Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not so funny

Last week, a former co-worker who has moved out west sent an email to a bunch of people she used to work with here, including me, asking how we were doing. She'd seen media coverage of the Fredericton flooding.

I made some flip remark - these were a gang of old friends - about the water not having reached my building yet, and were the steps of a third co-worker's building, the Centennial Building, wet? ("I don't know," she replied. "They never let me outside.")

Such joking seemed funny back then, when we were just dealing with the usual spring flooding. Since then, we've had rain and lots of it, and things have turned truly bad. A lot of people have now left their homes for emergency shelters. EMO (the Emergency Measures Organization) is predicting this will be the worst flood in 35 years - the year of the great Flood of '73. In fact, it's expected to surpass '73. They handed out EMO preparedness booklets at work, and the organization is telling people in badly affected areas that if they refuse to evacuate, they had better be stocked up for a week.

We had training at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Beaverbrook this afternoon. Halfway through the training a staff member came and said that anyone who had a car in the back parking lot had to move it. These pictures are the view from a balcony at the rear of that hotel this afternoon.

To the right in this picture, between the trees, you can see the poor beleaguered bike shed (from which the city rents bikes to folks who want to ride the trail that runs along the river in the summertime) is nearly completely submerged now. (Photographing it this time of year is practically a ritual - although I've never seen it in such sad shape before.)

This is a shot of the patio behind the hotel.

Now they've started turning off the electricity to some downtown buildings and blocks, and today around 3:30 they shut off the power to our office building. (Yet Husband's building, which is actually a few dozen metres closer to the river, didn't have its power shut down. Go figure.) I've no idea if we will be back at work tomorrow, but I brought a bunch of work home with me just in case. They're warning residents to expect more power outages, and to expect them to be long ones. We can only hope our downtown neighbourhood is far enough above the flooding to not lose our electricity. We don't expect to be directly affected, but will be only blocks above neighbourhoods which will be.

When I reached an intersection I normally cross going to and from work, I found it flooded; the water was gushing up out of the storm drains into the intersection. I had to walk a half a block down in order to get across the street.

For someone who never lived on a flood plain until 1991 and who hasn't seen anything of this magnitude, it all feels very bad and very disturbing and very wrong. Like bad news unfolding in slow motion while people continue to go about their daily lives.

I like dealing with natural disasters I am familiar with. I'm great with blizzards. Real good with windstorms, including hurricanes that pass by on their way up the east coast and out to sea. But this, I don't really know what to expect with this, or what's going to happen. I mean, losing the electricity? That never occurred to me. That was a complete surprise, although obviously in retrospect it should've been expected. That saw me rushing down 8 flights of stairs - I was afraid I'd get stuck in an elevator when they turned off the power - to the post office to mail in my tax forms, due today, in case they lost their electricity.

Just reading the public alerts is unnerving.

And of course, my worry is infinitesimal compared to the poor, poor people whose homes are flooded as I type. Who are trying to get their kids to go to sleep on cots in a gymnasium.

I wasn't here in 1973 - but it doesn't look pretty.

River's expected to crest tomorrow or Friday, and then, may it please whoever runs these things, can we very kindly get back to normal?



Friday, April 25, 2008

A happy ending

The story of April, the fragile nine-month old monkey who was abducted from the Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John, made me so sad I couldn't even blog about it. The poor little thing's fate has been in the back of my mind for days. Was she scared? Hurt? The agony of her parents, who continually searched their compound looking for her, was heartbreaking. To make things worse, she is a Callimico goeldii monkey - an endangered species. The whole city of Saint John seemed just gutted by it.

Then, someone did the right thing.

April got lucky - if she had been destined for the black market, she'd be sold or dead by now. My personal guess is that some guy either became enamoured of her at the Zoo or, just as likely, his girlfriend did - and he decided he had to have that monkey. Sort of a "it seemed like a good idea at the time" scenario. Didn't realize how fragile the species is; didn't think about the fact that he was breaking up a highly intelligent family.

Personally, I don't think police should even continue to pursue the case now that April has been returned. (They said, before the monkey was found, that they "just wanted the monkey back" - now that she's been returned, they are analyzing the tape of the anonymous tip that led to her for clues. That's not a good lesson for the next time they say they "just want something returned".)

Media reports that April is in good health and that the whole family is "bouncing off the walls" with happiness at being reunited.

It's that rarest of things these days - a happy ending. :)


Thursday, April 24, 2008


Things are quiet around Casa Ronniecat these days. Spring arrived rather suddenly, as it always does here. The Saint John River has flooded its banks as usual, but what is not usual is the height of the water this year. Emergency centers have been opened up on Fredericton's north and south sides and in Oromocto. 20 families have been forced out of their homes; but things are not expected to get much worse. Still, we're on the Globe and Mail's front page today. (The downside is that the appalling amounts of snow we got all winter is now melting. The upside is that there are no ice jams in the river, which can cause truly dangerous flooding.)

In Quebec, the snow doesn't seem to be disappearing nearly as quickly, leading officials to send a warning out to homeowners - just before Earth Day, mind - to stop watering their snowbanks in an impatient attempt to speed melting. I can't figure out if the offenders are insane, ingenious or just breathtakingly wasteful. Perhaps all three.

(Of course, Montrealers also rioted after a first-round Stanley Cup game 7 win. First round. I mean, it was over Boston, a rivalry so deep that even Husband and I watched the game. But still. First round. That's lame.)

Meanwhile, the weather out west has been frightful, with Manitoba - hi, Robin! - getting slammed with yet another snowstorm.

It's been that kind of strange spring.

Work keeps my nose firmly to the grindstone - my cat updates his blog more often than I do - but I keep reading everyone else's blogs and comments even if my own participation is more muted. Someone's always got something particularly interesting to say. And if I wasn't keeping up with my friends' blogs, I would've missed this.

At least springtime in New Brunswick doesn't involve shaving cats...


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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rarezas (oddities)

Did I mention how many freaking cocoanuts every one of these trees produces? They're, like, embarrassingly fecund.

One of the oldest cars we saw the whole trip, and one of the best-preserved. This was at Jibacoa, not Havana.

The island's supply of auto paint must overwhelmingly consist of that shade of blue, as we saw it everywhere.

Interestingly, cars in Cuba have different coloured license plates depending on their use. Blue is a private vehicle. Brown, I believe, is for government vehicles, while there are other colours for vehicles owned by the resorts and so on.

Speaking of Havana, this was on the dashboard of the bus we took to Havana.

It's a back-up camera. And it's brainy.

The bus itself was Chinese; all the new buses in Cuba are Chinese-made now.

A lizard suns himself on a piece of concrete. Looks like he's still in the slammer, though.

This was taken by Husband in the village. It's like a traffic sign that just says, "Hey!" Very effective. At the very least the sense of uncertainty will make you pay attention.

Speaking of paying attention, this sign marks the police station. Sorry, Revolutionary National Police Station of Jibacoa. (Again with the revolution. I'm going to try to get around to another blog of the propaganda billboards and slogans we saw.)

I earlier posted pictures of myself in a straw cowboy hat. This is Husband's Tilley Hat. (Next to a Spanish Coffee, an amazing drink that starts out white as milk and then has dark bands of coffee layered into it. Amazing to watch.)

Canadian-made Tilley hats are famous in Canada for their quality and durability. Unremarkable straw cowboy hats, not so much.

Everywhere we went, tourists were trying to talk me out of my straw cowboy hat and Cubans were trying to barter for Husband's Tilley hat.

Just shows that you don't have to have money to have good taste. And vice-versa.

Last, but not least, Viagra on sale at the airport pharmacy. I kid you not.

Just another example of Cuba's first-class health care system!



Sunday, April 06, 2008

Halifax City Hall

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Live from grey, drizzly Halifax