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Monday, November 12, 2007

Brian Mulroney's Own Goal


Ain't karma a bitch. Seems one of Canada's least favourite PMs is in trouble again - and by his own hand. It is a very messy affair that was only re-opened because said Brian Mulroney wanted his ego stroked even more, and so prematurely published and publicized his memoirs.


His enemies were waiting for just such an opportunity. The Fifth Estate pounced, reminding Canadians of the infamous Airbus scandal and the fact that we, the Canadian taxpayers, paid Mulroney $2 million for a defamation lawsuit settlement in 1997. Then his good buddy Karlheinz Schreiber re-surfaced just before he was set to be formally and finally deported to his native Germany. Howls of protests from Liberals, BQs, NDPs, and even the odd Con (I like Odd Cons) meant that Ethics hearings were in order.

What a debacle. And all because Brian could not keep his Mighty Ego sheathed for another two weeks.

Kind of makes a girl wonder aloud about the propriety of mandatory ego sheathing....

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Good Sweat

Just had to report on my recent infrared sauna experience. Had a lovely 1/2 hour in my own personal sauna and then showered off and headed home. Felt great.

Note to self: book these sauna sessions on a Friday afternoon from now on. I booked this one on Thursday around 11:15. I came home, ate a bite of lunch, and promptly fell asleep. Woke up, made a vague attempt to do some work, and napped again. Went to bed, and slept more soundly and deeply than I have in a very long time. Seems one of the side effects of this type of sauna is extreme fatigue.

A girl could get addicted to this type of heat ....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Detoxification of Bast

I recently read the book, The Hundred -Year Lie, by Randall Fitzgerald. It was a pretty scary read. What caught my attention first was his statement that "We absorb so many synthetic chemicals during an average lifetime that, according to some reports, when we die our bodies decompose more slowly today than if we died just three decades ago."

Yikes. He then goes on to explain the explosion of synthetic chemicals that have been added to our diet via food additives, as well as the distinct lack of any goverment testing on said chemicals. There are so many, they simply can't keep up. And they certainly cannot test for what happens when two checmicals combine - chemical synergies, they are called. And that doesn't even take into account the environmental dangers, like plastics, chlorine and fluoride in our water, and pesticides. Double yikes.

So I decided to embark on my own detoxification regime. I started with a normal cleanse, picked up from my local health food store. Then I added the following:

1) Infrared saunas - they create less heat, but more sweating.
2) Stevia - I am now using this natural sweetener, instead of refined sugar or Splenda.
3) Shower filter - I purchased a filter that take out much of the chlorine from my shower water.
4) Plastic containers - banished from my kitchen, as is Saran wrap.
5) Supplements - especially flax, Vitamin C, D, folic acid and the odd Oil of Oregano drops.
6) Organic food - trying to buy (afford) more, especially meat.

It's a start. I would like to transition my wardrobe to natural fibres too, but apparently I am too much of a slave to fashion. Ah well, at least my bed is 85% natural latex, with wool and silk padding. The cat also uses a natural, wheat-based biodegradeable litter. So even she's trying.

I'll keep you posted on how this pans out. It is definitely a journey worth making.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Loonies and Bankers - Any Real Difference?

Well, the )*&#*(& is truly hitting the fan on Wall Street, Bay Street and in The City. Seems our bright minds who thought that easy, "sub-prime" credit and "asset"-backed paper would create wealth are seeing the downside of this bright idea. No matter - they have made their millions (or billions) and could care a less about the fall-out we will see surrounding us.

Everyone keeps saying the fundamentals are strong. I'm not so sure. It's the financial community (ie, the banks, ie the fundamental economic institutions...) that got us into this mess, and it's the central banks (the Fed and the Bank of England) who are trying to bail them out. But the water keeps leaking in the boat, and in a global, integrated economy, how much power does a national central bank even have any more?

Here's how I see it, with particular reference to the Alberta context. There is a slow down coming. Why? A number of things, not the least of which is the long-awaited oil and gas royalty review report, which says we Albertans got royally (or is that royalty?) screwed under King Ralph. No surprise there. But Mister Ed must put it right, or he will be in serious trouble with the electorate. Then we have the housing crisis in the States. Less housing starts equal less soft-wood lumber required, for sure. Watch the consumer spending report due out later this week. If the US abandons its Wal-Mart addiction because of this credit crunch, it means our biggest trade partner will reduce purchasing from us too. And with the loonie at par, it only doubles the danger of that occurring.

The manufacturing heartland (Ontario), is in serious trouble because of the loonie, all the more so with the GM strike and resultant lay-offs. Less cars sold equals less oil sold. The federal government too may well cast a greedy eye westward. And don't for a New York minute think that because we have a Calgary PM that we'll be safe. He is wily enough to ignore Alberta's interests for vote-rich Ontario's. Remember the income trust debacle? 'Nuff said.

Will it result in a complete turnaround in our economy? Probably not, but I'm not buying real estate just yet. I don't think we've seen the full consequences of this whole thing play out - not by a long shot.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back in the (Rhinoceros) Day

As Brian Mulroney spouted venom about Pierre Trudeau today, it took me back to those halcyon days in the 1980s when we were all more innocent - and a little whackier.

Remember the Rhinoceros Party? I do, with fondness. I had my own Rhino Party badge which I proudly wore in public at the least provocation. A political relative of the Monster Raving Loony Party in the UK, the Rhinos did respectably well in many elections in the 1980s, much to the chagrin of the major parties and to the delight of the electorate.

I took a walk down memory lane (or is that Wiki Lane?) recently and reminded myself why I found their policies so damn compelling. A sampling:
  • reducing the speed of light because it's much too fast;
  • abolishing pumping oil out of the ground as that oil is there to keep the earth moving smoothly on its axis and if you withdraw the oil, the whole thing will grind to a halt;
  • abolishing the environment because it's too hard to keep clean and it takes up so much space;
  • adopting the British system of driving on the left; this was to be gradually phased in over five years with large trucks and tractors first, then buses, eventually including small cars and bicycles last,
  • selling the Canadian Senate at an antique auction in California;
  • annexing Greenland and creating a cartel with other northern nations in order to sell icebergs to the Saudis; the cartel would be called "Snopec";
  • include the word "fun" in Acts of Parliament, Acts of Provincial Legislatures, and Bylaws of municipalities, from which it was apparently conspicuously absent.

A damn fine platform, if you ask me, even though the Rhinos insisted their platform was "two feet high and made of wood."

The Rhinos disappeared in 1993, after electoral law changes meant they would have to run at least 50 candidates at $1,000 a head (or is that a tusk???). Regardless, it has left a gaping void in Canadian politics, only partially filled by the occasional Rick Mercer rant.

Political successors include the Absolutely Absurd Party, which is proposing to raffle off Senate seats as a party fundraiser.

But fear not, dear friends! Apparently there is a movement to bring back our treasured Rhinos. In a blatant nod to postmodernism, the NeoRhino Party is actually contesting by-elections in Quebec this September. Their motto is "From Party to Party until Victory." And they are currently recruiting more candidates. Hmmmm.

And the "Neo" part of "NeoRhino"? Ya, that's from Neo, as in the Matrix. Nice.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Alberta's Dirty Little Secret

Time once again to rant about Boom Alberta. Or is it really booming? Well, it is, but methinks we are all in a leaky boat. A friend in investment told me this week that he knows numerous people who have gone from multi-millionnaire to ground zero this past summer. People who committed to vast building projects are facing skyrocketing labour costs and delays that they simply can't afford. Excessive greed has caught up with many too. There are those who exercised options on stocks that are now worth far less than when they were exercised.

The oilfield services companies are ailing, as drilling activity is down. Natural gas companies are also in trouble, as prices have fallen. And this seems to be happening in isolation to the sub-prime market nightmares that have been playing out down south over the past few weeks. Although we may yet see similar fall-out to the 1200 GM jobs that were lost in Oshawa today. One thing is sure - if Big Brother America sneezes, guess who starts taking Cold FX immediately.

So something is rotten in the state of Denmark, er, I mean Alberta. But labour shortages still abound and are getting worse. Try driving through KFC or Harveys (I did, and got no service whatsoever). Help wanted signs are all around - Chicken on the Way is paying $15/hour.

The non-profit sector is especially hard hit. Never the best payers, they now cannot find people to fill some roles, and the turnover rate is staggering - 70% in some programs. Programs are closing due to lack of staff. Of course, clients of these agencies bear the brunt of this crisis, and they are often the most vulnerable in our society - the disabled, the addicted, women and children living in abusive situations. Many have come together to form the Who Cares? initiative, to try and bring awareness to government and community about the present crisis. Many more are too small and too busy to get involved in the initiative. The province, and the City for that matter, seem to be focused solely on physical infrastructure, and have completely forgotten that the social infrastructure is crumbling all around them.

Will government listen? I'm not at all confident. The Alberta PC party is in its own crisis, and is trying to figure out when best to call an election.

I think the longer they leave it, the more a sea change in Alberta politics may yet occur.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Other 300

We've all heard of The 300 - the funky new movie that profiled the Battle of Thermopylae and the 300 vastly outnumbered Spartans who fought against the Persians, allegedly numbering over 1 million. (Who was counting, she asks vaguely?)

There is another 300, though, named in honour of these original 300. It is an interesting little group, and actually only numbers 149 as yet. They are the donors to the MPrize of the Methuselah Foundation, which supports research to repair and reverse the damage of aging. In short, they are looking for immortality. They have an interesting spokesman in the person of Aubrey de Grey. Dr. de Grey was educated at Cambridge, and was the topic of a fascinating documentary called Do You Want to Live Forever? Seems he received his BA in Computer Science in 1985, and then started to research the biology of aging. He was given a PhD by Cambridge under "special circumstances" (which requires evidence of "...a significant contribution to scholarship", but does not require a student to either attend classes, perform experiments, or be examined on a research derived dissertation.) Seems his book, The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging was enough for Cambridge. Hmmm.

While perusing the Methuselah Foundation website, I took a look at their donor page (as any good fundraiser would), to get to know these 300. I was astonished to find that my tax dollars have been freely given to the Foundation! It seems the Alberta government wants us to live forever - an intriguing solution to our current labour shortage. Here are the Alberta donors I found:

Law Society of Alberta ($50)
Calgary donors ($20)
Alberta Transhumanist Foundation ($79.33)
UofA PhD student ($25,180 pledged - $3423 donated)
UofA Post-Grad Studies ($854)
UofA Office of Research ($4696)
UofA Faculty of Science ($854)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research ($4269)
AB Advanced Education and Technology ($1707)
AB Health and Wellness ($8539)
AB Heritage Fdn ($6724)

Do I want to live forever? Well, I don't. But we are already living much longer than our ancestors, so why can't we extend a healthy life span even further? Healthy is the key word. And who is researching the potential societal implications of this possibility? No one, as usual. If scientists think they can do it, they feel justified in doing it. They really do need a niggly social scientist at their side asking the hard questions, like Why? For whom? What now? and What do we do when...?

Oh, and while we are on the numbers, this is Bast's 100th post. Hoo-rah!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Great Purge

Well, I disappeared there for awhile again, didn't I? Seems to be happening a fair bit lately, but I did have a good excuse. I have been winding down, relaxing and generally trying the get my (*^*##& together over the past month. Part of that meant trying to lighten up - my soul, my spirit, but in particular, my stuff. I have a ton of stuff. And I have been gently but firmly trying to get rid of vast amounts of it. So bags of clothes, books, and paper (ah, the ever-fecund paper strikes again!) have left the apartment. Even old computer equipment has been appropriately recycled.

I do feel lighter, but am still shocked at the sheer amount of stuff that remains. We humans - especially in the Western world - love our stuff. We have TV shows explaining how we can rid of all our cluttery, buggery stuff. We can even hire people to come into our homes and get rid of and organize our stuff, if we simply can't face it ourselves. And still new stuff comes in through the front door every week. And so the cycle of consumerism and capitalism is complete.

I am going to try and be more conscious of my purchases over the next little while. Do I really need it? What am I going to do with it? Why do I really crave it? Maybe that will stem the tide of stuff that appears.

And continue the purge, I must continue the purge....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SINK or SWIM?

So here we are in the dog days of summer - Calgary is more humid than I have ever felt it (climate change pundits take note). Makes one think, as it is simply too GD hot to do anything else.

I currently self-identify as a SINK - single income, no kids. But I am definitely living in a DINK city. You need two incomes to even consider buying one of our overpriced half-million dollar bungalows. I know, I know - life isn't fair. But humans need to have hope to thrive, and I'm not feeling the love right now - hence the SINK and not DINK label.

Interestingly enough, StatCan today released a report that labelled Calgary as a Young Boys' Club. We have one of the highest ratios of young, male inhabitants in Canada. And just when I thought I had cracked the Old Boys' Club. Many of these men are SINKs, but they are special SINKs - they are Oilpatch SINKs. Much higher SI counts than most SINK women.

A colleague said to me today that I need a sugar daddy. As he was of a certain age himself, I wasn't sure how to take that, so vehemently affirmed my desire to remain single and do it myself.

I think I need a new acronym. Yea, that'll do it.

How about SWIM? Single, With Incalculable Money. Love it, love it, love it!

Huzzah! Must dash now to make incalculable money.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Happiness - again!

In a strange twist of the multi-verse (for another post, I promise!) I was watching BBC news the other day when a documentary on happiness came on. The Happiness Formula took a look at what makes us happy, on numerous levels, and whether or not government has a role in this. One of the key informants, Dr. David Halpern, was a Senior Policy Advisor to Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of Social Capital. Now this is curious to me, albeit on a personal level. You see, I actually know said Dr. Halpern, and can tell you I have seen him through some not so happy times. And vice versa. Granted, that was when we were both completing PhDs, so unhappiness was a constant state of mind.

But it did make me think twice.

Once: I should buy his book and show some collegial support.

Twice: The entire Blair government suddenly makes sense to me. This is the same man who did not know that cars needed oil changes lest their engines unexpectedly seize up.

'Nuff said, yet again.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On Children and Happiness

I just heard Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness interviewed by Stephen Colbert. The interview itself was highly amusing, as is most anything done by Colbert, but I also learned a fact that reinforced what I had inherently known since my own childhood.

Children do not make you a happier person. In fact, they have a slightly negative effect on your happiness.

This is a huge shot on the arm for someone who has known, well, forever, that they don't want kids. It also provides some factual basis for responses to people who are shocked and appalled by my lack of self-replication. And indeed it does provide some comfort, as many of my friends have been happily procreating for years - but apparently they have actually been unhappily procreating for years. I admit I sometimes wondered. To my friends (and you know who you are) who have joined me on this child-free journey of life, affirmation and glee. To my friends who have gone down the road of procreation and self-denial, told you so.

A bit harsh? Perhaps. But there is nothing so frustrating as a smug parent looking at you and you know they're thinking, "Shame. She would have been so much happier if she'd had kids."

No I wouldn't, and now I have the science to back it up.

Ain't life (without kids) grand.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pro Bono Madness

I run my own business. I love running my own business and being my own boss, but lately, a funny thing has been happening. My pro bono hours are far outstripping my billable hours. Now, I work mainly with non-profits, so in some ways, some volunteer work is expected. But it has been out of control over the past month. And I made a conscious decision to just be on one Board at a time. But this one Board is taking over my life right now.

I am pretty good at saying 'No'. I have said it many times in my life (both business and socially) and have no qualms with it. I am simply not a "yes" girl. So this has been vexing me. I don't actually feel I'm a very good volunteer because of it. Grump, grump, grump. Shouldn't our volunteer work bring us pleasure?

Balance is a wonderful thing. I must go on a hunt for it. I know I put it around here somewhere...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Inflationary Thought

As housing prices continue to zoom forward to dizzying heights in Alberta, I began to ask myself how people can possibly afford these prices. I have reconciled myself to a lifetime of renting - trying to purchase a home with an average price of $427,000 is well beyond a single income.

And yet some of my friends have done it. Admittedly, they beat the major increases and bought when prices were more sane, but they did buy. How? At least two of them were able to do so with inherited wealth. And again this gave me pause.

Those of us in the fundraising business have heard for about a decade now that a major transfer of wealth was going to occur. Trillions of dollars were going to become available for savvy fundraisers to try and gobble up. Boston College's Social Welfare Research Institute estimates the figure to be $41 trillion, with at least $24 trillion going to heirs, leaving (after taxes) some $6 trillion for philanthropy.

So I wonder if the rise in housing prices (and the accompanying inflation of all expenses) has something to do with this transfer? Has it already begun, and we are seeing the early consequences? Heirs are far more likely to spend an inheritance than save it themselves (Bast's Law of Inheritance #1). If so, house prices may well continue to rise, as more and more people receive the fruits of their relatives' labour and penchant for saving.

So let the buying frenzy begin! Oh, wait a minute, it already has. OK, so let it continue! But will this inflationary atmosphere continue, and in effect eat into the buying power of this massive transfer of wealth?

Kind of makes you wonder if there is a globalist conspiracy that manipulates world economies, a la Bretton Woods.

I feel a movie script coming on.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The End of Truth?

I have been thinking a lot of about truth, credibility and the Internet recently. We are in the midst of an extreme shift in the creation and sharing of knowledge with the advent of the Internet. We are a click away from the most obscure information, and the most popular and the most drab of information.

But what, or better said who, filters this information and deems it credible and reliable?

According to the Cult of Wiki, we do. We become the keepers of our own knowledge, and can edit and correct others at a click. A fine and noble goal. But it is really only those who actively input and edit in Wiki that define the information as truthful. This is a dramatic shift in the gatekeeping of knowledge. Up to this point, we have relied on academic credentials and peer review to ensure our truths and our knowledge are as accurate as possible. Academic articles and books have to pass through an obstacle course of approvals and checks before they reach publication. Now, anyone with access to a computer can publish and be believed.

This can be dangerous. Truth becomes diffused, dispersed amongst an indescribable number of bytes. We can create our own truths and send this out to the billions of Internet citizens for approval at best, or at worst, complete and blind acceptance.

This can also be revolutionary. We have already seen this with Iraqi citizens blogging about realities - citizen journalism at its best. Knowledge freed and shared across the world.

In 20 or 30 years, what will knowledge and truth look like? We may not recognize our antiquated attempts at knowledge gatekeeping.

Or we may long for the day that we had such controls in place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Strange Universal Energies

I had a somewhat weird flight back to Calgary on Monday. The first strange thing was that it left Kitchener-Waterloo international airport for a direct flight to Calgary. K-W has truly hit the big time - and it was chock full of travelling folks too. As we were coasting down the runway, I looked out the window to see a black cat leaping for its life towards a neighbouring farm. Black cat? Hmmm. But off we went.

About a third of the way in to the flight, I looked out the window again. This time I saw another Westjet plane travelling suspiciously close to our own on a parallel course, but definitely getting closer. Now I have travelled a lot, but I had never seen this in mid-flight before. Although it was a bit lower than us, it was CLOSE - it actually went completely below us and then popped out again and went north. I was so concerned, I actually called over the flight attendant, who had a pithy, "The boys up front know what they're doing," for me. At that point, another plane, even closer than the first, zoomed past us in the opposite direction. I became dubious the boys knew what they were doing. I think they may have had it on auto-pilot and were taking a quick nap.

So then I thought I would try and relax with some satellite TV. Started out happily watching and then the screen went blank. No TV. Everyone else had TV. Why not me? Then it blinked back on. The remainder of the flight it continued to blink on and off, and generally annoy me. But this makes some sense. I do have a strange electrical energy. Some of my friends won't let me near their computers because of this strange blinking ability. Might be because our house was hit by lightning when I was young. Might be because I am naturally spiritually gifted.

Might be because the black cat walked across our plane's path.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A-conferencing we will go....

Well, here I am again, at yet another conference. I refer you to my earlier post (April 11/06) where I pontificated on conference basics that everyone leaves with:

1) Feel the love.
2) Be the change.
3) The moment is now.

Seems to hold true yet again. Arun Gandhi spoke to us today about non-violence. A lovely man, grandson to Mahatma, bringing with him a gentle message of hope. Standing ovation all round. But I have to admit I didn't agree with everything he had to say. Hard to disagree with such a cultural icon, but then again, I never said my life would be easy. I was particularly struck by his view that we are not born violent - it is a learnt behaviour. That's why we need all these military schools and army drills. I would disagree. I think we need these schools and drills to learn to kill more effectively and efficiently, in a more organized manner. Our fight or flight reactions are still very close to the surface, and we can lose our veneer of civility very, very quickly. Witness New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When our comfy structures collapse around us, survival mechanisms click in pronto. Survival of the fittest - dog eat dog and cat eat dog too.

So am I still being wooed by conference messages of hope? I would say yes, but perhaps I have brought a more critical analysis to this one than the last.

Seems I'm not ready to start humming Kumbaya quite yet.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Land of Milk and Honey?

Seems our fellow Canadians are catching on that all is not well in the land of oil and money. They are re-thinking moving out to join the craziness that is Boom Alberta. In the 3rd quarter of 2006, 25,000 moved West. In the 4th quarter, that number halved. High housing prices are cited as a major cause, as are improving economic conditions in the rest of Canada. If this a sign of things to come, labour shortages will continue. I got a sense of how bad it is other day when the Harvey's restaurant I wanted to go to was closed due to lack of staff - in the middle of the afternoon!

And although still a youthful province, many Albertans are aging. By 2016, 14% of the population will be seniors, and that number rises to 20% by 2031 (and I'll be one of them - eek!).

Who will be here to do the work? Alberta's immigration policy parrots that the door is wide open. Unfortunately, many immigrants find employment barriers and racism alive and well when they arrive. And funding for diversity and anti-racism initiatives is abysmal. If we are going to entice newcomers here, we have an obligation to ensure they are integrated and accepted into our culture. And we have to take a long hard look at our own attitudes while we're at it.

The Alberta Advantage has come full circle - many now talk about the Alberta disadvantage. High cost of living, too much traffic, overcrowded, under-funded transit, too little parking and a building frenzy all over the place.

Stay tuned, Canada. This could get ugly.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Disappearing Honey Bees

Seems our honey bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. Now, usually, I wouldn't be too worried about this, as I am a well-known avoider of buzzing insects, but this has caught my attention. Honey bees are great pollinators. As much as I dislike them, I have a very healthy respect for them. I really like berries - all kinds of berries - and therefore I know we need honey bees.

So what's happening? Scientists don't know, but they have at least named the problem - Colony Collapse Disorder. Seems the bees are leaving the hives and just disappearing, or the beekeepers are opening up the hives to find thousands of little dead bee bodies. Very sad.

So what's causing it? So far I've heard theories about cell phones, stress, cumulative effects of pesticides and GMO plants. Cell phones disrupt the bee homing signals and they just get horribly, horribly lost. As for stress, bees are actually trucked thousands of miles every year to pollinate our crops. Maybe they have just had it and are having little bee nervous breakdowns. Or, more sinisterly, GMO plants have something evil embedded in their modified DNA and it has had a horrible, and unexpected, effect on the bees.

I have been hearing about this phenomenon in the alternative press for some time, and it has even hit some of the mainstream press. But it has caught the American Senate's attention (http://www.chewswise.com/chews/2007/04/senate_hearing_.html). Take a look at what one beekeeper had to say:

* that a third of all food crops rely on bees for pollination;
* that California almonds - 80 percent of the global crop - require more than 1 million bee hives for pollination.
* that the American honey bee population has dropped 30 percent over the past two decades;
* that domestically produced honey accounts for only 31 percent of all sales, a figure that has been steadily declining.

And you gotta love this beekeeper. One of the Senators asked if cell phones were the cause of the decline. His response? "On the cell phone issue, we took all the phones away from the bees," Brady quipped. Nice.

But this is a harbinger issue, if you ask me. First bees, next berries, then ????

Pity the poor bees, to be sure, but pay attention to this issue too. Oh, and buy honey and almond futures.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What the *#*_&_)*@?

OK. I disappeared for while. Long enough (probably) for many to give up on my very existence.

But fear not. Bast is BACK, baby! I am even leaving clever posts on a Canadian Senator's website: www.albertasenator.ca My own personal and quirky way of trying to be politically relevant in a crazy world.

In my own defence (and as I might be the only one writing - and reading this - it really is my own defence) I have been very busy. And I will be travelling in May, so busy again. I keep thinking that once this month ends, it will be better. So far this year, not so much. Life is just plain busy. So busy, in fact, I have yet to watch some wonderful DVDs I have been given or bought.

I have also had car troubles. Like I bought a new one. That's trouble enough. But then it was immediately involved in a hit and run as it was innocently parked on a residential street. Bastards. So one $500 deductible and pulling in a major favour later (body shops in Calgary are backed up for about two months), I now have a new car again. Like they couldn't have hit the 20-year old Mazda ....

So there you have it. Recent events. More anon. Watch this space.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Can it Really be March?

Not quite sure where the time went, other than that February is a notoriously bad-ass month for me. Don't want to do anything more than hibernate, snuggle with the cat and watch copious amounts of trashy TV.

I am also incredibly busy with work, which is just ducky. Juggling about 5 projects and trying to shed a few more. This seems to be the time of the year when things kick into overdrive for me. Speaking of overdrive, almost bought a new-ish car too. Didn't in the end, and was most pleased with the dealership, as they didn't give me any grief when I backed out and they gave me my deposit back. I brought them donuts, so perhaps that helped a bit. But I highly recommend dealing with Kia City in Calgary. Good people. Always nice to give a bouquet instead of a brick when dealing with car dealerships.

Other than that, am watching some stories with interest. Syphillis is on the rise in Alberta. Dramatically. Not sure what that means other than people are having unprotected sex. Nasty disease, syphillis, and I always think of the 18th and 19th centuries when I hear of it. Not sure why. Seems to go with the clothing. Syphillis = men in tights and long hair in my world.

Will hopefully think of more stories anon. But now, to bed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A New Way to Help

Those of you who know me know that I work in the non-profit sector, for various reasons, none of them designed to make me a wealthy person. But that's best left for another blog.

There are some really neat initiatives out there, and one of the many that intrigues me is microcredit. Microcredit NGOs issue loans to small business people (many are women) who then either start up or expand their existing businesses. This builds the self-sufficiency, and self-esteem, that many other development programs strive for and often fail at. And as women become economically self-sufficient, families thrive and they become less at risk for violent and abusive relationships. The payback rate on the loans is in the neighbourhood of 98-99%. Seems to me to be a pretty good deal all around.

Although I liked the idea, I never really knew how to get involved in this movement. Until, that is, I came across Kiva. Kiva is an online NGO (www. kiva.org) that profiles entrepreneurs in need of a loan on their website. Kiva works directly with NGOs in the countries where the entrepreneurs live. The best part is that if you see a person you would like to support with a loan, you can do so immediately with an online loan through Paypal. With just a click you can help someone half a world away.

Too good not to try. So I completed the $800 loan requested by Pauline Djagbletey, who operates the With God retail store in Dodowa, Ghana ( http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=businesses&action=about&id=3582). She wants to expand her product offerings, and this loan will help her do it. I just received an email saying that her loan has now been disbursed and I will receive regular updates on her progress. And I will most likely get paid back from my loan.

And when I do, I will loan again through this innovative method.

Because this is something we can all do. Maybe it's even something we all should do.

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title

What a fun website! Punch in your name and you get your own title.

Pray, come hither and give due modest encouragement to ....

"Viscountess Bast the Sophisticated of Eschaton End"

Not content at one, I entered another and got:

"Empress Bast the Gnomic of Kesslington under Ox"

And again:

Lady Madame Bast the Sophisticated of Great Leering" (quite like that last bit ...)

Very fru, fru, shi, shi, non? Which one is the true Bast, do you think?

Oh yea, the URL ....www.masquerademaskarts.com/memes/peculiartitle.php

Pray, come hither again and post your own title so that I may snicker and guffaw at you too!