Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
The past months have been rather...intense. If you've been following, then you should know I live in Montreal (That's in Quebec, that French-speaking province of Canada).
Up until recently, education tuition fees were frozen, meaning they were not increasing yearly as in most other places. Our government has decided to have none of that: let's thaw out those fees and boil them up, giving us a hike of over $1400 over 5/7 years. The numbers keep changing because they make tiny changes here and there in a one-fourth-assed attempt to make us happy (or to get a tiny brains confused by all the numbers, who knows?).
You might know that the currently leading party at the province level is the Parti Libéral du Québec, the Liberal Party of Quebec. Now, do not make the mistake of thinking that "liberal" here means what the likes of Fox News means when they say "liberal". Our Prime Minister Jean Charest, previously of the Conservative Party of Canada, has moved there by taking advantage of the existence of a thing called neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, meaning "new liberalism", is a doctrine that aims to make sure economy does not evolve past how it was around the end of the 19th century by defending the money-having elites in the name of their liberty to own everything and screw the rest of the world.
When everything started around February, I was, to be honest, not caring much. You see, Mario, my beloved partner, is bipolar, and entered a manic episode also in February, and then spent a few months in the hospital. It greatly affected me and, for a while, I cared about that much more than about any social crisis. He is much better now. He is out since late May and has gone back to work recently. I have, of course, devoted much time since then to following what is going on.
Much has been said on the topic, by the media, in the media and basically everywhere you can go in this city.
The arguments in favor of the hike are familiar. They remind us of how we, as a society, are convinced that the current capitalist economic system is a fatality composed of inevitable elements. Of course, fees are going up. The price of everything is going up! Bollocks.
Bollocks for two reasons. First, like I hinted at earlier, the economic system can (and, eventually, it will, unless humanity goes extinct very, very soon) change. Prices constantly going up are a component of this system. In a different system, it is possible that prices would still go up, but it is not necessary. A parenthesis on the subject. If the prices are going up, then there are two possibilities: either all prices are going up at the same rate (so, for example, if the yearly salary of a teacher goes up by 2%, then the price of four tomatoes of the same type should also go up by 2%); or different prices are going up at different rate (the way things currently are. For example, the teacher's salary could go up by 2% while the tomatoes go up by 150%). In the former case, one can wonder just what the point even is. If everything is going up at the same rate, we find ourselves in a Pinball Scoring situation. Maybe last year you earned $40,000 and this year you earned $200,000. Woah! You're so rich! Except you're not because everything quintupled. In the latter situation, what happens is that the price of some things go up much faster than others. Generally, in a place like Quebec, salaries (while salaries are an income to those receiving them, they have to constitute a cost for someone) have increased much less in the past couple of decades than the price of other things such as housing. What this means is that certain things that were normal back then have become more difficult to have today, while things that were a luxury at the time are pretty normal today. An example of the latter would be most electronics. Of course, when you are very rich, the changes in pricing are not very significant. You have the means to absorb the difference. Except there are people who don't. It might be that x years ago, a family of average size and average income was able to send all its children to university, and that a family in the same situation today is not.
End very long parenthesis.
The second bollocks-causing aspect is a very ideological one. There is an excellent video on the topic of hikes that was done by the IRIS (Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques, which means Institute of Socioeconomic Research and Information). Sadly, the video is in French, but I will offer a paraphrase of one of their points. The current problems are caused by two different visions of higher education. In one vision, the one held by the current government, the purpose of universities is to make research. Be careful, this means a specific kind of research: the one that is financed and praised by companies, for example pharmaceutics, to find ways to make lots of money very quickly. It is a university that serves capitalist interests, including those of its attendees, who are investing (actual money, not only time) not necessarily in their personal interests or in their society, but in their future "wallet", like true entrepreneurs.
The other vision is the one I hold. It is certainly held by at least some of the students taking part in the protests, but I cannot speak for all of them. For us, university serves a more social purpose. While it can definitely help prepare you for a paying job, it is not its only role. Its role is instead to transmit society's knowledge, its history, its culture (in the sense given to the word by social sciences: all that a society makes and uses to make things - languages, customs, art, etc.). University is thus an investment made not only by individuals, but by society as a whole. We decide that it is important to have universities of quality to transmit our cultural baggage, to better society as a whole and/or so that future generations can see what a fabulous place this is.
A second parenthesis: it might sound very patriotic, but it is not xenophobic. After all, it can be part of one's culture to believe that other cultures are also awesome, and that neither is truly "better" than others, they are merely different for a variety of factors. Besides, when I say that we transmit our culture and knowledge, it does not mean exclusively local ones. For starters, no culture is a closed space. They all absorb elements of other cultures. Think of it as transferring the whole of human knowledge rather than as Patrioversity 101: Why Places That Ain't Can'da Are Horrible, Eh?
This has been going on for longer than I expected, so this will become a series.
[Note: throughout this post, like in future ones, I use "university" as synonymous with upper education. This is not quite accurate in Quebec, where Cégeps take in part of the "job" done by universities elsewhere. I am using university simply because it is simpler and shorter.]
First, let me make this clear: I believe science is wonderful. There are many different fields, and each one has numerous applications (and even fun). But...well, but. There's always a
My Google Reader account is enormous. I wouldn't be surprised if there were 1000 entries per day, at least on some days. Naturally, I don't read every single entry, some are things that don't interest me. My feed is divided into categories, one of which is Science and one of which is Health (there are many others, but I'll be talking about those two here).
Sciency stuff can be roughly broken down into four types:
- Interesting things I want to read. For example, I like reading about mental health.
- Things I can't fucking understand. For example, "Single–Base Pair Unwinding and Asynchronous RNA Release by the Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Helicase". Well, I'm sure it's of interest to Hepatitis C research, but that doesn't mean much to me. Neither does "Disentangling the Drivers of β Diversity Along Latitudinal and Elevational Gradients".
- Things that I'm sure can be of interest to some people who aren't experts, but which I skip reading because I can.
- Most fascinating studies with un-be-lie-va-ble! results.
This post concerns the latter category.
For example, there recently was a study demonstrating that, hold to your chair, bisexual men exist for realz. I was absolutely flabbergasted! FOR REALZ, I said! In the name of all those men, I would like to thank the scientists who took the time and money to demonstrate in a science-methody way that those men's feelings are teh realz.
Even more recently, WebMD informs us that Obesity Puts Young Kids at Risk of Social Isolation. REALLY? You mean that, in a society where Weight Loss is put on a pedestal, where the slight bit of fat is seen as horrifying, where we even call disgusting other animals and things that could possibly resemble parts of a naked fat person, obesity can lead to social isolation? NO MOTHERFUCKING WAY!
The very worse part of the article, however, comes at the end:
"My advice to parents would be to work hard to help their children achieve the best quality nutrition standards, participate in activities which have the potential to improve fitness levels, and to seek out activities in the community where children's peer relationships can be fostered and supported," he says.
Ballas says there are some concrete steps parents can take to help their children overcome the stigma of being obese.
"If there's a TV in their bedroom, just get it out," says Ballas. "If there's a TV in their bedroom it substantially increases the chance for obesity and sleep problems, and getting the TV out of the room reduces those chances."
Also encourage exercise, but maybe not competitive sports, which can heighten an overweight or obese child's sense of stigma and failure, according to Ballas. "A lot of kids have a great interest in learning and academics that are not necessarily sports related."
Those damn parents who just can't do a thing good! Clearly we mustn't teach children to treat their obese peers properly, we must rather teach those obese kids to not be obese.
I know that, because the aforementioned Health category covers a wide range of topics (chronic non-transmittable illnesses such as diabetes, seasonal stuff like the flu, delicious foods, etc.), but in spite of this, roughly half of the entries are about how you must lose weight RIGHT NOW.
Our attitude towards thin people isn't better, of course. I'm sure sites like Demotivational Posters putting up pictures of very thin celebrities to comment on how "gross" it is and how it makes "us want to puke" are very good for people with body dismorphic disorder.
As I browse the web, it annoys me quite a lot to see the ridiculously numerous parts of it that seem to believe that everyone (or at least everyone who matters) is a white, heterosexual, at-least-mildly conservative, middle class or higher, man living in the United States.
I think it is a requirement for a modern woman to love Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I do like him, and there being a series where he is portrayed by Colin Firth certainly helps, but I must say that my fangirl fawning is mostly aimed at the girl he admires, Elizabeth Bennet (who is, well, the main character). I admire her wit and her capacity to stand up for herself in a world that does not favor independent thinking in women. It is true that she is, at first, mistaken in her opinion of a certain Darcy, but she learns better.
So, while the women and girls of this world will sigh and all for Darcy, I will snatch Elizabeth away and no one will notice.
A couple of days ago, I was in the car with my mom, and the radio was playing. I can unfortunately not tell which station it was, I'd venture to say it was Espace Musique, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, they were giving a short interview to someone in regards to the possibility that the European market would open itself to transgenic food from North America, for example corn. The man said Europe is not very keen on buying transgenic food because it wants to protect its own market. I can't comment on that, I'm not in Europe. He however went on to add that "there is no scientific difference between transgenic food and non-transgenic food". If I had been eating anything that moment, it would certainly have flown out of my mouth faster than light.
Is this man completely stupid? He has just killed whatever credibility he might have had: the idea behind transgenic food is that is has been modified using science. I wonder if this should be taken into a larger context, where conservatism tends to see science as that Other thing, the thing that doesn't really concern us because it's all theories and calculations and stuff that doesn't apply to Us. What does science have to do with our food, anyway?
As for the good news, they have nothing to do with European economics. I am moving back out of my parents' home around mid-August. I will be living in a home for speshol peepel. I'm not quite sure what the correct expression would be in English, but basically it is a home under supervision by counselors. Up to 9 people can live there at any given time.
I will be paying a pension. It is more expensive than a regular renting would be for one person, but it includes food, electricity, furniture, etc. Meals are prepared by the counselors, although we are welcome to help. We must all contribute to the maintenance of the home (cleaning, doing the dishes, taking out the trash, etc.).
My goal is to increase my autonomy. For example, I haven't washed a bath in years, simply because I am unable to. I know how, obviously, but I have a complete blocking due to ewness. The kind that makes me scrub my hands until they get infected.
Oh, and the place I'll be living is in a nice area of Montreal.
Well, first of all, this layout will be going soon, I hope. I'm really tired of looking at it. So when you see the site is under maintenance, you'll know the reason. It seems like I should update my version of WordPress too, so that will all be done at the same time.
Anyway, on to the main topic of this post. My brother and sister were discussing online games. More particularly, they talked about an online RPG-like game my brother plays. The game is free, but you can get more features if you buy a membership. The same goes for a game I play, DragonFable. You can register for free and play for free too, but there are items and quests that are only available to paying players.
They both agreed that they didn't see a reason to pay for something which you can get for free. There I completely disagree. Like everyone I do enjoy free things. One of the reasons I use OpenOffice and Firefox is because I don't pay for them.
I would gladly contribute money to some projects such as DragonFable (I really have to get around to buy a DragonAmulet there!). Why? Because there are people behind that project. Sure, they have advertising and probably another job. They're however devoting many hours of their time to this project. What's a small 30 something dollars contribution from me compared to all the time and effort that goes behind the creation of a video game?
I enjoy their game, using their creation, and loading their servers with one more person. I certainly don't see that "investment" as being a waste for me.
After some posts concerning my lack of money, it is now time to rave about actually having money! Hurray for me!
Money from work is slowly accumulating in my account. I went to open a savings account today. It is not a giganormous super-savings thing, but it will do for me. I don't want to go around hunting for a different bank and whatnot. I even invested some money! Some would say it is stupid to invest money when the economy is going so poorly, but this particular investment is guaranteed, in that, whatever happens, I will never lose money. My investment can stay at its original amount, but it cannot go down.
Anyway, I haven't blogged much lately because there's nothing particularly interesting going in my life. I work, I play with my cat, I play video games...and I want it to be Easter already! I don't care for Lent and Jesus, but it will be the next Doctor Who episode!
I have been stalking the world of online TCGs (Trading Card Games) for years. Seeing all those pretty little buttons perfectly aligned makes me feel all speshul. Today, for the first time, I actually *joined* one: Sugar&Spice. Doesn't that thing make you very, very hungry all of a sudden? For the occasion, naturally, I have set up a TCG post which I am very looking forward to filling up a bit more. I will however wait a bit before joining more TCGs. I want to test one first.
I thought it was really just a cliché that some girls need their boyfriend to celebrate Valentine's Day like it's the most important thing ever. I was wrong (or at least for one particular woman).
On the 14th of this year, I went with my mother to eat at my sister's. We decided to bring some chocolate to my sister, so we went to a gift shop here in the village (yes, it is large enough to not only have one gift sop, but two!). As we were looking around, a man came in. He told the cashier about how his girlfriend had demanded that he brings her flower and that they have a romantic dinner. That made me feel very bad for the poor guy.
Flowers are nice and they smell good, but I like gifts to be spontaneous. Telling your boyfriend that he must bring you flower removes all the fun and romance. It just makes it a choir. Kind of like "honey, can you buy milk on your way from work?".
I never liked Valentine's Day, because I see it as commercial bullshit. Now I will like it even less in dread that I might eventually have a partner, or a friend, who considers it an essential celebration, and who thinks that a partner not doing anything special is a bad partner.
Shopping in itself wouldn't really make me tired per say. Annoyed, probably. Wanting to leave, certainly. But not simply tired. The thing is, I got only about 4 or 5 hours of sleep last night, whereas I usually get 11 or 12.
Anyway, I bought two shirts. One was $12 (on sale) and one was $25. I really gave in to the latter. Amanda would surely spank me.
But shopping for clothes is utterly boring, so I compensated by buying a set of three stylus...es for my DS, a book of poetry by Emile Nelligan, Portal (the awesome video game) and a memory card for the GameCube. It isn't actually so bad, considering that I haven't shopped for anything but food in months, and will probably not be buying anything else for a while (except my rent here, but that is expected).
This all means that my cat got to play with bags when I arrived. She always inspects whatever new things I bring. She smelled all of my things, hid in one of the bags for a couple of minutes, then left. Inspection done, new objects approved.