Saturday, December 31, 2005

2006 is the Year of the Dog


2006 is the year of the Dog, which is the animal representing loyalty and honesty. Remember to be good and think positive because what goes around comes around. Dog people make good leaders. This is always reflected by my dog's habits. When I say "let's go to the barn" then she starts trotting pretty and leading the way, but when I call her, she comes obediently. She has always been there for me as a protective and friendly farm poochie. People born in this year can also be stubborn and eccentric, so watch out for them in that regard. However, as Ernest Hemingway said: "the best way to know whether you can trust someone is to trust them."

Live, learn, laugh, dance, sing, give, feel, and watch as the planets make their turn and time slips through the hourglass at the stroke of twelve.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Attack of the Gentle Tones

I've only started recording again in a last week or so, but it got things organized here -I've got the drum kit set up again, and already I'm amazed to have compiled myself a mixed album of 8 songs entitled "Voyeuristic Jam Sessions." Of the songs I've recorded, I want to redo most of them with more tracks, proper tempo etc. but I really like how the one song turned out with some creepy flanger effect on it. The cool thing is, I only wrote it last week, so there's a lot of room for improvement.

Since my ears got tired and I got frustrated that I couldn't turn the metronome on the program I'm using off, I needed a little break. Switching tasks and doing things in little bits always helps me get homework and tasks done. I thought my soundwaves looked cute on the screen so I copied them and used them to make this picture -my version of a city in 2035AD.

I was thinking, if I wanted to put out a real album, I don't know anything about managing music as a business (there are some that are intuitively good at it). I don't know how to get my stuff copyrighted or mass-marketed etc. I think it would be dangerous to mass market before you have a name built for yourself anyway, but if I were to create an album of my regular repertoire, I would call it "my songs can't be stolen because I share them."

So for 2006:
1. I want to make a full length album with several tracks including vocals, guitar, drums, some accordion and the odd trumpet note.
2. I want to move to Toronto.

It is the big city, with lots of opportunities for music. So many multiplications of venues compared to where I am now. I want to move there, get a decent day job, and continue working and performing music. That's my ideal anyway. It's a bit of a fantasy.

But, getting back to my album name "my songs can't be stolen because I share them." It relates to the crisis we are having over security as a global society as the simple result of other things not being shared. As we globalize, it means we have to raise and homogenize the standard of living, meaning that everyone needs everything everywhere to function properly. It may be tough, but that's where we're at. We are terrified of revolution, anarchism, rebellion etc, because we've become so specialized, vulnerable, and individually weak. People have less and less rights as laws and realities become more and more strict. People spend thousands of dollars protecting themselves legally, getting patents and copyrights and supporting themselves with documentation. Record labels thus give strength and credibility, but you can make your own label, which is my plan. Still, I can only record with the help of a computer, and complex programs which continue to boggle my mind because I can't figure out how to get the precise level of EQ or of digital delay or any of the mentionable effects for my voice or guitar not to sound like rabbit manure. (Not that I think it sounds like that in the first place. Look at these waves! Do they not look harmonious?)

This picture above is dedicated to Maria, who just told me that she loves music. She doesn't just like music, but she loves it, which is now an official rule for anyone getting a picture dedicated to them on this blog. They have to love music.

Footnote: Maria happens to live in Toronto, which she says is "the city [she] loves".

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Best of 2005: Wide Eyed New Years HNT!!

Osbasso said to put up the year's favorite HNT's so here they are:

Holy cats it's New Years! Last year I had to work but then I went to share time with someone special. It's good I did, taking advantage of the rare chance, because the experience couldn't last. Carpe Diem! This year things are up in the air. I'm having some intelligence issues with friends, meaning they are hard to get a hold of. It's a critical time that sometimes requires the last minute decision to do this versus that. Anyway, I hope everyone has an excellent time, makes lots of noise, shares kisses, and makes it memorable. Happy New Years!

As a New Year's resolution, if you'd like to play along with HNT, click here or see the button to your right.

More Audio. Can you Handle it?

Since Deem suggested some spoken word, it is what you shall have. Today I learned how to convert wav files into mp3 and back and also how to select the appropriate bitrate to allow for seamless upload. Enjoy!

Neighbor is Dying

Words written and read by SirBarrett

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Re-stringing my Soul

So, last night I read more from Naomi Klein's No Logo, featuring pictures of Bill Gates being pied and discussing the disturbing short-term relationship between job growth and economic growth. It seems that we are heading towards increased job instability, outsourcing, decreasing wages, and increased skill specialization. In other words, we are being commodified for the skills we have which are outside of labor laws and will one day be highly regulated by machines. (We already use machines for surveillance over employees, eroding the sense of trust and cooperation between employees and employers).

Today I spent some more time recording material with my classical guitar. I bought new strings for both guitars (Lucy and Angela) and a little winder to make the process faster, but I haven't re-strung Angela (the Fender Stratocaster) yet. I saw my old friend Justin, who's living in Toronto, doing his acting thing. He told me about the abysmal Shakespearian productions that he had the misfortune of being in and we walked around the mall (which is still insane several days after Christmas) to return books and look for jeans. Him and Meagan, another friend who dropped in from Vancouver, who I worked with for half a summer doing program directing for a children's camp, showered me with friendliness, and made me feel less encumbered by anxiety about my life.

She vented about family issues over Christmas. Apparently hers wasn't as smooth as mine, and she vowed to "never come back for Christmas again!"

I remember my old chiropractor telling me that our bodies are like instruments that get out of tune. If that is the case, then my friends are the ones that restring my soul.

However, recently, there's a reason why I'm feeling out of tune. The state of the world and more locally Toronto made me feel disappointed about my country. On Boxing Day, in the middle of heavy crowds, some people opened gunfire and injured 6 people, killing a 15 year old girl. This kind of random violence is becoming only too familiar in Toronto, where of the 78 murders this year, 52 were gun-related. Paul Martin has rightly made gun control a big issue of his campaign, saying he will ban them. I don't want a 'cowboy country' either. When the statistics of megacities like Toronto start resembling dangerous cities in the states, we can no longer claim to be a safe country. However, banning guns is only a start. As we know from earlier this year when Jim Roscoe killed bullet-proof vest-wearing RCMP officers with a rifle he acquired illegally. It is sickening to see a beautiful, intelligent, innocent and caring young woman reduced to a scene that police tape off and cover up, after unassuming shoppers hit the floor in reaction to probably a dozen gunshots by drive-by thugs. Further, streets that most people felt safe walking are now making us feel uneasy and sending a shocking message to tourists from abroad.

In other news, Japan has reopened it's borders to some Canadian beef after two years of sanctions after the Mad Cow scare. This should cheer my father a little considering that the market has basically been giving him peanuts for all his hard work. We remember the Tsunami crisis, which to try to notice the positives of such a catastrophic disaster, was one of immediate response from around the world. Although we are still struggling from the effects, trying to get drinkable water and basic resources to isolated towns, we have come a long way. In Sri Lanka, temporary shelters and aid became a subject of conflict for guerrillas and Tamils to fight over, but in Indonesia, the cooperated effort of people to survive led to greater peace. In Iraq, there's the constitution and there have been elections, but they're both moot because the US won't turn over security issues to Iraqis and the Iraqis themselves want a united government representing both Sunnis and Shiites. Real news gets boring, so I checked out this brilliant (albeit fictional) plan that US has of exiting Iraq.

The news, the news. Soon there will be those panoramic news features showing little specks of current events from throughout the year to sum it up. I recorded a song I wanted to post of one of Jack Johnson's songs, but it didn't work, so instead, I'll simply leave you his lyrical message about news, portraying our shared attitude:

The News -by Jack Johnson

A billion people died on the news tonight
But not so many cried at the terrible sight
Well mama said
It's just make believe
You can't believe everything you see
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies
On the news tonight

Who's the one to decide that it would be alright
To put the music behind the news tonight
Well mama said
You can't believe everything you hear
The diagetic world is so unclear
So baby close your ears
On the news tonight
On the news tonight

The unobtrusive tones on the news tonight
And mama said

Why don't the newscasters cry when they read about people who die?
At least they could be decent enough to put just a tear in their eyes
Mama said
It's just make believe
You cant believe everything you see
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies
On the news tonight

Filed as News Reviews

She's my Medicine

I included this picture of Miss Canada, because management came down on me hard today for not having more pictures on my blog. I didn't know what to put up so I thought I'd promote this intelligent medical professional, a pretty face and our country's multiculturalism by posting a pic of Ramona Rina Amiri, Miss Canada. (She's half Assyrian).

I especially like the second part of her personal motto: "Work like you don’t need money, Love like you’ve never been hurt, and Dance like no one’s watching" and of course her eyes. Belly dancing is hot. I think maternity counsellors should teach it. I also admire her perserverence and positive attitude.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My First Audiolink

I'm getting more computer savy all the time. I just take baby steps. I followed Candi's simple instructions for how to post an audiofile. First, I relearned how to use Cakewalk Pro, made an audiofile: "recorded a track", then went to, registered, read the terms and conditions, and made a link so that I could communicate to you, auditorially, my mouth to your ear, my mind to your mind, as it were, through the following link.

I'll warn you, I'm not planning on signing my major record deal with this. I was playing real material when my guitar string rebelliously broke, not allowing me to have the satisfaction of showing you one of my completed songs. So in the meantime, I made this half-ditch effort other little diddy here up on the spot, as a sample to tide you over, until the real music comes. Further tragedy: when I uploaded it, it suddenly got kinda choppy. I don't understand why. Whatever, it's just a 30 second intro clip, I'm dealing with it, so this whole thing wasn't a seamless operation so what? Hope you enjoy it anyway!

McB Freestyle
PS-my next audiolink will be even better!
PPS-just between you and me, the pain and trouble that you go through for an audiofile is worth it. I would do it again.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day: Savouring Christmas Before Taking it Down

You know your family is getting old when you wake up for Christmas at 11am. We had eggs benedict and then opened presents. I got a Family Guy DVD, some CD's (including my old Mono CD that mysteriously went missing several years ago), and a book of slam poetry by Shanke L. Koyczan. I gave my dad a nose-hair trimmer that I found at an electronics shop, some beef rub for his prizewinning cattle, and a special magnet for my mom. The trimmer is waterproof so you can use it in the shower. My sister made my parents magnets too using our family pictures, and luckily we got a few more of those despite the camera threatening not to work. We had a tough time getting a shot with my older sister's boyfriend's eyes open. In all the pictures we have of him, he looks like he's sleeping standing up. I made mix CD's and gave special soaps and chocolates. I figured everyone loves chocolate. My nursing sister got new scrubs, the nutritionist a book on nutrition, I got my sister who lives in Vancouver a book on Fung Shue with some incense, and the others got earrings and books.

My dad and I quickly got started on the furniture, rearranging the house so that we could all sit at the table. My sister called our Christmas tree a "celebration of homosexuality tree" because the tinsel was technicoloured. She also changed what she had written on our fridge message board, which was: "rock out with your cock out," a phrase she appreciates probably because it is so catchy, but also because it's vulgar. My father saw it, but read it wrong and asked: "what does rock out with your lock out mean?" The phrase was then edited on the board to match his reading, and "rock out with your lock out" became the motto of the day.

The relatives gathered, and we celebrated by eating shrimp together and opening up the wine. I thought of my friend that I went to visit last year in Portugal, and drank some of the green wine she had given me as a souvenir. My aunt wanted to try some, but after a sip, concluded it was "corky". We started allowing alcohol at family gatherings after my grandfather passed away two years ago. It makes it easier for some to have a good time, and with the multiple conversations going on in the kitchen while we whipped up the mashed potatoes, the younger children playing and scaring us by jumping out from unexpected corners, we had a good time. My mother had supplied the little children (my cousin's four sons) with some Halloween paraphenalia to play with. One of them commented that "there's nothing better than a box of masks." I suppose in a way, that's true.

As things wound down from the big meal, we started playing Taboo and Hoopla. Taboo is fun because if you're the buzzer, you get to buzz certain "taboo" words that the person trying to explain a word isn't allowed to say. They have to get clues so people can guess what the word is, but it's really tricky to explain them without the taboo words, so you've got to be creative. My uncle played for the other team, and for awhile, he was on fire! Then he seemed really surprised that they didn't guess "ancient" when he said "when you get to be my age, you're..." and things started to go downhill. He got called for using body gestures when he put his wrist up in the air and said "I have one of these" referring to his watch. You aren't allowed to use gestures. Soon enough, we drove him off the team.

We got frustrated with the Hoopla cards because there were all these American geographical hotspots that we'd never heard of, and famous people from the eighties that no one knew by name. Do you know where Cape Canaverale is? I didn't.

After eating turkey, suddenly I got full and tired. I mean really full then really tired. It was like someone injected me with morphine. It wasn't only the turkey. It was also the potatoes, the carrot salad, the dressing, the gravy, the fruit salad, the trays upon trays of cookies and dessert, the coffee, the wine, the water, chocolates, baked brie, walnuts, almonds, etc. I had to lay down and then I felt like all my cells were vacuum cleaners trying to suck up a giant mess. I could almost hear my stomach trying to break down the food, blood squooshing as it carried away chunks of lard from the gelatinous gravy. I thought of Ariel Sharon who just had a stroke and who warned people to take it easy on the food this season. Man I should have listened to him! Luckily I didn't have a heartattack.

So, now that the New Year nears, I have lots to look forward to and lots to work on. I have to apply for internships and jobs not only for next semester, but for the upcoming summer. I have to start jogging again, working out, and losing some weight. I must perfect my song and take up Candi's idea of posting some audiofiles, and generally live healthier and better.

2005 was a strange year because it started so strangely, with such a diverse mix of happy and sad things, all at once. I was enamoured with the person who came to visit me, who I met on the Internet. Within moments of actually meeting her, I felt like we had known each other for years, and we became close, but then that day we met, she lost one of her best friends to the tsunami, and it broke her heart. They didn't find him for about a month, and that not knowing where he was was probably the most terrible thing for her. Because of what happened, I don't think she'll ever be the same. They lived together for a couple years, he made her smile and brought her scorpions from the dessert. She had kept in touch with the family, but at the time he was away touring Thailand with his girlfriend. That was a year ago today. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

So Boxing Day is a bittersweet time of rememberance. I can't talk to my old friend because she won't talk, she doesn't want to talk, and would presumeably like to forget that entire episode of her life when she came here to this freezing cold haven from a country that sports palm trees at this time of year, for some sanctuary. The nice thing is that I get to relax and enjoy all the leftovers from yesterday today. I've cleaned up the errant nutshells from our cracker, and my ears are elated to have so much new music to listen to.

Take my Post-Christmas poll in the sidebar ------------------->
First, I'll leave you with one of my favorite spoken word poems from Shane L. Koyczan's collection, "Visiting Hours":


I've been told
that people in the army
do more by 7:00am
than I do in an entire day

but if I wake at 6:59am
and turn to you
to trace the outline of your lips
with mine
I will have done enough
and killed no one
in the process.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Festivus!

I know it's a little late, we are in the midst of Christmas Eve's eve, which is a very exciting time indeed. It is still "Festivus", born out of the day Frank Constanza, George's father from Seinfeld went to buy a doll as a gift, but it got broken because him and another customer were fighting over the same one. It is the last few weeks of December, when everyone in the family gets together to air their grievances at each other, then come the "feats of strength" where people are tested for their dedication and loyalty. So far, I've gotten by unscathed. Either I didn't let anyone down, or no one really had expectations of me in the first place!

With my family, there is much chocolate making, turkey baking, tinsel, mistletoe (which, by the way is poisonous, so don't eat it), melting snow, and music. My little gift to myself is to learn and play a lounge/jazz version of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" with my electric guitar. Maybe this will drown out the sound of my sisters playing Celine Dion on the piano upstairs.

Yes, let us get in the spirit of giving whether we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other special holiday. The holidays are truly encapsulated in the excitement or the insanity we have over getting together. Seasons wishes!

At dinner my sisters took turns making fun and acting out my parents expected roles and reactions to our conversations. It was the airing of grievances. My father was a little nervous about getting things all ready for Christmas: him and I have to move all the furniture, we're out of milk, our water heater is busted etc. He told my sisters to stop taking long showers in a stern voice. And because my mother was bugging him other things, he broke down and stated that he will get up at 6am (to avoid the maddening crowds at the malls) to get milk. She then smiled, acting as if his generosity was of the willingest type, and said: "Great! Then I can sleep in and be lazy." My sisters were discussing their plans and then my parents asked my youngest sister what she was up to: *taking on my their usual attitude of exasperation, due to them having to live with us five crazy kids*: "I was just going to stay home. I don't want to go ramming all over town. It's always go go go. I worked all day." (of course she didn't work all day) "I just want to be home and relax."

My sisters are all social butterflies, which means they can add to the noise around home, and drive us all up the walls. My other sister then took up the torch and started acted out my father and how he can get a little tired of the 24/7 social event planning, and a little drastic in his proposed solutions sometimes: "I've had enough of this socializing quite frankly. I'm ready to cut the phone lines off!" His bark is actually worse than his bite. My mother changed the subject (as she always does. We could be talking about insect repellent and she would say: "speaking of which, I had a patient in today who has a retinal blastoma...") and started talking about my older sister, who should be coming home any moment from Vancouver. She was sentimentalizing the gathering, saying "who knows? We may only get to see her once a year from now on," a big exaggeration. No one was sobbing. Then my sister who's going to Africa, which my parents have their concerns about, went along with their logic and started applying it to herself, in the thickest of sarcasm: "yeah, who knows? You might not see me either til next Christmas. That's IF I make it back at all. I could be mugged, raped, kidnapped, or sold for rice!"

I am entertained by my family, but I know their schtick so well that I usually sit quietly and eat my supper while I do it. I could recite the family scripts in my sleep. The biggest stress of every family occasion is probably trying to round us all up at the same time to have family pictures. My mother grieves about not having pictures of us all but then she chooses to display the ugliest pictures of us in her office. Of course we go through the same hassle every single occasion, whether it's our first day of school, or because she wants a picture of us when we're "dressed nice". Anyway, this gives you an example of how families all harass each other but yet it's fun. Like the Douglas Coupland book, I'm sure "All Families are Psychotic." Have fun being reminded just how psychotic your family is. Tis the season for it!

Now, my idea of having a good day before Christmas Eve, is getting away from the family and going out with friends for a flick. I'll have family all weekend. What I need is to. get. out. So, Jeff and I are going out to see the new movie Syriana, starring George Clooney, about terrorism and the global economic dependence on oil. I'm psyched. Nothing like a good action movie to get the adrenaline pumping! Jeff just told me he's falling asleep, but I still wanted to go, so we're going to go get coffee and hang out cause that's what friends are for. Good friends don't let good friends do what they want with themselves. We've been friends since grade six, so he knows it's not that easy to bail on me. He just spent a day like today shopping, so I know that he must be exhausted because every mall is a madhouse, but I still wanted to go. After all, it's Christmas, so here we go! Time to go get absorbed by the big screen!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bandwatch: Sarah Harmer

I just popped my head into my dad's office to see if what he was listening to was Sarah Harmer. "Yup!" He says, on CBC. Damn! The old man has one up on me! The new album: I'm a Mountain, is out. I saw her once at WLU, and she's a rockin chick. Her music makes me want to float down the stream on a raft like a bumpkin. I'm adding this album to my Christmas list. Yanks can look for it in their stores in February.

Dressing up for HNT

Since it's Christmas time, oh it's Christmas time, I thought I'd dress up. You have to make sure everything you wear is pressed and ironed and smelling fresh and clean. This picture didn't capture it, but I also have a nice cap that I like to wear, shined shoes, stockings with reindeer on them, my best tie, the whole works. Now, I just can't figure it out. It feels like I'm missing something...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Basket Full of People

Shyloh is a woman who brought me to Zen Filter. She inspired me with her poem Cashmere Mist, so I wrote this as a result of her provocation:

cotton wool, caught in guilt,
wearing only simple silk,
painted with a spendthrift air,
have it all, steal the flair!

folding suits of double-breast,
with the finest rubenesque,
body slipping in and out,
of the thing you choose to tout,

Taking off the sooty parts,
cleaning off the dirty marks,
hoping that my gullish groom,
won't upset the whole damn room,

spank my face with aftershave,
make me talk, make me rave,
try me on a certain charm,
one I hope can do some harm,

loosen up my choking tie,
tell me such a pretty lie,
I saw you check my shiney watch,
I want to fit inside your notch,

when you feel a little down,
step it up! wear a gown,
throw away your used up garments,
find yourself a new apartment,

buried deeply in a sash,
hiding out, short of cash,
suffocating droopy drapes,
seems so hard, finding mates,

snugly fitting corduroy,
awkward sitting lonely boy,
scuffy ugly stupid shoes,
feel like I am just confused,

lacking pockets for the asking,
sunlight stopped its happy basking,
short of love, torn in trust,
grab yourself, feel the gust,

on my knee, found your lint,
gave me such a saddened tint,
of my life, turned to rags,
of your youth, turned a hag,

cannot bear to mend this mess,
I miss you more without your dress,
sewed up secrets, yesterday,
what face should I put on today?

@Copyright 2005 SirBarrett

On Sales Experience

I just finished my job being a salesperson for a pre-Christmas launch of a line of cellphones. The experience has been an exceptional one. I threw myself into it, and came out a little more resilient to the slings and arrows of a profession some people love to hate.

Salespeople. What do you think of them? Fast-talking, bottom-line oriented, persuasive, informing, catchy, phony, sincere, dramatic, dynamic, interactive. All of these adjectives may have described me at one point or another, but probably the biggest thing I learned was to simply do my best, inform customers based on what they wanted to know, and try to understand their needs, budget and expectations to satisfy them accordingly. You can't take things personally, because people will tell you a thousand times "no". So what? I learned to choose my battles, and avoid getting into lengthy discussions with people who were simply looking for a fight. I learned to respect the wishes of people who weren't interested, and draw relations and provide relevant material for those who were in the consideration process. In some cases, when customers were overly anxious to buy, I saw a benefit of cautioning them because it may be one objective to make sales, but it is a longer-term investment to solidify their satisfaction. It doesn't serve simply to make people trust you, you have to trust that you're providing them with the best available means to make a proper decision for themselves. People will associate every interaction they have as part of the "customer experience" back to the brand. This means that as a salesperson, you must provide accessibility, competence, empathy, honesty, quality, and responsiveness.

There are two types of customers, those who are willing to take risks and experiment, and those who are skeptical who will only adopt a product or service when it is accepted by others, ie. the bandwagoners. Both have their advantages, but you need to know which one you're talking to, so that you either stress the sustainability, the warranties, the qualities, the affordabilities, or you stress the new features, the flexibilities, the uniqueness of the product etc.

I liked being a salesperson for the performative function of it. It is startlingly like acting, only substitute every eye for the cameras, and this is not Shakespeare; avoid jargon wherever possible. Euphemisms can be dangerous, but you use them because you have to. Otherwise, if you use layman's terms, it can be equally dangerous. Think of the example where a customer asks you which phone is the "cheapest". You must present the phone with the best "value" because otherwise another customer will hear that your product is "cheap" aka cheaply made or of poor quality which is simply not true. Yes, I believed in the benefits of my product, but I by no means am a representative demographic for all, so it takes thought-work and listening as well as communication skills to get ideas across undistorted. I had to catch people's attention within a few seconds, I had to assess their interest accurately, and deal politely with rejection if necessary.

So, I would go into the store, brochures in hand, and when people walked past, my words had to flow seamlessly. It is easy to get tripped up, but embarrassing to stutter in front of people. I would have to pre-arrange things in my mind, and then rehearse and spout it as if it were off the top of my head, and not just a spiele. (Note to self: if you're rehearsing, make sure no one is around. There is nothing worse than appearing like you have mental disorder because you are talking to yourself). Once I started talking, I would kind of lose myself in the role. When you are acting as a representative, you are no longer yourself, but your muscle memory takes over. So, personal inhibitions would melt away, and I would start to get loose on the sound of my own voice. A sample snippet of what came out of my mouth:

"Check out our sweet deals, we have offers so hot they will melt the snow off of your rooftop. Don't be tied down to contracts. We have none. Don't get confused by complicated billing. Ours is straight-forward. Get yourself an X and thank yourself later."

These remarks compare our services to the competitor's, and provide a promise to the customer. It is not meant to be deceiving but yes, it is meant to be compelling. It invites curiosity. With the thousands of brands competing, you have to be quick. I suppose this is why you have to display information in several ways. We had maps delineating our reception, brochures on the plans, FAQ's, and a kiosk with an icon of the brand which was bigger than my head. I suppose with those dimensions, you can tell what needs to be seen and remembered more: the brand or me.

Anyway, sales is not everyone's cup of tea, and it was a challenge to me as well. I've been told I'm too much of a nice guy, a pushover, or I'm too shy, but I really surprised myself. Sometimes a customer would be walking away and I would say one thing, which would completely re-orient their attitude because it clarified a commonly held confusion in their minds. That's the kind of service you need to provide. Be open and informative, and don't run after customers, but give them everything they need to feel invited. They will come to you.

So now I'm looking for a new job to take up my part-time as I finish school. I'm getting excited now as I enter my last semester of education, hopefully for awhile. I did well this last semester, averaging at the upper-level of my class, so I look forward to the more hands-on classes: some web design, a job placement, and more writing.

It is annoying and a half when you're applying for a job online and your session time expires, forcing you to start all over again, but this has influenced me to copy and paste a lot. My portfolio's starting to get fatter, and I feel more lax about trying to find jobs in diverse areas, so that's good. In the meantime while I'm on holidays, my books are keeping me in a rich fantasy land of fun. I've been having the greatest dreams, and catching up with much-needed friends.

Don't be afraid to sell yourself. You're not selling out if you sell yourself into new arenas to gain new experience and potential. (I'm not suggesting putting on a facade, I just mean hold up your credentials). We increasingly rely on this skill in a world full of quickly moving information, high capital mobility, and referrals. Document everything you do so that you can prove your worth, but don't forget it! The economy needs you. More importantly: you need you.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mythbust: Are Microsoft and the Quran in Cahoots?

I just got this forward that appears to show some eerie coincedences between calendar numbers, flight numbers, verse numbers, and occurances relating to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. According to this forward, the Quran states in verse 9:11

"For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and lo, while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced: for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah and there was peace"

It says that the plane that crashed into the Twin Towers on Sept 11, was flight number Q33 NY. Now, as an exercise, open a Word document and type "Q33 NY", up the font size to 48, then change the font to wingdings.

What do you get?

OK, scary right? However, do you believe every forward you get? I remember once that I got an email that stated that I could make millions of dollars from Bill Gates if I simply forwarded it to people. I was considering that jaguar I've always wanted and a house in the Palm Springs, but then a little voice came into my head and said "HELLO!" It was a scheme, a hoax, a fun trick played by some nerds somewhere.

What the Quran ACTUALLY states in 9:11 is:

"But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practise regular charity,- they are your brethren in Faith: (thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand."

These forwards may give us a little chuckle, but they can incite hatred and have a snowball effect of creating stupid superstitions to people who take them as a rule of law. Luckily, Google came to save the day again.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

"Pray For Us"

What is the worth of being able to vote after living for decades under a totalitarian regime?

What is it worth not to go to sleep to the sounds of bombs and gunshots?

What is the worth of having clean drinking water, straight out of a tap, even though you have no idea where it comes from?

What is the worth of knowing that your family will be safe tonight, that you can hear your loved one breathing beside you, that you know that no one will break in to kidnap you or take you off to be questioned and tortured?

These are questions I rethink as I read Carolyn Hawley's reminisces of living and reporting in Iraq. She is the BBC correspondent, who now leaves that place to go to the Middle East, where she will continue her work.

This article is insightful and balanced, with subtitles ranging from "struggling" to "targets". The categories of people she talks of are all very different kinds of "targets", yet there is "relief" and "optimism" as well. I suppose in those spaces, we turn our weapons away from each other, and merely consider each other human. Only a yearning soul can have the subjectivity enough to have optimism at such a dismal situation.

It relates the brutality and utter defenselessness of Iraqi civilians, caught in a battle over power dynamics between the old Hussein Regime, and the occupying forces, the racism of the soldiers themselves, and the vulnerability of them all to deception and violence.

Earlier tonight, I spent time catching up on old music tastes, learning how to play the song "Wake me up When September Ends" by Green Day, a video that plays out the story of a young soldier going off to war, leaving behind his girlfriend who said she would always love him. It provokes angre in me, because I know that despite hating what men and women with semi-automatic weapons can do, I still feel sympathy for them, and their motives for doing it. Before he left, he told her he always wanted to remember that moment because you get to a point in life when all your memories and desires are wiped away, gone, and so I suppose that that is the significance of September, or any month you want to get through, because you cannot bear the memory of the loss it reminds you of.

Let us look forward now as the holidays are here, to hope that others may have the same chance to focus on holidays, or that they can even maintain a livelihood enough at all to celebrate anything.

Filed under News Reviews

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Violinist I Used to Know

"The times they are a changing!" -Bob Dylan

A lot can happen in a decade. Since highschool, I've lost track of many people, but when I wonder what someone is up to, google comes in very handy. I'm sure everyone has someone they thought to check up on, only to be surprised by the extensive information written about them. I had just such an experience, after I looked up someone I admired in highschool, a girl who played violin in the same orchestra. I played the trumpet, and we worked hard, praciticing our Bach Concerto's and hymns like 'Sleepers Awake'. She was a bit older and wiser than I. We used to share poetry together, and she sang in the choir. I was always particularly struck by her kindness and beauty.

Her name was Angela Bensler. She had her locker just down the hall from me, and we would write the occasional letter. Her older brother was also a violinist, and the two made quite a combo whenever there was a Christmas concert or official dedication. She always told me to have a positive attitude, and encouraged me to listen to the wise words of Bob Dylan.

Well, we lost touch. She moved out to Alberta, and I lost track. I lost track up until a few moments ago that is, when I looked her up.

Apparently she met a fellow musician, Shane Wiebe, who she originally asked to be her pianist. The two were on the exact same page when it came to their music and spiritual beliefs and insights, and they fell in love. In 2003, he used the University of British Columbia to stage a surprise engagement, putting together a musical and poetic event in her honour. His stellar voice got him competing in Canadian Idol, and despite not winning, it was an amazing experience for them both. Shane went on to produce an album which is now on the market and can be exclusively downloaded at The violinist is now known as Angela Wiebe, they have a new daughter named Joelle, born Nov 28, who Shane said is is "wonderful (apart from keeping us up most nights)" on Dec 9. Despite the sleepless nights, he catches himself grinning at the thought of being a dad, and they appear to be the portrait of a loving musical family.

You can see their seamless synchronicity and grace together onstage. See them perform 'What Child is This' together here.

You must be busy Shane and Angela Wiebe, I wish you the best!

Vinyl Hungre

This is a waking finnegan kind of post.

I am walking through a house like my own, but bigger, more expansive. I'm surprised how little room the 70's style furniture takes up. There are silk couches, chinese banners, and fans on the wall. I spread out my arms as I walk from one hall to the next, then back again, glorifying it. There could be others there, but if there are, they aren't as actively impressed. The snow is melting off of gloves and scarves on the radiators, dripping onto the hardwood floor. It is so loud! This creates a damp, heated air around me and I feel feverish. I sit down at the record-player and take out a black shiney record. I'm not sure why, but there is a man sitting in front of me with his hands folded, as if he is about to give me psychotherapy. Suddenly his eyebrows crease and he makes a hand motion that says "get on with it then!" I look at him questioningly but his anticipation confirms him. I try to size up the record, holding it vertically then horizontally, but I think it best horizontal. Then I start trying to shove it in my mouth. Since the record is so big, I feel like it's impossible. The sides of my mouth stretch to take in more and more, but I'm not even close to the diametre yet. It goes so slowly, and I can see the little grooves in front of me shimmering. The record is so wide! The man looks disappointed. I suddenly hate him so much, I want to crunch the record and spit the shards in his face! It starts cutting the sides of my mouth and I groan. My face feels like it's turning inside out, blood is flowing down, then I wake up with drool all over my pillow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Smooches for HNT

Tonsil hockey, Christmas kiss, peck, wet one, smoocheroo, smack on the lips! Tis the season to be jolly, and get close with your loved one by the fire. Don't let anyone catch you kissing Santa Claus, and watch out for suspicious characters carrying twigs of mistletoe. Other than that, smooch away!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Time to Take Time

I look out the wide window of the bus to see the grey clouded sky highlighted with a strip of yellow that stretches from one end of my periphery to the other. It looks like something from a movie. There are the first stars making an early appearance.

There are times when I want to close my eyes so that I can't see all the suffering that goes on. I want to cover my ears so that I can't hear all the criticisms and demands of society. I want to fold my hands so that I don't have to reach for the next offer before someone else takes it. Sometimes I wish I could stop watching the clock to make sure I say all of my key messages in 30 seconds or less. Right now, I can wish for other things and other people, hoping simply that they are the best of themselves.

Traveling from one place to another, never stopping, but in some cases going back to where I started gives me a sense of warranted laziness. My legs are weary. My boots are too tight. It is cold outside. My toes are sore. Here I can stretch out and slouch if I want to. No one is paying attention to see whether or not I'm paying attention to anything at all.

This is the lull in the stream of events. Time to spare. Time to close my eyes, even though I don't feel like sleeping. I should set up my drum kit or rewrite my resume. I should make up a set of goals that I want to achieve for 2006, but not at this moment. I am a visiter in everyday life. The questions people ask I've heard before. There are snippets of conversations going on around me, people talking about how they've grown out of one scene or another, how they are meeting up with their families for the first time since X, though they are always conscious of being branded as something new each time, which means they have to come up with a whole new set of explanations. A woman quietly knits a scarf for her son.

Coming home to a warm meal and tons of books waiting to be finished. The computer offers itself as my cozy spot; another window peering into the interconnected world sucked up and packaged in a vaccuum. The words I find by chance seem more accessible then the bound papers piled on my shelf. I have the privelege of checking in on various people at various times all at once, checking emails or responding to instant replies. There is no direct interaction but we make up a 'network'. I track people at my own leisure.

With this sense of comfort and freedom, I can afford to write about nothing in particular.

With exams done and a roof over my head, my basic Maslow's needs are covered. Everything seems so sufficient.

With all this time, and few plans to fulfill, the air hangs like slabs of fat over a smoking fire. For a little while, I will relish in it, but soon enough, it will melt away.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Tempter of Mankind

"Ay me, they little know
How dearly I abide that boast in vain,
Under what torments inwardly I groan:
While they adore me on the throne of hell,
With diadem and sceptre high advanced
The lower still I fall, only supreme
In misery; such joy ambition finds."

Satan questions himself before confronting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Paradise Lost IV: 87-92, John Milton

Standard Procedures Concerning the Environment

Jimbob: Hey there Joebob! How's the drillin?

Joebob: She's going swell! Pumpin out like never before!

Jimbob: Oh ya? Sounds neat! Hey! Did you just let one rip? I smell rotten eggs.

Joebob: No Jimbob, it's just some of that deadly poisonous hydrogen sulphide.

Jimbob: Huh?! What'd you have for dinner anyway?

Joebob: Not me bobby, see that big fireball blazin into the sky over there with all that black smoke coming out of it?

Jimbob: Where?? Oh, that huge flame right in front of me? The thing that just made that bomb-like noise? Yea, I see it.

Joebob: Well it's from that oil well over there yonder. The pressure built up from the gas just ignited and now it's blowing out into the atmosphere. It's like independence day in December! Woo-hoo!!

Jimbob: Yee-haw! Deadly though you say?

Joebob: NO! Heck! Not from here. It would only kill you if you were standing close to it. This way by it being on fire and burnin up an all, it spreads out into the air nice an equal, all peanut-butter like.

Jimbob: Hey! That's a pretty good idea!

Joebob: Yup! We're always prepared for handy stuff like this! It's why we were made oil-drillers! We're just followin standard procedures.

-Based on a true story-

filed under Environment

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Howard Writes from Timbuktu

Finally some good news! Howard is alive Timbuktu!!! I'm so glad I finally found out where he is. I was worried that he'd never talk to me after what happened last time. I hadn't gone through the mail until today, when suddenly I saw an envelope with Howard's distinctive writing on it addressed to me. It took me forever to transpose it to the computer, but now I have it saved, and so I thought I'd share it with you, since it appears he knew that I would anyway:

It has been a long time Sir Barrett!

Old Howard is doing fine, of course, although the game is up, and I'm quite surprised you didn't have the faintest guess as to where or what I've been. After all, it was your recommendation of a venture that I tumbled over in my mind (several cycles) before I chose to take the plunge and have myself flown to Timbuktu in a private jet. Indeed! Do you not recall that fateful day; that trying time that you suggested you might just knock me there if I did not get me gone? Oh how our relationship was on the brink of devastation! I minded my Howardness not to disturb you over the particular defective connection of your lanyard at that particular moment, but yet I caused you disfavor because I wanted to impart an enlightened ability of my brush strokes. Perhaps I read you like a book in an inappropriate language. You didn't make your threat of sending me overseas in earnest? Silly Barrett, always speaking in encryptions and rubix cubes! When you are speaking to Howard, may you know that I take a man's word as a man's worth. Forget it not! It is one of the first principles of Howardianism. Besides, I grew tired of being the proverbial archangel, looking after your precarious souls. I could not be treated with the abuse and disrespect of unabiding restoration workers or overanxious residents. Good work takes its proper time, yet time was not on our side.

I will try to explain to you my reasons for leaving, but it is difficult and complex trying to justify the inner workings of my meticulous mind. Everyone in Canada started to appear fat and slobby to me, they had no education, no bravado, no daring feats, no deliciously minty breath. How could a Howard live in such complacency? How could a Howard live so ineffectually, without purpose? Most importantly, and this is from my breast: how could I stand upon an electrical stage, knowing that I was unwanted by my most resolute student, Sir Barrett? Your fisted thrust was merely the straw that broke the camels back. My lips bled blood of regret for you, my son, but also gave me a salty and ominous distaste. Since then, I have tried to summon up a spirit of forgiveness for your brutality, and now I am seven eighth's serene, but at the time it was simply essential that I pick up my bags and shove off. I had travel fever, and my woolen socks were giving me an irksome itch. I was sick of Boss D's idiotic stories, and of Nathaniel's obscene gestures. So grieve not for my absence. Think of me bathed in the same God-loving light as yourself (that of the sun).

So now here I am in the obscure land of Timbuktu! Writing it down now gives me the first sincere joy that I think I've had since you and I last jack-hammered concrete! Is it not glorious? There are still merchants that fuss around the bargaining table with their gold and their exotic spices, though they are not my main concern. I will try to relate to you the times I have been having and the times I now have. (Mind you, the time I now have is not plural in the least but strictly singular, since there can only be one present, which is precisely the time that is now). I have been hearing from secondary sources, and in some cases tertiary, that cry of "where is Howard?" and "what is Howard doing?" so often lately, that I found it irresponsible not to write. My nerves and gastric juices forced me to respond.

I have been engaged in some missionary work. Simply put: I have been spreading and living the good word of Howardianism abroad. I bought up some livestock which I employ in the use of my self-owned and managed tourist company: Waywordian Travel. Although the price of shares has been dropping as of late, because of an unsettling pattern of sandstorms, it has been quite a success. The perks from the local folk are immense, the women are beautiful, and I can always get my fill of African cuisine. My camels are obedient, well-trained, disciplined, determined, and well-mannered for the most part. It is only when their toes are not properly trimmed, or when they have a belly ache, that they act rambunctious or vile.

I met one interesting individual named Amman. He is like the vizier of the land. Because he is of the Islamic faith, we have been trading the secrets of spirituality, if you will. Amman is a generous and jovial being, though come to think of it, rather ugly. Sometimes, it becomes a challenge to my own personal faith, that we can be engaged in this free-flowing discourse, without completely corrupting each other. He compares the way of Islam to my way of Howardianism, and back and forth. We get into these bouts of passion over which way to open our hearts, or design our dressing rooms. In my personal faith, I have found it fit to face west when I am in the midst of my meditations, though he instructs me that I am to face east. As a result, this has provoked the annoyance of some of the local women, who are disturbed from their sleep by our inquisitions. More recently, it has gotten us into a particular geographical predicament on one of our journeys.

In the Saharan desert, it does not do to look for street signs, because, after all, there aren't any. A Moroccan trinket salesman could tell you that. You must be able to smell the scent of an oasis, and taste the density of salt in the sand, and know the stars like your own belly button. Anyone who is serious about travel knows this. It takes an almost instinctual directional acumen to seek your proper path. Because we are so based on faith, Amman and I, we don't rely on the modern amenities of the technological sort: no compasses, no GPS systems, just our guts. Though, it has become apparent to me that even guts can be thrown into a state of disorganization, so much so, that they forpanic mind to panick. Amman and I were in the middle of the desert, somewhere between Timbuktu and Kendal, when we lost our way. Our canteens were just about dry when I decided to take the last sip. However, as I drawing the water to my mouth, my camel Seamus nudged me with his head, and knocked the canteen out of my hand. As anyone might react, I gave Seamus a harsh rebuke and questioned him as to why he was acting so out of character. He snorted at me and turned away rudely. Although I warned Amman to stay out of it, he took sides with Seamus, and blamed me for drinking all the water. We further argued as to which direction we thought the sun had risen from, and we were ought to go. Amman's nattering mouth distracted me from summoning a sense of direction from my loins, and before long, neither of us knew which way we were going. We might have lost hope. Amman was already caught up in a womanish lament, but then old Howard thought of a trick to keep us out of the devils trap.

I thought back to the time I performed a tracheotomy on an unfortunate squirrel that had been hit by an oncoming vehicle in Canada. My expertise saved the squirrel's life, but it also ironically trained me for this special situation. It dawned on me how I could innovatively apply my tracheotability to in this new setting. Out of sheer luck, I had with me an old straw that I used as a kind of snorkel for when the sand storms were especially rough. As you may well be aware, Africans in the desert are apt to wear full body protection, which also covers the face. I thought to myself: if Seamus is a camel, and camels have humps, then all we have to do is penetrate the hump to extract the water from the sac. Amman got out his pocket knife despite having to ask what it was for. I told him "just watch" and he obeyed out of curiosity. I was then about to make the decisive incision when Seamus got spooked and took off on a run. Now, it wasn't planned in any way, nor was it necessarily predestined. You may give it a feminist or postmodernist slant if you so choose, but the ropes tied to Seamus' snout accidentally caught around my ankle. It whipped me off of my feet. I dropped the knife, but grabbed hold of Amman's hand and we went flying through the desert, like two wild sled men through the sand. All the while, Amman was yelling out curses, and calling for Mohammed, but I was simply wrestling to get the veil off my face so that I could figure out what was going on. Lengthy story brief, Seamus dragged us to the brink of the Niger river, and then we knew we were safe. I thanked myself and drank heartily before we followed it back to our home in Timbuktu.

When we got there I decided to change and take care of my scrapes and scabs that I had incurred on my ride through the Sahara. I believe Amman did the same, though to date, there have been no witnesses who can attest to his specific spatial region at the time. Although he was acting a little surly throughout the rest of our trip, and made his sentences curt, I offered him the invitation to go see the belly dancers that were performing that night in Timbuktu. He agreed to meet me later, so that is where I went, but when I got there, Amman was not to be found. I asked the bartender if he had seen Amman and described his complexion as dark, his eyes as searching, hair black, etc. However, the bartender then wore a curious smile and repeated my request to me: "So, you are looking for Amman are you my friend?" I replied: "yes!" and wondered whether or not he knew who I meant. "This is not a place for those such as you who are seeking Amman." He said, and he started clicking his tongue. By this point, there were others who were engaged in this discussion, contrary to popular manners. They were tall fidgety men with long beards. They started clicking their tongues in a similar fashion and ridiculing me. An uncomfortable feeling started to grow on my skin. "Is Amman not welcome in a place such as this?" I asked. "A man such as you is not welcome no." He said. "Yes, but I am asking about Amman. Is he here or have you seen him?" I asked again. His voice became louder and sterner and he said: "There is not Amman for you sir. I must ask you to sit down and not ask so many strange questions sir. Here we have only women." He gestured towards the tables where the women were engaged in belly dancing, and so I sat down, although it went against my sense of Howardianism. This whole interaction continues to be peculiar and vexing to me in my mind. I do not understand his reluctance to answer whether Amman was there or no. I felt like leaving, but then I considered perhaps that Amman would come after all, so I decided to bide my time and have a few drinks. There is a strong rich green drink that they serve called Acweleppe, which is particularly good. Soon a feeling of inebriation consumed me and I had a lovely time clapping along to the rhythm of the music. Someone handed me a tambourine, and the girls closed in around me, showing me a true sense of hospitality.

It is needless to say that Amman did not make an appearance that evening, though we have resumed our discussions of faith again recently, and Seamus has not received a single scratch to his hump. Time is passing along delightfully and I am happy here in Timbuktu. I feel that my mission is just about complete, but I am not quite ready to leave. At night the stars are better than they ever were in Canada for me, so this overshades me with peace. The one thing that I long for when I look at the bright face of the moon is my Pamphilia. We have been keeping up correspondence through mail, but it is sometimes difficult not have her close to me. I look forward to the day she will come by camel for a visit. You too, should see this wonderful place.

Well, that gives you an update on the question you so inexpertly pondered. I have looked at your site and seen that you have not forgotten about me. Here I am! Of course you are never without Howard. It may take several weeks for this to get to you, and by then it will already be voting season. So I tell you: vote for Jack. He is the only man who will do something about global warming, which, if you are concerned about penguins at all, you should seriously ponder. He is the only one who will figure out public transport. I thank myself that I do not have to be caught up in all the silly trivialities of Canadian life, snow, and winter at this point, but if there is one thing you can do for me, it's show those snotty Tories and corrupt Liberals that Howard means business. Jack is the man with the well organized palm pilot. He is the one for Canadian parliament.

I am wishing you Christmas cheer from a place less chilly, adieu my son, and steadfast love to all the bloggers.

Howard Wayword

Filed under Howard Wayword

Friday, December 09, 2005

What to Look Forward to Now?

Today two other musicians and I made up a band called "the Throwbacks" for the purpose of this one occasion. The occasion was a surprise birthday party, and we chose the name to fit in with the nostalgic theme of another era, that of my teacher's childhood. She was born in the same year as Bruce Willis, Jerry Seinfeld, and Kevin Costner if you can figure it out. We didn't do any 'doo-wops' but I strained my voice doing falsetto harmonic vocal melodies complimented by a slide guitar solo. The party organizers dressed up in poodle skirts and acted as our dancers. After "Happy Birthday" the song we played was "Earth Angel" by the Penguins:

Earth Angel, Earth Angel
Will you be mine?
My darling dear,
Love you all the time,
I'm just a fool, a fool in love, with you...

We really surprised our teacher in the on-campus bar, after our other teacher duped her into thinking she was going to a staff meeting. C'mon, it's your birthday! Do you really think we'd make you go to a meeting then??? There was a short speech, a toast, some drinks and some cake, and some chocolate-dipped pretzels. One of our musicians kind of got wrapped up trying to schmooze with the first year class girls, namely the girl with the giant knockers who kept requesting Blind Melon. We stayed for about an hour, then gave hugs, reminisced about the semester, and disbanded.

That describes my last day of school this semester. So now what do I have to look forward to? Soon enough I'll have holidays, then I'll have much pleasure-reading and catching up with friends, and possibly making an igloo if weather permits. I'll have to hold off on those things for a bit though. I may have my mind on other things right now, but there is one thing I'm forced to focus on. That one things is:


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fountain of Fertility

This is a statue in Guelph, ON. where mother, father and child make a triangle of life. They are sporting their HNT suits.

Visit Osbasso to find out what this whole 'HNT' thing is and how you can show your support.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Nuclear Power Must Die

Most Scientists agree that the safest way to dispose of Canada’s nuclear waste is to bury it deep within the Canadian shield, but they admit that even the smallest crack in the concrete surrounding it could have catastrophic results.

Here is something spooky to imagine:

The year is 2030. The world is in a state of war over resources, including Canada’s water supply. Things aren’t much different than they were 25 years ago, except that now terrorists have resorted to non-conventional methods of attack, like hacking into the power-grid, or disrupting the Internet. Global warming is an undeniable reality. There never used to be earthquakes in Ontario, not until recently. You go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee. It tastes odd. By this point, it is already too late. Wildlife cannot survive off of the natural land. Agriculture is successful only in highly regulated and enclosed environments (biodomes) where genetically modified insects pollinate fruits, vegetables and nuts. Rates of cancer and unsettling birth defects start becoming a regular pattern. Human life expectancy has fallen to somewhere around 30. The reason that geologists cite for the alarming increase in illness is a new fault-line along the Canadian shield. It has been pinpointed to run across an area where, a few decades ago, several thousand tones of toxic waste were buried, leaving them to conclude that it has leaked into almost every municipal water system, the major lakes, and the ocean.

Is this the world we want to hand over to our children?

Will it be convincing enough to them that we didn’t know what could happen?

That we hoped they would find more renewable and less wasteful forms of energy to help them survive?

The truth about our lifestyle, is that we know it can’t last. One of the biggest threats to our longevity as a species, is nuclear energy.

When assessing the value of resources that are available to produce energy, engineers will prefer to use a systems approach , which is a comparison of all the possible ways of achieving energy production in terms of quantity. They would be right to conclude that nuclear energy is the most productive and efficient form of energy production.

But I ask of you: What is more important, quantity or quality? Someone who is assessing the value of all methods, taking as well the environmental, ethical, and social value of energy production, must look at things more holistically because in the case of nuclear energy, there may be a surplus of resources created, but it is a negative surplus when you average the ratio of clean energy to the amount of dirty energy in the form of hazardous production. We know that burning fossil fuels pollutes the air and uses up products that could be better used as lubricants and synthetic materials. Hydro power also has a high impact on the environment because it re-routes natural waterways, affecting wildlife, erosion, and plants. It can also lead to flooding.

So what are the alternatives?

Wind power, solar power, geothermic power, and biomass power from biodegrading plants. Energy is all around us, we just need to be inventive enough to harness and store it. There’s no reason why we couldn’t use the energy we spend from the food we eat that powers our bodies to power our cities. Why aren’t exercise bicycles at gyms set up to siphon off the energy we use in the form of friction or as a natural turbine? Why aren’t there solar powered cars on the market? Why can’t we burn methane from rotting garbage rather than creating more garbage just to heat our homes?

So far we haven’t implemented these alternative energy sources on a grand scale because critics argue that the payback value of them isn’t quick enough to cover the costs of constructing them. It would cost a lot of money to install solar panels for every home, and there would be a need to invest in energy storage units for when the sun doesn’t shine. However, what are the long term costs of nuclear power?

All over the world, countries like North Korea, and more recently Iran, have been building nuclear power plants, and they are under political pressure from the UN because nuclear power and nuclear weapons are made by the same process.

If we continue to build on our nuclear power infrastructures in our own country, how can we do so without appearing to be a giant hypocrite?

We need to start investing in our world rather than using it up. Nuclear power is by far the dirtiest and most harmful form of energy we have available. It may be efficient for the short-run, but it’s already produced more waste than all other energy generating methods combined, and over the last few decades, we’ve seen disasters like Chernobyl happen, where as a result of human imperfection, 30 people were killed immediately and radiation poisoning, cancer, and loss of limbs lingers on. We can’t afford to have disasters like this wait to happen. This is why we need to slowly and safely put an end to nuclear power and start investing in renewable power, because nuclear power is not viable source of energy, nor is it anything to be proud of.

Filed under Environment

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Canadian, American and British Peacemakers to be Killed Together

Fears are mounting over this. People I've talked to say they'd rather get a phone call that their loved one is dead, rather than a phone call that their loved one is going to die in a matter of time.

Terrorism is the poor man's military. Terrorists are like bear-baiters. Terrorists are not corporate machine-gun men, but rather, the desperate margins of a world gone mad. Unfortunately, terrorist's actions, like that of a military when it cannot be logically controlled (which is often), lash out indiscriminantly. It does so because the only thing it knows is how to evoke suffering. It does so to demonstrate its power, but the result is that it alienates its enemies more, and so it elongates the strife.

Now terrorists have kidnapped our friends from the Christian Peacemakers Team, labelled them "spies" and they are threatening to kill them on December 8, 2005. These individuals include two Canadians: Jim Loney of Toronto and Harmeet Singh Sooden, formerly a McGill student in Montreal, currently studying in New Zealand. The other two are Norman Kemper of the United Kingdom, and Tom Fox of the U.S.A. The mission of the team was to document human rights violations of occupying forces in Iraq, which meant working with Iraqi prisoners and their families, not to act as spies. They went to reduce violence, but now they are the victims of it.

Since the war on Iraq started, we three allies -Canada, America, and the UK have been more divided over foreign policy than ever. If there can be any union between us, perhaps this is it: our mutual vulnerability and complicity in war. Canada opposed the war in Iraq, but all this amounts to is that our Canadian soldiers commit murder and violence under American brigades. This is no time for nationalism. This is the time for like-minded individuals.

I recieved a statement from Jack Suderman, the General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada, which shares CPT's values of non-violent intervention. He has forwarded the following statement from Christian Peacemakers Team:

"We are distressed that those who have taken our friends, Harmeet, Tom, Norman and Jim, could try and bargain with their lives and we want to understand why they would do such a thing. The taking of lives in any circumstance is against everything we stand for. Please, whoever is holding them, release them all unharmed. Their families are very worried about them and we want their safe return home. We fear that whoever is holding them has made a mistake. These four men are peacemakers, not spies. CPT has consistently opposed the war and the continuing presence of multinational forces in Iraq."

As you may gather, I've never been a supporter of the war in Iraq. It is a war, and as such, I abhor it. I especially abhor it and the excuses for it because it is an illegal war. American and British aggression in Iraq is responsible for the reaction. No one can say that it is neither propagated nor initiated by either side, but somehow in the air, because all sides that seek battle, are actively engaged. Therefore, I empathize with the millions of Americans and Brits who agree that their leaders have made an imbecilic mistake, but I hold everyone supporting or fighting this "war on terrorism" at fault. I'm sorry if this includes your son or your daughter or neighbor or friend who is a soldier serving your country for what he or she thinks is right. I abhor their actions. If you'd like to believe that the war is just as much my fault for standing on the sidelines, well I invite you to join me. Perhaps if we manage to recruit more of us, the war will end itself.

If you are religious, you are invited to set aside a time on Wednesday December 7, 2005 to say the following prayer. If you are not Christian, simply use your name for "Lord". If you are not religious, it is enough for you simply support our cause in spirit:

Our Lord, Saviour and prince of Peace,

Who desires that all peoples experience justice, reconciliation and peace,

We confess that our country and our country's leaders have not done as much as we might have to avert the suffering of the people in Iraq.

We pray for Harmeet, James, Norman and Tom,

That you will sustain them and give them courage as they have placed their faith in you;

That they may bear witness to Christ's example of love for the enemy;

That in your mercy they may be delivered to freely serve your Kingdom.

We pray for their captors that they will see the futility of violence.

We pray for the families and loved ones of the captives

That you will comfort them with your presence.

We pray for all Iraqis who are being held captive,

That they may also be united with their loved ones.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Survival in Simplicity

Today I enjoy the simple things. The heights and freedoms of megalomania are so far from my mind; so far from practical living that the simple things are all I can focus on, and they seem much more valuable than complexity. As holidays near, I take each day at a time. I am not going to save the world today, but I am going to partake in it.

I notice:

birds sitting on the wire, seemingly having all the time in the world.

the way the grain sticks to the noses of the cows I am tending to, and how their breath puffs up in the winter air.

how the snow seems to fall slowly. I imagine that I could be trapped in a giant crystal ball, and that one in another. I could be complete fantasy.

how we have time to sit at traffic lights, and watch others literally move on with their lives.

that friends have compassion. Andy and I shared breakfast and listened to Silverchair together in the car. No one ever really listened to the album that came after Frogstomp, but it is really touching. He sings about wanting to be left alone, but sitting listening to his voice wail about it makes me feel less isolated.

time is fluid. You can slow it down or speed it up if you can psychologically afford not to have it control you. Einstein said it: when he sits beside a beautiful girl in class, time races.

every step on earth is limited, but you can go anywhere. Our heart beats might be numbered, but love cannot be contained in a room. Take a trip off the beaten path today. You'll notice more about your surroundings.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I Feel Scared

Does it ever seem like things just keep getting worse? Your car breaks down, you go into debt, you lose your job, you find out that everyone hates you and that you serve no purpose. There's never a proper explanation, but when you're in the middle of it, you just want to give up or at least stab yourself in the eye. There has to be some escape!

I've been overdone by a singing Santa that I have to stand beside for hours a day. Children press his button over and over to make him dance and sing. When I'm dying to rip his wires out, I have to smile and nod my head along to his carols. Then I have an inflateable snowman taking up most of my space. I'm being colonized by annoying Christmas characters. They are the least of my problems.

Here's hoping that things will turn around. I feel tired and used up today because I have so much to do but nowhere to start. Exams are coming. It's dark outside, and scary. The emptiness cannot help me but perhaps facing it will.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"I Must Oblige"

I was memed by Cannot Be Trusted and this seemed fun. When I do things like this, I become fussy and indecisive. It's best if I don't think and just answer. Well, here goes:

7 things I plan to do before I die:

1. Make a full length album that I think is "good"
2. Build a house
3. Plant a tree, and visit it ten years later
4. Fall madly in love
5. Get my Masters
6. Write a book or two
7. (I'm stealing the idea from Cannot Be Trusted) Make a difference

7 things I can do:

1. Public Speaking
2. Cook spicey curry
3. Play instruments: sing, guitar, piano, trumpet, and some drums
4. Listen
5. Act silly
6. Drift off into my own thoughts
7. Be a friend

7 things I cannot do:

1. Get the tangles out of my hair
2. Be on time all the time
3. Retain good posture
4. Be patient
5. Drive the speed limit
6. Fix my printer
7. Please everyone

7 things that attract me to another person:

1. Recessive earlobes
2. Grace
3. Verbosity
4. A nice rump
5. A challenge
6. Someone who doesn't take themselves too seriously
7. The ability to tell a good story

7 things I say most often:

1. "No"
2. "Are you seeking a simple cellular solution?"
3. "yo"
4. "sir/maam"
5. "it's time to go"
6. "Don't be a parasite, be a host"
7. "Come on people now"

7 people I want to do this (not the usual suspects):
Suburban Misfit

Armed for HNT

If you'd like to have your arms, or play along, check out the aqua blue link on my sidebar or click here to get to osbasso's site. You won't regret it.
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