Thursday, May 31, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

O, say can...a-da

Yesterday, just in time for the weekend, gas prices around here hit a record high again. Nearly every station was posting regular at a dollar-fifty-point-something per litre. Or, if we’re talking US gallons, nearly six bucks.

It sounds as though some of the high prices have to do with ‘problems’ at Cherry Point, the Washington state refinery we see at night from the local beach. Yet as if to further confuse the issue, fuel prices across the line in Bellingham, Washington are hovering around $4.25 - $4.50.

But then today, oh miracle of miracles, I guess we’re supposed to feel that we’re living in the land of bargains, as the cost of fuel has dropped a whole five cents a litre (almost a 20 cents difference if we’re talking per US gallon), and is down to the still-not-cheap $1.45.

Naturally, although countless reports and studies have proven the oil companies are not in cahoots with each other when they set their numbers, the gas stations once again nearly all show the same identical price.

Comparison shopping beyond the price of gas – for clothes, running shoes, electronics (even house siding manufactured in Canada) – reveals that prices are often at least a third less if you shop in the U.S.

Especially where we’ll soon be permitted to bring back more when we shop across the line, it’s seeming more and more as though ‘they’ (yes, the proverbial ‘they’) are doing all they can to make life so expensive here, when they make the offer for us to become the 51st state we'll gladly fold our maple leaf into the red bars of the stars and stripes and start singing a different anthem.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh, TED, I hardly knew ye...

Not long ago, a well-meaning friend sent me a link to video which he thought would inspire, or at least interest me.

It was part of the TED series, so I took the time to watch it.

About the only feeling the video inspired in me was disappointment – that, and complete puzzlement about what exactly the TED foundation stands for.

I guess I was mistaken in thinking that a TED presentation meant a well-researched, well presented, thought-provoking piece. Instead, the video I saw was one that contained errors and seemed full of emotion-laden language geared towards a particularly non-scientific set of conclusions.

Granted, the imagery is remarkable. The video in question consists of a series of electronic scans strung together to illustrate the development that occurs between conception and birth. Primarily, it’s the captioning that got me shuddering.

Worst of all was the just-fertilized egg, in process of its first division (a stage I’d thought was zygote). Here the caption cites that, at 24 hours, the “baby’s first division” occurs. Egg, yes. Zygote, I think so. Baby, not.

Part of this is the editor in me, bothered by vertebrae being spelled ‘vertAbrae’ the term yolk sac becoming ‘yolk sacK’.

But my bigger concern is over the emotional ‘baby’ language embedded throughout the piece. I’d thought embryo and fetus were the more specific terms for stages of pregnancy. Instead, this presentation is filled with the loaded sort of terminology I expect from the likes of Rick Santorum, not from a supposedly respected scientist.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Beautiful, but...

Just a few weeks ago, Vancouver Public Library was announced as being one of the world’s most beautiful public libraries. The photo, not the standard view of the building, is a shot I took looking up at the glassed roof.

Sadly, inside the building, it’s not all so pretty. There’s a mix of good and ugly going on.

The good part would be last night’s literary event where, inside the library over 200 of us were in the audience for another in VIWF’s Incite Series.

The readers were Vincent Lam and Linden MacIntyre. As might be expected, their readings had everyone following every word.

MacIntyre pulled off the evening's biggest laugh with his comment in response to a question from the audience he couldn't quite hear. "Like they say in Newfoundland," he said, "hearing is the second thing to go."

The only cloud on the event was the fact that as we entered we learned that the librarians at VPL are having to fight to defend their jobs.

Many staff members have had their hours cut to lower than the magic cut-off line of 20 hours. Below 20 hours, a worker no longer qualifies for sick pay.

There are a number of other ugly complications, but they’re spelled out better than I can state them at the library workers’ website.

The reason the city is having to slash $500,000 from the library’s budget? What else, last year’s ‘supposed-to-boost-Vancouver’s-economy’ slash in the pan Olympics.

Good luck, London. I hope your city fares better.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A room with two views

Just about time for a lunchtime break, but first this quickie catch-up blog.

It's my week to take a turn at the 'time-share' writing retreat space I've lucked into, a very special spot on the shore of English Bay in Vancouver.

Besides having a bite to eat, I'm taking a page from Evelyn Lau and going for a walk on the Stanley Park Seawall. She talks about the Seawall and how it figures into her writing process in the latest edition of Wordworks, the online journal of the Federation of BC Writers.

A wrap, a juice, a notebook and pen -- out the door I go -- to be part of the view and not just looking at it!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Where's the fair in fairness?

 And where is the just in justice? Looking in the dictionary hasn’t helped.

Yesterday’s decision permitting Conrad Black back into Canada makes me wonder what’s going on in this country – a country once known for its compassionate sense of justice.

Black was convicted of serious crimes, which in itself is supposed to make him less-than-welcome. Beyond that, in the interests of acquiring a lordship in England, Black officially renounced his Canadian citizenship.

So why, I ask, does the red tape fly out the door and the gold-plated welcome mat get laid at his feet?

The unfairness of this decision seems even more horrific when contrasted with the case of Rodney Watson. He’s the American soldier who found Iraq to be more than he’d bargained for, and quite a contrast to what he’d been told to expect. Like so many other soldiers of conscience, he left the US army and headed for Canada, where he thought he would find asylum.

Only Watson hasn't been granted asylum in our country. Rather, he has been residing in sanctuary provided by Vancouver’s First United Church.

The full horror of his situation sinks in when you realize he's been living at the church since the autumn of 2009 – nearly three years.

Yet Conrad Black waltzes in after waiting a day.

Is it simply because Rodney Watson doesn’t have the kind of bankroll Conrad Black has?

Like I said, could somebody please show me what’s fair about this?