Wednesday, April 29, 2009

oink, oink

i am fascinated with the pandemic of the swine flu. i watched both the who and the canadian minister of health news conferences today and was totally impressed with the information they gave, the professionalism they exuded, and the warnings they gave to the media to keep their reporting from becoming sensational and panic stricken and to doctors in their prescription of the antivirus to treat the flu.

i also learned that those masks are not very good at preventing flu transmissions, that there is only one testing facility in canada (in winnipeg) to confirm the virus is swine flu, and the differences between the flu vaccine and the antivirus used to treat it.

at first i thought that the world was over reacting and that if people are getting the swine flu and not even needing to be admitted into the hospital, it cannot truly be such a problem. but then i washed away my western bias and realised that if a flu of this nature got into the informal settlements in the developing world or if people contract the flu in countries without the health infrastructure that we have in canada, it would be absolutely devastating.

in watching the coverage of the pandemic, it makes me want to be involved in some way. perhaps because i used to work for an organisation that has a huge migration health department, which is no doubt mobilising to address the swine flu. just as i do when i hear about disasters, conflicts, and emergency responses of other natures. maybe i am an activist at heart, or just have an adventure seeking spirit. but i am busy as bee here doing what i do, so i am quite content to stay put and wait until it is my time to get more involved again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

dream job

after a fun weekend full of visits with out of town visitors, i was compelled to work from home today to ensure that i am sufficiently prepared to deliver 2 presentations tomorrow.

one is going to be on project management in the developing world and has 73 people signed up as of this morning. sure, they might just be coming for the free lunch, but i don't want them to leave disappointed!

the other is going to be a 1 hour workshop on human trafficking, should have fewer than 30 people, and is material that i have presented many a time, so it is not nearly as nerve wracking as pretending to be an expert in the field of international development as well as project management. eek!

however, if i could find a job where i give presentations, write my thoughts, and format powerpoint presentations for money, i would be one happy lady. here are some of my favourite photos that i have included in my presentation.

until then, wish me luck tomorrow (and remind me not to wear the pants that have the fly that doesn't stay up!) and once this little hullabaloo is over, i will get back to more important things, like attending improv shows and trying out my new runners!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

mizuno creation

thanks to the expertise of heather, i got myself a new pair of shoes that will hopefully alleviate my bruised toe issues and make me go really, really fast.
they are also a neutral shoe and i have been running in a stabilising shoe, so i am curious to see how this affects my running and my foot/hip issues.

and by the way, heather ran the police half marathon today, so go over and say congratulations!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Late, Late Breakfast Show

i have known one of the improvisors in The Late, Late Breakfast Show since we were just wee. and let me tell you people, she is funny. and when i say funny, i mean she has been known to rap upon request, impersonate her mother (who i adore) with the most endearing voice ever, wear lampshades on her head when she is sober, and stuff an amazing amount of grapes in her mouth on a whim.

ok, so the last 2 were when we were 13 years old, but still.

her improv group is putting on their show next week (tuesday, april 28th - saturday, may 2nd) in calgary at the Birds and Stone Theatre at 8pm.

check out their website and then join me at the show for a laugh or two.

spread, spread, spread

it is world malaria day and you know what that means...

let's keep spreading the net!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Little Bee lacks authenticity

over the easter long weekend, i read the book Little Bee by Chris Cleave. the subject matter, a nigerian asylum seeker struggles in the uk, would be intimately interesting to me considering my work in migration, my life in the uk, and my general love for things african and/or refugee.

and it was a good story, drawing attention to the struggles in nigeria over rights to oil deposits and the challenge to survive in migrant detention centres and in a foreign society with little to no resources.

however, i am not so sure that the author is deserving of the accolades for this book (shortlisted for the costa award for best novel in the uk) because i think it overly simplifies the storyline and its characters. someone gets their finger chopped off on a beach whilst vacationing in nigeria with their husband and then runs from the rebels back to their compound? i am not saying that it could never happen, but just throwing an incident into the story and not digging deeper left the story a little flat for me.

there is an interesting interview with the author where i think he makes a better case for bringing the issues of detaining irregular (not illegal) migrants indefinitely and in inhumane conditions to the public than he does in his book and is worth a read.

although even in this interview he completely misuses the words refugee and asylum seeker and although i realise that to most people, the differences are moot, if you are going to write an entire novel on the topic, you should get the terminology correct. the main character, little bee, is not a refugee and is instead an asylum seeker. asylum seekers are not inherently victims of anything, hence the word 'seeker' included in the phrase. they are asking to be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds, but have not been given formal leave to do so yet.

i took slight offence to the assumption that little bee could not return to nigeria and that the british system would detain an unaccompanied minor in her situation. i am not saying these things do not happen, but i do know there are many programmes for unaccompanied minors and there are guidelines on how to handle such cases. in fact, i was involved in one such case of unaccompanied kenyan children in europe and they were not detained, not mistreated, and not forced to go anywhere that was unsafe. (but i get that this happens, i just wish there had been more information given to make the issues clear).

there are literally thousands of stories that could be told about migrants' experiences in the uk and i would most likely purchase and read any of them that are published, but i suppose i have pretty high expectations of authors who wish to tackle such an issue so personal to me. unfortunately, this book did not meet those expectations.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

have you seen my legs?

i am not sure what has gotten into me (well, there was that slight funk again last week), but i have been a bit of a running machine lately.

i accidentally ran 16.7km on saturday afternoon this past weekend. it was an accident because i only intended on running 14km, but took a wrong turn and wasn't exactly going to turn around after running 8km, so just kept going. it was awesome. the best part of it was that it was my muscles that were screaming and not my lungs during the tough bits of the run, meaning that my lungs are well accustomed to the altitude, dryness, and aerobic activity.

what makes me so impressed with myself is that i ran alone and didn't plan on it, just sort of did it. i have never been a very self-motivated runner, no matter what and how i have tried, so this was quite a feat.

and last night i ran 8km, a nice, easy 8km at that.

i am on a running roll. let's hope the running continues, but the funks stop.

and does anyone know any treatments for bruised toes? is this an indicator that i need new shoes? or a new pair of feet? ouch.

flames in 6

i had the opportunity to attend the first calgary flames home game of the playoffs in the third game of the first round of playoffs this past monday (thank you charlie!). it was awesome.

what made it so awesome was that i got to go with my brother, who was also rocking his skinny jeans, and that calgary won. it was a great game and i was totally impressed with the fans who did not boo during the american national anthem (as i had expected they would) and instead many actually sung along. it was nice to feel as though i was a part of something big and to see all the flaming black c's in the sea of red.

to fit in with the red, i actually had to run to jersey city on my way to the game to pick up a flames shirt (i know, this sort of makes me a bad fan, but what do i need a flames shirt for at any other time of the year? and my bro's jerseys are just far too large unless i belted them and wore tights).

what made the night not so nice was the belligerent and irritating fan sitting behind us who insisted on starting chants along the lines of 'suck my d*ck' and 'bull sh*t.' i think he missed the memo. the one that says that he should grow up and have some class. and that i will never give him a high 10, that one too.

the other elements of the night that i was not entirely impressed with were the boos directed towards the referees and linesmen as soon as they stepped on the ice (and then calgary fans wonder why we had crappy calls against our team during the first period...) and the stomach ache that i got immediately after eating a chocolate malt (i know, i know, when will i learn?).

go flames go!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

theme-less list

  • i have two potential blind dates to look forward to. my dating advice? tell everyone you know that you are dating and that you are open to being set up.
  • time at the cabin was wonderful over the easter long weekend. reading books, preparing training materials, winning at monopoly (even though my opponents forfeited), drinking beer in the afternoon, sunburns, dog walks, podcasts, mmmmm...... delicious
  • i came into my office building this week to find all the windows painted to cheer on the flames and rogue pucks painted on the twirly doors. who doesn't love nhl playoff season?!
  • that billy bob thornton is an ass
  • that thailand better get these protests under control. don't they know i am coming?
  • my next spanish class is starting up this week. level 6, baby!
  • i may need to institute the indicator pants again...
  • i purchased a new pair of shoes made by a company called Blowfish. i am really enjoying them and although i cannot link to the exact pair i bought, they have this rather interestingly shaped heel that makes walking easy. now i do not look as though i might topple over when i wear heels (or hopefully i do not appear as unstable as i feel). and yes, they are leather.
  • anyone have any good recommendations (or suggestions on where to avoid) for a hotel in san francisco? (or does anyone want to join me? ahem!)
  • i am a sneezing machine lately, which i will take over the congestion any day.

UPDATE: there is a really good globe and mail column that makes an interesting comparison to the cbc and media in the states when interviewing celebrities, including billy the bob. article here.


i watched a most interesting documentary last night on The Passionate Eye. it was all about plastic (i cannot remember the exact name, but 'plastic' was in its title) and did you know:

- that plastic was invented during wartime and then was pushed into the common market in the 1950's to keep up the petrochemical industry that boomed during the wars?
- that plastic cannot be broken down?
- that very little of recycable plastic is actually recycled?
- that when plastic is recycled, the plastic is reconstituted and is not usually as strong?
- that there is vegetable-based plastic that dissolves in water?
- that our oceans are chockablock full of plastic bits that will never dissolve and end up in our food chain when small fish mistake tiny pieces of plastic for food and then are eaten by the bigger fish and so on and so forth?
- that things in landfills will never decompose because they are hermetically sealed?
- that manufacturers and recyclers are not communicating effectively, because manufacturing products with a variety of different plastics (think a pop bottle and it's cap) cannot be recycled together?

to think about the amount of plastic that i go through in a day (disposable coffee lids, shopping bags - even though i try to remember to bring my own, clothes and jewelry, cosmetics, all the packaging that covers most of the consumer goods i buy...), it is mind boggling for me to think of how i am contributing to the masses of plastic crap that are floating around in the ocean.

i had a thought that perhaps some of you have already had whilst pondering my participation in the plastic mess that we find ourselves in - how are you to shop ethically and green at the same time? i know that some vegans will only wear shoes like converse because they are completely animal product free and that handbag designer mat & nat makes bags that are supposed to be ethical because they are totally composed of manmade materials.

but then, isn't that just contributing to the environmental bru ha ha that all this plastic is creating by making more plastic that cannot be broken down or recycled?

if it comes down to it, i would rather wear a pair of leather shoes for which a cow had to die, than contribute to the environmental catastrophe that is plastic.

anyone who has spent any length of time in an african country can attest to the incredible amount of useless, cheap, plastic bags that clutter nearly almost any landscape. however, rwanda seems to have it right - they have banned plastic bags from their country entirely.

Monday, April 13, 2009

betwixt sex and gender

(april 11, 2009)

i’ve been waiting to write a review of the book Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes, but i wanted to finish the very last page before putting my thoughts down. i wouldn’t say that i enjoyed reading this book, but i did love reading it. the story is unsettling in that it challenged my views of love, of gender, and of what is right and wrong. it felt real in that the details seemed spot on for life in detroit during prohibition and then through to the 1970’s. i have never been to detroit, bit i now feel like i know a thing or two about it through Euginedes’ descriptions.

i also feel as though i know a thing or two about being intersexed (or a hermaphrodite, i am not exactly sure what the accurate terminology is) as the story of calliope unfolds. there is something about the author’s telling of the story that made me confident that not a detail was lost and that everything seemed true, even though it is fiction. i believed every word and when i stop to think that it was not a true story and that he had to invent those details, i am awestruck and utterly impressed.

the story is not apologetic, it is not gentle, and it captures the childhood, youth, and adulthood of its narrator by following their family tree back to turkey when a family immigrated to the us to flee the war with greece.

i have always had a soft spot for books that follow a family through the generations (Rohinton Mistry does this well and another canadian novel called A Good House, whose author i cannot recall at this non internet moment, is one of my all time favourites for this intergenerational story telling), and Middlesex is no exception.

i liked this book and i know it will be one that i am thinking about for a long time.

Friday, April 10, 2009

scientific proof

the single most commong google search that leads to my blog?

ice cream stomach ache

i am pretty sure this is scientific evidence that supports my claim that our bodies are not naturally built to break down cow's milk protein or lactose.

i love cheese, i love lattes, and i love chocolate even though i want to punch dairy in the nose.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

mostly a working list

i realise that yesterday's post was a little heavy and not that that is against my blogging policies (not that i have any), i thought i would lighten up the mood around here with a list. because who doesn't love lists?!
  • there is a slight, tiny possibility that i could get dragged into a project my company is doing with a un agency in another country. and by slight, i mean, my boss asked me about something in the budget and i had an answer, so there is not much of a possibility at all, but at least i proved my worth about knowing something about why the project has gone sideways.
  • recently i had my desk and chair ergonomically assessed and it is making a world of difference. no problems with swollen thumbs or with achey shoulders now that my desk has been fitted to my size, my chair has been switched, and i have one of those pads to rest my wrists on as i type.
  • i get to plan our company's volunteering events for the united way of calgary this year, it will be a lot of work, but i think it will be great to be involved.
  • i booked my flight to thailand! i bet you didn't even know i was going, did you? well, i am. in june. for 3 weeks. with my top (amazing race) chum. it should be grand.
  • i've booked a hair cut for $35 and you can too, if you print off this coupon for a hair cut at swizzle sticks salon in calgary (as long as you've never been a client of theirs and can get in before april 30th)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

acknowledgement that i will never understand

almost exclusively, i take the train to work. sometimes, i am annoyed by other people's conversations or i feel my personal space is being violated, but i generally enjoy the time to reflect, read my book, or sip my coffee.

this morning, however, i drove in to work because i have a meeting later today that i must drive to. there i was, thinking i would have an easier commute down crowchild trail when i saw a truck that seemed to be promoting alberta beef or some other meat product.

it wasn't until i was driving right beside it that i realised that it was covered in photos of aborted fetuses and was advertising the website it instantly made me upset that something so graphic would be driving down the street in rush hour and that the images are meant to be gruesome and disturbing.

the reason i was so upset by the photos isn't because they made me feel ill or question my belief in a woman's right to choose, but because i thought of those women who have chosen to have abortions or those men whose partners have had abortions or even pregnancies that were miscarried and i felt sad that those people would have to be faced with that on their city streets. to me, it seemed the photos were intended to make those people feel like murderers. and yet abortion is not a crime and it is an accepted and regulated medical procedure.

i looked at their website and my distaste for this vehicle was heightened because not only is one of the founders motivated by his christian values, which to me seem incongruous with my understanding of the christian ideals of acceptance, tolerance, and love for all people. but, they call this shock marketing 'the genocide awareness project.'

i may not be able to speak to the christian debate with much authority or knowledge, but i can make a comment on the misuse of the word 'genocide' and feel pretty confident in my argument. a genocide is the intentional decimation of a specific ethnic group or nationality. it is not the same as mass murder (assuming that is what the anti-abortion organisation intended) and by using the word genocide, i think it perpetuates the misconception of what a genocide truly is and when the word should be used.

unfortunately, the word is not used by our politicians and leaders when it should be (i.e. darfur), but i think it should also be reserved for the gravity of that specific crime and not thrown around to describe an activity, that whether or not you agree with it, is not a crime in canada.

the logical reaction to my argument would be that in canada, we value free speech and have it legislated in our charter of rights and freedoms. i suppose my thinking here is not that the truck should not have been allowed to drive down a busy road, but that why would the people driving it want to make other people feel badly about decisions they might have made?

i feel the same way about the campus pro life group at the university of calgary that is currently in a battle with the uni about having their freedom of speech muffled - i agree with them that just because i don't agree their message, they still have to right to speak it, but i still will not understand why you'd want to hurt other people and i know that these groups would never agree that inflicting harm is not their intention, but i suspect that that happens more often than they change people's opinions on abortion.

Friday, April 03, 2009

it's all true

borrowed from this lady, here are 10 things about me that you may not have already known.

1 - most people are surprised to learn that by nature, i am an introvert and shy, sometimes painfully. although i do enjoy public speaking.

2 - things i love include writing, learning new cities, q tips, david suzuki, the smell of scotch tape, earl grey tea, chocolate fudge cake from nairobi java house, kofi annan, alberta beef, barack obama's smile, the smell of pine trees, music that almost makes you cry, going out for breakfast even though i don't like most breakfast foods, airports, novels, daytimers, creme brule, medium or dark roast black coffee, that feeling that you get two days after you've used your muscles, french red wine, tulips, buying clothes, and receiving mail both electronic and snail. that list is not exhaustive.

3 - i could tell my sister anything. while i wouldn't tell my brothers anything, i could be anyone or do anything with them.

4 - my recent love life reads like a soap opera drama. do you know anyone who actually went to an airport expecting someone to arrive only to find out they had never bought a ticket for the flight? well, now you do.

5 - i have really big feet for my size. i would quite like to trade them for a more user-friendly pair.

6 - i want to be famous. but not in the celebrity way. in the way that i am known for something. and i google myself regularly.

7 - my newest canadian hero is louise arbour. she will soon be the executive director of the International Crisis Group.

8 - i am neither a cat person nor a dog person, i am both. and i don't think you should have to choose between them. my dog has one eye and my cat sleeps on my bed every night. my brother says that although you are never supposed to talk about a girl's weight, my cat seems to have lost her waist line in recent years. that is also true.

9 - blueberries are my favourite berry.

10 - if i won the lottery, i would go back to uni and study my little heart out. i would also travel around the world, staying in the cheapest as well as the most luxurious hotels i could find. i'd drink san pelligrino exclusively and provide numerous microfinance loans to people in canada and abroad.