Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oh, deer! redux

Final Standings:
Moose Count: 0
Deer Count: 55

You read that right. I counted forty-seven deer last night on my drive from Moncton to Fredericton to add to the eight I'd seen thus far. That's forty-seven I saw; I doubtless passed dozens, even hundreds, more, further back from the roadside and blending in with the brown and gold brush their coats camoflage them so perfectly in.

Something - the deep snow, probably - had forced them to the very edge of the highway to forage. They all seemed entirely disinterested in the highway or the cars. Photographing them turned out to be a self-defeating proposition; for the act of pulling the car off the highway to take a picture inevitably spooked them into running for cover. Therefore, the few pictures I got more or less duplicate this one - the maverick, the last brave one who stayed behind after all the herd had hidden in the treeline, out of sheer foolish curiosity, to wait and see just what that big blue bug wanted, anyway.

What it wanted was to make its last commute home safely, thanks, and it wished the same for all of those deer along the highway. I drove the whole way at 80kmh (the highway speed limit is 110kmh) just in case one of those lithe guys decided to sprint out into my path.

It was a remarkable drive. I have never seen close to that number of deer or any other wild animal on a drive before. I guess it's been a hard winter for them. Some rain next week should melt some of the snow and give them some relief.

As for me, I've arranged things so that I can take a couple of weeks off between jobs. I think I need it to decompress from the unnatural living conditions of the last three months.

Deer oh deer. What a long, strange trip it's been. How funny that it feels like so many of you have made it with me!



Thursday, February 21, 2008

But dey keeps comin back enewai...

Humorous Pictures


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Deaf News

A roundup of some interesting deaf news that has crossed my desktop in recent days.
  • Deaf actress Marlee Matlin is going to be on Dancing with the Stars this season, which is sure to alter the American public's perceptions of deaf people and how we live. I hesitate to say, "...and what we can do" as that makes us sound like some kind of stealth superhero, the stereotypical disabled kid who doesn't say a word all through the movie and then pulls off a miracle move in the last quarter, leaving everyone stunned but feel-good (all except those who bullied and mocked him, of course, who are now suitably chagrined). No, instead I hope it just makes people stop assuming that they know what deaf people can or can't do. (You'd be surprised how many people think that deaf people aren't allowed to drive, for example.)

  • There is no victory so small that someone won't take the time to criticize it. In response to Pepsi's SuperBowl Pregame ad featuring ASL, the President of the Alexander Graham Bell Association sent a letter (pdf) to Pepsi complaining that the ad "perpetuates a common myth" that the deaf only communicate using ASL. (The Bell Association is an advocate for the "oral approach" to deafness - teaching children to speak and lipread, not sign. As you can imagine, this does not endear them to ASL-oriented Deaf culture.) The President of the National Association for the Deaf replied to that letter here.

    I've referred here often to the controversies and contentious issues that seem to infuse deaf culture, politics and policy. It is never enough to be deaf; you must be deaf the right way. I usually don't have much of a position on these controversies, coming late to the game as I do, but in this case, I'm solidly behind NAD, and not just on the tv ad issue, on the entire issue of ASL vs. the oral approach. But even if I wasn't, someone else's little parade is a poor time to pull out your rain-maker. It's just bad form.

  • Remember the Ukranian sign language interpreter who refused to sign offical government propaganda during Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" and instead told the entire deaf country that they were being lied to? The last thing I wrote about her was, "I wonder what's happened to her since". Well, now we know what happened to her, up until 2005, anyway, when she was honoured for that act.

  • Pitcher Ryan Ketchner, who is deaf, has been drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and will be playing with their triple-A Syracuse farm team this season. Here's a fairly straight-ahead profile of Ketchner from the National Post, and here's a more "sportswriter-sentimental" take from the Toronto Sun. If called up, he won't be the first deaf player to play MLB; Monteal Expos outfielder Curtis Pride was one of Ketchner's childhood heroes, and Luther "Dummy" Taylor, as he was known, pitched for the New York Giants from 1900 to 1908. If Ketchner is called up to pitch for the Jays, he'll be the first deaf pitcher to play in the Majors in 100 years.


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Monday, February 18, 2008

Après l'hiver, le deluge

After all of that snow, you'd think rain would come as a relief... and it does, along with temperatures hovering around 10°C. But after all of that snow, snowbanks on either side of the highway are acting like dams, giving the ever-increasing pools of water no place to run off in many places along the highway and making the drive to work this morning feel a bit like that log flume thing at Disneyland. It was slow going if you didn't want to hit an unexpected small pond at high speed and find yourself hydroplaning to an entirely unintended location.

Not everybody made it. I passed three accidents; at the first, a Honda identical to our old girl Yvette had spun out and was down the right embankment of the highway with her nose pointed plaintively back up at the pavement. (The highway is a divided highway, two lanes going in each direction.) In that case, a transport truck and two cars had already stopped to help and one guy was on a cellphone, so I carried on. A bit later I saw a car that had planed 180° and was now on the right-hand shoulder of the road pointed back at me. I stopped and made sure nobody was hurt and that they had a cellphone before continuing; they weren't even stuck, just somewhat shaken up and waiting to turn the car around and carry on.

Further along I encountered the worst of the three; a large dark sedan on its roof lying in the snow off the left-hand side of the highway. There was a small white car parked on the right hand shoulder with its emergency flashers on. I stopped there, too, and discovered a pair of young men who had been the first on the scene when the woman driving the sedan crashed. They'd gotten her out through a window. She was badly shaken up but didn't seem to be injured but for some scratches on her face; frankly the two lads who found her looked as shaken up as she did. They had a cellphone too and had already called police and were waiting with her. I stayed for awhile talking with them until the woman seemed a bit calmer and had stopped crying, which she seemed to be doing almost unconsciously as she talked.

All in all my last commute east was quite a bit rougher than I expected, and it wasn't even because of the dreaded snowstorm. Go figure.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Oh, deer!

Moose count: 0
Deer count: 8!

Four of them late this afternoon, gathered together on a hillside right next to the highway, foraging under the snow. No moose fence between us, but they were entirely disinterested in the heavy traffic whizzing past them. Phenomenal and scary. Coming upon them at 100kph in heavy traffic left no room for a photo op, just a stunned slowdown and crawl-past.

With just two commutes left, something told me this was nature's way of telling me not to get complacent...



Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Flag Day!

Today, February 15, is Flag Day in Canada. It's a day particularly close to my heart, as the modern flag of Canada was born just 2 1/2 months before little old me. It was a heady time, when the future belonged to Canada - we were just two years away from Expo '67.

I like the Canadian flag. I think it's a triumph of design - you try reducing our complex tri-partite (Aboriginal/French/English) founding into two colours and three design elements - and I like that stylized maple leaf (chosen because of the tree's significance to Aboriginals and to early settlers, both French and English), those two bold red bars ("A Mari Usque Ad Mari" - "From Sea to Sea" - the country's official motto); and also, I'm really, really happy they didn't choose the beaver design instead.

Also, sewing it onto your backpack gets you better service and gives you a false sense of security in Europe.

What's not to love?

Happy Flag Day!



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Here we go again...

So I handed in my resignation today.

(For those of you having trouble following, there are programs available on the table next to the door in the back, there.)

On Friday, I was offered a permanent position with a provincial government department. The rumblings started just two days after I announced to my network of professional contacts that I was leaving my NGO to work for the federal government - I got a call from an old player in the game who wanted to know if I'd be open to an offer from his provincial department. Sure, I said, I'm open to looking at any offer - that's how life moves forward. He approached me again two weeks ago and again I told him I would look at any offer he wanted to make me in writing with an honest eye and compare it with my current situation. And on Friday they offered me the position, and today I formally accepted it.

I love my current job like crazy and I leave with a lot of regret about leaving the position and the people. But not being away from my family three to five nights a week is a no-brainer.

(If you'll turn your attention to page five in the program, you'll see a flow chart that plots my recent and near-future career path. It should be helpful in following tonight's presentation.)

My manager was incredibly understanding about it, although I felt sick telling her, she's been so decent and patient and helpful and such a good teacher. I singled her out in my resignation letter for thanks for her leadership and guidance, knowing that it will be seen by her supervisor, and her supervisor's supervisor.

(My landlord is less thrilled, but that, dear hearts, is the very nature of landlords the world over.)

My federal branch had a regional quarterly meeting today. One item on the agenda was "Arrivals and Departures/Arrivées et départs". I was introduced as all four, to much amusement.

But my colleagues gave me a round of applause at the news that I'd been offered a permanent position with the province. (I am fairly certain this was happiness for me and not relief that I was leaving, based on the warm congratulations after the meeting.)

The new position will be incredibly challenging and those of you who know which Department I'm moving to, and what my file will be, know why. But it's a job my whole career to date has been leading to, and it might - just might - be a chance to make some of the changes that I've spent the last ten years recommending to government actually happen.

(Now, if there aren't any questions, there are coffee and tea and soft drinks over there in the corner. The muffins stopped when the Harper government took power.* But feel free to mingle as long as you like.)




Monday, February 11, 2008

Yes, we can - but you're not going to like it much.

Many of you will have seen the video released last week by of the hugely successful hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, which combines a particularly inspiring speech by Senator Barack Obama with music and a repeated refrain of "Yes, we can!". A number of big stars (never mind - the kids know who they are) lent their faces and voices to the video and it's become a huge viral success, with millions of people viewing it on YouTube.

Now, some wag has created a hilarious spoof of the video which imagines a similar effort as built upon the words of Senator John McCain instead.

(I remember Husband, annoyed, saying that he was surprised that McCain hadn't gotten spanked harder for his "Bomb Iran" 'joke'. I hope he'll be happy to see that nobody's forgotten that half-joke from a very hawkish hawk and it looks like it'll have legs through the campaign.)

And you're right - that girl signing ASL is signing exactly what you think she's signing.



Animal Planet

Current standings:

Moose count: 0

Deer count: 4

The latest was standing on the side of the road - just the other side of the moose fencing. So we know that's working. Whew.

(<= Artist's rendition of deer and fencing.)



The pioneer of closed-captioning dies

Thanks to Mike P. who sent along this news article about the death of a pioneer in the development and promotion of closed-captioning.

Phillip Collyer worked for WGBH, Boston's PBS station, and reading a little about him goes a long way in finally explaining to me why WGBH's captions are so superior to many other companies', something I wrote about a while back. In fact, in my reply to Mike's email I referred to WGBH's work today as "the Gold Standard of closed-captioning".

In 1972 Mr. Collyer apparently attacked "this captioning project" with relish. He essentially invented captioning, figuring out that he could combine screen subtitles with courtroom stenography techniques to caption - and even live-caption - television programming. He was innovative - upon running into trouble getting the rights to offer deaf viewers President Nixon's inauguration speech in 1973, he got the rights to air the Spanish-language broadcast - and captioned it in English.

I couldn't help thinking about how wonderful it must've been for deaf people in the Boston area to be able to watch, thanks to Mr. Collyer, ABC World News, with captions, just five hours after it originally aired. How incredibly fresh that news must've seemed to deaf people who normally had to wait for tomorrow morning's papers to get today's news!

He sounds like a creative leader who cared about journalism and was committed to serving his audience. No wonder he's left behind an excellent PBS station and the very finest captioning service in television.

He opened a window to the world for deaf people, and invited us to join in to the local, regional, national and international conversation. That's quite a legacy.



Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A promise...

I will seek and find you . .
I shall take you to bed and have my way with you...
I will make you ache, shake & sweat until you moan & groan.
I will make you beg for mercy, beg for me to stop.
I will exhaust you to the point that you will be relieved when I'm finished with you.
And, when I am finished -
you will be weak for days.

All my love,
The Flu.

(Now, get your mind out of the gutter)


(making the rounds on Facebook, and I have to admit it made me smile.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Indifference, helplessness, and two little girls.

Last week, the entire country looked on with an awful sadness as a tragic story unfolded on the Yellow Quill First Nations reservation in Saskatchewan.

The story took two days to become clear through media reports, but in a nutshell, two toddlers froze to death in near -50C temperatures (with wind chill) when their father, who was extremely inebriated, became concerned about one of them around midnight last Monday/Tuesday, and in a panic, took both of them - dressed in t-shirts and diapers and wrapped in his coat and a blanket - and tried to run to his sister's house, a few dozen metres away, for help. In a snowstorm, and navigating snowdrifts, and in his state of intoxication, he somehow became disoriented and dropped first one, then the other, of the girls; and he didn't turn up at the doorstep of a neighbour's house until 5:30 a.m Tuesday. Even then, he was incapable of letting anyone know the girls were missing until 1:30 pm, which is when the police began searching for, and found, first one, then on Wednesday the other, small frozen body. (The girls' mother had apparently argued with the father earlier Monday evening and left the family home, leaving them in their father's care.)

An appalling, almost unthinkable tragedy, yet there was an awful air of resignation among everyone I've discussed it with or heard discussing it, the nauseating understandabilty of how it could happen, the horrible credibility of the narrative, "things on Native reserves being what they are". Whether you were someone who had the casually racist opinion that that's all you can expect from Aboriginals, or whether you were someone who wept and wrung your hands at a group of people coping with a systemic problem with drugs and alcohol so bad and so entrenched that you found it all too believable that a young Aboriginal father who loved his children could be so drunk he accidentally abandoned them in a snowstorm, it was the sheer predictability that something awful could happen to Aboriginal children because of addiction in their families that was most disturbing.

Today in the Globe and Mail, Gabor Maté has a compelling article titled "Our strange indifference to aboriginal addiction". In it, she makes the point that:

"The devastation wreaked by addiction among our first nations peoples is a national scandal — or it would be, were it to strike virtually any other segment of our population. Our country is strangely indifferent to its depredations among this marginalized group. We seem content to accept the high death toll that afflicts our native citizens, the low life expectancy, the high incarceration rate and the grinding poverty that both gives rise to substance abuse and results from it."

She is right; but I believe she is only half-right when she says that our lack of response to Aboriginal addiction is entirely attributable to indifference. I believe she is underestimating the effects of feelings of helplessness and despair at how to make things better. Personally, I am anything but indifferent to the problems of Aboriginal people, and I am not alone. I've always had an affinity with Aboriginal people and have connected easily and warmly with most I've met my entire life. I cried over what happened on the Yellow Quill Reserve. But after the terrible sense of fatalism, of thinking, "Oh, yes, this is all too possible, given what has passed between us and them and where they are left", comes the thought: what is to be done?

We have broken, horribly broken, an entire culture and race, which, it turns out, has a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and addiction; and having done so, most efficiently, for several hundred years, what on earth will work in fixing things?

We've thrown money at it, God knows. We've had commitees and Commissions and Royal Commissions and Round Tables and Talking Circles and Healing Circles and consultations. We've tried Colonial government, Federal government, Self-government, and Tri-party government. We've had education program after employment program after tuition program after training program after pilot project after funding program. We've - no, they've, various Reserves have, of their own accord - tried banning alcohol from reserves, a bold and laudable move that doesn't work, as the first thing that happens after prohibition is smuggling.

The large extended family of Santana and Kaydance Pauchay and their father, Chris - who will have to live with this for the rest of his life - have been overwhelmingly open and gracious and giving to media in the wake of this. They have allowed this intrusion, giving interviews at the most awful moment of their lives, in the hope - they repeatedly say - that the little girls' deaths will not be completely in vain, that this will be the wake-up call that moves this entire country to start addressing the problems of addiction and its effects on Aboriginal reserves.

Gabor Maté has the same hope.

So do I. And I bet so do a lot of other Canadians.

The only question is -



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