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    The first rule of focus groups or research groups is quite simply this.  If you say yes to one, then you shall forever be on the call list of every research company that has ever existed.  And they do call quite often.  Extrapolating from the frequency that I receive offers, people who are willing to participate in studies and opinion groups are few and far between.

The call I received was from a company doing research on for the federal government of Canada.  I thought to myself, woo-whee, the Feds want to know my opinion?  How could I say no to that (well that and the included honourarium)?   We were not told the details of what the discussion was going to be about beforehand.  It turned out to be a rather mundane discussion on the tax system in Canada and what our opinions and thoughts were on it, along with other issues such as debt, sources of debt, and how well off we defined ourselves vis a vis other generations.

Fascinating (ish) stuff.  What tweaked my interest was my fellow attendee’s lack of knowledge about Canadian fiscal and tax policy.  Like the fact that Canada’s corporate tax rate is miserly 15%, among the lowest, if not the lowest in the G7.  People seemed genuinely surprised when I suggested that we should be raising that tax rate significantly and that in the past the tax rate had been significantly higher (around 40% in the 60’s) .

Similar experiences when mentioning terms like neo-liberal (a la Nafta and the TPP) economic policy and trickle-down economics.  None of the other people in my research cohort used terminology and concepts that named the economic features we were talking about.  There was a good deal of, “oh I agree with what he said,” but none articulated the theoretical features or aspects of the features we were talking about.

The notion of ‘progressive taxation’ seemed to throw a few of my peers for a slight loop, even thought the Canadian tax system is nominally progressive in nature.   I boggled inwardly at that, but we all got on the same page eventually when it came to nailing down the concept.

I’m worried though, I am by stretch of the imagination an economist or policy-wonk, but the amount of time spent getting people up to speed on basic economic features and concepts made me take pause.  I get the feeling that many people just don’t have the time or the inclination to get the basic facts necessary to have an informed opinion on key features of our tax system and economics in general.  Taxes affect everyone in society and not having a base level of knowledge about them and how government policy can change the way taxes work, seems like a glaring oversight in one’s life education.

Ignorance aside, 7 out of the 8 of us present agreed with the legalization of marijuana in Canada so the Feds will at least have positive affirmation that making pot legal makes most of us happy (representative samply-speaking).


   I’m not buying into the idea that there is some sort of perfect way of living one’s life – some ways are better than others, and those various ways appeal to different people…and so on and so forth.  We’re not here talking about *your* choices and and preferences, but rather mine.

I’m getting old.  Not super old yet, like JZ  [:)], but old enough to start seeing a few patterns and beginning to see how choices fit together.  One motif that crops up frequently is the notion of standards (being cut from the Teacher cloth and what not).  Standards are fucking important in my line of work, I need to set them high and demonstrate them on a daily basis so students can see why they are important.

There is a life lesson right there – Show, Do, Demonstrate, as your ‘go to’ plan – talking about issues and concepts is important, but doing the thing is so much more important that pontificating about it.  Is critical thinking important in your classroom?  Then show how it is done every day with your students (and friends outside of school an academia) so often that the people around you have to learn, if by nothing else, osmosis. (The world is filled with dull people, help them, please.)

The osmosis strategy works for music as well, and the related life-concept of perfect practice makes perfect.  Can you make those four boring quarter notes into a phrase?  Demonstrate it, practice doing it, everyday.  Make it a thing that just becomes automatic.  The practice list is long, and ever increasing, of the musical qualities and practices that need to become second nature, and not requiring conscious thought (looking at you vocal resonance *grrr*) to enact.

I think the wisdom that can sometimes come with age kicks in when you realize the standards you hold dear informs your perceptions and how you take on life.  It is very easy to become your chosen ‘standards’ and stop thinking about how to interact with the turbulent flow of life around you.  Sticking to your version of what is correct is necessary to certain extent, as being the leaf in the wind isn’t exactly my idea of an ideal life state.  But life, as much as we try to manage it, will gleefully toss monkey poop filled situations at you that will force you to make decisions that call into question the frameworks you’ve built for dealing with the world.

The problem with monkey poop (and most poop really) is that its sticky and tends to foul up the most carefully constructed frameworks and ideas you have about the world.  Borrowing a phrase from Gordan Ramsey, you often find yourself to be ‘in the shit’ – so what do you do?  For a good portion of my existence, the answer has been to soldier on, head down, pushing back against the shit and working it and reworking it with the tools at hand until the situation has become tolerable (a nice loamy compost, after all is said and done).  Confidence in my structures has been unfailing.

But what if my structures and methods are wrong?  Yeah, its thoughts like these that gets the monkeys (of the anxiety and doubt kind) agitated and a-chattering.  When do you step back from the ramparts and reconsider the stand(s) you’ve taken and reexamine the thought process that brought you to your current state?

It is said that it takes courage to stand by your convictions – I’m calling bullshit on that – standing tall on the fortifications of your beliefs is easy-peasy, made in shade, level of challenge.  Taking a step back, reevaluating your convictions and realizing that they aren’t serving you as they once did, and then changing them – that friends, takes courage.  Because with change comes vulnerability and instability, the rebuilding your convictions – what makes you -“you”.

Relax, I haven’t found jebus, or allah or drank the libertarian kool-aid, I’m still the pinko-lefty rad fem ally you all know and love.  Rather, I’m just in a slightly different theoretical spot having taken a small reflective step back and have begun looking at my structures and ideology and how they shape my perception of life.

Good, if somewhat unsettling, times. :)


  Men not tolerating creepy behaviour on the behalf of other men is the least that can be done in the public sphere to combat the gauntlet of patriarchal foolishness women face every day of their lives.  Dudes, are you up to  it?


“Let me tell you what happened to me an hour ago:

   So I’m at the bus terminal and this guy (who’d been following me and hovering over me for 10 minutes) comes up to me and says “hey beautiful. Can I talk to you?” So I said “no thank you.” He goes “I just want to speak to you, though.” And I said “yeah I know that and I’m not interested in talking to a strange man at a bus terminal. Please leave me alone.”

   So he stands there watching me.

   Finally he says “listen, there’s no need to be difficult. I approached you politely like a gentleman so I don’t see why you’re saying no. Now just let me speak to you.”
I said “nobody’s being difficult my guy. You asked a question, I gave an answer so we’re done.”
     Then he says “yeah but the answer you gave me made no sense. Why don’t you want to talk to me? You don’t know what kind of person I am. You’re judging me before you know me. You’re being ignorant and prejudiced so”-
    Just then this other guy who’d been sitting close to me said “my nigga shut the fuck up! I saw you following her and stalking her like a fucking animal or some shit, like you didn’t think she didn’t notice? She’s probably scared of your predatory ass and I don’t blame her. Mans need to understand you don’t follow girls and shit. That shits corny.”
      So the guy goes “yo, mind your fucking business.”
    And the other dude says “nah because I see you harassing this girl and as a man this becomes my business. You thinking you were polite doesn’t mean a girl has to speak to you. Be nice because you’re nice, don’t use that please and thank you shit and think somebody has to speak to you. You’re not a “gentleman if you don’t respect her. Take the L and go catch your bus you fucking creep.”

    So the guy starts swearing and then walks away. The guy who’d defended me is like “you okay tho? Like real talk I don’t really like men because of shit like that. They’re fucking predators man. I do what I can when I’m able to for women because you don’t deserve to be hunted.”

This is literally how you do it.

[Source: Gluten-Free-Pussy]



Our river valley in Edmonton is particularly amazing during the fall.

Hey folks, just contemplating on the gradual change in the weather here.  Summer has had her last gasp and now the parade of crisp mornings and cool afternoons has begun.  Autumn is my favourite season, especially once we’ve had a killing frost or two, as it cleans the damn mosquitoes right up.

Now begins the ritual of trying to ascertain whether it too cold for to go out in shorts or not each morning.  My reasoning is thus – we here in Alberta have the potential for a very long winter season from October to March most years and that, dear friends, is entirely to long a spell to exclusively wearing pants.

I do have limits, usually -5 centigrade is the lowest I’ll go before I shelf the shorts and bring up the long pants for the autumnbirks1winter.  The other wardrobe factor, of course is the hated closed toe shoes (we won’t mention the socks either :P).  We hates them and will put off the transition for as long as safely possible.  The Birkenstocks stay on till there is more than a centimetre of snow that stays on the ground (stuff that falls and melts doesn’t count:) ), till then, the sweet freedom of sandals reign supreme.

Other concerns include getting the back to school work schedule down, making time for piano and voice practice and getting the yard and car ready for the long dark cold ahead.   This year though, I think we’re going to add lights to our backyard fence that will really brighten the winter nights. :)  It should be all good, and as an added benefit more light to see the frozen dog poo that needs collecting. :)







school   “I don’t want to see penis when I go to the washroom; he just stands there with the stall open and it makes me uncomfortable.“.

That was the quotable bit from a conversation I had with a female student I happened to be teaching at an elementary school this week.  We were walking in from recess and Jaina brought this to my attention.  I couldn’t detect any hate or malice in her statement, as she had just been playing convivially with Dakota (Male to Trans) minutes before.  I told her that she had every right to feel uncomfortable as the situation she described was not appropriate in terms of what was happening in the bathroom…   Jaina was surprised that a teacher agreed with her and her feelings of discomfort.  I was going to suggest that she remind Dakota to shut the door but the conversation ended as we entered the school.

I hope that by listening to Jaina and supporting her statement she will talk with her teacher and her Dakota to sort that issue out.

The conversation caught me by surprise (as with most occurrences while teaching behaviour classes) and in the moment I had to negotiate between the child’s feelings and the official school board policy on gender and washrooms.

Review of the policy in question came down to these points –

Indicators of this best practice in action (pg.9)

• Students are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity.

• A student who objects to sharing a washroom or change-room with a student who is trans or gender-diverse is offered an alternative facility (this scenario also applies when a parent or other caregiver objects to shared washroom or change-room facilities on behalf of their child).

I certainly hope that Jaina’s concerns are heard and action is taken as traditionally the concerns of girls, and females in general, are all to often thrown under the bus.


Greetings fair readership, it is time for a new foray here at DWR.  A recent comment by JZ and gentle prod by RoughSeas are the inspirations for this post.

The idea that JZ had was that a comparative essay looking at the differences and similarities between adolescent experiences would be an interesting read.   I agreed with him at the time and promptly back-burnered the idea because doing new things is hard.   But we’re going to give it a try anyways, because we’re like that around here.

This is what I envision – my faithful commentariat would offer a brief (three paragraph  (300 words-ish) anecdotal tale of what the socialization was like growing up through those years we now call adolescence.  Let me offer you some food for thought, the original Laurie Penny quote for starters:

“Adolescence, for a woman, is the slow realization that you are not considered as fully human as you hoped. You are a body first, and your body is not yours alone: whether or not you are attracted to men, men and boys will believe they have a claim on your body, and the state gets to decide what you’re allowed to do with it afterwards.”

Some questions/story starters to get the juices flowing:

1. I was so embarrassed when…
2. My finest hour as a youth.
3. My worst experience as a youth…
4. I  remember an instance of  how my socialization affected me when…
5. [Whatever you think is relevant]

This can be dangerous territory, and thus let me state now that this thread will be heavily moderated with hopes of making a safe space for people to share their stories.  If you feel the need to faff on about free speech and censorship, and/or act in a general discourteous manner, the recently polished ban hammer shall fall swiftly and discretely.  Furthermore, this is one of those rare occasions where the option to post anonymously may actually be a good thing.  Please feel free to use that option at your discretion.


A good host always starts these sorts of things off, so I’m told.  As I was writing this post a vivid clutch of memories came back from my high school days.


It was a good time back highschool, as in grade 10 I learned that this would be the last taste of the compulsory physical education (torture) that I would have to take.  Track and field, the tepid combination of aimlessly running/hopping/leaping about and throwing a myriad of things, was just finishing up.  My sub-group was responsible for putting away the high jump mat, as this PE class just happened to be at the end of the day.

So, with the allure of the end of day just around the corner our tired group of teenagers was hustling to get the large and bulky crash pad mat back into school and put away.  Outside, while we were all carrying the mat, one my less intrepid peers decided it would great fun if they ran up and threw themselves onto the mat.  Of course, with the extra weight we dropped it, and the jumping doofus was immanently pleased with himself.  The gym teacher was also unimpressed and told this particular student to stop horsing around and get with the program (with perhaps a bit more vivace in his word choice, I can’t be sure :)).   So we all found the handles to the mat and once again began lugging the cursed beast toward the school.

Can you guess what happened?  The Superman in waiting decided that there would be nothing as much fun as doing the same thing twice – because one solid declaration of your assholery just isn’t enough – and off he went, this time though he chose to land near me.  And for whatever reason I decided that this particular sack of jerkitude and his attitude needed a stern correction.  The correction, in question, was a flying elbow smash straight out of ‘pro-wrestling’ that landed directly in the small of the Jumpy-Jerk McAsshole’s back.  He yelped, quite vociferously,  in what I assume was a mixture of surprise and pain.  Keep in mind, this is coming from the non-athletic, glasses wearing, book devouring nerdy kid who always listened to the teachers and never created waves.  I immediately apologized to him and the teacher and was expecting a severe reprimand for such irresponsible, dangerous behaviour.

Instead, the gym teacher was crowing with laughter, as were the rest of the mat handlers.  Everyone was like Woo!  That was awesome!  Everyone was congratulating me for attacking JJMcA for jumping on the mat a second time.  I was taken aback then, as I am now at how easily violence is praised and endorsed as a method of solving problems.  And in hindsight I can see this small happening as just one of many instances of socialization at work that consciously and unconsciously help shape the person that I am today.


Okay, well if there are any takers on this free writing/reflecting assignment, you have my thanks in advance.  :)  If you’re like me you’ll be struggling with only 300 words, but I have faith in you, concision is a writers’ best friend.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Fascinating subject Arb,  do tell us more!”

Okay, perhaps not as gripping the other newsy bits we we have around here but none the less a subject that shouldn’t be casually swept aside.  Living in Alberta means that for three to five months of the year, snow will be on the ground.  The lovely first fall of snow marks the official end of mosquito season and the transition to having ‘exposed flesh stick uncomfortably to metal season’.  Some might balk at all the freezing rain, sleet and snow – but really – it isn’t that bad.

One of the civic expectations of snowy Edmontonian existence is keeping the public sidewalk in front of your place of residence clear of snow and ice.  Our civic authorities mandate that from the time of the last snow event forty-eight  hours are given in which to clear your walks in order to make them safe for people to walk on.

Sound reasonable?

Seems workable to me and thus after each snow I make my rounds with my trusty shovel and ice-scraper.  My goal is to get down to the concrete to ensure a safe and solid footing for all those who would come to see me, or merely have to sojourn past my property.  For my work to be done, my walks need to pass the inappropriate winter footwear test.  If I can confidently make my way in my sandals –


Then, and only then, my job is done. :)


It takes some time and work, let me assure you.  Many factors are working against you in the valiant quest for clean sidewalks it is here my arch nemesis must be named.

Freezing Rain.


A glossy, slippery, unchippable horror that can only be bested by the most potent weapon in my winter arsenal.


Glorious sidewalk-salt.  That being said, one must consider the bitter-salty implications of using this dread weapon on icy sidewalks.  Salt is not conducive to the growing and maintenance of grass or anything else organic for that matter.




The battle for clean sidewalks is necessarily a delicate balance.  A fateful alchemy of dedication, perseverance, and Na Cl.  It is a fine line that must be walked during snow-season in Alberta.


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