Monday, November 26, 2012

By-Election Day

If you live in Victoria, Calgary Centre, or Durham, today is By-Election Day. The Greens were out bright and early with their signs (wait, what?). If you're in one of these ridings, go out and vote!

Elections Canada assures me that:
By law, qualified electors must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote on election day. If your hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, your employer must give you time off.
It is an offence for employers to fail to provide time off for voting if required under the Canada Elections Act.
It is also an offence for an employer to reduce an employee's pay where the employee has been provided time off to vote in accordance with the Act. The maximum penalty for violating these prohibitions is a fine of up to $1,000, three months imprisonment, or both.
It is also an offence for an employer to use intimidation, undue influence, or any other means to interfere with the granting of time off to vote under the Canada Elections Act. The maximum penalty for violating this provision is a fine of up to $5,000, five years imprisonment, or both.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


After an initial 3 days of majoring in Anthropology, I spent my first year of undergraduate studies doing coursework for a Pre-Journalism program. The political science and social studies classes were engaging and I was interested in the world. When I let go of my J-School ambitions to pursue other fields, however, I stopped really following current events. I don't have TV and don't watch the news, and until recently hadn't so much as glanced at headlines regularly.

Part of the problem is that Canadian politics is infuriating these days. It's infuriating that this country didn't pull together when it had the chance, and instead gave Harper a majority government. The truth is that we're governed by the Harper Government, not the Government of Canada; this is a fact. Is anyone else looking enviously southward?

I was outraged when I first saw Rick Mercer's rant on the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA):

Outraged, and unfortunately not overly surprised. It's exactly the sort of thing we've all come to expect from Stephen Harper. Follow the links to other recent Rick's rants and your blood will continue to boil.

So if you're outraged like me, and you want to maintain our tenuous hold on what democracy we have left, sign this petition with the good folks at Avaaz.

And come next election, let's do a better job than last time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Perseids and other summer things

Sure, stargazing doesn't work well in the city. I didn't see many meteors, but lying peacefully in a dry patch of a nearby school's playing field, looking up at the sky with a good friend—well this is as great as my Saturday nights tend to get. I always wanted to be an astronomer, so any time I get to revisit that dream (even in a small way) is a good time. Especially since the sprinkler where we were staked out didn't activate until about a minute after we got up and left.

This summer I've been tending a tiny indoor garden. The cape gooseberries are alarmingly tall (and not particularly productive) but the bell peppers are prolific. The strawberries spent the summer dying off one by one, until there are just two plants left (banished to the patio—they can just take their spider mites out of my house).

On the subject of spiders... there might be nothing worse than encountering them inside. Little spiders are fine and I can ignore them pretty successfully. But huge ones like this specimen I found last night are anything but fine. It could have taken down a small rodent, I bet. 

And finally, I have a shiny new piano!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Leaving Hope

A few years back, I lived in a cramped upstairs suite overlooking Clover Point for a little less than a year. The ocean was almost at my doorstep. Some days the wind would stir the water and it seemed like the ocean was taking over the shore, with big waves breaking and a misty haze reaching up toward the clouds. The parasailers were always out there, even on those ocean-charged days.

It was a low time for me, for many reasons. I spent almost all of my non-class moments in my apartment, mostly listening to Leaving Hope (still one of my favourite songs of all time, and which seemed to aurally fit the landscape) and watching the people on the point. I was mesmerized by how the parasailers would just run out off a high cliff, and the wind would catch them and carry them up and away.

Now I associate that song with those parasailers, and with the ocean on those days when it crept up land and sky.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I still intend to write a travel post about my vacation last month, but in the meantime I've had to focus pretty much exclusively on work. For the past week I've been working in a makeshift office at the university helping out with piano academy.

The first day of anything is always chaotic, especially if you happen to be the person in charge of keeping things organized. Monday was therefore a painful day. For one thing, not a soul was on campus due to the Canada Day statutory holiday. The food court was closed which meant no morning coffee or midday meal. Worse luck, the pharmacy was closed and I desperately needed an anti-nauseant.

Canada Day: totally deserted campus

 I count myself lucky that I no longer spend every night in agonized writhing from pounding migraine pain, but for a long time now my migraines have manifested more frequently as intense nausea and facial pain. I spent the entirety of Monday morning focusing all my energy on not throwing up. But the best thing about starting on a low note is that the week could only get better.

Perhaps the most optimistic thing that can be said from an administrative point of view is that it's more than half over at this point. At least the attendees are having a blast—all the students I talk to say it's been a fantastic experience, if exhausting. In my eyes, piano academy has two redeeming qualities: 1) the office space they give me has windows, and 2) many days, I'm able to meet up with my friend(s) who work on campus for lunch. It's the only time during the whole year that I've had the opportunity to lunch with a friend, and I'll admit I've been daydreaming about UVic beef dips the entire year long.

Natural light / Reunited at last

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Airport Reflections

On Thursday I flew back to Saskatchewan. I don't enjoy flying; I get nervous beforehand and motion sick en route, and occasionally (this trip included) there's the additional hassle of delayed baggage.

Oddly enough, I like airports. I'm not an adventurous person, and I like the fact that no matter where I am, the airport will be much the same as it is anywhere. Nobody is any more out of place than anybody else in an airport, so it's one of the few places where I don't feel self-conscious or overcome by my social anxieties. There's always some quiet, temporarily unused place to retreat to. There's everything you could need to while away an hour or two or thirteen. I guess I feel somewhat at home in airports after half a decade of several round trips per year.

Since I didn't get back last summer, this is my first snowless trip here in two years. The weather is gorgeous, the landscape beautiful, and the wide open space a wonderful reprieve from the city.

Monday, April 09, 2012


I had a glorious four days off over Feaster (Easterfest/Feast Day) weekend. The weather cooperated, and we spent much of the weekend strolling around (with frequent stops for tea). On Saturday we headed up to the Shaw Ocean Discovery Center, where there is a goodly assortment of sea beasts (one such beast pictured at left).

Tree (and general plant) pollen is still malingering these days. I've had a lot of sinus pain ever since my trip to Cuba over a year ago, so I finally went to the clinic about it this past week. Hooray for painless breathing once again!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pides 2012

It's been quite a year since the last Pides Festival. Not sure what kind of "quite a year," but quite nonetheless. Quite a rollercoaster, perhaps.

I recently got a Zoom H4n, but have yet to test it out. I hope to also get a piano, with which I would then use said H4n. Mostly, I just really want a piano. I'm pretty sure there has never been a greater need for a piano in the history of the planet.

The cherries are starting to bloom in earnest now, which means my allergies are earnestly acting up as well, causing my face to earnestly throb with sinus pain. More so than usual, that is.

Happy Pides to you (Pi Day and Ides, in that order)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Worst Good Advice

[I have no idea when I wrote this, but I found the draft buried amongst other posts when I was going through old writings the other night]

My grade 12 graduating class sat on stage under enormous bristol-board letters: "Shoot for the Moon; even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." Aside from being blatantly false, it seemed like a good slogan at the time. Optimistic, encouraging, like an anthem to carry forward into some imaginary rose-coloured future where the sky was no limit. It's the kind of advice all youngsters are fed; anything is possible, chase your dreams. Well sure, I grew up in lucky times and am grateful for it. When food is abundant, war is overseas, health care is free, and going to university is a given, the future is pure potential waiting to be realized.

But there are things that throw a wrench into the future. Bad experiences throughout your youth that shape your personality in a way that's detrimental to your own future. Personal traits that aren't compatible with some types of work. The sudden onset of a debilitating medical condition that gimps your capacity to do things. Circumstances in your personal life that create competing claims on your priorities. Things that just don't pan out; goals you just can't afford to attain. They say you can do anything, but you can't.

I can't remember now if I worked hard in high school. I did my work, for sure, and I got top marks because of it, but it came easily. The first couple years of university weren't much different; although I was told to expect a 10% decrease in grades, it wasn't the case. My first year English prof read excerpts of one of my essays in class as a model example, then went on to tell the class as a whole that the essays were almost universally abysmal. When I applied for music performance the next year, the department was awed by my "perfect theory test" and audition. When I moved on to English I got several writing prizes, and then during my final year's foray into the sciences for fun, I consistently got top marks in both coursework and labs.

During that brief but magical year of Music Performance, I sang at a vocal masterclass where the clinician advised us to be very sure that we wanted to be performers; if we weren't, we'd best back out now because it would eventually break our hearts. That summer I had the good fortune of being chosen as my province's soprano for National Youth Choir. Although it was the best two weeks of my life and I came home inspired, I couldn't help thinking that my university's department just wouldn't get me as far as I would need—there was only one voice instructor in the department at that time, for one thing. I contemplated going to another university, but in the end chose to switch faculties. The truth was, I didn't want to perform (at the time; now I'm undecided), and I unfortunately was under the impression that musicians must perform. The dept head did mention composition during my parting meeting, though, which I later followed up on in my own way.

People are full of the best-intentioned advice, but most of it has turned out neither helpful nor comforting:
  • You just need to "find yourself." It could have been the complete lack of career guidance, but I had no idea what I wanted to do after school. If I could have had my way, I probably would have been happy to stay in high school forever, even though it has its own subsection in the "worst years of my life" category. But I didn't worry about it, because everyone said I'd only find my path after I'd taken a year of general classes. Ten years of "finding myself" has slowly painted me into an increasingly narrow corner. At some point, you need to make a (good) decision and stick with it.

  • You're so smart, you could be anything you want. I've heard this a lot, and it infuriates me. It's particularly unhelpful because it insinuates that you don't even have to try in order to succeed; it will just come to you because you're so clever. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though I have to say, my whole family is very hard-working; I don't know how I turned out so unambitious.

  • It's never too late to change your career. While this is technically true, it completely disregards the practical concerns that eventually catch up to you. Even if you're a hopeful new grade 12 graduate set to enter university on a full scholarship, with the next four years neatly paved out in front of you—once you realize your error at assuming your mind wouldn't change during those four years, you realize that you'll have to pay out of your own pocket to fix that error. After one degree, you get exhausted just at the thought of going back to school for something entirely different. After two degrees, it becomes unthinkable. That inner clock ticks more loudly the older you get, and it can easily work you into a frenzy. Besides, someone who hasn't even had a successful first career doesn't exactly have the means to indulge in being a dilettante.
The internet compounds the problem; it makes it seem like anything really is possible.

When I was younger, I was an anti-feminist; I just didn't think they had an argument anymore. My upbringing was just that liberating, that I thought of myself as equal to anyone. In recent years, the internet has destroyed that idea; in certain circles I feel embarrassed just for being a girl. I remember the first time I encountered the internet. It was in the early years of high school, and a friend and I logged onto one of the new computers during lunch and I caught my first glimpse of Metacrawler. The internet seemed much smaller then, a tool rather than a space of social interaction.

At one point when I used to take composition lessons, my instructor told me that I probably wouldn't ever hear most of my work performed; that most of the time, composers have to live with hearing their music in their own heads. That was one of the most discouraging moments of my life. I don't even believe it's true; in undergrad the composition students wrote for and were regularly performed by a small new music ensemble. But for a struggling no-name composer who has never been in an instrumental ensemble and can't even write an instrumental part in the right transposition, there's more disappointment than hope. I didn't understand how hard one has to work in order to succeed (but that you could). All along I had been led to believe that I could be anything I wanted—yes, a successful composer—simply by willing it to be so. I gave it up as an impossible feat.

Once, a couple years back, my Dad gave me some actual good advice. I was still foundering at the question of what I planned to do after finishing my MA degree, and he said something like "You have to figure out what to do and do it, because life is passing." I have a bit of a phobia of temporality, and my fear of time passing can surface and derail my productiveness for weeks years at a time.

This is all very rambling and un-cohesive, but the point is that the norm of being overly encouraging and optimistic to new graduates is a disservice. I'm not saying they should be deliberately intimidated—there is enough intimidation as it is in high school to alter a person's future, as I well remember—but rather instilled with the desire to achieve that optimistic future, not unconditionally promised it.

And, too, all of this could just be my own misinterpretation of that slogan emblazoned on the wall.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

10,000 days

Today is the day I turn 10,000 days old. I had originally planned to do a whole big thing; but, after all, this has been the year of plans going awry. But spontaneity has turned out just fine too. Ten thousand days in the fire is long enough.

Christmas was a trip back to Saskatchewan, where the snow was minimal and the weather mild. It did snow on the last day or so that I was there, but fortunately that didn't slow air travel this time around.

And my sound-making buddy has a new buddy!

New Year's started things off on the right track. The main thing is that 2011 is over, because, on the whole, it was a pretty terrible year. There was Cuba way back in January, but things kind of fell apart after that.

But this feels like it could be a good year. It just needs a little encouragement.