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Monday, 31 December 2012

Not a Party Animal, but Wild Musical Tastes

No parties for me. Nope. Instead I somehow find myself working on my novel. Not that I mind. I love writing as anyone who reads my work can probably tell. I never shut up when it comes to the written word.

I've found myself somewhat inspired lately, on top of my usual writing habits, so my fiction work is benefiting from the burst of creativity. My problem has always been how my personal life affects my fiction. When life is boring or depressing, it makes it difficult for me to relate to a character who is living a different life. As a writer I have to push past that or I'm never going to be truly professional in my work. I've learned to create fantasy worlds in my head, which assist with creativity when I'm having trouble otherwise, but I still need to work at it.

So, why the inspiration? Well, there are a few reasons. Great feedback and encouragement are always helpful. I'm also back in the habit of writing all the time. Then there's more personal stuff where I see change on the horizon on several levels. I like consistency in my life, but I don't fear change. It's idiotic drama I can't stand, and people making up problems that aren't really problems just so they have something exciting going on.

Music is a huge inspiration for me, which taps directly into the fantasy world for me. I recently found a couple of songs that are likely familiar to everyone else, but I'd never listened to them before. One was Katy Perry's E.T., which I'd only heard through my daughter's headphones before. The second was Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment. Wow! They're some kick-ass songs. They also tap directly into the erotic fantasy world if you're a writer who does that kind of work. Mine veers there from time to time. Okay, it veers there in all my fiction pretty much. It's one thing I have to say I'm very good at writing.

As much as I don't want to write specifically romance, there's no denying that most novels have an element of it, and it tends to work well as a device for engaging the emotions of a reader. They start to care even more about the characters. In my current crime novel, there's an element of both romance and eroticism, despite the main storyline being the catching of a serial killer.

So, when I find a song that impacts me on an emotional level, I use it. Finding a couple of them is even better. It helps me pull together the moment and the scene between two people, and it makes the chemistry believable. If you can visualize the whole scene in your head, as a writer, and that scene is doing something for you, then chances are good it will have that impact on the readers. That applies to eroticism as well as emotion.

I've managed to write about 6,000 words just on my book in the last couple of days. Of course, I went without sleep one of those days. It's been so long since I did that, which tells me my creativity is coming back full force. Bolts of inspiration, like lightning, strike me, and let me tell you that lightning does indeed strike more than once. On top of the fiction work I've been writing this blog, chatting with a fellow writer, and submitting a couple of articles. One of which was a writing assignment. The other was on the first known serial killer, which you can read here.

The second was inspired by the writer I've been chatting with. He asked me which serial killer intrigued me the most, so I told him. He suggested the article, since he'd never heard of her. So, I figured what the hell? Locusta the Poisoner is a bit of a mystery. There isn't much that's known about her, and I doubt there ever will be. Records indicate she was active starting 54 CE (or AD for you religious people), which is a long, long time ago. Damn near 2,000 years. If they haven't uncovered the information by now, they're unlikely to do so, and I'm no archaeologist.

When it comes to music, I sort mine according to the mood they inspire.  I classify them that way myself. Sometimes I have to use more than one term, but it helps me sort through them when I'm trying to create a play list. Of course, I have very eclectic tastes in music. I've got opera, operatic pop, country, pop, heavy metal, jazz, classical, rock, alt-rock, zydeco/cajun, rap, hip-hop, you name it. Mostly I like hip-hop. Maybe that seems weird for someone my age. I don't think forty-one is old or anything, but it's generally beyond the age someone listens to a music genre that's currently popular with teenagers.

I think the reason I like a younger style of music is because I used to be a dancer. I've studied a few different styles, including jazz, ballet, hip-hop, belly dancing and highland dancing. I was about to take up Krumping, actually, when my injuries smacked me down. It was one my daughter expressed an interest in, and I love the energy of it. We watch almost no television, but So You Think You Can Dance became a favourite. Haven't watched the last few seasons, but I'll get around to it eventually. In the meantime, I've got some fiction to create. Maybe when I'm back on my feet I'll be more interested in dancing again, because then I'll be able to do it again myself.

Watch Out for Commies! Er, Canadians

Watching Michael Moore's chat on Twitter last night, I was amazed at the number of idiots who kept calling him a Commie. Um, the US government is a partially communist government. He was told , "Move to Canada ya f-in Commie." Well, yes, Canada has social programs, too. We could be classified as such. The US has Social Security. What is it that people think that is, if not a social program? It even has the word "SOCIAL" in it. The USSR stood for, what? The United Soviet SOCIALIST Republic. Social services, otherwise known as welfare programs, are...yes, socialist. Healthcare, which Americans seem to want, is a...yes, socialist program.

I'm constantly amazed at the ways people do not think through what they say, and realize how stupid it is. Like in The Big Bang Theory when Raj makes remarks that seem blatantly homosexual, and they're all asking, "Does he not hear himself when he says these things?" Same deal here, except this is real life. Yet again a very clear illustration why education is so much better than ignorance, but the ignorant seem to have no idea they're ignorant, so how can they be convinced that they need to get their backsides back to school?

I reiterate a statement I've made multiple times in the past. Communism shares the same root meaning as community and commune. They comes from the same word. They mean basically the same thing. Communism is simply the political structure of community. Community programs are social program, social programs are...welfare, healthcare and social security. There are others, but those are the most common and considered basic necessities of a civilized society. When people complain and ask for healthcare, they consider it to be a step forward for their society, not a step backward. Obviously communism isn't as bad they seem to think it is.

I've read multiple articles by another writer on wrytestuff.com where he has discussed the economy and communism. We discuss it back and forth, and we're both still amazed at the complete lack of understanding of a large number of American people. What this amounts to is a serious lack of dictionaries in schools, apparently. Communism needs to be explained to children properly. The FSU, otherwise known as The Former Soviet Union, was not practicing communism the way communism is meant to be practiced. There is no comparison.

It seems to me that what the gun-toting crazies still wanting to protect their right to bear assault weapons are actually looking for in a 'govmint' is fascism. I think Robin Williams had the right idea, though. The right to bear arms, or the right to arm bears. Either way you're looking at a lot of collateral damage. Guns don't kill people...blah, blah, blah. Ever have a gun go off accidentally?  Ever hear of a small child who plays with one, thinking it's cool, and shoots off half of his brother head? That kid wasn't killing anyone. Okay, lay the blame at the feet of the parents for not locking up their guns, but then where are we with Adam Lanza? He was taught proper use of the weapon by his mother, who then decided to kill her first.

Why, oh why, oh why does any person need a weapon that fires 800 to 900 rounds per minute? (Lanza's gun did not - it was only a semi-auto - just clarifying.) There is no satisfactory answer for that. Sure, war, and then instead of assault weapons we have nuclear weapons. Why, oh why, oh why does any country need enough of a nuclear 'deterrent' to wipe every living soul off the face of the earth. You reach a certain point where it's simple idiocy. The math just does not add up. Of course, this is assuming the people who are so pro-assault-weapon can actually add, which is debatable. Again, statistics bear out the fact that tighter gun controls mean fewer firearm homicides. Other types of homicide do not increase to compensate. The full homicide rate is much, much lower.

You know, it really does come down to the definition of communism and community, doesn't it? If we live as a community, care for one another as a community, work as a community, does it not follow that we are in fact a community? If we are a community we are practicing communism at its purest and most basic level. The whole point behind true communism was to make certain everyone in the community was looked after. There was no one that did not have their basic needs met. A little capitalism to reward the industrious, sure. I can get behind that. If everyone gets everything for free what reason do they have to work? However, if a society is practicing true communism this isn't even an issue. Everyone has a job and a place in the community. Everyone has obligations and responsibilities, as well as rewards.

Just imagine a world in which there are no homeless people, and the people that would have been homeless have been treated for mental health issue, such as addictions or depression. Every person has a warm bed, and nutritious meals. There's no stress about wondering where you're going to get the rent money on Friday, or how you're going to pay for the kids' lunches.

Of course, as a person who is a self-admitted control freak who doesn't let anyone tell her what to do, I'd be pretty leery of a society such as that myself. As in the case of the FSU, it is rife with opportunities for abuse within the system. Government control of every citizen, down to the smallest detail. I had a figure skating coach when I was a kid who had defected. This was long before I knew him, of course. When his government finally tracked him down at a skating competition they crushed his pelvis with a barbell. He never skated competitively again. They took back their property, so to speak. All those Rubles they'd invested in him made his talent and skills their property as far as they were concerned.

As I stated earlier, though, that's not communism. That's a perversion of it. There is nothing about community in a government of that structure. That's a dictatorship and totalitarianism. Big difference.

The problem is, how do we put a government in place that will remain true to the people it is supposed to serve. The Canadian government sure doesn't. Neither does the US government. I like Obama quite a bit, but the guy has his hands tied six ways from Sunday. He can't get anything done because of the strangling red tape. He can invoke veto power, but only to prevent something if I understand it correctly (it's been a long time since I learned about that in school, though, so I could be way off base there).

I remember watching Michael Moore's Sicko, where he interviewed people in various governments. The guy from France made a simple point. The French government was afraid of its people. That's as it should be, since they're getting paid by the people. In Canada and the US the people are afraid of their governments. They don't do any of the things for us that they should be doing.

It's too bad the people in my country tend to content themselves with letter-writing, because a hue and cry of "Off with their heads" might be just what's needed around these parts.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Smelly Cat and Resolutions for the New Year

I just looked up from my laptop to see my cat barrelling down the hall toward the living room.  Knowing where he was running from, namely the litter box I just heard him scratching at, this prepared me for a lovely wave of aromas. (Yes, that was sarcasm, for those of you who need a sign.) You know a smell is bad when the creature that is responsible for it is running away from it. This is the problem with a feline diet high in protein. It's supposed to be, since cats are obligate carnivores, but that doesn't make the litter smell any better. Supposedly, if you give a cat a food they absorb better, such as a protein-based diet, they have less waste, but I don't think anyone has told my cats yet.

Still, with blood sugar dropping rapidly, I must eat, so it's with much trepidation that I chance peanut butter on crackers. This is one of the pitfalls of being on meds. There are sometimes weird side effects. Every once in a while my blood sugar drop so fast I don't even have a chance to get to the fridge before my whole body is shaking. I mentioned this to my former doctor, who immediately ordered blood work and an ECG. Huh? Blood work, yes, but I don't get the ECG. I'd had one only a few months before, too. There isn't anything wrong with my heart, assuming it's still in there somewhere. They only did the test because I tend to have a bad reaction to anaesthesia, and I was there for a pre-op assessment.

Of course, the other side effect is the ever-present nausea. Between that and my stinky cats, it's a wonder I manage to eat anything at all. I'm a lot thinner than I was a couple of years ago. There just might be a connection. So, for anyone out there who's wondering how to put their New Year's Resolution to lose a few pounds into effect, there's a free tip for you. Not everyone has the same reaction to pain meds, but the cat's a good choice.

I'm looking forward to next year. I haven't made any specific resolutions, but I just wrote an article about that subject (available here). Like a lot of my articles, it was done 'on the fly', and it was a writing assignment, so I was writing about something I normally wouldn't have. Still, it made me think about resolutions, and the fact that people are so hard on themselves. They don't give themselves enough credit for the things they've already accomplished, and focus only on the stuff that they feel they haven't done. As I wrote the article, I talked about that, and about the things I managed to do last year. It made me feel really good about next year's possibilities, knowing what I've achieved against some pretty tough odds. I didn't share everything in the article, nor have I here, because some things are too personal or involve people other than myself, and I don't feel comfortable with what amounts to gossip.

Still, the resolutions are irresistible, so I must make them to feel as if I might actually get further ahead in my life next year. There are a couple of things that are a given. One is to continue my progress regarding the surgeries I need done. The second big one is to help my ferret be healthy again. Health is always the most important issue, and Stimpy and I have some healing and recovering to do.

I would love to be able to say I'm going to start exercising again, but I can't. I mean that literally. I'm not supposed to exercise. I'm not supposed to walk more than absolutely necessary. Until the damage has been repaired in my hip joints, exercise will only make them worse, meaning I'll have even more pain to deal with, and more pain killers to take (or stronger ones). My body can only take so many drugs.

I would also love to be able to say I'm going off my medications. In my youth I'd have used any excuse to be on drugs. I was a bad girl. Later on I lost interest in drugs. Now I want the stupid things gone, but have no choice. Unless, of course, I relish the thought of curling up in a ball on my bed all day, whimpering and crying. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a wimp. I have a very high pain tolerance. I just have a high level of pain. I didn't think childbirth was all that bad, so maybe that gives you an idea what this is like for me. I didn't have any pain relievers at all when I had my daughter, either, but now I'm on Percocets or codeine.

No, exercise and being off the medications will have to wait for the following year most likely. I'll have to wait for full joint recovery for any exercise anyway. The drugs I might be able to toss pretty quick. I just have no timeline I can refer to for that yet.

So, what can I do? Well, I can finish the final draft of my book. That's a big one. I'll need longer periods of lucidity, but hopefully that will come once the first surgery is done and the worst pain is gone. I can edit a book I wrote years ago, or maybe re-write it, getting it ready for submission as well. Doing serious submissions to publishers and agents would be good. Of course, I could just publish them myself. I keep going back and forth on that.

Publishers already have distribution channels and ways to promote the work of their authors, so maybe more copies would sell that way, but pay out less in royalties. Exposure is good, but promotion is still the responsibility of the writer and his or her agent, usually involving a publicist. If a publisher isn't going to do anything to publicize and promote a book, I'm not sure what good they are anymore. Not when you can publish your own stuff for free, and on such a huge forum.

That's probably my biggest goal this year. Publishing a novel is sort of the brass ring for me as a writer. Being able to live off the proceeds would be nice, too. Not that I intend to stop with just one or two books, however. No, this current book is actually the beginning of a series. I just have to be able to think long enough to really focus on it for long periods. When it comes to crime fiction, you have to be so precise with evidence and time-lines. It's not like a romance where they love, then hate, then love, then hate, and then live happily ever after. Crimes have important details that need to be remembered by the author, even if it is fiction.

So, is there anything else I have to do this year? Yup. I have to get everything ready to re-launch my company. There are timing questions regarding the actual launch and whether or not I'll be physically able to do so before the end of 2013, but I can certainly use my fits and starts of productivity to get everything ready to go. I can work on product designs, as well as inventing new items. Yes, I'm an inventor. I get ideas in my head all the time. I can't help it. They're usually the result of something that I find I need, but that doesn't exist yet. I invented a cage cooler, specifically for ferrets, but then realized there weren't any available for other animals either. I'll be going back to the drawing board for that one, and sourcing suppliers for casings.

I also intend to do other online sales, selling products from other manufacturers, which requires less work on my part. I don't really consider that a part of my main business. It's just a way to make some money whenever I'm able to do it.

When it comes to relationships for the new year, it's not something you can really turn into a resolution. Sure, if something great comes along I won't run away from it. I'm not an emotional coward. A bit of excitement would be fine, as long as it comes without drama, but it's not like you can make plans for it. Okay, technically you can sign up for dating sites, or head out to the bar (if you want to meet someone who drinks in their spare time), or go to a matchmaker. The part you can't plan for is the emotional side. You can structure your life so that you're open to a new person being in it, and increase your chances of meeting someone, but you can't say you're going to be madly in love with someone by a specific date. It might make things easier if you could, but that's not how it works.

With the way I'm living right now, I'm not going to go out looking for anything. At the moment it would have to fall into my lap for me to consider it. I'm not going to join any dating sites, and if I happen to get up the energy to go to a bar, that would be a miraculous event in itself. Not that I might find the energy, but that I might bother to expend it for something so silly. The last time I was in a bar was a few years ago, before my injuries crashed in on me. I went out and got more than a little tanked, and laughed like a loon. I had a great time, actually. I have a preternatural awareness of exactly how much I can drink before I cross the I'm-going-to-throw-up line, so when I do drink I don't normally embarrass myself that way. Oddly, I drink very rarely but still have a very high tolerance for the stuff. I'm tipsy after a single drink, but can still drink a lot after that - I may be a cheap drunk, but I maintain well.

Of course, a night of drinking for me would mean taking the night off from my pain killers, too. The liver can only handle so much, along with the rest of the body. I'd rather not have the pain. So, I guess I won't be going out to any New Year's Eve parties, but that's okay. I'm perfectly content spending the evening with my daughter. I can make all the resolutions in the world, but it's our kids that bring us real immortality.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Single Spacing and Waiting Games

Much to my chagrin I recently learned that the proper structure for writing is a single space after a period. It has been for many years, but I was taught the double-space method. At first I didn't believe it. That's even how my daughter was taught in school, and she's in her early twenties. It seems that teachers are as much in the dark as I was. Maybe you don't believe me, and that's fine. We're allowed our skepticism. If you really want to know, then I suggest you look up typographical style manuals and read what they have to say on the subject.

Why the confusion, you ask? Where did this double space come from? Well, it has a lot to do with typewriters when they were first coming into use. They used exactly the same width for each letter and space, so a double-space after a period became common to differentiate from odd spacing within the words themselves, such as with skinny letters like 'i' and 'l'. After a while typewriters were made that narrowed the spacing for skinny letter, and with computers it's the same thing. An 'i' doesn't use up as much width as an 'm', as you tell just by comparing those two letters on this page.  Courier is apparently the only font that really uses the old spacing, and it's Times New Roman that publishers and agents generally want manuscripts submitted in.

Now I find myself having to break the habits of a lifetime, and feeling really stupid about it. Oh, I was smug, you can believe that. I thought other people were doing it wrong if they didn't double-space. It takes a constant, conscious effort, and vigilance, to prevent the second hit on the space bar. Usually my thumb does it automatically, without any thought on my part. Since I've gotten back into my writing in a rather big way, I've finally done proper research into these things to be sure that what I submit is in the preferred format. I've looked up novel formatting, the proper structure of a title page, you name it, but never once did it occur to me that double-spacing was wrong. I found out about it from a daily writing prompt Tweet that I follow, which led me to further articles on the subject.


I think it's time I took a more serious look at grammar and punctuation, now.  I'm not too bad with it, but like anything there's always room for improvement. I guess I'll be studying those style pages in my giant dictionary.

As for the visit to the vet, Stimpy is on antibiotics for the next 6 weeks. Hopefully that will make him well again. If not, we're looking at something more serious that has no cure. We're presuming a kidney infection at the moment, but it still might turn out to be cancer. He's been sick for some time, and hasn't died, which I would think he'd have done by now if it was cancer, but there's no certainty. I'm still worried.

My vet is working with me to keep costs down, while still doing what's best for him. After all, delaying x-rays or ultrasound won't make much difference if it does turn out to be cancer. So, we'll wait and see. She said it should only be a few days before I notice that he's better, if the antibiotics are actually working. Because his symptoms have been intermittent, however, it may be a week before we can be sure. She'll be checking in with me next week.

Haven't heard from my ex yet, which isn't really a surprise, but it still concerns me. Of course, I've been worried about him for as long as I've know him. There was always something. He's more than a little bit self-destructive. That was probably one of the things that exhausted me so much when we were still together. It wasn't just emotional drama from fighting, but also the constant drama of worrying. I hate drama. I still get some drama just from being friends with him, but it's nowhere near as bad now that his impact on my own life is lessened. The level of intensity isn't quite the same.

I haven't had much sleep the last couple of days. Worrying about Stimpy, making sure he's eating, dealing with financial stresses, and just trying to pull everything together have ended with the result of poor sleep, and too little of it. Even Pepper has been worse than usual. He's been rather aggressive lately, and when he's playing he's gotten really rough with both Stimpy and one of the cats.

You'd think the cat, who outweighs him by about 13 pounds, would be able to defend himself, but apparently that's not the case. Pepper chomps on his ear and won't let go. With Stimpy he clamps onto his neck, and Stimpy starts making a yelping/squeaking sound and then I have to pry Pepper's jaws apart. It's a good thing they aren't usually left alone together. The last time my daughter and I both had to go somewhere at the same time, we put Pepper in my bedroom and left Stimpy out with the cats. They're more trustworthy in that respect than Pepper is.

I don't cage my ferrets. I don't even own a cage anymore. If I had to work outside the house, I probably would, and I'd probably cage them side by side, but in separate cages. They could still sniff at each other and lie side by side, but they wouldn't be able to bite through the bars. I knew when I brought Pepper into my apartment a couple of years ago, that he was far more aggressive than Stimpy, so none of this is a surprise.

He's calmed considerably since I've had him, even though he's not neutered yet. We're extremely gentle with our animals, so they've gentled on their own. If I ever saw someone hit their ferret I would go through the roof. It's not something you can do without hurting them. The worst thing they've received at my hands is to be scruffed (grabbed by the loose skin at the back of the neck like the mothers do), which just calms them usually. There's no pain. It's what the vet does. I think it has the effect of regressing them. Pepper will get a 'time-out' in my bedroom if he's being mean to the others, and that's about it. Occasionally exasperation will creep into my tone, however.

Speaking of naughty little ferrets, Stimpy has decided he does not like the taste of his medication, so he's fighting me on it. For the time being I have to get my daughter to help with it, but he may get used to it after a couple of days. He's had other medications, and it usually only took once or twice before he relaxed with it.

It does have the added benefit of forcing him to drink and eat right after he gets it. I assume he's trying to do whatever he can to get the taste out of his mouth. Eating more means a healthier immune system, and he won't be so weak and listless in general. Hey, whatever works. He gets his meds every 12 hours, so I just gave him the second dose a few minutes ago. I hope I'm not just fooling myself when I try to tell myself it's likely a kidney infection. Denial of the truth doesn't make it any less true. It just makes you blind.

Friday, 28 December 2012

More Worries

What can I say?  There's always something.  My ex seems to have disappeared again, and since his life is in chaos right now I'm more than a little concerned.  We're friends, in case that statement confuses you.  We couldn't get along as a married couple, but as soon as we stopped trying to be a couple we got along just fine.  I won't describe his situation because that's his business and I don't have the right.  I'll just say he's more depressed than usual and for good reason.  Until I hear from him again, I'm going to be worried.  Most likely his phone is down because he went over his limit, but still.

Stimpy goes to the vet today at 3 PM.  I don't have much money, but I have enough that something can be done for him at least.  Maybe just blood tests and antibiotics.  The swelling has gone down on his kidneys, though, so hopefully that's a sign that it's not really serious.  It's difficult to find information on intermittent renomegaly, however.  Renomegaly just means swollen or enlarged kidneys, and it can be caused by any number of conditions.  The only way to figure out the cause is to do testing.

While waiting for lab results, I'm going to ask that she put him on the antibiotics.  He's never been on any in his entire life, so it's not going to hurt him or cause him to develop resistance to them, and they may prevent further damage if that's what he needs.  He's already five years old, which my vet says is old for a ferret in her experience.  Most people I've talked to, however, which are people all over the world, have ferrets that live the expected 6 to 9 years.  Some of them even longer.  Of course, the people I've been in contact with are people that have experience with ferrets, feed them the proper foods, and take them for regular vet care.  People where I actually live are generally broke and their pets aren't as much of a priority as they should be.  Me, I'd rather go without food than see Stimpy continue to suffer.  Proper care and nutrition make all the difference when it comes to the life span of our pets.  People shrug that off, but it's more true than they could possibly guess.

The cat I had to put down just after I got Stimpy (his name was Whiskey), only lived to age 11.  Cats can live 20 years or more, if given the proper food and care.  My other male is about 17 now (hard to say exactly, as he was a stray that we took in, but he was still lanky and looked about a year old at the time), and still has a few playful moments each day.  You can see how much of a difference it makes if they have healthy food.  When I lost Whiskey due to the crappy food I was feeding them, I switched over to better food immediately.  I continued to do my research, which eventually resulted in an article being published on the subject.

It's less than twelve hours before I have some idea what's happening with Stimpy, but who knows how long it'll be before I hear from my ex again.  Communication between us is sporadic.  I don't like talking on the phone, and he doesn't like writing or reading.  Makes it tough.  Still, he reads my work every now and again, which I didn't realize until recently.  Not only has he read some of my articles, but some of my blog posts as well, which is pretty cool.  Well, he did say at one time that he thought I could be a success with my writing.

If I'm ever going to make a living with my writing, though, I really have to get the final draft of my book finished.  Tough to do when I can only write for an hour at a time or whatever, but I'll get there.  When I do work on it, I generally do a few thousand words.  It definitely helps to be able to type really fast.  I actually type faster than I speak, but slightly slower than I read.  At my fastest speed I was typing around 120 words per minute, and if I tried to slow down I would make tons of mistakes.  My one boss actually told me to slow down because he was afraid it would cause mistakes, and then it ended up working the opposite way.

I get into a rhythm, or groove, where I just plow through something, and if I try to alter my habit in any way, it messes things up.  I also generally know when I've made a typo as I write, and correct it before I can move on.  My accuracy is pretty high, even if it's not perfect, and I find most of my errors before I post things, but occasionally I find something later when I go back to it.  I've learned through reading the work of others, however, that I have comparatively few errors and I've gained confidence enough that I can submit my work to people without freaking out about it.

Well, my pills are working again, which means my concentration is shot.  Back to play-time, I guess.  At least with the pills kicking in, I won't be fretting so much about things.  There isn't anything I can do right at the moment, anyway, so worrying is pointless.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Few Christmas Surprises Good & Bad

I found out my one ferret can pee standing up.  Not on four legs, but on two.  It was a very odd discovery, and one of the funniest things I've witnessed in ferret behaviour to date.

You see, my cats got some tuna juice for Christmas yesterday.  What I call tuna juice is the water in the can diluted with a bunch of regular water.  Well, Pepper likes tuna juice, I guess, and he drank a whole lot of it when we weren't looking.  There's salt in it, which is not good for ferrets normally, but in this case I think it was for the best.  He drank so much of it he was getting up to pee every couple of minutes.  It was very diluted, so there was a lot of water mixed in with it, so he got way too much water in his system, which is where the salt is a good thing.  Water intoxication occurs in people and animals when water flushes out too many minerals and nutrients.

Pepper wasn't exactly going pee in the proper places either, but we could hardly blame the little guy.  We have no carpet in our apartment, just cheap, brown, linoleum tiles that are supposed to look like wood...but don't.  No damage done, just a lot of toilet paper used to wipe up the mess.

Well, he was in a bit of a hurry to go pee again, and had started across a shoe box to find a corner, but instead braced his front legs on the box and let 'er rip while he was standing in that position.  Cheeky little devil wanted to show us what a man he is, I guess.

Normally a ferret flattens him/herself out in a corner, backing up to the corner itself.  I guess they don't want anyone sneaking up on them when they do their business, and backing up is something ferrets do very well.  The position they get in makes them look similar to a Formula One race car, which is rather different from a bipedal position to say the least.

Pepper sure knows how to make us laugh.  Needless to say I'm never letting him near the tuna juice again.  Even the cats only get it every few months because of what's in the tuna, and they're a lot bigger than a ferret with much less sensitive digestive tracts.  So, Pepper had to recover from Christmas like a drunkard.

Stimpy had an okay Christmas Eve, but Christmas Day has been very rough for him.  He doesn't want to be near food, his nausea is so bad.  I'm calling the vet tomorrow when they're open again, because this can't go on.  His kidneys increase and decrease in size, so I'm keeping a close watch on him.  More on that in another post.

Got money earlier than expected, so my daughter went to get some proper kibble.  Stimpy won't touch the canned food, which doesn't really surprise me.  He thinks of kibble as food, not the canned stuff, plus he's been really sick today so he wouldn't eat it even if he knew it was food.  It's good to have the kibble again, though.  When he does feel like eating again, it will be there for him.  He still had some left in his bowl, but I hate cutting it close like that.

Another good thing about getting money early, is the ability to buy some painkillers, along with my anti-nauseants.  I still don't have a doctor in Hamilton, which will hopefully change in January, so I'm not on prescription medication right now.  When I am, I've always been on Percocets, which I don't want to be on long-term anyway.  I have enough problems without having to deal with prescription addiction later on.  When I run out of pain meds or Gravol, I experience withdrawal and rebound effects as it is.  Percocets would be so much worse.  I take codeine in the form of Tylenol Ones, which are available here without prescription, if I don't have my normal prescription for the percs.  The problem with them is the quantity of acetaminophen and possible liver damage.

In my efforts to get away from narcotics altogether due to the nausea I experience and to avoid addiction problems, I asked my last doctor to put me on gabapentin.  I've tried it, it worked for me, and yet I went to him three times for the prescription and he still didn't do it.  I gave up on him entirely.  Gabapentin is a drug that's used to reduce the use of narcotics, particularly with post-operative care, but its main application is for the relief of neuropathic pain.  It doesn't help everyone, but it helped me.  I was off any other pain relievers as well as the anti-nauseant while I was on it, which made such a huge difference in my life for those two weeks I felt like a new person.

You wouldn't believe the difference.  I could think again, I could accomplish things, and I was able to leave the bloody house.  Being on drugs all the time renders me practically useless except for periodic bouts of writing.  If I didn't type so fast, I wouldn't even be able to do that.  I write during my more lucid times.  I've been lucid for quite a few days now, but also in a great deal of pain, which also makes concentration very difficult.

I would have to be careful being on gabapentin, because I have a tendency to overdo things if I'm not feeling pain and feel normal again mentally.  Even on the Percocets I would do too much and then really suffer for it later.  My condition is such that the more I walk the worse it gets, so I don't do myself any favours by being too active.  Nice, huh?  I have a built-in excuse for not exercising, but I hate it.  I miss being active.  I made up a modified exercise program that's safe for me, except for the fact that it's dangerous to exercise while on narcotics and Gravol.  Lack of balance, combined with slow reflexes makes for high-risk exercise.  I should be able to get back to it if I switch over to gabapentin permanently.

There's a doctor I've found in Hamilton who is relatively new here.  He's from Nigeria, and that's where he went to university, and he was just approved for practice in Ontario about a year ago.  When it comes to doctors I happen to like 'em young.  Why?  Well, they're more recently educated, so their knowledge is up to date, to start with.  Also, as much as they might seem overly cocky in their youth, they actually lack confidence as doctors still, so you can often get them to listen to you.  The good ones aren't afraid to go back to their medical texts (which is true of all doctors).  Also, he's trying to build his practice after investing a lot of time and money into his medical career, so he'll probably be nicer to his new patients.

The funny thing is, I'm not going to him to ask him for narcotics, either.  I'm going to him to be put on something that is not a narcotic.  I'm just determined that any doctor I see has respect for me.  My prior doctor's laziness is not something I'm willing to tolerate.  Doctors are employed by their patients, not the other way around.  If a doctor doesn't do his job, I'll find another one.  I had no real reason to find someone else before, because my needs were the simple once-a-year physicals for many years.  By the time I left my last doctor I was seeing him at least once a month, and twice a month before he extended my Percocet prescription.

I can't understand a doctor who is perfectly willing to keep me on narcotics like that, but won't try something that's a lot less dangerous.  It's lazy and irresponsible, and more than a little disgusting.  This is the problem with doctors today, once they've been family doctors for a while.  They get discouraged and listless, and it's the patients who suffer.  I understand their reasons, and the fight they go through with health care just to get paid, but I still don't think it excuses them.  If they don't want to help their patients, then it's time to try a different career path.

So, between a ferret peeing while standing, one being sick, myself being in tons of pain, but then getting money finally and knowing the pain is almost at an end, and being able to buy the right pet food, it's been a Christmas with a lot of ups and downs, some good, some bad.  We watched Home Alone 1 & 2, which I haven't watched in many years, so that was a laugh for us.  We also got to eat a couple of donuts with Christmas sprinkles and potato chips, washed down with Pepsi and cream soda.  Not our usual diet, but what the heck?!  You have to celebrate Christmas somehow.

Monday, 24 December 2012

All for Want of a Couple of Pennies

Today has been an 'interesting' day.  I went out, which makes it rather interesting in my world since I'm practically agoraphobic, and went to sell off a gold locket my parents gave me a long time ago.  I don't speak to them (for the reasons, you'll have to read back through my blog - there are many), so there's no sentimental attachment to it, and I'm unable to wear gold.  Gold is an alloy, and unless it specifically says nickel-free then it quite probably has nickel in it.  I'm allergic to nickel, ergo I can't wear most gold.

Anyhoo, my point is I took it in to a Money Mart only to find out it was gold-filled, which isn't what it sounds like.  Gold-filled should actually be called 'filled gold', because it means it isn't filled with gold.  It's gold-plated basically.  Now this thing was stamped as 14kt, so I thought I might get a few bucks for it so I could buy cat food.  No dice.  If it had been gold, I would have been able to buy the cat food and a bunch of other things on top of it.  Instead I came home to scrounge for change.  This is the problem with being disabled.  You live very close to the line, financially.

I found a bag of cat food at Walmart (normally I do not buy that kind of crap for my pets, but desperate times call for temporary cheap food supplies), for $2.57, but with taxes it's $2.90.  It turns out we had $2.88.  Huh!  Well, that's okay.  We got a couple of cans of food that will last until the end of the month.  The babies will make it, and so will we.  Canned food only has about 10% protein in it, which isn't great for animals that are obligate carnivores (ferrets and cats are both supposed to eat only meat, which is why regular cat foods are terrible).  Oddly the canned food has less protein than a lot of kibbles.  You'd think it would be more.  (For more information on proper nutrition for cats, you can read my article on it here.  I generally follow my own advice on this, but this is a rare exception.)

What was so interesting about my day, aside from the near panic attack of it being Christmas Eve and knowing the stores would be closing early, nothing would be open tomorrow, so we had to get the cat food today?  Well, finding out my parents are really cheap was interesting.  If you consider how much money they make, it's absolutely ridiculous to buy someone a gold-plated locket.  Either that or they're just stupid about jewelry.  Both are possible.  It was supposed to be a big family tradition that all the women were to be given gold lockets.  Every female in my step-father's family has one, but like the fake relationship I had with him and his family, so too was the locket.

The second interesting part was that I got to find out what happens when someone throws up on a bus.  I got on the bus after the incident, thank goodness, because I'd have been heaving right alongside the kid if I hadn't.  My cats hacking up hairballs get me gagging.  Well, basically they call in another bus as they empty out the messy bus.  I just happened to get on before the clean bus got to the route.  Instead of the driver just grabbing a paper towel and some Windex or something, they have to bring in another bus so they can hose the bus down properly.  If you think about it, though, it makes sense.  The kid could be HIV positive for all anyone knows.  Sad, but true.  Bus drivers are not paid to handle bio-hazardous waste, which is what vomit is.

I also discovered that a lot of places no longer have the 1kg box of cat food anymore (2.2 pounds for those of you using standard measurements).  It's all in the bigger bags, which would have been fine if I'd had the additional two pennies.  Of course, I'll probably find 12 pennies in the near future and want to bang my head on a wall for missing them during the initial frantic search.  That's the problem when you're in a rush.

As much as I finally have my regular bills in order, things are extremely tight financially.  On top of that there are the vet bills.  I can't have my animals go without vet care.  It's not fair to them, just because I'm having issues, so I do whatever I can think to do.  There are places that offer emergency food for pets, as well as helping financially with emergency vet care.  I may have to take them up on the latter, because my ferret might need more help than I can scrounge up for him personally.  I qualify for it, being on disability, and it's done through the OVMA (Ontario Veterinary Medical Association).  The vets themselves have pulled together the fund to help people, so they don't have to put their animals down when they could be saved.  There's a cap, though, so it will only help so much, but it's better than nothing.

Most people don't even know there's help out there for emergency vet care.  The AAHA used to help, but they can't anymore, but there are others.  You just have to Google it and you'll find either the humane society in your area will provide some assistance, or there's Angels4Animals, which is based in the US, but will help in Canada as well.  There are other places, too, so don't give up if your animal needs emergency vet care.  Don't let your pet suffer if there's no need for it.

All is right with the world today, however.  The animals have food for a few more days, which will take us to the end of the month, and we have food in the cupboard for ourselves.  We have a couple of Christmas movies to watch, and we're alive.  Things will get better.  I'll get my surgeries done so I don't have to live on pills, which will mean the ability to get cracking on my business again.  Once I can do that we can get back on our collective feet.  Things could definitely be a lot worse.  Being broke certainly isn't the worst thing that can happen, as long as you can figure out a way to make it through.  In the words of Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest, "Never give up.  Never surrender!"

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Clueless About Gun Control

It still astonishes me that anyone can argue against tighter gun control laws in the US.  I'm currently in the midst of an 'argument' with another writer regarding this issue, and the blindness is amazing.  I stated a well-known fact about firearm related fatalities, which is that Canada has a lower rate per capita than the US, and we have stricter gun control laws.  He actually asked me where I got my numbers from, so I tossed a bunch of URLs at him which clearly show a huge discrepancy between Canada and the US.  As I said, these are per capita numbers, not the numbers for everyone in the country.  That wouldn't be a fair comparison since our population is much smaller.  Intentional murder by firearm per 10,000 people is more than twice as high in the US.  When it comes to spree killings, the US is a clear winner as well.

What got me is that this guy obviously had some doubts about this.  Canada is known as a peacekeeping country.  Certainly enough Americans complained about that when we decided that following W. into Iraq was a bad idea - I don't even think we had much say in it, seeing as we're not a sovereign nation, we're a commonwealth of Britain.  The article written by this gentleman had a lot of historical facts in it, and it was rather edifying, so I appreciated that, but then him questioning where I got my numbers just blew me away.  Why did he not already know this, as someone who obviously studies history?  You'd think he would be aware of it already.

Personally, I don't think our laws are quite good enough.  I feel there should be a much more invasive process for someone applying for firearms acquisition.  No, I don't think all guns should be banned, but I also don't think psychotic people should be allowed access to an assault rifle.  There's no need for a civilian to have any weapon that fires hundreds of rounds per minute.

As for spree killing statistics, since 1968 the US has had 53 spree killers (Wikipedia has not yet listed Adam Lanza, so their number shows as 52), Canada has had 3.  The US has about 10 times as many people as Canada - 314,970,000 estimated in the US for 2012 and 35,015,000 estimated for Canada in 2012.  Technically that's less than ten times, but we'll round off for ease of use.  If we multiplied the Canadian number by 10, we'd have 30, which is somewhat less than that of the US.  In fact, it's more than 66% higher in the US.

There are some areas where Canadians 'outshine' the US.  We have far more drug-related crimes, and considering the fact that we grow a lot of hydroponic bud here I'm not particularly surprised by that.  Of course, I'm pretty sure there are a lot of Americans who buy our illegal exports.  BC Bud is seen quite a bit as a standard in movies, etc.  We do have more assaults that do not end in homicide.  Possibly because we don't have assault rifles handy, so we end up pounding the crap out of someone instead?

I certainly wouldn't say Canadians are less violent.  I truly believe gun control works.  Israel apparently has a really good system, which I have yet to do any research on, but I trust the source I heard it from.  They apparently require people to go through extensive training and psych. evals.  That makes a whole lot of sense to me.  I would like to know that the people in my country have been shown to be sane before they were given a firearm of any sort.  Still, even with extensive training, education and mental fitness testing, I'd sooner we did not have guns available that have high repeat-fire rates.

My attitude toward gun control has me in good company anyway.  Leonard Nimoy, Michael Moore, etc.  A lot of people consider Michael Moore to be an extremist, but if you've seen his documentaries you might understand why.  In Bowling for Columbine he highlighted the dangers of a gun-happy society.  The thing I remember most is him going into a bank where they were giving away rifles to people who opened a new account.  A bank...giving away a weapon.  Um, stupid much?  On Michael Moore's Twitter account one woman said the only people who were following him were Canadians with an inferiority complex.  Um, stupid much?

When it comes to how Canadians feel about Americans in general, I'll just say that it's kind of the opposite.  Now that the US has Obama in power, though, the attitude is changing, I think.  He's a smart guy.  Voting in W. was the most idiotic thing that could have happened.  Sorry, but it didn't look good for Americans when they voted in a "C" student.  All he had going for him was money, and he had a lot that was not going for him.  Even the TV show, The Big Bang Theory, has had a positive effect.  The tagline "Smart is the New Sexy" is fantastic.  If it weren't for the huge age difference, I'd go out with one of them in a second (the people they portray I mean, not the actors).

Intelligence is a beautiful thing.  I just wish more people displayed the trait, instead of hiding it for fear of being uncool.  Of course, the world is full of followers.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Asinine Remarks About Foot-Binding, Declawing and Circumcision

In order to do my job as a writer, I have to research, and the same goes for being a responsible pet parent.  Well, to that end I decided to do some research on cat declawing.  My cats are not declawed.  I don't believe in it personally, unless there's a medical reason for it to be done (which does happen), but I thought I'd check out the information on the new laser declawing.  I have yet to find satisfactory information on it.  All I've found is my anger, yet again, at the idiocy of the general public.

Let me enlighten everyone here what the process of declawing entails.  It is the removal of the distal phalanges of a cat's toes.  In order to declaw a cat, the vet has to remove a portion of the toe.  There's no getting around the facts.  It's what is done in the surgery.  Sometimes the vet saws through the distal phalanges, leaving a portion of it behind.  However, in order to get rid of the claw that portion of the distal phalanges must be removed.  There's no dispute about what the surgery entails.  The dispute lies in the level of cruelty to the animal.

My attitude toward my pets is this:  If I have living creatures in my home, then I must make allowances for their nature.  If I think my furniture is more important than my pets, then I should not have pets.  Not everyone agrees with this.  A lot of people think their pets should adapt to their homes, and their lives, and no allowance should be made for the animals.  That's an attitude as old as the bible, quite frankly, where God supposedly told people they would be the masters of the beasts.

Well, if you've read previous blog posts of mine, you probably already know where I stand on biblical issues, but I'll reiterate lightly for those who haven't.  The bible was written by people, not by God.  It even says so.  It also says the bible was never supposed to be translated.  Go figure.  So, basically I don't hold much store in the bible as being the word of any supreme being.

My attitude toward animals is that we, who have domesticated them, have become responsible for them.  Their natures should be preserved.  They're living creatures who were brought into our homes through no request of their own, so we have chosen to take on the responsibility for their care.  In other words, if you want a pet make sure you're willing to take them as they are.  If not, get a teddy bear.

My cats do not need to defend themselves outside, so their claws are not necessary for that.  They don't go out.  Not only is there danger from traffic and nasty people who like to hurt animals, but there is an issue of disease.  There are a great number of things they can catch from other animals who are let out by their owners, or from strays, including fleas.  Then there are the situations where you have to go out and your cat is still outside, but you can't wait for them to come back, so now you have to leave them out when it might be cold and raining.

The only reasons for declawing cats are to protect your furniture and protect your own skin if you've got one that's feisty.  All cats are feisty to some extent, until they get to a certain age, and playing with them can be a bit hazardous, but for the most part it's within reason and tolerable.  Some are really bad, including one entry from a gentleman on a site I was on, stating that his cat literally climbed his back.  That is really painful.  I get why he would consider declawing.  I don't understand it for the purposes of furniture protection.  If you want a really nice-looking house, you shouldn't really have pets at all.  They're messy, they shed, they break things, and in the case of cats they claw things.

Anyway, on this site I was on, a guy was accusing one woman saying she must be some crazy activist, and was she a nut about the Chinese binding feet too?  I'm sorry, but I couldn't stop myself from commenting on that.  Foot-binding has been banned for about a hundred years now.  I just read the Wikipedia entry on it a few months ago, actually, cringing as I read.  It's a nasty, nasty practice, from which women have died.  So, I told him about the fact that it had been banned because women died from it.  Then I asked, is there something wrong with being an activist and protecting people and animals that are weaker or more vulnerable?  Then I said, "I bet you were a bully."  I'd say that's where I crossed a line and became insulting, but I was disgusted by his whole argument and the fact that everyone had labelled the woman's entry as "nuts" and his entry had gotten approval from everyone.

Approval, for a foot-binding crack?  Is everyone really that stupid, or am I insane?  Another person compared declawing to circumcision, which I don't believe in either.  I understand in Judaism it's done for religious ritualistic purposes, but I'm never going to approve of the enforced mutilation of anyone.  I think most parents do it "because it's cleaner".  Seriously?  You're too lazy to properly wash your son's penis, so you take the easy route and lop off his foreskin.  Nice.  I've spoken to a lot of men about this issue.  Some feel cheated, quite frankly.  I've talked to men who have said it was painful when they had a full erection, where it pulled on the scar tissue.  It seems to me there would have been a larger erection if the penis had any room left to stretch, and most guys I know wish they had a bigger penis.

Doing some research I've discovered it can reduce penis size, depending on how much skin is removed, and it's a condition called webbing.  It does reduce sensitivity, although it's debatable whether that's a good or bad thing.  After all, a lot of men have difficulty holding off their ejaculation as it is.  Increased sensitivity would make the issue worse.  There are men who very much resent having a circumcision forced on them, usually as a newborn when there is no chance for them to utter a complaint.

I don't even think parents should have their two-year-old's ears pierced either.  It's done in a lot of cultures, and I think it should be up to the kid later on whether or not they want it done.  It isn't done to just girls either, as you might think.  Parents do it to their sons, too.  When the fashion for pierced ears on a male peaks and wanes, they're going to be stuck with holes in their heads.  Some grow over, but I know from personal experience that they don't always.  I still have four holes in my ears, and it's been a very long time since I bothered to put in earrings.

All in all, I just wish people would stop performing unnecessary procedures and surgeries.  The reasons are mostly cosmetic, which is a ridiculous reason to alter something on a person or animal.  We as a society should be accepting things as they are, not altering them for their aesthetic appeal.  Look at all the plastic surgery addicts out there now, whose self-worth just keeps getting lower and lower.  We have to fix what's inside, whether that's idiotic priorities, being too lazy to properly look after our children, or being so superficial that nothing is good enough the way it is.

There was a time when I cared what others thought of my appearance, but I reached a point in my life where I realized one very important fact:  If someone doesn't think I'm good enough as I am, then they are certainly not good enough for me.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Ridiculous Predictions and a Little About Gun Control

I don't know what it is about the gullibility of people that they're willing to believe almost any end-of-the-world prediction, no matter how inaccurately stated or scientifically unfounded.  It goes beyond the ridiculous.  Even if the Mayans were accurate in all their predictions, they did not predict the end of the world.  They made no predictions of that sort whatsoever.  Whoever it was that decided they did, obviously didn't do their research.  Sure, it made for an entertaining movie starring John Cusack, whom I like very much as an actor, but it is not reality.  It was a movie, folks.

So, in the foreseeable future I would really appreciate it if people would stop with all this crap.  Yes, I think there's a possibility we, as a human race, will do something stupid to cause our demise, or a new disease will develop to kill off most of us, but chances are pretty good we'll either see it coming from a long way off, through the wonders of modern science, or we won't see it at all and most of us will be dead before we know what hits us.

I apologize for the run-on sentence in the last paragraph, but I was on a bit of a rant.  What do I mean when I say we'll see it a long way off?  Well, in the case of a new disease.  People will start coming down with something that will turn into a pandemic.  For those who don't know a pandemic is defined as a contagious disease that has spread across a very large area, such as multiple continents or even worldwide.  We've had a few, and the world is still spinning just fine, but there is the possibility that there will be one we have no way of fighting.  We're still going to see it coming.  The media will be blasting us with their dire predictions, which might just be accurate that time around.  However, it's a tangible thing.  A virus is something we understand to some extent.  It's not some vague predictor of the end of the world with no details.

As for not knowing what hits us, well, say for instance North Korea decides to launch another missile that somehow gets past all the defenses that are in place, like what supposedly happened a little while ago.  Now, apparently the missile they just launched had to do with launching a satellite, but a lot of people believe it brings them a step closer to the capability to launch nuclear weapons.  How much warning do you thinks you're going to have if an undetected nuclear weapon is heading your way?  Not much.

The fact is, neither of those scenarios are likely to happen, although they are a lot more possible than this ridiculous December 21st 2012 so-called Mayan prediction.  Woohoo, they predicted the winter solstice.  Right.  The same thing anyone with a calendar can do.

The real question is why people are so happy to believe these things.  Personally I think they just like the drama and excitement.  Their lives are too boring for them, and if they can get all 'het up' about something it just makes their day.  I've known some real drama queens in my day, both men and women, and it's extremely annoying.  If I wanted drama in my life, I'd be living a totally different lifestyle.

As disgusting as it may sound, when you look at someone who is really into the excitement of the artifically heightened moment, take a good look at their flushed faces.  Sort of reminiscent of sexual excitement isn't it?  If that's how they're fulfilling the needs of their libido, they need to get laid.  The problem is, who would want to do the honours with someone like that?  These are people that breed conflict.  Normal people don't consider that an attractive personality trait.

I'm sure there are people who would be happy at the thought of a reduced population, and I can actually understand that quite well.  A world with fewer people would solve a lot of our problems.  Of course, we likely won't get to choose the people who live, will we, so there's no guarantee you'll be surrounded by anything resembling intelligence.  There's no guarantee that the people you care about will survive, either.  Maybe one person, if they release a virus personally, and have inocculated anyone they want to live, would be able to control something like that, but it's doubtful.  That thought reminds me of 12 Monkeys, actually.  The world pretty much ended, and they were wrong the whole time about what caused it.

A lot of terrorists seem to have thoughts like that, actually.  Suicide bombers are willing to die for a cause.  Terrorist are willing to kill anyone, including people of their own religious affiliation, in order to try to further their cause.  It doesn't really work, and just makes people think badly of the group as a whole.  There were several Islamic prayer rooms in the WTC when it was hit, yet people think it was true Muslims who did the deed?  A true Muslim would not have done any such thing.  "Peace be unto you" is not generally succeeded by crashing a plane into a building where there are other Muslims.

There was a huge stink about the idea of putting a mosque near the former WTC.  Why?  Muslims were killed, too, not just Christians.  The people who committed this act were insane, not Muslim.  The problem, of course, is the reactionary behaviour of people before hearing the realities of the situation.  This is how panic starts in difficult situations, as well as end-of-the-world predictions.  People just jump onto the first thing they hear, like it's the word of a supreme being, without showing the least bit of skepticism.  We should know better.

There are so many people in the US and even in Canada who, despite the fact that we brag about being a free country, don't like 'other religions' coming into our countries.  Talk about your hypocritical behaviour.  This whole thing about people fighting for the second amendment and it being an infringement of their freedoms as Americans to talk about gun control, is in direct opposition to the idea of curtailing religious freedom.  They're willing to try to keep the US a strictly Christian country, infringing on the freedoms of other Americans, but then they want the freedom to own repeat-fire assault weapons.  Despite the idiocy of it.  I mean, seriously, when was the last time there was a need to be able to spray bullets into a crowd?

When muskets were changed into rifles in the 18th century, a well-trained soldier could fire approximately four rounds per minute.  (The rifle got its name from the rifling in the barrel).  These were men that repeated a series of steps over and over again.  They were not in battle situations during their firing drills, but the practice certainly helped.  This basically means that it took about 15 seconds to be ready to fire again, every time you shot off a round.  In a classroom full of children, maybe only one person would have died.  At most, two.

The fully automatic version of the Bushmaster .223 caliber AR-15 fires up to 800 rounds per minute.  Unless you have 800 people coming at you, I don't see where that would be necessary.  Granted, the rifle used by Adam Lanza was a semi-automatic.  This means you need to pull the trigger again to fire another round.  A fully automatic rifle means you can hold the trigger down and the rifle will continue to fire until the trigger is released.  A semi-automatic will prepare the rifle for firing the next round by ejecting the spent cartridge and loading a new one, as long as you still have cartridges in the magazine.  It will not allow you to spray bullets just by holding the trigger.  So, the rate of fire with a semi-automatic depends entirely on the ability of the person holding the weapon to depress the trigger in rapid succession.

Adam Lanza was taught to shoot by his mother.  Oddly, I do believe children need to be taught to handle a weapon if they're going to be exposed to them at all.  I do not believe you should allow anyone access to a gun who isn't the registered owner, if you are not there to supervise.  His mother was obviously pretty casual about how she stored her guns, because he grabbed the Bushmaster while she was sleeping, killing her first, and then proceeding to the school.

I'm Canadian, and we have stricter gun controls.  The Bushmaster Adam Lanza used is a restricted firearm here, but it is perfectly legal to own one.  They were originally planning on prohibiting the AR-15s of all makes and models, but they're used extensively in sporting competition so our government allowed them.  Kind of stupid if you ask me, but I believe strongly in tighter gun controls.  I like guns, personally, but I don't think most people are capable of handling the responsibility of owning one.  I think it becomes too tempting to resolve your problems the wrong way.

Of course, the same make and model of gun was used by the D.C. Sniper, so I really think people need to re-think what is acceptable for use in the general public.  If it took 15 second to load a musket around the time the second amendment was instituted, isn't it just a little bit possible that the law is out of date?  We have internet laws now that we didn't have back then.  Why?  Because the technology didn't exist back then?  Well, repeat-fire weapons didn't exist back then, either.  They're a new technology that needs to be examined for its implications to society.

Even with fully automatic guns, however, at least we don't have to worry that they're going to end life on Earth.  That belongs to the province of our various governments and their widely ranging "Weapons of Mass Destruction" or WMDs.  If the world is going to end, it won't be the Adam Lanzas of the world that do it.  It will be some idiot who decides he really wants to take over the world.  Now, let me ask you, why the hell would anyone want to run the world?  I don't even know why anyone would want to run a country!  Talk about responsibility and headaches.  Then you would have the thankless job of having to make the right decisions for everyone concerned.  Most people can't cook a dinner that makes their whole family happy.  I feel sorry for Obama.  I like him as a leader, but I feel bad for the mess he's fallen into.  W. left him a whole heap of crap to slog through.

Less than Two Hours to Go? Doubt it Folks!

At 6:11, my time here in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the countdown ends for the supposed Mayan prediction.  Some say the prediction is for the end of the world, and others say it's only a massive change coming our way according to the translations.  Even this close to the impending time, I have no faith that the world will end in less than two hours.  Give me a break, people!  How many times has some idiot predicted the end of the world?

I can easily imagine some sort of catastrophe happening to a vast majority of the people on this planet, because as a whole we're dumb enough to cause our own demise.  I think there will be people left roaming the planet, however.  If we're wiped out by a disease, there will be some people who are immune, and others that are merely carriers.  If we're wiped out by nuclear war, there will be pockets of people that only receive minor effects from the radiation.  After all, is anyone really going to attack Nunavut Territory in Canada?  How about equally sparse and isolated towns around the world?  I doubt it very much.  What would be the point?  Those places aren't threats.

Nope, in less than two hours' time, we're all going to be sitting around, or sleeping, and the moment will pass without a hiccup.  Then everyone who feared the big event will look like the gullible idiots they are.  I sure hope nobody was dumb enough to lay in supplies, spending their money on ridiculous things when Christmas is already sucking the money out of your wallets.  Maybe the Mayans got the date wrong, and they were predicting their own demise, which happened a very long time ago.

The fact is, the Mayans really did not predict the end of the world, and those who say otherwise are sadly misinformed trouble-brewers who seem to enjoy predicting disaster.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Lot of Hokum, Hooey and Bull Crap

If there's one thing I've learned as a writer, especially when conveying information that people might not find so believable, is to do vast amounts of research and then document the sources of my reference material.  If people don't believe me, instead of just ranting that I don't know what I'm talking about, it gives them an avenue to explore to find out for themselves.  Chances are they're going to check things out before making themselves look potentially stupid, and it pretty much always works.  I don't remember anyone ever having to correct one of my articles, but I've had people argue with me when I've commented on theirs.  Of course, that has a lot to do with people not wanting to be 'shown up' on their own work.

There have been a couple of people that I've 'picked on' when it comes to them spouting off crap they obviously know nothing about.  One of which was a medical doctor who had no apparent knowledge of the drugs he was prescribing.  Granted, a pharmacist knows more about prescription drugs than a physician does.  That's their whole job, so doctors often consult with them before prescribing something they may not fully understand.

Another person I've picked on was the woman saying gay marriage was the same thing as paedophilia and incest.  Give me a break.  There's a question of consent there, if nothing else.  I let her have it.  Then she started quoting the bible, and it seems to me like she's never actually read it, so I let her have it for that too.

The most recent person I was a lot nicer to, because I think he's trying to help people.  However, he was blathering on about cancer being a modern disease, and being caused by genetics, when I know that isn't the case.  I left him a comment letting him know what the facts are, and told him it wasn't good for his business to sound like he didn't know what he was talking about.  I did say I wasn't arguing that cancer couldn't be dealt with the way he said, but by not having his facts straight people weren't going to believe him.  90% of cancers now are from environmental issues, particularly lifestyle choices like smoking.  Cancer was first documented and treated surgically by the Egyptians as early as 1600 BC.

Yes, we as humans have been dealing with cancer since at least 1600 BC.  I prefer the term BCE (before common era), but try getting everyone else to use that dating system.  It's an uphill battle.  Considering the fact that only a third of the world's population are Christian, that confounds me, but there you go.


If you don't believe me type History of Cancer in the search box on Wikipedia (or just click on the link I've used to make it really easy for you).  If you haven't heard of Wikipedia, Google it, but I don't hold out much hope for your research capabilities if you don't know what Wikipedia is.

Sometimes people try to say stupid things like, "Well, everyone knows how unreliable Wikipedia is," and I have to laugh at them.  Wikipedia is hands-down the best available source of information that is constantly being corrected, updated and argued against.  Experts all over the world dispute any false claims made on the site, and research documentation is provided in vast quantities.

Text books are one of your worst sources of information, especially if they haven't been printed in the last year.  Information changes all the time, and the latest facts and figures were likely not known at the time of printing, even with the most recent edition.  Then there's the gap between printing and distribution.  Also, if there is an error printed in them it can be overlooked for a very long time, re-printed over and over.  After all, how many people read a textbook cover-to-cover?  Wikipedia is maintained by the world on a daily or even hourly basis, depending on how popular a topic is.  Before an article is even allowed to be posted on the site, it is vetted by people who are knowledgable enough to do so.  Sources are checked.

If I'm writing an article, even if I use a source other than Wikipedia for information, I still end up on Wikipedia to be certain the information I'm getting is accurate.  As an experienced writer and researcher I feel I get the best quality of information from it.  There are things missing on the site, and one day if I get around to doing the scads of research it would take to submit an article to them, I will be able to contribute.  Believe me, the requirements for contribution are quite high.  You have to prove, hands-down, that the information you submit is 100% accurate, so while the information might not always be there, what is there is generally correct.

So, now you're wondering where I feel Wikipedia falls down, I suppose.  Well, their list of Canadian serial killers is very incomplete.  Serge Archambault is a good example.  Sure, they have Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, as well as Robert Pickton, the so-called pig farmer, and Clifford Olson.  These cases are very well-known.  Canada has more of a problem than people think, however.  I have a list of dozens more, and I doubt very much that my own list is complete.

I'm not sure if our government has managed to hire a profiler as of yet (although I have my doubts as to their efficacy), but many years ago I met a woman who wanted to be one and mentioned to me that Canada didn't have any because they didn't want to admit they had serial killers.  Well, good luck keeping that little fact under wraps in the information age.  At the time I think the FBI only had four of them, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are a lot more now.  I have no idea, since it's not something I've research, and I don't intend to blather on about someone I have no knowledge on.

On the subject of profiling itself, though, I don't believe there's been a single case of a profiler being responsible for the apprehension of a serial killer.  A profile gives only general guidelines into which any number of people could fit.  I think they're pretty much a huge waste of money in that respect, especially since they're not always right, and if memory serves they're wrong quite a bit.  The danger in following a profile is that the investigators follow different leads based on the profile.  If the profile is wrong it may be the one thing that allows a killer to evade capture.  That's even worse than a waste of money.  As I said, I don't have a lot of hard facts on this subject, and it's a matter of opinion.  I've read up on the subject, but that's about it.

I guess this is the benefit of a blog.  I can say what I like without having to worry too much about the facts and references.  Writing an article that will be read by hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of people, I have a responsibility to document only the truth.  Facts are important if they're being used in the piece.  Opinion pieces are a bit different for obvious reasons, although any argument I make that is based on fact still has to be documented.

I find it very disturbing, the poor level of research a lot of writers do.  People read articles online and think they're getting quality information, when that often isn't the case.  The level of irresponsibility is insane.  If you're going to write a piece based on opinion, you need to make it clear that it is just an opinion.  If you're going to write a fact-based piece, provide references to your sources and make sure your sources are good ones, not another poorly researched piece (of which there is a plethora).  Your good sources should have good sources.

This is where the actual work of writing comes in.  A lot of people want to write, but it doesn't make them good at it.  Some people are good at writing interesting things, which is a talent in itself, but that doesn't make them accurate either.  Writing involves research, plain and simple.  Fiction is the only writing that you can get away with poor research and artistic licence.  Well, it's the only writing in which you should be able to get away with it.  Even then, however, unless you're writing about a fantasy world that has no relationship to the real world, you're still better off knowing some things about reality.  Historical novels mean historical research.  Science fiction requires research into scientific principles that relate to your story.

In the movie Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone's character uses the term, "Suspension of disbelief", and it's a really great term for what fiction writers have to do.  The only way to accomplish that is to make the fictional world as real as possible.  When a reader stumbles onto a patently false statement, the suspension of disbelief fails utterly.

I remember a reference in a book about how one writer wrote that her character flew through the Windsor tunnel (in a car), and the critic of that asks, "Really?  Without stopping for the Border Patrol?"  Yeah, that would make for an interesting scene in real-life, wouldn't it?  In the book they simply went on their merry way, which is obviously not what's going to happen if you cross the border without stopping, especially when it's the border between Canada and the US, both of whom take entry into their country seriously.  Just the import taxes alone give them good reason.

The strange nature of fiction is that in order for it to really work you have to use fact and reality to bolster it properly.  Even with fantasy writing you at least have to be consistent with your alternate reality.  If you make up a world, you make up the rules for it, and you have to follow them.  Changing the rules will just make the whole thing silly and be an insult to the intelligence of the reader.

I guess the whole point of this ramble is a wish that writers would be more responsible regarding their creative endeavors.  There's enough misinformation and urban legend floating around without adding to it.  Then again, people enjoy causing trouble in the world, and that impulse is pretty difficult to curtail.