Incorrectly Stating the Question

CornucopiaTalk about not stating a question correctly!

There have been reports in the news recently that claim that organic/bio food is “not better” or “not healthier” than what has become the conventional industrially produced types of food. But I think that finding betrays a biased hypothesis that was being tested.

Listen… I wish I were a health-food nut. I wish I could find in myself the energy to pay more attention to the food I buy and eat. But I’m not at that point yet. Perhaps it’s a resolution I’ll eventually make.

The reports did say that organic/bio food has been found to be tastier. I have no doubt about that, having had the opportunity to try organically farmed eggs, for instance. However, it defies logic — at least to me — that genetically modified foods pumped with hormones and pesticides and preservatives aren’t more problematic than organic/bio foods. Just because we haven’t been able to establish a direct cause-effect link damning “tampered” foods doesn’t mean that they’re not messing us up.

The question never should have been if organic/bio food is better for us in terms of vitamins, proteins and general nutrition. There are still people out there, like my mother, who have been around long enough to remember what most foods used to taste like, and today’s renditions pale in comparison. Besides, it only seems logical to me that a steady diet of hyper-processed food must have undesirable consequences.

I wonder, if we were to dig deeper, if we could find out who funded this latest report. However, for me, given a choice between food that could contain residues of pesticides “within acceptable limits” or food with none whatsoever, I don’t think I would need to think very long to make my decision.

‘Cause It Just Does

Man TitsLet’s talk about my tits, more specificially what gets on them.

What’s that? You’d rather I talk about HIS tits? Hummm… I can see why you’d say that. Very lovely tits they are. I could probably go on and on about them and the thoughts in general this dude inspires. However, let’s keep those thoughts (good or bad) to ourselves and focus on what’s getting on MY (admittedly not as lovely) tits.

Humans CANNOT Really Multitask
A lot of the women I work with like to tease us guys by saying that “Men can’t multitask like women can.” I always laugh off that statement and sometimes even use it as an alibi for why I can generally only do one thing at once.

To be honest, it’s not the teasing or even the statement in itself that gets on my tits. It’s the implicit belief that humans who adapt the best can multitask. I could be running a load of laundry, watching TV and writing this blog at the same time; therefore, some would say that I can multitask. But the truth is that the moment I’m walking to or loading the washing machine, I, physical, am doing only that; the moment I’m thinking about a sentence I’m writing, I’m not really hearing what’s being said on TV. Of course, I can walk and chew gum at the same time and I can think about my next sentence as I take a drag off my cigarette, but that’s hardly high-level multitasking.

I love working with the women I work with, but another truth is that I always know when they’re typing an e-mail or doing something or another while we’re talking on the phone. They think they’re multitasking, but they’re not really. However, what gets on my tits is how we, humans, are expected to be able to do something we’re simply not designed to do. I would correctly be considered rude if I were to divide my attention between a client whom I’m training and those blasted text messages that invariably seem to come only when I’m beginning a call with a client.

Texting & Walking
Okay, so while that gets on my tits, it’s more of an irritant than anything else. But my tits almost start bleeding whenever I spot someone driving while on a portable cell phone (which is illegal here) or when I have to step away because someone is walking straight at me on the sidewalk as he or she is too damn busy texting.

People and their blasted hand-held devices: It has gotten completely out of control! Who would have thought even a mere 15 years ago that we, as a whole, couldn’t get by with those blasted things in hand all the time. I could be out having a drink late one Saturday night, and invariably there are few people who check that damn thing a few times while we’re sitting there talking. One night, I was standing behind a family to watch the fireworks and everyone in that family below the age of 14 not only had one of those things but almost completely ignored the fireworks which, by the way, were particularly good that evening.

I honestly don’t think the chatter that goes on through those devices has enriched our lives. In fact, I think that, for the most part, it has empoverished our lives …and THAT’S what gets on my tits.

After Saying X, Do Y
There are a lot of times when *I* get on my tits — more times than I care to count, actually.

I had thought after writing my last blog entry that this act, in itself, would finally get me to stop thinking about NowEx, specifically “what would he think” and “why hasn’t he even bothered to respond to my e-mail confirming that we’re now divorced. But noooooo… What did I do instead, after finishing that post? I searched for him online again and, of course, turned up very little and nothing new.

That gets on my tits because it’s almost as if I wanted him to scold me again. But why? So that I could say, “There! Final proof that I did the right thing”? So that I could find evidence of his bad-mouthing me or Canada (or both) online? To see if he died and no one thought I’d be interested to know? Come to think of it, would I be interested in knowing? And for what purpose, exactly?

Now don’t get me wrong. He doesn’t inhabit my every thought. Far from it. And it doesn’t make me feel awful as it did as recently as just a year ago. In fact, most of the time I take pleasure at taking cheap shots in reference to him, as the novelty of this “divorced” status thing still hasn’t worn out yet. But the fact NowEx comes to my mind probably 100 times more than I come to his royally gets on my tits, and I may as well admit that it does.

Bell Aliant
Bell Aliant, the biggest phone company in Atlantic Canada, is pinching too hard on my tits, too. That company remains the only reason I can’t get my landline disconnected so that I could rely exclusively on my MagicJack Plus number.

It’s quite a quirk. The 514 area code for the Island of Montréal has reached full capacity. The last exchange that hadn’t been used and that the MagicJack people took up is 900, which in the North American Numbering Plan is also the “area code” for toll numbers. Had I not been such a snob for wanting an original 514 number and settled for a number in the new 438 overlay for Montréal, I probably wouldn’t have had this problem because my exchange would have been “regular.”

Thankfully, the Pastry Monster placed a service call to Bell Aliant and they grasped what the problem was, but how long will it take to get resolved? I’d like to start saving my $87 per month sooner rather than later!

Tit Balm
However, I did find out something good this week that acted as a balm on my tortured tits. Remember my telling you about switching to being a contributor on my pension plan and how I needed to figure out how to rejig my budget? Well, it turns out that, because I’m now contributing, I’m having to pay less income tax. So, in the end, the difference I have to make up is only slightly more — as in only $10 — than what I’ll save once my landline gets disconnected.

Therefore, it’s not like everything is getting on my tits.

In fact, work has been going amazingly well lately. It began getting much better after my sick leave last fall. Then it improved some more when I learned in my last sessions in therapy how to let go of the B.S. And since the divorce, I’ve been getting even more compliments from clients about how patient and thorough and friendly I am as I provide them training. Plus, since the beginning of the year, I consistently complete more training requests by a country mile than any of my teammates, and that makes me feel good as well because I’ve learned how to make my absence noticed, like when I’ll be on vacation soon.

I suppose those are the kind of things that prevent my tits from just falling off.

This Time I Really Messed Up

Cop LightsThere’s no two ways about it… This time I really messed up.

It’s probably not wise of me to admit to what happened, but then again, what’s done is done and it happens to be true.

I got pulled over this morning on Autoroute Ville-Marie for speeding. I’m not denying that I was speeding nor am I denying that I tend to drive fast. However, what I’m pissed off about is that I don’t believe I was going as fast as the officer claimed. In fact, I think I’m being accused of going 20 km/h (12 mph) faster than I think I was.

The official speed limit on the Ville-Marie, like on other urban freeways in Montréal, is 70 km/h (about 45 mph). Not that it matters, but no one respects that speed. In fact, I’d say that if one follows the flow in order not to get plowed down by others, the average speed is between 80 to 100 km/h (about 50 to 60 mph).

That said, I admit I was going faster than that, which places me in the wrong no matter how I look at it. The problem is that the officer’s assessment of my speed makes the difference between “speeding” and “excessive speeding,” which means not only a much heftier fine but also a shitload more demerit points.

However, does ANYONE have the time and energy to contest something like this? How can I be sure that he clocked my car and not another one nearby? I very respectfully asked the officer that question. I wasn’t denying that I was speeding but not to the extent he claimed …but how could I prove that? He snidely responded that he’s a professional who does this job every day and it was unlikely that he’s wrong (as if no human, including cops, ever make mistakes), but I can take it to court.

The damage? A few bucks over $1,000 and 14 demerit points. But wait! It gets worse.

Unbeknownst to me, my driver’s license wasn’t paid for!

Now you’re probably thinking, “Come on, Maurice! How can you not know that?” But I honestly thought that the amount I paid on time last August was meant to cover everything: car registration including public insurance AND permit renewal. However, the officer informed me that my permit has been invalid since my birthday …in 2009!

More than two years !!!

Fortunately, the fine is the same whether it’s one week or more than two years late: $444 including fees. But I think you’re getting the picture that my normally $7 breakfast at the Resto du Village ended up costing me a king’s ransom.

Okay. Now here’s something I didn’t blog about because I was too embarrassed when it happened. But now I’m writing about it to explain why I’m just going to take my lumps and move along.

I got pulled over early last January. Long story short: that officer cited me for not respecting a highway sign on the grounds that he, too, was going too fast. That incident happened before I admitted to myself that I was in the throes of “Depression Light” and, when I did admit to it, the ticket sat there, unpaid. Then, on that hot summer morning just hours before my first appointment with Lucy, someone knocked on my door: it was a man I described to friends and Lucy as the size and build of a fridge but known in fact as a bailiff, coming to arrest me unless I paid that fine right then and there.

Let’s just say that I successfully pleaded with him not to put the handcuffs on me (although he was all horny to do so) as we went to the nearest branch of my bank so that I could pay him cash. And in the following days, I uncovered an unpaid parking ticket I had left on a desk the night I got it and paid it online, as the threat of being arrested was one experience I didn’t ever want to experience again.

Obviously I can’t and won’t contest the ticket about the permit even though I swear I never got a notice to renew. Even at my lowest point, I knew what I would get in the mail; I just chose to ignore it. Even more obviously, though, is that I won’t be moving the car an inch until my permit is renewed. Until then, it’s the metro for me.

However, it pisses me off feeling I don’t believe I have a leg to stand on to argue against the severity of the speeding ticket. I’m told (although I won’t tell you by who) that I could show up in court and plead. But from what I’ve been told and what I’ve read, it wouldn’t be worth the stress and the time off work.

So while I really, really hate feeling cornered like this, I’m choosing to simply pay. And although I have 30 days to plead, the cheques will be in the mail by Friday. Then I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, curse a little, and move on …more slowly.

A Grab Bag …’Cause It’s Been a While

Has it really been a month already since my last blog entry?! I guess so… That means it’s also been exactly a month since my last vist with Lucy. Funny, but it feels like 10 days or 10 months ago — fairly recent or another long-ago chapter.

Tons of sundry topic worthy of a blog chat (or rant) have popped into my mind in the last month, so I think I should just do a “This and That” grab-bag entry like Torn used to do when he would blog. (His readers haven’t enitrely given up on him even though his life is about to get increasingly busy since he decided to enrol in a master’s program in education, which is a huge and wonderful decision on his part.)

Centres StopThe Attempt to Quit: Update
I’m sad to say it’s not going very well. I currently smoke about half a dozen cigarettes per day. On the plus side, that’s five times fewer than the day I tried quitting and I hardly cough anymore, but on the down side, that’s still far from my goal of not smoking at all. However, there’s another plus side: unlike past attempts when I would tell myself that I would only be a light smoker (and, of course, would progress back to being a heavy smoker within a few weeks), I’m still in the “quitting” mindset.

I’m viewing my current smoking status as a temporary setback and I’m not giving up on trying to quit. But this time I categorically learned that, more than the first coffee of the day or after meals, work-related stress is my downfall. I only smoke in one room at home and never while I’m out. In fact, I’m well beyond feeling that panic when I leave the apartment without ciggies. To me, that’s still progress and I’m choosing to view the positives as more significant than the negatives — the chief negative being that I believed that this treatment would be any different than any other method of quitting.

Zombie vs. BabyBad Neighbours
When I look back at this blog in its nearly 10 years of existence, I realize that I’ve done a hell of a lot of bitching about my neighbours. A part of me wonders if I’m really that unlucky and another part fears that I’m too demanding and intolerant. But at least now, after therapy, I understand better why it upsets me so much and that the truth is somewhere in between.

Last night I learned that the landlord has just mailed a registered letter to my neighbours upstairs. That’s huge and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t persisted with the janitor, an approach I likely would not have pursued with as much persistence prior to therapy. And I feel no guilt because clearly I’m in the right: boundaries need to be respected and I am entitled to insist that they be respected, an entitlement I second-guessed for myself in the past.

Today — Saturday — they were particularly AWFUL up until about 15 minutes ago when they stepped out for a while. I realize now that it’s not just the kids but also daddy, whose step is remarkably heavy for a guy who’s average to diminutive in size. I felt like going up and telling them that they are the most inconsiderate neighbours I have ever had, but unfortunately that’s not true: they are AMONG the inconsiderate neighbours I have had. But clearly it would go right over their heads, in good part because they can hardly speak English or French and my Mandarin is non-existant.

Niqab or BurkaNot All Black and White
What a perfect segue for the immigrant guide put out this week by the city of Gatineau, on the Québec side of the Ottawa River opposite our national capital.

The village of Hérouxville started a huge controversy when it released a code of conduct for immigrants in 2007, which was filled with xenophobic “codes” like “It’s illegal to lapidate or kill one’s wife.” What made the Hérouxville code so controversial is that the village had precisely two immigrants, one of which was a Asian child adopted at a very young age by the Québécois family. What followed was a series of wrenching public hearings, with the fire fanned by the right-wing ADQ the led by Mario Dumont, as the rest of Canada smugly looked on and derided Québec, without a trace of irony, as the country’s most racist province.

As a francophone from outside Québec who came of age during the era of Prime Minister Trudeau, I am fundamentally in support of multiculturalism. No one should be forced to erase and forget their cultural history. However, I also believe it has to be woven into a distinctly Canadian identity. It’s unfortunate, though, that political correctness has led to many, many blunders.

There are very valid reasons why some people chose to leave their own country to come to Canada. In some cases, the reasons are economic; in others, the reasons are persecution and war. That said, there’s nowhere in the world I could go and expect my “Canadianess” to trump local values, nor would it be reasonable for me to expect that. Indeed, when in Rome, one has to do as the Romans. To some extent, that has to be true in Canada as well, except that what made Canada distinct in the last half-century or so is that there wasn’t an outright expectation that immigrants had to deny their essential identity and assimilate into a melting pot. The expectation was more one of integration coupled with mutual respect.

I hate to admit it, but there is, at least in my mind, a link between this controversy and my fucking neighbours.

Whether it stems from British and French legal tradition — let’s not forget that, constitutionally, Canada is a nation founded by the French and English — or our huge territory for a puny population, respect of space and privacy is, I would argue, an implicit Canadian value. If someone comes from a chronically overpopulated place, they might be more accepting of always overhearing others. Of course, that’s also a fact of life in large Canadian cities like Montréal, Toronto or Vancouver, but certainly not to same extent.

As for the “smelly food” edict that caused so much stir in the Gatineau guide, that’s a tough one. One the one hand — and perhaps most significantly — the variety of tastes we can enjoy now in Canada is remarkable compared to 50 years ago. But, on the other hand, I’m remembering when my brother and sister-in-law were in town last July and we ended up going through my apartment to figure out if some small animal had died in a wall in my office. Turned out it was the neighbours’ stinky food and it took nearly a day for the smell to dissipate.

That said, I would admit that was only a minor inconvenience and I probably would have forgotten about it had food smells been their only “offense.” Certainly I never would have gone as far as making “no stinky food” a point in an immigrants’ code of conduct! However, where do we draw the line? If I were to kiss a man in Saudi Arabia, I’d be in big trouble. But if someone immigrated to Canada from a country where being gay is outright illegal, that someone should not expect that “value” to hold here is well.

Christmas TreeThe Fake War!On!Christmas!
But when I wrote earlier that “political correctness has led to many, many blunders,” certainly the whole fake war on Christmas is a prime example.

Indeed, this is case where politically correct zealots have gone too far. I mean, everybody knows I’m no fan of Christmas and I’m certainly not a practicing Christian; however, I can’t deny that I was brought up Catholic, as were generations before me. That’s just a fact. When I wish someone a “Merry Christmas,” my eyes aren’t waxing over at the thought of Baby Jesus in some crib next to an alledged virgin and an old guy who probably couldn’t have gotten it up; I’m just being civil, just as I believe I would be civil when wishing my Muslim co-worker “Eid Mubarak” at the end of Ramadan which he diligently observes. In fact, I’m pretty sure my Muslim co-worker will be wishing me “Merry Christmas” on our last day of work before Christmas.

I suspect that many of those who are the most vocal against the politically correct zealots are Christian zealots who don’t actually know anyone who’s not of a Christian background. It’s right up there with the Hérouxville code of conduct for immigrants …in a place where there’s no immigrant !!! They don’t know what they’re talking about.

Apples and Oranges Can Be Compared

Apples and Oranges?Something occurred this morning that made me question the limitations, if any, of my reflections yesterday. Mind you, I recognize that the thought process that follows from therapy is an ongoing process and that, just as one person’s mantra may not work for someone else, I can’t expect a “one size fits all” solution for every situation. However, “Stop, now think…” is as good a place to start to try to put into perspective this morning’s annoyance.

You’ll recall how I recently railed about my neighbours’ kids. Well, today being Sunday, I wanted to sleep in. I have to be fully awake and working by 9:00 each weekday morning — certainly a reasonable time and not as early as many people I know — so, on weekends, I enjoy staying up late and only getting up between 10:30 and noon. I guess it’s a tip of the hat to my ways of old when I was a certifiable night owl.

After going to bed well after 3:00 last night, I was brutally awaken shortly after 9:00 by the kids upstairs playing. That’s when I felt it, as I tried but failed to turn over and pretend I wasn’t hearing the noise: yes, that ball pressing against my belly, a.k.a. my anger.

I should mention before going further that, after I wrote that post in which I ranted about others’ kids, I asked my building’s super if I was within my rights to complain and she said that I was, so I mustered up the courage to knock on my neighbour’s door. Of course it wasn’t the least bit nasty and the father said, in his very broken English, that he would try to teach his kids not to run in their apartment. The noise level, which on a scale of 1 to 10 was around 9 when I complained, went down to about 6 or 7 until the little devils finally went to bed. However, it remained a 5 until dad himself went to bed, for he walks heavily enough to make the light fixture in the kitchen — one of those long, ugly fluorescent thing — rattle each step he takes while in his own kitchen.

I’m starting to understand that the anger (or resentment in this case) stems from my sense of being powerless. My thoughts become completely irrational, not to say a wee bit too maudlin for my liking. I question my super’s decision to accept having little kids occupy an apartment where there are tenants below, but then I recognize that everyone, including (or especially) kids, has a right to housing. I start thinking about moving out, but then a flurry of other thoughts cascade all at once: I shouldn’t be the one to move out; what if I move out and find myself in a similar situation or worse; I can’t afford to pay more than I’m paying now and, if Kijiji and Craigslist can be trusted, I can’t get much better than I already have; besides, I like this location in this neighbourhood; I hate moving with a passion; I’m just being a curmudgeon; I have the worse luck with neighbours; maybe they’ll move out on July 1st; this has been a theme in my life for more than a decade, but maybe I’m the one who’s in the wrong…

When I finally dismiss all the maudlin thoughts, I’m left with one thing: powerlessness. As part of my exercise of getting rid of the noise that surrounds me, I developed a plan to take back control of my finances. Compared to a lot of other people, I’m in pretty good shape in that sense despite having coasted and payed little to no attention to that matter. However, after spending a whole day crunching numbers in a spreadsheet and my banking website, making both optimistic and pessimistic projections and acknowledging that I earn considerably more than the national average for someone living alone, I concluded that I will never, ever, be able to afford a mortgage. That might not be the case if I had been at my current job in the decade I worked as a freelancer, for I would have been able to build equity before housing prices doubled in that time. But I can’t turn back the hands of time.

Some might argue that I am not as powerless as I think, that I “only” need to find a way to earn more, or that I should just find myself a guy to shack up with in order to become a DINK (dual income no kids). Indeed, the minute I pretended that I had a partner earning only full-time minimum wage, a bunch of possibilities opened up on the mortgage calculator I was using. I was floored when I saw that!

As I was brushing my teeth and making some coffee upon getting up this morning, I merged this personal conclusion with the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement that’s been taking hold of late. The middle class really is disappearing! In a different time not that long ago, my parents, with a comparably more modest single income than my own, managed to afford a car, a house, and four kids. That’s unthinkable today. I think of my best buddy at work: she has two kids, her husband works as well and, as I’ve come to figure out, is quite prudent financially and rather old-fashioned in the sense that she manages to make her kids understand that choices have to be made.

My goodness, what a meandering road! I mean, how the heck did I manage to make connections between Occupy Wall Street, diminishing buying power, and fucking kids waking me up too early on a Sunday morning? Maybe I’m crazier than I think!

No, instead I think that the apple/orange displayed with the post is an extremely apt illustration.

What bugs me is that this sense of powerlessness seems associated with material gain. But I think that’s just the appearance. All I’m really yearning for is more control over something that’s fundamental: my home. I just can’t come up with a viable solution right now.