Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Look Hot and Fight Patriarchy

I have fallen in love again. I am afraid Vic may have to shuffle over to make some room in my heart for a sardonic, blonde muscle head who also happens to write academic theses.

She's an avid Big Sister, (with the Big Brothers, Big Sister foundation in Edmonton) and a self-proclaimed feminist, aiming to motivate girls and show them that they really can do anything - no seriously ANYthing. Cover yourself in mud and be a dude? Rock on. Cover yourself in sparkles and be a bodybuilder? Natch. If you want to put yourself through the pressure, strain, and struggle of a competition just to be judged, why the heck not? Even my own history has taught me that people are not as willing to accept a female that is serious about bodybuilding. In the world of feminism, accepting muscular women is still a tough sell. The dean at the University of Alberta plagiarizes a speech and achieves front page status; a professor undergoes a complete transformation into a sparkling, bikini-wearing, bodybuilder (admittedly not complete since she was already a 'gym rat') all in the name of science, and she merits one story in one paper.

The professor blogs about the experience at with wit, insight, and more dirty language than George Carlin with Tourettes. She will continue to write, she's even writing a novel about the challenge of bodybuilding and the figure industry, but says she will never compete again. After reading about her experience hollering "Oh God, I need to use your washroom!" at an unsuspecting drugstore attendant, while clutching a tube of hemorrhoid ointment (not just for hemorrhoids anymore!), I can't really blame her.

One of the most important lessons I learned from her story is that societies (feminism, veganism, activism, etc.) have to learn to grow and accept other people's connection with the society. When groups proselytize, it just drives otherwise interested people away. There should be more focus on the spirit, the intent, of a person's actions, rather than a blind adherence to preconceived notions of 'right' and 'wrong'.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Rock Out With Your Coda Out

I had saved one of these for the perfect moment, girls rocking out on their violins is just not to be wasted, and when I found the accompanying cello piece I knew it was Go Time.

("These girls are awesome!" Have some more metal ladies!)

("OMG, cute Croatians with cellos? More!" Yes, ma'am, here you are!)

The last one is a great combination of music that I like, song that I love, and keyboard dudes taking themselves very seriously in leather. I only wish I couldn't see the singers' faces - makes it that much cooler. ("Wow! That is cool!" I know, right?)

Go forth with this genteel, ass-kicking music and enjoy the summer!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Prime Minister's Gamble

The word of the day today is betrayal after the Proctor and Gamble regiment, more commonly known as the sixteenth, refused orders to invade the Island of Borneo, citing corporate complicity.

Brunei has been owned by the Braun company since 2031 when they were bought out for their control of crude oil, the world's hottest resource. The purchase was strongly opposed by the religious community, but the deal was eventually brokered with the condition that the Braun company maintain the country's decades old tradition of free universal health care.

World Wildlife Fund denounced Canada's invasion of Borneo, citing the delicate balance of the world's most diverse array of species and precious rain forest - the last in the world since the devastating Brazilian wildfires eradicated the bulk of the Amazon, a criminal act of arson which still remains unsolved, despite links to several top food companies.

The recent development has sparked a firestorm of controversy about whether the regiment, wholly owned and operated by Proctor and Gamble, will be charged with treason or allowed to refuse postings that may violate it's obligations to shareholders. This case is the first of its kind in precedent-setting corporate-military ventures. Pundits suggest prior examples will be drawn from cases such as the States' use of Blackwater through the early 1990's onwards, Canada's invasion of Sudan, and the disaster of 2035, when forces from an unknown European bank invaded Disney world, believing it to be a headquarters for McDonald's, who bought the debts for several European nations the previous year.

Considering the sixteenth comprises the bulk of Canada's fighting force, it is uncertain whether the Prime Minister will be forced to reinstate the draft to muster the troops to continue his invasion, or risk looking weak in the eyes of many other national forces, which could prove fatal, considering the attempted invasion by Michelin's Michigan last year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Common Coves Like Us: A Rebuttal

I was pleased with the post I wrote on Monday regarding the military's 'fit to serve' policy, but that means little since I am, by nature, heavily self-congratulatory; until Victor came back home for this 'weekend', and I happened to mention the post. I had assumed he would support my conclusion, but it seems he had a much different opinion from what I had expected. After a protracted lesson on military policy, I figured I would get a former soldier's opinion on the matter, but it comes with a heavy language warning. Vic can get pretty saucy about military matters. ("Well, I didn't realize you would be quoting me!")

"See this is what I don't like, when civilians try to give their opinion about stuff they don't know"
I asked whether he had any personal experience with the circumstances the news article had spoken of, soldiers who had been injured on the job and the army's response;
"They won't just kick you out. They'll try and help you first, but if you're an absolutely useless person...They should try, but the army can only do so much."
 I was surprised to find he supported the military service policy, talking about the policy like a tool the military could use to get rid of people that were 'untrainable' or 'useless'.
"They won't just kick you out for no reason. I mean they should try to find a job for them, but if the guy's a useless fuck, you have to remember, people's lives are on the line in jobs like military intelligence. Giving the position to a retard could cost more lives."

We moved away from the notion of people that had been injured in the line of duty, and on to people that hid preexisting conditions, then exploited the military for medical support and a steady income.
He remembered a solider with a chit bag - medical chits excusing him from heavy service, etc. - that he would shuffle through to avoid doing work or other unpleasant taskings, and another that only worked until noon, but was paid the same full wage as other soldiers. 
"Occasionally people get in, then go on permanent category." (This means permanently unfit to service) "The military has to wait out to the end of their contract. You have to remember we need capable people in important positions."

I asked if he remembered any specific soldiers and he spoke of Mcpl. Franklin, who lost both legs in Kandahar and was accommodated, but eventually left to further advocate for soldiers who had been injured in the service. He spoke of how valued the former Mcpl. was for lecturing while he had been in, and was certain that the departure had been his own choice. He was of the opinion that this was the norm, and that soldiers being forced out didn't relate the full story to the media.

As for soldiers that joined with pre-existing conditions?
"Personally, I think they should kick out every one of those useless fucks."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Common Coves Like Us

An excellent piece in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday should cause Canada to pause and re-evaluate some of its policies in the near future, specifically that of the Universal Service principle, which states that all members of the military must be prepared for active deployed duty at any time, and encompasses basic training, fitness, and availability (speaking only of the regular forces, of course).

An ex-ombudsman who worked with the army, specifically overseeing troops sent to Afghanistan in 2002, spoke out against the policy, adding that there were overweight soldiers in Ottawa's military headquarters who could not pass the fitness standard, thus disqualifying them from active duty. He theorized that it was simply bureaucratic posturing that kept the standard in place, forcing out soldiers who were willing to work, but unfit by way of injury.

Setting aside the question of whether proximity would encourage more compassion, forcing out soldiers who wish to continue serving is fiscally irresponsible. Soldiers, especially those who have served overseas, represent a valuable resource that cost a substantial amount to train. Discharging this resource might create a more 'picturesque' army, but ignores the other benefits.

The other reason for the discharge could, of course, be the morale of the troops when confronted with the image of being trained by a person with a visible injury from duty. It can increase comfort with the fear of injury by showing that such a condition is not the end of the world, but also increase anxiety.

All in all, the policy could be beneficial if our army was smaller and could not afford finding positions for wounded servicemen, or if the number of wounded were higher (currently 40 soldiers' files are under dispute) and would put a strain on the other soldiers, but in this case, this is needlessly self-serving, representing either vanity or a misguided superstition about 'bad luck'.

In other news, I am debating adopting a Chinese Blogger, essentially giving them space to write their own blog without fear of censorship from their own government. Let me know Dear Reader's thoughts on this.

The title is from Robert Service's poem, "The Ordinary Man". Excellent Poem.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Tu Dae Fadda

Happy Father's day!
In honor of the daddies around the world, I present this video. It has a serious language warning attached to it, but I wanted to tell my dad how grateful I am that despite how often we may have provoked him to think about it, he only used this kind of language on the golf course.

Friday, June 17, 2011

One Word ... History?

First things first, I think it just speaks to the kind of person that would be in a hockey riot that the local Chapters was broken into, but no one bothered to steal anything. I can't say that I would not be in possession of a few new hardcovers had I been in the area, but I digress.

Vancouverites have been thoroughly embarrassed about the incident in their city and attempts to cover the shame include claiming it was a small group of individuals (busy people), that it was all out-of towners, and desperately trying to identify the persons responsible in photos. Irony forces me to point out that the town bearing the brunt of Vancouver's "idiot hick" jokes - Surrey - remained so orderly and behaved that the Mayor loaned some of officers over to Vancouver; how's that for class? The cleanup party that has followed the destruction is getting much less airtime, sadly since it is harder to motivate people to clean up and behave altruistically that it is to get people already excited about a hockey game to riot.

The truth about riots is that they are almost like a sickness; the same energy that causes people to leap out of their seats and scream for goals is the one that makes them smash windows. Not to say all sports people are rioters - far from it. Anyone can become a rioter, all it takes is to relax, and give in to the social pressures. One or two people start lighting a car on fire, and suddenly, that is the situational 'norm', and we all know how good people are at adapting to the societal norm.

I do agree that more should have been done to prevent it, which is possible, and you think they would have learned after 1994 but apparently not. I also can't help but agree with the assessment of one blogger, The Dollar Vigilante, that noticed if people had been 'drunk' on pot instead of alcohol, " a number of them would go to the park to hold hands and sing some hymns about love - and then eat some potato chips." Finally, however, I can't agree that the government caused the riots or the anarchists - sometimes a riot is just a riot.

The only thing I can't stand is Europe looking down on us - "You call that a riot?"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Rotten Post

It's been a little while since I have been able to sit down, research, and post anything other than, "So, prostitution, eh?" but I am a little rusty so I figured I'd pick an easy one to knock out.

The Canada post strike.
A lot of people are annoyed, there's a lot of literature flying around about whether they are selfish or not, how this affects businesses, and what should be done about it. The main problem, as reported by the striking workers, is that the company is turning a profit, but is extracting the cost of recent upgrades from worker's pensions, which is not only stupid, but should be illegal. However, considering the nature of CP's pensions, the likelihood that the pension shortfall will need to be supported by the taxpayer is very high - the sheer size restricts risky investment, and so it is reduced to lower-paying safer alternatives.

The other major argument concerns safety. Some of the new procedures that are being enacted, tested in Winnipeg, have reportedly shown to increase injuries by 50%. The physical demands from the job, far from the sardonic allegations of "walking injuries", can including slips, falls, strains, breaks, and just general wear from time and  work. New hazards are being presented by the company's expectation that the workers will walk and read, to save time, and the workers themselves are, of course, hurrying to finish early. which adds more hazard.

The chief complaints against Canada post revolve around the speed issue - people compare mail and e-mail unfavorably, and grip that delivery takes too long. Despite claims, overall mail delivery is not dropping, only letter mail, while deliveries are increasing, as well as the number of addresses being shipped to, placing more speed restraints on the workers.

Considered as a whole world problem I think the best solution is obvious: either charge more for or eliminate fliers and junk mail. Tying in the environmental concerns, the preponderance of wasted paper, the time, effort and aggravation that come from this odious plague, if we eliminated this scourge the Canada Post would be free to shift it's focus to the 'higher priority' addressed mail, speed up delivery times, possibly even working on the weekends (hey, if armored cars do it, so can they) and reduce injuries through weight issues. This would put Canada post on par with the more streamlined private services, and raise them to a more competitive position. If they really feel they cannot eliminate that source of revenue, they can either raise the prices high enough that only a few companies want to wholesale advertise anymore, or simply 'sublet' the whole business to a lower-skill, lower-wage paper-boy sort of company. Pensions would be less important and it would be another avenue for people just entering the workforce.

Canada post is not going away any time soon, but with some tweaks it could become genuinely competititve.

The title is a quote from Nicholas Culpeper "For God's sake build not your faith upon Tradition, 'tis as rotten as a rotten Post."

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Honorifics and Other Mistakes

I am the Worst Vegan in the World.

I have been trying, I honestly have, since the previous wildcard weekend, where I said I would give a try at veganism; Bought the cookbook Vegan Planet, googled the Wiki article (Every title I give myself now has come from a Wiki article), and bought things like nutritional yeast, even though when I sprinkled it on my mashed potatoes it looked so strikingly similar to fish food that I had the urge to stare at the same point on the wall for several hours or as I like to call it - work.

But my efforts have been undermined at damn near every turn. One morning, determined to eschew coffee for health reasons (I promised my doctor I would stop. Also, when you break a promise to a doctor you can actually hear it break.) I made myself a mug of tea in a fashion I was accustomed to by long habit - instead of milk and sugar I just added condensed milk. Doye. If you read that again very carefully you'll see where I slipped up. Of course this realization didn't occur until late that afternoon because that's how fast I am. (At least I was just fast enough to avoid wandering into a vegan restaurant with my beloved leather jacket on - I still wear it (8 years old!) but again, WVE.)
Wish I had left the hairpiece at home too
I still crave bacon and steak, still have to remind myself that no, gelatin is not vegan, so the gummy soothers are off limits, but I doubt that will ever change. The best I can hope is that it will get easier. 

It has become a little easier since my fiance moved off for his summer job (finally a perk to opening all my own jars) - being the only one at home I can fill the fridge with vegan stuff, then troll my shelves to my heart's content, but I have had mixed success in cooking, which composes a large amount of vegan eating. My first attempt at making fake meat - called seitan or "wheat meat" was an unmitigated disaster. First, I combined wheat flour and water, managing to knead it into a reasonable dough, a feat I can not usually master, so it was with renewed vigor and a sense of accomplishment that I approached the next step - rinsing the starch out of the dough. I had to submerge it in water, then knead it.

"Hang on." thought my mistrusting brain, "How is this going to work? Didn't I just add water to make it doughy? What happens if I add more?"

But my tummy overruled the brain, and so with a hearty cheer, I pressed on, delicately submerging the loaf and kneading it until the water ran milky, rinsing, replacing, kneading, rinsing, repla - what the...?
My dough had, predictably, began to take on water faster than a Shallotian vessel, and was reduced to a paste that any second grade paper-mache student would be proud of. Nevertheless, I desperately kneaded the slop for a good few minutes like a committed masseuse attempting to revive a piece of boneless chicken. (Am I allowed to make non-vegan analogies?) sure that I just needed to have faith. The monstrous mess is covered by a towel in my fridge, just in case I come home craving whole wheat bouillabaisse. For my second attempt I have debated buying starch-free wheat flour, thus eliminating the rinsing step, which is sort of like buying cheese sauce to make kraft dinner - can you still say you're cooking anything? - but would result in me having the finished product. My other recipes have had better success.

Vegan Butter Chicken
1 can chickpeas
1 small onion
1 tbsp vegan margarine
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1 c. coconut milk

Fry the onions in the 'butter', add the tomato sauce, milk, chickpeas and cook for twenty minutes. Throw the remainder of the coconut milk in with the rice, then cook. Combine and consume. Fantastic. I don't think it is hyperbole to say I am the best cook ever, but definitely the Worst Vegan Ever.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Putting the "Competition" in Canadian Telecommunications

But there's no "competition" in Canadian Telecommunications?

Anyone old enough to fold open a newspaper (or those of us with a vested interest) has been inundated with the trials and tribulations of WIND mobile, a foreign company that fought to conduct business in Canada, and won, lost, won, maybe lost, sort of won back, and finally won. Having followed the process it seemed odd that it was getting so much press time, but after the CRTC's latest ruling, I can understand why. They were just playing at competition.

The large telecom providers in Canada have enjoyed an oligopoly in recent times, and this has been reflected in their push to instate usage based billing (UBB). They were stopped, at least temporarily, by the CRTC, and for a while it seemed like the CRTC was on our side. But it is clear we were just being strung along until after the election.

Since the only companies with the financial backing to build infrastructure are the telecom giants, new start-ups have to 'borrow' tower space for their subscribers. In a really dick move Rogers negotiated a deal with WIND, allowing their subscribers to use Roger's towers, but then giving their own users preferential treatment to the point that any WIND customer unlucky enough to stray into that zone is automatically dropped and must redial.

That's just the 'price of admission', the cost of start-up. They should stop whining.
Not enough dick for you? Rogers went ahead and advertised that their new Chatr service has "fewer dropped calls than new wireless carriers.” That's cold.

WIND did what any sensible company feeling unduly trod on would do - they went to the CRTC, who promptly ruled they didn't have enough evidence of preferential treatment, and dropped WIND on their heiney. Not because the behavior existed, they noted it did, but because the subsequent ad campaign did not cause enough of an imbalance in the consumer's view, and the contract did not specify that there needed to be seamless transitioning.

Further to that, the CRTC decided it wasn't going to dirty its hands with the issue of seamless roaming anymore, but companies are free to negotiate it amongst themselves. A powerful draw like seamless call transition is too valuable to give up for a small price, however, especially at the possible cost of their own customer's convenience, so it is likely new companies will be forced to contend without it, especially WIND, since the CRTC noted it would not allow WIND to renegotiate its contract with Rogers.

I wish I could advocate a system of impartial, federally owned towers, but the notion that the government has control of my cellphone is just too scary to accept, especially considering Bills B-52 and B-51.  

I suspect, considering roaming charges and the 'newsworthy' aspect of people outraged by huge bills, that this development will help WIND for a while, since people are notified immediately when they begin to incur roaming fees, but the question is whether people will appreciate it in time or simply find it a hindrance.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

House of Commons 43: Pay-per-view

People like to believe that historically the House of Commons has been civil and accommodating to all views; this ties in to our beliefs about the nostalgia of 'olden days' which we picture with glassy-eyed reverence, imagining a 'simpler time' when people were so mannered and polite, as if we didn't have more motivation to be by virtue of the police's reduced ability to solve murders. They like to think that problems were solved by hearty, respectful debate, and that now the HoC is no better than a kindergarten classroom.

We are, apparently, not. The latest survey being flogged by the rags discusses the civility ratings of various MP's, based on a subjective scoring of their mannerisms during question period. The speaker rated highest at 80 out of 100, which personally I think means the scoring should only be done out of 80, considering the speaker is intended to be the most fair, impartial, and balanced out of everyone. Edmonton's nemesis Rona Ambrose rated next highest, but I will refrain from comment on why that might be. It was notable that the Ignatieff and Layton both scored quite low on the survey, especially considering their desire to "bring back civility" which prompted subdued titters from the newspaper as they pointed out the hypocrisy in bringing back something that one is unable to maintain in one's self. (This is called "The Timberlake")

I will likely draw flak for defending Layton here, but I cannot help wondering, "who the hell cares about civility?!" Many parliaments are known for their violence and disorder; the British, whom we draw our Westminster style from, are forced to keep two red lines on the floor, which MP's are not allowed to cross, simply to maintain a vague semblance of order. Their debates are, nevertheless, quite rowdy, including laughing at raunchy jokes, and occasionally hollering so loudly that all debate is stymied. Perhaps they are too established to change their ways, but the lack of decorum rarely seems to slow them down, for example one minister simply slowed parliament to insist a councillor withdraw his insult of "miserable pipsqueak" before pressing on to more important matters (interestingly, he only insisted that "pipsqueak" be withdrawn.)

As for our 'history' of civility, our very own father of the country, John A McDonald, once charged an MP.
Charged him with what?
Oh, no, literally charged him: Like a bull. Are we suggesting we should be better than the man who was our first great leader? Another member, Arther Bunster, was famous for his fist fight in parliament back in 1878. Even just watching the live broadcast of the house reveals a plethora of snide comments, witty asides, and sharp digs that rarely make the news anymore but help, I think, to make the whole dry process a little more interesting. We vilify our representatives if they are caught wasting time on distractions - why not let them make it a little more interesting, especially if it bolsters interest in the process by the average citizen?

Can't get enough of political brawls? You're welcome.