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Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

I was walking my kid to school the other day – YES THAT BABY I HAD FOUR YEARS AGO THAT TOOK UP ALL MY BLOGGING TIME IS IN SCHOOL NOW, NO I’M NOT CRYING, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT – thinking about how humans get from one place to another. On one hand we’re pretty awesome at creating complicated machines to transport our weak little human bodies around. On the other hand we stink at it.

I mean, take a city. A city is the human equivalent of an ant hill – it’s where we live together in close proximity because life is easier that way. The entire *point* of a city is to keep the necessities of human life within a manageable distance. Yet few North American cities are really walkable, and even in the few that are the majority of people drive the majority of the time.

As a way of life and an allocation of resources this is really inefficient. Driving is difficult, dangerous, and expensive. That something like 80% of trips within Toronto are done by car bothers me not just because it’s bad for the environment and destructive to public space, but because it’s so colossally wasteful. It offends my frugal soul. Don’t you know that gas costs money? I want to yell at the guy around the corner who drives his kids to school (it’s about a 10 minute walk). Don’t you know that car is going to cost you like 8 grand a year? I refrain from posting as a comment on a friend’s Facebook picture of their new wheels.

But of course people drive. Because it’s easier that way, because it’s normal, because they want to maintain status with their peers, because no other option seems viable, because they’ve structured their lives so that they have no other choice. So be it, when gas gets up to $10/L that’ll change. But if you had to design an urban transport system from scratch, what would it be?

I’m starting from the basic principles that good transportation: a) is good for the user; b) is good for the environment; c) doesn’t unduly harm other people or animals; d) inexpensive; e) is accessible to the greatest number of people, and f) is easy. Bearing that in mind…

1. WALKING AND MOBILITY DEVICES – Walking with or without a mobility device should be the default mode of transport. Walking is good for you, safe, almost impact-free on the environment, free to the user (though mobility devices are not), and very easy.

2. CYCLING – Riding a bike is also very good for you, relatively safe for the user – though not as safe as walking, of course – generally safe for pedestrians, and relatively easy. Most of us learn to ride bikes in childhood and, as they say, you never forget. You have to pay for your bike and any parts and maintenance, but that’s it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need specialized clothing to ride a bike around town, other than a helmet and maybe a reflective vest. You can ride a bike safely in almost anything.

3. PUBLIC TRANSIT – Public transit is mostly safe for the user and the non-user alike, though women often experience sexual harassement and attacks on public transit – ask me about the time a guy tried to lick my face on the subway!  Buses which run on petroleum products do harm to the environment, though not as much as private cars. Ease of use and cost vary between regions. The TTC is easy enough to use but expensive.

4. DRIVING – If this were the food pyramid “Driving” would be about as big as “Fats and oils”. Use sparingly. Driving is bad for the user, destructive to the community, dangerous both to the user and to non-users, very difficult, and really really expensive. Not to mention, in spite of a rigorous testing programme, most people can’t drive for shit. Just stand at any reasonably busy intersection at rush hour and see how many Ontario Highway Traffic Act infractions you can count if you don’t believe me. I once counted 7 waiting for a light to change, including someone doing a U -Turn against the light IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION. No wonder it feels like you’re taking your life into your hands every time you leave the house.

Of course, if you live outside of the human anthill (I suppose there are solitary ant species?) your pyramid is going to look different, but then I’m not talking about you, am I? You go on with your…solitary ant life, whatever that is.

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I am experiencing Deep Feels.

When I moved to Toronto 15 years ago, it was like a weight lifted off me. I’m from London, Ontario, and I went to one of those high schools they set teen movies in, all football and sexual coercion and mean girls. I felt like the weirdest person in the world, largely because I liked reading and classical new music and didn’t want to drive absolutely everywhere I went or give myself skin cancer in a tanning bed.

So I came to Toronto, and I didn’t feel weird anymore. I felt positively normal. Everywhere you went there was someone at least 3 times weirder than me. You think nose rings are weird, London? Why, that guy on the streetcar has a hole in his ear you could fit a towel rod through. You think my unfortunate tramp stamp tattoo is an abomination unto the Lord? Well, I know someone who has two full sleeves and is trying to find someone who’ll fork her tongue for her.

Anyway. It’s been 15 years and I’m starting to feel weird again. (more…)

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Why war?

*Crossposted from On Memory and Desire*

In 1932 a rather poignant exchange of correspondence took place between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. This was never intended as private correspondence, but was published in a very limited edition a year later, after Hitler’s rise to power. Even if this had been a mere private exchange, both Freud and Einstein were so famous at this time that their every word carries the heavy hand of posterity.

There is a certain sad irony about these two Jewish men solemnly discussing the problems of the world of 1932 as if it were in their power to solve them. They both understand that something very bad is brewing but not that they and their people are going to be victims of it. There’s something very touching about this attempt to understand the intractable problem of collective human violence, and something very sad and futile.

I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow summary of this pamphlet, which is freely available online (pdf) and, indeed, shows up in my Facebook or Twitter feed every now and then, but in a nutshell, Einstein asks Dr. Freud: “Is it possible to control human mental evolution to that people can resist the psychoses of hate and destructiveness?”, which Freud answers with a long exegesis that basically comes down to “Probably not”.

I personally share Freud’s pessimism; humans have been violent towards each other since before we were humans, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change any time soon. Freud goes as far to say:

Why do we…protest so vehemently against war, instead of accepting is as one of life’s odious importunities?

I wonder the same thing sometimes myself – no one goes around asking “Why are ducks so horrible to each other?”, it’s just the way ducks are and there’s nothing to be done about it. Similarly, you can look at human history and think “Well, they really seem to like killing each other,” and wash your hands of the whole affair.

But Freud goes on to say:

The answer to my query may run as follows: because every people has a right over their own lives and war destroys lives that were full of promise; it forces the individual into situations that shame humanity, obliging them to murder fellow human beings against their will; it ravages material amenities, the fruits of human toil, and much besides.

Or in other words, as well as a need to destroy and hurt, humans have a need and a capacity to value and care for each other, and that is a place from which anti-war action can come.

Freud argues that “All that produces ties of sentiment between man and man must serve us as war’s antidote”, which can hardly be argued with. A rather less palatable idea is his suggestion that a class of intellectuals and thinkers be developed “to guide the masses dependent on their lead”, another sadly ironic statement to come from a Jewish man in 1932. (Incidentally, this is also the position of the Raelianmovement and a plot point in the classic Doctor Who episode “Robot”, so clearly it’s an idea with legs. A terrible idea, but one that persists.)

Freud closes his letter:

How long have we to wait before the remainder of humanity turns pacifist? Impossible to say, and yet perhaps our hope that these two factors—people’s cultural disposition and a well-founded dread of the form that future wars will take—may serve to put an end to war in the near future, is not chimerical. But by what ways or by-ways this will come about, we cannot guess. Meanwhile we may rest on the assurance that whatever makes for cultural development is working also against war.

There may be something in the assertion that “a well-founded dread of the form that future wars will take” can prevent war. After all, we are now, what, 69 years into the age of the nuclear bomb and have successfully avoided global nuclear war – well done, humanity! But I don’t know about Freud’s idea of cultural development as anti-war. I have any number of intelligent, educated, cultured relatives in the US who were eager cheerleaders and are constant defenders of the Iraq war. I think the entirety of humanity will become pacifist around the same time it becomes vegetarian: that is, never.

But you know, maybe I’m wrong. At least I hope I am.

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* Cross-posted from On Memory And Desire*

One of my favourite advice websites, Captain Awkward, has a commenting rule: no remote diagnoses. No matter how much the letter writer’s annoying aunt reminds you of your mother, you can’t diagnose someone with Borderline Personality Disorder based on the description of a biased third party.

This is good advice, but rarely followed (even on Captain Awkward). Unless you’re living under a rock – and if you are, I might come join you for a weekend just to get away – you will have by now heard of Toronto’s mayor trouble. For the journalists of Toronto, Rob Ford and his antics have been the gift that keeps giving, as the man continues to reach new highs or new lows or just new levels of weirdness. It’s easy to treat the story as entertainment, and it’s difficult for those of us who are not fans of the mayor to react with anything other than schadenfreude. Or, to repeat a phrase coined all the way back in 2008, Schadenford (Noun: Perverse pleasure derived from observing the foibles of Toronto mayor Rob Ford).

But I am going to attempt to follow the good Captain’s advice and keep my itchy fingers off the DSM. I mean, it is pretty obvious that Rob Ford has psychological problems ranging from addictions to rage issues to some reeeaaally dysfunctional family dynamics – I hope if I am ever caught smoking crack my mother doesn’t take the opportunity to appear on national TV and call me fat! – but let’s leave the specifics up to the trained professionals when he finally makes contact with them. Plus that article’s been done already.

More interesting is the psychological profile not of the man himself but of the city which elected him. A brief history for the outsiders: (more…)

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Hello! Did you miss me? It’s not that I haven’t been blogging, it’s just that I’ve been blogging here, and you should all be reading that. (Check out my 3-part series on Peggy McIntosh’s “Feeling Like a Fraud”. It’s actually really good.)

I feel like I have even less time than usual to do, well, anything…and mostly that is true, because you remember me how I made one of my goals for 2013 to get another non-music job? I got another non-music job, and it met my criteria pretty much exactly (10-15 hrs/week, partly from home, more than minimum wage, not evil). I know so much about Excel spreadsheets now guys, you have no idea. Actually it’s fun, even the spreadsheets. Am I a weirdo for liking Excel? Is that like liking Calculus? I liked Calculus in school, though I can’t remember the first thing about it now.

This job started out as a 10-week contract, the main task of which was to go through 15 years worth of virtual and paper records and organize/get rid of them. Mostly get rid of them, because does anyone need agendas from meetings which happened in 2003? Not unless they’re the UN. Anyway, I got this 10-week contract and it turns out I’m rather good at triaging paper and so on, so it turned into a permanent thing. But I find, as I’m now working that extra 15 hours a week, I have less and less time to do the kind of stuff for myself that I need to do to keep stuff going.

It’s ironic. What I do at work is set up systems to make work go more smoothly (along with a rather eclectic basket of web, research, and design tasks); the time I spend doing this means I have little time to do this for myself.

It’s like, you know those mornings when you don’t have breakfast and you’re kicking yourself for not having breakfast and are like “How hard would it have been for me to get a goddamn bowl of oatmeal?” Except you need to do like 10 steps to get to the goddamn oatmeal and you don’t have time/energy to do more than 3 and getting to a point where oatmeal would be only 3 steps away would take at least 20 steps of organizing as well as weekly maintenance and you’re like “Fuck it, I’ll just eat a handful of almonds” (which is not a bad breakfast, BTW). And you haven’t washed your hair in 4 days because it takes hours to dry but looks really bad if you go to bed with it wet and you don’t have a chance to wash it during the day so if you want to wash it you have to do it right afer the baby goes to bed and who wants to take a bath at 7 PM? And you really need a haircut anyway but you don’t even have a hairdresser anymore and all your friends are yuppie Leslieville moms and keep recommending really expensive ones? And you’re not wearing pants because none of your real pants fit anymore and all of your yoga pants are in clean but at the bottom of the not-put-away-yet clean hamper so you’re wearing bright red tights and a purple skirt and a grey shirt with one squirrel mugging another squirrel on it because the colour wheel, what’s that?

I bought a bunch of air freshener-type stuff last week, because I feel like the house smells musty and while this is probably solvable by cleaning behind the piano and dusting the plate rails (I do not want to think about the dust situation on the plate rails…stupid dust-collecting plate rails), it’s also solvable with $15 worth of Glade products. I’m sure Glade is evil and I’m poisoning all of us by using a plug-in scent diffuser, but right now I just want the house to smell OK. And so far it’s working. Maybe a little too well, because this house is really small and I think these things are designed to work in larger areas. The one I have in the bedroom is frankly overpowering, if in a good way. It smells like pineapple Jolly Ranchers. It is making me dream of being a child again.

Anyway. Most of the time I am fed and clothed and leave the house looking better than Aileen Wuornos, so I figure I’m coming out on top. I feel like I need to take a week off to set up my life to run smoothly, but if I did I’d probably just sit around and watch CSI, so why bother. I’ll just buy some instant oatmeal instead.

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1

Working vs. Pretending to work

Note to self: these are not the same thing.

2

Insight into the self vs. Showing off

a) “Wow, I have deeper feelings about zoos than I thought I did” or b) “Destroying capitalism is an integral part of my sexuality”**

3

WordPress vs. Blogger

I actually don’t have any opinions on this anymore. I’m pretty firm in hating on Disqus, though. I mainly browse the Internet on crappy out-of-date devices and Disqus DOES NOT WORK on a 5-year-old Ipod Touch, OK?

4

Beer vs. Wine

Yes?

5

Poetry vs. Prose

Well, what is this?

6

Classic Doctor Who vs. New Doctor Who

DIFFICULT QUESTION. There are more like 5-7 distinct periods of Doctor Who – maybe someday I’ll go back to school and write a PHD thesis on it!*** Short wishy-washy answer: there are great episodes/story arcs in both, as well as some real stinkers and missteps. You know how I feel about Moffat, but then again I’ve been watching the 6th Doctor episodes lately and if the show can come back from that it can come back from ANYTHING.

7

 Rob Ford did crack vs. It’s a left-wing conspiracy!

a) Rob Ford smoked SOMETHING from a pipe; he clearly is not a crack addict, but he might have done it once then gone back to hash or lines or whatever else it is he normally does. b) Why would you conspire to make Rob Ford look stupid when he’s so good at doing it on his own?

8

Twitter vs. Snapchat

I am too old to use Snapchat. Get off my lawn!

9

 Confessions

  • I seem to be incapable of making anything fermented (yogurt, tempeh, etc)
  • I do the crosswords and Sudoku in the free papers on the subway and leave the paper on the seat
  • I also put my feet up on seats in transit (if there’s a free one)
  • I will totally judge you if you carry your dog in a purse

10

Awkward moments

  • When someone you know writes about a social event you were both at on their blog and you’re like “OMG that’s what you were feeling like? D:”
  • Trying to navigate the sidewalk while pushing a stroller on garbage day, running into like 8 seniors in those motorized scooters
  • When the cashier at the drugstore says “Would you like to buy a heart for two dollars? The money is for heart transplants for babies” and you say no and everyone in line looks at you like you’re literally Hitler
  • When you run into someone you know, realize you’re going the same way on the subway but don’t really want to talk to them for 8-10 stops, so invent an errand to get out of it and have to hang around somewhere random for 10 minutes to avoid running into them on the platform

Maybe someday I will write real blog posts again. This is not that day.

I did write a poem a few days ago, so maybe I’ll look at it again, totally rewrite it, and post it.

Until then…

*Literally the thought that went through my head before I opened a Word document and started typing

**I didn’t make that up! I ran across someone on Twitter who put it in their bio. More power to them, but WTF?

***no.

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So a few days ago Cecil had his 1st birthday. Yes, that’s right, he has managed to survive his first year on this planet, and while I don’t think he had any great epiphanies about what he wants to do with his life just yet, I think I can confidently say he has had his best year so far. Also he got his first cupcake and was all WHAT IS THIS AND WHY HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING IT FROM ME.

We had a little party for him this weekend. It ended up being about 20 adults and 5 children (aged 9 months-8 years), not including ourselves, crammed in this little house. Cecil had a blast. Madeline was in heaven, except for the part where she got so over-excited we had to lock her in the basement for an hour, and Gus tolerated the whole affair.

oapeh

…I wish I had some profound or witty observation on my first year of motherhood to add, but I don’t. It’s been a year. Parts of it have been amazing. Parts of it have been awful. Parts have been unforgettable, and other parts very dull. But overall it’s been great. And I expect this next year to be even better.

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