Monday, 29 December 2014

Merry Olde England

I've been posting quite a few Old English songs here during this year's holiday season, primarily because several branches of my family were from rural England and I have an affinity for the music.  Here's yet another, a New Year carol that is thought to have originated in the 17th century in the area of Oxford or Norfolk. It's sung to the tune of "Greensleeves".

The old year now away is fled,
The new year it is entered;
Then let us all our sins down tread,
And joyfully all appear.
Let's merry be this holiday,
And let us run with sport and play,
Hang sorrow, let's cast care away
God send us a happy new year!

For Christ's circumcision this day we keep,
Who for our sins did often weep;
His hands and feet were wounded deep,
And his blessed side, with a spear.
His head they crowned then with thorn,
And at him they did laugh and scorn,
Who for to save our souls was born;
God send us a happy New Year!

And now with New Year's gifts each friend
Unto each other they do send;
God grant we may our lives amend,
And that truth may now appear.
Now like the snake cast off your skin
Of evil thoughts and wicked sin,
And to amend this new year begin:
God send us a merry new year!

And now let all the company
In friendly manner all agree,
For we are here welcome all may see
Unto this jolly good cheer.
I thank my master and my dame,
Which are the founders of the same,
To eat, to drink now is no shame:
God send us a happy new year!

Come lads and lasses every one,
Jack, Tom, Dick, Bess, Mary and Joan,
Let's cut the meat unto the bone,
For welcome you need not fear.
And here for good liquor you shall not lack,
It will whet my brains and strengthen my back;
This jolly good cheer it must go to wrack:
God send us a happy new year!

Come, give's more liquor when I do call,
I'll drink to each one in this hall,
I hope that so loud I must not bawl,
So unto me lend an ear.
Good fortune to my master send,
And to our dame which is our friend,
Lord bless us all, and so I end:
God send us a happy new year!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Keep Christmas With You

When I was a kid, however many years ago now that was, we had a Christmas tradition of playing certain records while we were putting up the decorations as well as while taking them down.  One song from a Sesame Street holiday album stuck with me, called Keep Christmas With You.  It's rather appropriate, more so now with the younger generation being so occupied with trends and stuff instead of personal relationships.

When Christmas time is over and presents put away, don't be sad
There'll be so much to treasure about this Christmas day and the fun we've had
So many happy feelings to celebrate with you
And, oh, the good times hurry by so fast.
But even when it's over there's something you can do to make Christmas last

Keep Christmas with you all through the year,
When Christmas is over, you can keep it near.
Think of this Christmas day when Christmas is far away.

Keep Christmas with you all through the year,
When Christmas is over, save some Christmas cheer.
These precious moments, hold them very dear
And keep Christmas with you all through the year.

Christmas means the spirit of giving peace and joy to you,
The goodness of loving, the gladness of living;
These are Christmas too.

So, keep Christmas with you all through the year,
When Christmas is over, save some Christmas cheer.
These precious moments, hold them very dear
And keep Christmas with you all through the year.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

It's Just Stuff

Now that Christmas has passed and we've all indulged in the gifts and the food, I find myself wondering, like Charlie Brown does in the classic Christmas TV special, about the real meaning of the holidays.  Don't get me wrong, I certainly appreciate spending time with family, friends, and loved ones.

But I'm also saddened by the adverts that appear on TV saying that even though we can make better things we have trouble making things better because poverty and homelessness still exist in this rich country of ours.  I have friends who struggle with loneliness, illness, addiction, lack of money, and unemployment.

I've also seen young people crow over their latest "in" video game or toy, but what I really see is just "stuff": a piece of plastic made from non-renewable resources that will eventually be tossed aside in favour of the next "in" thing.  A blogger I follow (garbagefinds.com) writes about his trash-picking in affluent neighbourhoods and what he finds in others' discards is astounding.

How can people can be so caring and yet so terribly wasteful?  It's like the human race is two-faced with one side apparently blind to the other.

I still remember last summer when the ceiling caved in at my father's house due to a water leak, and Dad was beside himself that several pieces of furniture had to be refinished due to water and impact damage.  But it's just stuff, my brother and I told him.  Nobody was in the affected room at the time, and the rest of the house was secure, so he didn't have to be so upset about it.

People assign either too much or not enough value to the wrong things.  It's still stuff.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Feast of Stephen

"Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen; when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even."

The 26th of December is known in the Western Christian churches as Saint Stephen's Day.  Stephen was a deacon in one of the early churches in Jerusalem; he was appointed by the Apostles to distribute aid to the poorer members of the community.

His sermons included his views concerning the history of Israel, which were challenged by other synagogues. Although he bested his challengers through legal debate, he was nonetheless declared a blasphemer and stoned to death, thus becoming the first martyr of Christianity.  Relics of his are said to be preserved in the Church of St. Stephen in Jerusalem.

Apart from the New Testament book of Acts of the Apostles, Saint Stephen has little mention outside of the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslaus" as quoted above.  In many nations where the religion was historically Catholic, the day is a public holiday and celebrated with feasting.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Trim up the Tree!

Trim up the tree with Christmas stuff
Like bingle balls, and whofoo fluff
Trim up the town with goowho gums
And bizilbix and wums

Trim every blessed window and trim every blessed door
Hang up whoboohoo bricks
Then run out and get some more!
Hang pantookas on the ceiling
Pile pankunas on the floor

Trim every blessed needle on the blessed Christmas tree
Christmas comes tomorrow!
Trim you, trim me!

Trim up your pets with fuzzle fuzz
And whiffer bloofs, and wuzzle wuzz
Trim up your uncle and your aunt
With yards of whofut flant

Trim every house in Whoville
From the cellar to the roof
Hang up a mile of dafflers
And three miles of snaffer snoof!

Hang dang-donglers on the bathtub
Trim the occupant with floof

To every home in Whoville and to every blessed Who
Christmas comes tomorrow!
Trim me, trim you!

Trim up the tree with Christmas stuff
Like bingle balls, and whofoo fluff
Trim up the town with goowho gums
And bizilbix and wums
Trim up the tree with bizilbix and wums

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

To Carry or Not to Carry

A news story out of Cincinnati Ohio described how three teens, disappointed and angry that they were unable to buy the shoes they wanted, accosted a pair of adult shoppers outside the store.  One teen pulled a gun and demanded the adults hand over their recently-purchased shoes.  One of the adults who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, pulled his gun and shot the teen dead.

A friend of mine who is a strong pro-gun activist, commented, "This is why you carry.  Another thug bites the dust."

This was no thug, it was a misguided kid.  A kid who is now dead.  Over a pair of shoes.  That kid must have had a family, friends, and people who loved him, who will now have to bury their child instead of celebrating Christmas.

Things like this occur every single day - both reported and not reported - and there seems to be no end in sight.  This isn't the Old West any more, where the only law in town was the Sheriff and disputes were settled with shootouts in the street.  However we seem to be heading back in that direction.

I wrote a short time ago about escalation.  We're seeing that as well.  A person starts out with a .38 revolver, his rival has a .357 Magnum, so he upgrades to a Glock, the other person gets a .22 rifle, so then he gets an AK-15 and so on.  Where does one draw the line?

A gun is designed for only one thing.  It's not for target shooting, it's not for "protection", or however you want to define it.  It's made to kill another living creature.

Remember that little rule that says "Thou shalt not kill"?  That seems pretty clear to me.

Not to mention, how many soldiers overseas were killed by improvised explosives?  Those soldiers were equipped with some of the best weaponry and body armour available, but that was of no help to them.  Or that Aurora Colorado shooting where a guy marched into a movie theater and killed 12 people?  It was dark, the gunman had set off tear gas, and people were panicking.  Even if people in the audience had been armed, their guns would have been no help.

As far as the Cincinnati situation goes, the smart thing for the man to have done was to hand over the shoes to the kid instead of shooting him.  Then nobody would have been hurt.  It's just stuff.  Stuff can be replaced.  Lives can't.  That man will have to live with his decision for the rest of his life.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Class Act

Yesterday afternoon was our daughter's school Christmas concert, which is held every year to give the students a chance to show their hard work to their parents.  There were songs sung, tunes played on the recorder, and general merriment.  It was clear that the kids had done a lot of preparation, although there were the expected accidents such as a kid dropping an instrument or a music stand falling over.

But the audience.  Oh my goodness, the audience!

I have been to many concerts, both as an observer in the audience and as a performer on stage.  I have never seen such an ill behaved audience in my life.

Many parents talked while the classes were changing in between sets, to the point where the music director had to ask them to stop.  When their kids walked up on stage people called out or stood and waved, thus distracting the kids and delaying the performance further.  Some people were even talking during the musical numbers (including three women who were behind me) and I saw others texting on their phones.  Later one kid told me that she had seen someone actually dozing off.

Has it gotten to the point where people must be taught proper behaviour while in a concert?  Apparently.

I've seen people texting in movie theaters, talking on the phone at a library, listening to music while biking; the last being not only dangerous but illegal.  If you don't have respect for the people around you, how can you expect people to respect you?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Noel Sing We

Here is another 15th century Old English carol.
It can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9CBkw3DDuY


Noel sing we both all and some,
Now Rex pacificus is ycome.


Exortum est in love and lyss,

Now Christ His gree He gan us gyss,
And with His body us bought to bliss,
Both all and some.
Noel sing we both all and some,
Now Rex pacificus is ycome.
De fructus ventris of Mary bright,
Both God and man in her a light,
Out of disease He did us dight,
Both all and some.
Noel sing we both all and some,
Now Rex pacificus is ycome.
Puer natus to us was sent,
To bliss us bought, fro bale us blent,
And else to woe we had ywent,
Both all and some.
Noel sing we both all and some,
Now Rex pacificus is ycome.
Lux fulgebit with love and light,
In Mary mild His pennon pight,
In her took kind with manly might,
Both all and some.
Noel sing we both all and some,
Now Rex pacificus is ycome.
Gloria tibi, ay and bliss,
God unto His grace He us wysse,
The rent of heaven that we not miss,
Both all and some.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Escalation

One hundred and thirty two children died today.

Members of a Taliban militant group, seeking revenge on the Pakistani military for their losses, charged into a school where many students were children of military officers.  The military responded and the Taliban members were eventually tracked down and killed.  But the price was 141 lives.  Now the Pakistani military is planning larger-scale assaults on the militants.

We've seen this far too often.  Everywhere.  Group A kills a few of Group B.  Group B sends someone to shoot an entire family belonging to Group A.  Group A blows up a place of worship that's frequented by many members of Group B.  And so on.  With a higher body count each time one of these "revenge" attacks occurs.

It won't stop until either side, or possibly both, has been destroyed.

Those who have the good fortune to live in a country that is not at war or otherwise in conflict with another state might believe that they have peace.  However conflict invariably affects a greater area than just the originating groups, as militants expand their territory and refugees flee the fighting.  Everyone is at risk.

For the last century there hasn't been a time where there has not been conflict on the planet somewhere, with the exception of a short period following the end of World War II.  At this time of the year we might sing and pray about peace on Earth, but given the varying religions, social structures, and availability of resources, true world peace is sadly unattainable.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Holiday Blindness

As the holidays approach I wonder about how many people know what they really mean. Retailers are concerned about how much money they'll be making.  Consumers are concerned about the prices and availability of certain "must-have" items.  Economists are saying that even with the country in the throes of financial difficulties, this is no time to be sitting on your cash. Spend spend spend.

Stop already!

There are numerous holiday specials on TV every year that emphasize the spirit of giving and the appreciation of the ones you love. The sentiments seem more relevant now than ever. My father is elderly and his memory is not what it once was.  My husband has not been working for months and neither of us has been able to find new employment.  Every day I am thankful that we are all doing reasonably well for now and we don't want for anything.

The fancy electronics and glittery clothing that dominate the catalogues and store shelves are not necessary to have a good life. Many people in the world live well on less. We ought to remember that.

Friday, 12 December 2014

I Hate Christmas

No, I don't really hate Christmas, I'm just having a little fun today with a song that was recorded on the 1975 album Merry Christmas from Sesame Street.  Oscar the Grouch sings about how Grouches prefer their holidays. (I can't help agreeing with the part that it goes on much too long, however.)

I can't think of anything that's dumber.
To a Grouch, Christmas is a bummer!

Beaming faces everywhere, happiness is in the air
I'm telling you, it isn't fair! I hate Christmas!
People loaded with good will, giving presents, what a thrill
That slushy nonsense makes me ill. I hate Christmas!

I'd rather have a holiday like normal grouches do:
Instead of getting presents, they take presents back from you!
Heh heh!

Here comes Santa, girls and boys. So, who needs that big red noise!
I'll tell him where to put his toys! I hate Christmas!

And if you want the truth, I ain't so crazy about Easter or Labor Day either!

Christmas carols to be sung, decorations to be hung
Oh, yeah? Well, I stick out my tongue! I hate Christmas!
Christmas bells play loud and strong, hurts my ears, all that ding dong
Besides it goes on much too long! I hate Christmas!

I'd rather have a holiday with a lot less joy and flash
With a lot less cheerful smiling, and a lot more dirty trash, yeah!

Christmas Day is almost here, when it's over then I cheer
I'm glad it's only once a year! I hate Christmas!

And who put all this mistletoe all over my trash can?!
Phooey and bah humbug!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Questions and No Cookies

"That what wrong with the media today. All they have is questions, questions, questions - they never have cookies!" - Cookie Monster, "Sesame Street: MacNeil Report"

There are four questions asked during every job interview that everyone hates to answer.

"Will you tell me about yourself?"
"What's your biggest weakness?"
"Why should we hire you?"
"Where do you see yourself in five years?"

I'm of the opinion that these questions are useless.  With the amount of information that people put in their resumes and online profiles, it only takes a bit of effort for a recruiter to find out whether or not a person might be a good fit for the company.

Some will say that there's only so much that can be determined from reading profiles.  Asking these questions causes an applicant to think and frame their answers in such a way to present themselves in a good light and shows that they have something intelligent to say.

That might be true.  But it's also wrong.

What it does is put the job-seeker on the defensive and sours the whole process.  Since the applicant has no idea what the interviewer is really looking for by asking these sorts of questions, the onus on her/him to do extensive preparations ahead of time.  There are many methods to pick and choose from; "Spin the Table" (turn the questions around to find out more about the company) and "Pain Speech" (put oneself in the hiring manager's position and talk about their job) are but two.

Why does there have to be so much involved with this?  What has happened to good old-fashioned communication?  Stop being lazy and beating around the bush with irrelevant questions, convoluted response strategies, and form letters.  Sit down and talk straight.  I'm willing to bet that will get much better results for all parties.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Jesus was a Show-Off

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets." -- Matthew 7:12

I don't begrudge people of any faith for their beliefs, it's their personal choice to believe in whatever religion they see fit.  However at this time of year, I can't help but poke some fun at people who say that the son of God was a perfect example at how a human should behave toward his fellows.  Nobody is perfect, apparently not even Jesus; there's an old English folk song called The Bitter Withy and it goes as follows:

As it fell out on a bright holiday,
Small hail from the sky did fall,
Our Saviour asked of His mother mild
If He might go play at ball.

"At ball, at ball, my own dear Son,
It is time that you were gone,
But I don't want to hear of any doings,
Tonight when you come home.”

It was up the hill and down the hill,
Our sweet young Saviour run,
Until he met three rich young lords,
"Good morning, sirs, each one".

"Good morn, good morn, good morn," said they,
"Good morn," then said He,
"Which one of you three rich young lords
Will play at ball with me?"

"We all are lords' and ladies' sons,
Born into bower and hall,
And you are nothing but a poor maid's child
Born into an ox's stall."

"If I am naught but a poor maid's child
Born in an ox's stall,
I will make you believe at your latter end
That I'm an angel above you all."

Our Saviour built a bridge with the beams of the sun,
And over the river crossed He,
And the rich young lords they followed Him,
And drowned they were all three.

It was up the hill and down the hill,
The young lords' mothers run,
Crying: “Mary mild, fetch home your child,
For ours he's drowned each one!”

So Mary mild fetched home her child,
And laid Him across her knee,
And with a whole handful of withy twigs
She gave Him slashes three.

“Oh, withy! Oh, withy! The bitter withy
That causes me to smart!
So the withy shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart!”

I believe that this song also has another theme: when one has power, whether financial, political, or whatever, one should learn how to use it for non-selfish reasons.  Using power selfishly always brings some form of punishment in the end.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Light Displays

Winter can be a depressing time.  You wake up in the dark, endure short grey days, and the sun sets at the obscene time of 4:15 PM.  It's little wonder why many cultures have festivals of lights in late December and early January.  Montrealers are no strangers to winter, and we've made some terrific light displays in the city to compensate for the long nights.

Place Ville Marie Tree
The lighting of this artificial tree in the Place Ville Marie plaza has been a downtown tradition since the opening of the PVM office complex in 1962.  Made in New York by Donald H. Gorman and Associates, the conical sculpture stands 19.2 meters high and measures 7.92 meters wide, and shines with over 13,000 lights.  The tree is installed in the plaza on the first Monday in November and remains until the middle of the following January.


Photo courtesy Susan Moss, 2012

Light Idea-O-Rama
Mount Royal Avenue takes pedestrians into a comic book world for the holidays.  One hundred light-boxes have been attached to lamp posts and public structures along the length of the avenue, depicting the work of Montreal-based illustrators Mireille St-Pierre and Michel Hellman.  Each panel humorously shows off the difficulties and the joys of winter life in Montreal.  The display will be visible until March 2015.

Old Montreal
During the holidays, the streets of historical Old Montreal are carefully decorated to evoke feelings of Christmases past.  Trees glitter with lights as well as snow, and statues are bathed in soft luminescent colours.  One of the best ways to see it is to join one of the Christmas Secrets walking tours where a professional guide introduces wanderers to the charms of New France and the sparkling windows of shops and museums.


Photo courtesy Aghear on flickr.com , 2010

Look Up
The streets aren't the only place to find light displays around the city.  Three of the most well-known installations in Montreal are above eye level. 1. The four-beam rotating beacon on the roof of the Place Ville Marie office tower can be seen as far as 50 km away.  The light belongs to the building's anchor tenant, the Royal Bank of Canada.  2.  The pyramid-shaped mechanical penthouse of the McGill Tower is normally lit white, but during certain holidays or events the colours are changed. Currently it's lit white, green, and red for Christmas.  3. The 31 meter high steel cross on the northeast summit of Mount Royal can be seen from most vantage points in the city, and it's made all the more striking when lit up at night by 158 18-LED bulbs.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Internships

The dictionary definition of an internship is "an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called "interns", to work at a firm for a fixed, limited period of time.  Interns are usually undergraduates or students, and most internships last for any length of time between one week and 12 months."

The purpose of these positions is primarily to train people who are interested in the job, at little cost to the employer because most internships are unpaid.  They're supposedly a good way for people to gain valuable lessons in a job market where it's almost impossible to land a job without some form of experience.

Many recent articles in the media have decried this practice as companies trolling for "free work".  I could easily agree, seeing as I've been interning as a writer for an online magazine for the past six months and there has been no indication from anyone as to whether I'll be paid for my work any time soon, or even if they'll recommend me for a paid position elsewhere.

I'm registered on at least a dozen online job-search portals and I keep my profiles updated regularly.  Fully half of the "Recommended jobs for you" that they show me are unpaid internships.  Why?  I am not a student or a recent graduate.  I've fourteen years of office experience, half of those as a writer and editor.

The search engines themselves are partly to blame.  They use key words to find matches based on what's in a person's profile.  Early on I kept receiving job listings for Project Managers simply because I had the word "managed" in my online resume.  Once I reworded the appropriate section, the listings disappeared.

Perhaps now the search engines think that an internship would be a good fit for me because I have a sizable gap in my work experience due to the fact that I stopped working to raise a family.  Granted, it is a good way to get one's feet wet prior to returning to the workforce, but I feel I'm worth more than that.

It's like the old paradox: can't get a job without experience but can't get experience without a job.

http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2014/12/07

Saturday, 6 December 2014

What I Want for Christmas

Whenever commercials show on television my daughter points out the various toys that she likes.  "I want that for Christmas, I want that, I want that..."

When asked what he wants, my husband usually jokes "a million dollars".  Whenever I try to discuss things seriously with him, he brushes me off.

Nobody has asked me what I want.

So here's what I want.  For starters, I want people to have the basic courtesy to return my communications.  I want to be able to talk candidly to the people around me and not have to bite my tongue whenever they object to controversial subjects.  I want to be appreciated for my talents and not have to retool my image every time I apply for a job.  I want to have a home to call my own and not worry about it being invaded or taken away.

I want to live in a place where people can walk down the street without fear of being robbed, hurt, or killed. I want children to be able to get the education of their choosing without regard for language, religion, or gender.  I want people to realize that the dogged pursuit of wealth, power, and perfection is terribly detrimental to the only planet that we can live on.

I want peace on Earth.

The tragic thing is, I'll probably never see most of those things happen.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Justice Denied

Trayvon Martin.  Michael Brown Jr.  Tamir Rice.  Eric Garner.  How many more must die before justice will be done?

I am deeply saddened today by the fact that no charges will be laid against the officers who basically choked an unarmed man to death.

Eric Garner was no threat.  He had made clear that he had been harassed previously and he just wanted it to stop.  The NYPD officers used an ILLEGAL hold on him, which triggered a health crisis that ultimately caused his death.

It's not just black people who are in apparent danger from the police.  It's everyone.  As I've written previously, there have been far too many incidents where police action has caused someone to be injured or killed and the officers involved get a slap on the wrist or are not charged at all.

Canada has had its fair share.  These are just a few.
Paul McKinnon, run over by a speeding police car.
Richard Barnabé, beaten into a coma after breaking a church window.
Marcellus François, shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity.
Fredy Villanueva, shot as police were trying to arrest his brother.
Robert Dziekański, died after being tasered at the Vancouver airport.
Nicolas Thorne-Belance, died after a speeding police car collided with his father's car.  He was FIVE YEARS OLD.

I will also lay blame on the convoluted and too-lenient justice system.  Case in point: Guy Turcotte, a doctor in a bitter divorce battle with his wife, killed his two kids and tried to poison himself.  He was tried, declared to have been not mentally competent and sentenced to time in a mental institution.  The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court but Turcotte has since been allowed free on bail until a new trial is ready.  How is this justice?

The system is broken, and will remain that way until people decide that it's time for a change.  A new generation of lawmakers and enforcers needs to make it right.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Jingle Bells

While looking around for a Christmas song to post on my Facebook and Twitter today (which ended up being Winter Wonderland) my crazy mind gave me a flashback to my grade school days when we sang a silly version of Jingle Bells.  It didn't take long before I remembered the rest of it.  Here it is.

We started out with ten, and all of us were fine
Till one fell out around the bend and there were only nine
The nine of us went on and we were going great
Until we hit a bumpy road and there were only eight

Eight of us went on, our very merry drive
Till three went tumbling down a hill and there were only five
The five of us went on and sang from door to door
Till one fell in a snowy bank and there were only four

The four of us went on, a holly jolly crew
Until the wind went huff and puff and there were only two!
The two of us went on as happy as could be
But I looked round and you were gone
And there was only me!

What a catastrophe - boohoo!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Somerset Wassail

In December I post a holiday tune every day on Facebook (and also Twitter now) to help people start off in a more positive way.  My choice for yesterday was Sleigh Ride.  Today's is Somerset Wassail, an old carol from the south of England.  It's one of my particular favourites, especially because some of my ancestors came from that region.  There are several versions of the song depending on which county or area it originated.

Wassailing is an ancient custom that involved people visiting each other's homes and orchards to give blessings for prosperity and a good harvest for the coming year.  The word "wassail" comes from the Old English, and it means "be well" or "be healthy".

Wassail and wassail all over the town
The cup it is white and the ale it is brown
The cup it is made of the good ashen tree
And so is the malt of the finest barley
For i'ts your wassail and it's our wassail
And its joy be to you and a jolly wassail

Oh master and missus, are you all within?
Pray open the door and let us come in
O master and missus a-sitting by the fire
Pray think on us poor travelers, a traveling in the mire
For it's your wassail and it's our wassail
And its joy be to you and a jolly wassail

Oh where is the maid with the silver-headed pin
To open the door and let us come in
Oh master and missus, it is our desire
A good loaf and a cheese and a toast by the fire
For it's your wassail and it's our wassail
And its joy be to you and a jolly wassail

There was an old man and he had an old cow
And how for to keep her he didn't know how
He built up a barn for to keep his cow warm
And a drop or two of cider will do us no harm
For it's your wassail and it's our wassail
And its joy be to you and a jolly wassail

The girt dog of Langport he burnt his long tail
And this is the night we go singing wassail
O master and missus now we must be gone
God bless all in this house until we do come again
For it's your wassail and it's our wassail
And its joy be to you and a jolly wassail

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Broken Systems

The medical system here in Quebec is broken and it has been for a long time.  I had some hope that the new health minister, being a doctor himself, would work to change things but it's getting worse, not better.

For example, in Montreal a new "super-hospital" is being constructed in order to consolidate several other hospitals to supposedly save money in the long run.  However a few weeks ago it was decided to change the plans: instead of the super-hospital having its own dialysis ward, the  existing units would be spread among other regional hospitals.  This move has the potential of leaving hundreds of dialysis patients without access to necessary equipment.

And then there's the plight of the mother of a dear friend of mine.  She recently posted this to Facebook:

"My mother suffered a heart attack Friday.  She was sent to the hospital which treats cardiac cases, Hotel Dieu.  Unfortunately, Mom must have daily dialysis, but Hotel Dieu has NO DIALYSIS MACHINE!  She has to wait about 48 hours to receive the materials needed to perform the dialysis manually.  It took a huge blow-up from both my sister and me for the nephrologist (who was coming from St. Luke Hospital as Hotel Dieu is unfamiliar with her specific case) to order what they need for the dialysis, and they transferred it by TAXI.  They did not even want her personal machine to be brought from home, because the machine would likely be stolen if left unattended."

This is merely one example of dozens that have played out in recent years.  Many patients can't get access to surgery, equipment, or specialist care within a reasonable amount of time.  Doctors are hobbled by patient quotas and salary caps.  People are being turned away from hospitals if their home address is not in the correct neighbourhood.  Nurses and doctors alike are overworked: one suburban hospital has only ONE doctor available at night for 500 beds.

And now the provincial government wants to invoke austerity measures that include cuts to health services. Yesterday there was a huge citizen protest through the downtown streets.  You can't cut what is already pared down to the bone.

Don't get sick.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Unfair Comparisons

This morning on my husband's LinkedIn feed there was an image that claimed the cultural divide had been emphasized due to the fact that while over 700 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty over the last six years, the White House only deigned to send representatives to the funeral of a black man who was shot by a cop.

That correlation is blatantly incorrect.

The cultural divide has existed for centuries.  Many of the black people that live in America today are the descendants of slaves.  Moreover, historically they've been relegated to second-class status: they tend to be poorer, less educated, have fewer opportunities, and therefore are more prone to criminal activity.  Those that do manage to rise out of poverty face never-ending scrutiny.

All families usually give their kids "the sex talk" when they get old enough.  But black families have the added burden of teaching their kids how NOT to catch the attention of a police officer.

Let's do the math.  Approximately 700 officers over 6 years works out to be one death every three to four days.  On the other hand, current statistics suggest that one black person dies at the hands of a cop EVERY DAY.  See what's wrong here?

As for the White House not sending reps to civil funerals, there's a reason for that.  Most law enforcement agencies are managed directly by the municipality, county, or state; the federal government is not legally obliged to go to the expense of sending a rep out every few days.  If it were a military officer or someone who worked directly for the government, that would be a different story.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the President chose to send representatives to the funeral of Michael Brown Jr. was to show solidarity with the community, especially after all the unrest there.  After all, the President is a black man.  He probably understands very well.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Holiday Poetry

Soon it'll be time to send our Christmas cards.  My mother used to send cute little poems along with her cards and so I've taken up her tradition.  Often I'm inspired by authors or popular songs.  In previous years I've composed a sonnet in the style of Shakespeare, and I re-wrote the lyrics for the song "Sleigh Ride". This year I've written to the tune of "Happy".

I might sound crazy but I've gotta say
There are few hours we can take a break
These are times of chaos but we need our space
Hyper aware, forced to share everything, by the way:

Because I'm wired
Clap along if you feel like ranting on Facebook rocks
Because I'm wired
Clap along if your Twitter feed doesn't like Firefox
Because I'm wired
Clap along if that blog of yours gets the views you like
Because I'm wired
Clap along if you feel like posting to Pinterest all night

Here comes bad news, hubby's out of work
So we're sending applications, trying not to shirk
We got the answers, thought we'd be just fine
But the more we do, seems we waste our time
Here's why:

Because we're wired
Clap along if the companies never respond to mail
Because we're wired
Clap along if interviewers' tests are designed to fail
Because we're wired
Clap along if your profile's always the first that's nixed
Because we're wired
Clap along if the system is broken and can't be fixed

Hire us now
Can't no-one
Hire us now
Frustration's too high
Hire us now
Can't no-one
Hire us now
I said,

Because we're wired
Clap along if that application portal swallows your info whole
Because we're wired
Clap along if to get work these days you gotta sell your soul
Because we're wired
Clap along if the holidays approach with a sense of dread
Because we're wired
Clap along if you're checking your LinkedIn while in bed.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Fear and Hatred

"Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering." -- Yoda

The horrible recent events in Ferguson Missouri and here at home has caused me to wonder about the future of humans.

We hear about violence against women on a regular basis.  Many women, particularly Muslim women, who try to leave an abusive relationship risk being attacked, raped, disfigured, and even killed.  Girls are attacked or even killed for wanting to go to school or otherwise not adhering to "tradition".

Religious institutions are firebombed.  Churches and cemeteries are vandalized.  Schools and youth camps are invaded.  Authority figures commit heinous acts and are able to get away with it.  Many societies are controlled by the ultra-rich.

There even are entire countries that have essentially been at war for generations: Israel and Lebanon, North and South Korea, amid others.  Outside-brokered ceasefires have only been temporary.  It seems that the only way it's going to stop is when one or both sides have been completely obliterated.

It has been said that it's human nature to distrust that which is different - physical appearance, sexual orientation, belief system, whatever it might be.  Perhaps it's a basic survival instinct that stems from the ancient past when humans were tribal nomads.   Or it could be derived from the historical fact that more advanced cultures almost always conquer weaker ones.

Unfortunately this still leads to mistrust, fear, and often to outright hostility even if it's not justified.  Great strides have been made in education and tolerance, but it hasn't been nearly enough because hatred runs too deeply despite the calls for it to stop.

I pride myself in that I have friends of diverse backgrounds, ethnic origins, and beliefs.   If we can get along, why can't others?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Electromyogram

For a long time I've been having trouble with back pain and numbness in my fingers - especially after lifting heavy shopping bags or performing tasks like sewing that require me to lean over and pinch my fingers together.  I attributed it to poor posture and the fact that I spend much of my time seated in front of a computer.

However recently there was a more alarming development: numbness in the skin across my shoulders that spread up to my neck and face.  It feels almost like the way one does after the jaw has been numbed for dental work.

So I went to a doctor to get a referral to a neurologist, who scheduled me for a procedure called an electromyogram.  Electrodes are placed on particular muscle groups and the patient is asked to flex their muscles voluntarily.  A computer analyzes the signals and determines if the muscles and associated nerves are working properly.

Even without such a test I can take an educated guess and say that my spine is out of kilter.  Just feeling my backbone shows that there's part of it that doesn't seem quite straight.  That implies a herniated disk or pinched nerve, both of which could cause the symptoms I'm experiencing.

As to how my spine got that way, the possibilities are numerous.  18 years ago I was a passenger in a car that was hit from behind and I was flung forward against my seat-belt.  As previously mentioned, I've spent most of my life using computers.  But whatever the reason I hope that the cause can be pinpointed and some sort of treatment is available.

I'm certainly not taking the same chance that a friend of mine took. She waited over 6 months to see a doctor about her numbness, which by that time had spread over her entire body, limited her motion, and was threatening her livelihood.  It turned out she had a herniated disk which required surgery to rectify, followed by months of rehab.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Man Piaba

I've been posting about serious subjects all week, so it's time for something lighthearted.  One of my favourite songs by the Calypso artist Harry Belafonte is called Man Piaba.  Recorded in 1954 for the album "Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites", its meaning has been debated ever since.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=553B_CnxFo4

When I was a lad of three-foot-three
Certain questions occurred to me,
So I asked me father quite seriously
To tell me the story 'bout the bird and bee.
He stammered and he stuttered pathetically
And this is what he said to me.

He said, "The woman piaba and the man piaba
and the Ton Ton pull baka lemon grass,
The lily root, gully root, belly root, uhmm,
And the famous granny scratch scratch."

It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
And the confusion made the brain go 'round.
I went and ask a good friend of mine,
Known to the world as Albert Einstein.
He said, "Son,
From the beginning of time and creativity
There existed the force of relativity
Pi R square and a minus ten means a routine only when
The solar system in one light year
Make the Hayden planetarium disappear
So if Mount Everest doesn't move
I am positive that it will prove:

That the woman piaba and the man piaba
And the Ton Ton pull baka lemon grass,
The lily root, gully root, belly root, uhmm,
And the famous granny scratch scratch."

It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
And the confusion made the brain go 'round.
I grabbed a boat and went abroad
In Baden Baden I asked Sigmund Freud
He said, "Son,
From your sad face remove the grouch
Put the body down upon the couch
I can see from your frustration a neurotic sublimation
Hey love and hate is psychosomatic
Your Rorschach shows that you're a peripatetic
It all started with a broken sibling,
In the words of the famous Rudyard Kipling:

That the woman piaba and the man piaba
And the Ton Ton pull baka lemon grass,
The lily root, gully root, belly root, uhmm,
And the famous granny scratch scratch.

Well I traveled far and I traveled wide
And I don't even have me self a bride
All the great men upon this earth
Have confused me since my birth.
I've been over land and been over sea
Trying to find the answer 'bout the bird and bee
But now that I am ninety three
I don't give a damn you see:

If the woman piaba and the man piaba
And the Ton Ton pull baka lemon grass,
The lily root, gully root, belly root, uhmm,
And the famous granny scratch scratch!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Above the Law

In 1990 a young man crossing the street in front of his high school was hit and killed by a speeding police car.  The officer was sentenced to 45 days for dangerous driving.

In 2011 a mentally ill homeless man was causing a disturbance.  Unable to calm him down, police officers fatally shot him, also killing an innocent bystander who was on his way to work.  No charges were laid.

And last February, an officer in an unmarked car was speeding at 122 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone and broadsided a car at an intersection, killing a 5 year old boy.  No charges have been laid.

When police officers are involved in a fatality, another police force is called in to investigate.  But how impartial is this method?  Given past events it appears that few police officers are held accountable for incidents that, had they been perpetrated by regular citizens, would have resulted in serious jail time.

How can the public truly trust and respect a police force that itself seems to be above the law?  Whenever something wrong occurs they hide behind their badges and unions until the problem goes away.  This is not how the police should behave, which makes them unworthy for the job for which they supposedly swore an oath "to protect and serve".

Some jurisdictions have ordered their policemen to wear cameras that record their actions.  As a result, use of excessive force has lessened considerably.  Anyone will behave better if they know they're being watched; ask any child.  Unfortunately that doesn't stop some officers from harassing bystanders who record incidents on their cellphones.

If police officers faced the same consequences that citizens did, you can bet the system would change in a hurry.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Behind the Screen

So you're looking for a job through various media such as newspapers, online searches, job-search sites.  How can you know if what you see is really what you'll be getting?

The web site of company X claims that they "develop web applications, marketing and advertising tools" but anecdotes from people in the know say that in reality the company manages online porn sites.  Another web site advertises company Y as being a great place to "maximize your potential" and "nurture your professional growth".  However online reviews from current and former employees complain of rampant nepotism and blame-shuffling from the upper management.

The Internet is a good place to hide your true self.  Reel the fish in with a good lure and then cast the net when it's too late.

An astute writer on LinkedIn whom I've been following has stressed that instead of submitting your credentials online where they'll disappear into the Black Hole Recruiting Portal, you need to send directly to a hiring manager.  Of course, corporate web sites almost never list relevant personnel which means that the job-seeker must do all the work to find the right person to contact.  Even then there's no guarantee that an application will even be acknowledged.

It has been clear for years that the system is broken and employers often miss people who would otherwise be a good fit for their company if not for screening software and overwhelmed managers.

Lately I've been heavily tempted to forget about the computer and do it the old-fashioned way: print out multiple copies of my resume and personally hand them out to the local businesses.  Maybe that would be more effective.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I See Montreal... Really?

My city has just spearheaded a citizen's campaign called I See Montreal/Je Vois Montreal to get people's opinions of how great the city once was and to find ways to make it so once again.  All they really need to do is ask people who grew up through the 1960s and the 1970s and they'll understand.

Some of these suggestions will require intervention at the provincial level - which probably won't happen any time soon.

1. Lessen the language restrictions.  Since 1977 and the draconian Bill 101 that limits the expression of English, people and businesses of all stripes have been leaving in droves.  More recently, companies have stopped selling their products in Quebec rather than go to the expense of making French versions of their packaging and/or web sites.

2. Make Montreal officially bilingual.  This city is supposed to be the economic engine of the province of Quebec, but it can't be that if everyone is forced to conduct business in French.  Not to mention we're also a tourist city, and people won't visit if they can't get served in the language in which they feel most comfortable.  Police, transport workers, hospital staff, and others who are foremost in dealing with the public should be able to speak both languages.

3. Revamp the taxation process and redistribution of funds.  Quebec is the highest-taxed jurisdiction in Canada and yet that revenue seems to go nowhere.  The provincial capital region gets most of the perks and successive governments have wasted time and money on frivolities while Montreal's infrastructure is crumbling.

4. Restructure the medical system.  Too large a percentage of the population doesn't have a family doctor and wait times for specialists are excessive.  Enrollments for medical schools are limited, and many graduates are forced to spend a year out of their home region.  The CLSC system was designed to take the load off hospital ERs but their services are not available 24/7, and they should be.

Just my two cents.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Loss of a Giant

Glen A. Larson, one of the great television producers of the 1970s to the 1990s died on Friday.  He was responsible for creating and/or producing some of the most loved and influential programs of my generation: The Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica, Magnum P.I., Knight Rider to name a few.

Those who knew him recognized his unique type of creativity, although it garnered him an unfortunate reputation for stealing concepts from blockbuster films of the day and using them in his own shows.  Instead I choose to believe that he adapted existing concepts in a more unorthodox way that wasn't always appreciated by critics or audiences.  The show Automan was a prime example: although it was clearly inspired by Tron, Larson went so far as getting the producers of Tron to act as consultants on Automan to make it appear that he wasn't plagiarizing them.

Many of Larson's productions were also noteworthy in that they combined science-fiction elements with action and adventure but had limited violence.  This formula had varying success, with some shows only lasting one season, but all of them have loyal fans to this day.  A select few were revived for 21st century audiences, and it's my opinion that other Larson works deserve the same treatment.

Had I the chance to speak with Mr. Larson I would have thanked him for his worlds of imagination that inspired me during my teenage years.  And if not for that, I wouldn't be privileged to know actor Chuck Wagner and writer/producer Larry Brody today.

Rest in peace.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Nameless

In Halifax Nova Scotia, a 15 year old girl remains nameless because of a publication ban on the details of a "High Profile Child Pornography Case".  This girl was gotten drunk and was violated, and a picture of the lewd act was spread all over her school and her community.  Unable to cope with the resulting bullying and emotional fallout, she committed suicide.  Only then did the authorities take notice.

Now the young man who took that disgusting photo and distributed it, causing the girl and her family so much grief, has been sentenced to a "conditional discharge".  That means that as long as he meets the requirements laid out by a judge, which includes meeting regularly with a court officer, submitting his DNA to a sex-offender registry, and writing an apology to the girl's parents, he goes free.

In other words, nothing.  A slap on the wrist for destroying a girl's life.

The system was supposed to protect her.  Just like it was supposed to protect so many other young people who have been assaulted, shamed, and bullied.  Too many of them end up dying, either by the hands of their tormentors or by their own hands before they are taken seriously.  This is the horrendous result of a society that has been historically patriarchal and misogynistic.

It's little wonder that few victims come forward, because they know that more than likely they will not be believed and/or will suffer reprisals.  Instead they write in journals, post heartbreaking videos on YouTube, or rally around Twitter hash-tags like #BeenRapedNeverReported.  In most cases they remain nameless because they are afraid that the system will treat them as such.

That Halifax girl does have a name: Rehtaeh Parsons.  And there are other names: Amanda Todd, Megan Meier, Cora Delille, Lewis Thelwall... young people whose tormentors were either given only light sentences or not charged at all.

Something has to change.

Here's another excellent blog on the subject.
http://www.blogher.com/canada-i-cant-say-her-name

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Credit Where it's Due

People who know me know that I'm not Christian.  My ancestors were mostly varieties of Protestant but I was brought up in a secular manner.  Over the years I've attended many different services from Anglican to Catholic as I tried to understand religious people and their beliefs.

One of the major Christian prayers is the Hail Mary, which gives blessing to her for bearing Jesus into the world.  However I recently discovered the following text online, apparently propaganda for a movement that is attempting to remove Mary from her position.

"I know you don't like to hear this... but she can't hear your prayers. She's not God, she can't be everywhere at once.  God says He DOES NOT give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8) ... that includes Mary.  He will never give her a higher position than Him or anything even close to His glory and magnificence.  Satan is trying his best to stop God from receiving His deserved worship, and redirecting it to Mary.  This is a very wicked thing to do.  Worship the creator not creation (Romans 1:25).  I used to pray to Mary, then I started to read the Bible, that's when I found out my family was teaching me lies.  I stopped praying to Mary, and confessed my sins of idolatry to God.  Will you do the same?"

From a non-Christian perspective I think this is an unfair interpretation.  God approached Mary to bear His son Jesus, and she went through many trials before and after doing so.  She deserves rightful credit, so acknowledge her and bless her.  Doesn't the Christian Rosary include prayers to both Mary and God?  Nobody said she had to be worshiped above God.

What these people are trying to do is downplay Mary's importance, probably because she is a woman.  Even Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the Resurrection - and wife of Jesus by some accounts - was for a time described as a repentant harlot.

The Bible contains stories about strong women who ran businesses and became influential in their community and in politics.  Why then, does there seem to be an effort to rub them out?  We should be praising them.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Accommodation Gone Amok

Earlier this year in the town of Rotherham, England, it was discovered that a group of Pakistani Muslim men was kidnapping and raping young girls.  Babies that resulted from these rapes were taken away and were never seen again.  The police did nothing.  Angry parents who tried to get their children back from these gangs were themselves arrested.  One investigator into the crimes had her office ransacked, her case data stolen, and was told by a colleague to "never refer to that again".

What is wrong with this picture?

Many countries have gone too far with trying to accommodate immigrants.  Police forces and service workers alike are muzzled, activists are arrested, and people are walking on eggshells for fear of doing or saying something that might offend someone - particularly those of the Muslim faith.  YouTuber Pat Condell has said, "It's kind of the irrational cult-like response you would expect from people who've been trained to think and behave this way against their better judgment."

Even in my hometown the debate has raged for a long time.  When a congregation of Hasidic Jews complained that their young men were being "corrupted" by the sight of women using the gym next door, the gym changed its windows.  When a young Sikh man insisted on wearing his ceremonial kirpan dagger to school, the case went to court and it was eventually decided to allow Sikh students to have a kirpan on their person if it was sealed and secured.  This caused a public uproar and some parents withdrew their children from that school in protest.

More and more I find myself agreeing with Mr. Condell.  If you come to our country and practise your religion, that's fine as long as it's within the privacy of your own home or temple/synagogue/mosque/church.  Don't force your beliefs on us, and don't get offended when we insist that you conform to our laws.  If you don't like it, you shouldn't have come here in the first place.  We should not have to bend to your whims.  When in Rome, etc.

Monday, 10 November 2014

No Two Ways

Let me start by saying that I have nothing against LBGT people.  I have friends who are members of these groups.  However there is one point that I have an issue with.

Recently I saw a lifestyle story about a transgender person who was proud of being able to breastfeed "his" baby.  I'm sorry but that is taking things way too far.

If a person is uncomfortable with the gender in which they were born and chooses to change it, that's fine.  They can change their name and identity, adopt the lifestyle of the gender that they prefer, and even undergo reassignment surgery if they are able.

But it has to be a one-way trip.  Women who choose to live as men shouldn't suddenly decide to have a baby and then breastfeed it just because they want to or because they've retained their female parts.  You wanted to be a man, so live like one.

Same goes for the opposite.  A man who wants to live as a woman shouldn't father a child just because s/he can.  This is the consequence of living as a woman.

All this stuff does is twist the very concepts of sex and gender into something unrecognizable.  I can't help but be reminded of the song "Those Were the Days".

And you knew who you were then
Girls were girls and men were men
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again
Didn't need no welfare state
Everybody pulled his weight
Gee, our old La Salle ran great.
Those were the days.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Forgotten

I have amazing friends who've often inspired my blog and Twitter posts.

Yesterday was a friend's birthday and she noted: "Don't think me ungrateful, but when people close to you don't even acknowledge your birthday, you know where you stand in their lives.  My birthday was awesome even though there were a few people whom I really care about that didn't even mention it.  It's hard not to feel hurt.  I sometimes expect others to acknowledge me the way I do them.  Birthdays are very important to me, and I try to acknowledge others' birthdays in a special way."

My own father hasn't acknowledged my birthday for four years.  But I forgive him.  Why?  Three reasons:
1. He has a track record of putting his own interests above me.
2. He hasn't been the same person since my mother died.
3. He's getting elderly and his memory isn't all there any more.

My parents weren't great parents, although they did what they believed was their best.  When I was young I was frequently dropped off at another relative's house while they went on vacations.  On my sixteenth birthday they went out on their sailboat for the day, leaving me to plan my own celebration.  What kind of parents do that?

I phone and Email my father on a regular basis, especially on his birthday and on holidays.  He doesn't Email me as much as he used to, and the only times he phones me are if he needs something or if it's bad news.  Is it too much for me to ask that he calls or comes to visit his granddaughter once in a while?

I don't forget him but it still hurts to be forgotten.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Follow the Law

The state of Washington recently passed an initiative that, among other things, makes sure that anyone buying a gun in Washington State passes the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from.

Although I don't live in the U.S. I still see this as a good thing.  It keeps more firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.  I personally don't like guns but I don't have a problem with people carrying them as long as it's required for their lawful employment and/or they're members of the military.

You have to register your car before you can drive.  You need to register to vote, to get married, to keep pets.  Background checks are often required to rent an apartment or work at certain companies.  What's the matter with background checks and registration for owning a firearm?

A friend of mine who lives in WA strenuously disagrees with the initiative, saying that it was "bought not won" and he now despises Microsoft for its financial backing of it.  On top of that, he wrote:

"I won't be following this joke of a law just like a lot of other folks I know.  It makes zero sense and takes nothing from the criminals, making myself and others one.  So, I'll be a criminal then until a nice fat lawsuit destroys this infringement on my rights.  I refuse to comply nor will I buy anything now in such a way that can be tracked.  Tired of liberals that think they can tell me what to do.  They can go live with [Michael] Bloomberg and let him protect them when the need comes.  I sure won't, I'll be only protecting my family and those I care about. The rest of you anti-gunners can go straight to hell and let [Bill] Gates and [Steve] Ballmer and the other anti-freedomers here in WA who have private armies, protect you. If they will."

Being a law-abiding citizen means that you FOLLOW THE LAW even if you might not agree with it.  So, my friend has admitted that he condones not complying with the law, and he condones acquiring and possessing non-registered firearms, and even seems to encourage such.  He's branded himself as a criminal through his own actions, not through the law itself as he claimed.

I feel sorry for him.  And I feel sorry for his family who will suffer because of his extremist attitude.  I'm also sorry that I might have to stop speaking to him, because he and I have known each other for a long time.  I wish I knew what happened to change him so much.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Thursday Treat: One Bowl Apple Cake

Fall is the best time of the year for apples, which are an extremely versatile fruit that lends itself well to many recipes.  I picked this one up recently because it looked so easy to make.  It turns out moist and rich.

One Bowl Apple Cake

To make this you will need:

One large mixing bowl
One 9" by 13" dish OR two 9" round cake pans
Measuring cups and spoons

2 eggs
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 medium-sized sweet apples, peeled and sliced
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and oil.
Add the apples to mixture in bowl, coating them well to keep the apples from browning.
Mix together the baking soda and flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl.
Mix well (best with a fork) until all of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients.
Pour mixture into a greased 9" x 13" or two 9" round pans.
Bake for approximately 55 minutes.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Too Much Politics

I'll never understand the United States political system.  A friend of mine pointed out this morning that today's midterms in the U.S. cost $4 billion dollars of campaign money (that we know of).

Imagine what half that money could do to help the U.S.' unemployed, or people on the verge of homelessness, or if it was poured into primary school education.  What a novel idea!  Pay teachers.  Stock food banks. Solar and wind energy installations.  Better mental health support.

So many options.  Just pick one or two.

But of course that will never happen.  It seems that many people who tend to go higher in politics are sociopaths, because all they do is pad their own pockets at the expense of their constituents.  They make all kinds of promises in order to get elected and then backpedal.

For those politicians who are actually honest, or who attempt to do good and hold others accountable, the system is made to break them.  Take a look at President Obama: almost everything he has tried to do has been blocked by the opposing party.  The stress has caused him to obviously age ten years for the six years he has been in power so far, and his family has come under fire through no fault of their own.

Its not quite as bad in Canada, but there are times I wonder.  Especially in Quebec when most politicians are more concerned with the survival of the French language instead of addressing the real issues.

If we could take the politics out of politics, maybe things will improve.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Too Early for Christmas?

"I never eat December snowflakes, I always wait till January."
"They sure look ripe to me!"  -- Lucy and Linus Van Pelt

Two weeks ago, the local Home Depot had started to put up its Christmas Aisle, right next to the Halloween decorations.  Sears had begun to put its decorations up at least a week before that.  Now Halloween is barely over and the sales have started everywhere for wrapping paper, cards, and ornaments.

Make it stop!

I do understand that Christmas is the most profitable time of year for most retailers.  But please, let us enjoy the fall holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween, and even Remembrance Day, before inundating us with gaudy fiber-optic trees, battery-operated puppies that bark the tune to "Jingle Bells", and terrible jazzed-up cover versions of traditional holiday carols.  If this keeps up we're going to end up with celebrating Christmas in September.

At least wait until after American Thanksgiving or something.

Until then, I don't want to hear about it.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Store-Bought Halloween

Halloween is always fun at our place.  It's a safe neighbourhood with lots of kids around.  A guy across the street is well known for his ostentatious display and boom box that plays tunes like "Monster Mash", "Ghostbusters", and "Purple People Eater".  We start giving candy at about 5:30 PM and approximately 400 kids show up at the door over the course of the evening.  Typically we run out of candy by 8 PM although other neighbours continue until 9 PM or later.

One of the things that has saddened me about Halloween recently is the apparent sexualization of costumes. Many store-bought costumes, even ones for kids, are becoming skimpier.  Some can't be worn outdoors on a cold night like we have in Canada at the end of October, like the mini-skirted Monster High stuff.

Granted there are adults who might like to dress up for fun at parties and such.  But they're in a minority.

Speaking of store-bought, that's another thing.  Fewer costumes seem to be home-made these days.  I remember every single one of my Halloween costumes was hand-made by my mother, either from a pattern or from her own imagination.  I guess people just don't seem to have the time or make the time to do it.  It's unfortunate.

I think I'll just sit back with some candy and watch a Tim Burton flick.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Thursday Treat: Reese Trifle

Since Halloween is tomorrow, I decided to share a recipe that I picked up some time ago.  I love chocolate. I also love peanut butter.  Naturally I love Reese's Cups.  This is a dessert that contains all three.  It's a little time-intensive to make but the result is worth it.

Note that this is not for diabetics or anyone who has allergies to either peanuts or chocolate.

Reese's Peanut Butter and Chocolate Trifle

To make this you will need:

Trifle dish or other deep cake dish
Cake pans
Medium sized saucepan
Mixing bowls and spoons
Measuring cups and spoons

Plain chocolate cake, either homemade or store-bought
500 mL (16 oz) 35% heavy cream
Two 110 g (3.8 oz) packages chocolate pudding
One 283 g (10 oz) bag peanut butter chips
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
12 Reese Peanut Butter Cups, chopped
One 170 g (6 oz) package Reese Pieces

Directions:

• Prepare the chocolate cake and the chocolate pudding according to their respective directions, and allow to cool.
• In a saucepan, melt the 10 oz package of peanut butter chips on low heat; stir in 1/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, and 1/4 tsp of vanilla until combined. Allow to cool. This is your peanut butter sauce.
• Whip the remainder of the heavy cream.
• Break up the chocolate cake into approximately 1 cm/half-inch pieces and layer it on the bottom of the trifle bowl. Top with thin layers of chocolate pudding, peanut butter sauce, chopped peanut butter cups and Reese's pieces, and a layer of whipped cream.
• Continue building the trifle with these layers until you've run out of ingredients (or room in the dish).

Keep refrigerated until served.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Living with the Times

Like the clouds that have been covering the sky for the past few days, our environment is gray. A good friend and her kids are being forced out of their apartment by a jackass neighbour. Another friend is going hungry in order to feed her kids because there isn't enough money. Many university-educated young people are having to work part-time in warehouses because they can't find jobs in their field.

And in the meantime governments at all levels are cutting services to the bone in order to balance budgets. Obviously they can't or won't see what's wrong even when the evidence is right under their noses that the system is broken. Something's going to give eventually.

On the other hand, I know someone who's expecting her second child any day now. My eldest nephew is about to finish his PhD and become a full-time teacher. Several other friends are celebrating the success of their businesses. I have to believe that there's still hope for my husband and I to get jobs close to where we live. I dislike the prospect of change even though the world around us is changing so rapidly.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Not Standing Out

Almost everything I've read concerning job applications, résumés, and such has stressed that you need to tailor your documents so that you stand out from the pack.  But how can you do that if the standard is always changing?

I've spent most of my life NOT standing out.  When I started school and began to socialize more with other kids my age, I quickly learned that standing out or being different was dangerous: my intelligence, kindness, and overall attitude made me a target for repeated bullying.  Over time I became withdrawn and went to great lengths to not put myself into a situation where I might be subject to scrutiny.  A few times I deliberately kept my course marks on the low end by not working to my potential, because the nerds were always picked on.

When I went into the workforce I hadn't changed much.  I was good at what I did, but I was happy to sit in my little corner and do my job while not having to worry about shaking things up or dealing with too many people.  I just didn't like to call much attention to myself.

Unfortunately that attitude has come back to bite.  I've had only one interview in two years of job-hunting.  I'm told that a major reason could be that my résumé doesn't have enough substance to it, although I've retooled it many times according to the ever-shifting guidelines and wracked my brain for the tiniest detail that might be relevant.  My online profiles have only a handful of readers despite my best efforts.

There's a poem that states "pretty good isn't good enough", and it isn't.  But where to go when even one's best doesn't seem to be good enough?

Monday, 27 October 2014

The State Has No Place

A well-loved drama teacher was fired from her school board because she had acted in some erotic videos OVER 40 YEARS AGO.  She described them as having nothing to do with the kind of things one sees in most "adult" films today, and they have no bearing on her ability to do her job.

The whole "GamerGate" debacle started because someone published the sordid tale of his breakup and falsely accused his ex of sleeping with a journalist in order to garner favourable reviews for her work.

Now a prominent radio journalist has been fired from his job because of allegations from his ex-girlfriend of sexual misconduct in their bedroom.  He issued a statement that it was consensual but she became upset when he broke up with her and she had started a campaign to smear him.

Here we go again.

The late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said that "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation".  What goes on in private between consenting adults provided it doesn't hurt anyone should not be used against them.  Also, in this country people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Many of us have plenty of reasons to smear an ex when a relationship ends badly.  But do we really think about what our actions will do to them in the future?  I admit I'm guilty of saying bad things about certain exes, but I never mention names and I'm careful of what I say because I know I shouldn't sabotage them no matter how much I might want to.

Unfortunately due to the Internet and social media, allegations and falsehoods get shared around the world in minutes.  Misinformation spreads, jobs are lost, and reputations are ruined just because someone chooses to publish their beliefs on a whim or they want to "get even" during a fit of pique.

We need to think more instead of having knee-jerk reactions.  And stay out of people's bedrooms.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Not Criminally Responsible

In the wake of this week's attacks on soldiers on Canadian soil there's a lot of speculation as to the mental state of the young men who perpetrated the crimes.  What's clear is that they had been radicalized by Islamists overseas, having been more susceptible due to their own disillusionment with Western society.  Would that be considered "insane"?

I've always had a problem with people using an "insanity" or "not criminally responsible" argument in court.  If the evidence is clear that person X killed person Y, then person X should be locked up or otherwise punished appropriately.  If they're successful at using the insanity defense they usually end up spending a few months or years in hospital or a psychiatric institution before being released back into society.

This shouldn't be happening.

The real problem is the sentencing.  Lunatics should never be released.  They should stay in a suitable facility until they die.  In fact MORE murderers should be classified as insane because only an insane person could willingly kill another human being.  This would end the notion that a life sentence is twenty-five years.  Let's just remove these people from society forever, and let them work during their sentences to pay their way for cost of keeping them behind bars.

And no more plea deals like that woman I won't name who, after killing her own sister and two other girls, made a deal that sent her ex-husband to prison for life while she walked free after only ten years.

I know people who say, "They're of no benefit to society, so drop them naked in the middle of Antarctica in the dead of winter."  But it's too easy to speak out from the comfort of our own lives and judge these people based on the depictions from the media.