Monday, May 29, 2006

Thirty-two inches

Whoa now guys. From the comments on our last post, I sense plenty of resentment for what Jonathan and I have come to regard as one of the greatest ice cream joints ev'a.


La Casa Gelato is very dear to our hearts and this negativity makes me sad, us sad.

I suppose I forgot to mention that 90% of their flavours aren't your garden variety (i.e. frozen peas and deli coleslaw) but rather, your sweet-mother-of-Paris variety (i.e. creme brulee and tarte au sucre). Does that change things? Good. Glad we settled that. Onto Amish's comment.

Yes Amish, we'll post pictures. Here are Jon's feet.

Oh, what's that? Did I miss the point of your comment? Say what? You want us to brag about our technological superiority by posting pictures of our brand new 32" LCD screen TV? Well, we are certainly not above doing that. And as I shared with Stephen early today, this is one thin, clean, urban, sexy, damn smug piece of gadgetry. Would fit in well at a yoga class, no? Not so flexible though. Thanks again Amish for haggling this sucker down for us, oh, some $400.

Oddly, our living room still feels ridiculously empty despite this totally uncalled for piece of consumption culture. But, this is not a decor challenge beyond Jonathan's own personal flair. As we sat on the couch yesterday evening, perplexed over the mass of space that our TV failed to fill, Jonathan proclaimed, "I got it honey. Let's get a big glass vase for the corner of the room." No kidding. That's Jon for you - continually confronting that big nasty persistent gender barrier in his own fashionable way. Who says men can't like vases and women can't press their husbands for fancy audio-visual equipment? Times have changed.

Actually they haven't. Women still get the short end of the stick from less than 4 months in office (ha!) to male designed and dominated organizations. Okay, the first one is a joke, but the second one certainly isn't. While I don't know how it feels, I know that trying to express oneself during question period in a room where verbal testosterone is the norm has not been a positive experience for most MLAs that are of the female variety. After all, women have never made up more than 20% of official parties.

I made that up but it might also be true.

Why am I writing all of this you wonder? You will have to bear with me this summer; I spend seven hours every day reading, writing and synthesizing material on Canadian Government and Federalism. All so I can "profess" my knowledge to tomorrow's teenangsters-turned-adults. So top of my mind is usually something related to class, race, gender, region and Canada's political structures.

Well, I have to go make the cheese sauce. Both my specialty and my duty for the evening. You can't eat broccoli without a little sharp - but light, 25% less fat - medium chedder now can you?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Our special weekend with Peej

Pretend I am Jon. He would have wanted it that way.

You see, Jonathan just got home from work. I just finished reading an excellent article by the late Trudeau on federalism written in 1965. I suppose that is neither here nor there. Context is important though. Back to my point. It's 5:00pm, and there are many tasks, mostly tedious and unadventurous, that need to be undertaken this evening. Jonathan is out of undershirts so the laundry is at the top of list, and since the laundry room closes at 9pm, it has to be done immediately. Also near the top is supper. Two grumbly tummies and tired minds make meatloaf-making a daunting task. But, since this is a secret recipe on the hubs side of the family, the duty falls on Jonathan.

So, what I am trying to say is with laundry to run and meatloaf to make, there is very little time this evening for Jonathanella to blog. And since my household duties are limited to fluffing pillows, making tea and looking pretty, I thought I would help Jon out and contribute a post on his behalf.

So onto it.

What a fun weekend we had. Those of you who keep us on bookmark will already know that PJ came to visit. We met up on Saturday night, had dinner under fireworks at a little Greek place by our house, and watched a terrible Will Farrell movie. PJ snored and Jon feel asleep. Yep. We sure lived it up.

On Sunday we had a big hearty breakfast which we washed down with some gelato and ice-cream at a mega-cafe in downtown Vancouver. With 218 flavours on site, we decided to make an afternoon out of this one. You see, it is only evitable for an ice-cream company to get bored of fruits and desserts for flavours and start branching into the edgier category ...

... of condiments and spices!

You have the basic delicious blends (cinnamon), the potentially tasty variety (ginger, lavender), and the decidedly terrible concoctions (curry power). Some experiences need not be had for certain outcomes to be established and I think this certainly applied here. But we had no where to be and curiousness killed us - er, at least a healthy number of our tastebuds.

So here are the ones we tried:

Garlic - This was PJ's pick. It was awful. Sweet, cold, yet garlicy. Someone's tongue rolled over and died on this one.

Balsamic vinegar - This was my pick. It was disgusting. Sourly wrong. Hard to swallow.

Wasabee - This was Jonathan's pick. Honestly, out of all the 'savoury' flavours, it was probably the most tolerable. A nice spicy kick if you are into that thing in your ice-cream.

Kim Chi - Again, PJ's pick. Honestly, PJ was really getting a masochistic kick out of these exotic flavours. I don't know why we decided to go along with this one. It was definitely the worst. It tasted like wet limp cabbage. It made my tongue depress back into my throat a bit.

Chocolate Chili - Staff pick. That was some craaaazy chocolate ice-cream. Holy cow it was spicy. My mouth was burning for at least ten minutes after the little spoonful I tried.

Chocolate Basil - My pick. This was really good. You could taste the basil quite distinctively. It was so good I had to share my tiny little spoonful with Jon and Peej. They concurred that it was most interesting, even delicious.

There were so many interesting flavours to try but it took awhile to get a server's attention so we could grab samples of them, so soon after we sampled the 'savories', we got to work picking out our actual ice-cream flavour. In the end, Jon went with peanut-butter fudge; PJ went with a double scoop of chocolate fudge and something I can't remember; and I went with chocolate fudge. Next time, we will try the "asparagus and wild cranberry" as well as the "pear and gorgonzola". Sounds like appetizers but they are actual ice-cream flavours.

After ice-cream, we hung out at Jericho beach. It had clouded over a bit but the sand was still warm and the view of English Bay is always pretty. When we got bored of lazing around (an hour later), we headed to Granville Island Brewery so the boys could sample some local beers. We made a pit stop in the market to grab some supper, which we ate as we boat-watched on the docks. By the way, a good name for a luxury boat that no one else can afford? Necessity.

Unfortunately PJ got sick shortly after ordering his beer sampler, so Jon graciously offered to drink half of PJ's set. This decent amount of booze left Jon as happy as he was tipsy on our saunter back to New West.

And finally, Monday was spent getting peed on by mother nature, and enjoying the aquatic life at Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. After Art Lattes downtown, we (sadly) sent PJ on his way back to prairie-town.

So that's it. That's the update. Time to go make tea and fluff pillows.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Fun in the sun and a rant on the side

So tonight, Jonathan and I are having a PJ party.

Quite literally, actually.

Jon's little brother Pierre-Joel is making a pit-stop in New Westminster for the weekend, on his way home from a friend's wedding in Seattle.

He will be the very first overnight visitor in our new house and we are very excited. Here are some of the things we plan to cram into the next ... 24 awake hours that we have together:

- the Grouse Grind
- the Afghan Horsemen
- the Vancouver Aquarium
- Cafe Artigiano (for Art Lattes of course)
- Jericho Beach or the Spanish Banks
- Stanley Park
- Granville Island Brewery
- La Casa Gelato (think 508 flavours available 24-7-365)

Of course, many of these activities are highly weather contingent and all are zero-sum (i.e. if we do one, it's also at the expense of another) but I'm pretty confident that we'll make a decent dent into that list. Sadly, there are so many other things that didn't make the cut - like fish & chips in Steveston, a ferry ride to Vancouver Island, shopping in West Vancouver, dining in Kitsilano ...

PJ - you will just have to move here. That's really the only option.
In other news, my sister Nat is in Montreal visiting a friend and has promised to bring us back bagels from St Viateur, which is enough to make anyone droolably jealous. As you should be. Come visit in the next week and you can have a bite!

Other than that, not much going on here. We cleaned today, and went for an hour walk along the Fraser river yesterday evening. Our walk was followed by Brokeback Mountain, a movie I think even the staunchest supporter of the religious right could be moved by. At least ones that still retain some of their humanity.

Speaking of which, [FOREWARNING: I AM TOTALLY SWITCHING GEARS HERE INTO SOMETHING MORE DARK AND DANGEROUS] I came across this, this week and I gotta tell you, this book - "It's Perfectly Normal" - has stirred quite the controversy in the American Christian circles. As a side note, I would like to say that its interesting the way that socially right wing associations have appropriated "family" and "values" and "Christianity" all for themselves. How terribly greedy. Some of us non-ethnocentric, non-homophobic, non-sexist folk like families and values and jesus bobbleheads too. We just like them for entirely different reasons.

Anyways, if you go here, you'll see my point. And if you don't, my point is, many Christian organizations down south are appalled because the book and pushing to ban it's publication because 1) includes cartoon pictures of children and thus qualifies as "kiddie porn" - seriously, those are their exact words; 2) includes cartoon drawings of adults having... sex... which is entirely inappropriate in a book about sexuality; 3) doesn't denounce homosexuals as evil but instead emphasizes that homosexual feelings are normal and natural and not to be ashamed of; 4) discusses issues such as birth control, abortion, and masturbation, and has the audacity to encourage the latter (masturbation) as "normal and natural" and providing frank information about the former (birth control and abortion).

I would just like to say that when I have children, this is exactly the kind of book I want my eight-year old reading. It's about time the religious right faces the facts: all of us are - normally and naturally - sexual beings; our children are ready to know this at any age; given that more than half of our population bleeds profusely once a month, menstruation needs to stop being a woman's private, dirty, inappropriate matter. In fact, I submit that the whole of women's reproductive system - from nursing in public, to NOT covering up menstrual cramps as a stomach ache, needs to be normalized.

It's crazy that in an age which information is so important - for mothers to make the right decision regarding unexpected pregnancy, for young boys and girls to overcome the shame of masturbation, for daughters and sons to have self-respect and to be informed about the options and emotional and physical risks corresponding to a wide range of intimacies - it is being censored by politically powerful (the word "powerful" can not be overstated here) Conservative Christian organizations such as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association. In an area (sex) where information and the dispelling of myths is the most important tool for children and young adults to make healthy life choices, the religious right finds frank, unbiased, accurate, and value-free (leaving parents to instill whatever values they wish to regarding abstinence, abortion etc.) information to be the reason behind promiscuous behaviour. That is birth control causes abortions and morning after pills cause premarital sex. Heck, the Fraser Institute once wrote that welfare causes single mothers, because with state social support, single women have both an incentive to get pregnant and a disincentive to find a husband (or marry their abusive boyfriend, perhaps?).

Information and access to contraception for the religious right is the source of all promiscuous behaviour. Naked cartoons of children are child porn, and visual depictions of sexual intercourse to explain sex to children are, by their account, deplorable.

This is a real issue. The rights of heterosexuals, homosexuals, and especially women are currently being challenged all over the United States and to some degree in Canada too. With the demise of the welfare state (i.e. national programs that support families, predominantly mothers), with increasing political attacks on sexuality and women's reproductive rights south of us, and with the rise of extreme-right parties in the U.S. and Canada in recent times (Alliance, Reform, the governing Conservatives?), it astounds me that we aren't talking more not only about this attack on our sexuality, but as well the appropriation by the religious right, of what it means to the rest of us to "be Christian", to "have values" and to be "a family".

I am totally enraged but entirely psyched for our weekend of fun.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New Job

I'm not sure why I am posting this. Honestly I don't think that any of the faithful readers of this by-weekly, or weekly (depending on the mood of the publishers) publication deserve a post. You see, your lack of comments act as a disincentive to any further posting. This leads me to posit the first rule of the blogosphere: The more comments an author receives, the higher his or her rate of publication.

Anyways, enough of that. As some of you might know, I spent a week in Cow-town taking a statistics course. I got to spend my entire time with a bunch of nerds who spent every single minute of the day either discussing the methodology itself, their research projects, and how said methodology will apply, or the merits of different statistical software packages. Luckily the entire thing, including flight and accommodation was paid for with your tax dollars through SSHRC.

Since then, I have been re-integrating myself into the life of a public servant. On Monday I started a new job as a researcher in the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Although the first week was dreadfully boring (my supervisor as well as the person who will be training me where away) it has the potential of being very interesting as well as challenging. Plus, I have a sweet view of the Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains to boot.

Here is a bit of what I will be doing. The IRB has documentation centers across the country that lawyers, members (the term given to the quasi-judges at the IRB that decide whether an individual is actually a refugee), as well as refugee claimants use to research the living conditions (as pertaining to human rights, gender and religious and political freedoms to name a few ) in the different countries of the world. These individuals then use this information to assist in deciding whether a refugee claimant qualifies as a convention refugee as defined by Canadian and international law. My role as the researcher will be to keep the Vancouver documentation center up to snuff and open to the public. More interestingly though, I will also be called upon to produce research when the information that is already on file is not sufficient enough to decide a particularly complex or rare refugee claim.

I will be at the IRB for the next year or so as I am replacing two individuals who went on maternity leave. After that, I'm not quite sure what will happen, but hopefully it will involve more work in the refugee determination process at the IRB.

That is all.