Saturday, December 13, 2008

in amsterdam

Yesterday, Miguel and I went to Amsterdam for the day to see the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank's house. It was the first time, we realized, that we'd be sightseeing alone. No family, no friends. And while I missed a bit of the camraderie that comes in a larger group, it was wonderful to finally spend a day in Europe free from any added stress (not including the loss and then miraclous rediscovery of the Anne Frank tickets). We spent the whole day walking around Amsterdam. Over canals, beside canals, between canals. Did I mention that there are canals? I think I took more pictures of those than anything else.

Before we got to the Rijksmuseum, we stopped for possibly the greatest bagel ever made at Village Bagel. The Dutch know cream cheese. I may need to rethink my anti-Dutch policies.

After carbing up, we hit the museum to see the Rembrandts and the Vermeers. Although the building looks massive from the outside, the actual gallery space seemed quite small in comparison to the Uffizi and the Prado. Miguel thinks they must be renovating and that when its finished, the museum will be much larger. Miguel saw his favourite Vermeer, the one with the maid pouring out a jug of milk. I saw Rembrandt's cloth merchants and the Night Watch. There is something brilliant about the way Vermeer and Rembrandt use like that is so unlike painters in Southern Europe. I think it has to do with the damp mists and grey hazes that are so common to places like Amsterdam and Nanaimo. There are diffusion of light so that it scatters everywhere and nowhere. Then, every once a while, a steady stream of sunlight highlights just a small part of a building or a street. In a place like this that is so grey most of the year, light is at a premium. No wonder it figures so prominently in Rembrandt's and Vermeer's work.

After the museum, we walked what felt like the length and breadth of the Netherlands and finally got to Anne Frank's House. It's around the corner from the fabulously old church and I found myself wondering if Anne every mentioned the bells in her diary. The house itself is bare. Otto Frank wanted the Annex to remain unfurnished. He didn't want it to look lived in, I suppose. Putting in the furnishings would make it look like a safe home, which it wasn't. Interesting aesthetic choice anyway. Most powerful for me was the ladder up to the attic. You can't actually climb the ladder, but then have a mirror propped up so you can see outside as Anne would have. At the very end of the self-guided tour is Anne Frank's diary. The real book, plaid cover and all. The whole experience left me pretty much speechless.

After Anne Frank's house, we walked back to the station and made it back to Utrecht where we met Yvon (at whose house we're crashing) and went for dinner at a new fusion-type restaurant she'd been wanting to try. Nothing really too exciting there, just thought you'd want to know that I'm eating fine.

Today we're off to Delft to see Jolien, then onto Eindhoven to see Sonia and Richard (more of Miguel's friends that are graciously allowing us to crash). Tomorrow, we on an early flight to Madrid where we'll be force fed manchego and jamon serrano for the next few weeks.

Also, because of the jet lag, I've been getting up at 5:30am. How unimpressed am I.

Friday, December 12, 2008

in utrecht

Today's soundtrack:
Tropic Thunder
Vicky Christina Barcelona

It's ungodly early in the morning here but the jetlag has kicked in and I just couldn't sleep for another minute. So here I sit, at Yvon's computer, eating little gingerbread cookies that have a cool sounding Dutch name that I can't remember.

So here's what has happened so far...

After a mere 15 hours of traveling and the 100m dash in Frankfurt, we arrived in Amsterdam. Miguel's friend Froukje (one of the Dutch Girls, for those keeping score) met us at the airport and brought us to Utrecht, where we are crashing at yet another friend's lovely home. This home has the narrowest, steepest staircase I've ever seen in my life, but I've been assured this is typically Dutch. After a few hours of rest, Froukje came to drag us from our inflatable mattress and out to dinner. So we walked along canals, dodged bikes (they really do outnumber cars and they have their own lanes of traffic - very civilized), and passed a yarn store on our way to a nice little Yard and Flagon-esque pub.

Then a rather bizarre thing happened. I was wearing a beret, because it was a little chilly and I do have a delicate constitution, but I hadn't taken it off when we sat down. The waiter, after taking our orders for hot chocolate (and can I just say that the Dutch really know how to make a good hot chocolate), told me I had to take my hat off. I thought, okay sure, that's only polite. But politeness isn't why I had to take it off. This pub has a rule that no head coverings of any kind can be worn there. It's their not-so-subtle way of making sure that Muslim women who wear headscarfs cannot come in. Incredible, no?

After hot chocolate and after Giorgio (Froukje's fellow) arrived, we went to this lovely hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian restaurant. I was pretty brave (and am still quite proud of myself) and tried a little bit of everything on this massive platter of lentils, beans, tuna, and I really can't remember what else. The selling point for Froukje was that we could eat with our hands. I'm just happy I didn't fall asleep on the spongy bread.

But now, my cookies are almost all gone so I take that as a sign to go in search of more food. Today Miguel and I plan on going to the Rijksmuseum and to Anne Frank's house. Afterwards, the Dutch Girls, Miguel and I are going to have dinner and (hopefully) relax a little more.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

last night

Today's soundtrack:
"Gate 22" by Pascale Picard
"Red Flag" by Billy Talent
"Your Rocky Spine" by Great Lake Swimmers

President-Elect Obama.

Been smiling like an idiot all day. I knew last night was going to be one of those nights, but I don't think I was expecting the afterglow to last as long. I've read a lot of blogs and editorials today. Most of them focus on how wonderful it is that an African-American has won the presidency.

That's not why I'm excited. Sure, I lost it when I saw Jesse Jackson in the crowd, tears streaming down his face. Sure, I understand the racial divide in the States is something monumental to be overcome. But that's not why I'm excited.

It's taken me all day to be able to articulate this properly. Poor Miguel was stuck listening to my ramblings at 1am as I tried to explain why I am beside myself with glee.

During the CBC coverage of the election, they did a segment at the White House. The correspondent (Henry Champ, I think), gave a brief blurb but then gave his attention fully to what was happening in the street outside of the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue was packed with young adults. The noise was immense. The Secret Service were twitchy. Champ said that the people in the street had surrounded a car.

Later on in the night, the CBC went back to Champ and the White House. Champ explained that they were a bunch of university students who began texting each other when Obama was announced the winner. They all agreed to converge on the White House, but not to protest. To celebrate. They were dancing for joy in the street.

It is that joy, that relief, that the long dark eight years of the Bush presidency are almost over that hit me the hardest. That knowledge the world made it through, a little worse for wear, but changed. Obama's speech summed that up nicely.

Mom hit the nail on the head on the phone: "It's like they've got their innocence back." I, for one, cannot wait to hear the inauguration speech.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

random art quiz

Today's soundtrack:
Roadtrip SkipMix

Melistress of Ravelry fame led me to this art quiz. The results are rather uncanny:

Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test...

Balanced, Secure, and Realistic.

17 Impressionist, 2 Islamic, -4 Ukiyo-e, -9 Cubist, -20 Abstract and -6 Renaissance!

Impressionism is a movement in French painting, sometimes called optical realism because of its almost scientific interest in the actual visual experience and effect of light and movement on appearance of objects. Impressionist paintings are balanced, use colored shadows, use pure color, broken brushstrokes, thick paint, and scenes from everyday life or nature.

People that like Impressionist paintings may not alway be what is deemed socially acceptable. They tend to move on their own path without always worrying that it may be offensive to others. They value friendships but because they also value honesty tend to have a few really good friends. They do not, however, like people that are rude and do not appreciate the ideas of others. They are secure enough in themselves that they can listen to the ideas of other people without it affecting their own final decisions. The world for them is not black and white but more in shades of grey and muted colors. They like things to be aestically pleasing, not stark and sharp. There are many ways to view things, and the impresssionist personality views the world from many different aspects. They enjoy life and try to keep a realistic viewpoint of things, but are not very open to new experiences. If they are content in their live they will be more than likely pleased to keep things just the way they are.

Take What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test at HelloQuizzy

Thank you, that is all.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

montreal, part deux

Today's soundtrack:
Me, Myself and Us by Pascale Picard

After a rather lazy morning, I wandered up Rue Saint-Hubert to A La Tricoteuse Laine on Rue Rachel. I found some more sock wool for my ever-expanding list of Christmas gifts. The couple who works there, and I believe owns the store, were very nice but also very quiet. I think they could tell I couldn't speak French. They have every conceivable colour of Regia sock wool. Everything in the store has its place, which gives the impression that they don't have much stock. But they do. Its tucked into every possible nook and cranny under and above the shelves.

But afterwards, I still had a few hours to kill before the afternoon session, so I googled Starbucks and found that the nearest one was only a few blocks away on Rue Saint-Denis. Well, I thought, I guess it's time for some more sightseeing. Sans camera this time. So down Saint-Denis I wandered, passing a Spanish restaurant (closed and apparently oblivious to my desire for a good bowl of gazpacho), and lo and behold, I ran into a fellow Saskatooner (is that what we're called?). She was here for another conference. So we chatted and went our own ways, leaving me quite bemused about the fact that I ran into someone I knew in the middle of Montreal. Saint-Denis is the more vibrant area of Montreal and much more interesting than Vieux Montreal. Sure, the cobblestones have their charm, but I could plainly see that afternoons in July on Saint-Denis would be a riot.

Eventually, and with Starbucks in hand, I found my way to Rue Sainte-Catherine. Apparently, this is the trendy area. So I wandered past high-end stores and sex shops and inadvertently found myself on the edge of a protest against the Church of Scientology. I guess they've opened an office on Sainte-Catherine and these protesters, dressed in bandanas and V for Vendetta masks, were handing out pamphlets on the street corners. The cops were already talking to the ringleaders and things were starting to look a wee bit tense. As good a time as any, I thought, to head back to the conference.

Tomorrow it's back to Saskatoon and real life. Montreal has been interesting, especially since it's the most European-ish city in Canada. But honestly, I'll take Madrid any day of the week over Montreal. If I'm going to be in a European (or European-ish) city, I'd much rather be able to speak the language. Besides, the store clerks here aren't nearly surly enough to pass for European.

bienvenue á montreal

Today's soundtrack:
Let it Die by Feist

For the past few days I've been in Montreal at the CSECS (Canadian Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies) Conference. The sessions have kept me pretty busy and I've spent every spare minute getting my paper ready. But after presenting this morning, I figured I owed it to myself to skip out on the first afternoon session and do some serious sightseeing. So me, my handful of French phrases, and my camera headed downtown.

In order to get to Vieux Montreal, I had to take the Métro. Have I mentioned how enamored I am of subway systems? Maybe it's all the movies and tv shows set in New York, but I just love that process of traveling by subway. The Montreal métro is significantly smaller that the Madrid metro, so finding my way was pretty easy. Now getting through the ticket wicket, that's a different story. It helps if you can count in French. Neuf, by the way, is nine. That took longer to figure out than it should have.

So I made it to Vieux Montreal and set out with my best nonchalant touristy air. The first impressive building I came across was this:
Lovely, no? I had no idea what the building was. I knew that the Notre-Dame Cathedral was around here somewhere, but this couldn't be it. It's too small. So off I trekked over cobblestone roads and found myself, soon enough, in a garden, which is pretty much par for the course anytime I'm in Europe. I can't count how many gardens Janet and I ended up in when we were in Florence. And every time I'm in Madrid, I drag Miguel off to another botanical landscape. So, dear Lady J, these garden photos are for you:
The garden is behind this old (in the Canadian sense, not the European) hotel that once housed the Governor General of Canada and the U.S. Army (although not at the same time) and is modeled after the traditional gardens in New France.

Afterwards, I made my way back down Rue Notre-Dame, past this building:I have no idea what that building is, but it was large and impressive. I then popped into the Tourist Information office to ask directions to the Cathedral. "Ou-es la Notre-Dame catedral?" I asked in a painful half-French, half-Spanish mix. "Five minutes down the street to the left" she answered in English, somewhat exasperated. So off I trot, back down the street. And whaddya know? That first building I saw was the Cathedral after all! I tried to get in, but the church was closed for a private function.

I blame Trudeau. The younger one, with the hair.

After that, I tried in vain to find Ariadne Knits, but ended up lost. So instead, I made my way back to the conference to catch the session of the day. I noticed that a lot of architecture in Vieux Montreal - and I'm referring to the large buildings - hearken back to Greco-Roman influences rather than Gothic. I'm curious to see Ottawa in order to compare English architecture in Upper Canada. All in all, a lovely afternoon of sightseeing.

Friday, October 03, 2008

live blog - the leaders debate

Today's soundtrack:
Leaders Debate on CBC

7:00 - Oooh, spiffy music. Can I get that on iTunes?

On the economy:

7:03 - Stephane Dion is sounding pretty clear. Apparently, the man has a plan.

7:04 - Why isn't Harper looking at me? Maybe it's for the best. Excellent, rather than explaining his plan for helping the economy, he just went after Dion, who actually has a plan.

7:05 - I think Jack Layton just convinced me to buy a program that will teach me to use Microsoft Word...

7:06 - Duceppe compared Harper to Bush. That took all of 6 minutes, folks. Drink up.

Roundtable discussion:

7:07-7:10 - Harper's pretty cocky for a guy that's riding on the Liberal's fiscal platform. Had they not left the government books in such good shape, he wouldn't be able to claim anything tonight. Oh lookit Elizabeth May go! She's definitely holding her own here tonight, calling Harper on his hypocrisy and inability to discuss his party's (nonexistent) platform. Miguel says that Harper is winning. I disagree. I think the moderator is winning. When Dion gets flustered, his English slips a bit, but he's doing well so far tonight. He's getting his points across, but so is Harper. Harper is against raising taxes on corporations, but all the other parties are for it.

7:12 - May accused Harper of being too pro-Alberta. For those playing along, time for another drink.

7:14 - "Laissez-faire, I don't care approach". Nice one, Dion.

7:16 - Harper's being a bit patronizing to May. And Layton just referenced Bush and Howard. That's two drinks folks.

7:17 - Finally, women are mentioned by Layton, but only in passing. Hopefully this will come back later.

7:18 - Harper's EI plan will allow self-employed women to take maternity leave. Of course, once those kids are squeezed out there's a little problem of daycare...

7:19 - Layton called Dion on propping up Harper's government. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

7:21-7:25 - Dion brings in Sweden to support his Green Shift plan. And here comes the moderator: "Are those [manufacturing] jobs gone for good?". Harper wants "jobs of the future", which I assume will be when we start working for the talking apes and/or alien overlords. Duceppe didn't answer the moderator's question (never good to get on his bad side). Harper called Duceppe "Gilles". I wonder about that familiarity. Is it belittling? May wants to bring back all the jobs in pulp and paper. Layton wants to stop raw log exports. I clapped and may have scared Miguel. According to Layton, if "we invest and have a strategy", we'll be fine. Love to know what that strategy is. Dion has a plan. It's clear. And he managed to jab Flaherty at the same time. Nicely done.

7:27 - Harper: "We're not going into a recession. We're in a slow down." Oh you coy fox, we could play with semantics all night...

7:29 - During May's last comment, Harper started to look a little uncomfortable. He's got a bit of a smirk on his face, but he's definitely taking it from all sides right now. He is a good debater, though. It's difficult to remember points three candidates ago without notes.

7:31 - Layton to Harper: "Where's your platform? Under the sweater?" Snort.

On taxation and economy:

7:33 - The Liberal plan wants to decrease taxes on what creates wealth and shift it to pollution. Makes sense. Is Harper right, though? Is it really a tax hike in sheep's clothing?

7:36 - Why is it that I always end up wanting to vote for Duceppe? Oh, right: "For Quebec, [applying the Kyoto protocols] means a profit". Now I remember.

7:37 - May referenced Sweden in terms of the environment. Let's add Sweden references to the game, shall we? Take a drink.

Roundtable discussion:

7:38 - Dion did a good job of shutting down Harper's attack. It is a hard sell, though, to make the Green Shift not look like a tax hike. Dion: "Don't believe this man [Harper]". Well, there's no real danger of that. May referenced Sweden at the end again. Better go grab another beer. Get some popcorn at the same time.

7:42 - Everyone agrees that Harper has no climate change plan. Dion is winning this round.

7:43 - May called Harper on being obstructive during the Bali conference and compared him to Bush (drink up!). Don't worry, May, I already emailed Harper and told him he was morally reprehensible during Bali.

7:45 - Harper is listing his environmental work. May called him a fraud. She and Layton had a nice moment there as Layton said "and you learned how to say that in French last night!".

On healthcare and the doctor shortage:

7:47 - Layton wants doctors to stay ten years in family practice in their communities and he'll forgive their loans. Duceppe is right to say healthcare is a provincial concern, but like my sister pointed out, if the government doesn't give the provinces money for healthcare, there is no money for healthcare.

7:50 - I'm not hearing a lot of specifics from Harper. There are a lot of vague statements, but no specific plan.

7:51 - Layton referenced Tommy Douglas in defense of healthcare. Again. New ammendment to the drinking game. Tommy Douglas = finish your beer.

7:52 - Oh well this is just silly. Harper is taking a cheap shot at Layton for using a private clinic with his OHIP card, so technically it was still public healthcare. And Layton mentioned Tommy Douglas' daughter in defense. Take a shot of your beer. The moderator is right on top of things here and Harper lost face on that exchange.

7:57 - Harper's back trying to smack Layton around on the private clinic issue. He keeps referencing what he's done before, but there is very little here about his plan for healthcare in the future.

On the arts (from Saskatchewan! Yay! Represent!)

7:59 - Duceppe: "Culture, which is the soul of a nation". Exactly. Suck it, Harper.

8:00 - May: "A creative class". An interesting notion, but when the class war hits, my money is not on the artists. Bunch of hippies.

8:01 - Dion: "A country is stimulated by his or her artists". Giggle.

8:01 - We're hearing a fair bit about Harper's family, which I really don't care about. Clearly he's trying to eat up time so he doesn't have to face the onslaught that we all know is coming.

8:02 - Layton: "I'm not particularly talented". Teehee. Excellent point on the reality of starving artists. First $20000 tax free for artists copyright residuals. Makes sense.

Roundtable discussion:

8:03 - Moderator: "Do you think Conservatives are barbarians?" I could hear Harper objecting to the question, but Dion jumped right in. Oh, Bush reference. Drink up, my friends! Can you still see the tv?

8:06 - May: "No, I don't think they're barbarians... but these mean-spirited cuts will help you win votes".

8:06 - Layton is taking issue with censorship. He couldn't come up with a good example, but May jumped in with one of Avi Lewis. He owes her. The moderator seems quite concerned about the Biden-Palin debate. I wonder how that's going...

8:08 - Dion wants to double the budget for the Arts Council: "More movies, more novels." Sounds good to me.

8:10 - Layton believes that Harper would rather give money to the banks than to the arts. Harper thinks Layton's ridiculous and that he makes no sense.

On crime:

8:10 - May, quite rightly, points to increased media coverage for the appearance of more violent crime. Handgun ban and a better long-gun registry.

8:11 - Dion wants a two-pronged approach: to be tough on crime and the causes of crime. Rational, succinct, concise, and clear. Maybe he should come and teach my students tomorrow.

8:12 - Harper believes that violent crime is increasing. His answer is to go after young offenders. He wants to attack the gangs, but not a word about how to get to the root of the problem as to why kids join gangs.

8:13 - Layton wants a handgun ban and a solution to deal with young people. Much like Dion's and Duceppe's plan.

8:14 - Duceppe is clearly against Harper's stance against young offenders. Also, he's the first and only one to mention the victims.

Roundtable discussion:

8:15 - May: "Literacy is an essential element to keeping kids out of crime". That's an interesting point. May says Harper killed literacy programs, Harper said that they never taught anyone to read. Haven't had a drink for a while. Maybe that's for the best. When is May going to bring out her bong?

8:17 - Layton wants to help poor families in order to stem crime. Of course, that only works if you believe that rich and middle class kids aren't likely to commit crimes as well.

8:17 - Dion to Harper: "I trust judges and you don't.... You want the politicians to decide" on young offenders.

8:20 - May: "You need to treat young people differently. They don't get to vote yet" so why should they be criminally punished as adults? She's definitely doing well tonight.

8:21 - Layton brings up the horrific number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit in jail. Harper is dodging this question completely and is talking about victims instead.

8:22 - Dion has been pretty quiet during his section, but he's talking about the Kelowna Accord now. He needs to come out stronger on crime so that the Liberals don't look so weak compared to the rest. Layton got some good digs in there about propping up the government and Dion was looking pretty flustered by the end.

On Afghanistan:

8:24 - Harper gave the pat answer on why we're in Afghanistan. Next.

8:25 - Layton is giving his most passionate speech right now. I like the idea of going in as UN Peacekeepers after the withdrawl.

8:26 - Duceppe called Layton out on his complicity with the Conservative government in not voting with the BQ to end the mission sooner.

8:26 - May compared Bush and Harper again. Get your drink on! She claims the NATO mission isn't working and wants to go to the UN, and use the poppies for medicinal purposes for developing countries. Don't think I'd heard that idea before.

8:27 - Dion will stay until 2011 in coalition with NATO and is thinking ahead to Darfur. Oh. Well. Hmm. Now that's worth thinking about.

Roundtable discussion:

8:28 - Harper says this is a UN mission, but May disagrees. Honestly, I've never heard it described as a UN mission in the news. It's always the NATO mission.

8:29 - Layton called Harper out on following the Bush doctrine (which I know about, even if Sarah Palin doesn't - Can I be a vice-president too, Mr. McCain?) and that's why we ran into Afghanistan. Drink up.

8:30-8:33 - Duceppe is calling Harper out for supporting Bush's war in Iraq. Drink up. Hell, just get a few more beers out and ready. Bush again. Take another drink. And here comes Obama into the debate. Duceppe claims (correctly) that were Harper PM in 2003, we'd be in Iraq. May pointed out the difference between UN-sanctioned and UN mission. More and more impressed with her tonight. She's also calling him on ignoring other countries and regions in need, such as Darfur.

8:33 - I don't remember what Dion said, but I think I agreed.

8:34 - Latyon: "Peace dividend", which is logical. Peace does tend to be war-free.

8:35 - Dion compared Harper's foreign policy to that of Bush. Drink up.

On first big issue once in office:

8:36 - Layton wants to replace $50 million (billion?) tax cuts with reinvestment into a variety of social and environmental programs.

8:37 - Duceppe, you funny funny man.

8:37 - May wants to fix the electoral system and move towards a proportional system, to work on carbon pollution.

8:38 - Dion wants to focus on the economy right away, as it is the most pressing issue. Logical. Will prepare an economic and fiscal update. You know, he's really coming off as rather prime ministerial right now.

8:39 - Harper will continue with status quo, with the tiny credits he's promised for first time homeowners and raising the age exemption on tax forms. Blah.

Roundtable discussion

8:40 - Kitchen table! Been waiting for that all night. Drink up! Layton is alternating between Harper and Dion, which seems to imply that either could really end up as Prime Minister.

8:41 - I wonder how much tongue-biting the moderator has been doing tonight. Dion has a good defense. I'm really impressed with him.

8:43 - Alright, May huffing and puffing in the corner there is not appropriate. She's showing her frustration and she really can't. Cooler heads must prevail in this kind of debate.

8:44 - Harper "I will not raise taxes". Moderator: "Ever?". Harper: "I will not raise taxes." Sigh. Shades of Bush Sr.: "Read my lips, no new taxes". Shall we start the pool now as to when Harper will raise taxes?

On trust:

8:47 - Duceppe is going after Harper's broken promises. I think this'll be a familiar refrain here.

8:48 - "Politicians are just above the paparazzi in public esteem", according to May. That's true.

8:49 - Dion is trying hard to distinguish himself from Harper and to show the Liberals as a different sort of party. I like this line of Dion's, that he wants to "reconcile mankind and the planet"

8:50 - Harper is giving another pat, uninspired answer and directs her towards the platform. May asked "where is it?" in reference to the missing platform. Hell, we're near the end. Finish your beer.

8:51 - Layton: "The sweater is nice but they'd like to know what your plans are". Oh that's good. Eek! Kitchen table. Get another beer and start drinking.

Roundtable discussion:

8:52 - Dion is gearing up here now, going after Harper. Layton is going after Dion (good sign, as that means Dion's in contention here) and then goes after Harper. Layton mentioned the boardroom tables and how Harper has bowed down completely to oil companies. Drink some more!

8:53 - And Danny Williams rears his lovely Newfie head. Right now, I'd like to see the leaders get screeched in. It all comes back to trust and whether or not Harper rules unilaterally or with his government.

8:54 - The Atlantic Accord is getting more time here than Aboriginal issues. Women have come up twice, but only in passing. Harper looks annoyed by May. That gives me joy in my soul.

8:56 - Now they're just getting pissy. Time for their naps. I hope the moderator has milk and cookies under the table somewhere. Damn, Dion is really doing well!

8:57 - Miguel just pointed out that Harper is sweating. May just had to get the last word. That's somewhat grating. But yes, Harper's sweating. Let's hope for a repeat of that infamous Nixon-Kennedy debate outcome.

Layton and May gave each other a hug after the debate. Rightfully so. May helped out Layton more than she helped out Dion tonight.

I'd love to commentate on all this, but Miguel has made dinner as I've been blogging here. So I'll sign off for tonight.

Monday, September 29, 2008

the day brad trost came to the knitting circle...

Today's soundtrack:
"Lover's Spit" by Broken Social Scene
"July, July!" by the Decemberists
"Rebellion (Lies)" by Arcade Fire

Yesterday, Brad Trost came to talk to the knitting group, of which I am a member. He's the incumbent Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt (my riding). Naturally, I had a few questions. Top of my list was the government's anti-intelligentsia bias that seems determined to paint Stephane Dion as a hapless professor and to claim that all academics who disagree with Harper et al are nothing more than liberal elitists, perched in their ivory towers. Trost danced his way around the question while awkwardly fiddling with the Canada pins he'd brought (he made a lovely pyramid of pins several times throughout the afternoon). Dael, a fair more eloquent member of the knitting group, managed to get at the point I was attempting to make in my question. He was ignored by Trost, a move which solidified, in my mind, Trost's status as a bigot. But I think the point came out eventually, although perhaps only in my mind, that academics and the so-called "elite" of Canadian society (still not sure who these "elite" are, and Trost was good enough not to define his terms beyond the broad, useless strokes) that agree with the Conservatives are "ordinary people". Academics and the "elite" that disagree with the Conservatives are liberal effetes who don't understand the real world.

Well, I feel better. Don't you? It's always nice to have your opinion confirmed, especially when your opinion is that your opinion doesn't matter to those in power. In fact, the not-so-subtle subtext of the afternoon had my feminist butt ushered back to the kitchen by Trost.

Melissa, another member of the knitting group, brought up a very good point about the child-tax credit (which is, in reality, only $75. Trost said taxing the tax credit was in order to protect the Conservatives "from the left"). In defense of the anti-universal childcare platform of the Conservatives, Trost cited the example of his friend who lives rural (re: farmer), who has 3 children and a wife. I asked what the wife did and he looked at me with a mix of disdain and apathy, and said "she takes care of the children". Well of course universal childcare wouldn't help that particular family. The wife doesn't work outside the home! The point of universal childcare was to help the majority of Canadian families where both parents have to work outside the home. Staying at home is a luxury that is not a reality for the majority of Canadian families.

But I, as an Ivory Tower elitist, have no conception of the reality of the Canadian family. Clearly the Conservatives have this one under control.

I wanted to ask Trost why the sparse Conservative platform was simple pandering to key groups that they want to make gains in, rather than a comprehensive plan that will help all Canadians. Trost, however, was chomping at the bit to get out of the coffee shop and back to the Chamber of Commerce, where the good ol' boys would pat him on the back and stroke his wounded ego. Regardless, the measly tax relief offered to families buying their first home showed the Conservative bias and innate bigotry. A heterosexual couple (judging by all the information I've seen) buys a house on their 2-career income. Of course, when she gets pregnant she'll have to stay home with the kids as there is no universal childcare. Now with only one income and the expense of raising children, this house they bought with the "help" of the Conservatives is unsustainable. The Conservative dream would have these "ideal" families broke within ten years.

Good plan. Glad to see they've got it all under control.

I feel better. Don't you?


There is a way to avoid all this, however. Scott Ruston, the NDP candidate for Saskatoon-Humboldt, came earlier yesterday to... well, I was going to say talk to us, but he didn't. Trost talked at us. Ruston listened. In Melissa's blog post, she mentioned how comfortable Ruston seemed, completely relaxed and interacted with us as though we were all old friends. Ruston's platform wasn't just platitudes and apathy. He is, by far, one of the best candidates (NDP or otherwise) that I've ever come across - and I've been going to All-Candidates Meetings since I was old enough to sit still. None of us felt belittled or ignored. Our concerns were valid and were treated with the respect they deserved.

If there is anyone else who reads this blog that is from Saskatoon-Humboldt, I encourage you to park your vote with Ruston this election. There simply is no one better qualified to represent our riding.

For the rest of you, on October 14th vote early and vote often. Let's prove the over-confident Conservatives wrong and deny them the majority they believe they deserve but certainly haven't earned.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

kate versus the ladybug

Today's soundtrack:
"Be Mine" by R.E.M.
Ninth Symphony by Beethoven

Outside my office window the trees are just starting to go a little yellow. In a few more weeks I'll be able to see Thorv again. It's one of those absolutely glorious, blue-skied September days, but not because of anything I'm doing, though. I've been sitting in my office reading up on eighteenth-century beliefs about sensibility and the body and, occasionally, keeping tabs on a ladybug that heard from the fly that there might be some kind of way out of here.

I've been getting up at 6:30am (okay, for the past couple days, 7am, but still!) and putting in a real day's work. I think this might be the secret to academic success because I seem to be getting a lot done. More than that ladybug, anyway. My point is this: today, life is damned good.

Here's a sneak peak at my sister's socks:

They are ridiculously pink. Almost blindingly pink. She'll love 'em.

P.S. - Happy Birthday, Dad!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

on my discovery of english literature...

Today's soundtrack:
Vida la vida by Coldplay

Today - in fact, just a few seconds ago - I rediscovered my love of English Literature. It had been lost all year, somewhat buried beneath my overwhelming fear of failure as Ph.D (please, feel fear to point out the ridiculousness of that), but has been miraculously recovered while perusing the table of contents of my new desk copy of the The Norton Introduction to English Literature. So that's it, then.

However, I do want to stand by my claim that for a book about a whore, Moll Flanders could not have been more dull.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

prairie summer

Today's soundtrack:
"Fireworks" by the Tragically Hip

As a transplanted Islander, I feel it is my duty to tell you, my dear Island folk, about the nuances of a prairie summer. Below is a list of recent aspects of summer that I've discovered:

1) Middle-aged, pot-bellied men feel there is nothing wrong with rollerblading in biker shorts. And only biker shorts.

2) Gophers are ridiculously cute, but also ridiculously stupid. If they just stayed still when something came close, they'd be impossible to see. Yet every time I am out riding my bike, the noise they make diving for their burrows forces me to look, then swerve, then try not to fall off of my bike.

3) Directionality. Specifically, the sun's directionality. There are no trees, no mountains, and rarely clouds to break up the sun. The result is that after a lovely dinner, one side of you is bright red, and the other side could pass for albino.

4) No matter which direction I peddle my bike, I am always riding into the wind. And what's more, the wind has the power not only to stop me dead in my tracks, but to push me backwards.

5) The smell of manure is in no way nostalgic for me, as it is for Mom. I'll take the smell of low tide over manure any day. Now, you may think it's impossible to smell low tide on the Prairies, but all you need to do is go to Regina and walk around Wascana Lake on a warm day.

6) When I rode my bike in Nanaimo, I'd hit a few bugs. Maybe. But here, it's as though the bugs are all kamikaze fighters and I'm the target. Mosquitos, flies, wasps, little green inchworms - anything goes!

But I'm not complaining. Oh no. Considering the spring you poor Islanders have had, and the miserable summer you're in for, I'll suffer through the suicidal gophers and mind-boggling wind.

Monday, June 16, 2008

where have you been all my life?

Today's soundtrack:
Symphony No. 5 and Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven

With the exception of WWKiP day and the Stitch & Bitch yesterday, I've kept myself locked up in my basement reading. What, you may ask. Well, Fanny Burney. Yes, I was doubtful at first, too, especially when I realised I was looking at 2500 pages of Regency prose, but now I'm quite smitten. I think she may even supplant Austen as my favourite author. So now my poor neighbours are suffering through a Beethoven-a-thon in honour of the final years of the 18th century, while I read (tea in hand) Camilla and Cecilia.

Yes, that is the extent of excitement in my life at the moment.

And yes, I am fully aware of how pathetic that is.

But not to worry! After I finish with Burney, it'll be onto Swift, Defoe, and - oh why not - Burke. Nothing says relaxing year of reading for the comps like Burke's A Philosophical Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful. Rivetting, no?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

my wrist is on fire!

Today's soundtrack:
Hockey Night in Canada

So fine. I admit it. I have a knitting addiction. Last night, as I watched the first season of Northern Exposure, my left thumb and wrist started to burn. But did I put down the knitting needles and take a break? Oh no, breaks are for wussies! So now my thumb and wrist only stop burning with ice. I am now on a knitting vacation until this burning sensation passes.

It wasn't all in vain, though. I've managed to make some lovely things.

This is the Lace Ribbon Scarf from Knitty

And this is an afghan for the Smug Marrieds.

Oh well done me. Now off to ice that wrist.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

all things ravelry

Today's soundtrack:
The Lake SkipMix

After a week down in Regina (which I will blog about at some point), I decided that I should get back to knitting. So over the weekend, I made this toddler sweater (not for me!) from Debbie Bliss's How to Knit:

And yes, I am all kinds of impressed with myself. But just as I was stitching the last seam together, my Ravelry invite arrived. I cannot even begin to describe my joy at being able to post pictures of my stash, of lining up my queue, and of describing my finished projects. I've come a long way from the scarf I made for Mom that looks like it was made by drunk house elves.

In celebration of my newly-realized skills as a beginner knitter, I cast on the Lace Ribbon Scarf from the current Knitty issue.

In further knitting news, my Knit Picks Harmony Wood DPNs arrived today. Yippee! They are quite lovely and will be put to work shortly. But as for tonight, Evelina by Burney is calling me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

sign of spring

Today's soundtrack:
The Reminder by Feist

Well, it doesn't really feel like spring here. Sure, it's a bit warmer and the snow has melted almost completely, but the ground is brown, the trees are bare and the sky is grey. In reality, this feels more like fall.

Except for the gophers. The gophers are back.

There is no more reliable sign of spring than the gopher, and I spotted my first gopher running across the entrance to Place Riel this morning. A girl was sitting on what passes for grass at this time of year, waiting for the bus, when the gopher ran past her. Judging her great leap and quick scamper away, I think this may have been her first gopher sighting.

Naturally, just as spring is about to really start, I finally put the fringe on my Ravenclaw scarf. Just in time for next winter, I suppose. But now that the socks and scarf are done (and I am not-so-patiently waiting for my Ravelry invite), my project list is shrinking rapidly. I think it's time for a yarn hunting expedition...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

sock it to me.

Today's soundtrack:
The National

I did it. I knit a sock. I finally figured out, with the help of the folk, how to properly use double-pointed needles so that my socks weren't doing this bizarre inside-out thing. Long story short, I turned the heel, picked up stitches, gusseted and kitchenered my way to my first ever sock.

Oooh I really like knitting socks rather than afghans. The near instant gratification appeals to my near absence of patience. Woot!

I would give you proof, but the Spaniard has the camera in Florence. And if he doesn't come back with a memory card full of hot Italians and the Duomo, then he's going to lose all camera privileges.

Anyway, I knit the first of two socks out of the leftover wool from the legwarmer project. But after this wool is gone (which it will be very, very soon), then I have no more sock yarns in the stash. Gasp! So, I did the only logical thing and ordered a lovely set of dpns from so that I am completely prepared. Next, when I'm done in Regina and out in the 'Mo next, I'll raid the local lys's sock yarn supply. After all, who doesn't love homemade socks? Snort.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

lord of the geeks.

Today's soundtrack:
Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie.

Came across this, an analysis of The Lord of the Rings as property law.


17 years is not an excuse.

Today's soundtrack:
In Rainbows by Radiohead.

Interesting few days on the Prairies. This video has been making the rounds. Current Tory MP Tom Ludiwski and SaskParty Premier Brad Wall have both apologised for the homophobic and ethnic slurs - although they attempt to contextualise the film by saying that it's almost 17 years old and that, somehow, intolerance was more acceptable almost 17 years ago.

17 years ago was 1991. In 1993, Philadelphia came out. It's not like homophobia and heterosexism wasn't on the radar. 1991 marked the end of the Soviet Union. The Eastern Bloc had collapsed and there was near universal understanding of the dire economic and social issues facing Ukraine. I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but I still remember the sense of desperation implicit in the images broadcast on the news. While during the 1960s Ukrainians in Saskatchewan were still viewed as inferior, Archie Bunker managed to blow apart the ethnic stereotyping facing Eastern European immigrants during the 1970s on All in the Family. Point is, 17 years ago wasn't that long ago. 17 years is not an excuse.

But what has bothered me most about this video is the sexism that runs throughout. From the cameraman asking why the two women working on the computer weren't sitting in each other's laps, to telling a woman she was "missing something" (breasts) on her chest and asking another woman to undo one of her buttons (as she was wearing a sweatshirt, this proved impossible). The reactions of the women are interesting. Either a) they agree with their objectification or b) they are used to the sexual innuendo and harassment and find it easier to put up and shut up rather than draw attention to the asinine behaviour of the future MP and Saskatchewan Premier. Either way, the shocking aspect for me is the acceptance of this sexist behaviour. Last time I checked, 1991 was after the Second Wave movement of the 1970s.

I get the fact they were drunk. I get the fact they were celebrating a debate that hadn't happened yet. I get the fact that they were probably all friends as well as fellow campaigners. What bothers me is the lack of respect shown not only to the LBGT and Ukrainian communities, but also to women.

And for some reason, that's the one aspect that the media refuses to talk about.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

geek moment

Today's soundtrack:
War by Edwin Starr

Candace presented in class today and directed me to this quiz for expectant mothers in the eighteenth century. I got three wrong. Good luck!

Monday, March 03, 2008

need a cigarette?

Today's soundtrack:
"Me Enamora" by Juanes

I admit it. I have a bit of a growing crush on Javier Bardem. It started with Mar adentro when the young version of Ramon Sampedro is frolicking by the shore. Then, one night while the Spaniard was in Japan, the CBC Late Night Movie was Boca a boca which was pretty damned cute and a bit madcap. I mean, here's this lovely looking fellow working as a phone sex operator! Speaking Spanish! The other day we rented Before Night Falls and my oh my doesn't he do tortured soul so very well?

But things were getting back to normal. I was able to think of him as a very talented actor, mainly because all those previews for No Country for Old Men show that terrible wig those Coen brothers made him wear. I was able to get the idea that he's a sexy Spaniard out of my head.

And then, I came across this. Poof! All my hard work, gone. My keyboard? It's covered in drool. It's a good thing I have my own Spaniard to go home to, otherwise I could be in real trouble.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

hasn't harper seen before night falls?

Today's soundtrack:
Exitos by Elefante

Yesterday - or maybe the day before - this story broke about the Conservatives trying to get a bill through the senate that would restrict funding to film productions that were deemed offensive. From the article:

"Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

'We're thankful that someone's finally listening,' he said yesterday. 'It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government.'

Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign."

Honestly, I'm really not surprised. Seven or eight years ago, I was inadvertently at a small Thanksgiving dinner that included our local MP, who is now a Conservative backbencher. We had an interesting conversation throughout the evening that ranged from Canadian involvement in the Holocaust to then-current government policy. At the end, before he left, he took me aside and said "you know what the problem with the Canadian government is? It's that we're not doing a good job of representing the kingdom of God on earth". In my understanding of his argument, the way to properly represent the kingdom of God on earth was 1) to vote Conservative (or at that time, Canadian Alliance), and 2) to allow a narrow reading and understanding of Christianity to dictate Canadian political policy.

Ridiculous? Yes. Surprising? Not in the least. As though any of us expected anything different from the Conservatives, whose base seems to be channeling the Evangelical Republican base of the States. I don't know about you, but I sense some angry letter writing to my local MP tonight.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

solidarity forever

Today's soundtrack:
Carmen by Bizet

The Spaniard and I were watching The National this evening and there was an interesting piece on the upcoming election in Pakistan. The reporter was in Islamabad and I, feeling witty, said "you know, it's just bad P.R. to name a city in a Muslim country Islam-a-bad".

Without missing a beat, the Spaniard turned to me and said "Thanks God the writers' strike is over".


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"HOYVIN-GLAYVIN!"; or, when schizophrenia attacks.

Today's soundtrack:
"Jealous of Your Cigarette" by Hawksley Workman
"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall

For an hour or so this afternoon, as I sat with a cup of tea in my hand and Tristram Shandy in my lap, a flock of bohemian waxwings made the trees outside my office window their temporary home. I mentally coaxed them to come closer to the window so I could get a good look at the colours.

As a result, my inner geek is now completely disgusted with my inner nerd, and has threatened my inner nerd with a wedgie and a sound trouncing at the monkey bars after school today. My inner nerd is taking comfort in the knowledge that although she knows about birds, at least she's not making a Ravenclaw scarf and re-reading The Lord of the Rings like my inner geek.

My inner twinkie watched all of this with disdain and decided to force my inner nerd and geek to watch American Idol tonight as punishment for making her look even slightly uncool and fat. But my inner feminist took offense at her "fat" comment, and force-fed her the rest of the chocolate chip cookies while reading from The Second Sex.

Phew! What a day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

making a nest out of yarn in order to keep warm

Today's soundtrack:
The Reminder by Feist

Oh happy happy day, the Mansbridge is covering Super Tuesday. He's down in California for it, but I think it's all just a cover for a romantic rendezvous with Claire Martin. I see the way he looks at her. There is definitely something going on. Not like the Rogstad and Chantel Huber. That's just straight-up hate sex. The CTV newsroom is clearly the Studio 54 of Saskatoon.

Of course, all this just serves to distract me from the cold snap that has me checking for cheap flights to Cuba. I'm in the midst of my Ravenclaw scarf, but the snap will be over before it's finished. Winter could be over before it's finished. But the winter didn't stop us from venturing out for 15% off Tuesday at Sobeys. Yes, that's right - 15%!. It's like Christmas in February. Well, we kind of overdid it and bought a ridiculous amount of groceries ("Sure hun, I totally need 2kg of whole wheat flour"), to the point where a random stranger took pity on us and offered us a ride home. On a whim, I weighed Miguel when we got home. With a backpack and two grocery bags full, it totaled 60lbs (that's just over 27kg for the metrical folks).

All that being said, tomorrow will be nice enough that I may go long underwear-less. I think we can safely say that it is the first day without long underwear, not the appearance of the groundhog, that heralds the spring.

Tangental aside: Watched the premiere of Eli Stone the other week. Once he was referred to as a prophet - repeatedly - I turned to Miguel and said "Jesus Murphy, the Mormons have escaped and they're producing TV shows". N.B. Marie Osmond just got her own talk show. I'm guessing she wants to be the Mormon Oprah.