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.

Sometimes I Want to Hurt People

Sometimes when I read the paper, I come across an article that makes me look around to see if I’m living in some kind of surrealist nightmare.

Like the story about James Westcott. I had to re-read this story 3 times and then went to look it up on the internet because it just seemed way too absurd to be real. Also, I was getting very ticked off.

See, this Westcott person, 66 years of age, former elementary school teacher, was arrested in 1999  and charged with 24 counts of sexually abusing 11 girls at the west-end Ottawa school where he taught. The girls were between the ages of 6 and 10 and the wise judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Roydon Kealey, dismissed all the charges because he reckoned the girls had made it all up in the throes of some sort of mass hysteria.

At the time, Westcott admitted that he did have a “very tactile” approach to teaching which was probably misinterpreted by those silly school girls and their parents.

So, I hope old Judge Kealey had a twinge of conscience when Westcott got caught a couple of years ago molesting a 3-year old girl.

This time he pled guilty this time – sort of.

Actually, what Westcott pled guilty to was “not thinking clearly”. See, the little girl poked him in the chest, so he figured that meant she wanted to see his penis, so he let her touch his fly. And then to make it even easier for her, he took his penis out and “let her touch it and squeeze it.”

Just to be absolutely clear, Westcott wants us to know that he ““did not initiate anything” and that “he didn’t get an erection and has no sexual interest in children.”

Westcott is being sentenced for that crime finally, which is why he’s in the papers again. His lawyer thinks he’s suffered enough and should be released since he’s already spent 31 days in jail awaiting sentencing. That this whole ordeal has been very tough on poor old Westcott and his wife, especially now that everybody is now going to think he’s also guilty of those crimes back in 2008.

Also, his psychiatrist says he’s at a “very low risk to re-offend” and that he’s learned his lesson; and that he’s really sorry because he’s lost the valuable reputation he’s built up over a lifetime and that even his wife is unable to get a teaching job anymore.

Boo hoo.

Westcott will be sentenced on Friday. He could face up to an entire year in jail.

Are we insane? “Up to a year”????

I don’t know how they treat pedophiles in other countries, but they’re pretty damn soft on them in Canada. For some time now, this country has been reknown internationally as a safe haven for pedophiles. We finally raised our age of consent to 16, but pedophiles still get very light sentences or probation most of the time.

I don’t understand why the criminal justice system doesn’t realize that these people are the most unique offenders out there and that we need to devise some unique way of stopping them. A few years in jail isn’t going to change their sexual deviances. Because, pedophiles don’t believe that what they’re doing is wrong. They are never going to be rehabilitated.

In general, I’m pretty liberal about the whole crime and punishment thing because I think a lot of criminals are victims themselves and could have been steered in a better direction when they were young and/or could still be steered in a better direction with a little or a lot of education and other rehabilitative measures.

I worked in a parole office when I began my federal public service career. I worked with murders and rapists and armed robbers and drug dealers and all manner of crazy, stupid and nasty criminals and saw how the system, — damaged though it might be – is successful in a lot of ways and can help people.

Pedophiles, however, are not helpable. They are the scariest people I ever encountered in that job. They are angry because they were caught; they are angry at their victims for turning them in; and they’re angry because they actually believe that there was nothing wrong with what they did and that the rest of us have a problem of intolerance.

And it doesn’t help that they are often supported and even enabled by spouses, friends and other family members.

The victim impact statements were heartbreaking to read.

Kids whose mothers would rather give up their kids than the freak who’d abused them. Kids who no longer have a home or family because everyone blames them for getting dad arrested. Kids who are thoroughly messed up for life because some guy just will not understand that children are completely out-of-bounds whatever bizarre sexual urges, ideas, thoughts, notions or proclivities he might have.

Dang! I feel all red-neck, string-em-up, irrational about stuff like this. I don’t like feeling like that because I think there must be a real solution somewhere, but I don’t for the life of me know what it might be.

Bike Me, Ottawa!

So it’s Bike to Work Week   in Ottaburbia – a pretty low key event since there’s really no way to persuade 800,000 suburbanites to strap on a helmet and pedal 25, 35 or 45  kilometers down the highway to work every day.

Oh ya, we boast 170 kilometers of bike paths, but they’re mostly along the river and canal; which is great if you happen to live and work along the river and/or canal. Otherwise, you can ride your bike in traffic, or once in a while, you might be lucky enough to find a painted white line along the side of the road in between which you can ride …..  if there isn’t a vehicle parked there and if there isn’t a vehicle wanting to use the lane as a turning lane and if there isn’t a bus pulling in to a stop in that lane.

Some cities have bike lanes that focus on a safe, connected route system with an emphasis on segregated lanes instead of a few white lines.  (Ottawa meanwhile is still pondering , debating and trying to wrap their collective heads around this wacky-cuckoo science fiction idea of segregated bike lanes)

 Some cities have a bike share  initiatives that integrate with the city’s overall transit system so suburbanites can take a bus or subway close to the city, then hop on a bike to take them the rest of the way to work. (Ottawa did dip their feet into this idea a couple of years ago and think that they might probably go ahead with a regular bike share service sometime in the near future because they reckon it will save them money on road infrastructure)

Take Your Bike to Work festivities in other parts of the country include parades,   banquets, receptions, half-day “streetwise” biking courses, games and prizes and all sorts of other incentives and good stuff.

In Ottawa, we’ve sent the police out in full force this week to increase their efforts in ticketing and fining cyclists for not obeying cycling rules. This is their way of “reinforcing bicycle safety” during this special week.[1]

Of course, as a pedestrian, I definitely appreciate that the someone is finally trying to poke some common sense into those cyclists who seem believe their helmets give them special powers that not only allow them to run into people without any harmful side-effects, but also allow cars to run into them without any harmful side-effects. Cyclists like Caroline Gosselin, who was whining on the front page of Metro yesterday because she got fined $35 for riding her bike on the sidewalk and not having a bell – both of which are illegal under the city’s cycling bylaw.

Hello Caroline! You had a very kind police officer there because you should have been fined a hell of a lot more.  You’re breaking my heart, you really are, when you say you “don’t feel comfortable” riding on the busy street. Well, honey, I don’t feel comfortable walking on a sidewalk dodging bicycle traffic — which I have to do every bloody morning on my way to work.

The sidewalk cyclists I encounter don’t slow even down for pedestrians. They don’t move over. They don’t ring their bells when they zip by me from behind. They even have the nerve to curse me out for not getting out of their way!

 It’s bad enough that there aren’t enough sidewalks to begin with. It’s bad enough that sidewalks just suddenly end,  forcing pedestrians to cross busy roads without an intersection to go walk on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. We shouldn’t have to share these limited, narrow walkways with bone-headed cyclists.

But bicycles don’t belong on the streets, competing with vehicular traffic, either.

Maybe The City could stop planning so much of their infrastructure (ahem…Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association who wants to expand another 2200 hectares outside of the urbs) around the automobile and focus more on finding creative ways to move people around this city that are safer and more environmentally friendly. And finding and implementing them a lot more quickly than they have been. Why are we always so far behind everybody else with this stuff, anyway?

Meanwhile pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of all other vehicles need to follow the damn rules so that we stop maiming and killing each other and ourselves.

[1] Yes, I do know there are a few other Bike Week events going on in Ottawa aside from the ticketing and fining initiative.

Striving for Mediocrity

Those outside of the Ottawa area probably aren’t aware of the story  that has a lot of people here shaking their fists. It involves about the Gloucester Soccer Association.

The rules of this kids’ soccer league include a 5-point “mercy” regulation. This means that in any game, no team is allowed to be more than 5 points ahead of the other team. If some evil child, in the heat of demon competitiveness, goes ahead and scores a 6th goal his team automatically loses the game.

So now if one team is 5 points ahead, that team just kind of sits around the field playing poker and smoking cigars until the other team scores a few more goals.

It’s all about not damaging a child’s self-esteem by letting him be on a team that gets beaten by too many points, thereby making him feel like a loser. It’s much healthier to curtail the spirit and skill of good players because we don’t want them to get the impression that having talent in this country is going to get you anywhere.

I’m going to be brutal here and say that if your kid has no aptitude for soccer then he shouldn’t be on a league soccer team. If he’s no good  but likes soccer, he can play with friends or attend soccer camps or schools until he’s good enough to make a league team. If not, there are lots of other team sports to try and lots of other great ways to stay physically fit.

I don’t think we’re doing anyone any favours with this “equal opportunity” crap. Kids, generally are not that stupid. They know damn well when they suck at something. And, usually when they suck at something, they’re not all that interested in spending a lot of time doing it. They’d be better off spending their time doing something they enjoy and are good at, or at least have some hope of getting good at.

XUP Jr. tried dance for a year when she was younger because she thought it was a magical fairy-tale thing to do. But she inherited all my uncoordinated genes. So, while all the other little kids had no problems learning the simple steps and prancing gracefully across the stage, XUP Jr. was always stumbling along in the opposite direction of the rest of the gang. She was forever bumping into and knocking over scenery. She constantly lost control of her costumes and props. She flailed around like she was on fire. It wasn’t pretty.

I sat through all the recitals and tried to keep the video camera focused on her, though I never knew where she was going to veer off to next. And afterwards,  I’d say stuff like, “You looked very pretty with that tiara around your neck. Did you have fun?” And she’d say no, but she wanted to finish off the year. Then she suggested that maybe she could try piano lessons instead of dance next year.

I probably should have told her she was a spectacular dancer and not to give up. And then I should have complained to the dance school that they were making the dances too complicated and it was making my daughter feel bad. And then at the next recital, all the kids would have stood in a circle holding hands and swaying gently from side to side while Row, Row Row Your Boat played softly in the background.

But that’s not what happened. XUP Jr. turned her attention to learning to play piano and did it pretty well.  And FYI, her failure as a dancer has not resulted in psychotherapy and has not stopped her for one moment from enjoying her school dances.

Pretending kids are good at something and praising them to the skies when they know they’re not, I think will just confuse them and totally skew their judgment and sense of self.  Then you wind up with things like tone-deaf, deluded kids auditioning for American Idol and having their dreams shattered (finally) on national television by a snarky British guy.

And, it’s totally unfair to the kids who really are skilled. They may have natural talent and/or they may have worked hard to get good. Then they’re put on teams with kids who have little interest in being there and even less skill. The talented kids can’t play to their potential and have no way of developing their talent. Instead, they have to subdue their skills and pretend they’re just as useless as the unskilled kids.

And what does that teach them?

It’s better to be average. You don’t have as far to go to become part of the lowest common denominator to which we all seem to cater.

Get Poor Quick!!!

Everybody with more than two cents to rub together thinks they’re experts on making YOU rich. Everybody with more than two cents to rub together thinks they can show and/or help YOU get rich. The problem with these “get rich quick schemes” is:

  • These people didn’t get rich by following the stupid advice they’re doling out – like investing in real estate or playing the stock market or starting your own company — they inherited their wealth or married into it and are just dabbling in the market or real estate for fun and just incidentally keep getting richer because that’s what happens when you’re rich;
  • All the getting rich quick advice involves a lot of time, effort and MONEY on your part and nobody wants to spend time, effort and money they don’t have to make the money they want; and,
  • You don’t have a hope in hell therefore of getting rich no matter how hard you try and then you will feel like a failure. And you will also not be rich. Double OUCH!

The Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme, on the other hand, is guaranteed to work.  No matter what your financial status is right now, by following this “secret formula”, you will be poor in a matter of months with little or no effort on your part. And, you will feel good about yourself for having achieved a goal.

I can guarantee this because I developed this method myself and have used it successfully for years. Yes, that’s right – YEARS! I was not born poor. I did not marry far beneath me in order to become poor. I achieved this all by myself using the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme.

You may not believe me, but last month I made $1.23!! The month before that $2.00 and the month before that, $2.37.  And you have my word, that with the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme, you will be earning this type of money, too. Not next year, but within the next two to three months!! You have my personal word of honour on that! Yes, you do.


Well, before I tell you — and I know you’re anxious to get yourself on that dirt-packed road to poverty — but first there are 3 important questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Am I ready to be poor? Really poor?
  2. Do I have what it takes to live the life of a poor person?
  3. Am I ready to invest no effort, no time and no money in order to reach my goals of abject poverty?

If you can answer yes to all these questions with little or no enthusiasm, then you’re ready to become one of the elite 6 or 7 billion truly poor people in the enitre world, if not the universe! That’s right. You heard me correctly!!

And it’s as simple as one, two, three, four, five, six………………

Are you really ready? Then read on and prepare to change your life forever, my friends.

Step One

If you’re in school right now, drop out. If you’ve already saddled yourself with an education — drinking heavily and/or the regular use of cannabis will help kill off many of the brain cells that are currently storing your education. Although you won’t necessarily become rich if you’re educated, you do NOT want to take any chances. So lose those brain cells and follow us deep into the red zone!

Step Two

Develop and maintain an addiction. Nothing eats through those pesky, unwanted  savings faster than blowing them on a good, solid vice. Whether it’s drugs or alcohol, gambling, raising children, pornography or owning sickly pets —  throw yourself into it wholeheartedly, have a good time and before you know it, you’ll have nothing.

Step Three

This one is important. Very important. Do not skip this step!!!

Start borrowing money everywhere you can. I know this seems counterproductive because you think you’ll end up with a lot of money. However, what the ordinary person does not realize is this:

Borrowed money isn’t real money!

No sir. Borrowed money is actually negative money. And when you’re in a negative money situation – you’re poorer than poor!

Let me explain.

Let’s say you max out your credit cards and buy everything you want and everything you think you want; you get the biggest line of credit you can from your bank and buy more stuff;  you take out a second or third mortgage and get the biggest possible house;  you buy a big car with no money down and lots of monthly payments; and then you buy furniture and expensive appliances on a rent-to-own basis.

Now, it may look as if you are in possession of a lot of great stuff and even maybe a nice bundle of cash. However, every month your creditors will demand money from you in return. You can keep paying them month after month after month forever– long after the items purchased have been paid for. Why? Because of a great little thing called “interest”.  It’s interesting because it makes your creditors richer and you poorer until you get to the point where you can’t keep up with the payments and then they come and take your stuff away and you’ll have nothing. Get it? Isn’t it simple?

Yes it is!!!

Step Four

This one is optional, but highly recommended:  Commit a crime, or better yet —  a string of crimes. Nothing guarantees unsuccessfulness like a criminal record. If you commit a lot of stupid, petty crimes, you WILL go to jail and will never have to worry about anyone hiring you ever again! You will never, ever have to worry about an income above three figures ever again!  Be very careful, however, not to become a successful criminal. Successful criminals are rich. Sure, you could still get caught or maybe another, smarter criminal may come along and take all your money from you at gunpoint, but do you really want to take that chance?  It’s best, therefore to stick to small, low-yield crimes at which you can easily be caught.

Step Five

Some of you might already be on the path to poverty and not even know it. Are you in humdrum, dead-end, low-paying job? Are you living paycheque to paycheque? Do your monthly bills often overwhelm your monthly salary? Then you’ve inadvertently hit on a sure-fire way to maintain a certain level of poverty. You can stick with this “accidental half-assed poverty” or you can kick it down a notch (or even two) by implementing any of the other steps in the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme.

Step Six

Try not to work at all. I know it’s difficult with people constantly calling you with job offers; with “Help Wanted” signs everywhere; with skyrocketing employment figures. But you can do it. Move to a place with higher unemployment. Do NOT apply for jobs. Do NOT go to job interviews. If you still happen to find yourself employed – quit or arrange to get yourself fired. Not showing up for work every day is an almost fool-proof way of getting fired – unless you’re in politics — in which case you might well find yourself on the receiving end of a big, fat pension. Or even two!! Avoid this pitfall by never running for public office.


So! Are YOU ready to be really, really poor? Are you ready to finally see a plan actually turn out exactly as you’d hoped? Are you ready to move your family into a studio apartment above the KFC? Are you ready to dine on nothing but the worst high-carb, high-fat, low-value food no money can buy? Are you ready for Public Transit?

Then put your feet up and send me $899.99 for a hard copy text of the six steps of the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme and before you know it, you will be enjoying life at the bottom of the barrel.

But don’t take my word for it. See what other successful unsuccessful clients have to say:

J.K from Albequerque says:  There’s no easier way to lose $899.99 than to send away for the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme. I had to borrow money to get it, which I still haven’t paid back. Thank you Potsi!

P.U. from New York City says: I was a millionaire. I had everything money could buy. Beautiful women were throwing themselves at me all the time. I tried retiring and giving it all away,  but my shrewd investments kept paying me gigantic annual dividends. The pressure was killing me. I saw the Get Poor Quick ad online and sent away for it right away. Within 3 months I was flat broke and happier than a pig in shit. Thank you Potsi.

B.O. from on The Road says:  Since I first starting working, I’d been straddling the middle-class line where I worked my ass off and spent my ass off, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I hated my job, my wife, my kids and everything about my life. A friend recommended Posti’s Get Poor Quick Scheme. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I unloaded my go-nowhere life. Now I’m a hobo – which is all I’ve ever really wanted to be. Thank you Potsi.

F.D. from Ottawa says: I was born into dumpster-diving, squat-living poverty, but because of Stephen Harper’s insanely generous social programs, I was fast-tracked through to a solid grade 10 education and was shuffled into a lucrative  career as a Warshroom Janitor at the Bayshore Shopping Centre. I pretty nearly started to earn almost enough money to get myself on a waiting list to get into public housing — if there’d been any. There was talk of banning me from the Food Bank! The stress was making me ill and I no longer qualified for subsidized prescriptions.  I didn’t know where to turn until I saw an ad for the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme on a scrap of paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Within weeks, I’d managed to dig myself back into the hole I came from. Thank you Potsi.

Don’t delay! Get your Get Poor Quick step-by-step instructions today! Send $899.99 (by certified money order only – no cheques, please.) to:

Potsi Scheme Incorporated, 565 North Clinton Drive, Milwaukee

Tulip Fail

Ottawa’s festival season kicked off this weekend with the Canadian Tulip Festival. Of course, the weather was more miserable than it’s been since February with just barely above freezing temperatures, driving rain and high winds.

But a lot of people had marked off their calendars to attend the tulip festival this weekend and by golly were going to show up despite the weather. Two of those people were my out-of-town blogger guests, Jazz from Haphazard Life and Violetsky from the blog of the same name. (Alison from Party of 3 only showed up for the food & beverage portions of the weekend).

So Saturday morning after a jolly breakfast with a bunch of Ottawa bloggers, we trudged off to Dow’s Lake to look at the freakin’ tulips. In the rain. And cold.

For those who’ve never heard of the Canadian Tulip Festival, this is supposed to be the largest tulip festival in the world. We have all these tulips because Ottawa sheltered the Dutch Princess Juliana and her kids during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WWII. One of her kids, Princess Margriet, was actually born in Ottawa in 1943. So, in gratitude the Dutch send a whole whack of tulips to Ottawa every year.

Back in 1953, photographer Malak Karsh (brother of Yousuf) decided it might be a fun idea to organize an entire festival around these hundreds of thousands of tulip bulbs that kept arriving. And for a long time the festival was a huge deal. There were big-name outdoor concerts. Liberace opened the festival in 1972. A 12-year-old Alanis Morissette did her first public performance at the festival in 1987. The career of the Trews took off after they opened for Big Sugar at the 2003 festival.

Anyway, around 2006, it seems  The City decided all this fun and frivolity was costing the city too much money, so they shut down the whole music and interesting-stuff part of the festival.

Therefore, on this, the 65th anniversary of the festival, the busloads of tourists who drove in on the weekend just got to see what was left of the tulips, since most of them had already bloomed and died due to the early spring we had. There was a sad little tent called “Tulip Art Gallery and Gift Shop” which featured a few paintings of tulips, umbrellas with plastic tulips tied on top, t-shirts with tulips and a handful of other touristy tulip-related stuff.

Outside, there were also a couple of other stands that served food products and a fairly substantial row of outhouses.

Now, I know Ottawa can’t do anything about the fact that the weather was good for a long time and made most of the tulips sprout early and then die off just in time for the festival. And Ottawa can’t do anything about the weather being really, really crappy the weekend that the festival opens. HOWEVER, I think they could have anticipated the predictably unpredictable verieties of Ottawa spring weather and maybe made a bit more of the whole tulip experience.

Would it have killed them to have some type of shelter where people could sit and enjoy a refreshment and/or some entertainment – maybe something educational or edifying?  A film maybe?  Or, since this is an annual event, could they not have a permanent interpretation centre-type building all about the significance of the festival? Some interactive activities perhaps? Anything?

I haven’t lived here very long, so I don’t know what’s really worth going to or worth doing in the city and I don’t know where anything is and I get lost in Ottawa really easily, so I was a really lousy tour guide for the guests.

So, off we went to the Byward Market  (which is always sort of festive) and laughed at the Obama cutouts and Obama cookies and then asked one of the Ottawa Ambassadors what they would recommend we do for the rest of the rainy afternoon. The Ottawa Ambassador kind of shrugged and said, “Um… I don’t know…like…the Tulip Festival? Or Parliament Hill or the museums? That’s really all there’s to do here.”

So, we had a late lunch, got a $30 parking ticket and went back to my place.

HOWEVER, despite Ottawa’s and/or my lameness and despite the really, really crappy weather, I had a splendid time with my guests and since neither of them snuck off in the night to go home, I’m assuming they were okay with everything. I’m sure they’ll be blogging about the weekend, too, so I’ll find out then.

Turning the Other Cheek

It was a spectacularly spectacular weekend in Ottawa. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the temperatures hovered around the mid-20s (mid 70s F). This all required an abrupt change in almost every aspect of our lives. From last week, when we were in the sub-zeros bundled up in our winter gear, firmly ensconced indoors, to digging out our skimpier clothing, stripping down and spending as much time as possible outdoors doing summer stuff.

This rapid, headlong plunge into summer was a little frightening. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but strange things happen to the human body over several months of being swaddled in wool and down. For one thing, it becomes very pale and pasty-looking. Human bodies also tend to soften significantly and expand exponentially when not exposed to air on a regular basis. Let’s call this the Bread Dough Effect (BDE).

This was evident over the weekend when all and sundry squeezed into their shorts and tank tops and jiggled and wobbled their pallid, razor-burned selves around town and sprawled themselves across parks, beaches and patios all over the city.

Nature did not intend for us to see ourselves and especially not others in this globulesque state. We’re supposed to slowly shed our winter layers, exposing first the forearms, then maybe the lower legs. When we’ve grown accustomed to seeing those out in public, the temperatures rise just enough to perhaps reveal a bit of the upper arm – not enough to get the Full Bingo-Arm Monty – just enough to realize some work needs to be done before that happens.

Anyway, by the time the end of June or early July rolls around, many of us have used the transitional spring months to whip ourselves into some sort of presentable shape; we’ve acquired a bit of colour; and, we’ve become more or less desensitized to the sight of naked human flesh en masse.

That ain’t gonna happen this year by the looks of things. I’m sure young children and the elderly are going to suffer some sort of post-traumatic stress down the road from the shock of this sudden, in-your-face disrobing. We need to prepare. Have counselors standing by; organize treatment centers and such. And we need to find ways to prevent this from ever happening again.

Those less vulnerable should start some contingency planning for the future as global warming makes for ever more erratic weather patterns.  To being with, we all obviously need to spend a great deal more time naked, or at least semi-naked) in public to minimize BDE.

Being naked in public will, at the very least, prod us into sucking in our guts more often, thereby keeping our abdominal muscles more toned. At best, it will allow us to watch our weight (literally) instead of hiding it away under layers of clothes and ignoring it for months only to be surprised by it when we can’t do up our shorts.

We’ll also eat less if we’re  naked more as we become aware of the unsightliness of our bodies bloated with too much dinner. Not to mention the appetite-suppressing qualities of eating with a bunch of naked people.

And finally, being naked a lot will keep us active. Sitting around naked or standing still naked will give people too much time to notice all our flaws. As long as we keep moving, we’ll just present a fleshy blur to the public eye and this is generally a good thing. Remember the streaking fad of the 1970s? Streakers didn’t lounge around in front of the TV or hang around eating donuts at Tim Hortons. No! They ran. Because that’s what you do when you’re naked in public — run. It’s a natural instinct. 

In summary, get naked and get fit.

Shame on Ottawa

I’ve mentioned a few times my dislike of protests in this part of the world, in this day and age. Well, this week I felt completely embarrassed by Ottawa and the bullies who kept a guest speaker from the US from speaking .

Of course most sane people know that Ann Coulter spews a lot of rubbish – nasty, stupid, racist stuff. Most of us have no interest in hearing what she has to say and probably wish she would just shut up already.

However, there seem to be other people in this country who do want to hear her speak – whether because they agree with her views or whether they want to go and argue with her. And so, several universities in Canada have invited Ann Coulter to come and talk and a lot of students and other citizens of this country are attending the events.

Please note:  she did not sneak into the country and try to organize secret cabals to convert friendly, liberal Canadians to facism. She was invited.

Ottawa didn’t seem to get that. First some patronizing prig (Francois Houle, Vice-President Academic and Provost, University of Ottawa) takes it upon himself to send Ann Coulter a stern letter bringing to her attention Canada’s “freedom of speech” laws which “may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed.”

If that’s not embarrassing enough, approximately 2,000 angry, “threatening” protesters showed up before the event and conducted themselves in such a way that Ann Coulter’s appearance had to be cancelled to protect her safety.

These people have not only taken away Ann Coulter’s right to freedom of speech, but more importantly, they’ve also taken away the rights of all the people who wanted to hear her speak.

Protesters claim Ann Coulter doesn’t practice freedom of speech; that she just disseminates messages of hate. Perhaps, but surely that should have been decided after she spoke and by the Human Rights Commission – not by a mob of thugs or by a university provost.

Are we so addle-minded that we’re afraid to allow someone with radical or even distasteful views express them publicly? Are we incapable of doing battle with her on equal terms in the forum that was set up for this purpose? Does freedom of speech in Canada mean saying only kind, polite things that must not, under any circumstance, offend anyone at all?

Ann Coulter has filed a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Holi Bhang!

I hear that today is the beginning of Holi,  the spring festival of colours in countries like India, Nepal, Srilanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The highlight of the festival is a great riot of face painting and throwing of coloured powder and coloured water at each other and everything in sight.

 Holi is also about bonfires, eating lots of good stuff and about the consumption of bhang (cannabis) in milkshakes and other bhang-laden sweets.

Linda recently spent some time in India and, as usual, had some lovely photos to post. Even when they’re not celebrating Holi, I couldn’t help noticing the brilliant colours with which the people of India surround themselves. Here’s one of the stunning photos from Linda’s blog.

I love Linda’s photos. She always manages to capture an image or a detail that evokes a whole range of emotions, thoughts and ideas and/or somehow magically tells an entire story.

So, this series of photos from India got me thinking about all the other nations and cultures in which colour features so much more prominently than it does in ours. And I’ve come to the conclusion that people in warm climates are much more colour-oriented than we are. Think of the traditional and even every-day dress of people in Africa or the Caribbean or South America. For instance, market day in South Africa:

Now compare this to market day in New York:

Think even of the colourful homes in Florida or Hawaii or other warmer states compared to the brick or white aluminum sided homes up north.


You’d think those of us who live in a cold, drab climate would want to surround ourselves with as much light and colour as possible whereas people in warm climates are already surrounded by flowers and blue skies and bright yellow sunshine all the time.

The only exception I can think of to this phenomena is Newfoundland where they paint everything every colour of the rainbow:

Compare this photo of downtown St. John’s Newfoundland to a shot of downtown Ottawa:

And that’s on a bright, sunny day! Yawn.

Why would Newfoundland be the exception to the colour- climate relationship? Here’s a province where the hottest summer day might reach 20 degrees Celsius (70 F) and the coldest winter day can plunge to minus 50 (in any measure). It’s the windiest province in the country and is shrouded in fog a good part of the year. And it gets some terrific snowfalls.

This is a highway.

Anybody have any theories about this colour-climate relationship and/or why there are exceptions like Newfoundland? Maybe there isn’t even a relationship and I’ve just had one too many bhang milkshakes?

Happy Holi!

Anti-Protest Protest

This isn’t going to be a popular post, but so many people have written triumphant posts about the anti-prorogation rally on the weekend, that I thought I’d talk about why I didn’t go.

 I have many of the same issues with protests as I do with strikes. And before I go on, I want to be clear that I’m just speaking from the viewpoint of someone in 21st century Canada. I know there are long lists of causes in other countries and in our own country, in other times, that were moved forward through public demonstration.

When people have very little legal recourse or when there is a severe and direct threat to individual freedoms;  demonstrations (peaceful or even violent) are the only way to go. None of the conditions that would legitimize or necessitate public demonstrations exist in Canada today. Protest is a tool that blunts with misuse and overuse.

What was the intended outcome of this protest on Saturday?  To change public opinion?   To force the Prime Minister to change his mind? To send the Prime Minister a message that “Canadians” aren’t as apathetic as he thinks they are?  Has any of this been achieved?

If we hope to persuade anyone of anything in a civilized society we need to use reasoned discussion and a well-crafted argument. Clever signs, witty songs and general outrage are not persuasive. They might be fun and they definitely generate excitement among the demonstrators and in the media, but they don’t persuade anyone of anything.

The people at whom this type of protest is aimed do not care about these things. They can not. Stephen Harper has protesters on his doorstep every day of the week in lesser or greater numbers. He doesn’t formulate policies or decisions based on what the mob-of-the-day is demanding. Yes, he’s slipped a bit in the polls because of media attention the protests and the Facebook group have generated;  but he also soared in the polls after he played the piano and sang a song in public. The general populace has a very short memory. And, when it comes time to vote, Harper is betting Canadians are not going to use this little break from Parliament against him.

While it looks great that thousands of people across the country came out to demonstrate on Saturday, it doesn’t necessarily translate into anything significant come election time.

Strength in numbers, in a case like this, isn’t real strength. Just because something is popular today doesn’t mean it’s right or good in the long run.  Eleanor Roosevelt said: what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.

Demonstrations continue all over America in opposition to same sex marriage.  Pro-life groups protest outside of abortion clinics all the time. Every time someone commits a particularly heinous crime, protesters gather and call for the reinstatement of capital punishment. It would be very wrong of our leaders to make decisions based on the size or volume of groups of protesters. If 3500 pro-lifers showed up on Parliament Hill next weekend, you would be upset if the Prime Minister were to second-guess abortion legislation over their protest. 

I’m not saying that Harper was right to prorogue parliament — though I am a bit curious as to why this particular issue is causing so much outrage when he’s done so many more outrageous things both before and since his re-election.  I am saying that just because a lot of people turned out for Saturday’s demonstrations doesn’t automatically make Harper wrong. Nor does it convince him, or anyone else, that he is wrong.

In fact, it may do just the opposite. Middle-of-the-road people tend to stereotype political protesters as “crackpot activists” (see PETA). So, a viewpoint taken up by these so-called “crackpot activists” might convince middle-of-the-road Canadians to take up the opposing viewpoint in order to disassociate themselves from the “crackpot” element. (And no, I’m not personally calling anyone who attended a demonstration on Saturday a crack-pot)

In 21st century Canada there are so many more effective ways to express outrage and so many better ways to attempt to promote change. We can, for instance,  use television, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, the legal system and/or letter writing to get our point across. All of these are more effective than standing in the cold with cardboard effigies.

As an example, writing letters to your politicians – rational, reasoned letters asking specific questions – guarantees that those letters will be read and responded to. Every letter that comes in with specific questions will be read by someone. If there are one or more specific questions in that letter, it will get passed on to the correspondence unit, who will then have to craft a response. The response and the original letter will get passed up the line for review, edits, input and a series of signatures, including sign-off by the person to whom you wrote the initial question.

All this costs politicians time, money and human resources. These things force them to pay attention. If they get enough letters about the same topic they can’t ignore that topic. They can ignore a protest rally. And they do.

There are many countries in the world where protests are the only recourse to injustice; where protests are a necessary medium for the voice of the people. Canada isn’t one of them.

Though there was a lot of talk about the undermining of “democracy” at the rally on Saturday, Canada, in fact, has a well-established democracy. Even Stephen Harper with all his games cannot threaten it. And we, the people of Canada, have many mechanisms for input into that democratic system and should make full use of them.

Though I’m quite sure that many of the people at Saturday’s protest were sincere and well-meaning people, their actions are seen as easily shrugged-off theatrics by those being protested against. Leaders cannot rule by angry mob. And, protests can have the opposite of their intended effect on the population at large.


PS: For the record, I have never voted Conservative and never will. To me, right now, the most effective way to get Harper out of power is to support and work toward offering a strong and viable alternative at the next election. Because as long as there are no really good options…guess what…