Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's my party...

...and I'll blog about me if I want to.

I was going to post this picture of me, at the age of 2:
Me in 1978

Somewhat frighteningly, I look largely the same now as I did then, though the hair is a little more unruly now. Add glasses and incorporate a slight decline in fashion sense (this was the best blue-and-red velvet dress there ever was), and voilà - me, 30 years later, on the same day, in 2008.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was going to post that picture of me, but I feel obliged to post the cover of the birthday card that Randal gave to me instead:

Hey hey, I'm famous.

Hey, Andy Warhol couldn't have done this any better.

In other birthday-related news, today I learned another reason why the date November 22 is historically important/interesting. In addition to being the day marking both the death of JFK (in 1963) and of course the day when I first graced this earth (in 1976), it is also the day French troops crushed any hope of an independent Alsatian republic in the town of Strasbourg. Thanks to my good friend Mark of Marching Fishes fame for having friends as interested in history as him.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

And to think other people's moms knit...

Despite having had a computer of one type or another in the house since about 1985, my mom could still hardly use the family computer less than barely 10 years ago. I remember once telling her to look for a certain icon on "the desktop", and she complained she couldn't find it...because she was looking on - you guessed it - the top of the actual desk. However, she is inept no more. Since about the year 2000, my mom's computer skills have taken off in a number of key areas. In particular, she is quite adept at photoshopping, having made more "memory CDs"* than I can count on all my fingers and toes. She has also gotten involved in a couple of online communities.** The most notable of these has been Webkinz.

To be honest, I'd never really understood my mom's infatuation with Webkinz. I mean, it's for kids, right? The premise is that after buying a little stuffed Webkinz animal, you are then supposed to register it on the Webkinz site, from where you can then "buy" it things and set up a house for it and meet other Webkinz. Kind of like The Sims, but with dogs and penguins and cows, and your Webkinz is generally upbeat and happy-go-lucky rather than dour and depressed all the time (or were those just my Sims?).***

But my mom has been totally into it. She would even stay up till like 3 a.m. to participate in online "auctions" (no real money is exchanged) that take place on the Asian Webkinz site (which she also belongs to).****

However, she has now outdone herself, and I laugh no more - I am awed by her Webkinz accomplishments and participation. A week or so ago, I received this email from her:

Were you wondering what your mother was doing in her spare time? Wonder no more. She has morphed into Webberlily and here is her recent Magnum Opus, which has covered her in glory and rep points (that would be reputation points for the ignorati). In addition, I made the Front Page and Breaking News… twice! and got my own stickered position in the Guides & How-to section. Woot! as they now say. Peruse at your leisure and explore all links:

and today I finally purchased the 24th ornament and unlocked the Flickering Fireplace.

I finally had the time this evening***** to look at her guide and MAN is it impressive. In fact, it's even getting me motivated to actually finally register my own little Webkinz, a little white curly-haired terrier, which my mom gave me as a present and has sadly been sitting, unregistered, on my bookshelf next to my computer for the past few months. I just need to come up with a good name first.

My Webkinz

* CDs of photos from vacations or old family pictures, etc., set to music and with extra animation, voice-overs, captions, and so on...

** She's even on Facebook, though you'd never know it by her low levels of activity there.

*** I never really "got" The Sims. The first character I created was called Michael. He lived in a good house and had nice neighbours and a good job, but all he knew how to do was moan and bitch about how depressed he was, no matter how many times I got people to come visit him. Then I deleted Michael and created a new house where two women lived together. They were happier - I guess because of the fact that they had built-in company, so to speak - but I ruined their happiness one day when the phone rang, and when one of the women picked it up, she was asked "Do you want to adopt a baby?", and she (I) answered, "Yes." DON'T EVER ADOPT A BABY. One of the roomies had to quit her job, both the women were always tired, and all the baby did was cry. I suspect, in fact, that this virtual event may have a direct bearing on my current and continuing state of childlessness today.

**** Before anyone makes any "Evercrack" comments, I'd like to point out she's not (entirely) addicted. Plus, she's more of a night owl than even I am, so it's not like she'd be in bed if it weren't for this site.

***** The last two weeks have been insanely busy for me at work, spilling over into my evenings and even my weekends, largely because of a new class that was suddenly added to my schedule. (I found out about it on the 21st and started teaching it on the 29th).

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's all downhill from hereon in, folks...

If it wasn't such horrible, tragic news, I'd laugh out loud* at the fact that the word "humdinger" was used (with a straight face) in the following alert:


From the Weather Network's website.

I'm sure the weather guys' cars are egged wherever they go. Gotta love Ottawa: We can apparently expect 15-20 cm of snow between now and tomorrow night. Um, yay?

In anticipation, Randal (who had the day off today) spent the latter part of the afternoon closing up shop on our backyard patio - barbecue is closer to the house with the tarp at the ready, garden has been all uprooted and turned over in anticipation of next year, patio furniture is in the basement. He was even a real sweetheart and planted a bunch of bulbs for next spring - tulips and daffodils I hope (though he kept saying "lilies and daffodils", so hey, we'll see what we get, right?).

We better get a snow day outta this. On Wednesday (I have no classes tomorrow anyhow, so what would be the point). Either that, or I have to find my boots.

If my laptop doesn't get buried in the deluge, I'll report back...maybe even with photos, oooh.

* OK, I did laugh out loud. Twice: once when I first saw it and once in disbelief when I read it again. Then I cried a bit.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Randal

The Birthday Boy
The ever-elusive Mr. K.*

Today is Randal's birthday. We don't have anything crazy planned, though we did rent a car for the weekend so we could tool around town. Tonight we are going bowling with some friends, tomorrow night we are going out for a nice fancy dinner, and Randal also took Monday off from work (lucky duck - I have two classes to teach and am not so fortunate).

He is, of course, turning 27. Give or take a decade or so.

* I like the almost-artsy feel of this pic, or at least the fact I can pretend it was planned to take it that way, rather than merely a bad cropping job after-the-fact or one of those unplanned moments where the subject suddenly turns his head as the shutter snaps. Plus the fact that there seems to be (my) fingers growing from his neck adds a certain Lovecraftian element, no?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Annual Snowfall Update

Apparently there has been snow in Toronto today. I would just like to state for the record that there is no snow, as of yet, in Ottawa. Earlier today, it was raining. Right now, there is no precipitation to speak of. In fact, I'm thinking of taking a midnight stroll in my bikini top and shorts, it is so mild here.*

If I can't make fun of Hokkaido, what can I make fun of?

* Ed. note - Some blog statements may not be as accurate as claimed. Aforementioned walk may include knee-high mukluks, four scarves, and a tuque complete with pompom on top.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Groundhog Day: Part II

After seeing that the groundhog was still in the park both the next morning and next afternoon (Friday), and worrying that his injury made him an easy target for dogs and other predators, both of whom would likely be out in larger numbers over this holiday weekend, I am happy to report that after Randal placed a call to the Ottawa Humane Society, they sent someone out this evening (we were late leaving for Toronto, in fact, because the Society showed up just shortly before we were going to leave) to pick up the groundhog.

It had looked dire when I saw the groundhog sleeping on the grass near the trees when I was walking up to the bus stop on Friday morning. He disappeared later in the morning, when Randal went in to work about 90 minutes later, but reappeared sleeping under a tree late that afternoon. Because we had a car that day (we had rented one for our trip to Toronto, and Randal had picked it up after work), Randal suggested that perhaps we could capture the animal and bring it to an animal shelter. We went to check out the groundhog - when he tried to scamper away from us, it was obvious his rear left leg was quite injured.

We ran back home, and after doing some quick research online, Randal called the Ottawa Humane Society. They told us they would send someone out right away to rescue the critter. Randal explained exactly where they would find the groundhog, since we were hoping to leave shortly for Toronto.

The car was finally packed and we were ready to go at about 6:30. Randal decided at this point to run across the street to check on the groundhog one last time. It had moved out of the partially-wooded area to lay down in some grass, and it was very unresponsive. (Randal got it to finally open its eyes when he clapped his hands quite near to the animal.) After warning off a man and woman who were walking two little dogs in the nearby vicinity, he suddenly noticed, further down the street, a large van with flashing lights, driving as if it were looking for something. Randal ran to it, and it was indeed the Ottawa Humane Society. With Randal's help, the wildlife protection officer was able to corner the groundhog against a fence and get it into a box for transport. Once back at the Society, the officer told us, a technician would assess the wound and they would hopefully be able to start rehabilitation.

So I've thought about this incident a lot in the past 24 hours, and the more I think about it, the more I think that the groundhog may have already been injured before he ran into Rion. From what I could tell, Rion barely had a hold of him, if at all. Any hold he might have gotten would have lasted barely a second, and I don't know if that was enough time to do the kind of damage that the groundhog seemed to have suffered. There is also the fact that, while groundhogs are aplenty in this neighbourhood, they certainly do not make a habit of letting dogs get ahold of them. Normally groundhogs keep their distance. But this guy was hiding around the edge of a tree, leading me to wonder if perhaps he wasn't already injured and so incapable of getting away fast enough.

I don't know. Anyway, all in all, it's been an exciting and exhausting end to what was already a tiring week. Work has been crazy for the last two weeks in particular, and we were already having problems with our water pipes. But I'm happy it came to a good conclusion. I feel so much better, knowing that someone is out there, taking care of the groundhog as best as they can, and I hope that, in the end, everything is okay for the little guy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

pixxiefish in the sea presents... More Mayhem and Gore, Horror and Chaos

We interrupt this two-month-long blogging hiatus to bring you yet another instalment of Rion's Encounters With Wildlife, Or, Hey Ma, What's For Dinner Tonight?

I was stomping around with Rion in some leaves in the park this evening, as it was coming on to dusk, when he ran around a tree and came face-to-face with a groundhog. Or, rather, to be more exact (if things that occur in a fraction of a few sections can ever be described with a modicum of exactness), he came face-to-tail with a groundhog.

Next thing I knew, Rion was tugging on his leash (thankfully, he was already at the end of the extendable leash) and this little groundhog was pu-uuu-uulling away from him. Then it seemed to break away. I had the dog half jerked back by this point (but his leash was also half wrapped around the tree in question, so it was a tricky manoeuvre), so he didn't get back at the groundhog. The animal took a few more desperate, scurrying steps, then lay quivering in the grass. I roped Rion back in and, after taking a few minutes to try to calm him down[1], we continued on a shorter, highly-abbreviated version of our walk.

On the way back home, I passed near the Groundhog Tree. It was getting rather dark at this point, so it was hard to tell, but I was sure I could see a dark patch in the grass where the groundhog had last lain down. This was about 10 minutes after our encounter, and I felt sick to the stomach to think that the groundhog could still be there. I took the dog home then returned with a flashlight. Sweeping the area, I breathed a sigh of relief that the groundhog now seemed to be gone...until the light suddenly hit a brown bank of fur. The groundhog was still there. I couldn't quite tell if it was breathing or not, as I was too scared to get too close, but I was pretty sure it was. But I felt horrible. My innocent little baby, my little adorable dog, so soon graduated from chipmunk-scourging ...

Now, I am a city girl and so I did what any self-respecting city girl would do in these circumstances: I fled home, half-hysterical, freaked out for a while about the fact that Randal wasn't home and wouldn't be for at least another hour[2], conducted some ineffective searches on Google and the City of Ottawa webpage for ideas of what I could possibly do[3], and then I called my mother.

Now I love my mother and she is a very kind woman, but I suspect her love for groundhogs is very slim.[4] I think this may date back to when we lived in Québec City, and two little groundhogs lived under our neighbour's shed and fed themselves from the offerings in my mother's garden. We eventually trapped those groundhogs and released them in the wild very far away.[5] Anyway, after explaining the horrible events of the evening, I was quickly reassured that the groundhog was probably all right and had maybe just fainted from the shock or was busy playing possum. That made me feel better. We then went on to discuss the possibility that if the groundhog was, in fact, dead, then (a) it probably wasn't Rion's fault - maybe it was sick or injured anyway (Rion had barely caught a hold of it, if at all), and (b) sometimes it is just better to let nature take its course. That made me feel somewhat worse. But by the time we finished our phone conversation - which ran the gauntlet from the mysterious howling pipes[6] to the cute little fir tree that I was given as a present at work today[7] to the reasons why Judy's blog will always be funnier than mine[8] - I felt better.

Randal came home shortly thereafter, and I told him the story of destruction and woe. We put our jackets on and donned flashlights, and went out to explore.[9] We very soon came upon a groundhog foraging around in the leaves by a tree trunk. Now, I am not a naturalist (I know, you're all shocked), and to me, one groundhog pretty much looks like every other groundhog. This groundhog was startled by the light, and wouldn't let Randal get very close, but Randal said he thought it looked like this groundhog might have an injured leg. But he was up and about and moving, so, after watching him scurry around for a while, we decided to close the chapter on the imagined dead groundhog and just let him be. Hopefully he would get the food he was searching for, and then be able to return to his burrow and recuperate.

Sigh. And I thought moving to the 'burbs would be dull.[10]

[1] I use the verb "calm down" very loosely. I mean, have you ever tried to calm down a Jack Russell terrier after it narrowly misses catching its mobile dessert???

[2] Being from the sleepy rural landscape known as Winnipeg, he has wildlife smarts.

[3] Even in times of crisis, I am such a librarian.

[4] Hi Mom! :)

[5] To be 100% certain that those groundhogs would never return, in fact, we released them in a park on the other side of the St. Laurence River, on the south shore, outside the town of Charny. I also feel obliged to note that it was possibly my mother's affection for our beagle, Tyler, and her desire to avoid any accidental death on his part that ensured the groundhogs were humanely trapped and relocated rather than otherwise summarily dispatched.

[6] The mystery of the week. More on that later (we have almost tracked down the culprit but need one more night to be sure).

[7] Every staff member at the university got one as a present from our new university president, Allan Rock. (Yes, that Allan Rock.)

[8] But I'm not bitter. Really.

[9] This is the point in the blogging where I recall my mother having forbidden me to go back out to the park to search for the groundhog in the dark. Oops. Well, at least I can rest assured that she will never know about this part of the events, since she certainly does not read my blog...

[10] This level of excitement never occurred when we lived downtown. Well, other than the earthquake, of course, which you just can't beat. Or when Rion took up remodelling the bathroom. But here in Orléans, we haven't had any bats come to visit. I haven't been told lately that my sour cream sniffing habits are disgusting, nor has Rion howled at any ghosts, shown signs of dementia, or (unsuccessfully) tipped us off to the presence of mice in our cupboards.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

So much for pleasantness and uneventfulness...

Last night, Randal and I are innocently sitting, watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (what else is there to do on a Friday night, I ask you?). It was about 10:00 p.m. Then the dog, who had been sitting curled up on the couch with us, asked to go outside. No problem. We put the outdoor light on out back and sent him out, then went back to our show.

5-10 minutes later, we heard the weirdest noise outside. At first blush, I thought the dog had started to growl to be let in, though usually he'll give a short sharp bark. But no, this was a manic, slightly crazed constant "what-are-you-and-what-are-you-doing" kind of growl. The kind he usually gives to pieces of cardboard and plastic bags that have the temerity to move on their own, except more high-pitched and urgent.

I went to the back door and looked out, then shrieked, "Oh my god there's something in the backyard!" The dog was on the patio growling fiercely at something black and long-tailed that was cowering, back arched, under a plastic patio chair. I can't even remember who tumbled out of the house first, me or Randal, though Randal (as usual) was the braver of the bunch and went over to snag Rion and also close enough to get a glimpse of what this animal was.

As the thought crossed my mind, "Is it a cat? Or - no, not a-", Randal shouted, "It's a skunk!"


Without further delay, Randal hauled the dog back by the collar and into the house just behind my fleeing back. And within 5 seconds of getting indoors, the smell hit us. Rion had been skunked. And now the whole house was getting skunky, too.

Randal ran upstairs with the dog in tow (who followed somewhat reluctantly, as he still wanted to go outside to confront this intruder some more), and I spent the next 10 minutes running around the house, first trying to locate some tomato juice (we drink it regularly but turns out that we, of course, are almost out at the moment) with which to wash the dog, and then with an air freshener spray bottle, trying to get rid of the horrible smell.

So I am happy to report that tomato juice does, indeed, rid a dog of skunk smell, even when one only has a tiny amount of juice left (good thing Rion is a Jack Russell terrier, I guess, and not a Newfoundland dog).

Tomato Juice Dog
Poor Rion, looking scruffy, undignified, and, well, REDDISH, post-skunk.

On the other hand, air freshener is not an effective agent against eau de skunk. Even this morning, I get occasional whiffs of skunk smell. Hopefully it's not actually too bad; i.e., we didn't just get used to the smell when in fact our house reeks. Yuck.

As for the skunk, I don't know where he came from. We've known there's a skunk around, as every few nights, there will be a distinct skunk smell in the air. I'm always a little nervous when we take night walks that we will run into him (though apparently the thing I actually needed to fear was suicidal chipmunks). But in my own backyard??? Is nothing sacred?

Today we are going to comb our yard (shouldn't take long - it's tiny) to ensure that there is no skunk hideout. Randal was doubly-brave and checked it out last night, but didn't see anything. I just want to make sure, however. Do skunks jump fences? Because I'm pretty sure they don't know how to open gates and then close them nicely behind them. How did the skunk get in here? And why? Is he stealing from our garden?

All this, and more, on an upcoming episode of Pixxiefish in the Sea...or, ahh, with any luck, NONE of this upcoming because there will NOT be any further encounters with skunks! (knock on wood)

Monday, August 04, 2008

A pleasant, uneventful evening stroll, until . . .

Rion killed a chipmunk this evening. It was horrifying. It was on our evening walk, and we don't even know how he got a hold of the little guy, but the next thing we knew, he was freaking out, shaking his head wildly with something hanging from his mouth. We shouted, and the thing went flying, in (yuck!) two pieces. I was glad it was already dark out so I couldn't really make out any details of the gore. Poor Randal had to clean it up.

Pretty disgusted and turned off by the whole thing, I then remembered the story about the time my parents' old beagle, Tyler, caught a rabbit. My parents have rabbits that get into their backyard every year (they're still a'coming, and even more so now that there is no longer a dog keeping watch), and one year, Tyler caught one of the baby rabbits. I wasn't there at the time, but heard about it afterward. The rabbit squealed - apparently they can let out very high-pitched yowls when necessary - and Tyler, looking a bit stunned about his catch, let go, and the rabbit ran off.

Then I found out a few years ago that the last part was not quite what one might consider truthful; ergo, the rabbit did not make it away entirely intact or, for that matter, entirely (or even somewhat) alive.

I'm now going to go curl up in a ball in a dark corner of the house somewhere and fervently hope that I can clear all the ensuing mental imagery out of my mind. Probably I will make it out of this without years of therapy, but it's still too early to tell. Yuck, ugh, and blech.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fêtez la Fête nationale!

À l'honneur de la fête de Saint-Jean-Baptiste, j'ai mis mes photos de notre voyage à Québec en mai sur Flickr.

Le Château Frontenac, la nuit

Any excuse is as good as another, right? Anyway, we celebrated Saint-Jean-Baptiste by driving back from Toronto to Ottawa (ie., not at all). Toronto was, as always, good, though we didn't do much. We ate sushi. We met up with our friend Shoshanah for some (more) shopping and sushi. I got my hair cut. We bought a bunch of prints for our townhouse. The dog got wet in the rain, and wetter in my mom's gardens. There was hail and a funnel cloud (didn't see either, sadly).

A good time was had by all.

This post got me to thinking, however, and I have realized that in 3 of the past 4 months of May, we have travelled somewhere.

Last year, in May 2007, it was to Kyushu.*

Canal City, Fukuoka
The strange but cool Canal City in Fukuoka.

The year before, we didn't go anywhere exotic, though I note, looking through my archives, that we did go to Toronto for a weekend right at the beginning of the month. To be fair, though, we were gearing up for a year in Japan and so not really able to take off at the drop of a hat.

In May 2005, we went to Amsterdam.

Streets of Amsterdam
A rare, non-canal shot of Amsterdam.

So we'll have to figure out something neat for next year... Suggestions?

* I am embarrassed to note that I have completely neglected to ever finish uploading the Kyushu pictures - Nagasaki, which I think is my favourite city in all of Japan, is noticeably absent! I will rectify this oversight soon!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Ghost Came Back...[1]

Long-term readers of this blog (may God have mercy on your souls) may remember, in the pre-Japan days, in the old apartment on Cooper Street, we had a ghost. In particular, we had a kitchen ghost. Mostly. He occasionally strayed, but spent the majority of his time in the kitchen. But rather than mucking around, opening and closing cupboard doors, throwing pots and pans about, or rattling dishes[2], our ghost had an affinity for electronics, and, in particular, the microwave. Every now and again, our ghostly visitor would set the microwave for either 1:20 (one minute, twenty seconds) or 6:66.[3] And only ever with the touch of two buttons.

I might have ascribed this to faulty electronics; however, a while later, Rion started behaving rather strangely. He started sitting on the arm of the sofa, perched like a gargoyle[4], staring intently into empty space. His gaze would sometimes move quickly around the room, though mostly pointed toward the ceiling. He did this most often in the living room, but also occasionally in other rooms. He would lay still as anything, and then suddenly jump straight up in the air a few feet, then listen some more. I was convinced: The ghost had expanded its territory from the kitchen into the living room, and Rion was tracking it. Dogs are supposed to be more susceptible to sensing paranormal activity, so that had to be the answer.

As Rion's behaviour grew more and more erratic over the next few days, and he responded less and less to our entreaties to fix his attention elsewhere, we grew somewhat worried. Randal went online, and after some research and a posting to an online forum, we had two possibilities: the more extreme "your dog is suffering from psychosis and following imaginary things in his mind" and the positively mundane "as a Jack Russell, his impeccable hearing is tipping him off to mice in the ceiling or walls".

Good God - our dear little puppy, barely two years old, psychotic and communing with the resident ghost!

Then, one windy early summer evening, a storm brewing outside, I was sitting at my little desk in our spare room, when I became aware of an odd sound. I called Randal in, and he confirmed he could hear it too: A faint scrathing sound coming from the wall near my desk. We pulled everything away from the wall[5], and listened. Silence. And then it started again. No holes in the wall...yet. But surely it was only a matter of time before this monster mouse would claw its way out!

After a poor night's sleep, I called the superintendent in the morning and left what was undoubtedly a long and rambling message about the steps I expected him to take in order to eradicate this beast. I also, incidentally, announced our intention to give notice on the apartment.[6] A few days later, he called back to advise someone had been up in the attic to put some traps out (we were on the top floor of the building), but that he couldn't do anything about mice in the walls unless they were actually coming in to our apartment. He was hopeful, however, that the traps in the attic would also solve the mice-in-the-walls problem. I decided that - yuck - I had no choice but to also hold that hope.

That was not the last word ever from the mice - that came a number of weeks later in the form of a "so long, and thanks for all the fish skim milk powder" farewell gift - but it certainly did seem to reduce the dog's strange antics somewhat, if not entirely. And - double yuck - there was no more scratching from within the walls. At least as far as we could tell.

Anyway, long digression to get to the crux of my story, which, I am happy to add, has nothing to do with rodents.

So that was all in May-July of 2006. Flash forward to March 29, 2008, and, specifically, to Earth Hour, 8:00-9:00 EST.

Randal and I timed our dinner so that we would be eating by candlelight and not need to put any lights or or run anything electric. In fact, lights out occurred early, at about 7:45. We cleaned up as best as we could. It was only about 8:15 at that point, so I opened the living room blinds and went to sit on the couch in the dark. Didn't look like a lot of our neighbours were participating in Earth Hour, sadly; I could see lights and TVs on in a few other houses. Randal and Rion both eventually came to join me on the couch. We sat there, all three of us jumbled on the couch in a giant heap.[7] We didn't even talk - we just sat there and listened to the sound of a quiet neighbourhood.[8] Randal and the dog fell asleep. I was starting to feel dozy myself. It certainly gave me a fresh appreciation for why our ancestors, until relatively recently, got up and went to bed more or less with the sun.

All contemplations and ruminations were rudely interrupted at roughly 8:43, however, when the peace was abruptly shattered by two little sounds:

"Beep. Beep."

And then the microwave turned on.

We raced into the kitchen - even the dog - and hit "cancel". Perplexed, we returned to the quiet dark of the living room couch. Ten minutes later, it did it again. This time we had the presence of mind to unplug the microwave entirely. I joked to Randal that if the microwave now went off a third time, then I'd be worried.

So, hurrah - the kitchen ghost is back. I'd missed the old guy. And apparently, the 15 months he'd spent in storage with the rest of our stuff has not agreed with him. Ever since Earth Hour, he's been on a rampage, a ghost with a mission, setting and re-setting our microwave for various random lengths of time, sometimes one incident immediately following the next, and the next, with a ferocity and sense of purpose that is exhausting to me, the poor human trying to keep up with his tricks. Sometimes he even blocks the "Pause / Cancel" key so that I have to actually unplug the microwave in order to get him to cease and desist with his follies.

We have taken, in fact, to leaving the microwave unplugged. But we are only human, and prone to forgetfulness. Just the other day, the ghost set a time of 12 min 15 sec - surely his most remarkable feat to date! ... Until, that is, last night, when he one-upped himself: Rather than the usual two-beep setting, he hit FIVE buttons (count 'em, five) before hitting start. I was in the kitchen at the time, and I saw a rapid succession of things flit across the screen of the microwave - I'm pretty sure "Look behind you" was one of them.[9]

But lest you worry (as I'm sure you were) that we may have stunted the ghost's creativity by once more restricting him to misdeeds on the microwave, oh no, never you fear! He is slowly finding new outlets[10] for his talents...

Three nights in a row last week, no sooner had Rion and I happily settled in to bed for the night than we were disturbed by the sound of something falling to the floor in the bathroom. We went to investigate, and the little shade on the nightlight that we keep on in the bathroom (until Randal turns it off right before he comes to bed) had somehow popped off the nightlight and clattered to the floor. And once, sure; but three nights in a row? How strange.

There have also been a couple of items in the house that, while we were sure we knew where they were, have gone missing; though this, however, I am more willing to ascribe to a failing in our organizational abililities rather than any nocturnal wanderings of our ghost. And Rion's behaviour is as normal as it ever is.[11] But if we start to hear scratchings in the walls, my dear readers, believe you me - you will be the first to know, and there will be hell to pay. Hopefully not literally. Our ghost is a friendly one, like of the Casper variety, not something poltergeisty...

Right? Isn't he? Aren't you, Mr. Ghost? ...

[1] See? I said I would write about this someday!

[2] Which, incidentally did happen once. But science forced me to ascribe it to an earthquake, rather than the paranormal.

[3] I kid. It was only ever 1:20. Though, it would have been doubly-creepy if the ghost had been able to set such a time, eh?

[4] A cute, fluffy gargoyle.

[5] Not an easy feat in that place, as those of you who visited will maybe remember, as it was packed full of stuff.

[6] But in fairness, we were doing that anyway.

[7] We were like dogs in a pack sleeping together - one of us lying this way; another one, that; the third sprawled on top of all the others. I'll leave it to you to imagine who was where.

[8] It really is. What a change from living right downtown. It even feels relatively quiet when there's kids out playing and shrieking in the common area out back. But on this late March evening, when there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground and it was still cold enough outside to make your teeth chatter, no one was about, and so it was quieter than a mouse. There. I promised no more rodents, and it seems I lied.

[9] Actually, when it comes to strange messages on microwaves, I think this one takes the cake.

[10] Pun maybe intended.

[11] Interpret that as you wish. Is a Jack Russell Terrier ever, uh, truly "normal"?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Everything old is new again...

So I gave my 10 weeks' notice today at the library. Of course, as it was pointed out to me when I made the joke about 10 weeks, I'm working on contract and am not actually obligated to give any notice. But that wouldn't be proper, and since I know how slow the library can be at hiring people, I figured 10 weeks might be just about right to get someone in to replace me. Besides, I'd recently been told that my contract was being extended for another year, till September 2009, and I bet they'd wonder where I was when I didn't show up for work after August 29 (the end of my current contract).

But I digress. Where am I going, you ask?

Back to my old (pre-Japan) job: I have accepted a contract position[1] at the University of Ottawa, at the law library. It's basically the same job I had there before, providing reference services and teaching legal research classes, except now there's more classes to teach (used to be just the civil-law students, but now the library provides research courses for the common-law program, too). And, well, thanks to recent contract negotiations, it pays much better than it did the last time I was there. And I will no longer be a lowly Librarian 1, having merited (in someone's eyes) a Librarian 2 ranking. I've also been told that, were I to stay on at the university following the end of my contract[2], I'd likely be up-ranked to Librarian 3.[3] Currently the position runs till the end of September 2009, but I have been told that the chances of it being extended at least a few months more are very good.

I will miss the Library of Parliament - I really like my job there and I really like all of my colleagues. A lot. It's some of the most interesting work I have ever done, even more than when I was articling, and mostly because, while largely legal-based, it is incredibly varied and often challenging. But it will be so nice to be back at an academic library, and teaching! As annoying as the students can sometimes be[4], it's what I love to do.

[1] Oh, that someday I might have a position I can wholly and truly call my own...

[2] There are some potential possibilities, though nothing is guaranteed, of course.

[3] For those of you not "in the know" with librarian ranking (mostly academic, but other library folk likely have an idea what this entails), just take my word for it - Librarian 2 is good, but Librarian 3 is even better. That's supervisory/management level stuff, or pretty darn close.

[4] I'll begin with the more mundane example of the students who query why they need to learn how to properly note-up (get the history of) and cite (reference) a judicial decision since they'll *for sure* have a secretary who will do all this for them once they graduate (haven't they heard of articling? what about law firms without - gasp! - a librarian, let alone perhaps even a *library*!!!), and let your imagination take it from there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

À propos of nothing whatsoever...

So, despite a long, convoluted dream last night wherein I was attending Parliament in order to participate in the vote on Bill C-50 (that's the budget bill that has those pesky immigration clauses stuck in there) and Bill C-50 was actually voted down, the Liberals in fact, in real life, did not show up in great number to vote and so C-50 is now on its way to the Senate.

What a weird dream. Stephen Harper was there.[1] Mostly, though, it was a motley assortment of people I didn't recognize. I was in Parliament for the first time myself, as I'd realized it was time I did my civic duty, got involved, and voted. But then it turned out that the official representative for my position was also there, so I was bumped from the voters' list. He was a youngish guy with salt-and-pepper hair. He was nice enough, and promised to show me all the ropes, but first, we had to go listen to a few speeches and then vote on the bill. To my horror, it was like everything was predetermined. The room was partitioned into two sections, and I found myself and my rep sitting in the section of the room for the people voting "Yes" to the bill! I didn't want to vote yes, and I couldn't believe my rep was voting yes either. Plus, the "no" side of the room was fairly isolated, out of view of the speakers' podium. This didn't feel fair.

Speeches went by in a blur, and the voting (in which I did not get to participate - boo - nor with which method I was happy) was over before I knew it. But the "no" vote squeaked out a victory! I was so happy. My rep looked kind of relieved too, and somehow I found out that he'd only been voting as per party lines.[2] Anyway, for now, in the room, the mood was electric, as the vote meant: There'd be a summer election after all! Exciting.

But alas - I woke up this morning and when I saw the local newspapers did not have a giant "ELECTION" headline blazoned across their covers, I knew for sure that it was just a dream and nothing more....

[1] *shudder*
[2] I fear to know what that might possibly indicate, deep down in my subconscious, about my political affiliations.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

have library, will travel*

Email sent to me yesterday afternoon by Randal:

maybe there should be a whole tout industry attached to libraries the way hostels and guest houses have.

Hey where you going? I have nice book. Good quality.

Uh, I'm looking for The Rights of Refugees, 3rd edition.

Oh, that book burned up.


Big fire. Here. How about this?

That's a book on torts.

Yes, good book. Very nice, very niiice.

I laughed so hard, I almost choked on the grapes I was munching at the time. LMAO.

* I came thisclose to titling this post, à la Strasmark, "Conversations funnier to the people having them, an occasional series".

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This is not my beautiful house; this is not my beautiful wife...

I got the most bizarre letter today, in response to a job as a librarian for an employer who shall remain unnamed, more than 7 months after I'd been interviewed.*

Dear Ms. Lavigne:

After a careful assessment of the information you have provided on your application for the above-mentioned appointment process, the persons responsible for assessment have concluded that you do not meet the following merit criteria identified for screening:

Knowledge of the principles, theories, techniques and practices of library and information science related to the delivery of research and reference services.

Consequently, you will not be considered further in this appointment process.

As you can undoubtedly imagine, this comes as quite a shock to me since, with the exception of my recent stint teaching English in Japan, I have spent the better part of the last 5 years (and more!)** labouring under the belief that I have been, in fact, delivering research and reference services to others. But apparently, I was wrong.

It turns out the library in question hired someone for the position months and months ago, and it was only recently discovered that HR had never sent letters advising the various candidates. I suspect there was a scramble, and somewhere along the way, the wrong box got ticked off next to my name, kind of like when the JET people marked me down in their database as re-contracting, instead of not. I'm not looking for sympathy - I didn't even really want the job in the first place - and in fact, I think it's the funniest thing to have happened to me yet all year!***

* Surely the mention of the extreme time-delay has given the employer away as government. And to be fair, the letter came from the Human Resources section of the particular department in question - I like to feel that the librarians at the library itself would have never branded me in that manner.

** I first started working in law library reference services in 2000, so you do the math.

*** That makes my life sound boring. Make it "this week".

Friday, May 23, 2008

So what have you done with your life?

So. It occurred to me the other day that my life thus far can be largely packaged into 5-year chunks:

  • 5 years ago, I graduated from Dalhousie.

  • 10 years ago, I graduated from York U.

  • 15 years ago, I graduated from Québec High School.

  • 20 years ago, I graduated from Colonel John Stuart Elementary School.

In 1983 and 1978, I wasn't doing much of anything of any interest. Kind of, uh, like now, except now, I'm older, able to tie my shoelaces all by myself, and my mom doesn't tell me to make my bed anymore. Usually.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Finally, travelling...

So we are off in the morning for 4 days in Québec City. This is our first real trip since returning from overseas, unless you count trips to visit family in Toronto and Winnipeg. Though I guess our 3-day, cross-Ontario drive to Winnipeg and back last September shouldn't be so readily discounted. Fine. This is our second real trip since returning from overseas, and the only one that involves no family component whatsoever.[1]

Randal has never been to Québec City, so it will be fun to show him around. It won't be a total Greatest Hits of Julie's Early Adolescence, since, really, I'm sure he's not that interested in the church hall where I spent countless hours rehearsing with the Québec Art Company for their latest musical, nor in Place Laurier where I spent way too much time shopping with my girlfriends and dodging boys I had crushes on[2], nor even Jessica's old house where we whiled away hours and hours in the basement putting together the QHS Scoop newspaper or watching Guns N' Roses and New Kids on the Block videos.

[As an aside, click that NKOTB link for a good laugh. They're getting back together! And, well, they're just not as cute as they used to be......]

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the Tour of Québec City. We are staying at the Hotel Acadia, which I stayed at the last time I was in Québec City, about 8 years ago, back when it was called La Maison Acadienne. It's a hotel in a heritage home, and really, really nice. It's right in the Old Town, so we will be well-poised to visit all the Old Town sites. Don't know about a ride in a calèche, but maybe.

The ulterior motive of the Québec City trip, however, is to attend a reunion of sorts at my old high school. This is a muddled story, and it hasn't quite turned out the way I'd hoped, but oh well. See, 2008 marks 15 years since I graduated from high school. Originally, a small group of people were trying to get together some kind of reunion to take place in either Québec City or Montréal. But that fell through. Then we found out that the school itself was hosting a reunion for all alumni, Back to School 2008, as one of many events being held in Québec City over the next few months in celebration of the city's 400th anniversary. So I decided I would go, since it gives us the excuse to take a short vacation in a lovely city![3] The only problem is, now, I only know of FOUR other people from my year who are also attending. I mean, I guess there will be teachers there that I may know, and others may show up of whom I did not know they were coming, but generally, it's just not going to be the great "how-nice-to-see-you-after-15-years" event of the summer. Which, now that I think about it, is kind of okay, since I really don't want to be reminded that I am old enough to have been out of school for 15 years.

Anyway, that's where I'll be if any of you are wondering why this daily-updated blog is suddenly no longer being updated daily.

And now, without further ado, I am off to watch Grosse Point Blank, the movie that has taught me everything I need to know about how to comport myself at such an event, only I'm not actually a professional killer, so when the guy comes to bump me off because I bumped off some other guy's dog (by mistake!), I may just beat him senselessly with my shoe and cry.[4]

[1] Well, sort of. I plan on going to visit my grandparents' gravesite, but that doesn't really count, does it?

[2] OK, that only happened once. And I'm sure Jen is going to whack me upside the head the next time she sees me, for the mere fact that I still remember this incident. Also, Place Laurier had this excellent hat shop that I frequented numerous times in the hopes of finding the perfect Debbie-Gibson hat. (Not the jacket, mind you. That would have been too uncool.) But, alas, it never happened, and thus ended my dreams of a musical career.

[3] i.e., a city that isn't either Toronto or Winnipeg, though both of those are lovely cities in their own ways.

[4] It was either that or Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, and I figure that I'd just never pass for a blonde bimbo. Besides, GPB has John Cusack, and what more could I possibly want in life? :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Incredible Pooperama

One of the big attractions of our new neighbourhood is the park across the street from our townhouse. It has a bunch of different areas - a soccer pitch, a small paved area with a basketball net, sand and a net for beach volleyball, a kids' playground complete with sandbox and swings. But our favourite part is the baseball field. See, the field is almost completely surrounded by a fence - otherwise, how would you tell that a home run has been scored, right?

We don't play baseball. But the fenced-in field means, in those times when the field is unoccupied, you can find a little white dog named Rion running free, off-leash, like a maniac, chasing his ball. We take him out there almost daily, now that the weather is nice again, to play ball, and boy oh boy does he love it. If we don't act quickly enough after returning home from a long day at work, he is bouncing off the walls[1] in anticipation of his expected walk. Woe to us on rainy days...

An interesting development, however, has been the slight expansion of Rion's ball-throwing circles. Every second time I take him to the park, or so, we are joined by one or two (or, as today, three) little kids who run over from the playground into the baseball field (usually as their parents look on trepidatiously[2]), shrieking, "Can I throw the ball? Can I throw the ball?"

As soon as we are joined by little churdlen, Rion becomes a show-off and doesn't want to give the ball up. But he eventually does, and then the child throws the ball a number of times for him[3]. He loves the attention.

Actually, as an aside, a funny thing happened the other day. I'd taken Rion out to the baseball diamond and we were throwing the ball around. Then Randal came by - I think he'd been at his swimming lesson so was coming home late. As he walked around the edge of the baseball field to where there is a small opening in the fence (along the infield, and we were playing out in the outfield), he was whooping and hollering to get Rion's attention. Rion picked up on the ruckus and starting running for Randal. Suddenly Randal is startled to see these two GIANT dogs barrelling at him from the other direction - a Saint Bernard and a Saint Bernard mix of some kind. He was swarmed with dogs. The two giants were lovely and gentle as can be, however, but it was pretty surprising, not to mention hilarious to see tiny little Rion next to these monsters. I wished I'd had my camera with me.

Anyway, today as we were playing with this boy, Tristan, who was about 11 and apparently plays football[4], and his two cousins, the younger cousin, maybe 6 years old, tells me that he wants a dog but his mom won't let him have one because "she says dogs poop all over the furniture - is that true?"

I had to play the adult card on this one, sadly - of course it's not true that dogs poop all over furniture, but I'm not going to have this kid report back to his mom that some lady in the park says she's wrong! So I mumbled some stuff about dogs being a lot of work, and you need to spend a lot of time training them and taking care of them and teaching them stuff, and that certainly not all dogs poop on furniture - my dog being a case in point - and that maybe some dogs do, but that it takes a lot of time and training to teach dogs where to poop and where not to poop, including the furniture, and not everyone has time to teach a dog these things. I mean, really - if you didn't teach your kid to poop in the toilet, they might choose the furniture to poop on, too, no?[5]

And now, I am going to go sit on my poop-free couch[6] and read my book.

[1] Almost literally. He is a Jack Russell terrier, after all.

[2] How do you even spell that word??? Gee, if only there were some technology or thing by which I could check the spelling...

[3] They also usually throw the ball better and farther than I do, the little brats.

[4] That's my excuse for why he was such a good thrower, actually. Don't ask about the other kids.

[5] I didn't actually share my thoughts on that very last bit just in case the kid decided to become a dog-pooping-rights activist and start demonstrating his ability to be poorly trained by pooping in random spots himself.

[6] Dog puke, now that's another story.

Monday, April 28, 2008

60- er, I mean, 29...

Today my mom turns 60 or, as she likes to call it ", make that 28."

As has (sort of) become my tradition, I present to you here a picture that I stole off her Flickr page:

The Birthday Girl, swimming with sharks

The Birthday Girl, swimming with sharks, or at least, a noticeable lack thereof.

And now, if you will excuse me, instead of posting witticisms about my mother on the occasion of her birthday here, I am going to telephone her.*

* Good excuse, huh?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sweet dreams are not made of these...

So I had what was quite possibly the most frightening incident of my life last week, a near-death experience of sorts. I say "of sorts" because, in retrospect at least, it was not actually a near-death experience - at no point was I actually in danger of losing my life (or so Randal has reassured me) - however, it was quite possibly the only time thus far in my life that, instead of thinking that I might die from something or that a certain event could kill me[1], I actually thought that I was, in fact, possibly dying.[2]

Anyway, it was the middle of the night, one night last week; Monday night, I believe. I had been woken up by the dog who needed to pee, so I got up and let him outside. His business done, we went back upstairs and I quickly fell asleep. It was about 3 a.m.

I fell asleep, and soon, I began to dream. I dreamt I was in a hospital. The room was smallish, and was painted white; it was very bright with the lights on. I was lying on a bed, wearing just a hospital gown; half-sitting, actually, since the bed was in a partially-raised position. A nurse was prepping me for something; perhaps I was in there to undergo some kind of surgical procedure, I don't know. Anyway, I had one of those white pinchy things[4] on my left pointer finger, the thing that I believe they can use to monitor your heart rate. At the moment, the nurse was fitting me with some kind of tube in my mouth, that was supposed to help me breathe more easily during the procedure that was coming up.

There were two other patients in the room with me. Next to me, on another bed, was a female patient, asleep. i don't remember much about her. In a third bed, facing mine but over to the right a bit, was a man - tall, thin, slightly balding. Doesn't really matter. He was also asleep, or, more likely, under some kind of general anaesthetic. A nurse was working on him. She had a small table with a tray full of various surgical equipment by her side.

My nurse had finished fitting my tube and had moved off to a corner of the room by this point, so I was able to clearly watch the other nurse at work. It was both weird and fascinating to see. She picked a knife up off the tray - not, I might add, a proper surgical knife or a scalpel or anything like that, but what looked more like a butter knife that you'd find at the dinner table. She then pressed the blade of the knife to the man's forehead in a series of quick and precise motions. There was no slicing; she just pressed the blade to his forehead again and again, in a series of parallel lines, forming the outline of a rectangle. Then she took the tip of the blade, inserted it gently at one corner of her incisions, and quickly peeled an extraordinarily thin, translucent rectangle of skin off his forehead. She lay this in a dish on her tray, then wheeled the table over to the corner where the other nurse was standing. As I started to feel drowsy (assumedly, in preparation for my procedure, I had been given some kind of anaesthetic), I could hear them murmuring to each other in low voices.

That was when the tube in my throat slipped. I started to gag. I couldn't breathe without choking on the tube. Half-knocked out from the anaesthetic or whatever it was the nurse had given me, I was not really able to move, so I lay there, gagging, and with what little muscle-power I was able to gather, I tried moving my right hand a little bit in the direction of the nurses. Though surely they must be able to hear me gagging, I thought. I desperately needed the nurse to come re-adjust my tube. But she just continued chatting with her colleague, as I struggled to make myself heard.

Then I became aware of Randal speaking to me: "It's okay, Julie; it's just a dream." He said that many times. The bright, white hospital room faded away and was replaced by our dark bedroom. I was awake but not awake. And I couldn't breathe. Every time I tried to breathe normally, something caught, and all I could produce was this awful, ragged sound, like a snuffling (but not in a happy-dog-snuffling-the-ground kind of way). I would try to inhale, but couldn't, and then suddenly, desperately, I would intake air, mostly through my nose, in ragged succession, gasping for air. Then, after perhaps eight such rapid snorts in a row, I'd force myself to be calm and try to exhale, but it would just quickly resort back to more gasping. And I wasn't awake, or at least I wasn't sure if I was awake or not. I was dimly aware of my surroundings, and I could hear Randal talking to me, telling me to relax and that I was just dreaming, but I couldn't move or speak to him, though I wanted to. I lay there, gasping and listening, and I was trying to tell him to touch me, to tell him that touching me would get me out of this. But I couldn't move my hand to him, though I was trying, and I couldn't get any words out.

So as I lay there, dimly aware of the white lamp hanging in the corner of the room[5], but unable to speak or move or even breathe, that's when I thought, "I'm dying. This is what it's like to die. If I don't manage to get another breath in, I will die." I honestly thought that this was going to be it for me. There was no panic, just a sense of disbelief that this could be happening, and a struggling urge to not give in, to focus on getting another gasping breath in. It was truly frightening and wholly surreal, especially since, while I knew Randal really was talking to me (i.e., it wasn't just part of a dream), and while I knew I really was doing something strange with my breathing, I couldn't tell whether it was all part of some vivid dream or whether it really was happening. I was trapped in this in-between stage where I couldn't do anything to get out.

Eventually, after about 30 seconds to a minute of this, I finally woke up, or, to be more accurate perhaps, the rest of me woke up. According to my alarm clock, it was 3:33, so barely a half hour after I had last fallen asleep.

Randal reassures me that I was never in any actual danger - while my breathing was irregular and ragged, I never actually stopped breathing, nor did I actually appear to be choking on anything. Still, as you can well imagine, it was rather unsettling, and it took me quite a while to be willing to fall asleep again. I've slept fine since then.[6] Randal says I have never shown any signs of sleep apnea or anything like that, which would seem to be a logical cause of this event, so for now, I am treating it as an aberration.[7]

[1] More on those another time.

[2] I feel compelled to add the word "possibly" because, even at the time, there was a little part of my mind saying, "Of course you're not dying; you can't be dying," but then again, I wouldn't be surprised if most people who die in some sudden, traumatic way think that as they are dying (provided, of course, that death is not instantaneous, that they have a moment or two to become aware of their predicament).[3]

[3] My, my, hasn't this post become cheery?

[4] I don't know my hospital equipment terminology, sorry.

[5] It wasn't on, of course, but, as a white lamp hanging against the backdrop of a dark brown wall, it shows up quite clearly even in the dark.

[6] Well, about as "fine" as I ever do, which is never quite as good as I'd like.

[7] I have a number of weird quirks with my sleep habits, which I have been aware of for a number of years now, and I will get into that more in a post sometime in the near future. However, sleep apnea is not one of them. I also have certain dream habits or patterns - this is possibly my first hospital-based dream, which is certainly interesting, considering its not-so-rosy outcome.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Limited time offer only!*

The 29 Items In My Refrigerator

A well-stocked fridge

This, and so much more, on Flickr. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

And yes, someday I will write a post that is longer than 3 sentences. I promise.

* OK, that's not true. The photos are in fact up for some time-frame possibly approximating (in today's Internet world) "forever".

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Serves me right...

What goes around, comes around, eh? Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Fish on Fridays

Last night, I dreamt of codfish. I dreamt that I was suffering from a strange, slowly-debilitating, mysterious disease. The only cure, I knew, was codfish. But the cod stocks in Newfoundland had been overfished, and, ultimately, there just would be no cure for me. I woke up slightly when Randal came in the room. But I pretended to be more half-asleep than I really was, as I felt guilty that I was allowing him to continue to believe I would someday be cured, when I knew perfectly well that, without cod, I would remain sick for always.

In completely unrelated news, I've been battling the flu for 10 days now. I've been having trouble sleeping*, mostly due to a very bad cough, and have had traces of a fever on one or two occasions. Oh, also à propos of nothing whatsoever, I just started reading Mark Kurlansky's fascinating book on the history and politics of codfishing called, fittingly enough, Cod.

* A state of affairs quite extraordinary for me, as those of you who went to library school or (especially) law school with me can attest.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Breaking News!

I can't believe this is what passes for news these days...

Rumours of her blogging abilities were greatly exaggerated...

Taking a page from Rebecca's book*, I have disappeared for over 3 weeks and now am reappearing to provide bloggified reasons as to why I haven't blogged in so long. ...Well, not really. The reasons are not very interesting, and I don't remember most of them anyway. Suffice it to say, I have been busy digging myself out of snow, traveling to Toronto to play Guitar Hero 3 to all hours of the night with the fabulous Judy**, and being sick as a dog.***

Many blog entries were written mentally in my head, usually late at night whilst unable to sleep, and promptly forgotten the next morning.

Anyhow, the point of this Meta-Blog is to create an agenda of upcoming topics of bloggation. The following shall (perhaps) be discussed:

  • The Ghost Who Came Back, Not The Very Next Day But About 20 Months Later

  • Why 19-Year-Olds Should Not Be Given Paper And Pen To Write Poetry

  • Books I Have Read And Loved or, Alternatively, Fiercely Hated

  • Blogging On The Fake Blog: Have You Visited My Flickr Lately?

  • Huh? I Went To Japan Last Year? No Way! Cool, Dude.

* As I am wont to do.

** And before he gets jealous, let me say that I would have included the magnificent Robert in that statement if he had a blog worth linking to...or any blog of any type at all. So there.

*** The "plus side" to being sick as a dog (by which I intend no insult to dogs at all, as I know for a fact that dogs are wonderful, loveable, unsick creatures) was that I got to stay home for 2 1/2 days from work, watching endless episodes of Buffy (I think I watched about 11 in total over 2 days), drinking hot chocolate, eating chicken noodle soup, and generally having Randal fuss over me to some degree. In other words, not so different from my usual life, minus the staying-at-home-from-work bit.

Friday, March 07, 2008

They don't call us The True North for nothing...

I love The Weather Network:

Winter storm watch for: City of Ottawa
Issued at 10:00 AM EST FRIDAY 7 MARCH 2008



I suspect, in fact, that the groundhog never even made it out of his hole this past Groundhog Day - and March looks more and more like a lion, than any lamb! Though of course, any comparison to Hell is somewhat misguided, no? (It's warm in Hell, from what I hear.)

Anyway, I suspect this crazy weather is just a ploy to amuse my father, who, as I'm sure most of you know by now, is weather-obsessed. The Weather Gods are just trying to greet him in style, as he returns sometime this weekend from an idyllic, sunshine-filled two-week vacation in the Caribbean with my mother.

Welcome home, folks! Hope you enjoy being holed up in Detroit!*

* I shouldn't even joke about being stuck in the Detroit airport. We almost had to spend the night in Detroit two years ago, whilst en route to Japan, when our connecting flight out of Ottawa was delayed. Thankfully, they held the plane for us in Detroit. Close call.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Last post ever.

On this laptop, that is. Fred has arrived, and will be picked up tonight on my way home from work.

Wait a minute! I'm still AT work!* So I'm not even blogging on the old laptop at the moment! That would make my last post, the last post ever on the old laptop, whereas this post now becomes a post about how the main statement of the post (that it's the last post ever) isn't even true!

Which, in a way, makes this also somewhat of a pointless post. Meh - I'll submit it anyway.***

* But done for the day, so don't worry - not blogging on company time.**

** Also: I'm slightly disturbed that I started this blog post from work as casually as if I were sitting at home in my jammies. That either means I really like my job and feel comfortable there, or I am at work so much that it feels like home. *shudder*

*** If nothing else, it will keep my fans happy, as it will add to the number of times I have posted this week. LOL

Monday, February 25, 2008

That C.O.P.S. show ain't got nothin' on this...

So I'm walking downtown after work, having decided to do a spot of shopping at the Rideau Centre. I'm walking down Wellington, the street that runs past the Parliament buildings, having cut over from Rideau, and I'm just across the street from the Chateau Laurier.[1]

A police car, headed in the direction of Parliament, suddenly pulls a U-ey[2] and starts heading down Wellington towards Rideau. I think nothing of it; Rideau Street and the Market area can be a tough part of town,[3] and it's also rush hour. Could be anything.

Crossing over the river and then in front of the convention centre, I see the same police car, now pulled roughly in front a small grey car. A Canada Post truck is stopped behind the grey car. Ahh, that explains it : an accident.

But then I realize the driver of the grey car is lying face down, arms spread wide, on the ground near the back of his car. Huh?

And standing a few feet away, a police officer, his gun fully drawn and pointed at the guy. Oh shit.

Though dying of curiosity, I and a few like-minded passers-by decided to just keep walking. There was a gun involved, for heaven's sake. You don't stop to look, just in case.

I went down into the underpass[4] and when I got back up, at the corner just before Rideau, there were 3 or 4 other police cars, sirens and lights ablaze, pulling on to the scene.

In the middle of rush hour! In the middle of Ottawa!!! Obviously I moved to Orleans not a moment too soon.

[1] This description is mainly for the benefit of those of you who know Ottawa, at least a little bit. For the rest of ya, come visit and I'll show you where it all goes down!

[2] God, I say that all the time, but how do you actually spell it?

[3] Again, this is Ottawa, so I use the word "tough" loosely.

[4] Yet again, the mental image will only be clear for those from (or heaven forbid, those intimately familiar with) Ottawa. (It's a really well-known underpass, and was recently the source of much controversy when city council decided to erect a fence down there, blocking off the part of it that had become very popular with homeless and beggars and other such "undesirables" as a place to get out of the cold for a while.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Introducing the newest member of my family

This is Fred.

Fred is the newest member of the family, and we expect him to arrive sometime next week or early the following week (you can never be sure about these things). We looked everywhere for someone like Fred, and he's finally agreed to come to us all the way from Cornerbrook, NFLD.

I'm so excited I can barely wait. In anticipation of Fred's arrival, I bought a really cool carry-case, so I can take him around with me wherever I might choose. It isn't as interesting as Fred will be, nor does is it capable of doing as many things as Fred will be, but it has lots of zippers and pockets, and I can wear it as a handbag, over my shoulder, or like a backpack. Multi-purpose, and stylish to boot!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Recipe for disaster*

Take a very tall, plastic glass out of the cupboard and fill it up with nice cold water. Now bring it upstairs, and put it on your nightstand. You are going to drink it while reading in bed, since you decided to go to bed early (9:30).

Remember there is an eclipse tonight, so go downstairs and outside to check it out. The eclipse is really cool, and you'll want to share it with those you love. So, go back upstairs, call your mom on your phone, get her to look at the eclipse, then, just for good measure, talk to her for a while.

When you're done (take your time!), go back outside to check on the progress of the eclipse.** Afterward, go back to your bedroom, settle down on your bed, and pull your laptop out. Surf around for a while. In fact, be so intent on surfing around that before you know it, it is 11:03, and you've squandered your chance at an early bedtime.

Put the laptop away, preferably just down on the floor next to the bed. Then turn the light off, and lie on the bed for a while.

Now this next part is important, so pay attention!

It's not a good idea to sleep in your jeans and sweatshirt; you should really put on your pyjamas. They are are, after all, lying right next to you on the bed. No excuse.


Don't put the light back on, and whatever else you do, for heaven's sake, DON'T stand up to properly get changed. Just pull your jeans off whilst lying on the bed in the pitch black. Got it? Good. Now, don't listen to your mother and fold the jeans up neatly; just toss them to the floor at the side of the bed. Furthermore, make sure you toss them there in the laziest fashion possible (ie., a nice wide arc, jean legs slicing elegantly through the air, etc.).

Almost 100% guaranteed, THIS is the moment where you will suddenly here a "plonk - SPLOOSH" sound.

Did you hear that? What could it be?

Certainly not the giant glass of water that remained by the side of the bed, at the edge of the nightstand, for a few hours, untouched, undrank, and unspilled. Certainly not. There's just no way.

- You might want to keep a towel handy. Or at least, a good pair of screeching lungs so that, when the water suddenly decides to flow faster and harder than Niagara Falls, your partner-in-crime comes bounding up the stairs and into the room with a towel in hand faster than you can say "There'swaterinthatglass!"

- I don't want to espouse unbridled, out-of-control disaster. So make sure you engineer this scenario so that somehow, miraculously, the deluge, though expanding across at least four square feet of floor space (who knew one little glass could hold so much liquid?), reaches to within only a few millimetres of where your laptop is sitting. Otherwise, this story would be even more poignant: How to destroy your laptop only 3 days before you plan on replacing it with a newer model***. On that note, just in case things go awry, I recommend you try this experiment with an old laptop, and not the new model that you may have just picked up.

- Make sure it is a nice tall glass. And don't over-do the disaster - use plastic, not glass. Trust me, with water all over your wooden nightstand, hardwood floor, jeans, and a few books, not to mention about 8 skeins of various yarns that you'd pulled out the night before in an attempt to figure out a complicated knitting stitch - there's enough water and disaster as it is without glass shards being thrown in to the mix.

* Don't try this at home.

** Technically, it's not necessary to have an eclipse in this Recipe, but it adds a romantic or literary aspect to the whole thing, don't you think?

***I do plan on replacing my laptop this weekend, with any luck. I also plan on never drinking water or other liquids again. You never know what might happen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

92 years ago...

grandmaman et son chien, loup
Ma grandmaman Cosette dans la vingtaine, avec son chien, Loup.

As many of you already know, my grandmaman passed away last July, shortly before I left Japan. Aujourd'hui aurait fit sa fête; elle aurait eu ses 92 ans. Elle me manque toujours.

As you can probably imagine, I was really upset at the time. Devastated. It was a few weeks before I stopped feeling like I'd been punched in the stomach anytime I thought of her. About a week after she passed away, I sat down at work one day (I was leaving in a few days and had nothing to do anyway!) and composed a long, well, tribute, I guess might be the right word. It was a compilation of memories, thoughts, et cetera, about her and her life. I was planning on posting it to my blog. But Murphy's Law kicked in: I'd been so focused on what I was writing (just in a simple Notepad file) that I had neglected to save it. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what, inevitably, happened, right as I wrote the last word.

I thought about rewriting it. But it had taken a lot out of me, and the passion and drive just weren't there anymore. I've thought about that text a lot over the past six months or so, and have always decided to not rewrite it. Any attempt to do so would undoubtedly become an attempt to recreate it as faithfully as I can, rather than the simple collection of thoughts and memories that it had originally been.

Anyway ... c'était sa fête, je n'ai pas oublié. J'ai pris quelques moments, parmi la vitesse et les obligations de la journée, de m'en souvenir. Elle me manquera toujours, sans doute, mais j'ai mes souvenirs d'elle, et de plus, j'en ai beaucoup. In the absence of my grandmaman herself, those memories will just have to do.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why I don't blog on a daily basis

6:56 a.m. : Wake up with a start, realizing I've hit the snooze button on my alarm at least four times already. Crap. No time for breakfast. Again.

7:04 a.m. : Take a shower. It's nice and hot.

7:32 a.m. : Decide that since I'm probably going to be late for work anyway, I can sit for an extra 3 minutes on the couch.

7:57 a.m. : Step out of the house only to see that it's very, very icy (it had been raining on and off since Sunday afternoon) and so I have to be very, very careful.

8:04 a.m. : Finally make it off my front walk and across the little parking lot to the park across the street. (This usually takes about 30 seconds, and is possibly the only interesting part of my day today.)

8:10 a.m. : Get to bus stop. Wait.

8:11 a.m. : Board bus. Take out book. Read.

8:37 a.m. : Get off bus.

8:39 a.m. : Realize it is Family Day and all 3 of the coffee shops in my building are closed. Damn. I'm dying for a muffin. Why, oh, why do I work for the federal government? C'mon, Mr. Harper, give us the day off!

8:41 a.m. : Get in to my office and turn on the computer.

8:42 a.m. : No new emails. Read the daily update of happenings on Parliament Hill. Turns out Jack Layton is giving a press conference on the Hill today where he will ask Mr. Harper to extend Family Day to all federal employees (ie., make it a federal statutory holiday). Or maybe he issued a press release; I don't remember. Anyway, I'm amused that Mr. Layton and I agree on something.

8:46 a.m. : No new emails.

8:51 a.m. : Since there are *still* no new emails, I decide I can't avoid the inevitable any longer, and start real work. My task: Find all the provisions of the criminal law statutes of Australia, South Africa, and Scotland which grant a sentencing judge a certain type of discretion. No problem.

9:12 a.m. : Argh. As I'd suspected in preliminary searches on the topic that I did on Friday afternoon, the situation is very complicated. For starters, criminal law is individually administered by each state and territory of Australia, meaning there are many different criminal law statutes, none of which specifically refer to what I am looking for, and, further, to add insult to injury, that many of these jurisdictions have additional non-criminal laws that create criminal offences. Everyone should just follow Canada's lead and have ONE Criminal Code for EVERYTHING.

9:32 a.m. : Double argh. South Africa has a similar hodgepodge of criminal law (although just at the federal level, but it's spread out over many different statutes).

9:37 a.m. : Triple argh. Scotland, in fact, has NO criminal code but just charges people with offences as outlined by hundreds of years of common law precedent. Excellent.

9:40 a.m. : Discover that, no, there IS a Scots criminal law, but it isn't yet in force (despite being passed in 1997), at least not in its entirety.

10:12 a.m. : I'm really tired, and it's time for a break anyway, so I shut my door, put my head down on my desk, and have a 10-minute nap. I've never done this before and it feels awesome.

10:27 a.m. : Go see one of the other librarians about the lack of criminal laws in other jurisdictions. She finds this amusing and, in the end, gives me a number of good suggestions about how to proceed. She also gives me some tea bags and a cup so that I can make myself a cuppa', which I desperately, desperately need. (I meant to bring a spare cup in this morning, but forgot.)

11:00 a.m. : Sipping tea and composing a preliminary email to the client regarding the criminal law problem.

11:27 a.m. : Finally a new email! One of the lawyers in my department would like me to search for the whyfores and whetherhows of a certain regulation. This means pouring through old debates in the hopes of Parliamentarians having mentioned a regulation (odds are slim to none).

12:21 p.m. : Finish drafting the preliminary email to the client regarding the criminal law problem, and go see the same librarian as above. We chat some more, bouncing off other ideas.

12:51 p.m. : I should go for lunch.

12:53 p.m. : But first, I pop into the office of the lawyer looking for regulations, and we further discuss what it is she needs.

1:15 p.m. : I finally get out for lunch. I have not brought something today, thinking I'd get a sandwich from one of the coffee shops downstairs. I hope Mr. Harper realizes that his lack of action on Family Day has caused me to go without a nice healthy sandwich!

1:23 p.m. : In a food court a block away, most of the eateries are closed. I get some pizza and a chocolate milk, and bring it back to my office. I also, in a move I will soon rue, pick up a small bag of white cheddar popcorn. Smartfood, it's called. How bad can it be?

1:35 p.m. : Play some Scrabulous on Facebook and read a few online articles. Check CBC's website for interesting news. Try to relax. It's lunchtime.

1:51 p.m. : This popcorn is kinda icky. I shoulda known.

2:15 p.m. : Back to work. I telephone someone else in the library to follow up on an email I sent last week to see about the status of an unreported case I'd requested (she would normally then contact the courthouse to get it). No answer. I call someone else in her department, who also sometimes does this. No answer, and her voicemail says she is off today. Then it hits me: Family Day strikes again. Oh well, the client's not going anywhere; it can wait till tomorrow.

2:23 p.m. : I have to stop munching this terrible popcorn.

2:30 p.m. : I call the client who is looking for the criminal law provisions, and explain to him the immensity of this task. I offer to send what I have uncovered so far. He agrees. Seems like a reasonable guy.

2:47 p.m. : Another lawyer has emailed me, asking if I can find articles on a certain subject. Sure, I tell her, but not today. I put her research off till Wednesday, which she says is fine.

2:51 p.m. : Remember that I was supposed to email another one of our lawyers about some journal articles he is looking for. I haven't had time to do this yet. I email him, and thankfully he replies to say tomorrow, or even the day after, is fine.

3:03 p.m. : Hmm, when am I going to have a chance to look for the justifications for that regulation? I tell the lawyer I'll look in Hansard (the debates) tomorrow morning (I have to go to another location to do this). Meanwhile, I look online for articles that may have already done the research for me.

3:47 p.m. : No one seems to care about this aspect of the law. No one has written about it. Argh.

4:04 p.m. : I go see the other librarian, one last time, to ask a few stupid questions.

4:17 p.m. : I'm asked to find an online report and, finally, for once, the gods are smiling down on me, as I find it right away. At last! Proof I am not completely incompetent and/or useless around here!

4:19 p.m. : A phone call! It's the client who I sent the lengthy list of criminal law statutes to earlier in the day. And, hurrah! Good news: He's explained the complexity of the question to his superiors and they have decided that he (read: I) only needs to find TWO examples of this particular clause from each jurisdiction, not every single occurrence. I tell him I can probably do that in the next few days.

4:30 p.m. : Time to go but I'm trying to finish some stuff up before heading out.

4:32 p.m. : Randal calls on my cell. He wants to know if I'm going to the gym. "No," I tell him. I'm stressed out from the day, and my belly is slightly off anyway. I'm going to go to the grocery store and pick up some milk, of which we are in desperate need, then go home.

4:35 p.m. : Decide that, rather than go to the Loblaws near my house and risk the ice and possible rain, I am going to go to the grocery store downtown, which is about a 10 minute walk from my office.

4:47 p.m. : Finally make it out of the office.

5:01 p.m. : Get to the grocery store. Closed for Family Day. Figures.

5:12 p.m. : Back to the bus stop near my workplace.

5:15 p.m. : Get on bus. Take one of the last seats at the back of the bus. Take out book. Read.

5:37 p.m. : As the bus nears my stop, I look out the window to see if the Loblaws is open. I can't tell, but there's no one parked in the lot. Fine, then, I'll just go to Zellers in the mall. (Can you tell where this is going?)

5:39 p.m. : Get off bus. Look towards Zellers. All the lights are off. Shake head in disbelief (yeah, yeah, I shoulda known), then call Randal, who is still at work, on my cell. Ask him to find a convenience store somewhere, anywhere, downtown, that is open, and buy some milk. (I need my Ovaltine before bed.)

5:57 p.m. : Home again. Dog is happy to see me. I put him outside, get changed, bring him back in, curl up on the couch and read a magazine for a bit.

6:38 p.m. : Randal arrives home, milk in hand, and announces his intention to go to the gym tonight. This we know is open, because I looked it up on the Internet this morning, and it specifically announced it would be open on Family Day.

7:35 p.m. : Randal leaves for the gym. I reheat some leftover Chinese food.

7:55 p.m. : Randal arrives back home. Huh? Turns out that while the gym is, indeed, open, the mall wasn't, and he didn't feel like walking all the way around the mall on the icy sidewalks just to go to the gym and then have to walk all the way around again (it's a big mall, and usually we cut right through).

8:20 p.m. : Start writing a blog entry about why I don't blog on a daily basis. It was originally planned to be a much, much shorter entry. But somewhere along the way, it turned into this.

8:57 p.m. : Start reading the blog entry back to Randal, who instantly wants to know why it sounds like I live alone. My reply: "Because it was 6:56 in the morning and you weren't up until I left to say goodbye." His reply: "Blah. I was busy at 6:56 being woken up by your alarm." And now you also know, my dear readers, why I don't blog about mine and Randal's conversations on a daily basis. LOL

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Who, me? Camera-happy? Nawww...

Seoul at night (3)

So, Part 1 of 2 of Day 1 of 6, otherwise known as The First Thousand of What Is Undoubtedly a Million Photos from My Trip Almost One Year Ago to Seoul, has made it online. I figure if I get the rest of the photos online before the one-year anniversary of said trip, I'm doing well.

Anyway, suffice it to say, the camera doesn't lie, and I loved Seoul. It was one of the highlights of my year in Japan (OK, almost every trip we took, including the shorty weekend jaunts, were a highlight of our year in Japan). I really, really, really liked Seoul, and I took a lot of pictures of Seoul. Don't delay; go check out the first half of the first full day of our trip.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One less piece of history...

Yesterday, I was saddened to hear about the loss of the beautiful Namdaemun, or South Gate, in Seoul, this weekend.

Namdaemun (3)
The guards are there more for tourists than for guarding the city, these days, and, alas, are not there at night, when the fire that largely destroyed the building was started.

We visited Seoul last March, and being the cultural heritage junkies that we are, visited the Gate. The gate, made largely of stone and wood, has stood for over 600 years (with renovations, of course, including a major overhaul in the 1960s), and is (was?) the only remaining part of the great city walls that once surrounded the city of Seoul. Think of the Quebec City walls and gates, only much bigger and much older.

I still haven't posted my photos from our South Korean jaunt, but this occurrence has made me determine that I will attempt to do so, at least in part, this weekend. In the meantime, you can see more great photos of the Gate on Flickr.

There's a gate like this in the middle of every large city, no?

Namdaemun (4)