Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I thought we were going to Toronto. Why are we over a desert?

Tomorrow will be the first time I fly since getting my implant. I have been wondering about whether the implant and/or processor will be a problem with getting through security and/or whether they can be affected by metal detectors and flight.

Looking for answers turned up this list of FAQs about air travel with a cochlear implant. My favourite question:

"Will my implant transmit signals that can interfere with the plane’s navigational instruments?"
One would heartily hope that if it did, someone would've told me by now!

I am a bit concerned that most sites about airline travel with a CI suggest that the user just show the screener their "Patient Identification Card" or simiilar terminology. I've never been given any such card, indeed never heard of them until now; so I will have to cross my fingers and hope that the things have become common enough that nobody has a problem with it tomorrow.

*Edit - Ha! Whaddya know? I do have a card - it was in an envelope along with the warranty and a bunch of printed information in the big box the CI and its accessories originally came in. And now it's in my purse. Potential crisis averted.


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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"I know what I'm getting into."

I happened to stumble across a post on "In the Field", a "behind-the-scenes" blog maintained by CNN reporters around the world which I'd never heard of before, about their coverage of a Norwegian reality tv dating show for the disabled.

The post (sorry, there's no permalink or direct URL so you may need to scroll down for it) is less interesting for what it says about the show than what it says about the evolution of the feelings of the reporters who covered the story.

An excerpt: "Lydia van Dam was the second contestant we met. She has a severe birth defect and has been in a wheelchair since birth. I asked her why she would put herself in the public by displaying her disabilities on TV. She put it simply: 'I am physically disabled, I am not mentally disabled. I know exactly what I’m getting into.'”

Read more here.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

We apologize for the technical difficulties...

You may have noticed I've lost a whole bunch of info from the left-hand column, including my links to "places you gotta visit" and a lot of other stuff. I made a minor edit to my template today which didn't work out, but which reversing didn't fix, all of which snowballed into a hella problem, so bad I had to revert back to the basic model of this template (which I like, 'cause it's got a nice kinda nautical theme apropos where I lives at). Hopefully the links and other stuff will gradually be re-added over the next few days.

We now return you to your regular programming.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Itty update

This is a training weekend for me and a bunch of other people (multicultural org staff and volunteers, Aboriginal org staff and volunteers and arts groups staff and volunteers, so we're an eclectic bunch). The reason for the mix is because the training has been organized by a federal department which funds all of the above types of groups.

We're being trained in a model for project planning and management which has been adopted by the department in question, and so it is a model which we will all be expected to apply to all our project proposals and the projects themselves.

It's a nice mix of meeting new people who do similar work, and catching up with old friends and colleagues from other communities who I've worked with for years.

For lunch a bunch of us went across the street from the hotel to Asia Beef Noodle, which serves Thai and Vietnamese food, where I had a yummy bowl of asian-style barbeque beef and chicken with lemon grass and peanuts served over rice vermicelli, sprinkled - as all Vietnamese food usually is - with nuoc mam. Yum!

More training tomorrow so no fun this weekend for me. Husband and kitties are left to their own devices while I get professionally developed.

On Monday it's back to work, and on Thursday, I leave for a four-day conference in Toronto. My calendar is packed. I've been giving an average of two presentations a week to human resource professionals and employers' groups about a cultural competency training program that we've created and which I'm now responsible for. It's taken a while, but my work life has ramped back to the level of activity and engagement that it was at before I went deaf. That is a significant achievement, I think. It's exhausting but exciting at the same time.



Friday, February 23, 2007

Supreme Court of Canada Strikes Down Security Certificates

A lot of people I know have been working for a long time on this.

It hasn't been part of my day-to-day work, being mostly pursued by the national organizations, but it's been something I've been keeping an eye on.

Even so, I was surprised at the intensity of my reaction when I read the news this morning. I felt very emotional. It really felt like a terrible injustice was beginning to be corrected.

This is the best possible income, I think. The Supreme Court is acknowledging that some special mechanisms for investigating terrorism suspects must be in place, and acknowledges that some information must be treated with high sensitivity. At the same time, it has confirmed what human rights groups said all along - that detaining someone indefinitely, while not allowing them or their lawyers to know anything about the nature of the evidence against them - is completely contrary to Canada's understanding of inalienable human rights. From the above-linked Globe and Mail story:

"While carefully paying heed to fears of terrorism and the special
difficulties of protecting national security, the court said that certain
elements of fairness cannot be dispensed with -- including the right of a
detainee to know the case against them and to make full answer and

'While there is a risk of catastrophic acts of violence, it would be
foolhardy to require a lengthy review process before a certificate
should be issued,' the court said.

However it said the various forms of review in which a designated lawyer is empowered to act on behalf of detainees could pass constitutional muster."

The groups that have been working on this issues - Amnesty International Canada and others - have always suggested some kind of middle ground that protected security while not involving a draconian suppression of human rights. For example, as suggested above, an independent lawyers could be allowed to see the evidence against the detainee; while the detainee and his or her lawyer would not have access to it, a third party could at least determine if it seemed to be reasonable grounds for detention.

There are many routes for compromise, and the Supreme Court has given the Canadian government a year to find some. It is a just response to an untenable situation. Locking people up, indefinitely, without charges, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their lawyers to see any of the evidence against them, seems the very definition of "un-Canadian".



Beauty and the Beast

I fell in love with the tasteful Dove Pro-Age commercials (scroll down a wee bit to watch the ad), featuring several carefully-posed nude women over 50, the minute I first saw them. They're part of what Dove is calling its "Campaign for Real Beauty", which seeks to educate women (particularly young women) about the manipulation used in creating the images of beauty they consume, and to aspire to a more realistic standard of beauty.

They are 17 women in all from the UK, US, Canada and Europe; they are teachers, physiotherapists, bakers, businesswomen, moms and grandmoms. None of the women are professional models; none has any prior modeling experience, for that matter. And can you not honestly say that these are some of the most beautiful women you've ever seen?

Imagine how shocked I was to read in the paper this morning that they've been banned by the FCC in the US, although they are airing here in Canada

It can't be the prudery. A dozen American soap and body cream commercials contain young thin models carefully posed to cover their not-safe-for-tv bits.

I guess American eyes must be shielded from such hideous crones.

Shame on the FCC.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Closed-captioning Cock-up of the Day: Special Unfortunate Accidental Anti-Semitic Edition

Courtesy CTV NewsNet, Wednesday, February 21, 2007:


Oh, dear. Two guys cheated him out of about $3,000 worth of wages, according to CTV's "Whistleblower" feature. And some closed-captioner's face is mighty, mighty red.



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Xtreme Lady

I "met" the most interesting person today. Mary Ellen is an American woman who works in the publishing industry. She's a fascinating person in a number of ways, as a poke through her blog Xtreme English ("Love notes to the English language") will attest. She is also, after (according to her) being deaf longer than I have been alive (!), getting a cochlear implant on March 1, 2007. That's just 12 days away!

I am so looking forward to following her on this new adventure in a life which has been full of them, and hope some of you enjoy coming along too.



Monday, February 19, 2007

Gung hei fat choy!

Gung hei fat choy! (or, if you speak Mandarin, as most Chinese do,"Xin nian yu kuai!"). February 18, 2007 marked the official arrival of the Year of the Boar.

Contrary to popular belief, the common Cantonese greeting gung hei fat choy doesn't translate directly to "Happy New Year" - that would be sun nien fai lok. Instead, gung hei fat choy is a wish that you may become prosperous, a nice thing to wish friends, family and neighbours at the beginning of a new year.

People born in the Year of the Boar are believed to be kind, trustworthy and, above all, generous.

Unfortunately, fortune-tellers' prognostications for this Year of the Boar are much less promising than the Boar Child's positive characteristics would lead one to expect. Let's hope they're off this year.

Once again this year Canada Post issued special stamps marking the Chinese New Year, a nod to the deep roots Chinese-Canadians have in this country and the fundamental role they played in building it.

Naturally the occasion called for, among many other celebrations, a huge pot luck at work where our Chinese friends cooked and we gorged. One of the very significant benefits of the job.

And gung hei fat choy to you all.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Serendipity and the value of mad dreamers

"Two men looked through prison bars.
One saw mud; the other, stars"
- author unknown

An article in the San Antonio Express-News about a seminar celebrating the 25th
anniversary of FDA approval for cochlear implants includes some very interesting tidbits about its invention and the rocky road it took in going from the bright idea of an Australian physician, the son of a near-deaf pharmacist, to a technology that has given 120,000 people worldwide - including me - the gift of hearing.

Mostly, it demonstrates how great a role serendipity, creativity and sheer dogged stubbornness often go into the development of an idea which everyone says won't work, but which one or two people refuse to give up on.

The inventor, Dr. Graeme Clarke,

"...found a job at University of Melbourne, but couldn't find anyone to fund his research. His colleagues were hostile, he recalled. 'Most scientists said it could not work and it would not achieve speech understanding.'

After earning only a few hundred dollars giving lunch speeches to groups like the Rotary Club, he attracted the interest of Sir Reginald Ansett, who owned two airlines and a Melbourne TV station. Ansett agreed to hold a telethon to raise money for Clark's bionic ear research. For several years it was an annual event.

Luckily, the research began after the birth of the silicon chip, which allowed them to build small. The next problem was a surgical one: how to thread a small bundle of wires through the spiral-shaped cochlea, or inner ear. Early attempts in animals failed.

On a trip to the beach with his family, he threaded a long blade of grass into a nautilus shell and found that if the base were thicker than the tip it would pass easily into the center. That dictated the shape of his bundle of wires."

So, you see, because dear Dr. Graeme Clarke had a deaf father, and was a bit mad, and refused to believe his idea wouldn't work, and got the attention of a wealthy patron, and picked up a shell and a blade of grass on the beach on an outing with his family -

I can hear today.

Marvelous, really. :)

And by the way - God bless each and every single Australian who gave so much as a single Aussie 5-cent piece to those telethons, back when it was all hypothetical. You have given the world something absolutely wonderful, and we - 120,000 of us and growing daily, around the planet - can never repay you.



Friday, February 16, 2007

Canadian animator Ryan Larkin dies

I am too sad to write much about this. Read the story here.

I vacillate from feeling sad at so much wasted potential to chagrin, knowing that Larkin himself despised and resented those who felt sad for him, for all his wasted potential.

In the end, he lived his life on his own terms. And that, you must respect.

If you love animation and inexplicably have not seen Larkin's Academy-Award-winning Walking, his brilliant Street Musique, or Chris Landreth's Academy-Award-winning animated biopic, Ryan, do yourself a favour and get your hands on them as soon as possible.


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

It was 25 years ago today.

In the early morning hours of February 15, 1982, 315 km from the coast of Newfoundland, the Ocean Ranger, described by her builders as "indestructible", which had been battered for hours in a vicious Atlantic storm, capsized and sank.

All 84 hands on board, 56 of them from Newfoundland, were lost.

An investigation later found that the rig inverted completely as she sank.

The terror, the terror of those men, doesn't bear imagining.

I remember standing in the kitchen with my parents on that morning, listening to radio reports to find out if the vocational school I was attending until my parents decided I was old enough to attend University was closed because of the storm.

They had lost contact with the Ocean Ranger, the newscaster said. They hadn't heard from her in hours. They thought something terrible had happened.

I looked at my Dad and said, "None of them are coming home. They're all gone."

I didn't believe it. I didn't even understand it. It was like someone else was speaking through my mouth. Like I was channeling some Cassandra who already knew how things would turn out, though none could believe her. And I remember that it took days - days - before we began to realize that none of them, not one, not one, had made it to a lifeboat and survived.

And we, a province of seafarers, all learned that it doesn't matter how you make your living from the sea. She will take you at her will.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Bothy Cat

The ailurophiles among you (and I know you are legion) must view this slideshow about a truly remarkable tuxedo cat who lives in a truly amazing place, and the good people who spent a month in Ireland with her.



Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just when you thought you had it pretty much figured out...

Just when you think you've figured out how to move through the world as a handicapped person, someone changes the rules.

Blind Pedestrians Say Quiet Hybrids Pose Safety Threat
Wall Street Journal
February 13, 2007; Page B1

For blind people, crossing the street is becoming even more of a challenge.

Michael Osborn, a blind marketing consultant from Laguna Beach, Calif., and his guide dog, Hastings, were in the middle of an intersection one morning last April when the yellow Lab stopped short. Mr. Osborn took the cue and halted -- just in time to feel the breeze from a car passing right in front of them.

"Half an inch and it would have hit us ... it wasn't making any noise," says Mr. Osborn, 50, who has been blind for 12 years. Witnesses say the car was a Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle.

Full article.
Some advocacy groups for the blind are suggesting that all hybrid vehicles should have to make a noise while running, and that manufacturers should be mandated to develop a technology to ensure they do. As someone for whom hybrid vehicles' silence is one of their more attractive attributes, I find that an unfortunate prospect; as a handicapped person who has often wished the world would do some little thing or other to make my life easier, I can hardly help but sympathize.

(One innovative solution mentioned in the article which would avoid more noise pollution would be a device which blind people could carry which would alert them to the fact that there was a hybrid in the area.)

It'll be interesting to see if the problem is taken seriously when there's little data to determine how big an issue it is (after all, should a car have been running an intersection at all if Mr. Osborn were in it legitimately? and if the car had been gasoline-driven and racing illegally past a blind pedestrian in an intersection, would he have had that much better chance of avoiding it?).



Monday, February 12, 2007


When you get your citizenship in the country of the disabled, you find yourself in posession of a new collection of cousins, some more closely related, some more distantly. You find you're more interested in all of them, because there are a few family characteristics that you all share, and it's interesting reading about how they're dealing with developments in their own neighbourhoods.

Today there is a very cool photo gallery on the BBC website about the first All-African Amputee Football Tournament, taking place now in Sierra Leone. Most of the participating athletes have lost limbs due to the seemingly endless conflicts and wars on that continent, to gunfire or landmines. All have the disadvantage of living on a continent where first-world ideals of seeing the handicapped as contributing to society, and progressive social programs designed to help that happen, are practically non-existent. So their pride and their accomplishment in winning the respect of their countrymen is even more impressive - and inspiring. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did.



Saturday, February 10, 2007

It isn't paranoia if they're really out to get you.

Okay, the post title is a bit of hyperbole, but my good friend Brian recently directed me to a series of articles in the (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat on cochlear implants that have added a lot to my understanding of their ongoing controversey in the deaf community.

It may have been fairly easy for hearing people to dismiss Deaf people's vocal fears that CIs could lead to the death of Deaf culture, but it would seem that some of those fears were not so ungrounded after all. According to these articles, children are now being implanted as young as 1 year of age; and while I've seen no data to support this, I would assume that also means that fewer implanted children learn, or use, sign language prior to implantation. So that lessens the pool of ASL users.

More troubling is the fact that because these implanted children, who make up a significant percentage of deaf and deafened children, are being "mainstreamed" in school, programs currently available to deaf children - a number of whom, remember, cannot benefit from CIs, and others whose parents don't want them implanted - may disappear. From one of the articles:
"Next year the county deaf class at Santa Rosa Middle School will close, at least temporarily, for lack of students. Teachers do not yet know whether in a few years there will be enough deaf children for the county program at Santa Rosa High."

So it seems Deaf peoples' concerns about the long-term effect of CIs on how they're perceived (broken, but fixable) and on their access to services, wasn't necessarily just Chicken-Littleing.

A significant rallying cry of the CI critics, and one of their more difficult arguments to refute, was that this invasive, painful, potentially-dangerous and life-altering surgery should not be imposed on a child, but should be left until the child is of an age to make the decision for his or herself. The problem is that we are learning more and more about the radical benefits of early implantation for later success in hearing; which is why children as young as 12 months now get implanted. In email conversations with Brian about this, I wondered why I'd not heard anyone publically make the argument that, if implanted, the child still had an option later in life - he or she could choose not to wear the CI processor and could choose to live life as a Deaf person, just as I could tomorrow if I wanted to. That is something that would be unlikely to happen unless the child had been raised at least partly culturally Deaf; learning ASL for example; but I did not see why it was not a relatively valid counterpoint to the "let the child decide" argument, which - given the benefits of early implantation to comprehension - actually gave the child the most options.

Well, it turns out that it does happen, and two young men in this article are good examples. Both got implants (late, by current standards) and both quit wearing their processors, preferring not to deal with the unfamiliar sounds.

In the end, it has to be each individual's, or each individual parent's, choice. But in our email exchanges on this, when we discussed Deaf parents not wanting to implant deaf children, I think Brian nicely summed up my own feelings on this, when he said that "I want my children to have the potential to exceed my capabilities, even if that means they'd leave (outgrow?) my community as a result. Teaching your kids to fly beyond your grasp is what it's all about."

Word. I think, having thought about this an awful lot, that I know now what I'd do if I had a deaf child who was able to benefit from an implant: start teaching her ASL from the time her eyes could focus, join every Deaf group, playgroup and organization I could find, have her implanted, have her implanted as early as possible, raise her with a strong understanding of her identity as part of a group of unique and remarkable people, and just like every parent, cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

The articles (most require free registration to access):



Saturday, February 03, 2007

The War at Home

The war in Afghanistan is a much more visible reality in some communities in this country than in others. Most of us can go about our daily lives thinking about it largely as much as we choose to. There aren't constant reminders all around us that our countrymen are in harm's way.

Military towns are a horse of a different colour. War and peace are their business. There are always, in these towns, the reminders of the main industry that drives the place; but when it's war, there is a sense of urgency and a pervasiveness of reminders that are jolting to an outsider.

Oromocto is a pleasant little community just a few miles outside Fredericton. Its motto is "Canada's Model Town", and it's fitting, because Oromocto is a planned community (incorporated in the giddily optimistic mid-1950s) which was developed around CFB Gagetown. It is naturally home to many military families, and if you don't wear the uniform, wear the wedding ring of someone who does, or call someone who does "Mom" or "Dad", then you work in some fashion to support those who do. We visited there today, as we do occasionally, to browse their book stores for a change.

The war is very much in Oromocto now. There have been smaller deployments of troops from there to theatre, but up until now most of the units deployed have been from CFB Petawawa in Ontario or CFB Shilo in Manitoba. Now, however, Gagetown is seeing its first significant deployment to Afghanistan.

The town is awash in yellow ribbons - every single light pole and traffic sign I saw had one, and here and there were tidy bungalows totally engulfed in yellow ribbons - yellow ribbons on the door, on the box hedge, along the fence, on the mailbox, on the front-yard wishing well, three dozen tied to the bare limbs of the sleeping elm tree on the lawn - that announced to the world that someone's presence is missed here, missed and fretted over. And that nothing would be okay again until his or her footfalls were heard again in the front hall.

They've been staging "Red Rally Fridays" where everyone gets together and wears red and, well, rallies, for the troops. Last month they created a giant living Canadian Flag. Just to take a picture. Just to cheer up the guys serving over there.

It's a town where, these days, faith is more overtly evident than in pretty much any other Canadian town I've been in east of Manitoba. Everywhere we shopped we saw prominent displays of angel-statuettes and angel-themed things, and sentimental, inspirational books and knick-knacks. At the mall bookstore, the front table display of featured items wasn't full of Valentine's-themed books - those were inside - but of bibles and Christian inspirational books.

As we entered that small local shopping mall, another reminder of how this war is a community war. It is a sign, announcing the times of the upcoming troop deployments. This is so that the community can be on hand to give them a send off; the red text in the lower right-hand corner outlines the routes the buses take from the base to the airport and suggests where townspeople should park to see them off, but not hinder their progress; and the final sentence urges "Let's send them out together, blow your horn and wave a flag. Together."


Thursday, February 01, 2007

A great voice silenced

There are some people whose passing you feel with an emptiness in your chest all out of proportion to their actual relationship with you, which, in the realm of celebrity death, is almost always "none whatsoever". I felt that way this morning when I read that Molly Ivins had died.

I've been a fan of hers for decades, was aware of the criticisms lobbed against her but always, always chose to forgive her for her passion, her love for her country, and her blunt way of speaking truth to power and to her fellow Americans. I think that if I could be given the ability write like anyone, my wish would be that I could write like Molly Ivins at her best.

I won't pretend much of my love for her wasn't because she said what I believed, and said it better than I ever could. She was an unapologetic old-school liberal in a time when it was a dirty word. She was a columnist and author whose scathing indictments of the forces of social regression and of neoconservatives and their bone-headed beliefs and policies was cathartic in its satisfaction and sense of relief. "Yes," you'd think. "That's how I feel. That's exactly it. She put it into words, and now hundreds of thousands of other people will see it, too, and some may understand it."

It is a bitter time to lose her voice. Voices of reason have been few and far between since the start of this godforsaken war, and at a time when a few are finally being heard with some respect, we could have used hers for quite a while longer. Her last column, published January 11, was on the war; and typical of Molly, she pauses to note the need for compassion for those who suffer the consequences of decisions while demanding action against those making them.
We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"
We could have used you, Molly. It's going to be a harder fight to win without you.

And oh, how your voice will be missed.