ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

November 2007


Musings27 Nov 2007

I imagine you’ve been following the controversy surrounding the death of Robert Dziekanski and police use of Tasers. From what I can tell, many things went went wrong in the case of Mr. Dziekanski. Like most people, I’m outraged and ashamed that he got lost in the airport and paid for his confusion with his life. However, I am not writing about that particular travesty, but rather about about Tasers in general.

The usual sales-pitch for why our police should carry stun-guns is that it gives them an alternative to deadly force. This makes the deployment of such weapons sound like a very good idea: it is certainly better to zap someone with electricity (even with all the attendant risks) than to shoot them.

However, the sales-pitch doesn’t seem consistent with how Tasers are used in practice. Police use them to arrest non-violent persons, like Robert Dziekanski, or even as a “tool of compliance” on persons already under their control. To whit:

Three-quarters of people Tasered by the RCMP are unarmed.

Student Tasered at John Kerry forum for taking too long on the mic. I lost any respect I had left for Mr. Kerry after watching this video: he should have intervened.

Student Tasered for not leaving the UCLA library. In this case he was lying on the floor when he was Tasered, and repeatedly told to “get up or we’ll zap you again”.

Taser used on sleeping man. How was he a threat to anyone?

Taser used on 15-year-old during strip search.

UN says Tasers are a form of torture.

Meanwhile, in life and death situations, police still reach for their firearms.

The Taser has been sold to us as one thing and used as another. I think the real question we should be asking, as we ponder our policies in the wake of Robert Dziekanski’s death, is do we want our police to have a 50,000 volt “compliance tool”? We don’t tolerate it when our police beat people in their custody, why are we happy to let them inflict pain through electricity instead?

Since when is “cooperate with me or I will hurt you” consistent with our values?

News23 Nov 2007

Ladies and gentleman, I am now an augmented human being. This morning I had a long-surviving baby tooth yanked (or rather, sawed out, damn thing was fused to my jaw) and an implant put in its place. The implant is a fairly low-tech titanium screw (I guess old technology is the best…) that they inserted into my jawbone, after drilling a small hole. The surgeon actually twisted the screw in with a wrench. I was chuckling a bit at the time – I felt like a I was a car in for a visit to the mechanic.

The experience itself was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be. I elected to do it without sedation, which, though it meant I had to endure half an hour of power-tools in my mouth while still in possession of my mental faculties, made the aftermath much more bearable because I wasn’t groggy and stunned all day. They let me listen to my iPod (Harry Manx is very relaxing) and, between that, the freezing which meant I couldn’t feel half my face, not having my glasses on, and bright lights in my eyes, I felt like I was in some kind of “altered state” anyway. For a guy who is fearful of all things dental, I felt pretty detached about the whole thing.

I was fairly nervous during the preparations, and so compensated by cracking jokes to the nurses and surgeon. I knew I wouldn’t be able to joke around once they actually started messing around in my mouth, so I tried to cram in as much mirth during the pre-op as I could. Here’s some of my better material:

(When the surgeon was drying his hands at one point he accidentally broke the paper-towel holder.)

Me: Should I infer from this that my surgeon has bad hands?
Him: Nah, the paper-towel holder is spring-loaded. This happens to everyone.
Me: I see
Him: If you want to see how a surgeon’s hands are, take them to a restaurant and see how they cut their dinner.
Me: Good advice. Wait, are you trying to get a free meal out of me?

I regret, when the nurse commented that I’d “held on to that baby tooth for a long time”, I wasn’t snappy enough to ask if the tooth-fairy paid compound interest.

So, here I sit, taking it easy. My jaw hurts but the painkillers are making life bearable. I spent the afternoon reading the Epic of Gilgamesh and playing computer games. Shengrong, bless her heart, has made two kinds of soup for dinner.

News15 Nov 2007

First, some news: I’ve found a job. This isn’t part of the misadventures, and is in fact quite the opposite, but I thought I’d mention it. I’ll be doing software development at an Ottawa company, and I start next month. I’m quite excited.

Now, on to my trials.

Continue Reading »

Links and Music05 Nov 2007

(With apologies to Fran├žois Girard and Don McKellar. Trivia: “the room” which is always being rented to a different roommate in McKellar’s classic series “Twitch City” has a “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould” poster on the wall.)

I’ve been running into Glenn Gould more than usual lately (well, not the man himself, obviously). The Museum of Civilization, which I visited on Thanksgiving weekend, has a Gould exhibit running currently, in honor of the “Year of Glenn Gould“. Likewise, CBC has been playing more Gould-related programming than usual, including, I kid you not, Saturday’s episode of Fuse featuring five artists covering Petula Clark, “Gould’s favorite popular singer”. It was… odd.

Gould, was of course, famous for playing the Goldberg Variations (care of google video), but he also did a lot of work for the CBC is a broadcaster. His wonderfully odd tribute to/analysis of Petual Clark falls into the latter category, and you can hear it here (along with two of his other CBC programs).

I’m dying to hear “The Idea of North”, his “contrapuntal” radio documentary about the Canadian arctic, but no googling has turned it up.

Food01 Nov 2007

As I type this, I’m eating the best pizza I’ve yet had in Ottawa, a “Bronson’s Special”, from Bronson Pizza. The guy who took my order described it as “Vegetarian, with pepperoni and bacon.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t really resist ordering a pizza thus described.

Not possessing a menu, I had phoned up looking for “the works” (which, to my mind, is some variation on pepperoni, mushrooms, green pepper, onions, and bacon and-or ground beef), and this was apparently the closest they had. “Vegetarian, with pepperoni and bacon” translates as the aforementioned meats, plus mushrooms, green pepper, onions, tomatoes and green olives. I’m not really accustomed to eating green olives and tomato on a pizza but the end result is tasty, and the pizza is well-constructed, meaning that the sauce has a good taste and the cheese is thick and covers some of the toppings.

So, Bronson Pizza gets a little gold star and, in all likelihood, a repeat customer. There are still lots of other pizza places to audition though… I’m not really used to having such a range of choice. In Fredericton, there was the Brazilian pizza place that folded the first year I was there, the two adequate pizza places that kept me going after that, and the new place that opened just across from my apartment a month before I left.