Thursday, December 27, 2007

Perhaps...

...I'll blog, eventually, about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

She had been a role model to me since I was... what? Eleven? Twelve?

(Her flaws and tainted political choices I wouldn't understand until much, much later.)

I was stunned when I saw the headline today on my CBC news ticker at work.

I was stunned like I haven't been since... when? When?

Since September 11, 2001, I suppose. Just that stunned - even though she knew it was coming. Any day. Any minute. Any second.

And of course, we did, too.

And yet, right now, I'm simply gutted. Just gutted.

ronnie

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The Kids are Alright

I'm here! I'm here!

I've just got my hands full with Christmas, commuting, and a cold, which is great for alliteration but not great for celebrating the holidays. For fear of infecting Mom O., who has health issues, with a mean little chest-then-headcold that blossomed on Christmas Day, I had to miss Christmas Dinner at her place; ah well, it sucked, but they made me up a plate, and as I said to Husband I'd rather miss Christmas Dinner than have everyone remember it as "the year 'Ronnie' put Mum in the hospital". Except for that, Christmas was absolutely wonderful as usual and I'll have some of our more offbeat and interesting gifts to share with you in a near-future post.

For the moment, I wanted to share a news article that conveniently covers not one but two stories I had intended to blog about last year, but I never found the time to do so. Both are stories that are fine antidotes to occasional despair about the state of the nation's youth; here's some strong evidence that The Kids are Alright.

ronnie

Friday, December 21, 2007

Kiva helps you help those who help themselves

Andrew Leonard lent $25 to Mawulé Agbeka. This week, she paid him back.

Why should any of that matter to you or me? Because Leonard lent Agbeka the money through Kiva.org, an online site that allows individuals like you and me to connect with entreprenurs in countries around the world and if we choose, to make them a micro-loan - to be repaid, without interest - to help them achieve their entrepreneurial goals.

These are tiny loans - currently limited to just $25 per lender - that can literally transform the life of someone in poverty.

When Leonard initally wrote about making the loan to Agbeka in a thoughtful post about Kiva last year, he noted that
I am routinely astonished by the world as it emerges before me, but wrapping my brain around do-it-yourself microfinance has been one of those moments where I feel the earth move under my feet. It is a concrete manifestation of how the Internet is redrawing the world's lines of communication.

Kiva is proving so successful and so personalizes the act of helping someone help themselves that it is almost irresistible not to donate. I haven't yet chosen a borrower, given the distractions of the holiday season, but it is high on my to-do list in the New Year. I'll let you know how it goes.

ronnie

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Miracle on Sami's Street

I am watching, for the umpteenth time, the 1994 remake of the 1947 classic "Miracle on 34th Street". While critical reviews of the remake were mixed, I'm with Roger Ebert's assessment - the movie is a "sweet, gentle, good-hearted film that stays true to the spirit of the original".

Any person has certain moments in a favourite movie which, for personal reasons, are absolute favourite moments - the scenes that affect you the very most emotionally, or which you enjoy enormously every time you watch them.

The past few years, the scene in the remake where Santa communicates with the little deaf girl, Sami, in (quite correct) ASL moves me nearly to tears, every single time. She is such a remarkable, dignified little character, and her pleasure at being able to communicate with Santa Claus is almost unbearable to watch.

ronnie

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hell of a way to start the day.

Yesterday, I noticed my hearing fading in and out a couple of times. I blamed it on the batteries, which lose their power with age, and which have out of necessity been left in a cold car for hours on end lately, which I know is bad for them... but such is the reality of living between two homes in winter in Canada.

By last night, it was happening more frequently. I mentioned it to husband - time, I said, to contact the Hearing and Speech Center about getting the thing checked out and figuring out what component was giving me trouble.

This morning, my worst nightmare came true. When I put on the processor...

...nothing happened.

Then, when I took it off to examine it, this happened.

I 'spect it goes without saying that the little black piece there next to the headpiece wire, used to be attached to the end of the headpiece wire.

That's a super way to start the day - and I am due to give a presentation at a meeting at 1pm this afternoon.

First, don't panic. So we didn't. Husband went to the office to call the NS Hearing and Speech Center and talk to "Helen", my audiology technician there and ask if we can get another headpiece couriered. I emailed my boss and explained that I wouldn't be making the meeting. She emailed back that she was sure everything would be fine in the end and not to worry. Husband emailed that Helen said there should be a spare headpiece in my CI kit. By the time I got the kit, found the spare headpiece in the bottom and got the processor on - and was hearing again - he was at the house, concerned I might not have checked my email.

Ok. Ok. Crisis over. Handled. I can hear again. Helen is sending yet another spare. (Apparently I should always have two on hand - guess that little wire is the most likely part to fail.) Emailed my boss. Crisis averted. See you at the meeting. Gotta go review the material I'm giving a presentation on.

It's amazing what you can get used to.

ronnie

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

"He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same! "

In spite of the fact that Husband, kitties and I have to cram all family activities into two days a week now, we are doggedly ensuring that the important things get done. It's knowing where to cut corners and what not to get hung up and obsessive over that has made it possible so far, I guess.

So tonight the Christmas tree is up and decorated and as you can undoubtedly make out from it's unnaturally layered boughs, it's an artificial one for the first year since we bought the house... a compromise to time and the fact that it's doubtful anyone's going to be around enough to water a real tree properly this year, making it a safety issue as well. The cats were less impressed by an order of magnitude than they are with a real tree - Mojo was very disappointed that there was no owl check - but they'll have to adjust their expectations to get along as well :) Anyway, it's what it represents that counts, and its plastic boughs are full of two childhoods' worth of memories, and fifteen years of shared Christmases.

To the right of the tree - you'll barely be able to make it out - is a quilted wall hanging my Mother-in-law made for us, of the Three Wise Men on the road to Bethlehem with the Christmas star shining in the distance. I'll have to take a better shot in daylight. She does all her quilting by hand - no machine stitching - and her work is exquisite. I have a bunch of gifts she's given me that I really treasure.

All those snowstorms you see on your television whalloping various parts of the US all end up in one place - here - on their way out the door, and we're getting hammered again overnight. My manager decided as early as Friday that I would work from here on Monday and not even consider driving to Moncton; a relief, and I have a bag full of files with me to keep me busy Monday (and, as it happens, Tuesday morning; we have a meeting here in town on Tuesday afternoon so she said to wait until then before bothering to make the commute).

You can imagine how relieved I am not to have to even worry about fretting over when it's "safe enough" to hit the highway tomorrow. So far, I've been overwhelmed at how much everybody, but in particular my manager (who is the only person whose opinion matters when the rubber hits the road) has bent over backwards to make the commuting situation easier for me. (For example, when I asked to take Christmas Eve - which is a Monday this year - off without pay to ensure I'm not stranded in Moncton by weather for Christmas [my best-case scenario was driving there pre-dawn Monday, working until closing time, and getting home around 8 Christmas Eve - not much fun], she not only initially said to take it, she went on to say that I should set up a meeting with a group here in Fredericton that day and work from here - that way I get paid, too.) That attitude makes everything much, much easier.

So it's a busy life, but the Grinch will get no joy at our house. Christmas is coming, we'll make sure of it.

ronnie

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Obey The Kitty!

Next Christmas, I am going to request that all my gifts come from here.

That is all.

ronnie

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

LOLTrek!

Major LOLZ go to Star Trek fan Brian, who - knowing of my affection for LOLcats - sent me a link to an instant internet classic: the much-loved Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" done LOL-style.

Check out the whole episode (a series of LOLpics, not video - well worth the visit) and find out what trouble follows after teh tribbles find themselves "IN UR NCC-1701, CHARMIN' UR WIMMIN!"

ronnie

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Going Postal

I just put three packages in the post and breathed a sigh of relief. One of the side effects of the new job and all the travel is that the time I have for - well, for everything - is greatly reduced. My old job was so centrally located that it was easy to pop out for twenty minutes to run errands - not so much where I am now. So I've been worried about Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, finding cartons for mailing (Husband's help here was outstanding - he was lugging large boxes around downtown Fredericton by hand last week), and finally about getting my Christmas packages in the mail - to my family back in Newfoundland, where delivery can be agonizingly slow, and to my best friend and her family in Ontario. Well, I'm a fraction late by my own personal deadline of getting things in the post the first week of December, but still, things should get there by Christmas, God willin'and weather permittin' as they say back home.

I've been remarkably fortunate with finding everything I need in Moncton, and that's no accident. I mailed the packages from a Post Office counter located inside a pharmacy which was open later than a regular post office, and which I located online through Canada Post's website. I used Mapquest to create a map of the pharmacy's location and stopped by after work. I've used the web to find a nearby grocery store, a bookstore, and a branch of my bank. For that matter, I used the web to find the room I am typing this from. When I needed help with a prescription I would normally go to my doctor in Fredericton for, I looked up after-hours clinics in Moncton, found one nearby, called for an appointment, showed them my New Brunswick health care card, and voilà - done. I know, online, roughly two days before I set out on my Fredericton-Moncton commute if there will be foul weather, and how I should adjust my travel to avoid it.

All of this I could have done before there was the internet - but think of the staggering amount of research that seems like, now, in retrospect. Phone books and phone calls and dialing 411 and libraries and asking at a dozen gas stations and tracing routes on maps with highlighter.

Sorry, no, there aren't any flying cars, and breakfast doesn't fall out of a replicator at your voice command, but still, guys -

welcome to the future. Our future.

I like it here. A lot.

ronnie

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Don't you just hate it when...

Heh heh heh.

My good friend "Rebecca", who lives in Manitoba and knows something about snow, sent me this video, which seems to fit perfectly with this week's snowy theme.


video

PS: Dude srsly needs some heavy-duty Canadian Tire-grade scraping tools! He obviously isn't a Canadian - scraping your car with your gloves - ok - in a pinch - but with your briefcase? Dude! We give ice scrapers away in this country like AOL gives away start-up CDs!

ronnie

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A snowy sidewalk...

...outside one of the buildings in our office complex this morning.

The drive in to work was fine, though (after a final bout of shoveling to clear the 30cm or so ridge the snowplow had left overnight).

In other news, Xtreme English, who lives in the Warshington, Dee Cee area, got her first snowfall today, too!

Being a Minnesotan, she's not much impressed with what Dee Ceeers consider 'school-closin' snow'. Being Canadian (Minnesotans' very, very close first cousins), I hear her.

ronnie

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Whalloped

<= This was my car a few hours ago.

The first snowstorm of the season was a hell of a doozy and it hit Moncton especially hard. (Hopefully there'll be some good photos or articles in the local paper to share with you tomorrow. Update - check it out.) Even the Universities and government offices (including mine, thank God), were closed. Just as well, as nobody was going anywhere for hours.

It took me about 2 hours to dig out completely. Unfortunately my landlord doesn't have a snow blower, so we did it the old-fashioned way.


We - me, the guy who owns the house, and a teacher who rents another room from him and who owns another of the cars you see above - waited until around 3 pm to even start digging, as the storm didn't really start to abate since then. In fact, even a short while ago - at 6:00pm or so - this was the satellite weather map. We're supposed to get more overnight - so tomorrow's trip to the office might start with yet more digging.

Ah, well - as I recently commented to NFTP, we've become remarkably sanguine about it. C'est la mode de vie Canadienne, non? The great blessing of living in a part of the country where your "extreme weather" is blizzards (as opposed to, say, earthquakes or tornadoes) is that thanks to the miracles of modern technology we can not only predict and prepare for them, we can literally track them from our home or office computers. That means that I was able to spend almost all the storm curled up at home - or, at least, at mon pied-à-terre - with my laptop and a mug of hot soup.

And then we got up and went out and - sigh - started digging.

ronnie

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Still paddling...

I'm not sure what it means to that I am not even remotely surprised that Mojo is doing a better job of updating his blog than I am, and he's a cat. He has a larger readership anyway.

On Sunday Husband treated us to a simply fantastic brunch at the revamped Crowne Plaza Lord Beaverbrook Hotel. The dining room and the Sunday brunch menu have both been extensively renovated and improved in the Grande Dame's overall facelift. The meal was outstanding, the conversation was good and the company couldn't have been finer. That was a nice way to end my fin-de-semaine in Fredericton and prepare to return to Moncton for work.

I am still in the process of 'settling down' to something like normal. I start working 5 days a week now and will for the rest of December; that will both help me settle into a routine and hopefully help with the French, with which I'm struggling. Basic knowledge of a language that will get you through a trip to an épicerie or dinner at a restaurant is not built for the rigours of having real, complex converstations with real people rapidly switching topics, using Department jargon, and throwing in chiac for good measure. Hearing with the CI makes it a lot harder to discriminate between individual words - they tend to slur together a bit - that's something I hardly notice in English, because my brain fills in the gaps. It's proving very problematic in French.

Speaking of which, today is the UN International Day of Disabled Persons. This year's theme is "Decent work for persons with disabilities", a not-so-subtle reminder that decent work is not the norm for people with disabilities in much of the world, and is more difficult to achieve in the developed world, too.

Zut! C'est le fin de ma pause de café. Retour au travail!

ronnie