Boxing Week

Too Angry?
I may have to go off the polit­i­cal com­men­tary for a while. It’s just get­ting me furi­ous and there’s no point any more. I did what I could — more than most, I sup­pose — and it’s up to oth­ers to take on the fight. With any luck, Pam and I will have avoid­ed the com­ing crash. Already I’ve seen some omi­nous signs of the US Nation­al Debt start­ing to appear in the news again. It’s unfor­tu­nate that Cana­da is still so depen­dent on the US as a trad­ing part­ner, but even they are wis­ing up and increas­ing oil exports to Chi­na, who I no longer have any doubt will be the dom­i­nant super­pow­er in the com­ing decades. In the mean­time, I am going to have to just shake my head and hope that my fam­i­ly and friends are able to dodge the bul­lets as well.

Box­ing Week

You know that the hol­i­day sea­son has gained a larg­er foot­print when peo­ple start nam­ing the peri­od between Christ­mas and New Year’s Day. With Christ­mas falling on a Sun­day this year, Box­ing Day fell on Mon­day. That meant that the entire rest of the week would be a down-time for a lot of com­pa­nies (includ­ing mine), and stores are run­ning post-Christ­mas/Year-end close­out sales to take advan­tage of so many peo­ple who now have time to shop. The result is that Box­ing Day has become an entire week. We’ve even seen signs on mer­chant win­dows around town that say ‘Box­ing Week Sale’ on them. I sup­pose that’s one way to avoid the crush of peo­ple all try­ing to take advan­tage of a one-day event.

A US Vis­it
Tomor­row, Pam and I are going to ven­ture back into the US. While I’ve already done this a few times since we moved here, Pam has not. I won­der if I’ll start to notice more dif­fer­ences between the US and Cana­da. It will also be inter­est­ing to use our pass­ports and my work per­mit when we re-enter Cana­da. I’m not expect­ing any trou­ble, but it will be yet anoth­er first.

Ah, I Remember that from French Class! Or was it Social Studies?

The Bush Administration’s arro­gance con­cern­ing eaves­drop­ping on cit­i­zens with­out even a momen­tary thought giv­en to war­rants or any kind of civ­il lib­er­ties remind­ed me of anoth­er arro­gant dic­ta­tor (besides Big Broth­er):

Bush-Louis14

And you thought it was just your library books they were look­ing at!

Update:
I also caught this choice quote from an incred­i­ble essay with the title: Fear destroys what bin Laden could not by Robert Stein­back of the Mia­mi Her­ald:

Pres­i­dent Bush recent­ly con­firmed that he has autho­rized wire­taps against U.S. cit­i­zens on at least 30 occa­sions and said he’ll con­tin­ue doing it. His jus­ti­fi­ca­tion? He, as pres­i­dent — or is that king? — has a right to dis­re­gard any law, con­sti­tu­tion­al tenet or con­gres­sion­al man­date to pro­tect the Amer­i­can peo­ple.
Is that America’s high­est goal — pre­vent­ing anoth­er ter­ror­ist attack? Are there no prin­ci­ples of law and lib­er­ty more impor­tant than this? Who would have remem­bered Patrick Hen­ry had he writ­ten, “What’s wrong with giv­ing up a lit­tle lib­er­ty if it pro­tects me from death?”

There’s much more in this, and some of it is what I’ve been near­ly scream­ing for the past 4 years, that Amer­i­ca is not the same coun­try that I knew. Stein­back also says ear­li­er:

…I would have expect­ed such actions to pro­voke — speak­ing metaphor­i­cal­ly now — mobs with pitch­forks and torch­es at the White House gate. I would have expect­ed proud defi­ance of any­one who would sug­gest that a mere ter­ror­ist threat could send this coun­try into spasms of despair and fright so pro­found that we’d fol­low a leader who con­sid­ers the law a nui­sance and per­fidy a priv­i­lege.
Nev­er would I have expect­ed this nation — which emerged stronger from a civ­il war and a civ­il rights move­ment, won two world wars, endured the Depres­sion, recov­ered from a dis­as­trous cam­paign in South­east Asia and still man­aged to lead the world in the prin­ci­ples of lib­er­ty — would cow­er behind any­one just for promis­ing to “pro­tect us”.

It’s a call to arms. Is it too late for any­one to hear it?

PS: I noticed that this is my 100th post­ing in this blog. Guess I made it to triple dig­its by the end of the year!

Stille Tag, Eating Ballots and Uncle Edgar

A Few Crea­tures Stir­ring, but Not Many
Yes­ter­day was a very qui­et day indeed. We took a walk along False Creek and saw a few dog-walk­ers, jog­gers and bicy­clists, but as we returned via Broad­way, the only places open were the Asian restau­rants, some of which were doing a brisk busi­ness.

Today, how­ev­er, is Box­ing Day (always the day after Christ­mas), a hol­i­day that I only got to cel­e­brate when I lived in Eng­land. Accord­ing to Wikipedia:

There is great dis­pute over the true ori­gins of Box­ing Day. The more com­mon sto­ries include:

  • Cen­turies ago, mer­chants would present their ser­vants food and fruits as a form of Yule­tide tip. Nat­u­ral­ly, the gifts of food and fruit were packed in box­es, hence the term “Box­ing Day”.
  • In feu­dal times, Christ­mas was a rea­son for a gath­er­ing of extend­ed fam­i­lies. All the serfs would gath­er their fam­i­lies in the manor of their lord, which makes it eas­i­er for the lord of the estate to hand out annu­al stipends to the serfs. After all the Christ­mas par­ties on Decem­ber 25, the lord of the estate would give prac­ti­cal goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each fam­i­ly would get a box full of such goods the day after Christ­mas. Under this expla­na­tion, there was noth­ing vol­un­tary about this trans­ac­tion; the lord of the manor was oblig­at­ed to sup­ply these goods. Because of the box­es being giv­en out, the day was called Box­ing Day.
  • In Britain many years ago, it was com­mon prac­tice for the ser­vants to car­ry box­es to their employ­ers when they arrive for their day’s work on the day after Christ­mas (26 Decem­ber). Their employ­ers would then put coins in the box­es as spe­cial end-of-year gifts. This can be com­pared with the mod­ern day con­cept of Christ­mas bonus­es. The ser­vants car­ried box­es for the coins, hence the name Box­ing Day.
  • In church­es, it was tra­di­tion to open the church’s dona­tion box on Christ­mas day, and the mon­ey in the dona­tion box were to be dis­trib­uted to the poor­er or low­er class cit­i­zens on the next day. In this case, the “box” in “Box­ing Day” comes from that one gigan­tic lock­box in which the dona­tions were left.
  • In Britain because many ser­vants had to work for their employ­ers on Christ­mas day they would instead open their presents (ie. box­es) the next day, which there­fore became known as box­ing day.

In fact, the way I heard it, because it was the ser­vants’ day off, meals would be a ‘box lunch’ or some­thing like that. Many of these sto­ries fol­low the same basic idea of giv­ing the work­ing class­es a spe­cial hol­i­day of their own, which has since many on the Left to decry the hol­i­day as fur­ther per­pet­u­a­tion of the sep­a­ra­tion of the social class­es (some­one had to serve the Christ­mas feast, so the ser­vants couldn’t have that day off, there­fore they had their own hol­i­day while the rich folks slept in and ate left­overs). It was inter­est­ing to see that Granville Mar­ket was open Christ­mas Eve, but was closed both Christ­mas Day and Box­ing Day, which lent fur­ther cre­dence to the ‘give The Help a day off’ expla­na­tion.

In the Putting Your Bal­lot Where Your Mouth Is Depart­ment

Saw a strange sto­ry about Cal­gary in Boing­bo­ing about eat­ing elec­tion bal­lots. Sure enough, it’s a kind of protest by the right-wing peo­ple there that there aren’t any choic­es that they approve of in the elec­tion (I’m going to assume that Steven Harp­er is not Con­ser­v­a­tive enough for them, since the protest is by fol­low­ers of Stock­well Day, who lost his post to Harp­er in 2002).

Good-bye to Uncle Edgar

We just got a phone call that Edgar John­ston, Pam’s Uncle on her father’s side of the fam­i­ly, died at 1 AM this morn­ing. Uncle Edgar, along with Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim, became what the rest of the fam­i­ly referred to as ‘The Trav­el­ing Trio’, when we found out that they had set off from Long Island, New York to Quin­cy, Mass­a­chu­setts via train, fer­ry, anoth­er train and final­ly the sub­way, with­out telling any­one, so that they could go on an explorato­ry trip to Quin­cy, Mass, where Mary and Edgar had pre­vi­ous­ly lived before sell­ing their house and mov­ing in with Jim in Long Island. They had made plans for months, and we sus­pect that Jim went along with the whole expe­di­tion because he had lost his driver’s license (after 4 acci­dents in the peri­od of a month or so) and thought that the State of Mass­a­chu­setts would give him a license if New York state would not. Their plan was to buy two small hous­es and ‘…live next door to each oth­er’. We found out about all of this lat­er but ini­tial­ly we got a call from a hos­pi­tal in Quin­cy, at about 4 AM. The three of them had been found, exhaust­ed and con­fused, in the Boston sub­way a few hours ear­li­er. It was a pret­ty remark­able inci­dent, and if one of them hadn’t had Pam’s brother’s busi­ness card in their wal­let, they might very well have dis­ap­peared into the unseen world of the home­less in Boston. We scram­bled to get them tak­en care of, and Pam and her broth­er became legal guardians of all of them, as they entered a Nurs­ing Home in Wey­mouth, a near­by town. Uncle Jim died in Jan­u­ary before we moved here, and now with Edgar’s death at the age of 93, the sole mem­ber of the three trav­el­ers is Mary, who is most­ly blind and no longer coher­ent.
When­ev­er we vis­it­ed Aunt Mary and Uncle Edgar in Quin­cy, she was the flam­boy­ant and styl­ish lady, and he was the absent-mind­ed pro­fes­sor. He was obsessed with his time spent in the army dur­ing World War II and as time passed he retreat­ed more and more into that peri­od. I tried to find out why these events in his life seemed to over­shad­ow every­thing that had come before or since, but he had no expla­na­tion oth­er than that was the way he felt. The last time we saw him, he had revert­ed to the state of an infant, per­ma­nent­ly reclined, with soft hands and a vacant stare. He had been this way for months before then and con­tin­ued liv­ing that way for a year, at least, until he sim­ply stopped eat­ing a few days ago. The phrase from Shakespeare’s As You Like It about “All the world’s a stage”, etc. came to my mind — the bit at the end:

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange event­ful his­to­ry,
Is sec­ond child­ish­ness and mere obliv­ion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every­thing.

I’m glad that Edgar final­ly made his exit, because he spent far too much time in that last scene.

An Interesting Question

Since I’m going to be a design­er in Cana­da, I was curi­ous to see some­thing writ­ten on a web site for a design local design shop that I had not known of until recent­ly, Indus­tri­al Brand Cre­ative.

The ques­tion was: Is There Any­thing Cana­di­an About Our Design? It was raised dur­ing a Design Com­pe­ti­tion that was held here in Novem­ber (and I was unfor­tu­nate­ly igno­rant of that as well, not because I want­ed to enter, but I feel that I haven’t yet learned enough about the design com­mu­ni­ty here. I do know there is a lot of tal­ent here. That’s pret­ty evi­dent wher­ev­er you look.)

The dis­cus­sion includ­ed some obser­va­tions that could apply to a num­ber of dis­ci­plines, design just being one of them:

Cana­da is a very big coun­try, but our pop­u­la­tion, just twice the size of most of the world’s major cities, is con­cen­trat­ed pri­mar­i­ly in three urban cen­tres with vast bod­ies of water, prairies and moun­tain ranges sep­a­rat­ing them. Added to these fac­tors are the dizzy­ing array of cul­tures, reli­gions and lan­guages our most­ly immi­grant pop­u­lace brought with them, it would be eas­i­er to argue that these geo­graph­ic fac­tors would lead to region­al­ism with­in Cana­da more than pro­duc­ing any com­mon style. Per­haps any “Cana­di­an style” is a direct result of post mod­ernism and the mix of these many back­grounds, per­spec­tives and cul­tur­al predilec­tion for trav­el and explo­ration which makes us flex­i­ble, skilled (if not rather under­paid) pro­duc­ers of high qual­i­ty design. This cel­e­bra­tion of diver­si­ty is our key strength, and is arguably the only real Cana­di­an tru­ism.

I guess I like every­thing about that quote, except for the word ‘under­paid’.
writ­ten while lis­ten­ing to: Carl Nielsen — Wind Quin­tet — iii. Prae­ludi­um: Ada­gio — Tema con vari­azioni’

The Blogger Meetup

Sun­rise, 8:05 AM, Sun­set 4:17 PM. The Win­ter Sol­stice has come and gone

Some of the Van­cou­ver blog­gers gath­ered togeth­er at Subeez, on Homer Street (I wish I could write that street name with­out hear­ing Marge Simpson’s voice, or rather, Julie Kavner’s voice, to be pre­cise) for a lit­tle get-togeth­er before the hol­i­days. I got there a lit­tle ear­ly, feel­ing a lit­tle weak as I’m just still get­ting over a lit­tle cold and flu. (I sus­pect I got it because I’m not used to the par­tic­u­lar bac­te­r­i­al soup that is my new work­place. It’s not that the place is par­tic­u­lar­ly dirty — it’s not — it’s that I haven’t yet devel­oped resis­tance to the bugs that are there yet. This is pret­ty com­mon.) Rather than go for a brew, I had to set­tle for some Chamomile tea and hon­ey. It’s a bit of a relief when restau­rants can be under­stand­ing about these sorts of things. I felt bet­ter as peo­ple arrived.

It was a small crowd, but we all got com­fort­able and I think every­one was in a pret­ty good mood. Despite the lack of sun­light, we all seem to be cop­ing pret­ty well. The con­ver­sa­tions drift­ed from com­ing hol­i­day trips to the Van­cou­ver Coöper­a­tive Auto Net­work (which I’ve writ­ten about before) — Susie Gard­ner and Travis Smith think it’s great, so I’m now more inclined to think more seri­ous­ly about it, hav­ing known no one up to this point who had actu­al­ly joined it, much less rec­om­mend­ed it.

For those who didn’t make it to Subeez, the report from here on the venue is: A lit­tle loud on the music, but great, funky décor, much bet­ter food than Steam­works (and I’m prob­a­bly not the only one to say that), and a more var­ied menu with bet­ter prices. The ser­vice was excel­lent and they dealt quite adroit­ly with all of the com­pli­ca­tions of stag­gered orders and mul­ti­ple cheques. We’ll be back there in Jan­u­ary. I wouldn’t give up on Calhoun’s, though. That might be good to try in Feb­ru­ary.

Here are the blogs of the Meet­up atten­dees:

Wal­ter Selent’s Web Page
ono­matopeia
Web2
Buzz Mar­ket­ing wit­th Blogs
Unvar­nished
Mak­taaq
DaneBrown.org (in 2 weeks)

I uploaded a few hol­i­day snap­shots of us around the table to Meetup.com. The cam­era flash was pret­ty extreme, but there’s not much you can do in a dim­ly lit place. Besides, it was after all, the sol­stice.

Besides all of the hol­i­days and besides all of the dark­ness, it’s also that time of year when many of us (myself includ­ed) grin and say ‘See you next year!’ at the end of evenings. We aren’t being par­tic­u­lar­ly clever, but it’s fun to say it all the same.