Sunday, December 21, 2008

Courtesy of a friend

One of my friends shared an interesting theory with me this morning.

First, he informed me that he'd finally found a counter-argument to, and I quote, "all the people who are like "this world is fucked, I don't want to bring any children into it so no kids for me" argument."

Naturally, I was intrigued.

Basically, he says it's a lame excuse, because most of the people who say that are, simply put, smart people. And since smart people tend to end up with smart people, we also end up with couples that are made up of two not-so-smart people.

Think about it.

To be blunt... if two dumb people procreate, chances are we'll end up with a pretty dumb kid. (No offense intended - just explaining the theory). Sure, statistically, we could also end up with a super smart kid, but that's not the usual case.

Similarly, if two smart people breed, we will most likely end up with a smart kid. Perhaps a super smart kid. Also, there's a small chance of them having a super dumb kid, but once again, those chances are slim.

However, if the smart people don't believe in raising children in a messed up world, they won't breed. The "dumb" people, however, will continue to have kids, thereby increasing the number of "dumb" people in the world, and therefore probably contributing to making the world an even more messed up place, since the proportion of smart to dumb people will decrease dramatically.

Therefore, my friend argues that smart people who say they believe that their kids should have a better life should in fact have kids so that they can change the world with all their smart ideas... Darwin style.

And eventually, we'd end up with a better world that people might actually want to raise kids in, more often than not.

That's a pretty smart theory there buddy... Wanna breed?

Friday, December 19, 2008


Lately, I've been looking for new ways to detox.

Despite my fairly calm, easy life, I've been very stressed. I guess the whole job searching thing will do that to you. Not to mention unexpected dental fees, crazy work hours, deadlines, insane travel time to get anywhere that's anywhere, and a busy home life. Add to that personal stress like potential relationships, tricky friendships, family visits, and PMSing, and you've got my life.

Understandably, I can be a ball of nerves at times.

I tried taking baths, and that worked for a while. But sometimes you're just too exhausted for a bath - and fear falling asleep and sinking lower and lower in the not nearly big enough tub - or more likely, you just don't have time to relax and detox in the bath. Or the will for it.

I tried candles and incense, but as much as I try to contain it to my room, it does flow into the rest of the house, to everyone else's detriment - which just causes additional stress and frustration.

Yoga's been a great help but it just hasn't been as mind-clearing as usual in the past few weeks... Perhaps because I have too much on my mind or maybe because it's often my only form of mental relaxation. Random meditation/breathing exercises at home are a temporary solution, but consequently the positive effects don't stick around for long.

Music has been kinda working, but as much as I love Britney Spears' new CD, listening to Circus on repeat just won't cut it. Classical music worked on one day, the Star Trek soundtrack on another. Random country music favourites also help, but they're just not mind-numbing enough. In fact, I'd say they're thought provoking with their catchy tunes and deep lyrics.

So what else can I try?

My problem is that I tend to want to avoid thinking about several issues at the same time, and while one solution will take care of one of the negative thoughts, it might bring up another. It's a bit of a vicious circle, and I'm not quite sure how to deal with it, other than doubling up on the yoga - which would be both expensive and taxing on the body. Seriously folks, after a good, active yoga session, my body honestly doesn't wanna stretch and bend like that again for oh, about a week or so.

And as much as I look forward to going to work as a form of entertainment - because of the excellent fun I have with my coworkers, the excitment in the air, and, of course, the hockey, work itself can be a cause of stress - or at least a reminder of it.

So I've taken to filling out surveys. Every night before I go to bed. Or at least, that's what I was doing a few weeks ago. Of course, everyone was in exams - or stressed out over the upcoming holidays - and so I had a constant string of new questionnaires to fill in, courtesy of friends' Facebook notes. Similarly, they'd feed my latest obsession by filling in the surveys I posted for procrastination purposes. Which fueled my search for more detailed and creative surveys to answer.

I've stopped doing the "must fill uber long survey instead of sleep" thing - mostly because I want to spend more time reading before bed, but when I feel particularly lethargic - a defensive reaction to stressful thoughts - I quickly search Facebook notes for a new survey to fill, or visit one of the many MySpace survey sites for something completely random.

What I really need, though, is a good cry.

After an extremely stressful week last week and several mini panic and/or anxiety attacks, I got over my immediate stress quite nicely with the above detoxing techniques... but I was so close to a breakdown that the tears are still lingering just under the surface. And while I'm not necessarily trying to hold them back, I'm not letting them fall free either. It would suck to have a long, hard cry for something that wasn't quite worth it. Somehow, I don't think it would accomplish anything long term - and so I'd be forced to cry once more to let it all out. And that's just not my MO.

Hopefully, having a bit more alone time during the holiday period will help - I'm looking forward to a mostly empty house, no crazy work hours or transportation issues, nearly no deadlines, and some "me" time.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Because I have to.

I need to blog.

Why? I don't know.

About what? No clue either.

But still, I need to blog. I need to write, to create, to express... whatever it is I'm thinking, feeling, experiencing...

And yet, I find myself devoid of inspiration. Well, not exactly.

Here's the thing. I actually come up with great blog topics... when I'm brushing my teeth at night and the computer is off. I head to bed and try to relax and instead I'm writing my blog in my head. The words are gorgeous and the sentences just flow like a beautiful river... But I'm definitely too tired to get out of bed, let alone wait for the laptop to start up, then load blogger and start typing.

Sometimes, I'm lucky and I remember the topic and the gist of what I was going to say at some point the next day. Most of the time, it's a glimmer of thought... lost among dreams and their interpretations and lists of things to do today.

In other words, it's gone.

I've tried keeping a recorder near the bed so I could dictate my blog to my (future) self, but that was during a period of fairly limited creativity. I always have a pad of paper and a pen by my bedside, but turning on the light when my eyes are that tired is just not an option. And though I have penned songs in the dark with some success, it's just not the same when you have to write out complete sentences.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't know why I can't think creatively while I'm awake(-ish). This free writing thing I'm doing right now is kinda working, but that's because I don't need to think about the topic itself, since, well, circular logic here... I'd get into it but I'd just confuse myself, and probably mess you up too...

The good news is, no matter what I choose to type about, the words always appear as if by magic. And I like that. I'm glad that's not gone yet.

Well, I guess practice makes perfect, as they say, so I'll just have to keep doing this random blog about whatever thing.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Letters from Home 2.0

This week - and since Wednesday - I have been stranded without my best friend.

As part of his final training course and in order to properly graduate from the Canadian Forces, Ryan is working in the field, completely isolated, for 7 days. Unlike a random trip or any other course - and ironically since he's training to be a signals and communications officer - he doesn't have access to his phone or email, or have any other contact with the real world.

In the old days, when we weren't so dependent on technology, this sort of separation was probably easier to handle, given that you often didn't speak to someone for a long period of time even if they lived as close as the next village over. Unless you met them at the market or at work every day or they lived on your street, you pretty much had to grin and bear it.

Imagine dating in those times!

Despite Ryan not living nearby since he joined the Forces, we've been more or less in contact daily... or at least a couple of times a week. Of course, when he got access to the Internet, we were basically in constant communication during evenings and weekends. And that suited me perfectly, because Ryan and I share just about everything with each other. He's my main wall to bounce ideas off of and he helps me through periods of uncertainty.

Needless to say, I've been a little lost without him... and though I know this is only one of several occasions when I won't be able to contact him when I need to, it's the first time this is happening for real. To keep myself sane, I have been writing him long email updates at the end of every day. I shudder to think of all the reading he'll have when he does finally have email access later this week.

In a way, these emails, text and facebook messages or random voicemails are the modern incarnation of letters from home. Of course, people still do send handwritten (or typed and printed) letters to their friends and family in the Forces... especially those overseas who may or may not have access to modern communication tools.

And though I have sent Ryan some of these letters, I'm so grateful to be able to email him - albeit with a delayed reaction - because it still is way more instant than snail mail... especially at the rate of one letter a day.

Despite having a lot of friends living or working out of town, and family that is more or less away on business most of the time, this experience is not comparable. Not even close. Because although this time around it's a practice, next time, it'll be for real. Next time, there are real chances that Ryan won't make it back, won't read my letters, won't be there to comfort me when I need it... and that makes me sad, because it's not just a concept, it's a reality.

There's no way I can understand what it's like for a spouse to lose a loved one to war or its after-effects, or worse, lose their mind to PTSD (aka Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Ryan and I are almost that close and his loss would probably have the same impact on me as losing a spouse, and just considering the possibility is simply devastating.

That's why songs and music videos like John Michael Montgomery's Letters from Home, or George Canyon's I Want you to Live, which never fails to make me cry, by the way, are so close to my heart. In a way, they do help, comforting me because I know I'm not alone in these feelings, in this situation. There are many more examples - and not all of them are country music ;)

Still, I'm glad I can send multiple, massive emails to Ryan, letters from home, v 2.0, and I know they are just as appreciated as the old school version.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Obama Factor

So the United States presidential race has finally come to an end, and not a moment too soon, as Quebec is going to be electing a new Premier on December 8th.

I know. Enough with the elections, already!

First, there were provincial elections in Quebec. Then I had a municipal election. Then the federal campaign, and of course, the crux of the USA election. And now Quebec elections again. Oh, and of course, the primaries about 2 years ago.

Yeah. I've got a headache too.

I'm to really into US politics. However, when Primary season started, I was curious. It was my first time exploring the American electoral system because it was the first time I was actually really aware it was happening, and so, intrigued.

Luckily, one of my friends, Alex Leduc, is a pro at American politics. (In fact, if you really care for the stuff, you should check out his blog. He's quickly becoming Montreal's next major US political analyst, with TV appearances to boot!)

Alex explained the basics of US elections to me, and though I can't remember most of it, it really helped me understand what was going on. Honestly though? I really didn't want to spend that much time on it. In fact, I can probably say that I didn't care what happened day-to-day, as long as I got the big lines. I do care in the sense that American politics affect what happens in Canada and around the world, but really, I don't need to know what each candidate was doing every moment of the day.

Unsurprisingly then, I don't tune in to CNN too often. I actually really dislike CNN and their coverage. Mostly because it's biased, often unconfirmed and poorly researched. I'm not talking about all their segments. But their style leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, since when is every story either breaking news or developing news?

Perhaps I should specify that I'm referring to CNN Headline News here.

What bugs me the most is that so many American citizens watch CNN (or worse, FOX News), and take everything they see and hear for fact, unquestioningly. Yes, this is a generalization, and probably encourages a stereotype or two. But you know what I mean.

Anyway. I'm not stupid, and knew that CNN would have the best election coverage on November 4th. And so I tuned in.

Boy, what a treat.

First off, the holographic interviews were way cool. Probably super expensive and uncomfortable for the anchor, but still an awesome piece of technology that I can't wait to explore.

Second, wow! Biased coverage or what?

Third, I realized that I'm extra picky about live TV productions, now that I've seen how some of it goes. And I should probably be a little less critical and remember how stressed out everyone is in the control room. Especially the audio techs. I complain about them a lot.

Want proof? Check out my Twitter stream below:

MUST know more about how the holographic interviews are done. Green Screen? 3D motion capture?
A friend suggests green screen and 360 camera coverage. But how is it "projected"? On air graphics or actually in studio? Thoughts?
I guess the USA doesn't have issues with revealing projections for closed States while others are still voting... ie like in Canada How it's done: OMG Enough with the screaming. At least they're mixing it down... But seriously. I shouldn't have to turn down the volume. Also, #cnn enough with the "random black people in the crowd" shots. Do you know you're promoting racist stereotypes? More dets on the holographic interview technology: McCain admits defeat? I can go to bed now. Just one more holographic interview, plz! Why must we still differentiate by race? Why is Obama's victory a big deal for African Americans, as says McCain? It's a big deal for all!
I wonder what happens if a candidate admits defeat on a projected result - which then turns out to be wrong. Can he still claim presidency?
As much as I don't want to hear crowds screaming too loud, please mix in some bg audio when showing crowd shots. I can't really blame the audio mixer(s). It's a tough situation, diff. mixes coming into HQ, and prob. a whole lot of control room yelling. Loving the sky shots. Wonder if it's a track or a jib... Does that make me a geek?
Wonder if the mixers have time to adjust incoming audio for optimal broadcasting before putting it on air.
@ #cnn This interview is totally ineffective. omg! CNN showed old white people! They can't support Obama, can they? I thought it was all black ppl and youth! Me? Jaded? Naaaahhh
I wonder who wrote @BarackObama 's speech. And how long he's been memorizing it. HA! Alabama Senate race: Sessions vs. Figures That 106y old must feel so justified to have Obama mention her in his acceptance speech. Maybe a bit used, but it's for a good cause, right? If I were producing or mixing, I'd add crowd noise to CNN's Chicago feed And as if on cue, I think I hear some clapping... though it sounds like it's coming through the stage mic. Quick! Spot the cameraman in the crowd! It's like Where's Waldo, but tougher! Wonder how much they spent on getting Obama's kids' hair done... It's 12C in Chicago. 13km/h winds, 67% humidity. They must be freezing out there. Thank God for all those warm stage lights! LOVE! The behind the stage shot featuring the USA-lit building. And the Barack/Michelle snuggle as they walk off the stage. Cute! WOW. Just felt the weight of this moment. Historical. I wonder what happens next...

Friday, October 24, 2008

On job searching

So today I spent the day applying for a job. The whole day. One job.

It's often been said that job searching is a full-time job in itself, and never have I felt the full weight of that statement until this week.

Earlier this week, I spent a whole day trolling through various media job sites looking for open (and interesting) postings. I found 7. Now, it's not that I'm picky or anything - in fact, I even put far away jobs that I am borderline qualified for on my "must apply" list. And often, I start the process and stop it promptly, when I realize I have no clue what the acronyms in the qualification questionnaire stand for.

Of course, I don't just apply for anything. I don't apply for jobs I am under-qualified for, unless I really really really want it. Even then, I don't expect to get called for an interview. It's also a waste of time to apply for too many jobs, since writing cover letters can get to be a tedious task. However, I do still apply for jobs I know I can do but am over-qualified for - like the ones requiring a high school diploma and good people skills.

Yeah, somehow, I don't get called for those interviews either.

Job searching in journalism is not easy right now. Not only is the economy in recession - and therefore everyone's cutting back - the media industry has been in its own recession of sorts for a few years now. That means newspapers are cutting local staff (like at the Montreal Gazette, for example - sign the petition here!) and consolidating resources by producing less content and operating from one central location. Some broadcasters are under hiring freezes which means that although they have a number of open positions, they can't actually hire you in the end... This is also the cause of vanishing job listings - the ones that mysteriously disappear although the application deadline is still ways off.

In other words, it's a tough life, and you've got to spring on anything that comes your way, no matter how under or over qualified you are. It's also a very depressing situation.

The solution, or so I've heard, is to reach out to your network of contacts, and ask, push and even beg for a job - paid or unpaid - so you can learn, build more contacts, and hopefully eventually get a real position. Just don't fall into the endless internship scenario - I've known a few smart people who have - where you work hard for free and never have an honest chance of getting hired simply because there are no jobs (because there's no money) whether or not an extra hand is needed.

All in all, there's nothing to do but try everything. Again, over and over, and hope it produces results. Until then, try to balance the job search with the voluntary work... and perhaps a bit of a personal life.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to write a cover letter for this kick ass job I'm applying for.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Election Day

If you live in Canada and haven't noticed yet, we've got an election happening on this side of the border too. Sure, we don't have charismatic, groundbreaking candidates like Barack Obama or VP wannabees that light up screens and fire up debates like Sarah Palin, but it's an important event nonetheless.

Faced with choosing from the usual parties - Liberals, Conservatives - we're lucky to have strong contenders in the NDP this time around. And thanks to a poor political decision by the so-called main parties to dismiss Green leader Elizabeth May, our most environmentally conscious party is also attracting some attention - though they probably won't win any seats. And the Bloc, is, as always, present, but barely.

To me, this campaign has been a fight on several levels. Not only did Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Elizabeth May have to battle each other on the silver screen and on the streets, they also had to fight for the attention of Canadian citizens. While this is always the case - Canadians do vote, but tend to have a defeatist attitude as to the importance of their choice - this campaign was especially tough due to the stiff competition south (and north west) of the border.

In fact, I'd say most Canadians are more concerned about the American elections than the Canadian ones. They care more about the issues, candidates and platforms in the US of A than those in their own backyards. Indeed, CBC did a fun piece asking students who they were voting for, and most said they would vote for Obama (or McCain, in rare occurrences). Most of them didn't even consider that a reporter from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would be referring to the Canadian elections. A large portion of respondents couldn't name our country's Prime Minister, let alone the leaders of our main political parties. Not to mention that many weren't even aware that we were having elections of our own.

Now that's freaky! How can we trust others to elect the right leaders to promote the causes that matter to us as individuals and as a country when most of the population don't know these people exist... and couldn't care less?

Yes, I agree that what happens in the USA is important to Canada, and it is on many levels - political, economical, environmental, geographical, military-wise and trade-wise... But when a Canadian chooses to watch a debate between US Vice Presidential candidates over the one and only English-language Canadian leaders debate, how can you not be a little shell shocked?

I mean, sure, there are replays and extracts and loads of analysis - but you'll get the same for the less-relevant-to-you USA VP debate. Just tune in to CNN Headline News any time of day and you'll get your fix. Browse the Internet, watch the morning shows or daytime talk shows. Or late night comedy shows, for that matter. You'll be caught up in no time.

But in Canada, where coverage is not as extensive due to more limited resources - and lets not kid ourselves, limited interest - how can you not watch the debate live? The way the leaders interact, the tone of their voices, when they choose to get angry and when they choose to remain calm... That says a lot about them as people, as party leaders, as politicians, and as potential leaders of our country. Of YOUR country. How can YOU not take that seriously?

I bet that in most news-watching households in Canada, the US election is more prominently featured as dinner-time programming then our Canadian equivalent. I know this to be true in my area, at least. Sure, the Canadian election gets its air time as well... but as soon as we've got the latest update, it's time to click back to analysis of Obama, McCain, Biden or Palin's latest speech. Every day, 24/7.

Even today, on election day, most people are still thinking about whether or not they'll vote. I can't say I've decided who I'm going to vote for, but I'm most definitely going to get my lazy butt out of my pyjamas and walk to my polling station to mark my ballot. Because it's important for me to have a say, even if I don't think my voice will change anything. Especially in a riding like mine, which could be considered an automatic seat for one of the main parties. Still, if I don't vote, then I can't complain about the results, can I?

Did you know that political parties actually get cash for every vote in their favour? So whether or not you can change anything in the short run, you do have a direct impact on your favourite party's future influence and activities.

What if you can't put your faith in a certain leader? Then vote for the platform that seems most deserving to you (do your research thanks to this great tool, courtesy of CBC).

Even that option can be tough when you don't agree with a party's stance on all the issues, but as always, politics, and any kind of democratic system, really, is about picking the lesser of two evils. Think back to your class president elections in high school. It's the same deal, but on a bigger scale. And even if you didn't care who would lead your class to greatness back then, chances are you cast your vote anyway so you wouldn't feel left out. Just to go through the motions.

So why not here, why not now, when your voice is so much more important?

You might not concern yourself with the outcome of the elections, or maybe you really, truly believe that no one party or leader fits the bill. Then spoil your ballot. Spoil your ballot to make it count. Did you know that if enough people spoil their ballots - and in doing so declare that none of the choices are suitable - the results in that riding can be refused? We'd get another chance to have our say - and hopefully, our little rebellion would cause the parties to change their stance or offer better alternatives.

No matter how you see it, voting is not just a right. It's a responsibility. By not voting, you're letting down your neighbours and your riding, your fellow citizens across Canada, the populations in countries around the world that depend on Canada for food, aid, funding and development, the scientist and artists here at home who also need funding for research or to work... Or simply to survive...

By not voting, you're not only letting everyone else down, you're also letting yourself down.

And how, may I ask, can you live with that?

Please. Go vote today. It's your only chance to have a say, on a small or big scale. Embrace your Canadian citizenship. And don't forget... if you don't vote, you can't complain!

Find your polling station - and register to vote on location! - at

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Kingston: Canada's Original Capital

This past weekend, I went to Kingston to visit my friend and army recruit, Ryan. He assured me that I would love the city, and guess what? I did.

The only disappointment I had was the weather - but then again, all of Eastern Canada had a cold spell. Stupid lack of jacket.


I took the train from Montreal to Kingston mid-day on Friday - from one former Canadian capital to another. It was scenic, sunny, and flat. Like the Prairies. And there was hay and cows and I am always amazed at that kind of scenery... especially when it's so close to home and not on the other side of the country.

When I arrived in Kingston, I really had no idea where I was. Honestly. Even when I took the train back to Montreal on Monday, I had no clue where the taxi was taking me. My image of Kingston is really just two parts of the base, downtown and the waterfront. Though that's not all I saw.

The cab driver I got on my way in was a lot of fun to talk to. A former member of the Armed Forces, he was a vehicle mechanic. He told me about being stationed in South Africa for a peacekeeping mission and the racial tension that existed there. He mentioned how he left the Forces because they wanted to transfer him to Shilo, Manitoba... as his daughter was entering Grade 12 in Kingston. He would have had to leave his family behind, and that was not a pleasant thought. So he left at the end of his contract. Turns out that about a year later, the Army started offering early pensions in order to reduce the size of the Forces. Bad timing, tough luck.

It's these kind of stories that make us wonder what kind of live we'll lead in the future. No matter our training, education, and employment history, we could all be cab drivers someday. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have a lot of respect for the good ones - those who drive you around, talk if you want to but give you space if you need it, and are happy to do the job. But lets be honest - it's not really anyone's first choice of employment.

This guy gave me a recommendation for a small restaurant called Copper Penny, which he said is his favourite place to dine. Why? You can dress any way you want, and go with any company, any night of the week, and have a great time. Oh, and the food options are varied.

So on Friday night, Ryan and I decided to test his theory. I'd spent the afternoon reading on his perfectly made bed in B7, and all that work made me really hungry! Sure enough, we had a grand time. We also explored Princess street a bit, but it was freezing so I was happy to get back to my temporary home - B58 in the McNaughton Barracks.

Saturday consisted of more downtown exploration. We'd asked the cab driver for a good fish and chips place on Friday night and he recommended The Pilot House so we headed there first to actually, you know, find it. When we were confident that we could find our way back - aka, locate City Hall and the Market Square - we wandered off, waiting for the place to open and air the hockey game(s). Up and down Princess Street we went, hopping into random shops... and Kingston's got a lot of those!! Lots of cool, retro spots and some quirky niche ones too...

Once again, it was freezing so we took advantage of everyone else's heating. Ryan bought a jacket at the S&R Department store - lucky him!

The Pilot's House was actually a fish and chips place, primordially. The menu featured a variety of different options, from tilapia to cod to halibut and sole, which is what I ordered. Ryan was a bit of a loser and ordered the same thing... instead of choosing a different fish and sharing! Silly Ryan! We also both got a pint of Strongbow (mmmmmm... Thanks, Kali, for introducing me to this beer alternative!) and shared an apple crumble for dessert. How quaint!

I couldn't catch most of the NYR vs. TB commentary but the game itself was really not that bad... The whole time, I was trying to figure out whether CBC had a truck there or not - a technical glitch answered my question: it was the MSG feed. Hence me not recognizing the reporter. Also couldn't hear much of the intermission segments but I did like the apparent on-screen chemistry during Coast-to-Coast... though the desk looks a wee bit too small for three people. In true geeky fashion, I was once again amazed by Kelly's use of the Telestrator and yes, I could hear the audio fades in and out of segments, and that made me giggle.

We then continued our touristy day by taking the Historical Trolley Tour of Kingston. We went all around town, seeing Fort Henry, Martello towers, Kingston's many penitentiaries, its large collection of park sculptures, and Queen's University. The tour also featured about a gazillion of Sir John A. Macdonald's former homes, as the first Prime Minister of Canada was a citizen of the town. I'd definitely recommend the tour to anyone visiting Kingston... It's a great way to get to see a bit of everything without investing too much into it.

It also proved to me that Kingston is a runner's town. It feels like just about anyone who lives in Kingston goes for runs, and at all hours of the day. Maybe it's the beautiful scenery or the fact that Princess Street, aka the main street through the downtown core, has benches scattered every few feet for seemingly no other reason than to stop and stretch.

After a bit more wandering through the Market Square and Confederation Park (where Ryan stretches when he runs), Ryan and I headed back to base to change for a night on the town - er... lake, I mean. We got two tickets for the 1000 Islands Sunset Dinner Cruise and made it to the ship just in the nick of time - literally. We were the last two passengers to board, and didn't get our picture taken. Not that we would have bought it, really, but it's always funny to laugh at later. Instead, we took our own pictures - successfully, I might add, though only having charged the camera battery for oh, 10 minutes.

The cruise itself was lots of fun. We sat next to two conventionners from Calgary, which brought on conversations about the weather. And members of the Quebec Association for the Blind were also on board. The tour guide had a smooth silky voice - very charming in his explanation of which islands made good real estate investments - and he also ensured the rest of the entertainment for the night, singing classics and favourites while accompanying himself on the guitar, and eventually, getting people to dance along. The food was also way better than I expected, given that it's a ship and all. And the sunset was beautiful.

We called it an early night after we hit land around 9pm, especially since our Sunday was full.

Originally, we'd planned to meet up with Ryan's roommate and hook up their Internet - but instead, we relaxed, went to one of the many Timmy's in Kingston for breakfast (mmmm... Pumpkin Spice doughnut), and headed back to B7. The plan at this point was to visit the Communications Museum which was located accross the street. After sorting through some computer issues, we finally made it outside - but not inside the museum. Since it's closed. On weekends. Despite this latest setback, we were still ready to make the most of (what was left of) our day, and headed back downtown.

We stepped into the Tea Store for the second time this weekend, and after exploring all the different scents and options - this place is worse than Lush. Honestly. - I settled on having a cup of Minty Sunrise. It was the most peaceful yet refreshing smelling herbal tea - and since I don't drink "regular" tea except for green teas, I was thrilled. It was hot. Served in a glass cup too, which probably wasn't a good idea. Despite me wanting to warm up, I'd much rather be able to hold my cup without burning my hand. Either way, the tea was stunningly perfect. Exactly what I was looking for in my, oh, probably 15 minutes of sniffing. Needless to say, I brought some home with me. Also noteworthy, the warm scone was to die for. Next time I'm in Kingston or in Ottawa, I'm definitely taking advantage of their free Wi-Fi offer too!

The teas were still too hot 10 minutes later, so we took them to go... to the movies, next door. We saw Burn After Reading, which was utterly confusing but totally hilarious. Just... don't really expect it all to make sense. It is a parody of sorts, after all, and not a storyline that you can just escape into. Still, it was insane in a good way, and I'd recommend it if you're looking for something out of the ordinary.

We settled on sushi and a movie for the night - yes, another one. But got the sushi to go from TA-KE. Delicious, really, and a varied selection. Some sushi combos that I hadn't seen before, like salmon, apple, pumpkin, avocado and more in a maki roll. Delicious. But we bought way too much, and army guys aren't really keen on late night sushi, it seems, so some of it went to waste.

While we were waiting for our order, we went into the most amazing shop. Ever. It's called Minotaur and is basically a games shop. It's everything Capitaine Quebec should be but isn't. It has board games and D&D dice, novelty items, cards, figurines... Everything a gamer and geek could want but items anybody and everybody can enjoy. It was in this store that I spotted my first ever GRUPS game, though I'd heard loads about it from Wil Wheaton. I also spotted Munchkin, and almost bought one of the many versions on the spot - save for the fact that I'd have no one to play with. Which made Ryan and I muse about both buying the game and playing long-distance, at the same time, through Skype. A virtual games night, in a way. Which sounds like an awesome idea - except for the lack of in-person interaction and the possibilities of cheating on dice rolls... Minotaur also had a whole lot of cool pirate gear, and other items that made me think of Christmas gifts.

After picking up our massive order of sushi, Ryan and I retreated to his bunk so that he could multitask and do laundry. We watched Labyrinth, which is another crazy-insane-hilarious-but-in-a-good-way movie. It was my first time seeing it though having heard a lot about it, and I wasn't dissapointed!

And that's about it for my trip. I took the train home on Monday morning, happy but maybe a little sick from all the cold nights - doubling up on the sweaters didn't quite work as planned. Silly lack of jacket.

On the train ride home, contemplating the multicoloured trees, I realized how happy these little trips make me. It's nice to escape from "real" life and shed your responsibilities for a weekend every now and then. And though these trips are fun to daydream about, it's important to actually go through with it. Minimizing the costs, like staying in army-sponsored accomodations for $30 a night, also helps ;)

The point is that I won't always be able to do this. I'm lucky to make a decent amount of income right now with relatively few expenses so that I can afford little escapades like these. But soon enough, I'll have a full time job that will perhaps require me to work overtime and/or weekends. Maybe I'll have a family to take care of, and kids with activities I wouldn't want them to miss. Or any kind of responsibility I just can't temporarily abandon. Now is really the only time I can do this without facing too many consequences. And it makes me realize how important it will be to make the time to take a weekend off now and then, to find myself, centre myself and be happy still and again.

I figure a good rule is to escape once a month, but that's probably too optimistic. If, once I've settled into responsibilities and commitments, I can take one weekend off every two months, I'm sure I'll feel thankful for the break, relaxed and rejuvenated when I come back. Taking time for yourself is not a crime by any means, and I think it's time that I realize that. I now accept that it's a need that must be fulfilled, and if a weekend in a world different from my own is what it takes, then that's what it shall be.

Ya know, if I can pull myself away from work and all.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sex, Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Let me just preface this by saying that my views on love are very different from most people's. I'm not suggesting that my opinions are correct and that everyone should think like me. I understand that love is a very personal subject, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, whatever that may be. There is no right and wrong on love, just different perceptions of it. Again, I'm not judging, just thinking.

This is the fourth and final post in an exploration on love in the world of today. The first part can be found here, part 2 is here, and part 3, here.

Is sex only meant to be shared between two partners who are very much in love? That's what all our social and ethical guides seem to tell us. And yet, there is so much more to sex than intercourse between one man and one woman.

Lets just quickly take a look at some options. Picture yourself in grade school - math class. You're working on groups and trying to find how many combinations are possible.

Man and woman vs woman and woman vs man and man, vs man and woman and woman or man and man and woman... and the list goes on...

Then there's all the different acts, settings, actions, positions...

I think we can all agree that sex is more than a man and a woman in the missionary position on their bed in their master bedroom at night with the lights off trying to have a kid.

Then why is it so hard for us to accept that there can be more than one interpretation of sex? Of course, you've got the extreme views that sex should not be pleasurable if you're doing right. Or that anything sexual is demeaning to females. Or that only men are allowed to be in control.

Yeah, right.

Society's views on sex stem from a religious background. As mentioned previously, religious and social guidelines, though perhaps influenced by revelations from a higher power, are deeply rooted in the social settings of the time when they were created.

Monogamy was a solution to recklessness, disease, and the lack of self-control.
Sex for copulative purposes only was a solution to over-population, and recklessness.

But in our time, in our world, where (hopefully) the use of contraceptives is widespread, do we really need such restrictions?

In many cases, these ingrained values force us to shut down, close up, and hide from the world. We try to protect ourselves from the potential hurt that we've been told exists all around us because of sex. We see sexual acts as a form higher than regular everyday actions like washing your face - as it should be - but then put sex on a pedestal, high above other forms of pleasure.

Our understanding of sex makes us reluctant to let go and give in to the positive feelings that sexual play can bring. Our social environment doesn't accept that the purpose of sex can be purely a physical and often emotional release. That it's a perfectly acceptable, normal response to the hormones flowing in our bodies. That it is a form of pleasure that should not only be tolerated but encouraged. That the high that comes during and after sex can stem from more than just a sense of duty.

Sex, really, is the highest, purest form of physical pleasure a human being can enjoy. That being said, religion teaches us that the highest, purest spiritual pleasure we can experience is finding God and bathing in the understanding of life, the universe and everything. Then why is it so hard to believe that the orgasm that comes from sex is the material equivalent to the spiritual orgasm of being one with God?

I'm not suggesting you go on a sexual rampage with the purpose of finding God. That's definitely not going to work. Because just like in your quest for spiritual upliftment, you can only reach your zenith when everything works. The emotional longing, the intellectual stimulation and the physical attraction are all essential elements of a phenomenal sexual experience, aka orgasm. Without one of them, it might still be good - just not as good. Something will be missing. Something, perhaps, that will keep you from completely letting go and embracing the orgasm. Embracing that moment when everything stops, when the world waits for you, when light surrounds you and you just get it.

Back to society's interpretation of sex. Understandably, we can't go around screwing everything that moves. But that doesn't mean that it's wrong to want someone... many people, whether or not you're in a committed relationship. No matter what society says, sex should not be on a pedestal. It is not sacred to that extent. It's definitely something to be thoughtful about and careful with, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be explored to the fullest - no many how many different combinations or experiences you need in order to be fulfilled sexually.

Sex does not have to be tied to a relationship. It doesn't have to be done exclusively with someone you love. Or even just like, for that matter. Take, for example, rape. Just because it's not wanted by both parties doesn't make it not "sex".

Our perception of sex is muddled by our wants and needs for a relationship. Rarely do we examine sex alone, free from pretenses. And when some brave souls try to do so, they get shot down with prejudices and stereotypes. They're called whores and sluts, players and pervs. They're not good for you, your family will say. They only care about one thing, your friends will say. But no one will dare say that they're exploring ways to release the sexual tension that's building up inside of them. Because that's just wrong.

It's wrong to want to be happy on a sexual level. It's wrong to love someone yet long to feel another's body next to yours. It's wrong not to be fully committed, sexually, to one person alone.

Uhm, sure.

Do I need to bring up trust and honesty and feelings of insecurity once more?

What about love? Remember those different kinds of love? One of them is definitely sexual love. Pure physical attraction, the matching of your body with his or hers - or his and hers!

Sex should not be a taboo. It should not feel uncomfortable to talk about sex, at least, not much more uncomfortable than it is to discuss other natural need-fulfilling acts. Eating or sleeping, for example. Or going to the washroom, for that matter, which is only weird because we associate the body parts that take care of those natural releases with sex. Circular logic, perhaps, but none of those subjects should be taboo.

That's not to say that what happens between the bedsheets - or on the kitchen counter, in the movie theatre or on the backseat of a car - should be freely shared with everyone. There is such a thing as privacy, and I'd like to hope that people engaging in sexual acts together have spoken about what's fair game and what isn't. Again, it's all about the trust.

Just like having sex is all about trusting your partner(s), and therefore being comfortable enough to tell them how you feel and what you want, honest enough to tell them what you like and don't like. The concepts blend harmoniously well together, from the emotional and intellectual aspects of sex to the act itself.

And when I mean sex, I'm not talking simply about intercourse. I mean all forms of sexual play, from oral to anal to masturbation, multiple partners, same-sex or transgendered partners, role playing, fetishes and BDSM. None of this should be taboo. All of it is completely natural, no matter how many props you use or holes you choose to fill.

For one thing, sexual activity and the release of associated hormones does seem to have positive effects on one's health - from reducing the chances of senility to keeping your heart strong and your muscles active.

The observations I am making here also apply to sexualized situations. I mean being topless - male or female - or dressing seductively. I mean talking about your period, an itch in your crotch, or that porn you caught on TV last night. I mean walking around in your underwear. If you can stroll public beaches in a tiny bikini, why isn't it acceptable to wear your more covering undergarments in a semi-private location? As long as you're respectful about it and not doing it just to spite someone who is clearly uncomfortable with the subject, then why can't you be overt with your sexuality?

By not investing in sex as necessarily a physical extension of your feelings, you bring the concept and acts down to a more reasonable level. One where it can thrive and help you thrive without all the emotional attachments and heartbreaks that society suggests are inevitable. The feeling of intimacy is there, there's no doubt about that, but you can be physical for the sole purpose of feeling good and releasing sexual tension. No strings attached.

Again - I'm not implying that sleeping around just to be sexually satisfied is optimal. In fact, you'll probably be less satisfied overall. You'll probably feel like something is missing. That final piece of the puzzle that you just can't find even though you've looked inside the box, across the floor, and all over the room.

But sex can and should exist outside of relationships, not only to keep your body healthy, but also to keep you sane. As long as it is a safe connection, that you have the same understanding as all parties involved, and that you're not hurting anyone, betraying or helping to betray anyone's trust, then engaging in sexual activity is a-ok, no matter what society says.

I think that pretty much wraps up this exploration on love. I had a lot of fun - thoughtful fun - writing these, and it feels good to get my impressions out in the open. I hope that sharing them with you has caused you to think or rethink your perspectives, and perhaps this series can spark a discussion on the place and perception of love and all associated concepts in today's society.

Thank you for tuning in, and please stay tuned for more similarly enlightening (hopefully) posts and explorations...

Please feel free to leave comments, as long as they promote the exploration of the topic rather than bash my thoughts and opinions. I'm looking for constructive criticism, not hate mail. If you have nothing helpful to say, please don't bother saying it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Affairs of Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Let me just preface this by saying that my views on love are very different from most people's. I'm not suggesting that my opinions are correct and that everyone should think like me. I understand that love is a very personal subject, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, whatever that may be. There is no right and wrong on love, just different perceptions of it. Again, I'm not judging, just thinking.

This is the third installment of an exploration on love in the world of today. The first part can be found here, and part 2 is here.

Ah, "affair". A word with many connotations, good and bad. Whether it's used to refer to a flashy political or social event or a secret proscribed relationship, it has a sort of sexy, risqué flair to it.

Wikipedia lists several different types of relationship-related affairs, from forms of non-monogamy, to infidelity and adultery to emotional affairs.

As per most sources, "affairs" take place when one or both of the partners in a relationship are dissatisfied with their current situation. This dissatisfaction might come from falling out of love with your partner, from personal growth in separate directions, or a life change that has impacted the relationship in such a way that it is different from what it was before. In this case, honesty is primordial.

In order for the relationship to overcome a life change, you must be honest with your significant other, plainly laying out your feelings and impressions. And, not to be harsh, but if you're in a committed relationship, be it open or closed, you shouldn't have issues with being honest with your partner. You may perhaps be afraid of hurting them, but be warned that dishonesty leads to a lack of trust, and is the first crumbling freckle of sand in the castle you've built together. In the long run, it's always better to be honest now and cause only some pain rather than letting the betrayal drag on and causing increasingly more pain.

Fundamentally, an affair is betrayal of trust. But the current definitions of affair assume that love exists in fixed quantities, not that it's an energy, a life force. In adultery, the betrayal is the act of having intercourse with someone other than your partner. This assumes that sex is a higher, more important act than, say, playing a game of Scrabble together. In a purer sense, playing a game of Scrabble with someone else than your partner could be a form of adultery... if those are the boundaries you've agreed upon with your partner. But in most cases, couples base their definitions of affairs on the what society has dictated as being right and wrong. In this case, we're talking about sex.

Of course, adultery can be caused by more than just the act of intercourse. In most cases, it is understood to include other sexual acts, such as oral and anal sex. In some cases, one or both members of a relationship can believe it to include mutual masturbation, virtual sex (cyber or phone), masturbating or performing other sexual acts while thinking of someone other than your partner (unless that's the game, of course), and even flirting. As you can see, the list can go on and on. It's important to discuss, with your partner, what constitutes an affair.

Some couples have been known to have provisions such as celebrity lists, aka, if one of the members of the relationship were to be propositioned or have a chance of engaging in sexual activity with someone on the list, it would be okay. It would be temporarily acceptable for that person to engage in otherwise adulterous behaviour. If that's the case, that act of infidelity would not be considered an affair.

In other cases, certain people have trouble even "allowing", for lack of a better word, their partners to engage in platonic relationships with members of the opposite sex. The extra person tends to be attractive and so the partner might feel threatened by his or her presence in the life of their significant other. Sometimes, the woman feels that her partner might be tempted to be unfaithful, or worse, corrupted by this other woman. Sometimes, it is a man who feels insecure and unable to keep his female partner from resisting the temptation of being with another man, or worse, they think that the other man will steal her away from him.

This does happen in real life and I'm sure we can all think of at least one example of a similar situation.

It all sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn't it? Childish, even. But the feeling of threat is real and is powerful. It incites jealousy and initiates control. Slowly, these feelings take over, causing hurt to all parties involved. And yet, it can be traced back to a lack of trust in each other, and a lack of openness. Why not ask your partner how he or she feels about this new "threat"? Even if there is a sexual attraction, there is little cause for concern if both partners are comfortable being honest about their feelings. But from what I can tell, this pure form of honesty doesn't always exist in a relationship of "in love" and even in some relationships of "love".

Still, your partner would not abandon you for another simply because of sexual urges. There is an underlying need that he or she feels could be met in the new relationship. In an honest, trusting relationship, you would have already talked about what's missing, what needs are not being met. Perhaps there are needs that cannot be met in your relationship; a hobby that one partner simply does not enjoy, for example.

The line between friendship and a potentially sexual relationship can be blurred at times by feelings of insecurity. If you become jealous of the amount of time your partner spends with that other as opposed to you and are not upfront about it, the dynamic of your relationship will change, and that will be the cause of the hypothetical break up. If you cannot be honest about your wants and needs, how can you entrust your heart and soul that person? How can you be absolutely certain that they will care for you the way you do for them, when you can't even explain to them what kind of caring you want and need?

This consequences of this lacking can flow in two directions. On the one hand, a partner can become over controlling, limiting the time spent with others, whether of the same or opposite sex. This is obviously not a healthy relationship. And yet, so many of the couples around us live in a similar kind of confinement, feeling uneasy being friends or simply hanging out with someone because their partner "won't like it", or "might find out and get angry", "disapproves of me spending (so much) time with you".

To be blunt, that is so not cool.

It's stifling to the spirit and is clearly not a relationship based on love. It's a relationship based on hurt. Nothing good can come out of it, save for learning an important lesson on life.

On the other hand, the lacking can cause what has become referred to as an "emotional affair".

This is a topic that is close to my heart for several reasons. An avid supporter of open relationships, emotional affairs, to me, don't exist. They are a restrictive term applied to a completely natural process - that of caring for someone you are close to, on a platonic level or on a loving level.

For Wikipedia, an emotional affair is one where there is a certain amount of intimacy, with or without romance and/or sex. Some consider relationships where there is casual sex, aka friends with benefits, to be a type of emotional affair if one or both of the members are involved with someone else. Of course, some would consider that to be more than just an emotional affair.

Most of the time, an emotional affair is a friendship where the subjects are very close, perhaps even intimate in terms of physical comfort - from hugs, to snuggles, to kissing, even. In order to be an emotional affair, though, there must be caring that is different than in a regular relationship. There must be a connection on a higher level. There could even be love, without being in love. Unless it's an emotional affair that is characterized by a racy romance and a whole lot of flirting, perhaps without any true intention of being friends in every day life outside of the flirting, there must, in fact, be love, in one or several of the forms we explored last time.

To me, there is nothing wrong with having an emotional affair. It's a bond that is special, and unique, in the same way that all relationships are unique. Your relationship with your mom, for example, good or bad, is unique, because it is only between the both of you and is not the same as anyone else's relationship with their mom, as well as not the same as your relationship with anyone else. Based on certain definitions, your relationship with a close sibling or your best friend might be considered an emotional affair.

An emotional affair is also not a relationship, close or otherwise, where flirting is a regular part of the conversation. That's just teasing without any intention of following through on the actions. That's harmful to no one, and in fact, makes most people happy - unless it becomes an emotional affair.

Where it gets tricky is when the emotional affair takes away from the connection one shares with his or her significant other. Still, this is simply a perception since, if love is a limitless energy, it cannot be taken away from someone. Time, however, is fixed in the material world, and so an emotional affair can take away from your quality time with your partner.

Again, the only way an emotional affair becomes a problem is if there is a betrayal. If there is deception. Secrecy. If, in other words, there is a lack of honesty between you and your primary partner. If there is a lack of trust in the other to understand and to love and care for you enough to let you explore your feelings - and not necessarily sexual ones - in this so-called emotional affair. If there is a threat caused by a un-discussed and so undisclosed lacking. If jealousy and doubt are seeds sprinkled across your relationship. If insecurity is the reason you long to stay together. If love is not the underlying energy keeping you together.

Emotional affairs are only negative when they're not in the open. Because they prevent at least one of the participating parties from being happy. I believe that an open emotional affair is a positive addition to a relationship, a way for partners to relax, in a sense, from trying to meet a need they either can't or don't want to fulfill (think hobbies, for example), and a way for them to stop aching and feeling undeserving and perhaps even inferior for not being able to provide for their partner in some respects.

To me, a close friendship, whether or not it has sensual dimension, is essential to the success of a relationship. Sometimes, that close friendship happens to be your relationship with your partner. When that's not the case, it should not be referred to as an emotional affair because of the stigma associated to those words. Because of the negative connotations society assigns to it.

And that's why I don't believe in the term "emotional affair". An emotional affair is society's way of stereotyping the roles of men and women and perpetuating the concepts of love that were imposed long ago to help reign in our recklessness and high birth rate. It is society's version of right and wrong, based on ideas that prevent true love from flowing. That tells couples that it's okay not to talk about your wants and needs because society has already decided on them for you. Society makes some open relationships fail due to a difference in perception that was not broached prior to entering the open relationship, or ideas and ideals that may have changed over the course of the relationship, but due to the absence of honesty and trust, were not discussed. Societal norms and rules are also why closed relationships fail, for the same root reason: a lack of communication.

And yet all of this stems from the way sex is perceived, or rather, what society tells us we should think about sex, a subject I will tackle in my next post.

Stay tuned...

Please feel free to leave comments, as long as they promote the exploration of the topic rather than bash my thoughts and opinions. I'm looking for constructive criticism, not hate mail. If you have nothing helpful to say, please don't bother saying it.

Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness: On Gender

Let me just preface this by saying that my views on love are very different from most people's. I'm not suggesting that my opinions are correct and that everyone should think like me. I understand that love is a very personal subject, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, whatever that may be. There is no right and wrong on love, just different perceptions of it. Again, I'm not judging, just thinking.

This is the second part of an exploration on love in the world of today. The first part can be found here.

Women and Men are traditionally depicted as having different views on sex and on love. Society tells us that women don't think about sex as much as men do, and they don't enjoy it either. For them, it's more about the romance. These societal norms make women feel like they must hide their sexual thoughts. In truth, women think about sex just as much as men. If anything, because their sexual feelings are repressed, they might think about sex more then their male counterparts. Men, on the other hand, are free to express their sexual desires, because society tells them it's perfectly normal to do so.

This leads to a difference in opinions on love and therefore, on sex. But lets start with love.

Societal norms lead us to believe that men are pigs, who, even if they say they love you, just want to get busy with you - and everyone else. Obviously, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the point. Men, it is said, are incapable of romance and true love, except for certain exceptions. Girls, on the other hand, dream up a perfect love story, a Prince Charming rescuing her on his white steed... yet have little hope of it actually happening. So when a guy does care for them in that way, it's a welcome surprise. In some cases, it also plants the seeds of doubt.

Why? Because women are insecure. So are men, really, but society conveniently forgets to point that out, instead referring time and time again to a woman's apparent lack of self-confidence. I'm not a man, but I've spoken to many of them, and let me tell you - men are just as insecure as women. We have the same fears, and so, the same desires.

In other words, men and women approach relationships differently mostly because society tells us we should. There are stereotypes and discriminatory statements identified with each gender, and we tend to blindly take them to be fact. In the end, abiding to those societal norms makes it tougher for true love to exist. It makes it tougher for open relationships to take place, because society doesn't accept them, and in fact, rejects them almost in the same way Christianity has rejected Pagan practices.

These stereotypes actually encourage negative feelings to enter a relationship, be it insecurity, jealousy, doubt... And all of these can be attributed to a lack of trust. Trust, as we discussed previously, is the fundamental pillar of all relationships. Yet, for some reason, it almost seems to disappear in what should be one of the most important partnerships of our lives.

Why don't we pause for a second. Let us take a look at what trust actually means. Webster defines "trust" as:

1 a: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
b: one in which confidence is placed


5 a (1): a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship
: something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another
b: responsible charge or office
: care , custody

Trust is not a one-way street, especially in a relationship. You must have confidence in each others' feelings and actions, but you also take custody of a tiny element of your partner's heart and soul... of their spirit. And you become responsible for caring for it, as they are responsible of caring for your spirit. Therefore, in order to function properly, trust must flow both ways.

Coupled with trust is the concept of honesty. According to Webster, "honesty" is:

2 a: fairness and straightforwardness of conduct
: adherence to the facts : sincerity

Without honesty, there can be no trust. And since trust is essential to building and maintaining a good relationship, honesty is a must.

Which brings me to the topic of affairs, addressed in the next post, for readability purposes.

Stay tuned...

Please feel free to leave comments, as long as they promote the exploration of the topic rather than bash my thoughts and opinions. I'm looking for constructive criticism, not hate mail. If you have nothing helpful to say, please don't bother saying it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness...

Let me just preface this by saying that my views on love are very different from most people's. I'm not suggesting that my opinions are correct and that everyone should think like me. I understand that love is a very personal subject, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, whatever that may be. There is no right and wrong on love, just different perceptions of it. Again, I'm not judging, just thinking.

I strongly believe that love is a feeling in the truest of senses. It does not exist in fixed quantities. You don't have a certain amount of love that needs to be divided in pie chart fashion. It is very possible and in fact, necessary to love several people at the same time and be loved by many people at the same time. Of course, there are different kinds of love, and we need and live for all of them: familial, friendly, sexual, deep caring that goes beyond the basics of friendship, love that is borderline sexual, and what I'll term, for now, "true" love.

True love is the love most people are referring to when speaking of finding their soul mate. It's a love that, like other loves, flows freely and doesn't need to be worked on, at its basic form. I'm not saying that love comes devoid of work. I just mean that sometimes love just is. True love goes beyond caring, beyond sexuality - and in fact, can exist coupled with or free of sexual love. True love for someone means letting them go, wanting to do anything and everything to let them be happy, no matter at what cost to yourself.

When you find true love, you understand how all the different ranges of emotions enter the equation. It's when your love flows from your fingertips, over space and across time, reaching for your soul mate. It could be compared to the insane burst of feelings felt for an intense crush or infatuation. The difference is that it flows deeper. You feel it in your depths, in your soul, in your heart of hearts. You know it to be true.

Finding true love also reveals that trust is the absolutely most fundamental concept of any relationship. Without trust, there is no foundation for building friendship, investing in caring, or developing a long-term relationship. And in my opinion, the ultimate form of trust is releasing your grasp on your true love, allowing them to grow freely, with or without you. In other words, you trust your true love to feel the same way for you as you do for them. You trust them with your heart, after all.

You trust them not to break you, not to hurt you or betray you. You trust that the decisions they make in life and love are made with the intention of not harming you in any way. You trust that no matter what, they will come back to you. And you trust that they want all of this for you too.

This sacred bond flows deeper than physical relationships. It has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with soul. In my opinion, this pure love can only truly exist in the material world as an open relationship.

Now lets explain open relationships, shall we? According to Wikipedia, "An open relationship denotes a relationship (usually between two people) in which participants are free to have other partners."

It's actually more than that. An open relationship is one where the trust is so great that jealousy cannot exist. The love flows so deep that your partner's happiness is the single most important factor in the decisions you make about life and love. So this means that if your partner craves the company of another person, sexually or otherwise, you, as a member of the open relationship, agree and even encourage your partner to explore and release those feelings because of the happiness it would bring them, and therefore you. Whether or not you, as a couple, decide on restrictions or rules for your relationship doesn't affect the fundamental nature of the relationship - that it is based on trust and true love.

For me, there is no alternative to an open relationship. Perhaps I'm just a bit idealistic, but I truly believe that human beings are capable of an enormous amount of love. Yet we restrict ourselves, burden ourselves with right and wrong when those values were imposed in ancient times as solutions to problems like overpopulation or recklessness. I would like to think that at this point in existence, we're able to have safe sex and control our primal urges. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be ethical reasoning behind our actions. Far from it. I do, however, believe that love crosses those boundaries. You can't choose who you love or who you fall in love with.

Because there is a difference between loving and falling in love. And I think that's the main thorn in society's side. Most people can't tell love from being in love. My view is that love is uncontrollable. You can't tell it that it's okay to love some people and not others. You can't tell it to stop loving someone - it usually just is or isn't. However, in the same way that you can control anger and other impulses, you can work on love, and eventually not feel the same kind of love or the same intensity of love for someone. It's like having a passion for something. You can learn to be less passionate, but somewhere deep down, you'll always care about the things that have made you passionate in the past.

Being in love, on the other hand, is a state of being that can vary from a small, quick crush to an intense infatuation. It can lead to love or stem from it. Most of the time, people who are in long-term relationships are in love with their partners, whether or not they truly, fully love them. It's almost like the material manifestation of love, the day to day of a relationship. That's being in love.

Hopefully, most married couples are not only in love with each other but they love each other too. The couples who get divorced either stop being in love with each other, perhaps because things change and the day-to-day of the relationship becomes too tedious, or because they realize that their love is not true, not full and free. Either way, they stop being happy pursuing life and love together. If they can work things out amicably throughout and after the separation, they most likely love each other but have simply fallen out of love.

That was my situation. Which brings me to gender differences on the concept of love, which I'll take on in my next post.

Stay tuned...

Please feel free to leave comments, as long as they promote the exploration of the topic rather than bash my thoughts and opinions. I'm looking for constructive criticism, not hate mail. If you have nothing helpful to say, please don't bother saying it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

On Blogging

I would just like to point out that in the last week, I've had 2 spikes in traffic to the blog.

The first was when my comment about NISTAR was picked up by a community blog.
The second was when I linked to my blog in comments on

For me, an average traffic day is somewhere around 9 to 12 people. A good day, ie, when I update my blog, hovers around the high teens.

When my ISTAR blog got picked up, I had nearly 30 unique visits for 2 days straight.

When I posted on HIO, my traffic spiked to over 350 unique visits, approximately, for a few days, with a high of 696 loads on Sunday.


I had no idea the sheer amount of people that read HIO, including the comments, and actually post comments, follow links, and interact with the website in other ways. Incredible. The people who actually clicked on my link represent only a small fraction of HIO's daily traffic, of that I am sure.

So on one hand, I wonder why HIO doesn't get more interactive - a facebook group, automatic twitter feed, etc - and also why it doesn't have more fan-generated content on the site. Also, I'd like to point out that the picture gallery is really tough to navigate fluidly.

On the other hand, I really have to thank everyone who visited my blog, especially those who commented on my posts, whether here, on facebook, or through other means. It really means a lot to me. In fact, it's given me the drive to post more... Even if I don't have much to say.

Once again, thank you!!!

And stay tuned...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Training Camp: Day 2

For me, day 2 of the Habs training camp started at 1pm, not the advertised 11am. Despite my lateness, I still caught a fair amount of play, and I tried to catch up on those players who I'd missed yesterday.

Once again, I've come up with one-liners... I didn't get to see Saku Koivu, Georges Laraque or Olivier Fortier (F) at all this weekend, and I missed most of Price's performance today. Koivu sat out to rest his foot and Laraque apparently has a bit of a pull in the groin. I also didn't get much on Conrad Martin (D), Mike Glumac (F). You won't find anything on them here; I guess they don't stand out.

Here goes...

Pavel Valentenko (D) - Has a strong shot and makes strong, clean passes. He really understands the game and gets what's happening and what is going to happen. His skating is definitely up to par. Sometimes indecisive when bringing the puck up through the neutral zone.

Matt D'Agostini (F) -Looks ready for the big leagues. He's got speed and is aggressive when he needs to be. Presses the opposition well. Good puck handling and smart shooting.

Mathieu Dandenault (D/F) - Looking in tip top shape with good point action and comfortable speeding up with younger forwards.

Marc Denis (G) - Apart from being a good goalie in general, he sees the rebounds really well and has no trouble controlling them.

Brock Trotter (F) - Looks smarter in play than in drills. Solid all around... The type of player that's good at everything but not excellent at anything in particular.

Cedrick Desjardins (G) - Not bad stick handling behind the net, but definitely no Price. He's got good rebound control and easily re-directs them where he wants them to go.

Ryan O'Byrne (D) - Looks solid and very aware of what's happening. He's playing smarter, it seems, and is not as overly aggressive as before... Which is a good thing.

P.K. Subban (D) - Smart at the blue line, good with split-second thinking. Killer point shot.

Christopher Higgins (F) - Rushed the net and scored in the confusion. He seems smarter, tougher and more full of energy and will not to give up on plays. Has unexpected bursts of speed that are mostly yet unseen. Looks great playing with D'Agostini.

Sergei Kostitsyn (F) - Scored on a breakaway thanks to a pass from Tomas Plekanec, while legally cherry picking, one of the many times he tried. Had 3 consecutive breakaways (including the aforementioned one). Knows how to use the body in order to steal the puck and then gets away easily thanks to his speed.

Ryan Flinn (F) - Looks better in play. You can see his experience. Still, won't make it higher than Hamilton.

Gregory Stewart (F) - Has a viable chance of making the team. He would look great on the fourth line, but has enough skill, will and potential to be so much more. Good speed, thinking, and passing, in both ends.

Chad Anderson (F) - Also better in play than in drills. Knows where to be and looks around quickly before deciding on the correct course of action.

Ryan Russel (F) - Good speed, decent positioning, but seems unsure at times of where he should be.

Maxime Lapierre (F) - Good positioning in front of the net and defensively. Passing has definitely improved... tape to tape most of the time. Seems smarter so far than last year, and faster too.

Steve Begin (F) - Ready to rock and roll and have fun doing it. The Beg we all know and love is back.

Yanick Lehoux (F) - Is speedy, sees the ice well under pressure. Excellent passing and positioning.

Patrice Brisebois (D) - Same as always. Speedy at times. Still decent positioning, which keeps him out of trouble most of the time.

Robert Mayer (G) - Young but solid. Knows when to get into the butterfly position. Great in a crowd. He does need to work on his 5-hole when he's down. Seems to just know how the puck is going to bounce.

Loic Lacasse (G) - Quick on his feet. Made a nice long cross ice pass - very Price like.

Kyle Chipchura (F) - Needs to work on his passing while in movement. He's good when he has to be, but might be over thinking. Not aggressive enough when he has the puck. Seems confused, and out of it.

Mathieu Carle (D) - Seems a bit uncertain when stuck in the defensive zone, mostly in front of the net, where he seems to have trouble playing the man if the opposing player is aggressive.

Tom Kostopoulos (F) - He's ready to step out of his goon-only role and get more involved with the play. Handles the puck well, better than last season, it seems.

Roman Hamrlik (D) Solid, as usual. Lets O'Byrne take the lead but is always there and always ready.

Some random notes...

The Tanguay-Maxwell-Pacioretty line is a great combination. Tanguay looks really comfortable playing with young speedy guys.

Begin- Lapierre -Dandenault with O'Byrne and Hamrlik works really well. They have good positioning and communication, and the passing is excellent. Seems like a viable combo.

Lang - G. Latendresse - Kovalev is a line that takes some getting used to. At first, Latendresse seemed like a little bit of dead weight because it takes him so long to get into position if his linemates break off. However, when he is at the right spot, there is a whole lot of chemistry. Sometimes Latendresse tries to stick handle a bit more than we'd like, but it seems to work well. When this line was on the ice with Markov and Komisarek, the crowd was going nuts. Also noteworthy, Kovalev seems to talk to Latendresse a lot, pushing him to push himself on the ice.

A. Kostitsyn - Plecanek - S. Kostitsyn also had the crowd on their feet. They have so much talent and so much spark, but they need to work on their communication a bit more. They're a very fluid line, constantly moving across the ice. This combination is so full of energy and potential and just about ready to burst.

I have a feeling that not only will Chipchura not make the team this year, he never will. He'll be traded soon. Why? Well, last year it seemed that he was satisfied just to have made it through the cuts. To be playing in the NHL, as was his goal. When he got sent down to Hamilton, he could have stepped up as a leader while Ajay Baines was out with an injury, but he didn't. It's almost like he had no motivation to be better. This year, it's like something inside of him has died. He has no drive, he doesn't care. When he's on the ice, it almost seems like he doesn't want to be there. I hope he figures out what's bothering him and steps up and finds a place on the team, or that he gets traded and gets his spark back.

Well, that's it for my scouting report for now!

Stay tuned for more Habs goodies...