For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I think this is a great idea

Our GG eating a piece of seal's heart raw is still very much in the news. I find it encouraging that so many Canadians have expressed positive responses, even if they disagree with the seal hunt. Personally, I'd love to try seal, but it's just not available. So it's no surprise to me that others have had similar thoughts.

The premier of Nunavut hopes more southerners follow the lead of Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and add to their diet what the locals call "country food" - not just seal, but Arctic char, caribou, and muskox.

I think there would be a definite market for Arctic meats, if only in the high-end, gourmet demographic. It would be a great place to start. There is one obvious problem, though.

There's one big obstacle in getting the food down south: there are no roads to these Arctic communities, and shipment by boat or plane is painfully expensive.

The local butcher we bought our Christmas tourtierre meats from (our traditional recipe is a blend of meats, including game) carries muskox. They also carry boar, ostrich, kangaroo and camel. We've only tried boar so far, as the cost is very prohibitive (sort of like the $21 chickens to people in the North!), but it seems silly to me that we can get camel or kangaroo, but not seal or caribou. There is almost no infrastructure in the northern communities. The combination of engineering challenges to build infrastructure in such a harsh environment and a very small, dispersed population means it just isn't a high priority.

It's interesting to look at history and see that our north had once been viewed as where our future lay. Even the Golden Boy statue topping Winnipeg's legislature faces north, symbolizing that this was where future prosperity lay. Instead, people settled and congregated in the south, with the vast majority of Canada's population living in a wide belt near the Canada/US border. This makes sense from an agricultural and commercial perspective. Longer growing seasons, warmer climates, and proximity to our largest trading partner would make this a natural progression. The territories, however, are opening up more as mining companies discover new sources for things like diamonds (no blood diamonds in Canada!), and technology allows them to overcome the challenges of working in such extreme conditions. A reliable, affordable infrastructure is necessary to support these ventures.

Maybe, some day, people living in the north will actually be able to buy a frozen chicken or a gallon of milk at reasonable prices.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Some friday humour

I got this from my sister this morning. The connection to the Olympics would be an add on - I've seen these questions (and the snarky answers) long before. Still funny, though. I encounted questions like this quite a bit while working retail in Victoria, BC

Because Everyone In Canada Lives In An Igloo.

Now that Vancouver has won the chance to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, these are some questions people from all over the world are asking. Believe it or not these questions about Canada were posted on an International Tourism Website. Obviously the answers are a joke; but the questions were really asked!

Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow?( England )
A. We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? ( USA )
A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto -can I follow the Railroad tracks? ( Sweden )
A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada ? ( Sweden )
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: Are there any ATM's (cash machines) in Canada ? Can you send me a list of them in Toronto , Vancouver , Edmonton and Halifax ? ( England )
A: What, did your last slave die?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada ? ( USA )
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe .. Ca-na-da is that big country to your North...oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary . Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada ? ( England )
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do .

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )
A: Aus-t ri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Vancouver and in Calgary , straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Do you have perfume in Canada ? ( Germany )
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Where can I sell it in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? ( Italy )
A: Yes, gay nightclubs .

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Only at Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round?( Germany )
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gathers. Milk is illegal.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada , but I forget its name. It's a kind of big horse with horns. ( USA )
A: It's called a Moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I don't think I could do it! - updated

As someone who enjoys shows like Iron Chef and other cooking shows, one thing I've never been able to get a handle on is how much raw flesh is touted as a delicacy. Each to their own, I guess, but I just don't think I'd be able to take a piece of raw beef, even if it's Kobe, and eat it. Not my thing.

Which makes me both grossed out and impressed by this...

GG shows solidarity with seal hunters

Hundreds of Inuit at a community festival gathered around as Jean knelt above a pair of carcasses and used a traditional ulu blade to slice the meat off the skin.

After repeated, vigorous slashes through the flesh the Queen's representative turned to the woman beside her and asked enthusiastically: "Could I try the heart?"

Within seconds Jean was holding a dripping chunk of seal-ticker, which she tucked into her mouth, swallowed whole, and turned to her daughter to say it tasted good.


Of course, the descriptive language in the article is pretty graphic. Where, in the cooking shows, raw meat is described in all sorts of glowing, delicious sounding terms, you just don't hear things like "... the bleeding heart pulled out of its furry, flabby carcass..." or terms like "oozing organ."

I wonder what sort of language would be used if Bobby Flay or Mario Batali were preparing a seal carcass on one of their shows?

Interestingly, it sounds like seal meat is healthier than more standard fare, such as beef or poultry. I'd love to try it - cooked!! - but it's not exactly available in the grocery stores. ;-)

update: Well, that didn't take long...

Gov. Gen's actions offensive: animal rights group

Note that this article quotes a spokesman from the Humane Society International. The Canadian Humane Society, which is a separate organization, regularly looks into the seal hunt and has declared the methods used and the hunt itself as humane.

Michaelle Jean, the Sarah Palin of of Canada?

This rather bizarre blog post is amusing, if ignorant. For starters, apparently there's something wrong with the GG wearing patriotic colours. Heaven forbid! The writer doesn't seem to know the difference between a Governor and a Governor General. In a nutshell, the GG is Canada's head of state, second only to HRH, Queen Elizabeth, and our military Commander in Chief, among other titles and roles. It's a non-partisan, appointed position. Largely ceremonial, the GG serves 5 year terms, though I don't know that there are any limitations to how many terms one person can be GG, and outranks our PM. Where a Governor actively governs and is politically partisan, the GG stays out of the day-to-day activities of running the country, but has the final say in various areas.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gee, ya think?

Oil sands' impact on climate change 'overblown'

Updated Fri. May. 22 2009 6:59 PM ET News Staff

Rhetoric claiming the oil sands are a major contributor to global warming may simply be hot air, according to a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations.

"The relative contribution of the oil sands to global climate change is often overblown. People talk about this as being the make-or-break for climate change. It's not," Michael Levi, of the CFR, told CTV Power Play's Tom Clark on Friday.

Kind of stating the obvious, though people who rely strictly on the media and environmental groups for their information wouldn't likely know it.

Of course, this had to be added...

Nonetheless, he said emissions from the Alberta oil fields should be reduced because of its overall impact on environments in North America.

Gotta cover their butts, after all. The problem is, emissions (a term usually assumed to mean GHGs in general, or CO2 specifically) and environmental damage aren't the same thing. Reducing emissions isn't going to reduce real pollution and other types of damage. Heck, more efficient practises might actually increase CO2 production, as it did with improvements in the efficiency of our vehicle engines. The cleaner the fuel is burned, the less pollution, and the more CO2 is produced. It's a measurement of efficiency, not pollution.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Socialized medicine?

It's probably a bad idea to start writing a post when I have to head out soon, but here goes. ;-)

Ever since Pres. Obama won the election, there's been a lot of talk about his health care reform ideas. I'm not sure what he's actually proposing, since it all seems rather vague, but that doesn't stop the media on both sides of the issue from drawing their own conclusions.

The loudest opponents to health care reform in the US decry "socialized medicine," usually by slagging Canada's medicare system in the process, using it as an example of how terrible the very idea of socialized medicine will become. Based on their descriptions, our medical system is a complete failure, and people are dying left, right and centre, while waiting for necessary surgeries - unless they're willing to fork over cash and get their procedures done in the US.

Now, I absolutely admit that our system has its flaws. There's a bloated bureaucracy, with staggering amounts of waste (which is true of pretty much all government run systems). Yes, there are waiting lists, and yes, sometimes people die while on them. Yes, there is sometimes a lack of available technology. Yes, there are times when technology sits idle, due to a lack of budget or some other reason, preventing them from being used more often and reducing those waiting lists. Yes, there are problems that need to be fixed.

For all it's problems, however, most of the anti-Canadian-style socialized medicine opponents are spouting drivel, greatly exaggerating the flaws while completely ignoring the benefits.

So here are a few things to clarify.

First, it's important to know that our "free" health care system isn't free. It's paid for through our taxes, and some provinces also monthly payments required, just like any other insurance, with amount based on how many family members there are. The amount is pretty nominal - a little over $100 for a family of four, if I remember correctly. Most of the time, those are deducted off paychecks, so few people have to pay them directly. BC has them and, both times we lived there, we never saw a bill.

Second: our medicare system is a provincial responsibility, and not everything is covered. The federal government re-directs tax dollars to the provinces, but it's the provinces that decide what is or isn't covered. The basics are covered everywhere: you'll never have to pay for an emergency room visit. If you have a heart attack, a broken leg or just need a few stitches, you're taken care of. Need a CT scan? MRI? Broncoscopy? Specialized blood tests? Xrays? In my family, we've had all of those done, and never once had to worry about how to pay for it.

There are those that complain that politicians or other power brokers get preferential treatment. This claim was made quite publicly when our former Governor General got a pacemaker in only a few hours. Yet I know this isn't true because my own father, a retired farmer living in the middle of nowhere, got his pacemaker even faster than she did. This, even taking into account the time it took for 1) my brother to drive him to the nearest medical centre in another town 2) for the medical centre to have my father transported by ambulance to a health sciences centre in the city, which was between 1 and 1/2 hours drive, and 3) for the city hospital to gather a surgical team, prep my father for surgery, and take care of all those niggling little details that need to be taken to get someone into surgery. Even with all that, he got his pacemaker about an hour faster than our former GG did.

My father also has had at least 5 strokes that we know of. The third one left him paralyzed on one side and required physiotherapy for months. He regained most of the use of that side, thanks to the excellent care he received, plus his own stubborn determination.

For all this, the only thing my parents have to pay for is my dad's prescription medication and, since they live in Manitoba, which has a pharmacare programme, my dad only has to pay the deductible.

Whether it's my parents, on their retirement income, or my husband, with is medical mysteries, we've never, ever, had to worry about paying for care. Some prescriptions, sure, but even then, doctors can often give samples for free. Only his CPAP is no longer covered in our current province, but his insurance through work covered 80%. He's with a new company now, we we still don't know what the new insurance will cover.

Our system can use improvement. Personally, I am ok with a "two tier" system, though we already do have one to a certain extent. When I had my breast reduction surgery, it was considered a medical necessity and paid for by medicare, while performed by a doctor with a private practice. Medicare paid for what was necessary. If I wanted liposuction to get rid of the "flaps" that would result under my arms, I'd have to pay for it myself (which I chose not to). I can see this sort of private/public partnership being successfully extended to cover other procedures as well.

Other concerns about a public system are that, if the government has control of the purse strings, the government can decide who does or doesn't get treated. Seeing what's happening in the UK, I can completely understand that concern. Canada's system is not the same as the UK, however, and so far we've managed to avoid the pitfalls of our publicly funded system becoming a sort of lifestyle police.

There are people and groups calling for certain "undesirable" patients to be either refused treatment, or forced to pay. (These include smokers, drug users, and those with what people consider "lifestyle" health issues. Most often this includes fat people (like me and my parents), even though it's been shown time and again that fat people don't actually have lifestyles any different than thin people, and the it's people in the "overweight" category of the BMI that have the longest life spans, recover the fastest from illness, and have the best outcomes after surgery. My dad probably wouldn't have survived the recovery period of his 3rd stroke if he hadn't had all that "extra" weight to loose.) Others, however, include activity related illness or injury. These calls are especially loud after stories of a rescue operation for lost snowboarders, for example, hits the news. If boarders go out of bounds and get lost or injured, the complainants say, they should be responsible for the cost of the search and rescue, as well as the cost of their treatment.

While I can understand the emotion behind such claims, I am glad our system has so far resisted calls to restrict treatment to those who live "approved" lifestyles.

With all our moves and different medical needs, we've never had to worry about how to pay our medical needs. We've been free to go to whichever doctors we choose, not just ones from a list approved by an insurance company. We've never had our treatment restricted for financial reasons. With a few individual exceptions, we've received excellent and mostly prompt care. Whether we were working, between jobs, on medical leave, it didn't matter. We were always covered, if we needed it. We never had financial stresses added to our medical concerns.

For all its flaws, I'll take our "socialized" medical system over what the US has any day, and am grateful that we have it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Parental rights vs. the system?

I'm borrowing my husband's work laptop to write this. I'm totally not used to using this keyboard. Hopefully, I'll catch all my typos before I publish this, but if not, I apologize ahead of time. *L*

While going through my daily news, I've noticed quite the controversy going on in the Alberta public school system right now. The provincial government is looking at a proposal that would allow parents to pull their children out of classes that they don't approve of for one reason or another. It has been particularly enlightening to read the editorial comments and letters to the editor in response to this.

Here is an example from the Calgary Herald; Alberta teachers vote to fight parents' rights legislation. Province urged to rethink contentious bill.

Alberta teachers voted Saturday to fight a proposed law that would allow educators to be prosecuted for teaching about sexuality, religion or sexual orientation without informing parents.

More than 400 teachers attending the Alberta Teachers' Association annual meeting were asked to vote on a resolution to urge lawmakers to amend Bill 44.The result was nearly unanimous, with two delegates opposed.


Bill 44, an amendment to the Human Rights Act, would require school boards to notify parents whenever teachers expect to teach "subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation." If the board or the teachers fail to do so, parents will have the right to lodge a complaint with Alberta's Human Rights Commission.

As a home schooling parent, you would think that this shouldn't concern me. After all, we've opted completely out of the public school system. There are, however, those who are very much against the fact that, as home based educators, we don't have to follow the same curriculum as the schools. We're still supposed to meet the basic requirements. We're just free to choose how to meet those requirements, and are not required to do the "electives." Special interest groups that are using the public school system to push their agendas are driven bonkers by this, and some would like to force home schooling families to use their approved curriculum, even when we're not required to use any other school approved curriculum.

What's happening in Alberta disturbs me. I think it's great the the province is supporting parents as the ones ultimately responsible for their children's education. What the school boards and teachers are forgetting is that it is not their place to determine what should or shouldn't be taught to students. That determination belongs firmly with the parents.

Our public school systems are being high jacked by special interest groups that are deliberately trying to bypass the parents to get at the next generation. Whether it's global warming propaganda or anti-heterosexual indoctrination, our schools are no longer about education, but social engineering.

Opponents of this bill have been vocal in the papers. What strikes me most about these people is the overwhelming contempt they have for all parents. To them, any parent who would pull their child from a class must be a bigot, a fundamentalist, a homophobe. They can't even imagine that the parents who would do this might actually have legitimate cause. To them, the schools can do no wrong. To them, only certified teachers are qualified to determine what our children should learn. To them, parents should just stay out of the classrooms and let the "experts" do whatever they want to our children, without question.

Just imagine a potential scenario. Let's say a teacher planned to cover subjects of a sexual nature in their classroom. Aside from the fact that I don't think it's the schools place to discuss sexuality in the classroom (as opposed to, say, teaching about sex in health or biology classes, which is where I think such subjects belong in a school), a teacher might not know about extenuating circumstances. What if one of the students had been sexually traumatized in the past - a possibility sadly very likely. A parent, being informed of this class, could decide to protect their child from a subject matter that's potentially triggering and pull him or her from that class. If, however, this class takes place without the parents' knowledge or consent, it could cause incredible difficulties for the child, and the parent would have no clue why. War vets aren't the only ones who suffer from PTSD. I use this as an example because it's a reality - I actually know someone (now adult) for whom this would have been an issue.

It's bad enough so few parents actually know or care what is being taught to their children. These are not the parents that would bother pulling their kids from any classes, no matter what is being taught. The parents that would do this are the ones that actually take the time to question what is going on in the schools. They want to know what is being taught to their children. They do not blindly accept what the "experts" say. They are the ones that are most active and connected to their own childrens' lives, and we just can't have that, can we? There are too many "experts" who think they, not parents, are better qualified to raise our children, and who would like nothing more than to have children removed from parental influences as early as possible.

My problem isn't that the province of Alberta wants to pass a bill requiring schools to notify parents if they plan to cover controversial topics in the classroom. What bothers me is that they have never been required to do it in the first place, and that teachers think that they should have the power to override parents' say over what is acceptable to be taught to their children.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dang it...

Yesterday was gorgeous. Sun and cloud with the odd rain passing by, the sky filled with beautiful towering cumulus and temperatures reaching 20C. A perfect day to finally transplant my herbs into planters outside. Many of my friends with gardens took advantage of the day to start planting.

Today, I had to take the planters in.


Because it's friggin' cold.

Temps have dropped to 3C right now, with a wind chill making it feel like -3C. The kids and I were out and about when it started to rain. Just before heading home, I was starting to see snow. Temperatures are supposed to reach 0C or -1C, depending on where you check your weather forecasts. My wee little seedlings, having just been transplanted, did well overnight, but last night was about 10 degrees warmer than it is right now.

I'm thinking we'll have to turn the furnace back on.

It's quiet...

I had to drive Dh for some blood tests this morning, then drop him off at work. Eldest was really tired, so she went to bed after we left, and Youngest has yet to get up. Which means I'm the only one up in the house right now. I'm not used to it being so quiet this time of day! Heck, I'm usually just getting up, since I go to bed so late. Knowing I had to give Dh a ride, I tried going to bed earlier. It didn't work. I slept terribly, but there's no way I could go back to bed now. Ah, well. I may was well take advantage of the lack of distraction and catch up on my writing.

A belated Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's out there. I hope you had a great day. Dh and the girls were really sweet. They made breakfast, and in the afternoon, the girls and I took in a series of three, one act plays put on by a local youth theatre group. The third play was written by one of the actors. It was a complex piece with a lot of depth. I actually got teary at the very end, with a "flashback" of the main character's dad, who'd been killed in a car accident, talking and reading to the main character as a little girl. I'm such a suck these days. *L*

Yesterday, I had the great "fun" of making phone calls for estimates to get our piano moved out. It's a 200 yr old upright grand piano (do they even make upright grands anymore?) that weighs a thousand pounds. I discovered that a lot of moving companies won't do pianos at all. Actually piano movers, on the other hand, tend to be local moves/deliveries only. I did scrounge together a short list of moving companies that will do it, and most of them were considerably more expensive than I'd budgeted for.

Did you know it costs less to have a car shipped, than a piano?


We've really got to make the push to have it brought out, though. Rather than leave it in an empty house or put it in storage, we found a family to take it in. This allowed them to find out if their kids would be interested in learning the piano without actually making a huge investment, then discovering they hate it. So they got good use of it, and it went over well enough that they decided to get a full size electronic piano. Which means they now have two, and ours takes up a lot more space. We've already delayed shipping it out for far too long. I just never thought it would be this hard to find companies to ship it!

It'll be good to finally have that over and done with - and to have our piano again!

After the piano, next on our agenda is replacing our car. It should be interesting to see how that works out, what with the troubles the car companies are in right now. You'd think they'd be actually willing to sell cars and lower prices to get some of that excess inventory out the door, but judging from the prices I'm still seeing, they don't seem to want to sell cars that badly after all.

We don't want anything new, since those prices are always over-inflated, but something a few years old would be good. A mini van we can use to drive back to Manitoba and visit family with would be ideal for our needs. Dh has been talking truck with extended cab. We were still living outside the city, I'd be all for it, but I think a truck would be overkill for us now. For what we'll be using it for, either a mini van (I'm partial to the Dodge Caravan) or SUV would meet our needs, and I think a mini van would be more practical. It'd be good to have plenty of room to bring back some of those boxes we still have stored with my parents. Maybe make some camping trips or drives out to one of the lakes outside the city. There's a geology camp we've been missing every year for lack of reliable transportation.

Until we actually have a new set of wheels, though, no plans can be made. At least now, though, I can see it actually happening in the near future!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Random thoughts

Just a few thoughts to throw out...

In politics, Michael Ignatieff is now the official leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Which means our Liberal leader of the opposition is a man who:

  1. spent the majority of his adult life living outside of Canada, had said he never intended to return to Canada, and while in the US, use phrases that showed he thought of himself as an American, not a Canadian.
  2. came back to Canada and ran for leadership of the Liberal party. He lost. To Dion.
  3. after Dion was sacrificed to the wolves (I didn't think much of Dion, but at least he seemed more or less genuine), he ran for Liberal leadership again and won. Because no one else ran against him.
I would like for the Liberal Party of Canada to have a good, strong leader. I think it's important for our system of government of have a competent opposition. It didn't take long for me to realize that Ignatieff isn't going to be it. Better him than the coalition chimera, though. Would Rae have been better for Lib. leader? I doubt it. The Lib. party members didn't have much to choose from. Some are pushing for Justin Trudeau to run, but I don't think being PET's boy is quite enough to qualify, and he hasn't been involved in politics enough to have proven his own worth. I have to admit, having read some of his speeches, I don't have much hope for him.

Time will tell.

The European Union has voted to ban Canadian seal products. The price hunters would get for seals has dropped so low, many haven't bothered to launch their boats this year. Many are saying this is the death knell of the seal hunt entirely. Animal rights types are seeing this as a great victory, but it's a hollow one. The seals' populations are being kept in check by the hunt. Already, the Canadian government is having to talk about a cull to keep the numbers in control.

Here's the deal. With the hunt, people living in the area gain a much needed income, as well as food and raw materials for their own use. You know, that whole "back to the land," sustainable and traditional living thing that's supposed to be such a good thing. A quota system prevents over hunting, with the quota changing up or down as needed. Keeping the seal population relatively constant helps protect the seals themselves, as well as their food stocks, which also just happens to be shared with humans. The fish stocks are kept relatively safe (barring overfishing from European factory fleets. Oops. Did the EU forget about their own dirty laundry?).

Without the hunt, there aren't enough predators to keep the seal populations under control, even with the increases in polar bear populations. A burgeoning seal population will decimate fish stocks, as well as increase risk of disease, injury and violent death - overpopulated carnivorous species tend to turn on their own kind, and seals are not exactly docile creatures in the first place. Heck, even herbivores will kill and cannibalize each other when there are too many. I've never been able to look at a bunny or chicken the same way again, having seen this for myself. Loss of their food due to overpopulation will hurt human fisheries, of course, but will also lead to increased deaths due to starvation in the seal population, until their population dies off enough for the fish stocks to replenish themselves: a process which can take years. Somehow, I think a quick death with a bashed in head is less traumatic than slow starvation, illness and killing or being killed by their own species.

Keeping the numbers under control, then, will mean a cull. Since a cull is not a hunt, that means that the seals will be truly wasted. Their meat will not be used for food. Their pelts will not be used for furs or other items. Their omega 3 oils will not benefit any one's health.

But hey - there will be no more images of mean, nasty hunters using hakipiks on cute little baby seals to disturb people's consciences anymore.

Toronto's hospital for sick children made Canadian history recently, performing heart surgery on a fetus. The surgery was done in utero in March, giving her an extra month's gestation before her birth in April. She's since had more surgeries and should soon be going home. It was interesting to read that this type of surgery MUST be done in utero, as waiting until after birth has never succeeded. What I've yet to find anywhere is at what stage of gestation she was in when they performed the surgery. She couldn't have been too far along that they needed to giver her an extra month's gestation before birth, but it couldn't have been too early, either, or she would have been too weak and underdeveloped to have survived it.

The surgery itself was pretty amazing to read about. The things we can do with modern medical science! Stunning.

I can't help but think what many others have already pointed out, however. How can anyone justify abortion by saying the fetus is not human, not a person, or 'just a bunch of cells,' like a tumour or something? Now, I'm not talking about the embryo or zygote. Most women have no idea they're even pregnant in those early stages. Those who argue for abortion as a rights issue, or a women's issue, insist that until a baby is actually born, it's not really a baby - it's not a "person" - so killing it through abortion is acceptable.

I'm willing to concede that there may be medical reasons for an abortion even at later stages of development, and I am conflicted when it comes to the earlier stages before a fetus is viable, but there is no logical way to argue that a fetus old enough to survive, even if only through medical intervention, outside the womb isn't a baby. That this isn't an individual being, dependant on his on her mother, yes, but unique from her. A person. With medical technology pushing back how early "viable" really is, even that argument can be questioned.

There's no argument that what happens to us in utero can and does effect us, sometimes permanently. In some, it means permanent damage due to the mother abusing drugs, being in an accident, being on a prescription, not having enough money to eat properly - the list is long.

For others, it means actually having the hope of living beyond their 10th birthday, thanks to life saving surgery performed before birth.

This doesn't even touch the research that shows how stressed the mother is, what sort of music she listens to, what foods she eats, etc. all leave their marks on the developing fetus, possibly with life-long effects. Legions of women who want their babies will read out loud to their growing bellies, talk to them, listen to certain kinds of music, analyze every bite of food, avoid alcohol and cigarettes, all in the firm belief that these things are benefiting their growing child. Not their tumor. Not their non-person lump of cells. Their child. Their baby.

But if the mother doesn't want that child, suddenly the language changes. It's just a fetus, never a baby. It's not a person, it's a part of her body, so she can do whatever she wants to it. It's most definitely not anything the father has a say in. His DNA helped create that lump of cells. If he wants the resulting baby, even willing to take over the raising of that child without the mother, but she doesn't want to continue the pregnancy, he has no say. After all, we can't have a man "controlling" a woman's body. On the other hand, if the mother has the baby, he's expected to be financially responsible for it, whether he wanted it or not.

The whole thing smacks of hypocrisy.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sun-shiney Day

What a gorgeous day we're having today! It's 20C outside, with a high of 21C. There isn't a cloud in the sky and our view of the valley is gorgeous. Mind you, our view of the valley is gorgeous on crappy weather days, too. :-D I can live with that.

Yesterday was the first really nice day we've had in a while. Co-incidentally, it was also spring clean up day for our co-op. They used to do a clean up once a year, but are now doing it twice, in spring and fall. I think that's a good decision, considering the area we're in.

An old friend once described her home and her neighbourhood in the North End of Winnipeg as an "island in the Lysol zone." In some ways, that's a good description of where we are now. It's an old, rather shabby area that is slowly being transformed. Our own complex is just one of these islands. Being at the end of the row of townhouses, as well as the street, we had one house beside us. It was recently torn down. I'd thought the place was occupied, but it's been empty for many years. Between lights on timers and people using the space as overflow parking, the illusion of occupancy was kept as a way to discourage unauthorized use of the house. Talking to my new neighbours, however, it was rather notorious as a place for druggies to crash and shoot up. There was a universal joy among my neighbours as almost everyone came out to watch the demolition. I was told they'd been waiting 18 years for this! We had a great view off our balcony. It was a truly challenging demolition, as they had to keep the pieces from falling down the valley wall and onto the street below us. It wouldn't be good for half a 4 story home to slide down on top of a car at the stop sign below.

Now that the spot the house was in is empty, however, it's being used more often (or more openly?) as a short cut by the various transients living in the valley.

At the opposite end of the street are a couple more problem homes. They've actually been taken over by the government, I'm told, though the government isn't keeping the property up any more than the previous owners, from the looks of it. These are occupied, and I recently saw a "For Rent" sign on one of the windows. Another pair of houses so run down, the only way to fix the situation would be to tear them down and start over.

There are several other pockets like this, but they are slowly being improved. The houses, however, are mostly being replaced by condos and apartment buildings. One of them is even a gated complex, with the condos built in a circle, broken only by the gate, around a central courtyard. The courtyard is parking space only. It brings images to my mind of pioneer wagons, gathered in a circle to protect those in the middle. Except instead of people being protected in the middle, it's cars. *L* Like us, the complex overlooks the valley. Unlike us, they don't drop almost straight down. Instead, there's a series of sloped walkways, a little park with a lookout point, and several sets of stairs taking pedestrians down to the housing area below.

With spring clean up, every able bodied person is expected to volunteer at least a little time. Even the non-able bodied help as much as they can. We go a bit beyond our own property lines, cleaning up a few areas adjoining ours that are empty. We've also made a deal with the city to keep a fence line clear - they paid for the fence, we upkeep things on both sides of it. The fence runs along the edge of a lane, keeping transients out and cars from going over the edge. :-/

The co-op provided garbage bags and heavy duty gloves, as well as snacks and drinks, for the volunteers. There were a few grabbers available, too. Youngest and I were glad to have one of those!

Dh and Eldest were assigned to an area with a warning that someone unauthorized was hanging out in a stairwell of the high rise. Dh, being a burly, intimidating sort of person, talked to our "guest" waiting by a locked door for someone to come out, so he could get in. There was no aggressive confrontation, but it did take my husband saying he was calling the police and walking away with his cell phone for the person to finally leave.

He and Eldest found a smashed windshield that took quite a while to clean up. They never did get all the glass - the soil itself would have had to be removed, and they'd already dug up about an inch or more of topsoil with a thatching rake to get what they managed. At the end of the day, Eldest told me she was surprised she didn't find a body, what with all the partially buried garbage bags she was finding.

Youngest and I came a bit later, so we weren't assigned an area, but asked to go wherever we thought help was needed. We went into the drop below the townhouse balconies. There's actually several garden plots in there, available to members who wish to plant. We didn't apply for one this year. Hopefully, we will be set up enough to apply next year. We found a few things that had obviously blown off people's balconies or the patios beneath them. Others, not so much. I dug up the remains of a coffee table. Another group found a dining table in another area. There was another member besides the one in the unit we have now that had to be evicted - a hoarder who's unit was so badly infested with vermin and other damage as a result, it still isn't ready for someone new. Apparently, in moving out, they threw stuff off the balcony, including that table.

Youngest and I, meanwhile, came upon a camp of sorts. An open area under the trees that showed signs of quite a bit of use. Along with the usual cigarette butts, we found socks, gloves, a cooking grill, a pot, a broken crucifix, and several hypodermic needles. There were some larger items, too - from the looks of it, they were items from the demolished house that managed to escape and roll down into the trees.

Technically, this camp wasn't on co-op property, but no one's quite sure who the land belongs to - either the city, or the owner of the house that got torn down. There is a path through it, however, that is used by co-op members to get to the back of the townhouses, were we can access our back doors and balcony fire escapes. So keeping it clean is in our interests, too.

Now that clean up is done, the co-op is looking for volunteers to take over the flower beds. It seems that the hoarder that they had to evict (after 18 months of trying to help her) was also a botanist who simply took over these community plantings on her own. She'd apparently done a great job of it, but now that she's gone, someone else needs to step in.

I find that really funny, somehow.