Here's why I don't issue blanket "Go, Vote!" imperatives: 

I honestly believe that voting is important. I believe that it's the one way that every enfranchised person can affect how the policies are made that affect our lives. I believe that we owe it to ourselves and to the people we love who cannot vote to inform ourselves and cast a ballot.

I believe strongly that we should make it easy to cast that ballot. That every enfranchised person should know where and when they can do so, that polls should be accessible, that it is our job to make sure everyone knows where and how to vote, and that, having made sure they know where and how, we should leave them alone to cast whatever ballot they choose, even if they vote wrong.

I live in an apartment in a house with two sets of neighbours. The Guys Downstairs have lived there for 11 and 6 years, respectively. They're probably on the voter's list for our riding. The Kids Upstairs moved in after I did. I am not on the list for our riding, so I'm pretty sure they're not either. So I left the following note on the front door today:

Our polling station is [[Church up the street]], and it's open until 9:00 p.m. 

If you're not on the list, you can still vote! Just take a piece of government ID & some ID with your address (like your driver's license, or passport + a phone bill)!

Happy E-Day!

Your local politics nerd,

I tweeted a bunch of stuff about how to find your polling station, what ID you need, accessibility and stuff. I don't believe in haranguing people to vote, but I do believe in making sure they know everything they need to know.


As I was leaving to go to the polls, Neighbour Ron said "Hi," to me, and, of course wanted to chat. (Neighbour Ron is my friendly somewhat sexist, racist-when-drunk drywaller next door, who loves his nephew and his mom and sister). He introduced me to his sister and nephew, who told me about dinosaurs. The nephew is at the age at which many boys talk almost exclusively about dinosaurs.

"Okay, see you later, I'm off to vote," I said. (I really was! The only reason I was leaving home late was so that I could go to my polling station at around 10:00, which, in my experience, is a not-very-busy time).

"Who are you voting for?" he asked, genially.

"Ummm ... I don't like to talk about that," I said, "I think neighbours probably get on better when they don't talk about politics, religion, or vegetarianism." This is an oversimplification of what I really think, which is that when you don't know someone well enough to know how they vote or church, and you certainly don't know them well enough to know whether they can discuss these matters in good faith, and you have to try to get along with them, it's probably best to avoid contentious subjects.

"Oh," he said, "Well we don't vote, so we're always interested in how other people do."

" ... " I said. Literally. I just looked at them. "You don't vote? Well!"

"Yeah, we never get those cards, so we can't vote. So are you voting for Rob Ford?"*

I paused some more.

"Well, he's not on the ballot today, so no. That election will be in October. You know, if you wanted to vote today, or in October, you totally could! Your polling station is up the road at the church, and you don't need a card! You just take a couple of pieces of ID, like a driver's license and a bill with your name and address on it, or your passport and a paystub, and you show them your ID and they fill out a form and then you can vote."

Then, of course, they wanted to know who I thought they should vote for. So I said, "I really shouldn't tell you who to vote for, because you and I may want really different things! But I do know how you can vote!"

You see, I'm reflexively pro-civic-duty. Except, as all of this was coming out of my mouth, I was thinking, "GEEZ, ZING! THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT ELECTION THIS IS. THEY CANNOT POSSIBLY CAST AN INFORMED BALLOT! PROBABLY THEY SHOULDN'T VOTE."

This, my friends, is where the flame of civic duty meets the damp chill of a disengaged, uninformed potential voter. Is it more ethical and better for society if I encourage my poorly informed (and, frankly, stupid) neighbours to vote? Today? I feel like there's little to no way they'll make any sort of informed decision (leaving aside entirely whether it's a decision with which I would agree, personally. I know my grandmom Votes Wrong, but I am glad she had the opportunity to do so at her Seniors' Residence). 

So I don't say "Go vote!" Because there are people like my genial next door neighbours in the city, and while I think they should absolutely have the right to vote, and I think they should have the information they need in order to vote, and I would never, ever prevent them from voting, I'm not really sure I can, in good conscience, say that they should vote, today, either.

*NOTE for people outside Toronto who haven't heard about our local politics: Today, the entire province is voting to elect a provincial government. The candidate in each riding who secures the most votes will represent that riding in that riding's seat in the provincial legislature at Queen's Park. The leader of the party that secures the most seats in the legislature will become the Government of Ontario, and the leader of that party will be come the Premier of Ontario. In October, residents of Toronto will vote in municipal elections for a mayor and for who will represent their wards on City Council. It's a bit confusing having elections for multiple levels of government embedded inside each other, and also it means that there's been an unusually high demand for campaign staffers and volunteers in Toronto, lately. 
Gentle Reader,

Sometimes you may attend an event. You may, in fact, spend a good deal of money and effort to attend an event. The event may be a purely social event, such as a wedding; or it may be a philanthropic event, such as a charity ball or picnic. The goal of the event may, in fact, not be at all social: it may be an event to facilitate business transactions among persons who do business. The more elevated our station in life, the more events it may fall upon us to attend. 

A well run event can make the expenditure of time and effort well worth your while. Sadly, not all events are well run. Some, while being quite well run may not be perfect for you: the dinner may not be to your taste; the music may be too loud, or perhaps not loud enough; you may be seated beside persons of poor manners and worse taste. 

It is at these times that your patience may be sorely tried. It is also at these times that you have an opportunity to show yourself a person of true gentility and generosity of spirit. Anyone may be gracious when everything arranges itself according to her preferences. Tribulation tests us, and only the best people shine under difficult circumstances. 

When faced with something that is not to your liking, and may, in fact, make your afternoon unbearable, it is acceptable to ask your host(s) if arrangements can be made to better accommodate your needs. Do consider, however, whether your request truly represents a thing necessary to your own well being or comfort, or merely a preference, and phrase your request accordingly. If your stated dietary needs are not being met, it is acceptable to request an alternative meal. If you do not like the person beside whom you are seated, it is acceptable to ask someone to change seats with you. If you purchased a raffle ticket, but did not win a prize, suck it up, Buttercup. We can't all win prizes. Consider also whether you can, in fact, live with affairs as they stand, or quietly re-arrange things to better suit your needs.

If a host is not to be found, you may address a member of the host's staff; however, be advised that this person may not be empowered to re-arrange an event for your convenience, and be prepared to wait while advice is sought. Where possible, suggest solutions, rather than simply pointing out problems, but be aware that your proposed solution may not be possible, and accept suggestions graciously. Consider that your host may be juggling considerations for myriad people's convenience and comfort. While no host wishes a guest to be unhappy, the host may have to balance your unhappiness against the prospective unhappiness of another guest, and make a difficult decision.

A caring host will of course place their guests' safety and well being above all else, and their comfort and convenience next.

Do not, under any circumstances, vent your displeasure on servants, staff, or others who merely carry out the host's plans. Responsibility for a event planning rests solely with the host. 

If the displeasing circumstances are truly intolerable, and your host is unwilling or unable to address your concerns, it is acceptable to leave the event. Agreeing to attend an event does not constitute agreement to subject oneself to extreme unpleasantness. You may either quietly leave, or take a brief leave of your host, pleading headache or some other reason for your abrupt departure. If your host has asked you to perform a function, such as giving a speech, at the event, you should absolutely inform them that you will be unable to stay. Your departure is not the time to subject your host to a lengthy or even brief discussion of their shortcomings or the event's failings. Just extricate yourself with as little fuss as you can manage.

Sometime in the weeks following the unpleasant event, you may wish to unburden yourself, and, if appropriate, inform your host of the reason for your abrupt departure. The best way to do this is in the form of a brief, polite, yet sincere note, explaining in what way the event failed to delight you, following the form set out below:
Dear Madame Host,

I appreciated the opportunity to attend your event last Thursday. I was sorry not to have the opportunity to talk more with you, but I fully understand the challenges that running an event like yours entails. 

I was disappointed that dinner was served so late/that there were so few raffle prizes/to find myself seated beside Mr. Boring/the room was so very cold/dinner did not offer a vegetarian option when I had clearly stated on my RSVP that I do not eat meat. I would very much like to support your event in the future, but I would appreciate some assurance that this problem will be addressed. 

Once again, thank you for inviting me to your event. I do hope that apart from the late meal/paucity of raffle prizes/presence of Mr. Boring/icicles hanging from the ceiling/lack of vegetarian options your event was a success. If you have any questions about my experience at your event, I would be delighted to discuss them with you. 

Gentle Reader, be assured that most hosts do, in fact, care about your opinions. They want you to attend their events. They want you to come away from the event entirely pleased with your experience. If they have failed to please you, they will want to know, and to address your concerns; however, they may unfortunately not be in a position to do so at the event. In adverse circumstances, you may show yourself to be a person of great gentility by enduring, addressing, leaving, and ultimately discussing.



Inspired by having been on the receiving end of some truly ungracious behaviour on the part of participants at a fund-raising golf tournament, yesterday. Said participants chewed me out because they didn't like the schedule for the event, which put supper at 7:00 p.m., allowing for the slowest golfers to get in, get changed, and have a drink. The ladies in question told me that our event was smaller than it had been in previous years so we should be accommodating those who paid good money to be there (but apparently not the slow people who also paid good money to be there(?)), that they'd told my boss about wanting an earlier dinner, that they were going to withdraw all their support for the organization if I did not call them into dinner RIGHT THEN. I had gone over to them to let them know that we'd been able to bump the dinner time up by fifteen minutes. Basically, these ladies, one of whom used to be a politician, treated me like dirt. Then we were seated at the same table for an extremely uncomfortable dinner. One also chewed me out because she didn't win a raffle prize.

 Opening night for the Jays is April 2. My grandmom's birthday is April 3. So, after considerable effort* to track down accessible opening-night tix, we have booked a room at the hotel overlooking the stadium, with a window that opens onto the stadium, from which she can watch the April 3 game in complete comfort and surrounded by family. 

Turns out she wanted the opener in part because she had misread the season schedule and didn't think there was a game at all on her actual for-real birthday. 

Also turns out that as my mom was making these arrangements, [personal profile] neeuqdrazil  was working some magic: the CEO of her company offered two spots at the restaurant at the Rogers Centre for opening night.  I gratefully turned them down, but I'm astonished and blown away by the offhand generosity of a stranger. 

So now all we have to do is get her name on the Jumbo-Tron. Easy. 

*E-mails to the Guest Experience Supervisor at the Toronto Blue Jays, my city councillor, and Richard Griffith at the Toronto Star, tweets and Facebook requests and updates, and refreshing the Blue Jays website every 10 minutes. 
Okay hivemind, this is a big one: 

My grandmom is turning 93 on April 3. She has asked, for her birthday, for opening-game tickets to the Blue Jays game, April 2. These are entirely sold out. 

My family is looking for any leads on the following, in order of preference:

1) a hotel room overlooking the diamond at the Rogers Centre (Grandmom is frail, and we're not sure the rigours of seats at the Rogers Centre would be good for her (currently booked); or

2) a reservation at the restaurant in the Rogers Centre (formerly Sky Dome) (currently rented out for a corporate thingy to which nobody has had the good sense to invite my grandmom); or

3) a pair of tickets (or more than a pair, but she needs to go with at least one other person) to the game and we'll figure out how to get her there and make her comfortable.

Does anyone know anyone (some captain of industry, for example) who might have some opening-game tickets with which they'd be willing to part? If we can, we'd really like to make my grandmom's birthday wish come true. She's been a Blue Jays fan for as long as I can remember. 20 years ago, after she had a double-bypass, the first thing she wanted to do when she was well enough was to go to a game. We got her tickets. I watched the Jays play the Yankees on TV with her. And not to be melodramatic, but she's 93. She doesn't have a lot of Jays games left in her. So we'd really like to make this one happen.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Feb. 6th, 2013 10:15 pm)
 I was really broke in January. I finished a freelance project before the holidays, and invoiced for it, and had to wait for the cheque. The course I teach was cancelled. Then I was asked to teach a second section of the online version of the same course, but I had to wait to get paid. 

It was all a bit stressful. 

Then, of course, the freelance cheque came in, and another cheque came in, and I got paid, and everything was fine, just in time for me to go in-house for three months, during which time I will produce six publications for a local film festival. 

Also, just in time to go in-house, I got a cold which may have turned into a sinus infection. 

I am still teaching the online course. In fact, I am teaching both sections of the online course, as the other instructor has become ill and can't continue, and they needed a pinch-hitter, and I didn't want to leave the other instructor (who is a lovely person), my program coordinator (who has been very patient with me), or the students (none of whose fault this is) in the lurch. 

Plus I'm presenting two seminars for the Editors' Association this month.

So, if you don't hear much from me in the near future, it's probably because I am either teaching, grading, making books, or possibly my head has exploded.

Just FYI.  

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jan. 1st, 2013 10:32 am)
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
                       --Alfred Lord Tennyson

*Yes, I chopped off the last stanza. I don't like it, and it doesn't say what I want to say. The rest does. 
Reprinted and edited from a comment I left at The Belle Jar.

Every December, G. plays a part in the Mummers' Play, at the Flying Cloud Yuletide Celebration. So far, he's been the Doctor's Horse, the Fiery Dragon* (there never is a fiery dragon in the play, but the fiery dragon who isn't in the play is always the youngest child), Charles Darwin (in cotton-ball beard with a sea-turtle backpack on his back), and, this year, John Barleycorn, who brought in the evil triumvirate of Stephen Harpercorn, Dalton McGuintish, and Rob Barleyford. Every year, after the candle-light chorus sings, and the first story is read, we hear a jingling, and John the Master of Ceremonies announces the arrival of those practitioners of what he calls "socially sanctioned extortion," the Mummers.

The mummers come once a year, in the dark of winter. They don’t exist any other time. The rest of the year, they’re children and teens. They go to school. They do homework. They practice the piano or guitar. They play soccer and Minecraft. They don’t see each other, much, because their parents all live in different places.

Once a year, in the dark of winter, they tell a story. Adorned with the same costumes they wore last winter, they each act a part, familiar to us all from years of watching these same costumes, these same characters, this same story told with different words by children who know the story because they told it last year. Everyone quiets down when the mummers come into the room. We have a role to play, too. We have lines.

Here’s Old Bette. Her chin has sprouted whispers since last year; the actor who plays her no longer quite fits into the ancient bridesmaid’s dress. Old Bette threatens to kiss the men, and tells us all the story has begun. A gangly teenaged boy in an old bridesmaid’s dress, she lets us know that this is an upside down time, a time of misrule, a liminal time.

And now the story begins. Here’s St. George, brave and bold, her sword held high, bringing light to the darkness and hope to despair. We cheer for her bravery, and for her youth.

But you can’t have a hero without a challenge. In comes the fiery dragon!

There ain’t no fiery dragon in this play! choruses the audience, and the very young fiery dragon subsides, making room for a more serious threat.

In the muddled mythology of our play (which is like, yet unlike, any Mummers’ Play anywhere else in the world), St. George must face the threats of darkness, cynicism, and despair in the guise of a current known evildoer. One year it was Stephen Harpercorn. Another it was Rob Barleyford. The name doesn’t matter, so much. What matters is that this force of cold, darkness, meanness, and death will fight our brave Saint George and will not rest until St. George is vanquished. Also, he cheats.

And by treachery, St. George is slain.

Terrible horrible, see what you’ve done? You’ve killed our own beloved one!

All is not lost. A series of characters are summoned to try to revive St. George: Charles Darwin, an old man who wears the bottom of his trousers rolled cannot revive him. A wizard who pulls a rabbit from a hat cannot raise him. A series of singers fail to breath the breath of life into him. Pickled Herring (I don’t know, it’s *Tradition*) cannot entice him back to life. Finally, the Doctor comes, on his horse (the second smallest child plays the Doctor’s Horse.) The Doctor gives St. George some of his magic elixir, and St. George springs back to life, six times as strong as before. He kills the evil knight, and informs the ever-hopeful fiery dragon that there really is no fiery dragon in this play.

It’s the same story, every year. It has to be the same story every year: St. George must be brought down, be mourned, and be revived: Youth, warmth, life, and hope must fall before darkness, cold, cruelty, and cynicism, and be revived by the concerted efforts of, well, everyone. It’s John Barleycorn, Jesus of Nazareth, Orpheus, the Hero with a Thousand Faces, and it’s a story that we need to tell and to remember in the darkest days.

The mummers have gone to their pot-luck feast now, well compensated both with praise and with treats for their annual effort. The fiery dragon, who is three and a half this year, is asleep under the desserts table. St. George has put down her sword and is enjoying a half-pint of beer under her mom’s supervision. The Doctor and his Horse have gone home, bundled onto the subway by their tired parents. And we know that just as St. George rose again, so to will the sun, and that we need to wait, and hope, and hold and share the memory of warmth against the cold, light against the darkness, hope against fear, and community against the loneliness they can bring.

We tell this story every year because it’s a story that must be told, to remind us that spring comes from winter, that life comes from death, and, above all that life isn’t a tidy narrative. Most stories we encounter are: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and by the end the lesson is learned, the problem resolved, the loose ends woven in or cut off. The Mummer’s play is not that kind of story. It’s the story of the year: summer and harvest cut off by winter, then born again, and we wind up back where we started, except a year older. The year itself isn’t a unit, separated from previous years by a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well, it is, but that’s just convention: the earth, the weather, and we ourselves don’t observe these arbitrary demarcations. So open the door for the Mummers:

A merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
A pocket full of money and a cellar full of beer,
A penny in our palms won’t do us any harm,
May your days be merry and your homes be warm

Our Mummers' Play is written anew every year, always using the same cast of characters and structure, but with political content relevant to the past year. Here's a database of historical mummers' play scripts, for your interest

* This was the year I learned that we'd lost the Fiery Dragon costume at 9:00 p.m. the night before the play. I won some sort of good parental-adjunct prize, coming up with a tail and a toothy hood out of red scraps. I was not gratified to hear a voice from the audience complain "But the fiery dragon is supposed to be green!" If I'd known before the fabric stores closed, we might have had a green dragon. Folkies can be such traditionalists.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Oct. 30th, 2012 10:50 am)
If any of the following apply to you, and you are in the Toronto area on Nov. 14, and have the evening free, you should read on:

1) You like choral music.
2) You're not sure about choral music in general, but you like Carmina Burana (link goes to YouTube). 
3) You're not really sure about Carmina Burana, but you like that "O Fortuna" piece of music that gets played in high-drama movie and TV scenes, like i the movies Excalibur, The Hunt for Red October, Jackass the Movie, and as the entrance theme for the judges on The X-Factor, and you think it might be cool to hear it performed live.

4) You're not stuck on hearing it with a full orchestra. 
5) You like choral music accompanied by percussion ensemble.
6) You're just a general Zingerella-groupie. 
7) You're not going to the Essential Opera performance of TheThreepenny Opera that night. 

My choir is teaming up with the TorQ Percussion Quartet to perform Orff's Carmina Burana, Dove's The Passing of the Year, and Whitacre's Cloudburst at Koerner Hall on Wednesday, November 14

The promo code, which gives you 10 percent off the price of tickets, is TMCWOW (not case-sensitive; all one word). 

So if you want to hear us sing about Gopher Tuna, you should use that code.

 Something I have observed: Conservatives often like to call people like me—social democrats, communitarians, people who believe that the job of society is to help us better take care of each other—"naive," as though over my entire life, I hadn't had ample opportunities to watch people treating each other pretty badly, hadn't had ample opportunities to see how the world works.


Cut for politics )

Dear Tom, Libby, and Matthew,

 I recently received an invitation to attend a Town Hall with MPs from my riding and the riding next door (Matthew Kellway and Craig Scott), as well as Libby, pertaining to heath care.

The invitation outlined two NDP strategies that will purportedly help ease the pressure on Canada’s health care system, while ensuring that Canadians receive the care they need:

·      Ensuring that Canadians have access to extended compassionate-care benefits through E.I., and

·      Some nonsense about a forgivable loan so that Canadians can make additions to their homes in order to accommodate relatives who need long-term care.

Today in bike store happenings: 


A customer and her father have asked me to show them our bike carrier racks. I have ascertained from the customer that she wants a good, basic rack on which to carry her things for school. She has her bike with her. I have shown them our basic, everyday rack—the one we put on 90% of the commuter bikes we sell. 


ME: That's a good basic rack.

HER: Can I put a milk crate on it? 

ME: Sure you can—it'll be heavy, but if that's what you want, you can use bungee cords to attach it, or some people bolt them on. 

FATHER: But will it fit on her bike? 

ME: Looking at bike, which is a standard 700-C-wheeled commuter Oh yeah. We install about a billion of these on bikes just like this. You can leave it with us—there's a $10 installation fee—or you can install it yourself. 

FATHER: Is this the hardware? How does it fit?

ME: showing him It mounts here and here, above the axle, and then it bolts to the frame here.

FATHER: Are you sure it's going to fit? 

ME: Yep. Like I said, we install about a billion of these on bikes justs like this. 

FATHER: It's not going to sit too low? 

ME: Holding the rack where it will sit No, it will be fine. Look, it will sit just about here. 

FATHER: Can you ask one of the techs, please?

ME: Looking at my manager, who is 3 feet away Wil, is this rack gonna fit this bike? 

WIL: Glancing up from whatever he was doing. She just told you man, yes, it's gonna fit. 

FATHER: Thank you so much for translating that for me. I couldn't have understood her. 

WIL: Well, she was pretty clear, but it seemed like you were having a hard time. 

FATHER: Thank you. 

Later on, while he's paying for the rack:

FATHER: I didn't mean to offend you. I just wanted to be sure it would fit. 

ME: Oh, geez man, I understand. You just wanted to be sure. How could you know that I might know what I'm talking about? 

FATHER: Well, it's just that I wanted to be sure. 

ME: Deciding that forcing the issue will do no good.  Like I said, it's a standard rack, made for this type of bike. I think it'll work pretty well. Here's your change. Have a good one. 



* This is what Wil and I agreed, when I told him the customer hadn't wanted to offend me. I mean, why would I be offended when this is a known, historical truth? 

 In support of my previous post, I'm going to show you what I do with my day. 

I am not a super-good housekeeper. My one-bedroom apartment is tolerable to me: the dishes get done after every meal, but I often leave them drying in the dish rack for days. My laundry gets done when I run out of clean undies, and I leave it drying in my office until I get a chance to put it away. My bathroom toilet and sink are clean; the tub is tolerable but could use a good solid scrub, and there's a bit of dust and stuff behind the toilet and the sink pedestal. 

I live alone, with the occasional overnight guest. I have no kids. I have one very fluffy cat.

So that leaves 7.5 hours/week to do some portion of the infrequent chores, spend time with friends, go dancing, knit, visit my grandmom, and deal with the random crap that comes up (making appointments, family crises, helping people with things, domestic occurrences), and maybe do something fun and different. 

And I don't have kids. And I'm fully physically able and psychologically functional. And I don't have an aging parent or spousal equivalent. And I don't really do anything very important. And I work from home, so I can sometimes combine work and other tasks like making a big pot of soup. And I'm still not Martha-ready

Now there are ways in which I could be more efficient. I could take fewer hot baths. I could spend less time preparing food, or do big batches of stuff. I could bake less. I could do yoga at home, rather than in a studio. But that would shave tiny amounts of time off the overall total: in order to live the way I prefer to live, I need to spend about 50 hours a week doing various different work-things. I need to sleep about 8 hours/night. I need to eat well, and I need to keep my apartment relatively tidy. And baking keeps me sane. 

My point is not that I could organize my time better, though that's undoubtedly true. My point is that all the things I do have a time-cost, and that in order to do something else, I need to acknowledge the time-cost, and trade things off accordingly. 
Footnotes )

 Welcome everyone to my new life-management series. I intend to periodically, as time allows, explain why many of us feel inadequate most of the time. Today's topic is housekeeping. 

Did you know that six hours of housework per day may reduce your risk of breast cancer? It will also result in your having all the laundry done and folded, the carpets vacuumed, the floors mopped and polished, the counters wiped, the things dusted, the spices alphabetized, the oven cleaned, the grout de-gunked, and the ironing done. With six hours of housework per day, you could actually go to sleep in your nicely aired, laundered linens, and sleep the sleep of the houseproud, secure in the knowledge that should Martha Steward or your mother drop in all will be perfect and that you're less likely to get breast cancer than that slattern down the street who doesn't iron her sheets.

So what about that, ladies? Why aren't you scrubbing the toilet with an old toothbrush right the heck now? 

Oh right: you have other things to do

Seriously? Who has SIX HOURS a day to spend on housework? 

Now answer me honestly: how many of you have an extra hour in the day? If the hour-fairy came along and said "Here's an hour for free! Do whatever you want with it!" would you really want to clean the scudge from behind the toilet? If you would, great! Chances are you have a cleaner home than I do. 

Housekeeping is work. It takes time, and for most people, it's not much fun. Most of us have other things that we do in our day that are also not much fun: sometimes we get paid for these things. 

Cut because seriously, who has time to scroll?  )
 So I'm proofreading an anthology of First Nations literature. Super cool. But I've once again come up against a linguistic snag I encounter inevery work on Aboriginal or First Nations or Native anything that crosses my desk: the term "people."

In contemporary English, the noun "people" has a couple of different meanings: it can mean (singular) an ethnicity or group (e.g., the Mik'maqpeople; the Saalish people). Let's call this Sense A. It can also mean the plural of "person" (e.g., several people ate sandwiches). When youwant to say several persons of Aboriginal heritage, you should, technically, say "First Nations people." Let's call this Sense B. 

However, we use "First Nations peoples"  (Sense A, plural) when discussing political or social issues that affect all groups of First Nationspersons (people): "We need to see greater representation from First Nations peoples in discussing environmental issues."

Many people don't seem to get the distinction between Sense A and Sense B, and seem to think that "peoples" is a plural that means "lots ofpersons of different First Nations ethnicities." So I get sentences like  "This was far from the case in Canada, where it would take anothertwenty-five years for Native peoples to begin graduating from universities and colleges in substantial numbers."

This makes no sense! Ethnicities cannot graduate from universities. 

So I queried it, and got the following response:

I checked with the editor and I think “native peoples” as used in the preface is okay as it suggests that there is a diversity of nativepeople (i.e. from different bands or nations). So, the Mik'maq are a Native people, as are Inuit but together they are “native peoples”. They used “native peoples” in the previous edition and even Library and Archives Canada categorized the previous editionas “Native peoples--Literary collections”.


Which is fine, but I still don't think ethnicities can go to university. 

Below the cut: A Usage Note I prepared for a style sheet eight years ago about the SAME ISSUE.

Old usage wankery )

Apparently this is my week for weird gendered interactions.

I'm in Stephen King country. Specifically, I'm at Indian Acres Boys' Camp, near Freyburg, Maine. I'm here to help the ever-amazing Susan de Guardiola teach a week of Titanic-era dances at an International Folk Dance camp (the dancers rent the camp from the boys' camp). It's stopped raining, and the organizing committee, who are mostly about my parents' age is bustling around putting up "etnhic" decorations and pinning people's names to their cabin doors. 

Camp starts tomorrow, but in order to save the committee some money, I travelled here yesterday with a fellow I know from the Hogtown contra dance community, who, at 54, is one of the younger members of the organizing committee. Walter is a nice-enough fellow, whom I've known well enough to dance with for about 15 years. After 10 hours in his car yesterday, I feel that I know him rather better than I did before, but I don't think I'd go so far as to say he's a friend. He is, however, the only person here so far that I've ever met before. So, when we arrived yesterday, he introduced me around, and we went out to dinner with a bunch of the other people from the camp.

Today, after breakfast, as I was cleaning up my plate, one of the older gentlemen—let's call him Marv—spoke to me. "I just want you to know," he said, "that I think you're a very nice person, and if you and Walter stay together, I hope you'll be very happy." 

I blinked, smiled, and said something like "Umm, thank you, but Walter and I just travelled down together, we're not an item." Then, to forestall any further peculiar assumptions, I said "I am actually seeing someone in Toronto."

Now, of course, I believe firmly, on no further evidence than this exchange, that Marv is carrying a torch for Walter (who, in 15 years of Saturday night dances I've never observed to have any romantic interests at all, so who knows what his orientation is?), and was trying, sweetly, if misguidedly, to be gracious in perceived defeat. 

zingerella: 1920s advertisement for Vanilla Bicycles: A young woman with bobbed hair rides a bicycle, a pannier and child on back. (vintage)
( Aug. 9th, 2012 03:39 pm)
 After work I took the Tiny Perfect Bike up to a friend’s place to pick something up. I’d not been to this friend’s place before, and I needed to stop and check the address on my phone, so I pulled up onto the sidewalk to check my phone. A fellow was standing outside the pub in front of which I pulled up, having a smoke. As I checked my phone, he addressed me:

“I’m actually a professional cyclist.”
“Are you really? That’s nice,” I said.
“Your bike is an okay bike. It’s a nice cruiser.”*
I stopped what I was doing. “Did you speak to me for the sole purpose of condescending to me about my bike? Really? Because honestly, I have assholes condescending to me about bikes for eight hours a day, and I’m off the clock right now.”
“No. I spoke to you to condescend to you about your phone. You should be riding.”

I was done. “Have a nice day,” I said. I put my phone into my pocket, and rode down the block to finish checking my friend’s address.

He followed me. On foot.

“I was actually condescending to you about your phone! You should be riding.”
“Have a nice day,” I said.
“I can ride faster than you anytime!”**
“Have a nice day.”
“I could ride faster than you on a tricycle!”
“Have a nice day.”
“I could ride you into the ground!”
I got back on my Tiny, Perfect Bike. Turned around (I had, in fact, been on the wrong street). “Have a really excellent day,” I said.

So what I want to know is why this person, to whom I had not spoken, and to whom I should have been absolutely nobody, so desperately needed to belittle me (my bike, my phone, my speed, whatever) that he followed me down the street in order to try to make me feel bad. I mean he succeeded, but only because I feel bad that he should be such a pathetic sort of a human being.

ETA: I feel that I should be entirely clear here. The guys with whom I work at the LBS are emphatically not assholes, nor do they condescend to me, even though I do know far less than they do, and I always need help getting the heavier bikes down from the top row of bike hooks (over my head). They generally answer my questions in a matter-of-fact way, show me how to do the things I don't know how to do, and wait for me to ask before they offer help. Most of our customers do not fall into the category of condescending assholes, either; however, some of them certainly do.

* The TPB is a custom-built steel frame touring bike with pretty great components. It's not the fastest bike in the world, it's not a racing bike, but it's a really great bike. Cruisers are upright, slow bikes with fat tires, ridden mostly by people who value looking cute and retro over speed, steering, or practicality. So this fellow clearly knew enough about bikes to spot that this bike was likely something special to me, and, for whatever reason, felt it necessary to try to belittle me through my bike, his claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

** Another barb that missed its mark. I have never claimed to be a speedy cyclist. I don't ride a racing bike. I have great endurance and I really enjoy cycling. I have absolutely no ego invested in my speed, because I regularly cycle with 24-year-old athletes who can leave me in the dust without breaking a sweat. If I were going to get my knickers into a twist at the thought of people being faster, I'd have permanently knotted underthings, and be very uncomfortable.

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Aug. 1st, 2012 12:43 pm)
 I have a little thing I try to do. I try very hard to make sure that if I buy a book by an author with given name like Neil, Jim, Terry, Robert, Fred, Vikram, or James, I try to buy at the same time, a book in the same genre by an author with a given name like Afua, Nalo, Elizabeth, Sarah, Lois, Patricia, Ursula, or Jo. 

Today, I completely failed to buy The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, from my local small-chain bookseller, the Beaches location of Book City. I wanted a copy to take on vacation, because it seemed like it would be good vacation reading. I tried really, really hard to find a book in their admittedly small SF section that was by a living female author and that I had any desire to buy. There were a handful of books by Sarah Douglass, I think, and some reprints of books by Ursula K. LeGuin. There was probably some Ann Rice, and there was something whose only blurb was by Charlaine Harris. There was the inevitable Connie Willis, so I guess I could have bought that, but I didn't want to. There was a book by a Canadian author whose blurb was so leaden that I couldn't imagine the prose would be any better. I think there was probably some Mercedes Lackey. 

I could find nothing by Jo Walton, Elizabeth Bear, N.K. Jemison, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Nalo Hopkinson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Patricia Wrede, Jacqueline Carey, Sarah Monnette. I could find Greg Bear, Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Robert A. Heinlein, and a bunch of other dudes. 

The problem, from my perspective, was that if I wanted to uphold my own little policy, I'd have to buy a book by an author whose work I know I don't like, or buy a book that did not look appealing from an author about whom I knew nothing. The SF section did not have a sufficiently broad selection of female authors to present me with choices. 

So, I went to the library instead. 

zingerella: 1920s advertisement for Vanilla Bicycles: A young woman with bobbed hair rides a bicycle, a pannier and child on back. (vintage)
( Jul. 24th, 2012 11:08 pm)
On Saturday, a guy came in. Sleeves ripped off his shirt at the shoulders, ponytail, tattoos, a face that showed that he'd done a fair bit of living. Asked about a pump. Then asked about kids' bikes. What did we have for kids? "How old?" I asked. 
"Well, he was just born three days ago. I guess I'm kinda excited and looking forward to teaching him to ride."
We don't really carry anything for the three-day old infant, but I congratulated him heartily, told him to come back for a co-pilot (baby seat for the bike) when the kid was less floppy, and showed him a few things for when the boy gets older. 

Then I sent him off to go hang out with his boy and his boy's mother. 

People are delightful. Strange, but sometimes delightful. 

I don't really have a coherent point to make about these two apparently unconnected incidents, but in my head they're connected, so I'm going to record them here and see what the Collected Wisdom thinks.

1) My Awkward Neighbhour

Since Ron, my next-door neighbour helped move my furniture in, I've struck up a guarded, but reasonably cordial interaction with him. He's frequently out on his front porch, so I see him when I go in and out of my place. He's chatty, and I'm polite, so we chat, some. 

A few weeks ago, I was away, and [personal profile] human_loser  came over to feed Musetta. Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and greeted [personal profile] human_loser  with some question like "Are you the pretty lady's boyfriend?" (I have been very clear to Ron-the-neighbour that I have a boyfriend). [personal profile] human_loser  reports that he gave a non-committal response, and went in to feed Musetta. 

This Saturday, another male friend came over, and we went out for dinner, then back to my place for tea and so that I could bake my mom's birthday cake. As we went into my house, Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and called out to me "That better be your brother!" I gave some rejoinder—something like "You wish you knew," and went in.

But it's bugging me. It's bugging me that this dude thinks he has any business questioning my guests or commenting on who comes and goes out of my apartment. And it's creeping me out, a bit, not because I think Ron-the-neighbour poses a threat to me, but because he's so obviously interested in my life and in my guests and he doesn't see anything wrong with this. Where are his boundaries? 

2) The King of Africa

Sunday, I took the aforementioned cake to my mom's (and from there to my grandmom's. Poor cake got a bit slumpy in the heat, but was nonetheless tasty). On my way home, I was waiting for the subway at Bloor & Yonge station, and found myself the object of the benevolent attention of the King of Africa. 

The self-styled monarch (or emperor? I'm not sure how that works), informed me that the print on my dress was based on an African pattern (this is possible, I guess. It's blue.), and that if I were to go to Africa (not any particular place in Africa, mind, just Africa), everyone would greet me with love and adoration, because of that dress. Of course, if I were to be wearing another dress, things might not go so well. Had I ever been to Africa? No, I assured him, I had not. Well, Africa was wonderful, and when I go there, he will go ahead of me, and tell them that I am wonderful and should receive the royal treatment. He was from Africa. He is a king in Africa, so they will have to obey him and give me the royal treatment. 

He took my hand and kissed it, repeatedly. He asked me if I would go to Africa with him. I informed him that I had to go home. He said "Not today! Tomorrow. But never do tomorrow what you can do today, because tomorrow never comes! It's always today!" He informed me that another time I may find him at the Friendly Thai on Yonge Street. He was going there now. I thanked him, and, gratefully, boarded the train that had finally arrived. Then I employed my hand sanitizer. 

Another woman watched this entire exchange. She moved away. A man kept an eye on it. 

3) You Can't Blame the Matriarchy

I've begun working part-time at my local bike store. I've shopped at the same store for 15 years, and I have a lot of respect for the owner and manager. It's one of the few stores that I will cheerfully send my female friends to, knowing that they won't be talked down to, they'll be treated fairly, and nobody will try to upsell them. I like the culture there, so I asked if they wanted to hire me to work the shop floor, and the owner and manager agreed that it would be a good thing for them to have a woman on staff. I am uncomfortably aware that I am the beneficiary of affirmative action—I don't know nearly as much about bike mechanics in general as even the least experienced of the guys on the floor, and I know that if I were a guy, they'd want to see previous bike-store or bike-mechanic experience. But they're all being very pleasant and patient, so that's good. The customers, on the other hand, are about evenly divided among three groups. One group (mostly women) is quite happy to talk to me, in particular. One group is entirely indifferent, as long as someone's helping them. One group mostly ignores me, and seeks out one of the guys. I can only assume that members of this group believe that only a dude can successfully explain to them how to pump up the tires on their bikes, or the difference between a road bike, a cyclo-cross bike, and a sports hybrid. *Shrug* 

So one day, a couple of 10-year-old guys breezed right past me, when I said "Hey guys, what's up?" and asked my co-worker where the pump was. My two co-workers and I exchanged wry glances. I wandered over to my co-workers and said "I blame the patriarchy." Then, of course, I had to explain what I meant. 

Later that day, I was booking a woman customer for a tune-up. She was pleasant with me, but ignored my co-worker when he bade her farewell on her way out of the store (we're a community bike store; we generally try to say "hello" and "good-bye" to people, at least when it's not so busy that we can't see straight.) He said to me "I'm trying to figure out what the opposite of 'patriarchy' would be. 'Matriarchy,' I guess?" 

"Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"Well, if you can blame the patriarchy when guys are rude to you, can I blame the matriarchy when girls are rude to me?"

"Not really, because there isn't really a society-wide matriarchy."


So then we talked about how really, you can still blame the patriarchy when women tend to respond better to women than they do to men, and how "patriarchy" isn't the same as "men," etc. Then someone came in looking for a lock-ring, and that was that. 

So how all this fits together is that I don't think the guys in the shop deal with their neighbours commenting on the people they bring home. I don't think the guys in the shop have random strangers try to kiss their hands on the subway platform. And while they may occasionally deal with a customer like the tune-up lady or the very flustered lady who came in looking for repairs and said "Thank God there's a woman here! I hate men!" quite loudly, I don't think they have to deal with gendered rudeness or condescension to nearly the same extent that I get to (and this is in a shop where any overt misogyny, be it from customer or co-worker, would be firmly squashed on the part of the management.) And the fact that they don't deal with this is, to me, part of why my co-worker cannot blame the matriarchy that we don't have when a lady is rude to him. He can feel annoyed or disgruntled. He can roll his eyes. He can even blame the patriarchy for causing such deep distrust and disregard between women and men, if he wants to. I don't think he'd be wrong. It would certainly be a better world if everyone treated other people with respect and good manners. Somehow I think that women—even privileged women like me—deal with more gendered nonsense on a daily basis than dudes do. 
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jun. 22nd, 2012 03:17 pm)
June is nearly over. I'm not even sure when it started. I did say, before this month, that the choir more or less owned my soul for the month of June, and it appears that I was not wrong, except that they worked out a timeshare arrangement with a few proofreading clients. 

Forgiving Gustav
A long time ago, when I was a wee slip of a children's chorister, Sir Andrew Davis, the conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, retired. In order to mark the occasion, he decided to program Mahler's Behemothic  8th Symphony (aka the "Symphony of a Thousand," though I've never personally performed it with more than 700). I had a particular fondness for Maestro Davis, because he had conducted the symphony for the children's concerts that were my first exposure to real classical music, and because on the occasions that my choir sang with the orchestra, he treated us very seriously like musicians and not like toddlers. For these his final performances as the conductor fo the TSO, I sang in the Knabenchor, and was really very proud to be there.

I remember being captivated by the dramatic and spooky part  of the second movement at which the men start to sing, [the singing starts at about 3:30, but it's worth listening to the orchestral stuff beforehand for context and Mahlerian sound; in fact it's worth listening to the entire symphony. That's Leonard Bernstein conducting, btw.] and being sad that I would never be a tenor when I grew up, so I'd never get to sing that bit. Some consolation came from the thought that I'd very likely get to sing the pretty women's parts. Either that or I'd be an opera singer, which would be better, but much more difficult. 

The second time I sang Mahler's 8th was for the retirement of Dr. Elmer Iseler as the conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. I guess I was sixteen. That time was even better, because despite his tendency to talk to the children's choir as though we were a bunch of six year olds who had never seen sheet music before ("Now, children, I would like you to make the singing louder, just bit by bit, a little bit at a time," he'd say to us from the podium. "You mean crescendo?" we would think (but never say) from up in the organ loft, where we could see only his pink head surrounded by white fluffy hair, looking like nothing so much as a bowl of strawberries and cream). That time, I was seated way up in the organ loft, with the great Roy Thompson Hall organ on one side of my head and a brass choir on the other. Some sixteen year olds lose their hearing at clubs or concerts; I lost mine to Gustav Mahler.

In any case, I didn't become an opera singer. 

So this year, my first in the Mendelssohn Choir, I was pretty gratified to see the 8th Symphony on the schedule, as a performance in celebration of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's 90th anniversary. Most choral singers don't get to do Mahler's 8th even once, here I was doing it for the third time, and yay, I'm a grownup now. Pretty women's parts, here I come!

Only not so much.

You see, Gustav Mahler wrote the 8th for two full adult choirs (SATB, with various of the voices split into higher and lower parts whenever he wanted even more notes in a chord). Being a second soprano, I was placed in Choir 2. 

I think Mahler must have hated Choir 2. Or maybe his Choir 2 sopranos sucked. Because there are a couple of really pretty women's parts in the 8th, and the Choir 1 ladies have them all. Basically, Choir 2 is like the tomato in a club sandwich: we fill in the flavours. 

Curse you Gustav Mahler! And curse you Mighty Conductor for making all second sopranos the Choir 2 sopranos! Twenty years I've waited to sing the part of one of the more holy angels, and now I am DENIED! 

I was pretty sad, I'll tell you. 

But then, at the performance, I had to forgive Mahler. Because the 8th is just so blessed amazing. It still takes my breath away. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, of course, but that doesn't really do justice to the immensity of the sound of the first bombastic movement, nor to the chills that the changes in dynamics and the tension and release of the second movement bring. The Angelic Soprano always, always gives me warm chills. So Gustav Mahler, I forgive you for your strange dislike of Choir 2 sopranos. 

Also, I hummed along with Choir 1. 

Some other good things, for them as might be able to use a good thing or several:

Thing #1: Prayerful Trumpets
This past week, I got to hear this lady play this piece of music not once but three times. Sadly, I can't find a video or online recording that combines Alison Balsom's playing and Hovhaness's music, but both were a revelation to me. 

Thing #2: Tasty Greens
I made pasta with Kale and Garlic Scape Pesto last night, and may finally have found a delivery method for kale that is not only tolerable, but also actually yummy. So if you want to up your veggie-cred, but find yourself not thrilled with kale as a food, consider making it into pesto. 



zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)


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