Sunday, February 19

Getting Serious on Facebook

My facebook newsfeed if frequently pasted with pro-life propaganda, some of which can be fairly disturbing.  I respect my christian friends but sometimes I can't help myself but to dive in a make sure both sides are represented.  The other day a person I used to associate with in undergrad where we were both heavily involved with Campus [Crusade] for Christ.  Since that time my beliefs have completely diverged in the opposite direction while his have become even more steadfastly fundamental.  The conversation began around the topic of abortion and progressed to a discussion of truth and eventually got personal.

The Discussion:

The original post - GB/NC:apparently there's some serious censorship taking place here on facebook. I had a commentary concerning abortion on my fb wall earlier in the day, it got some good traction, and now it has disappeared?! How? I don't know.. but I imagine if it was removed then this comment will be the next to go, and maybe my account with it.. yikes. We can kill babies but don't dare voice your outrage on behalf of those who have yet to speak.

Random dude (non-christian):  also fetuses*

Me:   I agree with *fetuses, thank you. On CBC radio someone was bringing up the question of abortion and was saying "children". Skewing a little? But I don't think facebook censors abortion debate. I see plenty of pro-life propaganda on my newsfeed ALL THE TIME

Random dude 2 (christian):  Cause apparently there is a big enough difference in the womb and out of the womb that they need different names....Not

Me:  Fetus isn't the only name - embryo, blastocyst, different stages of development have different labels. Fetus = inside the womb, infant = outside the womb. I will point out that the words fetus and human being or person are not mutually exclusive. Just because someone uses the term fetus does not assume a belief that a fetus may not also be a person/child/valid life. It is the case sometimes and not in other cases. But I am glad your best defense is childish rudeness.

GB/NC:  come on now [my last name] (also my man [random dude]), it may be semantics but I truly believe it goes much deeper than that. Giving the young child inside the womb a sterile and medical name makes the deed easier. If it were a 'child', the deed would be 'murder'.. the lines we have carefully defined (fetus/infant) and established would become blurred (note that God never makes this same distinction inside or outside the womb). But we have been very precise in giving the unborn a less than memorable name - I suppose to justify the act or in an attempt to temporarily satiate our consciences, but our consciences will not be silent or satisfied. Why? because we may be able to convince each other that the deed is justifiable and right, but we have not moved God's mind on the issue and truly He is the sole caretaker of the line between right and wrong, sin and righteousness, good and evil. There is forgiveness, but God have mercy on these defenceless unborn dead children in the meantime until Lord-willing we one day get our heads on straight. There is no justifying the way we choose to conduct ourselves, we are a disgusting society sometimes and I pray things will turn around but I see very little reason for hope or light on the near horizon.

Me:  this has become quite the discussion. I just wanted to make sure I replied, I had bigger fish to fry this week but now I'm back. I appreciated your thoughtful and respectful answer. Perhaps the semantics makes it easier for some people however, I doubt that anyone who has had an abortion made the decision based solely on semantics. The problem with this argument is that we're two sides talking past each other with few agreed upon points so there can be no resolution. Your response to me will always reference the bible and god/jesus/religion (ex. "we have not moved god's mind on the issue") will always be a moot point for anyone who does not subscribe to that belief system. If someone has chosen not to follow that doctrine then an argument pulling from your personal beliefs based entirely on that doctrine (ie Christianity) will hold no sway - it will be considered an entirely invalid argument and dismissed. It is not that I would not be willing to entertain points for pro-life (although I am pro-choice and am so steadfastly) it is that those points need to come from something that I find truth in to be of any relevance like science, art, experience, etc. Religion/god does not fall under that category. And I am sure the same holds for you - if I cannot justify my belief FOR choice using the source in which you find truth (jesus/the bible) then you will automatically consider all of my arguments invalid. That sir is why the issue could not be resolved in a debate (at least one involved with Christians and non alike). So, again, thank you for the time you took to answer in a respectful way however, if you are unable to defend your stance with anything other than religious rhetoric then it will have absolutely zero sway or impact on my thinking.

GB/NC:  I guess the most dangerous people are those who at one time believed they had the faith and then left the faith but still suppose they are experts in that which they once had but I'd argue never knew. Since 'religion' is out for you which breaks my heart then we have no other standard by which to appeal to. You can only appeal to truth. You said science, art, or experience are your standards now. Please refer to my latest fb status for my stance on 'science', and keep in mind my degree at Guelph, I am a scientist and one of the only people in this ongoing conversation who holds an undergraduate degree in it. But science is constantly changing, revising. History proves how many times science was wrong in the past with devastating consequences (slavery, nazis, lobotomy, and now abortion). So we can't appeal to science because truth never changes, that's the nature of truth.. it's true. Science changes, it is dynamic, truth is not. Art, your next standard, is expression and subject to the beholder.. one person believes it to be beautiful and another ugly, subjective and also, not truth. Art is unworthy and incapable of being a standard. Finally experience, which although holds the most sway with the majority of people, it also falls short. As a good scientist you would know that experience can be controlled/altered by mimicking hormones.. so you can't trust experience/your feelings as a standard by which to measure truth. Experience is relative, truth is absolute. Unfortunately many people base their relationship with Christ solely on experience, and when tragedy hits they find their feelings are easily changed and their 'experiential faith' shaken, sometimes beyond repair. You can't base you life then on experience/feelings. I can tell you that I am passionately angered and saddened by the death of an unborn, but what sway does that have with you? That's just my personal feelings. In the end, I can appeal to you with nothing but truth. What is truth? Truth is unchanging and the only ONE I believe to satisfy that requirment is the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We know murder is wrong, but by what standard? Science, no - survival of the fittest. Art, no - death is a valid expression and in the name of art there are no limits. Experience, no - have you ever killed anyone to know it's wrong, to feel what I assume to be an empty feeling? Well I haven't, and what about the people who can kill and feel nothing? Serial Murderers, does that make murder okay for them based on their standard of truth - experience? You tell me. So then what can we appeal to for the truth? We know murder is wrong, but not everybody would agree with that based on the very standards you use - science, art, and experience. Some people believe murder is fine/natural/important/necessary. So without a standard, we have no appeal. There is no truth. But I don't believe that.

Me:  I'll take the "most dangerous people" comment as a compliment as it implicates me as a danger towards the cause of religion/Christianity. And since you have brought in the pity and moral high ground card (see: "it breaks my heart" statement) I consider the gauntlet thrown. That is one of the most angering and arrogant things that Christians routinely say to people who have a different belief system than they do. Of course science falls short of truth as it is an ongoing quest for it however science at least readily admits to its own shortcomings. Just because one cannot find absolute truth in one area does not assume it is found in another (ie. religion) solely by default. The discounting of experience along with your false and misplaced pity is also extremely arrogant because your ultimate faith in the claims of the bible are still only based on your own "experience" (that should be italicized however I'm not a facebook whiz). You experienced jesus/religion/god in a way that caused you to believe that it was real and therefore build your world view around its claims. You can in no way claim to know what my or any other person's experience is of religion and so you cannot know if, put in their shoes, given their exact experience, chemical makeup and path, you would still have developed the same faith that you currently hold. Christianity for you has been a source of identity, something that you relate to, something that has worked for you - for myself it caused me immense pain and destruction. As for your bachelor in science, well gbakes, since you opened those floodgates, I know fairly well how seriously you took your studies at that time and I can attest that an undergraduate degree in any subject these days is on the whole not much of an achievement - anyone can earn an undergraduate degree in almost any topic. At the end of all of this I will always have to concede that I do not have all of the answers, I do not have the ultimate source of truth on which you base everything however who says that there is one? Who says that because I haven't found it that it doesn't exist? And who can prove that just because some people wrote their own version of the truth, one that provides an easy answer to all of life's difficult questions and allows people to avoid thinking for themselves that this book/philosophy/religion must be true?

This ended up being longer than expected.  Props if you read this far.  It is difficult for me to tell who came out on top but it sure did get personal.  There were good points made on both sides of the argument.  Then he dropped the "pity" bomb and the gloves came off.  Perhaps I went too personal?

Be honest, if there had been an impartial moderator, who took this debate?

I went out to get some hair elastics

I meant to stop by the mall and pick up some hair elastics.  The plan was to possibly splurge on a few nail polishes.  Parking the car equidistant from the Shoppers Drug Mart entrance (a quick in and out with hair ties and nail polish) and The Bay entrance I decided I would just browse The Bay before making my way to the intended destination.  Woops.  I did eventually get the hair ties and a whole new outfit to go with them.

Not the best lighting or set up but I take what I can get when asking the roommate for help taking photos of outfits.

Stacey and Clinton would approve because:
1. The outfit is made up of versatile pieces that can be combined with other pieces in my wardrobe to make many outfits
2.  The shapes flatter my figure, even if I am not entirely thrilled with my bigger-than-last-year self.
3.  I gives me curves (Bam, Bam, BAM! - quoting Clinton Kelly)

No nail polishes though - I do have some self-restraint ;)

Tuesday, February 14

Courageous Dorkery

This happened last Thursday however it took me a while to decide whether to blog it or not.  Let's be honest though, I have no shame.  At least this post will make my dad happy - or very, very sad.  That it has come to this.  THIS being speed dating.  I like to entertain myself by trying things that I haven't tried and then blogging about them.  This wasn't regular speed dating it was nerdy speed dating at a library.  I saw the sign (because I am at the library at least once a week) and told a friend (Skipper).  She was set on making me do it and decided to try it too because, hey, literate men!

The library ladies clearly had fun with this.  They had a plethora of rules, some complicated moving around, live piano music and a reward of wine post-fast dates.  They even had us bring a favourite book to break the ice.  Luckily the amount I talk is directly proportionate to my level of awkwardness - besides, talking about books is natural for me.  Before the official boy-girl chats began the genders had arranged themselves in exclusive circles, perhaps saving up the best conversational bits for the 4 big minutes.  With the piano playing for the "dates" and stopping to signal a change - a sort of hot potato mixer.

The ratio wasn't great to start - almost double the ladies as the mens but they made it work.  I turned on the incredibly awkward charm that apparently works with nerdy boys and landed myself 5 numbers (or 85% of the possible numbers available).  Not a bad haul.  At least good for the self-esteem.  No mega love connections but we'll see.  Perhaps I have found a new hobby - speed dating in random venues.

Saturday, February 11

Velvet Olive

The more I think about it the more the name "Velvet Olive" actually sounds like a fruit that has been sitting out way too long and has grown some fuzz.  Regardless, it is a "martini" bar in downtown Red Deer with a back alley entrance off the main downtown street.  "Martini" is in brackets because, even with olive in the name, they offer only about 6 different martinis.  Honestly, that is ok with me because martinis taste like alcohol.

Ever since moving to Red Deer I have basically dreaded going out "on the town".  The only options I've seen were: 1) Bellini's (aka Redneck Jersey Shore bar from a previous post) and other similar establishments, or 2) a "pub"* which, to my dismay, ends up being the Keg or Toad and Turtle or some other cube-shaped establishment with a bar facade and televisions tuned to sporting events.

Fret no more!  The Velvet Olive feels like I'm back in Toronto, like you can hang out, sip a drink and have a good conversation while taking in the quirky local one or two-person talent.  It is small, seating about 20, dimly lit featuring local art on the walls.  It is a wait staff of one - a bit of a cranky vegan** who never did bring us our bowl of pretzels.  The drinks were tasty - I tried the "malibu stacey" - a pineapple one I'm sure has been done many times over but it was done well.  My friend tried the "lavender lush" which had that lovely grey/purple colour and tasted fantastic - big thumbs up to them for that drink.

Finally,  a place in Red Deer a bit off the beaten path and a little on the fun and funky side.  They'll even BBQ for you out on the patio in the summer if you go for dinner.  My new fave place!

*Lots of quotations in this post.  They are necessary for the effect that everything in Red Deer is a box.
**Overheard conversation of the night:
Annoying hipster:  I just never knew you could get vegan Belgian waffles to taste good but I was proven wrong.
Crabby server:  You're a vegan?  Me too!
AH:  Oh, yeah, I am.
CS:  But I eat eggs.
AH:  Oh, so you're a vegetarian.
CS:  Really, what's a label?  I just do what I can.

The funny part was I couldn't choose a side to root for.  Both were annoyingly pretentious in their own ways.  The hipster clearly was not willing to share her hard-earned vegan hipster trophy label with just anyone.  The server definitely tried to pull the "labels are for chumps" card because she clearly tried to play vegan when she was not that hardcore.  Which side would you pick?

Monday, February 6

Put your Money where your Values are

Ever since moving to Alberta, getting a real job and becoming an adult I have started to track all of my expenditures on excel to see where my money goes.  Time and money are good indicators of where a person's values lay.  Apparently I don't value savings right now....

Right off the top 25% of my income goes directly to the Ontario government to repay OSAP (student) loans.  We're, of course, talking net income.  A big chunk of my cash goes right back to Alberta whether I agree with how the conservatives spend it or not.  Back to OSAP.  So far I am off to a good start - it is a painful percentage to look at but it shows that I want to be out of debt as fast as I can and it ain't all talk.

The next 25% keeps me warm, dry and mobile - rent and car payments.  This is just slightly over a full 25%.  Hopefully no need to justify rent but I will point that I went the more affordable shared place pre-furnished to save dough which then gets handed over to the crones of Mr. McGuinty.  The car would be irresponsible in a big city with mucho public transport however, I need the car to get around this sprawling urban mess and out to the rural sites I cover for work.

Gas - $100-$150 per month.  I had set a budget of $100 however I have tended to go over this.  A good chunk of it gets reimbursed eventually for driving to those far away work sites.  Another large percentage of this is weekend trips to Edmonton.  I value good friends - money well-spent.

Food - budget:  $300.  Actual:  $350...ish.  This seems large and it is half and half.  The budget is high because I have decided to buy all of my meat at a butcher that only sells local, organic, free range dead animal muscle tissue.  Organic milk and other dairy products.  Organic fruits and vegetables.  Local whenever possible.  A good investment.  The kicker is - quite a bit of my monthly food bill goes to eating out.  When I eat out it is more expensive and I buy things that don't fit my rules of organic or cruelty-free.
            How can I make my food budget more closely reflect my values/goals?  1)  Stop buying coffee at work.  I lost my ceramic mug so it is even worse right now with those dang paper cups.  The coffee isn't fair trade but it is convenient.  I don't need caffeine to get through the day but it does waste my money.  Money spent on coffee would be better used to save a bit of money for travel.  2)  Stop eating out unless it is a social event and, still, make wise choices.  No more subway after the gym.

Booze - by most people's standards my booze expenditures would be pathetic - about $30 a month for a beverage here and there when out with friends.  But I just don't really even like it that much and I don't care if I have it or not.  Somehow that doesn't sound like a good place to put my funds.  Maybe I'll try sticking to water.

"Me" things - I'm not too frivolous but I did buy a wii.  And a new coat.  And make up at Sephora.  If I am going to spend money on well made items I would like to start making sure I know where it was made and a little bit about the company I am supporting.

Charity - $0.  Or about that.  Correct.  The most embarrassing one on this list.  It is like closer to $1.28 if you could the change I put in box at the cash at Tim's after I buy myself a coffee.  I like to get passionate about causes and I like to think that I care about others but I don't show that with my money.  As a poor student I always said I would support charities/causes in which I believe with my money when I had it.  Guess what?  I have it.  Yes, money can be tight but it isn't like I will be waking up any time soon and be chillin' on a private island with the owners of Wal-mart (ew) and Bill Gates.  If I really wanted to I could be giving something.  Challenge to self:  put some money where my values are to help other people.

Overall this turned out better than I had expected.  I am generally responsible with my money but it is the little things that I let slide.  Less coffee would mean more money for savings - savings that I might get to use for travel, something I love to do and have been pining for.  The most telling was the money I spend on charity or lack thereof.  Maybe this means it is time to change.  Next up:  I'll see what how I spend my time says about me.

Does how you spend your money reflect your goals and values?