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22 January 2017 @ 06:04 pm

I did not march yesterday. I won't make any overt excuses, but will just say that it wasn't really in the cards for me for a couple of reasons. That said, I'm with you girls (and guys) who did go, who could go. I've got a pussy hat (in green!) on the way, and here is my tiny contribution to the cause.

I'm going to tell you that you have a choice, and that there are people out there who will listen to you, take you seriously, help you, and not get in your way.

I long ago made a reproductive choice about me, my body, my life. I didn't want children. Ever. This is not news to some of you. Some of the reasons why I didn't aren't ones I'm going to share, because I'm not out to overtly offend or hurt anyone, and some of my opinions definitely would. I was not ever, am not now, and don't see myself ever being maternal in that way. I've got no interest in, and no compulsion for it. I never wanted to be pregnant, or raise a child. It's also unfair, in the gross extreme, to gamble with a third person's life for any reason, so I wasn't going to leave myself in a position to have that happen. I knew this from a young age, but it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I found a way to properly articulate it and make it happen.

When I was 24 I started asking my family doctor about being rendered incapable of becoming pregnant. He, rightly, talked me out of it. Although I knew I was right, 24 is a young age to make sure finite decision that is difficult to come back from. So I was not offended by his refusal, nor angry. Four years later, after asking him about it every time I saw him, he sent me off to the gyno-surgeon. He said, "You've been asking me about this long enough that I know you're serious." Off I went. (Incidentally; my GP is a male Muslim, who did not let his religion get in the way of my care and my choices, which is why I still go to him.)

I had what is commonly called a lap-tubal - they put two tiny incisions in your body (one in the navel, and one just below where the pubic hairline starts), and insert two clips that clamp off the falopian tubes. These tubes prevent eggs from dropping down to where they could be fertilised, and the scar tissue that builds up around the clips helps to further block the area.

Some women, you see, just aren't cut out to be mothers, know that, and take steps towards preventing it, that don't involve jamming artificial hormones into their bodies every month. And it's okay, you know, to choose to remain childfree. There's nothing wrong with you, nor that choice. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Choose yes. Choose no. Just make sure your choice is your choice, and not one that's being forced on you nor that you're forcing on another. Demand to keep your right to choose. Fight for it.

Belief me...  
13 January 2017 @ 08:49 pm
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I am an atheist. This is no more a secret than how much I love tea, adore the Oxford comma, hate bebop, and want to slug anyone who makes noise when they eat.

Yesterday I saw something about what atheists believe in. It was a joke, and cute, but it reminded me of the number of times, innumerable times, I've seen the question come up - the question, the statement, the belief and unabashed certainly even - that atheists don't believe in anything. I'll make it simple for the kids in the back row: Religious belief isn't the only kind of belief. Just because an atheist doesn't believe in God (him, her, or it), does not mean they don't believe in anything.

I, for example, believe in milk in my tea, cream in my coffee, not too much head on my beer, and not being a jerk. I've spent 48 years practicing the art of not being a jerk, and while I don't always succeed, I certainly have more than a working grasp on how to go about it. I've never needed an imaginary, invisible parent figure to spell out for me how not to be a jerk. I think if you do need someone else to tell you how not to be a jerk, or require the flying fickle wagging finger to school you, you have bigger problems than the state of my belief.

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Brain Drain  
11 January 2017 @ 08:42 am
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Last night I was speaking briefly with a young man who's a doctoral candidate in cognitive science; and he, like so many before him, is giving thought to absconding to parts south because he, like so many others, has no funding to continue his work.

Canadian universities do not put the same kind of money into their Masters and PhD candidates that American universities do. I can't speak for other countries, having never investigated it, but I do know that this isn't the first time I've heard someone talk about this sort of thing. I knew someone a few years ago who wouldn't, and couldn't, start her Masters degree because she couldn't afford to - she'd have had to do the same thing the man last night was considering, and that's going to the U.S. There wasn't a single university in this country that would have paid sufficiently.

If you want to keep people, or simply not lose them, you need to give them a reason to stay. You need to find the money or the means, so that you don't lose the best brains you've got to a place they might not come back from.

What's in a name  
08 January 2017 @ 03:06 pm

Do our names make us, do we make them, or is it just by chance that sometimes we fall into the meanings of the names we bear?

My first name is a short form female diminutive for the Spanish male name "Alonzo" or "Alonso", which means "ready for battle". Part of my ancestry is Scots, so that leaves me with a clan also. That clan's motto is "Je suis pret" - "I am ready".

No idea how my middle name works into this. It means "grace" (and my last name indicates "strawberry flowers"). Not exactly a word I'd ascribe to myself - neither physically nor otherwise. :)

07 January 2017 @ 03:46 am
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I love jazz. This is not a secret - nor is the fact that I hate scat and bebop; but that's not important right now. I was reminded the other day, by a crack someone made, that as much as I might love jazz, I actually listen to very little of it.

I sing it. I don't listen much to it, unless I'm learning something.

I have always followed the rule that the only way to learn a song, is to listen to it only enough to get the basics down, then stop listening to it. You need to learn to rely on your own memory, cues, rhythm - which never happens if you're waiting for the cues in someone else's performance. You never internalise, so memorise, a song if you keep listening to it.

When it comes to listening, I spend most of my time with rock - punk, indie, late 70s/early 80s Joe Jackson and Tom Petty types. I like guitars. I like the blues for listening.

I think the jazz song I've listened to most, though, is probably Julie London's 1964 live on Japanese TV version of "Cry Me A River". I think I do fair justice to it, but I never want to sing it in front of anyone else, because every other cover of it I've ever heard is shit, and I don't want to have that arrogance about me that screams that it can do justice to a song owned so much by one singer, when everyone else has failed at it. I'll sing it to myself at home, and leave it at that.

Aside: If you're walking around the Durand neighbourhood in Hamilton looking at wifi router names, and see one called "Cry Me A Router"; that's me.

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07 January 2017 @ 12:47 am
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The kamiza is a place in the dojo where a shrine for Shinto spirits (kamidana) is located, a place where they reside. These spirits can include venerated dead - family, past teachers. You see them, on a shelf sometimes, always over head height. In terms of seating or placement in the room, it is the best seat in the house - warmest, safer. It is traditional for the doors of the kamiza in a dojo to be opened for the first classes of the new year, so that the spirits can see how much you've improved over the year. You make a promise to them, to work on something, and the doors are shut until the next year.

I got stuck when, at the end of class, sensei asked us to make a promise about something specific we'd work on throughout the coming year. I said 'everything', because don't we all have to always be doing that? But it needs to be more specific, so I chose speed; because a) I was on the spot, and b) that is my worst fault - I rush things. Fast is my four-letter-word, he says. And now, given that I've passed Ikkyu, now it's really time to concentrate on my jo-ha-kyu.

Slower iai's more luscious; a samurai never rushes? Sorry. Canadian. What can I say?

05 January 2017 @ 12:49 am
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My body knows better than I do what it's supposed to be doing, apparently.

In class today we did some exercises, some of the waza even, with our eyes closed. We'd switch from doing it the usual way, to then doing it with our eyes shut, and it's impressive how much of a difference it actually does make, how much our vision can throw us off. Apparently the performance difference between eyes wide open and eyes wide shut (sorry, Stanley), was beyond noticeable.

You'd think the blind girl would be ahead of the game on this one, seeing as how I'm none too good at seeing; but, sadly, I was not.

Interesting exercise though. I'd like to try that again.

My Iaito  
03 January 2017 @ 12:24 am
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I acquired this sword from Taylor Sensei in Guelph in July of 2016. In so many ways it is not aesthetically would I would have chosen had I the opportunity to get a custom sword made, but the first time I held it in the dojo, I knew this sword was mine. It felt right. It is 2.45 in length

I read somewhere that samurai used to name their swords. I haven’t yet come up with a name for this iaito yet, but I figure that someday I’ll just know what’s right.

It also goes against custom for one to show one’s blade to people who are not also students of the budo arts – not to mention that hauling your blade out in a public place is illegal in some parts, it being a weapon and all. I hope this doesn’t violate custom. :)

I also need to take some better photos of it. One of these days.

Oh the places I'd go  
02 January 2017 @ 03:32 pm
Hamilton, not unlike any city of sufficient size, has its share of panhandlers (who no longer carry pans). Sometimes I give, sometimes I don't, and sometimes I can't. But Christmas Eve I had to go to the bank for something, so I got a handful of five dollar bills to hand out to anyone who might ask me for change. And that would be the one time no one asked me for a damned thing. I ended up buying a raffle ticket from my cousin, which I'm hoping I win, because it's a $4000 travel voucher. Oh the places I'd go.

Unanswerable Questions  
01 January 2017 @ 11:57 pm
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When someone asks you if their mother ever liked them, was ever proud of them, how do you respond without hurting them, when the only answers you have will not fill the void? When my mother died last March she took her truth with her. She wasn't one to tell anyone how she truly felt about them beyond an arm's length sort of honesty. She never told me that she loved me, not to my recall; and she never said much to me about my sister either. I learned to live without answers, and I can't answer my sister's question.

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