Refuse to be Passive

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

An Early Morning

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm

It’s a cool and cloudy day in Jasper. And while all the tourists are unhappy with the grey skies, poor views, and a chance of rain, I couldn’t be happier. It’ll be a busy Saturday in the bakery as they all come in to drown their sorrows in cappuccinos and highly sugared sticky rolls or the ever so slightly healthier morning glory muffins. But even better than that, is that this cool weather might take the temperature in the back down a notch or two and I won’t be sweating buckets all day long.

I have roughly an hour to kill before I go to work. I’d forgotten that the swimming pool doesn’t have morning swim on weekends, and so I find myself in the laundromat/coffee house Snowdome. I’ve been spending more time here lately, because they have great internet access (albiet not free, but $3 per hour…ouch!), good washing machines ($4/load…double ouch!), but best of all, great coffee. Until this morning I have pronounced Coco’s as the hands down Americano winner. I’ve been assured by others that Snowdome has the best coffee, and so today I decided to test that claim. For only $3.15 you can get yourself a stellar double Americano. Can we sense a theme of price gouging here? I’m used to paying $2.50-$2.75 for a really good Americano, certainly not over $3. This will have to become a treat, and I will need to track down where in the world my Aeropress is packed. That makes for a much cheaper morning joe. And if it’s made with freshly ground, good coffee, it’ll rival and good Americano.

Today is the first day in four days that I don’t feel like utter crap. My roommate keeps having people over in the evening, when all I want to do is curl up in silence, read a book, and go to bed early. It’s one of the unfortunate parts of sharing a bachelor pad. Thankfully, I’m counting down until my move in to my new place. It’s July 21 and I’ve only got to wait for ten more days. I couldn’t be happier. Finally I’ll have my own room, and a roommate who doesn’t keep crazy hours, coming in at anywhere between 1:30 and 5:30 am every night, that is, assuming that she comes home. It’s funny, because at the beginning of the summer, she’d guaranteed me that she wasn’t a night owl and preferred to go to be rather early, like elevenish. Liar liar pants on fire. Hmm…I’m wondering if that is a British phrase. If so, that mental picture just got a whole lot more entertaining.

In other life areas, I’ve been doing some numer crunching on my budget for the rest of the year. While my needs are few and compared to many North Americans I have a relatively small cost of living, I also take in a relatively small income. After crunching the numbers, I’ve discovered that I come out in the red. Not much in the red, but in the red none the less. Anyone who knows me, who knows my fiscal handling tendencies, also knows that this is simply unacceptable to me. As such, I need to find a way to take on some extra cash so I can get out of the red, into the black, pay off my student line of credit faster, and start putting some away– whether that be for retirement or a down payment on a house or business, who knows? But it’s always best to save. The question becomes, when I already work 40 hours a week, and my schedule can flex hours on either side of my shift, what can I do to bring in extra income? It would be dangerous to take on another traditional job unless it’s on my days off. Also, I want it to be a job I can maintain during the winter in a small town where nothing happens during the winter. The town dwindles to a small local population, and the only imports are people who come out to ski on the weekends. As far as I can tell, this requires me making money via selling some sort of product on the internet. But what could that product be? As for the rest of the summer, my sister and I are thinking we might take on a table at the Farmer’s Market. She’ll make the goods, I’ll sell ’em. Maybe I’ll even look into making some goods to sell– although hers would be crafty and mine would undoubtedly be food related. I’ve already got my food handler’s certificate, which is one of the requirements for food vendors, but apparently there is some online farmer’s market course I’d need to take as well. Not a problem in my books. But if I were to do food, what would I sell? Traditional baking is out. I don’t really want to tick off my current boss. I could do salsas, chutneys, and dips. I could do dry mix blends. Or I could do non-traditional baking, such as vegan, lactose intolerant, and celiac friendly items. Those seem to be few and far between in this town. Coco’s is really the only place to go that even recognizes these populations. Actually, that’s not true. Snowdome does a vegan peanut butter cookie, and the Bear’s Paw has a wheat free macaroon. Oh wait, macaroons are always wheat free. Granted, I have to give Bear’s Paw props because they’re going to start carrying gluten-free bread on an every-other day basis. One day on, one day off, and alternating between white and brown. Kudos! No longer is it simply a special order item that many people don’t know about. They also do gluten-free cakes by special order, although I’ve never seen that happen. Now, if they’ll just start carrying gluten-free muffins, we’ll be off to the races! Although my preference would be a gluten-free, dairy-free muffin so that my sister can have them. Often people who are gluten intolerant are often lactose intolerant as well. And the truth is that switching out milk for soy milk or almond milk isn’t that big of a deal. It’s pretty much a one-for-one exchange. Or I could make dry mixes for these items. Just add water! Although that makes me wonder, is there such a thing as powdered soy or almond milk? That might be stretching it.

In a little less than two weeks I make a trip into Edmonton to help me with my moving stuff. By that time I need to know what I’ll do at the Farmer’s Market so I can pick up ingredients. I tell you, the prices for things like soy milk, tofu, and gluten-free flours in this town are absurd! They’re a good 25% mark-up over what I could pay for them in Edmonton. I suppose that’s due to shipping costs. Also, if I have items that need to be kept cold, then I’ll also need to invest in some coolers and such. My last stellar cooler is living in Lethbridge. Fat lot of good it’s going to do me there! I don’t expect to make it down there until Christmas. By that point I’m sure a cooler will be high on my priority list. Oh well. I had been planning on taking some time off to do some travelling during November, but seeing as I’m already looking at ending this year in the red, there may not be the fundage for province wide family visits. That, and it turns out that while we close at work for the whole month of November, you’re really only given two weeks off, as the other two weeks are used to do some deep cleaning. It’s hard for me to believe that if people are working hard that it would take two weeks to clean that small space. I think the entire back should be done in four days, but that’s just my opinion.

For now, I think that’s enough. I have more to talk about, but first I need to do some (expensive) internet research before sharing with you my latest exciting find! It’s one of those finds that you never actually shell out the money for, but the concept is exciting none the less. I can feel the curiosity already.

 

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Environmentalism in a National Parks Town

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm

One would think that living in a small town in a National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, that environmentalism would be on the the forefront of people’s minds. After all, living on the threshold of the wilderness leads to a population of people who love nature and get out to enjoy it. After a long day at work, the trails around town are milling with people hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. The rivers and lakes are filed with canoes, kayaks and rafts. While the small local population seems to be intent on preserving that nature, I have to question how sustainable this small town is? While many people bike or walk around town, there are no shortage of SUVs and Pick-up trucks parked along the curbs for when people leave town to explore deeper into the Rockies. Beyond that, my small town is a tourist town. The summer is when the money is made, and in the winter the town dies. Most businesses in town survive off this tourism and are part of the service industry, although the railway plays a significant part in the survival of the town. But we can talk about the railway another time. For now I would like to focus on the service industry that caters to visitors from around the world.

Due to the fact that many of the businesses in town have a scant half year to make the majority of their income, it’s important that overhead and fixed costs remain low. Jasper, my town, is known as a minimum wage town, as most of the service industry pays relatively little to their employees. During the summer season, many of these employees are university students, needing a summer job and a cheap place to live– namely, staff accommodation. These short term residents tend to take two forms, the outdoorsy types and the partiers. Both types come to Jasper to enjoy their summer, but tend to choose to enjoy them in different ways. But once again, I digress. Between the temporary populaiton and the tourists, there is a large culture of consumerism here, particularly in regards to food. Restaurants, coffee shops, bars, pubs, and confectionery stores abound.

Yesterday evening, I took a trip to my local Mac’s to pick up a Slurpee as my apartment was piping hot, even at 10pm. A cold shower probably would have done the trick, but instead I wandered down to the town center to find myself a sweet treat. As I wandered with my froster, I looked around at the others who were out and about. Most of them were holding some form of food or drink container– an ice cream cup, coffee cup, pop bottle, or take out box. I cringed and looked down at my own froster cup and recogized a truth. Most of these items would wind up in the local landfill. Many of them can’t be recycled, and the majority of people are not aware of what items can be recycled. I started thinking about how often I was the cause of the production of unneeded waste. Let’s see here, a few frosters a week, a few drinks at work a week. A can of pop here or there. And even while I recycle what I can, sometimes I am simply too lazy to ensure that my recyclables make their way into the appropriate receptacle. And that is just the recycling.

I was reading the Edmonton Journal this morning, and was captivated by an article on the development of a sustainable community on the land where the city center airport now stands. Edmonton is already a world leader in the areas of garbage reduction/disposal and recycling. Now they’re aiming to add to their environmental reputation with this new community that will make use of geothermal energy, a grey water system, and many other avant garde technologies. Here in Jasper, I’m fairly certain that most of these technologies are rare. Most forms of energy are traditional, coming off the standard power grid. I’ve seem little in the way of alternative forms of energy such as solar, wind or geothermal energy– not that the last of those is terribly obvious.

Sidebar: The washroom in the cafe in which I’m sitting has a chalk board with things written on it that change on a regular basis. Today’s writing? “Welcome to Jasper! Population: 5 trillion mosquitoes.” Love it. And below that someone scrawled “At least it’s not 45 million years ago when they were the size of foot balls.” Isn’t that a horrific thought? I cringe. End of sidebar.

Now I do have to give the town kudos for the fact that in all the public buildings, they use dual flush toilets with sensored sink faucets. But in the many apartment buildings used for staff accommodations, the story is different. Many of them have your regular water guzzling toilets, and sinks with leaky taps. The buildings are often overly warm, and so people live with their windows open all the time, as even with the thermostats turned off, the heat still rises. That’s hardly environmentally friendly, but even the eco-minded seem to have little control over this. With all the issues we have with global warming, do we really need to heat our apartment buildings to the point of needing to leave the windows open, adding even more heat to the environment? In the Edmonton Journal this morning I was reading about the issues of global warming on the polar bear population. People like to stick their heads in the sand on issues such as these, but I cannot turn my back on what is happening with many of the wildlife populations that are in distress due partially to natural environmental changes, but compounded by the actions of man. Here in Jasper we have the perfect example in the caribou population. These animals used to thrive here, now there are less than 50 left in the park. Banff, my neighbour to the south, lost their last five in an avalanche last year. The caribou in Jasper are threatened by an agressive wolf population that are gaining easier access into the caribou habitats via the roadways built to get us humans to various places in the park. Parks Canada is well aware of the situation and is working hard to help protect the caribou population, but this population is on the brink of extinction. It will be the first animal to go extinct in the Canadian national parks (I believe). Considering that caribou only procreate every other year, and the survival rate is something like 30%, this population of animals is in some serious need of help. I say all this simply to iterate that even with natural causes and cycles, humans have a major impact on the wildlife in the world around us. As such, we need to be thoughtful about our resources and how we use them. In many situations it is important to stop and examine our lifestyles and ask ourselves seriously if the conveniences of our lifestyles warrant the effects on creation.

For example, I was also reading in the Edmonton Journal about the plans for a pipeline through BC to carry crude oil from the oilsands to the coast to be shipped to Asia. Activists, land owners, first nations groups, and others are joining the bandwagon to protest the destruction of virgin territory. I applaude this, but still the are of the oilsands, responsible for the economic boom in Alberta is being further plundered and raped to keep us in Alberta in the cushy lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to. Granted, big oil does provide millions of dollars to environmental research in an effort to create a positive public face. And I’m sure, that to some extent their concern for the environment is genuine, but I just can’t shake the feeling of this being a case of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Even as I write this, I know myself to be a hypocrite. My laptop on which I type is made primarily of plastic, which is produced from oil. The laminate topped counter at which I sit, is a byproduct of oil. Even my fleece sweatpants are made from oil. Did you know they can take plastic water bottles and turn them into fleece? Crazy, right? But at the same time, I do take intentional steps to limit my dependence on oil. I walk or bike almost everywhere, and do not own a vehicle. This was true for me when I was living in the largest city in Canada– Toronto– and still is, now that I live in a town that is roughly 1% the size of the city from which I moved. When I do need to get somewhere that my feet or bike cannot take me, I rely on public transit. In Jasper, that’s usually when I need to get into Edmonton. My options are Greyhound or Via Rail, or carpooling with a friend. I don’t go into Edmonton often, but when I do, I try to make the trip worthwhile, hitting as many stops as I can. Granted, running errands around Edmonton is usually done by car, but when possible I localize my errands and walk from one location to another.

Today, when you hop into your car, think about the impact you are having on the world around you. Can you walk that 1km to the grocery store? Do you really need to drive? Even if you can’t see the impact your lifestyle has, know that it is there. I encourage you to start making small changes, if you haven’t already. Choose to shop closer to home, choose to walk when possible. And when not possible, turn your errands into a trip with friends. That way, you’ll be carpooling, reducing traffic on the road, and reducing pollution into the atmosphere. Just make sure when you’re buying whatever your buying to consider not only the pricing, but the amount of waste it will produce. I had one roommate who insisted on buying her packs of toilet paper all individually wrapped. Goodness. What a waste.

Jasper Sights

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm

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Pilot Episode: 198

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm

198. The numbers on the scale glare at me. I know I’ve gained some serious weight over the past seven months due to a bout with depression and then the healing process, but sixty pounds? Today at work I ate like crap and then went for a swim to try to curb some of the damage I’d done. Upon getting out of the pool, I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in a long time I was able to look at my body with an analytical frame of mind, rather than looking in the mirror and wanting to cry. The back story is rather long and maybe you know some of it, and maybe in the future you’ll hear some of it, but let’s just say that a few years ago, 198 was only five pounds above my average weight. Then I lost the weight– and now it’s back again. But I digress. Today was the first day I was able to look in the mirror and view my body with a sense of detachment, to breathe deep, and accept where I was. I had finally healed enough to step back on the scale. I walked up to a perky young blonde working at the desk at the fitness center and asked if there was a scale around. She directed me around the corner, where I did indeed find a digital scale. Although I had a brief pause, wondering if this was really something I was ready for and wanted to do, the answer was clear. Yes, I do want this. Yes I’ve been in stage of denial. Yes, I’ve been here before. And yes, I will lose the weight again. So that leaves me with the angry red numbers 198 glaring up at me. Although it’s a good ten pounds higher than I thought I’d be, I am shocked, but neither angry or disgusted. What good would either of those feelings be to me? Instead I choose to look forward. There is so much I’ve forgotten about living  a healthy lifestyle, that in many ways I feel like I’m starting from scratch, needing to learn things over again. But I can do that. I just need the right frame of mind and a good support network. The hardest time to find a good frame of mind is at the end of a long day at work. I work at a bakery, and at the end of the day I find myself decorating cakes. I have a serious sweet tooth and some of that left over icing often calls my name. However, with the numbers 198 etched into my brain, I think that the icing will cease calling, or will be drowned out by other desires. I now type this while sitting at a picnic table in beautiful, sunny Jasper in the heart of the Rocky Mountains—the place I call home. I am not filled with dread, nor do I wonder if I can lose the weight. I’ve proved before I can, and I will do so again. And while this time my approach may need to be different, due to a different approach to health and weight loss—namely the belief that artificial sweeteners are as bad as the regular ones, if not worse—I know I can do this. I invite you to follow along with me in this journey. Working back towards a healthy lifestyle will take serious work and I’ll need serious support. One thing though, there are some phrases I’ve heard so many times that I’ve come to dislike them with the fire of a thousand suns, so please humour me and don’t post them as comments. Here they are: “All things in moderation.” Whoever came up with that one did not have a sweet tooth. “One day at a time.” Duh.  And I’m sure there is another one, but for the life of me I cannot think of what it may be. I’m sure someone will post it to remind me. But here is my favourite, one that stands the truths of clichés. “Tomorrow is a new day.” True that, thanks Anne of Green Gables, but at the same time, I’d like to tack on “But that’s no excuse to screw up the rest of today.”  Nigi Ne Themba.