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".