Friday, 29 March 2013

Shots in the Dark

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." -- Robert McCloskey

Have you ever thought that no matter how much you try something, it's never enough?  Yeah, I figured as much.

I should be celebrating the holiday weekend with my family but instead I feel overwhelmed.  I've been spending a large portion of every day for the last year looking for a part-time job so that I can earn some extra money while the munchkin is in school.  My ideal scenario would be freelance writing or blogging about a subject that I'm very familiar with, like genealogy.

I tried marketing myself as a genealogist but I only had one bite in six months.  Then after I had done some work for the person, she told me that she couldn't pay me.

Also I registered with web sites whose purpose is to pair up freelance writers with potential employers.  Again, only one contract offered after six months of applications and letters.  Then that contract was terminated early because the person thought I wasn't working fast enough despite the fact that he had given me no deadline for the project.

I don't qualify for the majority of jobs that would require me to work with the public because I am not fluently bilingual (which you have to be in this crazy province).

So here I am, still no employment.  And now my husband wants to leave our current lodgings.  Not because we can't afford it, but because he feels the management of the building is not taking proper care of things, the rent is being raised (again) without any sign of improvement to the facilities, and they don't seem to be listening to our concerns.  Personally I don't want to move.  We're close to everything, the munchkin's school is two blocks away, and we have friends in the surrounding area.

I've spoken to the building manager but he informed me that nothing can be done until the end of April.  I've spoken to my husband but he seems to have made up his mind already.

Everyone hears but nobody is listening.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Manners and Common Sense

"In my opinion, we don't devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks." -- Bill Watterson

I have often wondered if parents are simply not teaching basic manners, or if it's a "teenager" thing to disrespect everyone to the point of landing themselves in more trouble.  And when they do get into trouble, no matter how serious, they often laugh it off as if it were a big game.

An 18-year-old Florida girl giggles during a bail hearing and flips the bird at the judge, who immediately increases her sentence.

An Ohio teen on trial for murder smirks the whole time, and then utters profane statements and gives the finger to his victims and their families.

Two teenage girls tweet death threats toward a rape victim, and are promptly arrested.

Not to mention the hundreds of Quebec student "protesters" that were arrested for vandalizing businesses and damaging police vehicles.

Such behaviour isn't limited to teenagers, either.  I once witnessed a high-speed car chase through a residential neighbourhood that was precipitated by one of the drivers cutting off the other at an intersection.  The driver behind was flashing his high-beams and grinning like a Cheshire cat.  Both drivers appeared to be grown adults.

And don't get me started about the numerous celebrities who have ended up in court and/or in jail (multiple times, even!) because their status went to their heads.

There are many reasons why common decency goes out the window.  You can argue that these people have some kind of mental disorder, that it's impossible for them to understand proper behaviour because of some chemical imbalance in the brain, that they "forgot" in the heat of the moment, or that they were high on drugs at the time.

But sometimes, they just don't care because they are spoiled brats who believe they are entitled to everything and will throw temper tantrums if they don't get their way.  Or they don't care because they have brainwashed themselves into believing that they are somehow better than everyone else.  Or maybe, just maybe, their parents never taught them manners in the first place.

On a sarcastic note, maybe all those schools that want to eliminate sex education can teach Emily Post instead.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow

"A wingnut is someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum - the professional partisans, the unhinged activists and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They're the people who always try to divide rather than unite us. -- John Avlon

I recently came across a message on an FB group that was completely unrelated to the topic of the group, and offensive besides.  So I reported the message.  However in doing so I found myself in the poster's cross-hairs.

The young man (looks early to mid-20s in his profile photo) calls himself a "comedy activist" and conspiracy buff who is the leader of a group called Reptilian Report.  According to their site, this group's goals include: hunting down and interviewing aliens, defeating the Illuminati, and stealing Illuminati/Freemason power by using their ritual locations.  His original post rambled on about President Obama being the Antichrist and that his upcoming visit to Jerusalem was timed purposely to coincide with the Persian New Year.  When I called him out on several mistakes that he had made, he discounted the sources I cited as being "owned by the Illuminati".

Later posts in the same thread claimed that he was a genius, and that he and his compatriots were working on something secret that would enable the creation of clean energy, fix the economy, end world hunger, eliminate greed, etc.  Of course he wouldn't reveal HOW they intended to accomplish all this, because he was certain that he was being watched and possibly targeted for assassination.

This is one messed-up man, to put it mildly.  He does have a point about the world needing help - it certainly does - but the way he's going about his "mission" looks scary.  And spamming Facebook groups with his manifesto won't garner him any sympathy.

I hope that someone gets him the help he needs before he decides to continue his war with violence and not words.

(For those not familiar with screwball card games, the title of this post refers to a card in the Steve Jackson game "Illuminati".)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Getting Away With It

"Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men's belief that they "own" their bodies - those vast and perilous estates, pulsating with the energy that made the worlds, in which they find themselves without their consent and from which they are ejected at the pleasure of another!" --  C.S. Lewis

I've been following the sickening story of two Steubenville Ohio teenage football stars who allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl who was drunk and comatose with no way to defend herself.  What's worse is that several others witnessed this and did nothing to stop it because they supposedly thought the girl had consented and therefore there was no wrongdoing.  Other members of the football team have been wearing masks and protesting outside the courthouse, demanding that the players on trial be set free.

My first thought was WHERE ARE THEIR PARENTS?  Who in their right mind allows their teenager to go out partying at all hours of the night and get drunk?  Who teaches their sons that it's acceptable to harrass and rape someone?  Are people becoming so self-indulged that they can't or won't guide their children appropriately?

A big part of the problem is that in many small towns, the local athletic team (usually football) is accorded celebrity status.  The players are practically given free rein to do as they please, and they get away with a LOT - which includes, unfortunately, sexual assault.  Coaches and other authority figures will even cover up for them.  It brings to mind another case from a few years ago where a Texas high school cheerleader refused to cheer for the basketball player who had raped her.  As a result she  was kicked off the squad and publicly humiliated, and a grand jury refused to indict the ones responsible.

One comment on the story summarized it quite well: "Rape has always been about power and control, and in this country, we assign those attributes to atheletes and celebrities. We tend to allow them to think they have some sort of absolute power and authority to take whatever they want to take and there are no consequences. We sort of canonize atheletes because they can run fast or throw a ball straighter than the next guy, and these young players are taught they are elite."

Fortunately we seem to be getting closer to breaking this taboo subject wide open.  The sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University made national headlines.  But there are countless high schools and sports clubs around North America that might harbour the next perpetrators of the unthinkable.

These boys in Steubenville must be used as an example to others.  If you assault a girl you will go to jail and have a black mark on your record for the rest of your life.  No second chances.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Just Another Day at the OQLF

"Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all." -- Walt Whitman

After seeing the latest news story about the ridiculous behaviour of the Quebec separatists:

I decided to amuse myself by writing a tongue-in-cheek letter to anyone who might be considering a visit to our fair province.

Welcome to Quebec, a province steeped in history and natural wonder. From the Chaudiere River and the Plains of Abraham to the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Bonsecours Market, there is something to interest everyone.

However, it's advised that you learn a few words of French before your arrival. For almost 40 years the Quebec government has been protecting its people's French language from the encroachment of English. As a result, the use of English within the Quebec borders is strictly controlled.

All outdoor signage is in French, and if you happen to see signs with English letters, the English letters are half the size of the French ones. Any business with more than 50 employees uses French in the workplace. Immigrants and people without a special exemption attend school in French.

And that's not all. Quebec has its own special police force to ensure that these language freedoms are being maintained. Italian restaurants seem to be particularly favoured targets; recent cases involved the words "Pasta" and "Caffe".

Some employees of the public transit system in Montreal have shown their loyalty to Quebec by refusing to serve customers who speak English. Supporters of a recently-tabled amendment to strengthen the language laws were quoted as saying that anyone who can't ask for a Metro ticket in French should walk.

Tourists are welcome to visit. But if you don't know French, perhaps it's best to not speak at all.

By the way, the phrase you need to buy a Metro ticket is:
Puis-je acheter un billet de métro, s'il vous plaît?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Two Solitudes

"If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher." -- Unknown

Two pieces in this morning's newspaper caught my attention with their highlighting of the sociopolitical situation that Quebec residents endure.

First: At a conference of the sovereigntist party Option Nationale, former premier Jacques Parizeau pointed out that an independent Quebec would be "rid of constitutional constraints" with regard to anglophones and asked how a new government would handle the issue.  He also encouraged the use of public funds to work toward the goal of sovereignty (even when Quebec is currently over $114 billion in debt) because being independent would "provide considerable savings".

I call bullshit.  If Quebec were to become independent, things would get MUCH worse for everyone.  There would be no more federal transfer payments.  No more Canadian dollar.  No military.  Trade and business contracts would have to be renegotiated.  And so on.  And I would bet my bottom dollar that any government of an independent Quebec would not hesitate to stomp down on non-francophones so hard that they would break.  Why not make us wear maple-leaf badges and be done with it?  At least we'll have no doubt as to where we stand.

Which brings me to the second piece: A letter from a 26-year-old anglophone student at McGill University, in which he describes his plan to leave the province for good after he receives his MBA.  He had spent three years working in the U.S. and then returned home to find that nothing had changed.  Roads are still crumbling, taxes are higher than ever, the government still spins in circles, and nothing changes.  He will gladly trade all that for something better.

The second example is a clear consequence of the first.  It's little wonder that so many people, including the bulk of my own contemporaries, have left the province.  Very little has changed in 30 years, and there hasn't been a government strong enough (provincial or federal) to say "Stop the nonsense."  The beautiful city that I have called home is falling apart amid an ongoing war of attrition that, in the end, everyone will lose.

I was recently asked why I stayed here despite all these problems.  Answer: my family.  My husband has a stable job, we have a child in school (immersion), and my in-laws live nearby.  We cope.  And we happen to like it here.  But we'll be keeping an eye out for other opportunities, because with this wacky government of ours, things could change in the blink of an eye.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Happy St. David's Day

"Each section of the British Isles has its own way of laughing, except Wales, which doesn't." -- Stephen Leacock

Visitors to Google today would notice that their Doodle is a leek-holding red dragon breathing fire, the flames transmuting into daffodils.

March first is the feast day of St. David, the patron saint of Wales, who was known for his teachings and asceticism (forsaking many of life's worldly pleasures). The aforementioned leek is St. David's personal symbol, while the daffodil is a symbol of Wales and usually blooms in March. St. David's Day has been a national festival for centuries and a public holiday since 2000, celebrated with parades, concerts, and of course food.

A few of my ancestors were Welsh, and no doubt observed the date in their own ways. But the funny thing is, when I think about St. David's Day I am reminded of a song that was on a recording of nursery rhymes I had when I was a child. I knew it as "The Three Hunters" but the correct title is "Three Jovial Welshmen."

There were three jovial Welshmen, as I have heard them say,
And they would go a-hunting upon St. David's Day.

All the day they hunted, and nothing could they find
But a ship a-sailing, a-sailing with the wind.
One said it was a ship; the other he said nay;
The third said it was a house, with the chimney blown away.

And all the night they hunted, and nothing could they find
But the moon a-gliding, a-gliding with the wind.
One said it was the moon; the other he said nay;
The third said it was a cheese, and half of it was cut away.

And all the day they hunted, and nothing could they find
But a hedgehog in a bramble-bush, and that they left behind.
The first said it was a hedgehog; the second he said nay;
The third it was a pin-cushion, and the pins stuck in wrong way.

And all the night they hunted, and nothing could they find
But a hare in a turnip field, and that they left behind.
The first said it was a hare; the second he said nay;
The third said it was a calf, and the cow had run away.

And all the day they hunted, and nothing could they find
But an owl in a holly-tree, and that they left behind.
One said it was an owl; the other he said nay;
The third said 'twas an old man, and his beard was growing grey.