Disappearing People

Aside from providing a few weeks of most excellent ribaldry, the pre-Rapture and post-Rapture has also caused some people to speculate on what the real end of the world is going to look like – if indeed, it ever happens. Like the Kosher Samauri, I wonder if maybe the Rapture (if such a thing exists) might not be more of an ongoing, subtle thing.

I’m always fascinated, for instance, by what could possibly have happened to all those millions of people who seem to have vanished off the face of the earth. In the US alone, some 500,000 people disappear, without a trace every year. And this doesn’t include people who disappear and are eventually found. (Dead or alive). And it doesn’t include people who just pack their stuff and take off.

No, I mean stories like the one about the US couple who were traveling and the woman woke up in their hotel room one morning and her husband had disappeared. All his belongings were still there, but he was completely gone and no trace of him was every found.

Some people disappear at sea. I’m not going to worry about them because it’s pretty easy to disappear at sea. The ocean is vast and deep and there are pirates.

So, how does an adult simply vanish?

In the age of constant surveillance and forensic wizardry how does someone just evaporate into thin air? Have you ever thought of just disappearing and starting over somewhere else? How would you go about that without leaving any sort of evidence?

Aside from the Rapture theory, people speculate that The Disappeared might have slipped into another dimension somehow. I’m pretty sure my cat, Bazel, has discovered a secret time-slipping portal behind the coat tree in our foyer. He sometimes suddenly appears from there when I’ve been searching for him high and low. And when he appears from behind that coat tree he looks really smug.

And there’s the “abducted by aliens” theory. But, the only reason I could think of for aliens needing 500,000 Americans every year is as a food source. And surely, even aliens couldn’t sustain themselves on such a diet?

There’s the “kidnapping by clandestine operations” theory, too. I guess that means our governments are kidnapping their own citizens for experimentation of some sort. I almost believe that theory. I suspect a lot more Canadians will be disappearing over the next four years.

My favourite theory though is the “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC) theory. I never knew such a thing existed (if it really does exist) until I read Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. There have been many cases of people discovered in their homes burned to death – sometimes completely, sometimes leaving only a fragment or two of bone – while the rest of the house is perfectly intact, except perhaps for some damage to the chair or bed they were in at the time.

So, if a person is just out walking in a park one day and spontaneously combusts, they’ve effectively disappeared, right? No one is going to notice a random finger bone by the side of the road.

Anyway, I like to believe there are still some things going on for which even our brightest science guys don’t have the right explanation yet. I’m looking forward to them maybe figuring it out.

Gender-Free Kids

There was an article in The Star on Saturday about a Toronto couple who is keeping the gender of their new baby a secret because they don’t want the child growing up with any gender-imposed limitations or expectations. Only the parents, siblings and midwives who delivered little Storm know the child’s gender. They want the child to decide for his/herself when or if to reveal his/her gender.

Storm also has 2 older brothers (Jazz and Kio), who everyone has always known were boys, but who have always been allowed to choose for themselves what they want to do with that information.

The boys get to decide how they want their hair – Five-year-old Jazz likes to wear his long in 3 braids. Two-year-old Kio likes his curly hair about chin-length.

They choose their own clothes and their own toys. Jazz likes pink, loves to paint his nails and wear sparkly jewelry. Kio likes purple. Both boys are usually mistaken for girls. This apparently upsets Jazz because he wants people to know he’s a boy.

I have no problem with letting kids make choices. I’m a big fan of child-led parenting, but that doesn’t mean the kids are in charge of everything. I think you still need to parent. You need to establish some sort of schedule – mealtimes, play times, quiet times, bath times, bed times. You need to make healthy food choices for your kids. You need to establish boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

And, to some extent you need to give some sort of guidance on how the kids present themselves in public. Firstly, because you want to make sure the dress for the weather. Secondly, because part of parenting is guiding your kids so they will establish a healthy relationship with the culture in which they are living.

That doesn’t mean your kids have to be little clones of all the other kids. That doesn’t mean they can’t push some boundaries, be individuals and express their personalities. For instance, if 5-year-old Jazz likes to wear pink dresses, that’s great. But if he’s also upset about getting mistaken for a girl and about other kids not wanting to play with him, maybe Jazz’s parents could explain to him why this is happening and suggest that if he wants to fit in more there are ways of achieving that.

It’s all very well for parents to have a non-conformist philosophy and rebel against cultural norms, but, while they think they’re letting their kids choose everything for themselves, they are also imposing their own philosophies and choices on their kids.

Is Jazz really choosing pink for himself or are his parents, ever-so-subtly, perhaps even unconsciously guiding him in that direction to prove to the world how nonconformist they are?

Storm’s parents are forcing Storm’s brothers to keep their sibling’s gender a secret. They’re not allowed to refer to Storm as he or she – they have to say “Z” instead. When changing the baby’s diaper in public, they hide in closets so no one will accidentally see.

What sort of impact will all this have on Storm in the long run? And on the two brothers?

In my experience, gender identity is not something you can impose on a child or free a child from. Nor can you protect your child from cultural gender expectations and biases. I get that these and many other parents want their children’s identities to based on who they are, not what gender they are.

But pretending gender doesn’t exist? That can’t be healthy either, can it?

Left Behind Party

Those of you who are not CHOSEN by around 8:00 p.m. Saturday night following THE FINAL JUDGMENT, are invited to my most awesome LEFT BEHIND PARTY.

There will be:
– Music & Dancing
– Wailing & Gnashing of Teeth
– A Looted Goodies buffet table
– Burgers & Hot Dogs at the Flaming Maw of Hell barbeque pit
– A midnight Fire & Brimstone fireworks display over the Rideau/Styx in honour of Victoria Day/End of the World

It should be a good time.

And hey, guys and gals… I understand all four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are single and looking for forever relationships (I.e.: until October 21st when they have to go help destroy the world).

R.S.V.P. as soon as possible so I know how much punch to make.


Freeing the Wage Slaves

Every summer we take on a few university students here at the office. It’s a boring summer job, but it pays a lot better than most summer jobs students can get. One guy has come back every summer throughout his entire university career.

His passion is sports and he took a degree program in some sort of sports psychology thing. He plays a lot of sports and had volunteered his sports psychology services to a lot of athletes over the years. He graduated this spring, with his master’s.

And now ….. he’s being bridged in as a permanent federal public servant in our unit.

“Are you crazy?” I asked him. “What happened to your passion? All that work you put into the sports psychology thing? Your dream job of helping athletes achieve their maximum potential?”

“Ya,” he said sheepishly. “I talked to my parents (who are both public servants) and decided that it would be too difficult to find a job in my field.

I’m very disappointed. He was such a bright lad. So full of life. Such a brilliant future ahead of him. So much potential. And now…..pfft!

XUP Jr. has never had the slightest interest in the federal public service — or in any kind of office job. I’m glad. She wants to be an entrepreneur; be her own boss. I’m thrilled. Probably that makes me an irresponsible parent for not at least trying to guide my child into a safe, secure career choice. I don’t know.

Self-employment is very risky and there’s no pension or security of any kind.. But I think the time to take risks is when you’re young. And if she starts now to sock away a bit of her income every month, she’ll have a tidy sum when she gets older.

Anyway, I think the whole environment of the public service and all those other so-called secure workplaces is going to change drastically over the next 10 to 20 years. It’s just not sustainable with an ever-aging population.

This year, the government took away our severance pay this year and the union let them. This will mean big savings in the long run. I think our pensions are next. They’ll start chipping away at the pensions – increase employee contributions, increase years-of-service eligibility. At the same time, the public service will continue to be reduced until there are only a few administrators left in each department and all the work will be done by independent contractors.

And I think a lot of other businesses will have to follow suit. Keeping employees on payroll, contributing to their benefits and paying them a pension after they retire is really expensive.  Not to mention all the headaches associated with a stable of full-time, permanent employees.

So, it seems to me that being self-employed is the way to go. And, as more and more of the population becomes self-employed, more organizations will have to spring up to afford group medical and dental benefits to the self-employed – maybe even group pension schemes and income insurance. Who knows?

I’ve known several people who were made redundant from their safe, secure jobs.  When they weren’t able to find another job, they ended up creating their own jobs in order to earn a living. Now they all say that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to them.

So, I think if I was a young person today just starting out, I’d risk it, wouldn’t you?


Leave it to Eddie

One kind of fun thing that happened recently is that XUP Jr. fell madly and passionately in love – the kind of mad, passionate, all-consuming love generally only experienced by teenagers.

Do you remember your teenage love? The one you were so sure you were going to grow old with? The one with whom you planned your future together — a future where anything was possible. The one you shared all your hopes and dreams with. The one you felt so secure with and so sure of? The one who (and I quote XUP Jr.) “makes the whole world seem like such a much better place.”

I was beginning to wonder if she ever would experience this. She’s 18 now and so far, the boyfriends she’s had were all very casual. Here today, gone tomorrow. No big deal.

 But not this one. This one is “it” apparently. The one. No doubts whatsoever. She’s completely besotted with him and he with her. They are going to spend the rest of their lives together, they tell me.

I call him Eddie because he reminds me of Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver– but in a good way. He doesn’t look like Eddie Haskell and as far as I know he isn’t a little creep when adults aren’t around. But he is always very chatty and polite and tries really, really hard to please. Really hard. He desperately wants me to like him. Although, before the election, he did throw caution to the winds and tell me very ernestly:

“I don’t know what your politics are, but I just wanted you to know that I will never vote Conservative. I don’t know if that changes your opinion of me or not, but I thought I should put it out there.”

Then he looked really worried.

Do I  look like a Harperite or something? Sheesh. I was torn between slapping him for thinking I might be a Tory and adopting him on the spot.

Because Eddie would make a good son. When he eats here, not only does he clear his dishes, he clears the whole table, washes the dishes, dries them and puts them away AND tidies up the entire kitchen. Once he even cleaned XUP Jr.’s room while she was in the bathroom having a shower.

I’m sure he would vacuum for me every week if I asked him to — or maybe even if I didn’t ask and the place just  looked like it could do with a bit of a hoovering.

I had to find a YouTube clip of Leave it to Beaver to show the both of them since neither of them knew who Eddie Haskell was. Eddie’s not quite sure if the comparison is meant to be a compliment or not. I told him to stop worrying and that as long as XUP Jr. likes him and he was good to her, he could relax and just be himself.

He said he was being himself. (I’m going to make damn sure he knows where the vacuum cleaner is kept). He also very solemnly assured me that he would always treat my daughter well and that he thinks she is the most amazing person he has ever known.

Coincidentally, he’s going to university in Toronto in the fall, too. I don’t know what would have happened if they had to separate. They’ll be apart for most of the summer as it it, except for occasional weekend visits. I expect there will be a lot of pining (and skyping) going on.

I like Eddie. He’s very nice and smart and very genuine with just the right amount of old-fashioned ingenuousness.

And I kind of hope they do stay together forever (and not just for the excellent house-keeping benefits).

I think there’s a lot to be said for finding your true love when you’re young. It’s got to be better than serial dating for 20 years and becoming all bitter and jaded and finally just settling for someone with as much or more baggage as you because you’re freaking out about the possibility of dying alone, right?

Finally Done

Yes, I’ve finally finished my French training and I succeeded in getting the required levels, but I gotta say, it almost did me in. In theory, getting paid to go to school sounds like a marvelous lark. In practice, it’s a bird of an entirely different complexion.

Sitting in a tiny, airless room for 8 ½ hours every day with four other people, and an instructor, having one subject and one subject only pounded into your tired old brain day after day after day without a break isn’t as much fun as it sounds. And it’s not like real school where you can zone out when you get bored. No, you have to pay attention every second or miss something really important. Also, with only five people, you have to do a lot of participating.

Add to this the constant stress of tests every few weeks and, in my case, being in a class where everyone else was way more advanced…well..it takes a toll. I had three colds in 7 ½ months! Normally, I get a cold once every five years or so. I also developed some sort of killer stomach acid problem and now have to take some nasty pharmaceuticals for a while and I don’t get to eat or drink anything good anymore.

 It IS cool that I can now have a simple conversation in French, but man – I wish they’d just let me go to France for those 7 ½ months for immersion instead.

So now I go back to work for a while and then at the end of June, I’m moving back to Toronto. XUP Jr. will be finished high school and is going on to post-secondary studies in the fashion biz in Toronto. I’ve got myself a transfer to our Toronto office. And… most of our extended family is down in that neck of the woods — so aside from all the lovely people I’ve met here in Ottawa, there is no reason for me to stay here.

Meanwhile, I finally have my weekends back, so I can catch up on the blogosphere a bit. There have been so many blogworthy events I missed out on.

À bientôt!!