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to Atlanta [11 Feb 2012|08:15pm]
John and I will be travelling to Atlanta on Monday, where we will spend approximately 6 days visiting various members of John's family and our friend Mike, who formerly resided in Chicago. This will be our first trip to Atlanta since we visited the city in October/November 2010.

We're likely to visit these sites:
The Delta Museum
Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site
Georgia Aquarium

We plan to dine at these locations:
Mary Mac's
Barbecue Kitchen

And I'll likely browse the shelves at Bound to Be Read Books east of downtown. :)
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Indy & the Super Bowl [04 Feb 2012|05:19pm]
Indianapolis is receiving a lot of media attention this weekend as the Super Bowl will take place in the city's Lucas Oil Stadium tomorrow. This facility, which is grotesquely out-of-scale with its immediate surroundings, was primarily financed by the state of Indiana and local governments through the sale of bonds, sales tax increases, and the sale of Colts licence plates. The $620 million government contribution (out of a $720 million dollar construction total) could have easily financed a number of other projects which would have been better public investments, such as a starter light rail system, commuter train service between downtown Indy and several suburbs, the redevelopment of historic but financially-troubled inner city neighbourhoods, and additional facilities for IUPUI (the city's main public university).

I imagine that this backstory will be far from the public consciousness during the game and halftime show tomorrow, but I hope that the city and state will make better choices in the future.
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2011: Reading review [22 Jan 2012|07:26pm]
I read 75 books in 2011. Of this total, 16 books were penned by Canadian authors, 27 were works of fiction, and 10 were published by university presses.

I've never read that many books in a single year, and I hope to match that total this year. One of my bookcase shelves is reserved for books that I have bought but have not yet read. This shelf includes 5 university press books and an unusually large group of essay collections. It also includes a large number of titles published by small presses, such as Gaspereau, Dundurn, Talon Books, and Anvil Press (all headquartered in Canada) and Magnus Books, Greywolf Press, and Sarabande Books (from the United States).

Perhaps someday I'll be an author too. ;)
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post-holiday thoughts [09 Jan 2012|04:53pm]
The holidays are over and I’m back to my normal work “routine”. But I’d still like to post a few thoughts about the season…

I wouldn’t object to the abolition of Christmas and Boxing Week sales. Instead of selling products for a “regular” price for most of the year and then selling them at a “steeply discounted” price in December, why not simply sell items at the same price, perhaps at a slight discount, all year long? There could be some obvious exceptions to this rule (especially for discontinued/obsolete items that need to be ‘cleared out’) but, in general, I suspect many people would welcome the opportunity to shop for things at any time of the year without worrying about whether or not they are receiving the best price from a retailer.

Several local stores have a “no sales” policy and I am happy to support them (in fact, the majority of the Christmas gifts I bought last month were purchased from stores with these policies).


I was disturbed to discover that mainstream American news organizations were reporting on the American Family Association’s recent efforts to cajole various retailers into incorporating the word “Christmas” into their advertising campaigns. The group is opposed to the use of more inclusive sentiments like “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings”.

Unlike the AFA, I support the use of terms like “holidays”, especially because I am well aware of the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas. While I understand that my position is not universally acknowledged, any coverage of the issue- including coverage of views opposing my own- should probably refrain from soliciting the opinions of hate groups. The AFA has been considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading civil rights organization, since 2005, and I don’t think that hate groups should be granted legitimacy by seeking their opinions.

I assume that, on a deeper level, the AFA wants retailers to use the word “Christmas” for religious reasons. But that would be highly ironic as the practice of giving gifts at Christmas is actually secular in nature and it originated in the 19th century as a non-religious custom to accompany the religious holiday.
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SA trip [03 Jan 2012|04:23pm]
I almost missed my flight to Dallas last week when I woke up just over one hour prior to my departure. Miraculously, my friend David delivered me to the Vancouver International Airport 35 minutes before departure; despite initial scepticism from the ticket agent (who reluctantly handed me a boarding card that did not guarantee a seat on the flight) I made it to the gate 20 minutes before departure and picked up my actual boarding pass.

Despite my fatigue, I worked my way through most of Jonathan Franzen’s collection of autobiographical essays (The Discomfort Zone). I briefly flipped through the airline’s in-flight magazine, which was notable – as always- for its collection of advertisements promoting steakhouses. And I purchased a sandwich from the flight attendant; while it was decent, I couldn’t help but think of the time in 1998 when this same airline offered a complimentary hot meal to all economy-class passengers on an Indianapolis-Dallas flight, which was of significantly shorter duration. But I had a painless connection upon landing in Dallas and I was able to procure a tasty lunch and strong coffee before my flight to San Antonio.

My stay in San Antonio was primarily notable for the quality time I spent with family members and with my friends Glenna and Scott. I certainly dislike San Antonio, which features miles of featureless highways lined with strip malls, billboards, and oversized business signage. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to partake of one of the city’s positive features – excellent Mexican cuisine- but I did enjoy multiple home-cooked meals. I received thoughtful gifts, including an ‘art glass’ bear sculpture, but I also acquired a fairly nasty cold that I am still recovering from.

I enjoyed an incident-free return to BC on January 1 and I can only hope that the coming year will consist of similarly “smooth sailing”. : )
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Xmas 2011 [24 Dec 2011|08:35pm]
It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees...

And I don't have a river to skate away on (and the same holds true for much of the country, which is undergoing an unusually warm December).

Tonight I'm spending time with John and listening to some of my favourite old and new music (the "new" music consists of the Fleet Foxes and Destroyer; Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert CD is currently playing on the stereo). Later this evening I'll start reading Julian Barnes' novel *The Sense of an Ending*, which has an unintentionally appropriate title as the end of 2011 is approaching quickly.

I wish my friends and readers a Happy Holiday.

PS: I will be writing my next blog post in San Antonio...
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Best albums of 2011 [17 Dec 2011|11:39pm]
Several good albums were released this year; here are my favourites (in no particular order):

Destroyer - "Kaputt"
Paul Simon - "So Beautiful or So What"
Fleet Foxes - "Helplessness Blues"
Bon Iver - "Bon Iver"
Ron Sexsmith - "Long Player Late Bloomer"
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Belong"
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back [05 Dec 2011|10:09pm]
I’ve been increasingly absent from this journal and I would like to rectify that situation with a commitment to publishing at least once per week.

In the meantime, I’d like to offer my friends the opportunity to read my new (fictional) short story, “Leaving the Office”; please let me know if you’d like to read it and I will send you a copy in Microsoft Word format.

John and I will be spending Christmas and Boxing Day in Vancouver; we don’t really “observe” Christmas amongst ourselves, so a major motivation for our trip is the opportunity to be in public spaces (like coffee shops) that will be open on Christmas Day. Long-time readers of this journal will recall that downtown Vancouver- with the exception of banks and retail stores- is largely “open” on Christmas day, owing in part to its substantial community of immigrants. Unfortunately (for me), Christmas in Victoria tends to be a quiet affair, so we’ll seek solace in the sights and sounds of the city. I’ll then depart on a flight to San Antonio on the morning of December 27 from Vancouver International Airport.
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Regarding the oil sands [11 Nov 2011|10:22am]
I don’t want this blog to be seen as an exclusively political outlet, but I feel compelled to speak out about something of vital importance. The current and ongoing development of the ‘oil sands’ in Alberta is a national disgrace for many reasons, not least of which is its massive and disproportionately large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. I strongly favour a moratorium on oil sands development until technological advances can reduce the carbon footprint involved in the extraction and conversion of this resource into crude oil. In the meantime, if a moratorium cannot be achieved, I support efforts to block construction of pipelines that would carry oil (in any form) extracted from the tar sands region of northern Alberta.

One of the loudest arguments made in favour of oil sands development is the economic spinoff produced by related activities, including the creation of well-paying jobs. While I am obviously supportive of jobs that pay a living wage, especially in the current economic climate, I do not believe that job creation trumps the moral responsibility of societies. The ending of the slave trade, the closure of factories producing chemical weapons, and recent restrictions on the sale and marketing of tobacco have all resulted in job losses, but few would argue against the moral correctness of these policy decisions. As climate change will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on humanity (the flooding of heavily populated low-lying areas, decreased agricultural productivity in certain areas, etc.), our government should respond in the only ethical way: enacting policies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the country, which can only be achieved via restrictions on oil sands development.

More information about this issue is available from the David Suzuki foundation:
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I support OWS [21 Oct 2011|05:10pm]
Vancouver's Adbusters Foundation, which publishes Adbusters, is arguably one of the most influential Canadian publishers in the U.S. market. Though produced here, 60% of the magazine's sales are in the United States, which is an impressive feat; the only Canadian publisher with greater penetration is Harlequin Enterprises, which relies on American readers for 90% of its romance fiction sales. But the Adbusters Foundation arguably weilds greater influence, and it has now secured a place in history as the progenitor of the Occupy Wall Street movement with its famous photograph of a dancer atop the Charging Bull that accompanied a call to protest.

Like many Americans and Canadians, I also support the Occupy Wall Street movement. I am strongly opposed to growing income inequality, which has allowed the top 1% of the American population to control 40% (or more) of the country's wealth (income inequality, while much lower in Canada, is growing at a fast rate and needs to be addressed too). Income inequality should be addressed through increases in estate taxes and policy changes which favour wealth redistribution.

And I am strongly in favour of reforming the U.S. corporate system in the following ways:

* Increased regulation of all corporations doing business in the US in areas including (but not limited to) executive compensation, public accountablity (especially for companies that receive government contracts or taxpayer-financed bailouts), worker treatment (including the right to paid time off), and environmental stewardship;
* An end to the favoured legal status that entitles corporations to be treated as persons;
* Greater protections for unions and collective bargaining rights;
* An imposition of an Alternative Minimum Tax for corporations (many U.S. companies pay little or no income tax); and
* The nationalization of certain companies and/or industries in instances where nationalization would serve the public interest.

These proposals do not call for the elimination of corporations but they do envision much tighter control of these entities to ensure that they serve society (one could easily argue that U.S. society, in its current state, serves corporations). The wealth generated by the private sector should be taxed to provide the financial resources necessary to fund the programs associated with a social democratic paradigm (health care, retirement pensions, child care, etc.).

Large corporations have a pervasive presence in modern life; a small example is the fact that I am writing this on a Hewlett Packard computer running software made by Microsoft that can be viewed in a browser developed by Google, and you might have read about this short essay on Facebook (where the link may have been displayed alongside an advertisement for a major international bank). Corporations obviously have a place in modern life, but some of the issues raised by the OWS protesters are aggrivated by the fact these large organizations occupy an enormous place in American society. So I think it is important for the non-corporate sector to be supported as a 'counterweight'; this sector (broadly) includes non-profit organizations, public sector organizations, small businesses, and cooperatively-owned enterprises.
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books & bears [12 Oct 2011|05:49pm]
The Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington, Indiana features an outdoor sculpture comprised of two bears. Naturally, given my fondness for alliteration, I began to refer to these bruins as the “book bears”. And as it turns out, books and bears are two of my favourite topics, so I’ll address them both in today’s journal entry.


Toronto strikes me as an independent bookstore heaven; John and I visited 5 of these establishments during our recent trip there, and there are several others that I would like to visit when we return (including a bookstore entirely dedicated to architecture, design, and urban planning titles).

We first visited Book City in the Annex neighbourhood downtown, a full-service bookstore that discounts all hardcover titles and features tables of remaindered books in great condition. Our next stop on the book circuit was Glad Day Books, which is now the oldest gay & lesbian bookstore in the world; its small but charming space (situated within the second storey of a heritage building on Yonge Street) is well-stocked with a variety of books (some of which are no longer in print). We then rode the subway to the financial district and Ben McNally Books, an immaculate shop focused on (but not limited to) hardcover non-fiction, including university press titles. Later that afternoon we took the Queen Street streetcar to Type Books, situated within the vibrant Queen West neighbourhood and featuring an eclectic array of titles, including an impressive selection of architecture and planning books.

Our new friend Randy, who we met in connection with the wedding, encouraged us to make one more stop: BMV Books, a 3-storey used bookstore in the Annex. So we headed there on Sunday, October 2 (the day after the wedding), and we were duly impressed by the store, which featured a large variety of used books in very good condition and a completely non-claustrophobic atmosphere. :)


The Vancouver Sun recently reported some good news: grizzly bears are expanding their range in British Columbia. There are now 16,000 of these animals in the province (compared to about 100,000 black bears), and some have been sighted in locations that are remarkably close to Metropolitan Vancouver. In fact, it seems likely that grizzlies will make it to Grouse Mountain, located in North Vancouver, by the end of this decade.

The prospect of these magnificent animals living in an urban area is exciting as a greater number of people may have the opportunity to view these bears (about 100 black bears already make their permanent home in the Vancouver area). The presence of nature in its various manifestations can inculcate and reinforce a sense of environmental stewardship in a community, but the presence of grizzlies- who will be forced to compete against the more numerous black bears for fish and berries- will present some challenges. Luckily, the residents of Anchorage, Alaska have been living with grizzly bears for decades, and I hope that some of the bear management lessons learned in that city can be transferred to the municipal leadership of Vancouver.
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wedding speech [05 Oct 2011|06:15pm]
I expanded my previous journal entry into the following speech, which I delivered Saturday at the wedding of the Roberts.


John and I have known the Roberts for many years: I met Robert Shirley at a Christmas party in Lubbock, Texas in December 1995. In many ways our lives have travelled parallel paths: I attended university with the Roberts, socialized with many of the same people, and eventually all four of us wound up residing in St. Louis in 2000, where we lived in two of the same apartment buildings and where Robert S. and I began working in the same department for the same employer. A few years later all of us migrated to Chicago and purchased condominiums prior to the crash of the real estate bubble. In the mid 2000s we immigrated to Canada as permanent residents and began making new friends and seeking new opportunities. Though we reside thousands of kilometres away from each other, we live in the capitals of our respective provinces and closely follow the political process of Ontario and British Columbia. We share a love for cities and all things urban, and we are frequent customers of the transit systems of our communities. The first large European cities visited by the Roberts are London, Paris, and Amsterdam; the first large European cities that John and I have vacationed in together and London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. And all four of us are fans of pizza and Indian food!

But today the Roberts have taken a step that separates them- for now- from John and I: they have officially tied the knot after 13 years together. And what is the secret to the success of their relationship? All of the unique challenges they have survived together over the years.

One of the first challenges they overcame was a full-sized 1986 Dodge ‘conversion van’, affectionately known as the Hoopty-Mobile. In one of the shrewdest trades of all time, the Roberts acquired this vehicle from Robert Kilmer’s grandmother in exchange for a used Packard Bell computer. But perhaps Robert’s grandmother came out ahead in the trade: the van achieved between 5 and 10 miles per gallon, shook violently if pushed to exceed 50 miles per hour on the highway, and came equipped with brakes that had likely received their last maintenance in the twilight years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. But the van had a few more interesting claims to fame: the driver’s seat headrest featured a permanent stain that Robert Shirley attributed to excessive hairspray use by the previous owner, and the ragged carpet was so dirty that we would frequently stomp our feet on it in order to create an instant dust storm (as if Lubbock needed any more dust storms). Robert Shirley handed me the keys to the Hoopty-Mobile during a visit to Lubbock in 1999 when he flew to Dallas to attend a job interview. But he warned me that the vehicle lacked insurance, possessed no valid inspection sticker, and carried an expired registration. Fearing arrest – and fearing for my life while driving this peculiar monstrosity- I promptly parked it and rented a car instead.

Moving and relocation presented other challenges for the Roberts. My subcompact Honda Civic Hatchback and I were dutifully pressed into service in 1998, when my visit to Lubbock overlapped with Robert Shirley’s move back to Gordon Hall, where he and Robert Kilmer were roommates. John and I helped the Roberts with a more challenging move in January 2001: their relocation from Lubbock to St. Louis. Robert Shirley, John, and I departed from St. Louis in Roberts’s car at approximately 4 PM, and we arrived at the Roberts’ soon-to-be former apartment at 6 am the following morning, where we were in for a rude surprise: an electrical short had left the apartment without electricity, and the apartment’s temperature was approximately 59 degrees Farenheight. We somehow managed to sleep a few hours before waking to pick up the Penske moving truck, and we packed the truck and cleaned out the apartment that same day. Another challenging January move came in 2003, when the Roberts moved to Chicago from St. Louis. Due to a postponement in the closing date for their condo purchase, the Roberts lived at the Candlewood Suites near Chicago O’Hare for approximately 3 weeks. And a lack of temporary storage meant that the Roberts had all of their possessions packed in storage bins in the hotel room. John and I visited them at the Candlewood Suites and observed the surreal scene: the hotel room was difficult to navigate and the bins were stacked almost to the ceiling, but the entire diorama could have doubled as a great post-modern art exhibition!

And the Roberts overcame many smaller challenges too. They survived a month without postal mail due to a change-of-address mistake that sent their mail to 4949 Southwest Avenue instead of 4949 Southwest Pine. They survived multiple road trips from Chicago to Windsor, Ontario, returning with cases of Canadian soft drinks made with real sugar (instead of high fructose corn syrup). And they survived multiple instances of being trapped in one of the elevators in the downtown Toronto high rise condominium they used to reside in.

So John and I are convinced that the Roberts can overcome anything that life throws their way. And they’ll do it with love, intelligence, and a sense of humour. Congratulations to them!
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Toronto wedding [27 Sep 2011|07:20am]
John and I are returning to Toronto this week to enjoy a short vacation and to attend the wedding of our friends Robert S. and Robert K., who we have known for many years (I met one of the Roberts at a Christmas party in Lubbock, Texas in December 1995).

In many ways our lives have travelled parallel paths: I attended university with the Roberts, socialized with many of the same people, and eventually all four of us wound up residing in St. Louis in 2000, where we lived in two of the same apartment buildings and where Robert S. and I began working in the same department for the same employer. A few years later all of us migrated to Chicago and purchased condominiums prior to the crash of the real estate bubble. In the mid 2000s we immigrated to Canada as permanent residents and began making new friends and seeking new opportunities. Though we reside thousands of kilometres away from each other, we live in the capitals of our respective provinces and closely follow the political process of Ontario and British Columbia. We share a love for cities and all things urban, and we are frequent customers of the transit systems of our communities. The first large European cities visited by the Roberts are London, Paris, and Amsterdam; the first large European cities that John and I have vacationed in together and London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. And all four of us are fans of pizza and Indian food. :)
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Sandra: two challenges [16 Sep 2011|07:23pm]
The release of Michael Ondaatje's new novel, The Cat's Table, has made me think of Sandra, a colleague who died about a year and a half ago in a horrible motorcycle accident, even though I haven`t purchased or read this new work. In the last full year of her life (2009) Sandra told me that she was struggling to finish Michael Ondaatje`s previous novel, Divisadero, a book I read not long after its initial publication in 2007. While admitting Ondaatje`s place in the pantheon of serious Canadian literary fiction, she was tempted to abandon his book in favour of "light" reading, possibly a chick-lit novel. But I encouraged her to accept the literary challenge of Divisadero; I don`t know if she ever finished the book.

I challenged Sandra in a completely different context when she told me that, as a nature lover, she didn`t understand how people could live in cities. I knew she harboured a deep respect for the natural world; she resided in a rural area north of the Malahat, a mountain peak northwest of Victoria, and displayed an enthusiasm for animals. Still, I responded to her offhand remark by saying something along these lines: "Actually, city residents love nature by living close to their work and having a lower carbon footprint due to less dependence on long vehicle commutes." I could have also pointed out the environmental efficiency associated with denser forms of housing, but I didn`t really need to: she acknowledged the point I was making, even if she was not wholly won over to it.

Given the feistiness of Sandra's own personality, it seems fitting to remember her by focusing on these two friendly challenges. :)
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occupations, callings [10 Sep 2011|08:24pm]
Writer/philosopher/professor/performer Cornel West posted this message on Facebook a few days ago:

"The worst thing in the world would be to be almost 60 years old and know you had a calling and you missed out on it. The soul was called but you didn't answer."

I sense that Dr. West is referring to a 'calling' as an overwhelming sense, probably originating in childhood, of what one should do with one's life professionally (and otherwise). I can honestly say that I don't have a calling; one obvious upside to this lack is the apparent absence of guilt I'll feel when I'm approaching 60 years of age.

I'm approaching my 5-year service anniversary with my current employer, and I've been thinking about alternate careers I could (still) embark on in the future, especially if I seek additional education: freelance writer, urban planner, professor (of something). I'm not *called* to any of these occupations, but I still daydream about them. And I'm reminded that Cornel West, like all individuals who possess a calling and have the means to attain it, likely feels less occupational anxiety than those with multiple professional interests. As psychologist Barry Schwartz pointed out in The Paradox of Choice, having many choices can be a catalyst of stress or unhappiness.
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PDX (again) [31 Aug 2011|10:09pm]
John and I returned to Portland, Oregon last week via the Victoria Clipper catamaran and the Amtrak Cascades train service. We attended the Airliners International trade show and returned to some of our favourite local haunts (such as Powell’s City of Books and Swagat Indian Cuisine). But Ben, our friend and host, introduced us to new destinations, including an excellent and eclectic collection of food carts (known as Cartlandia) where we dined on pizza baked in a portable wood oven. And, for the first time, John and I visited the beautiful Oregon coast.

Portland remains one of my favourite US cities, and a large part of its charm lies in its distinctive differences from other similarly-sized places. But, despite the urban planning successes of the city, there is still room for improvement. Here are my suggestions:

* Interstate 405, which divides downtown Portland from the near west side neighbourhoods of Goose Hollow and Nob Hill, should be ‘covered’ with some sort of ‘lid’. The highway already runs below grade, so covering it and adding pedestrian amenities and landscaping would allow for better street-level connections between downtown and the west side. A similar proposal was floated for Interstate 70 in St. Louis some time ago to improve pedestrian access between the downtown core and the Arch.

* The light industrial area along the Willamette River east of downtown would benefit from a major tree-planting campaign. Portland’s downtown core is blessed with an abundance of trees that provide significant pedestrian shade, and I see no reason to deprive an industrial area of this kind of amenity. This zone contains a number of architecturally interesting buildings and is traversed daily by eastside residents on their way to/from downtown.

· Walking by seven-storey parking garages reminded me of the value of underground parking. Portland’s zoning laws should be amended to discourage the construction of above-ground parking structures.
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Rick Perry is a sodomite [17 Aug 2011|07:32pm]
Texas governor Rick Perry, who recently announced his candidacy in the U.S. presidential race, once declared his support for "anti-sodomy" laws that criminalized sexual behaviour between consenting adults of the same gender. He's also stated his support for the inclusiveness of creationism (in the guise of "intelligent design) in Texas science textbooks as an alternative to the mainstream scientific consensus of evolution. It seems obvious that Perry takes a quasi-literal approach to certain texts in the Hebrew Bible (particularly Genesis) and then tries to extrapolate public policy from his interpretation.

So I'd like to temporarily adapt a similar approach to make this declaration: Rick Perry is a sodomite.

The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel, when identifying the wrongdoings of the ancient city of Sodom, mentions nothing of a sexual nature (gay, straight, or otherwise): "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy" (Ezekiel 16:49, ESV). Based on this text, an alternative definition of 'sodomite' would be someone who is prosperous but does not assist the poor.

Rick Perry is definitely this type of sodomite: his budgets have done nothing to directly assist the poorest residents of Texas. Texas has one of the highest poverty rates in the US (the official rate now exceeds 17%) and is tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers earning the minimum wage. The childhood poverty rate in Texas is 25%, a figure that is the highest in the US. Though Texas has a 'weak governor' system that limits the powers granted to Perry, he's spent none of his political capital to push for spending on social programs that would assist the state's poor; in fact, Perry refuses to consider any sort of tax increase and the most recent Texas budget made significant cuts to financial aid programs and medical insurance for the poor (Medicaid).

I suppose that Rick Perry believes that the town of Sodom literally existed in the ancient near east, and he likely believes in the historicity of its destruction. I wonder when the Bible-believing governor will realize that he is guilty of the worst offence committed by Sodom's residents?
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the neighbourhood grows (up) [08 Aug 2011|04:55pm]
An unprecedented wave of new residential construction is about to commence in downtown Victoria. I’ve identified six condo projects that are likely to break ground by early next year, adding a total of 650 condominium units to the neighbourhood:

Era, 15 storeys, 157 units
The Sovereign, 11 storeys, 36 units
Kunju, 4 storeys, 28 units
The Mondrian, 10 storeys, 93 units
The Jukebox, 9 storeys, 200 units
Union, 5 storeys, 136 units

A 21-storey condo tower, the Promontory, is currently being marketed to local buyers; it will be built just across the bridge from downtown and will be (for the near future) the tallest residential structure on Vancouver Island.

These developments – which don’t include a few major projects that are already underway and nearing completion- will likely comprise the largest condo ‘building boom’ the downtown area has seen since the late 2000s.

With the obvious exception of the Sovereign (which will have 3-4 units per floor), the new buildings will predominately feature smaller units (i.e. homes encompassing less than 900 square feet). There are probably multiple reasons for this shift, but I suspect that, as always, demographic trends are heavily influential.
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Musings on digital durability [27 Jul 2011|05:54pm]
Digital watches became quite popular when I was in elementary school. Manufacturers of the devices employed clever marketing (and perhaps focus group studies) to sell watches tailored to subsets of the student population: athletically-inclined students could select sport watches, which came bundled with stop-watches to time their progress on the running track, while math whizzes could purchase watches with built-in calculators (a basic calculator keypad was magically grafted onto the surface of the watch face). I fit into neither group (though I did well in math class), so I selected a "Q Bert" watch with gift money I received in Grade 5; this watch allowed me to play a version of the then-popular arcade game at any time.

But these watches, and their modern counterparts, share a basic lack of durability. Digital watches don't seem to enjoy a great lifespan, whereas my grandfather's analog watch (which I wear on a daily basis) has endured almost fifty years and seems primed to provide many more decades of faithful service. I suspect that the shorter lifespans of digital watches can be attributed to component failure and difficulties servicing the watches; a broken digital watch may be impossible to fix or the repair bill may exceed the actual value of the watch.

Similarly, traditional (i.e. paper) books seem to be much more durable and long-lasting when compared with their e-book peers, especially if the books are printed on acid-free paper. I have no doubt that most of my library will survive my eventual death, but I do wonder how many Kindle and Kobo devices sold this year will still be operable in 2050, when I will (hopefully) celebrate my 75th birthday. I realize that these devices are merely platforms for reading digital books, but they are an essential part of the experience (in the event of device failure I suppose one could try to endure reading a large volume on a PC monitor, assuming that the book was properly backed up and the PC is capable of displaying e-book content?).

I don't want to shower disdain on everything digital: some technologies, such as the compact disc (one of my favourite platforms), are remarkably endurable, and I imagine that many CDs purchased in the early 1980s are still playable today on CD players that were manufactured in the same era. The compact disc is also superior to two analog audio technologies that preceded it (the 8-track and the cassette tape).

I just wish that the vast majority of digital products and media (memory keys, smart phones, laptops, etc.) could be designed to last a long time. I'm sure my phone will be "obsolete" in the next 6-12 months, but I see no reason why it can't "last" long enough to allow me to play Angry Birds on it when I retire (especially since the game requires no online connection). :)
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summer reading [16 Jul 2011|03:17pm]
This has been the coolest July I’ve ever experienced, as high temperatures have ranged from the mid to upper teens Celsius (lower to mid sixties Fahrenheit) over the last few weeks. I have no complaints about this weather, and I definitely prefer it over the scorching temperatures that have plagued other parts of the continent. And the cloudy conditions provide a perfect excuse to indulge in summer reading!

A partial list of my upcoming summer reading includes these titles:


The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrent
After Midnight by Irmgard Keun

(the authors above are Japanese, Australian, Trinidadian-Canadian, Serbian-American,
and German, respectively).


Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder by Ken Greenberg
Cascadia’s Fault: The Earthquake and Tsunami That Could Devastate North America by Jerry Thompson
Perverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy, and Urban Sprawl by Pamela Blais
Some Family: Mormonism and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself by Donald Harman Akensen
Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 by Gordon Campbell
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