Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Traffic Calming

I like that phrase. It sounds much more pleasing to the ear than traffic control, and even though it anthropomorphizes traffic (because, in truth, it's the drivers who are responsible for the behaviour of traffic, not the traffic itself), it makes sense to me. Here in Prince George there are very few sidewalks, and on our street there are precisely none. Even worse, the street we live on is the only way in and out of this neighbourhood. And, of course, each day the boys have to walk to the end of the block to catch the bus to school, and then they have to walk back at the end of the day.

This wouldn't be an issue if traffic was indeed calm, but it isn't. School hours for Aidan and Brennan coincide, roughly, with school hours for high school kids who drive. And they coincide with rushed mothers and fathers trying to get their kids to school so they can head off to work or to shop or to work out. It gets worse in the winter, when the snow falls and stays and narrows the width of the road and makes it more difficult for everyone to walk on the lawns (memo to self: politely tell off the neighbour who insists we not walk on her grass, next time she hassles us) and many drivers drive the same bloody speed they drive when the roads are dry.

Fourteen houses have been built up the road from us, adding that much more traffic. When they announced the plans I phoned the city and asked it this meant sidewalks were going to be installed. The woman I talked to thought they were, but only where the new homes were. Not surprisingly, not even that happened. An email to the mayor went unanswered, but now that the election is over perhaps he'll deign to have the time for me; I doubt it, but call me Pollyanna. But in the meantime, it might be a good idea to track down some old living room furniture and see how it goes with the asphalt.

Monday, November 28, 2005

How Many?

Word comes that I have 31 novels and fiction collections making their way, in one box, via mail or courier or perhaps stork. This is my punishment for agreeing to be a judge for the Sunburst Award for this year.

Did I mention that this is only the first batch?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Listening, Listening

Today's iPod Random 10 (after about half of Randy Newman's Short People, which was left over from yesterday):

Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - They Might Be Giants
All That Is - Garnet Rogers
Railboard Worksong - The Notting Hillbillies
Eye in the Sky - The Alan Parsons Project
Only the Lonely - Chris Isaak
The Bus Song - Maria Dunn
Comin' Down - Meat Puppets
Klee Wyck - John Bottomley
Building a Mystery - Sarah McLachlan
A Criminal Mind - Gowan

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Week's Corrections

In the lead article of November 23's Prince George Free Press, we apologize for our author using the word "upmost" when it is likely he actually meant to use "utmost." We realize that the definitions of the two words might be marginally similar, but we also accept that it is unlikely the author has even heard the first word used, except perhaps during little events that run inside his skull.

We also apologize for the same author using the nonexistent word "its'" in an article on page A10. While not directly dealing with the sloppy placement of an apostrophe in this particular word, we have recommended to the author that he regularly refer to this useful reference tool.

We also regret the wealth of illiterate buffoons who reared their ugly heads in the leadup to last week's civic elections and the fact that they showed off their own particular knowledge deficits in our "Prince George Votes" insert. In particular, we regret the following:

We don't promise that these were the only errors for this week, but we're honestly too tired and irritated to continue looking. But we'll likely be back with more next week.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Various Potshots

I'm normally onside with the folks I'm about to point fingers at, so please understand that there's nothing personal in all of this, and neither is there any dogmatic or political axe to grind. Instead, it was my teeth doing the grinding a few times this week, and I just had to say something.

First off, the always excellent Avedon Carol has been pinch-hitting for Kevin Drum at Political Animal, and in the middle of a tremendous post on the Democrats not being able to keep up with the lies the Republicans constantly spin, she suggests that they try reading several blogs each day. She even lists which blogs are most likely to yield results, and most of the ones she mentions are blogs I visit and can indeed vouch for.

The list includes Atrios, a blog I visit a couple of times a day. And yeah, he's normally good for pointing the reader towards other sites that document all sorts of atrocities. However, he's also keen on using some bizarre nicknames and shorthands that he thinks, I'm sure, are pretty damn clever and that most of his readers think are clever as well. The most recent one is to refer to Bob Woodward as "Booby."

Now, I don't know about you, but for someone who is not familiar with ever bloody intricacy of US media and politics, when I click on a site and am looking for information, I want something concise enough to allow me to decide I should click the follow-through link and pursue whatever-the-hell line of thought might be. But there's no clarity here, nothing to suggest that I should want anything to do with this. Pseudo-posts like this are nothing but confusion, like dangling a carrot five hundred feet in front of the donkey, so why the hell should it even bother.

And yet this is considered one of the good sites, a place where a liberal (or Democratic, since we all know those two states of existence are not always the same) should go to get his or her information. I have no patience for this sort of BS, and I'm not tied up 26 hours a day balancing my time between trying to represent my citizens and trying to raise money to be re-elected. When concise, Atrios is a great clearing house of links to other sites that have the information to cut through the lies. When playful and idiotic, Atrios is a lost cause that would make any busy person just want to open up Freecell.

Also recently, PZ Meyers, who blogs on all sorts of excellent topics (but weighted heavily towards hassling so-called Intelligent Design and other non-scientific travesties) at Pharyngula, wrote an entry called "Naturals and Unnaturals." He writes:

"I need a label, so I'm going to call those people who consider material evidence paramount and regard the real world as a mostly sufficient container of phenomena that define our existence the Naturals. I consider myself one of them, so I think these are the good guys, for the most part; it doesn't mean that all Naturals are correct in all matters, though, because there are many whose interpretations of evidence I disagree with, and vice versa. All that is important is that we agree that measurement and testing and analysis are the best ways to resolve our differences.

"What's the contra position? There are those who think inspiration and intuition and all the internal imagery of their minds define their external reality; that what they wish to be so will be so if only they can articulate it and select and distort evidence for the purposes of persuasion. What they see is only applicable and interesting if it reinforces their presuppositions, and all else is a lure and a distraction, an illusion that must be disregarded or rationalized to fit into a predetermined explanation. Many religious people are examples: they have a vision of an unseen power that acts on the world, and despite the lack of evidence and frequent contradictions between their beliefs and reality, they insist on interpreting everything as a shadow of something impalpable and unimaginable.

"I'm going to call them Unnaturals, plainly enough."

I can see this train of thought, and I can understand it, but Meyers is quick to point out in any occassion that a religious person might agree with his own stand on something the fault that this person carries for being religious, for believing in an invisible friend in the sky. "On the other side, we find Rev. Coyne, the Vatican astronomer who dismisses Intelligent Design, who is clearly mostly a Natural supporting science and evolution, but who occasionally tosses out an Unnatural bon mot about his religious beliefs..."

In an earlier posting about Coyne, Meyers wrote:

"His position as an astronomer is significantly more convincing, but still…astronomy is not evolutionary biology. If we are to encourage respect for legitimate expertise, it defeats the purpose if we then uncritically accept the words of someone whose main claims to fame are regard in an unrelated science and his membership in a hierarchy of medieval metaphysicians who wear funny hats.

"Maybe we should just disregard religious authority in all of its forms, even when it says stuff we like.

"Also, Coyne should have shut his mouth after criticizing Intelligent Design creationism. What are we supposed to make of this kind of silliness?

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."

"What does he know of this god? How does he know how it operates? What evidence does he have for any of these vague claims, these peculiar insights into the hypothetical mind of a mythical being? When people purport to speak for gods, we should just pat them on the head and escort them to a nice quiet room for a little lie-down, and maybe give them a damp cloth and a good cup of tea."

See, here's the funny thing that I think Meyers refuses to understand (as opposed to not getting it at all; I just think his worldview won't let him take this in): just because you're religious, your worldview shouldn't be instantly dismissed. Coyne is a priest. He works for the Vatican (well, even if he was stationed up here in the middle of freaking nowhere, he'd still work for the Vatican, but you know what I mean). The very core of his life is to try and understand life's mysteries in a way that is meaningful to him. The fact that he does this both as a priest and as a scientist is a decision I find quite fascinating. Do I believe the same thing he does? No, I do not. Do I understand that his position and his belief may indeed require him to say something about it now and again? Why yes, yes I do.

He said nothing that pointed fingers at people for not sharing his own beliefs. He did not claim that God would come and get you for disagreeing with him. And while Meyers at no time suggests that Coyne can't say what he wants, his desire to dismiss what's said by the priest shows an inability to utilize what could and should be an important alliance.

I'd like to propose that Naturals and Unnaturals be defined in a different fashion. Naturals, it seems to me, are those who attempt to foist their views on others. Unnaturals are those who understand that it's quite all right for others to hold other viewpoints, and that, exercised carefully, those viewpoints don't have to be a hindrance to society.

I set it that way because, as animals, we seem to be hard-wired to look out for number one. See Peter Watts on "The Flip Side of Mother Love" for an example. It's easier for us to not accept anything different, anything alien. And so a friend's mother, commenting after the Air India crash that she felt sorry for all those poor souls because they would never go to heaven (being that they were all Indians and therefore must have all been Hindu or Sikh, not Christian), was showing herself to be a Natural. My sister, who spent many years working as a youth and a music pastor, was appalled by this point of view. I would suggest that her response puts her into the Unnatural category.

Another Unnatural statement was recently made at a conference of Reform Jews:

"We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the religious right is the voice of atheism," said Yoffie. "We are appalled when 'people of faith' is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God, and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a person of faith?"

Of course, the fact that the same convention resulted in an accusation that "the religious-right's opposition to gay rights [is] reminiscent of the Nazis slid the whole thing a long way back towards the Naturals.

My disagreement with Meyers (and with Atrios) probably means that I'm a Natural, I realize, but I'll try to mitigate this by encouraging both to continue to do whatever the hell they want. Because, honestly, what difference does my opinion matter?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sitting at the Trough

In a stunning moment of political smarts, both the ruling Liberals (here in BC more the equivalent of the Conservatives) and the opposition NDP voted to give themselves a 15% pay raise. Even better, they decided to do this on the sly, backroom deals and all in silence, rather than, say, using the legislative process to do the job. Oh, the legislature did get involved, when the deal was announced and every single MLA stood up to vote in favour. A good analysis is here, but no permalink is available, so look for the November 18 entry titled "MLA Oink, Oink!"

But now the NDP, apparently remembering that one of the jobs of the opposition party is to sometimes, you know, oppose what the government tries to pull, have decided to withdraw their support for this bill. They're still keen to get their hands on all that extra money, of course, but leader Carole James has admitted that she has concerns about the process. Even though she thinks the money is deserved.

I'm curious about who arrives at these numbers, especially just after forcing the teachers back to work with a zero (0)% increase, and with the nurses' contract expiring next March. Did the government and the opposition really think that this sort of thing is going to slip through without anyone noticing?

You know, even though Victoria is an expensive city, I'd be embarassed to be making the same sort of money. Wait, that's not true. Rather, I'd be embarassed to be making that sort of money (and remember, I'm including the exorbitant pensions here, where a good number of MLAs are already guaranteed a million dollars or more after they turn 55) in a situation where I voted to award it to myself.

That last part is key, and it's something politicians the world over seem to never understand. Yeah, maybe you work hard for the coin you make, and maybe you had to give up all those lucrative private sector dollars (because, my goodness, coming into this whole public service thing with open eyes just won't do, will it?), but as a politician whose job rests on dopey citizens like me not remembering all these stupid transgressions, you should maybe try and find a more open, democratic way to decide whether or not you make enough money.

Me, I'm unlikely to forget. And if I'm still in this frozen wasteland next election, I'm going to make damn sure everyone I know remembers as well.

Whistle While You Work

Friday's Random Ten via the iPod:

Red Shoes - Chris Rea
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - Paul Kelly
Lusitana - The Watchmen
American Woman - The Guess Who
Sister Golden Hair - America
Let It Be - The Beatles
The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Lucinda Williams
I Wasted Time* - Paul Kelly
Simple Song - Lyle Lovett

Apparently it felt I was in a largely classic rock mood. And I refuse to apologize about song #5; I have a soft spot for three songs by America, this being one of them.

* I want to have this one played at my funeral. Which makes me think, someday soon I'll post the list of songs I want played, be it wake or funeral.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Martin and Castro, Sitting in a Tree

So get this: a nutbag by the name of Brian Maloney (close, yes, but not quite the same name) was filling in for even nuttier bag Michelle Malkin and somehow barfed this out with his keyboard:

"Keep a sharp eye on fresh developments in both Canada and Cuba, two countries with rogue, corrupt and repressive regimes that don't know when to cut their losses and leave town."


"Then, to Canada, where Prime Minister Paul Martin's corrupt band of Librano$ are still clinging to power, but the situation is ever more tenuous."

Among other things, of course. But the best part of the whole thing is the title, all in caps: EVIL REGIMES SET TO TOPPLE? Maloney is, no surprise, an American.

Now, I don't hold a lot of deep love for the current EVIL REGIME here in Canada; there are plenty of thieves and liars and politicians in the lot, enough to put me off my lunch just about any day of the week. But honestly, a good portion of the EVIL REGIME was actually already replaced (yes, I'm one of those idiots who think Paul Martin wasn't part of the process. Stupid and blinkered, yes, but not EVIL).

This all reminds me that earlier this week, as I listened to threats of toppling the government and making us spend more money on another election (and listened to my wife comment on how tired she is of hearing people be so angry), I spent some free mental time - defined as pretty much all moments spent at work - thinking up new slogans for our political parties.

Such as:

Liberals - It's not like you were using that money anyhow.

Conservatives - Equal rights for a simple majority! (Everybody else, back of the bus.)

NDP - No, really, today we're firm on that. But check back tomorrow.

No ideas about the Bloc yet. I welcome thoughts. And in the meantime, please join me in cheering on any attempt by neocon freaks to influence Canadian political thought, since such attempts remind us of the joys that await our society if we vote in a Conservative majority government.

(via Blogoland)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

On Spec Has a Blog

On Spec, the magazine for which I perform Art Direction duties, now has a group blog, "We're all bozos on this bus." It's a group blog because On Spec is a group effort. Diane Walton is the General Editor, Peter Watts, Holly Phillips, Steve Mohn, and Susan MacGregor are the fiction editors, and E.L. Chen is the web maven. The blog will serve to supply news regarding the magazine, and will give readers info on details about the magazine, including my own links to cover artists.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday's Random Ten

Actually, I started listening while working today but forgot to lock the iPod and bumped it, and it started all over again. So this is more like Random 4.5-14.5:

All That Is - Garnet Rogers
Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
Over the Waterfall - Michelle Shocked
A Time in My Life - S.E. Rogie
Nothing's Gonna Bring Me Down - David Baerwald
Ordinary Day - Great Big Sea
Smoke Baby - Hawksley Workman
Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who
Come a Long Way - Michelle Shocked

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