Saturday, October 01, 2005

What is UP with Women Shopping?

Ok, so Jase and I went to Winners today. Winners is one of those places where you can find fab stuff, but you have to have the time and the inclination to do it. Believe me, the rude, rude people who shop there (I think they're the same people who clog up the aisles at Costco and Safeway) drive me nuts and they really wreck the experience for everyone else. OK. They wreck it for me. I have manners. I pay attention to who is around me.

I wish I could get this blog into the rude people's actual hands 'cause I'm pretty sure most of them are just oblivious -- which does NOT excuse them. I am constantly amazed at how clued out so many people are!

First of all, the aisles are very narrow. You can't set your cart in the middle of the aisle. It isn't allowed because you're NOT alone in the store. This goes for Costco too! If you set your cart across the aisle, how are other people supposed to shop?? Set it off to the side! Have a brain!

Additionally, you can't take more than (used to be six) - ten items into the Winners dressing room, so you don't actually need the cart.

And the shoes! When these women try on shoes, why they don't put them back on the rack when they're done. They leave them, not only on the floor, but in the middle of the aisle! What is up with that? Do they think their mother works there and will pick up after them? I bet these are the same Stepford Wives who go home and scream at their kids for not picking up toys. Sheesh.

Why do people walk down the middle of a large aisle and then just stop. Right there. Blocks everyone else. In England, I think because there actually is signage in the Underground with "Stand to the Right" on it, people naturally walk to the right as well. It really helps with traffic flow. Why can't Canadians do that?

And why don't people know that it is highly rude to walk in front of someone!? Why don't people know that? Imagine this: you're standing 18 inches away from a rack of whatever and some idiot decides they must walk in front of you! Don't they notice? I REALLY don't get it! Walk behind. If that is not possible, say "Excuse me please," before you walk by. Otherwise you look like an OX.

Back to the carts: why do women (and some men) bring tired, grumpy kids/babies shopping? Seriously, shopping is next to solitary confinement for children. It is NOT fun for them, mostly because these same stepford wives who don't put things back or hang up things they drop, won't let their children touch a thing. Seriously, a two or three year old is not going to enjoy sitting in a cart for an hour; not only is the metal very uncomfortable to sit on, they're bored! Yelling at them doesn't help. They still don't like it and those mothers look like idiots. Get a sitter for an hour!

And don't let your kid chew on some package. People don't wash their hands much, so not only are you letting your kid gum something up, you're also letting them eat other people's fecal matter and residual urine. Nice hey? Like I said, get a sitter.

And add to that, for some reason, these people bring their kids out when the kids haven't had a nap or lunch. Kids need sleep and food. If you're shopping any time between 11:00 and 1:30 or around 4:30 in the afternoon, I guarantee you your kid will be screaming in about 15 minutes.

The other extreme is those weirdos who let their kids run wild in the store. First of all, they're little; people aren't on their guard for them and they're going to be hurt for sure. Kids need to be under control for their safety and everyone else's.

Secondly, it doesn't demonstrate these people's good parenting skills that they'd ignore their children when there are so many strangers about. It is possible, even in a nice place like
Winners, that someone in that group of shoppers is not shopping just for clothing!

It escapes me too why these frigging desperate housewives don't consider for one second that the screaming child they are ignoring is annoying the hell out of everyone else in the store. If your kid is screaming, tired and hungry, go HOME! Man, some people are so selfish! On-line shopping is made for these people....

A temper tantrum
means you take your kid out of the store RIGHT NOW. Whatever you're buying will be there in 20 minutes. Don't let your kid get away with that crap and don't think nobody minds. Everybody minds. A LOT! Pick your kid up and leave. This is the ONLY instance when leaving a cart wherever is allowed. A screaming kid is far worse than a wayward cart in this case.

Besides, when people tolerate that crap from their kids, the kids are learning that if they yell and scream long enough, they'll get their way. Believe me, that is not a great habit to get into; it is really hard to break when it is your 15 year old having a tantrum when you set a curfew.

Here's a question: when a shopping stepford wife knocks something off a hanger, why doesn't she pick it up again? Like, does she wanna buy something that some other automaton dropped and left to collect store dirt? Not probably.

Lastly, perfume. STOP IT!!! Good grief. If you stink, take a shower. What is up with people. And why is it the more tackily dressed/over hair-coloured/whiskey-voiced/Tammy-Fay wannabes always wear too much perfume!? Believe me, we see you coming - right out of the 70s! Zellers is next door baby.

Here's how mannered people do perfume: they spray it into the air and walk through it. Really. Do NOT stand there spraying your whole body with scent -- because too much is not scent, it is STINK, and a very effective way to have everyone who gets within six feet of you calling you an idiot under their breath. Oh, and by the way, most men hate perfume, except for when it is barely noticeable. Less is more.

In my dreams, I get to hold shopping etiquette classes where I actually get to say all this stuff to a group of rapt stepford wives (yes, I know that's an oxymoron). I think, however, I will end up just spilling someday out of simple frustration. Man, I better not find out where they keep the PA in Winners. I might just have to use it!

Emillie the Dancer


So, my two other girls were highly miffed that I hadn't posted any photos of their stuff/accomplishments along with those of Alex's, and, as I promised to do so, I shall, starting with Miss Emillie, as we call her.

Em is the third of three daughters. She had a hard start -- the other two were pretty rough on her. Once, while they were all in the bath playing, the other two, being 2 and 5 and short on attention like most kids that age, decided to 'put the baby down,' meaning they decided they weren’t holding her anymore and just sort of dropped her into the water. They also used to like to draw on her with permanent markers and use her for their Fisher Price inspired medical tests.

Emillie is highly athletic. At the ripe age of 18 months, she was already swinging upside down on our swing set’s trapeze. People used to comment on how muscled up she was, even then. Good genetics.

Em took up Irish dancing at about age 8. She originally danced with the Possak School in Calgary. At the time, my girls were in dance for the exercise and the social part of it, not to compete. Sadly, when the school abruptly changed their focus from "come one, come all," to mandatory competition, we were forced to leave, me being a single parent and not able to fund the cost of competition at all.

However, about a year later, Emillie joined Scoil Ard Na Griene, which is the longest-established Irish dance school in Calgary. It has produced, to my knowledge, 4 RiverDance dancers and a whole slew of Worlds and Nationals winners.

Joining the dance school was really serendipitous for Emillie. She'd had a rough go in elementary due to her being so talkative and social (read: not the type to put her head down, do rote work and never question authority. It isn't in her nature).

Em ultimately began competing with Ard Na Griene and has advanced quite quickly. There are a bunch of levels to go through: beginner, advanced beginner, novice, prize winner, preliminaries and open. She has a competition over the Thanksgiving weekend which will probably see her advance into preliminaries, which will also allow her to go to Vancouver and try to qualify for Nationals.

Last April, Jason, I, Alex and Emillie went for a combined holiday/competition tour to Montreal and Ottawa. There are two, back-to-Back Feis (pronounced 'fesh') down there.

In the months before we left, and on the very good advice of Emillie's instructor, Sally Houston, Emillie began designing her solo dress. Dancers typically have two dresses: a team or school dress, which they use for figures (group dances) and their solo dress, which they compete in otherwise.

Emillie’s design was a complicated graffiti pattern that I never thought could be made. However, I happened on Kim McCormack, who is both angel and wonderful designer. Her first reaction to Em’s design was “How cool. That’s going to look great.” Not impossible after all. With Kim’s extensive help and direction, the dress became a reality.

Em did really well in Montreal and Ottawa, coming away with 11 placements in the top three and four firsts in those, and a bunch of new friends to compliment her awards.

As of this September, Emillie has been volunteering with her school, teaching the little kids or the newer girls. She’s contemplating a career in sports medicine and so considering Kinesiology as a degree, but also beginning to look into what it will take for her to become a bona fide Irish dance teacher. Her mom is rooting for a three year stint with RiverDance.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Closed, Stuffy Spaces

Seen on the billboard of a Calgary Church:

"Truth turns sealed caves into tunnels"

Call me a cynic -- or claustrophobe -- but that does't make for much of an advert, really. Either way, you're stuck crawling about in a closed, stuffy space, probably not finding the way out and possibly being stuck going round and round for ever.

Tunnels are dark, damp and usually have multiple false corridors leading off to no place.

If anything, this quote hightlights the one possible true thing: there is no such thing as absolute truth. All truth has shading, false entrys and exits, paths leading to nowhere and often, many frustrating dead ends.

Probably not a great quote to use related to religion.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Poverty, Canadian Style

So I was reading the Calgary Herald yesterday morning and came across a great editorial on poverty in Canada.  As I am always fascinated by what people in this country do to become less economically endowed, I was very pleased to see a breakdown of sorts in this editorial.

Calgary Herald Editorial (note: this link is active until October 2nd only)
Here's a bit of a synopsis:
A recent press release from Vibrant Communities Calgary, a wing of the national poverty- reduction body of the same name, asserts nearly one Calgarian in four is living in poverty, despite being employed. The group based its conclusion on an analysis of Calgary's low earners as reported by Statistics Canada.”

“StatsCan's figures reveal 112,000 Calgarians in 2004 earned less than $10 per hour, out of a total of 497,900 persons over the age of 15 years holding jobs. However, “it doesn't necessarily follow they live in poverty.”

What that report doesn’t say is how many of those people are still living at home; have another full time job; are retired and have a part-time job to stay busy, have a partner who supports them; have investment income and have a part time job doing something fun.

Sadly, although there are myriad reasons a person ends up with poor earning power, in an alarming number of cases, people end up with low incomes for reasons that could be avoided. Dropping out of school – particularly high school – is not a good plan. No matter what, it is a career- and life-limiting move.

According to an article published in 2002 in a British business magazine, fully 80% of the world’s millionaires don’t have a university degree. What they have is moxie and drive combined with having finished high school and usually a couple years’ college, trade school or university.

Of the many other avoidable things that negatively impact a person’s disposable cash and future finances, smoking is a biggie: one pack per day equals about $3470 annually, not to mention the added cost of throat lozenges, cold medicine, and stop-smoking treatments. Smoking kills a lot of things; a person’s drive, their brain cells, their lung capacity and their heart function. Ultimately, smoking often kills the smoker, who often has inadequate or no life insurance.  Smoking doesn’t contribute to being ‘on’ at work either: addictions tend to borrow a lot of brain time. Bad all round.

Drinking too much: one bottle of wine per day: $10 or so; that equals nearly $4000 annually. Ok, perhaps most people don’t have a bottle a day, and I have no idea what the cost of gin/vodka/beer is. It seems, however, and this is just my observation, that those who have less than they need are sometimes more likely to spend on non-essentials. Yes a person should be able to have some pleasures in life, and yes, many low income earners are completely responsible with their money, but dollars spent on ciggies and/or booze would go a lot further towards increasing income were they spent on education or an RSP.

Another money pit pursuit is gambling and bingo in particular. As an occasional and very reluctant volunteer (due to the smoking), I am appalled by the waste of money that happens in bingo halls. I paid attention at one event to the average sale: $37. Add to that food bought at the hall, ciggies consumed there (1/2 a pack for many participants) and the gas to get there and home. Bingo is NOT a cheap sport. Some people were spending upwards of $70 a night – and coming there three times a week! Even at $70 once a week over a year, that’s over $3300 annually. Now combine that with the cost of smoking and the annual cost of a university degree and books is landing in the huge garbage bins at the bingo halls.

At an event one night a co-volunteer overheard a bingo player saying “I sure hope the food bank is still open when we’re done.” Seriously folks, if you’re relying on the food bank to feed your kids and yourself, you don’t have money for bingo and smokes.

For the record, I don’t care if people smoke and/or drink/play bingo. I care that people smoke, drink and play bingo and bitch about how little money they have or how they can’t afford a better car or an education or to put their kid into a sport. “I claim bullshit,” to quote another friend.

Anyway, taking all this stuff as relative, if you compare the poverty cutoff amount in Canada ($20,337) to the average annual wage in Dominican or Haiti (about $1200 in a good year), it kinda makes a person reconsider what poverty is exactly, in a rich country. Poverty is when you simply don’t have enough to live on. I think if a person has money to live on, but chooses to spend it on non-essentials like smoking, drinking, gambling, tattoos, I dunno – whatever -- rather than shelter, food and clothing, then they’re not necessarily poverty-stricken; they’re just not responsible.

If you want to know about real poverty, go here: HAITI ARISE

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Alex's Stuff

Just wanted to add a short plug for my daughter, Alex, who is a damn fine artist.

The tatoos in these photos were done for - and on - our friend, Zac. They're done in henna, otherwise known, for this process anyway, as mendhi.

Alex has some art training. As part of Calgary's public school system, she's been exposed since kindergarten. She was very fortunate to have Mr. J at Elboya Junior High as her teacher for grades 7 - 9.

In 10th grade, Alex made a name for herself when she challenged the 'art teacher' at her new high school. A project was assigned to the class, but that project had very specific parameters. Alex contested that the parameters made the project an excersise in doing as told as opposed to a project that invited interpretation.

She did what she wanted to do with the project, convinced the instructor and changed his ideas about what art is in the sense of interpretation of ideas.

In 11th and 12th grades, Alex was again very fortunate to have Miss Rideout as her instructor. Alex's talent really began emerging in 10th grade but in the next two years, she has created several works that show the beginnings of a bonafide talent across mediums.

I'll have more stuff on here about Alex soon. Alex is in England at the moment. She's with Andrea, and will be joined next week by her cousin, Esti. In November, Hanna, the last quarter of the quartet will join them right before they head off to the continent and other places.

Their website is in the links to the right of this post.
Man, life can be busy!
This post is all about stuff that bugs me - stuff perpetrated by stupid (or uninformed, to be kind) humans.

Here's what's bugging me this week:

The sponsorship scandal in Canada and particularly the so-called sentences handed down to rich white guys. Probably enough said. What the hell was that anyway?

Wanna Laugh? At an event in Calgary last night, some guy (a politician) said that white, male Christians were a persecuted minority! Not sure where he thinks he's from -- because he's from Calgary, which is located in the bible belt of Alberta - a bastion to white, male, Christians.

He also said that Christians were under attack. So they should be. See George Bush for reference. And on that note, doesn't Mr. Bush (no I can't spell, read or speak, but who cares? I'm the President!) realise that The Christian Right movement and all those movements affiliated or attached to it are just as radical and dangerous as the Taliban? Actually, they're far more dangerous because they're run by white guys with money. See the sponsorship scandal for refernce. Also look up "teflon."

Mr. Klien's bonus money scheme in Alberta: are people dumb??? There is so much money in this province at the moment. Some of this money - about 1/3 of it - has been designated for infrastructrue projects; some has been designated to heritage stuff; some is going to Albertains. People are variously bitching and moaning about how this money should be going to charity and how the scheme is a vote-getting project.

First of all, those who feel that the money should go to charity projects should just bloody send their cheques to the charity of their choice. They're not being told how to spend their money. I think they're really bugged by two things: the "I should" part of the equation, where they supposedly should donate to the less fortunate; and the "But I want" part, where they really want to go spend their money on something completely selfish.

Secondly, Mr. Klien is retiring. He's been talking about it for ages, and he will do it. Mr. Dinning isn't giving the money away, nor is he campaigning yet (not overtly anyway) so no, this scheme has nothing to do with vote-getting. HELLO? McFly!

Incidentally, in a province where in the cities at least, almost every business is begging for staff, I think some of those receiving charity could get themselves a job and help themselves. Fort McMurry is full of jobs and no, one isn't requried to be a Newfoundlander to work there.

Too much charity makes for lazy people. Don't get on me about this. We live in a wealthy country. What we call poverty here is untold riches for most of the rest of the world. A good annual salary in Haiti for most people - about 70% of people -- is $1200. A YEAR.

And for those of you who think you're fooling anyone by standing in the middle of the road with your cardboard sign "Please help. Stranded. Need to get home. Anything helps."
GET A JOB. Oh wait! You already have one if those brand new, comfy NIKEs are any indication. And that is a remarkably warm looking Mountain Equipment Coop jacket you're wearing....

What else? How 'bout this ever recurring issue - false issue - of race!

There is no such thing as race. There are some 35 genetic markers shared by humans. None of those markers is specific to any particular group and none are specific to any skin colour, bone formation or geographical location. In short, these markers are proof that we all originated from pretty much one common ancestor, regardless of the skin we now wear, the language we now speak or the place we now live in.

Race, as the term is used and has been used for centuries, is a political construct used variously to separate people, subjugate people and to achieve special attention through programs, funding, affirmative action initiatives, etc.

This is not to say that problems associated with term race are insignificant or non-existant. It is to say, however, that perpetuation of belief that there is actually any such thing as race serves to segregate people and concentrate political power.

Steven J. Gould, in his book "Dinosaur in a Haystack," eloquently and correctly disproves the existance of 'race.' I hope you all read that book. In fact, read all of his books. He passed away about three years ago and the science world lost an uncelebrated sage. Gould was a lecturer, writer, professor, curator of the Museum of Natural History at Harvard and a damn smart guy. for more on the museum.

What else bugs me?
Language and the poor use of it - English in particular, as I live in a predominantly English-speaking city.

This could go long, so I'll just touch on a few things.

The words "get" or "got" are nearly always improperly used. Get and Got are like receive and received. So, for example, one can get a cold, because a cold is something you acquire, but one cannot 'get' sick: one becomes sick.

Similarly, one cannot 'get' rich; one becomes rich because they get (receive or acquire) a lot of money. Get it?

The word "hopefully." This is an adjective and should be used to describe something else, as in "He/she proceeded hopefully." The word isn't a verb, although most people use it as such. I really wish you would all stop!

"I seen." PLEASE people! This is simply bad, bad, bad. It is hick language, totally wrong and should provide the user with a dunce cap. Correctly, "I saw," as in "I saw that film last year." or "I saw it first," or "I saw it yesterday." Also correctly, "I've seen"(or I have seen, as I've is the contraction for 'I have'), as in "Yes, I've seen it," or "I've seen it happen."

Do NOT say "I seen." It is wrong and ugly. Period.

"Her and I" / "She and I"

She and I are going.... NOT her and I are going, because you can't say "her is going"

However, ... "get some icecream for her and I" is correct because you can get icecream for her as in "get some icecream for her."

Conditional phrases - those sentences in which one condition depends on another. It is WRONG to say "I would have if I would have..." whatever. "I would have if I had." Like this: "I would have gone if I'd known that film was on." Or, "Had I known that film was on, I would have gone." SEE? Easy. Must have a "would" and a "had." If you're using either twice, it is wrong.

If what you're talking about is plural, as in there are more than one, there is NO apostrophe!

If what you're talking about owns something, or something belongs to it, put an apostrophe in.

Here's how it works.
My shoes. Plural. Two shoes. No appostrophe. EVER.
My shoe's lace. One shoe and the lace that belongs to it. Apostrophe!

My aunts. All of 'em. Plural. No apostrophe!

My aunt's husband. One aunt and the man who belongs to her. GET IT?

EXCEPTIONS: His, hers and its. Possessives, yes, but no apostrophes. OK? Those are pretty much the only exceptions.

These people should stay off the road: anyone who I say is a crap driver.

I think a lot of people must have had terrible accidents to their left hands, given how many are so incapable of signalling. What the heck. Would it ruin your day to signal your lane changes and your entry into turning lanes? Seriously, would it?

Scared Drivers;
Ok. here's the deal. If you're terrified to do the speed limit on high speed roads, DON'T USE THEM. Stick to the side roads where the posted speed is something you're comfortable with. PLEASE. You will get there in the same time but I will get where I'm going much more quickly if I don't have to follow your scared tail lights.

Alternatively, take a taxi. It will save you the cost of gas, the rest of us won't be stuck turtling behind you and seriously folks, taxi drivers aren't scared of anything. And they signal.

Merge Lanes. Do NOT STOP! MERGE. Go! Drive! get up to speed -- which is what the merge lanes are for -- and head into traffic. GEEZE, is that so hard?

Turn into the proper lane. When you're turning right, you are turning into the curb lane. I don't care if you have to get to the other side because the off ramp you want is over there. Do NOT hold up traffic behind you because you are waiting for enough space to cross over three lanes of traffic. What you're doing is illegal and HIGHLY annoying. You are not alone on the road and you don't have Government of Canada license plates: therefore, the rules DO apply to you.

Same thing with left turns: turn into the left most lane. Do NOT cut across to the curb lane. It isn't yours and you can't cut across two lanes. It is annoying, rude and dangerous.

About Tailgating: I'm going to do 2 or three kms over the speed limit. Not more, not less. You can sit on my bumper if you like, and I will slam on my brakes. If you hit me, it's your insurance, buddy. And no, I'm neither impressed by or scared of your truck because I can estimate your debt load. I'm pretty sure the insurance payment will make you consider selling your stupid truck.

And, for the religious among you: My spouse and I have determined that minivans prove the existance of god. Only a higher power could come up with such an ingenious way to contain bad drivers and make them visible to and avoidable by other drivers. What I don't know is whether there is a driving test by which people must prove a certain level of driving incompetance before they're allowed to purchase a minivan. The on-board tv/video does NOT help, especially when combined with male drivers who think their minivan is a great place to view porn. Did you not notice that you are surrounded by WINDOWS?? Does god know about your penchant for tacky films?

On the subject of windows in cars: yes, your car is your personal space, but those windows let everyone see you picking your nose when stopped at the lights. Seriously man, did you lose a relative up there or something? WE CAN SEE YOU!!!

I could so easily go on and on and on. But I won't. Today.

I'll be back.