Sunday, November 08, 2009

Swine Flu update

Life may imitate art, and it probably imitates blogs....

5 months after blogging about the then new swine flu issue I came down with a pretty strong bout of sickness myself. For the better part of a week I slugged around our suite - feeling like a zombie and cursing all those who had breathed on me recently. I never saw a doctor and don't know if it was swine flu, but I had certainly not been that ill since my sister and I had the chicken pox in elementary school.

Currently, Canada has ordered a dose of H1N1 vaccination for every citizen, but delivery has been slow and problematic - doses are late getting to doctors and clinics, and que-jumpers are sneaking past children to get it (ie. Calgary Flames players). Most people won't get it before the flu peaks, and it will probably effect the upcoming Olympics as well.

A few co-workers have become sick as well as several people I know, but an actual diagnosis is rarely given, or needed and life goes on.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Swine Flu!

Well, its not the bird flu I predicted, but the overdue pandemic could be upon us.  Just a few quick thoughts on the swine flu outbreak (then I need to wash my hands):

- could they (the Man) not just have closed the border as early possible? I know the WHO said basically that the cat (pig?) was out of the bag already, but wouldn't it have bought some cities some much needed time to prepare?
- what does it mean when, in a state of panic, I get a facemask just for myself and not my wife (I love you honey We're going to grow old together!)
- why does the outbreak seem to have dire consequences in Mexico, but only mild symptoms (mostly) in non-Mexicans?
- how can health officials and ploticians say we have a coordinated pandemic plan when hospitals, schools, businesses are all responding differently? I especially like it when hospitals send symptomatic people home before confirming their diagnosis and then asking them to self-quarantine. Thats MART!
- I think it also makes sense, when you don't know how a new flu strain works, to continue asking people to eat the animal that it came from - I mean why err on the side of caution when there is so much good pork to eat out there? 
- and finally, why take the time to prepare now, even though this outbreak is now looking minor, for something worse? It's easy to buy pandemic supplies when there's a run on them and it'll be easy to make safety policy when staff are off sick....

Am I stupid or what?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

House Hunting

"Things only have the value that we give them" - Moliere.

And so we enter the Vancouver housing market.  We have been looking to buy on the north shore for several months now; sifting through hundreds of lonline listings and touring many open houses; only recently has it dawned on us that there is often a considerable gap between market value of a property and some other more personally constructed value.  We have seen more than a few ancient little rat nests sell quickly in a flurry of bidding (for 1/2 a million $) that I would not let our cat live in, let alone a raise a family in. I think previously owning a house in PG (where $150 K got you something livable) has spoiled me for buying in this area, where the same dollars wouldn't even get you a 30 yr old 700 sq ft apartment with a shag rug. North Van in particular seems to be at the mercy of supply and demand economics. Unlike PG, where new subdivisons can be created at the stroke of the pen (and chainsaw), North Van isn't adding tracts of  new houses onto the market. So, many buyers are chasing few homes and the prices go up, or stay up. Things are better for condos given that they have built so many of them and that they are (relatively) more affordable, but who wants to live in an apartment forever? And who can save for a real home when they're still paying $300,000 for a shoebox? And how do you rationalize this when renting is still cheaper, considerably, than owning?

These questions would be hard enough to answer at the best of times, but given the current economic situation  (do we call it a depression yet?) it makes it almost impossible.  If you're barely comfortable buying now how will you feel in 2 yrs or 5 yrs when rates are double or triple? Or if you can't sell at a profit in 5 yrs or 10 yrs to get onto a patch of dirt to call your own?

Maybe living in a treehouse wouldn't be so bad, but only if it came with a view...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Power Grab

'In politics, a an organized minority is a political majority' - Rev. J. Jackson

The Governor General didn't do democracy any favors when she ruled to prorogue parliament a few weeks ago. Not that we should've expected anything different from the PM-appointed Queen's representative; we don't exactly have a ideal democratic process for picking our absolute head of state. I'm no expert at Parliamentary procedure, but it just strikes me a problematic that a minority-elected PM can suspend Parliament at his own discretion, and yet continue to govern unchecked during the suspension - in this case probably 7 or 8 weeks. Things are happening quickly in these 'uncertain times', but now we've lost one of the few tools we have to put politicians under the micro-scope during them, the parliamentary Question period. Since the GG granted Harper his request (to essentially avoid an imminent opposition-coordinated non-confidence vote) he has continued to make critical decisions to the welfare of the country - offering a multi-billion dollar bailout to Detroit automakers, and then appointing several new Senators - that are now outside the scope of formal questioning. Does anyone else see this as an issue? Isn't this what more despotic regimes tend to do - quash public questioning of government? Actually - I seem to recall that there have been more than a few English monarchs that have similiar issues in the past, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised at what has now transpired here in the colonies. Historically however, such acts by monarchs would be met with riots in the street and peasants with pitchforks, but here and now we're happy to be left alone by the politicians while we rush around finishing our gift and liquor buying for the holidays.

Monday, December 01, 2008

How I Learned to Love the Crash (or Happy Holidays!)

These 'uncertain' times have triggered an interesting array of reactions from people - from depression, to fear, to hope. One only has to peruse the sites and blogs at right to know where my current anxieties lie about the future of Homo Sapiens on this particular planet; somewhere between 1984 and Soylent Green, but with a 2010: Space Odyssey hopefulness. I would say that I've moved beyond conspiracy theories, but only to an even more cynical place - after all, conspiracies presume that there are at least some group of plutocrats, however shadowy, that have a grand design for us and the tools to implement it. But a darker place, arguable a worse scenario, is where there is no plan, no single entity, no identifiable levers that control the machine that is human civilization - it really may be a motley collection of near-sighted, self-interested princes, armed thugs and dopey sheep looking to get what they can, when they can. Is the gong show too large and discordant for anyone to influence, no matter the resources they have or the influence the wield? Regardless, judging from the financial and economic information coming to light it looks like we're in for very interesting times. With any luck we'll just hit a unparalleled global recession with all the hunger, anguish and trauma associated with it, and not the inevitable global implosion of consumptive capitalism, environmental collapse, and declining oil-based civilization that some have predicted. Sometimes I think, in either case, will all the psychic and physical resources we'll have to put into keeping this culture running really be worth it? What will we have to do to keep the TV's from China coming? The oranges from California? The cross-country flights? What will we have say or do to keep the illusion intact? And hat happens when the illusion vanishes?

What would life be without an employer for a paycheque, without a landlord or bank for shelter, without a truck from Ontario for food, without electronic pulses for entertainment? I can't say for certian that I would, over time, be worse without them. But maybe just a few short years ago we wouldn't have bothered asking this, but maybe this year we do. And maybe next year we ask further, 'what would we have to do if we were to meet all our own needs?'. Maybe the year after we learn to do those things. The future is uncertain, but maybe our choices need not be.

In any event - shop 'til you drop!
(next year in Jerusalem!)

The Obligatory Obama Post

By now I'm sure everyone's heard about the results of our neighbour's elections, and I'm not referring to old Mrs. Finlay being elected to the diocese CWL as sec-treasurer (although I think here position on mark-to-market accounting will give the incumbent a run for her money). Just a few notes then on the US election where Democratic candidate Obama easily defeated Republican John Mcain to become the 44th US president, and more notably the first African-Amercian president.

That Obama, a relatively young Illinois senator (but of course a fossilized troglodyte is young compared to Mcain) with a background in community development and constitutional law, literally demolished his opponent at the polls (winning several key Republican strongholds, and the overall popular vote) running on a change platform is not surprising, given that his country has been - how we say in Canada - run up a shit creek without a paddle, for a number of years. Watching the events unfold on our cathode ray tube TV on election night was great fun; it played out like a Oscar aiming Hollywood flick scripted for Denzel Washington, but without the required clan lynching scene. The surprising piece was the just how fervently his supporters/fans/groupies embraced the change - mucho!; how high expectations are of change - grande!; and what kinds of change are anticipated - everything!. I can see why he ran on that plaform - of course it was going to be a hit with voters, and he may even believe that change is needed in some areas and that he can actually deliver said changes, but he's still a politician. Look at who he's tapped for cabinet positions - a re-hashing of former Clinton and Bush regime power players; not exactly the band of outsiders storming the bastions of the capital. I'm afraid that there's going to be a collective let down next spring when people realize that he cannot deliver on any major changes in Amercian socio-economic life. And what happens afterwards? When Amercians realize they have created, or consented to the creation of a state, that cannot follow the will of the people? That the tools to care for "we the people" have been wrested from them by greedy princes of consumption-based capitalism and the military-industrial complex and their elected hangers-on. Or what happens if they don't realize this?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Post-Election Post

Going through Canadian federal elections is a disappointing process, like watching a Canucks game. There's plenty of hope, anticipation of needed change and an exuberance of positive potentialalities, but then they kick you in the ass. You're left to wonder if just shouldn't have skipped the gong-show and gone directly to banging your head on a wall. It really makes me wonder just what people think of this world we live in and and how our political system shapes it. In these 'uncertain times' ( the new buzzword for the inevitable environmental and economic collapse) both globally, and nationally, (see issues such as a lack of comprehensive social programs (daycare, housing, etc.), increasing militarization and connection to our aggressive and isolated neighbour, etc.) most people think a continued Conservative government is the way to go? Wow. The party that doesn't recognize Kyoto, killed corporate capital taxes, is anti-carbon taxes, increased military budgets, repeatedly refers to Quebec as a nation, didn't recommend a national daycare or housing program....this is who we're getting behind? Wow. I'm on the wrong page - I'm looking at the Communist Party of Canada website and thinking 'great ideas, bad rep' - I'm thinking Elizabeth May would be a breath of fresh air in Parliament, I'm thinking what does it mean when the NDP can't elect a candidate is Saskatchewan, birthplace of Canadian socialism? Is the scope and complexity of Canadian political discourse really reflected by this current structure we have? Ugh, Conservative or Liberal, ugh.
Looks like we're in trouble - maybe getting into the back pocket of our next door neighbour Super Power isn't such a bad idea....

Friday, September 26, 2008

Media Savvy!

Amy and I were lucky enough to catch Katie Couric's interview of Republican vp. candiate Sarah Palin last night. Wow. It was uncomfortable to say the least - it reminded me of the unholy sounds that pigs make when they eat their young. OK - thats graphic. It made us cringe at first, but being 2 patient liberal-types we figured that despite a lack of obvious polish in delivery she might actually have some good nuggets to hear, content-wise. Or at least another hockey-mom joke. But alas, no. Although she used words that were by themselves recognizable in the English language the way she assembled them was not consistent with generally-accepted grammatical syntax. I though maybe at first it was an Alaskan pig-latin dialect. Even Amy was confused - and she teaches ESL. It was almost as if someone in the green room, before the broadcast, hit her over the head with a blunt object and said 'go talk about the Russians' to Katie. I thought that after being sheltered by her campaign managers from the media for the last few weeks she would've been given some interview-coaching, or a crash course in political oratory, but maybe she had a series of strokes instead. Ironically, she makes Georgie Bush sound like an elder statesman instead of the feckless foundling that he is. I wonder if McCain ever meets with them alone and thinks he's is some sort of bizarro sci-fi movie, like he's the only man on a Planet of the Apes. In any event - the need for Obama to win is clearly stronger now than ever before, but I imagine we'll be saying this a few more times before this campaign circus ends.