On feeding birds.

We have been feeding the birds outside for almost a year now, since last summer. I have a hanging tray with a mesh bottom I fill with seed every day, and a vertical suet feeder with a tail prop. Mostly we get house sparrows – even though they’re not supposed to like black oia sketch of smaller birds, looking at a tray feeder hung in a tree l sunflower seeds, or perching vertically on a suet feeder – but also a pair of chickadees, some nuthatches, the migrating junco, and now a pair of house finches. There’s even a tiny mouse that whisks out of a tree stump to clean up any crumbs the bossy, messy sparrows toss over the edge. A northern flicker is thinking about building a nest in the tree but has since abandoned the effort (we are glad, because it’s in a spot accessible to cats.) I have an app on my phone that lets us identify the birds quickly and easily, which is how we found out there’s a little merlin too, swooping around the neighbourhood and crying. It seems this year there are more birds, brought around by the regular food. (Feeding birds is okay and helps support bird populations.) People who can’t get out much, and cats, also appreciate bird feeders placed within sight of the house. It’s a commitment, though – bird feeding is not just for fair weather – and I worry a bit about what will happen when we move houses. But I do what I can while I’m here.

Book list

I’ve been collecting book recommendations for diverse, inclusive, feminist sci fi and fantasy, and several people have indicated they are also interested in such a list, so I’m collating it here. The ones marked with an asterisk are ones we have read personally and recommend; the others are suggestions from people I know. I’ll be coming back and updating this periodically. I also have a list for myself that’s less exciting nonfiction but we’ll save that for another day.

  • Octavia Butler – all of her work
  • *Ursula K Le Guin –  start with The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed for adult reading; I am particular to her Earthsea books but all of her writing is great, including her writing on writing
  • *Nnedi Okorafor – all her YA fiction. I wish I had these when I was younger.
  • *N.K. Jemisin – a strong recommend from Paul
  • *Ann Leckie – Ancillary series
  • China Miéville – The City and the City, Perdido Street Station, The Scar
  • Caroline Stevermer
  • Robin McKinley
  • Lila Bowen
  • Caroline Robin
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Becky Chambers – The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
  • Jeff VanderMeer -the Ambergris books – especially Finch; Shriek: An Afterword;  Southern Reach Trilogy
  • the Cixin Liu trilogy that starts with Three Body Problem
  • Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
  • Sofia Samatar – Winged Histories, A Stranger in Olondria
  • Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison – Goblin Emperor
  • *Patricia C Wrede – Enchanted Forest Chronicles (I have a soft spot for these as I loved them as a kid, but I’m not sure how they hold up. Guess I’ll have to sign them out again. In this same vein I would also recommend Hild by Nicola Griffith.)
  • and of course, The Handmaid’s Tale, now more than ever

These all run the gamut from straightforward YA to intricate and challenging fiction – you’ll have to do your own research to find out which ones you’ll like, but this is a starting point. I am divided on the definition of progressive, or sensitive – sometimes you want a book that directly counteracts tired stereotypes (i.e. the Ye Old Princess Kicks Butt plot), but as I get older I’m also looking for reads where sexism et al is not a Thing that must be Overcome. I’d rather it not be a thing at all. If you can imagine a world with dragons, how hard is it to imagine a world without structural inequality? Suffice it to say this list varies on this axis as well.

I don’t have comments turned on but you can @ me on Twitter if you would like to add to the list.

(Yes, I know YA can be intricate and challenging. I’m not speaking about plot here, but writing. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, with its dense plot and opaque nomenclature system, is much harder to get into than a Nnedi Okorafor volume. This is not to say one is better than the other; it’s more a matter of preference, like how you take your coffee.)



On low taxes.

This is the text of a small Twitter thread I had after a long day of being fed up with tax rhetoric on October 7th, during the municipal election. I’ve edited it lightly for punctuation but otherwise kept it as how it was originally written, in a quasi-spoken word style that Twitter lends itself well to, in my opinion.  

[sets beer down] You get what you pay for. All this [waves] all this is what low taxes has brought you. All of it, the shitty roads,

the shitty transit system that functions in spite of itself and everyone else, your decaying parks, your crumbling or non-existent sidewalk

This garbage encrusted gravel that the Meewasin is degrading into, all of it. Your dirty impark lots with the predatory tickets

Cigarette butt littered weedy bent spray painted exhaust silent neighbour smelly river drain oil slick cat food city

There is a point where you can look beyond yourself and make something truly great if you take an extra step. There is a deep drive here

But it is subsumed into becoming what we think other cities are without spending or committing. And I don’t mean arenas or bridges

We have a city that’s very good at maintaining a declining status quo, if that makes sense, when we are flexible and small to change easily

It’s an entire collective based on loss aversion and individual benefit rather than using the gestalt of cities to make gains.

When did we stop trusting and working with each other? Rural people know this. You are nothing without neighbours. Now it’s all “I got mine”

This next decade is going to be real shit if we don’t smarten up already. Why would you expect others to help if you won’t extend the same?

Partially that’s why I think people are so angry. You know what needs to be done, let’s start doing it.

Like, fuck it. You have my permission to stop being afraid and stop listening to other people’s fear

If people try to make you afraid of stuff, laugh at them and walk away. (Unless it’s like, anti-drinking and driving ads.)

Also stop drinking and driving, for fuck’s sake.




Original thread here.

On “jokes”

We are entering four years of a council with majority women so I feel it incumbent upon me to provide a primer of sorts for dealing with a council comprised mainly of women.

Here’s what you do: you treat them the same way as men. I know, weird, right. And normally as a progressive feminist, I don’t advocate for equality, I advocate for fairness. But here’s why it’s fair. As my very smart women friends pointed out, when you single out women with gendered remarks, especially women in positions of power, you’re implying that women don’t belong, that they’re weird or an Other or an otherwise disruptive presence to the “natural” ruling order.

The subtext of the Charlie’s Angel’s joke is that, well, the mayor is named Charlie, and he’s flanked by women councillors. Which on the surface, is ehh, whatever. It’s no Daily Show cutting repartee, let’s leave it at that. But here’s why your women friends are bristling: the TV show was predicated not on the intelligence or education or efforts of the Angels in particular; it was based on their attractiveness to the male gaze, and capitalized on that by placing the characters in improbable situations and skimpy outfits.

I know some people are purely making the reference based on Mayor Clark’s first name. But unfortunately that’s not what everyone hears. If it were possible to handwave centuries, or even just a decade or two of history, I would, but I can’t, and neither can you. It’s a sad truth that any successful or professional woman can tell you: we have all had at some point, our achievements reduced by saying it’s because we’re good “for a woman”, or we must have got in due to “diversity quotas”, or our appearance. Or the backhanded compliments that women are better at “communication” due to our mothering instincts or some such crap. (It’s also a disservice to men, because it implies men cannot parent as well, and their decision making skills are impaired by attractiveness.)

This is all very heavy-handed for me and I’m sorry to have to say it. But I’m also sorry to see this sort of thing from men I like, or men I feel are otherwise in our corner. There’s a couple of responses I’m anticipating to it so I will address them in order:

  • It’s just a joke. – Then it’s easy for you to stop. Or better yet, just make it away from me. I can guarantee I am not the only one in your peer circles who thinks this way, however.
  • You’re censoring me, unfunny women. – Nah, you can keep making this joke as often as you want. I’m just expressing my mild displeasure and explaining why it isn’t funny to me and a lot of other people. We’re both free to continue in this vein. Although I think it’s kind of a weird hill to die on. Doubling down and defensiveness tells me that contrary to what you profess, you do care what I think of you.

If this makes you uncomfortable, I strongly suggest you spend more time reading and/or hanging out with people who do not have the same lived experiences as you. It will make you better at articulating your position, in acknowledging when you have impacted others, and grant you grace in subsequent dealings. It will not blunt your sense of humour; in fact, it will make it sharper.


Ahhh so serious! I apologize. Next time we’ll talk about whiteness in the city governance and how white women usually benefit disproportionately from diversity initiatives! Can’t wait!

July 21, 2016

I was going to write more, write more every day but I felt like I needed to have a specific topic, which was an excuse to avoid it altogether. It’s better just to write on what I’ve thought about during the day rather than to save it all up for a themed post. I also feel if I start writing I will never stop.

I finished reading Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson. It is a good book. There isn’t an extra word in it, and it slips into you so quick and quiet like a filleting knife, you don’t notice that you’re cut till there’s blood. It’s both of Canada and older than Canada, spare, light, and dark.

I am full of resentment. July is hot and long. August will be worse. The bus schedules have changed, but not for me. I can’t tell if our neighbourhood is insignificant or underserved. I am not cycling either, and the tang of hot car permeates my days. We have to replace it, cumbersome thing. Another chore to add to the weekends. The brake caliper is sticking, a several hundred dollar fix on a car worth at most twenty-five hundred. Math we know too well. The faint shoofing of the brake pads against the rotor grind my nerves every time I drive. I hate when things are broken.

I cannot leave the city, and in this car-mad province there are few options. It is the inverse of my teenage life, stuck at the farm with no way to get into the city. It helps with perspective. There are many ways of living in the city, though. My sister purchased a Saskatoon Canoe Club membership for me as a birthday present, and we sign out kayaks to slip up and down the river. I pretend my house is a cabin, and we cook burgers on the smoker. I buy flip-flops and swim at the pool. Evenings I sit outside with a light beer and play games on my phone. There isn’t any wifi at the lake. I don’t work hard enough to be a lake person, anyway.












House of Pain remix feat. the Hub City

For reference:

Pack it up, pack it in
Let us begin
The city’s cavin’ in
Our future’s lookin’ grim

Tear the cul-de-sac up,
City trucks you’d better back up
Try and fill the hole and the whole street’ll act up

Get up, stand up, come on throw your hands up
If you feel like screamin’ come to the city meetin’
Council’s a funk fest, they’re always talkin’ junk
Yo we’ll bust them in the eye and then we’ll vote the punks out

1-800-junking, avenues all sunken
And we’ve got more crimes than there’s cops at a drunken
Top of the Hops, yeah we got props
From Caswell kids on the Hill
And their mom and their pops

Riverbank’s going down, riverbank’s going down
Pull down some trees and slump around
Slump around, slump up and slide down
Slump around, slump around
Slump up and slide down
Slump up, slump up and slide down
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump

City says it’s not them, it’s glacial till and backflow
If your shit starts to slip, hire a tractor backhoe
Word from your moms, don’t trust city comms
We’ve got more fault lines than the city’s got qualms

And just like old man Dayday, it’s returned
Water down below but up top we get burned
Baking like a flake on your fake grass in the hot sun
Finish up your mansion cause we want one

We’re all fools cause they’ll duel till they’re half deaf
While the inner city don’t care, all we have’s debt
They’ve got to chill, can’t just drill
Into the side of a shifting river bank hill

Riverbank’s going down, riverbank’s going down
Uproot some trees and slump around
Slump around, slump up and slide down
Slump around, slump around
Slump up and slide down
Slump up, slump up and slide down
Slump, slump

It’s the talk of the shop when the slope flops
Who’s left holding the bill when the bank drops
Don’t know who’s a prevaricator, like conspiracy city haters
Tryna block us all out like we’re downtown skater mayors

But we’re not going out like no drunk bridge
4 spans gone but we’ve still got one which
Reminds you of what’s gone and what’s yet to come
Put it out of your head the city downtown plan is dead

We’re coming to get ya, coming to get ya
Fill your prescription and city cops will arrest, yeah
Riverbank’s coming down, it’s all coming down
So light up some trees and slump around

Slump around, slump up and slide down
Slump around, slump around
Slump up and slide down
Slump up, slump up and slide down
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump

on swimming and systems.

A thing I think about a lot is the amount of invisible infrastructure needed to support our highly specific lives. Like tonight, I went swimming. It’s a very simple act that requires a highly technical and complicated system of chemistry, physics, math, mechanical engineering, and a huge amount of oil and coal to manufacture and run it all. The bus that takes me there and runs back, on asphalt roads, rubber and tires and a diesel-electric hybrid engine, with focus-grouped patterned seats in an indestructible fabric woven out of plastic. The pH balance of the pool, the chemical composition of the grout holding the tiles together, metal halide lamps, the polyester spandex blend of your suit, the little grippy patches along the pool lip to hold on to while you discuss with your swimming partner the news of the day. Who could invent all this by themselves, given a blank slate and all the materials? Tiny inventions, one by one, building upon each other like coral, and we take it for granted. Just so I can get some uninterrupted thinking time and exhaust myself deliciously before bed.

We grew up swimming in lakes and occasionally dams. Water, mud, sky, plants, fauna. Don a suit (or not) and wade in: algae, leeches, slimy muck engulfing your toes, seaweed groping your legs, and in one case, a rusty nail in a 2×4 that made my vacation rather more exciting than scheduled. I can’t say it’s any more fun, but then I don’t swim for fun anymore, other than the enjoyment of having exercised. (I am telling myself that I enjoy exercising; having utterly resisted all attempts at gamification, my brain is easily fooled by the simple expedient of telling it what it likes or doesn’t like.) So the complicated city swimming uncomplicates outcomes; and the simple country swimming ends up in a trip to the ER on the weekend of your grandparents’ 50th anniversary, an ER that may or may not still exist out Canora way. More examples of infrastructure humming away under the edges of your life, HVAC systems and healthcare scheduling and sterile bandages catching you, propping you up, sending you back out.