Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I need to get my rant on’ edition

We have now been away from home for a week. We have been very comfortable staying at my friend Joe’s house we are missing home like crazy. I have not had much time to blog but that doesn’t mean some things are making me crazy!

First up, the shootings in Newton, Conn:

Mass shootings are a feminist issue. Our patriarchal society is not only bad for women it affects men as well. As much as women’s roles are reified within patriarchy, men’s roles are also proscribed and circumscribed. Patriarchy demands that men be strong and fearless. While women can be emotional,[1] it is not acceptable for men. So what does this mean for men who cannot conform for whatever reason? How are they to navigate a world in which they do not fit? In the most recent mass shooting in the US, there have been calls for stricter gun control if you are on the left of the political spectrum and more guns if you happen to be a Republican.[2] There have also been discussions about mental health and how the lack of treatment in the US may be a contributing factor. While certainly these perspectives are important, I would argue that it is patriarchy along with its defined roles for men and women that is really at the core of the problem.

Then of course the NRA fuck heads have to weigh in after their self-imposed week of silence.[3] Fearful of the cries for increased gun control and what it might mean for their sick obsession, they proposed that Congress should immediately appropriate funds for an armed guard at every school. Seriously folks, their solution to mass shootings is to put yet another gun into the mix. I have never heard of a more stupid idea. What the US needs is less guns, particularly assault rifles which are only meant to kill large numbers of people quickly.

If all that is not enough, conservative writer Charlotte Allen, blames feminism for the shootings. She notes that there were no male personnel in the school and hypothesizes that if there had been some burly men there they could have rushed the shooter. Seriously. How could someone even think this let alone write it? Plus she gets it wrong: there was an adult male in the school, the shooter.


Religion is the next thing grating on my nerves these days. At my brother-in-law’s funeral yesterday the religiosity was over the top. His brother-in-law who apparently is a Christian minister performed it. This man actually tried to conflate Christmas and the birth of Christ with his death. It was beyond ridiculous. I am not sure why people who were not religious in life are celebrated with prayer and psalms. It makes no sense to me. My brother-in-law was an educated man; I highly doubt he was at all religious. In fact, what people said they most admired about him were his critical thinking skills and the ability to question that which many of us take for granted. As the minister was trying to comfort people with bible passages, I felt like I was in the middle of a cult. Religion pisses me off. Historically it has been the main cause of war and heartbreak all over the world. The current world political environment in which we live has conflict driven almost exclusively by religion. Organized religion belongs in the past.


It is fucking cold here – minus 20 and snow. It hurts to go outside. The roads are shit because of all the snow. It is precisely because of this kind of weather that I never, ever want to live here again.

Then there are the drivers. The other day a bus actually tried to not let me merge. I couldn’t believe it. I had to race a bus! There were over 60 accidents yesterday because people don’t drive for the road conditions. These people live here and should know how to drive in the snow!


[1] Even though there are consequences for emotional vulnerability.

[2] Seriously some of these reactionary dinosaurs think that arming teachers is the answer!

[3] It was really big of them.

Observations from my latest trip to Calgary

I know I complain about Calgary a lot. Every time I go back, I am even more resolute in my desire to never live there again. Even though the weather was really nice[1], everything was so dirty and dull looking because of the snow. There was a beautiful Chinook Arch yesterday and I really enjoyed seeing it. The weather was always interesting in Calgary. I also saw a beautiful view of the mountains, at dusk, as I was driving to my friend’s house. It was absolutely stunning.

Now onto the complaints:


Calgary needs a smart growth plan. There seems to be very little densification going on in the city. They just seem to keep building houses in new developments. Unfettered growth poses so many problems. It seems that Calgary is facing many of these issues right now. Health care seems to be suffering a great deal. According to my friend, who works for Alberta Health Services, the system is a ‘shit show.’ Promises of new resources coming on line are often a huge source of frustration as they lack the physical space and infrastructure to support the staff needed to provide services. I have also seen this when my mother ends up in the hospital. The nurses are overworked and trying to connect with a doctor is almost impossible. During her last hospitalization she couldn’t even get a prescription for prednisone before she left; they gave her 1 pill and told her to see her family doctor.


I remember when I lived in Calgary, we would be absolutely indignant if our commute took 10 or 15 minutes more. Calgary prided itself on having the least vehicle congestion of any North American city. Not any more! Every time I arrive, I seem to get stuck in traffic on the Deerfoot. Out where my mother used to live the traffic was horrific. It was taking about 20 minutes to travel a couple of kilometres. It would be impossible for road construction to keep up with the level of growth. I can only imagine how transit is affected.


It seemed that every plaza we went to was packed. Finding a parking spot was very difficult. On Friday we went out for dinner at 7:30 pm and we still waited half an hour for a table. On Saturday I went to the Naot store[2] and trying to find parking there was a nightmare as well. I contrast that to life in Maple Ridge where not getting a parking spot close to the door is a rarity. Even in Vancouver things are not as busy as they are in Calgary. This level of activity in Calgary certainly caused me a higher level of stress. The other thing I noticed was a dearth of small business. Every strip mall and plaza was rife with chain restaurants and stores. I like that I can still shop local at small businesses and eat at independent restaurants.

[1] Sunny.

[2] A whole store devoted to Naot shoes!!!

Quick Post

I am in Calgary and have spent the last 12 hours with my mother. I am very tired. I spent hours trying to fix her Logitech remote. I did prevail. I also found the Naot store and scored 3 new pairs of shoes!

Canada and Iran – an oily standoff

Last Friday, the Canadian government severed all diplomatic ties with Iran. Usually when countries take this step there have been increasing tensions and perhaps a series of escalating incidents. One might fairly ask what precipitated this event. The answer is, well, nothing. To be fair, diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have not been great since the revolution in 1979. Iran has always been a little pissed that Canada smuggled 6 Americans out during the hostage crisis. Factor in the death of Zahra Kazemi and relations have been strained. So the question is why now? Why would we take such a drastic step in the absence of any kind of simmering diplomatic feud?

I have a theory. Stephen Harper is from Calgary. I have blogged before about how American Calgary is in its view of the world. Although born in Toronto, Harper’s education was at the University of Calgary. Particularly in the 1990s, the University of Calgary was a hotbed of a pro-American brand of conservatism.[1] Both the economics and political science departments were rife with these politically motivated students and faculty.[2] Who knows how or why this started; did Calgary create them or did they impact Calgary? Regardless, this is the school of thought that informs our prime minister’s policies.

Now, what does all of this have to do with us severing diplomatic ties with Iran? If you were to listen to Vic Toews[3] you would have heard him say that Iran is the biggest threat to global security.[4] Iran’s threat to global security was no different last Friday than it was the Friday before or the year before that, so why now?

As an historian, I have been trained to look for broad conceptual contexts in which to situate events. When an event does not make sense, historians are trained to tease out what may actually be going on. Given how American Calgary is, I began to think about why Americans might take this kind of action. Pretty much all American foreign policy has to do with money, and it’s compatriot, oil. Iran is a major oil producer and a competitor to Canada. As we all know, Harper and Alberta have been trying to find a way to move Alberta’s bitumen to China. Harper has his eye set on China and moving bitumen there as a means to diversify our exports and take advantage of China’s huge economy. What does all this have to do with Iran? Well, if Harper can isolate Iran even more than it already is or provoke some time of military strike, Iran will be further isolated in the international community. UN sanctions will follow and China will be looking for a new source of oil.

I don’t think my theory is wrong. The drums to war have been beating for quite a while with regard to Iran. While I believe the Iranian regime and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are reprehensible, the rights of sovereign nations are still paramount. Invading Iran because they supposedly have nuclear weapons sounds a whole lot like Iraq having ‘weapons of mass destruction.’  Any action that impacts Iran’s ability to sell its oil on the open market benefits Canada.

As a British Columbian all of this really concerns me. It seems that Harper is willing to squander our hard earned, though somewhat tarnished now, international reputation to sell Alberta’s bitumen. He is also willing to put our province at risk to do it. The Gateway pipeline is almost universally opposed in BC. I fear this pipeline is going to be shoved down our throats whether we want it or not.

The pipeline is not good for Canada. It will ship unprocessed bitumen out of the country leaving us in our familiar ‘hewer of wood, drawer of water’ role. Like lumber, why would we ship this stuff out of the country without processing it and creating more jobs in Canada? I wonder if we might feel better about the pipeline if there was to be a refinery in BC that would process the bitumen before it shipped out to China? The reason we are not doing this is because it would make it more expensive and the Chinese would rather process it there for cheaper. So Harper is willing to sell out Canada to benefit is buddies in the tar sands.[5] Now there’s a surprise.

[1] I was at the U of C at this time as well. Some TAs in the political science department were caught trying to sell Reform Party memberships to undergrads.

[2] Tom Flanagan comes to mind.

[3] Who listens to him anyway?

[4] Clearly if we were to believe Vic we should be severing diplomatic ties with the US, but I digress.

[5] Make no mistake it is the tar sands. It has been called the tar sand for decades. Only recently did some PR schmuk come up with ‘oil sands’ to try to convince people it is not dirty oil. One is not against the tar sands by calling it the tar sands; one is simply being precise.

Observations about Calgary

I was born in Calgary. I lived her up until I was about 18 when I left to do Katimavik. I came back when I was about 22 and went to school. I was away for a year at Queen’s doing my Master of Arts degree. I finally left again when I was 34 for Vancouver. I have never looked back since. I love living in Metro Vancouver.[1] All of the things I disliked about Calgary seem to be so much more magnified 13 years later:

  • I find Calgary very American. Not a big surprise as it is built by oil. This city has grown so much and it really seems to be expansion for the sake of expansion. It is Manifest Destiny run amok. There are so many new ‘communities’ everywhere and very little infrastructure. Almost every strip mall is packed all the time. The traffic situation is out of control from what I can see.
  • Consumption is so much more visible here than in Metro Vancouver. The trucks are bigger and louder. With no Air Care[2], I have seen so many vehicles spewing toxic sludge. The one thing I have noticed is that there are certainly fewer dump trucks, which does make me happy.
  • Believe it or not, drivers here are more aggressive in Calgary than Vancouver. I commute 45 minutes each way for work so I spent a lot of time on the highway. And while we have our fair share of assholes, it is nothing like what I have seen here.
  • I am very surprised at the lack of health care infrastructure here. It seems like the system here cannot keep up with demand. I am not sure if it is mismanagement or a true lack of resources flowing in. Given the amount of money brought in by the tar sands you would think the government could at least afford a decent health care system. My mother is always complaining about being able to access doctors and other health services.
  • I was reminded how much I hate how they name the streets in developments. We used to live in Oakridge and every street was Oak something. It makes it really hard to find addresses. Along with this goes the penchant for everything looking the same. My mother lives in an area where you can’t even plant flowers if you want to because all the landscaping has to look the same. She can’t even have a fence put up for the dog.

I get that Calgary is not all bad. Some of my most favourite people live here. However, there is zero chance that I will ever move back here.

[1] Given that I found my biological parents in Vancouver just this year, I wonder how powerful the call of geography can be. From the time I learned about Vancouver, I always wanted to live there.

[2] I am not an Air Care fan but it does keep some of the worst polluting vehicles off the road.

Detritus from our trip

  • It feels like we were there for a week. We were constantly doing something the entire time we were there. Deb cleaned silver and watered plants[1] while I set up her new TV, her new Apple TV and the Logitech Harmony Remote. It took me 2 weeks to program mine but I did hers in about an hour. We went out for dinners and didn’t get anywhere near enough sleep. I am so freaking tired, I don’t even know if I will stay away for dinner.
  • I did notice that in Calgary, power lines do not run across major highways – they run parallel. Who would have thought that was a good idea!
  • So, I am still getting those WordPress daily topics in my email. I noticed one recently that was asking bloggers where they would put a third arm if they had one. Seriously, what kind of dumbass stupid question is that? Aren’t there more important things to write about in the US like the de-funding of Planned Parenthood or the talk now about the debt crisis? Apparently the people at WordPress are much more interested in extra limbs. Maybe they think people will blog more.
  • Oh my god! We went to Danier Leathers for purses!!! I scored! Deb got a great bag and we got one for Angelina too. It was very much fun!

[1] And a couple of hours later the skies opened up for a monsoon of biblical proportions. I am not even sure how we got back there was so much water on the road.


On our way to my mother’s we stopped for a chocolate cheesecake for her birthday. This was not any cheese cake but a Bernard Callebeaut chocolate cheesecake. I thought it was ok but a little too rich for my liking. Plus, I am not really a big chocolate fan. I would much rather have something far less sweet and fruity. I love cherry cheesecake or strawberry. Although I do have to confess that they ‘Rolo’ cheesecake looked mighty fine!

Once we arrived we made up a cheese plate with crackers. Deb had this amazing cheese plate at the Delta hotel last night. The presentation was awesome. I should have taken a picture but I didn’t think of it. We were tired and pretty stressed out and hungry. I had a beef dip and managed about 4 bites and that was it. I am not sure why I bothered.

Anyway, the w00t part of this post is about a topaz ring my mother bought on the cruise. She bought it knowing it would have to be sized as it was too big. When she took it in to get it sized she was told they couldn’t make it smaller as it would compromise the structural integrity and make the stones lose. She was showing it to me and I decided to try it on. Well, it fit me perfectly! I have never had a ring like this before. The setting is very high and it is very big. I love it! It catches the light very well. And we all know how much I love shiny things!!!

We did have dinner with my sister, who, in spite of melting down earlier on the phone, held it together. We also got to see my step-sister and her husband. We always enjoy getting together with them. They are fundamentalist Christian but we don’t hold it against them!!! To their credit, they do not proselytize.

Anyways, must sign off as I am being asked what I am doing for 10 minutes on the iPad with a keyboard. ‘What are you writing?’ ‘Who are you emailing.’ Not much more to add at this point. I will post a picture of the ring, on my hand, once we get home.

Not my world

I really dislike coming to my mother’s. There are the obvious reasons – the ones I talk about all the time. But there is more to it than that. When I am here I miss my world. Here everything is shallow beyond belief. My mother and sister had a conversation about the size of their asses for over 20 minutes the other day. They push my buttons by bringing up all of their right-wing political views. I am learning to be quiet. They don’t have the education to understand the complexities of political discourse. They just simply repeat what the Harpie says. They can’t stop and think about why it is a bad thing that we are bombing Libya. As far as my mother is concerned if NATO says we do it and we need new fighter jets to continue bombing Middle Eastern countries then that is what we do. I get so frustrated. Then they laugh when I don’t participate.

I am not used to being laughed at. In my world people treat me with respect (as much as possible) because I treat them with respect. I try my best to be a kind, thoughtful person. I never want to hurt anyone else. Yet here the goal is to hurt or insult me. My mother was on me again about my weight. She keeps saying ‘calories in, calories out.’ However, with PCOS and ZERO hormones it is not that simple. I eat less than she does and she still blames me. I am so very tired of this game.

The purpose of this visit was to attend a meeting about how she wants to structure our inheritance into trusts. She had been acting all coy that she didn’t know what the meeting was about but I had figured it out. I was much more in my element during a professional business meeting. The people in this meeting treated me exactly like I am used to in my world. They asked questions about what I did for work and they kept telling me that my questions were excellent. My mother did well in the meeting because she has been in business. My sister, on the other hand, was a fish out of water. I am sure the nuances went over her head.

Last, there is my physical comfort. The furniture in the main part of my mother’s house is horrid. The TV is positioned so only one person can see it. She does not like to sit downstairs where the big TV and comfier furniture lives. The shower for the guests is in a very deep bathtub, which means I have to be careful, getting in and out. Then there is the smoke. The god-forsaken fucking smoke that is killing her quickly. She won’t stop. She knows how badly it affects Deb and me. We can’t breathe. We wake up with seared lungs even though we are on another floor. I really don’t understand why she can’t just put on the patch for a couple of days. The smoke is insidious and really represents what is completely wrong here.

I want to come home. Thankfully we fly out tomorrow and then we are attending an event as soon as we get off the plane. We miss our dogs. She wants us to move back here but she has no idea what she is asking us to give up. We have friends and a life in the lower mainland. I like where we live. I love my job. Both of us need medical care and we have no idea how we would find it here in Alberta. The medical system in AB is much more clogged than the BC system. Plus we are both ‘complicated’ patients so it will be difficult to find a doctor that would take us on. I still have friends in Calgary and it would be nice to be here so see them more often.

The other reason I don’t see a move here is that I don’t think there is any point. I think my mother is close to giving up and once her will is re-done she will be finished. I think she will make it through the summer but I don’t anticipate she will make it through next winter. It is simply just too hard for her. Her oxygen saturation levels were in the 70s at the COPD doctor’s appointment the other day. She does not want an oxygen machine in the house as she doesn’t want tubes on the floor. She will take aesthetics over health. She is also not going to quit smoking. Even though she says she doesn’t like it and it tastes bad she simply cannot quit. This is sad as she is severely shortening her life with this decision. Then again, I think she has given up completely and wants to go.

Being here is so difficult for me on many levels. It triggers me and sends me back to my childhood where I felt completely disempowered. I walked on eggshells lest I set off either my mother or my sister. I prefer my world and I can’t wait until I can get back to it.

Off to Alberta

Well, we are off to Calgary tomorrow. Hopefully it will all go well. I am going to attempt to try to follow some advice I have been given:

  • I am going to envision myself suited up in armour – then they can’t get to me.
  • I am going to try to not take the bait. My mother is infamous for pressing my buttons. I am going to try to ignore it.
  • I am going to be agreeable. I am going to do whatever my mother wants me to do.
  • I am going to try to make it a very nice Christmas for her. I will do my best.
  • Deb and I will be a team and nice them all to death.

I will attempt to blog while I am away. It does not always work though!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘Has hell frozen over?’ edition

§  We have lived in the swamp for 4 years now. We have never had any problems with rodents until recently. We found evidence of a mouse about a week ago. We put some traps out and we got one yesterday. I hope that is it but the traps are still out just in case. For now, Swamp Dwellers 1, Rodentia 0. I suspect the mouse got in under the house when the drain pipe was put in. I hope there was only one!

§  In my daily conversation with my mother today she said that she now thinks Naheed Nenshi will be a good mayor for Calgary. From turning down city perks to holding city councillor’s accountable for their expense accounts, she thinks he is smart and fair. Amazingly not one word about his religion or marital status.

§  Operation no food waste at the swamp is working well. We’ve been doing it for 2 weeks now and the dogs love it. Plus we have been getting 2 meals for 7 dogs each week by adding a little meat and rice to our leftovers.

§  Clio was back to the vet for a re-check for her heart condition. She is doing well. The main concern is that she is quite thin as she always has been. Our vet suggested a liquid supplement. It had a lot of fat in it and I asked what it was made of. Turns out it is made of high fructose corn syrup, soy beans and gelatin byproducts. Yummy. These kinds of products really call into question why the vets will sell stuff like this for animals to consume. There was no food product in this stuff and certainly nothing species appropriate. We gratefully declined. I think we will just feed her real food more often instead.

§  NaBloPoMo is going well. I just wanted to give a shout out to some blogging buddies who are also participating. For those of you who don’t know, NaBloPoMo is all about posting every day in the month of the November. If you have a chance check out Dr. Beth’s and Tanya’s blog on NoLa.

§  This just in! It is really hard to blog while watching the puppy hump the rabbit toy. Deb keeps throwing it and he keeps going back for it! Too funny. Deb says: “It’s not supposed to be his fuck bunny.”

§  Oh, and in other news: my mother has re-commenced smoking. She actually went 6 months without. She thinks she breathes easier when she smokes. I think she is delusional.