Thursday, July 21, 2005

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by R. Cat

We stayed at the Lord Nelson Hotel...

...which was across the street from the beautiful Public Gardens...

...where a very nice lady offered to take a picture of Husband and me together.

All in all, it was a wonderful getaway :)


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

...jiggity jig

Home again, home again. Rented a PT Cruiser once again for this trip to Halifax to keep an appointment with my audiologist, "Helen", to get the CI reprogrammed, and to see the surgeon who wanted to do a four-month post-surgical inspection.

First, the audiologist. Last time I ran through the 3 programs really rapidly so this time we cranked the sound up to "eleven" in order, I hope, to get more mileage out of the programs. I'm doing so well that my nerve cells are responding almost too rapidly to the increasing volume and complexity of the sounds, and too soon, it seems, they have adapted and the sound begins to seem flat and muted.

We went into the sound booth to test my progress. First we tested my perception of tones, then I heard full sentences I had to repeat back, then single words (that's the hardest test, because the sentences add context to their words. If you are not sure whether the speaker on the CD said ""mills" or "bills", the rest of the sentence being "She is paying the ____ at her desk" tends to settle it for you.) Word and sentence recognition is in the high 80 percents (in other words, I repeated back around 87% of the sentences and words correctly). When they added severe background noise (sort of like static) I scored in the high 70s.

When they factor in words I got partially right (for example, mistaking "bend" for "mend"), I got 96% correct or partially correct, with background noise I got 85% correct.

These numbers are compatible with normal hearing and, judging from Helen's and the surgeon's reaction, pretty astonishing, I guess. My audiogram (hearing the 'beeps' when they're played) is now entirely within the "normal" range on the chart. (This is nice, because I recall one audiogram where the audiologist wrote "DNR, DNR, DNR, DNR" across the bottom of the chart. When I asked, he said it stood for "Did Not Respond". That was good, because frankly I thought a Do Not Resuscitate order was a little harsh even if it was a crappy performance on my part.)

Everyone is beside-themselves happy. I am getting the impression I may have the best results they've ever seen there. One of the interns spoke to us quite earnestly about the need for money for the CI program and how they need to keep advocating for it. Advocates for the hip replacement program, he noted, had been very successful in getting that program into the public eye and getting the ear of politicians to make sure it is well-funded. We need to do the same for the CI program, he said. I told him that if they needed a spokes-thingie, a poster child, as it were, I'd be happy to volunteer.

After the audiogram it was a short one-block walk-- past what we believe may be the world's only High-Voltage Decorative Water Fountain --

-- to see the surgeon who is similarly delighted with the results of his work. The dent behind the ear is perfectly normal after the settling of the surgery site, he said. If it isn't bothering me (and it isn't) it isn't a problem.

Business aside, we spent the rest of our time enjoying ourselves in one of our favourite cities (photos soon when we get them sorted out). Halifax is absolutely brilliant at the tourist trade; every single visitor is made to feel like a welcomed and highly-anticipated guest. ("Oh my gosh, you're here!" you almost expect them to say. "We've been getting ready since May!")

Free buses travel the circuit between the historic waterfront and the Spring Garden shopping district every half hour, taking you from the heart of the downtown to the gorgeous Public Gardens in a few stress-free, cost-free minutes. The driver is a chatty sort who will point out to you the clock in the tower at City Hall, its hands frozen at 9:06, the moment on December 6, 1917, when most of Halifax was leveled by what was, at that time, the largest man-made explosion experienced on earth. It would never be equaled until the first nuclear bomb was detonated. The clock was never re-started.

He'll also tell you about the city's special connection with the Titanic - it was the first stop for the boats involved in the body recovery operations, and 150 unclaimed bodies from the doomed liner are buried in Halifax, all the graves still cared for with respect and dignity, even those many marked only "Unknown". To this day, when a victim can be positively identified by descendents via the meticulous records of physical descriptions and personal effects recovered, the tombstones are sanded clean and re-engraved with the correct name. An extensive museum display on the disaster boasts one of the few deck chairs recovered from its debris and thousands of Titanic pilgrims visit every year.

This time we stayed at the Lord Nelson Hotel, a Georgian beauty, full of old wood burnished to a warm glow by 73 years of hands passing over it and soft cloths polishing it. We drank in the Victory Arms pub and had a to-die-for Turkish takeout of rice and chicken kofta and warm pita bread and homemade tzatziki.

It's Pride Week, and Halifax's large and proud GLTB population was extra-visible everywhere, with stores offering discounts to anyone wearing a pride flag anyplace. The annual Dykes vs. Divas softball game was Sunday afternoon - I don't even think anyone knows who won, but I'm thinking the Dykes had the edge since many of the Divas were somewhat hampered by their stiletto heels, and those enormous bouffant hairdos had to be playing hell with their wind resistance.

It is, to be reduced to a cliche, a city to fall in love with, and fall in love in, all over again every time you visit it with time on your hands and somebody you love at your side. We are lucky that necessity meant that this, one of our most beloved getaway spots, is the site of these enforced visits.

But it's also nice to be home with my kitties, who I missed awfully and who seemed genuinely pleased to see us, which is enormously gratifying, cats being cats. And tonight I sleep in my own bed.

(Kurt van Houten, showing off his post-divorce bachelor pad: "I sleep in a bed shaped like a race car! Where do you sleep?"
Homer Simpson: "I sleep in a big bed, with my wife."
Kurt (downcast): "Oh.")

And we still have a week and a half vacation left to just hang out and enjoy the hot, hot summer weather and stay up too late an' stuff.

Right now, right here, life is good.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Fantastic News!!!

I'll tell you about my trip later.

First, much more important news!

While I was out of touch, "Mom's Cancer" won the first ever Eisner Award presented in the new Digital Comic category!

It simply couldn't go to a more deserving comic, whether you judge by artistic merit or simply the fact that Mom's Cancer is a well-told, can't-stop-reading page-turner.

It'll be out in book format (via the astute people at Abrams books) in February 2006.

I simply could not be more pleased for Brian or for his family, who I've had the privilege of getting to know through this marvellous medium of the internet. What a gift he's given us, and what a joy to see it recognized.

Congratulations, Brian, Mom and family. You so deserve this.

Now, go to the website and see photos of the convention and Brian's acceptance speech.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hey you kids - what the hell's going on up there?

It's hard to believe that it's been only four months since my implant surgery and three months since activation. Other than the loss of bilateral sound (and only having hearing on one side now), I don't remember sound before the deafness being any different than the way I hear now - which is kind of astonishing. Sometimes sound is a little distorted - motorcycles going by, for example, are quite hard to identify at first - but other than that, listening to the television, radio, or other people sounds pretty much exactly as I remember it. The biggest change since activation continues to be my understanding of music. It has improved exponentially, an explosion of improvement over the past three months. I can even understand, and enjoy, music I've never heard before.

Physically, there's been a lot going on "up there". When the swelling went down after the surgery, I thought it was kind of weird because I couldn't feel anything underneath my skin. When I started wearing the external unit, I'd have to move the headpiece all over the side of my head looking for the magnet under the skin for it to attach to. That isn't the case anymore. There's been a hell of a lot of "settling" up there. A lot of... "architecture" appearing. Lumps and bumps under the skin that didn't exist two months ago are a mystery and a wonder today.

I can feel the implant clearly under the skin, the oval shape of its silicone body sitting in the little nest in my skull Dr. B. created for it. I can feel the magnet, a small, hard disc, in the middle of it. I can feel interesting ridges where, I suppose, the plates of my skull are re-aligning themselves in response to all the activity up there. Queasy yet? It's quite painless, cool and interesting, trust me. Finally and most mysteriously, I have a thumbprint-sized indentation directly behind my left ear, quite a significant little concave spot. "Perhaps," I suggested to Husband, "he's left a little hatch in case he needs to get back in."

At any rate, I see both "Helen" and Dr. B. (the surgeon) next week back in Halifax for my three-month post-activation checkup. I'll check with Dr. B. at that time to see if I should be concerned about my post-auricular thumb notch. I haven't been worrying too much about it because, well, first of all, pressing it doesn't cause me to see coloured lights or hear tubas ("Doctor - Doctor - I smell burnt toast!"), and second of all, if it's trouble, it's only going to be fixed with surgery anyway, and we can wait for that, can't we?

The Halifax appointment coincides with Husband and my much-deserved vacations which take place over the next two weeks. We'll be traveling some and chilling at home some. After the year we've had, Lord, we need it.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Fanaticism, hatred, murder. The neverending story.

And here I was going to write a nice little normal blog entry getting back to the real raison d'être for this weblog, which is the hearing loss and cochlear implant... all about the physical changes to my head since the surgery (they've been significant), where we are now with hearing, and what is next on the rehab schedule.

Instead I find myself in my office having just finished writing yet another press release condemning yet another terrorist attack. My organization sends these pointless things out every time this happens - pointless because, tonight, on the radio talk shows and Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly will be frothing at the mouth saying, "WHERE are the moderate Muslims? Why aren't they condemning this kind of thing?"

Well, they're/we're here in organizations large and small and we're sending out our stupid little press releases, and everyone ignores them and the idea that there are, in fact, actually no moderate Muslims seeps ever deeper into western culture with every day's radio program and evening talking heads program. So I'm just depressed and sad and a little scared right now, so a self-centered note about me will have to wait until tomorrow.

Those of you that pray, keep praying. Those of you who fight, keep fighting. I don't see an end in sight.

In the face of such unspeakable evil done in the name of God, however, it seems fit to reprint the lyrics to the Neil Young song "When God Made Me", which Brian so kindly found on the web and posted in a comment below in response to my request. It puts into rather sharp relief the tiny-mindedness of anyone of any religion thinking that God loves or approves of any of us more than any other.

Was he thinkin' about my country
Or the color of my skin?
Was he thinkin' 'bout my religion
And the way I worshipped him?
Did he create just me in his image
Or every living thing?
When God made me
When God made me

Was he planning only for believers
Or for those who just have faith?
Did he envision all the wars
That were fought in his name?
Did he say there was only one way
To be close to him?
When God made me
When God made me

Did he give me the gift of love
To say who I could choose?
When God made me
When God made me

When God made me
When God made me

Did he give me the gift of voice
So some could silence me?
Did he give me the gift of vision
Not knowing what I might see?

Did he give me the gift of compassion
To help my fellow man?

When God made me
When God made me

(copyright Neil Young)


Saturday, July 02, 2005

By the way...

...does anyone know the origin of the song Neil Young performed, which I think was titled "When God Made Me"?

A Google search turns up a bunch of songs but nothing remotely like the song Neil was singing. It was beautiful little tune that wondered whether God was worried about "the colour of my skin... or how I worshipped Him" when he created the singer, and asked if God would "give me the power to love/just to choose who I could"... these lyrics are from memory and might be inaccurate. If anyone knows the songwriter, I would like to know in order to track down a copy of the lyrics.


Have you added your name yet?

Oh, it's easy to be cynical, but Geldof is right, you know. Individuals giving money, even nations giving aid, isn't going to solve the problem. It is, as my good friend C. puts it, "more money going down the same black holes".

Go to the website. Read the plan, which includes debt forgiveness for developing countries, more aid and a refocusing of it on education and basic health care (and more 'one village at a time' microprojects), and a reformation of trade laws that currently ensure developing countries are never going to get a foot on the ladder.

It's not as if what we've been doing so far has worked so very brilliantly, now, is it?

And the only way these changes are going to happen is if the G8 makes it happen. And the only way THAT is going to happen is if enough political pressure is brought to bear on G8 leaders by their citizens that they believe they must make it happen, or face political defeat. That is the only thing that motivates these people, folks.

And if it takes a bunch of rock concerts to focus attention on the issue, fine.

Oddest single moment so far from the Canadian concert in Barrie, Ontario (not Toronto, as AOL has labeled it in their live webcast): Elliot Easton (The Cars) and Joey Kraemer and Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) jamming with DMC on "Walk This Way". Which of course reminded me of Aerosmith and Run-DMC's version from nineteen-eighty-something. Jeeze, what a breakthrough in the rap/rocker culture wars that was. Those guys shoulda all gotten Nobel Peace Prizes for that collaboration. :)

Favourite personal moments from the Canadian concert: Jet performing "Are you gonna be my girl?" - best new rock band in some years - and, of course, my own boyz, the Barenaked Ladies. Kings of dork rock, and kings of my heart.

Actually, the only time this sentimental old fool teared up today was when the Barenaked Ladies said Jim Creeggan was taking footage of the concert to take back to a school in Tanzania he's been working with (you can read more about it here), and got the crowd to shout-out to the kids:

"Say 'Hi Kids'!

"Hi Kids!"

"'Hi, Kids!'"


"'We love you!'"

"We love you!"

"'We're trying!'"

"We're trying!"

"'We're trying!'"

"We're trying!"

Days like this I am very grateful for my hearing.

Anyway, even if you are a cynic, take the time to educate yourself about the whole "make poverty history" campaign. It's a lot more than Live 8, and it incorporates some ideas worth, well, putting your name behind. Consider adding yours. I am also going to write a letter to Prime Minister Martin. Just let him know one more voter wants him, and Canada to be a leader in this. We gave the world UN Peacekeepers. We gave the world Médecins sans Frontières. We can help give the world this.

At least, we're trying.


Friday, July 01, 2005


"The genius of Canada, almost unparalleled in the world, is to build a shared identity out of our respect for each other's differences. No one minority is diminished when another minority is acknowledged." - Alex Munter