Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving in to bullying

Yes, that's a picture of my apparently not-smart-enough electrical meter. I guess it's soon going to be going the way of the dodo, replaced by an enhanced, supposedly smarter cousin.

In my dictionary, the definition of the verb 'bully' suggests that bullying occurs when a weaker or smaller person is intimidated into doing something they don't want to do.

That's exactly the position I feel I am in.

Our electrical utility in British Columbia has determined (not via legislation, but someplace) that those of us who don't want a smart meter installed may 'opt out' by paying a fee of $35 a month to keep our old one. That's a smooth grab of $420 every year, more than I am able to justify paying.

I've talked about this before, including times when I felt there might be a chance in this David v. Goliath situation.

Only now it's come down to my giving up.

Wikipedia puts it pretty clearly in their article about bullying. And the way they describe it sounds exactly like what's going on here in B.C.

In the grand scheme of things and of inequities that go on in the world, I'm sure most would consider this extremely small potatoes.

Still, it's the kind of thing I don't like giving in to. Residents of other jurisdictions haven't been penalized nearly so harshly for not wanting a smart meter installed.

Only in B.C. are the penalties this extreme. Welcome to the brave new world where corporatism sets the rules we are coerced into living by.

Monday, November 18, 2013

More remembering

While last week was the official day for it, Remembrance Day, today is also (for me at least) a day of remembering.

It was five years ago today that my mother died.

Visitors to this blog will have seen the little angel in the photo before. Still, it's one of those small gifts from my mother that will always remind me of her.

The flowery cup in the photo is another gift from her. I can remember times when I'd go shopping with her, so she could buy me a present for my birthday or other occasion.

She'd generally want me to like something more 'girly' or decorative -- jewellery or a fancy, fitted sweater. It took many years, but eventually I was able to convince her of my tastes. If it's clothing, I prefer something second-hand and baggy. Jewellery; not even the second-hand store usually turns up much for me.

It took years, but we finally struck agreement on a gift I would both enjoy and use: something for my seemingly-endless cups of coffee. Still, what kind of cup might that be? Ah, our quiet disagreements dribbled on...

She'd want to buy me a dainty little cup, often one with a saucer. To me, saucers are best used as small serving plates, not as something extra to cart around (or to wash) as accompaniment to a cup.

So the hardest part was convincing her that I was a 'mug' person. But I persisted long enough that she finally agreed.

Compromising on the degree of 'cutesy' or 'pretty' aspects were yet another hurdle. The cup (er, mug) in the photo serves as an example of one of our best compromises. Bright and pretty, not too 'pinky' or delicate in its design -- an item that I still enjoy using.

Something she and I more easily agreed on was good literature. One of the writers whose work both of us admired was Doris Lessing, the Nobel-winning author who died yesterday. If you click on the link at her name, you'll get one of the best overviews of Lessing I've been able to find on the web. I really like and am a firm believer in the quote posted at the header of the article. My 'best reads' are often books I've found by a method I call my 'radar' and no, I'm not afraid to not finish a book that keeps losing me.

Choosing the article I linked onto does, I admit, reveal some bias on my part, as I'm a longtime fan of science fiction, a genre Lessing sometimes called 'space fiction'.

One of the aspects of Lessing's work that isn't always referred to (though it is mentioned in the piece I've linked to) is her belief that many of the ailments referred to in contemporary society as mental illnesses are really just a kind of clear-eyed sanity that comes with seeing how crazy the reality of our world is. I've actually had more than one therapist agree with this observation.

For years, I was criticized for self-prescribing when I experienced depression, a condition my mother experienced as well. Happily, I see now that I wasn't so far off the beam and that my self-treatment (sleep) did not justify the derision I took for 'taking to my bed' again. Especially in wintry times (and here in Northern climes, where our days are now getting so short), maybe a kind of hibernation is just plain good for us.

And with that, I'll say Sweet Dreams. Maybe my mother will visit tonight.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Art and war: a remembrance

This isn't the usual statuary one envisions when Ottawa’s war memorial is mentioned. Still, it's the one I prefer, as it honours our country's longstanding tradition of serving as a peacekeeper. 

I've spent much of the weekend thinking about Remembrance Day and thinking as well about War Art.

In ways, the term seems almost contradictory, as what can be beautiful about war?

And the more I thought about it, the stronger I grew in my conclusion that War Art mostly turns out to be Anti-War Art. 

Last week at the library I picked up a DVD -- with no forethought or plan -- it was just one of my usual 'radar' grabs. This was truly the right weekend to watch it, with its hugely powerful statements on the horror that is war. 

It's a 1957 film by Stanley Kubrick called Paths of Glory. I'd never seen it before, but thought the title sounded familiar. I guess I must have confused it with another war-themed film, Tunes of Glory. Though both are worth seeing, they're not at all the same, and don't even focus on the same war. 

The trench warfare images presented in Paths of Glory aren't particularly graphic or nightmare-inducing. The horror lies in the details of the story, one that illustrates the pointlessness of war and also the ruthless nastiness that power can inspire. 

Oddly, this weekend also turned out to be when a cousin of mine died. I hadn't seen him since we were kids, but have terrific memories of him, a once-in-a-while pretend little brother to me. When he grew up, he followed about as different a path from me as any two people could. He attended the U.S. Military Academy, West Point and chose to spend his whole working life in the military, a career that included a long stint at the Pentagon.  

And now, I can only hope that he has found peace. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Stinky business

Or, more accurately: Stinky businesses.

I'm getting tired of walking into stores where the only means of entering means I have to pass through the perfume department.

You'd think with all we've learned about allergies to scent, that merchants would have found it necessary to shift these potential death traps to some area of the store where customers wouldn't have to walk through them.

More and more places post signs that ask patrons to refrain from wearing scent. It's not just my doctor's office that's posted this request. My local pool has joined the movement. Hotels and other buildings with elevators often encourage the avoidance of scents.

It's no longer just something you need to do when you're visiting your crabby aunt who has asthma. It's become a widespread courtesy (think: airplanes, with their closed-circuit air systems, yech!) to avoid using scent.

Being shiny-fresh clean is all the scent you need. And maybe next time you walk into a store that assaults you by greeting you with a wall of scents, hold your nose and let the manager know that you think their policy stinks.