Friday, December 30, 2005

When Will I Learn?

So, I still feel good about staying up until 2:00 am to catch up on all my laundry and get my room cleaner than it has ever been since I moved into Park St. (you can see the top of my dresser!!!).

However, I feel that the decision to pick up a book at that point in time, and then fail to put it down until I was finished (at 6:00 o'clock in the morning) may have been somewhat suspect.

Astonishingly, I'm still getting quite a lot of work done today.

If I fail to make it to midnight on New Year's Eve, you will all know why.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Post-Christmas Summary

Working on the theory that nobody is reading my blog right now anyway, I’m going to indulge myself in a lengthy accounting of my Christmas experience:

At church Christmas Eve, Darcy, Myrna and I sang a trio with Kaisa playing flute. I really enjoyed the service, and the recessional hymn Silent Night was gorgeous: Victoria is always fabulous on the organ, but we also had Paule playing the glockenspiel and Kaisa on the flute, to great effect. I’d never heard a glockenspiel before, but it produces a beautifully bright, clear, high-pitched bell sound.

Christmas day was the usual Rootham/Demarsico insanity of many, many people opening many, many presents. I made out quite well on the present front, but it was almost more fun watching Catherine opening her gifts.

I’m not sure she fully expected the circus that is Christmas, but she was definitely old enough to understand that she was getting new toys, and to start playing with them as soon as they were out of the wrapping.

However, the toys just kept on coming, and by the end of it, Catherine’s whole face was drooping in exhaustion. However, she lasted the whole day without any bad temper – instead, she spend the last few minutes of present opening asking if she could watch Dora. “Please, let me watch Dora, anything so I don’t have to think for a few minutes!!!”

Speaking of which, I think that if I was a parent, Dora would be one of those DVDs that I’d be letting my child play with as much as they want until the DVD was ruined. Catherine, you want to take the DVD in and out of the box, over and over again? Here you go, play with the Dora DVD!

Why, you might ask? Dora is very, exceedingly repetitive, and all of the episodes are modelled on the exact same plot/scene structure. Did I mention the repetition? We’re not just talking about using a few “theme words” liberally throughout an episode. No, I mean repetitive, as in, repeated 5 times in a row, then a few minutes later, another 5 times, and more. And, if that weren’t already bad enough, everything is spoken very slowly.

However, Dora was as much of a nap as Catherine took Christmas Day; I missed most of the racing around, but I have it on good authority that Catherine played with her Aunt Audrey for hours, running back and forth around and around the basement, shaking maracas and tambourines, and colouring, and etc.

Then we had a sumptuous, gargantuan Christmas turkey feast with all of the regular trimmings and a few extra. It’s a good thing we Canadians only indulge in this kind of excess twice a year.

All in all, a good Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

To celebrate Christmas and the holiday season, I would like to share with you two of my family’s traditional ways of serving fruitcake.

Those of you who don’t like fruitcake may shudder and move on; or if you are feeling bold, give these a try.

Traditional Christmas Cake #1: I think this is actually traditional in a wider community: serve a slice of fruitcake in a bowl heated lightly in the microwave (or oven, if that turns your crank) covered with a liberal serving of warm custard.

Traditional Christmas Cake #2: It seems to me that this decadent tradition probably originated with my family: cut yourself a slice of fruitcake, put it on a plate, smother it liberally in butter (we always kept our butter in the fridge, so this was typically actual slices of butter at my house), and heat in the microwave until the butter has just melted. Christmas cake is decadent anyway, you might as well go the whole hog :-)

Best wishes to all!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Curious Empty Space

What does one do on the night before Christmas Eve? Or for that matter, the day of Christmas Eve?

It feels as though there should be some festive activity going on, and yet, the festivities really don’t start until the evening of the 24th…


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New Camera!

I’ve made up my mind as to what to purchase, and I’m going to get it tonight. You may look forward to selected pictures being posted shortly.

In case you are curious, I have done as much research as I can stand (not as much as I probably should have, but I don’t think I’m shooting myself in the foot) and have decided to acquire a Nikon Coolpix 5600.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Home Stretch

I went to visit Karen last night, so as to see her before she flies home to Calgary for Christmas. I had an enjoyable evening chatting and hanging out, and I cleverly took all of my presents and wrapping materials with me. I achieved the wrapping of every present I’ve bought so far, including all the stocking stuffers, and now all I need is a single stocking present for Catherine, and I will be all done! Yippee!

Karen was wiped last night, as she had foolishly scheduled not one, but two job interviews on a day when she also had the excessive amounts of packing induced by traveling home with one’s toddler for Christmas. I’m crossing my fingers that the job she’s interested in works out. (I pause to emote: “Good luck! Good luck!” into the ether).

Only a few days left until Christmas… are you ready?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Where are the issues?

I’ve now completed a full survey of the four political party websites I am interested in: Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and Green, and I have to marvel at a comment that I heard on CBC Radio this morning. The intro to ‘The Current” asserted that up until now, the election campaign has been extremely civilized and focused on the issues, with parties announcing policy planks on a frequent basis, and very little negative campaigning and name calling. Never mind that ‘The Current’ went on to complain that the election campaign was boring, and implied that they’d like to see some more mud being tossed around, which I think was remarkably irresponsible. Reward good behaviour, don’t punish!

With that tangent out of my system, I have to say that my survey of the party websites does not support the assertion that the parties have been campaigning on this issues. On a party by party basis, here is my opinion (BTW, I focused on the sections of the parties website actually labelled “Issues” or “Policies” – if they don’t put it where it’s easy to find, that their problem):

Liberals: First of all, I don’t care “What people are saying about the Liberals and x,” even if the people cited are high mucky-mucks of institutions that have a (biased!) opinion on the topic. Second, it is all very nice for you to tell me what you did, and I recognize that some of things you are saying you “did” are actually things that will disappear if you lose the election, but what I’m really interested in are your innovative policies for the future. You don’t really frame any of your website in that way, and therefore, you are sadly lacking in detail for your future plans.

Conservatives: Apart from a detailed plan for improving the accountability of the government, the blurbs on the key issues are brief. Though they set policy goals, they do not give any detail as to the reasons for the choice of policy, or the implementation plan, and they are fairly limited goals at that. For example, the much publicized $1200/family child care handout, which doesn’t talk about why they have selected a number for which it is unrealistic to expect quality child care (just under $5/day, provided that you don’t make enough money to have it clawed back). Or the goal to be: “supporting Canada’s farmers and resource industries such as forestry, fishing and mining. Nice buzz-words, and in general I agree that the things the Conservative Party highlights as key issues are the most important to me; but I don’t get a good sense as to what I can expect if they come to power.

NDP: This site does a great job of ripping apart the Liberal leadership and accomplishments or lack thereof, and repeats about a billion times the fact that they brokered a budget deal which implemented some of the NDP spending priorities. However, what do the NDP stand for? What policy goals would they implement if they had the opportunity? Not a word. This site is all about asking Canadians to elect 30 NDP members instead of 19, so that they can be a more effective counterweight to the presumably minority party in power. But a counterweight in what direction? Every party says they are behind health care; I want to know what innovative policies the NDP would bring to the table.

Green: The party has only recently thrown together some content to occupy their Policies and Platform section, and they still haven’t formally published a platform. Nonetheless, they have the most volume of information published by any of the parties, currently mostly in the form of press releases, which are summarized and linked in each policy area, with a couple of policy papers that are a few pages in length. The site itself doesn’t give me a great sense of cohesive vision, but it does give me a sense of new ideas, and of the reasoning behind those ideas.

So, in my opinion the best website belongs to the Green Party, not that it is going to matter, as they are unlikely to elect more than a few MPs, and the clear-cut worst web-site is the NDP. As Andrew quipped the other day, he’d like to vote for the NDP but Layton is just making it so damn hard! Does he think we have a memory deficit that we need to read and hear “Vote NDP and we’ll get thing done” a million times in order to remember that his party exists?

But if this evaluation was hoping to determine a winner, I think the only conclusion I can come to is that the Canadian public is the loser. Election time should be when the country comes together to engage in debate and dialogue about the issues that matter most. Instead what I see is the four solitudes whistling into the wind, none ever really addressing the questions asked by the others. Even while trying to shred an opponent’s platform, which the NDP and the Liberals do explicitly, all I see are errors in fact and information taken out of context being used against each other.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mmm - Snow

Yup, that's a lot of snow. Guess I needn't worry about having a white Christmas. Worked from home today; much better than driving!

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Last night, a guy on my team made a really hot D on a dump throw. He looked upfield, yelled something about needing a cut, and upon seeing that nobody is racing downfield for the long pass, throws a huge O/I disc golf style huck to the other end of the field. I couldn’t help but laugh… did I mention that this guy is in his forties? What fun to catch a glimpse of his inner two-year-old!

Sadly, the captain later said that we were not each entitled to a two-year-old moment this season… I was looking forward to having mine :-)

I just have to point out that since he D’d the disc on the dump throw; by definition there was nobody more than 5 yards downfield of him when he made the play.

Though in some ways, I can’t blame him… we had a pretty rough game last night (catching and throwing... are those things important in this sport?), and got our asses handed to us as a result. We must have used up all of our pixie dust on Marta's one handed hammer catches last week. I can only hope we get a fresh supply for next week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Events and Thoughts

Well, I did make the time to write that letter to the CBC PR Director. When I get a response, I’ll post both the letter and the reply.

I got a decent amount of work done this morning, which is a good thing, because I have accomplished practically nothing this afternoon.

Today I attended a CGI recognition lunch (these are held quarterly to honour those members who have reached a milestone with CGI, eg 5, 10, 15… 30, etc years of service. It was an interesting affair: lunch was provided in the form of sandwiches, vegetables & dip, fruit and pastries for dessert, but the principle focus was the presentations. The luncheons are chaired by the top man at CGI, Hicham Adra, and the attendees consist of those who have achieved the milestones and those who are there to talk about them. Each person, in turn (I was second), is called up to stand at the head of the table, and their career manager or director stands up to spend five minutes talking about them, describing their background, their experience and achievements at CGI, and either a few notes about their extracurricular life, or a funny anecdote, or something to lighten it up. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, most of the presenters are fairly accomplished public speakers, and it was nice to have a chance to meet other people at CGI. There are quite a few opportunities to hang with other CGI members; the monthly beer and pizza, the seasonal wine and cheese party, the Annual Gala, Social Club events, however, all of these events have one huge disadvantage. When you have anywhere between several hundred and a thousand people attending an event, the natural tendency is to hang out with the people you already know. Only if you personally are extroverted enough to accost someone you don’t know and make their acquaintance, will you actually meet new people.

For those of you who know me, I am not that much of an extrovert. I tend to find those affairs somewhat painful, especially since I’ve only worked on one project in all my years at CGI, and consequently only know about 20 people well enough to talk to.

Anyway, I think I’ll get the gift certificate part of my 5-year recognition award before Christmas. If I’m really lucky, I might have a new digital camera on Christmas day, ready to capture the cuteness of Catherine on camera.

As for the rest of my afternoon, Wednesdays are my usual day to read to the Grade 1 students at Carson Grove, so despite being an hour late, I still went to do that. I am always fascinated by the process of reading to six year olds, especially those kids who aren’t the best and brightest in the class. I had a young boy today who simply couldn’t sit still; both the concentration and the reading were hard work for him, and the effort expressed itself in constant fidgeting, occasional weird contortions, and frequently wandering eyes. It’s hard to think that the fifteen minutes he’ll get to spend with me three times this year will make a difference, but the teachers I work with assure me it does. I worry even more when I ask myself how a child like this will succeed, when the teacher has seventeen children in the class, many of whom are ESL students, and a few of whom have similar concentration/fidgeting problems. I know our teachers do the best they can with the resources they have, but I’d like it if every child has access to more.

And now that I’ve spent a few minutes writing that letter, and a few minutes writing in the blog, I have only another hour in which to accomplish my actual job. It’s a good thing I can be efficient under pressure.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I’m afraid I’m not going to be much use to my poor blog over the next few weeks. I’ve so much to do and so little time that I’m running in overdrive - and losing bits of my thoughts here and there as a result. I think I eventually retrieve most of the strays, usually in circumstances that make me feel idiotic, but hey, how would I know?

On the topic of the letter to the “broadcasting consortium”, the PR Director at CBC did indeed return my call the next time I was sitting still long enough to leave him a message and receive a phone call. I now have his email address, and he assures me that somebody will respond to my letter… I think he may even have implied that he would share my letter with the other members of said consortium. Now all I have to do is scrape together an hour to write a serious and professional version of my objections. And soon! It is getting to be a bit late given that the first leadership debate is scheduled to run on Friday.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It’s All About the Fun

I’ve gotten to spend pretty much the whole day today doing the fun parts of my job. I get a real kick out of taking the user’s stated requirements and twisting and turning them until I find the perspective from which they all click together and make sense. It took me all weekend to come up with ideas for the work that I was supposed to be doing Friday afternoon, but now I’m on a roll!

With any luck, the users will like it too :-)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

So far, who knows?

As an update to yesterday's post, the CBC Director of Public Relations did actually call me back, but unfortunately I chose that moment to use the bathroom, and it seems that he does not actually answer his phone when it rings. I haven't been in one place long enough today to wait for a return phone call, so I'm going to have to try tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It Shouldn't Be This Hard!

Today, I got off my duff and decided that I would write a letter to whomever deserved it to present my arguments as to why the Green Party should be included in the Leaders Debates. You might think that this would be the work of a moment, particularly as the Green Party has a petition on their website to collect the names of people such as me, at the end of which you are asked to personalize a letter on the topic and send it off.

However, the Green Party letter is addressed to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and was so indirect and long-winded as to her role/responsibility for the topic, that I decided she obviously wasn’t the best person to contact. Another article on the Green website described the “broadcast consortium” that makes these decisions, and identifies one of the participants, but provided no hint to start me on my search for contact information.

Hence, my search. I worked my way through the Green Party website, the Elections Canada website, and in fact the CBC website without any success in finding information on this topic. Not even the teeniest little bit of information. So, I picked up my phone, and called Elections Canada.

They set me straight – it is the broadcasters who set the rules for the debate, so it is the broadcasters I should be contacting. However, I still think that the Elections Canada website would be a stronger resource if it posted that information, particularly since the dates of the debates have already been chosen, and I’m sure that somebody knows who the participating broadcasters are.

{side note: I would have sent a quick comment to Elections Canada on that topic, but can you believe that they don't have a single email address available for citizens to send comments to? did we slip back to the stone age while I wasn't looking?}

So I went back to the CBC website, and decided to phone them. The first person I spoke to had no idea, beyond knowing that the decision was made by a broadcast consortium, but she helpfully transferred me to Audience Relations. The guy at audience relations didn’t know either, though he was able to identify the one named person, Peter Kent, as the Deputy-Editor of Global Television News. He was busy searching through his email when technical difficulties intervened and I was disconnected.

Rather than going through the hassle of calling back, I've now submitted an electronic comment with my questions. I don't expect it to come to much, but we'll see.

At this point I had the bright idea of typing “Broadcast Consortium leadership debate” into Google, and here I struck gold. Buried a few lines down, was a media release from CBC Radio Canada. Of course, it still didn’t have any useful information about the composition of the broadcast consortium, but it did have contact information for the Director of Public Relations & Operations at CBC/Radio Canada. Since it happened to be a local call, I’ve now left a message on his answering machine. I’ll keep you posted if I get a response.

Patience - Not My Strong Suit

I suppose it was predictable, but last night, I tried another bunch of cookies, and I ruined them again… This time it was because I didn’t separate the cookies sufficiently on the cookie sheet, so they all ran together. I’m thinking I’m also going to have to cut down on the butter and increase the flour if I want to achieve the kind of crisp, clean edges that characterized my grandmother’s cookies. I’m starting to think it’s time to give up and do macaroons, or something easy that doesn’t need cooking.

But I will give it one more try. Now, self, repeat after me: I will be patient. I will bake the cookies in batches. I will rotate the pans.

I will be patient. I will bake the cookies in batches. I will rotate the pans.

I will be ...

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's That Time of the Year Again

I look at my time commitments and list of tasks that need doing over the next month, and I just want to curl up and cocoon.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Pay To Live Next Door To A Crack House

You know, this whole apartment ownership thing would be just fine if I hadn’t had the misfortune to buy a place beside the worst triplex in Vanier.

I suppose I don’t any actual proof that they’re selling crack next door, though I have overheard drunk or stoned or perhaps just plain angry/desperate/insane people banging at the door and screaming loudly “Give me my drugs!”

What provokes this outburst, you ask? Especially now that you have such splendidly fine windows and doors that you barely hear anything at all, even when people are standing and yelling in the alley between the two buildings?

My evening was hijacked yesterday, by the following unfortunate circumstance:

I had to drive my downstairs tenant to a car impound place (I’m sure those have a name, but it eludes me at the moment), because a couple of the scary 16-year-olds stole his van and took it for a joy ride. He actually knows who it was because they were dumb enough to run into a lamp-post while a police officer was in the vicinity. The damage from the lamp post was practically non-existent (lost a piece of plastic that looks like it should cover a light bulb, but which actually covers a piece of mirrored steel and seems to serve no purpose). Unfortunately, they were amateurs, so they’ve buggered up the door a bit, and they completely took the entire ignition piece out.

However, as my tenant was sorting through his car retrieving his belongings, we found the screw driver they’d used to accomplish the deed, and he was able to insert it into the hole in the steering wheel and get the car started. They did enough damage to the steering column that we didn’t even have to worry about the steering wheel locking; the pin that would normally accomplish that if your key isn’t in the ignition was also on the floor of the van.

I think he’s even planning to drive it for a few days until he can get rid of it and buy some other old car.

So he’s out 100 bucks for having the car impounded, and who knows how much to get another vehicle. It was a 94 Caravan, so he didn’t have comprehensive insurance. Who would? I certainly didn’t on my old car, figuring, hey, what are the odds anyone would try to steal my 93 Swift? Course, I regretted that one a little bit when my car burnt to a cinder a couple of years ago, but that’s a story for another day. (Besides the fact that anybody who is likely to be reading this has already heard that story).

And it’s not like there’s any hope of getting money out of the dumbass 16 year olds. If they’re hanging around the building next door, they’re either on crack, or their parents are. Well, I suppose their parents might be dealing, but anyway.


And no, I still don’t think it was a bad idea buying the property I did. The cops are around all the time, and I’m sure one day they’ll put away the bad people in the house next door. Or some body will buy the place (it is for sale), evict all the tenants, and do something nice with the place. Demolition, gutting it with renovations, you know, anything like that would do.

It’s gonna happen eventually: they aren’t making any more reasonably nice sized lots within walking distance of downtown, and I can already see the effects of gentrification in the number of new houses that are going up on the quieter streets.

And in the meantime, I have great tenants, who I know would come running to protect me if I ever started screaming.

So don’t you worry, I’ll be fine.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Mind is a Wonderful Thing

I’ve always thought that I have an incredibly bad long-term memory. I would have told you that I didn’t have any memories from when I was younger than ~eight or nine years old, and that I didn’t really have that many memories from before I was fourteen.

However, a conversation I was having with my friend Maria last night has made me rethink this. We were talking about phantom memories, and she was saying how disturbing it was to her to have large gaps of time where her only memories are phantom memories. She can feel her phantom memories just as vividly as real memories; in fact, the only clue that they are ghosts is that sometimes, she can identify elements from different aspects of her past that could never have been together in that way due to geographic disparities. Then she talked about her myriad memories of different parks; she knows that her parents used to take her to parks all over Ottawa, but she can’t connect those memories to real places in any way. Then she talked about the fact that she really can’t remember the school she attended in Grade 9, which was the old Sir Wilfred Laurier high-school. We ended up driving around Gloucester in the dark, tracking the school down by the wisps of her memories, but the whole conversation got me thinking.

I have a fabulous memory of most of the places I would have been as a child. I can still mentally drive along Highway 33 between Kingston and Picton, I can walk the halls of every school I’ve ever been in (and not just the ones I attended either), I can remember the contents of the classrooms, I remember the dentist’s office, and the shop where we bought my glasses in Kingston.

I’ve read speculation (or it might have been research, but I can’t remember so it may as well be speculation) that many of us can’t remember anything from when we were infants and toddlers because at that stage, your brain hasn’t really figured out how to categorize, store and index memories. You still have those memories, locked away inside, but no way of accessing them now that your brain has invented a usable filing system.

I’ve always thought it was bizarre that my memories start at about the age when I really turned into a reader. By the time I was nine or ten I was reading a thousand books a year, and so it has always seemed to me as if my brain took the storage structures and frameworks from the nature of the written work.

Of course, I often can’t remember a book I’ve read two days after I finished it. I generally read for emotional escape, so I’m too damn busy experiencing the book (and blocking out the real world) to make any mental notes on what it is about.

Some people dream in black and white, some in colour: I dream in narrative. I generally don’t remember my dreams, but on the days when I don’t set my alarm, and I laze around in bed, I sometimes find myself aware of my surroundings, knowing that I’m still asleep but unable to wake up, trapped in a dream. Those dreams always take the form of stories, bizarre and unpredictable stories, it is true, but stories nonetheless, and they are curiously devoid of images or sounds or any of the senses at all. It feels exactly the same as it does when I’m reading a book.

But now after this conversation with Maria, I’m convinced that my brain also organises information spatially. I’ve always been the kind of person who maps out the world in her head: if I’ve ever driven to a place before, I can generally find it again. I can’t remember the names of the streets, or the street number, but I have enough clues about how far I go and where I change directions to get myself back again. Every time I take a new street it fills in a grey area in my map of the world, and it takes a long time before the map greys out again.

I suspect the mysterious workings of my body and mind are never going to cease to thrill me.

Bad Team-mates!

You might think, having paid dearly and agonized over whether or not you were even going to get into Indoor Advanced Ultimate (IAD)*, that you would actually show up to your ultimate games.

As it turns out, that is not the case.

My team only had 6 people show up last night (six total, including men and women), only one of whom had told us in advance that he wasn’t going to make it.

We made a valiant effort, despite only being able to pick up one male sub, and in fact led the game until the final point was scored to give our opponents the win. However, it was an exhausting effort, involving burning chest pain and shaky legs, and the not too surprising result of this was that I sprained my ankle in the last ten minutes of the game.

Shockingly, it was not my bad ankle.

Today, I am indeed sore, in all senses of the word. At least I can still walk.

And now I’m going to have to become one of those pathetic ultimate players who wears an ankle brace on both ankles, and even with that, I’m not 100% guaranteed to be able to play next week. I've said I will be playing next week, but let's face it, that may be the ibuprofen talking.

This must never happen again!

* As a side note, what in the world does the D in IAD stand for?