Leave Taylor alone

Let’s talk about Taylor Swift.

I never thought I’d say those words, seeing as T-Swizzle annoys me to no end. But I read this article on Fox News (don’t ask) and I feel like Taylor deserves some defense.

The article, called “Is Taylor Swift Turning Into Jennifer Aniston?“, analyzes Taylor’s relationship history in some detail and says she “just can’t get her dating life together”. My first reaction was, “It’s none of their business. They should leave her love life alone, she’s a grown woman.” My next reaction was to write a post analyzing her love life.

I’m kidding. I really don’t care who she dates.

But this seems unfair to TayTay. They pretty much call her a relationship failure because she’s dated so many guys. The article points out that she has (reportedly) started dating Harry Styles of One Direction, even though she just broke up with Connor Kennedy.

Wait. Dating Harry Styles is a problem? Geez. I need some problems like that.

I say, why shouldn’t she date lots of boys? Maybe it’s the old double standard again – people don’t call George Clooney a relationship failure, despite his conga line of disposable girlfriends.

Country music in general tends to promote traditional gender roles. The “good old country girl” has long tanned legs and likes to drink beer, but almost invariably she falls in love with a God-fearing cowboy, settles down and has a bunch of kids.

I don’t have a problem with that; heterosexual monogamy is swell if that’s what you’re into. But I really don’t think there’s one relationship format that works for everyone. Maybe Taylor would rather have lots of boyfriends than a husband.

So what if Taylor hasn’t found someone to fall in love with?


First snow

Why is Canadian Thanksgiving so much earlier than American Thanksgiving?

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot less to be thankful for in November in Canada.

October is all crisp skies, blazing leaves and pure sun. November means clouds, bare branches, mud and snow. Bleak and dreary.

This has been my view in the past. But lately I’ve come to appreciate this almost-winter season more.

November means the first, best snow. When snow covers the ground for the first time, it’s exciting. People mention it. “Hey, did you see the snow?” “Look outside, it’s snowing!” This is the last time snow will be news.

I went for a long run this morning and the snow crunched lightly under my shoes. Everyone I met greeted me, which is unusual, but there was a sense of solidarity. We were the winter warriors. The only ones to brave the blizzard.

I saw some hopeful kids trying to slide down a hill on Crazy Carpets, even though grass was still poking through the snow. I remember the feeling – when I was little, I would don my puffy snowsuit for the lightest dusting of flakes.

Snow has its own scent – it smells like fresh air on the rocks.

Unnatural beauty

In my Intro to Environmental Science class, we’ve been talking about environmental ethics. One of the ideas the prof has brought up has been the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. Basically, the idea is that the beauty of nature can be moral grounds for preserving it.

The problem I have with this is that beauty is so subjective. As well, we can’t really divorce appearance from knowledge. What I mean is that I think the Athabasca tar sands are ugly; but if I didn’t know the environmental destruction they cause, would I still think so? As a kid, I loved oil rainbows on the wet road until I found out what they were. So the aesthetics argument doesn’t really give me any way to evaluate how I should treat nature.


Light sweet crude from an Exxon production facility in the Gulf of Mexico

Source: gCaptain Maritime & Offshore News

Even though open-pit mining is intrusive and destructive, I can’t help admiring the flowing lines of this mine. The lines remind me of natural  rock strata.


Rio Tinto Argyle Diamond Mine, Australia

Source: Argyle Diamond Mine

Everyone appreciates a brilliant sunset, even though the intense colours are partly a result of fine particulates in the atmosphere. (Side note – these can come from natural sources too. Following the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, there were particularly vivd sunsets. Apparently Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and some of Turner’s works were inspired by these.)


Air pollution can make sunsets more vivid

Source: Wikipedia


JMW Turner

Source: TreeHugger

I’m not going to put a picture of “The Scream” because everyone knows what it looks like anyway. (I guess it should be “what they look like” because there are several versions).

Sorry, end of tangent.

I guess my point is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but also in the mind. We can’t separate what we see from what we know.

Peach’s birthday

Last night a bunch of us went to Milestones to celebrate Peach’s twentieth birthday (a week and a half after the fact). It was me, Ems (another friend from first year), Peach’s English housemate, and a bunch of her friends from theatre classes. Theatre people are the best.

The exchange student asked about meatloaf and everyone tried to describe it in a way that wasn’t revolting. It’s not easy. Our best efforts were “It’s like a meatball… in loaf form” and “A delectable blend of the finest meats compacted into the shape of a brick”. 

Hardly anyone had eaten lunch, so when our food came the table went silent for a good five minutes. Then when we ordered dessert Peach told me, “You look like you’re in a state of bliss”. It was a really good apple crisp, okay?

The only difficult part was having to talk to Peach’s manfriend, Wellington. He’s a mechanical engineering student and he takes a lot of pride in his major. He was bragging about how he knows more calculus than all his high school teachers now, so he could do their jobs. Yeah, right. I’ve got a pretty solid grasp on the alphabet but that doesn’t mean I could teach kindergarten. 

What I’ve learned in uni

Never go to Bulk Barn hungry. You’ll accidently buy five pounds of chocolate, candy-covered marshmallows, three different flavors of stuffed pretzels and all the candy that’s on sale. You won’t buy the quinoa, egg noodles and soy milk you had intended to pick up.

Charge your laptop whenever you get the chance. A seat in the library is hard to find at this time of year; it’s even harder if you need a socket as well. Bring your electricity from home.

Hunt down the free pens. At my school they have spring and fall open houses for high school students. These are gold. If you pick up enough free swag, you might never have to buy pens or pencils until you graduate. (This works for me because I look like I’m 14, but you might want to use caution if you’re 6’5″ with a full beard).

Everyone talks about the Freshman 15, but they don’t tell you about the Sophomore Slim-down. That’s when you have to cook your own meals for the first time and you lose weight because you’re too lazy/cheap to eat. 

Yeah, that’s “higher education” for you.



The sad truth is that I have to take three physics courses to get my degree. Fortunately, my school’s physics profs are unreasonably fantastic. One is a circus freak/performer and cat fanatic; the rest are just hilarious in general.

The prof I have this semester is a tiny guy with a weaselly face who looks no older than 17. He has a bone-dry twisted sense of humor. He makes non-Newtonian fluids interesting by showing us videos like this:

The downside of physics – well, it’s physics. And then there’s the Quiz Room (“the place dreams go to die”).

We have five physics quizzes, each worth ten percent. Instead of writing them in class, we go to this room that resembles a battery chicken farm. An overworked TA scans your student card and directs you to a carrell, where you have twenty minutes to write your quiz. The marking scheme is crazy: if you get 4 or less out of 10, it’s a zero. If you get 4 to 7.5 marks, that’s a 20%. An 8 or above counts as 100%.

There’s no better feeling than sailing out of the quiz room after scoring 100%. You think, “I’m a physics genius! Einstein ain’t got nothing on me.” All common sense suppressed, you don’t realize that this is just physics for physics-impaired bio kids. It’s a natural high.

If you get anything but the 100%, you crawl out and look for some place to cry.

I passed my quiz this morning, so the world looks like a pretty good place right now. CERN, if you’re recruiting, I might deign to work for you. Call me.

Don’t post it

Remember KONY 2012? I think we can all agree that the campaign told us a lot about campus culture. I’m not talking about the rise of slacktivism or the power of social networking – I’m referring to the obsession with posters. Will plastering public spaces with posters cause drastic social change? Please. Are posters even relevant anymore? I don’t think so.

All campus organizations, from the Emerald Ashborer Eradication League to the Monty Python Club, think that posters are the highest form of advertising. Walking through public spaces is like a walk in the woods as you’re surrounded by the gentle rustling of generations of curled-up posters.

No one ever removes a poster; they build up like geological strata. If you strip away enough layers you’ll find flyers advertising the Environment Association’s premiere showing of “An Inconvenient Truth”, or exhorting you to vote for Garth Whillikers in the 1978 student elections.

The irony is that no one reads them anymore. If an event isn’t on Facebook, no one’s going to show up. The only function these posters serve is to remind people who already know about the events. I know we Millenials are supposed to have short attention spans, but give us some credit here. We don’t need constant visual reminders of our plans for the weekend.

Then there’s the environmental cost to consider. Even if those posters are printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks, they take energy to print. It seems like a waste of resources to make these things that no one reads, especially considering that they’ll be used for a week at most before they’re covered up or ruined by rain.

So think of the trees. That ten-page philosophy paper might not be avoidable, but your Squirrel Emancipation Week poster is.


The Sunshine Blues

A friend of mine summed up why I love the blues.

“It’s like, life is sad and bad things happen, but that’s okay. There’s still sunshine. It’s worthwhile in the end.”

What he said has stuck with me because it’s true. When Muddy Waters wails, “Why are people like that?“, I can accept that sometimes people suck. They take your house and your phone (or farm, depending on what version you listen to), laugh behind your back, and are just awful sometimes. But it’s okay, it doesn’t make them bad people, and life is still worthwhile.

And when the bad black loneliness comes creeping up, I can listen to Geeshie Wiley crooning the Last Kind Words. This always makes me feel better, because I don’t understand the lyrics but the tone is true. Whoever Geeshie was, she sang the same song that’s always playing in a dark lane of my mind. I don’t feel so alone then. Other people have lived through this.

As Adam Gopnik’s doctor put it, “Life has many worthwhile aspects”. It’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s true and it’s enough.

With greatest hope,



Remember that sleepover game? I feel like I’m living it right now – but thankfully in reverse.

Unfortunately, I got a really subpar mark on my Environmental Science midterm. Fortunately, I still was far above the class average of 58%.

Unfortunately, I tried to take out some money from an ATM and my card was declined. Fortunately, it was a problem with the Bank of Montreal’s system rather than my account.

Unfortunately, I was driving home from Ottawa this weekend and witnessed a big crash. The car in front of mine rear-ended the next and careened off into the guard rail. Both were badly crumpled up. Fortunately, no one was hurt and my car wasn’t involved.

Unfortunately, I arrived home to find that water from the shower was seeping through the floor and making the paint bubble from the walls.

Fortunately, I have food and warmth and safety. I was at a conference on refugee issues this Thursday to Saturday, and I’m realizing more how lucky I am. These things we take for granted, eh?

Good luck for the week to come!