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Breathe Deeply, Mr. Harper. As Deeply as You Possibly Can.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 08:07
The APEC summit is underway in Beijing and the atmosphere is just perfect for an inveterate fossil fueler like Stephen Harper.  May Furious Leader indulge his respiratory system in Beijing's particulate-enriched air.  There's no extra charge either.

The Guardian reports the Chinese have done what they can to make the air in Beijing fit for human consumption but, darn, it didn't work.

They banned the burning of funeral offerings, closed restaurants and factories, halted deliveries and took millions of cars off the roads. But Chinese leaders were unable to achieve blue skies for this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Beijing, with data from the US embassy showing air pollution at six times the World Health Organisation’s safe daily limit.

Apparently frustrated by their lack of success the Chinese thought of one more thing.  They've blocked normal public access to the US embassy stats substituting their own showing Beijing's air to be "lightly polluted."

See, they can learn from us.

It's Not a Vortex, It's an Invasion.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 07:50
I know, I know - you were told just a couple of weeks ago that eastern provinces and states were in for a mild winter.


Winter is still weeks away but how about an early trip down Memory Lane?  The bad news is there's a big Arctic storm on the way.  The good news is that NBC isn't calling it a Polar Vortex.  No, this one they've branded a "Polar Invasion." There, isn't that better?

Meanwhile there's a real bastard of a superstorm raging in the Bering Sea, said to be the worst on record.  A drop in the mercury of 24 millibars in 24-hours is the measure of a "weather bomb."  The current storm saw drops of between 50 and 60-millibars in 24-hours.

The Bering Sea storm is the remnant of typhoon Nouri.  The British Columbia coast got hit last week with the leftovers of hurricane Ana.  It's kind of weird watching these tropical storms get so far into the northern latitudes.  Maybe that's part of our new "normal."

dispatches from the community of readers' advisors: r.a. in a day 2014

we move to canada - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 07:00
Last week I attended "R.A. in a Day," an annual one-day mini-conference on readers' advisory - that is, finding books for readers.

It happens that the manager of my own "Readers' Den" department is one of the principal hosts of the conference, and the Mississauga Library was well-represented in the audience. More than 100 people attended from libraries throughout southern Ontario.

It was a joy to spend the day focusing on the singular pleasures of reading and the experience of people who read. Part of what makes doing readers' advisory fun is that you're already talking to a reader. You're not trying to convince anyone to read; you're a bridge between a reader and books. There are more passive forms of RA, such as book displays. But the active, one-on-one RA that this conference focuses on is - as you know - a part of my job that I really enjoy.

I'll highlight three speakers from the event.

Catherine Sheldrick Ross, into the minds of readers

Making this day especially noteworthy to me, the keynote speaker was a library hero of mine: Catherine Sheldrick Ross, the name in research on reading.

Some years back, I blogged about a book she co-authored, Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals about Reading, Libraries and Community. A chapter had been assigned reading, and I enjoyed it so much that I hunted down the book and read the whole thing. Let me tell you, in library school, that was a rare experience for me! I was so pleased to meet Dr. Ross and tell her I had blogged about her book. I'm going to send her the post, and I'll also read her newest book, The Pleasures of Reading: a Booklover's Alphabet.

An excellent and engaging speaker, Ross highlighted some of the results of her thirty-year inquiry into the minds of avid readers. Ross' research - in-depth interviews about the reading experience - has formed the basis of RA practice. Indeed, understanding the reader's experience is the key to good RA.

And that understanding begins with reflecting on our own experience. As you read these questions, think of how you read.

Are you a selective reader, feeling your time is very limited and what you read must always be very good and worthwhile? Or are you an ominvorous reader, reading everything from quality literature to genre novels and books others dismiss as "trash"?

Do you read only fiction, only nonfiction, or both?

Do you re-read books, feeling that books are old friends who should be re-visited and re-understood? Or do you feel that there are so many books to read and so little time, that you never or rarely read a book more than once?

How do you find your books? Do you have an organized system that you employ, or do you find books more randomly and haphazardly from an eclectic group of sources?

Through questions like these, we in the audience began to reflect on our own reading practices. We then did an exercise, each table discussing a different dimension of reading, and then sharing with the group. I am pleased (and kind of amazed) to say it was one of the more useful library exercises I've done. We could have gone on for twice as much time.

Many insights into the reading experience are nearly universal. Our choice of reading varies not only at different times in our lives, but at different moments, depending on what's going on in our lives at any particular moment. And reading is an enduring paradox. It takes us away from our own lives, into another world - the infamous "escape" that is often denigrated. Yet at the same time, reading broadens our scope, enriches us, strengthens our connections with the world. (Did you know that people who read tend to have more empathy than non-readers?)

Ross has written about a phenonmenon that most readers will relate to: she calls it "finding without seeking". You are reading a book for pleasure. Perhaps you picked it up randomly or were drawn to its beautiful cover, or read a review. You're reading it for pleasure, not information. But as you read it, you recognize something of yourself in the book: a relationship, or a dilemma, a conflict. You reflect on your own experience, and you end up learning, and growing. Ross says:
Readers choose books for the pleasure anticipated in the reading itself but then, apparently serendipitously, they encounter material that helps them in the contex of their lives. (Ross, Finding Without Seeking, 1999)Although learning about RA begins with reflecting on our own experience, the most important dictum of RA is four little words: It's Not About You. Keeping our own opinions and judgements out of the picture can be challenging! Dr. Ross says: "RA is a conversation, and the library is the place that fosters that conversation."

Claire Cameron, The Bear

Claire Cameron, a Canadian author, read from her current book The Bear, and talked about her sources and her writing process. She was a wonderful speaker and reader. I must confess that I began reading The Bear about a month ago, and put it down, feeling it wasn't for me. But after hearing Cameron read, I'm going to give the book a second chance.

The inspiration for The Bear was an actual bear attack that took place in Ontario's Algonquin Park in 1991. It was a very unusual attack that gave rise to a great deal of publicity: a healthy bear attacked and killed two people. The bear was not threatened, he was not starving - the couple was cooking dinner and the bear left the package of ground beef untouched. What's more, the couple were experienced campers who did everything right. It appears that the bear went out of its way to hunt and kill people.

Using this event as a jumping-off point, Cameron imagines the story from the point of view of a five-year-old girl, hiding with her younger brother - their father manages to hide them in a camping stove while trying to fend off the bear - then surviving in the woods, alone. (There were no children in the actual incident.) The story itself is gripping and suspenseful, and ultimately hopeful. Readers I speak to in the library are recommending it highly.

Cameron had a great deal of experience as a hiker, climber, canoer, and adventurer before becoming a writer. One of her best stories at RA in a Day was about her return to Algonquin Park, with her two sons, after the publication of The Bear. If you're intrigued, there's a good profile of her here.)

Peter Mendelsund, What We See When We Read and Cover

The final speaker of the day approaches the reading experience from an entirely different perspective. Peter Mendelsund is a book designer and art director for Alfred A. Knopf Publishers in New York. Check out the very impressive catalogue of book covers he has designed: Mendelsund.

Mendelsund has just published two books simultaneously: a coffee-table retrospective of his work, called Cover, and a meditation on what the experience of reading feels like, called What We See When We Read.

Mendelsund's talk was a departure and a great end to the day. A fast-talking, witty, literate New Yorker, he jolted us alert after a long, slow afternoon. Most of us love book covers, and Mendelsund's talk was a fascinating peek into the process of their creation.

In response to a question, Mendelsund mentioned that his least favourite projects are usually books expected to be very popular, where authors have earned huge advances. In those cases, there are a lot of stakeholders, high expectations, sales pressure, and many opinions to contend with... and thus much less creative control.

On the other hand, Mendelsund's favourite projects are usually classics that are being reprinted. The author is dead, the publishing house has little investment, and he gets to do pretty much whatever he wants. These books are often being published in a series, an authors' complete work, for which Mendelsund designs an overall concept, then variations for each book. With a slide show, he walked us through the process of designing this series of the work of Franz Kafka. Also, check out his designs for James Joyce, especially that most inspired Ulysses.

Mendelsund's references were more literary than those of most public library workers. He was name-dropping Melville, Joyce, Dostoyevsky, and Foucault, and I suspect that went over the heads of many people in the room. But his famous cover design of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo probably made up for it.

A final note about Peter Mendelsund. He mentioned that his first career was as a concert pianist. (His parents were survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, and playing classical music increased one's chance of survival.) After decades as musician, now with a family, he needed to change careers to have a more stable income and health insurance. That's not uncommon, especially in New York. But how many people buy a book on how to become a graphic designer, create a portfolio, and leap into a job as a book designer at a major publishing house? Those are some impressive talents at work, and not only the artistic kind.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 06:53
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Barrie McKenna looks to Norway as an example of how an oil-rich country can both ensure long-term benefits from its non-renewable resources, and be far more environmentally responsible than Canada has been to date.

- Michal Rozworski discusses how the devaluing of work is a largely political phenomenon. And Paul Mason wonders what it will take for workers who now see themselves as disenfranchised to fight back again a system that's rigged against them. 

- Speaking of which, Brendan James discusses a new study suggesting that the U.S. is past the point of being a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word. Paul Buchhelt comments on the disappearance of middle-class wealth. And John Stapleton studies (PDF) how lower-income citizens are both excluded and exploited by our financial system, while Arturo Garcia highlights Matt Taibbi's continued observation that absolutely nobody has been held responsible for financial-sector criminality even when it's crashed the economy.

- Jim Bronskill reports on Suzanne Legault's efforts to save access to information from Con cutbacks. The Star slams Tony Clement's Orwellian definition of "open government", while Sean Holman writes that even in opposition the Libs' plans don't seem to be much of an improvement. And Dan Leger writes about the spread of deliberately-cultivated ignorance among citizens across the developed world:
Here are some facts to illuminate your day: violent crime is getting worse, the country is overrun with immigrants, there’s an epidemic of teenage pregnancies and we’ve become a nation of geriatrics.

And that’s not all: 20 percent of Canadians are Muslim while the Christian population shrinks. Unemployment stalks the land.

No wonder people think we need to crack down on crime, choke off border access, enforce morality on teenagers and encourage Christian family values.

The problem is, the statements aren’t facts. They are widely held but entirely incorrect perceptions and they are common across the western world.
(G)overning from the gut by capitalizing on fear of crime, economic disruption or terrorism is a Conservative stock in trade under Stephen Harper. He’s been in power since 2006, so it works pretty well.

Of course the alternative to perception-driven politics is reliable public information; the kind you would get, say, from the mandatory long-form census. The Conservatives cancelled that in 2010.

Perhaps Canada would have better environmental policies if people were fully informed about pollution and climate change? The current government forbids scientists from telling the public about their work. - Finally, Michael Harris notes that even as the Cons publicly claimed to have backed off their longstanding public push to buy F-35s which are ill-suited to Canada's purposes, they're in fact barging ahead with a plan to take delivery in the next couple of years.

The F-35 By Any Means

Northern Reflections - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 05:38


We learned late last week the the Harper government has ordered four F-35's. Michael Harris writes:

According to a Canadian Press story by Murray Brewster based on a Pentagon leak, the Harper government plans to buy four F-35s and slip the acquisition into the current fiscal year. In order to get the controversial jet by 2016 or 2017, Canada has to provide the F-35 Project Office with a letter of intent by mid-November. All this is documented in a U.S. Department of Defense slide show. Not a peep in Ottawa.

Nothing has been broached in parliament about this potentially imminent order of a jet that is grossly over-budget, grossly delayed in production, and mired in operational problems. If the story is accurate, there never was a meaningful review of the F-35 decision of 2010 — another lie.

After CP broke the story, defence minister Rob Nicholson was not in Question Period last Friday. But the government once again played silly bugger on the F-35 file when Bernard Trottier, the minister’s parliamentary secretary, rose to answer in his place.

Refusing to address the information in the Pentagon leak, he simply parroted the speaking points that no decision had been made to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s. Does anyone believe that if the Harper government wants to buy four of these jets that the F-35 will not be the choice to replace the CF-18? This is simply vintage Harper — getting what he wants by other means. 
Once again, Harper has shown his utter contempt for Parliament -- and by extension, Canadian voters. Despite the fact that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General revealed that the government had lied about the cost of the jets -- and that they had supposedly gone back to the drawing board -- Harper is focused on getting what he wants by any means necessary.

If Harper is not thrown out in the next election, democracy in Canada -- like truth from the Prime Minister's Office -- will be dead.

Stephen Harper and the Great North Pole Farce

Montreal Simon - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 04:33

Who can forget how Stephen Harper shocked the world a few months ago by suddenly and loudly declaring that the North Pole belonged to Canada?

Even though it actually belongs to Denmark.

But who knew the stunning proclamation also sent shockwaves through the cowed ranks of his own civil servants?

New documents suggest that Canada's last-minute decision to stretch its claim to the Arctic seabed all the way to the North Pole took federal bureaucrats just as off-guard as it did the rest of the world.

Or that this last minute Con production was such an absolute FARCE.
Read more »

Harper's War and the ISIS National Anthem

Montreal Simon - Sun, 11/09/2014 - 23:44

I see the leader of the ISIS Death Cult may have had a bruising encounter with the American Death Machine.

Iraqi officials said Sunday that the head of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was wounded in an airstrike in western Anbar province. Pentagon officials said they had no immediate information on such an attack or on the militant leader being injured.

And one can only hope it's fatal.

But sadly killing its deranged leader won't destroy that genocidal cult.
Read more »

Thank God I'm Safe

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 11/09/2014 - 17:44
In our household, we don't 'hold' with energy drinks, so I guess our immortal souls are safe. But I'm not quite clear what that Great Deceiver, Satan, gets out of peddling such beverages:

Recommend this Post

The Sad Saga of Vikingwarlord14: Part I

Anti-Racist Canada - Sun, 11/09/2014 - 14:54
It's been a while since ARC introduced a new character to the parade of misfits featured here on the blog, so while this writer was on a brief sabbatical she decided to do a little research on someone who's online activities reminded us a little of Tom Winnicki (who, given his most recent missive, isn't pleased to have his intelligence ridiculed; more on that at a later date):

Meet "Unit14." Well, actually "Unit14" is ostensibly the name of the "crew" this guy has established in BC, though at this point it appears that his is a crew of one. However, he was pretty damn ambitious in that he tried to crowdsource his new hate groups:

Bill Noble actually asked a legitimate question about this endeavor which, if we remember correctly, wasn't really addressed:

Not surprisingly, the fine folks at GoFundMe weren't so peachy keen to have their site used as a means of raising money for a neo-Nazi gang and it was shut down before it raised a dime. But even before "Unit14"/"Jay Stone"/"Jay Smith" had decided to crowdsource a hate group, he had first attempted to start another ambitious, though ultimately futile, project under the username, "proudcracker420":

A while back someone representing the UNP tried to leave a message on the blog announcing the formation of a new political party that would eventually be fielding candidates for federal office and, as such, forming the next government. We get delusional comments like these all the time and while we don't post them on the blog we do follow their efforts for shits and giggle. This case was no exception, though the UNP proved to be especially entertaining:

Except, of course, when the UNP project was abandoned
and the Unit14 project was begun. These people have the
attention spans of goldfish suffering from ADHD
Ah! Here we have "vikingwarlord14," the main subject of this post finally. Now, with a name as grand as "vikingwarlord14" we expect he must be a rather imposing figure:

Yeah, something like that.
Anyways, "vikingwarlord14" was a very enthusiastic early supporter of the UNP as evidenced by many of his comments on the subject:Read more »

Good News - For a Change

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 11/09/2014 - 10:32
Last week I wrote about how Kinder Morgan/Trans-Canada Pipeline was using its corporate muscle and deep pockets to intimidate anti-pipeline protesters in the Lower Mainland.  The term for this sort of thing is "lawfare" and it's pure, head office sleaze.

The good news.  After the four targeted protesters were sued by the pipeline giant, a crowd sourced legal defence fund was established that hoped to raise $30,000 from supporters.

I received an e-mail this morning advising that, so far, we've raised just over $51-thousand.  It's not a big deal and yet it is at the same time.  Even chipping in is doing something tangible, helping those who are standing up for all of us, letting Kinder Morgan know there is such a thing as social licence and theirs has been revoked.

Defunding Anti-Choice: A How-To

Dammit Janet - Sun, 11/09/2014 - 10:02
After DJ!'s involvement in the rescinding of a grant of public funds to a crisis pregnancy centre, aka fake clinic, we've been asked how to go about it.

First thing to know -- it's not difficult.

Second thing -- the ferreting part is tedious.

Third thing -- it's immensely gratifying. And FUN!

While we at DJ! despise crisis pregnancy centres, we don't deny their right to exist. What we do want to deny is access to public funds.

We chose Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), which distributes gaming proceeds to Ontario communities and groups, because it is a huge granting organization. We're not aware of other public granting bodies in Ontario. There may be some in other parts of Canada.

So, gaming/lottery-related organizations seem a good place to start.

Outside of Ontario, there seems to be two main lottery gangs: Western Canada Lottery Corporation and Atlantic Lottery Corporation. Atlantic Lottery Corporation seems to fund only events, but that may bear more investigation.

(I'm leaving Quebec out, because it's highly unlikely any similar granting body there would have any truck with forced birthers.)

Provinces seem to run their own grant programs with different criteria.

British Columbia




Kathy Dawson, @blueskies366, did a little investigation in Alberta and found this.

So, in Alberta at least, pubic money is going to the lying liars at crisis pregnancy centres.

In Nova Scotia, all proceeds seem to go to "problem gambling." But again, this needs more looking into.

Here's the tedious part. Get into the databases. It's public money -- they have to account for it, if not for their fucked-up justifications.

Nose around. Key words: crisis pregnancy centres, pregnancy centres, pregnancy resource centres, pregnancy options, choices, alternatives, life.

Crisis pregnancy centres have become so notorious for lying and manipulation, they're rebranding themselves, using other words in their titles.

A very large nation-wide franchise (?) is called Birthright.

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has done a lot of work on fake clinics. For example, here's a PDF on "Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in British Columbia". Visit ARCC's website for more help.

The granting organizations make a big deal out of getting credit for their largesse. Searching local newspapers and media outlets for the name of the foundation might be useful.

Similarly, the grantees must acknowledge funding. So check their websites. Also check local news -- they like to brag when they've scored public money. (Although that might change [*snerk*].)

If you find something, write to the granting gang to ask their rationale for the award.

DJ! blogged and tweeted about our discovery at this point. We don't do Facebook, but some pals posted the story there too. Public organizations are getting more and more sensitive about their social media presence.

If you don't blog, DJ! will help.

We were lucky or blessed with an unusually responsible granting foundation. Our story stops here. OTF replied (see top link) and rescinded the problem grant.

Your mileage. . .

What follows is speculation, not experience.

Local media generally like stories about unresponsive bureaucracies. They also love a whiff of impropriety in public funding.

Women's organizations probably have connections and networks to help put pressure on the foundation or to solicit media attention.

In short, get out the activist toolbox and rummage around.

Again, DJ! would be pleased to help.

It's estimated that there are about 200 fake clinics in Canada. Let's make their lives a little more difficult, shall we?


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