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Feel free to copy & paste or write your own letter to your local M.L.A. to help push this issue to the forefront. To find your MLA, here’s a helpful webpage: http://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm

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(Slightly modified from my original e-mail version:)
Dear Dr. Jane Shin, M.L.A.,

I’m writing as a constituent of your riding, and I would like to bring the issue of mental health in our province to your attention.

Recently, Global News reported on how the “Mayor and Police Chief declare ‘mental health crisis’ in Vancouver” http://globalnews.ca/news/839390/mayor-and-police-chief-declare-mental-health-crisis-in-vancouver/ . For many, though, this is not new news. The BC Liberals allowed – and according to some, accelerated – the closure of Riverview Hospital, ironically just over a year ago also on a Friday the 13th, the same day that I am writing this e-mail to you. This closure resulted in a significant loss and disruption to our province’s mental health services and capacity.

As a member of the BC NDP (a party which called for better funding and action for mental health in BC in their election platform) and as a medical doctor, it is my guess that this issue is already a priority for you. So, I would like to further encourage you to please continue championing this cause. I would like to see both the Official Opposition and the current BC Liberal government ensuring that both short term initiatives and long term action are put in place to improve mental health care and services in BC.

I understand that these things take time and are often complex, but I believe we cannot afford to allow complacency or rhetoric to slow down our reaction to this “crisis”. As I alluded to earlier, this is not a recent crisis, but the fact that the Vancouver Mayor and Police Chief have so clearly declared a “mental health crisis” provides a key opportunity to us to bring this issue to the forefront.

Inaction or mismanagement when it comes to mental health in our province costs us economically, due to the fallout of persons suffering from mental illness not getting the help they need earlier on, before they arrive at the front lines of our hospital emergency rooms or law enforcement. Our communities and quality of living also suffer as a result. Furthermore, morally and ethically, I believe we have the ability to intervene and improve the situation, and so we are compelled to do so. It’s my hope that these three incentives are enough to help drive political action on the issue.

If you have the time, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the issue and any news you may be privy to regarding it. Otherwise, I hope that this e-mail is an encouragement to you in helping strengthen our province when it comes to mental health.

Thank you for your time and your service to our riding!

– Paulman Chan

Address:
[redacted]

Phone: [redacted]
E-mail: [redacted]
Twitter: @Jacmert

Marius and Enjolras are cool. Also, this took a lot of takes because I am pretty bad at memorizing 😛 But I’ve been wanting to try recording some of these songs because I love singing them wherever I am (but I never remember the words, lol).

Can you imagine Jesus saying/singing this to you?

“But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!”
– Bishop Myriel in Les Misérables

(Where “precious silver” = forgiveness giving you a new start, plus God’s Spirit dwelling with & in you;
“the Passion” = what they used to call Jesus’ trial & crucifixion)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Les_Mis%C3%A9rables_(musical)#Valjean_Arrested.2C_Valjean_Forgiven

[Semi-important note to all my friends: please read the very LAST (tiny) paragraph if this post is too long.  I have a question to ask of you.]

Who knew?  I didn’t, until today when I took a closer look at my Rogers wireless billing charges.  They’re charging 15 cents for every incoming text message, which is the same as it costs to send a text message!  Which also means that if a person or company spams with you with text messages, you could easily be paying a whole lot at an uncontrollable rate*.  Anyways, it turns out that they started charging for incoming texts in August 2009, I believe.  Apparently they were notifying customers in their bills as of June & July, but I don’t receive paper bills and I never noticed anything showing up via e-mail or online (even though my Customer Service Representative was trying to convince me that it must have notified me, somewhere… [he didn’t know exactly how]).  I have a hunch it was in the PDF invoice/bill that I am able to download if I click in the right place.

Ok, so apparently you are only notified in your June bill.  I downloaded the PDF invoice and it notifies you of the changes on Page 4 of 7.  Thanks for not telling me anywhere else on my online billing page, or e-mailing me or contacting me by phone.  Maybe a text message to my Rogers phone would be the best (or most straightforwardly logical) way to notify me.  This is probably grounds for some better legislation that helps protect customers.

Anyways, the bottom line is that I talked to Customer Relations (the special department that got me my current iPhone monthly plan), and I got put on a $5/month messaging plan.  This is the first time I’ve ever paid a monthly fee for text messages, of all things.  For that fee, I get unlimited incoming and 250 outgoing text, picture, or video messages.  Too bad my iPhone 3G can’t record video.

*Although now that I’ve discovered in that PDF invoice that you can be protected against SPAM messages, I’ll probably downgrade to the $3/month, 100 outgoing text, unlimited incoming messages Customer Relations add-on.

Anyways, I’m going to try out the $5/month plan for a bit and see if I can actually get any use out of picture messaging.  I’ll probably switch to the $3/month plan, since I don’t text people very much at all.  But I figure if I receive or send more than 20 text messages (combined) a month, then it’s worth going to the $3/month plan.  That’s a lot better than the cheapest $10/month plan that the regular Customer Service rep (not Customer Relations) was offering me (I think it was for like… well, I can’t remember.  A lot of outgoing texts, and unlimited incoming).

The real reason I wanted to write this post was to figure out who of my friends can receive text messages for free, and who can receive picture messages for free.  I want to know, so that I can feel free to text/message you without feeling like I’m costing you money.  And that is all, thanks for reading.

Written Thursday, Sept 17th @ 5:31PM EST

I just got slapped in the head by someone panhandling on Gerrard (between Broadview and Hamilton)!  It was in a good way, though 🙂

Actually, it was a handshake… that somehow turns into a side hug with the left hand grabbing the side of the other guy’s head.  These things happen.

The guy I met is named Runny Rivers.  As it turns out, it’s related to the poetry that he sometimes writes.  When he recounts his memories as he writes – memories are sad, he told me – the words get blurred by his tears.  Runny rivers.

I got talking with him as I got off the 50″something” street car that goes down Gerrard St E.  He asked me if I could help him, with his cap held out I think, for some food.  Before I even got to him, I was thinking about whether I had the time (well, I had the time.  The emotional effort was more the issue) to stop and talk with him.  I was also thinking about whether I had any Tim Hortons gift certificates, or some other non-cash provision I could give him.  Then I realized I had been carrying around a 230 gram box of Nature Valley granola bars (they were supposed to be for breakfast so that I wouldn’t keep eating my hosts’ waffles).  High in fibre, protein, and calories – perfect! (I would feel super bad if I gave a panhandler or homeless person junk food)

We got to talking, I asked him if he was from the area or where he lived or something, and he mentioned that he’d lived here all his life.  He was born on the East Coast – Newfoundland, to be exact.  We talked a bit more, and I asked him if was connected up with any good organizations that could offer help to him.  I mentioned that I was a Christian, so I was wondering if there were any Churches that fit the bill, either?  (Actually, I find that asking panhandlers or homeless persons if they know of any good organizations, government agencies, or CHURCHES is a good way to give them a bit of a hint that you think Jesus is someone they need to know)  He mentioned that he was a Christian, too!

That put me into “evangelism” mode (ok, there aren’t really any modes.  Just living life.  But basically, it changes things because now it’s relevant to talk directly about spiritual things).  I’m usually cautious when someone tells me they’re a Christian, because, hey – it’s the West.  Half the country says they’re Christian (according to Stats Can; something like that).  I asked him what he means, or what it means to him to say that he’s a Christian.  He gave me an explanation about how it’s important to care about people, and as we kept talking he told me about how sometimes when he does something really wrong, he tells God he’s sorry and asks for another chance – because everyone deserves another chance if they’re sincere about it.

That’s actually a key difference between what most North Americans see spirituality as, and what Christianity claims is actually true about God and us.  I longed to tell him that what I believed when I call myself a Christian – and he didn’t have to accept it, but I wanted to share what I thought – is that actually no one deserves a second chance.  And that’s why Jesus is so important to Christians – because He came to forgive us and take the guilt that we deserved away from us, and on to Him (I’m still working on my one sentence presentation of the Gospel.  I think it’s really important to be able to explain how a person can receive Christ in one or two sentences, without using “Christianese”).

Actually, I did explain that last part to him, but that was earlier on when, after he explained what being a Christian meant to him, I then explained what being a Christian meant to me.  That it meant believing that everyone was equal, and that we’ve all done bad things before, and that’s why Jesus is such a big deal to Christians because… (see earlier one-sentence attempt at the Gospel).

But why am I writing this?  I actually didn’t really want to write a detailed story of how I met Runny Rivers.  It takes effort, just like it takes effort to meet new people – whether they’re on the street or in the classroom.  But he asked me to write about him one day, and I told him that I would do it on my online journal.

One thing I forget about people who I meet on the street is how much they are longing for personal connection.  Most of the time it shows through via extreme politeness and effusive thanks – which is a powerful blow to the stereotype that most Canadians have that “street people” are simply rough people.  And that’s why such people often have so much to talk with you about when you take the time to stand or sit with them.  With Runny, it was important to have physical contact.  Hence the handshaking – he even tried to teach me a modified “cool” handshake.  I told him I wanted to teach him the “Malawi” handshake I learned in South East Africa this summer, but he quickly overrode it before I could finish with his handshake-grab the side of the head-pull ourselves together.

We parted ways with a lot of “feel-good” type handshaking and words.  Reminds me a lot of the “hot culture” descriptions I read about in “Foreign to Familiar”, at least in terms of saying really nice things to try and create a “feel-good atmosphere”.  In a nutshell, “cold cultures” are like the very direct, straightforward, individualistic, and sometimes insensitive communication-type cultures (e.g. Europe, North America).  “Hot cultures” are the opposite – they’re very indirect, people won’t say what they’re really thinking for fear of offense, they place higher priority on community rather than the individual’s autonomy and “rights”, and it’s more important to use language to create a “feel-good”/”everyone likes one another” type atmosphere.

Anyhoo, that was my meeting with Runny Rivers.  Good guy.  The weird part is that I had random conversations with a U of T alumni (which started with, “it’s great how the girls are into wearing spandex these days, eh?” [Note: he opened with that line, not me!]) and a Bangladeshi immigrant who’s lived in Toronto for 12 years (that started with falling groceries and an overheard comment about how no one helps each other, or something like that).

Bangladesh?  That’s South East Asia, right?  I was born in Singapore!

Firstly, a BIG thanks to everyone who left a comment on my blog post today (Nominate my next iTunes album/tracks).  Apparently, y’all read my blog on Facebook.  Which is too bad, because it doesn’t look as nice and then I don’t notice you when I check my WordPress blog stats.

But I digress.

I just wanted to say, that I think I have a very strong contender for my purchase album.  Something by… Lecrae!  His music makes me cry.  In a good way.  (Note: Wow, that picture of him doesn’t look very good.  Maybe it’s from the 90’s.)

Anyways, it’s not set yet.  And even if I do get an album by Lecrae (or featuring some of his tracks), I’m still going to consider pulling some tracks from your suggestions.  If not an entire album!

Peace out, yo’ (just kidding, that just sounds like an uncool person trying to be all hip-hop like and in yo’ grill.  Sorry, I can’t help it).

I can’t sleep right now.  I guess this is what you get for sleeping at 4AM the night before (although I DID wake up at 8AM this morning!).

Anyways, I remembered something I wanted to blog about.  I helped my cousin purchase the OS 3.0 firmware update for his iPod Touch last week, because his iTunes gift card wouldn’t work for it.  So, as a result, I will be able to get him to gift me up to $15 in iTunes album/tracks.  But I don’t know what to get!

First things that come to mind are Christian artists/albums like TobyMac (Momentum or Diverse City), or the Robbie Seay Band’s first album, or something maybe by Delirious? (I’ve never owned one of their albums).  I dunno.  Really, anything goes.

The last albums I bought from iTunes, which got some serious play time since Fall 2007 till now, were:

  1. This Moment – Stephen Curtis Chapman
  2. Give Yourself Away – Robbie Seay Band
  3. Portable Sounds – TobyMac

(from oldest to most recent)

I’m also open to secular music, too.  So anyways, leave a comment with your nomination and your reason why!

Single tracks are valid, too.  Fifteen dollars is usually enough to buy one album and 5 separate tracks.

P.S. I spent much of the day at Richmond Hill today, including Richmond Hill Christian Community Church 🙂

Paulman staring off into eternity

Today I went out to the mall and browsed around for a few hours.  I had a few random things to buy, and I spent most of my time browsing electronics sections and stores (games, cameras, etc.).  Whenever I’m in malls, I’m struck by the feeling of “suburbia” and what I once remarked to Johnson as “the celebration of idolatry”.

Not that I think capitalism and being a consumer is necessarily idolatrous, but think about it – the mall strikes me as celebrating two things:

  1. Stuff as your hope for fulfillment and satisfaction.
  2. Beauty, glamour, sensuality & sex as your hope (for what I mentioned above).

#1 might be obvious, since most people are quick demonize consumerism and materialism in our culture.  But I think #2 is slightly more subtle and overlooked.  Some examples of how #2 gets played out:

  • Guys & girls walking around the mall, displaying their affection publicly (e.g. holding hands, etc.)
  • Girls of varying ages and types in all sorts of dress, ranging from trendy to sensual to intentionally provocative
  • Stores, displays, and ad photography preaching the silent message that visual beauty and physical appeal is the only thing we all recognize  as giving a person value

Some of the lies that are being told to us as a direct result are that “you won’t be happy unless you find a boy/girl-friend to meet your desires, too.”  Or, “I won’t be happy (or worth it) unless a guy sees me as attractive, and so I’ve got to do what I can to make that happen and catch that guy’s eye.”  Or, “you won’t be happy or be satisfied unless you find that perfect object of your desires – ‘perfect’, meaning flawless, flashy, and totally self-serving (for you).”

So yes, that’s what I think about some of the time when I’m walking around in the mall.  I don’t believe those lies – but part of me wants to.  Except, I don’t really.

You can access the entire ESV Study Bible online free during the month of March.  I meant to blog about this earlier, but I never got around to it.  So if you’ve never gotten a chance to use it, what are you waiting for? 😛

Click here: http://www.esvstudybible.org/search

Note: The entire book of Matthew has been free online ever since the ESV Study Bible site’s launch, kind of as a trial sample.  So that should still be available after March.

Yes, my blog is called “Total Rip-Off” for a reason.  Because I haven’t written a blog post for awhile, I will refer you to an interesting discussion I’m having on my friend Ricky’s blog.  So if you feel like reading a bit about family and whether “family comes first”, take a visit: Ricky’s post (my comment is down at #6).

Basically, I have a theory that family DOES come first, and there are practical reasons why.  And yes, this is a question worth asking, because if you thought about it, why should family come first?  All people are valuable because they are human.  That’s why people should be treated equally.  So why should you give your family priority over others in need?  Well, perhaps there are practical or emotional reasons for it.  I make up discuss a few of them in my comment.

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