April 2013


Fighting against the rising McJob economy

They’re called McJobs: Low wage, low prestige positions with little chance for advancement and high turnover rates. Most often associated with the fast food industry, workers are at the whim of their managers when it comes to number of hours and time of shifts. Unions are strongly discouraged, and employees have been fired for attempting to organize them.

Today, for the second time, the McJob workers are fighting back. In New York City, several hundred fast food workers are striking, demanding higher wages and the right to form unions.

The first protest was held on November 29, 2012, and saw 200 workers from establishments such as Wendy’s, McDonald’s, KFC and Taco Bell holding an organized strike, with demonstrations held across the city. This time, they expect the turnout to be twice as high.

Although their issues are not necessarily identical to Canadians’ (we have higher minimum wage and our healthcare is covered by the government), the issue is still one that reverberates here. Many young Canadians, fresh in the workforce and clutching expensive diplomas, are cobbling together multiple McJobs at $10.25 an hour just to make rent. The fear: Is there really a way to move from the fast food world to the corporate world?

The world continues to change, with outsourcing pushing many manufacturing jobs overseas and the chasm between the haves and have-nots growing more pronounced. If today’s young workers don’t make a stand, their adult lives and the lives of the next generation may be very different from the one their parents experienced.

Are you ready to take a stand?


Dreams take flight for 92-year-old grandmother

If there is one word to describe 92-year-old grandmother Dorothy Ellis from Kansas, it would be remarkable.

The word daring also comes to mind. In August 2012, Ellis was sick. Only one week after her diagnosis she announced that she wanted to fly in a powered parachute.

Ellis’s granddaughter, Holly, described it in her February 23, 2013 blog as  “a cross between a lawn mower and chitty-chitty-Bang-Bang.”

Ellis’s dream of flying for the last time concerned her family, but not Ellis. Age was just a number in her mind. Holly was not only surprised to hear the news, but was worried for her grandmother. In her phone conversation, she said, “Gram you can’t be serious about riding in this flying death-trap.” Ellis replied, “Well, at my age, I figure I’m going to go one way or another.”

Her quest to live life to the fullest was to take her last final flight, and on September 18th she did just that. Ellis was flying high on life as her family watched her incredible moment flying over the horizon.

The family videotaped her inspirational journey, and the family chose the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” from the Wizard of Oz. As Holly said, “When you have a grandmother named Dorothy from Kansas, well, what other song is there?”

Ellis’s memory of flying over the rainbow lives on. She passed away on November 2, 2012.

Meeting the folks PART 2

When I first started dating Mr. Unexpected I told him flat out that he wouldn’t be meeting my mother because I do not introduce the boys I date to my mom, ever.

But after I met his parents my mom was pretty strict about the fact that she would be meeting Mr. Unexpected; and to be honest, for the first time ever I actually wanted her to meet a boyfriend.

I’ve always joked, in a self-deprecating and not entirely healthy way, that I was the girl you take home, not the girl you take home to mom. The relationships I’ve had over the past couple of years have been full of lust but never love, not really. And I hated the idea of introducing my mom to someone temporary because she isn’t temporary: she’s my favourite person in the world. You don’t introduce someone temporary to your favourite person.

So two days after I get back from Austin next week I’ll be sitting down to dinner with my mom, her lovely husband and my boyfriend. It’s kind of a big moment for me. I’m not sure I’m the marrying kind, I’m not interested in gushing over babies and I am terrible at sharing feelings; but this thing I’m doing, acknowledging that I’m with someone to my mom, this is something I can do.

There aren’t any Facebook milestones for people like me. I don’t have a relationship status and I’m not getting engaged any time soon, I’m just trying to accept intimacy into my life and they don’t give you a badge for being somewhat normal.

When I told Mr. Unexpected that my mom was coming to visit and that we’d all be going to dinner he said, “I knew I’d break you.” He knows me better than I do myself sometimes and he knew eventually that I’d come around. He knew that when I felt ready for the parental thing I would ask.

On top of meeting my mom Mr. Unexpected and I have plans to go away for a weekend and to spend Easter weekend with his family. I have to admit I kind of love the intimacy we have, even if that means embracing family dinners outside of the city and being introduced to family and friends as ‘the girlfriend.’

I couldn’t have guessed that we’d be here now. Going back I think about how all of this started at a chance meeting in a TIFF movie lineup when a friend brought me along because I was bored; I think about how in October I wasn’t even sure if he wanted to make it official; and finally I think about how in the past five months I’ve become a better person because of him.

I couldn’t have predicted any of this would happen but I’m happy and all those dark and twisty feelings are starting to fade away because when he’s around I can’t help but smile and laugh.


Meeting the folks

So it finally happened: I met the parents. It’s been years since I’ve had to meet the folks. The Big Ex didn’t want his family to meet me so they wouldn’t get too attached to me; in hindsight this should have concerned me. My lack of parental contact over the past seven years combined with my string of not-quite relationships left me unprepared and more than a little nervous when it came to meeting the boyfriend’s parents.

To his credit Mr. Unexpected made it as easy on me as possible. We didn’t meet his parents at a fancy restaurant or brunch where I would probably have had too many mimosas in an effort to get comfortable. We met them at Tim Horton’s at King and John, close to home and so simple I couldn’t help but feel like myself.

The key to meeting new people is always having a sense of comfort, but to have all the pressure taken off also shows how much Mr. Unexpected cares about me. He knew I wasn’t totally excited about the prospect of meeting his family, he knew I was nervous and he knew that my past would make this particular meeting fairly difficult for me, but he did his best to make it easy. When his mother sat down I was actually reminded of my own mom: she’s sweet with a slight sarcastic edge and a down-home vibe, which made the whole experience feel like coffee with an old friend rather than the boyfriend’s parents.

While I won’t readily admit to wanting to get married and I’m always going to put my career first, there is a small part of me that fantasizes about being with a man who has a family that I love. My own family has changed over the years and I miss the big Christmases, the Easter dinners and the fire alarm going off every Sunday when dinner inevitably burns and everyone argues over what kind of take out to order. I’ve never seen family as this perfect beautiful thing but I miss the messiness of it all. I miss hearing the same story for the four billionth time about how my uncle convinced my grandfather that the soap he was making was actually white fudge.

Part of being in a relationship is being a part of the family, and while at first I wasn’t sure about it I feel more sure than ever that I can be part of Mr. Unexpected’s life and not just the easy parts. When I signed up for the girlfriend thing I signed up for all of it and I’m just now realizing exactly what that means but— and I won’t tell him this—I really like it.

The only problem with meeting his folks is that I had to tell my mother and now she’s wondering when she gets to meet him. She lives in Ottawa. Maybe it’s time for a road trip.


Finding Nemo sequel announced: Finding Dory

Ten years after the film Finding Nemo swam into our hearts Disney/Pixar is announcing that our favourite fish will be returning for a sequel.

The sequel, to be called Finding Dory, will centre around the adventures of the amnesiac Blue Tang who helped find lost baby Nemo in the first movie. Ellen DeGeneres is set to reprise her voice role and director Andrew Stanton will also be returning to spearhead the sequel.

It’s a wonder that it took a fish as forgetful as Dory this long to get lost.

The film will take place roughly a year after the events of the first film and will feature many returning characters including Marlin and Nemo.

Unfortunately the film won’t be hitting theatres until November 25th, 2015, but the good news is that the movie is in production — and this gives fans plenty of time to get in line for opening weekend.

Spring ahead with time change

Spring is getting closer, you can feel it in the air. I even feel a boost of excitement by the few extra minutes of light at the end of the day. You’re exhilarated by the thought of early morning walks and, even though that precious hour gained four months ago is gone, summer is almost here.

Often the expectation of summer blooming outside the window the very next day is shattered by that lingering winter and a feeling of exhaustion instead of glee that can take some time to totally shed.

Overall, certain people may ‘suffer’ more than others.

Shift Workers – One of the biggest challenges for people who do shift work is getting enough sleep. The internal body clock, the circadian rhythm, is directly linked to daylight and darkness. Already being sensitive to time disruptions, they could surely find the time change adds to their troubles, as digestion and hormone balances could take longer to adjust.

Children – Often more sensitive to seasonal changes than adults, children may seem irritable and have more trouble getting to sleep. Sometimes the extra light may keep them up wanting more play time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to let them adjust to time and seasonal changes at their own pace, with some extra patience and hugs. Remember, you’re feeling it too. The more, you fight them, the longer it will take for them to sync up and get with the program.

Seniors – At the best of times, seniors can have issues with the time of day. “Is it lunch time, or dinner”? An extra hour lost or gained can lead them to experience a sense of confusion. In some cases, this can lead to harmful situations, if medications are missed or taken at the wrong time. If you are a caregiver, or involved with the daily well-being of a senior, be sure to keep extra close tabs on their schedules when the time change kicks in.

Go with the flow and realize you may be a little overtired. Manage your daily stress by avoiding major decision making when you can. Allow yourself extra time to travel, eat and lounge in bed (set two alarms for a couple of days). Don’t expect too much from yourself just because the morning light beckons. Drink more water, plan a relaxing evening and power nap when you can, as just a 20-minute nap can increase alertness and motor skills.

Happy spring!


Nancy Pelosi on empowering women

The 72-year-old Speaker of the House turned Minority House Leader is as much of a fixture in the landscape of American politics as the Lincoln Statue or the Washington Monument. Seeming to break barriers with everything she does (first female Minority Whip, first female Speaker of the House) it comes as no surprise that in her lifetime of devoted public service she has never shied away from promoting and empowering women in politics.

In a recent interview with Salon she explains that the biggest issue facing feminism today is the lack of women in politics.

“We need to have women in elected positions to make their voices heard and to get policy improved,” says Pelosi. “But the missing piece all along has been affordable quality childcare … If we’re going to unleash the intellect, the determination and courage of women, the clarity of thinking of women, onto the world, we need affordable quality childcare.”

The interview also touched on her thought about Malala, the Violence Against Women Act, and a few fun questions, like her love of chocolate and her favourite female heroine:

“I’d say Nancy Drew, because when I was a little girl I read those books, and it was always fascinating to me that her name was Nancy. I didn’t really know too many other Nancys except for my mother. And I can just see the books in the library and on the shelves in our home. Her moxie, her courage, and her curiosity were quite remarkable. It was quite remarkable when you think about it, that those books were written about a girl all that time ago. And they still have salience when I read them to my grandchildren.”

Join the conversation by Facebooking or tweeting at us to let us know who your favourite female heroine is.


Prison break bozos

On Monday, March 18, two imaginative and daring, if not very bright, inmates of a prison in Quebec took an outlandish stab at escaping the surly bonds of earth by using a helicopter as their getaway vehicle. Can you picture two robbers running out of a bank to a waiting getaway vehicle, except think of a helicopter instead of a car? Doesn’t it boggle your mind? Doesn’t it bring a smile to your lips?

There were two accomplices who hijacked a tourism helicopter and forced the pilot to fly—no, to hover over the roof of the prison, while they lowered ropes to the two convicts waiting on the roof for their imaginative attempt at escape.

If you saw this on TV, you have seen the helicopter taking off with the two guys hanging on the dangling ropes, like two care packages of supplies being dropped to a remote village.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure the prison guards may just have noticed this hovering helicopter going whoop-whoop-whoop the way helicopters do. And since this escapade was in broad daylight, wouldn’t that mean that there would be absolutely no stealth at all to this escape? Wouldn’t that mean that the two escapees may as well have sold tickets to the event?

It gets better. The helicopter then landed in a nearby field to let the dangling dorks get inside the helicopter. Then the chopper flew to a local hotel parking lot, a mere 50 kilometers from the prison,  where a getaway car was waiting. Wouldn’t it occur to you that landing a helicopter in a hotel parking lot might also generate just a tad of attention? Maybe that’s just me.

They left the chopper pilot there in the parking lot with his face covered. As soon as they left, the pilot called for help. That’s another thing I think the crooks didn’t think through: It must have taken only a few seconds for the pilot to remove the face covering. I think I’d want to truss him up in order to slow him down. Maybe that’s just me.

My sides are hurting from laughing so much.

The outcome of this brainless expedition was of course that the two inmates and their two accomplices were located within hours and arrested. They are facing nearly two dozen charges, including armed hijacking, breaking and entering and aiming a firearm at police.

Following their first court appearance, Crown lawyer Steve Baribeau said that the prosecution will oppose bail for all four suspects. “You’re talking about an escape from a prison—one of our institutions—in a helicopter,” he said. “It’s special.”

Special? Special? This entire bumbling attempt at freedom is so much more than just ‘special’, Steve. It gives brand new meaning to the word ‘special’. How about ‘unequalled’, ‘matchless’, ‘incomparable’?

Or wait, I know, how about ‘incredibly stupid’? How about ‘one of the most misguided laughable news events to amuse us this week’?

My favourite sentence of the CTV News article? “After their court appearance, the suspects were taken back to the prison, surrounded by a convoy of police cars.”

My mind can’t comprehend how many police vehicles were in that convoy. I bet there were more than enough to make sure the jailbirds didn’t escape again.

I wonder what kind of new job the prison warden is looking for now?


Keeping the Internet open

It is time Canadian politicians engaged in an open discussion about citizens’ rights when they go online. To date there seems to be only one high profile Canadian willing to entertain the idea. I am referring to George Takach, a Toronto lawyer and candidate for leadership of the federal Liberal Party.

Takach is calling on the government to create a ‘digital bill of rights’. The notion comes from two American politicians, Representative Darrell Issa and Senator Ron Wyden, key figures in the battle against censorship of the internet.

Issa and Wyden in the United States, and Takach in Canada, are calling for the creation of a ‘digital, or internet, bill of rights,’ because of concerns about what some may describe as a legal oxymoron. Lawmakers and legislators are attempting to regulate the internet without an understanding of how individuals use it.

“Government is flying blind, interfering and regulating without even understanding the basics,” declares Issa on “Where can a digital citizen turn for protection against the powerful?”

Wyden likens this project to a digital version of the United States’ Constitutional convention. The 10 key provisions in Issa’s and Wyden’s Bill are:

1. The right to a free and uncensored Internet.
2. The right to an open, unobstructed Internet.
3. The right to equality on the Internet.
4. The right to gather and participate in online activities.
5. The right to create and collaborate on the Internet.
6. The right to freely share their ideas.
7. The right to access the Internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are.
8. The right to freely associate on the Internet.
9. The right to privacy on the Internet.
10. The right to benefit from what they create.

George Takach comes at things from a similar angle. “Our digital world is quickly becoming as important as our physical world,” he proclaims on his website. “We’re doing everything from shopping to sending out resumes to searching for information – and we’re doing more and more of that every day.”

Takach takes aim at the current federal government. He asserts that the Harper Government – one that proclaims liberty to be a concern – has failed to ensure that Canadians’ rights and privacy are protected on the internet. Takach is committed to changing that by championing the establishment of a Canadian Digital Bill of Rights. He is so committed to this he is making it a centrepiece of his campaign to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

This stems from a belief that Canadians need a balanced approach to internet security, one that will ensure that we have better safeguards in place to protect the fundamental civil rights and privacy of Canadians when they are online, while also ensuring that law enforcement officials have adequate tools to address online crime and security. This is in contrast to the “Big Government / Big Brother” surveillance solutions of United States President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Takach proposes a somewhat slimmer Bill of Rights than his American counterparts, but his goal is the same. His proposed Bill would guarantee:

1. The right to be free from surveillance not authorized by a court of law.
2. The right to be free from abuse of personal information.
3. The right to enjoy an open, uncensored, unobstructed internet.
4. The right to enjoy network neutrality and be free from traffic shaping and bandwidth throttling.
5. The right to enjoy anonymity, as long as they act responsibly.
6. The right to enjoy access to the Internet no matter where they live.

The work of these three brave individuals should be commended. In a time when so many governments are engaging in more and more invasive solutions, these politicians are calling to keep government out of our internet. Time will tell how receptive North Americans are to internet freedom. If they are, Issa, Wyden, and Takach will have bright careers ahead of them.


Hillary Clinton announces support for same-sex marriage

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Monday that she is a supporter of same-sex marriage. The 2008 Democratic nominee contender and possible Obama successor came out as a supporter Monday morning in a YouTube video for the Human Rights Campaign organisation, adding that “human rights are gay rights.”

“LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. That’s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law,” said Clinton.

In the video Clinton also touts her record as Secretary of State where she defended the rights of LGBT people abroad and engaged in conversations with various world leaders about protecting and promoting the rights of these individuals in other nations.

Clinton joins President Obama, who declared his support for same-sex marriage last May, as another top level Democrat who believes in marriage equity in the United States.

The issue, long since put to bed in Canada, is still hotly contested in the United States and has been a major divisive issue in past presidential elections. In recent years the opinions of American people have warmed to the idea somewhat, with gay marriage being practiced in the states of Washington, Vermont, Maryland, Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Watch the full six minute video below and join the conversation with us on Twitter and Facebook and let us know, do you think Hillary is going to make another run for the American presidency in 2016? Would you vote for her if you had the chance?