Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Alphabet: My History: Blackout (B)

Today, all around the world people are honouring "Earth Hour".

I plan on turning my lights off for the hour between 8pm and 9pm and encourage everybody to do the same. Yes, it's largely symbolic, however I think that given the current state of our world, a symbolic, global gesture in support of taking care of the earth is just what we need.

Unfortunately for our planet (and possibly the human race - cause apparently people like this breed), there are some small-minded jerks who have taken the time to write rude and insulting comments about this global demonstration. The ones I've added were from the Facebook group, meaning these people had to first join the group, then write their comments:

Australia saved 10% of their power consumption for one hour... Whoopty-doo. I fail to see how this benefits anyone in any shape or form. All you're doing is saving a buck or two on your own bill from going to the electricity company. I like supporting my electrical company because I think they are doing a fine job... Toronto Hydro was named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers in 2007 and its HYDRO ELECTRICITY. How is that not environmentally friendly?? Go donate to charity or something. Boycotting Hydro-electricity to save the environment... suck my ass.

hey thought i should let you guys know, i've been changing my lightbulbs so when 8 rolls around every light in my whole house will be turned on.

The planet has been through much worst shit then us (humans) (magnetic reversal of the poles, continental drifts, hundres of thousdands of years of meteorite bombardment, solar flares.... and we think a couple plastic bags......... and aluminum cans are going to make a difference...

I know I shouldn't bother with this, but it really makes me angry that people went out of their way to write this stuff. Not only is it rude, but horrifyingly ignorant. Regardless of what the planet has gone through, or whether or not global warming is a result of human activity (read up on this and decide for yourself), people ARE having an impact on the planet. Look around at the cities with little or no trees, at our polluted Great Lakes system, the smog in the air that's so bad in the summer that some people can't go outside. Look at the companies who refuse to reduce poisonous gas emissions from their plants because they don't want to spend the money. Look at the people who drop their garbage in the streets because "somebody else will pick it up".

Recently I had an issue with one of the other tenants in our building. Her boyfriend had taken the garbage out about a month ago, sitting the bag on top of the can - and leaving it there on top, with no lid, and not bothering to try and push it down inside. Since London has a zillion little critters who like to eat garbage (raccoons, feral cats, and squirrels being the most common), the bag was torn to shreds overnight, and trash spread all over the yard. I spent the next three weeks asking her to clean this mess up.

Three weeks. During which the temperatures rose, the trash started rotting even more (smelled great for a couple of days) and the snow melted, revealing even more garbage underneath. It was pretty disgusting, and I was forced to clean up part of the mess when my parents came to visit for my birthday.

Finally, I gave up on her ever doing anything and called the landlord. Feeling like a kid tattling on another kid, I explained what was happening and apologized for bugging him with something so childish. My main points were that the mess was unsanitary, looked disgusting, and leaving it out there for so long made me wonder what would happen in the summer. Thankfully, my landlord agreed with me and called her to insist that the trash be cleaned up.

I'm still floored by the fact that such measures need to be taken to get a person to clean up their own garbage.

The same day I called the landlord, there was a knock on my door. Standing there was the tenant from downstairs. She was furious that I had called the landlord and proceeded to spout out all sorts of excuses for why it had taken a month for her to even start cleaning up her garbage. "I was sick, my boyfriend was going to do it" and my favourite: "I was waiting for the snow to melt".

That last one did it.

"So you're telling me that you are planning to wait until the snow is gone before you bother cleaning this up?! That could me another two or three weeks! So until then I get to deal with racoons on my deck and looking at your rotting trash every time I go outside? That's gross and totally unfair!"

(I should explain that the area where the garbage cans are located is out of her way, but right beside my deck. So she never had to look at the trash while I saw it every time I went outside)

Her response was a very grown-up, "FINE!" accompanied by a stomp out the door, and a chorus of slamming doors and shouts and curses from the downstairs apartment.

How sad that a fully grown person can't clean up after themselves. I hate confrontation and really didn't want to involve the landlord, but it was the only way to avoid putting on rubber gloves myself and cleaning up her garbage. (I won't lie here - I had visions of doing exactly that, then dumping it down the stairs so she could look at it whenever she went out of her house. But I just couldn't be that much of a jerk.)

It's even more sad that there are people like this all over the world - who make a mess and refuse to clean it up, or tell themselves they'll do it "later". Several houses in this neighbourhood have garbage strewn across their lawns because of more people who can't be bothered to clean it up. A "few plastic bags and aluminum cans" could be collected from this street alone and fill up at least 4 big trash cans. Half of the garbage I see people piling on the curb each week could also be recycled.

But it doesn't make a difference at all...

(image taken from here)

Anyway, on to the warm fuzzy part of the post:

August 14th, 2003
It was about a half hour before Jeremy had to go to work. He was sitting in front of his computer, and I was watching a rerun of Seinfeld when the power went out. Instead of the usual flicker of lights and quick restarting of our computers, nothing happened. The TV stayed dark, and his computer sat quietly in the corner. After muttering about the annoyance of the power going out without warning, we talked for awhile and then decided to start the drive to work a bit early.

As soon as we went outside, it was clear that the power outage affected a lot more than just our house. Cars were lined up the road, barely moving. We could see that the nearest intersection (one of the busiest in the city) had no power either, and the cars were doing the 4-way stop dance: one or two going through at a time, with every direction crawling forward car-length by car-length.

"Uh oh. This is going to take a lot more time than I thought", I said to Jeremy. "But hopefully the power will be on outside of this area so you can still make it to work on time."

The radio announcer interrupted the end of a song to inform us that the power was most certainly not on anywhere nearby. As he talked about the "massive outage that covered the eastern seaboard and was affecting millions of people", we looked at each other in amazement. Expecting to be told not to bother coming into work, Jeremy called his manager and was informed that yes, the power was in fact on in their building (they have a huge generator) and he should come into work. His manager wasn't even aware of what was happening outside. The biggest blackout we'd ever heard of and the poor jerks inside the cube farm that we called our office didn't even know about it! I still imagine what it must have looked like from the air - the entire city blackened, but the lights still burning at Stream International. (Gotta make sure you can answer those tech support calls! "Your computer isn't powering up sir? Do you live on the East Coast of the USA? Yes? Well that might be the problem then...")

The drive to work took almost an hour, as people from everywhere all tried to get home at the same time. There were no traffic lights, no police directing traffic (yet) and Jeremy finally decided to get out and walk when we were halfway there. He made it to work 25 minutes before I made it home. The drive from home to work usually took 10 minutes.

When I finally parked my car in the driveway, I realized I didn't want to go inside our apartment. Something epic was happening and I wanted to be a part of it...

Grabbing some money and my keys, I wandered out into the humid August afternoon, planning to find a place open where I could buy some ice. We'd just made a run to Costco earlier that week and had $100 worth of meat in the freezer, so ice was suddenly a necessity.

It was hard to believe, but there were even more vehicles stalled on the roads, waiting to get through intersection after intersection on their way home. As I wandered up the street, I could see people stranded in gas stations waiting for the power to return so they could get gas - most of them standing in groups talking and trying to make the best out of their situations. It turned out that even the little convenience stores couldn't sell you anything unless you had exact change because the cash registers were linked to computers and wouldn't work. I was lucky enough to find a sympathetic cashier who (after chatting for awhile) agreed to sell me 4 bags of ice for $10. On the way home, I passed 8 people - all of whom offered to help me carry the heavy bags home.

Packing the contents of our freezer into the cooler we kept for camping trips didn't take long, so I grabbed a still-cold beer and a book and went outside. The air was humid, but a slight breeze kept things pleasant enough to enjoy being outdoors.

As the sun went down and the traffic slowly dwindled, the people came out. Grills were lit, warm beers passed around, car radios turned up, and a sense of solidarity grew between total strangers. The stars were out earlier than you would ever see them on a normal day, and without the orange tint to the sky, people saw constellations that ordinarily would never be visible from inside a city. The sky reminded me of sitting on the dock at the lake, where there are no lights nearby to block out all of those stars. I sat outside, wishing Jeremy had lied and said he couldn't make it to work, listening to people laugh and talk, and just enjoying the summer night.

Thinking back to that day, I can remember being amazed by three things: 1. The way the stars looked from our front yard, 2. How dependent we all are on electricity as a society, and 3. How kind people were to total strangers.

The same cashier who allowed me to buy ice (even when she was told not to sell anything) gave free chocolate bars, chips, and pop to the people stranded at her gas station. One man was from Stratford (about a 45 minute drive from London) and had been heading home after a long day on the road without stopping. He gulped down his Sprite like someone who hadn't had water in a week. Instead of looking disapproving, the cashier handed him another one with a smile. It was clear he wasn't taking advantage - he was somebody caught in the same situation we all were and just needed some extra help.

It's what I love most about that night: it reminded me that when trouble happens, most people will be there to help. That night was special: strangers smiled at each other, people stopped ignoring each other as they passed on the sidewalks and streets to exchange knowing glances and comments about the power being out, people offered free BBQ to passersby, and as the night settled in, we all looked up at the sky to appreciate the beauty that was masked by our city's lights. It really seemed like everybody wanted to share the experience with everybody else - for that one night, we were all in it together.

Update: I'm very proud to report this last little bit of news: according to the video you can find here, Canadians made up 30% of people participating in Earth Hour. Yay Canada!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cabin Fever (aka What Happens When I get Stuck in My House for 4 Days)

For the last week Jeremy and I have been laid up with a very mean flu. It started last Sunday with a headache for him, escalated into sneezing that I'm sure startled the people next door, then topped off regular intervals of coughing up bits of his lungs.

You know how when somebody else is sick, you feel sorry for them but don't really understand just how rotten they're feeling?

Thursday morning at 4am, I woke up nauseous, feverish, and feeling like somebody had poured liquid fire into my veins. Everything hurt. Cue tossing and turning for the next two hours, when I finally got out of bed and tried some tea. (which didn't work either) By Thursday evening I was no longer fit to be out of bed. Crawling under the covers with a whimper (I'm very very good at whining when I don't feel well), I resigned myself to a couple of days of feeling sick.

Unfortunately for both Jeremy and myself, this mean SOB of a cold has managed to hang on and torture us with runny noses and sore throats on top of the headaches and fever until yesterday. So much for a nice long weekend...

Being housebound for this many days has given me a lot of spare time, during which I finally started listing recently discovered blogs that I've been meaning to put on my blogroll.

Here are a few on the list:
Matt reminds me of a young Magazine Man - eloquent and witty, with a very interesting writing style. He's a college student who uses insomnia as a writer's tool and takes pretty amazing pictures. It's worth your time to go check him out.
Okay, this girl might be my lost twin. Not only does she love hockey AND the same team I do (Woohooo! Go AVS!), she also takes pictures of her millions of pairs of shoes, proudly quotes Friends episodes and calls herself the Urban Princess. Love it.
I'm so jealous of Kristy's blog name and masthead - if I had more imagination, it's what I would have done for myself. Great writing and a fantastic sense of humour (check out a recent post (with illustrations!) on why women with big boobs and butts can't wear sundresses - definitely a girl I can relate to!)


This weekend Jeremy installed Adobe Photoshop Elements (a.k.a. "Photoshop for people who will never be able to understand the REAL Photoshop") onto my computer. I've been playing nonstop with this program and have already spent several hours messing around with my pictures.

Here are a few of my pictures after editing:

I can't wait until I actually learn how to use this program!

To end this blog-post-with-no-point-at-all, one of the other nice things about staying in all weekend was re-discovering some old songs and videos on YouTube. Like this one:

To quote one of the commenters:
"how do you say de groovy
How do you say degorgeous
how do yo say dee lite"
Man the 90's rocked

Saturday, March 22, 2008

racist or not?

(I start this post with bleary eyes and a shaking head after reading dozens of comments to an article on Maybe it's because I have the flu, fell like hell and don't have anything better to do than write about this, but here we go anyway...)

I would love to know who makes the decisions for what airs on the news every night. Who decides what stories to air, who gets to discuss them, and which video clips roll on TVs across North America? Canadians are bombarded with American TV and as a result, hear a LOT of their news stories.

The latest drama in the political circus south of the border has been brewing non-stop for over a week: Senator Obama's inflammatory pastor and his speeches. YouTube now has over a MILLION hits for the videos posted of Reverend Wright - all snippets of his famous "God D.... America" rant, followed by often unintelligible and always angry comments.

Evidently all of the TV stations have been playing these videos non-stop, followed by their two cents about whether this means Obama is or isn't racist, un-American, un-trustworthy, or now un-electable. The Clintons are loving this debacle, not really saying anything publicly, but who wouldn't be thrilled to see their adversary (who is still winning) pummeled in the national media for associating with somebody like Rev. Wright. Interestingly, John McCain was more supportive than Hillary of this whole thing - removing a staffer who posted a highly biased video linking Obama, Rev. Wright, Malcolm X and others to indicate that they all hated white people and were out for Black Power alone. I grudgingly respect him a little bit now - despite the fact that he and Bush are on the same political team.

Luckily for everybody but Obama, the media firestorm over this is relentless and will ultimately cause more damage than anything the other candidates can say. I'd love to see the numbers: how many times have they played Rev. Wright's hateful words vs. Obama's responding speech on race in America? Has anybody actually played Wright's ENTIRE speech for the general public on the News? How about on their websites, displayed so the general public can see it for themselves?

The media should be ashamed of themselves. It's absolutely disgusting that this is even an issue. And even the one place where you can find the whole story - it's buried away from the front page. I'd love to know the reason for that...

On Anderson Cooper's blog, which I dearly love (not just cause he's a total babe) he posted the entire text of Rev. Wright's speech. Interestingly, the very statement that's causing Obama all of this hassle goes like this:

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. God Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.”

The first time I read this (and again - this is not the whole speech, you can find that here and the other one here) I was pretty disturbed that this preacher felt so strongly that his government and country had let he and his people down until I really read the words - without thinking about who said them. When you reread the last sentence - it's a very harsh repetition of something I and MANY other people I know have said before: The problem many people have with the USA is the attitude that they're better than everybody else. Who says they get to tell us what to do? Since when are they the boss of the world?

Yes, it's inflammatory. Yes, it's mean. But I didn't see anything racist. Maybe in some of his other speeches (which I have not read in their entirety, so cannot comment accurately on), but not this one. Is he being un-American? That's for each person to decide. But keep in mind that the context of this man's life may explain much of his anger - he has direct ties to people who were slaves. You try to imagine for a moment about actually being a slave and maybe you won't be so quick to judge his anger. This isn't from the 1800s - it's from the 40s. Not that long ago at all... I'm not excusing his words but don't think I'm in any place to judge another person for saying something based on their own life experiences - especially something that painful. Slavery might be a distant memory for some people, but there are people still living in North America today who were slaves or the children of slaves. Not such a distant past, and even though it's over now, I think it's disrespectful to try and tell them that it doesn't matter anymore. We don't need to dwell on it over and over, but we do need to understand that it's still a painful memory for many people.

Take this whole thing another step further to Senator Obama, who is now being attacked by thousands of angry (and from what I've read in the comments: white) people for being un-American and racist. He will be forever linked to this speech made by another person - words he denounced publicly while still embracing the man. I don't think you could be much more Christian than that: saying you might not agree with everything another person does, but you can still love the person. Or at the very least, not judge and disown them for things they do wrong.

All of those angry people who go to Church this Easter weekend, I wonder will they remember: To err is human, to forgive divine?

Obama forgave his pastor. And now thousands judge him for not publicly denouncing him. While I find Rev. Wright's words disturbing and occasionally hurtful, I can't help but feel sorry for a person who is now going to be forever stamped as a hateful, un-American racist. By people who don't know him, have never met him, and have probably only seen a 30-second clip of the climax of one of his sermons on YouTube. The worst part is that the number of people who've taken the time to watch the angry clips of Rev. Wright was almost double those who've watched Obama's answering speech.

People are claiming that Senator Obama focuses only on the situation of black people - that he is racist towards whites. I guess it speaks more about that state of race relations than anything Obama or Wright could have said or written: people all over America are judging him as a black man when he is in fact half black and half white. His dad is African and his mother a white woman from Kansas. If he was racist towards either group it would be equivalent to saying he hates half of his family. The obvious problem to me is that all of these allegedly God-fearing, non-racist people are judging him in the first place - who cares if he's black or not? The fact that this is even a discussion shows how prevalent racism still in in the USA. They say he shouldn't play the race card in his campaign, but I strongly disagree: who better to unite everybody than a person with the blood of both blacks and whites running through his veins?

He made a comment on the radio the other day that's also been repeated ad nauseum by angry Americans - something about "typical white people" having uncomfortable feelings about people from other races. Cue more self-righteous people saying they have never even considered skin colour and claiming they never look at people from different races any differently than they do white people.

That indignant, politically-correct BS (and yes, it IS exactly that) is partly why modern society still has so many race issues. People are too scared to admit that they have eyes to see our physical differences, and that yes, sometimes people who look, speak, or act differently can make us uncomfortable. This does NOT mean they are racist.

I personally have watched an Asian woman change directions on the street to avoid a group of white people - looking nervously at them as she did. A friend of mine admitted to being nervous on the way to the bar one night when we passed a group of eight or nine big black men. Was it their skin colour or their size? If it was their colour, should I have told her off for being racist? Am I racist for being a little nervous too?

When I was living in England, I taught at an inner-city primary school where white people were a minority. One day I was riding the bus home, and upon finishing the newspaper, looked around for a moment at the other passengers. Suddenly I realized I was the only white person on the entire bus: everybody else was black, brown, etc. and speaking all sorts of different languages. While it certainly wasn't scary, I did feel a bit out of place and like I was sticking out as different. None of the people on the bus stared or treated me as any different than the next passenger, but I was suddenly aware of how different I looked. Does it make me a racist that I noticed the colour of my own skin as different from theirs or that I wondered if they noticed me?

Why do we need to say we don't see colour? Or notice different accents or culture? To me, that's what makes us so unique. My students last year represented 14 different countries, and a mix of religion and culture so diverse that it made my white, Catholic-bred childhood seem boring. There were a few times that skin colour came up, but it was usually just the kids comparing how dark their skin was with each other. Once, one of the 4 white children in my class said that the black kids were leaving him out because he wasn't black too - but it turned out that he'd kicked one of them during a soccer match and shouted at another kid before they told him to go away. We had a long talk about colour and race after that, and I was amazed at how little the children actually cared about their own skin colour, despite the fact that they ALL were certain of who was the darkest and who was the lightest in colour. They pointed out their differences without difficulty: T has slanty eyes and is little, A is big and light brown, R is skinny and very white, Z has "funny" (they didn't know the world for olive-coloured) skin and a big smile. They listed their physical attributes without qualm. Because they weren't afraid of hurting each other's feelings - it was just their looks after all. These little kids sure could teach the world something about race: yep, we all look different. We can SEE our differences. We believe in different things, celebrate different faiths, speak different languages, and eat different foods. But I'll be your friend because you smiled at me in the lunch line or asked if I wanted to play football at recess.

One of my best friends in the world is a black woman - born in Ethiopia and one of the most beautiful people I know. She's told me many stories of being called the N-word and other horrible things done just on account of her dark skin. This isn't in the 40s or the 60s - this was the NINETIES. Here in Canada, in our modern times, small-minded assholes made her feel like garbage because she looked different from them. I cried when she told me some of her stories.

Yet, she is in love with a white man, with whom she has a son, has many friends of many colours, and is certainly one of the most accepting people I know. Her little son, now 2 and a half years old, has beautiful brown eyes and cocoa skin - mulatto, I believe they call it. People will look at him though, and see a black person. Just like they see Obama as one.

The reality is both of these people carry the blood of blacks, whites, and people from other nations inside them. Just like almost everybody else who lives in North America. So maybe it's time to look past the skin colour to see the person instead.

Shouldn't it be what we stand for that counts?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Alphabet: My History: Aziz (A)

My friend Eve asked me if I wanted to come with her to visit her friend, Aziz. She'd mentioned him so many times I already felt like I knew him, so I said yes. We rode two buses to get to his place: a tiny house in Kensal Rise. It was only a block away from where the tornado had struck just a couple of weeks prior - that made national headlines and led to several phone calls from Canada asking if we were okay.

We sat on the top of the bus because the bottom was mostly full. I liked riding at the top anyway, because you could see so much more - it was like getting a free sightseeing tour without looking like a tourist. As we passed the block that had been damaged, I noticed red lights blinking and blockades at the top of the street. Just past them, you could see debris on the road, and people still working on the clean-up.

On the short walk between the bus stop and his house, we passed a few run-down shops and an off-license (that became our stopping place for a bottle of wine or two). One of these was a flower and plant store who's owner somehow trusted people enough to leave large planters full of greenery and blooms outside even when he closed up for the night. An old black lab sat outside the stores, tied to a bench and wagging his tail as we passed by. The neighbourhood was quiet and had the beginnings of that air of neglect that you see in some downtown or urban places: overgrown lawns, unkept gardens, a few broken down bikes and cars in sagging driveways. I think of the neighbourhood I grew up in and how far away it is from there and feel light years away from home. Aziz's house was on a cozy side street where the houses basically sat shoulder to shoulder - no spaces in between, with tiny driveways and front yards.

He greeted us with a smile, hugs for Eve, and a kiss on each cheek for me. I immediately liked him: big, friendly smile, and a house that felt so comfortable it was hard to believe I'd never been there before. His house was full of warmth and colour, delicious scents of Moroccan tobacco and stews, opening up to a huge back yard lined with pretty trees and shrubs.

Aziz used to have cancer. Now he's got a hole in his throat, and has learned to speak through it. He used to be a musician, but can't perform anymore. He smiled and was sweet and friendly, but you could see the despair in his eyes when he listened to music. Somebody painted a picture of him playing his flute with the sun beaming behind him. It's hanging on the living room wall near pictures of his little girl smiling and growing up. He was born in Casablanca, which I always thought was very exotic.

I loved visiting him. Eve and I (and sometimes Jeremy) would take the bus to his little house for incredible dinners and listen to music and talk while he smoked his pipe (even after the cancer, he couldn't quit completely). His best friend was a professional chef who would cook huge dinners that you could smell all the way down the street in the summer and were plated like they came out of a restaurant.

Sometimes when we'd visit, he would eat very little, sticking to sips of wine while we went for seconds. I think he was a bit self-conscious about the hole in his throat sometimes, which is sad because we never noticed it at all. We were too busy enjoying his company...

After one visit, Eve mentioned that he didn't look well - his colour wasn't good and he didn't seem his usual jovial self. Even when he said goodbye; grasping our hands and kissing our cheeks with a smile - something seemed just... off. Then as quickly as the trouble appeared, he bounced back and was the picture of health during the next visit. Still, the ghost of his cancer always hovered in the background to remind us of how quickly the world had come to losing him.

The last time I saw him, he was getting ready for a month-long visit to his home country and I was only a few weeks away from moving back to Canada. I knew I probably wouldn't ever see him again, so I watched him a lot during our visit, hoping to remember the happiness coming off of him in waves as he told stories about his home.

I'll never hear an African flute again without thinking of Aziz.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My "Idiot's Guide to American Politics"

I can't help myself - I just have to write about this again.

As a Canadian, I can't believe how fascinated I've become with the American election system, particularly the Democratic circus that's happening right now.

I never understood how their system worked, but now have a basic grasp of what happens:

1. People vote in caucuses or primaries to elect the person they want to run for president. There are several parties in the USA, but the major players right now are the Republicans and the Democrats.

2. Each state has a number of delegates that a candidate must win in order to become their party's nominee to run for President. If the race is too close, then a group of people called Super Delegates get to choose who they want to represent their party in November.

3. The states must vote only in a pre-determined order. Any states breaking that rule are penalized. Right now Michigan and Florida are both being penalized for allowing people to vote early and are not allowed any delegates right now to represent them. So basically those people's votes don't count.

I've already said that I hope to see Barack Obama win the election. He's mobilized the youth of their country in a way that I've never seen or experienced. I don't want to make a generalization, but most of the people in my age group (based on those I know) are not interested in politics and will vote half-heartedly based on their parent's affiliation. There are some who feel strongly about one politician or another, but I've never seen such widespread fervor over a politician before Mr. Obama.

In an article by Newsweek (found on, it was revealed that Hillary Clinton thinks Obama would be a great Vice President. This after saying he's not ready to be President yet. As he is currently leading her in delegates, I can't believe she would be so arrogant as to suggest that the person beating her (for now - who knows what's going to happen) would be her second-in-command. It's a brilliant trick though - "vote for me and you'll get BOTH of us!! We'll unite the whole country! But remember - I'm better than he is, so don't vote for him!"

Even more shocking to me is what's happening with the Florida / Michigan fiasco. Back when it looked like she'd be ahead, Hillary didn't utter one word about those states. Nothing about all of those people who's votes wouldn't count. Then she found herself losing contest after contest and is now openly supporting the idea that those votes DO count. Guess who won those states?

Interestingly, Obama's name wasn't even on the ticket for Michigan - so people could vote for Hillary or "undecided" for him. Florida apparently supports Hillary very strongly - which makes sense as it's full of her key demographic: boomers, elderly, white people and Latinos. What I really find fascinating is that people are reporting that that group, along with blue collar workers support Hillary, while Obama's group are highly educated" people and the majority of the youth.

So even though he's winning right now (by a small margin at this point), if they overturn their own party's rules and count those votes, then Hillary will win.

Some are pushing for a re-vote, but many say it isn't fair. I don't understand how this is even POSSIBLE at this point. Honestly? How does this make any sense?? How can a country first deny people's votes based on the day they were cast, and then change their minds a couple of months later? Do they let the candidates re-campaign in those states? What do the people who live there think about this? I'd be super-pissed if I took the time to vote and somebody said it wouldn't count because politicians I don't know angered their national committee. Add the fact that you couldn't even vote for Obama in Michigan - and Clinton's people are saying it didn't matter because if you didn't want her, you could say "undecided" or "other" or something - which I guess they believe is equivalent to voting for him.

Even more dodgy is the fact that the "Clinton machine" seems to be very much involved in this mess, making me question the reasons behind it. Does she want true democracy and every vote to count or does she just want to win and is willing to change her own party's rules to get there? Also, if Obama had won those states, would she even be talking about this at all?

They had a great thing going: two highly electable and appealing candidates who both appeared to be just what the USA needs to help fix the damage that's been done by Bush. Then one of them started calling the other's qualifications and skills into question, started subtly tearing down her opponent, who then retaliated with similar actions. Now it's back to negative vs. negative in politics again. Totally disgusting. If I could say just one thing to both of them, it would be that this negative bullshit is a TURN OFF for most people. Attacking another person to build yourself up is not the kind of behaviour I'd like to see in a leader. In addition, Hillary's negative comments are dividing her party, and make it seem like she's only trying to find a way to advance herself at any cost. They should just run their campaigns, be civil, have their debates about their differing policies, etc. and the let people decide who's best. Every little thing they say against each other right now is free ammunition for their Republican opponent. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot...

I'm also fascinated by the fact that most Americans are against the war in Iraq, and even though John McCain (the Republican candidate for President) supports the war, even claiming he saw another 100 years war (sorry, no source for this, but I think it's possible to find online) happening over there - people are still voting for him? Is this due to the fact that they are Republicans and hate the other party so much that they go against their own beliefs and vote their party even when it's the wrong person? This makes no sense at all to me.

Why can't people have a couple of days - even a week - to vote for their Presidential nominee, figure out who wins, then have the election for President? Why the red tape, the money, the hassle, the headaches, the name-calling and back-door dirty politics that we'll never hear about? Why do certain states get to vote on certain days, which most definitely would affect the rest of the country's voting.

Think about it: you're undecided. Or maybe even leaning mildly towards one candidate. Then you hear about Clinton winning in Texas or Ohio or New Hampshire or wherever. Maybe that swings you vote in her direction, just based on the popular vote. Same goes in the other direction: Obama went on quite the winning streak and some are saying people just jumped on the bandwagon. If the average person doesn't take the time to learn about both sides - then they're either voting with the popular choice or on a biased opinion. If you do just one big election, then maybe it would be less about the media and more about which candidate is actually better.

I'd absolutely love to see what would happen if they asked every American right now who they'd choose as their leader: McCain, Clinton, or Obama. Regardless of their party affiliation. Just who's the better choice. I wonder who they'd choose?

Personally I would choose the candidate who can inspire something like this:

*** Please know that anything I've written here is a result of observations made over the past couple of months. I certainly don't claim to know better than those who created the American electoral system - just that I don't understand why it is the way it is. It's confusing and I don't understand why the voting can't be more simple.
I hope in the end that everything works out for them because they deserve the change that Obama speaks about (even if it comes from somebody else). ***

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Rockin' Girl Blogger

I've been reading her blog for a very long time.

Crystal, from Boobs, Injuries, & Dr. Pepper, has a writing style that makes you think she's talking (or writing I guess) directly to you. I've had to clean up several drinks that were spit out or knocked over due to excessive laughter as a direct result of just how funny she is. Jeremy's heard "Hey Honey! Listen to this!!" amidst belly laughter and giggles so many times that he now recognizes her writing without having ever visited her website.

I love her parenting style and hope that when I have kids I'm half as good at being a mom as she is - from her stories they seem quick-witted, creative, and intelligent people. You don't grow up to be a person like that by accident...

Underneath this hilarity and wit though, lies a much different undertone. Her story is not my story to tell, but I will say that she's been through WAY worse shit that anybody I know ever has.

Instead of hiding from it though, she shares it all with the world. Honest, open words, often self-deprecating, but always real.

I admire her not just for her amazing blogging ability, but also for her incredible bravery in sharing things that most people lock up and never, ever discuss.

Visit her blog and you'll find out why I'm passing the "Rockin' Girl Blogger Award" to her.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Nick the Great

In a world full of obnoxious teenagers who think they know it all, there's a guy named Nick.

What's special about him? The easy answer would be "everything", but since I'm wordier than that, I'll explain a little bit more...

He actually spends time with this family! Without rolling his eyes at every word or using That Tone (that I fully admit to using when speaking to my parents). Even more amazing he actually seems to LIKE HIS PARENTS. AND HIS FAMILY!!! (Since his parents (and family) are pretty fantastic people, it's easy to understand why - but that's not really the point here)

Nick's one of those guys who's good at pretty much everything - hockey and golf in particular. (Although he definitely has questionable tastes in NHL teams...)

He's also a skilled teeny-plastic-stir-stick swordsman, collecting several trophies and coming in second in the World Championship Teeny-Plastic-Stir-Stick Dueling Competition.

He's not perfect though. Our poor Nick, my soon-to-be cousin (although Jeremy's cousins feel much more like brother and sister) has trouble keeping his holidays straight.

But overall, he's a pretty great person, so we can forgive him for Halloween masks at Christmas time (and for cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs)...


The first time I met you, I thought you seemed so much more grown-up than most kids your age. You were kind to your little sister, friendly with your parents, aunt, uncle, and grandparents, and seemed like a kid with a good head on your shoulders. Everybody said you were just like Jeremy was at your age.

Your ability to stick a spoon to your nose and hold it there whilst acting completely normal at the dinner table pretty much proved that you were as great as everybody says.

I can't wait until the day I can officially call you and your sister my cousins (although I've been telling people you are for several years now). I just wanted to add my name to the list of people who are so proud of you - not just for your accomplishments in hockey and golf, but also of the young man you've become.

Those of you who regularly read my blog have probably guessed that today is Nick's birthday: one year older, one year wiser, and one year more of people being lucky enough to know him.


Lots of love,
Melinda (and Jeremy too)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Roadhouse Blues

Today Jeff Healey died.

For those of you who've never heard of him (I have no idea what his popularity was like outside of Canada), Jeff Healey was a Canadian musician who lost his eyesight as a baby due to cancer in his eyes. He taught himself how to play the guitar, clearly influenced by greats like BB King, Clapton, and Hendrix, and was an incredible performer who played with his guitar on his lap.

Much like Stevie Wonder's famous head movements while he sings, Jeff Healey's strange way of holding his guitar became a signature for his fans.

It's sad that he didn't become more famous - he deserved it. Here's a video of him performing "Roadhouse Blues", a classic and one of my all-time favourites:

He should have had many more years (he was 41 years old with a wife and children), but he left behind some incredible music - which I know will live on.

Rest in peace, Jeff. I hope you and Hendrix are jamming together already...