keeping track of each other, etc.) and physical organisation (forming hunting groups, building shelter, maintaining a rescue fire as a beacon for help, etc.). But all of that is a backdrop to how quickly most of the boys lose their civilised veneer when there are no adults around to enforce the rules.

Two boys emerge as the main contenders to be chief, and the other boys fall in line behind one or the other, based at various times on popularity, possessions, skills, fear, whatever moves them at the time. Despite the vivid descriptions of the tropical island, the lack of girls, and the fact that some of the boys die, it seemed like a fairly accurate portrayal of of my experience of elementary and junior high school. The bullying, the violence and threats of violence, the weird fluidity of leaders and cliques, the arbitrary rules and conditions imposed on both insiders and outsides—in my opinion, Golding did a great job of showing one aspect of children and adolescents. Continue reading

Finished this book: 11/22/63 by Steven King

While I am always a fan of King’s writing style, I am not always a fan of his actual stories. This particular book was not one of my faves. I probably shouldn’t have read it in the first place, but I gave in to peer pressure: my uncle recommended it highly at a family dinner. He had lent it to my mom (who was partway through it at the time) and was wondering when our branch of the family would be finished with it because he wanted to pass it on to one of the other dinner guests when we were done. My mom was enthusiastic about it, and my brother wanted to get in on the action, so I invoked primogeniture and got myself on the list ahead of my little brother.

The subject didn’t particularly me. While there was time travel (yay!) and some sic fi (yay!) and a sprinkling of the  supernatural (mostly yay), I’m not a big fan of alternate history stories, and I have pretty much zero interest in American presidents. This book is about a time traveler attempting to prevent Kennedy’s assassination, so yeah, not really my thing.

On the other hand, I generally really enjoy King’s style. His deceptively simple sentences remind me of Lego. In lesser hands, Lego is a jumbled mess or an awkward construction, but in the hands of an expert, you get this. So based on family recommendations, and on some of my good experiences with King in the past (The Stand! Rage! The Long Walk! Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption!), I took my turn with the book. (My brother did get to it first, and kind of freaked me out by texting me and leaving notes to Beware the Jimla! “Thanks,” dude.)

Part of what I didn’t enjoy about this book was the subject matter (I mean, yawn, how much do I really care about every move Lee Harvey Oswald made, every place he lived, everyone he met, and all the conspiracy theories around Kennedy’s death?). Part of what I didn’t enjoy is how underdeveloped the supernatural plotline was: King introduces the word Jimla early on and brings it back a few times in a way that hints at something big, but it isn’t as fully developed as one would expect. And the third thing I didn’t enjoy is how the “explanations” and “making sense of things” all kind of bunched up at the end of the book. For my taste, there was too much mundane plodding in the middle, and too much explanatory wrap-up at the end.

To be fair, though, my brother loved the middle part and was quite surprised when I complained about it. To each their own. I wouldn’t read it again, and I probably would have abandoned it in the middle if I wasn’t the kind of person who hates leaving things unread… But if you are interested in this topic, you’ll probably really like it. I’m just sorry the explanatory part wasn’t woven into more of the story because it seemed like it would have been a fascinating thing to explore a bit more.

11/22/63 by Steven King. 2012. ISBN 978-14516-27299.

Weekly Pet Peeve: People Talking Through the Show

This week’s pet peeve is piggybacking on For the Love of God—Make It Stop, about a person talking in a movie theatre during the movie. This is a huge peeve of mine. Not just in movie theatres but also at home. Not just during movies, but also during TV shows. Or even YouTube videos. Or when I am on the phone, and someone in the room is talking during my phone call because they have something to add or to pass on to the person on the other end.

JUST SHUT UUUUUUUUPPPPP!!!!!!!!!

OBVIOUSLY I am paying attention to The Thing. Either pause The Thing, or wait for The Thing to be over. And if The Thing is something you’re trying to share with me, please don’t abuse my patience and wreck my enjoyment with “okay, here, wait, here it comes, wait, yeaaaah!!!” and hysterical laughter even before the funny part.

Also, if we’re watching a movie together that you’ve seen before, ffs do NOT speak along with the dialogue. Especially do not say the lines right before they happen! And honestly, seriously, don’t watch my face the whole time to make sure I am laughing at the funny parts or otherwise responding immediately and obviously the way you think I should.

In general, I really prefer to experience media by myself. People can be so annoying. Don’t they know they’re causing me to miss plot development? That information is there for a reason! I need it!

The dogs can be annoying, too, if a movie doorbell rings. But somehow, watching the Brindle Dog barking wildly at the TV with a shocked and betrayed look on her face (through what interdimensional fuck-up did a doorbell appear in the living room???) is far more entertaining than biting my tongue (and sitting on my fists) when dude in front of me at the theatre is muttering into a cell phone.

 

Finished this book: Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris (aka My Most Noncommittal and Inconclusive Book Review So Far)

I still can’t decide how much I like this book, although I finished it almost two weeks ago. It is written in an imitation of old-fashioned style, which I normally don’t like, but Harris makes it work really well. There’s a bunch of really stereotypical gender stuff in it, which normally irritates the crap out of me, but it’s not really presented as a war of the sexes; rather, pretty much nobody comes off looking particularly good. There are mystical aspects to the story, presented in a taken-for-granted fashion but still leaving room for doubt. I don’t know what I think of it. Basically, there are a bunch of elements here that would normally lead to a thumbs-down, but Harris manages to weave it all together beautifully.

The protagonist is an artist who marries one of his child models, expecting her to remain as compliant and biddable as she always was throughout her childhood. She grows up, he gets weirder, a ghost gets involved (or maybe not), and almost everyone seems addicted to laudanum or alcohol or chloral. There’s sex and adultery, murder and rape, magic and deception, paedophiles and prostitutes. The traumatic aspects of the story are not written in great detail but I still found some of them hard, so maybe a content warning for child abuse and sexual abuse, depending on what your threshold is. Mine’s pretty low.

I think I liked it, overall. But I didn’t like it enough to be sure that I like it. Weird?

Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris. 1994. ISBN 978-006-078711-0

Saw this film: Banksy Does New York (2014)

This fast-paced documentary covers Banksy’s month of making a piece of public art every day in New York for the month of October 2013. It was kind of a NaBloPoMo / NaNoWriMo thing with street art; the film called it a residency. I watched it with my brother, and we kept pausing it to talk about who owns art, what is art, whose opinions about art matter, cultural appropriation, graffiti and vandalism and defacement, the concept of property, the concepts of public versus private, whether art has to have a meaning, and so forth. My brother and I occupy quite different places on the ideological map, so there were times when it was a relief to turn back to the TV with our mouths pressed thin, but at other times we both got really animated in our enthusiasm for the topic and managed to navigate our differences well. It’s a process, right?

The documentary interested me for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that I recently made my first foray into public art-making. As time goes by, viewers have started to add to my art. Although I don’t think they have improved my piece aesthetically (puh-LEEZ), I am delighted that there is some conversation happening. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Workplace Phone Manners

The Peeved Pet.

How I look when people don’t know how to talk on the phone at work.

I was so focused on writing about Poe today that I nearly forgot the Weekly Pet Peeve. My heart’s not in it 100% today, so I’ve hauled this one out of my drafts and tweaked it a bit:

You know what I hate? When people are making a work-related phone call and don’t bother to introduce themselves properly. If you are calling in an official capacity, you should at the very least state your first and last names, and preferably also what your organisation is.

I’ve had people call and not say their names at all, or just say “This is *Sarah” and then demand client information. And then I have to go through the whole interrogation to find out the relevant identification of Sarah, during which time Sarah is getting more and more irritated. Would this not be easier if she started out with”Hi, this is **Sarah Palin, I’m a social worker at XYZ Child and Family Services and I’m looking for information on Jane Doe who is a permanent ward of my agency”? Yes, it would indeed be easier. So, Sarah, when I point that out to you in the course of our phone conversation, there’s no need to get all hissy. Because the minute you raise your voice to me, I’m hanging up. Continue reading

F*ck Cancer (or, Another Dog at the Bridge)

Poe's eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe’s eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Remember how my post about Cookie’s death nearly went viral last weekend? That was because Cookie’s mom finally felt ready to read it, and she shared it on Facebook, prompting many of her friends to read and share it.

In a heartbreaking coincidence, another one of her dogs, Poe, died on Friday. Poe was only eight, but he had a haemangiosarcoma on his spleen which ruptured. Haemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer more common in dogs than cats or humans. From what I understand, this shitty cancer (aren’t they all) starts in the lining of the blood vessels and leads to large blood-filled tumours which can rupture. That’s what happened to Poe.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe was a well-known and much-loved dog, and people who knew him have been sharing their memories and pictures of him on Facebook. Poe was adopted by my friend when he was about eight months old. He and his brother Jack and four of their siblings were running wild down in Ohio, and were live-trapped. The person who caught them remembers that all six of them were so scared that they were piled onto each other in a corner. It seems that the shelter there found them too feral to adopt out, and wanted to euthanise them because it was felt they would never make good pets. Continue reading

A Hard Weekend Ends with a Crash

Happy Monday, everyone! That’s not my normal salutation (it’s more a sarcastic “Happy” Monday!), but after the weekend I had, I’m glad to get back to the work routine. I got some bad news on Friday (I’ll write about it soon) and that affected the rest of the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, I did go over to a good-acquaintance-maybe-becoming-a-friend’s place for a long- awaited tea-and-cookies visit (and cuddles with her fabulous Golden Retriever).

But on the way home, I got rear-ended. This is the third January in a row that I have been rear-ended by a white pickup truck while I was stopped at a red light. Continue reading

Two Dogs Humping (on me)

Warning: dog sex. With another dog, no worries.


 

This post is dedicated to Blair (The Shameful Sheep) in response to the post It All Makes Sense Now. If you read through the comments you’ll see a few references to dogs humping, which reminded me of this embarrassing story from my past. Continue reading

Finished this book: Incognito Street by Barbara Sjoholm

Cover of Incognito Street by Barbara Sjoholm

Cover of Incognito Street by Barbara Sjoholm

This memoir of the author’s travels through Europe as a young woman is a well-written and pleasant read. The countries in which she describes her travels (primarily France, Spain, and Norway) are mere backgrounds, however, to her inner travels. Sjoholm is struggling to be a writer, to understand what being a writer means, to find the balance between writing and living. She is also coming to terms with her attraction for her friend Laura, and Laura’s attraction to her. Also, at the time she was traveling, there were great political changes happening in her home country (USA) with regard to gender and politics, and the book touches on her growing awareness of and interest in that. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Pregnancy Horror Stories

Shocked disbelief.

Shocked disbelief.

People tell their pregnancy and delivery horror stories in great and gory detail. I get that. People like to talk about big events they’ve experienced, and they like to compare their experiences to those of other people, and they like to maybe sometimes perhaps exaggerate just a little bit to make their stories more vivid and to get a better response from their audience. And childbirth is pretty high up on the pain-and-danger scale, so it makes for a good story, with lots of potential permutations and complications to allow for some one-upmomship (ha).

But what is absolutely mindboggling is when people tell these stories to someone who is pregnant!!!

Seriously! Who does that? (Tip: That was rhetorical. Just last Friday, on E’s last day of work before mat leave, one of her colleagues was explaining to her how horrifically painful childbirth was going to be.)

I just don’t understand how you could look at a massive pregnant belly and think it would be a good idea to Continue reading