Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Winston Churchill

Today is the birthday of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, born almost exactly 100 years before me in 1874.

Churchill is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the last century and among the most influential persons in British history. He was also a respected statesman, orator, historian, writer and artist – and the only British prime minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

He twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1940-45 and 1951-55) and died 46 years ago.

Today was also the launch of the Ottawa Winston Churchill Society, founded by local Churchill scholar Ronald Cohen, and rung in at Earnscliffe, the residence of the British High Commissioner, who recently said of Churchill, “He wasn’t perfect and nor were his policies, but he had many good qualities, chief among them honesty and strong leadership.”

Churchill began his career as a journalist and writer. His was praised by the Nobel Foundation for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about political leaders lately – what with the shenanigans among the American Republican leadership contenders and more close to home the leadership campaign for the New Democrats. How I wish we had a strong, visionary leader in Canada – someone to raise our eyes toward a higher goal, to inspire and to lead.

It’s almost as if no leader dares to be too visionary, to wax poetic or to engage in philosophic reflections. Churchill wrote about Canada: “A wild beauty haunts these solitudes, so plentifully supplied with water, so clothes in forests”. Can you imagine such poetry coming from a political leader of our day?

“We are crossing a petrified sea whose waves are rocks, whose foam is forest,” he wrote of northern Ontario. Having driven though this land of endless forests, rocks and trees, his words resonate with me. How strange that a British statesman who visited our country only 9 times should be able to describe this land in a way I have never heard from a politician of our own.

In my search for inspirational leaders, must I turn to the past?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Write for Rights

On International Human Rights Day, December 10, would you like to be part of the biggest annual human rights event?

Amnesty International is organizing a global day of action: Write for Rights. People from around the world will come together to write letters calling for the protection and promotion of human rights. Last year, Canadian Write for Rights participants contributed 60,000 letters to the 500,000 world total.

These letters have proven to be effective in making positive change in people’s lives.

Amnesty International provides information about various human rights abuses about which you may want to write. For example, there is the case of 20-year-old Jabbar Savalan, a young man from Azerbaijan imprisoned for his Facebook activity. He had posted messages such as an article from a Turkish newspaper that was critical of the Azerbaijan president and he had called for a day of protest.

In February, he was arrested and later charged with possessing marijuana. Savalan, his family and friends have continually insisted that he never used drugs – even a blood test after his arrest showed no trace of marijuana. Human rights groups like Amnesty are insisting the drug charges are false and that his imprisonment is part of government crackdowns on activists using social media to protest against the government.

Savalan continues to be held in prison in Baku, not due for release until August 2013.

During the writeathon, you can write about cases like Savalan’s to leaders in our country and the country concerned. You can also write to the individuals affected and to their families and supporters. Addresses are provided.

Let the people who are suffering know they are not alone. Let those who allow human rights abuses know that the world is watching and that there are many people who care.

Sign-up for Write for Rights with Amnesty International.

For those of you in Ottawa, there will be a letter-writing event on the 4th floor of the Canadian Museum of Nature on December 8th. The evening will include live music, all-ages crafting, letter-writing, snacks, cake and a cash bar - as well as some ‘special surprise’. Entry to the museum is free for this event. Anyone want to join me??

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ed Broadbent on the phone

Ed Broadbent called me today.

Well, it wasn’t quite like it sounds – I got a pre-recorded voice message when I answered the phone during Miya’s dinner time.

“Who called?” she asked.

“Just a politician asking me to vote for another politician,” I told her.


“Um, politicians are our leaders and this man wants to help me decide who to choose as the party’s leader,” I tried.


“It was Ed, sweetie. A man named Ed.”

That satisfied her and she continued on with her meal.

This is not the first time Ed’s called me. I’ve also had voice messages from Paul Dewar and am getting emails from Nathan Cullen, Brian Topp, Thomas Mulcair and Peggy Nash – all of whom among the 9 candidates vying for leadership of the federal New Democrats.

The campaign started in September and candidates are campaigning across the country. The leadership convention will be in March in Toronto. I can’t be there, but I am trying to follow this leadership race and become informed about the candidates. I want to find out how I can vote if I can’t be at the convention - and have enough information to make an informed decision.

I have realized that in the past I’ve been a bit lazy when it comes to political leadership races – and I’m guessing I’m hardly alone given our country’s abysmal voter turn-out. While I do vote, I don’t go too much out of my way to inform myself about my local candidates. I will read what is given to me, listen to what is said to me – but basically feel that if you, as a candidate, don’t know how to get your message to me, than you likely aren’t going to be much of a political leader. Right or wrong, I admit that this has been my default approach.

But for this NDP leadership campaign, I’m actually working to go beyond what is targeted at me. We so desperately need a stronger opposition in our Parliament – so I’m going to do what I can to find out about and support the candidate I think will have the best chance of building a healthy, positive and focused democratic party.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More princess talk

This weekend, I was given two of the best gifts I’ve had all year– our friends visiting from out of town each provided a guest blog, sparing me, for the first time in over 300 days, from the daily drudgery of coming up with a blog subject. My gratitude is boundless.

I was also interested to see their takes on the princess discussion I had introduced in an earlier blog. And while apologizing to readers who do not particularly care about princesses or Disney and are already bored by this subject, I can’t help weighing in again with my .2 cents...

Do I think interest in Disney princesses will condemn my daughter to a life of eating disorders, sexual submissiveness, appearance obsession and pink convertibles? I do not.

Will she encounter Disney stories, movies and characters during her lifetime? Absolutely. And hopefully she'll come through the experience with a kind of affection and nostalgia that most of us have for the fictional characters we met in our youth. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

That said, as a mother raising a daughter in a mass-media dominated society which is constantly telling women and girls that their value lies in their beauty, sexuality and youth, I feel that a certain amount of diligence and proactive effort is required.

I feel it is my duty to be aware of what is she is being exposed to – through the books, games, puzzles, music, videos, etc. I think about what messages she is receiving through these various mediums – do they promote friendship, empathy, social responsibility, or do they talk about winning, appearance, and selfish behaviour?

I also feel it is my responsibility as a parent to be aware of how my daughter, given her age and development, absorbs and responds to the messaging around her. The way a two year-old understands a message will be very different than how an eight year-old or teenager will respond.

While the messaging of Disney princesses may not be entirely negative, I need to be aware of how she is receiving it.

There may always be princesses – I just need to be sure they’re not the ones raising my daughter.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Guest Blog: Tales of a princess generation tomboy

I grew up with Disney.

We had 34 Disney videos on our fireplace mantle, most of them featuring a princess. Blonde, brunette, redhead, privileged, gifted and under-appreciated; all thirty-one flavours.

I loved them and all of their fairy tale wonders... Strike that, I love them (present tense). I am also a power tool junkie, a savvy business women, and can take my husband in a fight with one arm tied behind my back. Thanks to the princesses, I also love wearing evening gowns, doing my hair and going on a romantic walk with the man I love.

For me, Cinderella, Jasmine, Belle, and Ariel were inspirational. I think that, without them, I may never have found such pride in feeling beautiful and confident as a woman, not just as a person. I love feeling pretty and having all eyes on me; I love when my husband protects me and acts with chivalry, even though I am strong, smart and can do just about everything I want to on my own.

When I was a child, my family all got together one Christmas to give me everything from the bright pink Barbie aisle at the toy store: the horse, the convertible, the wardrobe of clothes, the man and of course, the girl herself. I received just one present that year that had nothing to do with Barbie.
I cried and cried and cried.

Barbie looks and dresses and dances just like the princesses. What is the problem? Why had I, and have I, never shown any interest in Barbie? (forget about why would my family decided to buy nothing but Barbie even though I had never shown any interest in her). Barbie is too two-dimensional. She has no flaws, no depth, no dark past, and no bright future. All she is, is a doll; even if you have a great imagination and give her life when you play with her, what is she?

The Princesses have lives. They have dark sides, histories and something they are moving toward. They aren’t my idols by any means, but they do present a quiet side of myself that I like to let shine from time to time and cherish.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Guest Blog: Disney defence

A guest blog by Bizarro Anita (aka Doug)

Save us Princess!

Recent slanderous comments towards the great benefactor of the feminist movement, aka Disney, need to be address with hard facts.
Think back to the dark, un-enlightened days of the early 80’s. As recently as 1980, men outnumbered women in bachelor degrees awarded (Men: 469,883, Women: 465,257) However, based on current enrolment, female undergraduates will outnumber men almost 1.5 to 1. (2016-17 (estimated) Women: 1,057,000, Men: 707,000).

What changed? How did the most dramatic shift in gender educational ratios in the history of the world occur? The answer is clear: the increased participation in post-education activities by women is directly correlated with the introduction of the Disney Princess line. The combined inspirational power of Snow White, Belle, Ariel, Cinderella and Jasmine has achieved what decades of suffragettes could not: they have taught women that they can pursue any dream they chose.

Sure, feminists feared that a generation of girls raised on visions of princesses would destroy all the hard work of decades of women fighting for equality, but that simply has not happened. The explanation is clear: the incredible, remarkable potential of women is not that they must act like men, nor that they must act like princesses. The miracle of femininity is that they can do either, or both, or neither. The “sky is falling” viewpoint forgets the most obvious thing: women are smart enough and secure enough to forge their own path. They are not so weak as to be swayed solely by a cartoon dream. They can enjoy the princess dream as a child, much like little boys can dream of being knights or astronauts. But when the time comes to make real decisions about their lives, our little princess girls are making smart, independent choices for their future. And for the most part, those choices involve textbooks and laboratories, not pink dresses and ballrooms.

So please, stop underestimating the ability of our future women to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. The girls are fine. If they want a pretty little doll in a fancy dress, then allow them their joy. They’ll make the right choice when it really matters.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Books: The Prophet's Camel Bell

In the last days of 1950, a young Margaret Laurence and her husband sailed from London to the then British Proctectorate of Somaliland. Her engineer husband had taken on an assignment to build ballehs – large water reservoirs – in the desert of Somalia’s interior.

The book, ‘The Prophet’s Camel Bell’ is a memoir of the two years the Laurences spent in Somaliland. Though unpolished and overly-long, it conveys much about the author, her keen sense of observation and her belief in human dignity.

Laurence optimistically believed that since she herself was not an ‘imperialist’, upon arriving in Africa she’d be able to pierce the cultural divide and build rich relationships of mutual respect with the local population. Much of the book deals with her coming to terms with her own naiveté and with the complex realities of race relations in the decade preceding independence.

She invested a great deal in trying to understand Somali culture and people. She learned the language and studied the culture and the people with an eye for detail and pathos. Her first published book (A Tree for Poverty) was a translation of Somali poetry.

Yet while she worked hard to understand Somali tribesmen, she readily acknowledged her deep antipathy for colonialists, whom she described “not [as] people who were motivated by a brutally strong belief in their own superiority, but people who were so desperately uncertain of their own worth and their ability to copy within their own societies that they were forced to seek some kind of mastery in a place where all the cards were stacked in their favour and where they could live in a self-generated glory by transferring all evils, all weaknesses, on to another people.”

While I can’t recommend this book as a page-turner or poetic masterpiece, Laurence’s struggle to find her place – both with regards to Somalis and the other expats – is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Anyone who has lived abroad, particularly on the doorstep of abject poverty, will find resonance in her writing and her personal struggles. Upon leaving Somalia, Laurence noted a poignant regret, which she described as a feeling which “arose from unwisely loving a land where I must always remain a stranger”.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The invasion of Disney Princesses begins

Despite my efforts to avoid branding when shopping for my daughter, it was probably inevitable that she would become exposed to the Disney Princesses and their powerful marketing campaign.

The diapers I bought on sale recently have Disney Princesses on them – some have just Cinderella, some have 3 princesses. For a few days, Miya insisted on only wearing the ones with the 3 princesses – and she kept asking me what their names are, till finally I went on-line and found out.

Awhile back I read an excellent book called ‘Bright from the Start’ which explained brain development in the early years. One of the things that stuck me is that research has shown that little boys are attracted to motion and little girls to faces – almost right from the get go. There is a reason why little boys love toy trucks and trains and little girls prefer dolls: we are wired that way.

Babies and small children are also attracted to symmetrical, aesthetically-pleasing faces.

I’ve also noticed that in the last few months, Miya has become obsessed with knowing the names of everyone she sees.

All of this makes her a perfect target for Disney’s massive princess marketing strategy. And in perfect timing, she’s just coming to the age where she is asking for specific purchases.

Peggy Orenstein, in her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, notes that Disney has "26,000 Disney princess items on the market today, part of a$4 billion-a-year franchise that is the fastest-growing brand the company has ever created.”

My daughter loves familiarity – it is no surprise that if she sees a Disney princess everywhere she looks, she will be more likely to want a Disney branded item over a non-branded one.

There are arguments to be made for the princess culture promoting ideas of girls and women being valued most for their looks, of waiting for Prince Charming, of living vacuous lives in castles... I agree with much of these things and could probably add a few rants of my own. But right now, with my two year-old, I’m wondering how I can best counter the pervasiveness of the Disney princess and their pretty, vapid faces popping up everywhere she looks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 meals in a hurry (3)

Finishing up with the easy-meal series - and seriously, would welcome suggestions from any of you out there.

6) Fresh-mozza risotto & baked squash
This recipe may be pushing it in terms of the amount of time required – but it is super easy and requires almost no advance prep.

First I’ll chop a squash in half and shove it into the oven to bake; then I’ll get going on the risotto.

Fry some shallots in butter and olive oil, add a couple cups or arborio rice. When the rice is translucent, add a cup of white wine. After this has been absorbed, dump in a cup of tomato sauce and some soup stock. Keep cooking, adding ladles full of liquid stock as needed until the rice is cooked – then fold in some fresh basil, grated parmesan and a cup of fresh mozzarella. Serve with the buttered & peppered squash.

7) Homemade pizzas
I cheat with this one by using store-bought pizza crusts and sauce, but for an easy, flexible meal, it’s hard to beat. V can add sausage or whatever meaty bits he wants to his, I can load mine up with feta. Tonight I also added leftover steamed broccoli from M’s dinner, some fresh spinach, and red pepper. Easy and quick.

8) Pasta and tomato sauce
One of my standard quick meals is pasta and tomato vegetable sauce. I’m not particularly proud of this since it’s a lot of cheap, refined carbs. But I do load up my sauce with lots of fresh veggies – especially onions, garlic, peppers, zucchini and spinach. Lately I’ve also been throwing in a can of chickpeas for the protein. Top with some cheese and it’s practically respectable enough to serve.

9) Burritos and rice
This is another recipe that calls of leftover rice – which fortunately we often tend to have. Basically it involves cooking up some beans with onions, garlic and seasonings to give it a bit of a Latin flair. Get some tortillas and roll up the rice with beans, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, etc...

10) Brownies

Not really a meal – but I do have a great recipe that is quick and easy. Chocolate fix in minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top 10 meals in a hurry (2)

Yesterday I started blogging about my favourite 10 easy meals. I was thinking afterward that for anyone who knows me, it might seem rather ridiculous for me to be offering cooking advice. If I do have any talents, cooking is not among them.

But then again, this may be precisely a good reason for me to put out these recipes. Surely there are others out there like me in this regard – busy people who want to eat healthy, balanced meals but don’t really have the inspiration or inclination for fancy cooking. And it helps me just to write these down – so that the next time I’m hungry and uninspired at 7 p.m., I can look back at what I’ve written and be reminded of some of the easy options I have.

And I'd certainly love to hear of other healthy, easy, quick vegetarian dinner ideas!

3) Fried Rice
This one requires having a bunch of left-over cooked rice – which if I have, I’ll combine with sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, ginger and whatever veggies I have on hand (i.e. zucchini, peas, corn). I’ll usually mix a bit of sesame oil in with the peanut oil I use for the sauté – love that smell and flavour – and toss in some soya sauce when I add the rice. After the rice has heated, I’ll push it to one side of the pan and crack an egg, scramble that up and mix it all together. Done. (As an added bonus, this one goes over really well with Miya.)

4) Soup
Way back in January, I blogged the recipe for my favourite veggie soup – this is still a go-to dish, although no two versions turn out exactly alike. Maybe that’s what keeps me coming back. That and nothing beats a bowl of fresh, hearty soup when the weather is cold.

5) Quinoa Salad
I was guilty of making this one a little too often this summer. I’d cook up a bunch of quinoa – and, once it was close to room temperature, mix it in with random salad goodies like red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, fresh spinach... Tossed with Italian dressing or vinaigrette it was ready to serve in no time.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Top 10 meals in a hurry

I’m writing this blog as much as a favour to myself as to anyone who might be interested in reading it.

I would be the first to admit that I am not one to plan my meals ahead or to want to spend any more time in the kitchen than absolutely necessary. While I have great respect for good cooking and admire people, like my husband, who enjoy experimenting with new recipes and fancy ingredients, I tend to cook simple, straight-forward fare, preferably using few pots/pans and requiring minimal prep time.

So, for anyone out there who finds themselves stuck on what to cook for dinner, with the energy to spend no more than about 15 minutes prepping, and yet a desire to have something relatively healthy and balanced to eat, here are my top ten meals-in-a hurry. (Warning: I am a vegetarian.)

1) Bean Chilli
Chop up an onion and garlic and get these frying while you raid the fridge for any peppers or other vegetables you’d like to add. Add some spices (I’m a fan of dried chilli flakes, cumin and cinnamon) and other veggies. Toss in a couple cans of beans (i.e. chick peas, black beans) and some tomato sauce. Simmer and serve.

If you want to make this more of an indulgent comfort food, after simmering for awhile – pour these over a bed of tortilla chips, add some salsa and grated cheese and pop in the oven.

2) Rice and Lentils
I made this one tonight - it’s my fall-back food when I’m feeling the need for something basic and healthy.

On one burner I get a pot of brown rice going. On another, I begin again with onion and garlic – also adding minced ginger and mustard seeds. For spices I’ll use cumin, turmeric and maybe curry powder. Finely chopped red peppers are nice to add too.

When these soften, I’ll toss in a bunch of lentils then add water and stock cubes. Depending on cooking time needed, I’ll add things like kale or spinach after the lentils have cooked for a bit. This all takes about 30 mins to cook – but needs very little prep or fuss.

To be continued.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back on campus

I spent several hours today on the University of Ottawa campus. I was there to write the Public Service Entrance Exams – along with about 2,000 other public service hopefuls who took over the campus today.

I always find something a little nostalgic and even romantic about being on a university campus. Maybe it’s the young, hip kids walking around, the autumn leaves, the books and buildings housing libraries and learning... I’m not sure, but I know that whenever I’m at a university I want to curl up in a library with a thick tome or sit under a tree and sit under a tree and discuss philosophy.

I remember in high school being told that these would be the best years of my life – and finding that a very depressing thought. High school was something to overcome, not to hold on to. University however, there was something of a golden age to that which I recognized at the time.

I felt incredibly lucky to get to spend my time thinking, reading and writing. Sure some classes could be dull and the workload intense at times, but I loved that world. I loved learning. I loved the start of a new year, the buying of new textbooks, the first notes written down. I even liked the late nights and study sessions, the dates in computer labs and reading rooms. I had favourite nooks in libraries, study corners where I could lose myself in ideas and words.

University was also a time of new friendships and encounters. It’s only natural really – you put a few hundred or even thousand young adults together and it won’t take long for ties to form of attraction, friendship, jealousy, betrayal, longing, annoyance... I can’t say I have remained close to many of my university friends, but I find myself thinking of them from time to time.

Certainly today, when I was walking through the campus and saw young girls walking and talking together, couples holding hands, friends sharing coffee and cigarettes, I felt like I was remembering my youth. I sound old saying that, and yet I actually felt young again – although in a sense that I was only passing through.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Movember's mos

I’m surprised I’ve made it this far into November without blogging about this, about these things that are sprouting up all over the place. Even my own home is not safe – there is one growing within these very walls.

Yes, I’m talking about Movember and the mos I not only see around town, but across from me at the dinner table.

I must admit though that my husband is putting on an impressive display of rapid facial hair growth, if such things do inspire. There is nothing measly or wimpy about his ‘stache – which isn’t the case for some of the ones cropping up.

For those who don’t know, Movember is a global movement which encourages men to sprout ‘mos’ for the month of November and to raise money for prostate cancer and men’s health. The movement has over a million participants and has raised over $176 million.

I blogged about this campaign back in September and encouraged V to join – so yes, I’d be a hypocrite to complain about it. And while I will be glad when the month is over and my man is clean-shaven once more, I’m happy to see him having fun, doing something to raise money for a good cause – and kicking some mo-growing a**.

You can support my man and his mo through his MoSpace page. Money raised through the Movember campaign here in Canada goes to Prostate Cancer Canada, a national foundation dedicated to the elimination of prostate cancer through research, education, support and awareness. Last year nearly 119,000 Canadians participated to raise $22.3 million (Cdn).

For any of you bold men out there growing mos this month, there are tips available online for keeping a neat and healthy stache – such as being sure to moisturise the skin under your facial hair so as to avoid dry mo flakes (ew!), keep it combed and keep it clean (taking care you don’t have any crumbs or left-overs stuck in it after you eat). You may even want to try a dab of conditioner, wax, hair gel or putty to add some flair and style.

So mo-growers out there, take pride in your stache. But please, don’t get too attached.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nils Christie: Restoring Peace

Tonight Nils Christie, renowned Norwegian criminologist, gave at talk called ‘Restoring Peace, Restoring Neighbourhoods’.

Professor Christie, author of books such as ‘Crime Control as Industry: Towards GULAGs, Western Style?’ is well respected in criminal justice circles for his insight into justice systems and promotion of restorative, community-based responses to crime and conflict.

His manner was what one might expect from a brilliant, elderly scholar and thinker – he made self-deprecating comments about being unable to read his notes or not knowing how long he’d been talking, made politically-incorrect statements and admonished people to do stop doing such things as moving away. He reminded me very much of my late, brilliant great-uncle – someone who could get away with saying certain things because his experience and wisdom were so apparent.

Christie began his talk by letting his audience know where his obsession with criminology and justice began. He talked about growing up in Nazi-occupied Germany and the shocking realization, after the war was over, that not only had Norwegians joined the Nazi party, but there had been a concentration camp in Norway and guards there had killed and abused prisoners.

As a young researcher, Christie was involved in studying what had happened at these Norwegian camps. He interviewed survivors and guards and noticed a striking difference in how prisoners were perceived between the guards who killed and those who did not.

Essentially, the guards who killed prisoners were those who saw them as wild animals and sub-human species. Those who did not kill or abuse the prisoners, on the other hand, were those who saw the suffering of the prisoners, who recognized the starvation, filth, disease and, most importantly, the humanity of their charges.
This research gave Christie the conviction that conflict can only be overcome and addressed when we ‘see the other person as a person’ and ‘come so close to each other as to feel the other’s vibrations’.

He has long been advocating for a justice system which would allow victims and offenders (though he balks at those categories) to be fully present and heard with each other – and for communities to take control of, and responsibility for, the conflict among themselves.

Much food for thought.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Canada's unsurprising failure on climate change

I have a very small appetite for politics. A few House of Commons debates, interviews with politicians. Committee hearings, or policy reports and I feel full to the point of nausea.

As anyone who’s been reading this blog has likely noticed, what attention I give to politics, especially at the federal level, is largely devoted to critiquing the misguided and costly ‘tough-on-crime’ agenda that’s being undemocratically rammed through Parliament.

But I fear that in my bloated state I’m neglecting a bigger issue: our country’s failure to come to grips with climate change.

Last month, Parliament’s environment watchdog expressed concerns that Canada will not get its act together with regards to addressing climate change.

Not only is Canada failing to meet the Kyoto targets (anyone surprised?), but it is also dropping the ball on the Copenhagen accord and its own Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

Scott Vaughan, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development said “the government's current climate change plan lacks the "tools and management systems needed to achieve, measure and report emission reductions." He added that the plan is made up of at least 35 different programs which are "disjointed, confused [and] non-transparent.”

It seems the only way our government is trying to meet greenhouse emission targets is by lowering not the emission but the goal. For example, they decided that instead of aiming to reduce emissions by 282 million tonnes since 2007, they’ll aim for 28 million.

And it seems that while the government is willing to spend billions of dollars on various ‘environmental’ programs, they don’t have any strategy in place to monitor or co-ordinate efforts.

And yet they’re rushing to push forward the Keystone XL pipeline, all the while not having clear information about how the Alberta oilsands are affecting the environment or what the impacts of the pipeline will be. They say they will do more monitoring, but that just buys them more time to continue to allow the oilsands to expand.

By the time my daughter is 10, climate change will likely cost our country billions of dollars. By the time she is my age, she will likely see increased health problems, soaring costs – but not likely any polar bears.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More like exercise, less like diets

I’ve been writing a quite a bit lately about my somewhat existential crisis and the multiple offshoots of indecision and questions it has planted in my mind.

And I came to realization yesterday that I need to find ways to make this problem more like exercise and less like dieting.

Let me explain. They say that one of the reasons dieting is much harder than exercise is because it is a negative action, a deprivation so to speak – and a constant one at that. One must constantly be exerting willpower in order to resist the temptation to eat whatever foods one is trying to avoid. Studies of willpower have shown that even basic problem solving, like doing a series of math questions, erodes willpower – so by the end of the day, most people will find their willpower depleted and be more likely to give into temptation.

Exercise, on the other hand, also requires willpower but in a positive sense. One must muster the will to partake in whatever exercise regime one has chosen – fitness class, gym workout, run, etc. However, once the task is completed there is no longer any need to bolster one’s willpower – and one has the added benefit of feeling satisfaction for a positive accomplishment (satisfaction less easily come by for negative/deprivation actions).

So how does this relate to my current problem? Well this is exactly what I need to figure out. I need to find a way to make my questions less like dieting and more like exercise.

What I realized is that the decision to be a writer is like dieting in this analogy – not so much in that it is a deprivation, but rather in that it requires a constant exertion of willpower, a continual re-affirmation of the choice (to write/to diet). Too many other personal decisions rolling around in my head are also the dietary type – ones which constantly require attention and effort.

But how does one turn diet regimes into exercise regimes? If I were to continue with this analogy, one would determine the end goal (i.e. to lose weight) and then determine positive actions which could be taken toward meeting that goal.

I’m finally feeling hopeful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Walking home with Miya

One of my favourite times of the day is going to pick Miya up from school. I arrive there between 4:00 and 4:30 and she is usually playing the back courtyard with her friends and teachers. When she sees me coming she runs toward me and I scoop her up in a hug.

For the first couple months of her schooling, I would take her to the front yard and buckle her into the stroller or bike chariot to bring her home. But lately Miya has decided that she is old enough to walk all the way home herself. As you might imagine, this has turned a 10-15 min walk into a 45-50 min one. Yet while we won't be literally stopping to smell the roses, we certainly do take everything in.

The first thing we do upon leaving the school is pause so Miya can choose a little rock to carry home in her pocket. We then walk along the quiet side street which her school is on until we get to the MEC parking lot which we cut through to get to “the busy street”.

We then pass by a Bridgehead coffeeshop where the large storefront windows are often open onto the street – so Miya pauses to look inside. A little further on is a store selling pashmina scarves which she caresses. Further still, a barbershop where there is almost always a man getting his hair cut. Miya will stand at the door watching for a few minutes.

We continue on, past storefronts with Christmas wreaths and trees to pause and admire. A florist has berries, rosehips, wreaths, evergreens and other seasonal decorations displayed along the sidewalk. These require several minutes of admiration before we can move on to watch a display of floating goose down at a pillow store then cup our hands around the Christmas lights outside Kitchenalia.

By this point, Miya is usually getting quite tired and it becomes a bit more challenging to keep her moving. Sometimes I’ll carry her a bit until a burst of energy sets her running off.

It’s dark by the time we get home; on a clear night we even might see some stars.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Toy testing

Enough with my angst. As I was saying to V after posting last night’s blog – it’s not even a real crisis that I’m stressing over. It’s not like I’ve been offered a demanding career position and at the same time receiving a writers grant from the Canada Council or an invitation to an exclusive writers’ retreat.

Fiona Apples sings: ‘He said it’s all in your head and I said so’s everything but he didn’t get it’.

It’s all in my head. Time to move on.

So, on a lighter note, I applied today to have my family/daughter be part of the toy testing team of volunteers for the Canadian Toy Testing Council (CTTC).

CTTC is a non-profit organization that tests toys for infants to teenagers and releases reports about toys’ durability, safety, design, function, battery consumption and play value.

If we’re selected as a toy-testing family, it’s not exactly like we win the lottery, but it does sound interesting. I’ll have to go to a 2-hour orientation session and pay a $30 membership fee; then I’ll have to pick up a toy, observe my child playing with it over a period of 6-8 weeks, carefully record results on a guided questionnaire and return the report and the toy at a set time. We will have opportunities to buy the toys Miya really liked at the annual fall sale – if she’s still interested in them that is.

CTTC has been getting kids to test toys since 1952 and test about 400 toys a year. Their annual report stands out from the myriad of other similar reports released this time of year – in everything from news outlets to individual retailers (in my Globe and Mail this week there was promotion for Indigo’s pick of top toys). There will also be lists of the most eco-friendly toys, best-buy toys, consumer choice toys... We are gearing up for the Christmas shopping season and toys are a huge market.

Funny in a way that I should be doing this, since I don’t actually think my kid needs high-tech toys or the newest craze. But this could be entertaining – and hey, it kept me from blogging about my own ridiculous problems.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In the stillest hour of your night

You may have noted my existential crisis of late which has stemmed from the fact that for the last 20 years or so I have built my life, more or less, around being a writer. I’ve turned down professional opportunities out of my stubborn belief that I needed to be devoting a significant part of my time and energy to writing.

Sure, the last few years have added the all-consuming role of motherhood, thus making my goals a little less clear – but I still imagined that I could juggle writing and mothering, while hanging on to enough paid work to contribute to household and childcare expenses.

Well, recently a bucket of ice cold water was dumped on my dreams. “If you want to be a writer, buy lottery tickets,” I was told. “Once you win, then you can write. Till then, you have to earn your living.”

“We’ve already had a J.K. Rowling for our generation, and there isn’t likely to be another.”

“Unless you plan to write teenage vampire drama, you’ll never be able to make a living as a writer.”

Grow up. Get a real job. Start pulling your weight.

“You’ll feel much better once you have a good job,” I've been told. Get something reliable that pays well. Get benefits, paid vacation time. Paid vacation? I can’t imagine.

Perhaps, the wisest, most responsible thing for me to do at this point is to heed the sound advice of my friends and mentors and leave aside the romantic ideals of writing.

And yet, I keep hearing in my head the words of Rilke written in ‘Letters to a Young Poet.’

“Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? ... if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity.”

Until this point, this has been my mantra.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Theatre: Whispering Pines

For my birthday, V gave me a pair of blue shoes and tickets to the theatre.

So tonight we walked down to the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) to see Whispering Pines, a play set both in 1987 East Berlin and 20 years later on the shores of Lake Superior.

This three-actor drama revolves around the relationship between Renate and Bruno, two artists living behind the iron curtain and trying to imagine and create a new world, and Thomas, a Canadian academic who wants to write about the couple.

After the Berlin Wall fell, it was discovered that the Stasi had employed half a million informants, and every third citizen was under supervision. Files have since been released to individuals who had been watched and this play hinges upon Renate’s retrieval of her file and the discovery of betrayal.

I won’t give the whole story away since I do think it’s worth seeing for anyone who might have the chance (although the run ends on Nov 13 at the GCTC). However, I did find the play rather laborious to watch.

It was not unlike reading good, but very dense poetry – poems which you appreciate because there were some beautiful words and turns of phrases, some haunting images or metaphors perhaps – but which leave you rather exhausted and content to close the book after a few poems.

The playwright Richard Sanger is, not surprisingly, a poet. He has been nominated for Governor General’s Literary Awards and his words were certainly layers of complexity and imagery. But it can be rather tiresome to listen to layers of complexity and imagery, set in scenes which leap around in time and are reconstructed in different ways (the same scene played out 4 different ways, for example). It’s interesting, but also a little frustrating. Too clever by half.

The playwright may have intended that we start to question what is the ‘real’ turn of events, whose version can we trust, what does trust mean... Perhaps one could say the layering and weaving of past and present, fantasy and regret, is successful in that it mirrors this intent. One could also say that there is much to be said for simplicity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am not young enough to know everything: Oscar Wilde

I feel like I’ve been drifting a bit lately, and there are a couple of women whom I greatly respect who seem to have taken it on to set me straight.

Both of these women are incredibly bright and successful in their careers. They know how to be assertive and direct without seeming pushy. They speak with knowledge, experience and authority – and people listen. I listen to them with what’s likely a look of awe and admiration on my face. I want to be able to speak and conduct myself with that certainty, that wisdom. I want to be a commanding but not domineering presence... I want to follow them around and take notes on their every move.

Fortunately for me, both of these women have been very generous in their advice and in taking the time to help me get sorted. Both of them keep telling me I have sold myself short, have wasted time and energy chasing after the wrong things, and have to be much more realistic in my goals and approach.

I certainly cannot do either of them justice in trying to pass on their words of wisdom – and much of it is specific to my complex personal situation – however, most of what they have told me could be summed up in the following two pieces of their repeated advice to me:

1) Value your work. “No-one buys cheap perfume: not because it doesn't smell nice, but because the price suggests it won't. Ditto asking for payment: if you don't set the price high enough, they won't value your work.”

2) Be valued. It is soul-sucking to work with and for people who do not value your work. Find a job that values and respects what you are contributing.

These may seem obvious or even cliché, but they are very true and are things I have needed to hear. And likely will need to hear again.

And yet, the hard thing about taking advice from successful career women though is that while I greatly admire them, being a successful career woman has never before been my goal.

I’m much too old to be having the existential crisis I am currently experiencing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

It's flu season

So it’s flu season again. Runny noses, chills, fevers, sneezes, congestion, body aches. I’m looking over the list and putting checking them off, wrapping up in blankets and sipping on tea. It’s that time of year.

We all know what to do if you have the flu – get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids (and sadly alcohol and caffeine don’t count and should even be avoided). You can try other things like hot baths or heating pads for muscle aches, gargling with warm salt water to ease a sore throat, or using vapour rubs or saline drops for a stuffy nose.
I usually avoid cold medications since these things typically mask the symptoms, leading you to believe you’re better than you actually are – thereby actually prolonging your sickness. But I did take a couple aspirin today for my sinus headache – and since I have some meetings tomorrow, will likely take a decongestant to get me through the day.

There are plenty of invitations around to get the flu shot. But in my experience, whether or not I have the shot doesn’t make much difference on whether or not I get sick. My likelihood of getting sick is much more related to the amount of stress and sleep deprivation I’m experiencing. I’m not making a statement against the flu shot here, just saying it hasn’t worked for me.

We do try to be pretty regular about hand washing – and I admit to having been a bit lax lately, for which I am perhaps now paying the price. But we do cover our mouths when we cough, sneeze into elbows, etc.

But I am also aware of what has been termed the “hygiene hypothesis”, the theory that the growing rate of allergies and asthma in younger populations is a result of children’s environments being too clean. The idea is that the presence of some germs allows a developing immune system to become robust, not overly sensitive to minor irritants like peanut proteins and dust. Call it tough love for an immune system. There are also those who argue that all of the antibacterial products so popular among consumers encourage superbugs –resistant strains of germs and bacteria.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Birthday girl

I remember as a kid that birthdays meant being ‘queen for a day’. The birthday girl got to pick her meals and things to do; there was a birthday party, gifts... Lots of fuss and lots of anticipation.

I wrote yesterday about growing older and how age becomes less meaningful. It only makes sense that birthdays don’t seem like such a big deal either. Maybe after 36 of these, the 37th isn’t too exciting.

But all that said, it has been a very pleasant day. Overcoming time change, Miya slept till 7 a.m., which was a lovely present in itself. We then had our usual morning routine – me getting hot oatmeal into her and getting her ready for school before 8:30. She’s becoming so independent that she wants to do almost everything for herself, which requires its own type of patience, but is rewarding too.

After V left with M to drop her off at school on his way to work, I was able to relax with my coffee, take time with my shower, post some pictures on facebook, etc. before my mum picked me up for a brunch date at one of the best brunch places in Ottawa. Usually its way too busy on a weekend, but it was accommodating on a Tuesday morning.

Mum and I did a couple errands, then I was back home by around noon where I spent a few hours relaxing, crafting and knitting. I purposefully did no work – apart from replying to a few emails. Funny how its almost hard to avoid, like a junkie needing a fix. But by exerting some self discipline I was able to resist the urge.

One of things Mum gave me for my birthday was a Bridgehead coffee card (she knows me well). So in the afternoon, I left a bit early to pick M up from school and stopped to get a decaf latte as a birthday treat.

This evening, V took me out for a lovely dinner at Absinthe, a trendy bistro in our neighbourhood. We were joined by a good friend of mine, so it was great to get to catch up with her while enjoying a delicious meal.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Not getting any younger

Tomorrow I will be... 37. Pause there while I did the math. Funny how age becomes almost meaningless as I get older. When I was younger I don’t think I could have imagined that at some point I would have to stop and think about how old I was, how old I would be turning on my next birthday.

I had a bit of a jolt the other day when I was listening to the radio and somebody mentioned a favourite song that came out in 1974 (the year I was born). ‘It’s almost 40 years-old,’ he said and I nearly drove off the road. I know that 40 is getting closer, but I still don’t think of myself as ‘almost 40’ quite yet.

While I don’t exactly feel like a spring chick, it does feel strange to be 37 tomorrow, especially with some recent changes in my life that have me practically starting over, career-wise. Seems a bit late in the game to be still trying to figure out what sport I want to play.

A while back I blogged about my indecision over what I should remove from my heaping plate. Since then, the decisions I have made have not been easy nor clear-cut.
A friend of mine said to me, “well, you have to look out for number one.”

“I don’t think of myself as number one,” I replied. And I’m not trying to sound all self-effacing in that statement. I just mean that a mother and wife, as someone committed to certain causes and efforts, it isn’t really clear who is number one, or even what that means. I truly believe that the path to happiness and fulfillment does not come from putting one’s own emotional needs or desires at the forefront.

But at the same time, I am learning through trial and error that there has to be a balance in meeting my own needs and in giving of myself to others. I wonder if anyone ever perfectly finds the balance in this – and if there is someone out there who has, please share your wisdom with me.

Still so much to learn – and I am not getting any younger.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A bad fall back plan

Back in the spring, I blogged about how much I hated time changes. Well, here I am again, back on the same soapbox.

Sure, ‘fall back’ may be easier in some ways than ‘spring forward’ since supposedly we got to sleep an extra hour this morning. But there is no sleeping in for those with young children, children who don’t understand clocks and the division of time into 24-hours or the ridiculous war-measures act for supposedly saving daytime hours throughout winter.

Miya has a pretty good internal clock – one which I have encouraged through a well-developed routine of waking, eating and sleeping times. Young children thrive on predictability, familiarity and routine and it works pretty well for us to have her get up and go down at roughly the same time each day.

Until the clocks suddenly switch, that is.

Now, the girl who gets up at 7 a.m. is waking at 6. She is hungry for her lunch at 11, ready to fall asleep on her plate at 12 because she is usually in bed at this time. She can’t have a full nap because she her body is used to waking up between 2:30 and 3:00 – only now that means an hour less sleep. And by bedtime she is so over-tired that she didn’t know if she is coming or going, never mind what hour of day it is.

Time changes are, simply put, cruel to parents. And, in my prairie view, unnecessary.
How many of us really want our sunlight earlier rather than later in the day? Soon it will be light at 7:00 a.m., but dark at 5:00. Who does this work for? There are enough people already bummed out by lack of sun exposure – why are we making it harder on them to get some reviving rays? Vitamin D supplements and sun lamps can only go so far.

As someone for whom sleep does not come easily, and who is blessed with a similarly afflicted child, I wish we could follow the wise example of Saskatchewan and stop messing with our clocks.

My clock tells me it’s only 9:30 – but my body knows it’s much later. I’m going to bed.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Grandma Violet

I wrote about one grandma yesterday, and then began thinking of the other one. When she passed away in 1998, the pastor giving the funeral sermon obviously had never known or met her. He delivered a some glib lines about grandmas being full of cuddles and home-baked cookies. That hadn’t been my grandmother and I resented his insincerity.

My grandma Violet was a strong, tough woman who I only really began to get to know toward the end of her life. Especially since I grew up in Nepal and saw little of my extended family for 10 years, I never felt like I really knew my grandparents. Sure there were plenty of visits, but little one-on-one, personal conversations.

It was only as I got older and my grandma was close to the end of her life, that I felt I was beginning to see her as a person, a complicated individual with her own history and intricate web of relationships, feelings and beliefs.

As her memory and health failed, I also felt like she let me in a little more too. She was fiercely independent – I certainly come by it honestly – and I could see that her weakness terrified her. People would show up at her house and she would snap at them – why didn’t you tell me you were coming?

‘We did tell you,’ they’d say and fear would dart across her face. Were they lying to her or had she forgotten? She’d defensively bristle and complain, but when they’d left she ask me to write things down for her.

I went to France for a year when my grandma was failing, but when I said good-bye I knew I’d see her again; I just knew I wouldn’t see her standing. I was able to see her again, to bring her fresh raspberries from her garden which she gratefully accepted even though she could only put them in her mouth, then spit them back out. I was able to tell her I loved her and say good-bye. I wished I’d had more time, as a growing woman just beginning to know the woman she was. But I am grateful for what I did have.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Grandma Edythe

I got an early birthday card in the mail the other day from my 102 year-old grandmother. In her familiar, but shaky, handwriting is a little birthday greeting. I’m touched that she remembered and impressed, once again, at her strength. Her hearing has been slowly deteriorating for as long as I can remember and now she is almost deaf, but she is still bright and engaged, thoughtful and caring – and a whiz at Scrabble.

We took Miya out to Saskatchewan when she was about 5 months old, and she met her great-Grandma, who had then recently turned 100. It was amazing to look at the two of them and think that close to a century had passed between their births.

The youngest of four, my grandma Edythe was born in 1909 to Tomina and Engelbert, Norwegians who had moved to the northern United States with their families when they were teenagers.

Grandma liked to tell the story of how she came to Canada at the age of one.

Her father had gone ahead with agreement that his wife and children would follow some weeks later, giving him time to get a homestead ready. But things were much more difficult, the land less hospitable, and the costs higher than he’d expected. After arriving, he sent a letter to his wife to advise her to hold off on her trip. That letter never arrived.

As planned, Tomina set out later that year with her four young children in tow (ages, 6, 5, 3 and 1). Grandma would always remind us at this point in the story that back then there were no dining cars on trains and the young woman had to pack everything for her children’s needs and comforts.

Not expecting their arrival, Engelbert was not there to meet the train when they arrived. It took Tomina days to find someone in the town who had heard of her husband and was able to get word to him that his wife and children were anxiously waiting for him. They spent their first harsh winter on the Canadian prairies in a one-bedroom shack.

But they managed to survive and my grandma is a survivor to this day.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bedtime stories

A friend of mine suggested I blog examples of the bedtime stories I tell Miya. Perhaps she was hoping for imaginative adventure tales. But sadly, apart from the story of Goldilocks and the 3 bears, my little girl’s two favourite stories are roughly as follows (please bear in mind that she is 2 ½ years old and repetition and familiarity are very important).

Story #1 – Miya and the rocks.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Miya. One day, she opened the back door of her house and went outside. She found 4 rocks. “These are beautiful rocks,” she said. “I think I’ll share them with my friends.”

So Miya put the rocks in her jacket pocket – 2 on one side, 2 on the other. Then she walked with her mommy down the driveway, onto the sidewalk, around the corner, up the street, past the park and to her friend Sophie Mala’s house. She walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. Ding-dong.

Sophie Mala opened the door. “Here is a rock for you,” Miya said.

“Thank you,” said Sophie Mala.

“You’re welcome.”

Then Miya and her mommy went down the street, around a corner and up the hill. They came to her friend her friend Gwyneth’s house. She walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. Ding-dong.

Gwyneth opened the door....

(I think you can imagine the rest. She takes rocks to two more friends and goes back home.)

Story #2: Chilly and her colourful feet

(This story is not much a narrative tale; it’s more about nailing down the description.)

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Chilly and she had colourful feet...
What colour are her feet? I ask Miya. She will deliberate and pick a colour, or two, or one colour with another colour of spots, or stripes or flowers... We then go on to describe Chilly’s socks, pants, skirt, shirt, jacket, hats and mitts. Then we talk about what Chilly likes to do with her colourful feet (walk, dance, jump, hop, climb).

To adults these may sound incredibly dull – but I’m sure early childhood educators would tell you why they’re big hits.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Would you like a Timbit with that latte?

So Tim Horton’s is working on up scaling their coffee. They announced today that they’ll start selling lattes, cappuccinos and espressos at locations across Canada. Starting their prices at $2, Tim’s is aiming to keep their blue-collar roots but also steal office workers from places like Starbucks and Second Cup.

The only time I’m a regular Tim’s customer is when I’m on a road trip and I can’t say that I’ll be racing to the nearest Timmy’s to try their new wares. But I am a bit curious about what it would be like and certainly willing to give it a shot – especially the next time I make that requisite Canadian road trip stop at a highway Tim’s.

And I’m guessing that there are a lot of other people who, like me, will be willing to trying a slightly pricier drink next time they visit Tim’s – and I am probably exactly the demographic Tim’s is aiming for. Sure, they want to get some people to switch from Starbucks to Tim’s for their regular morning coffee – but they could likely also make a pretty penny if at least some of their customers up-scale their drink order.

Who knows, it might actually be good. If it is as tasty as a Starbucks latte, I would probably pick one up more often.

But while taste is a big factor for me in choosing where I go for my lattes – there are some other things I consider too. Fair trade and eco-friendly coffee production is a big one. One of the reason’s I’m a loyal Bridgehead customer is that all their coffee is fair trade – as is almost all the other stuff in their store too.

And another big thing is atmosphere. I love my local Bridgehead. I’ve been a regular customer there for so long that I know the first names of most of the staff (although there have been a bunch of new hires lately and I’m a bit behind). I also know a lot of the customers and going for coffee can be quite a social outing.

So I’m not likely to shift my loyalty anytime soon – but definitely appreciate what Tim’s is trying to do.

Bursts of productivity

My feet are aching. It’s been a very long day and I was fool enough to wear heels for the latter part of it.

But I’m proud to say that I was part of a team that pulled off a successful fundraising event –and in an extremely short amount of time. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of phone calls, emails, lists, meetings, strategizing. But we had around 100 people at our event – with live music, wine tasting and silent auction – and everything seemed to go really well.

I don’t know if I’m cut out for this kind of thing though. Light sleepers should not be event planners – I don’t know how many nights I’ve lain awake going over details and making mental notes about who I needed to get in touch with the next day. If I was woken in the night or early morning, my mind would immediately start running over my to-do list, holding sleep at bay.

So while it is wonderful to celebrate the success of the evening, it is also wonderful to celebrate being finished with organizing it. What didn’t get done, didn’t get done. What happened, happened. For example, we’d made up signs to put outside indicating where the entrance was – these were discovered all neatly rolled up at the end of the evening when the sound guy nearly loaded them into his van. Ah well. So they didn’t get up – nothing to do about that now.

But I was reminded of something tonight – that being super busy is like a sort of emotional shield. When I get this hectically busy – i.e. making a phonecall while I type an email while ironing my pants and sipping my coffee – I don’t have time to stop and think about how I feel about things. I don’t have time to get nervous about taking the mic and talking to a room full of people. I don’t have time to get shy around strangers.

I remember using this tactic in university. It produces short-term periods of intense productivity and suspended emotional response. Interesting and useful at times, certainly. But I’m quite happy to move back to a slower, reflective pace now.