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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Blech

My loyal follower(s?) will have noticed I missed the March 13 post. I am still alive and well, just very much disinterested in typing and writing lately. I’m not sure how long this blog-cation will last. Sorry for those who have looked forward to my ramblings and blatherings: I’m sure they will recommence at some point.


To honour my recently departed grandmother, here's a link to the best thing she ever gave me: päpanät.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Putin should burn

Ottawa is cleared out just in time for the next shit-storm in the world. I guess this is progress, because COVID hit while the Australian wild-fires were still burning.


Now it’s Vladimir Putin who is making life unpleasant (for me) or literally unliveable (for those he’s killed in his march to Ukraine). Obviously Ukraine has a right to its sovereignty. Just as obvious, Putin sees its independence as a threat to his dream of Soviet Empire. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of Russians who still long for the “glory days.” There are even those who deify Stalin, arguably the greatest mass murderer in recorded history (not to fight over this horrible title, just he’s often forgotten next to the Internet’s favourite, Hitler).


There is a particular mindset among Russians to adore the strong man style of rulership. Sins of the past fade in the minds of the living. Some harken back to the USSR with blind nostalgia. “We were strong. We were feared. We managed our own nation without Western interference.” The rough edges of dictators get sanded down and what is often left is the glorious warrior who brought Nazi Germany down, for instance.


(In all fairness, there are plenty of people everywhere who admire the strong man style of leadership, but that’s a topic for another time.)


So why is Putin so scared of Ukraine? Why is he so horny to get it?


That he’s focused on it is obvious. He annexed Crimea back in 2014, a move still unrecognized as legal by most of the world. But Russia’s obsession with Ukraine back much further. The borders of the former USSR represented centuries of Russian aggression, populace replacement, and expansion. Did you know, for instance, that during the Ukraine Fame, dead Ukrainians were replaced by ethic Russian farmers at Stalin’s direction? That’s one of the many reasons there are so many who identify as “Russian” within Ukraine’s borders.


Ukraine, especially eastern Ukraine, has plenty of coal, iron, and natural gas. Although Russia has all three of those in abundance, it isn’t in the nature of gluttons to be satisfied with share-and-share alike. So Putin covets those natural resources.


More compelling to a dictator, the current border between Ukraine and Russia has no compelling geographical features. In other words, tanks place in Ukraine could roll into the heartland of Russia with hardly a delay. While Putin probably isn’t concerned about Ukrainian tanks, he is VERY concerned with NATO tanks. As Ukraine grows closer with Europe and the rest of the capitalist West, membership in NATO likewise becomes more of a possibility. You may recall Putin’s insistence Ukraine never be allowed to join? If Ukraine did become part of NATO, they would be part of the single most powerful military union in the world.


Worse, from Putin’s stand-point, there would be no legal reason the West couldn’t place garrisons in Ukraine. Not only would troops massing be easy and justified, missiles (nuclear and/or conventional) could be located in Ukraine. Estimates are that a Ukrainian launched missile could strike Moscow in under three minutes. That very, VERY fast. It takes about 5 minutes to counter-launch, starting from when the leader gives approval, so having only 3 minutes warning is a very scary number if you’re the Russian kingpin.


Remember how the world almost went to war over the Cuban Missile Crisis? The Ukrainian border is a lot closer to Russia than Cuba is from Florida so you can almost understand Putin’s obsession.


Only he’s an idiot.


NATO would NEVER have invaded Russia. In fact, Putin whines and complains about the recent Ukrainian weapons build-up, and that IS happening, but only after Crimea got stolen by Russia. Putin is the only one to blame for Ukraine’s desperate rush towards NATO membership. Can you imagine not having 911 on speed-dial if you found out a serial killer lived next door? Of course Ukraine wants and needs allies. Putin created their fear and now he’s bitching about it.


All of this suffering is so brutal and unnecessary. If Russia DOES get invaded now, Putin is to blame. We are definitely closer to WW3 then we’ve been in my lifetime. I’m furious at Putin. Furious at his people who have let him do this. Furious at the world for letting this happen, though I can’t pretend I was a solution.


Please say strong Ukraine. Hopefully the idea of a third of Ukrainians becoming armed rebels should their country fall is enough to back Putin off. Hopefully.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Festival du Voyageur

Two days ago I was officially done with winter. I hadn’t even noticed how cheerfully I’d been facing the cold and snow until that good cheer fled, and I became snarly just having to put my coat and boots on. Having identified the source of my ire, I can adjust and not be a grumpy bastard around others, but I AM DONE WITH WINTER.


Then night before last, apparently a herd of deer came roaming through town and decided to take a group dump on our front lawn, marring our pristine snowfall with six heaping piles of deer shit. Jerks.


Anyway, the big event in my recent past was Festival du Voyageur. I hadn’t gone since I was a kid so all my memories are foggy and probably inaccurate. Going, I was prepared for a good time in spite of the brutal cold.


And I DID have a good time. However, I have to give Festival a massive two-thumbs down in regards to its accessibility.


You may remember I sang the praises of the dinosaur museum I went to out in Alberta. That was my best experience in regards of handicap accessible; Festival has been the worst.


Granted, they are an outdoor venue in the winter, so they have plenty of snow and inherent difficulties to deal with. Nevertheless, they made no effort to even deal with basic issues.


All the pathways were rough and heaped with cast-off snow fragments from the carvings. No effort had been made to put even a rudimentary smooth pathway down from anything to anything, so pushing a wheelchair was virtually impossible. Obviously getting rid of all the snow was impractical, but all it would have taken was a few dozen sheets of plywood laid down to create roll-friendly means to a few of the major attractions.


A couple flights of stairs were the only way to get to the top of the fort, so that option was out. None of the doors were equipped with automatic opening mechanisms, nor were they wider than typical to allow wheelchair access. Three of the doors had become jammed with accumulated snow, meaning a human had to pass in profile and rendering a wheelchair completely useless. If I had actually been fully wheelchair-bound instead of only using it as a mobility aid, I wouldn’t have even been able to enter Festival at all.


There was one and only one bright point, and that was a helpful staffer (employee? volunteer?) who twice noticed I was struggling with walking and getting my wheelchair around and offered to help. I don't know his name, but kudos to him for his kindness.


Accessibility grade for Festival? F.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Some protests are just stupid

What else is there to talk about then the demonstration going on in Ottawa right now?


There are plenty of protests I support 100%. The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The Black Lives Matter protests. Rallies for gun control. The marches for Indigenous rights. The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Protecting the vulnerable, like our kids and the trans community and any other minorities subject to bigotry or cruelty. But this convoy of truckers occupying the streets of Ottawa? Screw them.


I can support the theory behind guarding against “government overreach.” There are plenty of things a government shouldn’t do and plenty of topics they should just avoid. Trudeau Sr was famous for his statement “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” opening the door to decriminalize and (eventually) normalize homosexuality. He was right, of course. Actions between consenting adults that cause no harm to others should never be illegal. But actions OF an adult that causes harm? Hell yes, the government should step in.


In my limited life-time, for instance, we’ve gone from smoking everywhere to almost nowhere. There was the predictable uproar; then life carried on, pretty much business as usual. If any bars closed due to their patrons no longer able to puff away madly, I submit their business plan was pretty flawed: bars primarily sell BOOZE, after all. We all got used to it and now when someone in a movie lights up in a restaurant, bar, airplane, or hospital, it looks really dated, like someone wearing a formal toga to church. Science said second-hand smoke was bad and the government moved on that information.


Now science has proven that vaccines are the best way to prevent, or at least ameliorate, the curse of COVID-19, and so our government has made some decisions about that, too. Judging from the loud trucker convoy that rolled through Brandon, the decisions aren’t entirely popular, to put it mildly.


The protests is being supported by a lot of money (over $10 million on their Go Fund Me page as of this writing), apparently from a variety of sources, some of which are hoping this convoy succeeds to changing our government’s policy so that THEIR countries follow suit. There are also the predictable bad actors, carrying Nazi signs, harassing passers-by, or stopping businesses from operating. Even if you ignore those people, the squatters have effectively stopped the free flow of business around Parliament, which is ironic considering one of their supposed arguments is “vaccine mandates are hurting the economy.” And so far, police have used kid gloves in dealing with this unlawful assembly. Why? Some claim it’s because most of the folks involved are white, and I find that extremely easy to believe.


I imagine part of the reason I don’t fear our government very much is I’m a straight, white male, and no policies of this country have ever negatively impacted me. But when you parse through all the whinging, complaints, misinformation, and rhetoric, what it basically boils down to is this:


The vaccine might save a life. Maybe yours. Maybe someone else’s. isn’t that worth obeying a sensible rule, even if you don’t like the one making it? Refusing to be vaccinated is a classic case of “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.”


Curse that debunked and defrocked anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield. He’s the one who originally claimed vaccines caused autism and started the anti-vax boulder rolling down the mountain. Imagine if he’s been born in 1900. We’d still have the Spanish Flu, polio, and smallpox ravaging our society. We nearly got rid of measles, then dragged it back through idiocy, and now this current spout of petulant anger is fuelled, in part, but those same, tired arguments.


“How did they do this so fast?” (Science and cooperation, bitches.)


“How can I trust this?” (Millions have taken it safely.)


“This is a wholly new vaccine!” (Based on solid research and decades of work.)


“My body, my choice!” (First, how dare you co-opt the pro-choice mantra. Second, it isn’t if YOUR body infects my body, so screw you.)


Ad nauseaum. I don’t expect my little tirade to change even one mind, but I will admit I feel better having made it.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Gender bias starts early

Just today I noticed some of my posts had comments. Duh. So I want to apologize for ignoring the people who've taken the time to comment and will actually check that area (and reply) in future. I feel pretty stupid.

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My girl B started dodgeball at the YMCA last week. She is one of 16 participants and the only female.

I find that extremely disappointing. From the time she was in pre-school, she was always very good at playing with boys OR girls. This is apparently unusual enough that her teachers at the time made special mention of the trait.


For a couple years, however, that “gender blindness” has faded. When presented with only boys, she is usually shy at first and only warms up to join with her typical energy after some time has passed OR adults serve as temporary bridges. Given her choice, she’ll gravitate to the girls side and ignore the boys.


Thankfully, as I mentioned, it doesn’t take much to get her involved with whatever the boys are doing. In particular, she doesn’t much care to do what girls her age often do: namely, standing in little clumps around the playground and share mean little whispers and giggles about others.


There are exceptions, of course, but there is no doubt the “mean girl” stereotype exists. It began around Grade 2 and it’s going strong by this point. This isn’t to say the girls are worse than the boys, but they use words and whispers to be mean; the boys use shoves and tussles. Having been the victim of both kinds of bullying when I was in school, I found it a lot easier to deal with outright violence than a campaign of social cruelty. Maybe that’s because I’m a boy. Maybe it’s because there was no social media back then, so when I got home I was completely safe.


One thing I do notice in observing the kids is the “fights” the boys engage in are over quickly. A shove, a fall, maybe some tears, a teacher intervenes, and by next recess all is forgotten. What the girls do, with their subtler teasing, however, is more difficult to police and results in their victims not wanting to go to school again.


Back to the point, though: I don’t know why girls and boys migrate to different activities at an early age. I’d sort of hoped that would cease to be the case. Even now there are parents who react viscerally to bending the “gender norms.” If boys come home with nail polish, these parents freak out. If girls want to play rough-and-tumble sports like hockey, they refuse to pay the fees.


Boys do not play well with girls. I’ve observed a few years of soccer, basketball, and now dodgeball. Boys ignore girls. They don’t pass to them. They pretend they aren’t on the field at all. This is not only a “my daughter” issue: I see this behaviour directed at all the girls on a mixed team. Girls, however, share play with anyone, boy or girl. Where does this come from? It isn’t from any rational standpoint because at this young age boys and girls are pretty much equally skilled (or not skilled, heheh).


Last year our local soccer organizer started all-girls teams and there is no doubt B enjoyed that experience more than the mixed teams. No one likes to be ignored and since girls tend to be a minority in any given sport I’ve yet seen, they just get swept past. I’m glad my girl gets to share play more evenly as a result of this change, but I’m also sad it’s necessary.


There’s no doubt it’s easier to be a woman today than it ever has been. There’s also no doubt the fiction of an “equal society” is just that: a fiction. I see the seeds of tomorrow’s gender discrimination in every classroom. Today my daughter isn’t getting passed to on the basketball court; in a decade she’ll be passed over for promotion. I hate it. Depending on my mood I get sad or pissed off, but I have no clue how to change it.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Me and the gym

I love our local YMCA. They have a new facility staffed with pleasant people. Best of all, the members who show up to work out represent a broad and delightful swath of humanity. I’ve been a member of almost a dozen gyms over my life-time but this one is the best I’ve encountered.

The worst was, actually, the OLD YMCA in town. It was a dusty, squalid derelict of a building that relied on a battery of portable fans to cool it in the summer. If you wanted to use weights, you had to go the basement to a room (cell?) packed with archaic, nearly-rusty equipment. The whole thing smelled like a locker room; you had to REALLY want to bench-press in order to brave the dank dungeon in which it was housed.


Unlike many gyms, particularly high-end ones, you do not feel like the spindly weakling. There are some truly muscular folks (stop already, people: you’ve won the gym!) but they are a minority. If you can imagine the body, it is a member of the Y. The tragically obese sweat next to the emaciated. Decathlete-looking women lift across from shaggy hippies.


Nowhere else in my life do I feel more average. I’m not muscly, I’m not rail-thin, I’m not tall, I’m not short. I’m even quite literally middle-aged, as there are always representatives 30 years older and younger than I. I’m invisible, and the gym is definitely a place where I enjoy the idea that no one is paying any attention to my feeble straining. Of course, if my fellows ARE watching me, I imagine they assume I always come to work out drunk, as I lurch and wobble from one machine to the next like I’m ten whiskeys in on a bender.


I make it a goal to get to the gym twice a week. Given how easily I tire and how slowly I recover, I usually need to do little else on work-out day and take it easy the next. I also work out much, MUCH slower than the average bear. Several minutes between sets and several more minutes between exercises. Generally I also have to take a ten minute sit-down mid-way through to let my temperature cool. All of my exercises are resistance training, generally with as heavy a weight as I can manage. This is because, while heaving heavy weight does raise my temperature, doing MORE reps (which take longer between rests) raises it far more. If I do 12 reps at half weight, I need three times the rest before I can try another go. In spite of my limitations, though, I have managed to actually increase muscle girth, particular in my badly atrophied calves and thighs. I’m nowhere near jacked up (and never have been or will be) but the improvements are quite clear; an excellent motivator to keep going.


However, after my vaccine booster shot in December, I missed a week of working out. Then I had some scheduling issues in getting there. Then some family gatherings. Then I did some winter camping. Then I had ten days of laziness. All-in-all I missed out a solid five weeks of gym time.


This last weekend was my first time back after this extended hiatus, and it felt really good. Now I’m back up to two-a-week with full intentions to keep the pattern going.


From a people-watching stand-point, it was fantastic to go back, especially because the weekend is a new time for me. That meant a whole host of new and unique souls to entertain me. My favourite was a tall, lanky fellow with that ghost-of-a-moustache over his lip and a ragged man-bun of frosted hair behind his head. He couldn’t have been 25 but looked like he’d lived an extra decade or two; it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. He worked out like a hummingbird, darting from one machine to another, never doing more than a single set.


There were nine people on the gym floor., ranging from late teens to mid-60s. Of them all, I was the only one without something plugged into my ears. Everyone else was listening to their own private tunes. At any given moment, at least two people were sitting and tapping away on their phones. None of this is meant as judgment, just an observation on how things are changing among the population. Even the people decades older than me are addicted to their technology.


Yes, I know I’m typing this on a computer and posting this on a blog, so I’m maybe a hypocrite here. But I only check my Instagram twice a week, my Facebook once a month (maybe), and I know I have a Twitter account but I haven’t the foggiest what my username is it’s been so long. I don’t like having music pounding in my ears because I feel surprised by everything then; I’m just too disconnected to the world around me if I’m bopping along to unseen tunes.


I’m not going to rail against the changes. Such is the way of the world, where a new generation defines social norms anew. I just find it fascinating to observe. People are such fun; the streets are far more entertaining than any animal zoo, and my local YMCA is a great place to observe humanity.

Monday, January 3, 2022

The start of 2022

Here we are in 2022. As always, it will take me several weeks to remember, meaning anytime I fill out a form until, say, mid-February, it’ll come with a scribbled out 2021.

It honestly feels like not much has changed in the last year. We’re still in our ___ (fill in the blank) wave of COVID-19. Tyrants around the world still oppress the little guy. Our own politicians still end every sentence with ‘commitment to reconciliation’ while doing very little to see the word become a reality. The rich definitely keep getting richer. Normal people struggle to keep their businesses/families/lives/sanity intact in spite of rapidly changing (but probably necessary) public health orders. Irrational folks still spread their particular brand of lunacy from one to another, occasionally infecting a new target, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they believe vaccinations are the devil’s work, police make no mistakes, guns are as valued as new-born infants, or white people are oppressed, the immunity to truth is the same.


Whew. That’s dark. Try watching a couple movies on Netflix for an excellent commentary on society: Death to 2021 and Don’t Look Up. Both are darkly comedic. The first covers all the major events of 2021; the second imagines a future in which a planet-killing meteor is heading for Earth. On the one hand, we get to see the insanity of the previous year, and on the other we see a sad and all-too-real vision of how humanity will react to impending doom. They are worth a watch but they aren’t exactly “feel good” movies that leave you with a warm fuzzy about the prospects for civilization.


One thing that did change this year, though, is me. And since I’m as self-centered and ego-centric as your average billionaire, that’s really the change most important to me. It’s definitely the most noticeable.


Instead of saying ‘no’ as a default I’ve begun to say ‘yes.’ For instance, I’m currently writing this from an oTENTik in Moon Lake at Riding Mountain National Park. There is no water. There is no power. We do have a canvas “cabin” heated by a wood stove, and that’s about the only modern convenience here that we didn’t bring up ourselves. (Obviously, as I’m typing, I brought my computer and e-reader. I’m not a SAVAGE, after all.)


Shen-from-a-year-ago would only have been up here if driven at gunpoint. Now, I’m loving the relaxation and solitude, a little pretend “off the grid” time. The people I’m with are over-planners by my standards, though, so we hauled up about three times the food that we’ll eat. When I go camping, I tend to bring food that can be eaten with the hands and only require sticks-over-a-fire to cook. These people have pots of chilli and French bread, tacos, pancakes, and sausages. I don’t bring anything you can’t dispose of by burning on the ol’ campfire.


Not that I’m not enjoying the luxuries; I just think “do I want to carry this up AND then back home.” Since the answer is generally “no way,” I travel light. I’m grateful others are willing to be sherpas, though. Very grateful.


Enjoy the start of your 2021. I know I am.