Sunday, July 27, 2008

My big-ass vegan belt!

I don't ask a whole lot from my belts. Normally, so long as they keep my pants from ending up around my ankles while I'm standing on the bus, I'm largely satisfied.

My black "dress" belt (note: that doesn't mean that I wear it with a dress) is sadly nearing its end after several years of steady and reliable support. It has reached a terrible state, to the point that I feared it might break on me unexpectedly on any given day (and wearing pants is a dress code requirement at my place of employment). Its condition is deplorable enough to bring a tear to the eye. If my belt was human, it would be Keith Richards.

And so with heavy heart I embarked on a quest for a quality, non-leather trouser supporting device. i scanned through some of the hemp/vegan stores I have linked on your right, and quickly found the following:

Hey, look! Belts!

To be honest, I hadn't heard many good things about "vegan" belts. Actually, I'm even a little confused about the vegan designation. I could understand calling it "vegetarian", because it's not made from an animal.

But I always understood "vegan" to mean that an item is not made from an animal "by-product". Saying that my belt is vegan to me implies that it has been certified to have not been made out of cheese.

Anyway...What I had heard is that these belts are not particularly durable. And when I pulled it from the box, I also had that impressions. It is quite light, even for a belt, and it feels like it's made out of foan (though not foam cheese).

It's also super wide but I believe that may be my own fault. I may have made a mistake when I entered the dimension while ordering it. Stupid metric system!

Overall though, while I may look a little like this guy... far it's doing its belt thing quite nicely, thank you. Hey, if it prevents people on the bus from seeing the top of my t-back over my pants, then mission accomplished, matey!! Harrr!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

R.I.P. André Hamel

André Hamel passed away July 4th. I only found out yesterday while reading a borrowed copy of the Ottawa Sun. It was unpleasant news to receive but really, I'm glad I found out. I'm certain that I would have noticed at some point that I had not seen him in a while and I would have been curious as to his whereabouts.

Mr Hamel was a homeless man who seemed to spend the bulk of his time in the same few spots in downtown Ottawa. He was one of these people that you got so used to seeing around that he just became part of the scenery. He was someone that added character to a neighborhood.

When I showed a co-worker the article, he was blown away. I didn't have to ask whether he'd heard of Mr Hamel. You just assume that anyone who spends any kind of time downtown knows him.

I've been living in Ottawa since 1988 and working a few blocks from the parliament buildings since 1998. I couldn't tell you when I first started noticing André Hamel. To me, he's just always been there, usually with his dog (which I now know to be named Muff and am pleased to hear is being looked after), often chatting with someone.

If I recall correctly, the story of his passing was on page four of Friday's edition of the Sun and it was given most of the page. Seldom do you see such coverage for the passing of a homeless man, but it seems that Mr Hamel touched more people than I realized until this week.

The following article speaks volumes to that effect, I think, as does the Ottawa Sun video that I'll link below.

I hope they keep the video accessible for a while; the gentleman speaking through most of it does a great job. He confirmed something I was asking myself about Mr Hamel. I was trying to remember, over the countless times that I've walked by him, if Mr Hamel had ever asked me for spare change or done anything but wish me a good day or comment on the good weather. My experience and that of the speaker appear to be quite similar, not surprisingly.

Jennifer Campbell, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The three women stood on the side of O'Connor street, staring at a makeshift shrine. And they cried. Margaret Callaghan, Gail Chiu and Julie LaPalme couldn't hold back the tears as they talked about a man they hardly knew.

"He was always there, with his dog," said Ms. Chiu, who said she sometimes gave him money but mostly, he'd ask for a smile. "He just loved the smiles."

Ms. LaPalme said the man had a great sense of humour and she was always buoyed by his positive outlook.

All afternoon, people gathered on the sidewalk to pay tribute to André Hamel, whose turf in front of the Bell Canada building on the corner of O'Connor and Albert streets now sits empty. For more than a decade, Mr. Hamel and his dog, Muff, brightened the days of office workers who passed by on their way to work, and on their way home.

"He was just kind of part of your day," Ms. Callaghan said, and added that although they had never compared notes on him in the past, many of her colleagues knew and liked him. "I was amazed by how many people knew him."

"He was such a friendly guy and all of a sudden, he's not there," Ms. LaPalme said. "We were talking about the fact that he deserved an obituary and we wondered who would write it."

The empty sidewalk has been given over to a couple of signs, one of which is from Bell employees. Written in French, it says the employees were comforted to know he wasn't alone when he had a heart attack on Canada Day. Mr. Hamel and Muff were in Sandy Hill with friends Guy Vaillant and Roger Gauthier, both of whom do outreach volunteer work. They were about to go watch the fireworks when Mr. Hamel had a heart attack. He was revived by Mr. Gauthier and later again by paramedics, but went into a coma in hospital and died early Friday morning.

Originally from Quebec, Mr. Hamel has two children, a son and a daughter. Julia Bazley, who works for Street Level, a national roundtable on poverty and homelessness, and someone who knew Mr. Hamel well, said he saw his children periodically. Friends said he had three sisters; one passerby said he'd been married; Ms. Bazley said he still had family in Magog. And that's about all they knew of the man who would have turned 52 on Aug. 9.

At the street-side memorial, flowers are piling up -- single roses with hand-written notes, big bouquets, a greeting card. And there are dog treats for Muff. The big dog, who's part chow, visited the shrine in the afternoon with his new owner, Darryl Dempsey. Mr. Dempsey lives on the street, but hopes to get his own place soon and enroll in a social-work program at Algonquin College in the fall. He has committed to looking after the 11-year-old dog who is described as Mr. Hamel's closest companion and who is clearly confused by his death.

"Every time I take him for a walk, he thinks I'm going to take him to see André," said Mr. Dempsey, who was overwhelmed by the memorial that all afternoon drew people, sometimes a dozen at a time, to pay their respects.

"Look, big, dumb black dog -- look what people have done for you," he said. "It just shows there's humanity out there."

Some who stopped were curious onlookers, but most remembered Mr. Hamel for his positive attitude and the way he made their days. His death has, in a strange way, brought a disparate community of downtown workers together.

"This guy was just so special," said Health Canada employee Connie Brisebois, as she fought back tears. "I found out his birthday was Aug. 9 and last year I gave him a Joe Louis with a candle on it. He was so thankful."

One card, from "Maria," reads: "In loving memory. You were a bright light in my mornings. We will miss you."

Downtown worker Dawn Guindon, her eyes reddened from tears, said Mr. Hamel was the first person she met when she moved to Ottawa seven years ago. Federal government employee Maria Booth, who dropped off a white rose, said he always had something nice to say. "He never begged for money, but sometimes you just wanted to give him something."

Richard Holstein is one bad mother!

Wow. Dude threw a cat off a balcony and beat another to death.

I don't follow the rap or hip-hop scene (in fact, I'd rather spend the night in the dryer than listen to a minute of that musical idiocy) but I have a sneaking suspicion that crimes against felines is not how 50-cent and "G-Unit" (see below) built their cred. But you know, this is Ottawa, not Compton...

Posting about this turd here probably won't amount to much, but you never know. I sometimes look at what other people in the area are blogging about, so I assume others do the same on occasion. Maybe someone has seen him.

This prick should be fairly easy to spot with those neck tattoos. Mind you, there are countless white guys walking around trying SO hard to live this image nowadays, it might seem like an overwhelming task, but if you see one wearing a turtleneck in July, that might be your man right there.

This is taken from the Ottawa Citizen:

OTTAWA -- Police are searching for a man who is accused of breaking into an apartment, throwing a cat off of a third-floor balcony and beating a second cat to death.

Police say the attacks took place after Richard Holstein, 24, broke into an apartment in the Sandy Hill area of downtown Ottawa on Wednesday. Neighbours say the incident occurred in the evening.

An initial report suggested a third cat was involved, but the Ottawa Humane Society has confirmed only two cats were in the apartment.

Sharon Miko, director of operations at the Ottawa Humane Society, said the cat which was beaten to death was a long-haired, brown Tabby cat named Marble. The other cat, a Siamese and Tabby mix named Kitty, was short-haired cat and a mix of white, light brown and gray fur.

Both cats were about a year old, Ms. Miko said. The cat that was thrown from the balcony has not been found, she said.

Police said the man is known to the cats' owner.

Mr. Holstein is wanted on a series of criminal counts including theft, being unlawfully in a dwelling and causing unnecessary suffering to animals. In an unrelated matter, he is also wanted for breach of probation and breach of recognizance.

He is described as white, approximately six feet tall, weighing about 190 pounds. He has blue eyes, short blond hair and a muscular build.

He has characteristic tattoos on his neck and the back of his hands. His right hand tattoo says "G-Unit," his left-hand tattoo has a "50 Cent" marking. He also has a heart tattooed on his left hand.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact Det. Leanne Smith at 613-236-1222 ext. 5407, or to call Crime Stoppers at 613-233-8477.

Breach of probation. My favourite.

Edit: Seems our boy was caught the next day at a transit station. He is facing 15 charges and was denied bail, but more importantly the cat that was thrown ooff the balcony was later found alive (though apparently with an injured paw). :-)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What's that wacky Oprah up to now?

Somehow, my little blog has far too much content about Oprah Winfrey. I don't know why it keeps happening. Part of it is due, obviously, in that she chooses to cover certain subjects that are relevant to the topics posted here. But it's still surprising to me how often I stumble upon it since I never watch her show.

No, really. It's true. I never watch it. I swear I don't. I don't record it either. This isn't some attempt on my part to reinforce my masculinity either, I really never see her show. Besides, I've already established that endeavour to be a lost cause.

Most recently, one of the great many newsletters I subscribe to pointed out that the divine Mrs O went on a body cleansing program of sorts by which she became vegan for three weeks. In fact, she went BEYOND vegan.

The plan is to eliminate caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten and animal products from your diet for up to 21 days.


This generated some excitement among the usual suspects of the treehugger world. There's no questioning the reach and influence that O-Dub has so if she gives this a pass, it might convince a great many people to give it a whirl too, right?

So how did it go? Well, I haven't read her entire blog about it (I swear I haven't), but it seems to have gotten off to a nice start...

Week One: Wednesday
I just cleaned my dinner plate, down to the last grain of brown rice left under my oh-so-deliciously seasoned soy chicken. I can not believe how tasty, spicy and wonderful it all was. I'm ever more surprised at how I don't miss anything and feel so satisfied at every meal. Bravo to Tal! By Day 4, I'm usually climbing the walls or craving sweets—or ready to throw in the towel on any other diet plan. I'm a little nervous about the weekend. Tal cooks our last meal for the week tomorrow, and I've got to go to Las Vegas for Tina and Cher. Vegas and vegan don't seem to mix. — Oprah

And she concludes, at the start of week four, with...

What I know for sure is I've reached a new level of awareness about food, eating and the whole process of how it gets to my table. I used to say thanks before a meal out of perfunctory habit. Now I consider it true grace to be able to eat anything in a world of increasing food shortages and starving people.

This has been exactly what we intended: enlightening. I will forever be a more cautious and conscious eater. That's my commitment for now. To stay awakened.

Thank you for escorting us along the journey to wellness.

We're not quantum quality yet, but "leaning in."

Does that mean she's remaining vegan? I doubt it. It would be interesting if someone would contact her a year from now to see whether her mindset has remained as enlightened as she felt right then.

That's all fine and good and I appreciate that she approached the whole thing with an open mind because certain habits (wine, apprently, in her case) required considerable effort to break. And it's not as though she has any specific reason to try this.

But in terms of being intrigued by the vegan lifestyle of people in the public eye, there's someone I find far more intriguing. This guy:

This is Mac Danzig and as you might have peiced together, he's involved in mixed martial arts. I don't watch Ultimate Fighting, and I don't know this guys from a hole in the ground.

So why do I find his potential impact more interesting? A couple of reasons.

a) Not everyone has someome cook for them like Oprah does (I do, but it's hardly a point of pride. I love you, Christine!). No matter how much she gushes about her various experimentations, not everyone has expert advice.

In fairness, her chef took off after a while, and Danzig has a trainer, but he would seem to be closer to the level of the average person in terms of resources. When I mentioned Oprah's little project to an acquaintance, that Oprah will have everyone else do the work (besides eating, presumably) was the first thing out of her mouth. So the credibility factor may not be all that high after all.

b) Target audience. There's a perception that vegetarians and vegans are missing key nutrients. This guy doesn't look in too bad shape to me, and it doesn't appear as though he's reinventing the wheel diet-wise. Plus he was named one of the 25 fittest men in America by Men's Fitness magazine. He may be better able to dismiss some myths, whereas when women think about the body they'd love to have, I doubt Oprah is the first person that comes to mind.

c) Dedication. Oprah tried it and is non-commital about it in the end. This guy lives it, has for years, and has been succesful with it.

Unfortunately, the impact of these endorsements is difficult to evaluate. It's not like anyone keeps statistics about how many "converts" these two have created.

Either way, any contribution to changing perception that this is such an unusual way to live is appreciated. I actually believe that this is going to become more and more common in the future as more and more celebrities come out of the closet about this. Or pantry?