Saturday, June 27, 2009

Congratulations, Emma!


A big day on Wednesday - Emma graduated from high school! It's been a long journey, 13 years slogging through various public school systems to get her this far, but she did a good job. She even won a silver medal for having over 90% in her top 6 Grade 12 subjects, and she was top of the class in the Child Care and Gerontology class she took this last semester.

In the morning I took her to get her hair done, and we went to the school at 1:00 for a 2:00 start. Dean stayed home with James and Thomas, as their classes had ended the day before. It's unfortunate, but that's just the way things are - we can never attend anything together, it's always one goes, the other stays at home with the boys.  But I took a good number of pictures (until the batteries ran out in the camera).

It was a long ceremony, held in the school auditorium, and on one of the hottest days of the year so far. I'm trying not to complain, because I was so grumpy a month ago about how cold and wet our spring was, but it was DAMN hot. It got hotter and hotter as the 90+ minutes went by - thank goodness I wore a cotton dress! Once it was over, Emma came down to meet me as I was inching my way up the aisle with the rest of the crowd. She wanted to dawdle and look around for people she knew, but I just had to get out of that hall, because I was starting to feel faint. It may have been 90C in the lobby, but that was better than 95C in the auditorium!

It took so long because every single one of the 155 graduates had to get a round of applause as they came up! Very badly managed. As they came to the stage in groups of 10, we should have applauded once they all had their diplomas, but this is how it was done, which probably doubled the length of the ceremony. I also must say, I've never been in a worse-behaved crowd for such an occasion. Even though the principal twice asked people to keep the volume down, because there were grandparents there and people with hearing aids, it made no difference at all. Friends and family members all yelled, hooted, whistled, bellowed, and lu-lu-lued when their precious kid came up. I guess I should be grateful they weren't firing off AK47s at the ceiling - maybe in a few more years. I couldn't believe such an absence of decorum. (crotchety geezer voice) Why back in my day, if the authority figure - the principal, no less - had told us to keep quiet and we'd gone ahead and hooted and whistled anyway, our parents would have dragged us out of that hall so fast you wouldn't have seen us for the dust. I probably would have been made to write letters of apology to every teacher present, and I wouldn't have heard the end of it for a month.

Now she's looking forward to visiting her great-aunts in Victoria next month, then she'll be attending college in the fall, studying Professional Writing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bombs in Gatineau park, near Ottawa

Sounds like someone was practicing out in the woods:
Gatineau police are investigating after two bombs -- one exploded, one not -- were found in a park just after midnight Friday.

Police responded to reports of an explosion in the St.-Onge St. park at 12:15 a.m. Saturday.

They found a mixed-liquid homemade bomb had gone off. Nobody was hurt and there wasn't anything damaged.

A Surete du Quebec bomb unit was brought in to diffuse the bomb and the park was back to normal by 7 a.m.

Police are investigating.
And no, this doesn't happen all the time in Ottawa, it's VERY rare.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Great game

Terrific hockey game last night, watching the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup over the Detroit Redwings. The score was low (2-1), but there was lots of drama starting in the second period, when Pittsburgh lost Crosby to a knee injury. When he came back in the third, that just raised the anxiety level, because we were so worried that he SHOULDN'T be playing, but just couldn't keep out of the game. Thankfully, he realized after a short shift that he wasn't able to play at his peak, and sat down for the rest of the game. It must have been hard for him, but it was the right thing to do, putting the team first. But then, who expected Pittsburgh would play so well without Crosby? Those last 2 minutes of the third period were absolutely nerve-wracking, as Detroit poured on the pressure to tie the game, and Pittsburgh looked right at the end of their strength. If it had gone on another minute, I think Detroit would have scored. Dean and I were screaming "END!! END!!!!" as the final seconds ran out.

So that's it for hockey for this season. Now we'll have to watch baseball in the evenings. I was reminded of the famous Shakespearean Baseball Game by Wayne and Shuster, and was delighted to find it's on YouTube - two versions, as a matter of fact. There's a very early 1958 b&w version, which I believe I saw as a kid; I remember certain lines that were changed or edited out in later versions - "Is this a slugger I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee!" But the later version had its improvements, particularly the closing line, and the delivery was sharper and faster.

I don't suppose too many non-Canadians, at least under 40, would know who Wayne and Shuster are, but I've been surprised to read interviews of current comedians who list them as a formative influence - their timing was legendary. As a matter of fact, we believe that Wayne and Shuster were responsible for getting Dean his job in the Foreign Service. During one of the many rounds of interviews and tests he had to undergo, he had to do a role-playing game. He was told to pretend that he was an attaché at the Canadian Embassy in Bonn (this was pre-reunification), and his task was to put together a cultural show in order to present a portrait of Canada to the Germans. He was allowed to invite 10 famous Canadians to take part - whom would he choose?

Well, of course he was furiously calculating how to build a "balanced" group, so he started listing names: Margaret Atwood - she'd be good for the "artist" category (and she's a woman); Wayne Gretzky - sportsman; Rene Levesque - a Quebecer and a politician. He said he would have chosen Healey Willan to represent the musical side, but he had to choose LIVE Canadians - I think he chose Gordon Lightfoot instead. Finally he'd gotten up to 8 and was drawing a complete blank. So in desperation, he blurted out "Wayne and Shuster". The panel was highly amused at this, and told him that they'd been doing these interviews for years, and no one else had EVER suggested Wayne and Shuster! But the mere fact of doing something unexpected and original might have been the point that put him over the top, so ever since then, we've said that he owes his career to Wayne and Shuster.

With gratitude and affectionate remembrance, here is the Shakespearean Baseball Game:

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Stand and deliver!

A recent news story quoted Barack Obama saying that "It's time to deliver" on health care. Here's a preview of just how the Canadian socialized medical system he wants to import to the U.S. reacts when "it's time to deliver":
A woman admitted to Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital for an induced birth was forced into a do-it-yourself delivery last month, with only her non-medically trained common-law partner to assist....

At about 5 a.m. on May 13, medical help failed to appear even after Karine Lachapelle's water broke.

Despite attempts to summon help by partner Mark Schouls, who was pushing a nurse-alert button with increasing frequency as Lachapelle's contractions became more intense, the two delivered their new son, Kristophe, entirely on their own.

Lachapelle pushed the child out past his shoulders and face down, allowing Schouls to get a grip and pull the newborn the rest of the way out, he recounted.
There were no complications, thank goodness, and the baby was born safely. But just consider - Karine Lachappelle didn't just show up at the hospital in the middle of the night, she went there for an induced labour. That means she was booked and scheduled; the hospital staff knew she was there, and had presumably started the IV drip to bring on contractions. Yet they still just managed to ignore a labour in progress that they themselves were controlling and supposedly monitoring. Are they this seat-of-the-pants when it's a patient who suddenly goes into crisis?

Of course the hospital is "concerned" (now the news has become public) and are making inquiries, but
Nobody on hospital staff will face disciplinary action, Kalina said.
No, this is just going to make an interesting chapter in future training manuals - Lachapelle and her partner should be honoured.
Kalina also declared that "finger-pointing, such as disciplinary action, is counter-productive. At best, it will not have any positive effects, and, at worst, it will create an atmosphere where service will decrease.
You know, they're probably right about that. Holding the nurses accountable will just piss them off, and they'll then take it out on other patients. Since the hospital is too short of staff to contemplate FIRING anyone, they're just stuck with what they have, and so they (that is, WE) just have to make the best of it and not make waves.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Braxton's Lear - Cleanup on aisle E

A Mr. or Rev. Tom Downs has hocked a complaint on the floor of the HOB/D listserve.
I am so mad I could spit.
Oh God, not again. Well, everyone put on their raincoats and galoshes - the Episcopalians are spitting again, and we all know what that means: get ready for more flying moisture than a Blue Man Group performance.
Friends, don't you see that if Thew Forrester is not confirmed we (TEC) will have willingly entered the brave new world of assassination by internet? Having proved it can be done; it will be done again. Perhaps it will be your candidate next time.
This must be a trailer for that terrifying summer movie: "YOOPER MADNESS!" Watch as normally clean-cut, docile Episcopalians go insane after one glimpse of StandFirm! They criticize homilies! They quote the Prayer Book! They go berserk at their keyboards, typing faster and faster! They don't call it high-speed internet connection for nothing, you know! Watch out - this scourge is sweeping the nation. It could strike your candidate...or yours...or YOURS!!!"
From now on potential candidates will have to be vetted like Supreme Court nominees, that means we will find ourselves favoring people who never published a single potentially controversial thing nor had an innovative thought they shared with anybody. Can any of you guess how much it is costing our federal government in time and money right now to get the current Supreme Court nominee past Congress?
Yes, the Democratic nominee of a Democratic president, struggling to run the gauntlet of a Democratic House and Democratic Senate, with a Democratic majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee - how can a liberal in the Episcopal Church possibly be expected to survive a similar ordeal?
And those of you who wrote so seriously about Thew Forrester's faults and then spread your thinking far and wide, you clergy, especially you who are already safely bishops, how many of you would survive this sort of scrutiny should everything you ever wrote or spoke be examined by the faculties of VTS, EDS, and Trinity seminaries, with their demonstrably different and sometimes contradictory points of view? (never mind the host of bloggers who are so constantly hostile to TEC)
C'mon, as if you've never used a drop-down menu during a baptismal liturgy! Everyone does it, we all know it, you're just too scared to admit it. This is so unfair - it's just like the Clinton impeachment trial.
And you who read all that stuff, who let the innuendos and half-truths color your thinking, who let suspicion about a diocese that did things differently creep in, who jumped on the "band wagon" (It wouldn't be a standard propaganda tool if it didn't work, would it?), are you so sure you made up your own mind? Do you personally know the candidate that well?
Northern Michigan is a foreign country: they do things differently there. Now, if you'd NOT read "all that stuff", and never met the candidate, and just voted 'Yes', you'd never have been exposed to suspicion that you're a weak-minded catspaw who just follows the herd.
We don't have any more feet to shoot ourselves in. Why don't we just shoot ourselves in the head and get it over with?
These parliamentary rules are so complicated...are you looking for someone to second that motion?
Did I mention I was so mad I could spit?
Yes you did.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The new Star Trek movie

I saw the new Star Trek movie last week. Just the way I like it, at a 10:30 AM showing, with 2 other people in the theatre. It's directed by J.J. Abrams, the same guy who created 'Fringe', and there's some crossover in the themes of the movie and the TV show. Leonard Nimoy was even in the closing episode of this season's 'Fringe', and there's a similarity in the "different worlds" theme in both, though in Fringe it's "alternate realities" while in Star Trek it's time travel.

I'm not a Star Trek fanatic, but I've done my share of Trek-watching, going back to the original series, which I'm old enough to have seen when it first aired. All through the years, I've happily watched reruns, and I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation quite faithfully through most of its seasons. I've seen some of the movies, but not all - I think I've managed to catch about every other one. Now that we have a HD TV, it's a little unnerving to watch the original series on it. Some things are great - faces and facial expressions are clear, and there's a crispness to all the straight-edged, streamlined sets that gives it a real "now we are in outer space" feel. On the other hand, it's all too clear now that the show was really built on a shoestring budget! The fabrics look terribly sleazy, the high-tech devices like phasers look like electric shavers, the dashboards look like cardboard panels with a few coloured lights inserted in them. Those "charts" on the walls of the bridge of the Enterprise are just photocopied pictures of vaguely scientific-looking stars and angles. One even has a ripple in it! We couldn't see any of that on our old fuzzy 1960s TVs, many of which were in black and white anyway. And William Shatner, though he looks very handsome, can be OVERPOWERING in his acting, especially when it's coming through that clear. Last week I saw the one where he encounters Americans of the future, reduced to savagery after a ruinous war with the Communists (the Yangs versus the Comms). When he reads and emotes through the preamble to the Constitution, holy moley! It's so over the top, it's almost impossible to bear! I never found it that way in the past, because it was filtered a bit through a less-than-perfect TV screen.

Anyway, back to the movie. I thought they did a good job for the most part of recreating these familiar characters as youngsters. Kirk was great, so were Spock and McCoy, though I didn't think we needed an explanation for how he got the nickname "Bones" - I always took it to be humorous old slang for a doctor: Sawbones. Sulu was also terrific - I loved the way his "combat training" consisted of fencing. Chekhov was a little young for my taste, and why did they make him blond and curly-haired? He had straight dark hair, originally. Scotty was just weird, nothing like the original, but one out of such a large number wasn't too hard to accept. I just figured that in THIS reality, Scotty came out completely different. The villain didn't seem much like a Romulan to me, either. He looked like a nasty British soccer hooligan. The Romulans were a militaristic people, and there should have been more discipline and order. I know he wasn't a soldier, but either the military ethic permeated the whole society, and he'd have run his revenge operation in a more military way, or it only affected the military caste of the planet - in which case, why was this guy adopting the whole honor/revenge thing? Logically, he'd be hopelessly at sea when it came to conducting a military campaign against Star Fleet, but he's as effective as a futuristic Attila the Hun. And what was with his "ship"? It looked like a grossly magnified dust mite. How the heck was a "mining ship" converted into such an effective warship?

Spock had a few moments when I thought that he was acting contrary to character - marooning Kirk on a nearby planet, an action that would have likely caused his death? What was wrong with the brig on the Enterprise? Spock wouldn't have overreacted like that, though maybe they wanted to show that he was unable to handle the stress of his situation. But nothing can explain his ABANDONING HIS COMMAND moments after he'd been given responsibility for the Enterprise, in order to run down to the surface of Vulcan to rescue his family. Spock just wouldn't do that, not even to rescue his parents. It was odd that the Enterprise seemed to be entirely staffed by 18-year old cadets, plus Captain Pike - where were the senior officers? Everyone on the bridge was straight out of the classroom, and I think they ALL got a chance to command the Enterprise at some point or another. Surely some of the teachers at the Academy would have been pressed into service before Starfleet was driven to man a brand-new starship with teenagers.

Still, there are minor complaints. Considering that they were making an "alternate reality" Star Trek, they stayed very faithful to the original in the most important things. They COULD have just said that this was a new Star Trek, and changed everything, but they didn't. This is quite acceptable as Star Trek. There were only a few things I found hard to absorb, and that's purely due to force of habit: when Spock's mother died, I kept thinking, "But she has that scene where she complains about 'Logic, logic, logic!'" and then I'd have to think, "Oh, yeah...I guess that never happened, because she dies here." "And the Pon Farr episode on Vulcan - how do they...oh yeah, there IS no Vulcan anymore. No Pon Farr, no T'Pau...it never happens." Well, they are going to resettle the remaining Vulcans somewhere else, so perhaps the society will be able to recreate itself somehow, and this will be taken care of in another storyline. On the bright side, I thought if this is a different reality Star Trek, then maybe there will never be a Wesley Crusher!

There was only one thing which I felt failed - the closing credits featured the original Star Trek theme music, and I thought it was completely out of place. It wasn't the voiceover part: Bing...Bong...Bing...Bong...Space - the final frontier...Dah-dah-DAAAAA... That was alright. It was the fast-paced, full-orchestra theme that began after "where no man has gone before" - the full theme. In this movie it just sounded so '60s. I swear, I could hear bongo drums in there somewhere. I never feel it's dated when I hear it on the original series, but here it didn't belong. I felt "That was MY Star Trek; this is a new one. It has to have a new theme."