Thursday, November 30, 2006

40 before 40

My 40 before 40 list (in the order they occurred to me):
  1. marry man of my dreams
  2. write a book
  3. record an album
  4. design a garden
  5. open a coffe-type shop/art gallery
  6. become a photographer
  7. get my ARCT
  8. live in a city
  9. get published
  10. become a stage actor
  11. travel in Europe
  12. work on a cruise ship
  13. get my MA
  14. complete a PhD
  15. get a pet (a smart one, like a raven that says "nevermore" or a raccoon or a dog or cat)
  16. paint paintings
  17. outgrow migraines
  18. complete a degree in astronomy
  19. learn Anglo-Saxon
  20. become fluent in French
  21. wander around Paris
  22. read all the books I own
  23. travel across Canada by train
  24. compose choral music
  25. build a dolmen in my back yard
  26. own a house
  27. learn calculus
  28. work in a greenhouse
  29. grow a bonsai
  30. climb a mountain
  31. be in an opera
  32. build a theremin (and learn to play it)
  33. go to the spa
  34. go to Tibet
  35. take Tai Chi
  36. see a solar eclipse
  37. design clothing
  38. publish academic paper(s)
  39. help excavate the Herculaneum library
  40. visit the Paris Catacombs

Monday, November 27, 2006

Shirking? They pay you for that?

I'm impressed with the new IE—it even has tabbed browsing. And the first level of my drop-down menus work on it! If you refuse to get Firefox, you should at least upgrade your IE. Drawings have now been converted to the new style.

The last couple weeks have not been busy, but there have been a few things I needed to take care of, like SSHRCing and grad-school-applying. Both of those could probably have been wrapped up in a single week, but the SSHRC took inconceivably long (and just when I thought I was all applied, they sent my application back for me to mull over), and grad school wants several things that I'll have to think about. For one, they want a lengthy essay written in the last 12 months. Unfortunately, the last few English classes I've taken were the rushy, summer-type, where they don't make you write long essays, plus I was working full-time as well so any essays I did write aren't too inspired (except for my Crakespeare essay where I refuted everything the prof asserted—masterpiece!). Too bad I decided to take "fun" classes like astronomy, physics, and music in my last full semester. Well, I don't think it's too bad; that was the best semester ever. But other than the essay (and a statement of intent, and a resume), grad school is pretty much applied for.

I hate how much I struggle with this grad studies thing; if I'm so unsure I want to do a Master's in English, isn't it obvious it's the wrong route to take? But I'm not so sure I'll hate it anymore. I would have enjoyed my summer classes if I had had time to do the reading and understand what was going on. And it's only two years, one of which (hopefully, granted they let me do a thesis program) will be almost entirely my own research on something "interesting" (I put it in quotation marks because, while I do find it interesting, most people wouldn't. I hate it when people ask me to explain my research proposal; I feel like I should be apologizing profusely for wasting their time by explaining it, which is probably why I come across as being unenthused about it). And I'll have a Master's degree at the end. But I really am getting excited about grad studies, and maybe even about doing english-related work after I'm done it. Mostly I'm just afraid of not liking it, afraid of wasting so much time on it. But hey, what have I been doing the last three months if not wasting time?

One reason for my renewed enthusiasm is that I got a freelance writing job. I had hoped to do the research and writing all month, but found out that I only have a week to get my article in. Here's where I should kick myself for quitting J-school—interviewing is not my strong point (and I just discovered today what it's like to interview people who don't want you to waste their time). But I'm not sorry I quit J-school either. Anyways, with any luck this will be the only article I'll be writing.

In fact, I really don't regret any of my university-related choices. I got a little bit of everything, and if I didn't end up focussing on my favourite aspect, well it's really not too late. I can't decide on one thing anyway, but I no longer feel like I have to—I'll just do everything. And I'm excited to start doing it.

Maybe in the new year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My new hat

Yess! I get a goose on my head! On an unrelated topic, has anyone heard any good paradoxes lately?


Engaging personality, sensitive, modest, occasionally narcissistic, but can rise above vanity.

Colors: male: violet, female: rose
Compatible Signs:
Set, Horus
Feb 12 - Feb 29, Aug 20 - Aug 31

Role: God of the earth
Green-skinned man, with leaves all over his body and a goose on his head. Sometimes he was shown laying on his side under his wife, the sky goddess Nut.
Sacred animals:

What is Your Egyptian Zodiac Sign?

What's the dl with hunting?

Today is Day 436 of the Sobey's strike. It's hard to believe they've been picketing that long.

The other day I was walking across the fields and I stumbled upon three deer. The first thought that goes through my mind when that happens around this time of year is, "oh crap... is it hunting season?" Because it could very well be the last thought that goes through your mind. I stood there for about 10 minutes, watching them, until they got impatient and started stamping their feet and coming closer to see if I would move. I always know it's hunting season when my dad gets out the binoculars and looks for poachers.

I don't get hunting. I don't understand the mindset that it's fun to kill things. I can understand if people hunt for meat, and extra points for use of bow and arrows. But is it really a "sport" where you sit around with guns and see who can kill the least-suspecting animal? That's like competetive sitting, except with guns.

A few years ago my dad had the crosshairs of a hunter's scope pointed at him. That could have been terribly devastating. Another time, some hunters followed the schoolbus to my house and, when I emerged from the bus, said "There are some deer down in the creek, can we go shoot them?" My response: "?? Those are my llamas!!!" Besides which, it's hard to miss the "Wildlife Sanctuary! No Tresspassing! Permission Required for Access!" signs all over. So I think I'm justified in not liking hunting.

I know as well as anybody that too many deer cause problems. Heck, I spent many years wiring hundreds of trees so that deer wouldn't destroy them. Some years two hundred deer would lounge around in our back yard. Then there was the winter of the deer virus (whatever it was) where they were dropping like flies all over. I remember one day when two were laying by the llama barn, and I walked right up to them and looked them in the eye but they were too sick to move. Later that day I helped pile up and burn over 50 deer carcasses that were scattered around the farm. I seem to remember some people lamenting that the virus was making for poor hunting that year. Oh, how terrible for you hunters; the deer are dying off faster than you can kill them. And I guess deer are bad news when you run into them on the road and they come through your windshield and kick your head in to mush, but as far as I know that's only happened once within living memory around here.

As much as I dislike hunting, I can at least tolerate it (unlike poaching, I might add). After all, my brother and I made good money one year when we combed all the nearby sloughs for fallen antlers (it involved a fair amount of rafting down the Wascana), and sold them to a local taxidermist. But taxidermy too I can't quite fathom. Who wants dead animals standing in their basement, or stuffed heads hanging on their walls? That's as creepy as the guy who had himself stuffed after his death. Or almost.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Unravel the Injustice

Friday's Unravel the Injustice evening went well. I didn't get much of a chance to hear the speakers or watch the sweatshop presentation during the first half, because I was helping keep the models backstage organized. But, I did sneak out during the second half to listen to the keynote speaker Shirley Klassen talk about the effects of NAFTA in Mexico.

So 1994 was the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, which was basically the FTA extended to Mexico. It was also the year of the Mexican Peso crisis. Maquiladoras are manufacturing zones in Mexico. Under NAFTA, thousands of jobs disappeared from Canada and the US to Mexico, and sweatshop jobs were created where workers earned US$50 per week. Good paying service sector jobs disappeared because of privatization. In order to allow NAFTA, the Mexican government changed the constitution to allow foreign ownership of indigenous lands, and that ownership went to transnationals. Roads, education, and healthcare were privatized when the government simply removed services; the services were eventually brought back through American contracts and privatization. The control of the military also went to transnationals. Now all crops are of genetically modified seed. Railways, which were once for people, are now privatized and only for the transportation of goods.

Mexicans were forced off their rural lands into urban centres; many squat in colonia—shanty towns that grow in the toxic wastelands created by manufacturing. Piles of toxic waste sit beside people’s houses. According to the statement of a member of a delegation who visited a colonia, the Rio Grande was a toxic soup where people fished. Fish are found floating dead, some are mutated, and when they are cut open are blackened inside. For the Mexicans, the choice was simple: “eat this now and die later, or don’t eat anything and die now.” The delegate also mentioned that the stench of the Rio Grande alone made one of the other delegates vomit. And, when asked why they chose to live in the toxic areas, Mexicans said that they had no choice; they had been forced off their lands, and nobody bothered them here.

Chapter 11 of NAFTA allows corporations and individuals to sue governments. My friend Wikipedia tells me here that "Metalclad, an American corporation, was awarded US$15.6 million from Mexico after a Mexican municipality refused a construction permit for the hazardous waste landfill it intended to construct in El Llano, Aguascalientes." Does anybody else think NAFTA doesn't really benefit people?

Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Calloo callay, tra la la la! Ah, things are looking up. Wooo! That's right, I said "woo" without a "t." Now if that isn't a paradox, I don't know what is.

The forum has a new strategy: you should post. Check it out here, and do let me know if you want to be able to post. Do.

[P.S. drawings will be semi-weekly rather than daily (or rather than never, as per recently)]

If you're on facebook, then you should add me. If you're not, then you should be.
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Friday, November 10, 2006

Lest We Forget

"Lest we forget" is the catchphrase around this time of year. It comes from Rudyard Kipling's 1897 poem "Recessional." Obviously, he didn't have the World Wars in mind at that early date (actually, maybe he did; he predicted that the Boer War was just a skirmish and the most important war of all time was yet to come in the early 20th century. But this poem is not about that). My best prof happened to be a Kipling expert, so this is what I learned from her.

First, you need to know a few things about Imperialism and Kipling's view of it. Kipling spent a good portion of his life in India, where he was born. He must have seen the toll Imperialism had on colonized peoples. At a time when Imperialism happened in faraway places that ordinary people didn't see, it was easy to turn a blind eye towards its effects, or just not know about them. Rudyard Kipling knew. He knew that Imperialism was one of the ugliest things there is. And yet, he felt that it was necessary; apalling, but necessary. The same went for war in general; there was nothing glorious about it (many people at the time were suckered into the notion, though), but it was necessary. The "lest we forget" enters here: as necessary as war and Imperialism were, Kipling felt that it was of vital importance that we always remember the cost it exacted.

And what was that cost? Interestingly enough, not the sacrifice that soldiers make in going to war. Rather, it was the sacrifice we make of our soldiers. It is our duty to know why that sacrifice was made, and why it is important. One other interesting point: "lest we forget" is, I think, now linked to the general idea that soldiers fight for peace. Kipling, though, believed that soldiers died for freedom, not for peace (remember, war is necessary and you can't get rid of it). What he despairs of is that the sacrifice we have made of others will be rendered faceless.

Others didn't share Kipling's views. In 1899, for example, Robert Buchanan accused Kipling of "hooliganism" (sounds almost like soccer). Buchanan thought Imperialism itself was a noble goal, and shouldn't acknowledge the nature of its own project. We shouldn't know the cost that Imperialism exacts.

From the 1890s on, Kipling's work predicted an English war with Germany. That coming war, Kipling felt, was the war that mattered. Kipling believed that Britain was unprepared for such a war—and they were. He believed that the treatment of ordinary soldiers would put them at risk—and it did. The crazy prevailing view was that soldiers were too stupid to do anything other than walk forwards in rows. We all know how that turned out. Here's the last bit of Kipling's poem "Tommy":
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool — you bet that Tommy sees!


I couldn't find my Paris/Berlin travel journal for about a year, but yesterday I accidentally discovered it. In the drawer I now remember putting it in. It's funny reading what I thought was important to write down:

  • "I had 'canard avec pomme'—duck and potatoes (not apples)—and some French lady asked me to dance, but I was highly embarrassed and declined."
  • "We each had to pay €2 for 'musique', which wasn't very good. The lady liked to sing off-key (Germani said he had been there 20 years earlier and the entertainment had been the same). The rest of us played games that penalized the dull-witted. Bredohl lost this game, he couldn't figure out that Julia was describing him when she said 'patent leather shoes, purse.'"
  • "The S-Bahn had technical difficulties, and there happened to be a soccer game, so you can imagine the soccer hooligans piling on the U-Bahn (the one headed for Olympic Stadium)."
  • "Breakfast is fantastic in this hotel. Did I mention that yesterday I paid €2 to honk a homeless man's bicycle horn, then got a 'free' homeless paper for doing so?" [I still have to learn German so I can read it]
  • "Germani is terribly out of his element in Berlin. Yesterday he stepped on a snail and then a dog sneezed on his foot. Today he poured coffee all over the tablecloth. At the KaDeWe he couldn't find us at the meeting place we had arranged; we saw him come out and take off in another direction, and though Bredohl ran, he missed him. Then he went missing for half an hour after he fell behind when Whatshisface led us through Kreutzberg and Bredohl had to go find him again."
  • "Germani and Bredohl looked like they wanted to climb in the playground. German accent: 'Ian, I'm hanging like a monkey!' British accent: 'Thomas! I'm in the cubby!'"

Sadly, the journal ends midway through Berlin. It's astounding just how much we saw and how far we walked each day, especially in Paris where marathon-man Germani was guiding us.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Not a student, but still Shirking

Fun fact: driving a real car (as opposed to a crap one) with a cd player (as opposed to no audio of any kind) makes you almost enjoy driving. But not quite.

I'm killing time in the ol' Luther library (birthplace of drawings) for...oh, another couple hours, anyway. Either this computer clock's wrong, or I've been unobservant and not noticed half a dozen hours slip by. You can only play the piano so long, especially if strange people keep gawking at you and you haven't played in weeks and you're kind of falling asleep and you're just kind of half-heartedly watching your fingers to see where they'll go without really remembering where they're supposed to go. It's happening again right now while I'm typing this. Look at those fingers, what are they doing? It's one of those days, where I just don't care about much. Most days.

The reason I'm here in the first place is that I was obliged to go to a workshop that was supposed to help me with scholarship-applying. If by "help" they mean "point out what a tiny fraction of a chance I have," I guess it went fairly well. I almost suspect it was contrived just to convince me not to do grad studies. The general consensus was that there's no such thing as secular Anglo-Saxon poetry. This evening there's a lecture here at the university—I can't quite recall what it's supposed to be about, but at any rate it will be my first lecture since finishing school.

It's strange walking around the university and not belonging at all, though I've done quite a bit of wandering around here lately. I've discovered that the university doesn't love you unless you're a student (and then still probably not, but if you're not a student or in any other way connected to the university, you're doomed). They almost wouldn't let me take out some books again (I just wanted to practice shelving at home).

Monday, November 06, 2006

Apparently my brother had trouble getting a bunch of seed through Australian customs this weekend, but last I heard he was in Melbourne okay. This one's for him. The last couple days have been warm enough to melt all the snow, and today it was even raining. My headaches seem to have returned, as well as the old insomnia. I blame computers. And possibly the toxic wood preservative I was working with all morning.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Well, last time's empty fun fact was an artistic statement (or something), but supplying your own fun fact was a good idea too. This week's fun fact: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). You can read more about it on good old Wikipedia here. Other topics of interest are the Agreed Framework and NATO.

First Pillar: non-proliferation

“Five states are permitted by the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] to own nuclear weapons”—namely, France, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Why? Because they were “the only states possessing such weapons at the time the treaty was opened to signature.”

Second Pillar: disarmament

According to Article 6 of the Treaty, “The states undertake to negotiate toward general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

NWS parties have a formal obligation to “pursue plans to reduce and liquidate their stockpiles”—a formal obligation, that is, which “has never been adhered to by the NPT-recognized nuclear weapons states…. The failure of the NPT-recognized nuclear weapons states to comply with their disarmament obligations, and the unconditional indefinite extension of the NPT, has left a simmering discontent among many signatories of the NPT, and a justification for the non-signatories to develop their own nuclear arsenals.”

Third Pillar: the right to peacefully use nuclear technology

The NPT “gives every state the inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” such as light water reactor nuclear power.
Now, here are some fun facts on NATO nuclear weapons sharing:
  • “At the time the treaty was being negotiated, NATO had in place secret nuclear weapons sharing agreements whereby the United States provided nuclear weapons to be deployed by, and stored in, other NATO states.”

  • “As of 2005, it is estimated that the United States still provides between 180 and 480 tactical B61 nuclear bombs for use by Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey under these NATO agreements.”
Well, so much for nonproliferation. “Under NATO convention, in the event of a declaration of war, these nuclear weapons cease to be subject to [the NPT] treaty. Such a declaration my occur quickly, and in secret; in effect, the NATO nations will become instantaneous overseas bases for deployment and usage of U.S. nuclear weapons. Many would argue that this situation violates the spirit of the treaty, and perhaps even the written rule.”
In Iran:
  • Iran has a uranium enrichment program, which is “a step towards a civilian nuclear energy program, which is allowed under the terms of the NPT”—that good old unalienable right. “However, the United States and the European Union accuse Iran of using this program to help covertly develop nuclear weapons, in violation of the NPT. Iran remains under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program.”
Now, as for North Korea:
  • North Korean Foreign Ministry statement: “We had already taken the resolute action of pulling out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and have manufactured nuclear arms for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration’s evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK.”

  • Terms of the Agreed Framework (signed in 1994) include:
    • North Korea’s obligations: shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor; abandoning construction of two larger nuclear power plants; placing of spent fuel under IAEA controls.
    • What they get in return: two light water reactors to be constructed by 2003, primarily supplied by Japan and South Korea.
    • Soon after, the US came under the administration of the Republicans, who—although they didn’t support the agreement—“agreed to phase out economic sanctions that had been in place since the Korean War.”
The US didn’t deliver on this though, and by 1999 “North Korea warned that they would resume nuclear research unless the US kept up its end of the bargain.” North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003.

Here’s a breakdown of the opinions at the 2005 Review Conference of the NPT (happens every 5 years):
  • United States: “wanted the conference to focus on proliferation, especially on its allegations against Iran”
  • Most other countries: “emphasized the serious nuclear disarmament by the nuclear powers”
I don’t believe anybody should have nuclear weapons, but if you’re someone like Iran and the US is trying to stop your nuclear energy program, when the US itself is probably the most nuclear state there is—and quite obviously has no plans for disarmament—then how can you help being angry? Or say you’re North Korea and you were promised some light water reactors (for civilian nuclear energy), and then never got them? Nobody likes a Global Police, or Big Brother, or whatever you call it.