Friday, December 29, 2006

Writing Hiatus

Much to my annoyance, I could not magically create extra hours in the day, so I'm having to take a couple of weeks off writing my latest book to study. I'll be putting fingers to keyboard again after January 13 (my exam day).

Meanwhile, blogging will continue sporadically as always.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

And The New Harry Potter Title Is:


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows


Can't wait to see the cover art.

Back to work (I'm just finishing lunch)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Geek Link: The Global Carbon Project

For those of us who are concerned about the environment (and these days that's most of us who aren't in the pockets of the oil industry) here's a good link with a lot of scientific information about what carbon is, how it works, how it is necessary to life, and how the way we produce it is helping to destroy the planet.

http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/index.htm

Some good stuff here.

And now, back to the dishes (I'm goofing when I should be doing housework). Then I have this writing thing I should do. And at some point I think I'm supposed to sleep.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Moment of Silence

For one of the voices of my youth.

Dudley Do-Right writer dies

Chris Hayward, a television writer who brought his off-beat sense of humour to the Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show and comedies such as Get Smart and Barney Miller, has died.

Hayward, 81, died of cancer Nov. 20 at his Beverly Hills, Calif., home, his wife Linda said on Sunday.

Hayward is credited with helping create the bumbling Mountie Dudley Do-Right for the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, which debuted on ABC in 1959, then moved to NBC in 1961.

Hayward was part of the animation comedy writing team that developed at the Sunset Boulevard studios of Jay Ward.

Ward's "philosophy was: 'Just write sharp stuff for yourself and the audience will get it.' It was very freeing," said Allan Burns, a Bullwinkle writer who was Hayward's partner.

The show was packed with puns and parodies of classical literature and developed an adult following for the cast of zany characters. Much of that quick wit came from Hayward.




That show used to make me laugh myself silly. Rest in peace, Chris Hayward, and good work.

(Image from http://bullwinkle.toonzone.net/characters-dudley.htm)

Good News About Booze

Brain repairs alcohol damage, scans suggest

Thank goodness. There's hope for us all yet.

Speaking of which, where did that whiskey go...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Geek Link: Good News for Diabetes Sufferers

Latest research on Diabetes. A very cool breakthrough, though not ready for humans yet.

Here's the link:

Canadian scientists reverse diabetes in mice

Meanwhile, writing is proceeding slowly. Got myself stuck but I think I'm almost ready to break out of it. Annoying, but it happens.

Friday, December 08, 2006

So I want to redesign my website...

But I haven't the foggiest idea how to go about it.

I put together the first one using an old version of Dreamweaver given to me by a friend. I was quite pleased with the results, but it is in an out-of-date format (frames, don't ya know) and there is no flash or anything really cool.

Plus, with the book coming out in 2007 (I'm getting chills thinking about it. Really. It's cool) I want to have somewhere interesting for people to land.

So it's off to search for a designer, I guess. I have a concept, sort of an Erik's office-type front page, where every graphic leads you somewhere, but the execution is beyond my current skill levels.

Anyway, that's my blogging for the week. Not much to say except working hard, writing when I can, and getting ready for Christmas (the decorations went up today. The party is tomorrow).

Oh yeah, and here's a link on writing:

http://www.sfwa.org/writing/

And did you hear:

They're digging up St. Paul

(Sort of)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why am I not surprised?

Via the Vanity Press


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Non-Reader
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Went to Beta

So I thought I'd change the look. The other was feeling a bit dark.

Will be updating the links as soon as I have some more spare time.

(or when I decide to miss another night's sleep)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Canadian Politics: The Liberal Leadership Convention

Stéphane Dion is the new leader of theFederal Liberal party.

Good choice.

I have to admit my original choice was Bob Rae, and not just for his electability. I like what he stood for, and I liked how he handled himself. It was unfortunate that he was knocked out in the third ballot, but these things happen (possibly because he went skinny dipping with Rick Mercer). I believe that, in getting Stéphane Dion, we have the better of two remaining choices.

Dion had several advantages over Michael Ignatieff, not the least of which was the ability to know when to keep his mouth shut. Michael Ignatieff's mouthing off is the reason that the whole "Quebecois as nation" thing got raised in Parliament.

Now, I'm not saying that Ignatieff isn't a smart man, or that he might not make good decisions, but the man has no political experience and that made him a major risk. You do not want someone who has never faced down a press scrum or represented your country in a meeting with other leaders (national, provincial or otherwise) taking the helm at a time when the yahoo we have running the country is doing his best to make us a respected world-wide as the USA.

(Sorry to any American readers, but right now, your country's image on the international scene is crap. Hopefully with the Democratic Party in charge of the House and Senate, things will improve)

We need someone with some experience, with a good head on his shoulders, who knows how to talk to the press and to other leaders. And as for smarts, here's a sum-up of Stéphane Dion from the CBC article I linked to at the beginning of this post:


Married with one daughter, Dion, 51, earned a BA and MA in political science from Laval University before obtaining a doctorate from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris.

He was recruited by Jean Chrétien to run in the 1996 federal election and was elected in the Quebec riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville.

Dion held the post of minister for intergovernmental affairs for seven years but was dropped from cabinet in December 2003, when Paul Martin was sworn in as prime minister. The move was viewed as punishment for his close ties with Chrétien and unpopularity with several prominent Quebec Liberals.

Martin later brought him back into cabinet as environment minister after the Liberals won a minority government in the June 2004 election. In this role, Dion earned high praise for his work chairing the UN Climate Change summit in Montreal in 2005.

He looks to be a well-qualified, well rounded individual, and he has a vision of a Canada with a sustainable economy that will act as a world leader on environmental and human rights issues.

Let's hope he can do it. The Conservatives are really annoying the hell out of me (see previous post).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Canadian Politics: Jerks

The Harper Conservatives are going to close down 12 of the 16 Status of Women offices in Canada.

Why you ask?

Two quotes from Beverly Oda, Heritage Minister:

"What these offices don't necessarily provide is the help directly to women. There was a lot of lobbying groups, there was a lot of advocacy."

"We don't need to separate the men from the women in this country... This government as a whole is responsible to develop policies and programs that address the needs of both men and women."

And when the opposition suggested that this action was reprehensible, Oda's reply was:

"I'm very surprised that the opposition would say, 'Put money back into inefficiencies,' when you can find inefficiencies and streamline the operations."

So, let's clear some things up.

First: Lobbying and advocacy directly help individuals. These actions allow individuals representation before the government that they would not have been able to afford by themselves. They also result in changes to unjust laws. It was lobbying and advocacy that gave women the vote.

Second: It is not removing inefficiencies if you shut down programs, because an inefficient program that helps people is more efficient than no program at all. Only when you replace a program with something better can you claim to be getting rid of inefficiencies, instead of just cutting programs to get rid of those you don't like. Like the Status of Women, or the One Tonne Challenge, or adult literacy, or job creation programs, or funding for museums.

Third: If you claim that your government is responsible for both men and women in this country, then perhaps closing the government office that is responsible for ensuring that women receive equal opportunities as men is hypocritical and stupid.

Jerks.

I hope everyone out there in the Blogosphere will join me in endorsing a 29% pay cut for Ms. Oda, to put her salary in line with the average Canadian woman, who earns 71 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterparts. After all, if Ms. Oda doesn't believe in improving the status of women, she may as well face up to the realities of not improving the status of women.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Small Magics Has Gone To Dragon Moon Press

After much editing, Small Magics is now in the hands of my publisher, Dragon Moon Press. It has been a long, hard row to hoe, and I am very glad to see the end of this part of the journey.

There is more to do, of course, before it reaches the shelves next year, but the sense of completion is wonderful.

Thanks to everyone who helped, and specifically Katrina, Chet and Kim (my readers), Briana (my editor), and most of all Sara (my wife and another reader). Without your help, this book would never have seen the light of day.

And now that Small Magics is out of the way, Cold Magics needs to be finished (it's about 2/3 done) and The King Below needs editing (check my website for the plots) and there's that novel I'm adapting for the stage and the pantomime I want to get written for performance next Christmas and this year's ghost story and I've got an exam in January and ideas for two more novels...

And much more to do.

Back to work.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Global Warming: More Bad News

So, not only are we changing the climate, we're helping to wreck thousands of years of human heritage, and millions of years of natural development.

Here's the story.

Anyone thought of a way to make the Canadian government pay attention yet?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Found an Ab Workout

And it is nasty. It is actually a Core Muscle Strength and Stability test.

I found this at PowerCentering, which is a commercial website that promotes a core workout to get in shape. I have no idea how well their products or regimen work, but since I'm showing one of their tests here, I need to give them proper credit.

Here is the test:

The Core Muscle Strength & Stability Test is conducted as follows:

Position the watch on the ground where you can easily see it

  1. Assume the basic plank/hover position (elbows on the ground).
  2. Hold this position for 60 seconds
  3. Lift your right arm off the ground.
  4. Hold this position for 15 seconds
  5. Return your right arm to the ground and lift the left arm off the ground.
  6. Hold this position for 15 seconds
  7. Return your left arm to the ground and lift the right leg off the ground.
  8. Hold this position for 15 seconds
  9. Return your right leg to the ground and lift the left leg off the ground.
  10. Hold this position for 15 seconds
  11. Return your left leg to ground and lift your right leg and left arm off the ground.
  12. Hold this position for 15 seconds
  13. Return your right leg and left arm to the ground and lift your left leg and right arm off the ground.
  14. Hold this position for 15 seconds
  15. Return to the basic plank position (elbows on the ground).
  16. Hold this position for 30 seconds

Your score is equal to the number that corresponds to your last completed position (1-16) Your Score = _____________

I'll do this twice a week and see how I improve. It tried it and, sad to say, got a score of 7. Still, what's life without a challenge?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Looking for a Good Ab Workout

What, I'm going to blog about the American Election? Everyone and their uncle is doing that. Me, I'm far more self-centred.

Seriously, though, I used to be an exercise junkie. Three hours of martial arts used to be a good way to have some fun. These day, if I want to get three hours alone, I'd have to be in a hospital with something contagious.

So here's the challenge. We get up at 5:45 AM. I do the part one of my workout (15 minutes) while my wife grabs her shower. The reason for this is simple: Toddler. Someone has to be around in case she wakes up. Once my wife is out of the shower, I head down to the gym in our building, and get about another 45 minutes in part two. Now, my workout schedule is as follows:

Day 1 & 4 Part 1: Nothing. Part 2: Running
Day 2 & 5 Part 1: Shadow Boxing. Part 2: Weights
Day 3 & 5 Part 1: Calesthetics. Part 2: Martial Arts

It's a nice workout series, plenty of variety and keeps the body jumping. You'll notice, however, that Part One of Day 1 & 4 has nothing. This is where I want to put in a nice, nasty ab workout.

So, anysuggestions out there?

And by the way, congrats to the Democratic party on taking the House. We are all waiting with bated breath to see what happens in the Senate.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

American Politics

To any Americans who happen to drop by, remember:

VOTE!!!

Remember you still live in a democracy (sort of). Help keep it one:

VOTE!!!

(And vote Democratic, if you want my opinion, but hey, it's your country)

Friday, November 03, 2006

How Much More Evidence Do You Need?

The world fish stocks are collapsing and will be gone in our lifetimes unless radical change takes place. With their disappearance will come starvation for many, collapse of industry, and the true beginning of the end for our environmen

Here's the story.

How much more will it take for governments to make changes? How much more will it take before sensible management strategies will be usedto allow for sustainable use, rather than wanton destruction?

Write your MP, Congressman, Senator, Prime Minister, President, and anyone else you can think of. I know I will. We need to fix this while we still can.

Because Castles Are Neat!

And for those of us who write fantasy, they're also necessary. So here's a link:

Castles of Britain

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stern Warning

A link to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.

Since those with the money don't seem to care about the threat to people's health, wildlife, wilderness areas, crops, or housing caused by climate change, maybe a threat to their money might (note: might) make them wake up.

Doubt it, though.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Been a Long Time

Been a long loney,lonely, lonely, lonely time.

(Two points for the musical reference).

It's been one of those months where time has slipped by at high speed. I've been working, writing, editing, studying and playing with the kid. Once you get all that together, it leaves precious little time for blogging, which is too bad, because I like blogging.

(Or maybe I just like talking to myself, I'm never sure).

I've also been hanging out with a rather fun group of writers from the Twin Cities over on Wyrdsmiths. The group includes those who are published and those who are working on being published. The conversation is intelligent, and there's some excellent information about writing in their posts.

Small Magics is now two chapters and an epilogue away from going through its last draft and we are on schedule for publication. Cold Magics has taken off again and is starting to get written, though last night it was a token effort. I was tired!

So I'm back, and I'll try to do this at least once a week (yeah, you've heard that before). Meanwhile, how's everyone out there?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Geek Link!

The Mars Rover has lived 10 times longer than they expected. And it just sent back some magnificent photos of a crater. Very cool.

Here's the link.

Neat, huh?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Canadian Politics: What Conservatives don't care about

If you vote Conservative in the next election you will be voting against:

Women
Human Rights
The Environment

Heritage
Volunteers
Literacy

That is all I have to say for the moment.

Back to Work.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Time to Start Writing Again

And I don't mean at this blog (though God knows I am falling behind on that, too).

No, I am nearly done the edit of Small Magics. Now it's just niggling little stuff and annoying bits. All the major revisions are done, and we're on schedule to have it in at the top of December. And while I wait for my talented young editor to get me the next few chapters, it's time to get back to work.

Cold Magics is the sequel to Small Magics. It starts four months after where Small Magics ends, and follows Thomas and his friends on new adventures. It was on page 310 when I had to turn my full attention to Small Magics, and now it's time to turn back to it. Fortunately, I've been working with the same characters, so I don't feel like I've completely lost track of the story.

I'm hoping to get another 100 pages by Christmas. I'm also going to be working on a play which I've been meaning to finish for some time. Fortunately, the play is an adaptation of a Victorian novel, so there's no writing required, just a good eye for editing and a picture of how I want it to turn out. Cold Magics is the first priority, though.

And once that's written, it's time to start editing The King Below. No rest for the wicked. At least, not for me. At least I'm having fun. And I've got to start thinking about what the next novel will be.

Back to work.

(and you thought I was going to stop sayng that)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Afghan Government on Canada's Debate About Afghanistan

From the CBC interview with the Afghan Ambassador, Omar Samad.


Q: What do you think about the political debate happening in Canada now?

Samad: We obviously know that all Canadians, regardless of their political persuasions, have the right to express themselves and to take positions. All we're saying is to clarify and let's provide enough precise and accurate information for people to have a better-educated judgment about the Canadian role in Afghanistan. I think that there are certain notions that exist within society here and especially among some political interest groups that are far from reality.

Q: What are the notions?

Samad: For example, the notion that Canadians are invaders and occupiers. I would invite any of them to go and see for themselves because the Afghans have invited the foreign security to help us. The notion that Canada is following the footsteps of the United States, for example, is far from reality. The notion that we should solve the problem by bringing the Taliban into the political governance circles of Afghanistan. That would be an Afghan domestic issue that the Afghan people would reject because they rejected the Taliban mindset and ideology.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yarrr!

It be Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Yarrr!

May your timbers be shivered, your keel nicely hauled, and your bilgerats scurvy!

Yarr!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Broke 1000

Happened at some point today. It made me very happy. Of course, the fact that I check this blog about three times a day suggests that the actual number is around 334, but I'll take what I can get.

Made some changes in the links. Hoping to fill them out soon, or possibly move them to the other side of the page. Will seek help from those with more html speak than I have.

Now to bed!

New Blog on the List

I've recently discovered Wyrdsmiths, the blog of a writers' group in the twin cities. They are a nice bunch of folks, and have some excellent insight on the process.

I've added them to my list of fine blogs, which one day I swear I will get around to organizing. You know, in all that spare time I've got.

Reminds me, need to update my website, too.

Meanwhile, I'm at work and I'm in the clock in five...four...three...two...

Got to go!

Friday, September 08, 2006

You Lost Me, Jack

This week Jack Layton has proposed that we withdraw Canadian troops from Afghanistan and demanded an emergency debate on Canada's mission there.

I think he's half right.

I said in an earlier post that I supported the mission in Afghanistan, and gave my reasons for it. My opinion hasn't changed. I think we're needed there, and I think it is very important that we be there, and that we stay there for the long haul.

I also think that we need to talk about this as a nation.

The questions in my mind is not, "should Canadian troops be fighting?" Some battles need to be fought. The question in my mind is, "Is there as strategy for after the battles have been fought?"

It is one thing to kill the enemy, it is another thing to leave afterwards without fixing the conditions that created the enemy in the first place. Once the battles have been won, there needs to be a specific agenda for development, education, economic stability, and democracy. If these conditions are not met, we will only leave a worse situation than the one that was there before.

There was a great deal more I was going to say, but Rex Murphy said it better.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Night Off

And I'm still sitting in front of the computer. Sigh.

The draft is done and off to my trusty editor, who has to do some miraculous turn-around if we're going to get it done in to have the finished draft to the publisher for Christmas. Still I have faith in her. Me, on the other hand...

Well, enough of this work stuff. Good night, everyone, I'm off to watch TV.

Or possibly to get working on Cold Magics (the sequel to Small Magics).

Yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment.

Goodby to Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, best known as TV's crocodile hunter, died over the weekend.

Steve was a passionate man who loved the environment, animals, and his family. He was an outspoken advocate for reptiles, a staunch believer in protecting the wilderness, and one of Australia's greatest natural resources.

If you only saw him in action once, you'd think he was a madman. If you watched him repeatedly, you'd realize he knew exactly what he was doing, and did it very well.

Rest in Peace, Steve. The world is a poorer place without you.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Good Friend Returns

Chet Scoville, once known to the Blogosphere as The Green Knight, is back as himself.

Chet is a longstanding friend, a professor of English, and an insightful and intelligent writer. I'm glad he's back, and look forward to seeing what shape his new blog takes.

He can be found at The Vanity Press.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Stupid Game

Given to me by a coworker Friday morning. I tried to explain to him the problem of giving a game to an addictive personality with a ton of work left to do but he gave it anyway. So here's the link. Have fun.


http://www.ebaumsworld.com/frogleap.html

Fortunately, it's fairly easy to figure out.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Authors in the Blogosphere

In case you're wondering what other authors are out here in cyberspaceland, here's a couple of lists.

http://www.authorsblogs.com/index.php

http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/authorblogs/

Have fun.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stuck at Home

And wouldn't you know it? Right when I need to be at work.

We're working to deadline right now, so of course my daughter is running a fever and I can't find a babysitter. Argh. Still, she's asleep now, so I'm going to see what I can get done. I'm looking through articles to add to our website (www.managemyhome.com) THere's over 1700 of them, and it needs to be done by Friday. Oy veh.


Anyway, enough grousing (for the moment).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Draft Done!

At 1:30 AM this morning, because sleep is for amatuers.

In truth I'm mighty tired, but very happy with myself. Hats off to Briana, my editor, as well, for keeping the project on track. The next step is to take this week to re-read what I've written, make sure it all makes sense and isn't terrible, then put it all together in novel form once again.

After that, the real fun starts.

We have one more draft to do (I wouldn't mind two, but one is what we have time for) before I send it in to my publisher, Dragon Moon Press. After that, it's all about cover art and proofs and trying to coax a review or two out of other authors, if any will be willing.

And that's all the time I have to gloat/moan about it this morning. Nice to get some done. Miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

And Speaking of Writing...

Coleridge's archive is going to have a new home.

Did I mention I'm on chapter 29, now? And that I should be working on it right now?

This is called procrastinating!

Back to work.

The Website My Editor Wishes I'd Found...

...before she had to work on the manuscript.

http://www.grammar-monster.com/

Not that my grammar is terrible, but a little reminder never hurts.

Actually with me, I can mostly remember what to do, but I can never remember what anything is called.

Chapter 29 awaits!

(Yes, I got through 28. Took five days, but I found what I wanted. I just hope I won't think it sucks when I read it in the next draft).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Geek Link: Archeology

Very cool discovery in Quebec:

Archeologists discover remains of Jacques Cartier settlement

Not a lot to go on, yet, but very exciting. The oldest European settlement in the Americas north of Mexico.

And for a bit more in depth information on French colonization attempts:

Unsettling disasters: colonizing New France before 1600


Back to work.

(Literally this time. I got to work early and am blogging from my desk before the day begins, which is in two minutes.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Stuck

Like a hampster in a honeypot. Flailing about in the goo and going nowhere.

I'm on chapter 28. After this, four left, then we're done the draft. It's a small scene but an important one, dealing with the relationship between the hero characters before the final facedown with the villain. it shouldn't be this hard. It's a page at most. Maybe two.

Do you think I can rewrite it?

Argh.

No, really: Argh.

This is day 4 since I got stuck and it's really annoying me.

Anyway, enough whining. I'm going to take another kick at this particular cat and see if I can get it going again.

(And what's with the cruelty to animals theme tonight?)

Back to work.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

At Loose Ends

It's heading for midnight, and I should be in bed, but I just... don't... wanna... go.

My wife and child are spending the week at a cottage, which is very nice for them, though apparently everyone has caught a cold. They're still having fun, though.

I've been working and editing all week, and have found myself in the rather strange position of being all caught up. I got tonight's work done in about an hour, and found myself still completely at loose ends. I stayed at the computer for another two hours, had dinner, and here I am again.

And why, you might ask?

Well, it's my own damn fault, really. I bought new speakers for the computer today after work, and have spent most of the evening listening to all that music I put on the computer. It's good music (well, I like it) and it's really nice to hear it properly.

And for the record, I paid for all of it. Downloading is fun but speaking as an artist, infringement of copyright sucks. I know record companies charge to much, but artists still need to get paid. So pay for your downloads!

(all my music came from my CD collection, which reminds me, have to put my Tragically Hip collection on this machine)

Anyway, I should head to bed, but I'm awake and enjoying myself and really don't want to go.

Pity the alarm is going off in six hours.

On the bright side, I've started doing a bit of work on Cold Magics (the sequel to Small Magics) again. Finishing it (it's about half done) is the next major project, and I'm looking forward to writing (instead of editing) once again.

Good night everyone. This time, I am definitely going to bed, and not...

Back to Work.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Lament for the Green Knight

Over the weekend The Green Knight decided it was time to shut down his blog.

I didn't find out until Monday and you'll find my comment near the bottom. It's succinct and not very erudite and sums up exactly how I feel about it.

The Green Knight was an intelligent, educated blogger who had a gift for clarity and bringing to light complex issues. His analysis of world events, of the behaviours of our leaders, and the forces that drive those events and behaviours was clear, concise and always enlightening. His sense of humour was wonderful, and his taste in art amazing.

Those of us who regularly visited his blog got a taste of it all, and are thankful for it.

Thanks, Green Knight, for sharing part of yourself with all of us. We'll miss you here in the Blogosphere, and hope you're having fun in the real world.

Back to work.

Fun with Words

Because if I didn't think words were fun, I would be an accountant.


http://www.etymonline.com/index.php

Wondered where your favourite words originated? Have a look.

Back to work.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I'm Ahead!

Or at least, I was until I opened the email tonight. But suffice it to say I'm caught up, which is a nice change. My editor and I are steaming along and we'll have a draft done for the end ofthe month. Yay! One down, one to go (because I only have time for one more).

It has been a rough few weeks. Sleep has been at a premium and my wife is getting mighty tired of staring at the back of my head while I'm writing and ignoring everyone else. Then my baby brought home a cold from daycare and guess who she gave it to?

Great to have a kid who loves to share.

Still, I'm caught up, and may actually get some rest in the next couple of days. The addition of the laptop has helped greatly. Being able to go away and work for a few hours last weekend made life much easier. Got two chapters done on Sunday, and have been working steady ever since.

Two geek links:

Article 1: Charles V had Gout

And they figured it out from his severed finger. Anyone know why his finger was severed? Anyway, cool science stuff.

Article 2: Interesting Trenches in India

The possibility of it having to do with ancient astronmy, while still completely speculation at this point, is kind of a cool idea. As the geologist in the article points out, however, it's too early to draw conclusions.


I'm still not ready to blog about Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. There's a lot of bad happening down there, and not a lot of ways any good can come of it. When people start lobbing explosives, bad things happen.

The Green Knight has a good article on it. He, like me, is still not sure what to say.

Hope for peace, for everyone's sake. Healing from this will take generations.

Back to work.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Digging in the Dirt

I haven't had much to say, lately (been editing, been working, been avoiding talking about the Middle East) so I thought I'd send you to someone who has.

http://oldontario.blogspot.com/ is the blog of an archeologist friend of mine who is doing some contract work in what people in Toronto call Northern Ontario, but what is really just middlin' Ontario. Sounds like an interesting dig, and she's starting to find some stuff.

Meanwhile, back to the edit. Six more pages before I sleep.

Maybe.

Back to work.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Good Weekend/Bad Weekend

Good weekend: Now have a laptop (a loan from my mother-in-law) so I'll be able to write on the go and not have to kick my wife and child out of the house one day each weekend. My wife and I saw a fine show starring our friends, The Rude Mechanicals Friday night. My wife's mother came down for a visit on Saturday and had a fun afternoon with her grandchild. I took my daughter to visit my Dad and his wife today and she called them "Nana" and "Poppa" for the first time and we took her swimming in a pool (which she was not at all happy with at first, but began to enjoy towards the end). Also got two chapters edited and am nearly caught up and ready for our next deadline, assuming I get the time to write this week.

Bad Weekend: The kid cried the entire time we were out on Friday, and Saturday night was up from 12:30 AM until 4:30 AM. I got three and a half hours sleep. At Nana and Poppa's house, she refused to let me out of her sight, screaming every time I did something silly like go to the washroom or try to take a nap. I had to caffeinate myself to keep functioning which is why I'm still awake now. I have to get up for work in six hours and I'm still at the computer.

This week I will be very, very tired.

And here's a great archeology link I haven't had a chance to post until now:

http://www.archaeologica.org/

By the way, Nestle just bought Jenny Craig. Anyone else see the irony?

Back to work.

And then to sleep!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nuances? What Nuances?

Michael Wilson on George Bush on Stephen Harper:

"The president looked right at me and said, 'You know, your prime minister is a very direct man ... I like that because I know what he's saying. I don't like this nuance stuff,'" [Michael] Wilson [Canada's ambassador to Washington] told CBC television on Sunday.

Okay...

So, the President of the United States of America doesn't get nuances, and Stephen Harper apparently doesn't have any.

Frightening? Yes.

Surprising? Not so much.

Back to work.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Long Weekend Round-up

Happy Canada Day (four days late) and Happy Independence day , USA (one day late)!

I was visiting my mother-in-law on the weekend (out of Toronto! Yay!), so no posting got done.
I was very pleased to only have to spend part of the weekend in front of the computer (and displeased that I didn't get what I wanted accomplished). Would rather have been swimming, but the edit must go on and Lake Ontario is bloody cold this time of year (really. I nearly froze my ankles off. I would have gone in deeper, but I was carrying the kid at the time and there's no way I'm exposing her to that).

Speaking of the edit, and of freezing, last week was a week of sticking points. First, a section in Chapter 7 got me completely flummoxed for about a day, then another section in chapter 8. In both cases it wasn't until I was walking to work the next morning that I got the answer, which meant immediately getting to my computer and firing off the idea before I forgot it.

My personal favourite, thought, came on Wednesday. The line was originally, "The watch tower was a dim shape in the distance." Briana, my editor, asked, "What sort of shape?" I thought, good point. No problem, it's a...

a...

Two hours over one word. I must have been tired or something. I ended up quitting in favor of television that night, got the answer on the way to work (again) and emailed it to myself. Sad, really.

Now, as we approach the middle of the first week of July, I've made it through chapter 9, which contains a pivotal conversation and reveal, which meant re-writing nearly the entire chapter so it made sense. All the information was there, sure, but the order was atrocious. Had me confused, and I wrote it.

Fortunately, it's much better now.

So that was my long weekend. Hope yours was good.

Back to work.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Perfect Wave

Yesterday was the summer solstice (hope you Pagans out there had a good party!) and my boss showed me something very cool.

If you visit the offical US time website, and click on your timezone, it will give you the time where you are. More importantly, it will show you a map of the world, with which areas are currently in daylight, and which ones are in shadow. At the solstice, the shadow forms a perfect sine wave, which will turn into almost a straight line as we move towards the equinox, then a sine wave the other direction as we move to the next solstice.

Neat, huh?

Yeah, I'm a geek, but in a world full of wonders, its the geeks who go looking that see the most.

Back to work.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Oh, look

Not-for-profit health care is better than for-profit

Anyone else out there not surprised?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Good God!

Stephen Harper said something smart.

My favorite quote is:

"It is true that somewhere, in some communities we do find promoters of terror, people who use cultural, religious symbols to perpetrate violent crime. They abhor open societies, pluralist societies, democratic societies, because they advocate the exact opposite: a closed, homogeneous, dogmatic society."

Hmmm. Who does that sound like...

Say, do the Neocons know that you're badmouthing them, Stephen?

Evolution and Anthropology

No, I'm not going to join the debate about Evolution vs. Intelligent Design. I've already picked my side, and it isn't Intelligent Design. If the universe was intelligently designed, George Bush would never have become president, and Stephen Harper would never have become Prime Minister (of course, neither would Paul Martin).

While looking up something entirely different at work, I stumbled across the Anthropology home page of Palomar College in San Marcos, California, which has a couple of very interesting tutorials about anthropology, including the evolution of evolution theory.

So have a look if you like.

Back to work.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Quick Post

Because I haven't posted in a while. Things are busy. Relatives have been coming to visit so it has been cleaning, entertaining and editing, editing, editing. My editor and I figured out the problem the computer was having with the chapters she was sending, and it has been nose at grindstone ever since.

Having an intersting time with one section. A couple of astute questions from my editor turned a few notes into a major revision of one bit which has improved the section to no end. It also has left me slightly stumped, as it changes some of the motivations for the next bit, and requires some working around to get fixed. I figured it out on my way to work this morning, and just have to remember it for when I get home tonight.

Meanwhile, dwarf dinosaurs here, because sometimes science is neat.

Back to work.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Well, Dammit

I have just discovered that my computer is not showing all the changes that my editor has put in Small Magics Chapter 7. This is annoying, because without seeing them, I can't tell whether or not I agree, and we will have nothing to argue about.

I meant discuss. Really. I'm not argumentative at all. Really.

Stupid computer.

I have contacted my editor, who is very good and will no doubt get back to me quickly. Annoying, though. It means I am paused.

Drat.

Oh well.

Back to work.

(On something else for the moment)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Editing Small Magics

It is very late and very hot (ten degrees above seasonal), and I am no longer tired.

I have just finished editing chapter six, which puts me far behind where I wanted to be at this point, but beggars cannot be choosers as the saying goes, especially when it comes to time. I am working all day, as is my wife and we have a one and a half year old. Time is our most precious commodity right now, and I hoard it when I can.

First, hats off to Briana, who is my editor. She is doing a fine job of seeing the things I have missed and asking pointed questions that make me take long, hard looks at sections of my manuscript and ask myself "Why?"

Editing is a strange process. You are taking something deeply personal and subjecting it to the scrutiny of someone who does not know you, or your work, which is what makes them so valuable. They can see the garbage parts for what they are and say so.

I have a slight advantage with Small Magics. I have not truly looked at this book in a year at least. I have written another book since then, and am a third of the way through another one (the sequel to Small Magics, in fact). Nonetheless, it is still deply personal to me, and there are parts of my heart that cry out "Noooooo!" when I realize some things have to change to make the book better.

I have been putting two to three hours every evening into the edit, and the result has been an average of six or less hours sleep a night since the editing process began. Funny, I thought I'd be more tired, but you can get used to anything, really.

Of course, I may just be hallucinating at this point.

I am about eighty pages behind where I wanted to be, but I'm getting the rythm of it, and expect to be making up for lost time soon.

Briana, if you happen to chance upon this, keep up the good work.

Back to...

Ah, who am I kidding. I'm going to bed. I have to get up in five and a half hours.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I really didn't want a political blog...

I wanted a nice, fun blog where I could talk writing, books, authors, archeology and other neat science stuff, , how my latest book is coming, what workshops I'm running, how the editing process is going on Small Magics, and occasionally comment on current affairs.

But come on, Stephen. What are you thinking?

What are you? George Bush's Canadian lickspittle?

There is so much more to say, but I've wasted one evening on this already, so I'll make it short:

Stop doing stupid stuff so I can get on with my editing.

Anyway, my next post will be about the fun I'm having editing Small Magics, which will be on shelves in 2007. It has nothing to do with Canadian politics, and is a very good read. Click here for a preview, then rush out and order it so my publisher will like me.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On reading Spike Milligan

I've just finished "Rommel?" "Gunner Who?" by Spike Milligan.

The man was mad.

Utterly mad.

And utterly brilliant.

Spike Milligan, for those who don't know, was a British musician, comedian, writer, and a member of The Goon Show (a brilliantly funny BBC radio program) along with Peter Sellers and Ned Secombe. He was also certifiably insane, and for part of The Goon Show was driven from the asylum where he lived and wrote to the studio to perform, then driven back again at the end of the show.

This book, written in 1973, is a ramble of thoughts and memories, paying only lip service to the idea of chonology, interspersing personal memories with scripts of imaginary performances starring Hitler and Winston Churchill and remembered nightmares so horrifying they had me in chills. It is funny and profane and horrifying without apology. The boredom, humour, fear, humanity, cruelty, absurdity and insanity of men at war spills out in a stream of consciousness that pulls the reader along with it.

It is one of the best recollections of war I have read in a long time, and I highly recommend it for those who haven't read it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The New Budget: Harper's Hate Letter to Canadians

I've just read the lead-up to Harper's budget and I'm seeing red.

The basics:

Harper wants to give more money to the provinces to address what he calls a "federal-provincial funding imbalance." He is also going to spend $5 Billion on the military, and $2 Billion on his baby bounty (which offers you $1200 a year for each child you have under six).

So how is he going to to pay for all this?

Well, currently, thanks to federal taxes, the price of oil, and good fiscal policies on the part of the previous government, Canada is is running a $10 Billion federal surplus. Do you think he's going to use that?

No, because he's a Conservative. His job is to make those with money richer, and punish those who don't have it.

So, he's going to cut the Good and Services Tax by 1%. This means, if you can afford to buy stuff, it will now be cheaper. This will also take $5 Billion out of the federal budget. He's also going to cut taxes for those earning between $36,000 and $118,000, and taxes for corporations and small businesses (did you know that Canada already has the best corporate tax rate in the G8?). This will also take money from the budget.

So, where is he going to get the money?

Why, by cutting government programs, of course. The national childcare program, which was going to cost $1 Billion a year and created affordable daycare spaces across the country, is gone. The Kelowna Aboriginal Accord, which would have spent $5 Billion to provide housing education, health care and infrastructure for Canada's First Nations, is gone. The funding for the Kyoto Accord to stop global warming is gone. Other government programs will be gone.

And of course, there's one group whose taxes he will raise. Those who earn less than 36,000 a year got a 1% tax cut in the last budget. That's going to be rescinded.

I would love to say Harper is doing this because he is stupid, but that is not why. He is doing it because he represents the interests of business, not of Canadians.

Harper is using the exact same program that the Harris Conservatives used provincially in Ontario in the 1990's. Cut taxes. Cut programs to pay for those tax cuts. When the budget balances, cut more taxes. Cut more programs to pay for them. Explain how the government can't afford to supply Canadians with services, and hand it over to private industry to do it at a tidy profit. And if you're too poor to pay for those services, too bad.

The budget is going to be released this afternoon. If it is what they've promised (and what I have written here is they've promise), I will be writing to my MP to tell them to vote down this budget. I encourage you all to do the same.

Back to work.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Shame on Stephen Harper

This post is about a day behind, but with the new job and the baby delighting in 3 A.M. wake-ups, this is the first chance I've had.

How dare he deny media the right to cover the arrival home of the bodies of Canadian soldiers?

How dare he not fly the flag at half-mast?

These are men who gave their lives working for peace in a war-torn country. They deserve our respect, and they deserve to be seen.

Shame on you Stephen.

For better coverage on this, read Rick Mercer's Blog and The Green Knight here, here and here.

I'll blog more later, but tonight it's 10 PM, I haven't written anything yet, and the alarm goes off in less than 8 hours.

(Of course, the baby usually goes off in less than 6)

Back to work.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On the Dangers of Reading Dickens

I am currently making my way through "David Copperfield," and in doing so, have noticed, in both my writing and my speech, a sudden urge towards the loquacious; an insatiable need to express in many words what could best be said in few; and worse, the willingness, indeed, the desire, to so so at a moment's notice upon any person unfortunate enough to venture the idea of beginning a conversation. In short...

I'm talking too damn much.

It's a habit I fall into, to write like the books I am reading. My first novel (which will never see the light of day) sounded like Heinlien, Hambly, Cherryh and Stephen King had created as bastard love-child by tossing out bits on similar themes that they didn't like and having them accidently land in the same pile.

I've improved, of course. Every writer finds their own voice eventually, and I think I've found mine, but I need to be careful. When I read a good book, the old tendencies kick in and I'll find myself writing in the style I'm reading instead of my own.

It does make the editing fun, though. I can remember where I was in my library when I was writing a particular chapter.

Speaking of which...

Back to work

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Mountains Blowing Up

My brother is a geologist in Alaska, and from him I heard of this website where you can go to see Mt. Augustine blow its top.

Things have quieted down now, but look back in the archives for some really good eruption pictures. Also, check back regularly. You never know when another eruption may occur.

Back to work.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happy Over-Easy!

"Over-Easy" is a phrase coined by a Christian friend of mine whose husband is Jewish. They celebrate both Passover and Easter, so "Over-Easy"

I will be away from my blog for most of the weekend, but wish all who visit it a happy holiday, whether it is Easter, Passover, Hanuman Jayanti, Baisakhi, Therevadin Buddhist New Year, or just the fact that you've got an extra day off work that you are celebrating this weekend.

Take care and enjoy.

Back to work.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Gainfully Employed Again

And thank god. The cupboard was beginning to get pretty bare.

A writing job, too, which is neat. I'll be writing articles on improving home energy management for www.managemyhome.com. Start date to be determined in the next few days, but it should be by the end of this month.

What a relief. Now I can get focused on the important stuff, like my daughter and getting Small Magics edited for its release in 2007. And getting my last book ready for submission. And the next one finished. And the next one started...

Sometimes, I think I overbook myself.

(Pun intended)

Back to work.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Fish that Walked Like an Alligator!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tiktaalik Roseae.

Sometimes science is just neat!

And yes, I am a geek.

Hat Tip to The Green Knight, who had it up first, though I saw it in the New York Times this morning.

Back to work.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It is Late

And my writing has ground to a halt.

Exhaustion is taking its toll right now (baby teething), with stress from being unemployed and a lack of focus from being stuck in the house writing résumés all day contributing to my lack of progress. I can't seem to get more than a page a day going right now, which is annoying as hell. Three is my usual minimum. Five is preferred.

I'm going to have the section I'm working on done in a couple of lines, then I'm going to bed. The baby's teeth are in, which means I should get a couple of nights sleep with a little luck, before the next set.

So, I needed to grouse. Grousing done.

Back to work.

No, wait, the baby is waking up.

Sigh.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Something Cool

Ever wonder what eagles do around the house?

Here is the article that led me to it.

Here's the actual link. You have to watch some ads, but after that, you get to watch eagles!

Can't wait for the eggs to hatch.

Back to work.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Let the Editing Begin!

Heading into the home stretch now with Small Magics. The editing process is underway, and the publisher wants it done for Christmas for a 2007 release. Almost seems like enough time.

I'm very excited, though somewhat worried about time management. Aside from Small Magics, I have another book I need to start pre-publication editing (meaning editing before sending it off to the publisher), another I need to finish writing, a novel I'm turning into a play that I need to finish adapting, and another book (non-fition) in the pre-proposal stages.

Oh, yeah, and I'm unemployed at the moment. Imagine what my time is going to be like when I'm working for a living.

Still, I'm very happy. Here's hoping for good editing, good results, and that everyone out there buys a copy. And by everyone I mean all six billion people on the planet. Not just the dozen or so that read this blog.

I should really install a counter.

Back to work.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Down with Morality Part 2 - Morality Laws and what to replace them with

A morality law is a law written specifically to prevent a behaviour that members of the community feel uncomfortable with, or believe to be against God's will, or against public standards of decency, or against whatever uptight feelings they have on a specific day.

Interestingly enough, some morality laws are kept on the books long after their original purpose has vanished. For example, in Toronto, you need a permit showing you live in the area to park your automobile on the street over night. This was originally a morality law that kept unmarried individuals from staying overnight at the homes of other unmarried individuals. Since that time, it has become a huge cash cow for the city, and the only way to keep neighbourhoods from clogging up with unwanted parking congestion.

But I digress.

I have said before (see previous post) that I stopped believing in morality, and instead believe people should focus on behaving ethically. The same, I believe, applies to the law. So how does one change from morality laws to ethical laws?

In my mind, the ethical approach is to have laws deal with harm. In looking at an action, rather than saying whether or not the action is moral, determine whether or not the action causes harm, which Merriam-Webster's dictionary of law defines as: loss of or damage to a person's right, property, or physical or mental well-being.

Now (and let us brace ourselves for the reactions of the narrow-minded), most morality laws are about sex; who should be allowed to have sex, when they should be allowed to have sex, how they should be allowed to have sex, and whether or not they should be allowed to create images of themselves or others having sex, and whether or not anyone should be allowed to look at those images.

Many of the laws currently in place are arbitrary, poorly thought out, and designed to keep specific groups--usually young people or gay people--from engaging in sexual behaviour. This is done not because of evidence indicating that these groups having sex causes harm, but rather because the people making the laws are afraid or disgusted or otherwise misguided as to how these laws should be written.

If these laws are changed to no longer reflect what people think is "moral," and are instead based on whether or not an action causes harm, things become much simpler. Here's the basics:

If two (or more) individuals, capable of informed consent (that is, understanding what they are agreeing to) engage in consensual sexual activities of any type, then there is no harm involved, and those activities should be legal.

If a person (or persons) who is capable of informed consent forces another person who is capable of informed consent into non-consensual sexual activity, or engages in sexual activity with a person who is not capable of informed consent (unable to understand what they are agreeing to), or uses a position of trust, authority or dependency to influence another person to engage in sexual activity, or sexually exploits another individual for profit, those activities cause harm, and should be illegal.

Interestingly enough, in Canada, the laws about sex (that is, heterosexual sex) are written specifically to deal with the possibility of harm. For the most part they seem reasonable. However, section 159 blocks young homosexuals from enjoying the same rights as are extended to heterosexual couples. This section has been declared unconstitutional in the appeals court of Ontario and Quebec, and one would hope will eventually be struck down across Canada.

In the USA, on the other hand, laws vary from state to state. In other countries, other laws prevail. In some places, sex outside of marriage is a death penalty offence. In many more, homosexuality is the same. Many people have been imprisoned or put to death, not based on proof that their behaviours are wrong, but because someone else believes them to be. "Morality" is used as a tool for repression and control.

So, down with morality. Let us embrace ethics. Who knows, we might all just be better for it.

Back to work.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Down with Morality: Part 1 - Language Issues

Every time I hear people talking of "Morals," I get nervous.

I have heard people use the word "moral" to define actions that I believe are reasonable. I have also heard those on the opposite theirs are the moral actions and ours are immoral. I have heard about immorality of gay marriage, about the morality of George Bush. I have read of the immorality of women in the workplace, whites marrying blacks, Christianity, Non-Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Yoga, Meditation, the lower classes, the upper classes, the middle class, and the list goes on.

"Morality" has become just another buzz word; a tool used by those of those who wish to force their world view on others. Its meaning changes with the time, the speaker and the location.

So let's stop being moral. Instead, let's be ethical.

Now, "moral" and "ethical" are really not that far apart in meaning. If you look in a dictionary (and I did) you discover that moral and ethical are considered synonyms, and that some of their definitions are fairly similar:

Moral: 1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character:" moral scrutiny; a moral quandary." 2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: "a moral lesson." 3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: "a moral life." 4. Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: "a moral obligation." 5. Based on strong likelihood or firm conviction, rather than on the actual evidence: "a moral certainty."

Ethical: 1. of or relating to the philosophical study of ethics; ethical codes 2. conforming to accepted standards of social or professional behavior; an ethical lawyer 3. adhering to ethical and moral principles; "it seems ethical and right"; "followed the only honorable course of action"; "had the moral courage to stand alone"

The interesting thing for me is that "goodness," "right," "just," and "conscience" all appear in the definitions of "moral." All these words describe things that are subjective and personal. Further, according to the fifth definition, a person does not need evidence that their actions are right or just or good, they just have to have a firm conviction. If a person thinks an action is right, then taking that action is a moral thing to do. This means that the man who walks a girl through the crowd of anti-choice protesters to an abortion clinic and the man that blows up that clinic are both acting morally, each according to his definition of the word.

The definition of "ethical" on the other hand, contains none of those subjective words (though it does contain the word "moral," which shows how the words have been used interchangeably) Instead it talks of "accepted standards of... behaviour" and "principals." Of course, these words bring up their own difficulties. What are "accepted standards of behaviour?" Each culture is different. Each family is different. What seems acceptable to one group is certainly unacceptable to another. How do we judge?

Well, a friend of mine who knows far more about religion than I do, pointed out that "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is not a moral statement, it is an ethical one. This statement, known as "The Golden Rule" appears in almost every major religion in the world. It does not judge the person you are facing, it does not decide whether their behaviour is right or wrong, it does not question the value of that other person's beliefs or code of conduct. It very succinctly says how we should behave towards other people: as we would like them to behave towards us.

So, let us stop worrying about being moral. Let us instead worry about being ethical. We will all get along better.

Part two: "morality laws" and what to replace them with, coming soon.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Afghanistan

I believe in the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

With the deaths of several Canadian soldiers, there's been a lot of questions raised about our mission; some new, some old. I'll address four of them:

  • What is Canada doing in Afghanistan?
  • Should Canadian troops be there?
  • Should they be engaging in the more combat-oriented missions?
  • Isn't our presence there just freeing up US troops for Iraq?

Before I weighed in I wanted to have some idea what I was talking about, so I went looking and found the Canada in Afghanistan website. I suggest you visit it, too. Reading the information there made me realize that we are doing what we have done since the second world war: building peace. The role is difficult. Afghanistan has been a war zone since the Soviet invasion in 1979. After them came the Taliban, terrorism, and finally, civil war supported by Canadian, US and other troops. The country is a mess.

Canada and the international community are now working to clean up the debris of war and make certain it doesn't happen again. We are cleaning up landmines. We are supplying food to the needy. We are helping to build infrastructure and local business. We are working with local police and courts to create a judicial system that works and is enforceable. We are working to disarm the militias and help the members return to society, and we are making progress.

So, my answers to the questions above:

What is Canada doing in Afghanistan?
From the website: "The Government of Canada's main objective is to help Afghanistan to become a stable, democratic and self-sustaining state that never again serves as a terrorist haven. To this end, Canada is working with other countries, the UN, NATO and various international organizations to provide the security and stability necessary for the implementation of multilateral and bilateral development programs in Afghanistan, to ensure a systematic reconstruction of the country and to rebuild its economic, political and judicial institutions."


Should Canadian troops be there?
In my opinion, yes. We helped start the war that overthrew the Taliban, we helped to create the system that brought the new government into power. To leave now would be to abandon our responsibilities, damage our international reputation, and undermine the very important work that is being done in Afghanistan.

Should they be engaging in the more combat-oriented missions?
Unfortunately, yes. Part of peacekeeping is preventing those who would disrupt the peace from doing so, and in this case, that means searching out the remaining Taliban and Al-Qaida fighter in Afghanistan.

Isn't our presence there just freeing up US troops for Iraq?
No. When George Bush invaded Iraq, he did pull troops from Afghanistan to do so. He would have done this whether or not Canadians were there, and in doing so, made a very serious mistake. The war in Iraq is one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the middle east right now. The US is being seen as an ineffective bully who does not have the will or strength to hold the country or to leave it peace (as opposed to in pieces, which seems to be happening). Afghanistan, by contrast, was a chance for the US to show that it could help the people of the region; that it would not abandon its allies like it did in the 1980's following the collapse of the Soviet Union. George Bush could not see this. He could not understand that, by building peace in Afghanistan, he could salvage the US reputation in the middle east, and gain respect both from allies and enemies.

We are needed in Afghanistan, and we need to stay there until the job is done. And yes, it may take ten years. If we commit to Afghanistan, if we help rebuild the nation, we will do far more to bring about peace and end terrorism than the so-called "War on Terror."

So that's my opinion on the matter. While you think about yours, why not take some time and write a message to our men and women in uniform? They'd love to know you are thinking about them.

Back to work.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Instant Kung Fu Success!

Today was the Instant Kung Fu! workshop, and it was a blast.

It was a small workshop (five of a possible 12 attendees) but a good one. The students were receptive, the material worked well, and the comments afterward were both helpful and encouraging. I had put together a survey for the class to fill out afterwards and the reactions ranged from very good to good with a few neutral, but with no bad comments at all. I will soon have the photos and some video (taken by my good friend and a talented film director, Alexander Galant), and you'll be able to see both on my website

From what I learned today, future workshops will be four hours instead of three, to allow maximum time for the participants to learn the material. We did start late, but even so, it was not enough time. So next time, four hours, and more fun will be had by all.

So thanks to Melanie, Pearl, Richard, Mike and especially to Shanna who had come from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to attend the course. Also, a special thanks to Kevin Robinson, my assistant and a talented fight director and teacher in his own right.

Watch out for my next course, Instant Musketeer! coming soon!

And now I have some writing to do.

Back to work.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Goodbye Cleopatra

To one who ate anything as long as it wasn't in her bowl
Who could jump four feet up and slip into spaces three inches wide
Who didn't know what mice were for and chased them anyway
Who shed in places we still can't figure out how she reached
Who fought plastic rings and bits of string with ferocity and delight
Who hated getting her nails cut and wouldn't let anyone brush her
Who was ready to take on the raccoon outside the window
Who took up half the sofa and had to have her own cushion
Who nearly took out one of my eyes while escaping from being pilled
Who slept on my chest and pushed her paws against my chin
Who bit my nose at 2 a.m. because she wanted to play
Who purred like a racecar when she was happy
Who sat on my lap when I was writing late at night
Who never clawed the baby even when it hit her

She was a kitten for twelve of her fourteen years. When she got sick we did all we could to make her better. When she stopped eating her food we gave her tuna. When she could no longer eat that, we gave her water and tried to comfort her. And when we could no longer do that, we released her from her pain.

Cleopatra died February 18, 2006. Her autopsy revealed that she had cancer in her liver, and spreading through most of her body. She never complained, and was never vicious or violent while she was sick. We loved her and we miss her.


Cleopatra
1992 to 2006
Beloved Friend

Friday, February 17, 2006

Page 200!

And now I am way to tired to say anything intelligent.

My kid has been sick for the last week and a half, and writing has been pulling a Shakespeare (creeping in this petty pace from day to day to the last recorded syllable). As a result, these last 18 pages took way too long.

But before I go, some things I've been wanting to say:

Danish Cartoons: Get over them. Move on. To the 99.9% of Muslims who did not bother to react to these deliberately provocative cartoons, good for you. To the Danish newspaper, what were you thinking? To the Saudis who stirred up the whole mess, shame on you. To the right-wing papers who helped keep it going. Double shame. For those who torched and destroyed and killed, shame does not begin to cover it. Go find something worthwhile to fight about people. This isn't it.

Cheney and Firearms: Who let him hold a rifle? And did you hear the guy he shot apologized? How stupid is that? And will no one charge Cheney for hunting illegally? Please someone. I dare you, if it will help.

Archeology: New intact tomb discovered in the valley of the kings. Anyone got a link?

Olympics: Yay! Go Canada! Is it me or does Skeleton just look scary?

Instant Kung Fu!: February 26. It is a definite go. Check out my website: www.erikbuchanan.ca for details. It will be fun, and a good learning experience. And the price is good, too!

Other news: Like I've had time to see the news. Have you ever had a sick one year old? I promise to catch up soon, and post more when I can.

Back to work.

(Actually, I'm knocking off and watching TV now, but I like ending the posts that way)

Monday, January 30, 2006

No Blogging until Page 200

I am way behind where I want to be at this point (note when I posted 100 Pages!).

And so, no blogging until page 200.

Despite the Conservative win, the American Ambassador informing Canada that the USA does not recognize our sovereignty over our Arctic waters, the opening of private for-profit health care clinics in Ontario, and my daughter's first birthday, I need to stop blogging right now and focus in on writing.

But I am on page 182, so I should be blogging again soon.

Back to work.

No, really.

Back to work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Instant Kung Fu! for Actors

In case some might be visiting with an interest in these sorts of things, here's a class I'm offering:

Instant Kung Fu!
for Actors

Always wanted to study Martial Arts?
Always wanted to learn Stage Combat?

Do both!

Instant Kung Fu is a introduction to martial arts for stage and screen. Learn to combine martial arts moves and stage combat techniques to create a Kung Fu-style fight that is action-packed, safe, and fun!

Time & Date: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., February 26, 2006
Location: 575 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Cost: $125 ($100 for Equity, ACTRA, FDC and Rapier Wit members)
To Register: email kungfu@erikbuchanan.ca

Register before Feb. 19, 2006 and save $25!

Erik Buchanan is a Martial Artist, Fight Director, Actor and Writer. He holds Black Belts in Shaolin Kenpo, and Moh Kempo, and has also studied Arnis de Mano, Aikido, Kung Fu, and Wu Gar Mo Sut. His fight director credits include: Don Juan, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew and Man of La Mancha. Among his acting credits are: Charlie’s Aunt, Corpse, Zastrozzi, Henry V, Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth on stage, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Hero, Magnus Opus, Shadow Warriors and Pools, Patios & Decks on TV and Film. His novel Small Magics, is hitting shelves in 2007.

Visit www.erikbuchanan.ca for more info.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Guess What?

My website is up!
My website is up!
My website is up!
My website is up!
My website is up!

(And you thought shouting was just done with ALL CAPS!)

Took all day and two calls to support at web.ca (thanks, Geoff!) but it is done!

So I'm happy. Very happy. Extremely happy. Did I mention happy?

Come and visit: www.erikbuchanan.ca Let me know what you think.

Back to work (finally!)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Canadian Politics: Greed, Cowardice, and Proportional Representation

In Canada more than 50% of the people will not have their views reflected by their local Member of Parliament. This is because we are only one of three nations in the world (Britian and the USA are the other two) that uses a "first past the post" system to decide who will represent the people. This means that, in any given riding, no candidate actually needs 50% of the vote to win. In fact, the more parties running in a given area, the less votes the winning candidate has to have in order to take control. All he or she needs is enough votes to beat out whoever got second place.

This is not a good system, especially for Canada.

We are a very large nation. We have a very diverse opinions and that diversity goes across the nation. That diversity, however, is not at all reflected in the political landscape. If one looks at the results of the last election, one would think a large majority of the west is Conservative, a large majority of Ontario is Liberal, and almost all of Quebec wants to seperate. This is not true. At all.

What we need is a system of proportional representation, where the Members of Parliament are picked not by who got the most votes, but by who voted for whom. Instead of having one candidate per small area, each party would run a slate of candidates over a larger area, and voters would get a chance to vote both for the party and for the candidate. That means that if, in a given area, 20 seats are available, 20 candidates would be run by each party. If the Liberals get 35% of the vote, the conservatives 30%, the NDP 25%, and the Green Party 10%, the result would be 7 Liberals, 6 Conservatives, 5 NDP and 2 Green Party MPs, which would actually reflect the political landscape of the area. True democracy instead of false democracy.

Think specifically about Quebec. Think about what sort of a difference it would make in Parliament if the Bloc Quebecois's stranglehold on Canadian politics was gone. The most recent poll I could find shows that the Bloc Quebecois has 52% of the popular vote. A commanding lead, and one that, according to some, will give them 67 of the 75 seats in Quebec. If our government was elected by proportional representation, they would only be getting 39 of the seats. Quite the change, eh?

Under a system of proportional representation, the government would represent the entire Canadian political spectrum. Think about how the myth of Canadian regionalization would change if people could see that, yes, there are NDP in Alberta and Conservatives in downtown Toronto. It is a change that is long overdue, and would be a change for the better.

So why isn't it happening? Greed and cowardice.

Look at the Liberals and the Conservatives. Both of them have held power with majority governments that have run rough-shod over any dissenting opinions, attempts at compromise, or suggestions of change (actually, in the case of the CPC, it was their predecessor, the PCs). Both know that, in a system of proportional representation, they would probably never hold majority power again. Neither likes the idea, neither accepts it. What they want is power; complete, total control over Canadian policy and the Canadian people.

As for the Bloc Quebecois, I found the records of a House of Commons debate from 2001 in which a Bloc MP goes on record as saying that, while the Bloc supports proportional representation for an independent Quebec, they do not support it as a system for Canada. Not a surprise. As long as they have the "first past the post" system in Quebec, they can wield a great deal of power in the House of Commons, whether or not they should.

And so we see it: greed and cowardice. The Bloc would rather deny the people of Quebec true representation in Parliament than lose some of their power. The Conservatives and the Liberals would rather risk the destruction of our country than weaken their grasp on power. The lot of them refuse to see beyond their own political agendas to do what is best for the country.

A shame, really, because I think proportional representation would do more to unite the country than most of the other things we've tried. And certainly more than the current state of things.

Back to work.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Civility, Grace, Dignity and Integrity

Can you think of four better things to strive for this year than these?

I can't.

Thanks to the Progressive Traditionalist.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Guns, Hope and Societal Failure

It is January 2nd and Toronto has had its first homicide of 2006. A young man died of gun shot wounds.

At this point, a fair number of us are asking, "what is wrong with these people?"

The answer to that is that they are criminals. They are members of gangs shooting one another and others to defend turf, control drug trade, show how tough they are, and get respect. They are causing the unnecessary deaths of many young men and many innocent by-standers, including several children. They need to be hunted down and put in jail.

So now we know what's wrong with them. Here's a better question: How did they get that way?

No one is born a criminal. Even those with sociopathic or psychotic tendencies will not necessarily become criminals. Criminals are made by the society which surrounds them, and once someone is on a criminal path, it is very difficult to lead them off of it. So how did these young men become criminals?

The reasons vary: poverty, a sense of marginalization from society, a need to belong, a chance to do something exciting, a lack of understanding of the pain they cause, inadequate parenting, lack of community support, lack of social programs. The reasons young men become criminals (and I say young men because that's what the majority of them are) are as varied as the young men themselves. There are several common elements, though, and one of the most important is a lack of hope.

If you look at the society in which you live, the circumstances in which you grew up, and the people around you, and see no hope for improvement in your life, why would you continue to support that society? Why would you follow that society's rules when it offers nothing to you?

To put it another way, young men playing on sports teams don't tend to run around shooting people. Young men with jobs don't tend to run around shooting people. Young men going to university don't tend to run around shooting people. This is because all of them have something to work towards. They have hope.

Young men with nothing to work towards - with no hope - will search for something. And if that something is status and a sense of belonging in a local gang, guess what they're going to be doing?

The majority of these young men are lost. We can offer programs to get some of them back; gun amnesty, job creation, social counselling can all help. Unfortunately, the majority of them won't escape, and will end up as burdens on our social systems through welfare, jail time, and medical expenses. We as a society have failed them, and we as a society have to pay the price.

The question is, how long are we going to keep paying it? We have lost these young men. Do we want to lose the next generation as well?

There is much talk in this election from various parties about tougher gun laws, more police on the street and tougher sentences for offenders, and these may all help with the current problem. What they will not do is prevent the next generation of lost young men from taking the same path. We must offer hope to the next generation of at-risk youth; we must show them that there is a better way than the gangs, and better opportunities than being a drug-dealer.

We need to work within our communities; to identify those that are at-risk of falling into criminal activity and offer them a different path. Some steps have already been taken, but much more needs to be done, if we are going to save the next generation.

Back to work.

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