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The assorted meanderings, rantings, and pontifications of... us!

Topics may include, but will not be limited to: feminism, hockey, atheism, shoes, politics, fat acceptance, fitness, skepticism, dancing, introversion/HSP issues, and anything else that happens to be on my mind.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Belated May Two-Four Garden Blogging

On the May long weekend, Sardeth's mom and I went greenhouse shopping, starting at Hole's north of St. Albert, ending up at some little family operation south of Beaumont, and stopping at (and buying from) just about every greenhouse in between. I got off easy because all I have is a small balcony, and I decided that this year I want there to be room for me on it, as well as the plants. I stuck to a bunch of herbs, some window boxes, a hot pepper (never tried growing them before), and of course tomatoes for Dr Charles' Tomato Contest.

Here are the highlights:

The herb garden

Petunias - this is my first time trying wave petunias. I got a blue vein double wave and tidal wave purple, which turned out more pink than purple, but still pretty.

And of course the tomatoes:

I got a big one that already has tomatoes and blossoms on it - I don't know if that's cheating, but I want to eat my own fresh tomatoes and the sooner the better!


I also got a much younger patio tomato - this kind I've tried before, and they're easy to take care of and have really good flavor. To keep the tomato company, I also picked up a "zesty hot" pepper.

And here's the finished balcony garden:

Happy Summer and Happy Gardening to all!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thoughts on War is a Racket...

Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket” was published in 1935. It is a damning visceral attack on what Dwight D. Eisenhower termed the Military Industrial Complex. Mr. Butler’s observations rang frighteningly true when they were published in 1935, we would do well to heed his message as we enter our own dark imperial age.

Those who profit from war must go to war. That is, the various elites (banking, business, government) will be the first human wave in any conflict. War would quickly become an antiquated notion best left for the history books. The question of going to war when “you” have to bleed and die for your country makes the entire idea of war much less enticing.

This is not an unpatriotic proposition. If people can make obscene profits in the conduct the business of war why should they not personally feed the bloody gaping maw that war is? Why do the poor have the seemingly exclusive right to die for their country? Bankers, beggars… both qualify as “boots on the ground” and both bleed and die the same way.

War is viciously egalitarian; it takes the young, the old, the rich, the poor. It is our distorted social system of values that makes the prospect of going to war so inviting. The haughty, insular elite makes the profit while the poor are summarily consigned to their graves. Are the poor particularly in tune with defending democracy? Is the elite sector of society particularly unpatriotic because of their decidedly hands-off attitude towards participating in war?

The rhetoric of the privileged is tempered with the assurance that their blood will not be gracing the field of battle. Coupled with the profitability of war, the lack of personal responsibility allows societies such as ours to rush too quickly into misguided (often Imperial) ventures that are intrinsically immoral and unjust.

I propose as Mr. Butler did in ‘War is a Racket’ (highly recommended reading) that we allow the privileged in our society first blush at the horrors of war. Butler’s second suggestion is that the people that are directly involved in war would have the right to vote whether they shall bear arms and participate in the war in question. As Canada has a standing professional army I am hesitant to forecast how they would vote. The level of conditioning and indoctrination involved in breaking the empathic bonds we have to the rest of humanity is significant. It would be my hope that they could reconnect with their humanity and base their decision on the facts of the situation, while looking past the inevitable propaganda and the dehumanizing aspects of their training.

Between these two anti-war methodologies I would be willing to be a large sum that Canada would only engage in war in the most dire of circumstances, as it should be.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Severely Belated Blogging Against Disablism: In which I over-analyse an uncomfortable incident at the grocery store

One of the reasons I'm late writing anything is that until I'd read other people blogging against disablism I didn't quite have the framework to talk about what was so uncomfortable and why that might have been. So take this as the thoughts of someone who's in the middle of a learning experience and writing about it as a way of trying to get it.

So I'm at the grocery store and as I come into the cleaning products aisle there's a guy in a wheelchair at the far end trying to reach the Comet. It's quite an effort because the Comet is up pretty high, and on top of that, the bottom shelf is quite a bit wider than the other shelves, so he has to reach not only way up, but way over. He manages to just brush it with his fingertips, knock it over, and then catch it as it falls. As I pick up my laundry detergent and head down the aisle, I see that he's still in front of the bathroom cleaners, kindof craning his head back and frowning.

Now at this point I should mention that I'm short. Not ultra-short, but short enough that the only thing in the world that seems to built with people my height in mind is economy-class seating on airlines. If you see me in front of some tall shelves in a store kindof craning my neck back and frowning, it means I want something from the top shelf, and I'm wondering (1) how long will it be before someone walks by who's taller than me so I can ask them for help, and (2) if nobody comes by in a reasonable amount of time, are these shelves sturdy enough that I can risk trying to climb them.

So I go up to the guy and say, hey can I reach something for you. He says no thanks, it was Comet he was after, but he was reading the labels to see if anything else looked better. I say no problem, Comet's pretty much the best anyway.

In a perfect world untainted by crappy -isms, he would have said have a nice day, and I would have said same to you, and we would have gone our separate ways and that would have been that.

In the real world, he launched into profuse thanks (using words like "charity") for noticing him and offering to help and I felt really uncomfortable because I thought I was just being neighborly and there was really nothing special about it - just one person who sometimes has trouble reaching things trying to help out someone else having the same problem. But I couldn't figure out how to say so without sounding really insensitive. I mean, if I can't reach, I can climb the frakking shelves.

And then he just wanted to talk (about the relative merits of different cleaning products, the weather, and other non-threatening topics), and told me his name and wanted to know mine, and so we talked about various things, and then on top of the discomfort I was already feeling, I started feeling a much more familiar discomfort that caused me to gesture a lot in ways that the ring S. gave me would look prominent, and try to find a way to end the conversation, which was harder than you might expect because he started thanking me for taking the time to talk to him.

So, lessons learned so far, if any?

1. I blame the patriarchy for being unable to enjoy a conversation with a stranger, just because he's a man. It's quite possible I just missed out on making a new friend. It's just that it's happenned too many times before, where I'm just being (I think) polite and friendly, and then I have to shake off an "I'm entitled to some pussy or at least your phone number because you talked to me" asshole, and I'm pretty much permanently suspicious.

2. I blame my own unconscious attitudes about people with disabilities for a lot f the discomfort that happened. There's got to be a way of expressing "I sometimes can't reach stuff, and you sometimes can't reach stuff, so I feel solidarity with you right now" while still being sensitive to how incredibly lucky I am, finding a way around my privileged attitude.

3. Worse than (2), it seems that I bought into the popular notion that people with disabilities are asexual. I would never have stopped to help a man who didn't have a visible disability who was frowning at the cleaning products - see (1).

4. While I've had some periods of temporary mobility limitations due to my bad knee, I didn't realize just how privileged I am to have a body that functions fairly well most of the time, until I had that conversation, and started reading through the Blogging Against Disablism posts. Not only can I climb the shelves if I have to, I am also fortunate in:
- I have never felt self-conscious about asking for help or having someone offer to help me. If I need a hand reaching something, lifting something, holding a door because my hands are full, or whatever, I ask for help, someone helps me, I say thank you, they say you're welcome, and that's that. I would never even think the word "charity", let alone say it.
- People talk directly to me, not the person I'm with. I've never even considered thanking someone for just talking to me.

Clearly I have a long way to go in learning and understanding and shedding all the subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices and mental sets related to disablism. But this blogging event is a really good first step for me and for other people like me who are so privileged they don't even know what privilege is.