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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I lost my power in this world because I did not use it

Reader-submitted complaint: This blog is nothing but the deranged musings of an insane woman. I could get the same thing if I read letters from prisoners.

Well, I suppose that could be true. I've read quite a few letters from prisoners, and their writing styles are typically similar to what you'll find here. Like me, they threaten violence for comma misuse, grumble that some people are walking around free even though they are clearly guilty of gross grammar negligence, and attempt to recruit vulnerable people into their organized semicolon gangs.

Just yesterday, I was sharpening my toothbrush into a shank while considering the best way to deal with indiscriminate apostrophe usage. I have been silent on this matter far too long. I intend to send my manifesto to the New York Times with a threat: If I see one more ad for apple's or pencil's, I may be forced to ambush someone in the laundry. I fully intend to hold that person hostage until the world agrees to stop using the word impacted to refer to anything other than teeth or feces.

You will not deny me the satisfaction of knowing that I have made a real difference. Come here and let me smell your hair.


I wonder if people realise that when they come to one of my websites through a proxy server I CAN SEE THEM.

Well, apparently not.

In related news, the second round of the Best NWT Blogs contest is going on right now. Please go over there and vote ONCE for the best blog and best post in the territory.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A real IM conversation with my mother

Megan: you voted for me in the blog contest, right?
Mom: haven't been there
Megan: WHAT? Get over there now!
Mom: too late?
Megan: it will be too late in a couple of hours
Mom: done
Megan: yay! third place! I am such a geek
Mom: have you contacted the boys?
Megan: nope
Mom: Nate?
Megan: I actually haven't tried
Mom: come on
Megan: you know, people SHOULD have seen my blog and voted! I put a link up!
Mom: I wish you had contacted me sooner
Megan: well if I stay in third place I'll get to the next stage
Mom: I'll call Ben? should I ? it is late here
Megan: nah, don't wake him but MAKE HIM VOTE NEXT TIME
Mom: yeah but it is fun. you might need his vote
Megan: true. it is very close
Mom: yeah, and he might not be in bed yet
Megan: ha, well if you want to
Mom: ok
Megan: seriously, MY OWN FAMILY DIDN'T VOTE???
Mom: calling him now
Megan: I cannot believe you didn't vote
Mom: he didn't vote, yet
Megan: AUGH! you guys!
Mom: I'll call Matt
Megan: hahahah no don't wake him up, but if I make it through you better vote!
Mom: calling matt
Megan: you'll wake him up! he has to work in the morning!
Mom: got his machine and left a message. You should call Nate
Megan: no, HE SHOULD BE READING MY BLOG! do you guys even read it???
Mom: yes!! but not every day
Megan: uh huh. I posted about the contest a few days ago
Mom: calling nate. he hasn't voted yet
Megan: WHAT??? you guys are a huge disappointment. you are supposed to rally behind me!
Mom: he's doing it
Megan: this is sooooooo a blog post
Mom: we all got it done. maybe Matt had already voted
Megan: you'll have to vote again if I make it into the top 3. if you can manage it, that is...
Mom: of course, but you might have to remind me the day before it ends
Megan: Or you could just read my blog and click the link
Mom: I wish we could get more people
Megan: if I'd known you weren't voting, I would have mentioned it
Mom: hahahahah
Megan: I assumed you were voting! It's OK. Next time you're up for an award and need MY vote, I'll just avoid it. Clicking on links is very arduous. I AM POSTING THIS ON MY BLOG.
Mom: hahahahah
Megan: well, check that site in the morning and VOTE if my name is there!!!!
Mom: the next vote will be that soon?
Megan: yep. starts in the morning. do you think you can handle voting again so soon?
Mom: ok.I'll get the boys too
Megan: I believe you. NOT.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Best NWT Blogs contest starts to get press

A reporter called today about the Best NWT Blogs contest. By the way, if you haven’t voted yet, get over there right now. I mean it.

I told him that I’m surprised there is almost no media coverage of Web 2.0 in our territory. The media’s favourite stories always involve themselves, so most of the mainstream media in the rest of Canada is falling all over itself to either 1) clasp blogs to their breasts in hopes that some of the coolness will rub off or 2) insist repeatedly that blogs are not worth a second of their time.

So perhaps the silence is newsworthy.

You see, Web 2.0 is a huge part of life here. The Internet is the easiest way to keep in touch across great distances, and there’s no place with greater distances than the Canadian Arctic.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit into the little box we’ve set for ourselves. That box tells you a few things about the Internet in northern Canada:

  • It doesn’t exist in some communities. We are completely cut off from the rest of the world! Best not to mention it at all.

  • It’s not relevant to our lives. Unlike city dwellers, we prefer to commune with nature. We don’t relate to other people through our computer screens.

  • We’re not comfortable with technology. We definitely wouldn’t use it to communicate with strangers.

As you can see, there’s no way anyone could be blogging in northern Canada. No need for anyone from the media to pay us any attention!

I told the reporter that I did not jump headfirst into the blogging community; in fact, I was very hesitant to be public about it for the first year. I started just as Name of Paper Withheld printed a hatchet job about a friend of mine. She has a blog, too, and I remember my white-hot fury at the paper’s implication that she was involved in something very shameful because she was “posting information about herself on the Internet”. (The nerve!)

That moment kept me from telling anyone but my friends and family about my blog for many months. Goodness knows what Name of Paper Withheld might think of me. (Blogger Calls Self a “Writer; Thinks We Cant Use Punctuation. Or Blogger Claims David Hasselhoff Is Hot; Poses Shirtless.)

I eventually decided I wanted to be a part of whatever community we have up here. I struggle with the idea of being a “northern blogger”. I’m not sure that I really am one: I’ve been here too long to pull off the wide-eyed newcomer shtick, and I’m pretty sure that this blog is not particularly northern. In fact, I think it’s the same blog it would be if I lived anywhere else – only a few of the details would change.

Seriously, go over there and vote.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Congratulations, Tez

Tez is a friend from King's. I haven't seen her since I ran away to the Arctic and she ran away to the other side of the world.

Tez, we love you and we are really happy for you. You look great.

NWT Blogs

Voting has started, so go over there!

You'll have to choose between quite a few really great blogs, but this one has been nominated, so I have an interest in getting as many people there as possible. :)

You can vote in as many or as few categories as you want, but you can only vote once.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Anything you post about her is just too stupid to make up"

Reader-submitted question: Who else is laughing at [name of narcissistic Canadian "author" withheld]? I mean, if she's still showing up in Toronto papers, she must have some sort of cult following, but please tell me that the majority of the English-speaking world is pissing themselves as they ridicule her.

I had to get help with this one. The normal rules of publishing would lead me to believe that she must have SOME readers.

My informant tells me that she sold several thousand copies of her memoirs (there have been three so far). Canadian publishing is a tough gig, and almost nobody's making any money at it. Clearly, someone is reading these books, though. I am guessing they are the same people who hang out on her blog, Nine Pound Dictator. You can Google it. I'm not linking to her.

From what I can tell, her fans are almost all women with small children who have nothing in common with her. However, they appear to identify with her stories about being a terrible mother.

I really do have to address this. Many, many women feel like Failed Mommies. We cannot live up to the standards set by the Stepford Mommies who hand-sew Halloween costumes and attend every school lunch. However, that does not mean that we should embrace a narcissist as our ideal, especially someone who brags about spending as little time as possible with her child. (Sample quote: "I watch Nanni Mimi feed (the baby) and it's a process that can last sometimes about to an hour. I do not have that kind of patience.") PEOPLE! What is WRONG with you?

Rest assured, though, that she is the joke of the Canadian publishing world. Fellow Canadian writers: Is there anything you'd like to add?

Friday, April 25, 2008

I'll follow you down 'til the sound of my voice will haunt you

Reader-submitted question: Have you seen this video?

Yes, of course. I love this song, and this is a great version.

I assume you really mean that you want to know what I think of the last two minutes or so. I don't think it really means anything.

What a let-down, eh?

Seriously, you have to remember that Stevie Nicks is a performer. She's giving the fans what they want. It's a great song and I think it means a lot to her (well, to them), but I don't think this particular performance means anything special.

As I type, my local CBC morning show is announcing a contest: they want readers to call in with their favourite break-up songs. This would definitely be one of my favourites.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And we're off!

The NWT Blog Awards have begun. We already have so many nominations that I think we are going to have to do a few of the categories in two rounds.

Head over there to check out the list of excellent posts and blogs. Please feel free to nominate your favourites.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You'd see the truth, but you've closed your eyes

I try not to get too upset about things.

So I was relatively calm when Steve ordered a wig that looks -- well, kind of girly. It's a shag wig. You know, far be it from me to judge and all that.

Then he asked me to help him pick out striped pants. He also started listening to the Village People.


Never fear: He can explain.

He has a school dance coming up and plans to re-invent himself as Simon from this video, including the fancy dance moves:


Happy birthday, Michelle

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Reader-submitted question: Are you going to do any other self-important columnists? Can you do Leah McLaren next? She's got to be good for a post or two, don't you think?

Ah, Leah McLaren. And here I was trying to forget that she exists.

McLaren is the Paper Of Record's thirtysomething single gal about town. She is, of course, very different from Eckler and Sarah Hampson: She has blonde hair.

The Paper Of Record depresses me. Do they actually think that these ninnies represent Canadian women?

McLaren's distinguishing feature is her desire to not seem too vapid, but this is balanced by a keen insight that for a person as boring as she is, vapidness is the only option. The woman does have some self-awareness, after all, which is more than I can say for Eckler.

She writes four columns a month for the Paper Of Record, and, just for you, I've read them all. Never say that I don't put myself in harm's way for your entertainment. Like the best writers (Homer, Moses, etc), McLaren knows how to set up a narrative, and she comforts her readers by ensuring that each column ends the same way. We are never surprised.

Column #1: Someone asks Leah if she is Russian. She is not Russian, but decides that the person made this mistake because Russians dress really well. She read it in the New York Times, so she knows it's true. Also, she takes the opportunity to inform us that she wore fishnets in high school and flirted with LOTS of older men when she was in her twenties. Fortunately, there is no need for any personal growth.

Column #2: Leah celebrates "Literary It Girls". They are the only ones worth paying attention to, she assures us. They are smart and beautiful. Half of the world loves them and the other half wants to scratch their eyes out. Clearly this is heading somewhere, but Leah is coy. I wish I could remember if she has written a book that "takes as her subject herself, filtered self-deprecatingly through the foibles of modern urban singlehood." I'm sure it will come to me eventually.

Column #3: Leah mourns the loss of traditions like reading and cooking. She is part of a dying breed, disturbingly out of step with her own generation. I know, it's hard to watch. Just in time, she reassures us that she is white, educated and an upper-middle-class newspaper columnist, as if we might have forgotten that in our rush to comfort her. Whew. THAT'S a relief.

Column #4: Leah feels like a bitch. Wow. That almost seems like a flash of personal insight. What will we learn that's significant, interesting or new? Well, nothing, really. It turns out that she only feels like a bitch because Sarah Silverman was on the cover of Vanity Fair, and there is nobody hotter or bitchier than Sarah Silverman except maybe Tina Fey, who is -- shocker of shockers! -- ALSO on the cover of Vanity Fair. Bitchiness is IN, mothafuckas! And don't forget who's in the club now! It must be true, because it's in the Paper Of Record!

I'm not sure who reads her columns, but she clearly has some fans. Toronto readers: Do you have any insight into this?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Best NWT Blogs: Prizes Needed

If you'd like to donate a prize for the Best NWT Blogs contest, please let me know. I suppose we could have as many categories as we have prizes. So far, these people have donated prizes:

  • Something "original" from Rob & Tina.
  • Dinner chez moi.
  • A T-shirt from Jen of Nunavut with the image at the top of this post.
  • UPDATED: A framed northern photo from Martin.
Who else is in?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Best NWT Blogs

After some back-and-forth with other NWT bloggers, I have created Best NWT Blogs, a contest site.

Because I'm a Canadian and we all need to work together in partnership, I am taking suggestions for the categories we should use. (Uriel has already started to pray that I will create a category for "best satirical religionist".)

I'll take suggestions for categories until Thursday. Then we'll take nominations and vote. You can make suggestions to me directly, by e-mail, here or over on the contest blog. Let your readers know we're doing this: it will increase your chances of winning. :)

I need people to donate prizes for the winners. If you want to help out in other ways, please let me know. Maybe you're good at creating badges that people could put on their sites. This is a group effort and I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Big sigh

Warning: Squeamish people may not want to read this.

Why do people insist on doing the most boneheaded things that make their own beliefs look awful?

Usually I think that about wacko fundamentalist religionists, but this time, I'm annoyed with a woman at Yale who can't decide if she wants to claim to have abortions as "art" or not. This is the best thing that ever happened to the groups that want to make abortion illegal.

First, Aliza Shvarts claimed that she impregnated herself every month for nine months, induced miscarriages each month for nine months, kept the blood and videotaped the whole thing. It's ART. Who wants to see the blood? She's going to display it AND the videos as her senior project.

I was skeptical. It's just a little bit too ridiculous for me. It's the sort of thing you'd hear about by e-mail in capital letters and way too many exclamation points along with a printable card to mail to your local Congressman. Or something you'd read in the Onion. Women have abortions just because they're bored or to make a statement! Miscarriages are publicity stunts! I, personally, have abortions at least twice a year. It is the best major abdominal surgery a person could have.

It turns out that Ms. Shvarts is a real person and had actually claimed to be doing this. There was a huge outcry. I can't imagine why. Those fascists just don't understand art. Ms. Shvarts had to meet with university officials to explain what she did. She also wrote a guest column for the school newspaper. It is full of double-speak, but luckily for you, I am a professional double-speak decoder.

The project is not what she says it is. However, I'm willing to accept it as bad performance art. Ms. Shvarts squirted semen into her vagina with a needleless syringe. Then, just before she would have had her period, she took "herbs" that could induce a miscarriage. Shockingly, she would then bleed and get cramps. She saved the blood and filmed herself bleeding into a cup.

Now, most women end up with semen in their vaginas from time to time. Most of us bleed once a month and get cramps. Lots of us take herbs that could induce miscarriages, too.

We are all fools for thinking this could be real, and I include myself in that group. Ms. Shvarts says she does not know that she was ever pregnant. Uh huh. Who wants to put money on this? I know which way I'll be betting.

Ms. Shvarts says Yale officials are lying, but they claim that after they confronted her about potential ethical issues and medical concerns in her project, she told them that she never inseminated herself or induced any miscarriages.

This project is incredibly callous to women who have actually had abortions and miscarriages. It doesn't say anything new, and it isn't even good performance art.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Happy birthday, Steve

Friday, April 18, 2008

Post #1000

This is my thousandth post. It's hard to believe. When I started this blog almost two years ago, I had no idea I'd have so much fun with it.

A few of my favourites from the past 999:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I never did believe in the ways of magic

Reader-submitted question: Did you see the story about Dooce in the Wall Street Journal? It's maybe food for thought, or something.

No, I hadn't seen it until you mentioned it. I don't follow Dooce (Heather Armstrong), but she has inspired many women to start their own blogs. Dooce got fired after writing about her work and colleagues, but has become one of the most successful mommy bloggers. I was especially interested in the way she deals with complaints: she runs them over with her car. I prefer to post them on my blog, but we all have our own ways of dealing with our critics.

I'm not really a mommy blogger, but I do write about my family quite a bit. This blog is the only thing I have that's just for me, but "me" includes my relationships with my family and friends.

I'm not sure if this reader is suggesting that I should get fired and look for advertisers, but I am not nearly adventurous enough to try that. I have never been fired, and wouldn't know where to start. (Forces of Evil: Any ideas?)

I'm worried I wouldn't get advertisers, either. In fact, I read several blogs about how to be a good blogger, and apparently I am doing everything wrong. The blog-improvement blogs are close to unanimous on one point: your blog must be focused. It has to be THE PLACE TO GO for one thing, and you need to write the hell out of whatever you decide your blog is about. I'm not doing that very well for the casual reader: David Hasselhoff bondage videos sit next to grammar tips. I do think I've succeeded in making this blog all about me, though. If you come here every day, you probably know what I'm all about. But I'm not at all convinced that I'm marketable.

Thanks for your question.

Fine Canadian journalism

I haven't thought about Rebecca Eckler in a while except to chuckle at her self-absorption every time I see her Googling herself in my site stats.

But look out, Canada! You're about to get a lot more of her! A lot! How exciting is that!!!

No, I haven't hit my head. I've just been reading the press release about her new book. (I love my readers.)

It appears that Eckler is now writing her own press releases. I imagine that her publicist realised that according to publicists' ethics, he cannot claim anything that he knows to be untrue. Thank goodness Eckler is a professional writer and can step in to help during urgent situations like this one. My analysis is in bold text.

April 16, 2008
Montana Ridge: Toddlers Gone Wild by Rebecca Eckler! Now in Stores

The third installment of witty observations from the trenches of toddlerhood

Ms. Eckler is available for Media Interviews!

Because I am familiar with the basic rules of the English language, I now know a few things about this book. It is called "Toddlers Gone Wild by Rebecca Eckler!", meaning that the title of the book includes both the author's name and an exclamation point. This is a bold move. Usually, book titles don't include the author's name unless the author is at least as famous as Oprah. And punctuation's always risky. It can come off as shrill.

I also know that it comes "from the trenches of toddlerhood". That's not really a word, but I assume it means that a toddler wrote the book, which sounds just about right. If a mother wrote the book, it would come from the trenches of motherhood.

Last, I know that Ms. Eckler is available for "Media Interviews!", which sounds very exciting if not particularly grammatical. I personally have already worked myself into a frenzy like the sort of thing you usually only see in fundamentalist churches right after the snake handling.

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 16, 2008) -

Attention: Entertainment editors, books and lifestyle editors

Rebecca Eckler, one of Canada's most popular newspaper columnists, is back more tales from the land of mommydom, giving readers insight into life with her adorable and precocious boddler (half toddler, half baby) in Toddlers Gone Wild!

Back WITH more tales, I think you mean. But now I'm confused. Is the book called "Toddlers Gone Wild!" or "Toddlers Gone Wild by Rebecca Eckler!"? Either way, it definitely sounds incredibly exciting.

I LOVE the new "boddler" word. It is SO SMART. I wish I'd come up with it first. How can I meet the person who invented this word? I'd like to tell her how super awesome she is. Maybe we could even be friends! Hold on, I have to fan myself. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of being in the same room with such a literary genius.

Eckler's latest book is available to all mommies and mommies to be who want to know how Toronto's "It-Mommy" handles toddelrdom. And when not running after Toddler Rowan, Eckler will be available for media interviews as well.

AHAHAHAHAHA! Sorry, I couldn't stop myself. Between the terrible grammar and the spelling errors, I thought this paragraph was directed at people who think Eckler is Toronto's It Mommy, whatever the hell that is. Maybe I DID hit my head.

Hot on the heels of her international best tomes regarding the trials and tribulations of raising baby Rowan, Eckler's Toddlers Gone Wild! looks at the intricacies involved in raising the now "boddler" aged tot.

Whoa. Clearly I didn't just hit my head; I've been caught in some sort of tear in the space-time continuum. In this Bizarro World, Eckler evidently has at least two "international best tomes". Wait. What the hell does that mean? That's not even English.

And what "intricacies" are involved in raising a "boddler"?

Gone are the days when the sweet, cherub-faced infant would mind mommy when she said "no," and gleefully do whatever she suggested. When baby reaches the boddler years, those days are replaced by the most uncharacteristic determination, followed by a tantrum (on both sides).

A TANTRUM ON BOTH SIDES? This simply CAN NOT be true.

Much like Knocked Up! and Wiped!, Eckler's humourous style examines some pertinent parenthood questions- the kind that most parents think about but never bring up in polite company. For example, Eckler's inner voice demands to know what's up with what she calls anti-children people - the kind that won't let a two year old into their store under most circumstance. To this, Eckler retorts, "She can't very well be tied to a leash and left outside!"

Ah, Eckler. You truly are the voice of mommies everywhere. I could stand up and cheer. I've given up on trying to correct your grammar, because there's clearly no point. You are TOTALLY RIGHT. I personally allowed my own son to ride roughshod over hundreds of expensive boutiques when he was two. Then I compared him to a dog and screeched at a few salesclerks.

From falling in love all over again with the Fiance, to butting heads with The Boddler, the highs and lows of Toddlers Gone Wild! will resonate with any modern day mom who wants her cake and a slice or two.

Eckler's available for interviews week of April 21 and first week of May 2008.

Say it ain't so! Are you saying that I could CALL THIS WOMAN and she might actually talk to me? Hold on, I'm feeling faint again. What if we could be friends? Maybe I could brush her hair! Maybe -- just maybe -- she could help me with my pathetic writing career!

I'm including the contact information for Eckler's publicist because I feel really sorry for anyone who has to deal with her in person. He deserves all of the link love he can get.


Montana Ridge Enterprises
Parmjit Parmar
(416) 750-0966 or Cell: (416) 402-7156

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From the Archives: Michael, age 5, watches a scary Star Trek movie

I admit it: I was wrong

It turns out that I do have dieting advice after all; I just didn't realise it until I heard back from a few people. I also didn't realise just how interested some of my readers would be in the details.

When I said that I don't have any weight-loss secrets, I meant that everything the dietitians say is true. It's not about fads or carb counting: it all comes down to calories.

That's not to say that low-carb or fad diets don't work, but they work by restricting the number of calories you take in. A diet that simply substitutes lower-carb versions of the things you're already eating won't make you lose weight unless the substitutes are also lower in calories. You can, however, lose weight by eating chicken, fish and vegetables if that's what you prefer to eat. I just don't think it's realistic to think that you can cut all carbohydrates out of your diet long-term or eat only purple food or cabbage soup or whatever weird thing is the latest rage.

The right number of calories is different for each person, but a dietitian can help you figure out what that number is for you. You can also sign up with a free dieting website like the SELF Challenge. I used to eat around 1400 a day, and I'm still trying to figure out how many I need to maintain my current weight. The number of calories is important: if you eat too many or too few, you won't lose weight. At around 1200 a day, your body goes into starvation mode and clings to every ounce. You get all of the deprivation with none of the weight loss. Basically, it's a very, very bad scene, so always eat more than 1200 a day. Remember that you'll have to add calories if you're exercising, so 1400 is probably the safest lower level if you're a woman. You can always eat more than this if you're hungry, but don't eat less.

While weight loss is all about calories, on an hour-to-hour basis you'll worry more about whether you feel deprived and hungry. You could lose weight eating nothing but Big Macs, but you'll probably feel like crap if you do that. The two things to keep track of are protein and fiber. Both will keep you full longer, so eat as much low-fat meat and whole grains as you can. I ate a lot of chicken breast marinated in different sauces and barbecued.

I was careful not to feel like I was missing out on anything. If I really, really wanted something, I ate it. But I'd be smarter about the way I ate it. I knew that I could have 100 calories' worth of anything, as long as it was just 100 calories. I bought tiny chocolate bars and ate one every night.

The things to avoid are all of the things you already know you shouldn't be eating: fried food, cheese, processed meats, fatty sauces. That slice of cheese on your sandwich is 100 calories, and it's not nearly as tasty as a tiny candy bar. If you cut out cheese (I had to), make sure you get some milk in your diet, preferably skim. For some reason, milk helps you to lose weight. I don't understand it, but it really does work. I don't like to drink milk, so I swapped a nonfat latte for my daily midmorning coffee. It was more expensive, but it was worth it.

Many people have asked me what sort of exercise I do. The answer is that I don't, really. I've always walked to work and home again, and I really don't do much else. Although everyone talks about "diet and exercise", it's much easier to cut calories out of your diet than it is to add the same number of calories' worth of exercise. You can cut 500 calories a day by drinking diet Coke instead of regular and cutting back on the butter you put on your (whole grain) toast. To burn 500 calories, you'll have to hit the gym for ages. Not really my style.

I often see ads in magazines touting pills that can make you lose weight. I don't know if they work, but I do know that you don't need them. Those snake-oil peddlers may try to convince you that they can make you lose five or ten pounds a week, but it's not possible. You can lose one or two pounds of fat a week, no more. It is possible to think you've lost more than that though water loss, but it will only be temporary: your body needs a certain amount of water to stay healthy. The water will come back, so there's really no point in wasting your time or money on diuretics.

The last thing I'll mention is that the scale can drive you crazy. For the first three months, I didn't step on a scale at all. I went entirely by waist, hip and thigh measurements. The scale can trick you into believing that you haven't made any progress when you've actually gained muscle. If you have to go by the scale, weigh yourself once a week, not every day. You will see normal daily fluctuations, but they won't seem like fluctuations, they'll seem like OH MY GOD I'VE GAINED TWO POUNDS SINCE YESTERDAY!! I'M A FAT LOSER AND NOBODY WILL EVER LOVE ME!!! It's not a healthy way to think about your efforts to eat better. And honestly, it's all about being healthy. You probably will never look like the people on TV, so just focus on getting to the size that's right for you.

Maybe I could write a book, after all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It keeps going and going and going and going....

One day when I was about nine years old, my father killed all, or almost all, of the chickens in our coop.

Although my brothers, the capitalist and philosopher king, actually helped with the slaughter, I couldn't bear it. One of them brought the chickens out of the coop two at a time, one in each hand. My dad chopped their heads off and hung them upside down to bleed out. The other helped my mom gut them. I remember the pile of scaly yellow chicken feet.

Chickens do not run around when their heads are cut off. I didn't watch the whole thing -- I mostly cowered in the corner with my eyes covered -- but I did see enough to reassure you that they don't run. They do flop around quite a bit, though, and then the headless corpses get very still.

It was all very horrible. I'm sure the ground was stained with blood. But it was a good lesson for all of us: if we are going to eat meat, animals have to die. I can't excuse people who kill animals for sport or who waste parts of animals.

Regular readers know where I'm going with this.

The latest news is that the premiers of Newfoundland and Nunavut are asking the federal government to ban the use of hakapiks in the seal hunt.

Hakapiks aren't nice, but they are very useful to the minority of sealers who use them to kill seals. One end is used to crush the seal's skull, killing it instantly. The other side has a spike that can be used to drag the carcass along the ice.

Yeah, it's pretty awful to think about it.

Most sealers don't kill seals with a hakapik, but it has become an enduring image of brutality. Danny Williams and Paul Okalik are hoping that by banning its use, the European Union will not ban Canadian seal products in an upcoming vote.

I'm not convinced that this will work. Anti-sealing protesters don't spend much time worrying about Canadian laws. They still pretend that whitecoats are killed. Their main goal is to draw attention to themselves and raise money, and they're not shy about breaking our laws to meet that goal. The point is not to be reasonable or honest about what actually happens out on the ice.

I've seen photos of baby seals all my life in anti-sealing propaganda. They're powerful images, and so are photos of hakapiks. Admit it: you shuddered at the sight of that spike. The activists will never stop using that image. They have plenty of footage of it being used, and there is no reason for them to stop.

So while I applaud Premiers Williams and Okalik for trying to meet their critics halfway, this is not really about the hakapik. The activists aren't trying to get sealers to stop using this tool: most seals are shot to death, anyway. They're trying to get money out of your pocket.

Monday, April 14, 2008

No secrets here

Sunday, April 13, 2008

RIP Teamakers

Ouimet, anonymous CBC blogger, is quitting Teamakers. Really.

Teamakers was one of the best Canadian blogs written under a pseudonym, but it's had trouble establishing its identity over the past few years. It started as one of many "lockout blogs" during the CBC's labour dispute in 2005 -- with one important distinction. Instead of blogging about what it was like to be an employee who was locked out, Ouimet wrote about what it was like to be a member of the management team that was responsible for locking people out. One of the most memorable lines from those early weeks was "You guys may be locked out, but I'm locked in."

There were a lot of critics at first, including people who suspected that Ouimet was a management plant who was just trying to draw people out so they could be fired. I still believe that he was just lonely and frustrated and wanted to write about the way he was feeling. It created an online community of people who hated Big Management but felt great solidarity with this one anonymous person.

Many of the lockout blogs were shut down after the lockout ended: they were created for a certain time and place and didn't have staying power. But Teamakers kept going. I get the feeling that it was more and more stressful for him to stay anonymous. Every once in a while he would talk about the lockout, as if to try to take back that feeling of connectedness with his readers. It never really came. Teamakers became a place to complain about the CBC and make rude anonymous comments about management.

I'm not against complaints, but I don't like rude anonymous comments. The readers who stayed with Ouimet tended to be on the far side of weird. He linked to me once, and I got a crush of visitors from the Toronto Broadcasting Centre, including one who let loose on me with a stream of disjointed accusations against CBC management and finished with "People like you just don't like dissenting opinions, and that's too f@#%in' bad." (I still don't understand why people stay in jobs they hate, working for bosses they hate and dripping bile all over everyone who suggests they do something to make their situations more tolerable.)

I kept reading, though. Teamakers offered a perspective I couldn't get anywhere else: a manager who oozed with disdain for management, or at least worked pretty hard to seem that way. I think he was trapped in a no-win situation. He couldn't write about the things the CBC was doing well without seeming like a management shill to the few hard-core readers he had left. He can't really hate CBC management as much as he pretends to. He couldn't become just another CBC blogger like John Gushue or Paul Gorbould, because that would mean outing himself as Ouimet. Every blog eventually ends, and I think Teamakers has more than run its course.

Ouimet was a great writer, though, so I hope he starts a new blog. I really enjoy reading CBC blogs, and I think that, freed of the baggage that was "Ouimet", he'd be great.

RIP Teamakers. But here's to your continued presence in the blogosphere, anonymous management blogger.

Everybody cut, everybody cut...

Dear everyone,

I saw a play with my mom and dad. And there was a guy who looked like my grampy. And he was a minister like my grampy! But he didn't like dancing. He only liked going to church and bossing people around. But in the end he changed his mind.

From Michael

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Goodbye, old clothes

Sixty pounds later, it was time to really clean out my closet. The old clothes are no longer in the house. Big Pile #1 is gone. Big Pile #2 is gone. The bottom drawer is almost empty. I say "almost" because I did not want to throw away these ginormous pants or what I used to think of as my "skinny jeans". I think it'll be good for me to have the pants around, and I am still a cheapskate who cannot throw away jeans that are only a size too big.

I'm not sure why I kept the old clothes around for so long. I would make plans to get rid of them, but I'd never do it.

This is all still very hard for me to believe. A lot of people want to talk to me about diet issues now, and I know that many of them have a lot of trouble losing weight. People are constantly asking me for advice. Not here on the blog -- most of you have never met me -- but people who know me seem to feel freer to talk about dieting than they did before. Maybe they were worried I would take it as a subtle suggestion that I needed a diet.

For me, the key was portion control: I used to eat healthy food, but I ate too much of it. When I cut back to a normal portion, I didn't miss the rest of it. I also made sure to treat myself every day with a little bit of chocolate or something else. I never felt deprived because if I wanted to eat something, I ate it. I can't promise that this will work for you, but it's what worked for me. I have friends who've done very well with low-carb diets or Weight Watchers, too. It all really comes down to calorie counting, but if Weight Watchers makes it easier for you and it's something you really want, go for it. Make sure you're doing it for yourself, not because you think someone else wants it. There will always be someone who is thinner than you are, and it's not healthy to measure yourself against other people, anyway. And remember that you can't change certain things about yourself. I was curvy last June, and I'm still curvy. I will never be "thin" in the same way some other women are.

I started doing this through the SELF Challenge, which is a free three-month eating plan. It was really my sister-in-law's idea: she was doing it and was looking for an online buddy, so I volunteered to sign up with her. Thanks, Princess. :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

I'm going to do these all at once

Reader-submitted question: Is it really illegal to kill baby seals in Canada?

Yes. It's illegal to sell, trade or barter the pelts of baby seals. PETA is lying to you. Nobody is killing those beautiful white baby seals you saw in that video.

Reader-submitted question: Do Canadian sealers skin seals alive?

No. They can't skin live seals. And they can't leave the animals to choke in their own blood, either. They have to make sure the seals are dead right away. If it turns out that one is still alive, they have to make sure it dies. They can either check to make sure the skull is crushed or do a blink test: that means that they touch the eyeball. If the seal blinks, it needs another whack on the head.

Reader-submitted question: Do seals get whacked on the head right there on the ice where the babies are?

It depends. Seals can't be hunted in the whelping patch, even if only adults are killed. But after a certain amount of time goes by and the young seals lose their white pelts, they can be killed on the ice. They are not all whacked on the head, although that gets all of the attention because it seems a lot more brutal than shooting. Seals can be killed with a club, a gun or a hakapik -- a club with a spike on the end.

Reader-submitted complaint: That's horrible.

You're right. It's not very nice to think about the way any animal is killed, especially during large-scale commercial slaughters.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Okay, so maybe I don’t LIKE classical, but it makes me feel smarter than you!

I don’t mean to spend so much time picking on Russell Smith (full archive of Russell-bashing posts available here), but he makes it much too easy.

He’s still upset about the changes to Radio 2. It’s been a few weeks now, and cracks are starting to show. Gleefully, he points to a set of talking points that have surfaced, including the woefully bad “Let’s not confuse quality of music with style of music”.

Talking points are normal – every organization develops them, and if they don’t, they should – but this line isn’t great. CBC executives should have stopped parroting it as soon as the list was leaked. But then, it’s not as if the MotherCorp takes my free communications advice anyway.

This phrase is the smoking gun! Those clumsy oafs at the CBC had no idea that they would be stumbling into the piercing light of Russell’s scrutiny. Obviously, by pointing out that there is excellent Canadian music in all genres, they are REALLY saying that Britney Spears is just as good as Bach! There’s no other way to interpret their talking points. NOW they look stupid, don’t they?

Russell’s work for the day is clearly done. He’ll take a nonfat lattemochaspressachino with extra sprinkles, please.

But of course, he needs to continue for a few hundred more words. And this is my favourite part, because it’s the most revealing. Russell’s looking for a way to quantify artistic value. His preferred method is to determine each song’s complexity, which he informs us means that only certain people – those who put real work into it – can appreciate his favourite music. Not like those low-brow songs ANYONE can like without understanding the historical references.

Ah. So again, it’s not about whether the music is good, but about whether he can congratulate himself for listening to it. Radio 2 used to offer him a sense of distinction. Now I understand why he’s so upset about the changes.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Shoulder to the wheel for someone else’s selfish gain

One day when I was 13 years old, my gym teacher lined up all of the girls in my class and weighed us.

It has been many years, but I remember two numbers from that day. I weighed 128 pounds, but according to the gym teacher’s chart I was supposed to weigh 110 pounds.

Yes, you should be sickened by my inherent fatness and ugliness. I’m not sure why you’re still reading this. I’m a fatty and shouldn’t have a voice in our society. Just by writing about it, I am glamorising obesity.

I was not fat. I know this because I weigh about the same now as I did then, and I am not fat. This is easy for me to say now that I don’t have someone staring at me and judging the numbers on the scale, but if I could reassure my 13-year-old self that it’s OK to be curvy, I would.

I am truly sickened by the insults that have been thrown this 17-year-old beauty queen’s way. I really don’t understand why newspapers feel they have to be so nasty. The bikini she’s required to wear is not good for her body type, but she’s a very pretty girl.

I do not like beauty pageants anyway, but this is really going over the top. How can it possibly be OK for a medical professional to insult a teenager for saying “All I wanted to do by entering this pageant was to send a message out to young girls that it is fine NOT to be a size zero”?

Somehow I doubt that anyone is going to look at Miss Surrey and decide to eat extra hamburgers to get to the same size. But young women who feel they can never be a size zero might see her as a role model.

Again, I hate beauty contests. They are degrading. And yes, she has put herself out there to be judged on her physical appearance. But I just can’t agree that shuddering and calling her fat is an acceptable way for a dietitian to react to Chloe Marshall's win in Surrey.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Two thongs usually don't make a right, but...

Monday, April 07, 2008

How TIRING it all is!

Reader-submitted complaint: what a bitter, sad lady you are...


That's all you've got? I expected much, much more from you: at least a semicolon or two, a capital letter and a few subordinate clauses. Are your fingers tired from sending anonymous messages to all of the people who thought your last column was ridiculous?

Really, you need to do a better job of responding to your critics if you want to call yourself a writer. Especially if you're a narcissist who's going to come here every single day through a Google search for your own name. I'm just giving you a fair warning. You definitely don't have to come here if you don't like what I say.

Since you didn't provide one, I will do my own critique of that post in your typical style. Consider it a gift.

Megan, who apparently does not see fit to blog under her full name even though this could be determined with even the slightest bit of effort (although I choose not to expend it; life as a Toronto columnist is very arduous), has submitted
an assessment of my latest column, in which I, defender of all that is virtuous about Canadian journalism, dared to challenge the dogma which states that blogging is preferable to true journalism printed in the newspaper.

I don't know why I bother to read critiques from anonymous writers, although in retrospect, I suppose that if I truly wanted to avoid that sort of writing I would stop Googling myself on a daily basis. Clearly, that's not an option.

This "Megan" fancies herself a writer, but clearly she is not serious about it, or she would be a Real Writer like I am instead of an anonymous person on the Internet. I've written books, and I publish them under my own name. Not like people on the Internet, where there are no rules and where real journalists definitely wouldn't write anything at all.

Clearly, this "Megan" has never heard of The Long Tail, or she would have referenced it in her rambling, unfocused treatise. This groundbreaking new idea is fresh out of Harvard, I think. All of the cool people are talking about it, which is probably why "Megan" doesn't seem to know what it is: it is simply out of her realm for now. I, of course, am an early adopter, and I totally GET these new ideas and their implications for journalism in our society. I also note that she does not have a Wikipedia page, so I think you know what that means.

But I am not hurt by the criticism. Not at all. In fact, I don't care. I don't care so much that I am leaving anonymous messages of the kind you might hear in a bar, where I, naturally, spend a lot of time paying rapt attention to cool boys who say things like "LOL" out loud. It's RESEARCH. I hope to use this information to convince my counterparts, using colourful anecdotes, of the necessity of staying current, so as to better attract the younger generation to our newspaper. For example, there is nothing more "hip" and "now" than classical music, which is why I railed against the CBC's plans to scale back its classical programming, and blogging is certainly, if not already, going the way of the dodo bird, which is why I completely don't care if some nobody in the blogosphere thinks I'm not a very good writer.

Thanks for stopping by, Russell.

Michael: Paleontology Expert

Dear everyone,

Dinosaurs lived a LONG LONG time ago. They died and all their skin went away and then they were dead for so long that it was only their bones left and sometimes they would turn into fossils. Scientists don't know why they died. But lots of them think a meteor crashed into the earth and put a lot of dust in the air and all the plants and trees died so the dinosaurs couldn't live. And they all died and some of them went into fossils. But here's the funny thing: Some animals didn't die! Some scientists think they hid until it was safe to come out again.

From Michael

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Any Star Trek fans out there?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Don't let me down

Reader-submitted question: On the subject of Russell Smith....What? No comment on yesterday's column, Way more news sites, way less news? Seems to me to be kind of right up your alley.

I am too predictable. I saw that column and thought seriously about doing a post, but was too tired earlier in the week.

This column is actually much more than I usually expect from Russell, by which I mean that it is still not very good, but well within the standards of the Globe's new Arts section. I can understand why our Newspaper of Record would want to publish it: It is essentially a space-filler about the importance of the Newspaper of Record. What a coincidence!

It's fortunate that we have Russell and the Project for Excellence in Journalism to bring us breaking news like:

  1. There are a LOT of websites and blogs.
  2. Most of these do not do a lot of original research. Instead, they provide commentary on or links to real news sites.
  3. These websites focus on the things their readers want to read about.
  4. Although the Project is not cool enough to mention sites like Digg, Russell definitely is. Digg him, please! Remember, it's a "new phenomenon", so Russell is TOTALLY THERE. (Did Russell just notice that site, or does he really think it's new?)
Wow. I can only guess how much this report must have cost. This level of analysis is definitely unusual and deserves a LOT of media coverage. Who would have thought that websites focus on the things their readers want to read about?

Naturally, when the nasty little underbelly of the Internet is exposed in such a dramatic fashion, it is cause for much glee. I don't really like the term "mainstream media" because it's so contemptuous and neglects the important role of large news organizations, but if Russell wants to apply that term to himself, I suppose I can't argue with him.

You see, the mainstream media is MUCH more important than blogs. MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH more important. All you need is some foot-stomping to really make that point. The true innovators are the people who work for newspapers. Why, you might ask? Because they have blogs and allow comments on their stories, just like bloggers do!

I'm scratching my head. I thought Russell was saying that blogs aren't important. Yet, somehow, he sees them as proof that newspapers are cool. It's a simple rule of thumb: Blogs written by reporters are good. Blogs written by non-reporters are bad. That's pretty easy to remember, isn't it?

I really wish that newspaper folks weren't so defensive about the effect blogging has had on their industry. There will always be a role for journalism. Nobody is pretending that the majority of bloggers do their own research. As the Project points out, most simply provide commentary or a local spin on things a journalist has already reported. I'm not sure how that makes them bad. It's the same role columnists, pundits and editorial writers have always filled. It is true that the quality of this analysis varies widely, but that's the case for newspapers, too.

The rapid increase in the number of blogs does not threaten journalism. It has had a significant effect on traditional media models, but not on journalism itself. One day, journalists will see that.

Thanks for your question.

Friday, April 04, 2008

If I could only read your mind, tell me the answer I would find

Reader-submitted question: How do you know what people search for?

I have a site meter. Actually, I have a couple of site meters, the better to spy on you with. I know every single sexual fantasy you have while you're on my site. (Perverts.)

For example, we have this person, who searches for her own name every frickin' day:

Rebecca, you're a loser. Nobody's talking about you. Seriously, we don't care about you, and we don't think about you except to take pity on your child because of the way you talk about her.

My site meters tell me all about the people who read my blog. I keep an eye on them to see which posts get the most attention. That way, I can write things I know you will want to read. I also look at which links you click on. For example, I think the new list of posts over on the right is working better than the old links list I used to have. A quick primer: If you're only interested in the blogs that were on that old list, they are in the "Awesome posts from people I actually know" box. The "You also might like" box includes new posts from other bloggers I read. Both boxes continuously refresh themselves, so all of those links will bring you to new material. My old list of links included a number of bloggers who only publish new material every once in a while.

I can also tell how you get here. Most of my readers have me bookmarked, but I have about 30 RSS subscribers. Others come in through links from other blogs. Almost all of those readers come through one of these sites:
Just Below 63
Way Way Up
The Big American Zero
Townie Bastard
Cute With Chris: Craig Gallery (Every day, I get several hits to a silly post I put up months ago)

And then there are the Google and Technorati searchers. I get a kick out of these guys, but I don't usually write posts based on their searches. I figure they're probably not going to stay long, but if they like me enough to come back, that's great.

Thanks for your question.

Choose Your Own Blogventure

I didn't participate, but I think you'll enjoy Choose Your Own Blogventure, from Nancy Pearl Wannabe.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Google search terms that bring first-time readers here

  • Russell Smith (Vanity searches, I'm sure.)
  • Rebecca Eckler (Ditto.)
  • karaoke (My dad is now famous.)
  • Danny Williams (w00t!)
  • break the silence, damn the dark damn the night (Welcome, fetishists.)
  • reflections in the snow covered hill (Am I gaining a following, or is this another fetishist?)
  • megan page naked (I bet this person was disappointed.)
  • iqaluit prostitutes (Perv.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"Tell Gucci to stop clubbing baby seals"

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Propaganda.

There's been a lot of talk in the northern blogosphere lately about PETA's disingenuous efforts to take down the sealing industry. I've been pretty clear that I think they're in the wrong. But I have to say that they definitely know what they're doing.

PETA's annual campaigns are not about saving baby seals. They haven't been for years. Their annual campaigns are about raising money, and they're pretty successful.

You see, it's illegal to kill whitecoat pups. The video footage PETA provides to news agencies makes it look like sealers are clubbing pups right now, but the footage was shot decades ago. Most seals aren't clubbed, either; they're killed with a single bullet. They are, however, often dragged across the ice with a large hook after they are killed, and that doesn't look very nice on TV.

Seals are not skinned alive. This one doesn't even make sense. A sealer who's just after an animal's skin would not risk damage to the skin by trying to take it off a living animal if a whack on the head would stop the flailing. (See, PETA doesn't have a monopoly on gruesome discussions.)

But this is not and never was about the facts. That baby seal on a pristine ice floe is a pretty amazing image, and blood shows up really well on ice. All of the killing takes place in a few weeks, so the corpses pile up quickly. The sealers never had a chance once PETA figured out they could use whitecoats to raise money.

You see, there are many, many animals that are treated worse than seals. They live terrible lives and die terrible deaths. I'm thinking specifically of chickens, but any animal that lives on a large farm will do. Chickens don't bring in donations. City people eat chickens. They don't want to hear about their sweat-shop eggs. It's much easier to ask Newfoundlanders to give up their livelihood than to stop eating eggs.

Did you know that live male baby chicks are thrown into grinders and turned into food for other animals? Did you know that chickens will literally peck each other to death? Did you know that they live in horrendous conditions and that blood pours all over the slaughterhouse floor? Yeah, that's pretty horrible, and it all really happens. It's too bad they're not pretty on TV, and it's too bad that you could actually do something about it by just refusing to eat chicken or eggs instead of giving money to an animal-rights organization. Obviously, chickens can't be the face of a fundraising campaign.

PETA is not trying to be fair. They never are. They are trying to get you to donate money, so they can hire more staff to convince you to donate even more money. It's all about self-interest, and I don't blame them for wanting more money. I want more money, too. I only blame them for lying to you.

PETA has some good ads. I especially like the ones that are obviously supposed to be funny, like this series. They're well-written and make you think. The sealing ads, on the other hand, are not about making you think. If you actually thought about the sealing hunt, you would realise that PETA's been lying to you for years, and you would stop giving them money. They can't have that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Happy April Fools' Day

On April 1, 2001, I received an irate call at home from a loyal CBC listener. He was furious -- absolutely furious -- about our morning-show host. He explained that our host had been very rude to Ronald Reagan that morning.

I hadn't heard the interview, but I was very confused. For starters, Ronald Reagan wasn't exactly huge news in the NWT. I couldn't figure out why he'd be doing interviews. For another thing, it was Sunday. We didn't have a morning show on Sundays. It had to be our regular weekend host, who was a bit of an interesting character but not the type to openly insult a president on air. The listener insisted that it was our regular morning-show host.

It wasn't, and it wasn't Ronald Reagan. It wasn't even Jimmy Carter. But the fellow who called me wasn't the only one to make that mistake.