Wednesday, May 17, 2006

You know it's time to move when...

At first we thought the ghost had come back.

A couple of weeks ago, Rion started acting strangely, usually in the evenings, in the living room and bedroom. He'd growl at thin air, sniff the air like crazy, look around in a bunch of directions and then fix on a spot and growl, even bark sometimes. This continued on for this entire past week and now it is a regular nightly occurrence, punctuated with Rion jumping straight up into the air a number of times (can't fight the Jack Russell genes) to get a better sniff/look/hear.

We had ruled out dog dementia (these symptoms are associated with dementia, but is virtually unheard of in young dogs). We also decided to rule out ghosts (for one thing, the microwave was acting fine). Randal then posted to a dog-lovers' forum, where the general consensus was that we shouldn't ignore or dismiss the Jack Russell's best instinctual behaviour; that there were probably mice, birds, or bats in the attic (we are on the top floor of a four-floor walkup).

So I have been meaning to call the super about this, but it's been a busy week. Got home tonight from JET orientation. Rion is a little perturbed in the living room but nothing beyond usual. I make another mental note to call the super tomorrow. Go to the spare room to use my computer for a bit (I was going to post a Japanese Word of the WEek, but now you'll just have to wait). Then I hear this weird scratching, rattling, knocking sound coming from the corner of the room. Rion hears it too. We look at each other then go to the corner and I slowly start taking things out from the bottom of the open-backed shelf that is in that corner. As I remove each item (tiny block heater, printer, storage box), Rion and I pause, look in the corner (he being much smaller than me, he is able to fit his whole body right back into the corner to check it out). It is strange - the noise is quite persistent - I thought at first maybe something on the outside of the building was rattling (it is an outside wall, and it is quite windy and rainy tonight), but Randal ventured out on to the balcony (next to that spot) and verified that there is nothing unusual on the outside making that noise, at least as far as he could tell.

A few minutes later, Randal reports that he is hearing the same noise, though much fainter, from the wall in one of the corners of the bedroom. I check this out and yes, much quieter, but same kind of noise.

We can't see anything unusual. It's an old building, and our baseboards have never been entirely flush with the hardwood floor, nor in particularly good condition. Nothing has punched through yet, but the crunching sound in the spare room is especially loud and agressive at times.

Last year, at this time of year, we had lots of ants come through the balcony door (which doesn't fit tight either), through the spare room and into the kitchen. That was a laugh and a half. After a few false starts, we finally fixed the problem with some good, old-fashioned salt spread in the doorway and on the spare room floor in front of the door. (Randal looked up some home remedies on the Internet and that was one of the many this-won't-kill-your-dog-too-in-the-process solutions.) It worked like a charm.

This time, I suspect we may be dealing with a bigger, meaner foe. I think we have mice. Well, we don't have them yet, but they're on their way. ("The mice are marching one by one, hurrah hurrah...") I am definitely not going to forget to call the super this time.

Right now Rion is lying in the corner where the noise was coming from (which has momentarily stopped), with his nose pressed up to the baseboard. I wonder what he smells.

No better time than now to give notice. Get out while we still can. Maybe this is it and the mice are really beginning their takeover of the world.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Speaking of Jerrobert...'s his birthday.


It's my brother Robert's birthday today. Today he turns the ripe old age of 24, reminding me that I will always be 5 1/2 years older than him. :)

I had to post a picture of the aforementioned blue hair. Though the blue hair was in 1999 or so (this is a pic from Christmas 1999) and it is long gone. I am happy (read: jealous) to report that his hair, once again dark brown, is now much longer, thicker and curlier than mine will ever be. And I have made my peace with that thought.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mothers' Day!

Profile of a Mother

Real Name: Lilian L.

Code Name: Mom

D.O.B.: 1974, with the birth of eldest son J---. Added to the package soon thereafter with daughter J--- in 1976, and capped the whole off with second son R--- in 1982.

Claim to fame: Champion Ladybug marathoner, ca. 1983-1990. If nothing else, this lady knows her vegetables. Where the words "Japanese radish" made the rest of us frightful, she boldly continued on.

Favourite expression: "Jer- I mean, Ty- I mean, Pee- I mean, Robert!"

Runner-up expression: "Hmmmm, should I get lum-ber, or ore???"

Usually seen: Trying to get you to watch her latest Memory CD of photos.

Where she wishes she was: On a tropical island somewhere, snorkelling or reading in a hammock in the shade.

Point of pride: Learning to swim only about six years ago, so that she could then learn to scuba-dive (which she also did!).

Weirdest moment: When one of her children (who shall remain nameless) got his head caught in the cat carrier.

Proof she can be a "cool" mom: Not only letting R-- dye his hair blue at age 16 or 17, but in fact making an appointment at her hairdresser's for him so that it would be done properly.

Biggest mystery: She could have sworn she had a child named Jerrobert.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A lesson in genetics

Tomorrow's Mother's Day, but this post is about my dad. Sorry.

I often putter around the spare bedroom and kitchen, pretending to do this and that, while Randal is sitting in the living room watching a movie or something on television. I turn down numerous offers to sit and watch with him, on the pretext I am busy doing something else. But even I have had to admit to myself on more than one occasion that I really am watching more television from the kitchen or even sometimes through the little window between our living room and kitchen than I am actually cleaning the spare room (or whatever). However, actually settling down and watching TV with Randal would be admitting that I am not, in fact, engaged in the activity in which I am pretending to be.

Well, this evening as the same pattern unfolded, it suddenly hit me: I'm turning into my father. At my parents' house, there is a half-wall between the kitchen and family room. I cannot count how many times I have been sitting watching something on TV when, all of a sudden, I become aware of a presence behind me. This almost invariably turns out to be my dad, who has walked into the kitchen, ostensibly to get a drink or on some such other pretext, and then remain there, transfixed, standing by the kitchen table, watching the TV. I ask him to join me, and almost always the response is, "No, no, I'm busy doing _______."* I have known him to watch almost the entirety of some TV shows and movies from this position.

The funniest occurrence of this behaviour was a few years ago, when I stumbled across Desperado on TV. I am not particularly an Antonio Banderas fan, but I had seen the movie earlier that year on video and thought it was quite good. The film had just started, so I decided to watch it. Two minutes later, Dad walks in to the kitchen to get a drink, and asks what I am watching. When I tell him, he actually scoffs at my taste in film! I continue watching. About 15 minutes later, I notice he is still there. I invite him to join me. "No, I've got to go to bed."** This exchange happens again at the 25-minute mark, and again at the 35-minute. Finally, at the 40-minute mark, Dad comes silently into the family room and sits down on the couch next to me. To seal the deal, I ask him if he wants me to make popcorn. He says yes, of course.

Anyway, there's worse things I could turn into (a glow-worm, for example) and worse habits I could pick up (though not from either of my parents, since they are nothing short of perfect, of course) ...

And now, back to cleaning my room. Just going to check out what Randal's watching first, though ;)

* Though I have to say, nothing gets a father to agree to watch television or a movie with you - even if it's a movie he's seen 12 times - faster than combining the offer with the temptation of a fresh bowl of popcorn. A sneaky let's-have-some-father-and-daughter-bonding-time tactic to which I will admit to doing...fairly frequently. (Confession: One of the last times I was home, I watched a whole hour-long episode of Babylon 5, which I think is a terrible show, and some other lame sci-fi show (and I do like sci-fi) with my dad simply because, well, I was in the mood to hang with him.)

** Anyone who is related to me will be laughing at this point, since that is a common line of my father's which is usually followed by his staying up watching TV or playing a computer game for the next few hours - he says he's working, but we all know that the sound effects in MS-Word sound nothing like what it sounds like when you shoot a phasar in his favourite Star Trek video game!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Oh yeah, baby ...

So I was looking at the CBC website today and decided to check up on Feedback comments to the Childs story to see if CBC had bothered posting my reply and/or implementing any of my suggestions.

It took me forever to find that particular Feedback section of CBC’s website for some reason (I ended up having to do a search on the site for "Childs"), but I notice that the letter from Denise in B.C. that pissed me off so greatly has now been edited down to one paragraph from two, removing entirely the second paragraph that read, in part, "the young woman was old enough to realize that she was driving with an impaired person". Huzzah! I wonder if I should write CBC to thank them - as I told them it was nothing short of irresponsible for them to post something so blatantly inaccurate, and I generally admire the CBC so don't like to see it fall short of the bar.

There was nothing on my desire that they clarify that court decisions are, in fact, available to the public but, well, one outta two ain’t bad.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Tonight in Japanese class we were given two pages worth of adjectives. This is something I have been lacking - not just vocab generally, but especially adjectives. So I decided to pick one as this week's Japanese Word of the Week, and at random I have pulled out muzukashii from the list.

muzukashii = difficult, hard

As in:
Nihon-go wa muzukashii desu. The Japanese language is difficult.

To which the reply is, of course:
Iie, Nihon-go wa muzukashiku arimasen. Benkyō shite. Gambatte kudasai!
And all together now: "Hai, gambarimasu!"*

* Translation: No, the Japanese language is not difficult. Study. Please do your best! ...Yes, I will do my best!

Friday, May 05, 2006

There, now, doesn't that feel better?

I just fired off a letter to the CBC complaining that they shouldn't act irresponsibly by publishing feedback letters on their website from people who obviously did not take the time to properly understand an issue before responding. Unfortunately, I did not have the presence of mind to save a copy of my missive before sending it off (and it was an online feedback form, so I don't have a copy of it anywhere).

When I complain about people not taking time to "properly understand", I'm not talking about someone who read about the issue but then just merely misunderstood. I'm talking about those who skim a headline, a paragraph or two at most, and then just assume they know what it's all about, and go on to make a comment that completely shows their ignorance of the facts by baldly stating something that is opposite to the truth. Context: The Supreme Court of Canada today handed down its decision in Childs v. Desormeaux. You may have heard of the case: Zoe Childs was 18 when on January 1, 1999, the car she was traveling in was hit by the car driven by Desmond Desormeaux. Childs was paralyzed from the waist down; her boyfriend was killed; the other two passengers were also seriously injured. Desormeaux was found to be two times the legal drinking limit when he was tested three hours after the accident. Fairly clear-cut: the Supreme Court decided the social hosts of the party that Desormeaux was at were not responsible for his actions - only commercial establishments still have a prima facie duty to ensure their patrons are not a danger to the general public when they leave. Therefore Childs could not claim damages from the hosts, just from Desormeaux himself. (You should all read the case - it's short and quite interesting, actually).

So someone on the CBC feedback site posts that the High Court (which last time I checked was an Ontario-level court, not the Supreme Court of Canada, but let's not quibble) has ruled correctly, since people should be held responsible for their own actions (I'm with her still at this point), and "the young woman was old enough to realize that she was driving with an impaired person". Full stop. See, this is what I'm complaining about. People who can't read far enough into a news story - I'm not even asking she read the Court's decision - to realize that the "young woman" was in a completely different car from the "impaired person"! Maybe because I'm also a lawyer, I'm always fairly careful to make sure I understand an issue before offering an opinion, at least when there's a chance that opinion will be shared with anyone besides my boyfriend and my mother!!!

Second beef: Someone else - the very next comment, in fact - complained that he was "shocked" the hosts were not held liable and thought it would be a good idea to have decisions published so that the general public could have access to them and read them. While he is certainly entitled to have his own opinion on the merits of the decision (though it has always seemed fairly clear, to me at least, that a social host liability in most cases could not be substantiated, at least not with regard to the current state of the law of liability - but I digress), his comment compelled me to point out to CBC's editorial staff that it really was incumbent upon them to have posted their own feedback at this point (like magazines often do to clarify a point raised by their readers in Letters to the Editor), since they felt obliged to publish this comment in the first place, that not only are Supreme Court judgments available in many different locations on the Internet (including at CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute, and at the Supreme Court's website), the link to the full-text of the decision was actually available in at least two different spots on CBC's own webpage (though I don't believe from the feedback page itself)!

Oi vay. I just have no patience for this kind of nonsense.

Thanks for listening to me vent. I feel somewhat better already.*

* Now, see? Aren't you glad I spend most posts talking about new shoes I've bought or cute/weird things Rion has recently done, and inundating you with Japanese words and expressions? This is also one of a few good reasons why I don't normally talk about work - libraries or law in any form.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

50 ways to say "rice"...

...and here are 4 of them:

kome = uncooked rice
genmai = unpolished rice (brown rice)
shinmai = newly cultivated rice (also the word used to refer to a new employee at an organization - soon that will be me!)

and the most important one:
gohan = steamed rice, and also the word which refers to all food or meals generally

Tune in again next week. I just got confirmation that Japanese classes at Algonquin are a "go" (we have at least 7 people enrolled, which is the minimum - yay!). Those start next Tuesday, plus JET orientations start next Wednesday, so who knows HOW many new words I may learn in the next little while?!?!? Madness!!! :)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Weekend Round-Up #2

We went to Toronto this past weekend. Nice drive up Thursday during the day for all but poor Rion who gets car-sick. He was sick a bunch of times between here and Kingston, and then settled down until somewhere on Brock Street in Pickering. Poor pooch. Thursday evening we went (sans le pooch) to the opening for Apertura, a roaming art gallery started by four Bay St. female lawyers (we used to work with two of them). It was a great show! And packed! It was also kinda fun to run into a bunch of people we used to work with - hi Heather! hi Lindsay! hi Francis! hi Sarah! hi Patti!

After the show, much excitement as first Randal & I took the Queen streetcar to Bathurst and then the Bathurst streetcar to Bloor (Randal had never taken the Toronto streetcars before). We were headed, of course, for Insomnia, our fave martini bar. We originally had planned to head out for sushi (of course!) but decided to do Insomnia instead. Well. Were we in for a treat. I ordered my usual - chicken and brie and avocado sandwich with french fries and aioli, and Randal went for a salad and steak. Mmmmm, good. A martini each. Then as we are sipping our second martinis of the night, we suddenly notice a guy setting up what seems to be a sushi boat at the table next to us. Sushi at Insomnia??? Not able to contain our curiosity any longer, we ask the guy what he's doing. Apparently they are having a Sapporo beer sampler night and he has been hired from his restaurant to serve sushi to the Insomnia patrons. At this point, two svelte (and not very Japanese) women offer us some Sapporo to taste. I am known for not being able to keep my mouth shut when appropriate, so I advise that we drink Sapporo at home all the time (we do!), but sure, I'd love to try a glass. Randal has to drive later, alas. Then the sushi guy (David) gives us a lovely plate of spicy salmon maki. Later he gave us a second plate of tuna maki. It was soooo good. We chatted with him a bit - told him we were going to Japan, etc. He gave us the card to his restaurant, Akasaka, which is in Richmond Hill. Satisfied, sushified, we headed home for the night around midnight.

Friday, we played it easy, sleeping in and then just doing some shopping in the neighbourhood. My mom wanted to go to Toys 'R' Us, so we did, and then Randal & I went to Indigo (to pick up a birthday present for my mom*) and then to the Promenade Mall to check out the Japanese dish store and the Asian grocery store, which we hadn't had much time to visit the last time we'd been home. Bought some different varieties of noodles, some fruit juices, and some mochi, Japanese red bean cakes.

We got home around 6:45, just in time to get changed and go out to eat for my mom's birthday at Akasaka! It was less than a 15-minute drive from my parents' place. My brother Robert and his girlfriend Judy joined us too. And we ate and ate. Robert & Judy and my parents both split dinners for two - salad and miso soup followed by some sushi and maki, then a large salmon appetizer, then a plateful of any two of: beef teriyaki, chicken teriyaki, or shrimp and veggie tempura, with cold udon noodles, and the whole topped off by dessert (ice cream or mango mousse or green tea crème brulée). Randal & I had a TRUCKLOAD of sushi. We had a Rainbow Roll (which included butterfish which is not usual), some kind of crunchy Dynamite Roll which was so good we ordered a second set, mixed selection of sashimi, mixed selection of nigiri, and California Rolls (the only mediocre part of the meal). Plus dessert! If you are ever in the Richmond Hill area, I highly recommend it. They also do teppanyaki there (where everyone sits in a square facing the chef who cooks right in front of you).

Oh yes, chocolate birthday cake Friday night once we found a tiny bit of space in our poor overloaded stomaches. :)

Saturday got off to a bang - Randal and I got up early for once and went downtown for about 11:00 (that's early for us!). We spent the entire day downtown. We shopped our way across Bloor from University and then all the way down Yonge to Queen. I can't remember everything we bought but it was a lot. Mostly things for traveling (no point in buying anything else): two mini address books, extra toothbrushes (2 for $1 at the Dollarama at Bay & Charles - woo-ee!), mini flashlight for me, some CDs for Randal, LOTS of chocolate ostensibly for the road trip back to Ottawa but really just to get us through the dark packing days ahead in our future, etc. Oh, and Randal bought a pair of sandals, and I bought 3 pairs of shoes! (Dressy sandals, walking sandals, and a cute little pair of men's brown sneakers - let's just say I was sitting in Payless too long while Randal debated over his shoe purchases: he almost bought 4 pairs in Payless alone!) Dinner downtown and then we hit a secondhand bookstore where I purchased two more books - Lost Japan by Alex Kerr and Lonely Planet's guide to Kyoto. (Wishful thinking on my part I'm sure - but it was cheap and I figured I'd use it even if *gasp* I never make it back to Kyoto ever again.) Then we dragged ourselves home again.

Sunday we planned on leaving first thing in the morning for Ottawa so as to have time to shop (with a car!) Sunday afternoon, but after watching a movie Saturday night (Monsters, Inc., which I had seen but Randal had not) and only getting a so-so night's sleep, we decided to take our time Sunday and only ended up leaving Thornhill at about 12:30. Nice drive back - Rion was only sick 3 times between Thornhill and Oshawa (about an hour's drive) and then he slept most of the rest of the way.

And that was my weekend. Nothing interesting has happened since, and probably nothing much interesting will happen ever again. But if anything does, I'll be sure to let you all know!

* Digital Photography for Dummies. I can post the title since she of course opened her presents Friday night (forgot to mention that at the same time as the chocolate cake). She has recently gotten herself a digital camera (which she can use underwater too, oooooh, and I had just found out on Thursday that my dad was planning to give her Adobe Photoshop for her b-day (there's a chapter on the program in the book), so it was perfect! My mom is also the weird kind of person who will read a book like that from cover to cover. Really, she should have been a librarian.