6.30.2018

from the archives: for millions of american women, roe is already history

With the resignation of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, it is very likely that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, will be overturned. I'm getting frustrated by the spate of stories about how abortion will now be illegal -- with no mention of how Roe has become meaningless for so many women.

I wrote this (below) on Common Dreams in 2005. I was off on the chronology -- it took longer to get to this point than I thought it would -- and the lack of access has undoubtedly gotten worse since then. This piece in The Guardian will bring you up to date.

* * * * *

January 23, 2005

For Millions of American Women, Roe Is Already History
By Laura Kaminker

Thirty-two years ago yesterday, American women gained greater control over their bodies - and therefore, over their lives - when Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, became the law of the land.

The choice community celebrates the Roe anniversary as a kind of emancipation day, but it is unlikely we will see too many more of those celebrations. Roe will almost certainly be reversed soon. Abortion will be legal in some states and not others. State laws will vary widely in the circumstances under which a pregnancy may be terminated - as is now the case, only more so.

However, those of us involved in abortion access know that for millions of American women, Roe is already irrelevant.

Money. For a few years after the Roe decision, Medicaid paid for abortions; anyone could get an abortion regardless of her age or ability to pay. Only four years later, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which banned payment for abortions unless the woman's life was endangered. (In 1993, after much struggle, those exceptions were broadened to include cases of rape and incest.)

In most states, Medicaid rarely covers abortion. Yet the cost of a first-trimester abortion can be more than a family on public assistance receives in a month. In our Walmart economy, many working women can't afford a procedure.

Low-income women and girls delay termination as they try to scrape together the money they need. These delays often force them to have second-trimester procedures, which are more complicated medically, more risky - and much more expensive. It is not uncommon for women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term because they cannot afford a simple medical procedure.

Laws. Then there are the legal obstacles. With the Webster (1989) and Casey (1992) decisions, the Supreme Court upheld states' rights to restrict access to abortion in myriad ways. Women must jump through hoops and over hurdles before they can terminate a pregnancy. These laws run the gamut of idiocy, from 48-hour waiting periods, to parental consent and notification for minors, to mandatory "counseling," which often involves coercion.

These laws assume women are incompetent, irresponsible, and unable to make their own decisions. They also expose the anti-choice "abortion is murder" argument for the smokescreen that it is. If abortion was murder, these types of laws would be anathema to the anti-choice crowd: what good is delaying murder? However, if one's goal is to control women and punish them for having sex and getting pregnant, then these laws make perfect sense.

And then there's availability. In addition to the financial and legal barriers, there is one last, often insurmountable obstacle: availability.

Because of anti-choice terrorism and political action, thousands of doctors have stopped providing abortions and thousands of towns have stopped leasing space to abortion providers. Right now, nearly 80% of American women live in a county with no abortion provider. Obtaining an abortion often means traveling long distances, which in turn means finding child care and transportation, and even more funds. Imagine if the state also has a mandatory waiting period, so the entire trip has to be made twice. A baby should not be born because a woman could not afford the price of a bus ticket or had no one to watch her children.

When Roe is overturned, I will mourn. But in a very real sense, Roe is already history and has been for a long time. Without access, legal abortion is meaningless.

what i'm reading: running the books: the adventures of an accidental prison librarian

I read this book many months ago. I'm still catching up from my involuntary blogging hiatus.

Last year I read and wrote about The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison. I found it extremely disappointing; if you read the review, you will catch my understatement.

Avi Steinberg's Running the Books starts out disappointing, but once it kicks in, is a wonderfully satisfying and beautifully written book. When we meet Steinberg, he is somewhat adrift, having abandoned his religious studies at Yeshiva University, escaping to Harvard, but graduating with no discernible direction or passion to find one. The writing is snarky and self-deprecating; the tone is pure staccato. I thought Running the Books might be one of those "guy reads" that I find shallow and irritating.

But when Steinberg accepts a position as a prison librarian -- with no experience in either prisons or libraries -- the writing slows down, and it blossoms. Perhaps the early tone was meant to reflect Steinberg's state of mind at the time, because one thing becomes very clear: this man can write.

Steinberg introduces the reader to the prisoners -- both men and women -- who frequent his library, with a keen eye for detail, a wry humour, and a voice suffused with compassion.

The library is a prison hang-out, a somewhat less supervised space where inmates can interact a bit more freely. In this way, Steinberg is witness to interactions an outsider normally would never see. Steinberg also runs a writing class, where inmates reveal bits of their lives and emotions.

The library also functions as an underground post office: prisoners leave each other messages -- known as "kites" -- in books. Many of these messages are romantic in nature, as the male and female inmates live in separate areas, and their paths rarely cross. Steinberg is supposed to destroy these notes, but he cannot bring himself to be so punitive about communication. He copies the messages into a notebook, and they form a sad, lonely core at the heart of this book.

I really liked Steinberg's writing, but I liked his point of view even more. He writes about the inmates with open eyes, not trying to romanticize or sugar-coat their crimes, but also with an open heart, one that recognizes the social complexities that may bring one person to prison and the other to rehab, with completely different outcomes. He is clearly changed by his experience, but he leaves it up to the reader to judge both how he changed, and how much.

Reading Steinberg's book revived my interest in volunteering at a prison library. One future day, when I am no longer a local union president, I hope to see that through.

A reader at this earlier post suggested The Prison Book Club by Canadian writer Ann Walmsley. A review of that book and the controversy that followed is here. I have it on my list.

6.24.2018

rip philip roth

I was literally reading this article in The New York Times about Philip Roth when I heard he had died. It's a wonderful story: an 85-year-old celebrated author who has come to the end of his career with no regrets, is grateful to wake up every morning, and is now bingeing on nonfiction to learn more and more about the world. I was so happy for him, experiencing an old age we all deserve, but so many never find.

I've read many of Philip Roth's novels, and have many more still to go. He can be a challenging read, sometimes deceptively simple, sometimes confounding, almost always thought-provoking and worthwhile. If you haven't read The Plot Against America, I recommend it highly.

To me Roth is best remembered as the author who taught me about the bright line between fiction and autobiography, and that readers would do well to stop conflating the two (although they never will). Critics and readers were obsessed with this question, and seemingly could not see Roth's novels through any other lens. The Guardian quotes him:
I write fiction, and I’m told it’s autobiography. I write autobiography and I’m told it’s fiction, so since I’m so dim and they’re so smart, let them decide.
Roth grew so tired of responding to questions and accusations about which bits of his work were autobiographical and which were fiction, that he declared a moratorium on the subject. He wrote more than one novel that purposely obfuscated the distinction in weird twists worth of M.C. Escher. The narrator of Operation Shylock, for example, is a character named Philip Roth, who is being impersonated by another character, who stole Roth’s identity.

I haven't read any of Roth's work for a long time, and his death reminds me to keep his last body of work on my list: Everyman (2006), Exit Ghost (2007), Indignation (2008), The Humbling (2009), and Nemesis (2010).

Philip Roth obituaries: The New York Times and The Guardian.

still catching up

venn diagram courtesy of Lucidchart

I just wanted to create a Venn diagram.

6.23.2018

welcome to the allan and laura new york city history reading club

The theme of this year's TD Summer Reading Club -- a national program (developed by Toronto Public Library) that more than 2,000 Canadian libraries participate in -- is Feed Your Passions, or as some are calling it, geeking out. Allan and I are going to join the fun with our own tremendously geeky reading, although it will take us considerably more than one summer.

For eons, we have had on our bookshelf Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, a massive 1,424 pages in very small print.


I've always wanted to read it, but it's a bit intimidating! And it's not like you can throw it in your backpack to read on the bus.

Then for my birthday this year, included among Allan's gifts and cards and general Celebration of Laura, was Wallace's follow-up: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919.


This volume -- all 1200 pages of it -- has got to be fascinating, but we can't read the second book without reading the first! And, geez, that's a lot to read!

I suggested a solution, following in the footsteps of Phil Gyford, to whom literature and history geeks the world over are indebted. Phil is the genius who put The Diary of Samuel Pepys online, one daily post at a time. (I read the entire thing, usually in weekly installments. It took 10 years.)

To tackle this Big Read, Allan and I are going to read one chapter each week -- with the understanding that sometimes we may have to take a week off. We'll still also read whatever else we're reading. That's the plan at least. Starting... now!

Bonus points if you know without Google why the year 1898 is an important marker in New York City history.

6.21.2018

congratulations to the people of ireland! #repealedthe8th

While this blog was offline, an amazing and incredibly important thing happened: the people of the Republic of Ireland affirmed the human right to control our own bodies.

In a referendum to "Repeal the 8th" -- so-called for the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which gave equal legal status to women and embryos or fetuses -- the overwhelming majority of Irish people voted yes to repeal the total ban on abortion.

For me, the way this happened was almost as important as the result: it was a true grassroots organizing campaign. Person to person, street by street, town by town, Irish people talked and discussed and declaimed and debated. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of repeal: 66.4% voted to repeal. With this, Ireland has at last "stepped into the light".


One of the most touching details of the #RepealThe8th campaign was #HomeToVote, which saw Irish citizens living all over the world traveling to Ireland to cast their vote to repeal. Reading #HomeToVote posts on Twitter had me weeping with pride and joy.

Can I tell you how proud I am to know someone who was part of this historic moment? I lived some of the excitement and tension vicariously through my friend and former Haven conspirator.

The good folks at Abortion Support Network caution that it will be a while before abortion services are actually available in Ireland. Laws must be written and enacted, services must be set up. Travel to England will still be necessary, so donations and assistance for the journey are still very much called for.

The other caveat: Northern Ireland. Although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, abortion services have been banned there throughout, and repealing the 8th Amendment didn't change that. But it's coming. It's definitely coming. Freedom to Northern Ireland: you're next.

Ni saoirse go saoirse na mban: there is no freedom until the freedom of women.

how to get your website removed from the wayback machine

During my recent attack by wingnut trolls, I learned something new: how to request that the Internet Archive remove your site from the Wayback Machine.

* * * *

Before I was nominated as an NDP candidate in the recent provincial election, of course my online presence had to be vetted. All potential candidates were asked to deactivate their personal profiles from social media, and in addition I was asked to delete a few random tweets from several years ago. None of this was a big deal to me. The only big deal was wmtc.

Early on, I was asked if I'd consider taking down the site. My first reaction was completely negative. Wmtc is so much a part of my life. Take it down? No way!

It was only weeks before the election would be called -- and I've been blogging for 14 years. That's a lot of words! There was really no way to vet everything. While the NDP was considering the situation from their end, I was also thinking more about being a candidate, and increasingly feeling like it was something I wanted to do. The next time we spoke, I said I was amenable to taking the blog offline for the duration of the campaign. They were happy; I was happy; things proceeded.

This is where someone made a mistake. The NDP research team should have given me instructions for getting wmtc excluded from the Wayback Machine -- but they did not.

The troll that emailed wmtc links to the Toronto Sun columnist might have done it anyway -- that person may have been saving those links for a long time, or may have found them on a message board -- but the columnist would have had no way to verify it.

But that isn't what happened. Only after the columnist got in touch with me, a research person gave me these instructions:

1. Use the email account associated with your blog.

2. Email info@archive.org, identify yourself as the site owner, and request removal of the site from the archives.

Then, supposedly, you will quickly receive an acknowledgement of your email, and in 2-3 days, your site will be excluded from the Wayback Machine.

I sent the email.

I received no reply.

A week went by -- a very stressful and difficult week -- and still I heard nothing. Meanwhile, the trolls and the columnist had dredged up more material to take out of context, selectively quote, and use against the NDP.

The Party's research department got in touch again -- the sight of her number on Caller ID made my stomach turn over -- and we agreed that I'd email them again.

Eight days after my first email, I received this form letter.
Hello,

The Internet Archive can exclude web pages from the Wayback Machine (web.archive.org), but we first respectfully request that you help us verify that you are the site owner or content author by doing any one of the following:

- post your request on the current version of the site (and send us a link).

- send your request from the main email contact listed on the site.

- send a request from the registrant's email (if publicly viewable on WhoIs Lookup) or webmaster’s email listed on the site.

- point us to where your personal information (name, personal contact info, image of self) appears on the site in a way that identifies you as the site owner or author of the content you wish to have excluded - in this instance, we ask to verify your identity via a scan of a valid photo id (sensitive info such as birth date, address, or phone can be blacked out).

- forward to us communication from a hosting company or registrar addressed to you as owner of the domain.

If none of these options are available to you, please let us know in a reply to this email.

We would be grateful if you would help us preserve as much of the archive as possible. Therefore, please let us know if there are only specific URLs or directories about which you are concerned so that we may leave the rest of the archives available.

As you may know, Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library, seeking to maintain via the Wayback Machine a freely accessible historical record of the Internet. The material in the archives are not exploited by Internet Archive for commercial profit.
This was very discouraging. I had waited more than a week, and still I was only at the form-letter stage! I already was emailing from the account associated with the site! Most of the other methods of verification were not available to me. I was a bit panicked and not thinking entirely clearly.

But finally, I logged into the DNS company that hosts my URL, and took a screenshot of the account profile page. I also scanned my driver's license, and sent both DNS screenshot and license pic to the archives' email address.

Three days later, I received the same form-letter reply to my second request.

Two days after that, I received this notice.
Hello,

The sites/URLs referenced in your email below have now been submitted for exclusion from the Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org.

Please allow up to a day for the automated portions of the process to run their course and for the changes to take effect. If you have any other questions or concerns, please let us know.
By this time, of course, it was way too late.

6.17.2018

vancouver island day eight: nanaimo, qualicum beach, parksville

Our final full day on the island, we did a little of everything. We drove through different areas of Nanaimo, went into more bookstores, went food shopping to make a simple dinner at the house, and drove a little further north to the towns of Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Parksville has a beautiful library ("has a beautiful library" drinking game?). In a bakery there, I made a random compliment about the very nice place and the nice town, and the person behind the counter raved about living there. Parksville and Qualicum Beach both have beaches, with waterfront motels and condos. I would have thought these towns were too upscale to have affordable rentals, but I saw several places online.

We've been talking a lot about, if I was a librarian in one of these towns, where Allan might work, and where we could live, and I've been looking at rental sites and job openings. It seems that while we were out here, Vancouver Island has moved from idea to intention.

We drove to the ferry, to see where it was, and how much time we would need the following morning. On the way back, M spotted a bald eagle; we got out to watch and take pics. Such a thrill to see those magnificent birds. Also we didn't wake up at in the middle of the night to do it. (Same people, two years earlier.)

* * * *

Tomorrow we take the ferry, a bus, and the SkyTrain to the Vancouver airport. M&M will head back to Victoria, see Butchart Gardens, stay one more night, then take a different ferry, and go to Olympic National Park. We've all had an amazing time together!

Sometime not that long ago, I wrote about how, when you're young, you don't know -- and can't imagine -- the shape your life will take. This trip is the perfect example.

First, when we lived in NYC, I never would have taken a vacation with another couple. We never had enough time off. Time out of the City was super-valuable, and we wouldn't have spent it with anyone else. Now we actually have enough time off -- paid time off -- that we can do this and still have a family vacation with a dog later in the year. This isn't accidental -- more time and money to travel was a factor in my career change -- but still, I didn't see it coming.

Second, my relationship with my brother has changed radically (although I think gradually, over time). (He's reading this... but he knows it's true.) This is awesome and amazing, and not something I could have predicted. An earlier version of me and him would not have done this, and certainly not done it so well.

Third, when we first moved to Canada, we didn't consider the west coast, as my mother lived in New Jersey. Now my mother lives in Oregon! Talk about not being able to predict your life! Even two years ago, on our first trip to Vancouver and Oregon, we weren't dreaming of moving west.

* * * *

Our photos from this trip are here. I haven't broken them up into smaller sets, as the number of photos seems more manageable than usual.

PS: Insect warning on page two of above Flickr set. Stop at parrots.

PPS: I was concerned that the trip from Nanaimo to the Vancouver airport would be grueling. It was super easy. It sounds like a big deal -- boat, bus, train -- but it's actually quite humane, even with luggage.

6.16.2018

vancouver island day seven: chemainus, ladysmith, nanaimo

Poor Allan, the only non-morning person in our little group, being faced with three high-octane coffee drinkers every morning! In Chemainus I let him sleep in a bit as we had breakfast in the hotel.

I've been emailing frequently with both the NDP search committee and the riding association, as the nomination meeting is being set -- and also discussing with Allan and M&M when to tell members and management.

After breakfast we drove around Chemainus for a bit. We saw a lot of beautiful homes with view of both water and mountains; saw a funny gingerbread house with crazy topiary; and saw one small library in a poor location. This was the only disappointing library on the whole trip -- although it was closed (Sunday), so perhaps during the week it's more vibrant? But the location was terrible, a well-kept secret.

A bit further on, we visted the town of Ladysmith, whose claim to fame is that the 49th parallel runs through the town. There's a monument and some history markers, but more importantly, there's a beautiful library, a playground and park right on the water, and several buildings that appear to be rentals. Ladysmith is a definite possibility.

After Ladysmith we reached Nanaimo. I can’t decide if Nanaimo feels like a small city or a giant sprawl. We found the central library, the Harbourfront Branch, but it opened late (Sunday), so we had brunch at a nearby place in the little downtown. The library was beautiful and in a great central location. There was a beautiful quote from Dr. Seuss on a wall near the entrance.

I spoke to staff here. Everyone seems so genuinely happy. In the Greater Victoria Public Library, the staff is all CUPE. In the Vancouver Island Regional system, the front-line staff is CUPE, but the librarians belong to a separate union, which is province-wide, and represents a hugely diverse group of workers, with 550 collective agreements! That is some serious bargaining power.

We immediately saw that there are many rental possibilities in Nanaimo, but I'm not sure if it's a place we'd want to live. Maybe a place to work, and live near?

With some difficulty, we found the AirBnb, a sweet ground-floor apartment in private home. After a rest, we drove into the old city quarter for dinner, an amazing authentic Greek restaurant. Have I mentioned that people are insanely friendly here?

6.15.2018

vancouver island day six: mill bay, duncan, chemainus

After breakfast, we packed up and said a reluctant goodbye to this cozy spot -- mostly the deck with the view -- and headed north on the Trans-Canada Highway, towards Nanaimo. Allan and I drove on the Trans-Canada Highway in Newfoundland, so we've been on the easternmost and westernmost points. To a lover of road-trips, that sounds like a challenge...

On the way north, we stopped at a scenic lookout with a totem and some interesting information about it. In the town of Mill Bay, we popped into small library branch tucked away in a shopping plaza. It's about the size of one of our small branches in Mississauga; the Vancouver Island Regional Library considers it a medium branch, meaning six permanent staff. (There are some very tiny branches on the north island.) I was very taken with this lovely library in Mill Bay. I can totally see myself working there.

Further down the road, we found the town of Duncan. It was Saturday, a busy market day. We hunted down a vegetarian restaurant Allan found in the guidebook, which turned out to be housed in a converted garage, along with a bookstore and some other shops. There was a huge lineup to order organic, vegetarian food -- and it was worth it.

Duncan is a totem city: there are 80 totems scattered throughout the little downtown, often in groups of three, with information about the carvers and the totem's meaning. Painted yellow footprints lead you on a self-guided walking tour of them all. This was a nice way to see more of the town.

There was also an outdoor market with all home/handmade local goods -- wine, honey, mushrooms, woodworking, weaving, jewelry, and so on, and a historic train station that's been converted into a regional historical museum.

Slightly outside of the old, walkable part of town, you're back on the Trans-Canada, with all the big-box stores you could need. We stopped in to see the world's biggest hockey stick (currently with a memorial for the hockey team that died in the bus crash). I thought that might have been our first "Canada's World Largest..." site, but we've stopped at the big apple in Colborne several times, on our way to Vermont -- not for the apple, but to pick up a pie to bring to relatives. I believe in September we'll see the Sudbury Nickel. (By the way, I have no real interest in purposely trying to see any of these things. More UNESCO world heritage sites, please.)

The hockey stick, however, is attached to the Cowichan Valley Community Centre, which is beautiful, and includes a library.

I am kind of in love with Duncan. I recently learned that a friend's mother lived there for many years. Upon hearing we were there, my friend practically swooned: "Oh, Duncan! I love Duncan..."

A bit further down the road, we found the town of Chemainus, where we are staying. This road-trip has our full range of accommodations: cutesy B&B, cozy lakeside cottage, AirBnb house, and chain hotel. In Chemainus we headed straight to the Best Western Plus. At the entrance, there was a water bowl for dogs, dog treats, and pick-up bags! Swoon!

Our $140/night rooms turned out to be suites. The rooms were across the hall from each other, each with sitting areas and full kitchens. We found this absolutely hilarious and wonderful.

Although this area is (supposedly) known for restaurants, wineries, and cheesemaking, we didn't find many good choices for dinner. (This is not the first time I've written that in this short travel diary.) We went to a brewpub with lots of local beers and a few local wines. I think everyone in Chemainus was there.

After dinner -- you guessed it -- we drank wine and talked in M&M's suite, mostly figuring out what to do next. I looked up librarian salaries in collective agreements.

6.14.2018

vancouver island day five: sooke

Breakfast at the Arbutus Guesthouse was a bit strange, but the lakeside view more than compensated. We went for a walk on a spit with great views of an inlet and snow-capped mountains in the distance. People were out with their dogs, lovely big dogs and some crazy puppies.

We drove around the main street area, and went into some shops. First, an antique store owned by an extremely long-winded man, who asked, "Where are you folks from?" then told his life story. I quickly ducked out, and made for a jewelry store with work only by local artists, and a gallery in the back for local painters and photographers. I was drooling over the jewelry, and managed to escape with only two pairs of earrings. (I had also bought some very inexpensive bead bracelets at a thrift shop in Sidney.)

Between the antiques and the jewelry was a gift shop with all kinds of lovely local work. We bought this: a Canadian flag motif with a dog paw instead of a maple leaf. We chatted with the owner, who -- like everyone else we've spoken to here -- loves life on the island. He said he used to be a world traveler, loved to go everywhere, but since moving to VI, he hasn't been "off island" in seven years.

It was April 20 -- marijuana day -- and the local dispensary had balloons and signs out front.

We had lunch at the 17 Mile Pub, a local landmark. We had stopped in the previous night, but they were very busy and couldn't do a takeout order, and we had wanted to stay in. But while we were waiting, we had a good look at the decor -- all anti-Maple Leaf (the hockey team) stuff, ragging on the team and its fans. An excellent, friendly pub... unless you're a Maple Leafs fan.

After lunch we drove around Langford and Colwood, which can only be described as burgeoning suburbs. Sprawl is on the way. Townhouses and condos are under construction everywhere, and we saw a Walmart and Canadian Tire, the first we've seen on the island. Where is everyone coming from? Mississauga's growth is from thousands of newcomers -- our great strength -- but I don't think immigrants are flocking to Vancouver Island. Who is buying these townhouses?

We also drove around some older areas with old single-family homes. At least half of them had an RV in the driveway.

We tried to scout out a place for dinner, but didn't like any of the choices, so went to a local grocery store and an SDM and got a ton of junk food. And more wine. Another fun evening.

Sooke is beautiful, but feels really remote and rural. It seems too far away from Victoria for a sane commute, plus it will soon be on the edge of sprawl.

Today I learned that I that my nomination meeting is scheduled for May 6. The writ drops May 9.

6.13.2018

happy birthday to me

We interrupt this retroactive travel diary to wish me a happy birthday.

I have been alive on this planet for 57 years. I am now, as they say, "pushing 60". Not sure how that happened, but I'm feeling pretty lucky to be here, alive and kicking.

My life is full of love, meaning, and challenge. I'm not struggling financially and am up for new adventures. In my book, this means I have it all.

vancouver island day four: downtown victoria and to sooke

After our last lovely hot breakfast at the Beacon Inn, we hit the road to downtown Victoria. It was much closer than we imagined! It's amazing how quickly you are out in the country or small towns here -- very little sprawl.

Completely by accident, we ended up parking right near the Victoria Central Branch. It is beautiful -- huge, airy, and seems progressive. I spoke to some desk staff, as I did in Saanich. We chatted with a customer in the children's area, a young dad who described himself as a "connoisseur of libraries," who visits all the branches with his son. Dare I say, staff and customers seem happy.

Allan brought a list of used bookstores on this trip, with the intentions of finding them all. Sidney was great for used books; it actively promotes its "booktown". But little did we know what was in store for us in Victoria: Russell Books.

What can I say about Russell Books. Allan says it's the eighth wonder of the world: "Pyramids at Giza, Machu Picchu, Russell Books". It was without a doubt the most astounding used bookstore I have ever seen, and that includes New York City's The Strand.

We walked around a bit, saw the the Parliament buildings (Victoria is the provincial capital of BC), and the famously beautiful harbor area, full of flowers. On a tip from a library worker at the Central Branch, we hunted down the brand-new James Bay branch. It opened recently, built in mixed used condo-retail space. I'm guessing developers built this library in exchange for some kind of easement. It is tiny, both in space and in collection. The official name of the branch is sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəx James Bay, using the Lekwungen name for James Bay. This is a great idea, until you see the tiny space and completely gentrified area.

On a tip from a friend, we had lunch at the amazing Redfish Bluefish. If you go to Victoria, this place is not to be missed. The kitchen is housed in a converted shipping container, with seating and counters on a wharf, right in the downtown harbor area. They serve some of the freshest, most delicious seafood you have ever eaten. Check out the menu, as well as their story and commitment to sustainability. We arrived early and as we were eating, a huge queue was forming.

We didn't spend a lot of time downtown, but it was great to see the Central Branch of the library. Our next stop was Abkhazi Gardens, our concession for not visiting Buchart Gardens. We had "elevenses" tea on the patio, and a stroll through the gardens.

After that, we hit the road for Sooke, to the west of downtown. We also hit quite a bit of traffic, and could see this is a congested commuter path. Once past the traffic, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere -- heavily forested, narrow roads, lakefront cabins. But you can also see the early signs of creeping development.

We had booked two rooms at the Arbutus Cove Guesthouse -- two bedrooms, a kitchen and a large common area, and a deck overlooking the lake. We were absolutely in love with it.

We hopped down to a liquor store for local wines, beers, and snacks, then spent the evening on the deck until it was too cold... then... yes, stayed up late talking and drinking wine. Lovely.

6.12.2018

a note about vancouver island

Vancouver Island has several regions, but the first division is between the south island and east coast, as distinct from the north island and west coast.

The south island is home to the Greater Victoria region, Nanaimo (the second largest city on the island), and many smaller towns and population centres. The gulf islands are also off the east coast, in the Strait of Georgia, between the island and mainland British Columbia.

The north island is almost all uninhabited -- there are tiny villages, some aboriginal territory, and much preserved wilderness area. The west coast, with the exception of a few surfing resorts, is made up of Pacific Rim National Park, beaches, and rugged, uninhabitated coastline.

I was disappointed that on this trip we wouldn't see any of the north island or west coast. But we had one week, and the trip had a purpose. We resolved (at least I did!) that if we move out there, after we get settled, our first vacation will be north and west, and hopefully with M&M, too.

vancouver island day three: sidney and saanich peninsula

The B&B had self-serve coffee starting earlier than breakfast, but for guests whose internal clocks are on eastern time, it was a long and painful wait! I watched the clock until I could get that first cup.

We had our first breakfast together -- another amazing breakfast -- and talked about our plans. We decided to skip the most famous attraction in the Victoria area, Butchart Gardens. (Excuse me, that's The Butchart Gardens.) It's very expensive, and Allan and I don't really care about gardens. Even gardens people have told us would knock us out, didn't do anything for me. Especially as it will cost more than $60 for two, and when the main purpose of the trip was to look at potential places to live.

M&M are very accomplished gardeners -- actually Master Gardeners, which I didn't know was a thing -- and they definitely wanted to go, but they would have one day after we left, before they leave for Olympic National Park. So that worked out very nicely.

We drove around Sidney, and mostly saw huge homes with views of the harbor. On the cab ride from the airport, we saw nice neighbourhoods of single-family homes and some townhouses, but we never found an area of Sidney proper where we might live.

We drove into Saanich, which was much closer than I thought. In this area, we saw lots of buildings with "no vacancy" signs -- which means there are rentals. The area was very suburban, but looked much more appealing than where we live now -- more green, less concrete, fewer strip malls.

We visited the other big area attraction (although nowhere near as famous as those gardens), a butterfly garden. It was actually a tropical ecosystem with parrots, iguanas, flamingos, and tortoises. It was beautiful and fun; Allan took a ton of pictures.

After leaving the butterfly garden, we stumbled on a sweet little cafe-bakery where we had lunch: Rustik Bistro. This was the kind of place that immediately endears a town to me forever. It's someone's independent shop, not a chain store. It's spacious inside, with mismatched chairs, reading material, and a funky infographic on the wall. The bakery sells bread and pastries baked right behind the counter. They have an interesting breakfast and lunch menu, and it's not overly expensive.

It's the absence of these kinds of places that make Mississauga depressing. That might sound strange; you don't choose a place to live because of a cafe. But it's not the bakery itself: it's being in a place that supports this kind of shop, and many more like it. On the west coast, I've always found more of this. There are still chains -- you can find Tims and Starbucks -- but those are just options. They don't dominate the landscape.

At Rustik Bistro, I had a beautiful, perfect salad for lunch. You have no idea how happy a perfect salad with lots of stuff in it makes me. We were sharing desserts, and Allan was disappointed that the old-fashioned, plain donuts he had seen behind the counter were gone. Then the host came out with a plate of them, fresh from the fryer, and put them on our table as a treat. Amazing.

Driving around after lunch, we happened on the Nellie McClung branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library -- a lovely, small branch full of natural light. There are rental buildings nearby, what appears to be an abundance of public transit, and it's not very far from downtown Victoria... where perhaps Allan could work. (For non-Canadians reading, Nellie McClung is Canada's Susan B. Anthony. I never believe in signs and omens... until I do.)

So this area was suburban, but it gave me a much better feel than the ugly sprawl of the GTA.

For the last few days, I had been waiting to hear from the Ontario NDP if I had been approved to seek the nomination. Back in our rooms, relaxing, I finally heard that I was cleared: it's a go. Exciting!

Later on we thought we'd spend for time on the main drag in Sidney, but everything was closed. It was only 6:00! OK, things close early here. Instead we walked on that waterfront trail. It reminded us of Port Credit, where we first lived after moving to Canada. We stopped for drinks, which turned into a tapas dinner.

My notes say: "We are having a great time with M&M. My brother has become obsessed with a free half-pound of smoked salmon that someone is supposed to give us for being guests at the hotel."

Then -- wait for it -- we stayed up late talking and drinking wine.

6.11.2018

vancouver island days one and two: arrival and sidney

Getting from Toronto to Vancouver Island is a long haul. Getting from pretty much anywhere to Vancouver Island -- except a few places on the west coast -- is a long haul! We had booked a bus/ferry combination from the Vancouver airport to the island, but even that was a complicated process involving switching buses, then a cab ride from the ferry terminal to our B&B.

On the ferry, the captain announced a pod of whales off to one side, but we weren't fast enough to see them. I know many of you have seen enough whales to last a lifetime, but I have only caught a few glimpses, and would be thrilled to get a good view.

The Beacon Inn at Sidney turned out to be as adorable as advertised, a "replica" old home, so you get the charm plus modern conveniences. We took a short walk on the main drag, picked up some snacks, and quickly crashed.

The following morning, we had an amazing hot, fresh breakfast, then our plan was to poke around the town a bit. Our travel companions -- my brother and sister-in-law, who now live in Oregon -- were due to arrive that night.

The B&B is a short walk from the water, where we picked up a walking trail that hugs the shore for several kilometres -- it's flat, paved, accessible, and studded with public art. So I'm immediately in love with this town. There's an adorable little main street, known for its plethora of bookstores; many stores have bowls of water outside for dogs. Everyone is insanely friendly. As I used to joke about Seattle, pathologically friendly. Also, everyone is white. Coming from one of the most diverse areas on the planet, that is quite strange.

M&M arrived in the evening, and we stayed up late talking and drinking wine. And we stayed up late talking and drinking wine -- I should save that to copy/paste into every entry.

Since I don't have that much to report for these first two days, this is a good time to (attempt to) answer the question, Why are we thinking of moving to Vancouver Island?

When we first moved to Canada, most of our family was living in the northeast United States. Since that time, much has changed, and we now have family in southern Oregon and the Bay Area of California. We do still have family in the east, but -- as much as I would like to see them more often -- we don't.

Mississauga is a nice place to live in many respects. I've made peace with living in the suburbs, and we've settled into a very suburban lifestyle. But what are we doing here? We came to the suburbs to rent a house and have a backyard -- which we did for 10 years -- but now we live in an apartment in a concrete block building. It's ugly, it's overpriced, it's not where I want to spend the rest of my life.

One of the reasons I chose a library degree for my new career was its portability. There are public libraries everywhere, and my degree and experience will be valid at any of them. I've long had a dream of living in the country or in a small town, and I thought the Master of Information might bring me that.

To move west, Vancouver (the city) might be a possibility. The law firm where Allan works his day-job has an office there, and it's much more accessible for west coast travel. But Vancouver is even more expensive than the GTA, and the rental market is horrendous there. We would end up in the suburbs with a long commute.

I've heard wonderful things about Vancouver Island, and the more I heard, the more intrigued I was. The idea started to coalesce in my mind... and I asked M&M if they wanted to go explore it with us!

retroactive travel blog: vancouver island april 16-24

In April, we spent a week on Vancouver Island -- an exploratory trip with an eye towards a possible (probable? definite?) move there. I had already been contacted by the Ontario NDP search committee, and as part of the vetting process, had taken my blog offline by making it "by invitation only". This meant that I couldn't blog while traveling. I hated this!

I have a travel journal from every trip I've taken since 1982. I started putting these journals online with our trip to Peru in 2006.* So on our Vancouver Island trip, I went old-school and wrote for myself, with the intention of putting it online eventually.

Now that the trip is almost two months behind us, it seems silly to post these entries. I could do a general wrap-up in a few paragraphs. But... I can't. I really want to include the trip on wmtc. Allan always reminds me that I can do whatever I want with my blog. So that's what I'm doing!

I'll post one VI day at a time, just as I would have done in real time.

* This category includes anything about Peru. Our trip is tagged with travels plus Peru.

6.10.2018

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2017-18 edition

The list of movies I want to see gets longer and longer, as I watch more series and fewer films. Even so, the 2017-18 list is impressive.

First, the annual recap:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13)
- cheese (I'm getting desperate!) (2013-14)
- types of travels (2014-15)
famous people who died plus famous people who died, part 2 (2015-16),
and last year: the picket line (2016-17).

This year, we go meta with movie awards organized by movies. (Thanks to Allan for the idea.) I've made no attempt to survey all the movies I've seen and find the perfect headliner. I just found films that, for me, represent the level of the award.



Annie Hall

Woody Allen's 1977 classic is one of my favourite movies of all time. Inventive, meandering, emotionally vivid, authentically romantic, funny, sad, and sweet, this movie is a masterpiece. If you haven't seen it in many years, you may have forgotten how great it is. If you haven't seen it at all, don't let the Woody factor stop you. It's just too good to miss.

Annie Hall is simply perfect, and these movies and series are as good as anything you'll see.

I Am Not Your Negro
-- This documentary, narrated with the words of James Baldwin's unfinished memoir, is a gripping, clear-eyed look at the persistence of racism. It will make you angry and sad, and you must see it.

I, Daniel Blake
-- Director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty somehow manage to outdo themselves again. Takes a look at what budget cuts and privatized public services look like to the people who rely on them. This film -- not a documentary -- has the rare quality of feeling like you're actually watching someone's life. Recent events in Ontario make this an urgent must-see.

Boardwalk Empire S4-6
-- We left this amazing period drama after S4, but I went back to finish it, and was so glad I did. Devastating, heartbreaking, brilliant.

Bojack Horseman S4
-- What started out as a show-biz send-up has deepened into a moving exploration of the source of our psychic pain and the search for recovery, love, and self. Season 4 was heartbreaking, intense, and yet still funny.

Deadwood
-- This western period piece joins The Wire at the pinnacle of best series ever. The writing and acting are off-the-charts good. Parents, be sure your kids are asleep, lest teachers come calling about your child's language.

Episodes S4, S5
-- This show managed to stay relevant, cutting, and hilarious without ever becoming zany or mawkish. We couldn't stop laughing. Such a treat.

Free State of Jones
-- We socialists like to say "another world is possible". The Free State of Jones was one such world. An exciting historical drama, based on a true story, of a group of people who seceded from the Confederacy.

Moonlight
-- A moving, haunting, heartbreaking, profoundly personal story of a man in search of himself. If you missed it, it's best seen without prior description.

O.J.: Made in America
-- This documentary series unpacks the saga of O.J. Simpson to reveal a nexus of racism, misogyny, celebrity, media, violence, and the justice system. All your questions are answered by way of context. ESPN's "30 for 30" continues to amaze.

Silicon Valley S1-5
-- This send-up of the tech industry stays consistently smart and funny season after hilarious season.

The Witness
-- Her murder became synonymous with apathy, studied and discussed for decades. But who was Kitty Genovese, and what actually happened to her? This extraordinary, revelatory documentary follows Genovese's brother on his obsessive quest to uncover the truth.




Down By Law

A decade after falling in love with Diane Keaton and Annie Hall, I fell in love with Down by Law (1986), Jim Jarmusch's quirky road-trip-comedy starring Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni. We saw it many times on VHS. It's a great film, but perhaps lacks just a little something that would make it a Category 5.

American Honey
-- America's forgotten youth, on a road trip of exploitation and adventure. Don't miss writer/director Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, a movie with a similar vibe set in a UK housing project. (American Honey reminded me of Fish Tank, before I realized they were related.)

Arctic Defenders
-- A powerful documentary about the radical Aboriginal movement that led to the creation of the Nunavut territory. The film reveals important Canadian history and lessons for people's movements.

Danny Says
-- Meet Danny Fields, midwife to generations of music. Fans of Lou Reed, the Ramones, the Stooges -- fans of rock -- must see this documentary. Funny, sharp, and infused with a profound love of music.

Edge of Seventeen
-- This insightful, heart-squeezing, coming-of-age story perfectly captures the feeling of being a teen, being adrift, and deciding to carry on. Amazing performance by Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, among others.

Embrace
-- Taryn Brumfitt travels the world to learn how women feel about their bodies, and why we're all rejecting ourselves. Powerful and well done.

End of the F***ing World S1
-- A dark comedy-drama about two teenage misfits with fucked-up families. Brilliant first season, now we'll see if it can hang on.

Endeavour S4
-- Still one of the smartest, stylish, and well-written detective shows I've seen. I liked Morse, and I loved Lewis, but this Morse prequel blows them both away.

Jessica Jones S1
-- This might be the darkest, most disturbing show I've ever seen. A exploration of obsessive control and abuse. And somehow also funny.

Lion
-- A gripping story of survival and quest. I expected sentimentality à la Slumdog Millionaire but was surprised to find real humanity. Very nearly in the top category.

Longmire S5-7
-- This hybrid western-detective show grew deeper and stronger with every season. Gripping, moving, thought-provoking, and fun.

Manchester by the Sea
-- Human beings struggling to come to terms with their mistakes, trying to find forgiveness and redemption. Direct, unsentimental, and moving.

Master of None S2
-- The first season of Aziz Ansari's show was good and funny, but S2 blows it away. Funny, sweet, romantic, searching -- and a brilliant use of the flexibility of the ad-free streaming format. Very nearly in the top category. I may have to watch it again.

Off the Rails
-- An amazing documentary about an amazing and unusual man -- a locally famous New Yorker -- and ultimately, the blindness of the bureaucracy that crushes him.

The Americans S1-5
-- Never mind the plot holes, what this show lacks in credibility it more than compensates with excitement and insight into human motivation. Totally addictive.

The Dressmaker
-- Is living well really the best revenge? This funny-sad comedy-drama-revenge-fantasy doesn't think so.

The Good Place S1
-- A smart, insightful, surprising comedy. Plus Kristen Bell! I don't know how they'll pull off S2, but I look forward to finding out.

Wallander S4
-- This has been one of my favourite detective shows, but the final season took me by surprise. The show comes to a fittingly sad conclusion.




Nebraska

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a movie to represent the three-spot -- a solid but unspectacular movie that would be famous enough for readers to recognize. I combed through the middle award on past we movie to canada posts and eventually settled on Nebraska, a solid film about family, relationships, and redemption. As always, the movies in this category were good, I was always glad I saw them, but they didn't make me run out and tell everyone to see them.

Almost Adults
-- Two young women trying to remain close friends as their lives grow apart. A lovely, funny, sweet, insightful film.

AWOL
-- A small-town drama and love-story, and a good look at the reality of women who have with few options falling in love each other.

Barney Miller
-- From the comedy-before-bed category, this golden oldie from my youth held up remarkably well. Quiet, low-key humour punctuated by occasionally cringe-worthy sexism.

Boom Bust Boom
-- Through animation, puppetry, music, and humour, Terry Jones tries to explain why capitalism sucks. Worth seeing.

Bones S6-12
-- This show stayed so good for so long. I'd watch another six seasons if I could. Great characters, great detective work; totally bingeable.

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
-- It doesn't matter if you know John Coltrane's music or whether you know anything about jazz at all. Coltrane was a towering genius and a beautiful soul; the story of his life and times is simply amazing. This wasn't a perfect film, but it's well worth your time.

Dheepan
-- An immigrant story of poverty and survival, and a crime thriller, perfectly interwoven. Excellent film.

Do I Sound Gay?
-- What is the origin of the stereotypical "gay accent"? A gay man explores that question, and ends up looking at internalized oppression. A very solid doc.

Get Out
-- I enjoyed this twist on old-school horror, but also found it massively over-rated. Plus I saw the supposedly shocking reveal coming all the way. Still good.

Ghostbusters
-- Fun!

Hidden Figures
-- After all the hype, I didn't expect to like this, but it was irresistible. I haven't read the book yet, but apparently the movie was very accurate. Amazing, powerful history.

Hinterland
-- A dark detective show set in Wales. Kind of a Wallander wannabe, but if you like dark detective shows, this is a good one.

Jessica Jones S2
-- After a spectacular S1, there was nowhere to go but down, but it's still a very good show, full of excitement and surprises, and sprinkled with humour.

Joe Cocker: Mad Dog with Soul
-- A look into the rise, fall, and redemption of a great soul singer. Not a great film, but it was interesting, and inspired me to re-listen to Cocker's early music.

Love and Friendship
-- Whit Stillman's take on Jane Austen. I'm not an Austen fan, nor a fan of English period pieces, but this was funny and fun.

Luke Cage S1
-- Funny, exciting, and totally entertaining, with some social commentary woven in. Shot in New York, for real, with a true NYC vibe. Looking forward to more.

Mike Tyson Mysteries
-- Come on, are you watching these yet? What are you waiting for, they're only 10 minutes long! Ridiculous, hilarious, occasionally brilliant.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things
-- A look at the living simply movement, through the lives of several people who are intentionally living with less. This movie would have been better if the filmmakers had explored their own privilege in making these choices. But still, this is a decent and thought-provoking film.

Paterson
-- Jim Jarmusch's fantasy of what a working-class artist's life could be like. The more I thought about this movie, the less I liked it. This review on the Roger Ebert site pinpoints my problems. But I did enjoy it, and as fantasies go, you could do worse.

Suits S7
-- Now that the show's central conflicts have been resolved, we're left with a soap opera. But it's an appealing soap opera.

Sherlock S4
-- This show has lost the crazy edge it once had, but is still so compelling. Except the final episode which we hated.

Star Trek Beyond
-- Funny, clever, and very entertaining. Good female characters, good Simon Pegg for a change, and of course, finally an LGBT character. And yes, I am watching (and very much enjoying) Star Trek Discovery.

The Bob Newhart Show
-- Another low-key comedy from my youth. I was amazed at how perfectly this held up. It was truly laugh-out-loud funny, until the final season, which totally sucked.

The Mystery of Sleep
-- A solid science documentary that shows you how little we know.

We Regret to Inform You
-- A Canadian documentary that takes an unsentimental and unvarnished look at what it means to be physically disabled, while having a "productive" mind, in our world. Thank you NFB!




Inside Llewyn Davis

You'll notice I've switched to poster images. I can't find one image from this movie or the next that doesn't make me sneer. Inside Llewyn Davis isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, but it might have been the most over-rated. These movies won't kill you, but I'm sure you have something better to do. You must.

A Bigger Splash
-- All style, little substance. A movie about rich, beautiful, self-absorbed people. The air of danger and intrigue mentioned by many critics failed to make it into my living room.

Café Society
-- This Woody Allen film had some nice moments, and was lovely to look at, but whoever thought Jesse Eisenberg could play the lead must have lost a bet. His atrocious performance ruins whatever movie might have been there.

Cameraperson
-- This review on RogerEbert.com says that if you can make it through the first 20 minutes, all will be revealed. I could not. All I can tell you is that Kirsten Johnson shot a lot of footage about a lot of interesting things over her career, then apparently threw together a bunch of scraps and called it a movie.

Chewing Gum
-- This started out very funny. And then, omg, run away. Good for a few episodes, though.

Complete Unknown
-- Multiple false identities, a secret past, and unexplained tensions -- I really wanted to like this movie. It fell flat.

Fences
-- I'm so disappointed to put this in category 2! We saw the original play on Broadway a long time ago, and I'm a huge fan of playwright August Wilson. Sadly, the movie adaptation was stiff, stilted, cliched, and forgettable.

Intelligence
-- This Canadian spy drama based in Vancouver has some good points, but in an era when there are so many great series, don't waste your time on this.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
-- How awful to put a Werner Herzog documentary in this category. It's as if Herzog didn't know what to look for or ask about. A meandering mess.

Los Punks: We Are All We Have
-- A documentary about the backyard punk rock scene of South-Central and East Los Angeles. I love the idea of this music, and I so wanted to love the film. In the end, the movie shows you that this scene exists, but little else.

Maggie's Plan
-- A Woody Allen-inspired romantic comedy set (of course) in New York City. Part screwball comedy, part existential crisis, occasionally funny, mostly annoying.

People Places Things
-- See "Maggie's Plan". Why do I keep trying to watch romantic comedies, knowing I'll almost always be disappointed? I guess the answer is in that almost.

Riverdale
-- This campy teen drama is absolutely awful. But I can't stop watching it!

The Lobster
-- A clever idea, but not much of a movie. I understand our world privileges couples and families, but I have hard time seeing single people as persecuted.




Love, Actually

I hate this movie because it sucks. So do these.

Fargo S1
-- This might be the worst crime-detective-mystery show I've ever seen.

Miles Ahead
-- A giant string of jazz cliches that captures nothing of Miles. Perhaps Don Cheadle -- who wrote, directed, co-produced, and starred in the film -- should stick to acting, or perhaps the subject was just too difficult. Either way, a must to avoid.

Straight Outta Compton
-- A tour through every rap biopic cliche in existence, with all the misogyny whitewashed away.

Weiner-Dog
-- ‎Todd Solondz uses a passive-faced dog as a device to mock people who are already caricatures. I've liked many of Solondz's movies, but couldn't sit through this one.

6.09.2018

what i liked, what i hated, and what i don't understand: a list about my election campaign

I agreed to stand for election because it was an opportunity -- an opportunity to bring a progressive perspective to a riding where those ideas are usually overlooked, and a personal opportunity to expand my own skills and experience. Overall, it was a positive experience -- because it was so short-term. If it had been gone on for six months or a year, I would have been miserable! Here's what I liked, what I hated, and what I just don't get.

Positives

1. I met a lot of people! Community activists, progressive-minded neighbours, minority voices in our suburban city. Strangers reached out to support our campaign, to encourage me personally, and with ideas of how they could help. I loved making these connections. It was personally gratifying, and it also expanded my own network in the community.

2. It was a completely immersive experience. I was fortunate to be able to take a leave-of-absence from both library and union work, so I could campaign full-time. I felt exactly like I did during our library workers' strike in 2016 -- completely obsessed. I woke up every morning before dawn, super-charged with energy, and worked like mad the entire day. If I created a brain-map for these times, 95% of it would be the strike or campaign, with a tad leftover to take care of myself physically and remember my partner and dog. I would not have the stamina to do that for months on end, but for a few weeks, it was exciting.

3. I believed we could improve people's lives. There's a unique buzz you get from advocating on someone else's behalf, and fighting for what you believe in. I fight for better working conditions and the rights of our union's members all the time, and I love it. I got a glimpse of doing that on a larger stage, having more opportunity to improve people's lives. That was exciting.

4. I loved the challenge. I used skills I've been honing in both work and union -- leadership, strategizing, planning, listening, researching, reacting.

5. I believed so deeply in the platform. I never would have or could have done it otherwise.

Negatives

1. Being photographed so much. This was the worst part of the strike and it was the worst part of campaigning. It started off with a horrible experience getting my headshots done -- every single thing about the experience set up for failure -- and continued that way through the whole campaign, as I was forced to see images of myself all the time. I hated this.

2. Being cut off from much of my support network. Candidates are strongly advised to take their personal social media accounts offline during the campaign. I tried just being quiet and more circumspect than usual, but quickly found I was causing other people more work and concern, so I complied with the recommendation. I have many friends and fellow activists that I mostly see only on Facebook. Being cut off from my network was stressful.

3. Taking this blog offline. I hated this.

4. Having to moderate my responses to be appropriate for a candidate. The hotheaded temper of my younger days has long since mellowed and is well under control. But I still prefer a blunt response to a measured one. I zipped my lip... but I didn't like it!

5. Having so little time and so few resources. The NDP reached out to potential candidates in Mississauga very late, and for the most part, we candidates were on our own. The party used a central online platform -- a great tool -- but the structure and guidance it offered applied mostly to large campaigns with solid funds and an army of volunteers. I was able to access some guidance through CUPE, and about 80% of our donations and volunteers came through my own networks. I assume the Party's candidate search probably identifies people who have networks they can leverage, but it was inadequate.

What's up with that?

1. What is the effectiveness of lawn signs? They provide name recognition, but do they translate into votes?

I got calls and emails from many people complaining that they did not see my signs around Mississauga. They were often angry or at least very annoyed, implying our campaign was failing. They clearly equated signs with votes, and they thought we had failed to understand the importance of these signs.

Lawn signs are very expensive, and Mississauga Centre is large and sprawling. The Liberal candidate had enormous signs and they were everywhere. When we investigated the price of those signs, and the number you would need to achieve a noticeable presence, we were amazed at how much she must have spent. Allan's rough estimate was that the Liberals may have spent 8-10 times our entire budget on signs and door leaflets alone. (Our budget was $5,000, and we spent around $7,500.)

Instead, we chose to put our resources into printing. We focused on the many huge apartment and condo towers in the riding. A tiny band of dedicated volunteers put a leaflet in front of every door of more than 90 buildings. This reached a lot of people -- but it isn't public, the way signs are.

Our strategy also included a limited round of phone calls to likely sign takers, leafletting community events, meet-and-greets outside mosques, and every possible public appearance. When we received a sign request, I would contact the requester and invite them to canvass their neighbourhood with me.

Despite our lack of signage, we came in second with about 27% of the vote.

2. Why would people call a candidate for general election information?

I fielded many calls from people who received a leaflet and wanted to know where to vote, how to register to vote, why they hadn't received a voting card, what riding they are in, and so on. I returned every single phone call, and supplied whatever information was needed. Part of that is the librarian in me, and part of it is wanting the caller to come away with a favourable impression of their NDP candidate.

But why would anyone do this? Is the answer "because they don't know how to find information, and one phone number is as good as the next"?

3. Why can't people find the name of a candidate in any party?

We received many emails and phone calls from aggrieved residents saying they didn't know who the candidate was -- often because they didn't see any signs. Many of these emails were forwarded to me from the central party! If they could figure out how to email the NDP, why couldn't they figure out how to look up the name of a candidate?

4. Why do people expect a personal contact initiated by a candidate?

We did very little "door-knocking" (in-person canvassing) or phone calling, because we deemed it a very poor use of our limited resources. This contradicted advice from the central party, so I frequently questioned our decision. Then Allan and I would estimate how many people we could reasonably expect to reach in person, given the size of the riding and our small number of volunteers -- and we affirmed our decision every time.

When I did canvass, I was wholly unprepared for this reaction: "We haven't received a single phone call, not one knock on our door, not one word from any candidate!" This is said with resentment and hurt feelings. More than one person told me she would vote for me because I was the only candidate she met! In a riding of 85,000 potential voters, in a city with a population of 750,000, why would residents expect personal contact initiated by a candidate? Is this extreme passivity?

5. In a parliamentary system, where members of the legislative body vote in a block according to party, why is personal contact so important?

People want their candidate to be smart, honest, dedicated, and so on. I get that. But in a parliamentary system, the personal attributes of your representative are really not very important. What matters is where the party stands on various issues, and how many seats they win. You're voting for the party leader and the party platform. Yet many people vote for an incumbent because they're thought to be a nice guy or they host community barbecues.

6.08.2018

on poppies, veterans, trolls, and doxing

First of all, I do not apologize.

I have nothing to apologize for. No one should apologize for having an unpopular opinion, or an opinion that the majority finds offensive.

Second, I said nothing disrespectful to veterans. My utter lack of respect -- my undying contempt -- is for rulers whose policies send humans into unnecessary armed conflict. Those rulers pay lip-service to "supporting" troops, while their policies ensure more humans will suffer from the effects of war.

If you're joining us in progress, here's what you missed. 

Before the election, I took all my personal social media offline. We knew that the opposition would dedicate vast resources to digging up or fabricating anything they could use against NDP candidates. For some reason, no one directed me to remove wmtc links from the Wayback Machine (i.e., internet archives). This proved to be a grave error.

A right-wing political hack who masquerades as a journalist received excerpts from some old wmtc posts from a troll source. I know this because Hack forwarded Troll's email to me, with the identifiers scrubbed.

Hack did what hacks do, and trolls did what trolls do. Hack kept this going for way longer than any of us expected, dedicating three columns to me, and mentioning my name in several other columns. Eventually it was reported on by more mainstream media.

The right-wing attack machine moved from candidate to candidate, digging up tiny bits of online fodder, distorting and quoting out of context, in a ludicrous attempt to portray the NDP as a hotbed of wacko radicalism.

Doug Ford and his party waged the worst kind of campaign possible: they obfuscated facts, and relied on lies, sloganeering, and mudslinging.

Andrea Horwath and our party were consistently positive, focused, truthful, and precise.

That the majority of voters in Ontario chose the former over the latter is profoundly disturbing.

Doxing

I thought I knew what it was like to be attacked by trolls, from early wmtc days. I was wrong. The trolls who attacked this blog were annoying gnats who could be easily batted away. The troll attack orchestrated by Hack & Co. was a whirling swarm of angry hornets, the size of a midwest twister.

Their weapons were the most vulgar kind of personal insults, and graphic threats of violence.

I have pretty thick skin and don't tend to take things personally. My union sisters and brothers often describe me as "fearless". But this was a form of violence, and it shook me.

I'm lucky that it didn't affect my outlook, my opinions, or my self-esteem. That's down to the amazing support I had -- from the party, from my union, from friends, and from strangers who agreed with my views and reached out to me. Because of this support, I was shielded from most of the invective. I saw only a small portion of it, yet that was enough to shake me. I felt that my personal safety was threatened. That's not easy to do to me.

It's difficult -- nay, impossible -- for me to understand this kind of behaviour. The whitehot anger, the fervor so easily ignited -- the immediate willingness to attack, the assumed entitlement to say anything to anyone, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. The seeming inability to respectfully disagree. It is truly beyond my understanding.

What I think about poppies, militarism, and veterans


I wrote the now-infamous post about the poppy symbols at a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was flogging the war machine in Afghanistan. I have a deeply held opposition to war, and I wanted Canada out of Afghanistan.

I also link the symbolic poppy to the general militarism that infects our society -- where "support the troops" is code for "support the war". Militarism takes many forms, including recruiting in schools, honouring military members at sporting events, using weapons as entertainment, such as air shows, and for me, the ubiquitous poppy symbol.

Naturally I understand that the majority does not view the poppy symbol this way. Hundreds tried to enlighten me, as if somehow the view of the vast majority hadn't reached my ears. But guess what? I disagree.

I have never written or said anything that disparages veterans. On the contrary, the pages of this blog are replete with disgust for the governments that disrespect veterans by slashing funding for their health and rehabilitation. My "11.11" category is about peace. If wanting peace disrespects veterans, we are living in an Orwellian nightmare.

What supporting veterans should look like

I have no doubt that for some people the poppy is a potent symbol, and that they believe wearing this symbol shows respect and reverence for veterans. I have never suggested that other people shouldn't wear poppies. I simply choose not to wear one. (I don't refuse to wear one, as the memes said. I choose not to.)

To me, if we truly want to support veterans and military servicemembers, we must do two things.

One, create and fully fund a robust array of supports for people who have suffered from war, to support their physical and mental well-being. Our society does not do that.

And two, stop making war. Stop creating veterans. Search for ways to resolve conflicts that do not involve killing people. And never use war as a means to profit.

Until these things are done, you can cover yourself in poppies, and your "support" and "respect" will be as false as the plastic flowers you revere.

A final word about respect

I don't disrespect veterans. But I don't automatically respect someone because they are a veteran.

Many people contribute to our society through their work or their passions. Others harm our society with selfishness, greed, violence, and unkindness. When people are kind and generous, when they act with compassion and integrity, I respect them. When they do the opposite, I do not. This is as true for veterans as it is for teachers, social workers, nurses, or politicians.

People who hurl crude insults at strangers because they cannot abide a difference of opinion, but who claim to love freedom and respect veterans, are ignorant wretches. I don't respect them. I pity them.

where i've been and where i'm going

Where to begin?

Not blogging for the last eight weeks has been difficult! I was reminded how much I need to write, and how much I enjoy writing for readers. I have so much to catch up on -- I've been keeping a list -- but I don't want to overwhelm you. (For selfish reasons: I want you to read!) I'm going to blog my heart out, but I'll schedule only one daily post. At least that's the plan.

The timeline runs something like this.

April 7 - Ontario NDP search committee contacts me.

April 9 - I agree to seek the nomination for the NDP in my riding; vetting begins.

April 16 - Allan and I go to Vancouver Island with my brother and sister-in-law who live in Oregon. More than just a vacation, this was an exploratory trip, as we are considering moving there.

April 20 - I am cleared to seek the nomination.

April 24 - We return home from Vancouver Island.

April 29 - I attend my first official NDP event, Andrea Horwath's campaign kickoff rally in Hamilton.

May 6 - I am officially nominated as the NDP candidate for Mississauga Centre.

May 7 - I begin leave-of-absence from work and union responsibilities.

May 9 - Writ drops (election begins)

- whole bunch of stuff happens -

June 7 - Rob Ford's Conservative party wins majority government; Andrea Horwath's NDP becomes official opposition party. We placed second in the riding, getting 27% of the vote -- almost double the usual percentage for NDP in Mississauga, and the first time the Party has come in second here. Other Mississauga ridings have similar results.

The outcome is grim. Not for me personally! I return to work that I love, both as a librarian and a union activist. I learned a lot, met wonderful people, and gained valuable experience. No worries for me.

But the outlook for the people of our province is terrible. Many, many people will suffer. The richest will get richer on the backs of the poor and working class. The middle class will continue to struggle mightily to maintain a decent quality of life; many will be unable to. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, and white nationalism will rise and become more socially acceptable.

The majority of Ontarians have made a terrible choice, acting against their own best interests.

the return of wmtc

Friends of wmtc, rejoice! Or at least put me back in your feed. This blog will be back and I will be writing again soon.