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, March 27, 2010

Join me in celebration!

While many around the world will be "celebrating" Earth Hour by turning out the lights and turning against humanity, I will be using this day to celebrate Human Achievement Hour.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute plans to recognize “Human Achievement Hour” between 8:30pm and 9:30pm on March 28, 2009 to coincide with Earth Hour, a period of time during which governments, individuals, and corporations have agreed to dim or shut off lights in an effort to draw attention to climate change. Anyone not foregoing the use of electricity in that hour is, by default, celebrating the achievements of human beings.
We salute the people who keep the lights on and produce the energy that helps make human achievement possible. 
Green and private conservation are fine. We have no problem with an individual (or group) that wants to sit naked in the dark without heat, clothing, or light. Additionally, we would have no problem with the group holding a pro-green technology rally. That is their choice. But when this group stages a “global election” with the express purpose of influencing “government policies to take action against global warming,” we have every right as individuals to express our vote for the opposite
If Human Achievement Hour is at all a dig against Earth Hour, it is so only by the fact that we are pointing out what Earth Hour truly is about: it isn’t pro-earth, it is anti-man and anti-innovation. So, on March 28th, CEI plans to continue “voting” for humanity by enjoying the fruits of man’s mind.

This is something that actually means quite a bit to me, and I take this time to celebrate with an attitude of gratitude.  Take a moment to think of the achievements that have touched your life.  Here are a few of mine.

I am grateful for the machine that keeps my husband breathing at night, and the electricity that keeps it going.  Without it, it's unlikely he would still be alive today.  Even years after treatment, a single 4 hour power outage had his body returning to the bizarre coping mechanisms it developed to prevent him from suffocating in his sleep.

I am grateful for the pacemaker that my father has, the innovations that allowed it to be developed, and the reliable energy that allowed surgeons to implant it.  There are hospitals around the world that cannot treat their patients properly, not for lack of knowledge or skills, but for lack of facilities and the power needed to do such operations.

I am grateful for a home that's consistently warm in the winter, a stove that allows me to cook without filling my family's lungs with the smoke of green wood or dung fires, and a refrigerator that keeps our food safer, longer.

I am grateful for safe, clean water, right from the tap.  In the past, I've lived with well water that was clean, clear and wonderful.  Now I live in a city that's considered to have some of the cleanest, tastiest water in the country (though I admit, I was spoiled by our well water, as city water still tastes rather foul to me! *L*).  As a child, we had good well water, but no indoor plumbing, and I remember having to do things like share bathwater, because it took so long to heat enough water to fill the tub.  I remember hauling buckets of water to the house.  Yet this is no hardship compared to the millions around the world who do not have safe, clean drinking water.  When my in-laws were living in Africa, their taps had filters that needed to be cleaned regularly, which involved scraping off the layer of bright red scum that had built up.  For drinking water, they had to add drops of bleach to every liter of water they used, and allowed to sit to kill the pathogens.  My SIL actually drank only Coke, because it was safer than the water and, with a bottling plant right in the city, cheaper than anything else available.  The biggest killer of children in Third World Nations isn't malaria, deadly as that is, but diarrhea.  Yet it's the simplest thing to prevent: clean drinking water.

I am grateful for indoor plumbing!  For not having to run out to the little shack in the bushes in the middle of the night, or using a bucket in the basement during the winter.  For having a septic system that removed our bodily wasted far away from our well (and I'm sure my dad was grateful to not have to do the occasional emptying of the latrine pit!) or a city sewerage system that clears away the waste of hundreds of thousands of people.

I am grateful for our minivan.  Not for the payments, perhaps, but it's the best, most functional vehicle we've owned.  Just having a vehicle meant many improvements. Like no longer having to take the bus to get groceries means fewer, larger trips.  It means trips taking only minutes, instead of over an hour.  It means being able to buy in bulk the things I wouldn't have been able to carry home without borrowing a shopping cart - which I could only do because I lived close enough.  Had we lived where we do now, it would not have been an option.  Things like the big bags of flour, so I could bake my own bread more often, instead of buying it.  It means being able to buy more fruit for my family; particularly soft fruits, which I stopped buying for a while because they would be too badly damaged during the transport home.

Speaking of fruit, I am grateful for refrigerated transportation that allows us to have a wide variety of foods, any time of year.  Foods can be grown in parts of the world best suited for them, then safely shipped to markets around the world.  No longer do we have to risk malnutrition outside the growing season - a serious issue for our northern clime - nor does a bad season mean starvation the following winter.  In parts of the world, where people still don't have access to the the safe, affordable importation of food, a failed harvest means hunger or death.

These are just a few, minor things that I am grateful for.  Things that the activists promoting events like Earth Hour would deny to millions around the world, who's lives could be bettered, and their environments improved.

The achievements of humanity, big and small, are well worth celebrating.

What are you grateful for?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Looking back

I was digging through a storage bin we'd brought home from inter-provincial storage the other day, looking for an old manuscript I'll be blowing the dust off of and finishing.  In the process, I found a couple of old journals I'd kept, ages ago.  I spent yesterday evening reading through them.

Wow.  Pretty intense stuff in there!

There wasn't actually a lot in them.  They were both written in those plain blank books you find in office supply shops, and neither of them was finished.  One referred to the book I'd just finished, and I now wonder, what happened to it?  There is a huge gap of time between the two of them I found (another one was a book of old poems and songs I'd written.  I gave that one to me kids to read. :-D ).  In one, my husband was about to go to the Persian Gulf, in the other, I'm writing about the final months of my pregancy with Eldest.

It's interesting to look back over the things that happened back then.  Most of it will never see the light of day, but here's an excerpt from an entry dated Jan. 16, 1991.  We were living in Victoria, BC, at the time.  Dh was posted to the HMCS Kootenay.  Saddam had invaded Kuwait and was busily destroying it, and Canada was preparing it's response, along with many other countries.  Kootenay was originally slated to go, and another ship was already gone.  I wrote (names left out for privacy):

Well, I'm back.  Worked 'til 7:00pm last night.  While at work I heard over the radio about a support group that was going to the candelight vigil, so I went.  They're called the "Servicemen Support Alliance" (SSA).  They'd made up a bunch of signs and even brought extra candles.

The peacemongers, as I've started to think of them, were gathering at the memorial statue at the legislature grounds.  We gathered across from them by the carillon.  The organizers - P.  & A. - were terrified (I spoke to A. later).  They told us not to talk to the other group and not to answer media questions today.  Our goal was just to have a peaceful demonstration in support of our people out there. 


I've heard some interesting news.  Some of the women - 3 at the demo last night - have been getting phone calls.  One story is that some one posing as a Lieutenant Colonel says "Your husband is dead."  One woman got a all from someone saying "your husband is a killer."

The peacemongers started at UVic about noon, made their way downtown with a couple of stops, were at the legislature buildings for the candlelight vigil, then ended up at DND.  I heard that while downtown, one woman who wasn't for or against, had her car attacked because she wouldn't honk for peace!

After we got together by the carillon, we crossed the street and made our way to the statue of Queen Victoria.  We had to go right past them.  They seem to think we're the enemy!  There were some shouts, but I couldn't hear what they were saying.  Once there, we sang O Canada.  Then at five to 9, we sang again, then said the Our Father.  Then we left.

 One of the things I remember that I hadn't written here was conversations with some of the other wives.  A few had come home to messages from the "peacemongers" with vile and threatening comments.  The recordings were given to the police, but I don't think anything came of that.  The military had to let all the spouses know what the proceedures were for notification if something had happened, so that they wouldn't be frightened by the calls claiming our loved ones were dead (the military doesn't pass on that sort of thing over the phone!).

The next day, I wrote this:

Just got off the phone with D. - her husband is a SLt. with [Dh] on the Kootenay.  She was worried.  She and two of her neighbours - all in PMQs - got calls from a life insurance co.  I found the company in the book - Confederation Life - but they were worried maybe they were peacemongers.  D. said she's terrified to speak to anyone she doesn't know.  She's worried that if they find out she's got a navy husband, she's (sic) be attacked.  Her neighbours are worried, too.  D.  even got a call from her mom in Toronto warning her not to tell anyone her name or mention G. 's in the navy.

She spoke to G. last night.  Some peace demonstrators tried to get to the ship but, of course, couldn't. Security's too tight.  Instead, they threw trash can lids and anything else they could get their hands on.  Real peaceful people.

When I read that part out to my family, Dh piped up that he remember that night.  He was the security officer at the time. Of course, he couldn't tell me much (security reasons - the joy of being married into the military!), but I know things were pretty intense.

Reading all this, and looking at what's going on now, things haven't really changed much.  If anything, the "peacemongers" are more dangrous now than they were almost 20 years ago.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A life

My husband saved a life today.

Not because he did anything unusually difficult or esoteric, but because he actually knew what to do at all.

He was on his way to an afternoon meeting at work when he passed a commotion.  Someone was having what turned out to be an epileptic seizure and was in the process of biting his tongue. 

It's been at least fifteen years since my husband has had any sort of upgrading in his emergancy skills, going back to when he was still in the military.

There were people trying to help the man, but they had no idea that what they were doing would actually have killed him, had my husband not stepped in.  He was able to position the man so that he wouldn't choke anymore, and managed to get his jaws apart to release his tongue before he bit it off.  Using fingers and a spoon, because there was nothing else available.

Dh had already raised safety concerns up with management.  He brought it up after discovering the first aid kit, which was last restocked before we were born! (We actually have it at home now.)  He was told it couldn't be replaced yet, but they did at least mount it on the wall.  Not that that was any use.  Perhaps the only thing of any use in there are the tweezers.  Not even the tensor bandages were any good anymore.

On another floor, the saftey equipment was fully stocked, including a defibrilator, but running to another floor wasn't exactly an option while helping someone in the middle of a seizure.  Dh was given a bag of supplies to take back to his own floor after he approached management this afternoon, and that one bag has more supplies than the entire old kit.

There is a person trained in emergancy first aid.  Somewhere.  The phone number to reach this person is on signs in the bathrooms.

This is hardly unusual, though.  When we were living in BC, Dh was working a government contract with WCB, of all places, and he bought the first aid kit for the office himself, because there wasn't one at all.  The Workers Compensation Board didn't even have a basic first aid kit for their staff.  Just think about that for a moment! 

That they would be so unprepared amazes me.  Even the grocery store I worked at a few years back was required to have a trained staff member for every shift to deal with basic medical emergencies.  People who took the training got automatic raises.  First aid supplies and safety equipment had to be checked and/or restocked regularly.  I can understand it if some small company with barely a handful of employees didn't have anyone, but a government office with hundreds of people?

After this incident, the powers that be are going to look into his recommendations.

Too bad someone almost had to die for that to happen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sweet thoughts (updated)

A friend of mine sent me a link to this interesting YouTube clip.  It's a 1 1/2 hour lecture by Dr. Robert H. Lustig called Sugar: The Bitter Truth.  If you've got the time to spare, go ahead and check it out now. 

He brings up some interesting things, but unfortunately, there's holes in his speech I could drive a truck through.  I can't remember which one it was, but one of his claims was so over the top, Eldest, who came to watch with me about 20 minutes into the lecture, actually choked on her tea.  I had to pause the clip so she could recover. *L* 

Before I go into things in detail, though, I would have to point out the main problem I have with this lecture.  If the good doctor's assertions were correct, I would be thin.  Dh, Eldest and I should all be as thin as Youngest - if not thinner.  Dh shouldn't have T2 diabetes, and neither should his father.  My in-laws should be thin.  My parents should be thin.  My aunt should be thin.  My late grandmother and her sister not only should have been thin, but they shouldn't have out lived all the thin members of the family.  My aunt shouldn't have outlived her husband, and 3 of her 4 children should not have come down with cancer (though, ironically enough, my one cousin that hasn't had cancer is the chain smoker who drinks to much).

In other words, I and most of my family are living proof that the doctor's claims aren't quite as assured as he clearly believes.
First off, I will mention the points he made that I found refreshing to see.  Right at the beginning, he blasts the myth that weight is all about calories in/calories out.  He also debunks the myth that excrcise will help a person lose weight (while mentioning the benefits exercise does have).  He also debunks the myth that eating a low fat diet will cause weight loss, and that eating fat makes us fat.

Unfortunately, he has his own myth issues.  For starters, he talks about the Obesity Epidemic, which is largely a media and industry creation, pretty much the same way that everyone else does.  The other is that he used the BMI as if it were a way to measure health, rather than just a tool for categorization.  He mentions, for example, that our average weight has increased and that more people are obese, but he doesn't mention that we've also gotten taller, and that the definition of obese according to the BMI was changed, rendering large numbers of merely "overweight" people "obese," overnight.  Throughout the lecture, he speaks of obesity, in and of itself, as a health problem no different than T2 diabetes or heart disease.  He dismisses genetics right off the hop.

In a nutshell, the good doctor tells us that most of our health problems, including T2 diabeties, and obesity are the fault of fructose.  Especially High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  He point blank calls fructose a poison, and claims it is toxic.  Evidence to the contrary is only from those in the fructose industry.

I'm not going to go too far into the details of his claims.  Instead, I will direct you to visit Sandy Szwarc's site, where she has quite a number of articles dealing with HFCS, fructose, sugar, etc.   Other recommendations I'd make include Paul Campos' The Obesity Myth, Barry Glassner's The Gospel of Food, or visiting the site, Obesity Myths.

When making his case against fructose, Dr. Lustig frequently brings up carbonated drinks as the big enemy causing obesity in children in particular.  Even after debunking the calories in/calories out myth, he uses the same sorts of mathematical abstractions to tell us that if we drink X amount of pop a day, we'll have gained Y amount of fat in a year.

You know, back when I was about 20-21 years old and thin, I started drinking a lot of Coke.  It wasn't until I noticed my stomach was feeling really weird and made the connection that I realized I was drinking about 2L of Coke a day!  I stopped buying Coke and it didn't take long for my stomach to stop feeling gross.  While I do still indulge in Coke (usually Coke Zero, these days), I've never returned to the large amounts I drank back then.  And I didn't start gaining weight until 5 or so years later, when I became pregnant.  By his math, I should have gained huge amounts of fat in those two years or so that I was drinking so much Coke, then lost it when I stopped.  It was pretty much the only significant source of HFCS I was ingesting.

In the lecture, Dr. Lustig brings up Ancel Keys' Seven Country study chart.  In it, Keys compares rates of heart attacks and stroke in different countries with diet and lifestyle.  Keys concluded that low fat diets meant longer, healthier lives, and his study has been the basis of most nutritional guidelines ever since  Lustig claims that Keys didn't look at fructose, so he did not make what he sees as the real association between those diets and fructose ingestion.  What Lustig neglects to mention is that Keys also left out other countries that didn't fit, ignoring nations with high fat, low carb diets that also had low heart disease and stroke rates.

Lustig, unfortunately, is just as guilty as Keys.  He shows several charts of his own, showing correlations between increased obesity and increased fructose in our diets.  He doesn't factor in any of the many other possibilities that could be causing unnatural weight gain, including dieting itself, increased soy in our diets (in fact, when he shows a label for baby formula with the fructose highlighted, you can clearly see that it contained significant amounts of soy, too), stress and anxiety, sleep disorders, hypothyroidism, side effects of medication, and so on.  None of these things even exist in Lustig's lecture.  Only fructose is the culprit, and according to him, we're all eating huge amounts of it, and that's why we're fat and sick.

There are a number of other issues I had with the lecture (his claim about an obesity epidemic among 6 month olds, made without any substantiation, being just one of them), but I won't bother going into them too much.  He spends a fair amount of time explaining how our bodies deal with fructose, describing it as "alcohol without the buzz."  He equates giving kids a can of pop as being the same as giving them a can of beer - with the obligatory headless fattie photo of a man's beer belly, and a naked fat kid, both of which are familiar photos accompanying obesity scare articles.  The implication, of course, that that's what obesity looks like, which has little to do with reality.

Near the end, Lustig names his 4 steps to solve our health problems.  Number one was to remove all liquid sugar from our diets and drink nothing but water and milk.

Well, that would go over just great in our lactose intolerant family, or those with milk allergies.

For someone who spent so much time telling us that glucose is not fructose, it's interesting that he would go so far as to cut out all sweetened beverages.  Even tea or coffee (both of which can be enjoyed without sweetener, if you like that sort of thing) is out.

Lustig seems to make a good case in his lecture.  He spends time talking about how our bodies deal with fructose from a chemical standpoint. If I hadn't already seen contradictory evidence, I may have been convinced.  Just as one example, I remember an ongoing study I read about a few years back - and I'm having no luck finding again.  Lustig talks about the fructose in fast food, and while this study wasn't looking at fructose, if Lustig were right, it would have shown up in this study.  A French university professor, having just seen the movie Supersize Me, and having some extra money in his budget, decided to see if he could test the movie's premise in a controlled study.  He got volunteers - all young, healthy, male medical students at his university - to eat a minimum of 6000 calories per day, while doing as little exercise as possible.  The calories all had to come from fast food, with two exceptions.  They could have breakfast at home, but it had to be something like bacon and eggs and sausage - all high calorie, fatty foods.  If, at the end of the day, they found they hadn't had 6000 calories, they had to make up the difference by measuring out enough of a high calorie shake they were provided to put them over the 6000 calorie goal.  At the time the article was written, the first group of students had finished and a second group was in the works.  I would love to know the results of this!  To summerize the results of the first study group, there was none of the expected weight gain or health problems among the volunteers.  None.  They felt like crap, but their numbers all came back healthy.

Lustig's claim that we're fat and sick because we all eat lots of fructose is also disproved in my own family.  We're mostly a "from scratch" family.  We do eat use sugar and honey, but since we don't buy a lot of convenience foods, fructose isn't something we ingest a lot.  Yes, we do get some, but nothing like the numbers described in the lecture.  Also, with my parents, grandmother, etc., fructose outside of eating actual fruit was simply never part of their diets.  It wasn't introduced until well after they gained weight, and even when it became common, they (or should I say, we) were still eating the same diets at before - meats and vegetables we grew ourselves, breads we baked ourselves, and so on. My in-laws weren't farmers, but they would not have been exposed to a lot of fructose until well after they'd gained weight, too. 

In the end, I can't say how much I am willing to accept of Lustig's claims against fructose.  The only thing I can be sure of is that the "obesity epidemic" and various other health problems are far more complex that the amount of fructose we eat.

ps: please excuse any typos or weirdly phrased sentences I may have missed.  It's past 2am right now, and my editor's in bed. ;-)

update March 17, 2010:  edited for blatant typos 

Update March 19, 2010: I just wanted to add that I'm not outright dismissing Lustig's claims about sugar, and especially with how sugars are used so much in processed and, especially, "fat free" or "low fat" products.  For those with insulin issues in particular, these hidden sugars would be a problem.  It's just that, as I mentioned above, if his claims were true, it should be clearly seen elsewhere, and it isn't.  Perhaps his views are effected by the fact that, as a pediatrician, he's seeing the sick folks only, and is making assumptions based on those.  Unfortunately, since he's also a part of the anti-obesity/weightloss industry, his claims that only "industry" studies disagree with his is a whole lot of pot and kettle. Either way, blaming the entire "obesity epidemic" on fructose/HFCS (terms he uses almost interchangeably, much like people who use carbon and carbone dioxide interchangeably, as if they were the same thing - that alone should send the BS meter soaring) is simplistic and questionable.  

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Just another number

Dh and I had a conversation tonight that has left my brain rumbling around in different directions.  Which leaves me up and writing past 2 am.  Well, that and my chronic cough is keeping me up... :-P  So if I tend to ramble off in this post, chalk it up to sleep deprivation.

The subject of our conversation was intelligence and what it means.  I've thought of myself as a reasonably intelligent person, but no more than anyone else.  I did do an IQ test about a dozen years ago.  I don't even remember who did the test.  I just did it, got the result, and went on my merry way. 

The reason it came back to mind was a recent status update from someone on my facebook friends list.  It was a comment on Jim Morrison, and how he was so much more than people assumed.  Having read a biography on him back in high school, I knew he was quite intelligent and had a photographic memory.  I didn't remember reading any IQ, but it's just not a detail that would have stuck in my mind.  What caught my attention was someone's response, saying he was really smart and had an IQ of 140.

I remember looking at that and thinking, "is that high?"  I had no idea, but I wouldn't have thought so, since my own result was 143.  As I've never thought of myself as being smarter than anyone else (and definitely less so than some), I figured it was average.  So I went and looked it up.

It turns out that, depending on which test is done (and that far back, I don't even know if there was more than one available), I am either a genius/near genius, very superior or highly intelligent.

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Well, lah dee frickin' dah.  Who'd have thought that?

Apparently, my husband did.  When I mentioned this to him, he told me he always knew I was smarter than him.  Really?  I had no idea.  He then pointed out something that I did at least already know; I come from a very intelligent family.  My parents may have almost no schooling at all and my mother might have a mental illness, but they are both very smart in their own ways.  I recall one of my brothers telling me about when he was building some stairs and was using trig. to calculate how many stairs to fit in and what their measurements should be to do the job right.  My dad?  He just built the stairs.  How did he get the calculations right?  I have no idea.  I remember helping him build a desk for me and watching him write out some quick calculations on a piece of paper.  Whatever method he used to do math, it wasn't anything like what I'd been taught in school.  It was also faster, and he did most of it in his head.

I can't do that.

Oh, and the brother that shared this with me?  Something else I'd forgotten about.  He's a card carrying Mensa member.  Or at least he used to be.  I don't know that he's kept up his membership, as he got it more than 20 years ago.  Thinking about my siblings, they're all quite intelligent in their own ways.  My sister, the farmer, designs houses and other buildings freelance for extra cash. One brother has forgotten more about computers than most people will ever know.  Another brother is in demolition's and understands forces and mechanics and all sorts of things you'd expect from a trained engineer.  If they don't have a piece of equipment for a job, chances are pretty good he can invent it.  Even the brother that, had he been the school system today would be considered learning disabled is an aircraft mechanic with a gift for understanding everything about airplanes, whether it's a little Cessna or a Boeing 747.  He can barely read a menu, but can understand some of the most technical textbooks I've ever tried to wrap my mind around.  All my siblings, as well as my parents, are artistically gifted, even though only my sister has developed it to any extend.

But are they all "near genius" or "very superior" intelligence?

I hadn't thought so.  Most of our neighbours were much the same.  I don't think I came from a town of unusually smart people.

To me, an IQ score is just another number.  Like the BMI.  Useful for the purpose of organization, but you can't judge a person's knowledge by their IQ any more than you can judge a person's health by their BMI.  The numbers are really meaningless - but many people put great store on them.

Personally, I think intelligence is something that's malleable.  Sure, we all have aptitudes and skills that are either there, or not.  My husband, for example, could do the calculations for navigating a ship in his head faster than his fellow officers could on calculators.  He can look at a bunch of computer code he's never seen before and understand what it does.  I can't do either, but I can look at a 2 dimensional object and mentally convert it into a 3 dimensional object.  I can flip it around in my head, or even turn it inside out.  My skills are in spatial reasoning and pattern recognition.  My husband can't do these things.  That doesn't make either of us smarter than the other.

As far as I'm concerned having a high IQ tells only part of the story.  It says, first and foremost, that a person can take a test and do really well on it.  Some very intelligent people lock up when faced with a test, no matter how thorough their knowledge may be.  Plus, just because a person is smart in one thing, that doesn't mean they're smart in all things.  There are some really stupid smart people out there.  Heck, Albert Einstein may have been a genius, but he held some rather unfortunate notions, too, and he sure wouldn't have been someone to turn to for relationship advice! That magic number doesn't confer infallibility.

I also feel that, given the opportunity and desire, anyone can be as intelligent as they choose (barring any physical problems that might prevent this, of course).  Use it or loose it, is how I see it.  As long as we are constantly learning new things, asking questions, exploring concepts, and thinking critically, we can develop our intelligence.  When we stop questioning, stop learning, and just accept what those around us tell us, I feel our intelligence suffers.

Which is why I kind of wish I never looked up what that 143 of mine actually means.

You see, as I get older, I find myself a lot less patient with what I see as willful ignorance.  It seems that, everywhere I turn, people unquestioningly accept whatever steaming pile of bovine feces fits their preferred viewpoint without digging any deeper.  I've found myself wondering how so many people can be so, I'm ashamed to admit this, stupid.  I don't really think they *are* stupid, which is why these behaviours confuse me so much.  It irritates me when I see people I know are smart, accept such dumb things.  With this number of mine defined, I might have to resist the temptation to think that maybe, just maybe, they really aren't that smart.  I know better than that, and I don't ever want to start judging or looking down on people on such a perception.

It's also why I find it so condescending when someone insists on dumbing down information for the masses, because they just don't think we, the great unwashed, could possibly understand such complex issues.  Screw that!  People are smart.  They can figure things out.  They can ask questions.  They can learn.  Having some grand high mucky muck from on high telling people what they think we should be thinking bothers the heck out of me.  They assume people are too stupid to understand.  Sadly, too many people have been convinced that they're really not as smart as the grand high mucky mucks, so they have no right to question those who decree from on high. Instead, they not only accept these decrees, they embrace them, and defend them against any who might question them.

My habit of delving to the core of various claims and being able to counter a lot of these cherished beliefs can make some people rather angry.  My concern is that, now that I know where that meaningless number puts me on the scale, the next time someone condescendingly asks me, "who do you think you are, that you question these really, really smart people," I might start thinking, "I'm the one with the IQ of 143, what's yours?"  Because I don't ever want to use a number instead of an explanation.  It's a lazy cop out.

Who do I think I am to question the grand high mucky mucks?  I'm the one who believes that we all are just as worthwhile as the grand high mucky mucks.  I'm the one who believes we're all just as smart as they are, just as capable as they are, and just as deserving of being treated with equal respect.  Their titles, their letters after their names, their status; these things do not make them better or smarter than me.  Or you.  They just give an idea of what sort of training they might have, what schooling they've had, or maybe it shows that they've kissed a lot of butt to get where they are.

Their number on the scale is every bit as meaningless as mine.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Another manufactured controversy?

First, people were up in arms of prorogation, with all sorts of twisting of facts and grand hyperbole.  Then Ignatieff tried to manufacture another controversy by bringing up abortion and trying to tie it to helping women and children around the world. 

Now the controversy is over changing the lyrics to Canada's official anthem.  There are already hundreds of articles about whether or not we should change our "sexist" lyrics, facebook groups against the idea have started, and people are suddenly all upset about the words to a song I doubt 3/4s of them even know the words to in the first place.

Now, I'm not too keen on the idea of the lyrics being changed - more for the reasons behind it than anything else - but why is it getting to over the top?  It's not like these are the original lyrics, anyhow.  The lyrics have gone through several changed.  When I first learned to sing it in elementary school (30 odd years ago), I learned the line "in all our sons command" ("thy sons," in the official version) as "in all our hearts command."  If fact, it's still the one word I get wrong when I sing the anthem, because I keep forgetting it's not the official line.

Here's a quick look at the changes O Canada's English lyrics have gone through.


Richardson version:
" O Canada! Our fathers' land of old
Thy brow is crown'd with leaves of red and gold.
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross
Thy children own their birth
No stains thy glorious annals gloss
Since valour shield thy hearth.
Almighty God! On thee we call
Defend our rights, forfend this nation's thrall,
Defend our rights, forfend this nation's thrall."


McCulloch version :
" O Canada! in praise of thee we sing;
From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring.
With fertile plains and mountains grand
With lakes and rivers clear,
Eternal beauty, thos dost stand
Throughout the changing year.
Lord God of Hosts! We now implore
Bless our dear land this day and evermore,
Bless our dear land this day and evermore."

1908, popular in BC
Buchan version:
" O Canada, our heritage, our love
Thy worth we praise all other lands above.
From sea to see throughout their length
From Pole to borderland,
At Britain's side, whate'er betide
Unflinchingly we'll stand
With hearts we sing, "God save the King",
Guide then one Empire wide, do we implore,
And prosper Canada from shore to shore."

adapted from 1927
The version adopted pursuant to the National Anthem Act in 1980 reads as follows:
"O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North, strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free !
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee."

 Wikipedia has more.

Weir's original 1908 lyrics
O Canada! Our home, our native land,
True patriot love thou dost in us command.
We see thee rising fair, dear land,
The True North strong and free;
And stand on guard, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! O Canada!
O Canada. We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! Where Pines and Maples grow,
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.
Thou art the land, O Canada,
From East to Western sea,
The land of hope for all who toil,
The land of liberty.
O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies,
May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise;
And so abide, O Canada,
From East to Western sea,
Where e’er thy pines and prairies are,
The True North strong and free.

Proposals to change the lyrics are hardly new, either.  From Wapedia

Weir's original lyrics from 1908, consisting of three verses, did not contain the word sons, instead using the somewhat archaic "thou dost in us command", and it contained no religious reference. [1] [10] [19] Weir decided to change his lyrics to "in all thy sons command" in 1914, [20] and in 1926 added a fourth verse of a religious nature. [21]
In June 1990, the city council of Toronto voted 12-7 to recommend to the Canadian Government that the phrase "our home and native land" be changed to "our home and cherished land", and "true patriot love in all thy sons command" be changed to "true patriot love in all of us command". Also proposed, but rejected, was the idea of a phrase "with patriot love, thy sons and daughters stand". City Councillor Howard Moscoe said that the words "native land" were not appropriate for the many Canadians who were not native-born, and that the word "sons" implied "that women can't feel true patriotism or love for Canada." [22]
Feminists such as Senator Vivienne Poy have criticized the English lyrics of the anthem as being sexist. [23] In 2002, Poy introduced a bill to change the phrase "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command". The throne speech of March 2010 announced that the federal Parliament will be asked to review the "original gender-neutral wording of the national anthem". [24] In 2006, the anthem's religious references (to God in English, and to the Christian cross in French) were criticized by secularists. [25] [26]

I can understand people feeling passionately about proposed changes to the lyrics.  I have no problems with  a pro- or con- debate.  What I don't get, however, is what a big, stinking deal is being made of the whole thing.  The rhetoric is just as silly as the anti-prorogation freakouts.

As far as I'm concerned, it's becoming just another manufactured controversy.

Monday, March 01, 2010

One Year

We have officially been at our current address for one year. 

Unofficially, it was really a few days ago, since we got the key and spent the last 2-3 days of February moving in.  As far as the paperwork is concerned, we have been co-owners of this complex for a full year as of today.

It feels kinda good. 

I still don't get any sense of permanence.  With so many of our moves being totally unexpected, I don't know that I will ever feel that way again.  After all, even if nothing bizarre happens again, eventually the kids will move out and we'll have no need for such a large place.  Even if we end up moving into a smaller apartment within the complex, it's still a move.  I sometimes wonder, though, if we'll ever have that permanent place that will be totally and completely our own?  I thought we had that when we moved back to my home town - both times - but ... well, life happens, right? *L* 

One thing about all these moves - my definition of "home" is a lot more flexible.  In one way, "home" will always be the farm I grew up on, but it's also wherever we happen to be living at the time.  While I still feel vaguely transient, even after being here for a year, no other city we've lived in has felt so much like "home" to me.  Youngest and I got to meet up with a local family that just started home schooling and was looking to connect with other hs'ing families.  The mother is originally from Norway, has had a few trans-atlantic moves over the years, and has been living in this city for about half the time that we have.  While we were talking, she happened to comment that, of all the places she's lived, this was where she felt the most at home in!  It was interesting to hear someone else using the exact same words I have in the past about this city.  I've lived in interesting, diverse and downright enjoyable places before, but somehow, here is where I've felt the most... well... at home!  There's just no better word I can think to use.  I hadn't noticed the lack of this sense in our previous moves, but after moving here, there was an unexpected feeling of comfort.  Like putting on a soft, cozy sweater and suddenly realizing how my other ones were actually rather stiff and uncomfortable.

There's a strong and active arts community here; a wide range of ethnic diversity, and an acceptance of a variety of lifestyles and religious beliefs.  There are the back-to-the-earth granola crunchers next to big industry complexes; luddites next to bleeding edge technophiles.  In no other city have I seen so many Hummers and Smart Cars. 

While some of these groups may not like the others much, compared to other cities I've lived in, they are remarkably tolerant of each other.  There's a general acceptance and "live and let live" attitude that's more tangible than in other places we've lived in. Ironically, this is also one of the cities that I've heard many nasty jokes about how people here are such backwards neandrethals.  Mostly by people who've never lived here, and quite a few who've never even visited.  Funny, that.

With the first 3 1/2 years in this city spent in a perpetual state of "we're just living in this spot temporarily!" I guess it'll take a bit longer before I get over the feeling that we're just waiting to find our permanent home.  Heck, we're still slowly trying to buy furniture without needing to think of having to move it again.  It takes a lot longer when we only get things we can pay for in full, rather than on credit. ;-)

Is this move permanent?  Probably not, as I mentioned earlier.  Still, I do expect to live here for quite a few years, at least.

Who knows what the future will bring?