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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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I promise there will be no recipes in this! If you want to cook something awesome buy Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero. I’ve been really enjoying it.

So I’m breaking my blogging silence to complain about Doctor Who. If you don’t care about Doctor Who? Go, you are dead to me. No, really, you might not care, so just warning you this will be really boring for you. Also full of spoilers.

So after Karen Gillan and whatever his name was escaped from this trainwreck, the writers brought Clara from Assylum of the Daleks back. Only now she was a plucky Victorian governess. HUH? A selection of my reaction tweets:

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Anyway. You get the picture. Clara is not only kind of annoying, but not actually a character. But I kept watching, because I have a major soft spot for this show and you have to have something to look forward to in life. I even LEGALLY BOUGHT IT in Itunes (which is a whole other rant I could go on, but not this time) to support the show.

And after 6 episodes of Clara being annoying and not having a character to develop, the season finale aired last Saturday. In which (major spoiler alert!) Clara is revealed to exist MERELY TO SAVE THE DOCTOR.

It’s like the writers looked at my tweets, said “Ha, you thought she had no inner life and seemed to only exist for the Doctor? Fooled you, I meant to do that!”

How is this not the most sexist thing ever?

Stephen Moffat, showrunner of Doctor Who, has responded to critics calling him sexist by saying:

I AM sexist: women are cleverer, nicer, kinder and better at stuff. Don’t let on or they’ll keep us in fields. FIELDS!!!

(Source: here.)

Uh…benevolent sexism is still sexism. Glad to know he’s not an old-fashioned woman-hater like some people I could name (but won’t, because I don’t want an influx of rabid MRAs calling me names), but putting women on a pedestal is still inferior to treating them like human beings.

I got into watching Doctor Who with the new series. I’ve since watched (most) of the old series, and while the Doctor’s relationship with his female companions is never one of equality* – except maybe with Romana? – even the worst of these characters have stories, needs, desires, and personalities. Clara…doesn’t. And turning it around to make her actually being a creepy middle-aged dude’s perception of a hot 20-something the climax of the season is…not cool.

I am going to keep watching, because I believe the show can come back from this – just like it came back from the 6th Doctor being a giant asshole and the writing being wildly uneven in the 7th Doctor’s last season – but I am seriously disappointed. I hope Moffat moves on to something else, or just sticks to Sherlock (an almost entirely male cast means all the characters get to be real people!) and someone who’s capable of putting themselves in the shoes of a woman takes over.

*At best he’s a friendly mentor, as the 4th Doctor is with Sarah Jane; at worst he’s emotionally abusive, as the 6th Doctor is with Peri.

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GTFO of your car

Dulce et Decorum

Last Saturday, I was at a rally against planned cuts to social services announced by Agnès Maltais (my MNA) and the PQ government.

The rally walked down rue Charest and up to rue Saint-Joseph, but stopped in a street linking the two. The crowd was large enough to block two of three (or four) exits for a parking lot where a Metro and a Chez Ashton is located.

We stayed there for long enough that the people in cars trying to leave the parking lot started to drive around to the other side to leave, or laid on their horns in an attempt to get us to move. As there were speeches being made, no one paid much attention to the annoying, car-alarm-ish honking.

I leaned over to my partner and predicted what would happen next. “See that car there? He wants to leave this parking lot. What he should…

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This is a bit inside baseball, so forgive me if you’re not up on the entire backstory here, but I love the grace Steph shows here. If that makes me a lady, I think I can handle that.

Steph Guthrie

On Friday a woman who I respected as a peer, despite our tendency to disagree on matters relating to feminism, wrote a piece for VICE disparaging forms of womanhood that she considers lesser (certainly less subversive) than her own. She goes as far as to suggest that those who don’t line up with her standards of womanhood (in which the Woman’s impulse when she is wronged or in danger is to destroy her oppressor) are not women at all, but “ladies” or even “girls”.

She crudely used me as an “example” of a lady concerned only with “amicable co-existence with men and ‘the status of women,’ so long as it doesn’t upset the status quo.” Her reasoning? Last year I turned to the justice system to prosecute a man who harassed me incessantly for months on Twitter. Well this guy bothered her too, y’know, and getting rid of him was…

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OK. So where do I start?

In the middle of December Gus stopped eating. He simply refused his dinner one day. After giving him a few days to get over it in case it was just stomach upset (Doctor Google informing me that a loss of appetite in a dog isn’t a cause for alarm unless it lasts more than 2 days), I spent pretty much an entire week with him at the vet (first our own, then a specialist) as they ruled out one diagnosis after another and he got sicker and weaker. His gums were practically white, he had no energy, and he moved like he was a hundred years old. As I was getting him down the stairs onto the subway platform to go to the specialist, a guy waiting for the train said to his friend “Wow, look at that old dog! He’s got to be like 15!”

Gus is 5.

Anyway, as I said, the easy and inexpensive conditions got ruled out one by one.

Worms? No.
Had he eaten a foreign object? No.
Had he gotten into some kind of poison? No.

Eventually it got down to ulcers vs cancer. And it didn’t look good. An ultrasound showed a mass on his spleen which we were told was 80% likely to be cancer and even if it wasn’t would eventually burst and kill him anyway. He had a biopsy for the spleen mass and an endoscopy for the gut bleeding and…

…he didn’t have cancer.

The spleen mass wasn’t even a tumour, just a nodule of spleen tissue and not a danger to him, at least right now. What he does have is inflammatory bowel disease, which can be really serious, but not as bad as cancer. “Change his diet to something he’s never had before,” the vet said. “Bring him back next week and we’ll see if he needs medication.”

We changed his diet, and I think Gus must have had this for a couple of years, because he is not only fully recovered, he is back to the energy and activity level he had when he was about 2 1/2. He played with toys the other day. He has not shown interest in toys in YEARS. Yesterday he happily spent about 20 minutes in the back yard sniffing around in the snow. He is scent vocalizing on walks again. He is all sleek and bright-eyed and happy. I mean, he is still Gus, so he’s still an abnormally lazy dog, but he is so much better it is amazing.

So that was my Christmas! For about a week we thought Gus was going to die, then he got miraculously better. It took all the money we had saved and then some, but he is going to be OK.

Because we didn’t want to travel with a very sick dog, we hosted Christmas here instead of visiting our families. My mother insisted on bringing Christmas dinner already cooked, because you will pry cooking for the holidays out of her cold dead hands, and Cecil got so many presents I think we will have to buy another house to put them in. Ben’s parents came a few days later and Cecil got even more presents, including a little hockey jersey with “Lil C” on the back.

Anyway. It was lovely to have Christmas in my own home, though I could have done without having Gus visit death’s door to make it happen.

Merry Gusmas!

Merry Gusmas!

Right after Christmas Ben came down with a terrible cold, which I came down with a few days later (right after visiting Ben’s grandmother, thereby probably taking out half a wing of the the seniors’ home) and Cecil a day or two after that. So this is basically a plague house. I feel a lot better, though fairly zombie-like (zombesque?) after a few nights of terrible baby sleep.

But hey, it’s the new year, when people decide to better themselves in spite of knowing they will fail utterly in two or three months! So what am I going to do to make myself a better excuse for a human being?

I really only have two things:
1. Learn how to be more productive with my time while looking after Cecil
and
2. Get some kind of non-music part-time job.

The key to 1 is, I think, limiting my time on Twitter, the major time-suck in my life, and the key to 2 is probably divine intervention because I have no non-music resume or skills, but you know, you gotta give it a try. I just want to diversify where my income comes from and make a bit of extra money in a somewhat more low-stress way. I love teaching but I can’t handle more than about 15 hours/week. It is too energy-consuming. So if you are looking to hire someone to work for you for about 12-15 hours a week doing something relatively mindless for a decent cause, I am your lady.

I’m giving myself a lot of time on that one, because as I said I have no resume to speak of and the job market is in the shitter, so I’ll be really impressed with myself if I can make that happen by the summer.

And to round out my “What I did on my blogging vacation” essay, a really simple recipe!

Cinnamon syrup

I made some peppermint syrup for Christmas lattes (just simple syrup + flavour extract) and it was such a hit I made syrups with all the extracts I have, including anise (which turned out awesome, BTW – it tastes exactly like those candies you get after dinner at Italian restaurants). Here is my first attempt without using an extract.

Combine:
1/3 C sugar and
1/3 C water.

Stir to dissolve. Add:

Around 2 tablespoons cinnamon bark

and bring to a boil on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 2 minutes. Don’t let it really boil or you’ll make some really disgusting candy. Remove from heat and let stand for at least an hour or, if you’re me, forget about it entirely for an afternoon while you do other stuff. Strain into a glass container – those little baby juice bottles are perfect. Just label it so you don’t accidentally give your baby a whack of cinnamon-flavoured sugar instead of apple juice. About 2 teaspoons sweetens your coffee and gives it a nice cinnamon flavour.
You will notice I didn’t resolve to blog more often or bring back the podcast or anything, though I do want to; I can’t promise that 2013 will see more than a handful of blog posts either. But hey, if you made it all the way through this, at least I gave you a little sweetness for your morning brew.

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Note: If you don’t know who John Yoo is I suggest starting with his Wikipedia page. Then listen to The Torture Memos by my band, the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra. As you ought to know, this is a piece of creative writing that in no way reflects on the life or experience of the real John Yoo. I’m sure he has absolutely no trouble looking at himself in the mirror these days.

 

 

JOHN YOO STARES INTO THE ABYSS
A dialogue

YOO

I am not an evil man.
In fact I am rather a good one,
kind to animals, generous to beggars,
a good son, a timely taxpayer, a good neighbour.
I always pay more than my share of the dinner cheque,
I never leave my bins out after garbage day,
and my house is well-kept, neat, painted,
in accordance with the bylaws
of my Home Owner’s Association.
So tell me, Abyss, why I see your face
in this perfectly clean mirror
on this perfectly ordinary day. (more…)

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So like all new parents I have no idea what I’m doing. I was fortunate enough to get a relatively easy-going baby (as these things go) and a naturally easy-going attitude towards parenting, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t want to Look Things Up, if only to know whether or not I’m doing them right. (Because there’s one right way to parent, right? Right?)

So I got a wide selection of baby care manuals from the library, and skimmed them all. I did not read any in their entirety, so if you’re an adherent to any one of these and you are incensed by something I overlooked, sorry. I have a three-month old baby. I can’t read 2000 pages or so just for the sake of being thorough in a blog post.

Anyway…

The Mother of All Baby Books (Ann Douglas)  – The only Canadian entrant on the list, MoaBB has mostly common-sense baby rearing advice, including a helpful section on what developmental milestones to look for, when to be worried your child has fallen behind, and when to call the doctor/go to the ER in case of illness. However, the directions on changing your baby are needlessly complicated, taking up almost 2 pages of a trade paperback. This honestly made me question the rest of the advice. Written in a somewhat jokey but brisk style.

The Baby Book (Sears and Sears) – Given the flap about attachment parenting that exploded in the feminist blogosphere a couple of weeks ago, I approached this one with a large helping of salt. There are some pretty hateable things about the Baby Book – the gender essentialism, the tin-eared hand-waving approach to wage-earning mothers (he seriously suggests that, if you are unable to stay home with your baby for financial reasons, you should borrow money from your parents. Um…), but a lot of his recommendations make sense. For example, Cecil spends a good part of his day either being carried around or in a sling, because what else are you going to do when he’s awake but not eating, being changed, or playing? Put him in the sling and get on with your day. And Sears has one really valuable core insight that can’t be overstated: that babies are people who have legitimate needs, and it’s your responsibility as a parent to meet those needs.

That being said, Sears has something of a one-size-fits-all approach to problems. Whatever the problem the answer is almost always “Breastfeed and cosleep”. If you’re already doing/have already decided against doing those things, that advice is not much help. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the section on vaccination to be science-based and reasonable, as many adherents to attachment parenting are also anti-vaccine.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Traci Hogg plus a ghostwriter) – I admit, I have read the least of this one, because it’s written in a nauseating style, kind of like a weight-loss infomercial. A cursory glance shows that she recommends scheduling feedings and limiting time on the breast for babies as young as four days old, which goes against current medical advice. I didn’t read enough of the sleep section to get a strong sense of her sleep recommendations, but she appears to advocate a milder form of Cry It Out, which is also against current medical advice (though this is more controversial than demand feeding). The phrase “begin as you wish to continue” seems to crop up several times, and makes little sense to me. There are many, many things I do now – breastfeeding, babywearing, sticking a finger in his diaper to see if Cecil’s peed – that I don’t plan on continuing indefinitely, because children and their needs change as they grow.

However, I do know people who’ve gotten good results with this book, so YMMV.

Your Baby and Child (Penelope Leach) – I think this was my favourite of the four books. Written in a somewhat serious style, it contains a lot of good advice without hewing to one parenting style in particular. The Sears and Hogg books were both advocating for particular method; Leach presents information about different options and ideas for solving problems. If I do buy one I think I’ll get this, with possibly the Sears book as an alternative.

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