Sunday, February 22, 2015

Opinions, so many opinions

This week I had the good fortune to meet Snowbrush, and participate in a thought-provoking discussion in the comments section of his blog.  It all got me thinking about a question that is often on my mind.

Where is the line between tact and self-suppression?

How much of myself am I willing to hide or at least gloss over in the name of social harmony?

If I claim someone as my friend, without knowing for sure whether or not they would still respect me if they knew all of my real opinions, are they actually my friend, or is that an illusion that is just waiting for the right moment to crack?

It is a potentially painful question.  I usually err on the side of ignoring it, hoping that my relationships with various people will muddle along without too many overt confrontations.  I am a diplomat by nature, always seeking to find common ground; always wanting everyone to get along.  I don't like being forced to choose a side, because I don't like to cut myself off from the people on the other side.  I mean, aside from sociopaths, we're all only human, just tying to get by and do our best, right?  If we can keep that in mind, surely we can at least tolerate each other?

You need a "for example"?   Fine.  Okay.  I will go out on a limb and give you a real one.

I believe that abortion should be legal.  I think that it's a horrible, sad necessity.  I don't have a firm opinion on what the cut-off date should be, or when exactly a collection of cells stops being an undefined blob and becomes a person.  I just don't think that desperate women should have to resort to "home remedies" that might kill or maim them.

I'm not an expert on the subject, and if you are an expert you could probably corner me in a discussion  and make me feel extremely uncomfortable.  I've never had to face an unwanted pregnancy personally, but I've always felt that I wouldn't be able to bear going through with an abortion.  My opinion is mainly based on a documentary film I saw about poor women in a third world country giving themselves abortions, and how awful that was.  (This was in my second year of university.  I had to leave the auditorium and almost fainted on the way out.)  After that point it has always been my gut feeling that the lesser evil is to offer medically safe abortions to women who feel that this is the only option for them.  At least then their other kids will have a healthy mom to raise them.

This is not something that I talk about, like, ever.  Not least because nice people who go to church (and some others who don't) might be horrified by it, and I have no desire to horrify anyone.  I get why people are against abortion.  It's not like I'm all "Yeah, go abortion!  Kill those babies!  Who needs 'em?"  I like babies.  Under other circumstances I might have had a couple myself.

So, how should one handle these subjects?  Sensitively, I guess.  And with respect for other peoples' feelings.  Even one of my older relatives who can blurt out some pretty racist garbage sometimes deserves my understanding.  He's a holocaust survivor.  He was a baby in Czechoslovakia when his parents had to make a run for it in the night after the Nazi invasion.  They escaped, but most of his parents' immediate and extended family was killed.  It messed them up pretty bad.  His feelings about "us" vs. "them" didn't evolve in a vacuum.  I've never seen him treat an actual individual badly in person due to race; he'll just run off at the mouth making dumb generalizations if he thinks he's in the company of "us" and he can get away with it.  I challenge him sometimes, but I have to pick my battles, and I try to do it gently.

I know that we can't all agree on everything.  I only wish that people would be more sensitive.  I try hard to be tactful, which costs me some significant effort, and then I get frustrated when the favour isn't returned.  (Let me be clear that Snowbrush handled our discussion with admirable sensitivity.  I was thinking about this stuff because I have an IRL friend who handles the same subject matter with a condescending smirk, and it hurts my feelings.)

How do you handle differences of opinion on hot-button topics?  Avoidance?  Full steam ahead with your opinion and if they don't like it they can sit and spin?  Pretending to agree but seething in silence?  If you have any tricks to make it easier, I'd love to know them.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Spark's Frostbite Avoidance Program

Did y'all enjoy Valentine's Day?  I did.  Ken and I agreed to skip the flowers and fancy dinner thing;  we went to the mall and had lunch in the food court instead.  I enjoyed some kick-ass poutine.  Ken went to the Chinese food counter for a styrofoam clamshell full of batter-fried bits.  We watched a couple of previously unacquainted four-year-olds flirt with each other while their exasperated parents exhorted them to please just sit down and eat your fries.  No, not that fry, it's dirty; it fell on the table.  ANY OTHER FRY, just, IT'S DIRTY NO PUT IT DOWN.

The sporting goods store had some sad, wrinkly lingerie on display, in the ridiculous print that I suppose is meant to be "ladies' camo".  For when you're hiding in a pink forest?

Camo Cami

This outfit of a camisole plus a g-string was $46.99.  Sheesh, for that much the least they could do is steam the wrinkles out.  Incidentally, I just looked up "What does the g in g-string stand for" and apparently we're not sure, but it might be groin, or girdle.  

This week it has been ridonkulously cold in Toronto.  I'm talking about temperatures around -20 C with wind chills around -35 C.  (That's -4 F and -31 F respectively in 'Merican.)  I am happy to bundle up as much as it takes to maintain the average body temperature of the living, however at a certain point my lungs draw the line.  That's usually around - 15 C (5 F).  I start to feel that I can't catch my breath, and my heart races (probably trying to pump enough warm blood into my lung tissues to prevent them from freezing).  Trying to wade through calf-deep snow under those circumstances feels like asking for a heart attack.  I love to walk in all kinds of weather, but at this point I draw the line and take a car.  (Ken has been kind enough to chauffeur me, and there's a taxi stand a two minute-drive from home.)

This is a long weekend in most of Canada, thanks to "Family Day".  Due to the extra day, my friends celebrated with double Game Night!  (i.e. we usually just do Saturday nights, but we met on Sunday too this week.)  It's a good way to pass the time indoors without buying things or watching TV.

The boys have been playing this new game involving zombies.  It is ultra-complicated.  Look at all those cards and dice and pieces!  I don't know what the rules are, but it takes them around 2 hours to play through a game.  

While the zombie game was taking forever, the girls' side of the table played Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne.  We don't always split the gaming up by gender, but it worked out like that this time.  I'll get around to learning the zombie game pretty soon, I'm sure.

Of course, the best part of the evening is always Cards Against Humanity.  It's a game of fill-in-the blanks.  The winner of the last round is the judge of the next.  The judge reads a black card, and everyone else submits a white card.  The judge gets to pick which white card wins.  The judge can use whatever process s/he wishes to pick the winning answer.  We usually go for whatever is silliest or gets the most laughs.  As you can see here, we make up our own cards.  When we get tired of a card, we write over it.  Here is one of my wins from last night:

There has been online controversy surrounding CAH, because it is irreverent to the point of being offensive to some people.  I can understand their opinion.  But in our group of friends, where we know and trust each other, and know what not to take too seriously, it's all good.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Toronto Sportsmen's Show

Do you suffer from a lack of fishing poles?  Ever felt the need for an outfit in head-to-toe camouflage green?  Do you wish that you had a little wooden box that could replicate the sound of a turkey gobbling?  Then you should have gone to the Toronto Sportsmen's Show! (Final day today.)  Did you miss it?  That's a darn shame.

Ken and I were there.  It was awesome.

Picture a giant convention hall, the size of a city block, filled with vendors of all sorts, advocacy groups, and activities, such as an archery range, an axe-throwing challenge, and a giant indoor pond where you could borrow a little boat and paddle around.

The first thing we saw was a couple of live beavers bustling around in a plexiglass enclosure, nomming on twigs and broccoli florets.  They were there on behalf of a wildlife conservancy group.  Pretty cute, aren't they?  Unfortunately, I did not get to pet them.

I did get to pet a couple of friendly doggies after the exciting WoofJocks Canine Allstars agility show.  The dogs were remarkably well-behaved, except for the one who pooped on the floor.  

That was it for live animals.  All the other furred and feathered guys there were dead.

Coyote perpetually angling for a birdie mcnugget:

Red-tailed hawk with photo-bombing mink:

Fox with photo-bombing mink:

Skunk and skunklet:

Scare-your-pants-off wolf:

The front half of a bear:

I like to think that the hunter made the other half into a pair of fur pants for himself.


There are no gazelles in Canada.  This was at a booth promoting safari trips to South Africa.

If you wanted to be able to make your own dead-guy friends, this fellow was there to show you how:

In answer to my questions, he told me that the owl had been hit by a car (as frequently happens when they dive to the ground chasing prey); it had been dead and wrapped up in his freezer for three years; and it had taken two days to thaw out upon being removed from the freezer because feathers are super-insulating.  Here he is peeling the skin off, after having made a midline incision with the a scalpel (on the table).  I did get a twinge of visceral horror while watching this procedure, but I was fascinated and forced myself to stay and watch a bit longer.

There were many weapons on display, in case you had an urge to make more animals and birds be dead.  I do not have this urge.  However, if I did, obviously I would want this pink crossbow.

Ken took a turn at the axe-throwing challenge.  

He didn't manage to get an axe to stick in the target (a stump mounted on a plywood wall) but also did not kill anyone by accident.  *thumbs up*  Incidentally, the axe-thrower who got the most bull's-eyes while I was there was a woman.  After she got done demolishing the stump, the announcer started telling everyone they'd better throw like a girl.

A couple more cool things:

The ATV of electric wheelchairs.  It's called an Action Trackchair.  It was invented by a guy who wanted to take his paraplegic son for a walk on the beach.  Apparently the U.S. government is providing them to veterans.  

Shiny-shiny truck.

And this thing.

All told, it was an excellent way to spend a wintry day.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sock Buddies!

I was at the dentist recently and, although my teeth got an A+, my dentist told me that my gums had slightly receded.  Oh no!  I am literally getting long in the tooth.  :-(

I asked what causes gum recession, and was told it could be a) scrubbing too hard when brushing one's teeth (not me - I'm not that energetic a brusher); b) grinding one's teeth at night (totally plausible); or c) just plain old aging (ain't nobody got time for that).  Since it's worth taking preventative measures, I decided to get a night guard made.

The last time I regularly wore a night guard was more than ten years ago, when I was in the process of divorcing my first husband.  I had a lot to chew on at that time, and I tended to do it while I was sleeping.  I doubt that I'm grinding my teeth to that extent these days, judging by the lack of morning headaches, but I do occasionally wake at night to find myself clicking my teeth together.

There never seems to be a dream associated with my nocturnal biting.  It's not like I'm imagining that I'm eating raw carrots or something.  I guess it's just random?  If I have to exercise a muscle at night, I should train myself to do abdominal crunches.  I could get a six-pack without any conscious effort!

I went back to the dentist to get impressions taken.  That's the part where they fill two U-shaped trays with goo and make you bite down to get a mould of your teeth.  It wasn't terrible.  The goo from the top tray was bulging out a bit and pressing on my uvula, but I managed to suppress my gag reflex.  Good job, right?

My dentist is also a naturopathic doctor.  He's all about environmentally friendly dentistry.  He doesn't use those silver fillings that contain mercury.  One of his environmental purity rules is that  patients must remove their street shoes in the waiting room, so that you don't track pollution and whatnot into the rest of the office.  If you don't want to go barefoot, they'll give you a pair of surgical booties to wear over your shoes, but I don't bother with those.  I'm happy in my socks.  Especially when I'm wearing cheerful colours like these:

And then guess what happened!  I looked over and saw that the other guy in the waiting room was wearing complementary socks!

I almost went over and high-fived him, but he seemed pretty absorbed in the book that he was reading, and I didn't want to start anything that might turn out to be awkward.  Still: awesome-sauce awesome socks!

I'm going back this Friday to get fine-tuning done on the finished night guard.  The dentist warned me that it's going to involve putting the guard into my mouth, taking it out again for a tiny adjustment, and then putting it back in again "30 to 40 times".  Gee, sounds like fun!  But he won't be using the drill, so I won't be complaining.