Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the year

This is going to be a hard year's end for me to write. The year hasn't actually been all that bad, but the last month has, and it will be difficult for me not to let December change my perceptions of everything else that happened. I don't know that I've ever been so happy to see the back of a month--and I can only hope for better things for the next year.

Good things I would like to remember from 2008: Buying the house, moving in with the boyfriend, adopting the cat, the Danforth Music Hall, front row for Great Big Sea, the "Crisis in Orkientalism" lecture, 3 year contract, "Life of Pi" lecture, Darren's wedding, Ravelry, new friends, old friends, Extras, new babies, Juno soundtrack, Stars album, 7 Nights Pt. II announced, Tropic Thunder, Wall-E.

I will also remember the people I lost this year.

For resolutions, I have a pretty big list:
1) Eating better. (This is already in progress, but there's always room for improvement.)
2) Finish knitting projects, and knitting through the stash. It's getting quite big.
3) Be more sympathetic. (I've had a very hard time seeing beyond myself this year. I want to change that.)
4) Be more active.
5) Write more. (Including blogging every day!)
6) Be happier.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book Challenge, yeah

Since I clearly don't read anywhere near as much as I should, I've decided to sign up for the "What's in a name? 2" book challenge. You get six categories and have to choose and read a book with a title that fits that category.

1. A book with a "profession" in its title.
2. A book with a "time of day" in its title.
3. A book with a "relative" in its title.
4. A book with a "body part" in its title.
5. A book with a "building" in its title.
6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title.

My choices:
1.) J.K. Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard
2.) Dennis Lehane's The Given Day
3.) Joyce Carol Oates's My Sister, My Love
4.) Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness
5.) Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth
6.) Vincent Lam's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

the goose is getting fat

Every year my parents ask me what I want for Christmas. It always takes me a really long time to figure out what I want, and this year has been no exception. In fact, I only realized what I wanted this morning. Which, what with being a good week from Christmas, is much too late to actually communicate that to my mother.

(An iPod touch, just in case you were wondering.)

I took Cait Christmas shopping this morning, and managed to keep the spending to a minimum, although once I get paid on Friday I'll be heading back to the mall. I actually only have a few gifts left to buy: Boyfriend's mother, Boyfriend's sister's boyfried (...), one friend, and a cousin. I do have a couple of things left to knit, though, and most of them seem to be for my mother. (Who has suddenly decided that she wants a hat, please and thank you.)

I've been knitting frantically for the last few days, which have been a bit stressful. My gauge, normally quite loose, is like cast iron--to the point where I actually had to tear out part of my knitting. (When I went to try it on, I could hardly get my hand through it.) The other result of this tension is that I've actually started to lose some of the feeling in my left arm. As tingling and numbness of the arms, particularly the left arm, are not especially good things to be experiencing, I was worried that it might be something else, but it is definitely the knitting. Bah humbug.

wherever you go, there you are

Every once in a while, the universe likes to remind me that I am actually exactly where I should be. Today was very much one of those days. The semester is done, and I have been working from home on marking knitting fiendishly for the last few days. Today I had a meeting at the school, and between one thing and another (specifically, Boyfriend and Cat) I wound up leaving a few minutes late. As I was driving up the hill, a Crowded House song came on the radio--and if I had left on time, I would surely have missed it.

After my meeting, I had to grab a book from my office, and when I got there, there was a small package attached to my doorknob with a note:
“Professor X,
I saw these at the booksale and they made me think of you. One is new but has lots of margin notes and the other is old and doesn’t have any notes. If you already have them feel free to give them away. Happy holidays!”

The books in question are a new Folgers copy of Romeo and Juliet, and an old (1923) Copps Canada Library copy of Henry V. To say that this made my day would be a massive understatement. The marking I've done in the last couple of weeks has been soulcrushing, for lack of a better term, and I really needed something like this to remind that there is a reason for me to be here. I have no idea who sent the books, but I'm really happy that he or she did. Thank you, Anonymous Student!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sleigh bells ring...

What a week. What do you mean, it's only Wednesday? Tell that to my bones.

So much has been happening these last few days--to me, to my friends, to Canada. These would be exciting times to be alive if they weren't so darn scary.

On a personal level, I finally accomplished something this week that's been ten years in the making: I am now a fully licensed driver. It only took me ten years. I took my first G level test about three weeks ago, and failed, but this test went much better. (When the examiner asked me to parallel park, and I pulled up beside a Smart Car, I figured everything was going to be okay.)

I am also finished school until January, which is fantastic. Loads of marking to be done, but that's okay.

The Boyfriend and I have also put up our first Christmas tree. We did this Sunday night, and the cat has already succeeded in removing three of the bottom branches. (It's an artificial tree. Boyfriend is allergic to the real kind, which is unfortunate, as the cat might have more difficulty with a real one.) He (cat, not boyfriend) has also figured out how to remove some of the ornaments, and plays a game where he throws one of his pompoms into the branches and then has to go get it. It's quite adorable to watch. I am a bad cat disciplinarian.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

the most blunderful time of the year...

The countdown is on. One day left to this week; three days left next week, and minimal teaching all around. (Minimal teaching, of course, means maximal marking. Bah humbug to that.) I'm always ground down this time of year; I let my job be more stressful than it should be, and I am so effing ready for a break I can taste it. I went to bed at 11 p.m. last night, and woke up around 7:30 this morning. It's now 4 in the afternoon, and I am exhausted. There's nothing left in this tank. Just air.

(As an illustration of my point, I just paused from writing this scintillating rumination on my life to go pick up some stuff from the print room here. Apparently, you actually need to send documents to the printer before they will be printed off. Where the heck is my telepathic printer?)

Don't get me wrong. I like my job. But I'm ready for a break right now. I'm ready for comfy clothes and healthy food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and time spent with a cat who has no sense of entitlement except when it comes to the Boyfriend's computer chair. I don't want to read more essays that misinterpret both texts and questions. I don't want to be as tired and frustrated as I am right now.

I'm hoping the quick trip home this weekend will refresh me. If not, maybe I will just sleep for the whole month of December.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goodbye, yellow brick road...

I have lead a life that been largely untouched by death. In 27 years, I have lost only three family members, and no friends. Today changed that. A friend of mine went out for a run last night, had a heart attack, and died, at the age of 44 years.

I've known John for about four years now. We met at The Historic Site Which Shall Not Be Named, where he was working part time while teaching. I was working on my MA thesis project at the time, which he was quite interested in, as his background was in history. He shared my love for North Bay Rock City, having also attended Nipissing for the Bachelor of Education program. Our paths would cross at work several times over the next couple of months, and we grew to be friends outside of work as well.

John was always up for a good time. He loved to grab a pint at Cellarman's, or to stop by other people's houses, or welcome us into his home. The Possum Lounge, his cool, drafty attic, was a wonderful place to hang out, full of hockey memorabilia and souvenirs of John's life. He loved music, as well, recording and releasing his first CD, Highway 401 Tonight, this past year.

John had a very generous and kind heart. When I lost my first teaching job two years ago after the board restructured, he went out of his way to offer me supply days in his kindergarten classroom. Oh yeah--that's also the kind of guy that John was: the kind of guy who was quite happy to teach in the primary stream. When I went into his classroom, it was very apparent how much his students just adored him, ahnd with good reason: he made up songs just for them, and created a strong, nurturing class environment. I can't even imagine how his little ones are going to deal with this.

I think what makes this so hard to understand and to accept (aside from the part where I just plain don't know how to deal with it) is that John was at the peak of his existence. And sure, it's a cliche to say that someone "was taken to soon" or anything along those lines, but it does actually apply here. A few months ago, John met a woman and fell hard for her. They had just purchased a house together, and given their housewarming party four days ago. I saw them at the Historic Site over Thanskgiving, and their happiness was so complete that it was almost tangible. My heart breaks every time I think about what she is going through now.

How terrible to be taken away from this world just as everything comes together. It is difficult not be saddened by all the missed opportunities; the unfulfilled potential; the memories. But at the same time, I can't help but think--at least he was happy.

Take care, John. I hope you know how much your friendship meant to me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gears of War: 90 years since Armistice

"But it's not 'Lest We Forget', it's 'Lest We Remember.'"
--Alan Bennett, The History Boys

I'm a big fan of Alan Bennett's The History Boys, though sadly I have yet to see a stage production of it. For me, one of the most intriguing scenes in the movie deals with Irwin, the teacher, attempting to teach the boys about how the first and second World Wars fit into their views of history. The quotation above sticks in my mind for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I am currently very interested in how we choose to commemorate and remember our dead.

My maternal great-grandfather fought in WWI; my paternal grandfather participated in WWII as a Royal Engineer, and saw action in both the European and Pacific theatres. Both were fortunate enough to survive. I do not take war lightly; I do not take lightly the sacrifices made, nor the people who are overseas right now--no matter how much I disagree with our role in Afghanistan. That said, I'm really unimpressed with a commercial put together by the Royal Canadian Mint to commemorate this year's Remembrance Day. The commercial in question is below:

This commercial bothers me because it approaches war from the perspective of a first person shooter video game, like Wolfenstein or Halo. War video games have always made me uncomfortable: I feel that they trivialize the sacrifices made by those fought and those who died. They simplify history into the lowest common denominator of GOOD (us) vs. BAD (them), and remove the humanity from history. Battles that real people fought in become simply obstacles to be defeated; levels to be conquered. There is no humanity in it anymore: it is simply entertainment and cinematics.

(I am aware of the various counterarguments here--movies as entertainment/glorification of war/propaganda; no real difference from non-war first person shooters; etc., but I will simply remind you that when watching a movie, or playing Halo, there is an additional level of fiction built in. You don't have to kill anyone simply watching Saving Private Ryan, and you don't have to kill anyone human in an FPS, which makes it much easier to disassociate yourself.)

Obviously, the Mint has chosen to portray this ad in this way for a particualr reason: they think it will appeal to a different audience. And to an extent, I think they're right--I was sure this was an ad for a video game, since it apes the conventions of video game trailers most expertly. The implied message, though, is what makes me so uncomfortable. In the video game world, war is a finite series of combats that have an infinite number of 'do overs' and 'save points'. If you die, well, just start over! If you stick to it long enough, by Geroge, you'll eventually beat the whole thing! And then you can put the CD back in its case, and leave it on a shelf, and forget all about it. There is no real sacrifice--not by the soldiers, not by those living in the war zone, not by those left at home. The actions of the gamer have no real consequences--unlike the soldier's. Even more than that, there is no aftermath. The war simply ends when you take out the game. There are no war reparations, no post traumatic stress disorder, and no real cost involved.

What a sad statement it is on us, that we have to interest people in remembrance in this way.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

American Politics Through Canadian Eyes

I'm a pretty staunch Canadian nationalist, and I've spent a good portion of my life convincing myself that I don't care at all about what happens in the States. Obviously, as I've gotten older and my worldview has developed, I've realized how foolish that is, and I followed the 2008 presidential race pretty closely for someone who didn't even get to cast a ballot.

Canada just came through an election that few wanted, to the tune of $300 million, and it has been fascinating to contrast that process with what I've seen unfold in the US. We were sluggish and apathetic, lacking leadership in a time where it could have made all the difference. The status quo remains here. The Americans, by contrast, are fiery and energized. People care. Voter turn out was awesome, inspite of a million difficulties.

And Barack Obama was elected.

I watched the election coverage by myself, knitting away on a toddler sweater. The first few hours were so tense for me that I had to keep changing the channel every few minutes (perhaps CNN's Election Night in America music had something to do with this) but as more and more states went blue, I was able to relax and just enjoy. At 11 p.m., when CNN declared for Obama, I lost it. I cried. Watching the reactions of everyone gathered in Chicago, and in the studio, and in Ebenezer Baptist Church was truly awe inspiring.

John McCain's concession speech was very classy. I know some have expressed the idea that it was written by someone else, and not necessarily something he believed, but I think he did an excellent job of selling it. He behaved very graciously and spoke very eloquently. (Just out of curiosity, does his voice remind anyone else of Andy Rooney's?)

Obama's speech had me tearing up again. It served to showcase all of his best qualities, and again, watching the crowd's response to him was as heartwarming as actually watching him. I'm so happy his daughters get a puppy. His story about 106 year old Ann Nixon Cooper was especially strong. It is easier to believe in the future now. I have hope.

One of my more politically inclined friends told me a few months ago that Stephen Harper timed his election to avoid being conflated with the American election, in fear that an Obama victory might turn the tide against the Conservative Party here in Canada, and I have to say that I think he's probably right about that. (So, unfortunately, was Stephen Harper--I don't think Obama's victory would have done anything good for his party.)

Here's to the future, everyone. Regardless of your politics, let us believe that things can only get better from here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

4 Nights at the Palais Royale

As I was driving home from work tonight, I was reflecting on birthdays past. Last year's was pretty quiet, a quick trip down to Guelph to visit the boyfriend; the year before that was...well, messy but a lot of fun. In the long run, only a few of my birthdays really stick out in my mind in a really concrete way. And that's just well--it really is only another day, but with cake. (If you're lucky. There was no cake for me this year.)

There is one birthday that stands out from all of the others, though, and as I was driving home, I came to the realization that this is actually the tenth anniversary of that day.

The year was 1998. I was in grade twelve. Chretien was Prime Minister; Mike "the Knife" Harris had Ontario firmly in his grip. It was November, which is a threshold month in Ontario, neither autumn nor winter. But none of this mattered: It was my seventeenth birthday, and I was going to see my favourite band in concert for the first time.

Sloan defined my adolescence in a way that no other band could. Most of my friends hated them, often for the reasons that I liked them so much: strummy Beatles-esque guitars, earnest vocals, playful lyrics, warm production values. Of course, there was also the boys themselves. (It is strange to think that at the time, they were the age I am now.) The boys of Sloan were real: genuine, Canadian, and normal. Unlike the Backstreet Boys or Hanson or other boy bands that some of my friends adored, these were no poster boys--sure, I was head over heels for Patrick, but he was the kind of guy that you might serendipitously run into at the mall when shopping in Toronto, not some farflung matinee idol. (That did actually happen, and he was totally awesome about it.)

The other reason that Sloan was integral to me as an adolescent was because of their online presence. My introduction to Sloan via "The Lines You Amend" in 1996 (a song described by Rolling Stone as beginning like "The Ballad of John and Yoko" before morphing into a "likable hybrid of T. Rex and Crowded House"--srsly, you wonder why I love this band?) came at roughly the same time as my introduction to the internet. The early Sloan online community was a revelation to me: as socially awkward, nerdy, and unsure of myself as I was at that age, the Sloan Message Board was full of fine, kind, accepting people. No one online cared that I wasn't sure about drinking, or that I didn't want to do drugs, or that I liked school. In some ways, these relationships were often more satisfying than my real life friend: these people liked me for who I was. For the first time, I was able to forge an identity as part of a group that I felt secure in. As a result, ten years on I am unable to separate my love for the band/music from my love for the people that they connected me to: it is part and parcel of the experience for me.

So on that cool November day, my dad drove me and my friend Erin down to the Palais Royale, a converted dance hall right on the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto. It had been a popular venue for big bands, once upon a time, and the floor was mounted on springs to move with the dancers. It was a truly magical venue.

Rufus Wainwright was the opening act, having just released his debut album, and his pop-opera sound was mesmerizing--especially "April Fools". His sister Martha performed with him wearing black pants with red pockets. It's strange what you remember after all this time.

My dad ditched us for the safety of the 19+ section, so we positioned ourselves on the Jay side of the stage, right in front of the speaker stack. On its technical merits, the concert wasn't anything spectacular. Sloan wasn't an especially tight live band at that time. Anything it lacked in technique, the show more than made up for in charm: the set list might have been taken right from my heart. And even now I have a hard time remembering another show that hit so many of my favourites.

After teh show, my dad found Erin and me, and we watched the roadies clean up the stage. When one of them got to the drumkit, he pantomimed throwing the drumsticks out into the crowd. My companions began to short, "Birthday girl! Birthday girl!" until he relented and handed half a drumstick to me.

I still have it, along with the letter Jay wrote to me one time, in a box in my parents' basement.

Sloan played four shows at the Palais Royale that week, which were collected and mixed into 4 Nights at the Palais Royale, a double live album. I bought it on its release date, six months later, and though tonight is the first night in years that I've listened to it, I couldn't ask for a better momento of that night.

I would go on to see Sloan some five or six times over the next few eyars. I would eventually meet all of them, and run a fansite for one. But as I got older, I grew up and away from the band. University and adulthood crept in, and Neil Finn/Crowded House became my defining soundtrack. (Ironically, the first time I would see the Finn in concert, it would be in that same Palais Royale.) Somewhere along the way, my world had changed.

The seventeen year old Rhiannon could hardly have imagined what her world would look like ten years later. The friend she loved most, enough to share this concert with, is someone I haven't spoken to in eight years. She dreamed desperately of owning a record player--I don't even own a CD player anymore. She dreamed even more desperately of having a date--I've just bought a house with my partner of four years. She went to so many shows, bought so many CDs--I've been to maybe two shows in the last year, haven't seen Sloan in five, and haven't bought a CD since January. I'm not as smart, as cool, or as indie as she thought she was. In the end, it's okay, though--I'm also a lot happier than I ever thought I could be, when I was seventeen.

Happy to me

27 is not off to a good start. It seems unjust to have to work an 8:30-5:30 day (even if I do get to meet with an old friend for lunch)--but the real injustice is that when I woke this morning, it was not to the sound of my alarm at 7:00, but to the sound of my cat vomitting all over my brand new duvet. At 5:30.

Now, I can hardly be mad at the poor little guy--today is a big day for him, too. He's six months old now, which means it is time for the big snip. He wasn't allowed to have any food after 8 p.m. last night, and I think his hunger drove him to have a nibble or two of the lone plant in our house. Or at least, that's what I'm assuming the bright green stain on my duvet was caused by. I sure hope it comes out.

Hallowe'en was a good time. The Professor McGonagall costume was a big hit, so I'm pretty sure that I will reprise it next year, and my evening costume came together pretty well considering I started it only three days before Hallowe'en and sewed the whole thing together myself. All things told, it was a very good time--lots of good, dancing fun, including "Rock Lobster" (no "American Boy" though, alas) and more than a few mini Oh Henry bars.

Caitlin and Mum are off to Nicaragua today for the annual medical mission--I'm wishing them blue skies and smooth sailing (flying) all the way down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alpaca alpaca alpaca

Saturday's trip to the alpaca farm was pretty awesome. (If a little wet.) The alpacas are such strange but interesting creatures. They hum to each other, and they all have to poop in the same place. (It's part of the herd mentality, I guess.) The thing I like most about them is their eyes--they're just so inquisitive. I got some nice yarn, too, which is good, because the yarn diet is in full force as of now.

I picked up the material for my Hallowe'en costume today, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to pull it off for Friday. There will have to be a lot of working very hard to make it happen, but it looks like a pretty easy pattern, comparatively speaking.

This week would be great if there were about three more days in it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall is upon us in full force. The leaves are mostly gone now. It was a short leaf season this year, which is unfortunate because it is one of the most beautiful things about this city. Now it seems to be rain, snow, and increasingly colder days. One of the things I like most about the new house is that it has a very small driveway, which will make shovelling less of a chore than it was last year. (At my last apartment, which was a basement one, I somehow suckered myself into shovelling the driveway [which is easily six times the size of my driveway] on my landlady's schedule--lots of 6 a.m. days, and lots of shovelling the driveway 4+ times a day.)

Lots of the mail I was waiting for finally showed up this week, including my Professor McGonagall hat and rosewood wand (see previous post), but also my latest KP order AND my birthday present from the boy (my very own personal ball winder and swift). The Imagination sock yarn at KnitPicks is just gorgeous. I bought two balls each of Wicked Witch and Looking Glass--it's an alpaca/merino/nylon blend and the colours are stunning. I'm contemplating a scarf in the Looking Glass for the youngest skylark sister, since it's her colours (turquoises, aquas, blues, greys) but I'm not sure about it since it's got such a high nylon content.

The ball winder and swift are especially fun to the cat, who thinks that it is Great Fun to try to chase the swift when it spins, and then is surprised when he gets caught under the umbrella part.

This afternoon, I get to go make friends with alpacas. The knitting guild has been invited out to the alpaca farm outside of town. The sisters and I went in the spring, but it was a pretty quick visit during an open house. This time we get to go into the barns and actually see how the alpacas are cared for and such. The owner has a lovely little yarn shop there, full of yarns from her alpacas and from an Ontario alpaca co-op where everyone contributes some fibre and then they all get yarn. I think I'm going to wear the socks I made from the yarn I bought when we went in the spring--is this the knitter's equivalent of wearing the band's shirt to a rock concert? (A faux pas I've never committed, I should note.) My camera is definitely coming with and I'm hoping to pick up some yarn. It's not breaking the yarn diet if it's local, one of a kind yarn, right?

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Hallowe'en approaches (a scarce eight days!) and I still have no idea what I want to be. I'm going to be Professor Minerva McGonagall during the day, of course. (My McGonagall hat came in the mail yesterday; it is ENORMOUS.)

But what to be at night? No idea. I need to decide pretty quickly here, as this weekend will be my prime costume making time. If it helps, I'm going to a party, so it isn't just a "handing out candy at the door" kind of deal.

All suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I took this picture about an hour ago. It hasn't stopped snowing since then. My poor pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

plus ca change...

So, $290 million later, what do we have to say for ourselves?

Not much, apparently. We still don't want to give Harper a majority mandate, but we sure as heck don't want those other guys in there, either. What a mess--the Ceeb is even reporting this election as having the lowest voter turnout since 1898.

Stephan Dion is in a whole heap of trouble. The Liberals' showing in this election speaks pretty clearly to how the Canadian populace responds to Dion as leader. (Which is unfortunate, as he has been fighting an uphill battle this whole time, and I quite like him.) He seems convinced that he will stay on as leader, which is a decision that may end up costing the Liberals quite a lot of money (as it forces them to undertake a leadership review, which their broke party can ill afford). Neither Iggy nor Rae seemed willing to admit to their own leadership hopes last night on camera, but it's got to be on their minds.

The Liberal candidate here, Anthony Rota was re-elected handily; the only one of his party to retain his/her seat in Northern Ontario...Health Minister Tony Clement held on to Parry Sound-Muskoka, turning his 28 vote margin from 2006 into a 10 000+ vote of confidence...and the rest of the north fell to the NDP. Back home in Simcoe Grey, Helena Guergis (who has the dubious distinction of being our country's second sexiest female MP after Rona Ambrose) easily defeated her opponents despite some controversy over Site 41.

The highlight of watching the election results come in, though, was CTV's Craig Oliver, who was wonderfully cranky and crusty, and made sure to ask all of the candidates he spoke to all of the delightfully direct questions that other reporters would just pussyfoot around. You, sir, are my hero.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Election madness and the genius of Stephen Leacock

(Note: I had actually written most of this post last week, but my work computer ate it, so I'm re-creating from memory.)

Tomorrow Canadians return to the polls to elect a new federal government. This election is ill conceived from pretty much every angle: No one party stands to gain much here, aside from Elizabeth May and her Green Party. (Though, when you have nothing, there is nowhere to go but up.) We have no hope of anything but minority government, which means it's only a matter of time before we are back at the polls, and broke again.

Last election I got to hang out with Ryan, eating strawberry shortcake, and conversing intelligently as we watched the numbers come in from across the country. No such luck this time, though I will still be watching.

It is at times like this that I am reminded of the awesomeness of Stephen Leacock. Certainly one of the reasons why I'm partial to his work is that he's a hometown boy, so I do identify strongly with the satire that he enacts in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town--a satire that is still relevant 96 years later:

Let me begin at the beginning. Everybody in Mariposa is either a Liberal or a Conservative or else is both. Some of the people are or have been Liberals or Conservatives all their lives and are called dyed-in-the-wool Grits or old-time Tories and things of that sort. These people get from long training such a swift penetrating insight into national issues that they can decide the most complicated question in four seconds: in fact, just as soon as they grab the city papers out of the morning mail, they know the whole solution of any problem you can put to them. There are other people whose aim it is to be broad-minded and judicious and who vote Liberal or Conservative according to their judgment of the questions of the day. If their judgment of these questions tells them that there is something in it for them in voting Liberal, then they do so. But if not, they refuse to be the slaves of a party or the henchmen of any political leader. So that anybody looking for henches has got to keep away from them.

But with all the talk of strategic voting, it's the eleventh chapter of Sunshine Sketches that comes to mind, entitled "The Candidacy of Mr. Smith":

In any case, everybody who has ever seen Mariposa knows just what election day is like. The shops, of course, are, as a matter of custom, all closed, and the bar rooms are all closed by law so that you have to go in by the back way. All the people are in their best clothes and at first they walk up and down the street in a solemn way just as they do on the twelfth of July and on St. Patrick's Day, before the fun begins. Everybody keeps looking in at the different polling places to see if anybody else has voted yet, because, of course, nobody cares to vote first for fear of being fooled after all and voting on the wrong side.

Don't worry about being fooled, gentle reader. Vote for who you think would do the best job. I know it seems like a piss poor choice sometimes, but it is a choice that we have, and that's worth a lot. The system only works if you let it: strategic voting doesn't help anyone here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

we only said goodbye with words

This post is my 399th here at this blog, which seems like a great number, except that I have been blogging here since 2002. Not such a great track record, after all. I've done better at blogging this year than I did last year, though, which is a promising sign.

So, in the interests of approaching that magical 400th post, I should probably say something interesting here. With regards to my last post and the election contretemps therein, I'm given pause to wonder about the results of the police investigations into the incident as hate crime. If Popescu had said, "All Jews should die," or "All black people should be put to death," would it even be a question that his words constitute hate crime? It wouldn't. So why is homophobia more socially acceptable in this way? What does that say about us?

I've completed weekend #3 in my four weekends away from home. This one found me in Fergus and Guelph for the wedding of a friend from grad school. I love going back to Guelph - it just makes me sad that I don't live there any longer. The wedding ceremony was wonderful: it showcased the couple very well. The reception was an excellent time. Alicia is a Jane Austen nut, and Jason is a Batman fan, so they each had an action figure with them at the head table. It was adorable.

I got to catch up with two of the other women I went to Guelph with, both of whom are doing interesting and awesome things right now, and who really make me miss the MA experience. I'm giving serious thought to the PhD now. I think I actually want it now (I haven't for the last few years) but I am terrified of the changes it will make to my life.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

dreaming of better lives (the kind which never hate)

This is terrible. Not only that, it's in my own backyard. It's a pretty interesting situation--I'm troubled by the school board's reaction, in particular. I'm appalled that they left Sudbury Sec's principal to fend for himself rather than making a comment as a board. I also don't know what to make of the principal's response: Yes, we certainly do want to promote freedom of speech, but we can't do so at the risk of spreading hate? Do Popescu's comments constitute hate crime?

I'll be interested to see what the investigation into his comments turns up. It's been a few years since I taught grade twelve law, so I'm a little rusty on the hate crime laws...but this incident has the potential to have far reaching implications for how we think about public debate and how we try to involve our youth in political discourse.

I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Salami Bridal and Other Adventures

At times I feel like I live several very separate lives. Family, university friends, SMATH friends, seminar instructor, post-university friends...these segments seldom intersect. So when my friend Jess asked me to be in her wedding party, she was quite surprised to find out that this will be my third time down the aisle (and, by conventional wisdom like "three times a bridesmaid, never a bride", the key to eternal singledom). The wedding isn't til next August, but Jess wanted to get an early start on everything. And that's how we found ourselves on our way to Toronto visit a bridal salon that will forever be known as "Salami Bridal" in our minds and in our hearts.

The day started out well enough, but when we arrived at the bridal salon, it was in a tiny strip mall, directly above, of all things, a deli. Inside, it was small and dingy. There was only one fitting room, and we wound up having to trade off mirror time with another bride. None of this is particularly bad, really, but after we had tried on a number of bridesmaid dresses, Jess wanted to look at their bridal range, and that's when disaster struck. She had on the third dress of the day when our sales consultant came in and told Jess to get dressed: "My next appointment will be here in a few minutes and you have to go." Just like that. Since there were four bridesmaids and a bride, we'd booked a double appointment (or thought we had), and we thought we still had loads of time. As we went out the door, the sales consultant told us we could come back when we were ready to order.

Not bloody likely.

Fortunately the rest of the day was a very good time, even if I ate far too much. I was only a little hungover on the car ride home, despite not sleeping very much last night. Today has been the most gloriously lazy day for both me and the cat, who has worked out a way to lie across my lap between my stomach and the laptop, and who is currently sacked out like a ragdoll. Silly cat.

ETA: When we were at the second bridal store in Barrie, Jess was trying on the dress that she was about 75% sure she was going to get so that we could all see it. No sooner was she zipping it up than Paul McCartney and Wings's "Maybe I'm Amazed" comes on the radio, which is her and Aaron's wedding song. It's definitely a sign.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I open at the close

The first 'real' week of school has been quite a challenge. I've got seminars in two courses this year (the first year intro course AND the second year British literature survey) and the balancing act required therein has been difficult at best. Add in a little personal turmoil and you've got the makings of a week that I'm quite pleased is over.

I taught scansion in the first year courses and it went from being an unmitigated disaster on day one to being mostly okay by day five, which is excellent since it's something that I'm totally crap at. If you want obscure New Wave song lyrics from the 80s, I'm your girl. If you want to know anything about rhythm...well...*cough*. I get to teach it again in second year next week, so we'll hope that they are able to grasp it. Overall I've been really impressed with my second year courses thus far.

I received an email from an old internet friend that I'd fallen out of touch with several years ago. After adding each other to the key social networking places (as you do) we discovered that since we last spoke, we have continued to share interests. It's hard to explain why that makes me so happy, but it does: the friendship that I treasure most seem to be those that can hang infinitely in the balance, but always fall back into place in the most satisfying way that says: Here we are again.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

someone smudged my Puma

I was late for one of my own classes today owing to some unforeseen circumstances(and that particular sub-section of Murphy's Law that states that if you're already late, more stuff is just going to make you even later.) Talk about embarassing. I really hope that this doesn't get the whole thing off on the wrong foot for the year. Logically I understand that I will probably think about this a lot more (and be much harder on myself about it) than any of my students will, but in the meantime...I'm really mad at myself.

The premiere of So You Think You Can Dance Canada is tonight, and as much as I hate the audition portion of any talent reality show, I'm quite excited about this. The kitten mostly hopes that there isn't a lot of Mary Murphy, because it wakes him up from his naps when she screams.

More class tomorrow, and then I've made it to my first weekend. Hurray!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Why I Can't Give Conference Papers

I've been trying to plan out my academic year for the last little bit; a big part of this involves trying to figure what kinds of scholarship I'm going to engage in. I would really like to attend this year's NeMLA, but most of the topic areas that interest me are ones that I just couldn't give conference papers on. Here's why:

Cheering for the Bad Guy: The Rise of the Anti-hero in Popular Culture: From Sweeney Todd to Darth Vader, some of our culture's most iconic characters stem from our darkest vices. Why do we find ourselves rooting for the bad guy in literature and popular culture so frequently? What is it about these characters that appeals to us? What does our acceptance of these characters say about contemporary society as a whole, if anything? Submissions should focus on the answers to any or all of these questions.

Here I would want write about either Noah Bennett and Sylar in Heroes or Snape and Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise, with particular reference to the role of the internet/fan culture in their success. Unfortunately, that's about all I can think of to say, unless I were to extend the Heroes talk by talking about the bad dad complex.

History, Memoir, and Comics: "History, Memoir, and Comics" invites papers on recent graphic narratives. The panel seeks papers that investigate (1) why the comics form lends itself to the representation of tragic events; (2) the strategies by which graphic narratives simultaneously invoke personal and public history; and/or (3) why studying the interaction of verbal and visual narratives matters, especially today.

This paper would go something like this: "OMG, Maus, you guys. Maus! It's so awesome. "My father bleeds history." That's not seriously the coolest thing ever written? [pause] Blankets is pretty cool, too.

[As a side note, I would add here that I'm not sure why we STILL need to discuss the questions of "why studying the interaction of verbal and visual narratives matters, especially today." Srsly.]

Lost at NeMLA: Mapping TV's Most Elusive Island: One of the most remarkable television series in recent years has been ABC's Lost. Beginning with an archetypal premise of castaways stranded on an island, the show has evolved into a complex network of obscure connections, esoteric mysteries, literary and pop cultural allusions, and baroque experiments in narrative temporality. The objective of this panel will be to contextualize the television show within diverse but complementary critical perspectives.

Say it with me, kids: Bad dads, bad dads, bad dads!

Those Who Do Not Study History Are Doomed to Watch Repeats: This panel solicits papers on remakes of television shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Queer as Folk, and The Bionic Woman. What do these remakes say about the cultures that produce them? Are these shows indicative of any obsession with history? What are the intertextual implications of the narratives? What narrative techniques do the shows employ that differ from those of "original" series?

[taps mic] So...uh...has anyone here seen Degrassi?

Don't get me wrong, I would actually like to write these papers. I just don't know that I could come up with a full fifteen minutes on any of these topics: my position as fan situates me in a place where it's very difficult to write critically. We'll see, though.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

you go back to her, and I go back to school

School starts again on Thursday. My schedule for this year is a bit of a mixed bag. Fewer students than expected, so I'm not sure what will happen with that. In the meantime, there is ought to do but enjoy this last weekend of freedom.

I got together with a few friends from university last night. What was supposed to be a few drinks for me turned into a lot more than that, and I've been paying for it all day. Blessed be they who created Gatorade.

The boyfriend and I have been re-watching Angels in America. I haven't seen it since we first started dating, and I'd forgotten how intensely satisfying it is. I want to write more about it, but it will have to wait until I've watched the whole thing. I really can't imagine seeing this as a play.

It was a good mail week for me. I got my latest KnitPicks order, including my Options Harmony needles (lovelovelove), two bottles of fragrance oil from BPAL, my ravelry shirt, and my August yarn from the Three Irish Girls sock club.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

caveat emptor

It's hard to believe, but I have been internetting around in one form or another for twelve whole years now. In that time, I have made a large number of purchases online: makeup, books, electronics, clothes, CDs/music, bath products...the list goes on.

One of the coolest things I've discovered online is the awesomeness that is Etsy. I love almost everything about it: Buying, selling, the whole "homemade" ethos...but here is a question: When you buy something from someone, and it's defective/of poor quality/not what you expected, how do you handle making a complaint or a return when it's actually a person on the other side of things?

Monday, August 04, 2008

with god as my witness...

I kissed you in a style Clark Gable would admire,
I thought it classic.

-The Postal Service, Clark Gable

The (very long, very boring) long weekend is slowly winding to a close, and I can't think of a better way to cap it off than by watching Gone With the Wind on TV, with the cat sprawled out in some sort of bizarre upside down position beside me. Poor silly kitten.

I'm trying to make the most of my last few days of freedom, but it isn't going well--making the most has translated to "wind 1600+ yards of yarn from hanks to balls" and "watch dangerous amounts of Degrassi: TNG on TV" and "discover that it takes a mere twelve minutes to walk from the house to Twiggs". Nothing especially productive, except that I am all set to go for yarn for the Ravelympics.

I've got a couple of good things to look forward to at school this week, though, not the least of which is Krista's return to North Bay, and possibly visits to see a few friends and their new progeny, to say nothing of the boy actually having some time off--and, of course, his 25th birthday.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

holiday weekend?

I started back to work officially yesterday. My office pod has a few new faces in and around, which is good, I suppose, though I'm sad to see some of the people go. I made some organizational plans for the month, as there isn't a tonne to do before the students start showing up.[1] The school is under construction so everything's a little off...and since we share our space with Canadore, we're looking at feeling the effects of the looming Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology strike at the end of August.

The weekend is passing slowly. Part of me wishes very strongly that I'd gone home for the weekend - I'm missing the fun of Kempenfest, and Not-Heritage Not-Festival is just not cutting it here in town. I'm sure the fact that virtually all of my friends are out of town or have plans already doesn't hurt. I've been doing lots of cleaning, reading, movie watching, and catnapping, and have discovered that Twiggs is a scant 15 minute walk from my house. This is either the best news ever or the worst news ever. I had some of their fresh squeezed lemonade today, and it was very tart.

I cast on Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts today and I'm really not loving them. I don't know if it's the pattern, or the yarn (the colours are not quite what I want them to be), or the fact that I'd rather be knitting other things (like Matilda Jane, or socks). I also need to start thinking about actually putting pen to paper for some of my design stuff.

[1] There is actually lots to do; it just seems less frantic than trying to mark 140 essays in two weeks, you know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

at loose ends

I was doing so well with the blogging, and then I fell off the wagon. Fortunately it's a slow moving wagon, and I'll hopefully be able to get back on to it shortly. I start back to work on Friday (well, my contract starts on Friday, anyway) and I think that will help me stay organized. After two and a half months off work, I am craving the comfort of routine like you wouldn't believe. I don't even have that much to do for the first month, aside from get myself organized and build a really tech website, but it will still be good to get up in the morning with a little more purpose than "watch the Iron Chef I taped last night" and "nap on the couch with the kitten". And to wear clothes aside from jeans and a tank top.

I found a Call for Papers for a book looking for articles on reconciliation and redress in relation to historical injustice and Canadian identity, and I think there is a chance I can rework my MA research paper to fit it, which would be major league exciting. If I can't rework the paper, I think I can reuse my research to write a new one.

I really want to knit something right now, but I don't know what to do. My Matilda Jane is stalled pending bust shaping help from the designer. The socks I was working on are stalled because they're one of my entries for the Ravelympics, and I'm not supposed to work on them until the Olympics start next week. I could just cast on something new but that involves winding yarn into balls, which is not the easiest task to accomplish when you have a kitten who is full of beans.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I can has kitteh?

Yes, u can has kitteh.

Kitteh has no name at present, but he does have cute. His shelter name is Elliot but he's young enough that we'll be able to rename him (he doesn't respond to Elliot at all). I really like the name Elliott (which seems all the more apropos as Brett and I have been talking about Elliott Smith all week) but the boyfriend does not. I'm thinking a Neil Gaiman name would be nice. Perhaps Tristan? It is hard to say.

Owning a house is far more stressful than I had ever anticipated. Kittehs make things better.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day

I've lived in North Bay Rock City off and on since 2000, but this is my first summer here. It's been a good summer so far (though I'll be happy to go back to work in August; I'm feeling a bit shiftless right now). One thing I've never experienced before, though, is the shadflies.

I've heard stories about the shadflies, of course, but actually experiencing them is an entirely different story. They are the oldest insect (apparently) in the world, and evolution has not seen fi to give them working mouths, so when they hatch from the water and become winged insects, they can't actually eat, and die off quickly. There are so many of them here- when I go to pick up Mat from work, it's almost like driving in snowy weather. I'm so happy our house isn't close to the water - I can't imagine dealing with them on a daily basis like that.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dr. Claw

We spent last night at the apartment, woke up early, and got to work. We cleaned the place out in under four hours, and now we officially live here.

Now that we know that the amount of stuff coming in here has relatively stabilized, we are much better off. The dehumidifier is downstairs, kicking ass and taking names, and things have dried out to the point that I'm okay with putting stuff down there. The master bedroom still needs to be painted, and I'm hoping that we can finalize our colour choice tonight/tomorrow, and go pick up the paint and start painting on Wednesday. Once that's done, we can build our bed, and set up the dressers. Come Friday, the split boxspring for the bed will be delivered, and the room will be good to go. Once that happens, the guest room will empty out a bit, and I'll be able to get into the (currently completely packed) craft room and start organizing and prepping for paint there. I put a pretty good dent in the dining room today, but a lot of the stuff there belongs to The Boyfriend, and I'm not quite sure what he intends to do with all of it.

James came over last night, and brought a house warming gift all the way from Sudbury - he brought us a hermit crab and its complete habitat. The crab has a coconut house. It's so fun. I was worried that he was dead, but he moved from his cocohut to his sponge, so I guess he's doing okay. I have to feed him tomorrow, and mist his sponge. I also have to try to convince Mat that we should name him Dr. Claw.

I got my first fun mail at the new house today: two parcels. The first contained my swap kit from HSKS5, which was full of tremendous things, including some of the most beautiful sock yarn imaginable; the second was from KnitPicks, which was unexpected. The last time I ordered from them, it took a really long time to get here...nearly three weeks. This one came within 9 days of me ordering, all the more impressive given that 3 of those days were weekends, and that it ships from the States.

I got some bare yarn to dye, a set of their laminated wood DPNs, and the dye starter set (2 blues, 2 reds, a yellow and a black). A couple of the girls from the knitting guild here are going to show me how to dye the yarn--I'm so excited.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

working hard...

So today The Boyfriend's parents came up, bringing with them everything he has ever owned. Our house is now full of stuff. It is going to take forever to get it organized.

We had a bit of a scare on Friday when we realized the box spring for our new mattress was not going to go upstairs. Thankfully we were able to get the delivery guys to take it back to the Brick, and exchange it for a split box, which is coming (hopefully) on Friday of this week. Our original plan had been to take The Boyfriend's old mattress and set that up in the second bedroom for our guest room, but that was foiled today when we tried to get the box (only a double) up the stairs and failed at it. (We wound up, eventually, at Home Depot, where 4 4x4s and two sheets of chipboard are taking the place of the boxspring...not ideal, but it's a guest room, so hopefuly no one will be there long term.)

Tomorrow we have to finish moving out of the apartment, and clean it. And then the cleaning here can begin...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

now we're getting somewhere

If nothing else, the living room is more or less ready to go. Every time I feel a little bit panicked, I come in here and look at my beautiful sofa and loveseat, and the nice tables. It calms me right down. Eventually stuff will get done. It might seem unbelievably chaotic right now, but in good time we will get things in order.

Also, we now have a barbeque, courtesy of the best parents in the world. It is full of AWESOME.

Friday, June 27, 2008

our house, in the middle of our street

I am the kind of person who likes things to work out. I was originally going to write that I'm not a patient person, but that actually isn't true: I'm normally very patient. I just like it when things work out the way that they are supposed to. I like people who meet deadlines (or, if they miss them, who can communicate what's happening clearly). I'm very much my father's type A daughter.

Buying houses and moving is not for type A people.

It has been a couple of very crazy, very overwhelming days around here. Somethings have gone well: We spent a lot of money yesterday, but we got excellent value for our money. We successfully cleaned the carpets. The phone, internet, and satellite all got hooked up like they were supposed to be (and Bell Canada continues to astound me by actually treating me well as a customer). On the whole, though, I feel like there's been a lot of one step forward, two step back. The house was not very clean when we took possession. I wasn't expecting it to be immaculate by any stretch of the imagination, but this is a little outside what I would normally consider acceptable. The tub is hideous. The judicious application of CLR is helping to clear it up, but it will still have to be replaced. The previous owners also decided it would be a good idea to paint the unfinished cement floor in the basement with some of that cement paint, which is actually a good idea, if you can be troubled to take the time to actually sweep and scrub the floor before painting, and also run a dehumidifier in the basement, which is exceptionally damp. So damp, in fact, that when you walk downstairs, the paint will come off whatever you are walking on...

The real kicker, though? We have mice. We found a trap in one cupboard and evidence of tunnelling in another. Upon further examination outside, we discovered that they are probably coming in our chimney. Awesome. On one hand, I can understand why a seller would be reluctant to disclose something like prior to a sale, but that would have been a lot nicer than getting that fun surprise all on our own.

The silver lining in that cloud is that my "Can we please get a cat?" argument is suddenly much more valid.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This will likely go down in history as the most expensive week of my life. We paid our closing costs yesterday, and took possession of the house today at about noon. Since then, we have been shopping, shopping, shopping, and will likely do more of the same tomorrow.

Things we have purchased in the last week: Sofa, loveseat, mattress and boxspring, sleigh bedframe (sounds extravagant but wasn't - we got it for 25% of the original price because it's a floor model), chest, three tables, an enormous bucket of primer, rollers, spackle, spackle spatulas, two fans, eavestrough extenders, gardening gloves, wastebaskets, doormats, new doorknobs/locks, lightbulbs, oven cleaner, CLR, frying pans, paper towels, dropcloths, used towels and sheets for cleaning/painting, a tape measure, ant traps, painters' tape, and about a million other things that I can't remember right now.

We still haven't actually decided on paint colours so we'll get to back tomorrow and do it that too.

We also rented a rug shampoo-er, so we need to go get cracking on that. I'll update more later.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In which I am relieved to not be a pedophile...

I was out for coffee last week with a friend, and our conversation turned to our mutual admiration for the late, lamented TV show Everwood. There were (and are!) lots of reasons to like Everwood: great writing, directing, and acting; lots of interesting stories; DR. HAROLD ABBOTT; Bright and the Promebago. But one of the things that I used to like especially much about Everwood was the certain je-ne-sais-quoi of young Gregory Smith.

As I was telling Brett this, I realized that there was potentially something weird about what I was saying (vis-a-vis the age difference between myself and Ephram Brown) so I felt it necessary to qualify this statement by explaining that I was quite a bit younger at the time that Everwood was actually on TV, and thus closer in age to Ephram, and thus, not a pervert.

I forgot all about that until I saw some previews for Wanted, which gets a theatrical release this weekend. Imagine my surprise when I noticed the gentle beauty of a (now older) Gregory Smith doing things like dodging bullets and making eyes at Angelina Jolie and her tattoos. And then I decided that, in the interests of not being weird, I should probably find out exactly how much younger than me Gregory Smith is.

So I looked up Wanted on the IMDB. It turns out that young Gregory Smith is only two years younger than I am (and if we are being precise, he is in fact one month and two days older than The Boyfriend), which pretty much officially absolves me from being weird. It also turns out that Gregory Smith is not actually in Wanted, and the object of my viewing pleasure is actually James McAvoy. Who, incidentally, is two years *older* than me. And Scottish. And hot. Did I mention that already?

So yeah. Wanted and Wall-e this weekend, but I suspect we'll be too busy with the house to make it into either.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

an open letter to Ben Mulroney...

Dear Ben Mulroney,

I don't know that having your father be the man who signed Canada to the North American Free Trade Agreement is anything to be bragging about, especially on national TV.

A Concerned Citizen

Complaints About Harry Potter

I've been thinking about the Potter series a lot lately; partly because of my participation in the Hogwarts Sock Kit Swap and partly just because it's summer, and aside from packing I haven't really done much lately except crack through the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD and read. Oh, and knit a little bit, I guess.

Anyhow. Harry Potter. I have two main problems with these books, and they are probably not what you think they are. Yes, blah blah blah romance, blah blah blah epilogue--I'm not a huge fan of the epilogue, exactly, but at the end of the day I can accept that, you know, J.K. Rowling wrote these books and I didn't, and that as much as she's realized a very wonderful, wonderfully vivid world that I feel like I could belong to, I...don't. And it's her world, so what she says goes.

Problem the first: I have a very hard time accepting that the wizarding world is as ignorant of the Muggle world as the books make it out to be. It just doesn't make sense. First of all, there aren't *that* many wizarding communities in Britain, so most of these wizards are living in some proximity to Muggles, and it seems illogical to me that the wizards are so completely oblivious. What about money, for example? Where do wizards shop when they need things not available at Diagon Alley? (Like groceries, for example.) Additionally, I think that the younger generation of wizards (i.e., those at Hogwarts) would be much better equipped to deal with the Muggle world based on their interactions with their Muggle born counterparts.

Problem the second: which is really the more serious of the two. In the face of Muggle-born/pure blood discourse, difference becomes totalized, to the point where that difference is the only one that exists: there is no racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no religious tensions, no nationalism (which is a bigger deal in the UK than it might seem to those of us in North American, particularly to the Irish and the Scottish), etc. Upon reflection, this does actually tie in nicely with my earlier point, and I'm afraid I still don't buy it. All of these prejudices are so deeply seated that they don't just disappear with the wave of a magic wand, and Rowling does her readers a real disservice by pretending that they don't exist. Oh, sure, there's the possible parallels between blood status and racism in many countries, including Canada, but all of that becomes even more confused when you actually take the time to think about it, because, well, it doesn't really make sense. The only distinctions Rowling makes are full and half, where historical examples of "blood mania" tend to extend that concern much further many as five generations, even.

Don't get me wrong--I still very much enjoy the books, and continue to marvel at the fullness of the realm Rowling has created. I just think there are things that could have been thought out more fully.

Friday, June 13, 2008

comin' round the bend...

As of yesterday, we are two weeks away from our closing date on the house, and starting to kick in to high gear to get everything organized. Today, that means getting quotes on insurance rates. I'd had the local Co-operators Group recommended to me by a couple of people, so we started our search there.

It was an unqualified disaster.

Though The Boyfriend and I are buying the house together, in the sense that we are paying for everything together, in the more technical legal/financial sense of everything, I am buying the house. So when we went to the Co-operators office, and asked to speak with a representative to get a quote, the man we spoke to asked whose name the house would be in. Naturally, The Boyfriend told him that it was my show (his exact phrase), so of course the insurance guy decided to address himself only to The Boyfriend, asking him all the questions and handing all of the documents, including his business card, to The Boyfriend. I'm pretty sure that the only time he spoke to me directly was to take down the correct spelling of my name, since it's the one that has to go on all of the documentation.

At the end of the meeting, we found out that he is just being trained on doing quotes for home, and isn't actually licensed to sell us any of that insurance, so if we decide to take it we'll be dealing with his superior. I still kind of can't believe that it happened like that; if it weren't for the fact that it was the first thing that The Boyfriend commented on after we left, I'd think I were being too sensitive.

The quote also seemed a little high to me (not that I have much experience with these things), so I called up TD Canada Trust's insurance division this afternoon and they gave me a quote for a package that covers more and costs about 65% of the other (plus discounts when I move my auto insurance there later this month). I will be quite happy not to give Co-operators my business.

Monday, June 09, 2008

nothing matters but the weekend...

Took a quick trip home for the weekend, as The Boyfriend's brother was turning 19, and I wanted to see my parents before they took their trip across the pond. (They're on a ten day driving tour of Scotland, and it will be the second time my dad has been back since his family emigrated to Canada - the last was when he was sixteen.) It was not the best weekend I've had in a while, something of a mixed bag. The Good: Spending time with Youngest Sister and Mz. T, drinking Orangina in a martini bar, the Stompin' Tom Story, the continued love and devotion of the grey stripey cat. The Bad: The 30+ degree weather that made my parents' unairconditioned house pretty much impossible to sleep in at night, my attempt at making dinner for everyone resulting in me slicing open my ring finger.

My finger was pretty gross; my dad and sister took good care of me. I always forget (or, more correctly, never think to consider at all) that while my mom is the nurse, my dad is also a first responder in his own right, and taught first aid and CPR both for the Red Cross and for the police force. He was awesome. I was not. The heat had really wiped me out, and I'd let myself get dehydrated, so the sight of my own blood all over the kitchen made me almost pass out. Not cool at all.

What was cool is that, as I was lying on the floor in the bathroom trying to convince myself that fainting was not a option, my poor sweet Jasper cat came a tapping at the door, and came into the bathroom to check up on me. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but under normal circumstances he's afraid of the bathroom, and won't go in at all.

On the way down, we stopped at my favourite yarn store in Huntsville. I was hoping to find some worsted weight superwash, but no dice - so now I am back to the drawing table to come up with two baby shower gifts by Sunday. There was some gorgeous Fleece Artist 2/6 Merino Sock, which I scooped up, along with a set of Brittany Birch DPNs. This put me over my limit to earn my yarn credit, so I promptly cashed that in on a skein of Handmaiden's Merino Cashmere sock yarn in lovely purples. Talk about exciting. Am on yarn diet FOR REALZ now, otherwise boyfriend may be forced to find somewhere else to live.

His hobbies aren't any less expensive, they just take up less space.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

same as it ever was...

A few moments ago, I just stepped on a sewing needle that had somehow found its way on to the floor. You'd think that now that The Boyfriend is living here, I'd have someone else to blame these things on, but I'm pretty sure that a sewing needle must be mine.

The last few weeks have been busier than I ever could have imagined. My contract at the university has been renewed for three years, and it is the first time in my life that I've known what I'm doing indefinitely, which is kind of cool (especially from a financial perspective) but also a bit frightening, because I don't know if I'll be doing this for the rest of my life. (Especially since doing so would likely require the commitment of a PhD.)

So, with that duck lined up, my mother started saying "Why don't you buy a house? Maybe you could buy a house? You should really think about buying a house." I was't too sure about the idea at first--it's a huge investment, and I make okay money but not great, plus I have those student loans still hanging around my neck. So I went in to the credit union to talk to my financial adviser, and she was fantastic. We cracked through a set of numbers, discovered that an affordable mortgage for me was going to wind up being the same as what I was already paying in rent.

The rest went basically something like this: On Tuesday we went and found a real estate agent. Before we'd even made the ten minute journey back to my apartment, he'd emailed us about 20 properties, and we made a short list of ones we wanted to see. On Wednesday, we went to see about nine houses, and we made an offer on Wednesday night. The offer was accepted, and on Thursday we got the financing straightened around. On Friday, we had the home inspection, which did not go well (think 60 amp wiring and a 25 year old furnace). On Monday, we revised our offer, and the owners accepted. Our closing date is June 26. It's all happening so fast.

It's 80 years old, 1.5 storeys with 3 bedrooms on the upper floor. The main floor has a dining room, a living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom. The basement is unfinished, but has a couple of pretty sizable rooms. We are also getting two fridges, a stove, the washer and dryer, and a freezer, all of which are variously old, but minimize our initial outlay and can be replaced as we go. The backyard is huge, and there is a deck.

I was pretty nervous (or outright panicked) for a while there, but now I've moved past panic into being excited again. We won't be able to afford to do everything we want withit right away, but we'll definitely build towards it.

Now, where's my IKEA catalogue?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

twice in a lifetime

I know, I know, two posts in one day--next thing you know I'll be blogging regularly again or something. In all seriousness, though, this is one of the coolest things I've seen lately:

Send your name to the moon with NASA.

If you input your name, NASA will put it on a microchip that they are sending up with the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter later this year. You even get a swell certificate to showcase your support of the mission.

link via Bonnie

Hogwarts Time Again

If you are a knitterly type, or a Harry Potterly type, you may well be interested to know that sign ups for the Hogwarts Sock Kit Swap are going on now over at the HSKS5 blog. It was a cracking good time last time, and if you'd like more information, you can always check out the main HSKS5 site or find us on Ravelry. Don't worry if you're a new knitter--one of the nice things about this swap is that it works to provide you with some of the fundamentals you need to tackle projects, and you also wind up meeting a lot of very nice, very supportive people who can help you to learn new skills.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

history repeats, etc.

Since the end of the school term, I've been puttering around a bit aimlessly. I'm contemplating dyeing my own yarn; buying out Wal-Mart's remaining stock of Sean Sheep; working on that screenplay idea I have been thinking about for the last six months; cleaning my apartment; and, of course, that novel that I want to write.

Today, I actually had a purpose, though--the university played host to the regional Historica fair, and I had volunteered to be a judge. I was only responsible for five projects, so I had plenty of time to walk around and look at the other projects. I was very impressed by the depth and dedication the students showed to their projects--one of the ones I was responsible for was, I think, one of the best there. It's tremendous to see eleven year olds that are so devoted to history.

Friday, April 25, 2008

tightrope walker

It occured to me just now that I haven't blogged in a bit. There are a variety of reasons for that. The biggest one, of course, is the j-o-b; I've been marking for what seems like the last month solid, and that's been consuming all of my time, and a good portion of my will to live. Thankfully, I have finally finished, and submitted my marks, and gone out for my celebratory margarita (it was a strawberry kiwi and delicious, just so you know).

I have also been knitting up a storm, mostly for the various babies that seem to keep being born. My friends are a ridiculously fertile lot this year. I'm working on a pair of socks for myself, but I forgot them at my parents' the last time I was visiting so work has temporarily stalled in that area.

Speaking of work temporarily stalling, the school has decided to build a new wing beside the wing in which my office resides. (No word yet on when we'll finally start having actual separate buildings instead of just wings.) First, there was shaking. They broke the ground, still sort of frozen from the winter, and rattled my office around. Then, they took out my window. Don't get me wrong--I'm not actually cool enough to have my own window in my office, but there was a really cool window down at the end of the hall:

Now, alas, that window is no more. The construction crew took it out and drywalled over the hole of where it used to be. I am considering printing an 8x10 of that picture and putting it on the wall where the window was, but I can't decide if people would find that jerky. Oh well...even if it is jerky, I think I'll do it. I miss my window, after all. Now I'll never know what the weather's like outside.

I'm being evaluated in approximately 3 hours. Let's hope I can come back next year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


quiet,white,fresh snow
cats stretched full in the warm rays
spring's around the bend

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I could really do to lose my Catholic conscience...

I'm not, as most of you know, Catholic, but I sure know how to feel guilty like one.

It's been a stressful couple of days 'round these parts. It's that time of year, I guess, and I also kind of suspect that this must be a full moon week. The silver lining in this weekend has been that the Bay area really caught only the edges of that massive snowstorm that's messed up the rest of the province, meaning that we got 5 cm compared to the 30-40+ experience by other areas of the province.

International Women's Week happened this week, and it was nice to be able to participate in that sort of thing again. Dr. Monia Mazigh was the keynote speaker this year, and she was very interesting, if a little brief. I also got to see the Vagina Monologues, and have come to the conclusion that I really don't like the play at all. I actually have a prolonged and extended critique to write someday, but I'll save it for then, because I would hate for anyone in this particular production to feel that my criticisms were of them rather than with the play itself.

The youngest sister is up for the weekend, and is currently sleeping peacefully on my bed. She's had a long couple of days, too. She's in town with her boyfriend and his parents, and I had to pick her up from their hotel last night around 11:30. When we got back here, a guy had managed to run out of gas AND kill his battery in the intersection nearest my house, and he asked us to give him a boost.

The whole situation was a bit weird, and I really didn't know what to do--there was definitely a creepy vibe. (I've also never boosted a car before, and my own battery is low, since it's almost six years old now.) We gave him the initial boost after he got back from the gas station, and then hightailed it back to the house, and turned all the lights off, etc. I'm pretty sure he came knocking at the door again, but I really had no desire to go back out there.

I feel really guilty about not going back to help him. But at the same time, as two young females, what other choice did we have, especially given the creepy vibes we both had from him? (Also, if his battery managed to die at the same time as his car ran out of gas, doesn't that imply that there's something perhaps more seriously wrong with his vehicle?) I hate that I have to choose between helping someone and my safety...but what other choice do I have?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lego MMO and a good laugh

From those guys at Red vs. Blue:

An MMO based on the Lego universe was just announced.
Burnie -- Some things seem like a great idea for kids, but in reality are actually harmful. Like aspirins that have a tasty orange flavor. Or those scented markers that teach kids to huff. Why do they make those?
Geoff -- This does not bode well for the Lincoln Log MMO I've been trying to get off the ground.
Jack -- Finally, an MMO that mixes my favorite solitary activity as a kid with my favorite solitary activity as an adult!
Nathan -- It takes you 8 hours to build your LEGO castle, and 8 seconds for me to break it down with my LEGO lightsaber. Sounds awesome.


Sad but true, folks, sad but true.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Oh, you must be a home ec teacher!"

Back to school this week. Reading week was great--I zipped home for a few days, saw pretty much everyone I could ever want to see at Cellarman's, spent some time with my mom, and then headed down to Guelph, where I also saw almost everyone I could want to see.

I tried to organize a SETS mini-reunion with people from the Great Guelph Area, which was not successful numbers-wise (special thanks goes out to winter weather and winter illness for that), but was very successful in terms of fun had. Sherrin came up from London, and Sean popped over with his bebe, and we ate delicious food at the Woolwich Arms. I'm hoping for a second round in May, when things should be a bit more accessible to everyone.

I spent more time with Sean the next day, when we met at that most venerated of eating institutions, Toxic Smell, and proceeded to thoroughly geek out about his experiences at the PCA/ACA Southwest and Texas region conference at week before. He read my paper in absentia, along with his own, and chairing our panel...and then the third presenter just didn't show, so it was a whole hour of Sean. He brought me back the program, and my name tag, and a sweet messenger bag that is totally being converted to a knitting bag ASAP.

I also got to see the Evanses, and introduce them to the bountiful goodness that is the Red Papaya.

Then Ms. T and I drove back up here, with a wee pitstop in Huntsville, where we ate a delicious lunch (SWEET POTATO FRIES!!!) and visited Sheepstrings, where I successfully convinced her that she could learn how to knit. (You can see the evidence over at her blog.) Once in North Bay, we picked up a few crafting remnants at Wal-Mart, prompting the cashier to ask us--twice--if we were planning on teaching a home ec class. Classic!

There's more, but it is time to take Caitlin to Dollar Days at No Frills.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thoughts on The Stand

Ian lent me the TV miniseries for The Stand, and I'm slowly working my way through it. Before I talk about how I feel about the miniseries, I should probably say two things, the second of which is a caveat to the first. On the whole, I really hate Stephen King's writing. I think he's schlocky, cheap, and manipulative. Considering that I don't care for his work, I've actually read a pretty surprising amount of it, and on the whole it just leaves me....meh. That said, a friend of mine from Teacher's College lent me The Stand a few years back, and it is, for lack of a better term, holy shit good. Great story, full of tension, drama, and very interesting characters. It suffers from many of the same problems as the rest of his work, of course, but the story is so compelling that I'm willing to overlook the things that normally bother me.

So I was pretty excited for the miniseries, because I think the story has a number of qualities that would transfer well to that medium, and also because King wrote the teleplay himself. (I like to think that when an author has such a direct hand in creating the final product, it ought to be of reasonably good quality.)

Good movies happen when the writing, directing, and acting all converge in a way where the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. I would say that The Stand is somehow less than the sum of its parts, but the sum of its parts really doesn't add up to very much, which is made even more apparent by how poorly the miniseries has aged--I'm pretty sure even the CBC had better production values in 1994.

Point One: The Acting. I hardly know where to start here. There's the good, which can be summed up in two word: Ed Harris. There's the serviceable, like Gary Sinise, Corin Nemec, and Kathy Bates. There's the bad, like Molly Ringwald. There's the forgettable, like Ruby Dee and Jamey Sheridan. And then there's the just plain bizarre: Rob Lowe as Nick Andros (if one of your central characters is a deaf-mute, maybe you could try casting someone with actual charisma?) Laura San Giacomo as Nadine Cross (She's really wonderful in other roles, but girl is in way over her head in this ingenue rule--she is not convincingly sexy at any point). Bill Fagerbakke as Tom Cullen (Because developmentally delayed translates to "speaks slowly and softly"--interestingly, he's probably getting more work than anybody else in this trainwreck, as he is the voice of Patrick on Spongebob Squarepants).

Point Two: The Writing. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the problem here is the acting or the writing. All of the Nick parts really suffer because nothing interesting happens for such a long time, and that's partially Lowe as an actor, but it's also King as a writer, like, just DO SOMETHING already. Ditto Molly Ringwald, who is out of her depth here, but is also saddled with some truly clunky dialogue. I also understand, from King's point of view, that it's very difficult to cut 1000+ pages of writing into something manageable for the small screen, but some of his choices are bizarre. If you're not going to do anything with the Joe/Leo storyline, maybe you could just cut it? We continually get such shallow snapshots of the book's major characters that none of their actions ever have the impact that they should. Do we ever really have a sense of why Harold goes off the deep end? Do we ever really sympathize with Franny as she prepares to have a baby who might die from the same illness that has killed everyone else she loves? Do we ever get to enjoy Glen Bateman's verve and wit as he sees all of his abstract sociological theories play out before his eyes? Do we even get to see Larry's progress from the arrogant rising star to the thoughtful caretaker?

Point Three: Directing and Production. I don't know what to say here, exactly, because the first two factors have already significantly handicapped the production, but it is worth noting that if you don't have the money to do something properly...maybe you just shouldn't do it. I know it's a TV movie from 1994, but there was some quality stuff being made at that time, and some of the visuals in this just look so amateurish. The other major problem from a directorial point of view is the pacing. There is absolutely no tension or urgency to this story. When I read the book, my heart was pounding the entire time, and I could hardly read fast enough to fit it all in. By comparison, the movie just crawls along...and there is virtually nothing in it that is actually scary.

There are a few good visuals--mostly relating to the Flagg/crow imagery; the one that comes to mind is the one where we see Flagg sitting like a crow on top of a telephone pole, but overall, it's too little, too late. I'd love to see this story given the treatment it deserves. What's HBO upto these days?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

academic foot steps

Great news! The PCA/ACA people are willing to let me make a video of my paper on race and narrative in World of Warcraft, so I can still present as part of the MMORPGs and Narrative Panel at the SW/TX region conference. I am super excited about this (almost as much as if I were actually going, but doing it this way will save me almost $900, so I really can't complain). The downside? I need to get cracking on writing the actual paper. Good thing I have Sean to motivate me.

I've also been asked to take part in NipissingYou's speaker series, so I think I will rework the paper to fit that format, as well.

Having lived under a rock for the now 12 years that I've been a frequent and habitual users of the interwebs, I only discoveredthe blogging awesomeness of Terra Nova. A recent topic of discussion has been the upcoming Virtual Worlds and New Realities stuff that's going to be happening at Emory University in a couple of weeks, and the kind folks there are seeking answers to some questions to promote discussion for their panel. Here are my thoughts:

1. QUESTIONS THAT MATTER: What research questions or inquiries are important with regard to studying virtual worlds in the next several years (think 2008-2015)?

*Do synthetic worlds (sorry, my Castronova is showing) support, subvert, or reinscribe dominant ideologies?
*In the case of heavily male-centric MMORPG worlds like that of Azeroth, what are the critical and social implications for women who choose to participate in those worlds?
*What opportunities do synthetic worlds provide for transgression?
*How do sythetic worlds function as liminal spaces?
*What is the ceiling for growth?

2. METHODS: What research methods and approaches are valuable in the study of, and study in, virtual worlds?

I believe that an under utilized approach is that of literary/cultural studies. I use that term to cover a multitude of theoretical approaches, from feminist and postcolonial studies, to phenomenological (sp?) approaches and beyond. I think this type of research is particularly for MMORPGs, because of the way that narrative is integrated into the synethic world.

3. COLLABORATIVE INITIATIVES: What might be some ways to effectively establish more multi-university and multi-institutional research, both with regard to studying virtual worlds as well as using virtual worlds to facilitate research collaborations?

I think that establishing networks of interested parties could potentially be quite useful. For example, one of my current interests is in queer identities in MMORPGs. If I could find similarly minded people, we could construct a plan to create queer identities in game, and then collectively share and analyze the data collected from our experiences.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Most of you know me know how much I love to eat--I can't do a night of drinking without having a suitable array of snacks, and, as my mother likes to put it, I'm always "thinking about the next meal before [I've] finished this one", a trait I've inherited from my father.

One particular food type I have no use for, though, is soup. Oh, sure, I like my sodium-rich Liptons Chicken Noodle soup when I'm sick, but other than that it really isn't something I go out of my way to eat. Unfortunately, soups tends to be cheap and filling, and freeze well, all of which are important to people who live by themselves. So I've decided that I need to learn to like soup, pronto.

I've mastered my mom's turkey noodle soup, so long as I have a roast turkey carcass, so my next step was to take on a beef based soup. The problem with a lot of beef based soups and stews is that they have tomatoes or tomato paste in them. This is a problem to me because a) I really try to avoid using canned food whenever possible, and b) the acids in the tomatoes tend to give the soup an awful, tinny, acidic taste.

In the spirit of being creative, I struck out on my own on Friday, and created a beef based soup that actually turned out unbelievably good: full of rich beefy taste, complimented by cremini mushrooms and pot barley.

Mushroom, Beef, and Barley Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. stewing beef, cubed (if they seem large, you can cut them into smaller cubes)
1/2 cup medium dice onion
2 cloves of garlic, finally minced
1 to 1 1/2 cups of cremini or portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine (I use Yellowtail Shiraz as my go to red for drinking and cooking)
1/2 cup pot barley, rinsed**
3 1/2 cups beef broth (I used a combination of Campbells beef broth in a carton and the Bovril instant bouillion mix)
3/4 cup red wine
2 bay leaves
herbs to taste (I used 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)

1) Heat oil/butter in pot over medium heat. Pat cubes of beef dry, season with salt and pepper. Brown in batches in oil. Transfer to a plate
2) Turn heat to medium-low, and add garlic and onion to pan. Allow to cook for five minutes until softened, and then add mushrooms. Allow to cook for another five minutes. Add first 1/4 cup of red wine and deglaze pot by scraping up all browned bits from the bottom. Allow to reduce, so that the mushrooms become infused.
3) Add broth and barley. Allow to come to a boil, then add remaining red wine and bay leaves. Any seasonings can be added here too.
4) Simmer with lid on over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, or until barley is soft and meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

winter, with a vengeance

I have always been an ardent defender of my adopted city, which is one that people love to hate. I definitely understand why people don't like it, and will often complain of the same things that the haters do (music scene, wot wot?) but at the end of the day I'm generally pretty willing to see the beauty and charms of this city. I also love winter, which not so many people do.

That said, it is currently -19 out, and I am not so in love with the cold. My skin is just parched, which means irritated and sore, and I keep having moments where I just can't seem to get warm. My poor car has been a real trooper through all of this, but man can I see the difference it makes to my fuel consumption when I have to let the car warm up in order to drive it. (Thankfully, Boom has wicked fuel economy and I fuelled up last night for the first time since I stopped in Huntsville on my way back to the Bay after the holidays. Yup, that's Huntsville to North Bay and three weeks of city driving on 3/4 of a tank. I love my car.)

This weekend is shaping up to be a busy one. It is the last huzzah for Sarah before her trip to New Zealand and teacher's college, and Darren is coming up to celebrate. He and Ian and I have plans for some sort of geeky movie marathon for Saturday. I also have my Robbie Burns night on Friday, which is a social for the 3rd and 4th year students. I should really find myself a kilt...I'll have to plan a trip to the VV Boutique tomorrow, I guess.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

bits and bytes

Mum pointed me in the direction of some good programming on CBC Radio One this morning. Go! host Brent Bambury (who I met/saw briefly on Test the Nation) had Dan Misener in to talk about a reading series he developed called "Grown Ups Reading Things They Wrote As Kids". Dan read a journal entry from his grade one days in Sackville, NS that described a trip to the ice cream store for a "root bear flot". The next reading is in Toronto on 10 March at the Gladstone Ballroom. If I'm in the area I'll definitely check it out.

In other fun internet news, Penguin Canada and have developed a list of the 52 Best Books Ever Written (or, the 52 best books published by Penguin) and are proposing that you read one per week in 2008. Penguin has a great library, so it should be exciting to see what they come up with. They've started with their best foot forward, too: First up is one of my favourite books, Robertson Davies's Fifth Business. It's a brilliant realized, complex, and moving story about Dunstan Ramsey, who is always "fifth business" in his own life:
The novel explains its own title as a character of an opera who has no opposite: the odd man out—neither heroine nor her lover, rival nor villain—yet without whom the plot cannot happen.

I read it for the first time when I was 17, and it's one I'm always happy to come back to. There's magic, politics, war, sex, the divine, and all manner of truly fascinating things in it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

take me to my country home.

There's this really wonderful moment when you're at the top of the hill here, and you can look out across North Bay Rock City all the way to the water, and see the beauty of Lake Nipissing. It's stark and desolate in winter, but beautiful nonetheless.

The days are starting to get longer already - it's no longer pitch black out at 4:20 when I get out of class. Thank goodness for that.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

how the smart woman gets what she wants

So there's this new commercial for Cadbury Thins that starts with a placard reading "How the smart woman gets what she wants". To summarize, the smart woman walks into a store and sees another woman trying on a dress. This other woman is happy and excited, and clearly loves the dress (which does look pretty good on her). The smart woman gets what she wants by telling the other woman that the dress looks bad on her by shaking her head, and then we see the smart woman buying it because it's on sale.

God, that's maddening. Nevermind that the smart woman is tiny and thin while the other woman is a normal size--I am so frustrated that women are continually told that the best way to get ahead is by beating other women down. Seriously--if a complete stranger came up to you in a clothing store and literally gave you the thumbs down on something you were trying on, how upset would you be?