Voting: What Happened To Us?

Two days ago in Alberta, we had our provincial election to determine who the next Premier would be. For those of you who don’t know, that’s the person in charge of running the province. The election was called a month ago.

It was a very long month.

Also, despite disliking politics to a very high degree, I do believe that every person should be informed about each political party’s platform in order to make an educated decision about how they will vote come election time.

Sadly, that doesn’t happen very often.

What we see every day on Twitter, Facebook, and various “news” sites are just a reflection of our fear, ignorance, and personal opinions on small sections of a platform or what we think we know about the politician(s) running. The amount of vitriol and shameful name calling, trash talk, and abusive conversations are a travesty and we should ALL aspire to be better than that.

Now, far be it from me to tell a person how to vote. I believe whole-heartedly in the (Canadian) electoral process and how it’s decided. It’s really simple. The political party with the most counted and collected votes, wins.

Simple.

What I don’t agree with, however, is people who don’t vote. Now, before you string me up from the rafters, let me clarify. If you decided not to vote because none of the political parties or candidates have absolutely nothing that syncs with your own values, beliefs, and things you want to see changed for the better in your riding/province/country, then by all means. However, that would be extremely (astronomically) unlikely.

What I do take issues with is people not voting because their reason is “if I don’t vote, nobody can blame me when things go south”. It also means you can’t whine and complain when the newly and democratically elected government does things that you don’t agree with and want them to change.

I mean, sure you can… but your opinion will be worthless because you HAD your shot and you didn’t take it.

There are countries in the world where people aren’t allowed to vote, are scared into not voting, or are told (under the watchful eye of armed government forces) who to vote for. By not taking advantage of your privilege to vote and perform your civic duty, you are not only doing yourself a disservice but also your riding/province/country.

Say what you will, but its important for every person that can vote, to do so. It’s the perfect way to let your voice be heard and to do your part in enacting change.

So… the next time an election comes up and you have the chance to cast your ballot, I hope you’ll do so.

Civic Duty.

It’s got my vote!

Why Are We Doing These Things?: Internet “Challenges”

*exhales loudly*

Ok.

This is going to be part informative, part rant. Probably more ranty than informativy, but here goes:

WHY on God’s green Earth are people still participating in these internet “challenges”??

Lets break it down. There have been multiple “challenges” (or as any normal and well-adjusted individual would refer to them as) or “stupid moronic ways to hurt yourself and/or others” over the past few years, and from what I can tell every single one isn’t about challenging oneself, but instead a desperate cry for validation from either your peers and (in most cases) complete strangers… all for a few seconds of being in the spotlight.

Here are a few of the more idiotic ones:

Tide Pod Challenge

This one was pretty basic. You film yourself attempting to eat a FREAKING TIDE POD WHILE TRYING NOT TO DIE. Tide themselves actually had to come right out and TELL people that their product was not for human consumption. Retail stores were having to lock containers of these things behind caged doors so teenagers couldn’t just waltz in and purchase a one-way ticket to a personalized stomach pumping at the nearest hospital.

Rotating Corn Challenge

It goes like this: You jam a cob of corn onto the end of a high-powered drill, fire it up, and try to eat the corn while its SPINNING AT 700RPM! In most cases, this would be more than enough to not only shatter your teeth, but either dislocate or flat out break your jaw… because eating corn all boring and regular like with your hands is too uncool now?

Salt and Ice Challenge

This one is a two-step recipe for proving you are clueless and shouldn’t be trusted with anything. Ever. So, basically you pour salt on your arm, in your hand, somewhere on your body… and then you place an ice cube on top of the salt. Adding salt to ice lowers the temperature and makes it colder than the regular freezing temperature for water, 32 degrees F. Heat gets absorbed from the surrounding skin cells, causing a second or third-degree burn exactly like frostbite. Thats right… FROSTBITE. This pointless and dangerous stunt can, in some cases, permenantly destroy skin cells… all for likes and shares.

Condom Challenge

Step 1, take condom out of package. Step 2, snort it up your nose and try to pull it out of your mouth. Step 3, end up in hospital with condom stuck in your nasal cavity, thereby compromising a key function of your respitory system should it make its way into your esophogus because you instinctively try to swallow, leading to you choking and probably dying if you don’t get medical assistance right away.

Conclusion:

Are we seeing a pattern here? Almost every single one of these “challenges” are designed in some way to be dangerous, irresponsible, reckless, and harmful. We can ask ourselves why people do these things and what drives them to seek that kind of attention in the first place… but no answer is going to be enough. People are, sadly, going to still do these stunts in the hopes that they get famous off of it or simply just to be noticed in a world that is obsessed with social media status, likes, shares, and the validation of strangers.

God help us all.

Vegetarian Secrets: Why Didn’t You Share These??

I have a bone to pick with Vegetarians. Vegans: you’re on notice.

Now, before anyone slams me with thousands of messages and emails about the above, let me explain myself and the Canadian-tempered outrage I’m feeling. Trust me, you’re going to want to keep reading.

To all Vegetarians and Vegans out there…

*deep breath*

WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US HOW GOOD YOU HAVE IT??

Allow me to explain.

So about two months ago, my Mother and I decided that we were going to start consuming less meat, and not because of any ethical reasons or anything (not that there’s something wrong with that. Thats your choice of course.) but instead due to the fac that meat is pretty expensive now and because of the environmental impact that mass growing of livestock, poultry, etc have.

As I started exploring how I would be able to still have “hamburgers” and such without feeling like I was missing out, I discovered something magical and wonderful. Its called Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP). The problem that I initially thought I would have was not getting enough protein, as meat is a major source of that in my life up until now. I figured I would need to find something to replace my protein source with something as good or better.

So I started researching. A lot. Let me tell you, there are quite a few websites out there that promote their recipes and such but are so hard to follow with so many ingredients that I swear Alton Brown would throw his hands up in disgust and frustration and just go make some Mac n’ Cheese. Suffice it to say, it took quite awhile before I found some recipes that were not only easy to follow, but didn’t require $200 in groceries to do it.

I also discovered Tempeh. While based off of the same vegetable/legume as Tofu, they have completely different textures and uses. Tempeh is signficantly firmer and cuts very much like a firm cheddar. It also works fantastic in stirfrys, egg scrambles, tacos, or burgers. I’ve also experimented with Seitan (pronounced Sigh-Tan) which has the same consistencey as chicken/pork. All three of these things (TVP, Tempeh, Seitan) are essentially flavourless and absorb the essence of whatever you cook it with. Tofu ain’t the only game in town, baby!

With all of the vegetables, fruits, nuts, and these three Game Changers, I have not only been able to get all of the protein I need and more… but its given me the chance to expand my culinary horizons far past what I thought I knew I was able to do. I haven’t even mentioned the lentils, variety of beans, chickpeas (you glorious garbonzo bean!), and so much more. Everything is more exciting, flavourful, very hearty, filling, satisfying, and most all its super super healthy without honestly even trying.

Oh yeah, and no big deal… but I’ve lost 6 pounds in the past two weeks.

Going vegetarian was one of the best decisions of my life and I have to say, the bitterness of aaaaall of you other vegetarians and vegans out there for not sharing THIS part of the lifestyle with the rest of us will pass in time.

But for now: Veggie burger anyone?

Can You See What I See?: Privacy’s Decline

Wow.

December sure has been a month full of whopping privacy breaches, violations, and very sketchy practices by individuals and companies alike. It used to be pretty simple: Your private life, what you read, ate, watched, places you went to, people you talked too, and things you liked were something that you only shared with people you knew and/or trusted. Pinky Swears were eternally binding, secrets you told to friends stayed with them to the grave, and conversations between adults never evolved out of control save for the occasional bit of unsubstantiated gossip here and there.

Well, it’s a brave new world people… and everyone is involved if you want to be or not.

I’m going to list the 4 latest big privacy scares in the past month and let you decide for yourself if people are being treated as products and services is fantasy or fact.

  1. From Mashable: Facebook bug gave developers access to photos you never meant to share. As the article mentions, when you upload a photo but chose not to share it, a glitch in the matrix (so to speak) gave app develops access to those photos… without your permission. Once again, Facebook has failed to protect its users from letting their private data fall into the hands of people who were not meant to have it. How many other breaches and failures is it going to take before people just stop using the platform?
  2. From TheVerge: Taylor Swift tracked stalkers with facial recognition tech at her concert. While some folks might say this is an isolated incident and that Ms. Swift deserves to feel safe at her own concert (and she does, no question), it makes a person wonder about the privacy of the people who were being recorded, scanned, images captured and analyzed, etc. What happens to the captured images, data, and other bits of digital information used in the process? At this point, it’s not a stretch to imagine other venues doing this for a variety of other reasons… or to see it happening on our streets (much like London, England or various cities in China).
  3. From BGR: Amazon patent hints at using doorbell cameras to build a suspicious persons database. Apparently ringing someone’s doorbell or dropping off a package has now evolved into having your face scanned and put into a database, if Amazon has their way (should the patent actually go into production). I don’t know about anyone else, but this screams privacy violation and Creepy Factor of 10.
  4. From Android Central: Facebook gave Microsoft, Amazon, and Netflix unfettered access to user data. While I’m not entirely sure why Microsoft, Amazon, or Netflix would care about my liking a cat video, that is completely beside the point. The fact that once again Facebook has allowed our data to get into the hands of companies who have no right to it and no right to access it unfettered, is more than alarming. When Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said that regulation is inevitable (speaking about social media platforms, data centres, etc) he wasn’t wrong. I certainly hope not anyways.

 

I remember awhile ago someone once told me that privacy was a myth and everything we do is either being tracked, traced, scanned, copied, disseminated, sold, etc and that privacy as we once knew it is gone, I thought they were bananas.

Well… I’m a believer now.

Can you see what I see?

Christmas Cheer: Giving or Taking?

As I’m sure you’ve heard more than one person say (jokingly or not) in the last while, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”.

Is it?

When we think of Christmas, a few things come to people’s minds. We think of giving and receiving gifts, baked goods, good food with friends and family, and paid vacations or time off work (to name a few). There is, however, the other side of the chocolate coin.

Trekking through over-crowded malls filled with angry and frustrated people looking for the perfect gift, bad mall food (because there is no way you are going to go home to prepare something and THEN go out), extremely pushy and aggressive mall kiosk vendors, hours spent wrapping all of the gifts you bought, excessive time spent slaving over hot stoves and ovens just to have the food/snacks vanish in a matter of minutes, etc.

Sometimes it just seems like so much work, doesn’t it?

Personally, I just enjoy the time off to relax and recharge the batteries. I think we all need more of that, just the simple relaxation and stress-free holiday that we honestly deserve. I understand that some people love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and everything that goes with it. If that’s what you enjoy, then more power to you and I hope the Elf On A Shelf helps with the clean-up.

For most people who I talk to during the day when asked what their ideal Christmas holiday is, respond with different things but mostly the same fundamental pattern:

Stress-free, quiet, relaxing, and often gift-less holiday. People just want to be happy, safe, and the same for their loved ones. Is that too much to ask, I wonder? I don’t believe for a second that it is.

I think we get to a point in our lives when we reach a certain age, that Christmas hasn’t necessarily lost its lustre or wonder… but we desire things very different from when we were kids. As children, it was all about Santa and presents. We were taught from a young age that Christmas meant that if we were good all year-long, that Santa would come in a big old sleigh and we would get lots of great presents for Christmas morning.

My parents were a bit more practical and told my brother and I straight out of the gate that Santa wasn’t real, that it was Mom and Dad that bought the presents and put them under the tree. From the age we were able to understand what that meant, Christmas didn’t lose its magic for us but instead it shifted immediately from a magical fat man in a cart pulled by some forest animals to knowing Mom and Dad bought whatever we got, but we were still super excited to see what they got us. The mystery of what it could be was almost like a drug, and we took it willingly.

As we got older, we once again shifted our perspective and started to GIVE presents and not just receive them. We learned that the joys of giving were just as important (if not more) than getting and the time spent with family was a gift in and of itself.

Fast forward 20 years and another shift occurred, where now we were old enough that we didn’t want presents anymore. We knew that time spent with family and that we were happy and safe were all that really mattered… and to be honest, if we wanted something we would just buy it anyways if we wanted it bad enough, as there was nothing we needed.

Jump to present day (no pun intended… sort of) and I’m a bit older now (I’M STILL YOUNG!) almost anticipating another shift in the next few years. What that could be, I don’t know, but I can tell you one thing: At Christmas I will always have a cookie and a gulp of milk for the Santa that never was a part of my childhood, for the lessons learned from my parents about Christmas as a teenager, and the gift of the small happy things as an adult.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

Free-christmas-garland-clipart-the-cliparts

Allergies: A (Sometimes) Silent Menace

Allergies.

According to the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, up to 40% of the Canadian population will be affected by at least one allergic condition in some point of their lives. That’s a lot of sneezing and congestion right there.

I, myself, have a couple of allergies I’m prepared to share with you. Get ready. Here it comes.

MIXED VEGETABLES!

No, really. My 5-year-old self is cheering so hard in my head right now.

Well, to be more precise… FROZEN mixed vegetables. It has something to do with the chemicals they use to preserve them during the freezing process and less to do with the actual vegetables but let’s be honest: who actually likes frozen yellow beans mixed with corn and peas? My reaction to this nasty bit of chilly business isn’t too severe, mostly a wildly upset stomach followed by stomach and abdominal cramps for hours.

Ok, maybe not so gentle I suppose.

The next is a doozy. You might want to sit down for this one and grab your EpiPen.

DUST!!!

*thunder rolls in the distance*

Or, to (again) be more precise… THESE GUYS!!:

sci_dustmites_free.jpg

Dust Mites! I’ll call them all Kevin. Not to be confused with the Bed Bug, their scientific name in the Entomology world is Dermatophagoides microcerasIn my world, I call them #&@!*# (or Kevin) aka “Maybe one day I’ll not be congested and able to breathe clearly out of at least ONE nostril for more than 10 seconds”. My reaction to these little guys are constant, ever-present, and very much like having a semi-cold every single day. Congestion in both chest and head, sniffles (IN JULY! I mean, COME ON!), and inability to breathe clearly.

One time a few months ago I was able to breathe through both nostrils clear as a blue sky, and the on-rush of so much oxygen coming in was so much that it actually gave me a headache. AIR GAVE ME A HEADACHE.

Thank you Kevin. I appreciate it.

Despite all of this, I don’t let it affect my life as much as I can and when I start to get a bit whiny (I said a bit!), I remind myself that there are people out there with allergies exponentially more severe than mine, so I honestly have no right to complain. There are people with allergies to peanuts, seafood, and even sunlight.

My hope is that in the future we will have the medical technology to come up with cures for these sometimes common (and not so common) interruptions in our lives. All I can say now is…

*AH-CHOO!*

Bless you. 🙂

 

Instagram Ads…Out Of Control?

Instagram.

For the few of you who aren’t aware of what Instagram is, it’s a social media platform owned by Facebook that allows you to simply share short videos or pictures with captions or quick posts without all of the extra bits and bobs you find on a Facebook page. It has garnered quite a popular following and appears to become far more popular than its mother platform amongst Gen Z and Millennials.

It’s also rife with ads. Like, LOTS of them.

When you see one of these many intrusive ads, you have the option to choose one of three things to remove the ad (temporarily): “It’s Not Relevant”, “I See It Too Often”, and “I Find It Offensive”. For awhile I would choose the seeing it too often route, and it seemed to work… at first. They then just started coming back with a different vendor or spin on the exact same product they were hawking, and it was high time I started to fight back in the only way I could think of:

It was time to mess with them.

From that point, on every single ad that would show up, I would choose the “It’s Not Relevent” route. At first, nothing much seemed to change… until about 2 weeks later when it started to seem like Instagram’s ad algorithm simply couldn’t figure out what I might be interested in. Gone were the constant ads about backpacks, geek t-shirts, and nerdy gadgets… now they were starting to get weird.

Suddenly I started seeing things come up such as dog collars, boots, airline tickets, knitting patterns, and jewelery made of everything from steel, wood, plastics, and all of the above. Its like Instagram was panicking and just throwing anything ANYTHING at me to see if something stuck, much like a half-cooked pasta noodle the chef was hoping would stick to the wall to signal that its done.

No such luck Instagram! I will constantly make you guess my interests… and I’ll never tell! It may seem like I’m “sticking it to the man”, that I’m toying with them to consistently keep them on their toes.

Well…

You would be right.

And I’m not stopping any time soon. 🙂