Thursday, May 31, 2007

Oh, deer! How you know you live in New Brunswick.

Deer enters Legislature a little after 8 o'clock this a.m. like he owns the place (skip the part after he runs in):

Strolls past security desk; without showing I.D.; Leg' Seargeant-at-Arms Dan Bussières (already a minor local celebrity) est à la poursuite!

Deer checks out a couple of offices, possibly looking for Deparment of Natural Resources:

Exit, stage left. - through a window. He hasn't been seen since but appeared to be unhurt as he ran away.

Never a dull moment here in the capital city, I tell you what.



Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day in the US, and the most depressing one I can remember. I could write a post about how sad it is, or how enraged it makes me that the warmongers are accusing the anti-war movement of "politicizing" Memorial Day by calling for protests today, when every goddamn Memorial Day since 2001has been nothing but a propaganda opportunity for administration mouthpieces to beat the drums of war, Bush being the Politicizer-in-Chief. But nothing I could've written could've summed up my thoughts on this day better than this excerpt from a blog post from Whatever it is, I'm against it:

"As in all Bush Memorial Day speeches, he insisted that the best way to
honor his war dead is to make more of them: 'Our duty is to ensure that its
outcome justifies the sacrifices made by those who fought and died in it.'

Then all that remained was to look all squinty and somber-like and not at
all like he had anything to feel guilty or ashamed about."

It's times like this I wish there was a hell, 'cause there are a few people I would sure like to see burn in it.



Saturday, May 26, 2007

Synchronized Supporting

Guess where I was tonight. Go on, guess. I dare ya.

I'm guessing that you could make 50 - no, 100 - no 300 guesses, and you wouldn't come up with the Canadian Synchronized Swimming Championships.

What can I say? Nobody is more surprised than I was to find myself there, but what are you gonna do? We're intensely devoted to our nieces and nephews, and will take any opportunity to spend time with them or support them, expecially the ones who live out-of-province.

I don't know that "synchro" would've been the pursuit I would've chosen for my dear niece (I am much more comfortable, for a myriad of reasons, with her younger sister's competitive, uh, racing-type swimming), but darn it, this is what she's chosen and she's passionate about it, and when her Ontario-based team made the National Championships, which are being hosted in Saint John this year, in the "15-and-under" category, there wasn't any way we weren't going to be there (along with her paternal grandmother, Mom O), cheering her on. That's our little duckling circled in red, there.

What an incredibly bizarre evening. From the scores of pubescent girls in stage makeup and false eyelashes doing splits - upside down (!) - to some unbelievably odd musical choices (Donna Summers' "Hot Stuff"? What was that coach thinking?) to seeing our own sweetie after the competition, still in her eyeshadow, lipstick and false eyelashes, it was like some kind of weird maternal out-of-body experience. For his part, Husband just squirmed in excruciating discomfort the whole time.

Of course, the payoff was after she'd competed and she came out to visit with us before we parted, she to go to her hotel with her mom and us to drive back to Fredericton. She was so genuinely happy that we'd come to watch that it was all worth it. Her team didn't win a place in tomorrow's finals, alas; but the main thing seems to be that right now she is hugely enjoying doing this. My initial worry about her taking up this sport -- (it is less a sport than an art, IMO, like figure skating or dance, which I believe should all be categorized together; but regardless, all take a great deal of discipline and remarkable physicality, and there is no doubt synchro demands incredible muscle control, coordination and lung capacity) -- anyway, as I was saying, my worries were mostly inspired by what I knew about other "pretty girl" sports, like figure skating, gymnastics and cheerleading - sports where looks are paramount and body image issues are legion. I was so relieved tonight to see that all the competitors looked very healthy, and to my surprise several of them were what might be described as "heavy" or "chubby".

In case you're tracking trends in synchronized swimming (and I know many of my readers are, intently), the hot trend is towards fierce grrrls. The picture of my niece's team notwithstanding, most teams flashed far fewer of the Miss America vaseline-toothed smiles; no, the majority of the teams at this event were displaying fierce girl-power scowls at the judges.

It's way late and I'm way tired, but I am so glad we went. Seeing her little face light up and watching her glow in the light of our praise and admiration for all her hard work was so worth it.



Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Somehow I inadvertantly turned off the ability to comment on the recent post "He knew I'd be able to handle it" about the seven-year-old girl with the CI. It's been corrected now if you want to revisit the post.


Web Time-waster of the Week [Updated] [Updated again]

Oh, noes! What a time-sink!

Thanks to a slideshow article on, I have been introduced to lolcats (a.k.a. "cat macros"), and to the mother lode of lolcats at (scroll down - the pics are posted atop one another, blog-style).

It all started when someone posted a picture of an earnest-looking Russian Blue cat to a web forum with the plaintive caption, "I can has cheezburger?" Someone responded with an edited picture of the same cat and a cheeseburger with the words "No you can't has cheezburger (not yours)." Thus was born an in-joke that became a meme that became a website hosting hundreds of photos of cats with their thoughts captioned in a very weird yet very catlike pidgin English. (The beginnings of the site are outlined here.)

(What's that? You're a dog person?)

Definitely an add to the bored-at-work list, right along with .

Update: In the comments section, Rob (hmm, would that be Rob of the Autographed Cat? one wonders?) helpfully points us to , the sister site to the dog site mentioned above. The difference between & sister site, and, is that the latter has a pair of editors who accept submissions and decide which lolcats to post, adding several every day; the cat_macros and dog_macros sites are both livejournal blogs, and anyone with a livejournal account can post their submissions, giving it more of a "live feed" feel and allowing anyone to participate. Each is fun in its own way.

Also in comments, Sherwood takes the opportunity of my mentioning to remind me of his boy Alnitak's star turn on the site. Day-um, get that cat some A-1 sauce, stat!

Update again: Speakin' of Sherwood, special shout-out to him, 'cuz I thought of his astronomer self when I discovered this not-lol-but-instead-beautifully-profound cat_macro.


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Monday, May 21, 2007

Hooray, hooray, hooray, it's the Queen's birthday.

Whether you call it "The Queen's Birthday", "May 24th", or "Victoria Day", the first long weekend of the summer was a bummer this year. Traditionally the weekend when Canadians open their cottages and cabins and open up their RVs and travel trailers for another season, I don't recall the last year when the weather was this miserable - rain every day and temperatures in the single digits (celsius, of course).

It's also the first big gardening weekend of the year, but the rain and cold meant that I didn't get to do any of the prep work I'd intended to do on the garden.

Well, y'know, a long weekend is a long weekend, regardless; and any weekend I have more time to hang out with Husband and the cats is a good weekend. We ate out a few times (and I had lunch with a really good friend on Sunday, someone I see far too often); and today we took a very long drive through some beautiful countryside and some quite ... eccentric communities; so I am not complaining.

I mean, that hostas plant came back so I am not complainin' about that garden or the weather noway nohow for a while.

When I was a kid in elementary school in Newfoundland, on the Friday before the long weekend, as soon as the teacher appeared in the classroom after the morning bell, we'd all chant:

"Hooray, hooray, hooray
it's the Queen's birthday!
If you don't give us a holiday
we'll all run away!"

I'm not sure where that tradition comes from - a Google search of the lyrics turns up nothing - but I have an inkling it is rooted in Newfoundland's very, very old connection with England and English tradition; and I am also guessing that, having gone to school in the 1970s, we were one of the last classes of schoolchildren to do that. I'm betting that Sis, who is 9 years younger than me, never did it - but I'd be pleased to hear that she had :)

Anyway, by then it was a well-established statutory holiday so we never had to "all run away".



Saturday, May 19, 2007

"...He knew I'd be able to handle it."

A couple of times I've mentioned a Canadian woman I'll call "Natasha", who I met through the website (an awesome traveler-to-traveler review and communications site) and who gave me some really good help in planning for our trip to Cuba. Well, it is a very small deaf-and-CI world indeed, as it turns out yet again, and when I mentioned that I was concerned about the electricity outlets and voltages in Cuba because I needed to recharge my CI batteries, she responded that she has a seven-year-old sister who was implanted as a young child.

This remarkable little girl dances, sings, plays the piano, and is at the top of her class in school, which just goes to highlight the benefits of early implantation. She is also incredibly perceptive. "Natasha" shared a couple of stories about her sister with me, and gave me permission to share them with you:

"One day we were talking about how God never forgets... I can't remember why... and my sister said 'Well God forgot to give me hearing'... then she went on to say 'Well maybe he didn't forget, maybe he had to give it to some people and he knew I'd be able to handle it'.... insightful for a 7 year old."

I'll say. And it certainly says a lot for this young lady's sense of self-confidence and her faith in her ability to "handle it" (not least, I'm sure, because of what sounds like a very supportive family).

"When she was younger, about 4, I had taken her swimming in the backyard. My neighbor started talking to me over the fence, and my sister yelled out 'Didi (means older sister in my language) can't hear you, I don't have my cochlear implant on!'... she was convinced that when her implant was off, no-one in the world could hear anything."

This story made me laugh, hard, out loud. I love what it says about young children's innnocent belief that they are the center of the universe or sort of control the world, not to mention neatly expressing how I often make the very same mistake when I am not wearing my processor! (Hmmm, can your belief that you are the center of the universe be innocent when you are 42? Anyway, it's an error that I make often enough for me to find the story very, very funny.)

"It was very cute." "Natasha" concludes. "She is amazing little girl."

She certainly sounds like one. Thank you for letting me share.


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Siempre en mi corazón (Always in my heart)

I came back from Cuba with a great hunger for more of the wonderful music I was exposed to there but also with the knowledge that I was starting from zero - I had absolutely no knowledge or understanding of the different types of Cuban music, no idea of what the kinds I loved best were called, and no idea where to start learning.

For that reason it seemed prudent to begin with something accessible - The Buena Vista Social Club, produced by Ry Cooder, which is sort of an introductory tour of traditional Cuban music featuring some of Cuba's best-loved and most brilliant singers and musicians.

These songs are wonderful. They cover a variety of Cuban musical styles. The liner notes include Spanish lyrics and English translations; some of the lyrics stand alone as sheer poetry:
¿Y Tú Qué Has Hecho? (What have you done?)

On the trunk of a tree, a young girl
Filled with joy, carved out her name
The tree, touched to the core
Let a flower drop down to the girl.

I am the tree, sad and moved
You are the girl who wounded my bark
I will always treasure your beloved name
And you, what have you done with my poor flower?
- Eusebio Delfin

I also discovered Cooder went back to Cuba to record solo CDs for a number of outstanding Cuban performers as part of a Buena Vista Social Club series. So I also scooped up Buena Vista Social Club presents Ibrahim Ferrer and Buena Vista Social Club presents Omara Portuondo.

Ferrer is highly respected and admired in Cuba for his ability to improvise clever lyrics on the spot for a type of Cuban music called descarga, extended jams during which singers make up double-entendre-laden and sexually charged lyrics as they go.

(A sample:
"Oh, mama, what's happened? Oh, mama, what's happened?
It's Tula's bedroom! It's gone up in flames!
She fell asleep and didn't blow out the candle!
Call Ibrahim Ferrer! Call the fire brigade!
I think Tula wants them to put out her fire!

Oh, here comes Eliades amid the commotion
He's come to see Tula's bedroom in flames!

Carlo and Marco are watching the fire
If it isn't put out now, it will have to be put out later!")
The result is a riotous party atmosphere.

I have only just begun dipping into these riches. The weather here is crap right now... these cds are taking me right back to a warm, dry, sunny beach that it seems I left just yesterday. I am so looking forward to swimming in that music again... and again!

Aw, hell. My co-worker, "Lillian", was right. I turned around and fell in love with Cuba.

At least Husband has the same obsession condition.

I'm also pretty keen to check out the Mozart meets Cuba cd Mary Ellen is enjoying. Sounds like a match made in heaven.


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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Mother's Day - now there's a day we can all get behind. We took Mom O out to Mother's Day brunch at the Lord Beaverbrook (now the Lord Beaverbrook Crowne Plaza, after its most recent changing of hands and top-to-bottom renovation), which is a bit of an institution here in Freddy. It was a very, very pleasant time. She's good company, arch and funny and chatty, and interested in current events and politics as well as keeping up with the family gossip. 'Specially good this year was salmon in a raspberry sauce. We saw "C" and her mom there, too, as well as Husband's co-worker and friend "Dale" and his wife and daughter.

Mojo and Veronica got me a card, which was a surprise and a very pleasant one, and then they picked up the tab for lunch, too. In both cases I expect their Dad had a very significant hand in things ('specially since they're not allowed to leave the house), and I think it was very sweet.

Then after dinner I called my own Mom back in Newfoundland and wished her a Happy Mother's Day. I recall a time not so long ago before we switched over to fibre optic telephone lines in Atlantic Canada, when getting a line to the island was a significant challenge on Mother's Day! It was a known phenomenon - so many people had moved off "The Rock" for work, but tried to phone their Moms in that family-centred culture, that the lines to the island would become hopelessly tied up from about 9 in the morning until around 11 pm. You'd start calling whenever you could and would just get a beep-beep-beep signal, and you'd re-dial and re-dial until you lucked into a line. That was the routine for a number of years after I moved to New Brunswick. Now, between the fact that I exclusively use a cell phone, and the other advances in technology, what was once a common cultural meme is gone.

She got taken out to dinner, too, and she got the card I sent her. Got to say hello to my Dad as well. "Watch it," I said. "You're cutting into your Father's Day call, you know!" He sounded happy and well, as did she, so that's good.

CBC Sunday Morning did a little feature this morning where they asked celebrities and politicians what the best advice was that their moms had given them, or the best thing she'd taught them. That set me to thinking, and while she taught me a lot of good stuff ("Being polite and having good manners will get you ahead in this world" not least among them!), I think the single most valuable thing she instilled in me was a deep sense of social justice.

Under that great big tent - "social justice" - fall many important sub-messages. She taught me in the absolute equality of the races. She taught me in the absolute equality of the sexes. She taught me that if you had something, you shared it with your brother who didn't. She taught me that you reached out your hand to your brother who'd fallen by the wayside. She taught me that gays and lesbians were God's children and God created them and God loved them. She taught me to be proud of my country because, while it stumbles, it strives to enshrine and entrench these values. She taught me that, because we have power and they don't, that we have an obligation to be kind to and protect animals. She taught me the value of reading - she read to me and my siblings from infancy and spent every penny she could on books for the family. She taught me the value of an education - she'd had to leave high school to help support her family, and at the end of every University semester, I'd bring all my textbooks home and she'd read them - cover to cover. (I often say that I have the degree she deserves - I certainly didn't read them all cover to cover!)

She made me want to do good in the world, and if I've done any, it's a direct result of her.

In a world where families are changing at the speed of light and where families may include stepmoms, adoptive moms, birth moms, two moms, chosen moms, and (apparently) even critter moms, it's lovely that we still take the time to stop and honour the women (and, on Father's Day, men) who step up to the plate and take care of us when we're at the mercy of the big old world.

Happy Mother's Day to all the lovely mothers who read this blog now and then (I am thinking particularly of Ronnie and M.E.) and to all the wives who are the mothers and stepmothers of children of the gentlemen who read this blog (please pass that along to Mrs. Fort and Mrs. Fies) and to everyone else who's nurtured a little one.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Looney Jews

I just watched stand-up comic Tommy Tiernan on an episode of Just for Laughs, the series that broadcasts repeats of performances at the annual Juste pour Rire/Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montréal.

Tiernan, who is Irish, does a routine that appropriately centers around religion, and a very funny one it is. It included this thought-provoking observation, which I don't know would make sense if one were Jewish, but which certainly seems to make some kind of cockeyed sense if one is Irish.

"I think being Irish is a lot like being Jewish, actually. We're like Jews - but less focused.

They haven't taken to the drink the way we have...

We're a bit like... Looney Jews."


Thursday, May 10, 2007

A little miracle

In an earlier post, I mentioned that one of my birthday presents this year would be a new Hostas plant for the backyard. The plant, I mentioned, would be a replacement for one that was dug up when the fellows who installed our natural gas last autumn dug up a section of the back yard (without telling us they were coming, or consulting us first) to install our gas meter. The plant which had been killed, I noted, had been at the house longer than we had - it was a large, mature plant which for all I know, could be near 100 years old - and I was heartbroken that we'd lost it.

Well, do you know what you are looking at here, friends? You're looking at a little miracle.

Husband kept saying it would come back. I didn't believe it. I'm a gardener. He isn't. I knew that there was no way that plant could survive the damage they'd done to that section of the garden.

As you see from this picture, what was previously a planted garden (there were two Columbines, daffodils and the large Hostas here) with well-established sod was completely churned up. It was much more torn up last November. There was just no way I could imagine that the Hostas corms hadn't been if not disturbed, completely removed in the operation.

And yet there it is, stubbornly coming back. (it's the upper end of the dirt section in this photo, opposite the gas meter).

A little miracle.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Deaf Awareness Week

This week (May 7-13) is Deaf Awareness Week in the UK, as designated by the UK Council on Deafness. The US, according to the National Association for the Deaf, observes Deaf Awareness Week on the last week in September. This makes perfect sense because having seen some British Sign Language, members of neither organization would ever know what the hell members of the other was talking about anyway.

The Canadian Association for the Deaf is, um, mute on the issue, but Dalhousie University in Halifax said to hell with it and went with the UK week.

Well, it seems like worth marking, even though I'm aware I'm deaf and so is everyone I know. However, it seems appropriate in such a week to bring you the latest:

Closed-Captioning Cock-Up of the Day: Special Buttock Terrorism Edition


(Courtesy dear CTV NewsNet, as usual.)


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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Some sad news regarding Lucky

I just got an email from the woman who first introduced me to Lucky, the cat who'd been adopted by staff at Villa Covarrubias. One of the staff at V.C. emailed her.

Lucky didn’t make it.

He got into the habit of wandering off for long periods of time, and they found him in the water near the disco. They're not entirely sure what happened to him.

The staff who'd been caring for him are heartbroken.

Life is different for kitties there :( At least his short life was relatively comfortable and happy.

Sorry to share the bad news with my animal-loving readers.

I don't think I'll tell Mojo.


Friday, May 04, 2007

My African Grandmother

I want to introduce you all to someone who has had a profound influence on me and who is one of the most remarkable people I've ever met:

Great-grandmother's journey takes her to STU convocation

Although the article gives the impression that it was her classmates who coined her nickname of "Mama" Alice, the name predates her University studies by years; it is what she has been known as ever since she came to Canada. She is in every way the spiritual Grandmother of every employee at the local multicultural association, and indeed the whole multicultural community. We all call her our "African Grandmother".

She has had a difficult life, touched by many hardships; and she is the most gentle, kindly, steadfast soul I've had the privilege of meeting to date in my life. She is compassionate - Husband and I saw her sitting outside the grocery store one day and asked if we could give her a ride home. No, she said, her grandson was coming to get her - but wait! She ran inside the store and found an elderly Russian lady who was a friend of hers and who didn't have a ride home, and we ended up chauffering this complete stranger and her groceries home. Like many times we've been with Mama Alice, the most mundane meetings can become adventures.

Meeting a woman like her teaches you that we are all the authors of much of our own fortune, and that whining is for wimps - change what you have the power to change, and quit your bitching.

The achievement is all hers, and hers alone, but we're all so proud of her.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

The people who won't stop talking about the haircut that they claim people won't stop talking about.

Yet more of why Glenn Greenwald is the best political/media blogger writing today:
"[In an article, Politico Chief Political Correspondant Roger] Simon marvels at how enduring the story [of John Edwards' infamous $400 haircut] is -- as though there is some phenomenon keeping the story alive independent of the fact that the gossipy, tiny-minded, substance-free "political journalists" plaguing our nation -- from Roger Simon and Maureen Dowd to Adam Nagourney and Mickey Kaus and Matt Drudge -- have not stopped talking about "the story." It's tantamount to someone who keeps chewing their food and spitting it across the room and then marvelling at how filthy things are and writing columns bewilderingly examining how and why the floor is covered with crusted food and what that signifies."
Wonderful. Reminds me of Howard Kurtz, on the CNN media show "Reliable Sources", holding panel after bewildered, headscratching panel on why the Anna Nicole Smith saga was eating our televisions, while CNN and Kurtz's own show became all Anna Nicole Smith, all the time for several weeks.