Ink & Paper

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Whitewashing of Ariel Sharon.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:55 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Jay Hates People, Goes Shopping.

I don't think there is much need for a re-visiting of history here, so I'll cut to the chase.

CDs bought at Megatunes on Whyte, a store that doesn't cause me to hate people. That means they are knowledgeble and care about music. Go there.

1. Ridley Bent- BLAM
2. Corb Lund- Hair in my Eyes like a Highland Steer
3. Franz Ferdinand- You Could Have it So Much Better
4. Merle Haggard- Chicago Wind

The Merle Haggard disc is super protected with some encryption code, so iTunes won't even acknowledge it exists. Stupid Nashville.

Good album though. I still love you Merle.

I then bought The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy, which is book number two in his now-complete Border trilogy. Book number one was All the Pretty Horses, made into a movie that was quickly murdered by that thong-wearing boyscout Matt Damon. But it ought to be a good read.

Then I went to Zellers with Meg. I should mention that all of these purchases were made with gift certificates, either from the wedding or Xmas. Anyway, it has become apparent that Zellers is trying to follow in Wal-Mart's footsteps, at least in the customer service department. No I don't mean the greeters, thank Jevus.

It took us 15 goddamn minutes to get through the line at Zellers, who had graciously opened 3 of their 12 tills on a Saturday afternoon, something I commented on rather loudly at about the 3 minute mark. I can't entirely blame Zellers, there was that lady in line in front of us who was arguing about the cost of her cookies. "I think they are on sale for fifty cents less." Or so I heard from Megan. I flipped out at about the 7 minute mark and went to read National Geographic. Iceland always looks nice, looked a lot more attractive when I was wasting my life in Zellers.

Then I raged over to Canadian Tire. I bought some tools I don't know how to use and will no doubt maim myself with. But I didn't get to by them before asking one of the mouth breather 17 year olds to open one of the display cases so I could look at something.

Asked him a question or two. Sketchy, meth-addict answers. What is it with the Canadian Tire on Calgary Trail? The last time I was there the guy that was helping me was so pickled I ended up walking outta there with a buzz just from the cloud of booze wafting about. Now I end up with meth-boy who needs a car battery and some jumper cables attached to his mini-pills just to elicit some response beyond a head scratch and a grunt.

Whatever. Find my tools, go to pay. Now I have worked a lot of retail in my day, and even at my most bitter, I always at least managed a faked "have a good day" well-wish to the customer.

Not the case. The pregnancy-waiting-to-happen 16 year old running the till rings it all through, I think at a lower price (at least than the website advertises anyway) and hands me my worthless Canadian Tire money and bill without saying a thing.

Jay: "Well you have a great day."

Pregnant-to-be: "Uh, thanks."

Then I came home and watched two and half periods of the Oiler game before having a nap. I'm such an old man.


A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:07 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Friday, January 06, 2006

December 4

Dear Wichita,

Anna showed up fashionably late for coffee at Hock's yesterday. She was wearing a Gore-tex jacket, her hair hidden under a trendy knitted hat. Her earphones were tucked inside the hat.



"What are you listening to?"

"Joni Mitchell, her Both Sides Now re-issue."

"Is that the one with the painting of her smoking on the cover?"

"Yea. It's a good album. Doesn't feel as old as it should."

We drank coffee and chatted about random things, music, news, the weather. Of course we talked about the weather.

She has bright, busy eyes. They flick around, watching people for split seconds and then moving off again. I found it kind of distracting at first, but she always looked me in the eye when I was saying something.

Her job was okay, her commute was decent, and the people she worked with didn't play too many games. She wanted to know more about Kansas, why I was way out west instead of, as she smilingly said it, "at home driving a combine."

"Not every one from Kansas drives a combine you know. Does everyone from Seattle listen to Nirvana?"

"I know I know."

"Sheesh. No I came out west for a change of scenery. I wasn't feeling like I fit it so well anymore. In Wichita I mean."

"Why not?"

"Ah, um. Well I wanted to get more into the arts scene, especially photography, and Wichita is a little red-neckish when it comes to that kinda thing." I think my eyes flicked.

She nodded, looking at me intently.

I shifted in my seat, looked out the window.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 11:18 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Thursday, January 05, 2006

At least 130 people have been killed in separate suicide bomb attacks at a Shia mosque and a police recruitment office in a sharp escalation of violence in Iraq on Thursday.

Among the victims was a 3-year-old boy hit in the head by shrapnel.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 11:34 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


December 3

Dear Wichita,

I'm writing you from Hock's Cafe where I'm letting my mug of java cool off, steam swirling into the air. You have to be patient for some things in this world.

I spent this morning in a used CD store, a hole in the wall that was playing Woody Guthrie on the fuzzed out speakers. I wandered the bumpy aisles, nosing through the collection of discs for about an hour or so. I can't go into a store like this and be out again in less than an hour, it seems.

Mitch was running the till. He looked to be about 37 or so and probably had dropped his share of acid in days gone by. He nodded as I came through the door and then went back to staring at the wall, lost in Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads.

I bought a couple of old Tom Waits albums, one of which I think I may have owned and lost previously. I paid Mitch, who nodded again and told me to "have a good one."

I don't think he meant it.

Anna is supposed to meet me here for coffee in a half hour or so. I'm early on purpose.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 11:18 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Belfast, Dhaka, & Beaumont

Almost one year ago I was wandering through the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland. I had been traveling for the better part of two weeks, with family and fiance, and was now, again, on my own in a foreign land.

It was a decent day out, maybe ten degrees Celsius, sun interspersed with cloud. I went to a museum in the morning and then ate lunch in a park near the museum. The park was typically Irish, an oasis of greens tucked into the city. I wandered about the park and was spit out into a university or college campus, the name of which escapes me now. I wandered about the campus wondering if people assumed I was a student. Red hair with a backpack, you never know.

I finally pulled out my map of Belfast and pointed myself west, towards the main city center, a crowded patch of land that housed government buildings and a mishmash of stores, from bookstores to clothing boutiques to bars. The joy of wandering in Irish towns is that they are so old so as to have become rather dismissive of modern urban planning. Thus one walks about, usually and happily lost, in a small area that yields new and curious nooks and crannys. Endless winding alleys lead to hidden cobbled streets with old bookshops and old men in tweed hats.

I stopped in an old bookstore, one of the last bastions holding out against the big business that is modern bookselling. I moseyed about in the bookstore for a bit, careful not to let my bag knock anything over. I climbed the stairs to the second, the third floor, marveling at the floor-to-ceiling stack of dusty uncommercial books.

I think I spent about four or five hours in this area of Belfast, I'm not too sure. I know that the sun had dipped below city hall when I began to make my way back to my rather shabby hostel. I think it was in Belfast that I truly felt a touch of what it might be like to live in Europe. The idea that one can be surrounded by all the modern trinkets and gadgets and yet still be cocooned within the immense weight of history is an idea I found to be intoxicating.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago what I saw myself doing in the next five years. Had I been asked that when I was younger I am sure that I would have spouted off an easy answer. No doubt I would have a simple black and white response, one that left little room for adjustment or indecision. A cocksure young lad doesn't think life would ever dare throw him a curveball.

I don't answer that question the same way anymore, even though my life is perhaps more settled and more content than it has ever been. I hold off answering that question because once in a while you land in an odd situation, one you would have never considered in your wildest dreams. Wandering through Belfast, a newly engaged man, soon to be headed back to the Middle East. Yeah, I didn't exactly call that one when I was 18.

I take a more open view to what the next five years will bring. I do this because when life throws you for an adventure, the end results can be far more rewarding than a set plan could ever be. The ends of adventure are perhaps the greatest spoils of all and to predict and stay true to a cold hard trail ahead of you, with no option to take an interesting side road or three, doesn't give you the kind of stories you can attribute wrinkles to.

I write this at the end of a night when two good friends stopped by for a dinner. For me, two years ago, to have predicted this dinner ever taking place would have been against almost all the odds I have ever known. This dinner, the conversation that followed, and the conversations I hope to have in the years to come, stems not from a set path in life, but instead from a winding alley that lead me to a new nook of rewarding discovery.

It was good to see you both again. Be safe and send pictures.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 11:36 PM ~~ 3 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out



A string of attacks across Iraq has made it the deadliest day in the country since the 15 December election.

In the worst attack, at least 36 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia funeral north of
Baghdad. Across Iraq, more than 50 people died.

In Washington, President George Bush said the plan in Iraq was going well.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:54 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Monday, January 02, 2006

From Bruce Schneier

This study is from August, but I missed it. The researchers tracked three browsers (MSIE, Firefox, Opera) in 2004 and counted which days they were "known unsafe." Their definition of "known unsafe": a remotely exploitable security vulnerability had been publicly announced and no patch was yet available.

MSIE was 98% unsafe. There were only 7 days in 2004 without an unpatched publicly disclosed security hole.

Firefox was 15% unsafe. There were 56 days with an unpatched publicly disclosed security hole. 30 of those days were a Mac hole that only affected Mac users. Windows Firefox was 7% unsafe.

Opera was 17% unsafe: 65 days. That number is accidentally a little better than it should be, as two of the upatched periods happened to overlap.

This underestimates the risk, because it doesn't count vulnerabilities known to the bad guys but not publicly disclosed (and it's foolish to think that such things don't exist). So the "98% unsafe" figure for MSIE is generous, and the situation might be even worse.

I usually don't post too much technical nerd stuff on this blog, mainly because I don't know jack squat and am afraid people will call me on some unsubstantiated claim I make. As they should.

But I am forced to call attention to the fact that Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser is not only unsafe, it also displays web pages (like this one, as I recently discovered) rather poorly. Like the Glorious Mr. T suggests, you should go and download Firefox and use it as your web browser instead. It should be easy to do and all your favorites/links/etc will carry over.

That's all I know, don't send me any questions. But thank me, by all means, thank me.

You're welcome.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:31 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Thoughts and Focus

I have become recently quite enamoured with the idea of moving to New York City. It ain't gonna happen, of course, but the idea of it has been a recurring theme in my head these last few days. I suspect that it is largely due to my reading The Known Universe, a blog written by Jamie, a New Yorker. I've never had any contact with him but his pictures and words paint NY as a truly diverse city full of all sorts of characters and images. I know it is only a snapshot, but nonetheless it makes the romanticized idea of moving to NY dance in my head.

Or Montreal. That was one cool city. Probably still is.

The Glorious Mr. T has been filling my head with nerdy blog thoughts as well and this will most likely result in Ink & Paper moving to a different web address in the next month or two, depending on a few factors. I have a few ideas that I would like to implement and hope that this impending move will generate a little more trafffic to the blog. I will keep you posted so that you can update your bookmarks and/or homepages.

My post (below) about the wrongs of pet stores can also be read, along with comments, on Jennifer Good's blog.

I'm also thinking that I should try my hand at some kind of wood craft type of hobby. Maybe my hobby taking place in the garage would make it more manly. Hey Cadrin, stop laughing and get back to raping the Inuit land. Bastard.

Not too much else to say tonight. My goal for this year, along with all the other goals I listed previously, is to cram a lot of activity into each day.


A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:24 PM ~~ 2 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Sunday, January 01, 2006

On Approved Credit (O.A.C)

A few days ago, while in Calgary visiting with friends, a few of us went out to one of the local malls. Wandering about, we ended up in a pet store.

Now usually I don't go into pet stores at all. The link between pet stores and puppy mills is well-established and not only leads to a consumerist approach to the selling and buying of puppies, but also to a litany of illnesses and sickness in the pet store puppies, often with the end result being a trip to the SPCA or worse for a sickly puppy and an ill-informed owner. I cannot speak to other animals (ie. cats, birds, etc) but I would imagine that the story is similar.

In short, puppy mills, illegal as they may be, flourish and specialize in the maximum "production" of puppies, often and usually at the expense of the mother dog, who is continually impregnated, sickly, abused, confined, and in short treated like a vending machine more than a living thing. You can google "puppy mills" if you are brave enough, often the pictures and stories are horrifying to say the least.

Anyway, the large majority of puppies in pet stores, save for the few (very few) who advertise "donated" dogs (hmmm, I wonder) come from puppy mills or breeders who are less than reputable. I had little reason to think this store was any different.

Of course, they had the cute puppies behind the glass windows, displayed on an impossibly cruel and tiny shelf, for lack of a better word. Needless to say, it broke my heart to see these puppies isolated and confined. If they do get a walk twice a day, it is most likely still confined to the store, a store than operates on mall hours, not animal hours.

Above the display cases was a laminated piece of paper, advertising that one could own one of these puppies for the low low price of $38 per month, OAC.

I like to think I have seen it all when it comes to the limits of selfish consumerism, but then again, people are cold and there is money to be made.

This dog, no matter where it came from, is not a stereo. It is not a computer. It is not any one of your appliances from the Brick that you have financed over a three year term. This is a living animal. But you wouldn't know it to see this sign, which in effect trivializes the seriousness of owning and caring for an animal.

On top of that, the $38 a month invites ignorant owners and impulse buyers. How many of those dogs do you think were under a Christmas tree this year, a gift purchased more for financial reasons (ie- affordable) than for logical, well-though-out reasons that should govern the ownership of a living thing.

I have used the phrase "ownership" throughout this post, and I do think it applies, in the initial stages of taking a pet into one's home. I own Monday, she is my possession. I will argue, to the end though, that Monday and dogs like her, quickly transcend the "possession" idea and become one of the family, if they are allowed to do so. I suppose if you asked Megan, she would suggest that Monday, in fact, owns me. I would agree. My particular dog is not a possession, like my computer or stereo or truck. She is not something disposable, something with a lease buy-out option or who contributes to my credit rating.

I wholeheartedly disagree with what I saw at this pet store and am saddened to think that it was just one of many pet stores that entice ignorant buyers with low prices and incentives at the expense of education and social responsibility. I also am uncomfortable with the purchasing of purebred dogs from breeders, be they reputable or not. While many breeders are conscientious and loving when it comes to their animals, the fact remains that there are thousands of animals in shelters all over the world who would make wonderful pets, perhaps even superior pets. Breeders exist because consumers are often more concerned with the image their pet portrays to the neighbours than with the health and wellness of the animal or the true reason behind animal ownership, that being the companionship and unquestioning devotion we all seek. Inbreeding among 'purebred' lines is another one of the quiet and dirty secrets of the pet-selling sector and is another issue (and rant) altogether.

I provide links on this website to reputable and conscientious shelters for abandoned animals in and around the Edmonton area. These not for profit societies exist because of puppy mills, irresponsible breeders, and (perhaps most of all) irresponsible owners who see owning a pet as a social status symbol or who lease a pet without doing adequate research into pet ownership and all it entails. The SPCA would not need to exist if people viewed animals as living things rather than mere possessions to be discarded when Snuggles shits on the rug.

Monday is a mutt and I love that about her. I don't care that she isn't purebred or that she doesn't have some pedigree behind her. That isn't what makes a good pet. What makes a good pet is a good owner, someone who is willing to make room for an animal in their lives and who doesn't buy an animal because it is the cool thing to do or because the animal makes them look tough. Your pet, be it good or bad, is a direct reflection upon your dedication to making it part of your family.

The odd thing was that it took all of my willpower to walk out of that store without a puppy. Or puppies. I would have liked nothing better than to buy them all and save them from an uncertain fate. I know that to buy them would only contribute to the bloody machine that is the pet-selling industry and it was with that raw thought and a heavy heart, that I slumped out of the store. To say I was conflicted would be an understatement.

We went on our way and soon were back to our regular lives. That little dog however, and all the little dogs that are yet to come, remains in a sector of society that is overlooked and underregulated, a sector of society that does more to ruin lives than to enhance them.

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. ~Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, 1907

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:38 PM ~~ 6 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


The new j~shuffle playlist (#2) is now in existence.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:33 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Juan Cole and his 10 Amazing Predictions for 2006

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:30 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

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Happy New Year, yadda yadda yadda.

Thanks to Dacia & Matt, Kelly & Todd for hosting a quiet and enjoyable New Years weekend.

Nice drive back today too, horfrost on the trees and prairies. Better than the last New Years I celebrated.

Predictions for Ink & Paper in 06

- less political stuff
- more fiction
- more rantcasts
- book reviews
- stylistic changes to cover over weak blogging skills
- etc etc.

And away we go....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 2:54 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


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