Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Giggles and bare feet on the dashboard

Somedays I just get flashes of great memories. Today, I found myself listening to online country radio... and well, that just spells trouble right there. Unlike many urban dwellers, I love country music. I don't listen to it exclusively, but it reminds me of summers back home... beer on the porch with friends in the summer, beachy trips, adventures or various random road trips (such as Dad's inclination one summer to hit up all the small towns in Ontario with waterfalls). Today, it was of a road trip from a time I went home last year... I'm thinking it was for one of Grandma and Grandpa's anniversary shindigs.

You see, it was May. I had two sisters eagerly anticipating senior prom. So, while Kiki was working, Kaye and I decided we would have ourselves a trip to the mall (about 45 minutes from home). All went fine and dandy, we had a great drive singing along to tunes on the radio... we scored a classic, super cheap prom dress (that Kaye is known for being thrifty), we decided to grab a bite to eat and call Mom to let her know we were beginning the journey home...

...and then, we got lost.

We came out of the city from a completely different way that we went in. We had no clue where we were. We did not have a map. And Kaye and I have a reputation for having absolutely no sense of direction. It would seem as though we were doomed.

But Kaye and I giggled and pointed ourselves in the direction that home was surely in and went on our merry way. We were keeping our eyes open for signs that we were on the right or wrong track. We did come across a town with a gas station, thought we may find a map... but it was closed. So, we just figured we'd keep going, and this is something how it went:

"Berlett Road? We know some Berletts! Good sign!" Keep going.
"Cows! We have cows! Good sign!" Keep going.
"Cemetary! Uh oh, bad sign, bad sign!" Turn.
"Wellesley: Home of Apple Butter and Cheese Festival. I like apple butter. I like cheese. That's definitely a good sign!" Keep going.
"Abandoned house? Bad sign!" Turn.
"Oh look at that... military guys? Why are there military guys in camoflaged Jeeps in the middle of nowhere? They have guns? Um... good sign? ... maybe?" Keep going.

Everytime we spotted a "sign" we would burst into fits of giggles. And, strangely enough, we made it to "Anna Mae's! GREAT SIGN!"... because then, we knew exactly where we were and how to get home from there. We had managed to turn ourselves in the right direction amidst our travels and made it safely home.

We were torn between telling people or not as they may never have let us take out the car or travel together again... but in the end decided that the story was far too hilarious to keep Mom out of the loop. Others expressed their astonishment that Kaye and I survived. Without a map. On our own. But we knew all along that we would make it... and we just enjoyed the ride.

Cheesy moral of the story: You don't need a map, or a set of concrete plans to get where you are going. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut.

The gym: summit to solve the world's problems?

One of the groups I'm involved with, interVivos, is holding an event on April 20, 2007 with Premier Stelmach. Last night, we determined the title for the luncheon: What the boom?! Is there sustainability in prosperity? Because sure we are doing well enough now, but what happens in 20-30 years when the boom is over? What is Alberta going to look like then?

I was telling Roomie K all about this when we met up at the gym. Amidst all the hulking, grunting men, we are there lifting our weights and talking about politics. Roomie K is not a political girl. She doesn't have a political background, she has not been involved in things political in the past. She is, however, involved in the non-profit sector working with persons with disabilities (before that it was working with at-risk youth). The girl is incredibly passionate about what she does, and is thoroughly loved by both the youth she has worked with in the past, and the individuals she works with now.

At the last meet-up, grab-a-drink-and-chat politics event, I convinced Roomie K to come with me. She became engaged in deep discussion with a boy on the subject of what she does, and fought his disgust as she tried to convince him that not everyone in low-income/poverty in the city wants to be in that position. Some of her kids from her previous jobs had single mothers who worked two jobs and went to school full time in attempts to make life better for the children they were raising. One woman was raising a son that was not even hers, but that her room mates (a couple) had left in her care when they disappeared one day and never returned. Not everyone in this group has the "lazy" stigma that has been associated with them. Far more of them are forced to work harder than anyone in the middle-class in order to provide the basic necessities for their families. What Krista couldn't make this very conservative boy understand, was that for many people this lifestyle is a cycle from which they have been unable to break free.

With both that job and the new one, it has become glaringly obvious just how hurting the non-profit sector is for dedicated workers. I found this when I worked at Chrysalis as well. In Alberta's booming economy, people can work at MacDonalds for more than they get paid at some of these non-profits. A lot of people are more concerned with the money than the good they are bringing to the lives of others. These non-profits are fighting for grants and government funds in order to sustain themselves and can not afford to hire staff, let alone work to keep those staff.

What we came to a conclusion last night between leg presses is this: these organizations need to stop competing. Each organization excels in different areas, some at going out with individuals into the community, some at group home care, some with certain disabilities over others... and these groups need to come together in order to be strategic. Because not only are they fighting for money, but they're fighting for staff. Organizations which pay $10 per hour rather than $12 find it impossible to get staff, and as a result, the program suffers. Rather than this be the case, there could be programs targeted towards these different facets of care and levels of disability throughout the city. Specialization: let those which have the ability to best provide the program, provide the program. The CEOs and strategic planners of these organizations need to come together to determine what is best for their clients, because in the end, it will also be what is best for the organization. Certainly, right now, everyone is feeling the pressure of the economy and cuts in funding (such as the constant decrease in PDD funding over the past few years).

Sometimes we get so caught up in the boom and prosperity of the province, that we forget that not everyone is getting positive fall-out. We need to work with the organizations which cater to the most vulnerable in our society and make them strong. A society is only as strong as it's weakest link and, in Alberta, non-profits such as these are straining to survive.

Friday, March 23, 2007

As if there wasn't enough reason to love Dave Hancock

Oh Dave Hancock. How I love thee with thy desire for a province-wide smoking ban. I know it's something Albertans aren't keen on. I know you're a fighter. And it irks me how Albertans are making the very same excuses against the ban that other provinces (ie. Ontario) used... excuses which have not only proven ineffective, but untrue.

And, in case that wasn't reason enough to deduce that you are quite lovely... you go and do something like this.

A province-wide colorectal screening program!

As behind as Alberta is on the anti-smoking legislation, they are far ahead here. This was something that we tried getting the Ontario government on board for when I was working at the Canadian Cancer Society. What the news release doesn't tell you is that while colorectal cancer one of the top killers, it is NINETY PERCENT curable if caught early enough. NINETY PERCENT! And yet it still kills so many people. Why? Because people don't get screened for it. They hold off on their physicals, they avoid the doctor and then they find out it's too late.

I remember having this argument with my grandmother in the summer. She was talking about how one of her friends had been diagnosed and then died three weeks later. She mentioned how she hadn't been to the doctor in years and years and refused to go. And, oh what a shame it was that she was gone. I talked about how curable the cancer was, and grandma said something along the lines of, "Well, I don't blame her I don't like going to the doctor either." This completely blows my mind.

I realize that going to the doctor may be unpleasant, but in this case, getting your check ups literally means life or death. Bravo to Hancock's Health and Wellness for putting this screening program out there.

Now if only we could get people to quit smoking...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In the world where I am not writing on the internet... oh wait...

Since Kaye is essentially the only person who reads this, I don't feel particularly bad about writing about my personal life. Ha! Some days/weeks just make me want to crawl into bed and stay there, and this is one of them. Which is probably why I've been more domestic and less debacherous as of late. I've been cooking and baking pie and making single mittens because apparently I get bored making two that look alike (I'll get around to it, I swear).

Let's see... my schedule is simultaneously clearing and filling up. Classes are almost done for right now, two more French and no more Spanish. This is good since it means that I will get home before 10 p.m.. However, Relay is going to start consuming my life since meetings are basically quadrupling until the end of May (the point in which I fall asleep for an entire weekend). interVivos is also gearing up now and we're actually starting to get things done, which is very exciting. It seems as though I'll no longer be able to make it to Wednesday night suppers with the boys, but since they've been happening on Sunday quite a bit lately... that's okay.

The countdown is on until the great department swap. I'm holding my breath and crossing my fingers in order to not end up in St. Albert. It may mean that I read a whole lot less, but the commute is the worst thing about my job (and it's not even that bad, really). I'm getting antsy to find out where I'll end up. Exciting stuff.

Roomie K and I finally got around to taking shoes to the shoe doctor to get fixed on the weekend and so I got to pull out my most favourite pair of shoes and wear them today. For the first time since I moved. In July. And they were broken before that. I just want to caress them.

There you have it: the girliest, least informative, most superficial post yet!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pussycat Dolls: Good role models? Right.

One of the most terrible things that could happen at the gym happened to me the other day -- the batteries died on my music player. Due to this, I channel-surfed through the whole four channels on gym-TV. One of these channels was Much Music, airing at this time was the Pussycat Dolls show. The only snippet I caught was the Dolls claiming that they are "feminists" and "positive role models" for young girls. Right.

Apparently grinding on poles on buses like strippers and throwing your leg above your head between gyrating obscenely is role model behavior. Sure, sex sells. These girls are making a whack of money not because their talented, but because they dress in skimpy outfits and gyrate around.

Here is the article from The following snippets are clues that you're not a good role model.

1. When you serve as the role model to Lil' Kim. “Everything the Pussycat Dolls are is everything that I’ve developed myself into being,” said the rap star Lil’ Kim, who is a judge on the show and who served a prison sentence for lying to a federal grand jury about a shooting outside a radio station.

When you want to pick someone who convinces others that your gang of women are good role models... you may be better off not to choose Lil' Kim. I don't know of any woman who would consider Kim a positive role model.

2. When teenage girls believe that you represent a step backwards for women. When one reporter said his 17-year-old daughter looked at the group and their antics as a giant step backward for women, the Pussycat Dolls’ founder, Robin Antin, became defensive, invoking female role models who follow the Dolls. “There’s a reason why people like Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Cameron Diaz have all been so interested in what Pussycat Dolls is all about,” she said. “They feel that it is empowering to get up there and dress up like a Doll. It’s fun, and it’s something that every girl in the world — she may think one thing, but I think inside every girl in the world wants to do it.”

In my humble opinion, I don't think anyone is verified to make broad statements about "what every girl in the world wants to do". That would be like me claiming I know what all everyone wants. Complete ridiculousness. And, actresses are generally not your best bets as role models either. While it may be fun to dress hoochie and dance around, that by no means makes it the action of positive role models.

The sole thing I did to celebrate International Women's Day last week was to talk briefly to my mother. Though we haven't always had the cheeriest of relationships, she has been the greatest role model I could have ever asked for. This is why:
  • She always told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be, but encouraged me not to sell myself short. Though she didn't necessarily agree with what I went for school for, challenging me to ensure it was the right choice for what I wanted, she let me do my thing and supported me throughout my university career.
  • Though we debated almost endlessly, she encouraged me to stand up for what I believe in. This was stressed when we left the church near our house, where my mom was Sunday school superintendent, and went to another one due to differing beliefs between Mom and the Pastor. She believed in God, he believed he was a god.
  • Also, through discussions on religion, philosophy, the world... she taught me to base my beliefs on solid foundations and research. Don't take for truth that which you are merely told.
  • She got involved in municipal politics when I was young. It was empowering to see a bright woman making change in society. I firmly believe it was the dinner table discussions on municipal politics which spawned my love of politics today.
  • As the sole woman for over a decade on municipal councils, she also taught me that women were just as good as men in this arena. She is confident, well-informed and hard working. Yet as busy as she is with meetings, she made time for us as well.
  • And, farm women work their asses off. My mom didn't merely cook and clean. When we had dairy cows, she was in the barn every morning and every night for chores, she was throwing hay/straw bales in the mows, she was helping in the fields. And then she did all of the housework on top of that. And she kept track of all the finances. She was a regular superwoman.

For me, my mom embodies a lot of what feminism is about. It's about knowing what you believing in and standing up for those beliefs. It's about being informed and confident. It's not about having to choose between a career or a family, but about partnership which enables you to have both. It's about being able to do what you desire to do. It's about making a positive impact on society be it through your children, through your career, by being involved in your community or through any other way which may seem small to you but is a big deal to others. It's about realizing that society/life is unfair but not letting that hold you back from your dreams. It's about not giving up.

Feminism, for me, is not even a little about the Pussycat Dolls.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Sometimes he's awkward, and sometimes he's just so delightful

Ms Blakeman: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Again to the Premier: will the Premier join with the Alberta Liberals and finally stand up for Calgarians by recommending that they fully fund the new hospital in south Calgary? Do the right thing.

Mr. Stelmach: Mr. Speaker, I don’t have to stand up with the Alberta Liberals. Alberta Liberals aren’t funding the hospital. The money for the hospital and all other infrastructure comes from the taxpayers of the province of Alberta.

So delightful!

Yesterday, I was at this. Harper said, "the era of empty rhetoric on the environment is over!" and I can only hope that this is true. Harper is a surprisingly good speaker, very confident and strong... unfortunately, our own leader is not so confident. He's just such a sweet man though, you can't help but feel for him. When Harper brought up Ernest C. Manning and how he said that Albertans dream of changing the world from their tractor seats... it was heartfelt when Stelmach later added that he was proud to leave his tractor seat and play his part in changing the world.

Yes, there were a whopping six protesters outside (protesters who frequently broke down into giggles at that). However, I think that we have got to start somewhere. We can't fix the environment overnight, but this announcement shows a commitment to change from both governments. I don't believe it's subsidizing the oil companies, you do have to give them a reason to want to change and cut back on their emissions. Besides, money isn't going to the oil companies, it's going to new technology to cut down on greenhouse gases.

Canada shouldn't be reactionary and depend on the rest of the world to come up with solutions. It should be a leader. It's the same sort of thing Dion was talking about during his campaign and his speech at the Liberal leadership convention... it's just a shame that it takes fear of a Liberal government to get Harper to focus on the environment.

Books on the Bus: February Edition (...a little late, I know)

I have to admit, I haven't been reading a whole lot on the bus during the month of February. The winter blues had me a little down so when I wasn't reading (or knitting) on the bus, I would sleep with my iPod buds tucked into my ears. This past week has been absolutely incredible, warm and bright... so hopefully, this means more energy pour moi.

The following are books that I have read during February:

1) The Russian Debutante's Handbook: Gary Shteyngart
This book is very funny and full of adventure. It's fabulously written and I recommend it. It was one of those books that I had trouble putting down, speed reading through parts to find out what happens so that I wasn't left hanging until I picked up the book next.

2) Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine: Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler, eds.
Admittedly, this book isn't for everyone. There were essays I liked and others that didn't particularly tickle my fancy... but that's generally how Feminism and Feminist lit strike me. It's all about finding stories that are relatable. However, I do enjoy reading the opinions of others, and though I don't necessarily agree, it does lend a new perspective on some situations.

3) The Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules!: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is absolutely hilarious. Who knew knitting could be so positively amusing?! Generally, I have taught myself to knit new things via internet patterns/tutorials, but it's good to have a book to refer to rather than getting off the couch and running back and forth to my trusty little box of all knowledge. Yes, reading this book further underlines my geekdom, but I simply don't care. It was too delightful to pass on.

4) The Kiterunner: Khaled Hosseini
This may have been one of the most incredible books I have ever read. The imagery is astounding, the writing beautiful and the story heartwrenching. It may be uncomfortable but it further leads to understanding the plight of the characters. Absolutely stunning. This book I recommend to everyone, just as it came highly recommended to me.

In February I also started reading Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"... I have this urge to read more "classic" literature. However, I haven't gotten very far into it as of yet (and it is a huge book) so you'll have to wait until March's list comes out to get the down low on that one.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Blue Alberta Going Green

In the past week or two there has been a huge influx of CAMRIF (Canada-Alberta Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund) announcements, many focusing on "green" infrastructure initiatives such as an energy efficient fire hall in Yellowhead County, wetlands around the North Saskatchewan and fuel-efficient (and some hybrid) buses for Strathcona.

Today's throne speech further underlines this government's environmental initiatives:

"Working with Albertans, the government will turn current environmental challenges into new opportunities. This will enhance Alberta's standing as a leader in practical, innovative nad sustainable environmental policies.

Your government will encourage all Albertans to take personal responsibility for energy efficiency and reduced consumption... because the environment is a shared responsibility between government, industry and all members of society.

Alberta's legislation for regulating greenhouse gas emissions was the first in Canada specifically addressing climate change. But this government knows more must be done.

This spring, the Government of Alberta will introduce legislation that will complete implementation of Alberta's ground-breaking Climate Change Plan. It will establish greenhouse gas emission intensity targets for industry under the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation.

These will be the first legislated emission intensity reduction targets for large industrial emitters in Canada.

At the same time, the government will work with Albertans to outline its next steps on this important issue. By fall 2007, Alberta will have a new climate change action plan to move beyond what's been accomplished so far."

Interesting. Very interesting. The speech is also highlighted in this Calgary Herald article.

Speaking of climate change, the temperature was supposed to hit zero today... and it's a whopping fourteen degrees. Wow.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Tickle thinks I'm smart.

I took some lame IQ test last week at and found out that they think my IQ is 136. Today I opened my e-mail to find they sent me the "indepth" report for free because I was one of the site's top scorers. Whatever.

You scored 136 on Tickle's IQ test. This means that based on your answers, your IQ score is between 126 and 136. Most people's IQs are between 70 and 130.
In fact, 95% of all people have IQs within that range. 68% of people score between 80 and 120.

How do you relate to other IQ test takers?

Your Intellectual Type Is:

Like a meticulous collector, you've fed your brain a unique set of facts and figures over the years. Words, numbers, you've got it all. That's what makes you a Facts Curator.

Whether or not you intend to absorb every piece of information that comes your way, your mind has certain steel-trap qualities to it. You are a knowledge sponge. You have almost enough words in your head to fill a dictionary, and you're equally adept when it comes to manipulating numbers. You can also detect important patterns in number sequences, and probably remember the mnemonic devices you were taught in grade school.
You may feel comfortable in classroom settings where absorbing details is critical. You're also able to learn from example and piece together all the little facts in life to get to the big picture. That's why you never stop accumulating information as you walk through life.

Your strengths lie in both the verbal and math realms — placing you in the same arena as someone like Bill Gates. Gates has the ability to not only store and retrieve an especially large amount of specialized data, but to translate and present that information to the population at large. His entire empire is based on this unique talent. And to think — your brain works in this same way! When it comes right down to it, you and other Facts Curators can ride a wave of information to live a truly enriched life.
Great Jobs For You
Because of the way you process information, these are just some of the many careers in which you could excel:
  • Tech writer
  • Astronomer
  • Computer engineer
  • Algebra teacher
  • Copy editor
  • Doctor

Some of Your Greatest Talents
You've got tons of strengths. It wouldn't surprise us if you:
  • Can process information quickly
  • Can articulate knowledge clearly
  • Are a thorough researcher; almost detective-like
  • Are the person friends want to call for their "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" lifeline

Mathematical Intelligence
Your Mathematical Percentile

100th percentile

You scored in the 100th percentile on the mathematical intelligence scale.This means that you scored higher than 90% - 100% of people who took the test and that 0% - 10% scored higher than you did. The scale above illustrates this visually.

Your mathematical intelligence score represents your combined ability to reason and calculate. You scored relatively high, which means you're probably the one your friends look to when splitting the lunch bill or calculating your waitresses' tip. You may or may not be known as a math whiz, but number crunching might come a little easier to you than it does others.

Visual-Spatial Intelligence
Your Visual-Spatial Percentile

80th percentile

You scored in the 80th percentile on the visual-spatial intelligence scale. This means that you scored higher than 70% - 80% of people who took the test and that 20% - 30% scored higher than you did. The scale above illustrates this visually.

The visual-spatial component of intelligence measures your ability to extract a visual pattern and from that envision what should come next in a sequence. Your score was relatively high, which could mean that you're the one navigating the map when you're on an outing with friends. You have, in some capacity, an ability to think in pictures. Maybe this strength comes out in subtle ways, like how you play chess or form metaphors.

Linguistic Intelligence

Your Linguistic Percentile

100th percentile

You scored in the 100th percentile on the linguistic intelligence scale. This means that you scored higher than 90% - 100% of people who took the test and that 0% - 10% scored higher than you did. The scale above illustrates this visually.

Linguistic abilities include reading, writing and communicating with words. Tickle's test measures knowledge of vocabulary, ease in completing word analogies and the ability to think critically about a statement based on its semantic structure. Your score was relatively high, which could mean you know your way around a bookstore and maybe like to bandy about the occasional 25-cent word to impress friends.

Logical Intelligence

Your Logical Percentile

100th percentile

You scored in the 100th percentile on the logical intelligence scale. This means that you scored higher than 90% - 100% of people who took the test and that 0% - 10% scored higher than you did. The scale above illustrates this visually.

Tickle's logical intelligence questions assess your ability to think things through. The questions determine the extent to which you use reasoning and logic to determine the best solution to a problem. Your logic score was relatively high, which could mean that when the car breaks down, your friends look to you to help figure out not only what's wrong, but how to fix it and how you're going to get to the next gas station.