metawidget: [garblegarblescript] Political! Science! for Amusement! [pictures of John A. Macdonald with swirly eyes] (politics)
So, I'm leaning toward throwing my support behind the wonky, bilingual, at least somewhat scrappy decent human being and labour activist who plans to refractor labour law, taxes and benefits in favour of those who need a boost.

I am hoping someone out here wants to geek out on the merits of this.


Dec. 13th, 2015 10:54 am
metawidget: My full geek code.  Too long for DW alt tag, please see profile if interested. (geek)
It's been a while since I posted, and this has been sitting on the notepad for a while…

When I was at work, I listened to a lot of podcasts to damp down noise from the floor while doing not-too-intense work. At home, I find time here and there — while cooking, sometimes while the kids play if the kids are off doing their own thing, while on the bus to grab a car… it's a small luxury to let a chunk of consciousness run around with smart, different folks across Internet audio.

Here is what I manage to listen to regularly:

Spark from CBC Radio: Nora Young has the best radio voice among living radio hosts, in my opinion (Lister Sinclair gets best ever). The podcast is mostly about technology, but in an expansive, humane way that often focused on usability, accessibility and the creative uses people come up with for existing technologies.

Death, Sex, Money from WNYC is a show of long-form interviews touching on the title topics (usually all three of them) with people who have lived through some interesting stuff.

Planet Money from NPR is a show about economics for laypeople — sometimes they do a show on explaining a hyped topic (What is a collateralized debt obligation? What just happened to the Chinese markets?). Sometimes they look at something mundane and explain the minutiae (t-shirt manufacturing, raisins) and sometimes they follow a person's cunning business plan with an eye to what economic mechanisms are in play underneath (a y taxi medallion empire, for instance).

More or Less from BBC Radio 4 is a show of statistical fact-checking: from political claims to memes about toxic levels of banana consumption (hint: absent a health condition that makes you super-sensitive, you will have trouble keeping down enough bananas to kill you via potassium or radiation poisoning). It's funny, chatty and a neat way to think about all steps of the statistical process while finding out what's preoccupying Brits who listen to or make geeky podcasts.

I also listen to and enjoy Savage Love (US politics and relationship advice), Polyamory Weekly (charmingly indie relationships and media watching), Radiolab (lovingly crafted, humane stories touching on science) and Dan Carlin's Hardcore History (passionate lectures on a huge range of history, mostly military and political, with lots of quotes from original sources and psychological guesswork — and a voice and delivery that I like but is hard to be neutral on).

Any suggestions I might like, especially in the 15–30 minute range?
metawidget: Oscar in a bucket, smiling (oscar in bucket)
The rest of August went by quickly, but left some evidence behind. With the help of Oscar and the neighbour kid, I built some garden boxes out front. We still need some dirt and then to transplant a few things in, but the boxes look good.

I've been taking the older two out to bang in campaign signs for our local MP, who we'd like to keep. We've ring doorbells and knocked on doors, learned about politeness, chatted with friendly Hullians, been fed and watered, tried a stair elevator and talked nicely with dubious landlords — along with learning how to watch and march in political marches, I feel we're starting their civics lessons early. Oscar and Vivien also like hammering stuff and tightening zip ties, so it's interdisciplinary learning. In other learning activities, Oscar isn't totally reliable on spotting house numbers yet, but he's keen to try.

Elizabeth and I (and Ada) got out on a date to Les Promenades de Gatineau, where we ate food court food and acquired nice underthings at the newly-opened Simons. Shameless fun in getting things is okay sometimes, I hope :)

We had some fun park time with [ profile] lady_phi and her family, swapped tomatoes and had tea and scones. She also brought some baby stuff for us to rifle through — yay, less-ratty cloth diapers!

Oscar had his last library story time — Dominique looked a little weepy wishing him well in kindergarten. Oscar has been going since before Vivien was born, so she's seen him grow up quite a bit. The fall is going to see a lot of me getting Viv alone to activities. I think she's ready to graduate to star attraction at kid activities!

Tomorrow Oscar hits Kindergarten — just an hour and with Elizabeth hanging out in the background, but whoa, our firstborn just made it to school! We're grappling with the fact of it, and the list of stuff, all labelled, and the un-Waldorfy discipline and pedagogy, and will he learn French and will he decide to play the game by getting along or with all his rogue skills… well, we made it and he made it and school and Oscar will happen to each other starting tomorrow at nine.
metawidget: (hand points up) "this!" (this)
Ada is now over two months old! She has been camping, is starting to stick her hands in her mouth, babbles a bit and still sleeps pretty well.

lots of entry )

I feel pretty content lately and settled into the new normal of three little ones and parental leave. I hope the next few months continue this!
metawidget: Person sitting cross-legged from the rear, in black and white with noise and scratches (body)
I've been on a routine maintenance kick lately — I started with a physical for my pension buyback, got my allergies assessed, blood checked out, shots updated. I probably have one more bunch of paper to pick up, then I'm done outside of flu shots for three years. Aside from that: eat well and be active as usual, but take some B12 to help my red blood cells keep up with the rigours of life — no need to be more exhausted than strictly necessary!

I considered signing up for a vasectomy after our third baby is born — three is a good number for us, I think. The week of not lifting kids or walking unnecessarily during recovery sounds like something better scheduled for when everyone is in school, though. I have my referral; maybe I can call it in in 2020. Meanwhile: maybe someone needs some proven-fertile (and, judging from our kids, smart, energetic and funny) genetic material? I am out of the blood system but maybe qualifying to give sperm is within reach — although an initial web search indicates that Canada doesn't have much of a sperm bank system outside of one operation in Toronto… possibly due to strict laws against the sale of sperm. It seems that all abject terror of markets for sperm has done is atrophy the collection system. I've read about egg donation, and it is kind of terrifying, risky and probably did need measures in place to discourage exploitation of broke people with ovaries. I'm also a bit mystified that there aren't enough potential donors to support a centre in a major-ish urban area. Surely there are many people who are fertile and who wouldn't mind sharing the wealth with people having difficulties or lacking an easier source of sperm. As it is, apparently it is completely legal to buy gametes from the States and abroad: there's something a little off about that.

I don't know that I have any good conclusions, but it is a little odd and frustrating.
metawidget: close-up of freewheel of a bicycle (bicycle)
Some things starting with the letter B, as suggested by [ profile] rottenfruit:

Something I hate: Broken promises: personal, political, whatever — with a particular disdain for broken promises of amends. Hey, Kelowna Accord!

Something I love: Bicycling! I am looking forward to the season being in again (for me, I know there are hardcore year-round bicycle users).

Somewhere I've been: The Biodome, although it's been a while. I hope to bring the kids sometime soon, maybe this year.

Somewhere I'd like to go: Aside from the Biodome, maybe Boston, to soak up some of the great intellectual history and wander about the U.S. equivalent of Montréal (in terms of student concentration).

Someone I know: Beatrice at work. We're not super-close but she's been helpful and kind in career and getting-to-know-people spheres.

A film I like: The Birdcage was fun, probably of its time but when I watched it I liked it and found it had some substance.

A book I like: The Burning House, by Jay Ingram, one of my favourite science-explainer writers. Hemispheres! Awareness! Braiiiins!
metawidget: Oscar around one month, with Pixel. (oscar and pixel)

I've been really enjoying the arrival of spring. Yesterday, I seeded the garden and ripped out a lot of dead branches from the back yard hedge. I'm a little achy from hauling dead stuff out of the back, but it was definitely worth it. We also took a family 11km-or-so walk involving picking up coffee beans and conversation from Bytown Beanery and supper at So Good — the food was great at So Good as usual, but the parenting advice was a little unrelenting. I think we're more or less at the stage when babysitting seems like an option, between Oscar's more varied diet and his improved capacity to have fun. Baby's first babysitter is in the cards!

In the past month or two, there have been a lot of Baby's firsts:

  • Baby's first flight of stairs climbed (the back steps)
  • Baby's first few mouthfuls of dirt (in the back yard)
  • Baby's first visit to a sugarbush (complete with a bit of tasty pancake)
  • Baby's first concert (this week at Umi)
  • Baby's first junior assistant scrutineer shift (actually coming tomorrow)
  • Baby's first street demonstration
  • There was also baby's first poetry reading in the winter — anyone have a black turtleneck and beret that would fit a 20 pound baby? Gifts of baby Gitanes are not encouraged.

There's almost always something Oscar can try at every meal, now, which is exciting. He likes his bready things, and seems unfazed by a little bit of spice or sour. Steamed rice (at So Good) wasn't such a good idea — most of it wound up all down Mama's left side. We gave him baby corn and broad noodles from the leftovers, though, and he liked those.

A month from now, I'll be back at work on a slightly reduced schedule (yay, family-friendly workplace!). I have mixed feelings about it, but I do miss work and the people there, and also the different time-scale that work-focus operates in. I hope we all adapt to the changed routine — we'll both be working for a total of a little over one full-time job's worth of time, so we'll need to be more efficient (or more likely, adjust some expectations) and Oscar will have to get used to more one-parent-at-a-time time.

metawidget: Oscar around one month, with Pixel. (oscar and pixel)
…ESPECIALLY the ones that barfed on me.

The flip-side is when fun, happy woodgie is our fault*, too.

*and I know fun woodgie can result from many different relationship structures!

metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
Fathered a child (well, I guess some salient bits were done in 2009), grew peas, built a hardwood floor, drafted a will, published a statistics paper, took a train in business class, drove a pickup truck.
thirty-seven more )
metawidget: Blue bucket with thirty bottles of beer. (beer)
I tried Samuel Adams Boston Lager® with homemade pizza topped with garden veggies. As is proper for pizza and beer (and to make up for using the word "effervescence" in my last review), I had it from the bottle, and cold.

I can't comment on head, or colour, as it was hidden in a brown bottle. The taste started out malty, a bit sweet, a bit tart, and with a hoppy aroma. Down the bottle, it got a bit more bitter and less aromatic, and stayed malty and somewhat tart. The carbonation wasn't obtrusive at all, but it was there. I liked it; I think it would be a good refreshing beer, and it can certainly hold its own with hot pizza. It seems like the midpoint between the Scotch-Irish Stewart's Session Ale (aromatic, complex and bright) and a Labatt Bleue (in terms of alcohol and punchiness of flavour), but more tart and malty than either. I hear that Sam Adams is popular in universities out west of Toronto; it seems to me they have good taste in beer out there.

Also, now we can all stop worrying about women with face coverings threatening our airports: there's a bigger threat to airport safety out there, channeling equal parts Stockwell Day trying to look cool on a toy vehicle and Helena Guergis being erratic in an airport while driving unannounced across an airstrip. Is there a fixed election date coming soon?
metawidget: Blue bucket with thirty bottles of beer. (beer)
Tonight was Czechvar lager, served quite cool (having been in our fridge all day) in a skinny glass with veggie kielbasa sausages in nice sesame buns.

The beer is golden-coloured, with fine bubbles and a modest head. It is middling-hoppy, aromatic and I could taste gentle notes of grain, which makes for a very nice, unassuming and very beer-like beer — but not so unassuming as to be dull. I found it very similar to Steam Whistle (not surprisingly, given that Steam Whistle is a Czech-inspired beer from Toronto) and equally good. I definitely liked it better than Švyturys.

Alas, after tasting, I found out the brewery was assimilated into the Budweiser borg (bullies!), but the beer doesn't taste like they've had much influence over the recipe.

Also: Tony Clement, this song is for you.
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
Dear Editors,

Tom Flanagan gives readers all the evidence we need to refute him in his pro-prison column.  After pining for the 1950s, he goes on to say that the American penal system, with its higher costs, meaner prisons, harsher sentences and cynically reduced civil liberties, manages to allow a crime rate about the same as ours, adjusted for urban density and maybe those pesky ethnic minorities.  Given this equality of crime rates he's cited, and the cost of a penal-system boondoggle as he's suggesting, the marginal benefit of listening to him, closing prison farms, packing prisoners into warehouse-like prisons rented from the private sector, and giving our spies and security forces more money and powers, then, would be about zero.

Also, when he talks of excellent investment, let's be clear that when all other programs are in austerity mode and Jim Flaherty is still planning (optimistically) on running big deficits for several years to come, that this is not Flanagan's money being invested, it is the money of much younger people and kids yet to be born that will be paying for a prison-spending binge down the road.

Thank you for running a wide variety of perspectives and news, but please encourage Mr. Flanagan to be a good conservative: not simply to pine for an idealized past but also to think more about marginal utility and whose money he's proposing spending before pulling out his battered typewriter again.
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
I've been soaking up the post-prorogation coverage, and I have a few thoughts on the coming days of austerity.

Spending side: So, almost all departments are frozen, with three exceptions: National Defense, who between disaster relief, aging gear and commitments in Afghanistan, probably needs the money; CSIS, which seems to generate regular scandals, fight with the RCMP a lot, won't let us know how dangerous Tommy Douglas was to national security, and probably isn't more special than all the other departments; and the Senate, which was supposed to not be getting any more senators until we had new rules for Senate appointments, but in the Harper era has picked up 31 new members, one elected and five during prorogation. Elite athletes get an extra $34 million to train to distract us all, and I saw full-colour campaign ads Economic Action Plan ads, showing Canada's New Government's commitment to keeping taxpayers from paying for partisan campaigning. I'm feeling the austerity here, for sure — but not nearly as much as some climate scientists in a tiny red shack way up North. I'm sure climate science was accidentally "overlooked", just like Jason Kenney overlooked that LGBTQ people might want to know that they have more rights here than they might in many places people come here from.

Revenue side: Tax cuts for business — not a bad thing in themselves, nor are "no personal tax hikes," except that whichever side of the paycheque you sit on, we're looking at an 8.7% increase in EI premiums. This works out to a fairly small increase — $120 a year split between an employee and employer, but it increases the cost of each position, and looks kind of like a tax increase to me, especially given that the EI coffers have been known to be raided for budgetary balance in the past.

Closer to home, I'm happy that our newish Chief Statistician is telling it like it is: you can't get more labour statistics for less real dollars.
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
Barney Frank paraphrases Godwin's Law with panache.

Barney Frank is my new favourite American politician; I checked his Wikipedia page to make sure he wasn't having an isolated moment of clarity, and I'd be happy to have him as my MP: he seems like a socially progressive civil-liberties hard-liner who has come up with more good one-liners than his most recent one, and who seems able to work with Republicans (when they're not completely insane) on projects that line up with his values. His voice and attitude remind me a little of Jean Chrétien.
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
I'm writing from Toronto, waiting for Elizabeth to catch up with me in the lounge they let us sleeper-class passengers use. I hope her audition for the Folk Festival went well... because now it's basically vacation time!

...aside from the little bit of contract programming for an old client of mine that I picked up and procrastinated on a bit. But I think the really important parts are done, and the files are sent off. I hope any little fixes will feel like recreational programming.

I can't quite believe we're actually doing this Crazy Cross-Country Rail Trip — it came up fast, but it should be fun. We'll have somewhat intermittent Internet once we get beyond Windsor later tonight, but I'll try to record the bits of our journey in blog posts and pictures, and fire them off when we have a signal. We leave Toronto at 10, so we'll grab some good food (I hope) near Union Station.

Good blog post on protectionist sentiment, the economy, gambling ads and appearing concerned:

Also, I'm a bit disappointed in our Liberal senators, who earlier this week seemed ready to strip un-stimulus stuff (bashing public service unions, removing women's right to go to court for pay equity) out of the budget and pass the actual spending stuff, only to be pressured, it seems, by the MPs to hold their noses and pass the whole omnibus shebang. It's back to the last Parliament, where the Cons are evil and the Libs have no backbone — same strategy, too: the Cons do something all-or-nothing with a few reasonable elements (stimulus package, not having another election), the Libs object briefly, the Cons accuse them of obstructing the few nice things in their package, conveniently ignoring the ideological payload, and the Libs fall over themselves trying not to look obstructionist, whether it's sitting out votes or pushing senators to skip the due dilligence. I think it actually kind of tied in with Matthew Skala's article above, it's all about perception and symbols and not much about what a measure actually does.
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
1. What did you do in 2007 that you'd never done before?
... )
39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Get onto the bus!"
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
I've seen good unions and bad unions, and the STM maintenance workers union strikes me as a bad union. They went on an illegal strike a few years back, crippling the metro system, and settled out of court with the city for a piddly $2 off one month's CAM. Now, they're at the plate, asking for an inflation-plus wage deal, while city workers are already one-third ahead of provincial ones and the private sector. Their argument: the city is planning on updating their job descriptions to make better use of the people they have, and give them about 6.1% in raises between now and 2010, and this is not enough — they should be liberally compensated for the city trying to divvy up the work so that it gets done efficiently. Demanding compensation from the city for (gasp) management while the city is cash-strapped and offering them raises anyway sounds like a high demand that should devolve to accepting the city's offer or something like it, not something so desperately needed that the public should be subjected to a strike.

I probably won't be in Montreal when the compensation comes out, if it does (the union isn't contemplating walking out illegally this time), but I futilely hope transit-using Montrealers, particularly ones with weird shifts that won't be reasonably accommodated by the rush-hour-only service, get to tear a strip off the union for their greed and sense of entitlement: get them to pay for the days they wreck, one thirtieth of the price of a CAM for every day they're on strike.
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
This is really cool. If Harper et al. did something like this, I might even be able to overlook unsuccessful attempts to meddle in our private lives (offer does not apply to successful attempts).

So is this, on a smaller scale. I'm not sure I can say much about government policy related to bananas, though.

Come see this, it'll be good:
Elizabeth Bruce and Allison Lickley, The Yellow Door (3625 Aylmer), March 9th, 8 PM. $8, or $5 for students. )
metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
I knew already that this was going to be an insane week, but it got insaner earlier today.

I blame a certain pack of antidemocratic scoundrels, and also Hydro-Québec.


metawidget: A platypus looking pensive. (Default)
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