Thursday, August 30, 2007

Men on Roofs!

In a time prior to my living in New Brunswick, there were apparently in use road signs which were designed to alert motorists that city and provincial workers were in a neighbourhood pruning and otherwise working on the local trees. The concern was that some hapless worker could fall from his perch and be run over by a motorist who was traveling too fast to stop. The signs, which became a bit of a local in-joke, apparently read:


So iconic did the signs become that they lent their name to a book of New Brunswick idioms and expressions.

I was reminded of those (sadly) obsolete signs (although I expect the arborists weren't too sorry to see them go) recently when I discovered something that I had never realized until my new office elevated me three stories above street level, with a view of the city I'd never had before:

there are men on our roofs.

And not just one roof. I guess with the waning of summer and the coming winter months, it's time for property owners to take care of matters roofal. To my initial astonishment, it seemed everywhere I turned last week and whichever window I looked out, there was another guy wandering around on a roof.

It was a bit like discovering a race of subterranean dwellers, except this group works out of sight far above our heads, clambering around from building to building in some cases.

It did make me think about how complex even small cities are, how odd it is to put hundreds of people in layers above and below each other, and how often, in cities, we are surrounded by people whose presence we're unaware of.

And how often we idly observe people who aren't aware they're being observed, in these close quarters, and how often we're the oblivious observed.

Then, having thoroughly creeped myself out, I went back to work. ;)


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"A miscarriage of justice"

Today the Ontario Court of Appeal acquitted Stephen Truscott of the rape and murder of Lynn Harper in 1959.

Stephen Truscott was sentenced to hang to his death for that crime.

He was 14 years old.

After 4 months on death row, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He was released in 1969, after serving a ten-year sentence for a crime he didn't commit.

In their unanimous decision, Justices called the Truscott conviction - which had been in doubt from early on - "a miscarriage of justice", and said the only appropriate remedy was an acquittal.

If anyone wants evidence that the death penalty is evil and inexcusable, Stephen Truscott - and the children and grandchildren he has raised in his quiet life as a model citizen after having his youth stolen - are living proof of it.



Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Gentle Island

The Gentle Island - that's PEI Tourism's theme for Island promotion this year and it does fit, even if it seems, like a lot of things about PEI, to suffer from a bit of a case of the cutes. (Next time we've determined we're going to keep a running list of the cute, saccharine names of the B&Bs and tourist operations to share with you. Keep insulin handy. "Desired Havens" was probably the most head-explodingly-cute name this particular trip.)

We went from August 10 (Husband's birthday! Happy Birthday, hon!) to August 12, enjoying a great long weekend there. We got there on Friday evening after a leisurely drive and a stop in Charlottetown in time to catch some kayakers sailing past Cove Head Wharf inside the PEI National Park at Brackley Beach.

A few minutes later we caught the last of the sunset over Brackley Beach itself.

We stayed at one of the places we stayed last year, North Winds Brackley Beach, where for a pretty reasonable price you can get a fantastic executive suite with a full kitchen, a fireplace and a jacuzzi.

The next day - Saturday - we explored Cavendish, which was a part of the Island we didn't visit last year. We visited Cavendish Beach East and West. There are some really striking rock formations there, shale made from the same red sand that creates the sandy beaches.

Cavendish is also the location of the Green Gables Heritage Site, Anne-author Lucy Maude Montgomery's burial site, the house L.M.M. was married in, and the site (now home to a bookshop) of the house L.M.M. grew up in, which makes it "Anne Central", which makes it the tourist mecca of the Island.

Now, Husband and I don't visit a lot of touristy places when we travel, so we don't have a lot to compare it to. But we were completely overwhelmed by the tourist kitsch and crapola at every turn. In this photo, Husband is standing in front of the Wax Museum, which is next to a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. (No, we didn't go inside, and I'm insulted you asked.)

This photo is of some unidentified object erected outside the entrance to the Ripley's museum. No idea what it is supposed to be. We speculated it is a replica of The World's Largest Spliff. I choose to Believe it Not.

Within spitting distance from the Wax Museum and Ripleys were The Fantazmagoric Museum of the Strange and Unusual, Jurassic Bart's Dinosaur Museum & Petting Farm, Santa's Woods ("It's Christmas all year round!") and Sandspit Amusement Park (home of The Cyclone roller coaster). At least claiming some kind of connection with the woman at the heart of PEI tourism were Avonlea Village and Shining Waters Fun Park (a tenuous Anne-of-Green-Gables connection, there, at best).

It was like a little tiny Las Vegas.

All Cavendished-out, we returned to Brackley Beach, the best lyin'-on beach we'd seen all day, and joined the crowds baking in the 25° weather. The sun was incredibly hot and the water... "bracing" would sum it up nicely.

This shot was early afternoon. By 3:30 or so, when we'd had enough sun and packed up to do some more exploring, there were easily three times as many people on the beach and more arriving every minute.

We made sure we took a return visit to The Dunes, the gallery, restaurant and shop where we found such great stuff last year.

Happily it was not raining this year when we visited, so we were able to really enjoy the extensive system of fountains, water gardens and statuary the owners have developed out back. It's a really fun place to wander and shop.

This is one of the rooftop water gardens/fountains at The Dunes. The place has multiple levels, with artwork, furniture, sculpture, jewelry and more in every nook and cranny.

Dawn from our room balcony on Sunday. We took a very leisurely drive back, following much of the so-called "Blue Heron Drive", again just wanting to see more of the stunningly beautiful landscape that is PEI.

On Monday, Husband was back to work but I'd taken a week off just to de-stress. It turned out to be about half downtime and half-work, with a number of household chores that had been put off getting done, some time spent with my Mom O, who hadn't been well, and some time working on a painting I've been trying to finish forever and reading some books I'd been wanting to get around to. It wasn't as relaxing a break as I'd hoped - but it helped.



Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Spotted on the weekend

Dollar store pregnancy tests.

Seriously. At the Dollarama. Motto: "All at $1".

For when you absolutely, positively could not care less whether you're pregnant or not.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Support the Troops

The first Monday in August is a civic holiday in every province in Canada, and in New Brunswick it's New Brunswick Day. It is also coincidentally Armed Forces day, and as Canada's role in the conflict in Afghanistan has become more prominent with its increasingly hazardous nature, so too has the Armed Forces Day aspect of the day grown in prominence and centrality to New Brunswick Day in recent years.

This year Lieutenant-Governor Herménégilde Chaisson invited Husband and I - oh, and a few thousand other people, and a significant military presence and displays - to Old Government House for ice cream, and it seemed rude not to go. Besides, Husband - a military historian by education - wanted to see the Armed Forces' cool stuff. And besides, I do support the troops (contrary to what Stephen Harper says), and did want to get out to talk to some of them on this fine August afternoon.

A CH-146 Griffon. The helicopters are the pin-up gals of the event. They got a lot of attention. That line to the left of the chopper is a lineup of parents with kids waiting their turn to sit in the cockpit.

You may be surprised to learn that this is actually not the regular pilot. It's one of those kids whose parents patiently stood in line. She was having a hell of a lot of fun, though. As was the real pilot, left.

In another area, soldiers were helping kids with metal detectors search for things in the grass. It was pretty funny not only for the sight of the very little kids hoisting around fairly heavy metal detectors, but for their absolute, intense seriousness as they went about the task at hand.

This was the coolest thing we saw - an unmanned drone with a video camera in its nose. Husband - who flies model airplanes - is giving it the once-over, there. We had a great chat with the guy who flies the thing; he showed us the software they use to view and make sense of the video and data it records. He was a really nice young man. I asked if he'd flown model airplanes as a kid and he said, with a grin a mile wide, "Nope! I just got lucky!"

We talked about the incredible life-saving potential of these things, being eyes-in-the-sky for troops who don't have to go into harm's way to do recon on foot or in the air thanks to their deployment.

This is what your tow-truck looks like if you're in the army. No word on whether they'll give your battery a boost for $5 on a frigid day.

More kids (did I mention the kids?) get a hand crawling out of a Leopard tank.

The men and women working these displays, explaining their jobs and the tools they use to do them, are obviously hand-picked for their personable natures - not to mention their apparently unfailing patience with curious children. It's weird - it used to creep me out, on past NB/Armed Forces Days, to see small children juxtaposed with the tools of death and destruction. Now, with what is going on in Afghanistan, I see these tools with names familiar from the nightly newscast - LAVs, Leopards - as being more than that - I see them as being protective devices designed to keep my fellow Canadians safe until they can come home again, and it didn't bother me nearly as much to see children crawling all over and learning about them.

Both home computers are still kaputt, so again I'll be a wee bit erratic in my posting for a while.