Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go Moncton!

Il y a été un peu plus de deux mois depuis que j'ai commencé à travailler à Moncton.

It has been a little more than two months since I began working in Moncton.

In recent days, I've gotten a small flurry (a slurry?) of emails from friends asking how things are going so I must be remiss in reporting properly. A pox upon me!

The job itself continues to just go really well. I love the job, and I love the atmosphere of the workplace.

(Some of the brass wickets in the lobby of my office building, which used to be a post office. The picture doesn't do them justice. They were gleaming in the winter morning sunlight the day I took this picture.)

I don't love the commute. I do love that it will get much better and much more enjoyable as the seasons turn towards spring and summer. Right now I feel like I've been getting up in the dark, driving to work in the dark, leaving work in the dark, and driving home in the dark - in Moncton and in Fredericton - for Way Too Long. I mentioned to Husband that this was the first year I truly celebrated the winter solstice - because it means that, more and more, I am living and traveling in daylight hours.

(Caught the tail end of sunset as I headed out about two weeks ago.)

Current Moose Count: 0
Current Deer Count: 3 (One standing by the side of the road looking unambitious; two I watched cross all four lanes of a divided 2 x 2 lane highway in front of me.)

For much of the trip, I am protected by "moose fencing". I did an unsuccessful image search for a picture of this fencing; so I can't show you what it looks like, but it is fencing which runs along the side of the highway and which has one-way gates which stop the moose from running from the woods onto the highway; but which, should the moose somehow find his-or-herself on the highway, also offers one-way access back into the woods. It also incorporates underpasses which guide the moose and deer from one side of the highway to the other, with the highway fenced-in in-between, so they can still roam their natural territory. I bleeve (as Mojo would say) it was invented here in NB; and it's amazingly ingenious and will save thousands of lives. You still have to be alert; animals have been known to get through broken gates or damaged fencing; but it is still a great improvement.

I don't love trying to live in French with a cochlear implant. If I underestimated anything about this experiment, I underestimated how much my hearing disability was going to impact my ability to converse in my second language. Between the CI and the way people speak - carelessly - and the complexity of real-life workplace conversations, it's been much more challenging than I expected. I visited and stayed in Montréal and Québec City at length and got along quite well in French - but I didn't take into account that that was before going deaf and the CI.

I love my co-workers, who are funny and nice and forgive my terrible French and my knack for losing the thread of a conversation we're having and needing, helplessly, to revert to English. I love their humour and their enthusiasm for their work and their culture and their artistic talent, which is regularly on display in an Employee's Gallery, a hallway in the office complex which hosts photographs, paintings, anything at all contributed by employees. For the holidays, we were all asked to contribute to a group mural which began as a large piece of blank paper the length and breadth of the gallery wall - some contribution about "What the holidays mean to me"; someone began with a Christmas tree, and here is my rough contribution, for what is a Christmas tree without a cat dozing beneath it? The mural grew and grew to incorporate all sorts of found materials, from real, plugged-in Christmas lights festooning the Magic-Marker Christmas tree, to Hershey's kisses stuck all over the mural in a sort of social experiment by one of my co-workers ("Will people be able to resist eating the art?" she asked impishly. Amazingly, they did; until the day after Boxing Day, when she posted a note saying "Si vous voudrez, prenez-vous!" ("If you want [some], take [some]!")

I don't love - but I have grown to like - Moncton. The people are a lot warmer than I'd expected - I think in Freddie there's a bit of a stereotype that "Moncton People" are a bit standoffish to the rest of us. (It's part of that perennial three-city rivalry between Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.) I've found that to be absolutely the opposite of reality. In Moncton, people are so warm and friendly and accommodating that my biggest problem is being allowed to practice my French.

So in my meandering way, there's an update to what's up with the new job and the commute and all that. I'm right smack-dab in the middle of a period of change and transition - believe it or not, other new opportunities may present themselves for consideration in the next little while. Maybe it was just my time. For the moment, I'm happy, still enjoying the novelty of the situation and that 'new-job smell' ;)



Monday, January 28, 2008

Finding Bob's Place

Every year at Super Bowl time I grumble about the companies which spend around $750,000 on an ad, $250,000 for 30 seconds of airtime to show it during the advertising industry's Big Day, and who don't bother to spend $350 to close-caption it.

So it was great to hear that Pepsi has created an ad which will have its TV debut during this year's Super Bowl which is not only captioned, but which is completely performed in ASL. It was developed by a hearing Pepsi employee with ties to the deaf community and features him and two other deaf Pepsi employees in starring roles, and is based on a story that is kind of a deaf urban legend.

It won't air until the big game - but who wants to wait until then? Courtesy Pepsi and YouTube:

(Notice Bob's door"bell", which works like mine?)

Cool :)


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Monday, January 21, 2008

The front fell off.

Hat tip to Husband who sent me this link before Christmas. Seems like time to inject some levity into the blog.

An "Australian Senator" explains a marine accident.

I had to track down the origins of this brilliant bit of satire. Thanks to commentor "LeadingZero" on one of the many sites where it's posted, for a nice, brief synopsis: "This is a satirical sketch created by the comedians John Clarke and Bryan Dawe titled, 'The Front Fell Off' based on a real incident. Specifically an oil spill that occurred off the coast of Western Australia on July 21st, 1991 when the Greek tanker Kirki lost its bow, spilling 17,280 tons of light crude and subsequently caught on fire.[sic] "

(My favourite bit? Probably, "There's a minimum crew requirement." "What's the minimum crew?" "Well, one, I suppose.")

Wikipedia's entry on John Clarke

Keep your fronts high and dry!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

A hometown hero is honoured

I think we could all stand some good news right about now...

Last night one of my personal heroes, Mr. Willie O'Ree (I introduced you to him on Canada Day a few years back), was honoured here in his hometown of Fredericton. The new sports complex the city just built was officially named Willie O'Ree Place at a ceremony last evening. The timing was excellent, as it was 50 years ago this year that Mr. O'Ree broke the colour bar in professional hockey by becoming the first black player to play in the NHL, suiting up for the Boston Bruins to defeat Montreal 3-0. (For that breakthrough, I can even forgive the Bruins for defeating my beloved Habs.)

The official naming of the rink capped off Willie O'Ree Week, an official chance to honour Mr. O'Ree and reflect on his place in hockey and social history, in his city, in his country, and internationally. It's the sweeter because even though Mr. O'Ree no longer lives in Fredericton, his visits here are frequent and he is a familiar face, always-smiling, always ready to chat or sign an autograph or have his picture taken. Graciousness personified.

The whole city has been buzzing about this for months, ever since City Council announced it would name the building after Mr. O'Ree. (When the issue of choosing a name was originally raised, my personal thought was that there was no way any Fredericton city council that could walk and chew gum at the same time could not name this skating complex place after Willie O'Ree without causing an uproar. I think I would've moved outside city limits if it hadn't.) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended a dinner in Mr. O'Ree's honour Thursday night. A Big Deal is being made of a very fine man, who is clearly touched by it, and it's a nice thing to see.



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A grim reminder

This past weekend, a terrible, terrible, grim reminder of the dangers of winter travel over New Brunswick's highways.

7 members of the Bathurst High School Basketball Team and one of their teachers were killed when the van they were traveling in, returning from a game in Moncton, skid into the path of an oncoming transport truck.

It was late, and snowing and freezing rain, and police are tentatively speculating that the van hit the shoulder of the road - the line between pavement and shoulder obscured by the snow - and then the team Coach, who was driving, possibly overcorrected, and the slippery conditions sent them right into the path of the truck.

The team Coach - who was married to the teacher who was killed - survived, as did his daughter and two remaining members of the basketball team. The driver of the truck also survived. One can't calculate the psychological price they will pay.

Bathurst is a town of 13,000 people. "Devastated", although the word most-used by the media, doesn't seem to capture the immense grief we're seeing on our televisions and experiencing around our dinner tables and water coolers, across the province and the country for that matter, where response has been overwhelming. "Reeling", a second-favourite media word, feels more like it.

These boys were just 15 to 17 years old. One died in the small hours of his seventeenth birthday.

They were about five minutes from Bathurst, from home, when the accident occurred.

Today, a public wake for the boys saw this almost-unimaginable string of hearses coursing somberly through yet another snowstorm.

Everyone's driving a little slower these days. Let's hope that the reminder of how suddenly things can go so wrong through no apparent fault of the driver, purchased at so great a cost, sticks for a while.


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Talk Radio for the deaf??

What the hell did the deaf ever do to radio to deserve this?
LAS VEGAS—Talk radio may soon get a whole new audience: the deaf. At a pre-CES briefing in Las Vegas, radio transmitter manufacturer Harris Technology demoed a technology that would enable the deaf to "read" talk radio broadcasts in real time.

"We want to make radio accessible to people that are deaf and hearing impaired," said Hal Kneller, senior manager of business development at Harris Corporation.

And there are a lot of them. According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), nearly 10,000,000 persons are hard of hearing and close to 1,000,000 are functionally deaf.

The systems works a lot like close captioning does for television. The company will piggy-back a data stream on the standard audio signal. The text can then be read on radio fitted with a display. The system will only work with digital broadcasts, but the company says an Internet-based solution is possible.

More at the full PC Magazine article.

Now the deaf, too, can suffer the wave of seething, hate-filled vitriol that is right-wing talk radio. H'ray!

(Actually, given its potential beyond so-called 'talk radio' - a tainted term that has come to be code for 'right-wing blowhards whining about what victims they are' - I'm pretty excited about this development for the deaf. There are over 1500 HD radio stations in the US, and Canada has just opened the door to HD, allowing the CBC to begin testing HD radio in Ontario.)



Monday, January 07, 2008

Stitches in Time

This is the wall-hanging that inspired me to finally blog about my Mother-in-law's amazing quilting and appliqué work. It appeared in the background of a photo of our Christmas Tree I posted earlier. As you can see, it's the Three Kings on the final leg of their journey to visit the Christ Child - the stable can be seen there in the distance, with a tiny Mary and Joseph kneeling over a lentil-sized baby in a manger. There is no detail so tiny that Mom O. won't attempt to appliqué it!

My favourite things about this piece are the holiday prints that she's integrated into it in the form of the Kings' robes and some of the layers of the hills (she is very skilled at picking patterns and colours that complement each other and is absolutely brilliant in other pieces she's done at effectively using patterns to evoke textures) as well as the proportions of the Star of David. I also just love running my fingers over the teeny, tiny figures in the manger - how she managed to turn a hem and appliqué them I just can't imagine.

There is a lot of Mom O. in Christmas around our house. She's made and gifted us with our Christmas tree skirt; several trivets and placemat sets; and this table centerpiece - which is currently doing service on a pedestal next to the front door beneath a candy dish made for us last year by our Goddaughter. (It has Hershey's Holiday Kisses in it at the moment.)

There's also my Christmas stocking...

...and Husband's. It's not quilted, it's felt appliqué, the original one she made for his very first Christmas!

Another wonderful piece she gave us as a gift is this wall hanging, which is about 3m long and which is meant to evoke a stained-glass window.

(A more literal evocation of a stained-glass window, featuring a dove, was commissioned by her church and was co-designed by Dad O. It's unbelievably beautiful.)

This bag she made especially for me (could you tell?) as, I believe, a birthday gift. It's a favourite and gets schlepped back and forth to Moncton even now, as I use it as a shopping bag and to take things to and from work.

Lest anyone doubt the level of care she puts into her work, the thing that is holding these cats' attention is a butterfly - a subtle addition which is simply stitched into the bag in barely-visible thread, just an outline, a shadow of a butterfly. A little touch that elevates the design from "cute" to "brilliant".

A detail of another wall hanging showing the quality of her hand-stitching. All this work is entirely hand-stitched, as are the full-size quilts she makes.

Unfortunately, her eyes have begun to fail her, and she has a lot of trouble seeing the tiny stitches now; and she also suffers from arthritis which can cause her great pain in her hands, among other things. Reluctantly, she has limited her needlework drastically. That makes me sad; but I'm grateful for all the wonderful gifts she's given us and dozens of other family members over a lifetime of creating beautiful things with her hands.


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