Thursday, 29 December 2016

Pain is Not Always Visible

This post is courtesy of my good friend Annie, who deals with pain every single day.

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Truth time.  I am going to share a secret.
I have a multi-system autonomic nervous disorder called fibromyalgia.  I was diagnosed when I was 23.
It is a long-term condition which can cause pain, fatigue, headaches, tingling, stiffness, and mood and memory issues.  It also affects temperature control, digestion, restorative sleep, and more.  Symptoms vary.  Sometimes the simplest touch is agony.
I am not ill; my brain processes pain/stimuli differently.  No, I didn’t "do" anything to cause it.  Yes, it is why I need more rest and sometimes have motility issues.  No, there is no cure.  This is my normal.

Sometimes I can do something relatively minor like fixing dinner for my family and feel awful afterward. Other times, I can participate in something major and feel fine.  If I can’t predict my own reactions – I certainly don’t expect you to.  Additionally, I don’t expect you to know what to do, what to say, or even how to help me, so please do not feel that it is up to you to "make me better".

There is a difference between feeling "healthy" and feeling "happy".  If you see me and think I sound happy, it means I am happy.  I might be tired.  I might be in pain.  I might be feeling sicker than ever.  Please don't say "You sound better".  I do not sound better, I sound happy.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Love from Grief

Credit to my friend Tamu Townsend for the original post, I've just modified and added to it a little.
The child in me is having a hard time right now because of Carrie Fisher.
The teenager is not doing so well because of Richard Adams.

And David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and well, all the other artists whom I admired and whose work helped me through some dark times.
But you know what?  A year didn't do this.  You can't be sad about something lost if it did not at some point also give you great joy or revelation. The sadness will dissipate, though, and the joy or some part of it will likely survive and still be there.
Aren't we lucky that we grieve people who left a little something behind for us to contemplate, enjoy, discuss, and learn from?
Author Terry Pratchett wrote: "Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?"  Art, music, literature, film -- that is the legacy that keeps these people alive in our hearts.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Self-Righteousness

Credit for the following goes to author David Gerrold.

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I think that one symptom of the disease that afflicts us all is self-righteousness.
We have a need to be right because we have a need to survive. We get it drummed into us in school -- where "I don't know" is an admission of stupidity and is therefore, the little death. So rather than die, we make stuff up to fill the vacuum of ignorance.
And then we marry it. That stuff we made up. We invest ourselves in it, no matter how stupid or how wrong it may be. We hold onto it like a drowning man clutching his anvil. Things like "trickle-down economics," for example.
And we mortar the bricks of that particular wall with language like "SJWs always lie" and "pathetic beta-male libtards" and "genetically inferior" and "sexual deviants" and other terms of undearment.
When that cement hardens, we've walled ourselves in, like Poe's unfortunate Fortunado -- only this is a self-abnegation, a premature burial of thought and understanding and compassion.
We do it on the hard right, we do it on the hard left. Fanatics do it, religiously, politically, theologically, ideologically, and every other -ically. With the emphasis on the ick.
We do it because we're self-righteous a$$holes, investing our energy into our beliefs with all the devout conviction of a Christian Scientist with appendicitis, praying harder and harder for the invisible sky-fairy to fix it.
Here's the thing about self-righteousness. It's about needing to be right. Regardless of the issue, it's about needing to be right.
The problem with being right is that in order to be right, you have to make someone else wrong.
This is why nobody ever wins an argument without losing a friend.
Because to win the argument, you have to make them wrong.
And nobody, in the entire history of the human race, has ever said, "Thank you for proving me wrong." Usually what we say, whether we say it aloud or under our breath, is something like, "That son of a bitch...." And we go away, more strongly convicted in our delusion than before.
Because being right is always more important to a human being than being accurate.
That's the design flaw in the human animal.
It takes deliberate and conscious effort to get past that. It takes training and practice to make it a habit to consider evidence as more important than opinion.
This is particularly depressing because the number of people who think that their opinions are more important than the evidence vastly outnumbers the much smaller number of people who practice some form of the scientific method.
The irony here is that too many of those who reject the scientific method are logging onto their computers to tell the rest of us why their delusional opinions are more important than the evidence.
That's a large part of the infection that is paralyzing our political and social processes. Self-righteousness.
I have not named anyone specifically -- because the ironic part of this is that when you call someone out for being self-righteous, you're being self-righteous yourself.
So I discuss the issue rather than any individual. Discuss issues, not personalities -- this is because all of us have issues, but not all of us have personalities.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

There Is No "Right" Side

I have not been closely following the news lately; I've been making a concerted effort to snap out of my depression and I felt that I didn't need to worry about other world affairs.  However the worsening situation in the beseiged Syrian city of Aleppo has prompted me to say something.

For years the city has been a bitter battleground between heavily armed rebel militias, and government forces loyal to the dictatorial President al-Assad who are backed up by Russian aerial bombardment.  Most of the city is in ruins, men have gone missing, and women and children are being used as human shields or simply executed by pro-Assad soldiers.

Yesterday a tentative ceasefire was violated - each side is blaming the other - and activists are posting heart-wrenching videos to the Internet, saying that agreements to allow evacuations of citizens have not been heeded, and they fear for their lives and the lives of their families.  The United Nations is accusing the Syrian government of failing to protect its people and of violating international law.

Many of my friends are asking, why has there been no intervention?

Part of the reason is nobody knows what the "right" side is.

Going by the philosophy of "us vs them": if weapons are being sold to one side, then that's the "right" side.  The minute the other side discovers a source of greater wealth, then we were "conned" and have to support the wealthier side.

We've seen this happen in Afghanistan, where first the Taliban were the bad guys, then they weren't, then they were again.  Flip flop rinse repeat.  All to kill one man, who is now dead.

So why are American forces are still there today?  To guard an oil pipeline?  It appears that way.  Why don't they have a look at the threat of a Russia/Iran/Syria supremacy that could threaten Israel and American oil interests in the region?

Several countries including the United States have been arming various jihadist groups in order to bring about regime change.  It didn't go well in Libya or Iraq, and it won't work here either.  It's next to impossible to determine the "right" side when both sides are committing atrocities.

Perhaps there's no "right" side at all.  Not when civilians are feeling the brunt of the viciousness.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Reminisces

As Christmas nears and 2016 draws to a close I find myself thinking back on the year and wondering where it all went wrong.  Certainly there has been a long buildup to this: as the lobster doesn't see the danger in the slowly-simmering pot, many people don't realize how bad the situation is until they find themselves in the thick of it.

This time of year is especially difficult for me.  My late mother's birthday is two days after Christmas and her holiday parties were legendary.  She would spend most of December cooking and baking in preparation for having friends and neighbours over to celebrate.  I would happily pitch in to help, whether it was polishing silverware or washing the good china.

Now I'm the one who hosts the parties for my friends, and I even make Mom's famous lemon trifle, but of course it's not the same.  I can only hope that one day my daughter remembers my parties with the same fondness.

We all have lost so many people this year.  From favourite celebrities like David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Gordie Howe to more personal losses - my childhood doctor George Fortier and dentist Paul Guilbault both passed away this year.  Several people I know have lost a parent, colleague, friend, or even a pet.  I have in effect lost my father as well; while he is still alive, over the last year his dementia has progressed to the point where he no longer is able to take care of himself and must be looked after full time.

I grieve with them as well as for all those who are losing their loved ones to various calamities.  It's hard to get into the holiday spirit when elsewhere there are people suffering, but if we allow ourselves to dwell too much it becomes overwhelming.

What we can do is look to this quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

So I do little things here and there like baking holiday treats for the neighbours, helping shovel a car out of a snowbank, or offering a smile and encouraging word; anything that brings a bit of light into someone's day.  Sometimes a little thing can make a big difference.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

I Will Not Accept

I take no credit for this; the author is Jeremy Mitchell.

"I listened as they called my President a Muslim, as if it were a bad thing. 

I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys. 
I listened as they said he wasn't born here. 
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could. 
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler. 
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice. 
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog. 
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was. 
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn. 
I watched as they did just that.

I listened.  I watched.  I paid attention.


Now, I'm being called on to be tolerant.  To move forward.  To denounce protesters.  To "Get over it." 
To accept this...

I will not.


I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be. 

I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get. 
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country. 
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice. 
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them. 
Them. The people who voted for him. The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win. 
I will do this so that they never forget.

And they will hear me. 

They will see it in my eyes when I look at them. They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them. They will know that I know who they are. They will know that I know what they are. 
Do not call for my tolerance. I've tolerated all I can. 
Now it's their turn to tolerate ridicule.

Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day forward is now Trump's fault just as much as they thought it was Obama's.


I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give."



Wednesday, 16 November 2016

It Was Always There

One week after the devastating American election, long-buried smouldering attitudes have been brought out into the open.  The rise to power of a man who constantly spouted bigotry and misogyny has become an excuse for people to indulge in their own.

Kids at a high school in Michigan formed a human wall to prevent minority students from reaching their classes.

At Winthrop University in South Carolina, handmade black dolls were hung from a tree.

On the web site Why We're Afraid there are multiple stories of people being threatened, abused, and even sexually assaulted because "we're in Trump's America now and you can't do anything about it".

The phenomenon isn't confined to the U.S. either.  Much to the chagrin of most citizens and the government, there have been incidents in Canada too.  Among them, a park in the east end of Toronto was plastered with signs encouraging those who were "tired of political correctness" and "wondering why only white countries have to become multicultural" to join web sites affiliated with the alt-right.

My own father always distrusted people of colour - Muslims and Sikhs in particular - and was against mixed-race relationships.  But he never expressed those opinions on the job or in public because he was keenly aware of the consequences that might come upon him for doing so.

With this election, the bullies are no longer afraid of the consequences.  And they won't be deterred even though their president-elect did take to the airwaves and say "Stop it!"

Author and educator John M. Shanahan wrote, "Civilization: a thin veneer over barbarianism."  That is being proven time and again by people who are closed-minded and cruel.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Consequences

You know that saying, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it?

We have seen that failure first hand.

The republican candidate said and did everything he could, including breaking rules, in order to get what he wanted.  Just like he had done all his life.  Being a businessman and actor, his erratic and brash behavior must have been keenly calculated for the desired effect.  He pandered to the 1950s straight white male demographic and threatened everyone else into submission.

Intimidation and violence were reported at polling stations, rallies, and elsewhere.  A republican supporter in Florida pulled a gun on a black voter.  Shots were fired at two voting locations in California.  One girl that had accused the republican candidate of rape disappeared out of fear for her life.

The gullibility and the stupidity of over half the American people was seriously underestimated.  Rather, folks underestimated the number of racists, misogynists, ableists, rapists, and rape apologists eligible to vote in America.

International news and social media were aflame.

"What I learned on Election Night: Being a racist, bigoted, prejudiced, lying sexual predator is still more acceptable than being a woman." - Allen Clifton

"People ask why women don't report sexual assault. You got your answer: a man can have double digit accusers and still be elected President." - Liz Strand

The musician Deadmau5 half-joked that he would limit his upcoming tour performances to states that voted Democratic.

"Putin is the real winner of this election." - Steve Santerre

The stock market plunged to levels not seen since after 9/11 and the value of the U.S. dollar dropped.  Canada's Customs and Immigration web site crashed.

The president-elect didn't even win gracefully.  His acceptance speech was bitter, vindictive, spiteful, vengeful, totally ungracious, and quite chilling in places.

America, what have you done?

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Men are Weak? Really?

This past September, Elhamy Agina, an Egyptian member of parliament, came out with a dumbfounding reason for support of the horrible practice of female genital mutilation: it is necessary to curb the sexual "weakness" not of women, but of men.

"We are a population whose men suffer from sexual weakness, which is evident because Egypt is among the biggest consumers of sexual stimulants that only the weak will consume.  If we stop [female genital mutilation], we will need strong men and we don't have men of that sort."

Also in 2016, Dr. Abd al-Aziz Fawazan al-Fawzan, a professor of Islamic law said: "If a woman gets raped walking in public alone, then she, herself is at fault.  She is only seducing men by her presence.  She should have stayed at home like a Muslim woman."

Islamic law rejects forensic evidence such as DNA in favor of testimony.  And because a woman's word is only worth half of a man's (ref. Quran 2:282) a man can say or do pretty much anything he wants and will get away with it.

In many Christian marriage ceremonies, the wife's vows include the words "to love, honor, and obey your husband in all things" (italics mine).  Many men believe that they are entitled to sex with their wives whenever they want, and marital rape doesn't exist.

The men of far too many religions and cultures debase and restrict women in order to make themselves feel powerful.  All blame is placed on the women for their own inadequacies.  To do otherwise makes them appear "weak" in the eyes of their peers.

Many people in the U.S. will not be voting for Hillary Clinton for this same reason.  They don't want a woman to have that much power over them.

Listen, men: if you feel the need to constantly trample on womens' rights and deny them their very freedom, you are already weak.  Strong men don't keep women behind or under them.

Strong men have women beside them.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

A Second Civil War?

The closer we get to the U.S. election date, the crazier the situation south of the border becomes.  Looking at it from an outsider's perspective, I'd think that they are in the first stirrings of a civil war.

Given the evidence that we've seen so far: the republican party is not interested in actually governing; instead they're planning solely to keep the government from functioning.  Several senators have said openly that they will block all Supreme Court nominees until there's a republican President.

But be reminded that doing so is not only a dereliction of duty, it's a violation of their oath to uphold the Constitution.  In effect, the Constitution is worthless when it comes to what the republicans want.

Add to this the fact that violence is on the rise.  Multiple pro-Trump militia groups are calling for violent action should Mr. Trump lose.  In a preview of what's to come, Trump fans have burned down an African-American church in Mississippi and plotted multiple terror attacks against Muslims.  A man known for waving Confederate flags and posting highly conservative views gunned down two police officers in Iowa.

Trump himself insinuated earlier in his campaign that Secy. Clinton might be "dealt with".  And one of his campaign advisers proclaimed there would be "a bloodbath" if Trump lost.  Women, journalists, minorities, immigrants, the disabled - all are potential targets for the small-minded people who think that America should be "great" only for white able-bodied men who believe only what they choose to believe instead of the truth.

Not to mention that there are laws in place that are specifically meant to enable the aforementioned groups.  Those laws were fought for, and in many cases, died for.  Going against those groups is going against the very laws of the country.

The Trump-supporting repubs don't seem to care what laws they break as long as they get their way.

Winter is coming, indeed.  It's terrifying.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Best of Funny Part 2

Rainy cold days in the fall are the perfect time to find the humour in life.  After traveling down memory lane and having some discussions on the subject with some like-minded folks, we came up with several more examples of tear-jerking hilarity.

1. Pebbles' Birthday Party

In this episode from Season Five of The Flintstones, Fred had to arrange two parties on the same night: his daughter's first birthday and a gathering at the Water Buffalo Lodge.  Unfortunately the planned entertainment for both parties ends up in the wrong places, much to Fred's chagrin.

2. The Elephant Story

The Carol Burnett Show was a staple of the 1970s and included a series of sketches known as "The Family".  In one episode of the final season, cast member Tim Conway ad-libbed a story about Siamese elephants that he saw at a freak show.  The other actors were very hard-pressed to keep their composure when they realized they weren't going to get back on script.

3. Phonetic Punctuation

I first discovered the musician and comedian Victor Borge through a sketch from the 1970s version of The Electric Company kids' show.  Here he describes how his "phonetic punctuation" works by telling a story.  Similar routines were a staple of his performances.  Another of his well-known bits was the "Inflationary Language".

4. Sharing Pillows

This classic skit from the first season of Sesame Street has Ernie trying to take a nap but is interrupted by Cookie Monster who has his eyes on Ernie's fluffy feather pillow.  One isn't supposed to ask how Cookie Monster got into the apartment in the first place...

5. Aunt Clara's Powers

The show Bewitched had many magical characters who created havoc with witch Samantha's marriage with Darrin, a mere human.  One such was the bumbling but lovable Aunt Clara who whose powers never worked properly.  One day Samantha's mother Endora has an allergic reaction after touching a Macedonian Dodo bird, and Clara mysteriously ends up with Endora's powers.

6. Broomstick Bunny

Looney Tunes needs no introduction.  Bugs Bunny is an easygoing rabbit who doesn't hesitate to completely humiliate whoever bothers him.  Since it's almost Halloween, here's a short from 1956 where Bugs is trick-or-treating and mistakenly visits the home of Witch Hazel.  She tries to put a spell on him but he expertly turns the tables.

What other shows struck you as funny?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Trump's Terrors

I've officially had it with all the rhetoric and ugliness surrounding the U.S. election.  No matter the reason for not voting for one candidate or the other, what it comes down to is many people simply don't want to hold an intelligent conversation or to educate themselves properly on the issues.  And those who support Trump are the worst of the lot.

Last night I had the misfortune of getting involved in a conversation with someone who was quite obviously a Trump supporter.  He said the usual things about Secy. Clinton:

"When faced with the alternative of a liar, email deleting, justice avoiding, marine killing, and dirty excuse for a "woman" than yea Donald all day long.  As far as a few bankruptcies vs his successful business I think we're good."

When someone else pointed out Trump's enormous deficiencies and how dangerous the man is, he upped the ante:

"If you say so bro, yet the world would crumble to its knees without us.  We are the last remaining true super power and have spent our entire existence bailing out the world.  I have put in my time in any ways possible so I have earned my opinion.  Trust me when I say Trump is a horrible person but doesn't hold a candle to Hillary."

When I made a comment about how I couldn't believe that anyone would prefer to support a man who has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women instead of a capable woman who might have made some questionable decisions in the past, there was this little retort:

"Questionable decisions??  Multiple people killed! vs one sexually assaulted with a cattle prod... please... ppssht.  Women report when it's worth a few million dollars ... at least in this case."

Having been a victim of sexual assault myself, I was livid and I quickly took him to task for his callousness.  He didn't care and chose to return to another thread in which he boasted about how the U.S. had helped to win WWII among other things.  When faced with the fact that Canada had entered the war before the U.S. had, he went on a self-righteous rant:

"If we had not gotten involved, the world would be speaking German.  This is fact, not opinion.  France, England, etc. would not exist without us.  Or Canada."

There I disagreed.  Even if Europe had fallen, Canada would probably still have existed in some form because given the technology at the time the Germans would not have been able to mount an effective assault across the ocean.  Facing both the U.S. and Canadian military would have been very difficult if not impossible.  Then I sarcastically mentioned that in 1812 the U.S. had attempted to invade Canada with little luck, to which he shot back:

"Hahahaha you have got to be kidding me?  This is 2016.  We can walk right in if we wanted to and take what we want," and posted a photo of a pistol that he happened to be wearing at the time.

At that moment I realized that I was dealing with a person who was more dangerous than Trump is.  He was fanatical, armed, willing to resort to scare tactics to prove his point, and had just made a threat.  Immediately I ended the conversation and blocked him, but the incident left me shaken.

And so until the American election is over I'll be avoiding the circus.  These people just can not be reasoned with, at all, and as far as I'm concerned, they are no better than terrorists and deserve what they get.


Monday, 10 October 2016

The Best of Funny

Most of my friends watched the Presidential debate.  I didn't.  I was taking a much needed two-day respite in a place with no TV or Internet because I had been overwhelmed with the craziness of everything.  There's so much darkness in the world.

So today I've decided to post about good clean humour.  Here are five of my personal favourite funny moments (in no particular order).

1. Who's On First

I remember being very young and turning on the TV on Saturday mornings to see reruns of the Hanna-Barbera Abbott and Costello cartoon.  Over the years I've heard much about the duo's wacky humour but it was only recently that I discovered one of their most famous sketches.  You don't even have to like baseball to enjoy this.

2. Better Late Than Never

My parents had a recording called "You Won't Believe Your Ears" that was originally pressed in 1963 and reissued on CD in 1991.  It features comedian Wes Harrison who was famous for his vocal sound effects; in fact he did many of the effects used in the Disney films Peter Pan and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Here's an excerpt from the record, in which he makes fun of men who try to sneak into their house without waking anyone up.

3. I'm Just Wild About Harry

Most people are familiar with the antics of the Muppets from Sesame Street.  However it was on The Muppet Show where they truly were able to cut loose with their own brand of silly humour and gratuitous violence.  Of all the sketches they did there are a few that stuck with me, including this gem of a performance with Jean Stapleton.

4. Seeing Eye

The TV show I Dream of Jeannie, about an astronaut who discovers a merely semi-competent genie, had so many funny moments that it's hard to pick just one.  However one that stood out to me was during an episode where Jeannie attempted to give her master "perfect vision" and ended up making him blind instead.

5. Nudge Nudge

I must admit I was an adult before I could appreciate the unique and twisted humour of the British comedians who are collectively known as Monty Python.  This classic scene with Eric Idle and Terry Jones showcases a still-relevant problem: an under-educated youth attempting to solicit personal advice but is too embarrassed to speak plainly.

So what's your favourite funny moment?

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Dedication

I am Canadian and therefore I don't have a vote in the upcoming U.S. election.

However, Donald Trump scares me.  How he could even have become a candidate for President of one of the most powerful nations in the world scares me even more.  His rise only proves that the undercurrent of misongyny, racism, barbarism, and fear is still alive and well below the thin veneer of modern civilization.

My paternal grandmother distrusted black people to the extent that once when she was hospitalized for an infection she refused to be attended by a black orderly.  My father made a point of never buying cars that were made in Asia, and maintained that Asians who insisted on not integrating with our society had no business coming here.  Both were fearful that Muslims would one day "take over".

Thankfully I don't share that view.

What I will share is the experience of educating myself and growing beyond the family history of suspicion and bigotry.  I will share the experience of being threatened, controlled, and sexually assaulted by someone who said that I had to meet his needs or else he would discard me.  I will share the experience of being a second class citizen in my own province because I don't speak the language of the majority.

All one has to do is look at the American political scene to see that there is a large number of people who openly declare that a woman's place is in the kitchen, a man's place is at the top of the heap, and immigrants' places are not in America.  That's no way to create a strong country.

I would dedicate my no-Trump vote to all those who learned from experience that they must grow as a person and respect those who care about real issues instead of blindly following deplorable personalities.

#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote
To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Black Joy Challenge

This post is courtesy of a friend who was reacting to the shootings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott.

"This my challenge to you. Stop posting videos of black men, women, and children being hurt and killed by police, if only for a little while. Black people have been telling you this stuff has been happening for ages, even when there were no cameras. Now that there are cameras, people still don't believe/care/do something about it.

If you need to let us know, post an article, but be mindful of the picture that is used. These leave scars on our soul with such frequency and in such number. We also are aware that there is enough we don't see that is also occurring at the same time.

If you've been getting this information from your black friends, maybe it's time for you to do your own homework. We pulled away the curtain; now it's time for you to get on stage.

Instead, post a picture or video about black joy, the flipside to our pain. There is no joy like it, as the two are intertwined. Show us when we are happy, carefree, loving ourselves.

If you cannot accept this challenge, how about this one: If you have to post a video or something, post something showing the other side.

Or just flood the whole place with #blackjoy. It's not like we don't know the other stuff is happening.

And I don't want this post to be used to pull any bullsh*t to criticize people who do talk about these issues. I'm not saying to ignore it. I'm saying presentation is important, and also that we are fully-realized human beings."

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Game Moving

For the past two and a half years I've been playing a secondary character on my daughter's 3DS game of Animal Crossing New Leaf, which is basically a simulation where the primary player manages a town as its mayor.  Lately she has become rather possessive of the game and doesn't want me to play it as much, so I've been considering the purchase of my own 3DS and copy of New Leaf.

Fortunately New Leaf has the option of moving a non-mayor character to another game cartridge via wireless connection, and that character becomes the mayor of the new town.  There are online guides for character moving but many are not complete, so after doing a lot of searching I'm consolidating the information here.

When moving to become mayor of a new town, the new game cartridge must not have an already existing save file.  The player can choose the layout of the new town but the appearance of their avatar stays the same as before.

The following information is transferred:

1. The character's existing house with all upgrades.
2. Items in pockets and inventory, locker storage, and inside character's home.
3. Saved custom designs and saved letters in the post office.
4. Bells (game money), both on hand and deposited in the ATM.
5. Character's encyclopedia of caught bugs/fish/sea creatures.

The character loses:

1. Unlocked public works projects from town of origin.
2. Letters in the character's mailbox.
3. Items in Re-Tail store and museum display rooms in old town.
4. Item catalog, badges, joke book are all reset.

So moving to a new town has its advantages if one is willing to work at re-gaining the achievements.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

America Got Revenge But it's Still Afraid

This post is courtesy of Jim Wright and Lou J. Berger.  The original poster had valid points with which I agree.  It's one thing to observe the anniversary; it's quite another to not have learned anything from it.

"Earlier, I shared, without comment, Jim Wright's post about 9/11.  My post has disappeared, because Facebook found the contents of his diatribe violate Facebook standards, so they deleted HIS original, and all the shares. Mine was one among over 2,500 shares.  I will post it again, but will anybody who is offended by it please PM me before reporting it? Thanks in advance."

"You're expecting some kind of obligatory 9-11 post, aren't you?

Here it is, but you're not gonna like it.

15 years ago today 19 shitheads attacked America.

They killed 3000 of us.

And then ... America got its revenge for 9-11.

Yes we did. Many times over. We killed them. We killed them all. We killed their families. We killed their wives and their kids and all their neighbors. We killed whole nations that weren't even involved just to make goddamned sure. We bombed their cities into rubble. We burned down their countries.

They killed 3000 of us, we killed 300,000 of them or more.

8000 of us came home in body bags, but we got our revenge. Yes we did.

We're still here. They aren't.

We win. U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Right?

You're goddamned right. We. Win.

Except...

Every year on this day we bathe in the blood of that day yet again. We watch the towers fall over and over. It's been 15 goddamned years, but we just can't get enough. We've just got to watch it again and again.

It's funny how we never show those videos of the bombs falling on Baghdad today. Or the dead in the streets of Afghanistan. We got our revenge, but we never talk about that today. No, we just sit and watch the towers fall yet again.

Somewhere out there on the bottom of the sea are the rotting remains of the evil son of a bitch who masterminded the attack. It took a decade, but we hunted him down and put a bullet in his brain. Sure. We got him. Right? That's what we wanted. that's what our leaders promised us, 15 years ago today.

And today those howling the loudest for revenge shrug and say, Well, yeah, that. That doesn't matter, because, um, yeah, the guy in the White House, um, see, well, he's not an American, he's the enemy see? He's not doing enough. So, whatever. What about that over there? And that? And...

Yeah.

15 years ago our leaders, left and right, stood on the steps of the Capitol and gave us their solemn promise to work together, to stand as one, for all Americans.

How'd that promise work out?

How much are their words worth? Today, 15 years later?

It's 15 years later and we're STILL afraid. We're still terrorized. Still wallowing in conspiracy theories and peering suspiciously out of our bunkers at our neighbors. Sure we won. Sure we did. We became a nation that tortures our enemies -- and our own citizens for that matter. We're a nation of warrantless wiretaps and rendition and we've gotten used to being strip searched in our own airports. And how is the world a better place for it all?

And now we're talking about more war, more blood.

But, yeah, we won. Sure. You bet.

Frankly, I have had enough of 9-11. F*** 9-11. I'm not going to watch the shows. I'm not going to any of the memorials. I'm not going to the 9-11 sales at Wal-Mart. I don't want to hear about 9-11. I for damned sure am not interested in watching politicians of either party try to out 9-11 each other. I'm tired of this national 9-11 PTSD. I did my bit for revenge, I went to war, I'll remember the dead in my own time in my own way.

I'm not going to shed a damned tear today.

We got our revenge. Many times over, for whatever good it did us.

I'm going to go to a picnic and enjoy my day. Enjoy this victory we've won.

I suggest you do the same." - courtesy of Jim Wright.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

It's Just a Game (Not)

While browsing my Facebook feed this morning I came across a disturbing post in one of my Dungeons and Dragons forums.

"I was playing my character who was a female Mystic Gnome.  I was talking to my Dungeon Master about the different homebrew characters in the party, that included an Incubus Rogue, a Succubus Rogue, some other race I haven't heard of, and a werewolf.  Well the group decided to rape my character.  When I tried to contest them the DM didn't allow me to because of how many were against me. ... The guy who was playing the Incubus, his stats were 18 Str, 20 Dex, 20 Con, 18 Int, 18 Wis, 18 Cha at Level 4. ... After this I left, and they got mad at me for complaining, saying it was just a game.  This is a fairly new group who are looking for new members."

I nearly choked when I read this.

I have been into role-playing games, and Dungeons and Dragons in particular, for over 30 years.  NEVER have I come across a scenario as horrible as this.  Any sexual situations that came into the games were handled with "fade to black" or "you go into another room".  Not to mention, NO character can possibly have stats like that at Level 4 without some form of cheating having taken place.

In a later comment, the same writer mentioned that he appeared to be having very bad luck at finding a good gaming group.  Almost every group he tried to play with messed with his character in some form or other; from being left in the middle of nowhere to being attacked and having his possessions stolen by the other players.

Groups like this are toxic in the extreme.  They are using the excuse of "it's just a game" to act out malicious adolescent fantasies that have no place at a game table.

Participating in such games isn't simply role-playing, it can be a reflection of who you are.  When you create a character for a role-playing game it often shows some aspect of your own personality that normally wouldn't be seen on a day-to-day basis.  So to have your character do heinous acts in-game is a strong indicator of the kind of darkness that lurks in the back of your mind.  (Unless it's a very rare game in which all the characters are evil, which is another matter entirely.)

The advice that the writer received from the other members of the forum was unanimous: leave that group and advertise their sickness so that nobody else would join them.  No serious gamer should tolerate that kind of behaviour.  Unfortunately the writer lives in a small town and finding a good group nearby has become an impossibility.  This latest experience has seriously affected his enjoyment of the game.

It's little wonder why so many people believe role-playing games are evil.  Only it's not the game itself that's evil: sometimes it's the people who play it.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Dogs Amok

One of my Facebook acquaintances takes great pleasure in posting about what mischief her two dogs get into.  Generally there's nothing wrong with that, but there have been some incidents that she has described that had me shaking my head at how ill trained the dogs really are.

This person is a hard-working woman; she works two jobs, sometimes 12-hour shifts at a time.  She volunteers at a local animal shelter and has fostered many cats and dogs in her home.  I've nothing against her personally, other than she doesn't seem to have adequate time or energy to devote to two high-strung dogs that constantly upend her life.

They have destroyed two of her couches.  They routinely get into the household garbage at night and strew it all over the place.  This morning she woke up to find her bed full of dog kibble because one of the dogs brought his dish into the bed.  It's clear there's no alpha in this pack and the dogs know this, which is why they behave the way they do.

No matter how much one loves one's dog there should be a line drawn, and I commented as much.

Since everyone else was laughing and saying cute things about the dogs, I was decried as a spoil-sport for my suggestion that the woman invest in obedience classes for the dogs before they destroyed her house.

Her response: "Why is there always one person that can't keep it light and fun?  My life is a comedy in every aspect of it.  Most of it comes from my [dogs]."

"It's plain to see how much you love your brood.  How can you get mad at them when you love them so much?  You just can't. ... All that matters is all the laughter and fun you share with your pet family," was another comment.

I'm sorry, but sometimes love isn't enough.  My family once had a dog that unfortunately developed a chewing habit and resisted all attempts at breaking him of it; neither training nor attention worked.  One day he somehow got into a drawer and chewed an expensive piece of electronics.  My father was livid, and the dog was taken to a shelter the following day.  Some people might think that cruel, but the alternative was to be constantly having to ensure that anything smaller than a pillow was locked up or out of the dog's reach.  That's no way to live.

So call me a spoil-sport, tell me I have a sour personality, or that my opinion on this subject isn't worth listening to.  I stand by what I said.  I love animals but they must be properly trained to behave.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Spectre of War

With most of the U.S. distracted by the Republican and Democratic conventions last week, it's little wonder that much news out of Asia didn't make it to the mainstream media.  I've been reading articles from various sources that state recent U.S. sanctions against North Korea for their human rights abuses have been met with fury and an outright declaration of war.

Han Song Ryo, North Korea's top diplomat of U.S. affairs, is quoted as saying: "The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown.  We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war."  North Korea's government also claims that upcoming U.S. and South Korean joint military exercises include training to assassinate top North Korean leaders.

Even more frightening is a statement from the North Korean Atomic Energy Institute: "If the U.S. and other hostile forces persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the DPRK and behave mischievously, the DPRK is fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons any time."

U.S. crossed 'red line'
North Korea Fires Another Missile

We know that the North Korean leader has been looking for an excuse for war for a long time.  We know that the country has missiles with the capability of hitting U.S. soil.  We also know that China has been simmering with resentment as well and it won't take much for that country to become hostile.

So what is going to be done to defuse this situation?  Is anyone even paying attention?

My grandfather served in both World War I and World War II.  I'm sure he would have been very sad to know that the world can't truly be peaceful for long.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Accountability

Post by author David Gerrold, shared with permission. I take no credit.

If you've never been struck by disaster, you have no idea how traumatic it is.
If you've never had a loved one shot to death, if you've never leapt out of a burning building, if you've never been at the epicenter of a killer earthquake, if you've never been beaten and raped, if you've never had your life ripped asunder by circumstances out of your control -- then you have been blessed with a charmed life.
But also, you have no idea what other people are going through.
Those who died -- they were trapped in a horrific circumstance from which there was no escape. Panic, fear, terror, anguish -- we don't have the words to evoke the sheer brutality of the emotional tsunami in that room as one by one, their existence was snuffed out.
Those who survived -- they experienced the same. And they survived.
They will be scarred forever. Physically, emotionally. There isn't any real healing from something like this. Some of the survivors will be afraid to go outside. Some of them will never go out to celebrate again. Some of them will never enter any kind of crowded situation again -- not a theater, not a club, not even a restaurant.
Some of them will have lost a lover, a husband, or a wife. Some of them will never be able to be vulnerable again. Some of them will never dance again -- emotionally, they are a wasteland tonight, and nothing will bloom there for a long long time.
Pain is a tsunami that overwhelms you. It comes in waves, one after the other -- crippling waves that drop you where you stand. After a while, you incorporate those waves of pain into your existence. Sometimes they come less often, sometimes they don't hit as hard, but they never stop coming.
It can be little things -- like, "I wish Steve were here to see this. He would have loved it." You wonder what he or she would be doing now. Or big things, like suddenly the radio plays that song and you remember the moment when -- oh, god -- you fall down sobbing, racked with emotion, because you will never ever have that person in your arms again. And as much support as people want to give you -- you still end up in bed alone, missing the one who was there to comfort you.
And then there's the guilt -- "Why didn't I listen when she said she wanted to go to the other club?"
And all of the above I've just listed -- that isn't even a fraction of the pain that all these people are going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. Even after they recover, there will be that puckered wound in their flesh to remind them, to reawaken the nightmare.
And this event only makes the news because of the numbers. If it had been five instead of fifty, we'd all just tsk-tsk a little bit and then go back to our own concerns.
But you know what? Those people -- the ones who died, the ones who've survived -- they're us.
Just last night, they would have been the ones tsk tsking about the five or fifty people who died somewhere else. They didn't suspect that it was going to be the last night of their lives. Or that they might end up in the hospital with a shattered knee or a broken hip or a head wound or crushed ribs from being trampled in the panic.
Nobody ever assumes it could happen to them -- but we all walk around anyway with that same gnawing fear of the possibility, that somewhere there's another home-grown terrorist who's assembling a truck-sized fertilizer bomb, or maybe the airplane we're on might also have a bomb in its belly, or maybe the celebration we're attending will also be a target for another madman.
Shock, horror, grief -- all those are natural reactions. But also fear and anger. Fear of the horror is natural.
But so is anger -- but let's be angry at the ones who are truly responsible and who have failed in that responsibility -- the obstructionists in our Congress who refuse to pass laws for gun safety. The blood is on their hands tonight. Because they had the responsibility and they betrayed us, the American people.
They get away with it, because we let them. Because we keep letting our conversations get bogged down in semantic nitpicking, in sidetracks and tangents. We keep getting tied up in the ignorance of those who've been lied to by the propagandists.
Every time, we ask ourselves -- is this it? Is this the one? Is this the moment when we finally say "Enough!"
And every time ... we fail to follow through.
If we weren't going to get outraged when twenty schoolchildren were murdered, are we going to get more outraged when fifty queers get gunned down?
Probably not. Because it's collateral damage for the Second Amendment. It's the tolerable level of carnage.
Nearly seventy years ago, the federal government started setting safety standards for automobiles. Since then, the death toll from car crashes has gone down. Seat belts and airbags and better construction of passenger compartments, and a lot of other safety improvements have made our automobiles and our highways safer than ever.
If we are willing to protect ourselves against the carnage on our highways, then why can't we also protect ourselves the carnage on our streets, in our schools, and theaters and clubs?
Every congressman who ever voted against gun safety -- there is blood on that person's hands tonight. I will not forgive. I will not forget.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

A Guy Walks Into a Bar...

I had no words for a very long time.  I call myself a writer, and yet today I found myself unable to write anything appropriate.

On Saturday night, rising star Christina Grimmie was shot and killed as she signed autographs for her fans.

Early Sunday morning a man walked into a gay bar that was packed with over 300 people celebrating Pride.  Within half an hour, 50 people were dead, more than 50 wounded, and a community was in shock.

Mere hours later, a heavily-armed man who supposedly was on his way to the Los Angeles Pride Parade was arrested.  Quick thinking by people on the street could very well have stopped a similar occurrence.

Again.  And again.  The violence seems to be never-ending.  It's happening so often that many people can't even react any more.

Naturally the media is tearing apart the suspects in any way possible - their names, their heritage, their affiliations - looking for anything to lay blame on.  Few people are addressing the elephant in the room.  Few people want to because pro-gun organizations will most likely shout them down if they do.

I will lay the blame on hatred.  Hatred of that which is different: women, gays, members of a specific religion, whatever you can think of.  And I blame the coincidence of living in a place where access to high-powered firearms is easy enough so that the avenue to act on that hatred is there.

Twenty children lost their lives to a mentally ill gunman in 2012.  Every shooting since then has been followed by platitudes and calls for action but nothing has changed.  The United States has become a country where "others" - children, gays, women, people of colour - have become acceptable losses for a culture that insists on having an armed population.

That is no longer a "well-regulated militia".  That is anarchy.  And a disturbingly high percentage of people want to vote in a leader who wants more of the same.

It's not going to get any better.

Not unless enough people care about what happens to their fellow humans.

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Prevalence of Rape Culture

I was reading an online conversation about whether the 6-month sentence in the Stanford rape care was too lenient, and one commenter claimed to know the victim and that she had been lying the whole time.  I immediately called him out on it and said that the evidence was clear that she had been brutalized, and that his bringing up her sexual history was pure victim-blaming and rape culture BS.

He then proceeded to attack me, asking me if I had really been sexually assaulted (I had mentioned it in another comment) and asking what I had been wearing at the time.  As far as he was concerned, wearing nice panties was an invitation for sex.

That, my friends, is how to push my Berserk Button.

So to avoid cluttering up the comment section of that forum I'm posting my rant here.

People who have never been sexually assaulted can't possibly understand.

Forcing sex onto a person who is defenseless is reprehensible.  Nobody ever asks to be raped.  End of story.  It doesn't matter if the person was drunk, high, or wearing skimpy clothes.  A woman could be wearing a full length burqa and still be raped.

It has been embedded in our culture for too long that women must always have the onus of avoidance.  From the age of 13 women have to learn to carry their keys in their hands, to not walk in dark areas alone, to watch their drinks, to not hang out with strangers.

At the same time, many men believe that they can take what they want without fear of consequence.  It's all in the misogynistic mindset of power and control.  Especially if the man is rich, athletic, or successful.

"If a woman gets treated like a victim she will act like a victim.  Too many women show off their panties in public, thinking it is a sexy thing to do.  LOL" wrote the aforementioned commenter.

I dare any man to walk down the street wearing a Speedo and a muscle shirt and see what kind of reactions he gets.  Does that mean he's asking for it?  What about all those guys who walk around with their pants down to their knees and the boxer shorts showing?  Are they asking for it?  Chances are they won't get that much attention, because, well, they're men.

Women get the attention because their bodies have been objectified by rape culture and the media.  And to quote an online acquaintance: "It's baffling how men don't want women in positions of power because they're slaves to their hormones and emotions, and yet one of the first lines of defence when it comes to rape cases tends to be: it's hardly his fault, look at what she was wearing, how could we expect him to control himself?"

I was emotionally abused and sexually assaulted by my ex.  I never asked for it.  He believed that since we were in a relationship he was entitled to it.  It happened when he was angry with me.  At night when I was trying to sleep.  In the morning while I was trying to get ready for work (I nearly lost my job because of chronic lateness stemming from that).  Whenever I told him "no" he would pout, guilt-trip me, and claim he was being "deprived".  Even after I left him he stalked me at my new place, and assaulted me when I tried to talk sense into him.  I had a nervous breakdown and was in therapy for months.  I told his family about it, but they said "he wasn't raised that way" and disowned me.

Why did I never do anything, you might ask?  For the same reason that so many other abused women never take their attackers to court.  Because we know full well that the burden of proof will be on us, and that we will be blamed and shamed to the point of losing all faith in a system that is supposed to protect us but doesn't.

So I speak out now on behalf of all women who've had to go through the same thing.

Men need to be taught "Don't rape" instead of women being taught "Don't get raped."

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Justice of the Rich and Famous

Two 16 year olds publicly raped a girl and posted their heinous acts on social media.  School authorities tried to cover up the incident because the two boys were star football players.  Both boys ended up serving less than two years in jail.

A 16 year old from a wealthy family got himself drunk and then ploughed his car into the back of a stalled SUV, killing four people.  His lawyer argued that he didn't know any better because he suffered from "affluenza".  The jail sentence was two years.

A 20 year old university student was caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman, but only received a six month sentence because he was on the swim team.

Do we all see a pattern here?

All these so-called sentences scream "Rape/killing is okay if you are a heterosexual rich male athlete.  There are people looking out for you.  There are people who want you to succeed in life.  You didn't rape a girl, that was '20 minutes of action'."

Hey, remember O.J. Simpson?  That was the same story.

There's a lot of fear out there, but sadly it has been directed to the wrong places.  There are laws made in fear of a remote possibility that transgender people might go into bathrooms to commit sexual assault.  But men who ACTUALLY commit sexual assault don't get adequately punished.  Instead the victims are blamed and shamed, which is why so many sexual crimes go unreported because women know they most likely won't be believed.

There's something extremely wrong with this.  Far too many brutalized women struggle with depression, anxiety, and the stigma of what happened to them.  Some even end up killing themselves while their abusers are given a slap on the wrist.  Women need to be taken seriously and given the justice they deserve.  Not the "justice" reserved for the rich or athletic.

For more insight, have a look at Mr. Matt Lang's Facebook post on the subject:
Here is the problem: Some guys are entitled pricks.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Medically Screwed

For those who don't realize how messed up our medical system is.

I visited a regional medical clinic recently (known as a CLSC in Quebec) to have something looked at; they said that soon the clinic will be for people who don't have regular doctors, or for non-emergency cases that don't require going to a hospital E.R.  If you have a doctor you have to see that doctor even if getting an appointment takes weeks.

Case in point: In late April I was having eye problems but my regular eye doctor wasn't taking appointments until July.  So I paid to have an exam done within a week at a private establishment.  (My eyes were fine; I do need new glasses though.)

As a result of the aforementioned clinic visit, I was referred to a specialist.  However, getting a hold of one was a challenge.  Out of four local specialist clinics, no.1 was no longer accepting referrals, no.2 was unreachable, no.3 voice mail box was always full, no.4 their main specialist was ill and they had a waiting list of 14 months.

Eventually I chose to take an appointment next week at a specialist that I had seen previously, whose office is almost two hours away by public transit.  It's a bit inconvenient but at least it's timely.

Our health minister is supposed to be a doctor but he keeps changing the rules and making cutbacks that go against everything the medical profession stands for.  The brand-new hospital in Montreal has already been suffering from infrastructure failures, equipment shortages, and bed closures.  Seeing a specialist within a reasonable amount of time seems to be a matter of luck.

Worst of all, E.R. wait times in the province are the longest in the country.  A few years ago our daughter fell and got a bad cut on her head that needed stitches.  The accident happened after 7 PM and all the local walk-in clinics were closed, so we had to go the E.R.  We ended up waiting 13 hours - all night - before her cut was properly treated.  Wait times haven't improved much since then.

Moral of the story: Don't get sick.  Not if you live in Quebec.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Being a 21st Century Woman

We have come far in the last 50 years regarding our technological advancements and acceptance of that which is different.  Unfortunately there's still much to be done.  The clown circus that is the Republican Party in the United States is proof of that.

Girls are still forced into arranged marriages with people much older than they are.  Young women are abused for the "crime" of attending school.  Women are turned down for jobs or promotions due to their gender and/or age.  Female comedians are heckled with sexual threats.  Female game developers are doxxed and receive death threats.

Why is this still happening in the 21st century?  Why do parents still have to tell their daughters to not walk in certain areas at night, keep their keys in their hands, watch their drinks, and keep everyone at arms' length?  Why do women still have to work twice as hard for less pay, fight to keep control of their own reproductive ability, and endure unnecessary scrutiny?

It's because of men who have been taught that women are mere objects they can use for their own benefit, who think they know best for everyone around them, who believe that women are incapable of anything other than looking pretty and making babies.

I place the blame squarely on patriarchal societies that force women into undeserved stereotypes, punish women for trying to assert themselves, and use nudity and sex as marketing tools.  (I'm still angry that my favourite bookstore was closed and replaced with a lingerie shop.  Boobs before books indeed.)

Are men so afraid that they'll lose their self-worth if they allow women to be their equals?  It must be so, if on the street the worst insult you can give to a guy is to call him a "pussy".

Something has to change.

If the Americans elect Hillary Clinton as their next President, perhaps something will change.  The U.S. is one of the most powerful countries on the planet and needs to set the example.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Lifestyle Disadvantages

Yesterday a Pakistani transgender activist known as Alesha died after being shot eight times.  The hospital to which she had been admitted effectively denied her appropriate care by shuttling her between male and female wards, and the doctors made light of the situation by offering their phone numbers to Alesha's friends and demanding sex.

How long will it be before people are treated as human beings instead of being ridiculed and discriminated against due to their looks, beliefs, choices, or identity?

At this rate, I probably won't see that happen in my lifetime.

I consider myself an "ally": I am straight/agnostic but I have friends who are gay, lesbian, transfan, Christian, Muslim, vegetarian... the list goes on.  I respect them for living their lives the way they see fit (even if I happen to disapprove of said lifestyle) as long as they don't try to impose it on me or use it as an excuse to hurt others.

Every time I hear news of someone being harrassed due to their skin colour or denied services because they don't speak French, it infuriates me.  We all deserve better.

The mess in the United States with a racist, misogynistic, hatemongering buffoon poised to become a political leader speaks volumes about how lacking the educational system is and how far we need to go to fix it.

This quagmire of non-inclusiveness is not what our forefathers fought and died for to protect.