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All In Hand

Here you'll find the sum total of Miss Vicky's Remarks thus far.

The Webgeek's Hallowe'en Treat

The Webgeek Mon Oct 31, 2005


Updated for Flander's Sanity


Project Porchlight

Miss Vicky Fri Oct 28, 2005

Project Porchlight is an excellent campaign designed to raise awareness about climate change and help households take direct action to help reduce pollution. It's a simple idea: provide each home with one free compact flourescent lightbulb for their porch light. But the impact is profound - it would have the same effect as taking 66,000 cars off the road. And using CF light bulbs saves you money!

The campaign is kicking off tomorrow in Ottawa South with an event at the Giant Tiger at 2480 Walkley Road. They'll be taking names of volunteers to help deliver 50,000 light bulbs.

Maybe we can do Kitchissippi next - Miss Vicky's Finishing School has already started using compact flourescent light bulbs, and she'd be happy to help others make the switch! Anyone interested in helping out?


Give me a break....

Miss Vicky Fri Oct 28, 2005

An independent report by McGill's Dean of Law has confirmed Maher Arar was tortured in Syria. The Citizen reports the following reaction from the feds:

The findings prompted an angry reaction yesterday from Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, who called in the Syrian ambassador and demanded a swift and thorough investigation. "I have asked that the government of Syria do actually follow up on these investigations and convict the individuals that would have perpetrated these acts," he told reporters.

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan called the actions of Syrian officials "shocking."

Now they demand an investigation? Maher Arar emerging shaken from the Montreal airport after a year's absence wasn't enough? Or his detailed written account? Countless press conferences demanding a public inquiry? A well-documented record of torture and other violations of human rights in Syria?

What's shocking here is the complicity of our federal government in Arar's deportation and his incarceration in Syria, their unwillingness to act to secure his release, the delays in calling an inqury and their resistance to date to acknowledge that what happened to Arar.... Not to mention the difficulties getting information out of the government and its agencies to the inquiry, their insistence on suppressing important documentation - which sort of begs the question of what makes this inquiry "public". It's pretty shameless of our government to be demanding action by Syria now. Hello Pot? Meet Kettle.


Miss Vicky Thu Oct 27, 2005

So the bylaw went down last night in a tie vote. Councillors will reconsider the issue on November 9. But the way the debate was going last night, I'm not sure that there's a lot of room for movement. I tuned in via the Web (am working in Newfoundland this week) for bits of the debate (which went on for several hours), and as I indicated last night, it was kind of bizarre. Opponents seemed to keep insisting there is not enough scientific evidence about the damage pesticides cause, despite overwhelming support for a ban from the medical community and more than enough reports about the links between pesticide use and various forms of cancer. In the end, though, two concerns dominated: a lack of clarity about whether or not the bylaw would apply to rural communities and the definition of the term "infestation".

There were many attempts to find a compromise or stall the consideration of the bylaw. Rick Chiarelli brought forward a proposal to put the issue to a referendum; this was soundly defeated (and rightly so - what do we elect councillors for, after all?). Maria McRae tried to allow pesticide application if a lawn had more than 25% weeds, a "compromise" described by Jacques Legendre (who gave some kick-ass speeches last night, BTW) as a "fig leaf", since most lawns have at least 20% weeds at any given time. That was defeated as well, thank goodness. The last thing we need is a bylaw that allows council to claim it's taking action while providing absolutely no impact.

I can't comment too much on the rural issue, and this disturbs me. Council went into camera to discuss the legal implications of the by-law - I am assuming that they were told by city staff that the bylaw could be open to legal challenge because it specifically exempts rural communities. There was open speculation that the bylaw had been constructed with the full knowledge that it could be vulnerable so as to avoid the urban/rural split that frequently hamstrings our municipal council. If it was, it sure backfired, since the ambiguity about whether it would end up impacting the rural communities anyway certainly firmed up opposition from folks who were reportedly "on the fence" (I put that in quotations because it seemed to me last night that certain councillors grasped on to the process issues like shipwreck survivors cling to life preservers, leading me to wonder whether they were really on the fence in the first place). I look forward to hearing more on this particular aspect of the issue. One thing's for sure; we'll be hearing about this at the upcoming Rural Summit.

How did our councillor vote? Against. And I think he supported the referendum motion. What I caught of his speeches seemed preoccupied with process, not substance. And for an urban councillor, he seemed highly concerned with the rural issue. I look forward to hearing more from him.

Cdn Blog Awards - Aw, Shucks

Miss Vicky Wed Oct 26, 2005

A fellow blogger writes:

Hope you don't mind but I nominated your blog for Best New Cnd.Blog over at http://cba.myblahg.com/. Such awards don't mean much,and in the grand scheme of things absolutly nothing, but I still feel your site is worthy of recognition.Keep up the good work.

Wow! Thanks so much! You are indeed a class act, and I appreciate the kudos.

The awards are run by Robert over at My Blahg. He'll be taking nominations until November 20, and then the voting begins. There's a lot of great blogs out there, so nominate away!


Pesticide debate ongoing

Miss Vicky Wed Oct 26, 2005

Tuning in to city council debate.... things are not looking good for the pesticide by-law. It's a bizarre debate, really. And disappointing.

Dennis' Reading List

Miss Vicky Tue Oct 25, 2005

pinklitva writes:

Dear Miss vicky
I am trying to broaden the horizons of a lovely 13.5 year boy by encouraging him to read different books. He is an avid reader but I feel the school system fails to actually ecourage childrent to read literature. Consequently I turn to you Miss Vicky for advice as to what Dennis (my son) should read to broaden his mind. Perhaps your readers might have some thoughts on important books that young people should read? We are currently reading To Kill and Mockingbird and then will turn our attention to Maya Angelou as he is studying the Civil Rights Movement. However, we are open to all suggestions after that

My goodness, is he a teenager already?!?! Seems just last week he was falling for my annual phone calls masquerading as the Easter Bunny. Sigh.

I am glad to hear that Dennis enjoys reading. Most of all, he should be encouraged to figure out what kind of stuff he likes and to pursue those interests. It's good to take in the capital-L-Lit'rature (whether it's traditional classics or contemporary masterpieces), but it's also important to keep it fun. One of the drawbacks of doing a PhD in Literature is that reading becomes work - which may explain my current penchant for consumable fiction (i.e. the cheesy chick mystery).

That being said, let me offer up a few suggestions, and encourage my Faithful Legion to chime in with their own. I'll start with the Usual Suspects - the works normally referred to as must-reads (mostly by white guys, of course, but let's leave that aside for now).

Don Quixote - a challenging read, in that it's very long and in some parts quite complex, but also highly entertaining.
Moby-Dick - also challenging, but worth it.
1984 This will provoke interesting supper-table conversation.
Gulliver's Travels
Jane Austen - pick your favourite, pinklitva.
Dickens - maybe A Tale of Two Cities. Personally, I love Bleak House but it's pretty long.
Golding - he's probably already read The Lord of the Flies but I thought I'd mention it anyway

I could go on, but there are plenty of lists of the Usual Suspects on the 'net.

You could pair up some things - like Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, or Robinson Crusoe and Coetzee's Foe

Stuff I read because I had to but am glad I did
Voltaire's Candide
Stendahl's The Red and the Black

Stuff I really like that might appeal to Dennis:
Italo Calvino The Baron in the Trees or his other stuff that is rooted in Italian folktales

Stuff I used to teach:
Timothy Findley's The Wars
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

Never taught it but wish I had
Green Grass, Running Water, Thomas King

Follow-ups to the civil rights reading:
Toni Morrison's Beloved
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin
might be interesting to add in some African stuff - like Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

If he likes action/adventure
Dumas - The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo
Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - you know, that kind of stuff

Stuff I read when I was 13:
Mary Stewart's series on Merlin/Arthur
Graham Greene - there was a lot around the house
Joyce - Portrait of the Artist
Tolkein - the usual stuff, really. plus anything I could get my hands on. I consumed fiction. The drawback of this approach is that you don't remember what you've read.

I'll leave it to the Webgeek to recommend classic scifi. But I will suggest Douglas Adams' Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy. I certainly got lots of laughs out of it when I was younger!

When I get back from Newfoundland I'll peruse my contemporary fiction collection and come up with a few more

Looking at this list, it's pretty White and Western and pretty male... a testament to my education, I suppose. Which really sucks. There is so much more available to readers now - novels in translation from all over the world, novels in English from India, the Caribbean, Africa, and so on. It's a bit overwhelming, so I suppose the only thing to do is jump in with both feet. Thank goodness for library cards!

Municipal roundup

Miss Vicky Mon Oct 24, 2005

Thank goodness for Wi-Fi.... am logging in today from the Halifax airport. I have a bit of a break before my flight to St. John's, where I'll be spending the week. But I thought I'd pass along a few tidbits regarding this week's city council meeting. Among the items on the agenda:

Kirkwood traffic calming. You'll recall our ward's councillor has been advocating for the removal of the traffic calming measures along Kirkwood, claiming he's been inundated with complaints and they aren't working. A recent review of the measures indicates otherwise, and local community associations think it's working fine (in fact, they're calling for similar initiatives on Churchill). The Transportation committee has voted to retain them; the motion will be considered by council this week. Has our councillor seen the error of his ways or is he determined to push ahead?

Pesticide bylaw. I've already blogged enough about this. According to my sources with the Coalition for a Healthy Ottawa, the vote will be close, and we can anticipate a vigorous debate. There will be a rally in support of the bylaw at Festival Plaza at noon on Wednesday.

Apparently the province has decided to drop the notion of expanding the exit from the Queensway at Island Park - they had proposed a roundabout through the Hampton Park greenspace. Hampton Park residents were not at all happy about this idea, and it looks like their mobilization has paid off.

And in property tax news, Councillor Alex Cullen is holding a public meeting on the assessment issue at 7 pm Thursday October 27 at the Ron Kolbus-Lakeside Centre in Britannia Park. There will be representatives from the City of Ottawa finance department, MPAC, the Ontario Ministry of Finance and Ottawa-West Nepean MPP Jim Watson. Some of the community associations are talking about holding similar meetings - perhaps we can get one going in Kitchissippi.

Anyone strolling along Wellington Street West over the last couple of months might have noticed a few surveyors checking out the 'hood. Replacement of water and sewer infrastructure and street reconstruction is taking place all over the city - my street was done a couple of years ago, Parkdale is a mess now, as is the stretch between Western and Island Park. The big dig is slowly working its way east down Wellington, and plans for the next phase are underway. Can we use this reconstruction to improve our streetscape and bring some creative energy to our mainstreet? It looks like a Community Design Plan is in the works, so the final project won't just be up to the engineers. Get your thinking caps on, folks - there will be lots of talk about this in the coming months!

Turf War

Miss Vicky Fri Oct 21, 2005

Apparently the Health and Social Services Committee was packed yesterday - over 100 people and organizations showed up to make presentations about the proposed pesticide by-law. The committee is having a special meeting today to debate the motion and make a recommendation to council. It remains to be seen what they will decide - there was a good showing from folks on both sides of the debate.

Arguments against the ban seem to be limited to the following:

1) "If these products were so dangerous, why hasn't the government banned them? Why arent you pressuring them?"

Some organizations are pressuring the federal government to take action, and there has been plenty of debate on this issue in the last several years. If I recall correctly, a parliamentary committee chaired by Charles Caccia recommended the gradual phasing-out of cosmetic pesticides a few years ago. I think the recommendations were not acted upon by the government at the time - rather, they mandated a review of currently approved pesticide products (there are over 3000 of them), many of which hadn't been reviewed in decades. I read on this New Brunswick site that the Federal Pest Control Products Act hasn't been amended in any major way since 1969 - despite the huge amounts of research that has been conducted since then.

Canada doesn't have a particularly good record at investigating or regulating toxic substances, especially when industry raises its voice against any form of regulation - heck, we're still exporting asbestos! It seems to me the call to eliminate pesticide use is coming from the (*ahem*) grassroots, and once more communities take action, other levels of government will eventually catch up. That's not entirely a bad thing.

"This will hurt landscaping businesses"

I haven't heard any evidence that bans were disasters for businesses elsewhere. In fact, many are already touting organic and pesticide-free alternatives, recognizing there is a market out there. Yes, they would need to evolve, by phasing out their use of harmful chemicals. But people still want good looking lawns and weed-free gardens, and there are less harmful ways of getting one. One could see this as an opportunity for business, rather than a death knell.

"You can't tell me what to do on my property"

When what you do on your property affects the health and safety of others, they can. In June, 2001 the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that grants municipalities across Canada the right to ban cosmetic pesticide use on public and private property. The judgement endorsed the 'precautionary principle'- a concept in international law arguing that it is better to be safe than sorry.


Some 'splaining to do

Miss Vicky Thu Oct 20, 2005

Woke up to a horrifying interview on Ottawa Morning with a young woman whose family members were pepper sprayed, beaten and arrested by police earlier this week. It's not clear what interested the police in the first place - the family was gathering and being noisy, but all in the privacy of their home. According to the woman being interviewed, she stepped outside to get some air and was approached by an officer, who asked what was going on and insisted on going inside. She told him it wasn't necessary, and mayhem ensued, including liberal use of pepper spray and batons to subdue the family members (some of whom were hospitalized as a result - including a 2 month old infant). No explanation from the police yet - it all sounds like a massive overreaction on their part.

There are a couple of issues here - first, what possible reason could the police have had for wanting to enter a noisy family gathering in a private home? Second, why use force, and specifically pepper spray, especially in an enclosed setting where children were present? Was race a factor in the police officers' decsions and approaches (the family is Lebanese)? Finally, how can someone be charged with obstructing justice when there was no justice to obstruct?

Hopefully we'll hear the other side of the story soon.

In the meantime, folks might want to check out this resource about police powers. Page 8, "What are my rights if the police ask to enter my home?" is particularly enlightening.

added later: here's the link to the CBC story. Apparently the police have appointed a superintendent to look into the matter. Interestinlgy, this all comes on the day they announce they've arrested a suspect in Ardeth Wood's murder - a long-awaited piece of good news from the police service.

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