Archive for September, 2012

Nothing’s Ever Easy

Geez. Nothing’s ever easy, is it?

On Tuesday evening, shortly after writing that blog, I received a call telling me that a spot in Japanese class had opened up for me. But I didn’t jump up and down and do cartwheels like I thought I would. Instead, it was a bittersweet moment. On the bright side, it meant that I have the chance to study a language that’s been on my Top 5 list for ages. But on the crappier side, it meant I can’t continue with Welsh.

Don’t get me wrong – I have to drop Turkish too, and I’m not happy about that either. But I really enjoyed Welsh class, way more than I expected to. I thought that Welsh would be a fun distraction – a course that I didn’t mind taking, but one which I would have no qualms about dropping if and when the time came.

But then the time came. And I had qualms.

I’m usually a heartless fiend when it comes to dropping courses. I click that drop button with all the emotion of a British Imperial Guard. But not this time. This time I hesitated. And then I clicked it. And then I felt sad.

And yesterday, I walked right past the building that I should have gone into for Welsh class. And again, I felt sad.

Today I was fine though. Yeah, it sucks that I can’t continue with a course which I was enjoying, but life goes on.

And then I received an email. This email:

Hi Michael,
I missed  you at class yesterday and am emailing in the hope that you are going to continue with your Welsh studies.  I was very impressed by you on Tuesday, especially by the excellent and pertinent questions that you asked.  It was obvious that you were really thinking about the language.
Hope to see you next week.
Hefina (Tiwtor Cymraeg)

And that one hit me right in the heart. First of all, what kind of professor actually cares if you drop their class? Not a U of T professor, that’s for sure. Second, how on earth am I supposed to reply to that? I can’t very well say “Sorry, I chose Japanese over Welsh”, because even though I technically did, it was an incredibly difficult decision. And I can’t say “It was an incredibly difficult decision”, because that’s such a generic thing to say, and never makes the person who didn’t get picked feel any better. So, I don’t know.

Theoretically I could still attend Welsh class on an “unofficial” basis, but this wouldn’t really be fair to her or to the other students, as I’d be the only one not obligated to do any of the homework assignments, etc. And while people might not be notice in a class of 150, in a class of 9 people would notice within two minutes.

But I suppose there’s no harm in asking, is there…?

The First 48

So, the first two days of my final year of undergrad are in the books. Thus far, it’s been pretty great. Over these past two days, I’ve had seven hours of class, of which a staggering ZERO have been related to history and politics. I’ve had two hours of Japanese, two hours of Welsh, two hours of Turkish, and one hour of astronomy. It’s been refreshing studying subject matter that doesn’t involve the thoughts, actions, and philosophies of dead white men.

I had a simple plan going into this week. Rather than decide which of those three languages I want to take, I’d sit in on all three and then make my decision. Smart, right?

Well, maybe not.

See, having experienced all three of these languages, I’ve found that I enjoy all of them, and I don’t want to give any of them up.

Japanese was my initial preference, and it’s the language that I’ve most wanted to learn, but the other two have their own charms. My Welsh professor is a lovely woman with a brilliant sense of humour. And my Turkish professor, while more serious, evidently loves his job and the language he teaches.

I enjoy learning languages too much, that’s the problem. Give me a taste of any given language, and I’ll want more. If I could, I’d take all three of these courses. But I can’t, so I’m going to have to make a decision by the weekend.


A lot of political issues are No Big Deal.

That SOPA/PIPA thing that people were on about a few months ago? No Big Deal. It was never going to pass through Congress to begin with, and ultimately it was never even voted on.

That abortion issue that the Canadian government was talking about a while back? No Big Deal. Nothing ever came of it.

This, on the other hand, might just be a Big Deal. The Parti Quebecois, a political party whose ultimate goal is to separate Quebec from Canada, is back in power. That alone is a little scary. Secession movements are fairly common throughout the world, but it’s uncommon for them to attain a meaningful amount of political power, much less actually take control of a regional government.

I admit, this result comes as a bit of a surprise to me. In May 2011, while I was in the midst of that US road trip, the voters of Canada absolutely annihilated the Bloc Quebecois (the PQ’s equivalent at the national level), reducing them to 4 seats and eliminating their status as an official party. I thought the PQ would be similarly destroyed, but clearly I was wrong, and so here we are.

The last two times that the PQ was in power, they held referendums on whether or not Quebec should seek independence (or as it was sugar-coated at the time “sovereignty association”). The party hasn’t changed its tune since 1995 – their ultimate goal is to hold a third referendum.

But not immediately.

Pauline Marois, the leader of the PQ, is a smart woman. She’s well aware that support for Quebec independence isn’t all that strong right now. So, her plan (which she’s publicly stated) is to start demanding that the federal government cede more powers to Quebec. Some of her ideas include allowing Quebec to control its own foreign aid, and allowing it to establish its own pseudo-citizenship, whereby immigrants would be required to prove competency in French. This citizenship wouldn’t affect voting rights, but it would affect one’s ability to work a government job or run for public office.

When the federal government declines to grant these demands (which of course they would, being ridiculous and unconstitutional), Ms. Marois plans to whine loudly about how there are clear differences between Canada and Quebec and that the two can never hope to understand each other, thus stirring up support for independence.

It’s a clever plan, except for two things.

Firstly, she’s made the typical Bond villain mistake of revealing her master plan before any of it has been set into motion. I think that’s a little stupid on her part. Not only has she revealed her hand to her political opponents, but she’s revealed it to the people of Quebec as well. Were I living in Quebec, I’d feel insulted by the way she’s publicly declared her intent to manipulate my feelings.

The second issue is that she’s ruling with a minority government. Of the three other parties which have seats only one is in support of another referendum, and that party has only two seats. And while the two other opposition parties hate each other, they at least agree that Quebec should not have another referendum. And, having the power to topple the government at any time, they can prevent another referendum from happening at any point  in the next five years. It remains to be seen how much of a leash they’ll give Ms. Marois though.

So while the PQ’s victory doesn’t automatically mean we’ll be debating Quebec’s independence again in the immediate future, it definitely puts the possibility out there. One thing that’s certain is that this will add a bit of spice to Canadian politics for the next few years.