Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This is wrong.


The BC NDP is currently engaged in an election to decide who our next leader will be.

To be eligible to vote - join the BC NDP - right now.

Use our convenient online membership form.

Joining by December 31, 2010, ensures you are able to take full advantage of the tax credits of up to 75% for your membership fee.

A $100 membership donation will cost you just $25 after the generous tax credit.  A $40 membership fee just $10.

Please join today and take part in choosing the next leader of the BC NDP.

Season's greetings, happy new year and thank you for your continued support.


5367 Kingsway
Burnaby BC V5H 2G1
1-888-VOTE-NDP (1-888-868-3637) or 604-430-8600

I knew from the start of this email that this was just a silly gimmick to get people feeling involved. I have come to terms with Canadian political parties not treating me as a rational creature. I do not mean to say that I am okay with it or that I do not desire to change it but I have come to expect this. A way to get people involved is good and so is being politically active even in a small way. But, wait... I have to pay to do this?

The NDP wants to charge membership fees to be part of their website. This isn't quite right from what I can see. All sorts of things wrong with this. Higher monetary bracket making choices that the lower cannot, etc. Grr. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Almost a year being vegetarian

Last year at the beginning of December I stopped eating meat. My father, who does not eat meat and should have been supportive of my decision, said that it was fine that I didn't eat meat but I should eat turkey dinner anyway because he always did. So it is almost a year. I will include some pictures from the past year. Unfortunately I cannot find any of the delicious meals I made, but here is some fruit and pastry, which is my meat replacement in any case.

Picture #1 Apple halves and melon.
I was playing a game on the bus. I imagined my ideal. I could say ideal self, but that isn't really what I mean. I mean the person I would like to be, but I also mean a role-model or ideal human being. Apparently my ideal is a tall, lanky man dressed in a white suite who does not procrastinate, as I am doing now. The most interesting thing I learned from this thought experiment is that my ideal is vegetarian.

Then I asked 'what changes can I make to be similar to my ideal?'

My sister, boyfriend, and roommate were all vegetarian at this point. As such I knew lots of recipes that did not involve meet. Furthermore, I made a deal with myself. I would give up meat in exchange for fruit and cheese. I did not realise at this point that cheese contained enzymes from calf-stomach or that marsh mellows contained gelatine. I discovered these things during my research and decided that my decision was based on not eating flesh and as such I was permitted to continue eating gelatine and calf enzyme.

So I got off the bus at the local green grocer, bought a bunch of fruit and went home to tell my roommates I was vegetarian.

I learned the arguments for vegetarianism: health, environment, cost, animal-torture, respect. I fall under the respect and environmental category if you push me. I believe that the consumption of sentient beings is a religious act at as such should be undertaken with respect. It is a disturbing act and well it need not be avoided it should be taken seriously.

I do not tell people this!

It is amusing to see the confusion of my opponent when they attempt to challenge my choices and hit thin air.

"Your against it because you don't like torturing animals."

No, that isn't why I became vegetarian. Then they manage to be very confusing and ask if I eat chicken.
Picture #2: Strawberry rhubarb pie.
"Why don't you like meat?"

I do, I love meat. I just decided not to eat it. It is fun to talk to people who wish to challenge my views. Sometimes my responses are not as good as I could wish for, but  sometimes I manage to make the person sympathetic. Moreover, I am proud to say that I have not attacked or alienated any meat eaters. I do not approve of this method, particularly because non-vegetarians will sometimes approach vegetarians out of curiousity and possibly to consider the choice for themselves. If I want to support my view I should give them information, not attack them!

"You don't get enough protein. You don't get enough iron."
Picture #3: The melon matches the plate.
At this point I explain that if you become vegetarian you need to know what kind of food to prepare. Before I could be vegetarian I needed to be an independent and self-reliant cook. You cannot be an unhealthy vegetarian or a vegetarian who simple does not eat because then you will become ill. When I first became a vegetarian I also went through a phase of not wanting to cook. I knew what I could cook but I had no interest in eating. I think the main danger in being a vegetarian is losing interest in your food. In which case the attacks are correct. If you do not eat you will not get enough protein, iron, or whatever else you might need. This is because you need food in order to get this.

If you do eat, however, you are likely to be healthier then a non-vegetarian. This is because being a vegetarian forces you to explore food, cook variety in order to keep up interest, and pay more attention to your food intake to guarantee you get what you need. It isn't more difficult, it is just more fun.

Picture #4: Frozen desert chocolate wafer & cream.
If must people ate the sort of diet I did before I became vegetarian I would not encourage them to switch. I bought and prepared whole rock cod. I roasted chickens and saved them over periods of days. Then I would use the bones for soup. Once a month I fried up a slice of steak and ate a dining room table dinner. My diet was enjoyable, exploratory, and at times festive.

Most people do not approach meat the way I did. For them eating meat simply means not changing the recipes they know, mixing bacon into everything (not that bacon isn't delicious), and choosing whatever they like at restaurants.

Picture #5: Tea kept warm with a candle.
Recently I had followed the live-food fad. Live foods fascinate me. I explained that being vegetarian was eating only that which was still alive until I cooked it. It is a fun definition, and fairly accurate. It also changes the view on meat. Eating meat is eating things that have been dead for a while, that doesn't sound extremely appealing.

So that's what I have learned over the past year of being a vegetarian. Around New Years I plan to reevaluate my commitment. The year was supposed to be six months. I made it to six months and decided I should do a year. I think instead of being vegetarian I might be a vegetarian in practice but eat fish that I or those around me catch. I also want to decide whether I should eat bugs or not. Buts might be tasty.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Human behaviour in Emergency situations

In Canada when an ambulance or fire truck is on the road all of the cars 'turn into little automatons.' This is how it was put to me by a British woman I know. She explained that it is one of the impressive points in Canadian driving. We tend to be rude and slopping but as soon as there is an emergency: traffic light off, emergency vehicles on the road we switch into emergency situation and perform the necessary actions. This is not the case with road work or accidents, but in emergency situations we know what to do.

The Canadian emergency preparedness handbook says "when disaster strikes, people usually react in a calm and reasonable manner." We are trained to be input, output machines. We wait for information and react upon it. We conserve the resources we have and make sure those we have responsibility for are accounted for and properly looked after. A booklet on preparedness aims to give information ahead of time and make us responsible for others aside from immediate family: It reminds us to look after our elderly or handicapped neighbours.

From my own experience --that being fire, earthquakes and lots of drills-- this is correct. The alarm goes off or the room begins to shake and I think 'do I go under my desk or do I exit the building?' My mind is blank apart from that question. I wait for input. We are told where to go and we go there. This is how the Canadian school system works. It doesn't prepare us for much but it does prepare us for emergency actions. Once we are outside in the cold we start to wake up. If it is an emergency and I am not traumatised then I will put myself into the group that will help others. If I need help myself I call attention to that fact and then stay calm.

There are three questions I would like to ask:

First, In regard to traffic emergencies there was the remark that this is particular to Canada. How much of this is peculiar to our Country? How much particular to BC?

Second, does everyone wait to be told what they can do to help?

I know I tend toward being the good citizen because I believe others will not be paying enough attention to notice if something goes wrong, does this carry over to emergencies?

Third, and most interesting: If we had a 'minor emergency' mentality at all times, would that improve our societies?

The economic crisis says that it would not be an advantage. We would simply be stressed and unhappy. But that is a monetary and not a environmental problem. If we focussed on making sure the elderly in our community got help beyond municipally funded help, this would be an improvement. If in general everyone worked more closely with their communities and were more careful and aware of the resources, it would be an improvement. The danger is the drain of a constant emergency mentality and the narrow-mindedness that it encourages. Those who lived during the wars and also during Depressions are less able to experiment, less willing to change. The luxury they have is theirs and they will not give it up, their diets cannot be improved, everything they can get they must horde. These would not be improvements. The improvement would be encouraging awareness of what needed to be done. It would be the binary: Are you hurt? Identify yourself. Are you stable? Offer help. Keep yourself stable. Much must be added to make the binary a rich and worthwhile life but as a basic premise it adds a great deal of clarity.

The related question is can we do this? We are not offered as much information when it is not an emergency. What we are listening for is harder to find. The clarity offered by an emergency cannot appear when it is not an emergency because there are many things we must do in order to keep our lives the way we want them.