What I Learned In The Forest

When Fernie was too hot, we took a walk
through old-growth cedar forests1trail description: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/british-columbia/old-growth-trail to a lake
where thousand-year-old canopies could block
the sun, and underfoot a carpet make.

To soothe my feet and pacify my mind
I took my shoes off, spiting risk of hurt
and marveled that my senses now could find
the vegetation cooler than the dirt.

Of course! Plants take the sun’s incoming heat
and feed the beasts, in turn each others’ food,
but what’s not needed slowly turns to peat
the Earth kept mild2see https://www.zylstra.org/blog/2019/07/novacene-ais-garden-of-eden/ by entropy so skewed3apologies https://books.google.ca/books?id=jBtDSf1VzQkC&pg=PT86&lpg=PT86&dq=distorted+entropy+called+life&source=bl&ots=KFpLeLxHjY&sig=ACfU3U2wEGCZ37WlVqJVV2r5hEglURy2TA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjN_Pm48YjkAhXnkOAKHXkaC5YQ6AEwC3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=distorted%20entropy%20called%20life&f=false.

But federal funding for the CPR4😬👀 https://fernie.com/about-fernie/history/the-kootenay-railway-wars/
made coal5https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Historical_Geology/Peat_and_coal a fuel that we’ve6https://www.google.com/maps/@49.7175147,-114.8403463,3a,25y,109.11h,92.6t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sJDBHnJJ-xD3espiMBxzLiA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 burned out7subtle? nope. https://lefaive.ca/2019/08/bleep-bloop-am-i-adhd-or-just-a-piece-of-shit/ thus far8https://ruk.ca/content/reducing-emissions-slow-and-costly.

A lot to unpack

I already put away most of my luggage from that incredibly long vacation at Mom’s (that by the way felt more like a series of weekends – over before I knew it). But I brought all my childhood journals, and am now in the process of “organizing” them, starting with labeling them with their date ranges, and maybe eventually itemized entry dates or topics if I have time. (An archivist I am not; I have no idea what I’m doing.)

But reading what I wrote over some particularly memorable periods of my life I realize I focused on unpacking what was bothering me, and left out a lot of the good that happened. A lot of stuff I’d like to remember better.

So, here are the highlights of What I Did On My Summer Vacation!

  • I drove Mom’s car. I wrote about it on instagram, but this car meant a lot to me (yes it’s the same one she had when I was growing up).
  • I drove out to the mountains with Mom. We went to Canmore (for fun and reconnaissance) and then we went to Canmore again (for mountain biking) and again (for french pastries) and again (for more mountain biking) so I think that’s a record.
  • I hung out with a friend from high school who I’ve gotten to know better on the internet in recent years. We saw John Wick 3 and then had a heart-full conversation for hours over dinner. It was amazing.
  • I read a lot of N. K. Jemisin. When I was done my “plane book” (tip: check the number of pages before buying a plane book from Amazon. Actually don’t buy from Amazon. Look I was leaving soon and the local bookstore didn’t have it), I renewed my Calgary Public Library card and borrowed another.
  • We went shopping at MEC a little (I guess I went to MEC four times this trip, which is also a record).
  • We drove to Sundre to buy a second-hand backpack, and saw beautiful fields of Canola (hi, China!) and got caught in a hailstorm (hi, Global Warming!)
  • Alex arrived and we drove to Mount Robson. Mom’s car struggled to get up the Icefield Parkway but we made it. We saw the peak of Mount Robson with no clouds. Once.
  • Alex and I and J___ and J___ hiked up to Berg Lake! I sat on a bench and looked at a glacier.
  • I laid on a beach and looked at a glacier. I communed with the glacier.

Glaciers are strange beasts. They are fossilized snow. They calve, they break, they melt and retreat but they are renewed as the ice forms and flows downwards. A solid fluid at this massive scale. What is the Reynold’s Number of a glacier? [I can google this now, it’s 10^-11] They exfoliate mountains, but to the mountains they must seem like mayflies. They are so blue. They creak and groan. They look like you could reach out and touch them when they’re kilometers away. They devour people. The  awe I felt, of something so otherworldly, rivaled the best science fiction. Glaciers. They store water at the top of the earth so it can flow slowly into the oceans. But they exist in such a delicate thermal balance – growing in winter, shrinking in summer. And they’ve been shrinking, overall, for decades now. What rivers will be dry when the glaciers vanish? Can we unfuck our planet?

  • Alex and I hiked up to Robson Glacier. It looked like a small walk to the toe. Two hours later, i got my wish, and touched ice. It felt old. I also may have licked it [kids! this is not advisable]. It tasted cold.
  • We saw the Spiral Tunnels and watched a train go through.
  • We drove to Fernie to pick Saskatoon berries, but there were none.
  • We saw the old growth forest at Island Lake Lodge, and we saw the beach at Kikomun Creek Provincial Park. They are wildly different ecosystems, only a half hour drive apart.
  • Mom got sick, and drank a lot of Gatorade (only the Glacier Frost flavour because it had the least food colouring).
  • We saw a Shakespeare at the Bow, and laughed our asses off (heh) at A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • I really love mountain biking, and will endeavour to get out more.

But did I accomplish what I wanted to on this vacation? According to a text to a friend, I planned to:

do almost nothing because I’m exhausted of feeling like I’m failing? Try to forget about work? Try to figure out why I am the way I am. And maybe solve capitalism.

Points one and two were a qualified success. Points three and four… well I’ve got a lot more unpacking to do.


Bleep Bloop (Am I ADHD or just a piece of shit?)

Contains: mental health topics, including seeking emergency help.

I’m back to work tomorrow, and I’m terrified. I was hoping that a full 4 weeks of vacation would bring me back that vigor, that ambition, that I-can-do-all-the-things-and-be-calm-about-it feeling that I felt two years ago, after hiking the West Coast Trail.

I felt alive. I wanted to wake up in the morning and take on the day. I used my bullet journal extensively, even starting each morning by writing in it on the porch with my coffee. I wanted – expected – to have that feeling back by now. Not that productivity is the goal of vacation, but… it would have felt nice.

Then I read this comic by ADHD Alien (original post)

and hoo-boy that sounds familiar. I’ve been in the “quitting” stage for a good half-year now, in one way or another. Burnout is what brought me to the hospital, about a month before my vacation.

But of course, an inner voice tells me that relating to self-reported ADHD symptoms does not a diagnosis make. Since it’s gotten worse in the last few years (and I don’t remember it being this bad in childhood), it probably isn’t “legitimate” according to the DSM-5 and I am deficient – intellectually, morally – if I don’t pull my own shit together. And even if I do deserve to claim a disability, if i don’t internalize that comic right now and fix my ways, then I’m just being willfully useless.

Out loud, now, Rosie: “That is bullshit.” Another thing I struggle with is calling out the inner narrative when it criticizes me. I’d rather appease “them” by going along with the bullshit, to my own self-detriment, until I can’t anymore and I can point to myself and say “look at what you did to me” than push back. So even writing that down was a small act of injury, which I took in order to practice calling bullshit (and  believing myself when I do). I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do. Some inner voices don’t deserve to see the light of day.

So I really, really hope that that PEI takes action on the 1000-patient psychiatric waiting list that I’m on. But if the 5 years I’ve been on the 4-year-long family doctor waiting list is any indication, it’ll be a little while.

I’ll get back into the swing, but I might have to take it slow. Assistance, as described in the comic above, would be appreciated.

I got my first spam comments, for buying cheap [REDACTED] to which I’m allergic. I guess I’m a real live website now and should probably not put personal information out there that could be used against me.


Calgary Transit

Oh, here we go, transit woes.

I’m visiting Mom in Calgary and to get to downtown (or anywhere, really) it’s a bus to a C-train, to maybe another bus.

A day pass for transit normally costs about 3x a single fare (when purchased in a 10-pack of tickets). During Stampede week, it’s the price of 2 tickets.

Bus passes are only available at c-train stations. And – here’s the rub – they’re only available the same day that you’re going to use them.

Mom and I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with the help line last night, trying to figure out why this is. For someone in the suburbs like us, you have to spend a ticket to get a day-pass?

Apparently, day passes used to be sold at convenience stores, but (as CT still uses the paper-based system the had since the early 90’s when I moved here) they would get photocopied and re-sold. Sure enough, a half-decent colour copier could make a very good clone – they don’t have the silvery holographic stuff that monthly passes do. So, I get that.

But then the employee mentioned “this way’s okay for park-n-ride users.”

Call me indignant, but a transit system that assumes you’re going to drive the first leg of the trip is not a transit system.

Luckily, I explained that Mom and I were going downtown and the bus driver let me on and then had a long conversation with Mom about Montreal, during which the entire bus got to hear my life story, as my face got redder and redder.

Using FreshRSS to “Like” blog posts via Webmention – on WordPress

Continuing Peter’s work on hooking up FreshRSS with Drupal to “like” posts, I wanted to do the same on my WordPress site. Knowing nothing about FreshRSS nor WordPress, and unable to peer into the FreshRSS database (the .sqlite file is encrypted?), I went the route (lol) less travelled by, and coded a FreshRSS plugin. Hey, turns out I didn’t need much MVC framework, once I grokked how the CustomCSS plugin worked.

I’m too tired to include a full walkthrough, because I’ve been at this since 8am. Here’s the code on Github. I had to hack FreshRSS so that it fired a hook after a successful “favourite”. I also noticed that poetry wasn’t showing up well on FreshRSS because of a workaround from five years ago, so I submitted my first blogging-related pull request.

After reading Ton’s description of setting up a network of test sites, I did my debugging on a pair of test subdomains. The sites that have been “Liking” each other all day are Crowley and Aziraphale. 😈😇

Cool Kid Clout

After getting frustrated with Commafeed and its refusal to actually refresh, I finally got FreshRSS installed. I insisted on making a subdomain (rss dot lefaive dot ca) and it took embarrassingly long to get configured correctly. (You have to add a CNAME record with the registrar as well as make and enable a vhost, and then make sure that the root directory is readable by your webserver sheesh Rosie what were you thinking).

the kid’s own rss feed reader

Next up: publishing my own reading list/OPML file, hooking up webmentions so I can “Like” from my RSS reader, and installing RSS Bridge so I can Instagram from home. #millennialNeeds

Rainy Weekend Comic Reviews

@thecomichunter has a permanent 2-for-1 sale on used comics, so on Friday I found two Volumes 1 of series I haven’t read, that were both priced at $9.99.

The Wicked + The Divine. Vol. 1, The Faust Act. Image Comics.

I’ve been meaning to read this comic for a while, since I heard it was captivating, “Gaimanesque,” and non-cis-white-hetero-dude-centric. But every damn time I walked into the comic book store, I forgot it’s dang name. Cue (at least 4 times): “Do you have The Sacred and The Profane. Or something like that? The Cursed and the Blessed? Angels and Demons?!” But then (when I finally found Vol 1) I got cold feet, because it looked awfully violent and it had a kind of cheesy premise:

Every ninety years twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.

Back cover, Vol. 1

But I gave it a shot, and oh gods I’m so glad I did. “Set my heart aflame” all right. If I were to “8th-grade-book-report” this [source, and what I’m actually referring to as told by Tufekci and Ellis], I’d say the theme is the difference between agency and power. As Baal says at the beginning of Issue 4,

“We don’t get to change anything. We get to change you, and then you choose what to do with it.”

page not numbered

In today’s world of “influencer gods” (and if you know me, Tufekci and Ellis are core to my own personal pantheon), attention and admiration is a form of power, but under The Algorithms it’s a power to keep doing that thing you’re doing that pleases the masses. Pleases, and maybe shapes. Can the millions of rabid fans of Natalie Wynn and Oliver Thorn actually change the world? Stop global warming, implement UBI, and abolish property? Maybe, if we get our fucking act together. But those “gods” can’t do it on their own.

Back to the book. When I say it is non-cis-white-hetero-dude centric, I mean there are maaaayyybe two named characters who fit that description, but barely get any lines. Basically everybody is female, and has a ton of power, and it’s great. And when they talk about sex (and they do, a lot) it’s because rock-star-power (often) includes being a sex god, and they own it. They are gooooorrrgeoooouuuss but their bodies are never played up for a (presumed straight male) reader to gaze at. If you like women dressed as Bowie, though, you might want to find a towel. Why am I going on about this? I’ll get there…

Our audience-insert (and Faustian) character is Laura, a teen girl who drops out of school to be a groupie. This is such a departure from how other comic books (and society in general) have treated this stereotype of rabid super-fan, and the concept of female fandom in general. That was refreshing, though (spoilers!) I get the feeling that she’s “more than” the normal teenager that she seems.

I’m terrible at reviews, but here are some stray thoughts:

  1. I did not get all the musical references, but a quick bit of Googling made Laura and Luci’s first conversation a little bit clearer. Apparently they have an accompanying #wicdiv playlist? Makes me feel a little bit better about including an audio suggestion in my last college paper.
  2. I was tickled by how Laura was portrayed at being bad at research (“oh god no don’t make me go to page 2 of google”) before being ribbed about it by a woman with a Masters’ degree (“Little Miss My-first-search-engine”). Info literacy ftw!
  3. “1-2-3-4” is super cute motif and I wish I could work it in here somehow. Oh. Heh.
  4. The art was amazing, the use of panels and space and eyeflow and “camera” angles was quite excellent.

In contrast:

Ex Machina. Book 1: The First Hundred Days. DC Comics.

I liked Brian K. Vaughan’s work in Saga, though to be honest I got a bit bored because it felt like it was going nowhere, and quit reading a while ago. This was quite different, and, sigh, I think I’ll quit reading now.

Other reviewers took issue with the scale of the narrative and the presence (or lack thereof) of New York City as a character in its own right. I can agree, though am not an expert storyteller and did not pick up on those myself. But it just seems like it’s not a story worth sticking around for.

Premise: A civil engineer gets superpowers from a mysterious probably-alien object and becomes Magneto-for-all-things-mechanical. After a short misguided career as a vigilante, “The Great Machine” hangs up the helmet and becomes mayor of New York City. Oh, this engineer is a straight white cis het dude. So, classic power fantasy meets reality makes this a “modern” comic. He has to deal with an attempted assassination, a couple of murders during a blizzard, and a publicity debacle including racially-charged artwork at a publically-funded museum. His attempts at getting involved usually just screw things up more, and supporting characters actually solve all the narrative’s problems. Yet this is somehow his story – of how hard it is to rule a city that doesn’t want to be governed, when you have to consider so much more than yourself. *eyeroll*. There’s also a bunch of casual racism, homophobia, ableism, and misogyny. We usually say “it didn’t age well” but you know what? It was hurtful then too. Oh, I promised to get back to the male gaze, but I really don’t want to. It’s there. It’s gross.

The art feels claustrophobic, which is uncomfortable but suits the theme, and interestingly? the fun-shit-in-the-back-of-the-comic-book shows how they created the storyboards using photographs of actors, then illustrated based on that. It’s lifelike, I guess, but feels creatively constrained, and ends up looking a little tableau-ish.

The Black character was cast as a white actor.

So I guess it embodies its own theme, of the challenges faced by well-intentioned white guys when trying to fix “the great machine” of society on their own, without interrogating how the machine works, who it runs for, or whether mechanical determinism is a good metaphor for society in the first place.

[Edited because I didn’t want to stand behind the phrase “it didn’t age well”.]

Territory Acknowledgements

I am writing this on the traditional and present homeland of the L’nui Mnikuk and Epekwitk First Nations. Under the Peace and Friendship Treaties, this territory – as part of Mi’kma’ki – was never surrendered, and is still Mi’kmaq land.

Ton, you asked “what was the import” of the paragraph like that in my last post, the one about the garden.

Short answer, it’s a territory acknowledgement. It’s a thing that’s become common in Canada at the beginning of a meeting or ceremony, to show our respect to the Indigenous Peoples who were here first, as part of the ongoing project of Reconciliation.

Also, what I just said is a steaming pile of bullshit.

Because territory acknowledgements are not reconciliation. They can be, and are in danger of becoming more frequently, an easy way to say you did something, while actually not doing anything at all. It’s a transposition of the Catholic ritual of absolution, a salve for the guilty white conscience. It lets us pat ourselves on the back. We did dun good. Chelsea Vowel (âpihtawikosisân) wrote an excellent analysis of this. So what’s the import? Is it just performative wokeness, a transaction for social capital in front of other Lefties?

This morning, trying not to get anything wrong, I read the texts of the Peace and Friendship Treaties (1752 and 1761-62) for the first time. In writing this post, I learned the Mi’kmaq name of the Lennox Island First Nation. By doing this I’m educating myself, realizing how much I don’t know.

It was 2010 when I saw this mural in Montreal: NO OLYMPICS ON STOLEN NATIVE LAND.

I remember how uncomfortable it made me. I didn’t like how big and in-your-face it was. Stolen land? Isn’t that a bit harsh? What do they intend to gain by calling it that? Just make us feel guilty and shitty about something awesome like the Olympics? It’s too late now anyway, it’s happening. If land theft happened, it was so, so long ago. What are we supposed to do, just pick up and walk away from where we live?? Just… die??

White fragility is a thing.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their report in 2015, they called (among other things) for educational institutions to be truthful about the history of Canada. I mean, according to my grade 8 social studies, history started in 1534 when Jacques Cartier was welcomed(!) by the Natives and developed right up till Canada became Canada in 1867. We didn’t learn about the Treaties. We didn’t learn about the Indian Act. We didn’t really learn about the harm done by Residential Schools. We didn’t learn about the 60’s Scoop, or the continued forced removal of indigenous children from their families. And of course we didn’t learn about the many ways in which Indigenous communities are currently being denied clean drinking water, health care, education, criminal justice, acceptable housing, food security, self-determination, sovereignty over their land, and even a planet that can sustain human life. These are Treaty rights, Indigenous Rights, and Human Rights. But the idea that this country was and is built on strategies for wiping out ethnic groups i.e. genocide goes against our cultivated self-image as a smiling, multicultural, meritocracy.

For me, it all fell apart when I learned about the Doctrine of Discovery. I mean, I had kind of assumed that people could move to wherever they wanted to and make peace with (or take over from) whoever lived there. Isn’t that just human nature, back to the Roman Empire and before? Well, no. This 15th century Papal Bull, that says that non-Christians are non-people, gives Christian explorers the “right” to claim “un-exploited” land as their own. Which is what happened. Which led to settlers, the violent removal of Indigenous people, and a system of Deeds of Conveyance of land right up to the one I signed in “the year of our Lord [sic] Two Thousand and Sixteen.”

So when I cultivate a garden with European plants, on this “parcel of land lying and being part of Common Lot Number Thirteen in the Common of Charlottetown,” I am particularly conscious of how my life is a continuation of settler colonialism.

And I say it, because hearing others say it made me realize how much I had to learn. I learned from Indigenous activists, who are doing incredible work (and putting up with disgusting amounts of abuse). I learn from Elders, who I have been fortunate to hear speak at UPEI. I learn from friends, who have been doing this work for longer, and far better than I have.

I say the land acknowledgement because it makes me uncomfortable, and hopefully makes other settlers uncomfortable and start to question. The education piece has a long way to go.

But as Pam Palmater writes, land acknowledgements and self-education are not reconciliation. They’re the bare fucking minimum we should have been doing all along.

We should be demanding our governments enact the TRC’s Calls to Action and the NI-MMIWG’s Calls for Justice. Taking action to stop pipelines, protect waterways and water tables. We need to end the exploitation economy.

That’s the reconciliation work I should be doing, and haven’t even started yet.