Homer: I’ll have the smiley face breakfast special. Uhh, but could you add a bacon nose? Plus bacon hair, bacon mustache, five o’clock shadow made of bacon bits and a bacon body.
Waitress: How about I just shove a pig down your throat? (Homer looks excited)
Waitress: I was kidding.
Homer: Fine, but the bacon man lives in a bacon house!
Waitress: No he doesn’t!

 Ah, bacon! 

I think if you ask most vegetarians they will tell you that what they miss most about the omnivorous life, they’ll tell you, “bacon”.  Of course! What’s not to love about bacon? Humans are genetically programmed to love fat and salt.

 There are some vegetarian bacon substitutes on the market and some of them are pretty good and give you that bacon flavour to accompany your eggs or your BLT. It’s not quite the same, but it will do. And we have the comfort of knowing that while it might not be completely bacony, at least no pigs had to die.

Making real bacon is not complicated. They take some pig meat and cure it in brine with tons of salt. Then you fry it and eat it. Some bacon is dried for a while in cold air or boiled or smoked.

The word “bacon” comes from Germany (The Fatherland of Pork Products).  The old German word “bacho” means buttock.

Bacon is usually made from pig buttocks, but there are other types of bacon made from other cuts of meat. In the US, bacon is made from pork belly to produce the American “streaky” bacon. 

There’s also back bacon made from cured pork loin in the middle of the pig’s back. It’s very lean and meaty and ham-like. It’s the preferred style of bacon in the UK, I understand, though Americans often refer to it as Canadian bacon. No one knows why. Seriously — who eats this stuff in Canada???

 Cottage bacon is thinly sliced lean pork cut from the shoulder; cured and sliced into oval(ish) pieces.

Jowl bacon is cured and smoked cheeks of pork.

Slab bacon is very high in fat and is made from the pork belly (also known as fatback).

Collar bacon is taken from the back of a pig near the head.

Peameal bacon is a variety of unsmoked back bacon, brined and rolled in a meal made from ground yellow peas or cornmeal.

Picnic bacon is from the shoulder under the blade. It’s lean but also tougher than other bacon.

More than 2 billion pounds of bacon is produced in the U.S. each year.

In fact, in the US and the UK in particular, a whole bacon cult has developed with bacon being added to every imaginable food and/or drink.

Not too long ago, the Bacon Explosion became an internet sensation and the most popular recipe on the internet in both the US and the UK. It’s a 5,000 calorie, football-sized  pork dish where you wrap bacon around a filling of spicey sausage and crumbled bacon. Then you wrap it in foil and bake in or smoke it on the BBQ.


There’s bacon-flavoured vodka, called (appropriately enough)  Bakon Vodka, with the tagline: “Pure. Refreshing. Bacon.” With it, you can make a “bacon shot” by crumbling fried bacon in the bottom of a shot glass and adding some Bakon Vodka.


There’s bacon chocolate, bacon ice cream, bacon candy, deep-fried bacon, chicken-fried bacon, bacon-fried chicken – or how about a bacone? This has a week’s worth of saturated fat and a day’s worth of calories and salt. It’s a cone made out of bacon, filled with scrambled eggs and country gravy, and topped with a biscuit.


Each year, on the Saturday before Labour Day, some countries celebrate International Bacon Day . This year it will be September 4th. You spend the day eating bacon and bacon products, watching Kevin Bacon movies and/or other movies starring pigs such as Babe.

There are Bacon-of-the-month clubs, bacon camps all over the US and Canada, and a whole host of bacon blogs and websites.

Bacon has absolutely no nutritional value. It’s pretty much just fat and salt with a teeny bit of protein.

War Resisters

I was watching a show called 16:9 the other day (yet another Canadian “news” program because we can’t get enough of hard-hitting in-depth news reportage)

Anyhoooo, this program was all about American “war-resisters”.  They featured guys who were in the American armed forces who decided they didn’t  like going the whole Iraq/Afghanistan war thing, so they took off and came to Canada.

They lived here, found off-the-radar jobs, found women, had kids. Then they tried to claim refugee status and apply for Canadian citizenship.

Two motions have been passed in Parliament in support of the war resisters’ efforts to stay in Canada. Polls show that 64% of Canadians support these motions. The motions were, however, non-binding and the minority Conservative government has been ignoring these motions and sending the war resisters back to the US.

Liberal and all-around nice guy,  Gerard Kennedy has recently introduced a private members’ Bill C-440, — a binding form of the aforementioned motions.   

Meanwhile, some of the war-resisters have been sent back to the US, court marshaled, spent time in prison, etc…

I can totally understand them not wanting to go to war. Who wants to go fight wars? Especially pointless wars.

I would have been completely behind the 40,000 draft dodgers that made their way to Canada between  1965 and 1973 since they were civilians being forced to go to war.

But the war resisters today have voluntarily joined the armed forces. They were happy to take everything the forces offered them. Then, when they were asked to do something in return – something that could not have been unexpected – they desert.

These guys are now crying about how unfair it is to their Canadian-born children, who are now without a daddy. They’re complaining that their entire lives have been messed up.

If you join the armed forces, do you get to choose which battles you will fight and which ones you disagree with? Or is it understood that once you sign up you go where they send you and do what they tell you to do? I mean, yes, of course, that’s the understanding and the agreement, but is it right? Should Canada be supporting deserters and be granting them citizenship?

How can you have an army or a navy or an air force if you let troops just opt out when things don’t go the way they think they should?? Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t understand why Parliament supported the motions to allow these “war-resisters” to stay in this country or why so many Canadians agree with them.

I really, really hate to side with the Conservatives on anything — particularly when they are once again ignoring the wishes of the majority, but in this case….?

Sharing Fun in Ottawa

Okay, so you know how in Ottawa cycling on sidewalks is banned under the Ottawa traffic bylaw? Very sensible, right?

Well, since they’ve closed off the Riverside pathway between Hog’s Back Road and Bank Street for O-Train upgrades, cyclists who normally take this path have been advised to:

…use the existing asphalt sidewalk on the east/south side of Riverside Drive

Sure enough, there are nice shiny new signs posted all along the sidewalk telling us that this is now a shared cyclist-pedestrian sidewalk.

Hey! That’s super-terrific in my books because I love sharing. And, it’s such a nice, cozy, narrow sidewalk, especially when it crosses over the O-Train bridge. And, it runs on a fairly significant incline so that cyclists can really move when they’re barreling down toward Bank Street.

But wait! There’s more! What makes this all extra zany fun is that pedestrians can’t hear cyclists behind them because of the noise of the heavy traffic on the road next to the sidewalk. Cyclists can be ringing bells and yelling all they want, but the pedestrians won’t be hear them until they have a front wheel up their ass-crack.

I’ve been clipped twice by cyclists since this fun new sharing program came into effect. Fortunately, it wasn’t by the speed demon cyclists, but only by wobbly old people who can’t keep their bikes upright over the bumpy sidewalk. Poor old, nature-loving folks. They came out for a nice ride along the Riverside trail with their big hats and baggy shorts and bike baskets full of goodies and suddenly find themselves detouring alongside a highway.

I called the City’s traffic people to ask them what the hell they were thinking. They told me they appreciated my concerns but that cyclists are supposed to be careful on the sidewalk.

Very comforting.

 The traffic guy also told me they had no choice. They decided the road was too narrow for cyclists share, so it had to be the sidewalk. The guy I talked to went on to assure me that he also has a temporary shared cyclist-pedestrian sidewalk situation outside his office and he and the other pedestrians just walk on the grass now.


By all means let’s not inconvenience the automobiles. And since cyclists have had the wit to organize and get some consideration in this car-centric, highway-mad town, we hapless pedestrians have one less place to walk and will just have to suck it up and trudge through the fields, I guess.

Pinocchio Parents

One thing I vowed never to do as a parent – and probably the only parenting vow I’ve been able to stick to – is to never lie to my child.

Parents lie to their kids all the time to protect them or shield them from ugly realities or even to make life more fun for them.

My parents mostly lied to us to scare the living crap out of us; or maybe for their own amusement. Fear of punishment from them apparently wasn’t enough of a deterrent for us. No. They made up elaborate stories to reinforce their rules.

For instance, when I first started school, part of my route home was a dirt path along the side of the lake in back of another farmer’s field. This seemed like a fun place to me – especially the little old bridge I had to cross. So, naturally, I would dawdle along this path.

As most kids find out, dawdling is a cardinal sin. My parents soon figured out why it was taking me so long to get home. Coincidentally, that very evening, my dad “read” me an article from the newspaper that said there was a mad killer loose in the area. The mad killer was especially fond of slicing young children to bits. And — they were pretty sure he was living under the bridge in that farmer’s field!


The next day I couldn’t bring myself to go anywhere near that bridge and instead of going to school, I just spent the day on the beach. At least, I thought I’d spent the day on the beach. Really, I just futzed around for a while, ate my lunch, got bored and went home when I figured it must be the end of the day. It turned out be be barely mid-morning.

My mum walked me to school. She had to drag me, kicking and screaming,  across that bridge. She tried to tell me if I walked over it really fast there was no way the mad killer could get me. I didn’t believe her.

When I didn’t come home after school by late afternoon that day, my mum had to come out and find me. I was cowering in the field. I wouldn’t cross the bridge. Who would? No one in their right mind, that who.

That night, my mum and dad tried to pretend that there was an article in the paper that said they’d caught the mad killer, so the bridge was safe for kids again. So I could go to school tomorrow by myself.  “Hurrah!” the parents rejoiced.

But that seemed a little too convenient to me and I didn’t believe them.

Then they tried yelling at me. But that didn’t change my mind either.

I offered to take the longer route to school, which meant an extra 10-minute bike ride, all of which was along a road.

They said I was being ridiculous.

I said I didn’t care and that I was never crossing that bridge again.

I ended up taking the longer route.

There was a lot of other stuff like this they lied to me about. Most of it worked out better for them that this example. Their stories seemed to make me behave and do what they wanted me to do. There were stories that made me eat the things they wanted me to eat. There were stories that made me go to bed when they thought I needed to go to bed. Most of these lies didn’t have such overtly dramatic consequences as the mad killer under the bridge story – but a lot of them freaked me out nevertheless.

I think kids process information a lot differently that we do. Parents think they’re telling their kids a harmless fib in order to keep them safe or innocent, but by the time that fib has worked its way through a little person’s mysterious brain, you never know what that mysterious little brain is going to create out of that harmless adult fib.

During the average childhood, a parent will tell their child about 3000 “white lies”, according to a UK study.

What do you, or have you, lied to your kids about? Did the lie(s) have any interesting consequences?

What about your parents? Did they lie to you?

Common Parenting Lies

  • Santa/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny
  • Rover is living on a farm now
  • Grandma is living on a farm with Rover
  • You can be anything you want to be
  • You’re beautiful/smart/talented/the best
  • Looks don’t matter; it’s what’s on the inside that counts
  • Sitting too close to the TV will make you blind
  • Mummy and Daddy were playing grown-up wrestling
  • It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, its how you play the game
  • We’ll see
  • Maybe later
  • If you keep playing with that thing, it’s going to fall off

Different Johns

I read a column the other day written by a young lady who had just recently started shacking up with her boyfriend. Probably she’d never had to share a bathroom with anyone before because she was pretty horrified by how things were going in that department.

And who can blame her? There’s something really, really wrong with the whole design concept of bathrooms.

Why, for the love of all that’s sane and rational, would a civilized being put a  toilet (into which you eliminate your bodily waste, the occasional vomit and perhaps one or two other bodily fluids) in the same tiny room as a bath (where you relax and cleanse yourself)?  And then add a sink where you will brush your teeth, with toothbrushes that have been absorbing tiny molecules of flushing toilet water day after day after day.

University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba published a scientific article in 1975 describing bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing.Toilets spray millions of particles into the air when you flush them. It’s known as the “aerosol effect.” The mist contains particles of urine, feces, all sorts of bacteria and virii, etc, and it basically coats the entire bathroom within a 10-foot radius or so. Germs in feces can be propelled into the air when the toilet is flushed. That’s why toilet paper in public restrooms often comes shielded inside some plastic thing, but the mist can still land right back down on the toilet seat, all over the walls of the stall, on the handle, on the ceiling and sinks.

And that, friends and neighbours (especially those of  the male persuasion) is why the toilet seat and lid should always be put down before flushing.

It would make so much more sense all around to put the toilet in a separate room because along with the “spray” there’s also the “smell.” If you’re sharing the bathroom with even one person, you are going to encounter unfamiliar and unpleasant odours from time to time. Sometimes it’s just when you’ve been looking forward all day to a nice, warm bubble bath with a glass of wine and a good book.

I know a lot of people who eat and drink in the bathroom. My daughter is one of them. She snarfs down her morning bagel and tea in the bathroom while putting on her make-up.  Personally, the thought of eating or drinking anything in the bathroom makes me feel all gaggy.

How intimate do you have to be with a person to share a bar of soap or a razor or a towel or the bathroom cup or a comb or hairbrush or even a toothbrush? People do it all the time without thinking twice about it. But if you do stop and think twice about it, do you really want to dry your face on a towel that’s been drying who-knows-what? Even drying your face with a towel that’s been drying your own who-knows-what is a tad sketchy if you stop to consider it.

How intimate do you have to be with a person before you’ll conduct your bathroom business with them in the room or vice versa?

How much bathroom sharing do you do?

What if guests use your bathroom? What if they use your bath towel to dry their hands instead of the designated hand towels? You never know what kind of weird stuff people will do in other people’s bathrooms. What if they stay over-night and use your shower? Do you give them little guest soaps or do they use your soap? Do they get to use your expensive salon shampoo or do you hide it away?

And what is all that crud that accumulates in bathrooms? For a cleaning-up place it sure does get disgusting really fast, doesn’t it?

Unless you clean behind your toilet at least twice a day there are always mounds of furry stuff back there. What the hell is that stuff?

There are always, always peculiar sticky streaks and stains on the tiles and walls and mirrors.

And the scum! My god the scum! It’s everywhere – in the tub, around the tub, around the shower, all over the shower door/curtain, around the tooth-cleansing areas, mixed with blobs of dried-up toothpaste, soap, hair products – hair.

All sorts of hair lives in the bathroom – head hair, genital/arse hair, nose hair, ear hair, leg hair, unidentifiable red hair when no one in the household has red hair.

And then there’s the crud in that bathroom vent. That bathroom vent that spawns grey matter like fungus. You clean it. The vent is spotless. You wash your hands. You look up and all the grey matter has grown back. It might be the same stuff, except in a slimier format, that clogs up your bathroom drains on a frighteningly regular basis and which you have to pull out, in long, wet, oozing hanks with your bare hands.

It might be the same stuff in your vents or even the same stuff you find behind your toilet, but who knows? Not me, that’s for sure. Bathroom crud and scum are just a couple of great mysteries of  life from what I can see.

All I really have been able to figure out is that all this crud and scum comes only when I share a bathroom with someone. It makes you wonder what other people do in there exactly, doesn’t it? Other people don’t seem to know how to behave in bathrooms.

How many arguments in your household are bathroom-related? It’s not deemed the most dangerous place in your house just because people sometimes accidentally drag an electrical appliance into the tub with them, you know.

I thank the beneficent gods of plumbing each and every day that XUP Jr. and I each have our own bathroom. Every human being over the age of five should have their own separate toilet room and their own separate bathing/bodily cleansing room. Anything less is inhuman.

johns and fannys

A couple of years ago, Ottawa Police decided to really start cracking down on prostitution so they’ve been conducting monthly “sweeps” of certain communities (usually tipped off by a member of that community).  In a two-day, undercover operation last week they arrested 14 people — 12 johns and two women, with 16 criminal charges and one provincial charge being laid.

The johns have to go to john school. I’ve often wondered what john school is exactly. Do they teach people how to buy sex for money legally and safely? Because prostitution has never been illegal in Canada – just   stuff like communicating for the purposes of prostitution, soliciting, keeping a common bawdy house, procuring, and living off the avails of prostitution. So it’s okay to buy and sell sex, but it’s a mystery as to how that’s possible to do legally.

Anyway, they don’t teach johns any of that in the one-day course; because that would make little bit of sense, wouldn’t it?  Some of you may have first-hand knowledge and can correct me, but from what I’ve read, john school is more like one really long finger-wagging sermon about the evils of prostitution. They try to scare men off of ever paying for sex by telling them horror stories about the lives of prostitutes and the dangers of consorting with them. (As an interesting side note, only men caught trying to buy sex from women have ever been sent to john school. No male client of a male prostitute has gone through the program in Canada.)

John Statistics

From the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) and the British Columbia Medical Services Foundation (BCMSF) John’s Voice Survey  

  • The average john has paid for sex anywhere from once to 5,000 times, starting at an average age of 27
  • The majority are employed full time with the largest group (25%) indicating an income of more than $100,000 a year. 56% made $60,000 or more per year
  • The largest group involved in buying sex are those in business, finance or administration, at 17%, followed by people in trades and transport at 12%, with those in the natural and applied science fields at 11.6%
  • Of those, while 61.6% professed knowledge of Canada’s prostitution laws, further questioning indicated only 24.2% actually had a full knowledge of the laws
  • Of the johns surveyed, 86.1% stated that they generally prefer to be with a female sex seller, 10.5% with a male, 1.3% with transgender or other, and the remaining 2.1% had no preference
  • The majority of johns prefer in-call, escort services and massage parlours. A minority of participants indicated a preference for brothels or micro-brothels, clubs, bars or online avenues
  • The majority of johns neither drank (73.5%) nor did drugs (84.7%) prior to buying sex

From this survey and from sex trade worker accounts, most men buying sex are regular guys who perhaps are not interested in maintaining, don’t have time, or are unable to maintain or find a relationship. Or perhaps they are men looking for some sort of sexual activity or outlet outside of their relationship.

So, john school is stupid. It might scare a few nice, timid guys off and it might make some other guys look in less police-patrolled places for sex, but other than that it’s a big waste of time and taxpayer money.

And so are prostitution sweeps. First, they only target street prostitutes (about 15%  of the overall sex trade) who are already in a very vulnerable trade. Then by “sweeping” them (like so much rubbish) out of a community’s more visible areas, they force them to ply their trade in less populated, more dangerous areas. Of course, I could be wrong and once arrested; a street prostitute will see the error of her ways and will trot off and get a “nice” job. But I doubt it.

This is really what this all this craziness over prostitution is all about, isn’t it? For some reason, in our society, we look at prostitution as not a “nice” thing to do. It’s okay to pay people to come into our private homes and clean up after us. It’s okay to pay people to massage us and make us feel good. It’s okay to pay people to wax the hair off our genitals to make us look good. But it’s not okay to pay people to provide sexual satisfaction? In other cultures and in many religions,  the “Sacred Prostitute” was looked upon with honor and respect. 

If people are in the business willingly and aren’t being exploited any more than people in a lot of other jobs are — and let’s face it, people are exploited in many, many jobs — can we we agree, that consenting adults should be allowed to buy and sell sex safely, legally without harassment, discrimination, victimization or violence?

We may still hesitate to support the decriminalization of the sex trade because of issues surrounding the conflation of sex work with violence, organized crime, human trafficking or sex trafficking or child prostitution.

The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and other countries where prostititution has been decriminalized continue have serious problem with this, so they are pointed to as an examples of what happens when we decriminalize the sex trade. 

Of course all this is going on now anyway. I don’t think there is any way to make prostitution a profession as safe and sunny as Kindergarten teacher. But decriminalizing it will at least allow sex trade workers to seek help from police and/or medical professionals for abuse, health or other concerns without fear of  being arrested.

We obviously can’t reform prostitution laws in this country without also putting in place effective exit services like: a guaranteed livable income;  public education campaigns;  drug/alcohol addiction treatment;  job re-training; and, counselling to help those that are not in the sex trade willingly and need to get out without fear of violence from pimps and traffickers. (Surveys indicate that 90-95% of women in the sex trade say they would get out with such assistance).

A decriminalization position emphasizes the labour rights, health and safety rights, and human rights of sex workers,” says York sociology professor Deborah Brock who has published extensively on sex work. “It recognizes their ability to implement standards for the self-regulation of their trade, including forming professional associations governed by codes of conduct, rights and responsibilities, and to form or join trade unions so that they may collectively bargain the conditions under which they are prepared to work.

Exchanging money or goods for sex has been around as long as human beings have been around. Why do we continue to think policing it is the answer? Policing the sex trade makes it a criminal activity and encourages all sorts of peripheral criminal activity. Our ridiculous laws are most definitely not “stopping” the sex trade. Not allowing sex trade workers legitimacy, allows them to continue to be victimized.

Here are some things we can do to try and put an end to this foolishness and help those who choose to work in the sex trade industry be respected and valued for the difficult work they do.

  • Think about your own attitudes toward sex work.
  • Write to your MP and tell him/her that you want to see the prostitution laws reformed.
  • Support organizations challenging the sex work laws (e.g.: POWER Ottawa, Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC).
  • Ask politicians to develop employment programs, addiction treatment facilities, and support antipoverty initiatives in general to assist those who are not in the sex trade willingly.
  • Report crimes against sex workers.
  • Demand that your local police stop laying charges against sex trade workers and other crimes of “morality”.

Despite, or maybe because of this long, rambling post, you might, correctly, point out that reforming our current laws is not magically going to turn the sex trade into safe, pleasant, crime-free, respectable profession. 

No, but what we have now is not working and handled properly, and in conjunction with sex trade workers, it must improve current conditions. And it might, for instance, help the some 3 million North American teens lured into prostitution every year.

Some Questions to Consider

  1. Is there any compelling reason not to decriminalize prostitution?
  2. Would decriminalizing prostitution in Canada lead to an increase in sex tourism, human trafficking,  and/or the sex trade overall?
  3. Is there really any way to reform the sex trade that will make it safe and non-exploitative?
  4. Sweden has chosen to deal with sex trade issues by prosecuting (with severe penalities) pimps, traffickers and johns and offering exit services to prostitutes. After 10 years, they report that this has reduced prostitution in Sweden by 40%. Is this a viable option? What happens to those that want to work in the industry but now have seriously reduced access to clients?
  5. Is it realistic or even desirable to try and eliminate prostitution entirely?  Are there any benefits to maintaining a sex trade in this society?

This post is long, but it’s going to stay up for a couple of days because I’d really like to get a thoughful discussion going on this topic.

Ottawa: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth!!

When I think of dangerous places, I generally think of the jungles of Africa or the Amazon or the Australian outback with all its evil flora, fauna and critters. Little did I know, when I moved to Ottawa three years ago, that this seemingly quiet little suburban city was actually The Most Dangerous Place on Earth!!

1.  Our roving bands of wild coyotes have been making international headlines for some time, of course. A whole bunch or maybe even millions of coyotes, confused by their woodland homes having been turned into suburbs overnight, keep invading backyards —  wantonly eating cats and small children. The horror! The horror! In an effort to battle this blight, we added roving bands of wild guys with guns to the mix. They tried real hard to wipe out the entire world’s population of coyotes. I don’t think they did.

2.  Even while most eyes were focussed on the coyote disaster, an even larger problem was looming on the horizon – Moose!  Suddenly, moose were “wandering”! In places where people could see them! Wandering!!! Moose are big. And big things are always scary. So the Ottawa police went in hot pursuit of the moose, running  them to ground and killing them with guns or their bare hands whenever they could. The citizens of Capital City can once again sleep safely in their beds.  Phew! (For now).

3.  And then, just this week, the city was once again plunged into terror by the invasion of Giant Toxic Hogweed.  Moose are big, but these things are “giant”, which is really, really big. And they’re toxic, meaning they attack and kill people. At first I thought maybe they were just pretty but unpleasant plants like nettles or poison ivy, but from the media frenzy over the last few days, I now understand that our lives are in peril. There’s really nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. The Ottawa police and the coyote hunters have been scurrying around the city shooting the Giant Toxic Hogweeds but they just won’t die. I think we may be doomed. This guy doesn’t seem to know his Giant Toxic Hogweed could pounce and kill him at any moment.

At least we don’t have to worry about Giant Toxic Killer Beavers like Red Deer, Alberta. Seriously! These national icons have been attacking people’s dogs and gnawing them to bits! (At least I think  the article says “dogs”. It might be a typo and should really read “logs”. That wouldn’t be quite so bad and more understandable,  though not as newsworthy, I suppose.  But still…

Maybe we should buy some more guns and stuff in case the killer beavers head this way?

And while we’re at it, when are we going to do something about the Giant Toxic Ottawa Politicians? Which of these two should we go after first? 

The Tory with the Tongs       



The Grit with the Cheese



For the love of God, HELP US!!!                                                       





Yesterday, I used the phrase “better-the-devil-you-know mentality” to describe voters; because voters tend to go for the incumbents rather than take a chance on someone new – no matter how dissatisfied they are with the incumbents.

Then I started thinking that this mindset is pretty common across all aspects of human experience. People are afraid of the unknown. People are often cripplingly afraid of the unknown.

That’s why people would rather stay in an unhappy or even miserable relationship rather than strike out on their own. That’s why people will stay at a dead-end job for as long as they will have them there, because they don’t know what to expect in another position. That’s why people will remain living in the same town they grew up in, even if staying there is draining the life out of them.

People will slog away at something that is, for all intents and purposes, hopeless, only because it’s familiar. Beginning something entirely new is more frightening than the prospect of continued failure.

My brother and his wife are a classic example. They are both educated, but can’t get jobs in their fields in the small, economically depressed town they both grew up in. Moving even less than an hour’s drive out of that town would pretty much guarantee them both fairly good jobs without any added living expenses. But they won’t do it, citing the need to be near family. So they struggle year after year after year trying to make ends meet with whatever jobs they can get.

I have a friend who has spent over 30 years of her life trying to be an actor. She gets the occasional roles but they’re sporadic and low-paying at best. She lives in abject poverty and every aspect of her life from her health to her family to her relationships has suffered because of it. And yet she clings to acting and panics when you suggest she might try a different field – just to make some money.

And then there are some of those people on Dragon’s Den (Shark Tank in the US).  They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money and years of their time on a business idea they think is brilliant. Then they go on Dragon’s Den and get told their idea is worse than bad and that they’ve wasted a good part of their life and a lot of money they could ill afford on this business. They are told by the experts to drop the idea immediately. But they don’t. They can’t. This is their “life.”

And I know many other people who spend their time basically spinning their wheels because the thought of venturing out of their rut is unfathomable.

I’ve never been that attached to familiarity, so I always find it incredibly frustrating when people I know are incapable of moving forward because they can’t give up on what they perceive to be their “security or their “love” or their “passion” — even if it’s killing them.

On the other hand, people have told me I give up too easily on people, places and things. And that may be true, as well. I don’t know.

If whatever I’m involved with is presenting more frustration, depression, anger and/or despair than it is presenting joy or opportunity, then I’m happy to let it go. I don’t mind moving to a completely new city or trying a new job or leaving behind a familiar network of people. There are many ways to keep in touch with friends and family these days. And even if the new city or the new job turns out to present no more opportunity than the one I left, I haven’t lost anything. So far, I haven’t regretted any of the moves I’ve made whether from one city to another or one job to another or whatever.

So, what about you? Is there any aspect of your life that’s in a rut? Any dead horse you’ve been flogging? What’s your excuse for not having made a change that you know in your heart of hearts is long overdue?

Have you made a change that might have seemed frightening at the time, but turned out to be the best thing you ever did?

Is stick-to-itivness an absolute virtue?

See Spot, Alex, Jim, Larry, Clive, Rob, Bob, Mike, Stan, Eric, Sean, Jane, Charlie, Cesar and Sam Run

Looks like Clive Doucet announcing his candidacy for mayor might be the best thing that could have happened to Larry O’Brien.

For a while there it looked like Jim Watson had a pretty good lead in the race – before O’Brien announced his intention to run again. Then O’Brien threw his hat in the ring and now the polls show them at 29% for Watson and 22% for O’Brien.

However, with Doucet jumping on board the rapid transit track to mayoraldom, some Watson supporters could shift their votes to Doucet. Doucet is very popular in certain circles. There was much rejoicing in the Glebe and Centertown for instance, when he announced his candidacy last week.

Then there’s also Alex Cullen on the non-O’Brien side to split that vote even further….not to mention the other 10 candidates in the race so far. Wanting to be Mayor of Ottawa certainly seems to be all-the-rage.

It’s a good news/good news situation for O’Brien. His competition is undercutting each other. And, there won’t be any need this time for him to pay anyone to drop out. In fact, he might think about paying them all to stay in. He might even think about sending some of his relatives or office staff out to secretly campaign for Doucet.

I know there are quite a few very vocal anti-O’Brienites out there, but they would be foolish to think that he doesn’t also have plenty of very ardent and very influential supporters.  Add this to the Ottawa electorate’s better-the-devil-we-know voting mentality — as is witnessed by the same old tired councillors getting re-elected term after term – and I wouldn’t put any money on O’Brien getting defeated in October.

This is my first Ottawa municipal election, however, so I’d be interested to hear what the natives think.

(For anybody reading who has no interest in Ottawa municipal politics, I’m also collecting some good summer recipes – especially for cold dishes involving pasta. Thank you)

Who’s Your Daddy?

The controversial dating site, that recently removed 5,000 people from its database for gaining too much weight, is now going into the baby-creation business.

Ugly people can buy beautiful donor sperm and/or ova and make themselves a beautiful baby. Would-be donors will be screened through internet polls.

Isn’t that just heart-warming?

Remember way back when a rich guy named Robert K. Graham opened a fertility clinic that accepted donations only from Nobel Prize winners? Everyone called him a Nazi and other stuff like that. The  Repository for Germinal Choice closed in 1999, but did create over 200 children. There’s a big mystery about where those children are today and whether or not they lived up to the intended “genius”potential.

Slate did an investigative piece a couple of years after the clinic closed to try and find some of these kids. So far, it seems these kids are just regular, ordinary, unbrilliant kids. The entire feature can be found here if you’re interested.

I’m more interested in the ethics of the whole business of creating humans from anonymous donations. Margaret Somerville, founding director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University has been studying this topic.

Somerville feels that we may be causing a lot of harm to future generations of donated gamete-conceived children.

Is donor conception the 21st-century version of the wrongs we now recognize we did to some children in the 20th century? Are we repeating in a new context and in new ways the terrible errors and grave injustices that occurred with Australia’s “stolen generation” of aboriginal children, the United Kingdom’s “home children” sent to Canada and other British Commonwealth countries, and the “scoop” of native children from reserves into Canadian residential schools and white adoptive homes, all of which deliberately separated children from their biological families.

Canada has seen a significant shortage of sperm and ova donation since it became illegal to pay donors in 2004. Before that, sperm donors were 90% college/university students looking for a fast $75 to masturbate.

Now, Canada’s reproductive laws are so messed up  that people have trouble wading through what they are and are not allowed to do. They often end up having to engage in all sorts of “loophole” activities to get themselves pregnant via anonymous donors. (Donations from friends, family members or acquaintances are an entirely different story) 

Loopholes and gaps in our reproductive laws seem to be enormous. People can buy sperm or ova from the US, which currently still has plenty, since they still pay donors. Canadians can still find donors or surrogates and pay for their “expenses.” In short, there are still plenty of ways to buy fertility.

Also, technically, you can even buy both sperm and ova and create a beautiful baby from BeautifulPeople.  New Zealand is enacting legislation to make double donor conception legal. It’s not illegal in Canada, but it hasn’t been too popular so far.

And it’s all totally anonymous. Neither you nor your child will ever have access to the donor information beyond basic data like a guarantee from the clinic that the donor is healthy and disease free and the donor’s height, weight, hair/eye colour and general interests — no photos.

In Britain, Australia and New Zealand children can apply to get the donor’s name when they’re adults.  In Canada there still isn’t any legal requirement to even maintain permanent records. Donor-conceived adults are working to change that.

So, in light of all that, if you conceive a child through gamete donation, ethicists will ask —  what happens to that child’s right to know his/her biological history? The whole secret adoption mess took forever to straighten out. Only after decades of children demanding access to their birth records are they finally allowed to search for their birth parents.

It’s one thing for a kid to find out that he was the result of a drunken teenage “accident”, but, as Margaret Somerville explains, it’s quite another knowing that their genetic parent sold – and that their social parent bought – what is (as one donor-conceived woman put it) “the essence of [their] life for $25 to a total stranger, and then walked away without a second look back? What kind of a man sells himself and his child so cheaply and so easily? 

Furthermore, in Canada there is no upper limit to the number of offspring a donor can contribute to. Other countries have limits between 6 and 25.  

So, if one clinic in Canada is producing even 25 kids from the same donor, what are the odds that some of these kids will grow up in the same area? Maybe get to know each other without even knowing that they’re half-siblings?

What, if any impacts do you suppose there would be on these children deliberately removed from their biological families — and I think the important emphasis is on the word “deliberate”

Check out Kathleen R. LaBounty’s blog Child of a Stranger  for her story as she tries to find her anonymous sperm-donor father.