Wednesday, 23 January 2013

It's Too Dark!

"Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it." -- Terry Pratchett

My husband and I were awakened at just before 5 AM by yells from our 6-year-old's room: "It's too dark in here! I can't find Willow! (her so-named Hello Kitty plushie) My night-light is off!"  With a few grumbles we both hauled ourselves out of a comfortable bed to discover that we had no electricity - hence the absence of light.  A quick look out the window showed dark houses in at least a three-block radius.  The room was still warm, which meant we hadn't been without power for long.  But with a frigid temperature of -30C outside and the fact that our building is of 1950s stock with little insulation in the walls, we would not stay warm without power to the furnace.

With Missy awake, going back to bed wasn't an option.  So flashlights, candles, and emergency supplies were organized.  Hubby departed for work much earlier than normal, anticipating transit slowdowns.  Missy and I bundled up to await the outcome.  The pre-dawn neighbourhood was quite eerie, backlit by the ever-present glow from the city.

Not surprisingly, school was cancelled for the day since the building was located in the blackout area.  By 8:20 AM the temperature in the house had dropped to 15C and we were preparing to depart for the mall (which was unaffected).  But to our surprise and relief, the power was restored.  So we've been relaxing together, coloring pictures and watching videos, and hoping the power will remain stable (we've had a brownout or two but haven't lost it completely).

Blackouts of this nature are, unfortunately, expected when temperatures plummet and everyone needs heat for their homes.  More than 3/4 of homes in Quebec are heated by electricity.  Ours is heated by a natural-gas furnace but it still needs power to start.  Whenever we move, one of my criteria for a home is to have a propane/pellet/wood-fired stove as a backup in case of events like this.  I can handle no electricity, but I like to be WARM.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

We're Sending Them Where??!

"Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery." -- Jack Paar

Buried in the middle pages of the local newspaper a few days ago was an article about how thousands of Iraqi and Iranian refugees who had fled the violence in Syria were going to be "resettled" here. Initially they had fled their own countries for the dubious safety of Syria, and when the civil war broke out there they went to Turkey, and now there are plans afoot to bring them to Canada.

Say WHAT?!

While I think of immigration as a reasonably good thing for Canada, there has to be some lines drawn and questions asked.  Can these people prove that they are bona-fide refugees?  Are there legitimate reasons as to why they can't return to their own countries, or stay in Turkey?  Do any of them have dual citizenship that would make them eligible to come here?   Do they possess sufficient education and skills that would enable them to become productive members of Canadian society?  And, will they agree to abide by our laws and culture?

I know there are people in the system whose job it is to determine all these things.  But really, use some common sense and make sure that people meet the criteria BEFORE they are brought in.  Sometimes it seems that for every immigrant that succeeds here, there are two others who exploit the system and/or become criminals, intentionally or not.  I'm sure nobody has forgotten the murders of those four women in Kingston a few years ago, although that is an extreme example.

What's sad is that sometimes immigrants who have come here for a better life end up being deported for stupid reasons.  There was a news report yesterday about a Pakistani family with two Canadian-born children who had just won a last-minute stay of deportation on humanitarian grounds. The woman's father had not accepted their marriage, so they came here to escape the wrath of the family.  They've been here ten years and are well-established, and yet the system claims they would be in no danger if they were sent back.  How could you send two Canadian children to what to them would be a foreign country, just because you think it is "safe"?

The system sucks.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Smoke and Mirrors

"More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette." -- 1949 cigarette commercial

Doctors used to smoke in their offices.  The stereotypical bar always had a haze of smoke.  But what's more disgusting is that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The week of January 20th to 26th is the Quebec Tobacco-Free Week 2013.  It reminds us of all the progress that has been made in the last 50 years regarding cigarettes: no TV advertising of cigarettes, no smoking in public establishments, no selling of tobacco products to minors, huge warning labels on packages, etc.

But how much has all that really done?  For every anti-smoking campaign, there are tobacco industry lobby groups and smoking special-interest groups who say there is no problem.  Smoking isn't addictive.  Smoking doesn't cause cancer.  There's no real proof.  People are going to smoke despite the gruesome pictures.  Denial after denial.  And people still smoke despite the risks.

If I could, I would challenge every one of those tobacco executives and pro-smoking people to look me straight in the eye and try to say that.  I watched my own mother, my father-in-law, the mother of a dear friend, and others waste away and die from smoking-related cancers.  I have a friend who becomes violently ill when she happens to breathe any cigarette smoke in her vicinity.  I can't step into a home where someone has been smoking without having uncontrollable coughing fits.

I fear for the children of people who smoke.  The parents of one of my daughter's classmates smoke in their home, BOTH of them.  I take every opportunity I can to invite the little girl over to my place just to get her out of that environment for a while.  Her clothes always stink.  The one time I went over to their home, I lasted only two minutes before the coughing started and I had to leave.  I wished I could call them out on it, but what could I say? They are probably well aware of what they are doing to themselves, and to the health of their children, and they don't care.

If there were such a thing as magic I know exactly what I would do with it: make every single God-damned cigar and cigarette on this planet disappear and render it impossible for more to be manufactured.

How Much Help is Too Much?

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. -- Chinese proverb

Afghanistan. Libya. Mali.

The names and locations of these and other countries have become common knowledge not for their culture or tourism potential, but because of war.  And the fact that other more powerful countries have stepped in to "help" them with their upheavals.  I used to think that it was a good thing for the more liberal-minded countries to step in and provide arms and troops to help other countries become more stable and usher in a "new era of democracy".

Now, I'm not so sure.

The United States and many European countries are approaching financial ruin.  Can they really afford to be "helping" other countries any more?  Is it feasible to continue to send money, armaments, and troops to places where they might not necessarily be doing any long-term good?  Some people are saying to bring the troops and resources home and let those other countries sort things out themselves.  We have no business interfering in their domestic affairs.

My grandmother actually used to laugh at those Christian Children's Fund commercials.  You know the ones: ten cents a day will help a child somewhere in Africa to go to school or have access to medication.  She would say there were similar money drives by the churches when she was a child. "Help the starving children in Africa."  Well, nothing has changed in the last hundred years because the children in Africa are still starving despite all the aid that is being sent there.

It's time to stop throwing money and resources at the problems, and teach people to deal with things more effectively on their own.  We have enough of our own problems to take care of instead of worrying about everyone else's.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Bait and Switch

I'm afraid of Americans, I'm afraid of the words, I'm afraid I can't help it, I'm afraid I can't... I'm afraid of Americans." -- David Bowie

So here I am, another blog move in less than six months.  I had noticed that since Christmas, I had been receiving blog notifications from only ONE person, whom I had befriended on Blogster and who turned out to be rather prolific in posting run-of-the-mill nothing.  Then I did some checking and discovered that the majority of my contacts had either followed Chovhani over here or relocated their blogs elsewhere.  I don't blame them.

Many, too many people over there have been ranting about politics, guns, and other socially charged issues without taking other peoples' opinions into consideration.  I found myself backing out of many conversations with certain bloggers because I realized that they would never accept my moderate viewpoint.  And then there were the angst-ridden young people complaining about their latest breakup or how bad their lives were.  I tried to reach them by commenting on some of their blogs, to give the perspective from someone who had been through it, but I don't know if they really heard me.

This isn't to say that there are no decent folks left over on Blogster, just they seem to be few and far between.

I'm looking forward to reconnecting with my former Multiply contacts who have moved here.  It's good to be able to keep a circle of friends, even online.  And maybe my writing will get a bit more exposure.