Friday, March 30, 2007

Tales from the Black Horse Tavern

A while back, I blogged about my trip to the Miramichi, and included a photo of a building that just... looked interesting, although I didn't know much about it.

I mused that it looked like it had a story or two to tell.

Husband, catching up with my blog posts, informs me that not only does it have some tales to tell, it has so many that an an award-winning book has been written about it by a New Brunswick author, Ray Fraser.

Out-of-print now, but I must try to track it down. I'll bet it's got some ripping yarns.



Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Apropos of nothing...

Owner says her golden retriever saved her with the Heimlich maneuver
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Canadian Press

CALVERT, Md. (AP) - Toby, a 2-year-old golden retriever, saw his owner choking on a piece of fruit and began jumping up and down on the woman's chest. The dog's owner believes the dog was trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.
Ohhhh... kayyy...

Although the last time I checked, the Heimlich Maneuver didn't involve anybody jumping on anybody's chest...

This story reminds me of the time my Mom was having lunch in the living room, watching a noontime chat show story about a man whose dog ran to get help when the man had a heart attack, saving his life.

My mother (who is just as weird as the rest of the family) wondered whether our dog, Buster, would be smart enough to do that. So she set her pizza down on the coffee table, clutched her chest, made gagging, choking sounds, and slid off the sofa to the floor, feigning unconsciousness.

Buster walked up to her, sniffed her, took her pizza from the coffee table, and walked away.


Monday, March 26, 2007

¡Hola Cuba!

It's hard to believe that, while we've spent so much time on it for the past several months, I haven't yet mentioned that we're planning our first trip to Cuba in April.

It's a bit hard to explain properly what this trip means to us. It's the culmination of a lot of late night pillow-talk, long car-drive talk, and daydreaming over fifteen years of being together.

"We're gonna go south, some year."

"Yeah... one of these days, we're gonna take one of those winter vacations."

"Yeah, one of those 'all-inclusives'. You know - where you pay up-front and you don't have to worry about anything after that. You know?"

And we'd daydream out loud together about white sand, and turquoise water, and palm trees. And between us, we were just barely scraping together enough to make a part-payment on last-month's bills. But we had our dreams.

And every year, we said to each other, Friday night, lying in bed, "One of these years, though, we're going south in the spring."

"White sand. Turquoise water."


"Tropical fish. Palm trees."

Meanwhile, time went by. Things changed. Husband got a much better job. I got a little, tiny raise. The price of travel to the south continued to drop.

This, this is that year.

A "dream come true", one might say without irony.

So, it's been an open secret (Mojo let it out ages ago) that Husband and I are planning a trip to Cuba next month.

Why Cuba? It was always going to be Cuba. I'm not going to beat anyone over the head with the politics of this, but we did our research, and we became aware that if we chose Cuba as our vacation destination, we could have the option of also really helping some people who have been having a hard go of things, in part, yes, for domestic reasons, and in part because of conditions imposed on them. Neither of which, it should be made clear, we agreed with. So it was always going to be Cuba.

All the arrangements are made. All I gotta do is get through Hell Week.

And then - we're going to Cuba!



Glenn Greenwald, must-read

Glenn Greenwald, who entered my field of vision through becoming a featured Salon blogger (in spite of the state of Salon these days, habits die hard and it is still a daily stop-by) has quickly become a must-read political blog for me. With the silencing of Molly Ivins, the appearance of someone who cuts straight through the bullshit and calls it as he sees it is a breath of fresh air. Check out, for example, his shellacking of a group of media pundits giggling their way through a discussion of the extremely serious business of whether or not the White House ordered the firing of eight US Attorneys for purely political reasons:
These are not journalists who want to uncover government corruption or act in an adversarial capacity to check government power. Rather, these are members of the royal court who are grateful to the King and his minions for granting them their status. What they want more than anything is to protect and preserve the system that has so rewarded them -- with status and money and fame and access and comfort. They're the ludicrous clowns who entertain the public by belittling any facts which demonstrate pervasive corruption and deceit at the highest levels of our government, and who completely degrade the public discourse with their petty, pompous, shallow, vapid chatter that transforms every important political matter into a stupid gossipy joke.
Really, is it any wonder at all that our government is so fundamentally corrupt and broken when we have a press like this? Why wouldn't top government officials lie continuously when our national press corps finds such lying to be such a source of merriment and humor, and can summon the energy only to attack, mock and condemn those who find the lying objectionable, rather than the liars themselves?


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shout-out to a Stand-up

I frequently remind my co-workers, without irony, that our spouses and families subsidize the work we do in NGOs. They, in fact, subsidize our NGOs. Often, it's a spouse's higher salary that enables us to continue to work in a notoriously underpaid sector. And always, the overtime we spend in this odd line of work, the tedious evening banquet dinners, the weekend conferences, the time out-of-town, these are times our spouses and children and pets spend without us. Because work needs us. Because the cause - whatever it might be - needs us.

We are entering what I call "Hell week" (the last week) of "Hell month" (March). March 31st is fiscal year-end, and every penny of funding must be spent, accounted for, and not over-spent. For a lot of reasons I won't bore you with - but most of which revolve around staff turnover, and my being the only person in the organization right now who has been there more than one year, hence all the new kids are constantly coming to me for help - it's the worst "Hell month" I've experienced to date and I am not looking forward to "Hell week". I have worked five out of the last six weekends.

And after ten years of marriage, Husband has a lot of experience in dealing with Hell month.

So indulge me while I give him a big public shout-out and a pat on the back. He is such a support and help to me. In the beginning, like most spouses of NGO employees, he tried to help by rebelling against the excess demands. "Tell them you can't work this weekend again! That's insane!"

Well, he was right. It was. Unfortunately, the result of this well-meaning intervention is adding guilt to the pressure - you really can't say no to work at certain times (you all know what I mean), so you only feel a) stressed by the work demands b) guilty for the time away from family and c) stupid for allowing yourself to be so abused that your family are upset.

Instead, the reality is, what NGO employees need from their families - what all employees need at times of high demand and stress - is patience. The spouse who can recognize that "this, too, shall pass" and who says, "I am here to do whatever I can do to help. Just ask. I'll put up with the lonely weekends. For a little while, 'cause there's an end in sight." is worth his or her weight in gold.

Today is Sunday and I got to spend the whole day with my Husband. And he's worth his weight in gold.



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First day of spring...

...felt more like mid-winter, with temperatures below freezing. Didn't bother me much 'cause I spent most of the day on the road, traveling to one of my favourite parts of the province, the Miramichi, to give a presentation to a group of business people at a forum being held in recognition of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

I was told to prepare for a more skeptical crowd than I usually speak to in Moncton, or Saint John, or Fredericton (the province's three largest cities). Miramichi has a higher unemployment rate, sees much less immigration and is much less racially diverse than those cities. While it is also in more dire straits in terms of its demographics -- population bleeds out of there to the larger NB cities, as well as out of province -- the people working in multiculturalism there tell me that many locals are still in the "Why are we bringing in immigrants when they'll just take our jobs? Why are we bringing in immigrants when my son is in Calgary?" phase. Which is understandable, given that they continue to watch their babies strap those babies' short lives on the roofs of their Toyotas and head west.

So I went armed with a lot of facts and figures designed to explain the idea that we need to grow the population and grow the tax base and the economy before we can realistically expect the other, equally-important parts of the population puzzle - repatriation of NBers, and the retention of our own youth - to begin happening.

I also brought data that showed immigrants do not "take jobs away from Canadians", which is too detailed and boring to go into here, but which notes among other things that immigrants tend not to be competing for the same jobs as Canadians. The reasons?
  • Entrepreneurial class immigrants are coming with a promise to open a business and create jobs;

  • Skilled Worker category immigrants are coming in because they work in an area currently experiencing a labour shortage;

  • Other immigrants tend to be seeking entry-level positions while they get credentials recognized and/or learn English or French.

It all went quite well, apparently. There were lots of questions, some challenging (and some amusing - like the fellow who thought that if we just paid people $10,000 per baby, there wouldn't be a problem), but none hostile.

Miramichi, and Miramichi City, are remarkable places. Many parts of it remind me more of some rough-edged prarie town with memories of the dust bowl still etched on its brow than a center of forestry on a mighty Atlantic river.

Take this, for example: that's the Miramichi Hotel, with an elderly sign announcing the same; and the sign behind that boasts the Black Horse Tavern, which I bet has some eye-popping tales to tell.

Back to the regular grind tomorrow, but today, while it was cold, it was sunny, and it was a great way to spend the day.


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Monday, March 19, 2007

You and me both, brother.

It's being called the best protest sign at any of last weekend's Iraq war protest marches.

(Warning: profanity, if that kind of thing bothers you.)



Friday, March 16, 2007

The good news is, there's absolutely nothing to worry about.

FBI: Extremists driving school buses
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Suspected members of extremist groups have signed up
as school bus drivers in the United States, counterterror officials said Friday,
in a cautionary bulletin to police. An FBI spokesman said, "Parents and
children have nothing to fear."
(Emphasis added.)

Man, there's a mixed message.

Guys we're watching as potential terrorists "have signed up as" (suggesting a coordinated or deliberate effort) school bus drivers. But really, it's no big deal. We just thought we'd tell you to scare the hell out of you, and then tell you not to be scared.

Because we know we got 'em all. We're the FBI. We don't make mistakes.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Deaf on the Big Screen

Check this out! The 5th annual Deaf Film Festival is being held this weekend right next door (relatively speaking) in Portland, ME.

This is something I'd definitely check out if the timing were not so bad - March 31 is fiscal year-end, which makes March kind of hell month for NGOs as we makes sure all programming is completed and we have spent every cent of - but not one cent more than - our budgets on all programs. Portland is around five hours away, but those of you who know me know that I'll do a road trip - short or long - at the drop of a hat and I would definitely have spent a couple of days checking this out.

A lot of the films sound really interesting.

Lots of stuff not mentioned in the article. Are the films with dialogue (some have none) close-captioned, or is dialogue all in ASL?

Is the festival local to Portland (I hope) or does it move around the country?

Will next year's be in March too? (I hope not. February or April, please.)

The website of the organization referenced by the article (they've screwed up the URL but>this works ) doesn't reveal much more, but hopefully I can email them and get answers to some of these questions and maybe look forward to making it in 2008.



Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Stopping the bleeding.

Statscan began releasing the data compiled in the 2006 Census today.

The article that announced the release of the first data noted that the population "remained virtually the same in New Brunswick".

But that doesn't begin to tell the story. The real story is the change between 1996-2001 and between 2001 and 2006.

In the 2001 census, we recorded a(nother) drop in our population. This time, there is the slightest increase.

A Statscan statistician interviewed on CBC radio's The Shift this evening said the increase is being attributed directly to "our improved ability to attract and retain immigrants".

Immigration isn't a panacea. It has to be part of a multi-pronged strategy that includes family-friendly policies that encourage an increase in the birthrate, repatriation of the large population that's headed west for better opportunities, and giving our youth a reason to stay here and not join that exodus.

But it's a key piece of the puzzle.

And maybe it's really working. Maybe we're starting to turn things around, or at least stopping the bleeding.

When I saw this chart today, I thought about all those settlement officers I know who work long hours for lousy pay, all the volunteers who serve on their boards of directors and make policy and who design programming and show up to carry it out. They are making a difference.


Statistics Canada information is used with the permission of Statistics Canada. Users are forbidden to copy the data and redisseminate them, in an original or modified form, for commercial purposes, without permission from Statistics Canada. Information on the availability of the wide range of data from Statistics Canada can be obtained from Statistics Canada's Regional Offices, its World Wide Web site at, and its toll-free access number 1-800-263-1136.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Harper appointed cat to Supreme Court

As usual, Frog Lady has all the dirt. Illustrated.


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When is discrimination not discrimination?

When it's discrimination against those not discriminated against.

Or not.

Maybe discrimination is always discrimination. That's what the founders of this apartment complex for designed for deaf seniors discovered.

Dreams of deaf-housing blocked by regulations
By Angela Woodall, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated: 03/10/2007 02:49:29 AM PST

FREMONT — Delores Gaston, who has been deaf since birth, came to Fremont for one reason: the first affordable housing in Northern California designed especially to meet the social and physical needs of low-income deaf senior citizens.
The problem is that what was supposed to be an all-deaf community isn't. In an interesting twist on anti-discrimination policies, fair-housing laws require that housing such as Oak Gardens be open to all seniors.
[T]wo years later, the complex is filled mostly with hearing seniors — an unintended consequence of fair-housing laws ... Today, there are 22 deaf or hard-of-hearing and 28 hearing seniors living at Oak Gardens. No deaf seniors occupy the lowest-rent units.

Link to full story.

To be fair, what happened is that when the complex opened, deaf people did not apply for all the available apartments. However, anti-discrimination laws meant that those apartments couldn't be reserved for future deaf tenants; so now, the complex is full, and a deaf senior who needs low-income housing will have to wait for a space (possibly occupied by a non-deaf senior) to become available.

What a complex world we've built as we go about trying to do the right thing!


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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Exposed: The right-wing cult of contrived masculinity

Glenn Greenwald writes a jaw-droppingly good analysis of why, no matter how despicably she acts, Anne Coulter will never, ever lose her cachet among conservative voters; and in doing so points out some ugly truths about the conservative movement:
As a woman who purposely exudes the most exaggerated American feminine stereotypes (the long blond hair, the make-up, the emaciated body), her obsession with emasculating Democratic males -- which, at bottom, is really what she does more than anything else -- energizes and stimulates the right-wing "base" like nothing else can...

That is what she does. She takes liberal males, emasculates them, depicts them as "faggots" and weak losers, and thereby makes the throngs of weak and insecure followers who revere her feel masculine and strong. There is no way that the right-wing movement can shun her because what she does is indispensible to the entire spectacle. What she does is merely a more explicit re-inforcement of every central theme which the right-wing movement embraces.
Much, much more, including some piercing insights into the core conservative value of effeminizing liberal men and masculinizing liberal women here:

The right-wing cult of contrived masculinity



CN Tower falling ice - the video

A little shaky at first (it seems to be someone taping their television screen) but you'll get the picture. Includes scary shots of a car smushed by a piece of falling ice.




Monday, March 05, 2007

Blogging T.O., Part Two

On Friday I had a chock-full day of conference at the storied Royal York Hotel, a block east of the Intercontinental. It’s a beautiful, posh hotel full of history, Toronto’s “It Girl” where royalty and rock stars stay while in town, and have since 1929.

At the end of day Friday, I emerged from the Royal York and began to proceed a block west to the Intercontinental. Suddenly I realized that something was up. Police cars and flashing lights were everywhere. Front Street was completely closed. There was yellow “Police Line Do Not Cross” tape blocking every intersection and cops on every corner. Holy smokes – something was up. I continued on toward the hotel and the cop on the corner said, “Where are ya headed?”

“The Intercontinental,” I said, pointing to it. “I’m staying there.”

“Okay, ya gotta go down this side street around the tape and go in through the underground.”

“I’m not from here,” I said. “Do you mean the PATH?” (Toronto has an extensive underground shopping and transport system and I thought he might’ve meant I was to look for some entrance to it.)

“No,” he said, “The underground parking garage entrance to your hotel. Stay close to the buildings. There’s ice fallin’ off the CN Tower!”

(Maybe Brian, who many reviewers of Mom’s Cancer vaguely call a “science writer” or “technical writer”, can elucidate, but I am pretty certain that if a piece of ice the size of a tabletop fell from the CN Tower, at an acceleration rate of 9.8 m/s², the result would be as if the entire government falled on my haid. But Brian may be able to put it more succinctly, possibly with numbers and pretty algebraic Greek symbols.)

As I peered around the corner to where he pointed, I could indeed see the entrance to the underground parking at my own hotel, and two more cops monitoring that entrance and yet more yellow tape.

“Ok, I see… thanks!” I said.

“Run!” he said. I runned.

I took the elevator from the parking garage up to my room where I reflected on the folly miracle of 553-metre towers in a country where blizzards are de rigeur, and the unexpected and incredible results thereof.

The next morning, the situation hadn’t changed. In fact, it had worsened. Saturday evening they wouldn’t even let me return to the hotel by the same route, making me walk around the block to the north, where I could access underground tunnels farther away from the hotel. “They ain't no other safe way, ma’am!” the no-nonsense cop said firmly, as she pointed to the north.

That’s okay. On the way around the block (which took me past the Mothercorp - isn't Rick Mercer adorable?) I discovered a little Pakistani restaurant where I returned later for a nice supper of chaat papri and chicken jalfrezi.

Later still, conference delegates reconvened for the conference fête (hey, they named it) at the painfully trendy This is London nightclub (entertainment: reggae, courtesy Bobby Dreadful).

In spite of all the bother, I had fun. I love Toronto, it's one of my favourite cities. It is surely not the only city in the world, but certainly one of the only cities in the world, which has everything you could possibly want in terms of shopping, dining, culture, entertainment, and fun, and yet where the residents conduct themselves like citizens of a small town and you can still strike up conversations with strangers every day.

(Taken from my hotel room: The CN Tower reflected in the building next to my hotel.)

Well, all things must come to an end, bizarre twists and all, and now I am home again in the bosom of my kitties and Husband.

And guess what? The airport just called. They found my luggage.


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Blogging T.O., Part One

Here’s a little secret about writing about a really bad trip: other people don’t want to hear about your really bad trip. You want to recount in painstaking detail everything that went wrong, so cathartic would it be; but your readers, love you though they may, really find retracing those steps as excruciating as a trip to the dentist.

Therefore, let me cut to the chase and put us all out of our misery: worst snowstorm to hit Toronto in years. Me, flew into it. 2 hours on tarmac at Montrèal after changing planes. 1.5 hours on tarmac in Toronto while they cleared snow so we could access our gate.

That’s the big picture. The details I’ll only fill in about the (slightly) interesting elements.

We had flown from beautiful, sunny Fredericton into Montrèal (across from me, a Concordia University student who dutifully took out her “Understanding Macroeconomics” textbook, and then spent the 1.5 hour flight doing Sudoku puzzles). In Montrèal, after boarding and waiting way too long at the gate, we were told that our “window had closed” for landing in Toronto because of a vicious storm lashing the region, but they needed the gate for another plane, so we were going to taxi to the tarmac and wait. (For another “window”, I guess.) Estimated time: 1.5 to 2 hours.

And it was there, then, that I was idly thinking, well, at least they’d have had lots of time to transfer the bags so they shouldn’t lose my little checked bag in the transfer between the Fredericton-Montrèal flight and the Montrèal-Toronto flight, when all of a sudden, it hit me, like a ton of bricks.

I’d packed my CI battery charger and spare batteries in my checked luggage.

How could I have been so stupid? What was I thinking? Without the batteries, there was no CI. I would never in a million years pack the processor into checked airline luggage. Instead, I packed its life-support system into checked luggage.

I mean, I know what I was thinking. I packed them in the same place that I have ever since I’ve gotten them, a nice safe place cushioned in the lid of my bag. But every time I’ve travelled since I got the CI has been by land, and the bag hasn’t been out of my possession. This time, my two pieces of carry-on were my laptop and my purse, and my roller-bag went in the cargo hold. And I had packed, as usual – unthinkingly – with my battery charger and my two spare batteries in the lid.

I spent the next two hours on that tarmac, and the following hour in flight, fretting and panicking and working scenarios. What if they lost my bag? How long would it take to get a replacement battery charger and batteries? I’d be deaf until they arrived. And OH! the COST! the unnecessary COST! And what would I say to Husband? And to the people at work? While I was deaf, while I was waiting? What a stupid, thoughtless thing to do!

Agony. Followed by hurried mental reassurances that they wouldn’t lose my bag, they’d never lost one of my bags, even when I’d changed planes twice. It would be there in Toronto. It would. It would.

And it was. But what a lesson! From now on, even though it will be troublesome and complicated to explain to Security what this unusual electronic stuff in my carry-on is, from now on when I fly they travel with ME.

And then, as mentioned, we arrived into one of the worst blizzards Toronto has seen all winter. The airport was chaos, transportation to the downtown was chaos.

I was staying at the Intercontinental Snooty Toronto Centre (all right, I made up the Snooty part), a swank place that I could never afford if someone else (and I mean someone with more money than my organization – we’re sponsored for this conference) wasn’t paying for it.

I asked for a deaf kit at check-in (I had not pre-ordered one) and they sent one right to my room. I was dismayed to find they’d done something I’d already discovered at one other hotel earlier – they use the “CC” button on the remote control to call up the hotel’s internal telly menu. In other words, if you press the “CC” button on your remote, instead of offering closed-captioning options, it calls up a channel listing the hotel services, pay-per-view movies, games, etc. menu. I know it is intentional because in both cases written instructions on the TV said to press “CC” to get the hotel menu.

But I asked at the front desk the next morning if someone could activate the CC on my telly and when I got back that night the TV was on and the CC was working.

And on the flight back? Word of honour - they lost my bag. I'm waiting for them to call now. But I didn't make the same mistake twice - my battery charger is with me.

Next post: the actual visit, or what happens when ice starts to fall off a 1/2-km tall building.


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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mary Ellen's implant day

Today is Mary Ellen's implant surgery day!

I am so impressed by her willingness to take this leap after so many years of living well as a deaf person.

I'm also overwhelmed with memories of my own implant day and what I felt like.

I know it is going to be a lot tougher for Mary Ellen than it was for me. I was deaf for only a year, and had very powerful memories of what hearing sounded like. She is going to have a very different experience. She has a family and friends around her to support her, and that's the most important asset she needs - that, and intestinal fortitude, and she seems to have that in spades as well.

I know you join me in wishing that the surgery goes absolutely perfectly.