Mom’s Spaghetti

I woke up at the usual time and decided to stay in bed. I used my feet to pull my phone off the charger where it sleeps at night and emailed work. “I’ve got vertigo. I won’t be in.” Then I texted my two best friends, one after another, and said, “I can’t walk. Halp.”

Then I lay in bed for another hour til the roommates were gone, so they couldn’t see me crawl to the bathroom on my hands and knees. The world wouldn’t stop spinning so I closed my eyes. Coming back from the bathroom I had to stop a couple of times in the yoga pose known as “the Child”, clinging to the floor so I wouldn’t fall off. I stopped at the refrigerator also for about two swallows of almond milk, but they came right back up again. Last night mom made beef stroganoff for dinner. It was delicious and I ate a lot of it, but that all came out the wrong end as well.

I made it back to bed and stayed there, not moving at all, til 11:30, when Shane and his girlfriend Jenna showed up with ginger beer to rehydrate me.

Shane attempted the Epley Maneuver, in which an assistant rotates your head around in a prescribed pattern in an attempt to let the loose crystals in your ear canals tumble out. These crystals, apparently, are what cause the dizziness. They’re not supposed to be in your inner ear fluid – when they find their way in, they cause ripples in the fluid that make your brain think you’re still moving even though you’ve stopped. It’s the same sensation as when you get off the merry-go-round at the park and everything keeps spinning for a while. Except it’s super annoying and it won’t go away.

Anyway, the Epley Maneuver works, eventually, but you have to do it just right, and it usually takes a bunch of tries. We didn’t know that and thought it was supposed to work after the first couple of tries, like it did last time I had vertigo in 2012. We also figured it doesn’t have that great success rate, because it didn’t work when Shane had vertigo in 2015.

Jenna thought I probably had an ear infection, and voted for emergency room. Off we went. ER at noon on a Monday is not too bad. I got in and inspected by a Dr. Tristan Jones within about 10 minutes. He checked that I didn’t have a fever or any kind of neurological problems, made sure I wasn’t high, and told me about a regular expressions problem that he’s been having with his side project. I politely refrained from telling him the joke about regular expressions. (You tried to solve your problem with regular expressions; now you’ve got two problems.) (This is a programmer joke. If you don’t get it, that just means you’re normal.)

He told me it was BPPV (benign positional paroxysmal vertigo) like I originally thought, and that the cure is either Epley or just suffer it out.

He went off to get a printout of official instructions for the Epley Maneuver, and I quickly texted Shane for help again, knowing that his pickup lines are more effective than mine. He replied with “Do you make house calls? and when he says no, say “What if I promise to be getting out of the shower every time you call?”” Sadly, he was too late and I ended up using my own line – “Do you need my email address in case you need someone to commiserate with about code?” He wasn’t having it. What, it’s noon and I’ve got vomit on my sweater already. It’s literally mom’s spaghetti. He’s not into that? Oh well.

I hung out on Shane’s couch for the rest of the afternoon. I’m still dizzy and not sure if I’m going to work tomorrow. Comedy makes me feel better, but if this doesn’t go away after three days I’m going to take up hard drugs as a lifestyle.

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Rock and roll

A few years ago I went through a phase of putting on shows. I might still be in that phase, actually, we’ll see what happens this year. But anyway, I did some events. One was a bike polo tournament with a party after. Two were alleycat races, both with a show after. The last was a small polo tournament, on a weeknight and no party.

Understand that when I say “I” put these events on, all I mean is that I took part the financial risk and the blame, and did a little organizing. In every case, stuff like this happens with an army of volunteers, many of whom have very small jobs (bring the coffee urn, unlock the doors for us, something like that), but without whom the event could not occur. Every time I run an event and it works, it’s because a few people decided they wanted it to happen, and I got volunteered to coordinate. I love it, but I can take very little credit.

By far my favorite job is handling the bands. I get to choose an act, book them, negotiate a fee, transport their equipment and possibly their bodies, make a speech about how awesome they are, pass the hat, give them drinks. For a few moments there, I let my imagination run away with me.

I know everyone daydreams, it’s a part of being human. I think I’m the only one, though, who writes down my juvenile fantasies and publishes them where everyone I know can see and feel awkward about my oversharing, and tries to get more people to read it.

In this fantasy I’m a rock and roll promoter. I never got good enough at music to be the star of a band, but I get to have a little bit of reflected glory this way. I put on events every week, I have an entourage that I roll with. When I’m looking for a band, I get put on the list at clubs, get sent to the VIP room to watch the show, and listen to the band kiss my ass after they play. “Sure, you’ll do,” I say, and turn them over to my assistant to work out schedules and details, after offering them a fee that makes them stop talking for several moments.

This is a job I could do. It’s one that really appeals, because it doesn’t rely on asking some boss if I can make a living, please. One guy with the power to grant or revoke an entire salary with a single decision. My boss in real life is rad, but even so, I don’t like it. Instead I put on a dope party and everyone who shows up gets one seven-dollar vote as to whether the band and I get to eat this week. Democracy.

But reality is very different from my daydream. Not so much with the VIP room, more like texting a drummer 4 times to ask whether they can do Saturday night, and calling 5 different bands before I find one that can play. Never mind if they’re good or not. If they show up on time and sober, they’re hired. This operation can’t afford “good” yet.

Instead of hundreds of party animals lined up out the door, it’s more likely to be like alleycat #2 – the venue didn’t bother to promote it, we picked the wrong time of day, and only seven racers showed up. The band nearly outnumbered the audience, and although their professionalism was outstanding, they didn’t get paid well at all.

Sometimes you don’t win. Oh well. The lesson I got was that any time you have a little power, it’s not because you wrest it from the ground and compel legions with the force of your personality. Rather, it’s because the community has seen that you’re competent and willing, so they give you some resources which you’re expected to use in their service.

I’m still trying to figure out how I can live that life of service, and get the little bit of power I crave. Working at a job is not too bad, but 8 hours in the office slip away unnoticed, and then I have the whole evening and weekend to do real living. I am not interested in Game of Thrones. I don’t care for video games. I want to build stuff. Still looking. I’ll let you know how it goes, especially the flaming disasters.

 

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What cars are hot in Victoria?

I just got back from a month abroad, and I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to code. I ask around the office, how has it been? Did anything break while I was away?

Not only did nothing break, my boss was so bored that he’s been bothering the office manager and taking extra days off. I should probably investigate and find out what his deal is, but first I have a burning question.

What cars sell quickly on the used car market in Victoria, and what do they sell for?

This info is available through UsedVictoria – kind of. They have an RSS feed. So you can enter some search terms and they’ll show you the last 25 items posted with those criteria. You can’t page through the results, so that doesn’t give me any historical data. Any info I gather will start from today. But I can scrape the feed and save it in my own database, and graph it later once I have a body of data. Ok, here we go.

<?php

$url = "http://www.usedvictoria.com/index.rss?category=cars&seller_type=private&pricefrom=400&priceto=6000";

if($xml = simplexml_load_file($url)) {

 $counter = 0;

 foreach ($xml->channel->item as $k => $v) {

  $select = 'select `title` from item where `title` = "' . $v->title . '"';

  $selected = $mysqli->query($select);

  $v->pubDate = date("Y-m-d H:i:s", strtotime($v->pubDate)) . " <br>";

  $selected = $selected->fetch_assoc();

  if(empty($selected)){
   extract((array)$v);

   $description = $mysqli->real_escape_string($description);
   $link = $mysqli->real_escape_string($link);

   $insert = 'insert into item (`title`, `details`, `entry_date`, `search_url`, `price`) values ("' . $title . '", "' . $description . '", "' . $pubDate . '", "' . $link . '", ' . substr($title, strrpos($title, '$') + 1) . ')';


   if(!$mysqli->query($insert)) {
    printf("Error: %s<br>", $mysqli->error);
   }
   $counter ++;
  }
 }
 
echo $counter. "new items.";

} ?>

What’s going on: we ask UsedVic’s server for all the car ads they have with the following criteria: private sales only, priced between $400 and $6000. This returns a few hundred results, but the RSS feed will only give us 25. Oh well. I save each item in my database – the title, description, search criteria, date it was posted, and price.

The price, mind you, is in no way accurate. When I buy a car on UsedVic, I haggle. People who buy from me usually try to haggle as well. So the actual selling price is likely a couple hundred lower than what’s listed, in most cases. However, it does give you a little information. The listed price is the starting point of negotiation, so people generally won’t go see a car unless the listed price is at least in the realm of reality and their budget. If someone has set the price of a vehicle unrealistically high, the car will sit on the market for a long time.

This happened in the case of a rather spectacular Suzuki DRZ400SM that was posted last winter. It had several fancy racing upgrades, combined with an expensive but utterly tasteless metallic pink paint job. If I could have had that bike for $2000, I would have done so in a second even it was covered in swastikas and cocks. Paint is cheap. But the guy wanted $6500 for it, and the ad stayed up for something like 3-4 months. (Ask me how I know. Yes, I was checking every week. I have a problem. Don’t worry about me, mow your own lawn.)

So how to deal with the fact that we only get 25 items returned? Easy – check back every 2 hours. Usually 2-6 items are posted per hour. So I add a check to see if each item is already in my database, and if it isn’t, add it. This code is kind of inefficient. If any of the real programming nerds get hold of it, I will be embarrassed. But it’s good enough for my purposes, for now, probably.

So I wrote a cronjob to run this every 2 hours and report back to me when it’s done. Okay, cool.

Now how do we track items that are sold? It’s tough to count something that isn’t there. Not too tough though. More code:

<?php 
 $select_unsold = "select * from item where `sold` = 0";
 $unsold = array();
 $marked_sold = array();

 if($results = $mysqli->query($select_unsold)) {
  while($row = $results->fetch_assoc()) {
  $unsold[] = $row['title'];
 }

 foreach($unsold as $k => $v) {

  $unaltered_title = $v;
  $v = substr($v, 0, strrpos($v, "- $"));
  $strip_chars = array('$','!', '?');

  foreach($strip_chars as $char) {
   $v = str_replace($char, '', $v);
  }

  $search = 'http://www.usedvictoria.com/index.rss?category=cars&description=' . urlencode($v);

  if($xml = simplexml_load_file($search)) {
   if(empty($xml->channel->item)) {
    //echo "Sold: $unaltered_title <br> $v<br><br>";
    $mark_sold = 'update item set `sold` = 1, `sold_date` = NOW() where `title` = "' . $unaltered_title . '"';
    $marked_sold[] = $unaltered_title;

    if(!$mysqli->query($mark_sold)) {
     printf("Error: %s<br>", $mysqli->error);
    }
   }
  }
 }
} else {
 printf("Error: %s<br>", $mysqli->error);
} 

echo strlen($mark_sold) . "Items marked sold."
 
?>

You can also search for an ad using the exact title, and you’ll generally get back only that one exact result. Since I have the titles saved, I can do that. In my database, I have a column labelled “sold”. When the item is entered, that column is set to false.

This script gets a list of all items in my database that have “sold” set as false, and searches for them. If an item is not found, “sold” gets set to true, and the current date is recorded as well.

Listings expire after thirty days, which should help keep this script from getting out of control as it hits the UsedVictoria servers over and over again. After a few weeks, I’ll have hundreds of unsold listings in my database, and once a day, the script will request every single one of them. I may end up blocked by UsedVic pretty soon if the numbers get too high. But no worries for now.

Finally, I want the data in a manageable, bite-sized format. You can see the results at rocketships.ca/srs/scraper.

The table lists all cars that were posted and sold within the last thirty days, the number of days each was on the market, and the price requested. It’s still not as fine grained as I would like, but I think this will give me at least a vague answer to my question – which cars are hot in Victoria?

My theory: Miatas. I await hard data.

Next step is to decide what to do with the data. I had an idea about buying cars from the mainland, where they’re a bit cheaper, and flipping them locally. I feel like I could make a small profit doing this. However, to make it worth my time, I need a profit of at least $300 – that’s what I pay myself for working on the weekends.

So let’s say I bought a 1990 Miata for $1800 on the mainland and sold it for $2300 here. Those numbers are realistic, based on my experience to date.

I have to go the mainland ($18 there, $74 back), get my pedestrian ass to the seller’s house somehow (unless they’re kind enough to meet me at the ferry), check the car to make sure it isn’t shit (Honestly, what do I know? Not much, man. I’m a writer, not a mechanic.), and then the really fun part – figuring out insurance.

If I transfer my own car insurance to the new car, I will have to pay GST on the car. 12% of 1800 is $216. Big chunk of my profit gone right there. I can maybe get a temp permit, which is only $30 or so, but then I really have to get home smartly on the next boat, I don’t get to joyride the car while I’m waiting for a seller, and I can’t allow buyers to take a test drive. The insurance costs some money, so does registration, so does the plate if I haven’t organized that properly, and you have to pay a fee if you insure for less than a full year or if you want to pay monthly. Costs maybe $1200 for the full year? depending on the car and whether my points have expired yet.

There are ways around these issues, namely, lyin’ and breakin’ the law. I’ve bought and sold something like 20 vehicles over the years, and I will not claim perfect observance of the rules. But any business plan that relies on illegal behaviour is a bad idea, and out of the question according to my principles.

So out of $500 profit, I might get to keep $300, legally. But that’s not the main issue. You can only get away with buying and selling a certain number of cars per year before the government starts to get suspicious. I think it might be around 6. After that you have to get a dealer’s license, which is ex$pen$$ive. I’m not really prepared to go down that road – messing around with cars is alright for a hobby, but used car salesmen are considered the scum of the earth by most humans, and for good reasons. So I would have to find a way to respect myself for doing it, first. My friend Dylan does it by specializing in high end racecars. My friend Ben doesn’t do used cars – he’s an honest to god legit new car salesman who provides warranties. But there are others who are pretty slimy.

With that problem unsolved, I have made the data and the code publicly available. Enjoy.

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Why You Should Always Use Clear and Relevant Headlines

Sometimes your subconscious brings up some dumb thing you did years ago, and then you get to stay up all night thinking about how awful it was.

Okay.

In school I only enjoyed English class. English and Language Arts teachers were always my favourites. They paid me as much attention as I thought I deserved. My essays were used as teaching examples and read in front of the class. Lots of A’s and nice comments in red ink.

I had one teacher who was exceptional at maintaining control of the class, and told great stories. He had recurring laryngitis, and we would all lean forward to catch his unbelievable punch lines, told in a raspy whisper.

There was an accident where someone was swept downstream through icy whitewater, rescued with seconds to spare before tumbling into a butterchurn waterfall. There were adventures that ended with him sneaking into the house at 3am, only to find Dad in his room, sitting on the bed with a sarcastic expression. There were horse penises.

Great stuff. Anyway, I got A’s in that class as well. I avoided group projects by writing long essays. I was left alone to read doorstop-sized novels while everyone else struggled through slim paperbacks. It was the only provincial exam I did well on.

By the end of high school, I hadn’t made a good impression on any adults in my life, and had accomplished little aside from those long essays.

The band teacher, I fought with continuously, and did not practice my instrument. 

In chemistry, I got nosebleeds and frequently left class to deal with them. 

In social studies I wrote poetry instead of working on assignments and goaded the teacher into telling stories about India. 

In math I made an effort sufficient to keep passing only because the math teacher wouldn’t let me go to track meets if I failed. 

In track I ran slowly and didn’t throw the discus very far.

In Bible class I wrote angry rants and violent song lyrics on the back of test papers, as well as doodling “disturbing imagery”. On the front of those papers I wrote what I thought were scathing criticisms of Dr. James Dobson. (Please let those papers stay missing forever).

This book is just straight up mental. It tells you at exactly which base you cross from being cool with God into putting your soul in danger of hellfire. Spoilers: it comes before "touching each other's hair."
This book is just straight up mental. It tells you at exactly which base you cross from being cool with God into putting your soul in danger of hellfire. Spoilers: it comes before “touching each other’s hair.”

I was sent repeatedly to the principal’s office. I avoided delivering my senior chapel presentation, the source of at least 50% of my stress and nosebleeds that year, by procrastinating my way out of it.

At a summer camp where I worked as a counsellor, I was reprimanded for bringing “inappropriate books” to camp and leaving them within reach of campers. I can’t imagine what they found in that book that was inappropriate – it was so boring that I never finished it. Oh well.

At the library where I worked part time, I was scolded for reading in the stacks instead of shelving books. 

And I was thrown out of the spring musical for missing practice due to audiologist appointments.

So English was the only class where I did anything noteworthy.

————————————————

At that after-school job in the library, I found amazing books. The job itself was dull, but I never lacked great reading material.

One was How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater, which was every bit as good as the title. Another was The Warrior’s Apprentice, first of series that turned out to be my favourite of all time. It beats Harry Potter and Discworld by a wide margin. Another was Sin and Syntax, a style guide for those who would break the rules of the English language for maximum impact. This is the one that got me in trouble.

sin-syntax————————————————

The thing to do after you finish high school, is either go to college or get a job. I attempted college. It didn’t go well. I enjoyed arguing with my philosophy classmates and writing poems for my English elective, but Micro- and Macroeconomics gave me more nosebleeds. The education seemed too expensive and too much work for the job it qualified me for – part-time barista, perhaps. I stopped, and set my sights on Katimavik.

Nevermind what Katimavik is or why I was thrown out of it. The point is that I needed letters of reference,  and two years out of high school I had still failed to do anything interesting with my life. The only person I could think to ask was my old English teacher. And I wanted to be sure that he read the email and responded to it, even if in the negative. So I pulled out old Sin and Syntax, and opened it to the section about writing compelling subject lines to emails.

airsex
This is the first google image result for “airsex”. I don’t know what to tell you.

airsex“, the book suggested. No, that wasn’t right. “Prepare to be overwhelmed“. Not strictly accurate – there was nothing overwhelming about 20-year-old me. “writer threatening suicide” was another example the book cited, as an attention-grabbing subject line. It would get attention, but not, I thought, the right kind. I settled on “I love you“, as the book guaranteed that this was a title unlikely to be ignored.

I don’t know why I did that. Please don’t ask. However, the only email address I had handy for that teacher was the one that he shared with his wife. So if they did indeed receive the message, it cannot have been very welcome. Never got a reply. Haven’t spoken to either of them since. Hope I never do.

The moral of the story is that if you are writing to ask for a reference, or indeed for any other thing, you should make your subject line clear and relevant. In this case “Request for reference” would have made a perfectly adequate subject.

The second moral is, don’t just do stuff that books tell you to do. Get a second opinion first.

I’m going to see if I can make this blog pay for itself a bit by using Amazon Affiliate links. If you’d like to support my writing, you could use one of the links above and get the book.  If you’d prefer not to participate in that with me, please search for the books elsewhere, such as in your local used bookstore or library.

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How to talk to your deaf* friend

Tl;dr read the bold bits.

Friends, have you ever started asking me a question only to be interrupted by “Wassat?” after like 2 words? Like,

“Do you…” “What?”

“I was going to say, do you want some more coffee?”

“Oh. Yes please.”

I notice a sound – I notice that it’s speech – I notice it’s addressed to me – I look around trying to figure where it’s coming from – I see someone looking at me with a question on their face, halfway through asking something that I haven’t heard any of.

People with normal hearing get through most of those steps before the end of the first syllable, but it takes me a couple of words to get there.

Please help me. Get my attention before you start talking. Say “Shannon”. Tap my shoulder. Say “oi.” Make eye contact. Throw something at my head. Just that tiny notification that you are about to start saying something makes a huge difference.

I will drop everything and give you my undivided attention at the slightest provocation. Just help me out a bit.

If I don’t know what the conversation is about, I can’t understand any of the words people are saying. So if a group is talking about the food on the table, and suddenly switches to hockey, I get very confused. Like, I’ll go from understanding maybe 80% of the words that people say, to less than 10% – until I hear the word “hockey” and then everything snaps back into place.

If I’ve spent any amount of time in your company, I’ve probably left the room, come back, and interrupted the conversation with “Ok, what are we talking about?” That’s what’s going on.

I don’t know any other deaf people. They’re bloody impossible to talk to. The irony does not escape me, and I am grateful for those who have patience with me.

I ask for repeats a lot. People respond in one of two ways. The first sort will rephrase what they said, same volume, still mumbling. Thanks, now I have two confusing sentences to decode while the conversation sputters and dies.

They’ll repeat themselves a couple more times, then eventually get annoyed and yell it out. Or better still, say “nevermind”.

My friend’s seven year old daughter does this a lot. She gets a pass, because she’s seven and adorable. If you’re an adult, I will try to educate you, but I won’t put up with it forever. When I ask for a repeat, say the exact same phrase – louder, and more clearly. 

Other people, who are used to it or maybe just more socially advanced, will develop a “Shannon voice” – that’s like an outside voice, in the words of your kindergarten teacher. Sit up straighter, use your lungs and your lips, and speak loudly enough for the whole class to hear. Recognize that you are an important person with interesting things to say, and I want to hear all of it.

Sound that arrives in my brain through my ears is of very low quality. It takes a lot of power to parse it out and get useful information. Sometimes there is a delay. Sometimes it takes a while for me to catch up.

Some things that cause my brain to work even harder:

  • Mumbling.
  • Loud noises in the background – like if someone slams a door while you’re talking, that whole sentence is gone.
  • Any kind of white noise in the background, like a tap running. Your ears tune it out – mine can’t.
  • Low light – it’s hard to read lips.
  • Accents.
  • Women’s voices, which tend to be higher pitched and quieter than men’s. I only recently – like this year – began to learn how many fascinating women I know. I have to seek them out for one on one conversation, because in groups they get drowned out.
  • Children – might as well be hamsters for all I can understand them. Fortunately kids don’t hold it against me, and will try as hard as I do.

Some things that help:

  • Talk louder. DON’T YELL. That distorts the words and makes them harder to understand. Plus it’s scary and upsetting and makes me want to leave. Louder, like you’re giving a presentation in class and the teacher is sitting in the back row.
  • Face me. I read lips.
  • Face me. When you talk to the kitchen sink, all the sound goes straight down the drain. None of it gets to me.
  • Don’t rest your chin on your hand. Don’t stroke your stupid mustache. In fact, shave the mustache, it also gets in my way.
  • Sit nearby. If you’re 3 feet away, I’m struggling. If you’re 6 feet away, I’m helpless.
  • If I put my face 6 inches away from yours and stare directly into your soul and that makes you uncomfortable, talk louder. I’m uncomfortable too.

Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your effort. I will try to repay it by listening well.

** Technically I am hard of hearing. Takes too long to type.

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Art & Lutherie

When I was 18, in January, I had $1000. That was all the money I had in the world, right after I was paid. I was ahead of the rent for the first time since leaving home 6 months ago. That meant that I could spend money on something other than food, for the first time.

I took the bus downtown to Old Towne Strings. I picked up the first guitar I saw. It was an Art & Lutherie acoustic guitar, with a cedar body and a cherry fretboard. The sweetest, warmest G major chord I ever heard.

I played 6 or 7 other guitars but nothing sounded better than the first one.

The lady behind the counter told me it was a refurbished model. “The cedar they use for the neck is so soft, it bows. We get a lot of these guitars in with bowed necks. We take them apart, put a steel rod in, put them back together. It’s better than brand new.”

I bought it for $200. I’m not much of a musician though. I played it a bunch, but eventually I got bored of hearing myself play badly.

I moved probably 8 times with that guitar. Barrington Manor, to my Auntie’s house in Royal Oak, to Shane’s house, to Westall Ave, to 5th St, to my Auntie’s condo at Spencer Castle, back to Shane’s house, to the Crack House in Gordon Head. Every time I moved, my brother (aka my personal moving company), would toss it in the back of that year’s truck and say “You ever play this thing?”

Some fella said that he was going to move to Australia, and I thought I would move there with him, so I started selling stuff. That guitar was one of the first things to go.

Two skinheaded gentlemen came to the Crack House. Skinhead #1 played a couple of scales and chords, then said to Skinhead #2, “Sweetie, I love it.”  Skinhead #1 said “Ok, we’ll take it. Happy anniversary, honey.”

I didn’t go to Australia, but I didn’t miss the guitar much either, till last week. Walking along Quadra Street under that giant yellow half moon, maybe on Boxing Day or the day after, The Only One started in my headphones and I needed to learn how to play it.

So now I’m borrowing my cousin’s abused old beater that he got in elementary school. It’s a lovely guitar. It says “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS WHEN USED AS DIRECTED” on the side, and it’s covered with the signatures of all the people he was friends with in 2007. It doesn’t sound half so nice as that cedar Art & Lutherie though.

My pick is a chunk of plastic I cut out of a Safeway club card, and my phone works for tuning and recording it. I used to have more picks, a real tuner, a couple of guitars, and a lot of nice equipment. But at least I’m playing it now, which I didn’t back then.

For now, anyway. Just want to learn that one song.

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Dear Mr Trudeau, Pt. 11 and the rest.

The rest… all the letters are sent now.

54.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Since Canada is a democracy, you can’t make all decisions completely on your own. If you’d like, please send me the names of other members of the government who I should write to and ask them to support Syrian refugees as well.

Thank you,

Shannon

55.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Today someone set off some bombs in Paris and killed at least 118 people. As I write this, the identity of the bombers is still unknown. However, in the comments sections of articles, people are already blaming ISIS. I don’t know, maybe it was them. Terrorist attacks are intended to cause infighting and disorganization, making their targets ineffective because they can’t agree on what to do.

A strong leader can help, though, by pointing the way firmly toward peace and unity, instead of focussing the nation on retaliation.

I hope the French leaders do that, and I hope you don’t take this as a reason to close Canada to refugees.

Thanks,

Shannon

56.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It’s possible that some of my letters to you show some naiveté when it comes to politics and international economics. There is a lot to learn, and though I try my best to read and get up to speed, I doubt that I’ll ever know everything I need to make good decisions.

I admit that I failed Macroeconomics 100. I think it’s pretty stupid to plot national and international trends on graphs that only chart two factors. I switched majors to Computer Science and did a lot better there.

You have, I hope, all the information you need to make good choices, if you don’t give in to fear and confusion. Let refugees come to Canada. I’m pretty sure it’s a good choice.

Thank you,

Shannon

57.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

My great-grandparents were immigrants. They came from Ireland, Scotland and England. I’m white as the driven snow, so no one’s ever given me any trouble about it. Still, it goes to show that immigration often works well. People who WANT to be here are likely to be good citizens. Let’s get some Syrian immigrants asap.

Love,

Shannon

58.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Come to think of it, your grandparents were immigrants as well. I’ve just spent the last couple minutes checking wikipedia to see how many generations ago your family immigrated, but the articles about you and your father are pretty focussed. Never mind. We all came from somewhere else. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Thanks,

Shannon

59.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It’s November 13th as I’m writing this. A pretty unlucky Friday. The body count in France is up to 120, the French military has been mobilized and the borders are shut down. A refugee camp somewhere is on fire. Anonymous people on the internet are saying the usual hateful things that they always say, but the sane people in the world realize that the bombers who did this (maybe – we still don’t know for sure it was ISIS) are the people that refugees are trying to get away from.

There’s an opportunity here for the French to band together with the refugees and build a stronger nation, forged through a common enemy. I hope they do it. I hope we do it too. 3,000 refugees are in Canada already and are safe from today’s bombings. Let’s rescue more.

Thank you,

Shannon

60.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I’m still reading about the bombings in France. It’s so far away and so far beyond my control, I don’t even know why I’m doing it. All that happens when I read the news is I get stressed out about things I can’t affect. Someday I want to be in a position where I can do something, though. I want to go back to school, learn a language, get a degree, and serve our country. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Maybe I don’t need the degree. Maybe I can get somewhere with what I’m doing now.

Mr Trudeau, please make sure Canada is a force for peace, and not perpetuators of war. Please let us be a sanctuary for refugees and let our role be one of de-escalation.

Thank you,

Shannon

61.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It seems like suicide bombers ought to be a self-defeating problem, don’t you think? So how is it that ISIS never seems to run out of them?

Reason, of course, is because the really bad guys don’t sign up for suicide attacks. They are old men hiding in caves cackling to themselves. They are safe in the mountains and they’re not coming out. They seduce gullible and vulnerable young people, and get them to do the dirty work.

I can understand being that vulnerable, too. The war in Iraq started when I was 12. It was my first week of middle school. I was totally army-mad. I signed up for Air Cadets and promised myself that I would join the military and go to Iraq as soon as I was old enough, if they managed to keep the war going that long.

They did keep it going that long. It’s been 14 years and the same stupid war keeps going on, spreading around to different areas and morphing into different shapes sometimes, but it’s still basically the same war. They’re not doing very well. The biggest superpower in the world versus some hillbilly thugs. Why haven’t they finished yet?

It’s lasted long enough for me to grow up and get educated and now I know better. I will not be signing up to fight in any angry old man’s war. I have a future here in Canada. A good job, lots of friends, enough money, a nice place to live. If the young men and women of ISIS could see a bright future like mine for their families, they’d think twice about throwing it all away for a single attack. If we make room for them in Canada, we can give them that bright future. The angry old men will have to come out and fight their own fights, or, more likely, give up.

Love, Shannon

62.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Mr Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Canadians are natural born helpers. Let’s help some Syrians.

Thanks,

Shannon

63.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I used to have a friend who got really cheap cars all the time. People would just give him cars. Sometimes for a hundred dollars, sometimes for free. Whenever he need one, it would turn up. He said that he did this by asking nicely. Whenever he saw a car that he liked, he would just ask for it, and every once in a while someone would say yes. He’d drive it around a bit, fix it up a little, then sell it on. From him, I learned to ask nicely for things. When you want something to happen, just ask. You don’t even have to ask someone who has the power to give you what you want. Just ask anyone you see for everything you want. Be enthusiastic, be fun, share your joy and let them be part of it. And you’ll get whatever you ask for.

So I’m asking you nicely, a whole bunch of times. Maybe you’re not the exact person who can do what I’m asking, but I bet you know the person who can. Please raise the Syrian refugee quota. To like, a million.

Thank you,

Shannon

64.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Admitting more refugees is a good idea and the right thing to do. Please do it.

Thank you,

Shannon

65.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I am emailing several smart people that I know to ask them if they can give me any more ideas for things to say to you. I know you don’t need any more good reasons to admit refugees. You’ve already said that 25,000 can come. But you have to speed up the entry process too, and 25,000 isn’t enough, and there is going to be economic fallout to deal with. I’m trying to send as many good ideas as I can come up with.

Thanks,

Shannon

66.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I read this excellent comment on Reddit that explains why so many Muslims are deciding to be terrorists these days. I look for explanations like this so that I can remember that everyone’s reasons for doing bad things make sense to them. If you attack the person, you’ll give them a real reason for doing the bad thing. If you attack the root cause, you have a chance of ending the problem.

  1. Death Of Muslims: Muslims have been witnessing the continual slaughter of their brothers and sisters by opposing forces in their lands. Instead of such incidents abating with time, every few days a new headline in some newspaper conveys the death of more anonymous Muslim civilians. This can encourage Muslims to sometimes make quick and irrational decisions, often times leading to innocent civilians being killed on the other side. “We can’t just sit and watch our brothers and sisters get butchered while we sit comfortably behind our computer screens. We have to do something”.
  2. Attacks From The West: Some Muslims may see the Western world as their primary enemy because of their attacks, invasions, support of oppressive regimes and their killing of thousands of civilians in Muslim lands in the last century. From the invasion of Iraq to the military endeavors in Afghanistan, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo, from Aafia Siddiqui to Ali al-Timimi, from the ‘War on Terror’ to the ‘Patriot Act’, it can become easier to convince an impressionable mind into accepting the West versus Islam paradigm (as if these two entities can be surgically and neatly delineated, separated and defined). It is not hard for some Muslims to feel strong resentment towards the West and this resentment can push some to go to the extreme in retaliation, consequently justifying taking the lives of civilians on the opposing side. “They killed our people, so we should be able to kill theirs” is the type of argument they use.
  3. With Us Or Against Us: Among extremist groups, you will see Muslims who have adopted a very simplistic, black/white view of the world. Either you are on their side (side of the Muslims) or on the side of the disbelievers (kuffar). When they come across Muslims who have condemned their group/actions, they will be quick to dismiss their arguments, saying that they are “aiding the kuffar”. They see their condemnation as them betraying their Muslim brothers and sisters who are suffering in other countries.
  4. Economic Frustration: Extreme frustration with the economic situation of many of those involved in such groups, coupled with a lack of hope in alleviating their dismal situation. Years of poverty, oppression, unemployment and greedy political leaders in the Muslim world can push many of the youth to take the matter into their own hands. For those with no hope, fanaticism and over-zealousness gives them some hope. When there is no alternative, extremism becomes normal.
  5. Lack Of Islamic Knowledge: A common feature among extremist fighters is that they are largely composed of young recruits that are relatively new to Islam or have a very superficial understanding of the faith. A quick read through of the Quran and exposure to the first Muslim group you encounter can easily lead you to think that this group is on the right Islamic path. The more Islamic knowledge you have, the more easier it is to recognize unIslamic groups & movements and to avoid making poor uneducated choices.
  6. Distrust: You can find Muslims who support these groups online talking about how we shouldn’t trust the mainstream media on the topic of Muslim terrorists, because of the previous lies these mainstream sources have told us. There are Muslims who honestly believe that the extremist group they support are in the right; that they are only defending themselves and not killing civilians unjustly. They will disregard any source that counters these claims despite how strong the evidence is against their group.
  7. Lack Of Unity: Religious leadership among Muslims is disunited today; every loud voice can potentially become a leader merely by shouting loud enough. Anyone can potentially take on the lead without understanding Islam and the contemporary world or start takfiri preaching further dividing the Muslims into more smaller segments with various levels of authorities to follow. Since there is no official Caliphate, you can find some smaller segments coming up with their own pseudo-Islamic state or their own pseudo-caliph. Lack of unity also makes it harder for Muslims to voice their condemnation against any particular extremist group because they can’t have an ‘official’ opinion on a matter.
  8. Misunderstanding Jihad: The concept of jihad is a legitimate concept if applied properly in Islam; and it can be a type of terrorism if misunderstood and misapplied. It is like a loaded weapon: it can be used for good and to defend, and it can also be misused for harming others. Many other faiths don’t have such a concept. Because Islam does, it can and will be misapplied.
  9. Silence of Muslim preachers on Jihad: Muslim preachers in the West are restricted from speaking about physical jihad or have classes where Muslims can learn the proper history of battles in Islamic history, the conditions for fighting, and war in the modern world. Because Muslim preachers are often quiet about this subject, young Muslims can be easily duped by extremist recruiters into accepting the alternative view and the permissibility of fighting with modern militant groups. Someone can easily show them some narrations (hadith) of the rewards of jihad while being completely unaware of the major contextual differences in our time and can convince them of the greater good in fighting. When the only voices that address issues of concern are the voices of radical militant jihadis they find on the internet, it is only natural that young and impressionable minds will gravitate to these voices.
  10. The Media: Terrorist groups are empowered by the media. The more attention they get, the more powerful their threats become and the more new recruits they can potentially secure. Violent groups, no matter how small in number, will always get more attention than peaceful groups. Hundreds of Muslims scholars can condemn terrorism, tens of thousands of Muslims can protest for peace, but the 1 Muslim who blows himself up or beheads a civilian, will be the person who receives more attention in this modern age, and more attention gives him a better chance for more people to join his cause.
  11. The Easy Path: It might be surprising to non-Muslims, but in many ways, it can actually be more simple and easier for a dedicated Muslim to join one of these groups and fight. It can be much tougher for a passionate Muslim to envision living in a secular land with trials, tribulations and possible persecution for the next 30+ years, all while watching their Muslim brothers and sisters die. And the false idea of blowing yourself up and going straight to paradise sounds very easy. Many passionate Muslims are eager to die for the sake of God, but how many are willing to live for the sake of God?
  12. Scholars Are Ignored: Muslims who are already supporting extremist groups will completely ignore Muslim Scholars who critique their groups. Calling them ” sellouts” or saying that they are “aiding the kuffar” because they’re condemning a Muslim group. “You can’t criticize those Muslims fighting! At least those Muslims are doing something while you are just living comfortably in your own home”. I have personally come across isis sympathizers who completely dismiss Muslim scholars when they are refuted by them. Extremists are emotional and impatient, and they won’t bother to take the time to read/listen to the entire message of Muslim scholars who often critique both sides and can explain to extremists about their flawed understanding.

Thank you for taking the time to read this longer letter.

Shannon

67.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Watching the news come out of Paris. It just gets worse and worse. Please let more refugees in. We actually need peace.

Thank you,

Shannon

68.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Someone on Reddit asked what we can, as North Americans, actually do to help prevent tragedies like the one in Paris. I suggested that they write to their representatives, as I’m doing. They asked what this has to do with preventing terrorism, and I replied with the following:

“It’s the thing that I’m working on. I was working on this before the Paris attacks, so it’s forefront in my mind. But I believe that reducing population pressure in the area and giving the disenfranchised youth a place to seek shelter and a potential future, will help strip away the power base of the crazy fanatics that are doing the bombing.

Remember, from the point of view of the people who are committing these atrocities, it looks like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. When you start finding out what the reasons are and starting to understand what’s going on with them, it makes a lot more sense. And it also becomes a lot more obvious what the solution is.

There’s no future for a lot of Middle Eastern youth. Just poverty and war stretching into the infinite future. If you show them a future, they might choose that instead of jihad.”

Thank you,

Shannon

70.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I’m writing to ask you to raise the quota for Syrian refugees allowed into Canada. Right now it’s 25,000, I’m hoping for 100,000. This is my 70th letter, and I’ve tried to come up with 70 good reasons. Still, there is only ever one reason, and it’s that when someone needs rescuing, you rescue them. It’s just what you do.

Thank you,

Shannon

71.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I don’t know that my hundred letters will have any effect at all on Canada’s response to the refugee crisis. I’m sure people in power have already made the choices they’re going to make, I’m unlikely to change anyone’s mind. If I could have a backup goal, it would be for other people besides you to read these letters and remember the lessons from kindergarten and Sunday school, about loving our neighbours and helping each other. Then at least I’ll get to live in a country with better people.

Thank you,

Shannon

72.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I saw this video of you doing a student debate in Montreal about the separatist referendum when you were in high school. It was pretty cute. I love seeing 18 year old kids riled up about stuff. At the end you said “There’s all this pressure, there’s pressure to smoke, pressure to do all sorts of stuff, and I’ve never been affected by peer pressure.” Glad to hear that, I hope it’s still true, because that really comes in handy. Don’t let peer pressure keep you from helping refugees.

Thank you,

Shannon

73.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

My friend Dan said, “Do not blame the wounded deer who ran into your yard for the wolves that followed it there.” He didn’t say he was talking about Syrian refugees but I’m pretty sure he was.

Thanks,

Shannon

74.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Mark Ruffalo, an actor, said “Don’t let this horrific act draw you into the loss of your humanity or tolerance. That is the intended outcome.” He is also talking about the Paris attacks. And Voltaire said “A witty saying proves nothing.” Which is also true, so take whatever you want out of that. But don’t let the terrorists win.

Love, Shannon

75.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It took a couple of days after the Paris attacks before I found out about the terrorist attacks in Beirut, the day before. No one mentioned it when it happened, but people started talking about it after Paris. Some are complaining that that it took terrorism in a “white” country before anyone mentioned terrorism in Muslim countries, which seems to happen every day. I don’t mind. People are talking. Better late than never. The best we can do is never good enough but it gets better every year. Admit refugees. Lots of them. Be excessively generous.

Thank you,

Shannon

76.

Heard this poem on the CBC. “Home”, by Warsan Shire. She’s a refugee from Somalia who ended up in Britain.

“you have to understand,

no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land.”

The rest of them poem is pretty incredible, too. Here’s a URL if you’d like to read it.

http://seekershub.org/blog/2015/09/home-warsan-shire/.

Thank you,

Shannon

77.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

This week, someone from Starbucks’s marketing department invented a story about some Christians who were so offended that the seasonal Starbucks cup wasn’t Christmassy enough, that they marched into Starbucks and ordered coffee, giving their names as “Merry Christmas” to the barista, to trick her in to writing it on the cup.

“Redcupgate” has continued for nearly a week now. People are talking about how oppressed Christians are in our country (not even slightly), and others are rightly dismissing the whole thing because it’s ridiculous. But either way they’re talking about it.

Meanwhile Syrians are oppressed with bombs and bullets.

Please let more Syrians become Canadian, so that Canadians can have something real to worry about.

Thank you,

Shannon

78.

Monsieur Trudeau,

Merci pour votre engagement admettre 25,000 réfugiés a venir au Canada. S’il vous plaît augment ce numéro à 100,000, et fais facile et rapide le processus d’immigration .

Merci,

Shannon

79.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It’s Sunday morning and there’s been a few more terrorist attacks since the ones in Paris. I remain faithful that humans are moving upward out of our violent habits and that these troubles are just the last few growing pains. Please let more Syrian refugees come to Canada.

Thank you,

Shannon

80.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Our Mayor, Lisa Helps, is going to be meeting up with you in Ottawa sometime soon. She wants to ask for help housing homeless people in Victoria. It’s a really big problem – federal funding for mental health care was cut off by the Harper government, and we’ve had more street people than usual washing up in Victoria.

We need that funding back, but lots of other things need funding too. We need better public transit, highway improvements, new hospitals, better social services in a bunch of areas. It’s got to be paid for somehow. New immigrants usually bring new money with them. It’s almost always beneficial to the host country. Let’s get some Syrians in here and put them to work – maybe they’ll put us to work too.

Thank you,

Shannon

82.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

The people causing war in Syria right now are crazy. Like straight up batshit crazy. They should have been locked up in mental institutions years ago, but instead someone gave them guns. That was a bad decision, and now millions of Syrians need to leave their homes. We should help correct this bad decision by giving the refugees some place to run to, and also by not giving crazy people guns anymore.

Thank you,

Shannon

83.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

My great-grandparents, on my father’s side, came to Canada from Ireland during the potato famine. I don’t think they were welcomed very well – I’ve read quite a few stories about how unpopular Irish refugees were during that time.

But my grandfather served in WW2, then became a successful pharmacist who owned a shop and employed dozens of people for years and years. My father was the manager of a government liquor store, and was responsible for making sure that no one in Campbell River was overserved at his store, for 20 years. My uncle Bob is an investment banker who makes money for his clients and his country every day. My brother is an electrician and I’m a computer programmer. We contribute every day, earn a living, and make this country better every chance we get. And I haven’t even mentioned my mom’s side of the family, which is even better.

Immigration worked out well for the Irish refugees, even though it was difficult at first, and it worked out very well for Canada. Let’s continue that excellent trend and get some more immigrants for Canada.

Thank you,

Shannon

84.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I’m hanging out tonight with my two roommates and our friend Brittany, playing Bananagram. Brittany’s parents are both immigrants – her mother was Scottish and her father was Jamaican. Not only would her father have died if he had stayed in Jamaica (due to political troubles there when he left), he never would have met Brittany’s mom, and she would not have been born. But she was, and she’s an awesome Canadian who improves every room she’s in with her kindness and her sense of humour. As you can tell, I’m strongly in favour of immigration and harbouring refugees.

Thank you,

Shannon

85.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Been looking at pictures of Syria. It’s such a beautiful country. I’m told that even if there wasn’t a war on, it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to visit, as it’s a dangerous country for women. But millions of women live there anyway. This war has got to end soon, so it’ll be safe for the women who live there as well as for people like me to visit. Bombing them to hell isn’t going to work – it hasn’t been working up til now, and it’s not going to work unless the whole country gets carpet bombed flat. We’ve got to de-escalate, and the way to do that is by relieving population pressure and getting people out. Make room for refugees in Canada, it will help.

Thank you, Shannon

86.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I understand that your family has not yet moved into the Prime Minister’s house in Ottawa because the place is in such a tragic state that it isn’t fit to live in. I’m pretty sure anyone leaving Syria in an overloaded lifeboat right now would be happy to take it, though. I hope you’ll make room not just in Canada, but in your own house, for refugees.

Thank you,

Shannon

87.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It’s been really hard for the City of Victoria to deal with homeless people here. Every time someone has a reasonable suggestion, everyone else chimes in with “Yeah, do that, but not in my backyard.”  There are only so many places on Vancouver Island. All of them are someone’s backyard.

Send refugees to my backyard, please. I’ll help build houses for them. We’ll figure it out.

Thank you,

Shannon

88.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It’s been a wild ride, only 11 letters left to go. I’ve repeated myself a few times, which is fine with me. I’ve also learned a lot about Syria, though probably still not enough. I hope you’ve enjoyed these letters, and that you’re inspired to some kind of action other than bombing.

Thank you,

Shannon

89.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I was born in 1989, the same year the Berlin wall came down. After decades of cold war, where everyone thought the world could end in a mushroom cloud at any moment, it all just… stopped. Peace broke out. I’m hoping for that kind of miracle in Syria. It’s ridiculous and naively optimistic, but so what? Miracles have happened before. Please admit more refugees.

Thank you,

Shannon

90.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Checking the text of some petitions. Here’s a good one:

Please make a clear commitment to rapidly scale up Syrian resettlement programme this year,  accept a fair proportion of refugees who are already in Europe, and tackle the root causes of the refugee crisis through diplomacy and aid.

Thank you,

Shannon

91.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

“Men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one.” — Sting.

Let’s let refugees in, spread out the crazy, and let them get better, one by one.

Thank you,

Shannon

92.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Another good quote I found, “When one lives, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time.” This is why we can take 100,000 refugees. They are no trouble, and we have plenty of time, if we can love them well enough. Abdu’l-Baha said that.

Thank you,

Shannon

93.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I made it through high school, got my heart thoroughly broken by a man, and wrote you a hundred letters. These are the toughest things I have dealt with in my life. Not much, but there times when I thought I wouldn’t make it. Nothing compared to what 4 millions Syrians are going through right now. They could really use some help. I got all the help I needed – they should get what they need as well.

Thank you,

Shannon

94.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

The worst part of this whole mess is that it shakes my conviction too. I really don’t want some brown people to come to my town and bomb it. I don’t want to get bombed. I really don’t. I’m afraid it might happen. Don’t let the terrorists win. They’re getting to me a little bit.

Thank you,

Shannon

95.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Found another great quote. “When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.” — EW Howe. A dangerous idea, but definitely better than changing my Facebook profile to a French flag. What we can do for France is take some of their refugees off their hands. Same thing we can do for Syria. Let’s.

Thank you,

Shannon

96.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Canada seems to been mostly immune from the insane religiosity of some American leaders. I’m so thankful for that. Jeb Bush said some vile things about Muslims and then suggested that we should concentrate on helping Syrian Christians. Just in case you forget what God thinks about it, check out this passage from Leviticus.

“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”  –Leviticus 19:33-34

Religion is not and never will be a good reason for excluding any refugee.

Thank you,

Shannon

97.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I’m not much of a Christian myself. I only quote the bible when I’m telling self-professed Christians to act properly. I get my moral code as a composite of all the books I’ve read, people I’ve spoken to, and lessons from my parents that I’ve gathered in 26 years, each idea compared and averaged against the other points of view. I’ve tried to gather as many points of view as I could, and when I put them all together I feel like I can see some kind of sanity emerge. And that moral code that I’ve developed tells me pretty clearly, pretty black and white, that granting sanctuary to refugees is the right course of action.

Still, the Sermon on the Mount is just as good of a reason as any of the mumbo-jumbo I can come up with.

“Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.”

and,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

and,

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

Thank you,

Shannon

98.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

You’ve gotten the Prime Ministership during a very interesting year. I am praying for you to have wisdom and strength to serve Canada with good decisions. We all want you to succeed. At least, I do.

Please raise the refugee quota.

Thank you,

Shannon

99.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Once more, with feeling: Please, let 100,000 refugees come to Canada. And after that, maybe 100,000 more.

Thank you,

Shannon

Extra

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

It is hard to write 100 coherent letters on a single topic. The words start to blur together. I start to sympathize with the people who have nonsense written on posters and stand on street corners shouting at the passers-by.

If you believe something this strongly, why shouldn’t you shout it on the street corners? Why shouldn’t you tell everyone a hundred times?

But I probably won’t do this again. I will write to you in the future, but it will be one letter at a time. Still I ask you: raise the quota. Accept refugees. Make room.

Thank you,

Shannon Graham

100.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

This is the last letter. I won’t bother you about Syrian refugees again this year, I’m fully out of things to say. I won’t write again (unless you ask me to!) The first letter I wrote didn’t say what I wanted it to, and neither did the second. Somewhere in the late 60’s I felt like I had made my point, but I kept on going, just in case there was something else I could say that maybe you hadn’t considered.

I’ve learned about Syria, about Canada, and about which of my friends have their heads screwed on right and which ones seem to have lost their way. But I still haven’t seen a single Syrian refugee in real life. Get on it, Mr Prime Minister. The world is waiting for you.

Thank you,

Shannon

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau, PC, MP
Prime Minister Of Canada

80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

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Read a fucking book or something

I get exasperated with my friends sometimes, when they complain about problems that I know the solution to, since I’ve read it in a book, implemented it in my life, and no longer have that problem. My usual, eye-rolling response is “read a fuckin’ book or something!”

Well, here are the actual books that you might try reading, and I will try, as always, to be more patient. Note: I linked to Amazon for most of these, but I found them all at the public library for free. I also read these this year, so they are fresh in my mind if you want to talk about any.

Starting Strength: Weight training for people like me, who previously thought weight training was for musclehead neanderthals and wanted nothing to do with it. What changed my mind was a year of constant, irritating joint pain and a couple of epic mountain bike wipeouts. After seeing this book recommended over and over again, I started the program. Joint pain is gone. Energy level is higher. And apparently my bones are getting stronger as we speak.

Short version:
http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/Starting_Strength_Wiki

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: Thought I could take the same approach to drawing as I did to weight training. I looked for a book with an exercise regimen. This seems to be the best way for me to learn, and this is a good book for it. Lots of pseudo-scientific nonsense about right and left sides of the brain, but if you skip to the exercises and do them with discipline, they work. At least so far, I only got the book last week and I’m 1/4 into it.

MoneySense Guide to the Perfect Portfolio: If you keep your savings in savings account, you’re wasting money. Investing can be complicated, hard, and scary though. This book gave me all the information that I needed to confidently get started.

If You Can: A smarter way to think about money than most of your friends are doing, and also the reason why I’m 0% impressed when someone rolls up in their brand new automobile. A brand new car is a bad decision, most of the time. So is a house, depending on the market and definitely including the one we live in. So are a lot of the other choices people make. Which, fine, go ahead and make your bad choices, but don’t expect me to be impressed by the money you’re splashing around. Anyone can spend it, it takes discipline and self control to get free of the tyranny of money.

Choose Yourself: a self help book, but it had me laughing out loud on the bus. Don’t wait for the world to judge you good enough to achieve your goals. Change your outlook, choose yourself.

Good and Cheap: a cookbook aimed at helping people on the US SNAP program (food stamps, basically), eat healthily using the impossible $4/day/person that the US government allots for nutrition.

Also good for those who want to learn to cook and find it helpful to have a couple of constraints in place to spur creativity.

PDF: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/52f120cfe4b0bf8fcb650b3e/t/53f4441ae4b08fc795a1a352/1408517146323/good-and-cheap.pdf

Little Ship of Fools: An old man rows across the Atlantic in the company of a pack of athletes whom he dislikes. They do not reach their time goal, and they do not enjoy themselves either. Some inspiration for when your endurance is low.

All Creatures Great and Small: Better than the TV show. My nana got this book when I was about knee-high, and kept it around the house. I must have read it a dozen times when I was a kid. I read it again this year to see if it was different. Nope, just as good as it ever was. Country vet drives around fixing cows and puppies, and the world is full of good people. Was nice to read it and remember Nana.

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4 comments

2015: The year I behaved.

Saying goodbye to 2015… the year I did everything I was supposed to do.

I got fit. My research told me that the most efficient way to stay strong and healthy, prevent injury and increase energy is weightlifting. So I did that. It worked. My energy level is higher than it has ever been, my body doesn’t hurt all the time, and I think I look fly. Probably spend too much time looking in the mirror, oh well.

I ate healthy. Maybe not every week, but more often than not. Lentils, rice, good spices, fresh vegetables, lean meat, beans. I cooked a huge pot of something every week for weeks at a time. Learned how to make stuff tasty without spending too much money. Learned how much smarter I get when I’m eating fibre and protein instead of sugar and starch. Cool.

I kept my finances in order. No debt, healthy savings. I researched how to invest and use money wisely, and kept my perspective on the fact that money isn’t actually worth anything. It got hectic towards the end – one week my house got robbed, the next I needed glasses and physio. Then Christmas happened and there were a lot of people I needed to appreciate, in gift form. Doesn’t matter, good habits make it possible to fuck up sometimes and not sink your boat.

I reached out to people. Did a lot of rock climbing and swimming at lakes with friends. Had some very raw conversations that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t learned how to stop denying the fact that I have emotions, and be honest about them. I asked people to do stuff instead of waiting for them to call.

I wished, as sincerely as I do every year, that people would call more often instead of me having to track them down. But this year I stopped waiting and went looking, and more often than not I found that people had been waiting for me.

That was cool. I’m blessed with two solid best friends, Corrie and Shane, whom I love with all my heart. May they someday meet, and may they not automatically hate one another.

I worked on a new skill. Practiced drawing. My drawing still looks pretty childish but I’m inspired by some amazing artists I know. Kahla Lichti, Klara Woldenga, Matt Osborn. I’ll never be as good as any of them, but maybe I’ll learn a way to express myself and reach people I can’t get to with writing.

I got my heart thoroughly broken. Three times. Have not recovered yet.

I did all the things I was supposed to do, but this year is ending pretty sad for me. Above are the highlights. I’m trying not to think about all the bad dates, missed jokes, missed confessions, lies (mostly me, lying to myself), hours lost to internet surfing, and idiotic problems with expensive solutions.

Did I spend $600 on corner marker covers for my shit-beat Tercel?

Did I let myself get hung up on an ex I broke up with years ago?

Did I start a fight with a random stranger at the polo court?

Did I buy a motorcycle for a man that I was not, strictly speaking, in love with?

Did I leave my door unlocked when I left for a five-day weekend?

Yeah… yeah.

It was weird. I think, maybe, I got the interesting life that I wished for last Christmas.

Goodbye, 2015. Don’t come back.

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Dear Mr Trudeau, pt. 10

53.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I see in this article in the Times Colonist, entitled “Syrian Refugee Plan Defies Price Tag: Maccallum” (http://www.timescolonist.com/syrian-refugee-plan-defies-price-tag-mccallum-1.2107416), that some people are worried about how much this is going to cost. Understandable.

Call on citizens to help. Issue war bonds. Ask for donations from countries that are turning away refugees (this might not work but it’ll definitely rub their nose in it). Ask the Senate to make personal donations.

We’ll figure it out somehow.

Thank you,

Shannon

54.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Since Canada is a democracy, you can’t make all decisions completely on your own. If you’d like, please send me the names of other members of the government who I should write to and ask them to support Syrian refugees as well.

Thank you,

Shannon

55.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Today someone set off some bombs in Paris and killed at least 118 people. As I write this, the identity of the bombers is still unknown. However, in the comments sections of articles, people are already blaming ISIS. I don’t know, maybe it was them. Terrorist attacks are intended to cause infighting and disorganization, making their targets ineffective because they can’t agree on what to do.

A strong leader can help, though, by pointing the way firmly toward peace and unity, instead of focussing the nation on retaliation.

I hope the French leaders do that, and I hope you don’t take this as a reason to close Canada to refugees.

Thanks,

Shannon

56.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It’s possible that some of my letters to you show some naiveté when it comes to politics and international economics. There is a lot to learn, and though I try my best to read and get up to speed, I doubt that I’ll ever know everything I need to make good decisions.

I admit that I failed Macroeconomics 100. I think it’s pretty stupid to plot national and international trends on graphs that only chart two factors. I switched majors to Computer Science and did a lot better there.

You have, I hope, all the information you need to make good choices, if you don’t give in to fear and confusion. Let refugees come to Canada. I’m pretty sure it’s a good choice.

Thank you,

Shannon

57.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

My great-grandparents were immigrants. They came from Ireland, Scotland and England. I’m white as the driven snow, so no one’s ever given me any trouble about it. Still, it goes to show that immigration often works well. People who WANT to be here are likely to be good citizens. Let’s get some Syrian immigrants asap.

Love,

Shannon

58.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Come to think of it, your grandparents were immigrants as well. I’ve just spent the last couple minutes checking wikipedia to see how many generations ago your family immigrated, but the articles about you and your father are pretty focussed. Never mind. We all came from somewhere else. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Thanks,

Shannon

59.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It’s November 13th as I’m writing this. A pretty unlucky Friday. The body count in France is up to 120, the French military has been mobilized and the borders are shut down. A refugee camp somewhere is on fire. Anonymous people on the internet are saying the usual hateful things that they always say, but the sane people in the world realize that the bombers who did this (maybe – we still don’t know for sure it was ISIS) are the people that refugees are trying to get away from.

There’s an opportunity here for the French to band together with the refugees and build a stronger nation, forged through a common enemy. I hope they do it. I hope we do it too. 3,000 refugees are in Canada already and are safe from today’s bombings. Let’s rescue more.

Thank you,

Shannon

60.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

I’m still reading about the bombings in France. It’s so far away and so far beyond my control, I don’t even know why I’m doing it. All that happens when I read the news is I get stressed out about things I can’t affect. Someday I want to be in a position where I can do something, though. I want to go back to school, learn a language, get a degree, and serve our country. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Maybe I don’t need the degree. Maybe I can get somewhere with what I’m doing now.

Mr Trudeau, please make sure Canada is a force for peace, and not perpetuators of war. Please let us be a sanctuary for refugees and let our role be one of de-escalation.

Thank you,

Shannon

61.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

It seems like suicide bombers ought to be a self-defeating problem, don’t you think? So how is it that ISIS never seems to run out of them?

Reason, of course, is because the really bad guys don’t sign up for suicide attacks. They are old men hiding in caves cackling to themselves. They are safe in the mountains and they’re not coming out. They seduce gullible and vulnerable young people, and get them to do the dirty work.

I can understand being that vulnerable, too. The war in Iraq started when I was 12. It was my first week of middle school. I was totally army-mad. I signed up for Air Cadets and promised myself that I would join the military and go to Iraq as soon as I was old enough, if they managed to keep the war going that long.

They did keep it going that long. It’s been 14 years and the same stupid war keeps going on, spreading around to different areas and morphing into different shapes sometimes, but it’s still basically the same war. They’re not doing very well. The biggest superpower in the world versus some hillbilly thugs. Why haven’t they finished yet?

It’s lasted long enough for me to grow up and get educated and now I know better. I will not be signing up to fight in any angry old man’s war. I have a future here in Canada. A good job, lots of friends, enough money, a nice place to live. If the young men and women of ISIS could see a bright future like mine for their families, they’d think twice about throwing it all away for a single attack. If we make room for them in Canada, we can give them that bright future. The angry old men will have to come out and fight their own fights, or, more likely, give up.

Love, Shannon

62.

Dear Mr Trudeau,

Mr Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Canadians are natural born helpers. Let’s help some Syrians.

Thanks,

Shannon

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