some vacation!

When you're a rural telecommuter, being locked out is a lonely business.

Friday, March 24, 2006

at long last

Some very good news, indeed.

What a surprise it was to hear the phone ring at 6:00am Thursday morning and hear my friend Dawn's voice hyperventilating with joy. "They're free! The hostages are free! Jim's OK!"

Over the last 24 hours, we have learned a few details. The operation was carried out by a multi-national coalition without the use of force, as the abductors were temporarily away from the house where Jim, Harmeet and Norman were being held. This fact comes as a welcome relief to the CPT, who stand for non-violent conflict resolution regardless of circumstances. The CPT has been gracious in thanking the coalition for this fact.

Yesterday, the vigil table was dismantled - with joy - at Trinity Anglican Church in Durham, ON. Tonight, there is a gathering of Jim's Durham friends to celebrate his release. I'll be there.

There is much more I will learn over the course of the next day or so, but out of respect for the CPT in Toronto, close friends and family, I've left them all alone to deal with the media inquiries first (4 TV crews in Durham alone - unheard of!).

The CPT urge us not to forget Tom Fox, the hostage from the US, whose body was found on March 9th. His family must be suffering terribly. They also urge us not to forget the incredible outpouring of support from people around the world, especially people in the Muslim community who worked so hard to secure the safety of the remaining hostages. Many people agree that without the support of the Islamic community around the world, the outcome could have been very different.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write me off-blog and let me know you were thinking of the hostages and those close to them. Those messages were incredibly helpful during the times I was feeling frustrated and powerless.

Finally, let's not forget that this hostage-taking was not an isolated incedent, and let's not forget why Iraqis feel forced into taking these rash actions. This month's Harpers magazine has 2 articles everyone should read, one about the liberalization of torture, and one about the call to impeach George W. Bush.

Continue to shine the light, folks! I can feel it shining here today.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Statement on Jim Loney from Muslim Detainees in Toronto

From Canadian detainees Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei

Electronic Iraq 4 December 2005

To the people holding James Loney and the other Christian Peacemaker Team Members in Iraq,

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious and Merciful,

Our names- are Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei, and we have been detained without charge for between four and five and a half years. Some of us have spent as many as four years in solitary confinement as well. We are being held captive under security certificates because the government of Canada alleges we are linked to terrorist organizations and that we pose a threat to the national security of Canada. Allah is witness to our innocence of these allegations.

We are suffering a great injustice here in Canada because the government stereotypes Muslims and because of our strong faith and daily attendance to mosque. We have been suffering innocently.

Many Canadians have heard of our injustice and have been supporting us in our fight for freedom by contacting politicians, by holding demonstrations in front of the jail, by writing letters to authorities and spreading the word all over Canada by way of media.

James Loney of the Christian Peacemaker Teams is one of thousands of people who have been fighting to right this wrong. He is a person who has organized and motivated people to participate in this struggle for what is right. We have recently seen a photo of him in the newspaper and it has saddened our hearts to learn that he is being held captive in Iraq.

This is the same James Loney who has travelled to Iraq on more than one occasion to help the people of Iraq. This is the same James Loney who has reached out to the families of the Abu Ghraib prisoners. This is the James Loney who was against the U.S. invasion and is against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

It pains our hearts to know that a person of this calibre is being held captive. We care about his freedom more than we do our own.

If you love Allah, if you have goodness in your heart, please deal with this matter as righteous Muslims and not let these kind, caring, compassionate and innocent people suffer. Prophet Mohammad, Peace be Upon Him, said, if you do not thank the people, you do not thank Allah." The Prophet, Peace be Upon Him, also said, "If someone did a favour to you, try to return his favour."

We hope and pray to see these captives freed as much as we hope and pray for our own freedom here in Canada, a freedom for which James Loney has worked so hard.

For further information: Campaign to Stop Secret Trials In Canada, (416) 651-5800,

This letter is also signed by Sister Mona Elfouli, who is struggling to free her husband, Mohammad Mahjoub

Sunday, December 04, 2005

urgent action needed, please sign

Please take a moment to sign this petition in support of my friend Jim Loney and his colleagues on the Christian Peacemakers Team who are being held hostage in Iraq by a group calling itself The Swords of Righteousness Brigade.

It is a tragic and terrible irony it is that these 4 men who went to Iraq to bear witness to injustice have been taken hostage and threatened with death.

The hostage takers have so far chosen to remain ignorant of the fact that these four aid workers are in Iraq to document the ill-treatment of and to improve the living conditions of the very prisoners they would like to see freed.

Anything anyone can do to help the hostage-takers to understand this vital fact is appreciated.

Please spread the word. Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

recent hostage taking

It was with great sadness, but not surprise, that I heard that Jim Loney was among the captives taken hostage in Iraq earlier this week.

Jim is a committed pacifist who has chosen to put himself in the path of conflict in order to help those most affected by the aftermath of war, specifically the displaced and the grieving. The group he represents, Christian Peacemaker Teams, is founded on the principles of the Mennonites and the Quakers and finds kinship in the liberation theoligists of the Catholic Church.

I met Jim about 10 years ago when the group home for refugees and the homeless he was co-managing in Toronto became involved in a community farm project around the corner from my home. I can say without hesitation that he is hard-working, good-humoured, and that he has a greater capacity for compassion than almost anyone I have had the pleasure of knowing.

He is not a spy. He is not a fundamentalist, nor is he militant or ill-intentioned in any way. He is also not naive. This is Jim's third trip to Iraq with the CPT. On a previous trip, he witnessed his colleague, George Weber of Chesley ON, die as one of the trucks their convoy was travelling in had a tire blow out and rolled.

Please join me in holding all the hostages in your hearts and minds through this hostage taking and in wishing them a safe and speedy resolution.

Friday, November 25, 2005

don't buy this blog

Today was Buy Nothing Day, and I forgot (at least this year we didn't buy a house on November 25th, as we once did).

My son Nate needed a winter jacket desperately. He grew about 5 inches since last year, and his jean jacket simply wasn't cutting it in the 50cm snow drifts that blew in on Wednesday. I took him to town, and after finding nothing second-hand, bought him something snug and warm and new. We also bought fruit, cheese, and a pack of ballpoint pens. I consoled myself with the fact that none of the purchases were frivolous.

As fate would have it, there was a discussion about Buy Nothing Day on Radio Noon, which gave me a chance to talk about the concept with my kids over lunch. As fate would also have it, they've been listening to Chumbawamba a lot lately (I think they're drawn to the up-beat rhythms and memorable sing-along choruses).

Thinking about the Chumbas of old, the conversation over our black bean soup naturally led from Buy Nothing Day to anarchism (pacifist-communitarian vs. militant-nihilist strains) to libertarianism, to community justice models, to prison reform, to homeless issues and squatting, to fetal alcohol syndrome and sociopathy. Admittedly, 6 year-old Nate left the room to play on his own, but 10 year-old Cleo was fast with questions and hungry for answers.

Never, never in my wildest imaginings could I have thought that the plump, mewling newborn I held in my arms 10 years ago would be discussing political counter-culture and social reform ideologies with me before she hit puberty. But there you are.

Parenting is a wild and deeply satisfying adventure.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

the $100 wind-up laptop is here

Found at: Pocket Lint
See also: MIT

MIT unveils $100 laptop to the world

Posted by Stuart Miles

17 November 2005 - MIT has unveiled its $100 hand-cranked laptop computer to the United Nations technology summit in Tunisia and said that it hopes to make millions of the devices to give to the poorest people in the world.

The lime-green machines, which are about the size of a text book, will offer wireless connectivity via a mesh network of their own creation allowing peer-to-peer communication and operate in areas without a reliable electricity supply.

"The $100 laptop is inspiring in many respects", said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "It is an impressive technical achievement, able to do almost everything that larger, more expensive computers can do. It holds the promise of major advances in economic and social development. But perhaps most important is the true meaning of 'one laptop per child'. This is not just a matter of giving a laptop to each child, as if bestowing on them some magical charm. The magic lies within - within each child, within each scientist-, scholar-, or just plain citizen-in-the-making. This initiative is meant to bring it forth into the light of day".

The goal is to provide the machines free of charge to children in poor countries who cannot afford computers of their own, said MIT Media Lab chairman Nicholas Negroponte.

Governments or charitable donors will pay for the machines but children will own them, he said.

"Ownership of the laptops is absolutely critical", he said. "Have you ever washed a rented car?"

Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria are candidates to receive the first wave of laptops starting in February or March, and each will buy at least 1 million units, he said.

The computers operate at 500 MHz, about half the processor speed of commercial laptops, and will run on Linux rather than Microsoft’s or Apple’s Operating systems as previously hoped by the two companies.

The computer uses a screen from a portable DVD player, which can be switched from colour to black and white to make it easily viewable in bright sunlight, said Mary Lou Jepsen, the project's chief technical officer.

MIT plans to have units ready for shipment by the end of 2006 or early 2007. Manufacturing will begin when 5 to 10 million machines have been ordered and paid for in advance.

Monday, November 21, 2005

how "yearist"!

I was amused to read this funny essay on Tom Kernaghan's Oakwriter blog this morning. Tom seems to have become enamored of a certain rare species of North Americans: those born in 1964.

First off, let me make this clear: I was not born in 1964. But I was conceived in 1964, so I think I'm close enough to offer some insights. Not that Tom would expect me to, but what the hell.

Being born in 1964 or 1965 means you spend your life at the ass-end of a pig moving through the demographic python. This translates to spending your formative years following a huge wave people who have already been there, already done that, and already gotten bored with it just a few years ahead of you, but are only too willing to tell you why it was so much better when they did it first.

My life was constantly filtered through another boomer's lens. No matter where I was on my journey towards maturity (and I'm still working on it...), there was someone 7, or 11, or 17 years older who told me "Oh, don't bother, the FILL-IN-THE-BLANK (music, drug, destination, emotion) was SO much better when I did it in 1974. It's crap now".

Part of that is true: boomers had sex before AIDS. Boomers had drugs before crack and crystal meth. Boomers had cheap travel. Boomers had property before inflation, jobs before Free Trade. Boomers could stumble out of university in the 70's and into great careers, or spend 10 years travelling with a backpack and a guitar and still come home to fulfilling work. If you came out of university in the late 80's, like me, you probably worked in telemarketing or waited on tables for several years because someone 10 years older than you was occupying the entry level career-track job you thought you'd have.

We on the the tail-end of the pig were witnesses to a lot of folly that our elders in the "me generation" indulged in, from disco to cults. If we have bullshit detectors, it's because there were finely honed as we watched so much of it fly around us. It's no wonder we "got" punk (yes, yes, I know it was a boomer invention, but how many boomers really got it?).

I remember when I discovered punk. It was February 2nd, 1979. I was 13, in Grade 8, and I had just heard on the CBC Radio news that Sid Vicious had been found dead in his bed after celebrating his release on bail pending his trial for the murder of former lover Nancy Spungeon. I sat on the edge of the guacamole-coloured bathtub where my mother was bathing and tried to make sense of it.

The thing is, it wasn't that mystifying to me. I got it. As part of the hand-me-down generation, I understood the rage, I understood the "fuck you" that was Sid Vicious. Days later I got my first period. Then, as the Rheostatics song goes, "that summer I saw The Ramones". Heady stuff.

And yes, the Beatles were brilliant, and yes, the Beach Boys were geniuses and you know what? Stiff Little Fingers and The Buzzcocks still make me tingle with pleasure.

And you know what else? Some of my best friends are boomers. There are simply so many to choose from... chances are some of them are bound to be great.