Thursday, November 30, 2006

Placido Domingo lends his voice to the hearing-impaired

My cousin sent me a link to this very, very good news story. It really made my day when I thought about the change this is going to make in the life of kids who, because of geography and circumstances, have little or no chance otherwise to hear more clearly.

And while I'm on the topic, thank god for those who achieve success and then turn around and put out a hand to those left behind.

- ronnie

November 26, 2006

Placido Domingo lends his voice to the hearing-impaired
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Placido Domingo's latest project is music to the ears of the hearing-impaired.

The tenor, paired with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, is speaking for a global effort called "Hear the World" to raise awareness about hearing loss and to offer the latest technology to those in need — especially in developing countries.

Hearing aids will be delivered to poor children in the Guatemalan jungle; hearing-challenged youths in Pretoria, South Africa, will be taught how to function alongside classmates who hear; and youngsters in remote parts of the island of Fiji will be tested for the first time.



Monday, November 27, 2006


I blog about work sometimes, and sometimes I blog about funny things that we or others say at work, or funny things that happen at work; but I will tell you now, I edit and/or censor those post heavily because of one thing.


I work with people who come here from every corner of the globe, with hope and optimism and guts. Sometimes those people, in their efforts to navigate a new system, or master a new language, say things that are, frankly, laugh-out-loud funny. I don't think preserving those moments, while protecting the human beings involved, hurts at all. I think it makes people who are from here much better understand the confusing, baffling, frankly whack world of the immigrant. At least I hope so.

With some of those people I have been incredibly privileged to build a relationship of real trust.

I realized it pretty slowly (I'm not that smart) but I realized it when people would come into my office saying things like "I am supposed to call courier. I don't know this word courier. What is courier?" or, "I got this sandwich bonus in my breakfast order [ronniecat note: sandwich: Egg McMuffin, contents, egg, ham cheese and God knows what else]. Is okay to eat or does it have pork? [answer: no, it isn't, and yes, it does.]."

Knowing you're trusted is knowing when people will come to you and ask things that they fear are embarrassing or stupid. Because they know you're not going to laugh, or say "What? Everybody knows that...", or tell anyone else in the office that they asked the question.

It feels good to know.

So, while I might post stories about people I work with, I'm puttin' you on notice that I'm going to be deliberately vague, and/or misleading about language or country of origin.

I think the point will always prevail. And the personalities will be protected.

So, this tall/short, dark/light, young/old, short-haired/afro-sporting, well-dressed/shabby, down-and-out/affluent, unschooled/university-educated African/Asian/South American immigant walks into a bar...



The Invisible Man

A young man was just outside my office today, filling out an application form to attend a youth leadership event in Nova Scotia.

Such application or registration forms often include voluntary self-classification or self-identification questions. You know:

"I identify as (select as many as apply):
_ Aboriginal/First Nations _ Immigrant _ Visible Minority
_ Multi-generational Canadian Visible Minority _ First-generation Canadian _ Acadian"

and so on and so on. The reasons for collecting this data should be pretty self-evident so I'm not going to get sidetracked by that...

...anyway, as I was saying, they ask these questions on the forms, and this young man was filling out the form to attend the thing, and he appeared to be struggling mightily with the question... finally he looked at me, with great consternation on his face, and said, plaintively,

"'Ronnie'? Am I invisible?"



The Young and the Implanted

I got a press release in the mail today from Advanced Bionics, the people who manufacture my CI, informing the world that "The Young and the Restless" soap opera character Devon Hamilton, who is depicted in the show as having gone deaf in his late teens due to menengitis, is getting a cochlear implant today.

Living in a soap opera and all, Devon's path to receiving his implant appeared to be a tad bumpier than mine, according to a little online research I did about his story. In fact, he got arrested for murder on his way to the surgery. Fortunately he was rapidly bailed out, such things being common occurrances in the soapverse, and apparently has now been implanted.

The folks at Advanced Bionics, no slouches in the marketing department, believe me, donated the device (by which I assume they mean the external unit the actor, Bryton McClure, will wear on the show. McClure is not deaf, and so has not, of course, really been implanted, which made me curious about how they'll attach the headpiece to his skull. A nanosecond later I thought about episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation I'd seen and decided tv people can now attach badger's butts to people's eyebrows fairly realistically, so feh.)

I wasn't aware of this deaf tv character previously, and had I been I doubt I would have bothered to check him out; most soap depictions of ... anything are so wildly unrealistic as to be of little or no interest to me. I do wish I was able to watch the activation episode on December 6 (a ridiculously short time in real life - activation takes place about six weeks after the surgery). Unfortunately our DVD player isn't also a recorder, and I have to work during soap hours. If anyone knows of a legal online source for episodes of Y&R I'd appreciate it.

It will be very interesting to see whether they bother to tackle the fact that Devon, a music major, will certainly not hear music well at first, and probably not ever. My guess is in soap bubble land, his music comprehension and proficiency will be 100% almost immediately.

I was also interested to read, in my little bit of research, that soap character Devon's whole family learned ASL when he went deaf. Although I was exceptionally blessed in that regard, I've come to learn that my experience was extremely rare. In real life, one's family members making the time and effort to learn ASL is usually a soap opera fantasy indeed.



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yes, but is it art?

I love modern art. I really do. In matters of art and culture, I'm usually the one arguing in defense of the fringe, the envelope-pushers.

Then there are some times when I find myself in the camp of the neanderthal naysayers, the "my three-year-old could have done that" school of "that's art? don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."

So today I was stopped in my tracks when, during a visit to UNB, I saw this in a display case. First, we must allow that it is hideously "exhibited", if it can be said to be exhibited at all; but what you are viewing is indeed, from top, a pink torn folding stool behind a sculpture made of silverware; a wooden tongue depressor inside yellow and red disposable cups; next to two 35mm film canisters, several plastic funnels, another tongue depressor, and two empty picture frames.

A meditation on our throwaway society? I am being generous. Garbage as art? Has this not already been done a trillion times?

Okay, okay. A misguided attempt at social commentary at a small university. Then I saw the exhibit card.

I was gobsmacked enough to go to the office in the department and ask. Yes, it is an exhibit (actually, a pair of exhibits; the stool and utensils are Social Infrastucture; the disposable items and picture frames are "Inner City By-Law 121") on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Huh. Maybe a program to send the work of ... young ... artists to Universities around North America?

Or a program to ... hide ... embarrasing exhibits in hallways in display cabinets in universities around North America?

Beats me.

It's ... there.

But is it art?


Friday, November 17, 2006

Odd lovely gems

Today work found me in Florenceville, NB. What a remarkable little town. It never ceases to amuse and impress me, and of all the communities I regulary visit in support of our member organizations, this one, along with Bathurst and Miramichi, is the most interesting.

It's tiny - a population of just 762 souls, nestled in the Upper Saint John River Valley, God's Country, which in New Brunswick means Potato Country. It looks more like a Norman Rockwell painting than anything else, with a distinctive New Brunswick bent; the covered bridge, the Loyalist-era mansions, the placid river winding through the town proper, feeding the mighty Saint John, sheltered by weeping willow trees.

This throwback to the idyllic days of pre-Loyalist New Brunswick, which actually began life as a garrison set up to guard against American invasion, and which originally had the charming name of "Buttermilk Creek", is also the home of the World Headquarters of McCain Food International.

That's right, that McCain. The frozen pizza in your freezer may or may not be able to trace its origin right to this charming village; the frozen french fries almost certainly may, and both spring from an international frozen food juggernaut that began with the local McCain family's potato farming business - they invented the frozen french fry, brothers and sisters, I kid you not - and which still has its roots, and its international headquarters, here.

(An interesting side note worth mentioning is that the founding family - the McCain family, which still owns the business - are highly-respected philanthropists with a history of public service to their province. They are considered to be "good people", if you know what I mean. They've reinvested their success in their province and their community - which helps explain why McCains' World Headquarters is still in Florenceville, pop. 762.)

McCain brings top talent from around the globe to run their operations from Florenceville. This has the remarkable effect of making this small village and the surrounding villages and towns by far the most ethnically diverse and multicultural part of the province per capita. It's a charming and fascinating effect - Norman Rockwell's version of small-town Canada as if Rockwell's own dreams of ethnic diversity and integration had come to full fruition.

The mix of people I know and work with there are amazing. Moroccan, Chinese, Cuban, Venezuelan, Dutch, Japanese, Indian, British, Honduran, Korean, Argentinian... and more. And more every day.

The village, and the surrounding villages, in response to this dichotomy of tiny, homogenous communities finding themselves hotbeds of local immigration, have responded with creativity, compassion and warmth. Some of their programs and policies should be - and have been - models for the rest of the province. They should be models for the rest of the country.

We're workin' on that.



Saturday, November 11, 2006


Today is Remembrance Day and we went to the Cenotaph for the Remembrance service, C., Husband and I. It was clear and sunny and not too cold.

It was a very different ceremony this year. This year the sacrifices of war are not an abstract concept or a distant memory. We were not only honouring the veterans and the dead of past wars...

...but also those who are in harm's way and coming home in flag-draped coffins right now, today. This year Canadians dying young on the battlefield is reality, not history.

Unsurprisingly the crowd was huge. Hundreds and hundreds of people.

Many, many people brought their children, many many toddlers there with their parents. I found it strangely touching that people were getting out of bed early on a Saturday and bundling up their two-and-three year olds (an event in itself) and taking them out to stand in the autumn chill for an hour. I saw parents hold their toddlers in their arms so that they could see the whole time, which must have been incredibly tiring.

There can be no reason for doing that other than wanting them to know this is important, it means something.

After the ceremony if you choose you can leave the poppy you've been wearing in your lapel on the steps of the Cenotaph or in a cross-shaped box, and we did that.

Today the politics of the war wasn't important. Today was a day to say thank you and please, please, we want all of you home safe. Soon. Somehow.


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Lest we Forget

In Flanders Fields

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD
First Brigade, Canadian Forces Artillery
Born November 30, 1872. Died January 28, 1918.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Aller mieux.

Je prends une classe française maintenant. Elle se tient le mardi et le jeudi à mon bureau.

Ainsi, pour cette raison, j'essayerai de <<post>> de temps à autre en français.

Si vous parlez français bien, ou si français est votre lange première, aidez-moi si vous plaît par me correcter!




Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Noel via Moncton, bien sûr!

Christmas activity comes early in the ronniecat household.

That's partly due to necessity. I am still at a loss to understand why I can send a birthday card to a friend in Brandon, Manitoba, two days before her birthday, and have my "Hope it was happy!" greeting become redundant when she emails me the day before her birthday to say she received it, yet sending a letter, card or package to my assorted family in Newfoundland is the rough equivalent of tossing it in a waterproof casing into the Saint John River and hoping it makes its final destination on time.

It's not like the mail isn't all transported by plane in Canada over any significant distance. And it isn't like there aren't planes flying in and out of several airports in Newfoundland each day. It feels kind of like doing one of those big, thick, chunky puzzles with only 16 pieces, designed for 3-5 year-olds, and still not being able to make the picture of the bee and the flower.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that I have determined that in order to ensure that Christmas pressies are in the hands of my Newfoundland-based family, I have a self-imposed deadline of having them in the mail by December 1st (or, if that is impossible, the first week in December). That means I start thinking about Christmas presents for my family in October and chasing them down or making them in October and November. (I go a lot for "quirky". I buy a lot of my gifts on eBay or make them.)

So, after discovering that a recent eBay find that was perfect for my Mom was just a couple of hours' drive away in Moncton, I emailed the seller and asked her if I could pick up the item in person, since we pop over there to shop regularly anyway. So Sunday we did.

Moncton. Ah, Moncton. City of lights. City of magic. City of contrasts. French - and English. Cosmopolitan - and provincial. Upscale - and sleazy. White, blue, and no-collar.

A city where strip clubs...

...and schools...

sidle side-by-each to each other, and while nobody seems to like it, nobody is quite sure what to do about it.

At least the owner isn't sending in recruiters, nor, as far as we know, has stripping been added to the career day curriculum.



Monday, November 06, 2006

First Snowfall

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

So, today, I went deaf. Again.

Today, while walking home from work, I went deaf.

That's not unusual. It happens sometime between 3:50 pm and 5:30 pm every day, when the battery I load into my CI Processor at ~8:00 a.m. dies. And I do mean "dies" - there is no warning, no fading of the sound. One second I am hearing everything around me, and the very next second, I am utterly and completely deaf.

The people I work with are used to this. We can be in the middle of a meeting or a conversation and I will tap my processor and say something like, "Oh, sorry, my battery just died" or - if it's someone I'm quite familiar with - "Oh, oopsie, I'm deaf." It only takes a few seconds to load my spare battery from its cunningly-designed carrying-case in my purse, onto the processor and then I hear the usual "6 chimes" - "ding-ding-di-ding-ding-ding" and I am back among the hearing.

I suppose you might ask why I don't get into the habit of putting on the spare before the daily battery dies. Well, the individual batteries seem to age at different rates, so there's no telling if battery 1 will die at 3:57 or 4:39 or 5:03; there's also the fact that on nights when I stay up late - only until around 1a.m, mind - I can go through not one, not two, but three batteries - and I only have 4.

You would also have to understand that a significant part of my person revolves around the fear that this thing could fail and that I could be back... there. It has already occurred to me that if there is a multi-day power outage, due to a storm, for example, I will literally "run out" of hearing.

That tends, I think, to make one miserly about the resources associated with it. Use the battery to the end of its life. You only have 4. You only have 4. Do you understand that you only have 4?

Anyway, long story short, I went deaf today while walking home from work. This is not
unusual. What was unusual, was the circumstances. I was walking home through a downtown mall; I had several shopping bags in both hands. Normally, I would immediately switch to my backup battery, but it was inconvenient today. My hands were full, I was in a hurry. So I walked home as a deaf person.

It started me thinking about how I am different when I am deaf than when I am hearing via the CI. I mean, I feel like a different person when I am deaf and when I am wearing the processor. Why?

I started thinking about what I was doing - literally, right then. How I was acting and moving and thinking. And I realized there were some really significant differences to how I move through the world as a hearing person and as a deaf person.

  • When I am deaf, I minimize interaction. I am almost completely disassociated from my environment. I actively avoid making eye contact with people because I am afraid they may make small talk or some comment I can't hear and won't be able to respond to, which will make me look horrible.

  • When am deaf, I slouch. The better to appear invisible and reinforce the above.

  • When I am deaf, I don't speak. In the morning, before I put on the CI processor and battery, I can verbalize with Husband - obviously - who communicates with me via ASL. But I don't. It's like I have... forgotten speech. It's ridiculous, really. He signs to me and I sign back. Why? I don't know why.

  • When I am deaf, I am much more cautious and aware of my surroundings. I don't jaywalk; I crosswalk. When the light says I may. And not before.

  • When I am deaf, my choices are limited. I may eat here - where they seem to be able to deal with me - but not there- where everything is a confusing blur of unanticipated questions and I still can't figure out how I ended up with the Big Meal Deal and coffee (which I don't drink) when all I wanted was a McMuffin. WTF? And do I press my point and say "I didn't ask for a coffee and a hashbrown, m'am!" or am I setting myself up for some serious - serious - embarrassment by complaining when I won't understand what she - or the Manager - have to say?

In short, I experience the world in a completely different way than I did before - even as a now-hearing person - and as a deaf person.