Saturday, December 30, 2006

bits 'n bites

the last few days I've surrendered completely to a life of slothful relaxation. between reading, writing and cuddling with Karma, I've filled my time with movies, both new and old. Some of the ones I would recommend? well...
And these are the movies that are still on my "to do" list. Any comments?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

an educational update

Well... after 3 months of waiting and waiting and waiting, I finally have some news from the University. First, they asked me to send copies of all my class syllabi, and examples of my course work. Then, after emails back and forth for a week, my faculty advisor has decided that she will grant me credit for work equivalent to 5 UofA classes. [this means that in order to graduate, I need to complete 1 more semester.] And, I found this out on Monday.

Today is now Thursday. The last 3 days have been a whirlwind of phone calls, emails, stress, breakdowns, and many unanswered questions. I explained to my advisor that while I waited for her decision, I made the choice to sell my condo, and that I now live in Calgary, with my family. She understood that moving back to Edmonton for a semester would be practically impossible, and agreed to make an exception in my case. If I could get permission from the University of Calgary to attend as a visiting student, and I was able to find the very specific courses that I still needed in order to graduate, she would approve them and let me finish my degree from home.

I spent hours pouring over the University of Calgary calendar, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find 5 classes that met the requirements my advisor set out for me. Frustrated, and forced with the option of not graduating, I made the decision to give up the next 4 months of my life, and move back to Edmonton and finish my degree.

I enrolled in the classes I needed (and got approval from my advisor that these are the courses I need to graduate), and then spent days trying to find a place to live. I knew I wouldn't be able to afford much.. especially since I won't even move to Edmonton until Jan. 7th, the day before classes start. I'll look for part time work once I'm there, but until then, I'm not making any money.

Finally, I found an ad for a room for rent. It is furnished, and sharing with a guy and a girl. We'll share the living spaces, but the room is private, and it's something that I can afford.

So, from January through April, I will be back in Edmonton. Back at the University of Alberta. And back in a life I thought I'd outgrown and said goodbye to so many times before.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Hanukkah To Me

It's almost time for Hanukkah, and this year, I've decided to take a step back. Instead of spending my time describing the gift exchange rituals that have become part of Hanukkah tradition, I'm going to turn things around and talk about Christmas for a while. This year, I guess I'm a lot more critical than I've been in the past, but after the opportunity to spend a winter in a country where Christmas doesn't consume lives for a month at a time, I've been spoiled.

I should explain.. Christmas does exist in Japan. BUT, it exists for a couple of days, and is then forgotten as quickly as it appeared. There are no Christmas carols consuming the radio stations. There are no Christmas decorations in public places like restaurants or store fronts. Christmas is not even a national holiday. In Japan, Christmas is celebrated by Christians, and the rest.. well, the rest just go on with their lives happily oblivious.

In Canada, however, and throughout most of the world I suppose, Christmas has become synonymous with overbearing and gaudy decorations, and what I refer to as religious ignorance. Ironically, the ignorance is at the hands of those that are the least religious Christians, from what I can see. It's the ones that feel their rights at Christmas Time far outnumber the rights of the rest of us. The ones that get my blood boiling over because of their blind belief that every person in this world participates in the mockery that is Christmas.

And I ask you. What *is* Christmas, anyways? I never understood how the holiday grew from celebrating the birth of Christ to the consumer glutton-fest it has become. How exactly does smothering a chopped down tree with lights and buying each other gifts honour and commemorate the man that was supposedly the son of God?

Anyways, the following is a letter I wrote earlier this week after being upset by some comments made by the radio personalities. They were upset that there had been a request made in Seattle that the airport display not only their Christmas Trees, but share in celebrating other holidays that take place during this season. For more info, check out this article from CNN. For the record, I had no issue with their being upset, and frankly agreed that the airport completely over-reacted & acted defensively rather than recognizing the non-Christian populace of Seattle. But the radio show's response to the situation was to belittle the non-Christians for "speaking up" rather than just "rolling over" and letting the Christians have their fun.

As entitled to each of you are to your own feelings and thoughts regarding the month of December and the implications that has on Calgary, every non-Christian listener tuned into your radio station should have an equal right to that freedom of thought.

If you're unhappy with a decision made by someone in the community, then by all means, say so. But when you go beyond that and begin questioning the opinions and rights of your non-Christian listener-ship, do you realize the implications of your actions? Perhaps there are topics and issues that are more sensitive than you initially assumed. Can you not try to understand how difficult and frustrating the winter season can be a non-Christian? From the moment the Thanksgiving decorations come down, they are replaced by flashy (sometimes gaudy) and blatant evidence of Christmas - only ONE of the many holidays that occur at this time of year.

You may believe that Christmas trees do not represent anything religious. And you're entitled to that opinion. But as far as I'm concerned, the fact remains that the Christmas tree, and Christmas lights, and the nativity scene all share one very significant detail: they all represent Christmas, which by its very nature celebrates the birth of Christ, a very religious figure.

Christmas is a time of year when other religions and other systems of beliefs are cast to the side. It's not fun spending a month every year feeling like a lower class member of society. A month when my rights and my opinions no longer matter to radio personalities, TV anchors, and members of government that place their own religious identity above the religious freedom that I, as a Canadian citizen, should be entitled to.

Wars have been waged throughout history by groups fighting both for and against religious freedoms. Perhaps in this day and age, when one religious group is being told by so many others that their religious expression is offensive and out of place, growing defiant and defensive is not the answer? I think that every Canadian should find a solution that lets us function as a community - not one that forces each religious group into a defensive corner.

Monday, December 11, 2006


It was another slow morning at work in October when I sent off an email to happy bunny at my other office. I mentioned how bored I was and that my head might start spinning Exorcist-style, and she did me the favour of requesting my presence at her office. With the okay from Mr. Mann's personal assistant, I finished up what was on my desk and headed out into the craziness that is downtown Calgary on a Tuesday. Given the option of bussing it up Centre St. to the North office, or grabbing the train south, I decided on the latter and squeezed myself into the shelter on the train platform to avoid the cold wind that was trying to tickle its way down my spine.

Seconds after I found shelter from the cold, a distraught looking woman came into the shelter aimed straight for me. I caught a glimpse of the other ppl waiting to catch the train before turning my head to aknowledge the woman asking me to teach her how to use the train. (For those of you who may not remember, as a rule, I do not pay for the train, so you can imagine the irony I felt at having this request directed my way. remember?)

I made the quick decision to help the lady despite my personal feelings about paying for the use of public transit. I took her to the machine, and because my hands were full, explained to her how to push the little yellow button, and then feed her money into the coin slot. When she had paid, we waited together for her ticket to print out, and then as I was ready to turn back to the shelter, she asked me if I could also help her get to Chinook, the mall she was heading to. I explained that she would want to get onto the South-bound train and ride to Chinook station. It is really very simple, but she still seemed a little unsure of herself, so I volunteered to ride with her (since I would be travelling past Chinook anyways). She was extremely grateful, and explained that she was from a little town in Saskatchewan, and she was in town with her husband who was here on business. She'd never ridden the train before, and "didn't know how she would have done it without me". I made small talk, asking what her husband does, and when the train arrived, led her in to sit down in the first available vestibule.

She immediately pulled her ticket out of her pocket, and searched confusedly for someone to show it to. I explained that in Calgary, the tickets are only checked randomly by LRT cops, and that she should just hold on to it in case they come by. She seemed unsatisfied with my explanation; she really beleived that someone had to check her ticket or else she was doing something 'wrong'. Well, she was in luck. Not even 3 minutes after we'd sat down, she looked up in surprise and called out to a man walking our way.

My heart jumped into my throat as I turned and saw an LRT cop walking our way. I tried to look stoic and keep a smile on my face as I watched, awestruck. The woman I was riding the LRT with, the woman from a small town in Saskatchewan who was in town only for a few days, the woman who was about to watch me get an LRT education that I've managed to avoid for 4 years now, stood up and embraced the LRT cop. She was practically gushing as she explained to him that I was teacher her how to ride the LRT, and my heart stopped a beat when he turned to me. I knew what was coming, and I couldn't think of any excuse for not having a ticket on me - especially under the circumstances, and then wouldn't you know, the lady across from me turned and introduced the LRT cop as the son of her very best friend, from that little town in Saskatchewan. I looked from her to him in wonder, as he smiled and introduced himself. And then, as luck would have it, they spent 5 minutes or so catching up before he followed a girl off the train at the next station to check her ticket.

He never asked for my ticket (although the woman across from me happily showed hers to him when he first walked up to our seats), and so it was a giddy sense of triumph that I waved farewell to my new friend as the train left her on the platform at Chinook station.

Sunday, December 03, 2006