Merry Christmas, one and all

And a Happy Boxing Day too.

I got into Belleville Christmas Eve, and I’ve probably been eating ever since. Since my grandmother died, my mom has made it a tradition to have people over to her house for Christmas Eve. This, of course, involves lots of food. Christmas was nice. After presents and so forth, we started working through leftovers from the night before. My sister and brother-in-law headed back home to Ottawa, leaving more for the rest of us. And then there was Christmas dinner.

Today, I’ve mostly been grazing off whatever’s available. I really ought to stop. I’ve been feeling a little queasy. Except my aunt and uncle are having us over for a buffet in a couple hours.

Smurfs and the Zombie Apocalypse

[Black smurf] I stumbled upon an interesting little factoid from [a webcomic]( today.

It’s generally assumed that the modern Zombie apocalypse trope (disease/radiation/whatever turns people into brain-munching monsters, spreading the infection with each brain that gets munched) was started by George A. Romero’s [Night of the Living Dead]( Not so!

> Yeah, les Schtroumpfs! The Smurfs! In the first book, [Les Schtroumpfs Noir](, a Smurf is infected by a disease that turns him black, non-verbal and agressive. He’s then compelled to spread it through biting.
>The story ends with a small band of survivors forced to do battle with a wave of infected descending upon them.
> AKA: the modern zombie apocalypse scenario, and one that predates Romero’s by a good nine years!

(from [Ménage à 3, December 13, 2008](


The Republic of Canada – Part 1

I’m starting to think Canada needs to elect a president.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually *like* our current system. I think it works reasonably well. But I think there’s a serious and growing problem: people don’t understand it.

In our current system, people vote for a local representative in parliament. And that’s all they’re asked to do. The leader party with the most seats forms the government and the leader of that party becomes prime minister. It used to be prime ministers didn’t have a whole lot of power, which is right and good because they’re not actually directly elected. Power comes from parliament. That is the primary democratic body in our system.

Listening to the last election, though, and listening to people talk on the radio, everybody seems to think they’re voting for a prime minister. It’s pretty rare that anybody even knows who their local representative is.

Two months ago, we had an election which ended with a second Conservative minority government. Meaning the Conservative party got the most seats, but not enough to give them the majority of seats in parliament. This is fine and normal. In minority governments, the governing party needs to reach out to the other parties to actually get legislation through. The Conservatives made grand speeches about how they were going to do that, but when it came down to putting forward their first substantial motion, they basically decided to stick it to all three opposition parties.

Sticking it to everybody else actually worked out pretty well in the last parliament. The Liberal party had leadership issues and didn’t relish the idea of going into an election. Which makes sense, because they didn’t fair too well when the Conservatives saw an opening and called an election for no reason, breaking their own fixed election date law. At the end of the election, though, we ended up with a parliament pretty much the same as the one before it, and it looks like the Conservatives thought they could carry on as they had before. Except something had changed: the opposition parties weren’t going to put up with the same old bullshit anymore. It hadn’t won them any favours with the population anyway, as evidenced by the election results. Also, there’s a lot more at stake now. The world economy is going down the tubes, and as I [alluded]( during the election (and you may choose to disagree with me), Conservative policy could very well be disastrous to the Canadian economy.

So the opposition parties got together and did what they’re supposed to do immediately after the election when the governing party can’t govern: they proposed a centre-left coalition.

And we’re in the middle of that mess now. The Conservative party is using whatever quasi-constitutional powers it has at its disposal to fend off a vote in the House which would bring down their fledgling government, and there are protests in the streets on both sides.

It seems like the biggest, popular complaint about a coalition coming in is that that’s not what people voted for in the last election. Which is true. Thing they don’t seem to understand, though, is that they were never asked who they wanted to form the government. Ever. They were asked who they wanted to represent them in parliament. The formation of the government is a mechanism of parliament and doesn’t have any input for public approval. You may call that undemocratic, but it’s been our system for about 150 years.

I could keep ranting about how people are stupid and how they need to understand our system and get it right, but I don’t think that will work. People *want* to vote for the guy (or gal, to be fair) who runs the country. They relate to a person, not this abstract parliament concept. I think they’d even get the idea of voting for a representative if it was divorced from the idea of picking a national leader.

The more I think about it, the more I think our system needs to change. Dramatically. Not just electing a senate or proportional representation or whatever. I think we may need to seriously consider what it would mean to directly elect a leader. A president, if you will.

Christkindl Market

AMK introduced me to the Kitchener [Christkindl Market]( a few years ago. It’s neat! It’s a German Christmas festival and sale. There’s some neat stuff there. I’ve got lots of Christmas presents for my mom in past years. There’s also a lot of good food. That’s probably the biggest draw for me.

I took Ellen last year to look around, but we got there a bit late on the Sunday when it closed and there wasn’t much time to look around (although I did get free [[wiki:Leberkäse]] from a guy closing up). This year we gave ourself lots more time to take things in.

Ellen got a whole bunch of stuff. I mostly just looked. I got some beer nuts, as is traditional. It seems to be largely the same vendors every year.

Ellen was especially taken with the organ grinder guy. He had a stuffed monkey puppet, which I thought was cool. Ellen was more into the mechanics of the thing. She gave the guy a five dollar bill. He said nobody had ever given him a bill before, so he offered to let her grind away. Of course, she jumped at the chance. She also got to learn how he got his organ. He answered a personal ad in a German-language newspaper.

Apparently the word for “avid collector” or something is similar to the word for “love” in German. So when the seller put out an ad for “avid collectors only,” the classifieds editor must have figured he was selling something else, and put it in the personals section. The then-future organ grinder guy couldn’t believe his luck, jumped at the chance and ended up fulfilling his destiny as organ grinder guy.

We ended up getting food at the Exhibit Cafe downtown, since there are more things there Ellen can eat. It’s was nice, though. I still have a bit of a hankering for the traditional German hunk of meat on a bun (or maybe just a potato pancake), but between supper and the bear nuts, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.