Monday, November 29, 2010

Jobs for humans

Strange, I suppose, but I'm all for the idea of jobs for humans.

I'm sick of being directed to use the self-checkout lanes, tired of waiting on hold while a machine drones a loop of pre-recorded pap.

What a concept. Jobs for humans. And today of all days, Cyber Monday, a day we're supposed to go online and shop our brains out.

While I understand the concept -- that virtual shops should make overhead costs lower, I'm having trouble getting my head around what happens when all of us do all our transactions online. And really, I want people to have jobs.

I'm so concerned about jobs disappearing, I refuse to go to self-checkout lines at my supermarket.

I even mail in some of my bills. I figure that somebody has to clear the letter box, empty the bag, at least throw the envelopes into the sorter, etc. Then, when the item arrives at the company in question (oh yes, a letter carrier even delivers it), a person has to open the envelope, look at the numbers on the cheque and the bill, credit my account...

Considering the many steps one simple bill payment must go through (as opposed to if I pay it online), quite a few people have to actually touch the documents -- in other words, a lot of people have themselves a job. Just thinking about the many people whose jobs I contribute to (even in a small way), I reckon I get my 57cents worth.

Crazy? Maybe. But it makes me wonder just who'll have the money to buy anything -- online or in person -- if too many of our jobs get taken over by machines, whether self-checkout cash lines or automated bill pay systems.

Next time you're shopping -- or paying a bill, for that matter -- think about whether you're doing anything to ensure at least a couple of jobs for the humans. After all, humans (especially employed ones) may well be the next endangered species.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Over the river but not through the woods

This was the view out the window of the SkyTrain as we passed over the Fraser River on Sunday afternoon. If you look, you can see a bit of reflection. The fresh snow on the North Shore Mountains is one of the reasons this part of the world is so beautiful. Thanks to Franci Louann and Poetic Justice, I was heading into New Westminster for a reading at Renaissance Books. What a busy place -- three readings in a single afternoon!

Because I can't so much as enter a bookstore without buying a little something, I came away with a couple of new-to-me titles. Still, there are worse habits. I am sure.

As for the not-quite quote on this header, it's from an old poem associated with American Thanksgiving. Best wishes for this holiday to our neighbours to the South. All of us have plenty to be thankful for. I for one, am grateful to not have to be trying to use an airport this week!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Still more remembering

This series of Remembrance Day postings has become even longer than Canada's observance of Remembrance Week. Still, I think my reasons for continuing are good ones.

Tuesday saw writer June Hutton visit White Rock. She participated in two events -- one at the local library and one at our favourite coffeehouse, Pelican Rouge. She not only read from her novel of remembrance, Underground, but also answered the many questions posed to her. Whether talking about history, her process of writing, or the poppies she'd found in a box of family treasures (in the photo), she was gracious and clear and lots of fun.

In fact, June was just the sort of person my mother would have enjoyed. And this is a special day of remembering her, as it was this date two years that her life ended. The little angel in the photo is one that came from her, and it's one of the many small objects in my life that remind me of her.

The candle's burning in remembrance of her -- and oddly, for another friend, one whose passing was almost exactly 100 days ago. How quickly time passes, but how long we remember.

And I promise, from here on in, I'm back to looking forward -- with any luck, just as the angel above is doing -- with wonder.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Studio time

This weekend seems dedicated to studio time. Last night it was participating in SFU's The Writer's Studio reading series.

Feature reader for the event was Gurjinder Basran. Her book, Everything was Goodbye, won Mother Tongue Publishing's Search for the Great B.C. Novel contest. The section she read seemed spot-on authentic.

Other readers were Bonnie Nish, whose photo is at the left. Her poems ranged from those considering "...a childhood gone wrong" to ones remembering her mother, who died less than a month ago. Nish's musings "On being Ashley Judd" was a funny (and useful) poem for those of us who are less-than-drop-dead-gorgeous.

Other readers were Kerry Sandomirsky, an actor whose piece about self-induced bondage had everyone in Vancouver's Take 5 Cafe in stitches. SFU graduate Leslie Hill read a convincing memoir set in Toronto, 1969, while UBC's Natasha Boskic read love poems, and even offered one in multimedia format. The first set was closed by Morgan Chojnacki, with a delightful scene from her Quebec-based story -- even the snowballs in it seemed fresh as the 16-year-old character she presented.

The first reader after the break was Andrea Winterbottom, who's a frequent participant in the Writers' Retreat workshops at Matsqui Penitentiary. Others were Jennifer Irvine, whose "Unfashionably Green" mixed childhood memories with bittersweet comments about losing a parent. Hilary Mandel's story "Couch Love" seemed all too familiar, as my partner and I are caught up in the throes of getting rid of a beloved couch (though having a heckuva time finding a better one). And squeezed into the second set was my piece -- a condensed version of the first chapter of next spring's Shrinking Violets.

Today was a day for the cardmaker's studio. Not affiliated with any university, this is an annual event that sees my friend Brenna and I puttering with craft supplies while we try to be creative. At the rate of about an hour per card, we're not exactly planning to go into business. Still, it's something we both enjoy. Besides, it's a great excuse to sit and visit.

Tomorrow's a studio of another sort -- a day that will be spent in the kitchen, crafting up a feast of Mexican-style foods.

All this creativity, and in the span of only a weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Or, to put it another way, a day that's about not forgetting. The rock with its plaque of remembrance rests outside the White Rock Legion, a place where there'll be a lot of stories told today.

Those of us who don't have particular memories of war are among the lucky ones. And as I type these words, I can hear the old planes as they do their 11 o'clock flyover. How fortunate to know that no bombs will fall from them.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Canada Reads -- a lot!

This year's Canada Reads event is the 10th Anniversary, so they decided to run it a little bit differently.

Instead of presenting us with the five finalists, they opened the competition -- and asked readers to nominate the Top 40 fiction titles of the last decade.

By clicking on any title on the list, you can read more about it. So if there's a book you're unfamiliar with, now's a great time to learn about it easily.

Now, we're supposed to vote for a favourite -- a tricky proposition, at least for me -- to only choose one. Using those votes, they'll create a shortlist of ten. After that, the final five contenders will be announced and will be defended, as they always are, by a panel of dedicated celebrities.

The ballot is at the bottom of the list. There's even a contest for those who want to try their hand at predicting which books might make the Top 10 (near the bottom of their page, after the ballot).

We have until midnight Sunday (Eastern time) to cast our ballot -- only one per voter, which I appreciate. No ballot-box stuffing!

Which book do you think should win this year's Canada Reads?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Spirit of the light

According to a piece by Douglas Todd in Saturday's Vancouver Sun, this is the season when it's easy to find 'thin places' -- places where the membrane between the physical world and the spiritual one is thin enough to allow spirits (or ghosts, if you prefer) to pass through. But he's not the only one to recognize the 'differentness' apparent during this time of year.

Diwali, the Indian festival of light, also occurs during this auspicious time. Celebrations in Vancouver begin today and run through the weekend.

Today's the day Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It's also the day Roman Catholics observe All Souls' Day, a day when prayers are believed to release those who might have been trapped in purgatory.

It's hard not to think there must be something special about this time of year. With so many different belief systems observing important rituals involving the dead during this time, I can't help but suspect there's something to it.

I've got a candle burning in the kitchen, and who knows -- someone on the other side may well decide to come by and say hello.