Monday, July 30, 2007

Still here!

Thanks for your comments on my recent lack of communication. I am all moved in to my new office now, a lovely freshly-painted bright space in a rabbit's warren of a building which was built in 1842, if the plaque on the place is to be believed. Offices and hallways and staircases - at least two sets of them - are everywhere. Most of the neighbours are architects or small engineering firms or other NGOs.

There is a branch of a local digital arts school here, including a digital animation studio, which makes for a lot of eccentrically-dressed kids, most of the skateboard or goth persuasion, wandering around. All in all it is not a bad vibe but a far cry from the old digs which were crammed to the walls with people from every corner of the globe in every type of traditional dress speaking a Babel's Tower of languages every breaktime.

I'll miss them, but the screaming children who were also a fixture there I will manage to survive without.

My third-story office overlooks a busy and bustling tree-lined street in the downtown retail district, which is useful for people-watching, which in turn is most conducive to mental stimulation; which is nice when much of your work consists of writing.

Speaking of trees it was a dramatic week at Casa Ronniecat when the eight big trees which lined our side of the street had to be cut down. The city - which, whatever else they manage to screw up, knows how to handle trees and the people who care about them - had phoned us earlier in the summer to inform us that, after years of trimming them around the power lines that run through the neighbourhood, they were just too large to trim any longer, and were posing a danger not only to the trimmers, but to pedestrians (a child was killed on PEI recently when he climbed a tree that had become electrified by a power line; wood conducts electricity, all the better when wet) and the battle to keep trees and power lines separated had just finally been lost.

I was heartsick of course, even though they're going to replant new trees; but what is to be done? They phoned us months ago to inform us, then apparently came to the house while we were in Halifax, shortly before the work started, to again prepare us, as well as speaking to me as I left the house the morning of the work. I'm guessing they get a lot of hostility when they cut down trees and they seemed relieved that I wasn't (visibly) upset.

Well, surprisingly the street doesn't look nearly as bad as I'd feared, and the other side still has trees, and they are going to replant, so...

As for the day of the action itself, I was at work; so Mojo, Mr. On-Site, will have to tell you about it from his perspective. It happened that Husband had a bad cold that day so he was home with the cats, which I was happy about since I worried they'd be freaked with the noise and so on; as it turns out, Veronica was fascinated and Mojo was - well, we'll let him tell you that when he's able to.

Both home computers still on the fritz but at least I have access at work and am catching up with friends' blogs. And, as Sherwood hoped, the new office does inspire optimism - a change is, they say, as good as a rest.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Intermittent communication

Well, first my laptop's power outlet failed (complete with a whole Diagnostic Manual's worth of bizarre attendant behaviours), then Husband's laptop ditto, and now since my entire organization is moving office this week, my work access will be spotty at best and completely unavailable for some time. I have not yet sensed the onset of Delirium tremens yet, but haven't broken down my office computer yet, either.

At any rate, I'm here, and I'll be back, with a bigger office, two windows, and a great new view.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Go back to Iraq? Soldier would rather pay to be shot at home.

This is the saddest thing I've read in a while, and not in just one way.

"Rather than endure another tour of trauma, authorities say, Aponte hired a hit man to shoot him in the leg so he could stay home.


On his first day of combat Aponte said a female sergeant killed herself in
the middle of chow hall, an image he can't get out of his mind.

'She locked, loaded and shot herself in the head,' he recalled.


He said victory was virtually impossible when 'we don't know who the enemy
is. In Iraq, the enemy is dressed in street clothes, or they're pregnant ladies
and sometimes even 8-year-olds with machine guns.'"


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mark Slackmeyer said it first.

Mike P. updates a classic:



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No, srsly. Yet again, I feel much safer now.

What Not To Say
Moncton Times & Transcript
Published Wednesday July 11th, 2007
Appeared on page C9

A new [Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority] security bulletin sets out what comments will get air travellers arrested at airport screening checkpoints, and what comments will trigger warnings only. A list of the examples given for each kind:

Illegal comments:
  • The person over there is carrying a bomb.

  • I have a bomb in my bag.

  • There's a bomb in the washroom.

  • The bag I checked in upstairs contains an IED (improvised explosive device).

  • I am going to set fire to this airplane with this blowtorch.

  • I've got plastic explosives that can blow up this airport.

  • I'm going to blow up this airplane over the Atlantic.

  • You better look through my suitcase carefully, because there's a bomb in there.

  • Screener: What's in that bottle? Passenger: Liquid explosives.

  • The man in seat 32F has a machine gun.
Comments prompting warnings only:
  • Do you think I have a bomb in my suitcase?

  • There's no bomb in my shoe.

  • What do you think I look like, a terrorist?

  • Hi Jack!

  • My gun misfired when I was hunting this weekend.

  • This security does nothing to stop hijacking.

  • Your hockey team is going to get bombed tonight!

  • You don't need to frisk me, I'm not carrying a weapon.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

An odd little souvenir

Goodness, I'd forgotten all about this.
It's a plastic label (transcribed below to be easier to read) I found abandoned at our resort in Cuba. The reason it caught my attention was because it was English. The reason it held my attention was because of the nature of the 'Cautions'. Even given wide latitude (latinatude?) for what's been lost in translation, no matter how many times I read this thing I cannot, for the life of me, begin to fathom what product this label was removed from! That's what prompted me to bring it back as an odd little souvenir.

Since the label is small and the photo was difficult, here is the text:


I thought perhaps it was a garment (I found it on a shelf under some mirrors in a ladies' room, and it isn't unusual for a woman to change into something she's just purchased in a ladies' room) until they got to the bit about putting heavy things such as water closet covers (?? toilet tank lids??) or flower pots on it.

A very odd little souvenir indeed.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Blind joy

I just listened to Blind Melons' album "Blind Melon" . Why?

Because the song (and the delightful video for) "No Rain" has been running through my head recently.

But also... just because I could.

Enjoying music a lot lately, and nothing is being taken for granted.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Saint John

Yesterday my work took me to Saint John. I actually love the travel aspect of my work; getting out of the office for a day to work with one of our member organizations is a change at worst and a pleasant diversion at best. It's also given me the opportunity of spending a lot of time in some parts of my adopted province that I wouldn't normally get to explore.

I wasn't five minutes out of town when I saw a dead moose on the side of the road, a victim of a late-night or early-morning accident, no doubt, not yet removed by the wildlife service.

Seeing that, when this is the rental the agency had waiting for you, is damned sobering and ensured I kept my eyes open and my speed reasonable...

...the image on this warning sign is pretty close to scale for many moose encounters.

Saint John, in fact, was the first city I ever visited in New Brunswick. The truly excellent wikipedia entry has a lot of photos of the wonderful architecture in this old city. From that time I was charmed by the city market, the oldest continually-operating farmers' market in Canada.

On this day they were gearing up for a visit from a cruise ship, and the sense of anticipation was palpable; "Welcome Cruise Ship Guests!" signs, extra tables and chairs being set out, little (and big) American flags (it was the Fourth of July, after all). Saint John is becoming quite popular as a stop for American ships cruising the Eastern Seaboard. It gives a much-appreciated shot to the economy to the town.
Saint John has its own unique culture, as do all of NB's small urban centres. It was once a great shipbuilding centre, initially wooden ships fed by the ample forests of New Brunswick via the Saint John River. It must've been something to see, the logdrivers dancing great booms of logs towards the shipyards.

Its shipbuilding history continued; for some time it boasted Canada's largest shipyard and built many modern vessels for Canada's military; sadly, a lack of contracts saw the shipyard close in 2003. It's still, however, the province's (and indeed one of the region's) center of industry; the Irving empire is headquartered here, as is Moosehead and a number of other NB corporations. It's very blue-collar, very English, and it reminds me in some ways of St. John's in Newfoundland with its Victorian and and Georgian architecture, brightly-painted row houses and its large deep harbour.

So it's nice to get to visit, even for work.

And as I was leaving town, thar she blows - that dot is, believe it or not, a huge cruise ship carrying thousands of people into a little New Brunswick city.



Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

Since I'll be out of town tomorrow, let me post this today - Happy Independence Day to my many, much-appreciated American friends.

Enjoy the holiday, the barbeques, the parades, the bands, the dignity of the old veterans, the doggies in stars-and-stripes bandannas, the cute little kids running around with their faces painted...

...enjoy tearing up a little when they play the national anthem, enjoy the multiple skin tones around you, enjoy the sense in your breast that, "we built something good here". Finally, enjoy the fireworks, exploding like blossoms of hope for an even better future.



Monday, July 02, 2007

A series of non-sequiturs leading to a conclusion

A few days ago, Mike Peterson posted this photo on his blog.

I have a good friend who is from Iraq. Her name is Assia.

She and her husband have four daughters. ("What will you do when they are old enough to date?" I joked to her husband. "I... shall buy gun," he replied. Only half in-jest, I think.)

The youngest girl is named Saafia.

For years, I grew my hair very, very long. When I first moved to New Brunswick, my hair was to my waist. It was whip-straight (as indeed it still is).

Some years ago, I decided it was time to get my long hair cut and try to cultivate a more professional look. I asked Assia, a hairdresser who'd been trained in Paris, to cut all that hair off.

Saafia, who was about the age of the girl in the photo at the time, and who loved to watch her mom cut hair, cheerfully pulled a little chair up next to me in her mom's basement. She was fine until she realized that her mother was going to cut off all my hair.

She started crying, and pleading with her mother in Arabic.

"What's wrong??" I asked Assia.

"Oh," Assia said. "She has the curly hair, you know? Like me, and her Dad. Iraqi. Her and her sisters, they always want the straight hair. They buy the irons, the chemicals. All they want is the straight hair. They all want your hair. She can't believe you cut your hair."

This is half of my problem. None of this stuff is abstract to me anymore. I see a terrified Iraqi child, I see Saafia. A real person I know and have conversed with and care about. I see a starving Sudanese mother hopelessly trying to suckle a dying child, I see Dumo, and her baby boy, Jacob -- if she hadn't gotten to Canada. I read about Islamic fanatics going into a movie theatre in Somalia and macheteing a movie audience because movies are sinful, and I see Mohamed and his wife and beautiful twin 8-year-old daughters.

Maybe I'm getting burned out. I'm sure angrier about what's going on in Iraq than is healthy. And being painfully conflicted about Afghanistan isn't helping.

It feels like it's time to take some kind of a break from all this. I just don't know exactly how.

Or for how long.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bonne Fête du Canada!

This was a lower-key Canada Day than last year, when I got to meet Willie O'Ree and Husband got his photo taken with Miss Canada International.

Of course, there's no such thing as a bad Canada Day, and we started out by hanging the flag in the windows of the sun porch. Official Family Canadian Flag Inspector Veronica said "Yor doin it wrong" until we got it right.

After going out for lunch we went downtown to "Canada's Biggest Block Party" which filled Officer's square and spilled across Ste.-Anne's Point Drive onto about a quarter-km of the green that borders the river. This is an early shot of Officer's Square, which was packed full of people later in the afternoon.

The thunderclouds were ominous all day but it never actually rained on our parade :)

Maple Leaf tattoos are a great way to get some attention on the country's birthday, as this patriotic bulldog quickly found out.

Before the parade, we happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch the Changing of the Guard at the Guardhouse, which happens a couple of times a day in the summer.

It was cool today - just 21°c - which I'm sure these young people were grateful for. They wear these authentic reproduction wool serge uniforms all day every day during the summer - whether the temperature is 21°c, or 45°c!

At 4 pm the parade came by. As in previous years, the parade more and more reflects my community's growing diversity, which means that getting up and going in to work every morning isn't completely in vain :) Here's the Multicultural Assocation of Fredericton group...

The Filipino Association was several times larger this time than last year. They've really grown!

Similarly, the Korean Association had a much larger contingent, this year complete with drummers and chanters.

The Chinese Cultural Association of NB is always a colourful and professional group. They had fan dancers, a Chinese drummer, and not one, but two dragons this year.

There was also a peace group in the parade this year, walking with signs saying "Bring the Troops Home" and "Canada out of Afghanistan" and so on. I thought I'd taken photos of them but apparently I didn't push the digital cam's button hard enough, so I don't have any shots of them. I muttered to Husband that it took some balls to march in the parade; outright opposition to the mission is still something most Canadians are ambivalent, if not very uncomfortable, about. (For comparison, imagine an anti-Iraq-war group marching in a 4th of July parade - if they got permission.) "They'll take some abuse," I said. "Nah," Husband said. "But they won't get very much applause." Almost amusingly, two groups behind them was a group of serving soldiers. "I think one of the events at the end of the parade is, the soldiers beat up the peace activists," I joked. All of which I mention to illustrate how, well, nervously ambivalent we are about all this right now.

It was a low-key day, but a good day.

And it will be, until 10:00 tonight - when the fireworks start - and the cats freak out.

As I do every Canada Day, I think of the Kinks' lyrics - not as they were meant, I'm afraid, but unironically:

"I was born/lucky me
in a land/that I love."

Happy Canada Day, everyone!