Friday, April 28, 2006

Eagle Eye

Check out this live streaming webcam of a pair of nesting bald eagles on Hornby Island, BC. Mama is sitting on two eggs which are expected to hatch any day now. (Some estimate today or tomorrow).

It even has sound, and Mama just squawked at me to finish this post and get back to work.

A CBC story of how the webcam came about is here. Enjoy!


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Blogging Halifax

Last week marked my one-year appointment at the Hearing and Speech Center, and I thought I'd bring you along for a fast overnight trip to the city from our home base in Fredericton.

Yvette is a great car, and we love her. But she's 17. And it's a long drive for an old gal. So renting something more comfortable is a must. And renting something more fun is a big plus. Enter the PT Cruiser.

The drive mostly looks like a whole lot of this...

...Except for the construction.

There are a handful of places where a rest-stop break is not only necessary, but absolutely mandatory. So it is with the town of Oxford, NS, the self-proclaimed "Blueberry Capital of Canada", and its gas station/Subway/Tim Horton's/Giant Blueberry combo rest stop. What more could the weary traveler possibly want?

Then it's back on the road - and did I mention the construction?

This is Mastodon Ridge, near Stewiacke, NS, and that is the world's last know living mastodon , right there. Okay, actually it's a gigantic (life-sized, in fact) fiberglas mastadon designed to lure tourists into the cheesy fast-food joints and gift shops that have been built on the ridge to capitalize on the fact that a nicely-preserved mastodon skeleton was unearthed there in 1991. Well, not actually there. Nearby. In a gypsum mine in Milford. So it is, in fact, a testament to the small-town willingness and ability to capitalize on anything at all that makes them unique in order to keep the local economy chugging along. Kind of noble, really.

But theoretically, with DNA and cloning, we can look forward to the day when mastodon once again run wild between Truro and Stewiacke, pausing only to play miniature golf and eat at Dairy Queen on the way.

Finally, post-blueberry, post-mastodon, and even finally post-construction, we're approaching the city. We always enter via the Dartmouth bridge which takes us directly downtown while avoiding most of the traffic. Of course, technically it does involve driving through Dartmouth, which is to Halifax as New Jersey is to New York. No mind; perverse as ever, Husband and I have grown quite fond of Dartmouth with its notoriously rough edges. I kid because I love.

The MacDonald Bridge, which arcs over Halifax Harbour to connect Dartmouth with the downtown of Halifax proper.

This is the view from the bridge. It's quite interesting, really - naval vessels, pleasure craft, often gigantic cruise ships. Of course, given the success of this shot you'll have to take my word for it.

We usually get in town just exactly in time to rush uptown to Spring Garden Road and make it to my appointment. There is a point to these trips, after all...

...a cochlear implant tune-up. My scores in the booth this time (They put on a CD of someone saying sentences - they say a sentence, I repeat it ) were 100% without interference and 94% with (background noise simulating street noise, while they gradually turn down the speaker's volume). The error that caused the 94% was when I misinterpreted "The dog growled at the people" as "The dog wowed the people". Hey, he could've.

I also had a final session with a speech pathologist who consulted on my case so that she could "discharge" me and close my file, and I scored 100% with her too. The clinic has also asked me to get in touch with another person who is a candidate for the implant, to talk to her about my experiences; and they want me to participate in a study with a student who'll be traveling to New Brunswick to do research with NB implant recipients.

With the formalities out of the way, we had a little while to enjoy our home away from home. The route to the hotel took us past the Citadel.

The suites at our favourite hotel are quite comfy although my photography doesn't do them justice... there's a living room, a kitchenette with a fridge and micro...

...a bedroom and a big bath, and so we're comfy as two bugs in a rug. No kitties though. You'd think such a nice place would have overnight kitties but you just try going down there inquiring about where you could find some overnight pussies. The concierge gives you the dirtiest looks.

This time the room had a flag right outside the window. How patriotic! Apparently they make quite a lot of noise all night. According to Husband. :)

Where was I? Oh yeah - now that we'd checked in, it was time to hit as many of our favourite spots as we could in our Halifax overnight. There's Reflections Cabaret, the venerable old "alternative" club (yes, that is "Easter Drag Show" third down on the "coming attractions" sign). Maybe we'll get back there later tonight but for now there's shopping to be done, and we're only in town overnight!

Venus Envy is a very nice book and... novelty store for grown-ups in the heart of downtown Halifax.

I was amused to note that with their limited shelf space they managed to carry Aaron McGruder's "Boondocks" collection.

This is Freak Lunchbox, a simply outstanding candy and notions store... they're hard to categorize but sell what can best be described as "a bunch of neat shit" plus all sorts of candy. I swear you'll find candy and candy bars in here from your childhood that you didn't even think they made anymore, and that's because they only make them in Atlanta, GA, and ship them to Atlanta and Savannah, and Freak Lunchbox will find them and get them in.

Yes, the painting on the window does say "Lucy Liu spent $2.36 here". Halifax is a significant presence in the "Hollywood North" scene, and spotting celebrities is a bit of a pastime here.

"Blitz" sells music and skater clothes, and I couldn't be bothered to go inside. But I love it unreservedly for the mural outside which features a portrait of Mike Smith as his character (my favourite) Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys.

All funned out the next morning, there's nothing to do the next day but head over the bridge back to Dartmouth and head for home.

This is the windmill at the Petro-Can station just on the Nova Scotia side of the border. It was spinning like a right son-of-a-bitch this day. So I excitedly snapped a pic to share with you. Neglecting to take into account that you wouldn't be able to see that.

This is the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border, snapped on our way back home. Note the three proud, bright Nova Scotia flags standing proudly in the stiff breeze. Note the three sad, tattered New Brunswick flags behind them, the middle of which is essentially a tattered rag clinging to its flagpole.

Sadly, this is a startlingly apt metaphor for the state of tourism marketing and promotion in New Brunswick, in relation not only to Nova Scotia (although NS in general and Halifax in particular are simply masters of tourism who manage to make every summer visitor to the province feel like they've been doing nothing but sitting around waiting for you to arrive so they can fuss over you) but PEI and Newfoundland as well. Sigh.

Right over the NS border as you enter (or in our case re-enter) NB are the Tantramar Marshes. Through a combination of location and geography (they're very flat and very large) they are also the home of Radio-Canada International. (That's the RCI sign to the left there, and there is a forest of antennae much too large for me to capture with my wee cell cam). So if you've ever listened to Radio-Canada International anywhere in the world, you've been listening to a signal that was born right here.

And from there it's home again, home again, jiggidy-jig. :)


Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy Easter!!

Happy Easter, everyone!

What a truly excellent weekend I've had. We've slept in, eaten out, shopped, gardened, done a "day trip" to Saint John, took the kitties out for walkies on their leashes, had a big family Easter dinner at my Mom-in-Laws', done some spring cleaning and some redecorating (new white lace curtains in the dining room that let more spring sunshine in, among other things)...

...all in all, it was simply the perfect extended weekend.

I truly hope yours was as wonderful.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

When no news isn't good news.

Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to post comments or email me wishing me good luck with the new job. It's always a pleasant surprise to be reminded that people care what happens in your life.

Because of the four-day weekend (Good Friday and Easter Monday are statutory holidays in Canada) I was pretty certain that there'd be some pressure to contact the successful canadidate today. Not doing so means that, given the usual two weeks' notice people need to give their current employer, a fair amount of extra time is going to be lost in getting the new person at on the job. If I'd put my notice in today, I could start a new job as early as April 28; if I put it in Tuesday, I couldn't start until May 2 at earliest.

But I didn't hear anything today - which might mean they were busy calling someone else. Or it might mean nothing.

Ever'body uncross your fingers until Tuesday, then, 'cause I don't want anyone getting cramps. No news in this case isn't good news, but it might not mean I didn't get the job, either.

Those of you who get a nice long weekend, enjoy! I hope to get into the garden for the first good go of the season, although it's supposed to rain all weekend :( At any rate I plan to relax and spent lots and lots of time with Husband and the kitties.

And, apropos of nothing else, a big shout-out to my Sis: I miss you real bad lately.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Points of Reference...

Just heard through the grapevine that the people at that job I'm hoping for are calling my references today...



Sunday, April 09, 2006

"we really could have used your help here, Phil"

My friend Chris writes a remarkable poem "on the thirtieth anniversary of a suicide".


"Henderson has scored for Canada!"

If any of you are watching Canada-Russia 72, the CBC miniseries about the 1972 Hockey Summit, here's a little ronnietrivia: the rink scenes were shot at the University of New Brunswick's Aitken Centre here in Fredericton. Sadly, Husband and I were both working on the days when locals filled the rink seats and surrounding corridors as extras in the game, interview and related scenes. Nevertheless I've already spotted lots of familiar faces in the crowd and reporter scrum scenes.

I'm enjoying it quite a lot so far - it's refreshingly frank and the portrayals of the players, my heroes when I was a kid, are highly entertaining. I was afraid it was going to be a sentimental rah-rah booster job. Instead, if you know your Frank from your Pete Mahovoliches, it's a lot of fun. And watching the deadly earnest, bespectacled young Ken Dryden, the '72 team's (and Montreal Canadiens') goalie, amble around muttering thoughtfully into his tape recorder, knowing that he would go on to become a best-selling author, social critic and progressive Member of Parliament, is priceless.

The miniseries concludes tomorrow night (April 10/06) at 7 Eastern on CBC.


We gotta get out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do...

I mentioned a while back that after years of toying with the idea, I started looking for a new job in earnest a while ago. As much as I love the work I do - and I do - the reality of life as an employee in the NGO sector means that one is always going to be at the whim of a volunteer Board of Directors.

Their interference involvement with staff and the org's operations can range from 1. astute professionalism to 2. well-meaning incompetency to 3. petty tyranny and conflict of interest, and I've seen a little of all three in my 16 years in the sector. Lately, however, for reasons I'm obviously not going to get into here, we're dealing with a large helping of #2 with a hearty side of #3, and things have gone beyond difficult to impossible - as in, it's impossible for me to stay there and keep my mental and physical health. I'm depressed and anxious - solely because of work. After I finish for the day I just want to go home and hide - I've barely gone outside in any kind of social sense since New Year's. I've seen C. perhaps twice in that time and gone to the gym maybe half a dozen times. And unlike the mild pre-spring depression I like so many people get every year, the work problems aren't going to change with the season.

On Wednesday last week I had an interview for a position with the provincial government which is a political junkie's dream... The interview, the second part of a two-part process that began with a written test, went very well, I thought - very well indeed - but it sure felt funny being on the other side of that table getting grilled after nine years in the same job.

Now I wait with fingers crossed so tight they hurt...


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Imagine there's no Husband...

Life-partners are the single most important support a human being has when going through a crisis, big or small. Getting annoyed, getting fired, getting tested, getting diagnosed, getting sick; losing your temper, losing your wallet, losing a sense, losing your mind... from the daily stresses of living, through family and health crises, to unthinkable strains of extraordinary circumstances, a spouse is both the one most affected and the one whose strength and support will make the difference to the person at the centre of the crisis - sometimes between survival and not.

Consider, then, Dan Hunt. The life-partner of Jim Loney, the Canadian Christian Peacemaker who was kidnapped in Iraq, Dan had to simply... disappear, immediately, upon news of Jim's capture, lest their sexual orientation put Jim's life in even greater peril than the knife's edge it was already on. At the point of the worst fear and pain of his life, he had to become invisible to the public. The very last thing he could possibly do was to plead for his partner's life, to try to give Jim a human face to his captors, to try to humanize him to the Iraqi populace and to the terrorists who held him.

Surely the only comfort to him in those black days was the fact that Jim's family supported him, and his and Jim's relationship, unconditionally; Jim Loney's brother last week confirmed that Dan Hunt had been consulted on every decision and every detail, every step of the way. Surely one of the very few comforts Jim Loney had in those days was knowing that back in Sault Ste. Marie, his family and his friends were doing whatever they could to care for his spouse.

At the press conference Jim Loney held on his return, he was surrounded by the entirety of his loving family - his parents, his siblings, and his partner.

When Svend Robinson gave a tearful press conference to resign his seat in parliament, confessing that he had stolen an expensive ring at a trade show, his long-time partner Max Riveron stood beside him in the glare of the press lights and intrusive questions. Even Margaret Wente, the conservative and usually-churlish Globe and Mail columnist, wrote movingly of Max's attendance at the press conference, and how wrong it would have been had Svend had to go through the experience without the man he loves by his side due to their sexual orientation.

All of us, in ways big or small, know the impact of having that support of a genuinely "significant other" at a time of crisis. Imagine erasing Husband from this blog, from every post, every page, every photograph and every anecdote. Imagine making him invisible, the way Dan Hunt had to be invisible.

This is what we deny gay men and lesbians when we deny them the right to full marriage and full social acceptance - the right to offer each other sanctioned and recognized support, to fully 'be there' for each other in crisis large and small. This is why full equal marriage rights - not "marriage lite", not civil unions - matter.