Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yes, no, no

Some quick thoughts this morning, prompted by a quick glance or two at The Globe and Mail...

Maher Arar has endorsed the report on the events leading to his deportation to Syria for torture, and recommending more oversight for the RCMP who, to the nation's shame, were instrumental in getting him there. "We live in a great country," said Arar. Truly, can there be any finer words, or a greater reward, than to know that your country hasn't just swept an inconvenient truth under the rug, but has acted on it, admitted its error, and put changes in the works? Can anything make you feel better about home than to know that human beings really do matter, and that the country has stood by its principles and stood by the people?


The Ontario Muncipal Board has approved the expansion of a private school in the Annex. Some of the local residents are upset. Apparently, the school caters to some 400 boys and they don't like the buses and traffic in "their" neighbourhood. This, despite the fact that Royal St. George's College has existed there for over 40 years (how many of the residents of the Annex bitching about it can say that, I wonder?).

This is kind of thing that really gets on my nerves about these people. We're not talking about a rendering plant or a missile factory or something here. We're talking about a school. It seems the the late, sainted Jane Jacobs, no less, opposed the expansion and suggested that sometimes institutions grow too large for their neighbourhoods and should move out. Who gets to decide this? What if the same people decide an institution's gotten too ethnic for their liking? After all, why stop at unsightly buses? Maybe you don't like seeing people in veils or yarmukles either.

The school and the people it serves have the same right to enjoyment of property and use of the neighbourhood as anyone else. The people and the Province of Ontario — to whom the neighbourhood really belongs — have made that clear. And if you don't like it, hey, it's a free country. Move. And take your speed bumps with you.


Murray Mollard of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association complains that new laws on voter ID go too far. It seems that having to produce a government photo ID or two pieces of approved ID that establish name and residency is asking too much of a voter. Canadians move around a lot, he says. Some people don't have drivers licences. Students and the homeless might be disenfranchised.

Clearly his heart's in the right place, but my God, is this some thin gruel. Producing a driver's licence in this day and age does not exactly qualify as a hardship or a disenfranchisement; virtually anyone can get one. And for those who can't, every province (as far as I know) offers a government ID card for just such eventualities.

If you move around, you better believe you'd better get your driver's licence in order... not to mention getting right with your bank, employer, creditors, and so on. Obviously, people manage this on a daily basis. If you happen to move during the one week (out of an average of 200-250 or so) in which a federal election falls and can't manage it, you probably have more on your mind than voting anyway. Showing up with your photo ID portion of your licence and your new temporary slip would probably suffice anyway. As for the homeless, how would they wind up on the voter's roll in the first place? Where would enumerators go to find them?

I agree that some people are bound to slip between the cracks. But voting is a right, not an obligation. And allow me to be blunt: it's possible to disenfranchise yourself. Given the electoral shenanegans we've seen going on just south of the border, I'm all for tightening the bolts a little. You need more ID just to open a savings account for your nine-year-old than this legislation asks for to decide the governance of an entire nation. If that means showing up with nothing more than just about everyone always have in his or her wallet anywhere, anytime, I'm fine with that.

P.S. Notice that neither a driver's licence nor proof of residency actually establishes the elector is even a citizen, though; anyone who's been in the country six weeks could produce this "proof". Amazing that citizenship is regarded that cheaply on such a practical matter in a land currently having bowel cramps over the fact that a prospective prime minister happens to have a second citizenship, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The lie that Canada told

Canada disappoints me sometimes.

Does that sounds arrogant to you? Well, a country full of immigrants, founded upon their labour and sustained by their industry, presuming to divide the wheat from the chaff by calling for Stephane Dion to give up his French citizenship sounds arrogant to me.

A number of Canada's earliest prime ministers were not born in Canada. Several were born in the UK. At the time, there was no distinction in law between a Canadian and a Briton. But that's beside the point. We have, in our history, entrusted the stewardship of this country to people not even born here. Our Parliament, our legislatures, our city councils abound with people who have come here from elsewhere, many of whom must still possess the citizenship of the lands from which they've come, all without issue... as recently at the 1980s, John Turner was leader of the Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition, and, briefly, Prime Minister. John Turner was born in Richmond, England. But even this late in history, I don't recall anyone taking issue with this or questioning where Turner's heart might lie, not even in Quebec. I find it astounding that the same few weeks that have seen Canada embrace the Quebecois as a nation within a nation have also seen it, in virtually the same breath, throw ice water on that sentiment by shrieking with francophobia on learning Stephane Dion's mother bestowed her citizenship on her Canadian-born son.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all has to be the teapot from which this tempest flows. As I understand it, we have a conservative scribe from Alberta, Ezra Levant, to thank for saving Canada from its eventual conquest by French fifth columnists. Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suppose that Ezra Levant is Jewish. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's a guess. Can there be a nation on Earth that's been better-served by the broad acceptance of dual citizenship that's emerged in the past thirty or forty years than Israel? A land of four or five million people, cared for and aided by tens of millions abroad who feel they have a stake in the place. Is that what Ezra Levant fears? That Dion might feel for France what millions of Jews have felt for Israel? And if that would be wrong for him, isn't it therefore also wrong for them? Shouldn't they have to choose too? Because let's be honest — this is bigger than just Stephane Dion; we are, after all, hearing cries for Canada to conclude its policy of dual citizenship. But what of other lands? To the south of us, Michael Chertoff is Secretary of Homeland Defense, no less. Under Israeli law, Chertoff is an Israeli citizen. Does Ezra Levant lie awake a night, lashing in his own sweat in fear for the liberties of our American cousins, tormented by the thought that Chertoff's dual citizenship might undermine his ability to think and act in the best interests of the people of the United States? Call me jaded, but somehow, I doubt it.

And yet, it's perfectly fine for Ezra Levant to cast aspersions on Stephane Dion. And why? Because deep down, English Canada still really doesn't like, trust, or respect the French, here or abroad. Why mince words? It's just been made abundantly clear. Turner okay, Dion bad. The Quebec separatists whose jaws dropped a few weeks ago when Harper beat them at their own game must be rubbing their hands with glee that we've so quickly shown our true colours — Redcoats forever — as we treat Quebec in particular and a worldful of potential Canadian immigrant-hopefuls in general to the spectacle of millions (if the polls are to be believed) of Canadians demanding that a man who has dedicated the last ten years of his life to their service renounce his incidental but rightful citizenship in another country in order to demonstrate his loyalty to them. Yes, no less than The Toronto Star has made it plain that Stephane Dion, a French Canadian (in both senses), must abandon his birthright and heritage to assure us all that, as Prime Minister of Canada one day, he will not be unduly influenced by the President of France... because only then may we rest assured that he will comport himself as a true and loyal servant of the Queen of England.

Ladies and gentlemen... I give you the word absurd.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Recognition of Independence

Today, as it turns out, is the 75th anniversary of the passing of the Statute of Westminster (Dec. 11, 1931). This was an act of the British Parliament that recognized the "white" dominions (Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa at the time) as the peers of the United Kingdom. Effectively, this was date that Canada (et al.) took full control and responsibility for its own foreign policy, laws, and government. No longer could or would London legislate in any manner that applied to us (without our consent), nor could it any longer nullify our laws, or send us to war, or interfere or intercede in our negotiations with other lands. Not strictly analogous to the US Declaration of Independence, it might better be described as the Recognition of Independence. For each dominion, the price was the blood shed on battlefields of the Empire in the First World War, and demand afterward that that should mean something.

The day will pass in Canada without observation or recognition. I don't know if that will be the case elsewhere in the "white" Commonwealth, but I suspect as much. It's a real shame the low-key embarrassment felt in modern Commonwealth countries about our imperial past should rob us of an opportunity to feel pride in a very key moment in our development as independent nations on the world stage, particularly when that final acknowledgement came at such a cost to a whole generation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

They do read minds...

I'm now firmly convinced that we have mind-reading computers. In fact, they've been installed in every car that has an "automatic" driver's side window. Thing is, the bugs haven't been worked out... because inevitably, when you want the thing to go right down, it reads your mind, gets it 100% wrong, and stops, requiring you to hold the button down just as though the "automatic" facility didn't exist. Want to open it a crack? It'll dive straight down to China, no matter what you want. This happens invariably, so... trick it! When you want it down, think, "just a little". When you want it part way down, think, "descend, damn you!" :)

The PMC-IR process

This is a set of instructions for “hand-tinting” a digital infrared photograph, though it could be used on any digital image, particularly a monochrome one. I call this process “PMC-IR” after the guy whose gentle proddings led me to it.

First, select one of your infrared images that you'd like to tint. This goes without saying, of course... just gives me a chance to vogue one of my shots. :)

Select Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color.

The New Layer dialog opens. Make sure the mode is set to Color.

The Color Picker opens. Experiment with colours and click OK when you have something that looks initially eye-pleasing.

Double-click the new layer in the Layers palette. This will open the Layer Style dialog for that layer. Use the Underlying Layer sliders to customize the range of tone to which your chosen colour will be applied. The range between the right edge of the black slider and the left edge of the white corresponds to the range of tones to which the colour will be fully applied. Initially, the black and white sliders are each unified. They can be unlinked by holding down the ALT key and then dragging them. This establishes a more gentle, less abrupt application of the colour at either end of the tonal range. In the example below, the very darkest tones tones are excluded. Middle-range dark tones have the color gradually applied to them with increasing opacity. The range between the black and white sliders is that to which the colour fully applies. The range between the separated white sliders marks the range from full application, decreasing in opacity towards white.

...Below is the result of the change in tonal application established in the previous step. Notice that they very darkest tones do not have the green cast applied, middle greys have the colour applied somewhat mutedly, and that as tones approach fuller whiteness, the cast is applied with less and less fullness as well.

The quickest way to apply another colour is to simply copy the color layer by dragging it to the New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette. This will result in an identical copy layer being created above the original one. To change the colour in the new layer, double-click its colour chip, which opens the Color Picker for that layer. Any colour you select will, of course, simply overlay the previous one, since this layer's tonal application is exactly the same. Double-click the layer in the Layers palette to make changes to its Underlying Layer settings. In the image below, I chose a darker green, and moved the black and white sliders to the left to apply the new colour to the darker range largely neglected by the original layer.

Color layers, like all layers, can have their application masked. In fact, they're automatically created with layer masks. I decided I wanted the lighter tones in the water to be a different colour from the trees, so I clicked in the layer's mask area to make it active. Using the paintbrush tool, I applied black to those areas of the image I did not want the original colour to be applied.

I dragged the original colour layer down to the New Layer button, which copied it. I changed the colour, selecting a pale blue, and then clicked in the mask area again to make it active. Since I wanted the blue applied to exactly the places in the image where the original green was masked out, I simply pressed CTRL+I to invert the mask. The blue was removed from the trees and applied to the water instead.

This is what the Layers palette looked like at this point.

Those are the basics of the PMC-IR technique. Obviously, more can be done; curves and levels can be applied to various layers to modify how the colours are applied, elaborate maskings are possible, as are subtler applications of colour to narrower ranges. But this, I'm sure, is enough to instruct you if you're inspired to give it a try. Hope so, because I think it's a really good use for the tonal ranges and unusual visions offered us by digital infrared photography. :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Boo hoo, I'm rich...

This morning the front page of The Globe and Mail was concerned with the Tories renegging on a promise not to tax income trusts. The accompanying photo shows an old man who has, it says, lost $90,000 in investments as a result. The story goes on to tell the tale of another man, apparently already retired at 51, who has lost $100,000 as a result, which he claims to be 10% of his investment. He might have to look for a job, he says.

My first reaction was, wow... that's a lot of money.

But almost at once, it became... poor babies! We should all have such problems! I'm building an RRSP myself, and I expect I just lost some piece of it. But the Tories have pointed out that they did it because the projected income shortfall these shelters represent would have had to have been made up in increased income taxes.

The people affected by this change are pretty heavy-hitters on society. It's by and large the wealthiest who make the most and broadest use of society's infrastructure... multiple-vehicle families (often sporting the biggest and least fuel-efficient models) polluting the air, driving highways in constant need of repair on their way to and from cottages where they use public boat launches... or else use the airports to jet off to other countries (where they export cash at the same time), making sure they get back in plenty of time not to lose their medicare... Does it make sense to you that such people should be entitled to shelter large chunks of their wealth from paying for all that, when the corollary is that the people at the other end of the scale — people who often can't afford RRSPs and investment funds and income trusts — will have to pay more taxes, and in many cases to maintain infrastructure that they themselves never get to use? Is it fair that the wealthy and comfortable of our society should never have to compromise on their luxury, but that as a result the poorer among us should have to live lives that much meaner, that much further from even the hope of such luxuries as others take for granted? Does the upper-level manager who makes bonuses and perks really work harder than the waitress who's on her feet eight hours a day making minimum wage? Or is he just paid more? Does sitting around for forty years pushing beans really entitle you to hide more of your income from society than forty years of slinging hash, especially when the disparity is largely due to the fact your family could afford to send you to university in the first place and the waitress's couldn't?

Let's keep in mind that we, as individuals, owe nearly everything to the society in which we live. Without it, you're just some guy banging rocks together in the forest, listening to the wolves howl. 99.9% of everything any one of us has or achieves is based on the millions who came before us; when and where we happened to be born; who our parents were, what they already had, and the other advantages that had already accrued to them (which in turn were based on the same societal opportunities)... in short, virtually none of what any of us has or builds is based on some unique effort or personal virtue. Mostly, it's luck of the draw, and taking an advantage and running with it. If you're smart about it, you ought to benefit from it... but those benefits should not be absolute or infinite. The more you glean from your society, the more you owe back to it, both morally and materially. If you are in such a rarified position that you can lose $100,000 and still have a home, a car, and a future, please do not come crying foul to the society that made that possible when it requires you to contribute your fair share to maintain that same system now and into the future. You, above all, can afford to tighten your belt, where others cannot. There's a big, big difference between losing a pound of fat and losing a pound of bone. I give the Tories, of all people, full credit for acknowledging that fact, instead of ignoring it and putting the onus for action on some other party down the line.

Father knows best

This morning on the way to work, I was momentarily slowed down by a truck parked at the side of a residential street. It was vacuuming up fallen leaves. It occurs to me that, in the springtime, the same crews will be out spreading fertilizers on the same patches of city greenery to keep them healthy.

So... we take away the leaves in the autumn... and artificially replace them with chemicals in the spring. All at vast expense. How nice of mankind... how did nature ever get along without us?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I was doing some work from home last night so I left here about 4:15. I didn't go home my usual way because I stopped at Blockbuster to rent some Sopranos DVDs. When I got to the last major intersection near my home, there was a big pickup truck stopped across our lane, and I could see people, just regular folks, attending to someone lying on the ground on the other side of the truck. I saw them covering him up. I had to turn into the gas station and wind my way home by the long route as a result. I was kind of shaken by it. But there's not a peep about in the news online, so far as I can see. You'd think even if the guy just wound up in the hospital, it would be noteworthy. A couple of things, though... I'm pleased that, despite the fact I have a camera just about permanently on my hip now, it scarcely occurred to me to use it at the time... but distressed that the idea crossed my mind almost as soon as the accident was out of sight. I even considered parking and walking up there. It wasn't a strong urge, but it was there, and I wish it weren't.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Just a couple of observations on my return from an afternoon foray to the City of Toronto Archives...

Something I've noticed about Toronto, and this seems to be fairly consistent, is that no matter what way you choose to get somewhere in this city, on any particular day, it's the wrong fucking way. Whatever it is. Whatever makes sense will be rife with construction. Whatever looks brilliant on the map will be unaccountably packed with traffic. Whatever ought to be smooth sailing will be headed by an idiot who's afraid to press his/her foot to the scary pedal on the right of the brake. And people wonder why anyone would choose to live in Mississauga, Markham, or Vaughan.

And why is it, please, that the fucking idiot in the Hummer six inches behind you who's apparently dying to drive 140 km/h in a 60 zone instantly wants to drive 35 the moment he actually gets in front of you? And why do so many of these shitheads drive Hummers in the first place? If your idea of a stylish ride dead-ends at driving a fucking paddy wagon, why not save yourself some money and wait till the Keystone Kops are done with theirs and pick it up cheap?

Yeah, it was a fun afternoon... thanks for asking. :)

Yakety Yak! (21st Century redux)

Just cast your vote in this machine
And it'll count it quick and clean
If things go wrong election night
This here machine'll make it right.
Yakety yak! Dimpled chad.

Saddam himself flew all the planes
That brought the towers down in flames
Then parachuted out of sight
FOXNews announced the other night.
Yakety yak! Don't learn jack.

Your job is goin' overseas
To strengthen our economy
If you go bankrupt 'cause of that
It's 'cause you're lazy and you're fat.
Yakety yak! Don't smoke crack.

Go join the Army or Marines
And visit folks in other scenes
And when you get into their town
Well you can kill them if they're brown.
Yakety yak! Let's attack.

The President has got a plan
To save world peace he'll bomb Iran
We'll make them a democracy
Just like Iraq or Afghanis.
Yakety yak! S'wrong with that?

Yakety yak, yakety yak
Yakety yak, yakety yak
Yakety yak, yakety yak

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The New "Old Europe"

These days there's a lot of talk about "New Europe" and "Old Europe" in the right-wing press. "New Europe" is anyplace that cooperates whole-heartedly with Washington (mostly formerly Communist countries already adept at taking orders from a hegemon). "Old Europe" is anyplace that demonstrates any hint of a heart, conscience, mind, or backbone, and thus does not necessarily cooperate.

Like Germany. These days, Germany is very "Old Europe".

In an opinion piece by Jeffery Simpson in this morning's Globe and Mail, it is reported that Germany is being leaned upon to expand the nature of its role in Afghanistan. Currently, its troops are there in non-combat roles, mainly to train Afghan police...

Yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to Germany said: "I would very respectfully ask Germans... to reflect on whether the very narrow and very rigid restrictions put on the German troops make sense for NATO."

Judging from recent long conversations with Germans visiting Canada, the answer will be no. Germany will contribute and serve — as long as no active military operations are required.

Good for Germany and the German people. If it makes sense for NATO? Excuse me, folks, but we established NATO to keep the Soviets from overthrowing democratic regimes in Western Europe. Even if you read the North Atlantic Treaty at its most expansive, it remains at heart the constitution of a defensive organization (if you do, take special interest in the wording of Article 1...). What does invading a country, like Afghanistan, have to do with defense? Either NATO stands for something, or it stands for nothing... and if it no longer stands for a principle of defense, then it's just a fantastic dog and pony show for a program of world domination on behalf of Western plutocrats. The Germans seem to remember that, even if so many of the rest of us have forgotten.

Stick to your guns, Germany... to coin a phrase.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How do you say "suck and blow" in French?

The Globe and Mail is reporting this morning that Gilles Duceppe is waving the sovereignty banner again, predicting Quebec will be a separate country by 2015. Fine, right, whatever. But then, on the heels of that, get this:

"Other Bloc initiatives include... demanding that the provincial capital obtain its share of federal funding to develop science and technology research centres. "Quebec is capable of great things. It has the means and it is capable of doing it," Mr. Duceppe said..."

...Yeah, and as the first sentence highlights, the "means" is called Canada. Is this nonsense ever going to end?

Meanwhile, Michael "Meech" Ignatieff has just gotten the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party to endorse his idea of officially recognizing Quebec's "nationhood". While I'm not opposed to something like this in principal, my fear — and I think the fear of most people — is what sort of blackmail this opens us up to. It seems to imply expectations on Quebec's behalf that no single nation, like Canada, could possibly accommodate, which would pretty much inevitably lead to the break-up of the country. It's one of those instances where if you keep tinkering with something fragile but workable in order to "perfect it", you fuck it up for good. I'd rather have a watch that lost five minutes a day than one that didn't work at all. But, ultimately, there's votes in them thar hills... them'uns in Chibougamau gotta be catered to, I plumb reckon! Right, Brian — I mean, Mike?

God help Canada... a country where almost nothing's wrong (relatively speaking), and nobody, but nobody, can just step back and say, "man, did we ever get a sweet break landing here".

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ignatieff gets up with fleas

Columnist Lawrence Martin reports (in a column with the unwittingly (?) humourous heading "The man who would be PM hammers Bush") in this morning's Globe and Mail that Liberal-leadership (and thus potential prime minister) Michael Ignatieff recently said the following on Afghanistan:

The former Harvard professor made it clear he will not be hitching his wagon to any unilateralist empire-building. "I've supported the Afghan mission precisely because I don't want to live in an American imperial world... If we don't, as Canadians, want to live under American domination... then we have to have the courage to take on a difficult mission with our NATO partners and get it done. If we don't want a world run by the Americans, Canada has to lead."

That's some lofty load, alright. Let me rephrase it in clearer terms. "I had to go along with the bank heist, Your Honour, because I didn't want Lefty to have all the money. And if I didn't shoot the innocent bank tellers, he'd have probably shot me."

On Iraq, Ignatieff said the following:

...he said he takes "full responsibility for not having anticipated how incompetent the Americans would be. I don't have remaining confidence in the Americans... The Bush operation betrayed any hopes I had of Iraq transitioning to a stable political elite, and now all those hopes rest with my friends, the Iraqi political elite."

Political elite? What, is that Harvardese for "democracy" now? So in other words, Michael Ignatieff is perfectly fine with sponsoring state terrorism that kills tens of thousands of innocent civilians, provided A) they're foreigners, B) it's done slickly and isn't "incompetent", and C) replaces a dictatorship we don't get along with with a dictatorship that asks "how high?" when we tell it to jump. No questioning the morality of invading another nation to effect regime change to suit one's own self-interests (oh, and it'll help out the poor little Iraqis as a side bonus); no, that would be boring and get in the way the imperialism of which he claims to distain. Actually, he's tacitly admitting that, had he been prime minister at the time, he would have committed troops to this glorious enterprise, and they'd now be dying by the score alongside the other harbingers of Anglo-American imperialism.

Is this the man the Liberal Party wants to lead it, and potentially running Canada? Jesus, I hope not.

Go back to Harvard, Michael, where they pay you to spout your garbage harmlessly. Don't try foisting it on the apparatus of the Canadian state.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ach, aye, I've got an arrow in my bum...

This morning on the radio I was treated to something unique in my experience. It had to do with the ongoing stand-off in Caledonia between the residents there and the people of the neighbouring Six Nations Reserve who claim the land as part of their reservation, saying that it was stolen from them at some point in the past 200 years. There was a woman who was complaining that Ontario's Premier McGuinty was falling down on the job, not backing up the non-Native residents and cracking the whip on the Natives, who have been blocking roads and protesting. The thing that was utterly flabbergasting was that this woman was uttering all this in a Scots burr so broad she was just this side of understandable to Canadian ears. A British immigrant complaining about Native encroachment...! It might as well have been 1790.

Look, I know we're all equal, and once you've immigrated legally and become a citizen you're a citizen and that's that. At least in the eyes of the law, there's no distinction. But I have to tell you, even as a non-Native, I found myself rather affronted that this person from abroad was here demanding her own rights be respected and moreover asserted over those of the descendents of the original inhabitants of this country. Just for one brief moment there, I think I caught a glimpse of how all the rest of us must look to the Natives of the American hemisphere, Australia, Africa, and elsewhere. The arrogance, self-centredness, and hubris of this white-makes-right attitude were noxious.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's official: technology has gone insane

I've just seen the commerical. There is now a toothbrush with an onboard computer "to help you brush better".

I am not shitting you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Adventures on the golden edge of nowhere

I should have been born a squirrel, I suppose.

But then, it would be hard for me to drink booze and watch Battlestar Galactica and eat pizza and even to blog with much proficiency. Plus, dying of old age before my fifth birthday would kind of suck too. So, I guess I'll make the best of things. :)

Cruel, cruel autumn...

Not really, but I was pretty alone this weekend. It was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada (we have the Monday off; it's the same day as Columbus Day in the US). I was entirely abandoned. Not that that especially bothers me; I'm not the kind of person who needs or even wants people around all the time. I grew up fairly self-contained and entertained, and that's just who I am. That said, it was kind of a downer just how bereft of options I was. One likes to have options, even it one elects not to exercise them...

One friend was out of town with his wife visiting his elderly mother.

Another friend is going through a very rough patch in her marriage and was in no frame of mind to pal around.

Another was hoping to trail around with me, watch movies, bend elbows and the like, but another friend showed up drunk and vaguely suicidal at his door at the start of the weekend and it was babysitting time... after that, he too had to get out of town to do the family get-together thing... talk about your long, long, long weekend.

And finally, yet another friend called me up right out of the blue to wish me a happy Thanksgiving and to tell me he too was heading out of town. Nice sentiment but that one struck me a bit gratuitous... God chuckling at me. Well, no bother. Like I said, I find myself reasonably good company most of the time.

Saturday I just decided to go for a long walk in my own neighbourhood, first to rent some movies, then to buy one of those turkey rolls in a box things. Cripes, it was twenty bucks. That's about six bucks a pound. Okay, it tastes good, but Jesus, you'd think they fed the turkey platinum or something. It was a good two hour walk, and the temperature was fantastic for October (it was the whole weekend through, in fact). It was good to get out. That was pretty much the extent of Saturday, though.

Oot and aboot

Sunday was when I really started enjoying the weather, though. I decided to drive out to the vicinity of Georgetown to see if I could find a place on the back roads I hiked around this time last year (I blogged about it here). I did indeed find it. It was a place I was first interested in because on the map, it forms part of the Niagara Escarpment, and it looked like it had a stream flowing over the side. At the time, I was mad for trying to take a long-exposure photograph of a waterfall with my (then) new Canon Rebel XT. Well, I never did find a waterfall, but I did find ample evidence that there must be some in the springtime.

It's a strange place. In spite of all the exposed, water-worn rock and the swamp at the base, the hillside is monumentally dry. A lot of the trees are dead and desiccated. I like to hike barefoot, and I can tell you I've been to friendlier places for indulging the tactile senses. Most of this place is sharp and angular and dry. It's a good challenge, and it makes you feel alive, but it's not sensually pleasant for the most part. Visually, it's stunning. I took a lot of interesting shots of dry waterfall rock and the strange things it does to the trees. I was there for a little over an hour before moving on.

On my way back east I decided to check out an intriguing gap in a road on the map in northwest York Region. In my experience, such gaps often herald rewarding explorations... like old bridges that have been closed to traffic, or washed out roads, or just deep valleys that farming communities simply couldn't afford to span. They're usually lush, and often have abandoned properties with evocative laneways and sometimes even the haunting ruins of buildings. I decided to go and have a look.

On aerial photos of the area, it looked to me like a creek cut the road off at its northern terminus. What I took for a creek, though, turns out to be a driveway with an unusually wide clearance. I didn't realize that until just about the time I was leaving on the second trip. I kept looking for a creek and a missing bridge. Since there isn't one, I'm not really sure just why the closed the road in the first place.

Regardless, it's a beautiful walk, engaging nearly all the senses... if you're willing to open them up. I should say that there are some pretty abrupt hills on the trek, and even approaching it. I drove to both ends - the southern one on Sunday and the northern one and Monday - and both of them feature drop-offs so steep and so sudden that they had me putting the brakes on, and then creeping down slowly. Well, much the same is true of the closed section. In fact, one drop was tremendous... it must have been a plunge of nearly 100 feet at something like 60 degrees. It was even tricky just walking down it. I encountered it just a few minutes north of where I parked on the first day. There was a gentle rise, and then a crest, and a long, eroded drop. I have no idea when they closed that part of 7th Concession, but I suspect it was some time ago... the erosion and the way the forest has tightened around the clearance are impressive. Since the gap exists on a map I have dating from 1990, it's probably 20 years at least.

Down a slope... to a hill? Nice start...

Set a spell... take your shoes off... y'all come back now, y'hear?

Looks like a long drop? Yeah, and this is half-way down...

I didn't go too far along the road on the first day... I got to about the bottom, where I lingered and let a couple and their dog pass me. I thought about heading back up but something about the look of the forest on the east side beckoned, and I headed off the trail into the forest. It's just about pristine... I didn't see any evidence of footpaths, no garbage, no prints, nothing. Just forest, and birdsong so loud and thick up the hillside that I couldn't be sure it wasn't some kind of squeaky machinery. Given that it ceased as I made my way up the hillside, I have to assume it was birds after all, who decided to tone it down on my approach. The hillside was overgrown with trees, bushes, ferns, and littered with moss-covered fallen trees. I found a place to settle back and commune with nature, just listening and watching, drawing in the scents of the place and feeling the cool earth and leaf litter beneath me for a quiet half an hour. After that, I made my way back to the old road, following a pair of 20-something hikers (a young woman and a lean, shirtless guy) back up the steep hill. They utterly disappeared part way up the hillside, gone without a trace by the time I crested. Ghosts.

"Wow... you're weird..."

The magnificent hillside

Heading back up... pant... puff... the first drop

Peddle-pushers, the things that push peddles, and the glorious fallen leaves


Update: Nov. 24, 2007. Adding the video I made of wandering the leaves barefoot.

I just had to come back the following day and do the road from the north end. Monday proved to be even more interesting. Heading for the north end of the road, I happened to pass through a tiny hamlet called Kettleby, which hugs a twisting road down to a handsome one-lane bridge that, surprisingly, seems only to have been built in the last few years (no doubt replacing an older one). Obviously Kettleby has a made a very conscious decision to keep its cozy small-town feeling and limit the traffic shooting through the place. I found the Italian Bakery glimpsed on passing through a charming nod to the modern nature of western York Region... largely populated, it seems to me, by people with WASPish given names and bold Italian surnames. The main street was festooned with Canadian flags; private residences abounded with both Canadian and Italian ones, usually paired.

Crossing over the 400, I was soon at 7th Concession, and I headed south. After passing through a circa 1960 neighbourhood that still looks like it's on the edge of time, the road runs out of pavement and breaks into dusty gravel. As I indicated earlier, I came to a sudden drop that was momentarily daunting. I eased the car down the slope and traveled along the broad flat area of what must have once been a floodplain till the road ended at a berm with several heavy stakes driven into it. I can only guess they were put there to keep ATVs out and preserve the trail for hikers and nature. I don't doubt ATVs are a blast, but there's a time and place for everything, and charging around a sensitive natural area in the Oak Ridges Moraine is neither where these noisy turf-terrors are concerned.

When I arrived, a couple of women were loading a pair of wet dogs into an SUV. This confirmed my suspicion that there must be creek immediately south of us, since that's where the road ends and the big carved area (that turns out to be a driveway) appears in aerial shots. So, I clicked on my Rebel XT and set off, padding down the leafy trail that once was a road.

Initial view heading south from the north end

Tunnel vision

Isn't there supposed to be a stream somewhere...?

I didn't see any creek.

There was a rise, and I thought, it must be after that. But before I reached it, off to my left was what looked like someone's driveway. I had to walk that trail. It actually turned out to be the highlight of the trip, I think. Little hints of what might have been, but nothing definitive. What was this open area? Where did the tire ruts lead? What did the disconnected power lines once serve? A home? A business? Both?

On the left, the gate of the driveway; on the right, 7th Concession Road heading south

Heading along the driveway...





I never did find any real evidence of a structure, and I didn't follow the road to wherever it ultimately leads. That's for another hike. What I did find was someone's shirt, draped on a branch overhanging the drive. Grey, with a silvered transfer that read "Angel". That was about as far as I went. At that point, I went off the trail and climbed into the hillside, where I found a quiet spot under a soaring tree. There in the forest alone, I climbed out of my clothes and sat back against the tree for a while, watching and listening on what was probably one of the last temperate days of the year while all around me the leaves fell like huge, colourful snowflakes, whispering as they laid their bodies down on the forest floor all around me. I really did feel like the last person on Earth for a while, and I lost track of time. The gap in the photo record, though, lets me know it was about half an hour. The wind, the air temperature, the sensation of the leaves and the ground, the silence of the world but for the rustle of leaves... the lack of pesky insects... :) was about as perfect a moment as an amateur naturalist (and naturist) could ask for.

Well, yeah, okay... nice place to go topless, I suppose...

Alright, I see the shirt... where's the angel? :)

In a state of nature





On my way back I decided to take another trail I'd noticed forking off in one of the clearings. This turned out to be another driveway. It led through a rather swampy area, and the ruts in the road were surprisingly deep; well over my ankles. I had to haul my cuffs up to avoid getting them soaked. I also found the trail led the telephone poles into the area. One of them looked remarkably recent... to look at it, you would swear it hadn't been there more than five, maybe ten years. But if my map's to be believed, the road's been closed at least since 1990, so anyone who lived or worked there must have abandoned the place earlier than that, out of sheer practicality.


In the manner of a self-portrait... kind of. :)



Right after that came one of the steepest hills I've ever seen purporting to carry a road. I could not believe my eyes. The photos do not do the drop justice. It must be just about 45 degrees. I can't imagine anyone driving either up, or down, this thing. Whoever did must have had balls of brass and nerves of steel. I sure as hell would never attempt it; it took me more than a minute just to climb the damn thing, and even with the surefootedness that comes from climbing in bare feet, I nearly dropped to my knees a couple of times. I can't, I really cannot, imagine driving it. I wouldn't have believed there could be a road under such conditions if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Holy crap, I have to climb this?

Pant pant, puff puff... yes... but at least I didn't have to drive it!

At the top of the rise, I found a brace of roofing shingles, still fastened together. Something must have been around there someplace... but that's as much as I ever saw. Crossing the flats at the top of the rise, I came back to the road. There on a telephone pole was an address number... whatever this property once was, it was at 14830 7th Concession Road. Interestingly, there was another sign nailed to the pole. Whatever it said was long worn off; perhaps it once warned away trespassers. It appeared to have been used as target practice... it looked to have taken a blast of buckshot dead on, sometime in the past.

"Imperious Caesar, turned to clay, might stop up a hole to keep the wind away..." ...Or words to that effect...


Left, looking north up 7th Concession Road; middle, driveway of 14830 7th Concession Road; right, looking south down 7th Concession Road.

I carried on southward and came to another massive rise. Glancing around, I had a sudden sense of deja vu, and realized, almost to a certainty, that was at the place I'd gotten to from the south end the day before. It was the same rise I'd come down the previous afternoon. But I wanted to be sure... after all, I still hadn't found the creek! I climbed the rise, and sure enough, there below me was the other end of the open part of 7th Concession, where I'd parked Sunday afternoon. I felt no need to trek there, and so, I headed back... back down the steep hill I'd first eased down the day before.

Another steep bloody hill...

Time to stop and smell the roses! ...Or whatever the hell these are; I don't care...

Encounter awaits, just around the bend...

Embarrassment and being different

As I've made abundantly clear, I like to hike barefoot. I've been doing it for about three years now, both in company and alone. I usually do encounter other hikers sooner or later, but so far, nobody has ever commented one way or the other, or expressed any interest... which suits me just fine. I'm not interested in justifying or explaining myself, nor even in proselytizing particularly. If I set an example that leads others to give it a try, that's all I could hope for. While it's not uncommon in central Europe, I realize it's a bit eccentric here in North America... but no more so, I should hope, than earrings or tattoos, and less so than Mohawk hairdos or kilts. I like to think that most people don't think I'm nuts, but recognize I've made an out-of-the-ordinary choice for aesthetic and sensuous reasons.

That said, yesterday I sort of got what I guess amounts to my first comment on it, in a roundabout and fairly neutral way.

Not long after I reached the bottom of the hill, I spotted three men coming towards me. They were the first other human beings I'd seen since the women with the dogs at the start of the hike. Leading the troop was an older guy, somewhere in his late 40s or early 50s, I'd guess. Behind him, a lanky figure in a white t-shirt, and last of all a heavy-set guy somewhere in his 20s, dressed in a green shirt that might have served him well among Robin Hood's men in Sherwood Forest. I approached them, a husky guy in his late 30s in a ball cap, hooded pullover, cargo pants, bare feet, and a heavy black SLR camera around my neck. One of them tree-huggers. The older guy met my gaze and we greeted each other as we passed.

The guy behind him in the white t-shirt got this look of amazement. He came straight at me. He was in his mid-to-late teens... at a guess, I'd say 16... and something in his manner tipped me off straight away that he was mentally handicapped. He came right up to me, just like a dog would (and please, don't think I'm denigrating him in any way... I'm simply relating the analogy that sprang to my mind at that very moment), as though I were some kind of animal he'd never seen before and simply had to investigate. And he put his hands on my sides and started to lean right down, I suppose to see if what he thought he'd seen was really true: some guy was walking around the forest barefoot. I wasn't frightened or alarmed or even particularly embarrassed, it was just... different. The older fellow barked out the young man's name and he immediately moved off from me. I didn't want to make anything out of it — it was what it was, just a moment of unrestrained curiosity — so I simply carried on down the path and didn't look back. I never took a photo of any of them, coming or going... I kind of wish now I had. It was such a singular moment.

Anyway, it passed.

I reflected on it later, and I'm still surprised I didn't really feel embarrassed at all. In truth, I felt more embarrassed for the young man and his companions. But I know that no one really had anything to be embarrassed about. I simply wasn't wearing my sandals; it's hardly scandalous. The teenager has a brain that, in some way, works at odds from those of most of the people around him. It's not his fault; it isn't a fault at all. It's simply how it is. That it allowed him to behave in a manner outside what we'd consider typical conduct in meeting an unusual stranger (that is, me) was only conspicuous in that it persisted in him to such a late age; certainly it wouldn't have seemed unusual in someone much younger, after all. So, in the end, it was neither good nor bad... just a moment of sheer honesty. I was different. I was worthy of notice. I was, in a word, remarkable.

Actually, I think that's a rather unfortunate reflection on North American attitudes.

Anyway, I passed by the numbered phone pole I'd seen before, and came to another hill... this one, descending. It was a hill I'd seen from below, but hadn't climbed due to the fact that I'd taken that deke off the road down the ancient driveway. So this was a part of the road I hadn't covered. The bite of erosion into that part of the road was pronounced. I don't know if that was by design or not, but the sides of the road wall were impressive. It's hard to imagine two-lane traffic on it, but I've seen the like before on roads I knew from personal experience had once handled it before they were closed and nature begin its recovery work...

Yes, ladies and gentlemen... another hill!

I was impressed with how steep the eroded sides were

From there, the trek was a fairly direct walk back to the car. I decided to have a little fun and I set the S80 up on the tripod, riding shotgun, seatbelted in, and I filmed the trip back and forth through the beautiful little village of Kettleby I mentioned earlier. Well... it was a pretty successful weekend, speaking in terms of photography and nature hiking, all things considered.

The end

Friday, October 06, 2006

Vi-et-nam (n.)

The front page of The Globe and Mail this morning shows Canadian soldiers carrying a flag-draped coffin up the ramp of an air transport. Underneath that is the headline:

‘We won’t win’ unless aid money flows

…the story goes on present the case that unless we can get aid into remote parts of Afghanistan, “we won’t win militarily”.

Jesus Christ, folks, it’s 2006! Is this “hearts and minds” thalidomide still on the shelves? Are people still buying this poison? Hasn’t anybody at least heard of Vietnam? Why do the people of Western democracies persist in the chauvinistic assumption that they can do anything they want to anyone else anywhere on Earth, provided the beads and trinkets that follow are shiny and copious enough? People really seem to believe that the more melanin you have in your skin and the more unlike English your language is, the more willing you’ll be to overlook the fact that arrogant white people are hijacking your country, overturning your government and society, destroying the infrastructure upon which you depend, and killing your neighbours and your family — so long as people with Red Cross armbands show up with toothpaste and toilet paper and pretty books with Barney the Dinosaur™ on the cover. Goddamn it… read some fucking history, people. Or at least try to remember! Most of you were alive the last time this shit didn’t work.

Meanwhile, Canada, having been told previously that we need to keep hurling our young people into a meat grinder, is now being advised that we need to start shoveling money down this black hole we’re digging for ourselves. And why? Because if we don’t, “we won’t win militarily”. Wow, people might find out the dick we’ve been raping Afghanistan with isn’t actually 15” long and 4” wide, gee.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hegemony or the Rye

It was rainy yesterday at lunchtime so I thought I’d go and pick up a couple of books I’ve been meaning to read for a while. One was Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky. This is the book that Hugo Chavez recently recommended to the General Assembly of the United Nations during his address to them. I’m only on the second chapter but it’s already apparent that Chomsky’s distilled down to a concentrate what’s been laid bare since at least the time of Dean Atchison: that for decades it has been the policy of the United States to acquire and maintain a position of unassailable dominance in the world… supposedly for the world’s own good, but unquestionably for the self-interests of the United States — which is equated with “the world’s own good”. But I’m jumping ahead of the story, since, of course, I have yet to read the entire book.

The other was Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I’m probably one of the few people in the English-speaking world who’s managed to get through high school and university without having read the book, and I’ve always wondered about a piece of writing so persuasive it was instrumental in the murder of John Lennon and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Not that I’m reading it for that reason; just wondering what’s in it that’s that powerful. Given the theme of the book, I probably ought to have read it when I became aware of it as a boy; but given its history, perhaps it’s better I approach it now on the cusp of middle age. :) Incidentally, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that J.D. Salinger is still alive (at least at the time I write this). Born in 1919, he’d be well into his 80s at the moment. I’m always inclined to consider that an accomplishment till I remember that, if they live long enough, everyone makes it to their 80s sooner or later. Still, it’s nice to know.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Thoughts on nationalism and loyalties

From the email of a correspondent this morning.  The quote is from a speech made by Teddy Roosevelt.  The remainder, my correspondent’s response to it.


“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

I dunno...

Roosevelt sounded good up until the linguistic chauvinism and issues of loyalty.

But then I come from a country with two official languages.  It is possible to be a good Canadian without knowing one or the other of them, not a word. For that matter, I don't think anyone takes issue with your bone fides if you speak neither of them.  You could be an Inuit for instance.  A lot of older people who immigrated to Canada from Italy or elsewhere have never managed to master English.  Conceivably a younger person from abroad might never be comfortable outside of Cantonese or Portuguese, though he would clearly be at a disadvantage outside his neighborhood.  I think in our country we make few demands on you until the second generation -- your children should certainly fit in.

Loyalty.  What is loyalty anyway?  If I moved to the U.S. would I have to pretend to dispise hockey and love basketball?  (Even if the later sport was invented by a Canadian?)  Where do you go to have an uncritical love of the Stars and Stripes pharmaceutically installed if you weren't born with the instinct.  To me, the Canadian flag is a piece of cloth I have no especial love for.  The values it is supposed to stand for are my values, but I have those values to love and don't need the cloth.  How could an American flag mean any more to me if I stepped over a dotted line on a map and began hanging up my hat there?  Loyalty to freedom, democracy, equalitarian principles?  Unquestionably... whether I find them in America, Canada, France, India, or South Korea.  Loyalty to a man in a public office?  That's monarchy.  Loyalty to a crown or a flag?  Fetishism.

Loyalty to a "way of life", that is the minutae and detail of our day to day life?  I certainly have a fondness the particular theme music of our news stations, that Fox or CNN doesn't evoke.  I like streets of the city I live in, the brands of candy bars in our 7-11's, the observance of "Victoria Day", the tragedy of Dieppe and victory at Vimy Ridge, the Canadian National Exhibition every fall, the huge Caribbean festival in the summer, pictures of the old British lady on our pennies instead of the guant bearded man, etc, etc, etc.  These are not momentous things, just the tiny details of my life that I am more fond of than the strange manners and customs of a place I never lived.  Had I lived some of my life in Turkey or the United States, I would have a place in my heart for them, because they would be a part of me.  In fact, I have spent enough time in the U.S. to be fond of it in my way.

I suppose, though, what Teddy Roosevelt meant was to put your way of life, your institutions, your nation ahead of all others.  You cannot be a good German or Mexican and be a good American at the same time.  Your country may need you to go and kick German ass someday, and won't tolerate your ambivalence. You are with us or against us.  A very American attitude.  Here in Canada, we prefer not to think about it...  Maybe we won't need you to kick anybody's ass, or at least not the ass of your folks back in the old country.  When push came to shove, as it has on ocassion, Canadians have not generally held back.  They went to Germany and kicked ass.  And French Canadians, who you might expect to suffer from split loyalties, were in fact reluctant to rush off to Europe to save France.  When the chips were down, it seemed Canadians did put Canada first in important matters.  So we let them celebrate their Hindu holidays and wear their turbans and speak Somali at home and don't question their loyalties.  Better we should not try to tear people's hearts in two.

But I suppose Teddy Roosevelt was from another time and another place.  If some of his words smack to me of simple Jingoism, its because I prefer not to think in blacks and whites, and recognize we live in a more flawed world, with difficult issues and complicated cases, than the one priveleged men in the late 19th. century believed they inhabited.

Jaw-dropping chutzpah

From The Globe and Mail this morning:
Dearth of doctors threatens to close emergency rooms
At least 21 hospitals in Ontario are struggling with a severe shortage of doctors, leaving many of them bracing for a temporary shutdown of their emergency departments…
…Elizabeth Witmer, a Progressive Conservative MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo who served as health minister under the previous Tory government, accused the Liberals of mismanaging the health-care system. "There is a crisis situation," she said during Question Period yesterday.

For Elizabeth Witmer, of all people, to stand up barefaced in front of this province and lecture anyone about the state of its health care system is stunning effrontery.  Something must be done, she tells us.  Well, yeah, Liz, we agree; that’s why we dumped your government in 2003, after all.  Maybe you’ll recall it was your own Tory administration that fired all those nurses and closed all those hospitals and got rid of all those beds in the name of the “Common Sense Revolution”, so-called?

This is like being told by the cop who batons your tail light “you really ought to fix that”.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What's that smell?

You mean it isn't familiar yet?

There's a new spin in town south of the border, and its name is bullshit. Check it out.

Seems that in 1998, when Clinton bombed Osama's camps, the Republicans charged that he was doing it to distract Americans from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Now, in 2006, when real questions are being raised about how 9/11 happened and with Americans getting more and more tired of Afghanistan and Iraq, these same Republicans are — get this, this is really, really good — telling us that Clinton used the Monica Lewinsky scandal to distract the American people from the issue of Osama (remember, he was by then wanted for the attack on the USS Cole).

Isn't that incredible? Bill Clinton got an intern to blow him, made sure the prudes in the Republican Party got wind of it and then saw to it they began years of pointless, expensive, idiotic impeachment proceedings, all so that the country wouldn't notice he hadn't caught a terrorist (does it bear mentioning here that George Bush hasn't caught him either, after five years of trying?).

What a fucking genius Bill Clinton must be! I stand in awe of a man who can deftly orchestrate what the Republican are suggesting here! Dance, puppets, dance! What fools Americans are for not recognizing this and appointing President-for-Life this man who apparently can think into the fourth dimension, whose planning and perception are evidently on the next order of magnitude relative to the rest of us. Because clearly, anyone that stratospherically intelligent would never have waved off a report about how this same Osama was planning to attack and instead pissed the day away hunting armadillos on his ranch with Barney.

The word for the day, folks, is hogwash.

Monday, September 25, 2006

All the King's horses and all the King's men

I've always had an ear she could bend. That above all else.

This evening was a different kind of evening in my experience. A friend of mine — a very long-term friend; we've known one another since high school — is going through a very rough spot in her marriage. The reasons are myriad, complex, and delicate; there's nothing TV-cliche or simple about what's going on. They are on the verge of separating, and what's astonishing is that the ball is essentially in her husband's court as to what will happen. As she chillingly outlined the realitives of the situation, I was struck by how much it was like a moment in a game of chess when you know you've made a mistake that will end the game, unless your opponent chooses — knowingly chooses — a move that prolongs things. There is nothing my friend can do but wait and see what the move will be.

She asked me out to dinner this evening, I think because our history has always featured me as someone she can talk to. We had a brief, inexpensive meal, and then sat in the car in a parking lot across from her home in the pouring rain. Her composure was admirable; the sky did her crying for her. There are hopeful signs, and there are discouraging signs. It's impossible to guess what will happen. The next weeks will be long, tense ones for her.

Even though I'm only on the sidelines, I found that song took on new meaning for me. Stepping into the men's room at the restaurant, I heard the speakers playing If You Leave Me Now by Peter Cetera. When I was a teenager, the song was pretty-sounding mush. This evening it really gelled. The lyrics came into sharp focus, and every one of them suddenly made sense. I was hoping she wasn't listening in the women's room. Luckily she'd made her way to the front door by then.

On my way home, the Depeche Mode song Personal Jesus. I first heard the song driving to another friend's house in summer 2000. I always liked it because it sounded cool and powerful. But this evening, again, suddenly the lyrics just dropped on me and made sudden, personal sense. Coming back from such an evening, I finally got what the song's about in a way I never really did.

I don't know how things will work out for them. I only know she's scared, feeling powerless, but hopeful. She wants things to work out. I think she's tried hard, and I hope she gets her wish.