Canadians


I’ve been enjoying how incarceration rates, politics, and alternatives are dominating the news today. I don’t follow this conversation closely so it’s been good to see some numbers and hear the different perspectives.

When I first started listening, last night, I heard the numbers presented as totals on CNN, like this list from the International Centre for Prison Studies:

1 United States of America 2,239,751
2 China 1,640,000
3 Russian Federation 686,200

That probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. But, I thought, the real question is how dangerous do we think we are compared to other countries. Or, perhaps, how evil do we think we are…

So I looked up the incarceration rates per capita, which, to be fair to the media, is how almost everyone is displaying the data. Here are the same countries (Plus Canada. My wife is Canadian so I like to make comparisons between the US and Canada.) picked out of a chart on Wikipedia:

Rank Country (or dependent territory) Prisoners per
100,000
population
1  United States 716
8  Russia 484
124  China 121 or 170[2]
133  Canada 114

Apparently, here in the land of the free, we consider each other somewhere between 4 and 6 times as dangerous as they do in that repressive regime, China. And well over 6 times as dangerous as Canadians consider themselves. What do you think, Canadians? Are you 1/6 as dangerous as we are?

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While Nathen is away at Not Back to School Camp in New Hampshire, I, his lonely fiancé, am trying to keep myself busy and in good company. To that end, I moved in with some friends of ours, Nick and Tilke, for a few days.

While I was staying there, Tilke and I talked a lot about colour (or “color,” as I might start spelling it after I get my green card). Colour is a lifelong passion of Tilke’s, and she is in the midst of revising a book she wrote and illustrated on the topic as well as writing the syllabus for a workshop called Experiencing Color.

Tilke's backyard studio

While talking to her about her workshop, I started to describe my own challenges with colour: Since I started making quilts a couple years ago, I’ve struggled with figuring out how I want to put colours together and have realized how little confidence I have about colour. When I do hit on something I like, I mostly don’t know why it works. I described how a few days earlier I’d been in a fabric store trying to choose a few solid colours to buy: when I went for my favourites, the ones that caught my eye –fuchsia, emerald green and bright blue– they looked terrible together. When I tried to narrow my choice down to two colours that I thought of as complementary, the connotations seemed all wrong. I ended up leaving without buying anything.

Plant-dyed fabrics, books about colour.

So here she was, someone trying to figure out how to teach people about colour, and here I was, a real, live colour novice with a hunger to learn. We went to look at her fabric stash and talk it out.

Tilke has a very distinctive colour palette that anyone who knows her would recognize, a family of colours she uses in her work and surrounds herself with. She described the way that certain colours in her family support or “bridge” other colours. I noticed as she moved fabric around that she mostly grouped her colours in sets of three or more. She agreed and showed me how adding a third colour can add a subtlety and depth that you can’t get with two colours.

I started to get a feel for what she was saying. I tried putting together my own set, choosing first a turquoise I liked and then adding another blue, a mushroom, a brown and an orange until – magic! – I had a group of colours that looked great together.

“What if you couldn’t have this one?” Tilke asked, and took out the orange. So I shuffled things around and brought in new colours until I had another set I liked. We talked about the importance of arrangement (which colours are beside each other) and proportion, looking at paintings and photos around her house for examples. Later we played a game with her new “colour library” of fabric samples, where we challenged each other to take the worst colours (eg: neon peach or drab burgundy) and make them beautiful by combining them with good supporting colours. Very fun!

I was so inspired that I started “editing” some patchwork pieces I’d sewn together a year ago that weren’t doing it for me: it suddenly seemed obvious which colours weren’t working, and taking them out made a big difference.

My quilt project, before and after colour editing.

We also had great talks and I got to try out throwing around medicine balls with them in the park (Ooof. My hands were too shaky to keyboard afterwards). It’s so fascinating to peer into – and join in on – other peoples’ lives like that. I’d like to do it again some time.

I documented all of my landfill contribution for the year 2009. There is a little write-up of the project and photos of all my trash on my Landfill page.  The short version of the story is that I generated 57 pounds of non-recyclable, non-compostable garbage in 2009. That’s a lot more than I had anticipated, and when I look at the photos I get embarrassed. Very little, if any, of that trash was necessary. Still, it’s a bit better than the average American’s four pounds per day, according to the Clean Air Council’s page on American waste. How do people do that? I’m not sure I could keep up that pace if I was getting paid to. That’s 1,460 pounds per person per year. Canadians are whupping us here, by a lot. All of the estimates I came across for Canadian landfill per person per year were less than half of that. Even in Alberta.