Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Not in MY backyard

With the existing remand centre holding 750 people when it was designed to hold up to 338, Edmonton is definitely in need of a new facility. Prisoners convicted of crimes routinely get double or triple credit for time served awaiting trial at the downtown centre, guards complain about working conditions and prisoners call the facility inhumane.

Issues such as this one are always NIMBY issues. Thomas Lukaszuk is the prime example of this. He was talking up the issue so much with the previous government, then the site decision was made and he found out it's going in his constituency. Now, all he can do is complain.

The province consulted many people to find what the ideal remand centre would look like, and then looked at the four possible locations and determined the site on the north side to be the most desirable. Plus, the province already owns the land that the centre is to be built on, so it's saving money that way. And, it's much further from residential areas say, than downtown. A lot of people don't even know where the centre downtown is. Because it looks like a high school.

Personally, I quite like this guy...

...Andy Bordush who operates a small furniture manufacturing shop across the road had no worries about the remand centre plans.

"In society, we have to have these things unfortunately," he said. "It will just be a big building. If it was a dump or sewage plant, I would be concerned."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

From there to here: the [abridged] story of my life

"You have brains in your head,
you have feet in your shoes,
you can steer yourself
in any direction you choose."
-- Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

I have contemplated my own decisions before; however, I have been doing this more often as of late due to recent events. I have thought about what would have been different had I stayed in Ontario. The chances I would have had. The opportunities to build relationships with those I'd known. But not once had I been made to feel guilty about those choices. Not until now.

I'm come from a farm outside a town of 5,500 to a city of about 333,000 to a city of over a million. From the dribble of a river called the Maitland, to the great Thames, to the majestic Saskatchewan. From Coles notes to briefing notes. From theoretical discussion to strategic planning. From an overabundance of Tim Hortons to a lack thereof. From jeans and flip flops to business suits and heels. From taking classes because I had to in order to attain my degree, to taking classes simply for the sake of learning. From politics courses, to being involved in political groups. From women's studies classes, to groups promoting women in politics. From a Liberal government to a PC government. From a province rich in water to a province rich in oil.

Along this journey, I've built friendships and strengthened the bonds with my own family. I visit less, but talk to them more. I've taken to calling home to ask for my mother's advice -- something I never imagined as I left home as a teen.

I've worked hard and faced many questions from those who didn't understand my path, finally to get here and hear those words I'd long since given up on hearing -- "I'm proud of you."

I've gone from a student's life of uncertainty, traveling down a road of unknowns, finally to come to this place. This place, though still moving along that same road, has afforded me stable ground and less questions. For the first time I can see where I am and where I'm going. Rather than being on a neverending path of uncertanty, this path has purpose in and of itself. No longer am I aiming to get a job -- just any relatable job -- post-graduation. Rather, I have found a career and am involved in my community. I have found my place.

I've gained a different perspective. I've lived another way of life. As the bus returning from work nears downtown, the view of the skyline gives me a boost -- I truly feel like I'm going home.

I've taken a lot of risks to be here. Within a week, I moved. Solely on the hopeful basis of a writing test -- not even yet an actual job interview. I took a huge leap and became the top choice of hundreds. Not just a job to pay for school, but a career. The career. The career I had been working towards through all of those all-night cram sessions and the endless essay writing.

And it was scary. It was terrifying to call up housing ads -- sometimes up to forty per day -- only to hear there were no vacancies. To interview for an apartment like my Ontarian counterparts interview for jobs. Sitting in that empty apartment, waiting for my sole piece of furniture -- my bed -- to arrive, wondering what I'd gotten myself into. Being flashed back to those first days in that old city, surrounded by people and yet feeling so completely alone.

It was all worth it.

Because of the people I've met, the friendships I've built, hearing the fabulous things coworkers have said about me. Because of small victories like figuring out the transit system. Because of weekly [early-afternoon] "brunches" with the girls at our little bakery, with the sweet-as-sugar man who greets us by name and regales us with stories of his own world travels. Because of the happiness I feel when taking the train across the river -- seeing the lights of the city reflect on the surface. Because of the fresh Alberta air and exploring the city with my partner-in-crime roomie.

I swore I would never move to any one city because of someone else. Likewise, I couldn't stay for that very same reason. I am satisfied that I left each place, each stage of my life, when I had finished learning. I have taken all that I could from these places, to stay and become stale was not an option.

Perhaps certain friendships are only meant to span periods of time. Perhaps they're only meant to add to us and help us grow when we need them, only to move on when we no longer do. True friends are the ones who are there no matter the distance between. They have proven their worth in late-night phone calls, surprise packages in the mail to aid homesickness, and the excitement they show in the tales we swap of our individual journeys.

Edmonton may not always be the place for me, but it is where I need to be right now. It's teaching me new things in the classrooms at the university, in my cubicle at work, in the organizations with which I'm involved and in my own living room.

Right now, I am home.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oh, Suzuki.

Mel Knight, Energy Minister, announced that the government is prepared to help pay for a project into Canada's first wind forecasting study. The study will analyze varying wind patterns from the mountains to the prairies and substantially contribute to developing a made-in-Alberta solution for wind power that will work for the system operator, wind developers, the competitive power market and citizens of Alberta. Currently, there are 360 megawatts of power in Alberta's grid from wind generation, with a further 185 megawatts expected to enter the system by the end of 2007.

Knight said, "As a renewable energy source, wind power offers an environmentally friendly way to generate electricity for Alberta's homes and businesses."

Baby steps to environmental-friendliness are better than no steps at all. This is particularly interesting since on Friday, David Suzuki said in Calgary that if the premier "doesn't realize not doing anything about greenhouse gases is going to wreck the economy," he doesn't deserve to be a leader, according to a story in the Calgary Herald.

Even more interesting was Suzuki's response when questioned about it in Edmonton.
During a stop Saturday in Edmonton on his "if you were prime minister tour," Suzuki attempted to distance himself from his controversial remarks. "That was written by a headline writer, not me," Suzuki told about 800 people who packed a theatre at the University of Alberta. Suzuki said he was told by reporters that the premier, whose name he didn't know, was not going to do anything about the oilsands in order to slow economic growth. "I said: 'For the richest province in Canada to be saying we've got to bring onstream this very, very polluting oil development, well, you don't need that for your economic well-being.' It just doesn't show any economic vision or leadership as far as I'm concerned."

In my opinion, Suzuki is losing some credibility. I agree that being environmentally responsible will increase economic well-being in the long run, however, if Suzuki really wanted to make a difference and make change, he'd be up on the issues rather than simply making comments to what other people have told him. He's been known for years as an environmental expert and it's not like the oil sands has never been an issue (and it's increasingly an issue now). Maybe it would be good to look into the facts before traveling to Alberta to speak? It's poor preparation on his part.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Things that really blow about Alberta: #1

Premiums for health care.

Going from a province where you have a health card and don't worry about it to a province where they charge you over $300 since October just for having a health card sucks.

Honestly. If you're going to charge me an exhuberant amount simply to have a health card and not even use it, you could at least give me a real card rather than a slip of paper. If that is too much work, it could at least be laminated.

This is CANADA. The land of supposed free health care.

Apparently not.

Harper looks better; Harper's wife, not so much

This does not entirely make up for skipping the International AIDS Conference in Toronto last year, but it is a good step regardless of the [political] reasons behind it.

This collaboration between Canada's new government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is going to contribute to the global effort to develop safe, effective, affordable and globally-accessible HIV vaccines," said Harper on Tuesday.

He said the benefits from the joint partnership will be numerous. "(It) will allow us to accelerate the pace towards the discovery of an HIV vaccine, construct a facility to manufacture promising vaccines for clinical trials, move vaccines to the clinical trial stage more quickly, (and) improve access to an eventual vaccine."

He also said the initiative will help coordinate the activities of Canadian and international researchers so that information can be shared effectively.

Ottawa will pledge $111 million for the AIDS program, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will offer $28 million.

However, later on in the article, Harper does not do very much for the social image of his wife, Laureen.

Harper said his wife, Laureen, considers Gates "the world's sexiest man."

"When she first said that to me, I said really, is that true? I think he's the richest but I never thought of him that way. Laureen said to me, 'when a man has that much money, he's sexy,'" Harper told Duffy.

When a man has that much money, he's sexy?! Ouch. Laureen does not come off well with that quote.

Lesson 1: Don't tease a girl who's handling pointy sticks

The thing that bugs me about most knitting books/blogs (yes, I read them, I'm a dork, we all know this) is that they describe knitting generally as something not just left to grannies anymore, but that it's exploded on the hipster "scene".

Let us set this record straight kids. I am not a granny nor am I a hipster. Not even a little.

Though I have never advanced to knitting in public, rather keeping it to the couch with a big glass of wine in front of me... I do knit. And I like it. It's therapeutic. With all the crazy busy madness that happens in life, it's there at the end of the day to take my mind off of all the stressful things that turn me into a big stress ball. It forces me to concentrate on something other than the thoughts swimming around in my head which tend to keep me from sleeping. I don't generally keep anything that I've knitted for myself, at school I've donated it to Warm Hearts, Warm Hands or given projects away to people. Just like the cookie fairy practice of old, it makes me feel good to create something that I know will bring joy to someone else. Be it someone who has no mittens when it is blessed cold outside, or be it someone who has tons of mittens but who knows the time and effort and love I put into making some for them. That's my story. I am no longer going to blush and hang my head and mumble, "yeah, I can knit". It's a lost art, people! It takes concentration and skill! My nurse friend Sarah tells me it'll prevent Alzeimer's!

So there.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Every Mile a Memory

I love country music. I turn it on at work and listen to it and it takes me back home. Summer sunshine, big blue sky, road trips with bare feet on the dash, big sunglasses, the drive-in, beer on the patio, two-stepping under the stars. It makes me forget the slushy mess that is going on outside and makes me feel warm inside. *sigh*

Speaking of beer on the patio, went for drinks last night with the girls post-work, pre-Grey's and found this gem. Yummy. As Cara noted, this beer tastes like Christmas.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy heart-shaped Hallmark holiday to all!

My winter blahs are frozen solid. -34 is absolute madness! My poor little face burns from the cold and makes me want to scream… and I would (scream that is) if I felt it would add any warmth. Instead I wear enough layers to keep my knees from bruising as they knock together from the shakes.

On the bright side (no pun intended), it is now light out when I get to work in the morning and when I leave! I get sunshine! This hasn’t happened in so long… oh how I’ve missed it.

I just wanted to take the opportunity to pimp out this website to all of you who desire equal representation (or at least closer to equal than we have now) in government:

Equal Voice

Chapters in several provinces and a youth chapter for those under 35. Fabulous.

Monday, February 12, 2007

PAB = Soviet-style agency? Cool.

I find the following, from an article by Darcy Henton featured in Saturday's Edmonton Sun, absolutely hilarious. This is mainly because it is just so untrue.

Liberal Leader Kevin Taft has called for the public affairs bureau to be disbanded, claiming it is doing political work for the Tory party rather than just informing Albertans about services and programs.

He calls the bureau the Tories' "secret weapon."

"It's the Tory equivalent of the old Soviet TASS news agency. It's the key to managing public opinion."
The PAB definitely does not do political work for the Tory party. And, since the bureau is non-partisan there are a fair share of both liberal and other left-wing employees who work there. I know this on a first-hand basis and I can say with complete certainty that I have never been asked to do anything other than inform Albertans about services and programs. Furthermore, I am not a Tory.

The bureau is actually a better solution than embedding public affairs officers within the branches because it provides a means for movement and flexibility and keeps things fresh. It keeps new ideas flowing and actually is a deterrent to political activity. People get reprimanded for being overly political and those who work in communications and were involved in any Tory campaigns had to take a leave from their job in order to do so.

Public relations has long since been chastised as a profession of spin-doctors and secret-weapons. And while some unethical practitioners may take part in these sort of activities, they are not ones which are condoned by the industry as a whole. We've gotten a bad rap.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Doubts re: Merck's new drug

The NACI is recommending that all women get vaccinated with Gardasil, the new vaccine by Merck to prevent against cervical cancer.

The two most interesting parts of the article are as follows:

1) The Calgary Herald reported that the Alberta government is studying the possibility of a school-based vaccination program. Bonus points to Alberta for being progressive.

2) I'm just going to quote this bit since it's the easiest thing to do:
“Studies have shown,” the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of Canada stated, "that the vaccine . . . is 100 per cent effective at preventing disease from the HPV types that account for 70 per cent of all cervical cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts.”

Yet National Post columnist Colby Cosh also noted that “we only have five years’ worth of effectiveness data on Gardasil. And because cervical cancer is so rare, Merck had to measure the incidence of pre-cancerous HPV lesions rather than the incidence of the disease itself. As NACI admits (quietly), the anti-cancer effects of the drug have technically ‘not yet been demonstrated,’ even for the most promising 9-13 age group.”

Hrm. Interesting.

Stop marching and get back to class

Today is the big day. The day that the Canadian Federation of Students rallies the troops out of classrooms and up to parliament. They cry for lower tuition, spouting their utopian ideas that education should be free. Wah wah wah.

The CFS is not run by students. It's run by people who make a salary to do so. And on the tuition invoice, students pay fees to the CFS. If they really wanted to eliminate fees for students, they'd cut the money going into their own pockets first. Personally, I'd much rather pay tuition here than try to go to school in the states and pay anywhere from $20,000 - $40,000 per year.

My story is this:
I completed my Bachelor of Arts and post-graduate at the University of Western Ontario. I have seen how students live. I have been there. I have had friends that have worked their asses off to get their education and I have seen others run out of money several times only to get more loans and keep on with the partying/shopping/skipping school, etc. I had a couple roomates who had approximately 10 hours of class a week and still had "no time" for a job. In my post-graduate year there were weeks where I would work full-time hours at my low paying job to pay for the nearly $10,000 tuition. And while I am often idealistic, on this issue I am quite practical. I do not support the Canadian Federation of Students and their whining.

My parents cut off my allowance when I began highschool and taught me the value of money. We invested wages in RESPs and other investments, I got OSAP, and I worked a lot of hours. I sacrificed weekends to work and spent many nights pulling all-nighters to get papers written once I had gotten home from working an eight-hour shift. Though I was not always perfectly responsible with my money, I didn't go on vacations for Reading Week, didn't go out partying every night, didn't eat out all the time, etc.

Reading the Globe and Mail this morning online, I was quite pleased at many of the comments readers had left on this article.

I agree that post-secondary education is an investment and I also agree that students have to start holding themselves accountable for their own decisions. No one forced you to go to university, you made that choice for yourself. And for those who complain that they have no choice but to go to school since you virtually need a post-secondary education to get a job... imagine what it would be like if education were free. If education were free, everyone and their brother would have a B.A. It's bad enough as it is, hence why many feel they need a Masters degree to compete in the job market these days. Education is like other investments (ie. real estate, stocks, etc.), each person must assess which investment is most appropriate for them.

Universities are expensive to run. A recent Globe and Mail article contained an interview with the head of Concordia University (who has had a tuition freeze for some 13 years) and pointed out that this has not done the University any favours:

In an interview yesterday, Dr. Lajeunesse acknowledged that his speech is bound to ruffle some feathers, especially among student groups. But he said universities are struggling to provide a quality education.

"We're falling behind. We see our faculty-student ratios increasing, we see the cleanliness of our classroom and labs deteriorating, we see our libraries unable to provide as much as we would like," he said.

"The first people who suffer from lack of funding are the students, because they don't get the education that they deserve to be good citizens and be successful in life."
Exactly. To get the best education possible, it is necessary to have good teachers, to have accessible TAs who are available during office hours, to have a library full of resources and labs filled with equipment. All of these things cost money. It costs money to have people clean the school. Students rally behind professors who demand more wages and strike against the university and then don't like the increase in tuition to pay those salaries. How ironic.

Why should taxpayers (many of which do not have a university education) be left to pay the tab of university students, be they responsible students or not?

My parents weren't overly wealthy. My siblings and I all had to work for what we got and make our own decisions accordingly. And because we had to foot the bill, we cared a whole hell of a lot more about the decisions we were making. We know how much money goes to waste when you skip a class, or the value in studying something that you care about and can find a job in post-graduation.

Life is all about choices, folks. Better to realize this in university than to graduate and expect everything to keep falling in your lap. I do agree that universities should be accessible, but there is a big difference between being free and being accessible for those who do deserve it. And for those who are fighting a tuition freeze for this reason, my suggestion is to rally universities/the government for more scholarships for deserving students rather than to try to give your bill to someone else. Or, try fighting for more internships to create a bridge from university to the work force, perhaps. Fight for students who really can't afford the tuition hikes, the single mothers working and trying to get an education to better support their kids. An across-the-board cut to tuition doesn't do anyone any favours. If anything, the help should be going to those students who truly need and deserve it -- not those that are just looking for a free ride.

There are plenty of options out there other than getting a university degree. Want a good paying job? Pick up an apprenticeship for a trade. Ridiculously in demand, ridiculously good jobs.

Woe is the environment

I like Stelmach quite a bit considering I'm not a Conservative. And as much as some of my political friends may tease me because think I'm starting to drift towards this seemingly-Albertan ideology, fear not. Because right now, right now I am disappointed.

From here:
Reducing the total amount of greenhouse gas Alberta puts into the atmosphere would devastate the province's economy, Premier Ed Stelmach said Tuesday, the same day his environment minister delivered a similar message in Ottawa.

Meeting Canada's legally binding targets under the international Kyoto agreement would be impossible without reducing government programs, Stelmach said.

"You want to reduce back to 1990 levels -- how do you do it without destroying the economy?" Stelmach said. "Nobody can deliver on it without hurting the economy to the point where we will lose services."

Something has got to be done. A co-worker and I were discussing this on the way home from a committee meeting last night. No one can argue that climate change and global warming is not an issue. All one has to do is look at the bizarro weather this year, particularly that of Vancouver and lower B.C. to realize how dire the situation is getting. The root systems of trees in the area have long since grown to accomodate the high winds the region faces, however, with the change of temperature and the milder winds, these huge, old trees are falling over.

Honestly, who cares if we have to spend a bit more money now, while the economy is booming, in order to adapt our habits and discuss best practices to deal with the changes in climate and global warming? It's going to be a whole lot harder to deal with when our financial situation is as great as it is right now.

All this talk of environment and climate change also reminds me of this (great documentary, I encourage everyone to watch it). World oil has already peaked and will only decline from here. Further to just dealing with climate change, we have to work to create alternative solutions to this energy source. After all, oil is not just used for driving cars and heating homes, it's used in the production of essentially everything. With resources depleting, oil is only going to become more expensive and so are the products that we consume. You don't want to hurt the economy Stelmach? Put the progressive in Progressive Conservative and make the environment a priority. Because when the situation becomes worse, it's going to create a massive blow to the economy, and by then it may be too late to fix.

The environmental issue can be put as simply as this (and I don't often quote Dippers, so listen up):
Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said Stelmach is fearmongering and lags behind the public in his attitude towards climate change.

"The government is very much out of step with Albertans on this issue -- they see from day to day, season to season, the changes in the climate and are very concerned about the kind of Alberta they will be leaving to their children and grandchildren," Mason said.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Keep your drink, just give me the money

Ah, I haven't always been a huge Pink-pusher, but I think this song is brilliant.

I like that her songs tend to be more focused on empowerment. Good for her. This video particularly appeals to me because when my friends and I go out we go out to dance and have fun with the girls. Not to have some boy grind up against us whispering the same tired lines in our ear, in attempts to have us swooning and running off into the night with him.

Though, I must admit, some of her songs seem as though they are hurting feminism just as much as she's helping it. I mean, the "Stupid Girls" song basically makes fun of bimbo-big-breasted-blondes... and while yes, girls should know they don't have to be like that... it's pretty demeaning too. In one scene there's this big-breasted girl on a treadmill running and so she's getting a lot more attention than Pink is. This is not necessarily her fault and I say this as someone who does have a brain and who knows plenty other brainy women who just happen to have breasts. We can have the best sportsbra money can buy and we're still going to get attention merely for these strategically placed slabs of fat bouncing on our chests. It is possible to be smart and sexy. The point is just that you don't have to pretend to act a certain way, or manipulate your body in a certain way, to get some male attention. Maybe attacking each other is not the best strategy for equality, hrm?

Monday, February 5, 2007


Oh my my. When talk of this London-to-Edmonton adventure went down, it was a solemn [well, possibly drunken] vow with a friend to meet up for Stampede 2007.

This friend is one of a kind. We had known each other for years before becoming extremely close during the summer of bliss, a summer consisting of Yahtzee on the front lawn of my ghetto scummy landlord apartment/house...

...and running into this random kitty upon returning home every night after we had ventured out for a slice of debachery pie.

We survived a summer of full time work coupled with classes and homework. We congratulated ourselves on break ups over martinis and angry ranting. We laughed. We cried. We petted the kitty and giggled until we collapsed on the sidewalk. We drank champagne from individual-sized bottles (because we are classy!) and ran barefoot down the street in very unpleasant weather.

And now, now we will officially reunite for Stampede 2007... due to the purchase of tickets for this:

Yeehaw indeed, my friend.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

All the cool kids are doing it

An Ipsos-Reid survey of Albertans shows public support for a smoking ban is at an all-time high. A telephone survey of 800 people (the number they usually use when polling the entire country) shows that 4 out of 5 Albertans support a complete ban of smoking in public establishments. 80 per cent of Albertans also support banning the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies.

There you have it. Go Hancock go. Albertans want it. The Canadian Cancer Society wants it. Doctors want it. Other provinces have all jumped on the bandwagon. Other countries, including several in Europe, are doing it. Even France. And smoking has become part of the French culture. If they can ban smoking in Paris, they can do it anywhere.

Excuse my cynicism...

... but I'm not going to throw my complete trust into the drug company that brought us the Vioxx scandal.

I agree that the whole idea of being immunized to prevent against cervical cancer is great. The first vaccine to prevent cancer from happening? How progressive! Great for cancer research! I worked for the Canadian Cancer Society for a short while and still volunteer there. I have met many remarkable men and women who have battled the disease in it's many forms. Any way to beat this disease from hitting so many people is definitely a good thing.

I'm just saying that I may need a couple years to throw my trust into Merck.

The part that really shook me up about this article though, was this quote here:
"We recommended nine to age 13 because that's the most likely period of time before females in Canada would become sexually active,'' said Dr. Shelley Deeks, executive secretary of NACI and a senior medical specialist in the immunization
and respiratory infections division at the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The most likely period of time for girls to be sexually active is 9 to 13?! That's absolute crazyness. I don't doubt that it may be true... I just know that I didn't even vaguely consider sex as an option at that age. I was playing Barbies with my little sisters, not getting it on with the neighbour boys. We weren't giving blow jobs in the backs of buses, or wearing bracelets to school which indicated to boys "how far we'd go" (which I know happened in the last city that I lived in). What's happened in our society that the most likely period of time for girls to become sexually active in 9 to 13?!

I have heard women around the city talking about this vaccination and the possibility of becoming immunized, though the big thing tends to be the fact that it's not yet covered under health insurance. Many women seem to be on the "I'll wait and see how things go with insurance or see what results are like in a couple years" bandwagon. Definitely a safe bet for now, though I am hoping that this vaccine proves successful.

It's a huge step forward toward women's health in Canada.