Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Crazy Skydive

Lex has taken his first hop (as the actual pilot, that is) in a Stearman (as far as I can figure, it's a biplane with an open cockpit). Which appears to be a big deal, given the smile on his face.

But then xformed linked to this video. Which I just had to share.


Crazy Skydive / Biplane Stunt - More free videos are here

If for no other reason than to say No, that particular stunt is most definitely NOT in my future plans.

And to confess that while it does look sort of nifty (if you are certifiably insane, that is), I was very relieved to find that there was somebody left behind in that cockpit. To actually, you know, fly the plane.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In The Looking Glass

I've recently discovered Jodi Picoult. She's really a very good writer. She always manages to hook me.

First it was My Sister's Keeper, this past summer. After I watched the movie. I picked it up in the bookstore at the airport when we were flying out west.

When I finished that, my sister-in-law handed me Nineteen Minutes.

Monday I started Handle With Care.

275 pages later, I realized I was reading the same story all over again. My Sister's Keeper redux. That's not meant as a criticism. Not at all. I am really enjoying the book.

It's just the realization that once again we have a child with a terrible disease.

A mother who has (and will) fight to the death for her. No matter what the cost. Even to the rest of her family.

The father ... strong, handsome, in one of those 'hero' jobs (in My Sister's Keeper he was a fireman; in Handle with Care, he's a cop), the "good guy" who loves his family dearly, can see the bigger picture but doesn't seem to be able to make his wife see it, who helplessly watches his family fall apart.

And the other sibling who gets lost in the shuffle- in My Sister's Keeper it was a younger brother; in this one, it's an older sister. Perhaps the one who is most victimized by the situation (and yet no one seems to notice - not them, not what's happening to them), they each, in turn, act out - the brother in My Sister's Keeper starts setting fires and the sister in Handle with Care turns to stuffing and purging (bulimia) and cutting herself.

But it's the mother that brought me here.

I recognize that mother. I know her well. I am her.

Perhaps it's just a by-product of having a child with significant special needs. Over time, they change you. Make you a better person in so many ways.

But eventually those strength's which they bring out in you, ones you didn't even know you had, can become too strong. That focus, too focused.

Yeah, you really do know what your child needs. But you become so use to having to fight for it (and get so good at it) that it starts to consume your whole life. To the point that all those other people you also love can no longer compete.

Single-minded determination. It will burn out not just you, but also everybody else in its path.

And yet, where is that magic line? When have you taken it far enough? When have you taken it too far?

The answer, often, is a question of perspective. And Ms. Picoult is very good at writing from various perspectives.

She also has a definite flair for the dramatic and unexpected. I now know that there's a very good chance that she will turn your world upside down by the end of a book, if she so chooses. Leaving you with very unsatisfying endings.

In the vast majority of books, the conflict is resolved by the end of the story. The bad guys are found and captured, the lovers re-unite, the world is saved. Not in a Picoult novel, though. People don't live happily ever after. In fact, there's a very good chance that those characters who manage to survive will most definitely live unhappily ever after.

Her next book is to be about a teenage boy with Asperger's Syndrome. On the autistic spectrum, these individuals show marked deficiencies in social skills, having difficulties with social interactions, communications and transitions. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. And they have a great deal of difficulty reading body language and very often have difficulty determining proper body space. It's these very characteristics that make the boy at the centre of the book the prime subject in a murder case.

I expect another good read. But, I must confess, I do hope not to find myself portrayed anywhere in this book. Knowing from past experience that it can be and usually is more than a little disconcerting.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And So This is Christmas

Or Christmas Eve, at the very least.

I know I've been kind of quiet on the blog lately. Not really sure why.
Not too much to say? Or not enough time to say it? A little of both, I suppose.

And then there's the fact that this month has been tinged with sadness and melancholy for me. Which is a step up from last month, I suppose. When there was only pain and hurt.

The girls don't seem anywhere near as excited for Christmas as they usually are. They were much more excited just to be out of school for two weeks. I asked the Kit Kat what was up with that and she told me that knowing for sure there is no Santa (as opposed to her merely suspecting it but not really wanting to know) takes a lot of the fun out of it. I know what she's saying. But I still find it sad.

Still, we are all here. The four of us. Back from the Christmas Eve service. In our brightly-lit house. With our beautiful tree. I love Christmas trees. I like to turn out all the lights and just sit and stare at it, letting my mind wander.

Tomorrow close friends will join for us for dinner. After a breakfast of the Kit Kat's yummy French toast and bacon. And despite the fact that they are, indeed, growing up, something tells me there will still be some excited squeals coming from underneath the tree (too) early in the morning.

In the meantime, I have gifts to finish wrapping and arranging under the tree. And stockings to stuff. But, alas, not until they all are off to bed. Which, teenagers though they may be, won't happen until we are read The Night Before Christmas.

A childhood friend of my husband's gave him the book as a Christmas present when I was expecting the Blue Jay. He said it was a Christmas tradition in his family to read it to his two young boys every Christmas Eve before bed. And so it has become our tradition, too. Except now, instead of us reading it to them, they read it to us.

But when they are all snuggled in their beds (with visions of I-Pods, books and new clothes dancing in their heads), there will be time for me to have a drink. Or two. And raise my glass to those I love, both those that are with me (or soon will be) and those that no longer are. And to my good friends, who make my life richer. Who laugh with me through the good times and hold my hand in the bad.

And so it is that I will leave you with one my favourite Christmas songs.



Merry Christmas to you, then. And to all, a good night.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Greetings From The Grinch



Courtesy of the Blue Jay who had a very good last day of school before the Christmas holidays, including watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas during Social Studies

Saturday, December 19, 2009

And Now ... I Got Something

Thanks to Kris, that is.


I Got Nuttin'

It's been a whole week since I've posted (here, that is; I've actually been doing much better on the other blawg) and I'm sorry to admit it but ... I got nuttin'. Absolutely. Nuttin'.

So with that said, just carry on with your Christmas preparations. And be sure to let me know. What time to be there. For the party. And the Christmas cheer.

I'll be a'waiting ...


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reminiscing

Courtesy of the place where I jumped this past summer.



Brings back memories, it does.

Even a little bit of the nausea when they landed.

But the girl with the big smile. Nah, that wasn't me.

Which reminds me, how come we had the WWII looking helmets and goggles and the guys we jumped with wore what looked like motorcycle helmets and sunglasses?

In other words ... we played the part of the geeks. They looked cool.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Missed Opportunity

How on earth did we ever miss this?

Maybe because we're too busy whining about what he can't get right? Or maybe it just isn't considered newsworthy...

Either way, it's something that should be recognized. And acknowledged.

Yes, I realize it's only a step. But a first step is better than no step, no?

And then we might just ask when a similar move might be made in Canada.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sleight of Hand

Over at Lex's yesterday, Quartermaster opined that there was no valid reason for President Obama not to give McChrystal the 40K troops he asked for.

I mused that maybe he had a reason. Perhaps he was just trying to show the Democrats and the American people that he would not be bullied pushed around by the military.

And then today, it all came into sharper focus when I read this comment in a discussion about what role Canada might play in Afghanistan post-2011.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon met in Brussels this past week with Canada’s NATO allies as the alliance cobbled together 7,000 additional troops from 20 countries, but not Canada. The number was short of the 10,000 the Obama administration wanted after committing an additional 30,000 U.S. personnel to the mission earlier in the week.
Cute.

Let's recap then. General McChrystal asked for 40,000 more troops for Afghanistan. Obama offered 30,000. And then looked to NATO make up the remaining 10,000.

I wonder how well that's going to work for him.
The British government is facing opinion polls showing that around 70 percent of the public favors an early withdrawal. That figure has nearly doubled in the past six months, as the country has sustained its worst casualties — 97 killed so far this year — since it first deployed troops to Afghanistan after the Taliban were toppled in 2001.

Germany and France have balked at committing any more forces to a war that has so little public support that they can barely maintain current troop levels.

The Netherlands and Canada have begun discussing plans to pull out. Canadian defense officials told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in Halifax last week that they had no intention of sending troops in the future, and that they remained committed to withdrawing by the end of 2011.

Even if the allies make commitments for 5,000 or more new troops after the president’s address on Tuesday at West Point, NATO officials say, those commitments will include troops already in Afghanistan to provide security for recent elections and trainers for the Afghan Army and the police.

And it remains unclear whether several thousand NATO and other foreign troops are really the equal of a similarly sized American force in terms of military capacity. Some countries may continue to restrict how their forces may be employed. In addition, a force that is cobbled together from too many nations — a few hundred here and a thousand there — might not have the unit cohesion of an American force, military analysts said.
But don't you worry your pretty little head about it. I'm sure the President had a real good reason for waiting over 2 months to announce a decision to send 10,000 less troops that McChrystal asked for. And then asking his allies to make up the slack.

Which I suppose might just make it *our* fault when if the non-surge surge isn't successful. Seeing as how the United States is giving it all in the "good war". Alas, if only the those allies could be counted on to do their part.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lawyer Jokes

Update: Sorry, didn't publish properly. Now there's 18.

Eighteen lawyer jokes. Just for you.
Because I'm feeling generous today.

Q: What do lawyers use for birth control?
A: Their personalities.

Q: What is the difference between a tick and a lawyer?
A: A tick falls off of you when you die.

Q: Why does the law society prohibit sex between lawyers and their clients?
A: To prevent clients from being billed twice for what is essentially the same service.

Q: What do you have when 100 lawyers are buried up to their neck in sand?
A: Not enough sand.

Q: What's the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a dead lawyer in the middle of the road?
A: There are skid marks in front of the skunk.

Q: What is black and brown and looks good on a lawyer?
A: A Doberman.

Q: Why are lawyers like nuclear weapons?
A: If one side has one, the other side has to get one. Once launched, they cannot be recalled. When they land, they screw up everything forever.

Q: What do lawyers and sperm have in common?
A: One in 3,000,000 has a chance of becoming a human being.

Q: Did you hear that the Post Office just recalled their latest stamps?
A: They had pictures of lawyers on them ...and people couldn't figure out which side to spit on.


Q: Lawyer's creed:
A: A man is innocent until proven broke.

Q: What's the difference between a female lawyer and a pit bull?
A: Lipstick.

Q: What do you call 20 lawyers skydiving from an airplane?
A: Skeet.

Q: If you see a lawyer on a bicycle, why should you swerve to avoid hitting him?
A: It might be your bicycle.

Q: What's the difference between a porcupine and a Porsche with two lawyers in it?
A: With the porcupine, the pricks are on the outside.

Q: Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, an honest lawyer and an old drunk are walking down the street together when they simultaneously spot a hundred dollar bill. Who gets it?
A: The old drunk, of course; the other three are mythical creatures.

Q: It was so cold last winter ... (How cold was it?)
A: I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.

Q: A man walked into a lawyer's office and inquired about the lawyer's rates.
A: "$50.00 for three questions", replied the lawyer. "Isn't that awfully steep?" asked the man. "Yes," the lawyer replied, "and what was your third question?"

Q: You're trapped in a room with a tiger, a rattlesnake and a lawyer. You have a gun with two bullets. What should you do?
A: You shoot the lawyer... Twice.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Down But Not Out

Good day.

My computer is in for service (and we all know what thatès like) so I am using the one I have relegated to the girls down the basement. And now I truly understand why they hate it so much. And constantly bug me for access to mine.

Letès just say it has ... issues. I had to download Explorer again just so that I could get into some sites (like behind the scenes here in the blog) and, apparently, according to the Blue Jay, Facebook as well. Forget about anything to do with YouTube, though. And have you noticed its issues with various punctuation marksÉ Such as question marks and apostrophes...

Other than that its just peachy. If you donèt count the fact that even though itès supposedly hooked up to my high speed upstairs, Ièm thinking that dial up was never this slow. What a great way to waste a couple of hours, just trying to check your mail, your site meters and catch up on a few of the daily reads. Some of which wonèt even load. Sheesh ...

Anyway, bottom line. Still here. Down. But not out.

Carry on, then.

Friday, November 27, 2009

'She is Gone'

“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkins
Silloth, Cumbria, UK
With thanks to the Kit Kat

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The End of the Waiting Game?

This past Sunday, I expressed my feelings on the waiting game so many of us seem to be stuck in thanks to President Obama's decision not to decide on General McChyristal's request for more troops in Afghanistan.

Apparently I'm not the only one who feels stuck.
WAITING for Obama. Waiting for leadership. Waiting for effective aid. Waiting for a sign NATO is in for the long haul. Waiting for a reason not to bet the Taliban will outlast the Westerners and take over when they’ve had enough and leave.

Afghanistan is one big waiting game now and there isn’t much time for game-changing action.

. . .

The favourite candidate was U.S. President Barack Obama. U.S. Senator John McCain and Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of Lahore’s Daily Times, were among those rightly calling upon President Obama to end the uncertainty about sending a "surge" of 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. Rick Hillier, Canada’s former chief of defence staff, went even further in saying Mr. Obama possesses the position and the ability to articulate a broader vision for rescuing Afghanistan, to touch people beyond the U.S. and to rally Western nations, including Canada, to renew their commitments rather than focus on exit strategies.

The president clearly is the crucial waiting-game changer. But there are others. Canada, the U.K. and the Netherlands have all been bulwarks against Taliban violence, but their long-term commitments, like those of other Western allies, have gone cloudy. A policy brief circulated at the conference makes a devastating case that development aid has been ineffective because donors didn’t build up managerial competence within the Afghan government and failed to co-ordinate aid efforts themselves. The country is still waiting for a "pilot" to steer aid where it’s most needed and most effective.
And yet, thankfully, according to Lex, there might just be signs of hope.

Then again, despite the use of the term "delusional" "decisional" to describe this latest meeting, for me, at least, it still retains the some of the same feel as before ... deciding not to decide.
The administration's plan contains "off-ramps," points starting next June at which Obama could decide to continue the flow of troops, halt the deployments and adopt a more limited strategy or "begin looking very quickly at exiting" the country, depending on political and military progress, one defense official said.

. . .

The plan adopted by Obama would fall well short of the 80,000 troops McChrystal suggested in August as a "low-risk option" that would offer the best chance to contain the Taliban-led insurgency and stabilize Afghanistan.

It splits the difference between two other McChrystal options: a "high-risk" approach that called for 20,000 additional troops and a "medium-risk" option that would add 40,000 to 45,000 troops.

There are 68,000 U.S. troops and 42,000 from other countries in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army's recently revised counterinsurgency manual estimates that an all-out counterinsurgency campaign in a country with Afghanistan's population would require about 600,000 troops.
Let's just hope it's not too little. Too late.
"This war is going to be decided," he told the conference, "over the decisions of athers of Pashto young men who are being asked by Taliban commanders to give them their sons to go out and fight against the Afghan government." These fathers, he says, need reasons to resist the Taliban line that "we’re going to chase the Americans out" and they "need to feel good about being on the right side."

"Anything we can do to change the tenor of that discussion will help, so that fathers of those Pashto young men say, ‘That’s what you said last year when you took my other son and he’s dead and the Americans still haven’t run away.’"

We should not keep them waiting for reasons to say no.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dis Connect

The International Security Forum is being held in Halifax this weekend.
Building on the model of GMF’s successful Brussels Forum, the Halifax International Security Forum will feature a mix of plenary sessions and smaller breakout sessions, with emphasis on intimate and interactive exchanges between panelists and participants. On-the-record panels will cover broad themes such as international law, nuclear proliferation, and global transatlanticism. Breakout sessions held under the Chatham House Rule will explore challenges associated with North Korea, development, climate change, and counter terrorism, among other topics. The agenda reflects the growing diversity of issues at the core of the transatlantic security relationship as well as the increasing geographic reach of transatlantic cooperation. Finally, the Saturday night dinners, also under the Chatham House Rule, give every participant a unique opportunity to further discuss key issues in a more intimate setting and at the same time sample local cuisine.
This puts Canada in a "very exclusive club of countries who are tasked with this important role of peace and security", donchya know.

Uh huh.

Canada is scheduled to pull its troops (or the majority of them anyway) out of Afghanistan in 2011. That date is supposedly set in stone. And yet at the International Security Forum, some are publicly saying that President Obama needs to "weigh in" on Afghanistan and use some of famous eloquence to rally western nations and provide a clear articulate vision to win the war.

My first response being, "Yeah, right"; I don't think anyone is going to change the mind of what appears to be the majority of Canadians on this issue. Then again, on second thought, perhaps he could. If he really wanted to. Given his cult of personality.

But forget about putting half as much effort into the oratory on the idea of hope and change and winning the war in Afghanistan as he has into the debate about healthcare. First he would actually have to step up and, you know, make a decision. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Just how long will it take Obama to decide on how to respond to General McChrystal's request for increased troops? I mean, this has been going on for quite a while, hasn't it? Like at least two months?

And during that time I've been noting the obvious - it's not just American troops dying while Obama fiddles. So too are Canadians. And. Others.

Which begs the question - if one of the reasons America's allies are fighting in Afghanistan is to help the US finish what it started, doesn't the US have an obligation to those same allies?

Doesn't Obama realize his actions and inactions affect not just his country, but many others?

And might some consider it a mite disingenuous that he ran on a plank of America needing to get out of Iraq but increase resources in Afghanistan, what he referred to as "the good war" given what appears to be the White House's current attitude?

So, yeah. Maybe, just maybe, President Obama needs to stop fiddling and dithering and make a decision on where the US stands on the war in Afghanistan. Before anyone even considers the possibility that he could convince the ROW to stay the course.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Les Miserables

It's been a rough few weeks month around here. I thought just for me, but apparently for all of us. If it was true that misery does indeed love company ... we would all be feeling a mite bit happier, I imagine.

As of last night, I finally went through every single picture from Mom's house, every photo album, every framed photograph and every stray one laying in the bottom of a box. Which, while it gave me a feeling of satisfaction (not that I'm 'done' with them, by any means, because I have quite a stack that I still need to figure out exactly what to do with) also left me feeling even more lost and alone.

I found Mom this morning, in my dreams, in the strangest place. She was in what I was calling a memory stick but was actually something more like the size and shape of I-Touch. Not a picture. Not even video. But actually Mom.

Walking around, smiling, talking with me but trapped inside the device. I realized it as a way to have her back, as the only way to have her back, so I was mostly okay with that and she certainly seemed happy enough in there. Still I remember telling her how much I wish I could actually hug her. Didn't seem to fizz her too much though. But then the alarm went off and I had to leave her behind.

Not too far behind though. It seems like she's been with me (or hovering nearby) most of the day. Not in a good way but in a sad way. And something tells me it's only going to get worse as we come closer and closer to that cursed date 11 days hence.

Ironically enough, the girls will be at bereavement retreat for teens that weekend. How strange is that? I think it will be good though. For them at least. And apparently the Kit Kat agrees. I was a little surprised by her comment the other day that she thought it would be a good place to be right then.

Although I must admit that I find myself wishing I had a similar place to go. I'm far from certain how, exactly, I am going to get through that weekend. And I realized today that my husband has similar feelings. It took me a while to realize (and I must confess, it's still very easy for me to forget) how much losing Mom was a personal loss for him, too. Not 'just' his mother-in-law but because both his parents died shortly after we were married and Mom lived with us or right next door for the past 16 years, I think, in a way, she became his mother, too.

Since we have to take the girls to the retreat which is a few hours away, we have decided to stay in Halifax for the weekend as opposed to spending most of it on the road. Which should be nice; we very rarely get away alone for a weekend. Somehow I don't much expect it to be though. Less something to be enjoyed; more something to be survived.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Squeezed in the Middle

At least that's the way it feels over here.

Have you seen the Stop the Tax and Help us Save Local TV commercials?

Let's face it, if you live in Canada, you probably can't miss them. No matter how hard you try.

They're beginning to get on my nerves. Actually, that's not quite true. They've been getting on my nerves for quite a while now.

At first I thought both sets of commercials were for the same thing. Even though I thought I was paying attention. They both spin quite well, meaning they both sound logical, seem to make a lot of sense. You really should go sign that petition, you know. Stop those greedy bastards from ripping us off yet again.

Turns out the question is - Which petition? And which bastards?

There are two petitions, you see. One for each side.

One saying that the cable and satellite companies are being unfair, not giving any of our money to local TV stations, which they will soon die out if something is not done. We will lost our local TV channels if we don't act now to stop the greed of cable. Or something like that...

The other tells us that the Big Networks like Global, CTV, CBC, etc are being greedy. They are raking in lots of money. And now the CRTC wants us to pay another tax of $10 per month to support them? Are you nuts? Or something like that...

Wait a minute. They can't both be right. Can they?

Hell if I know. Although Andrew Coyne seems to think so.
Yes, it is unfair that cable companies should get to use the broadcasters’ signals for free. And yes, it is outrageous that the broadcasters should be foisting another tax on the long-suffering television public (to say nothing of using their news programs to promote it): because if the cable companies are forced to pay the broadcasters for their signals, you can bet the consumer will wind up paying for it in the end.
And he has offers a solution too. Apparently only one that works in a "logical universe," though. Something about everyone compromising and sharing. And consumers not being forced to pay for channels they don't want.

Hey, wait a minute, that works for me! Which is likely why it's not too likely to happen here.

I do see that the Save Local TV movement is saying that the threat of a $5 -$10 monthly tax is bogus, that all they are looking for is to have the CRTC allow them to negotiate with the cable and satellite companies "a fair value for providing access to local television programming". And they ask the question "How can Rogers and other cable companies make claims to a cost they intend to pass on to you when negotiations have not yet occurred?"

But here's what else I see.

Both sides have done a good job in their efforts to sway public opinion their way. Maybe too good of a job. Which just goes to show how you can take the same set of supposed "facts" and spin them any which way you want. In this case, I think they have been spun so hard and so far by both sides that they have only succeeded in making the viewing public dizzy.

I watched those commercials for quite a while before I realized that something didn't quite fit right. Not only was there something I couldn't make sense of but I couldn't figure out what it was that was confusing me.

Eventually, I realized that I couldn't figure out who the local TV stations were that needed saving. No doubt, because in one set of commercials they were referred to as local TV and in the other they became the Big [Bad] Networks, the greedy bastards. So yeah, when you are so polished that all you do is confuse your brand with the other, I don't think you have accomplished too much.

Meanwhile, I ain't signing neither petition. Even though I tend to lean more towards the local TV point of view. Because my sense is that neither side can be trusted.

Or perhaps I should do as Andrew Coyne suggests and support them both, but only because they’re both wrong.

Only in Canada, eh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Lest We Forget'

Why do I keep posting the same video year after year on Remembrance Day?

Because it touches and moves me.

It reminds us all what the day is really all about and how easy it is to fall into forgetting that and getting caught up with our own petty lives. We would all agree that the father in the video is a world class jerk and yet, I think we must ask ourselves, has that ever, in some way, been us?

Ladies and Gentlemen, A Pittance of Time



... If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep though Poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
- John McCrae


Saturday, November 7, 2009

You are My Sisters

Many of you I have never even met face to face, but I've searched you out every day. I've looked for you on the internet, on playgrounds and in grocery stores.

I've become an expert at identifying you. You are well worn. You are stronger than you ever wanted to be. Your words ring experience, experience you culled with your very heart and soul. You are compassionate beyond the expectations of this world. You are my "sisters."

Yes, you and I, my friend, are sisters in a sorority. A very elite sorority. We are special. Just like any other sorority, we were chosen to be members. Some of us were invited to join immediately, some not for months or even years. Some of us even tried to refuse membership, but to no avail.

We were initiated in neurologist's offices and NICU units, in obstetrician's offices, in emergency rooms, and during ultrasounds. We were initiated with sombre telephone calls, consultations, evaluations, blood tests, x-rays, MRI films, and heart surgeries.

All of us have one thing in common. One day things were fine. We were pregnant, or we had just given birth, or we were nursing our newborn, or we were playing with our toddler. Yes, one minute everything was fine. Then, whether it happened in an instant, as it often does, or over the course of a few weeks or months, our entire lives changed. Something wasn't quite right.

Then we found ourselves mothers of children with special needs. We are united, we sisters, regardless of the diversity of our children's special needs. Some of our children undergo chemotherapy. Some need respirators and ventilators. Some are unable to talk, some are unable to walk. Some eat through feeding tubes. Some live in a different world. We do not discriminate against those mothers whose children's needs are not as "special" as our child's. We have mutual respect and empathy for all the women who walk in our shoes.

We are knowledgeable. We have educated ourselves with whatever materials we could find. We know "the" specialists in the field. We know "the" neurologists, "the" hospitals, "the" wonder drugs, "the" treatments. We know "the" tests that need to be done, we know "the" degenerative and progressive diseases and we hold our breath while our children are tested for them. Without formal education, we could become board certified in neurology, endocrinology, and psychology.

We have taken on our insurance companies and school boards to get what our children need to survive, and to flourish. We have prevailed upon the state to include augmentative communication devices in special education classes and mainstream schools for our children with cerebral palsy. We have laboured to prove to insurance companies the medical necessity of gait trainers and other adaptive equipment for our children with spinal cord defects. We have sued municipalities to have our children properly classified so they could receive education and evaluation commensurate with their diagnosis. We have learned to deal with the rest of the world, even if that means walking away from it.

We have tolerated scorn in supermarkets during "tantrums" and gritted our teeth while discipline was advocated by the person behind us on line. We have tolerated inane suggestions and home remedies from well-meaning strangers. We have tolerated mothers of children without special needs complaining about chicken pox and ear infections. We have learned that many of our closest friends can't understand what it's like to be in our sorority, and don't even want to try.

We have our own personal copies of Emily Perl Kingsley's "Welcome to Holland" and Erma Bombeck's "The Special Mother". We keep them by our bedside and read and reread them during our toughest hours. We have coped with holidays. We have found ways to get our physically handicapped children to the neighbours front doors on Halloween, and we have found ways to help our deaf children from the words, "trick or treat." We have painted a canvas of lights and a blazing Yule log with our words for our blind children. We have pureed turkey on Thanksgiving. We have bought white chocolate bunnies for Easter. And all the while, we have tried to create a festive atmosphere for the rest of our family.

We've gotten up every morning since our journey began wondering how we'd make it through another day, and gone to bed every evening not sure how we did it. We've mourned the fact that we never got to relax and sip red wine in Italy. We've mourned the fact that our trip to Holland has required much more baggage than we ever imagined when we first visited the travel agent. And we've mourned because we left for the airport without most of the things we needed for the trip.

But we, sisters, we keep the faith always. We never stop believing. Our love for our special children and our belief in all that they will achieve in life knows no bounds. We dream of them and home runs. We visualize them running sprints and marathons. We dream of them planting vegetable seeds, riding horses and chopping down trees. We hear their angelic voices singing Christmas carols. We see their palettes smeared with watercolours, and their fingers flying over ivory keys in a concert hall. We are amazed at the grace of their pirouettes. We never, never stop believing in all they will accomplish as they pass through this world.

But in the meantime, my sisters, the most important thing we do, is hold tight to their little hands as together we special mothers and our special children, reach for the stars.

By Maureen K. Higgins (borrowed from Daisy's Cafe)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Heartbreaker

Lex brings us a story to remind us all what really matters in life.

Which brings to mind another wonderful family who honours their daughter's memory every day. By helping other children. And who (coincidentally?) are also blessed with Grace in their lives.

Lost in the Twilight Zone

Forgive me, please, but I am feeling like I am just a little bit lost in the twilight zone at the moment.

You might recall I've already confessed my past (and yes, even current) leanings towards the NDP. That's 'past' federally but still very current provincially. Yes, it's true. Provincially I remain an NDipper.

Federally, however, I had enough long ago. Definitely since the installation of Taliban Jack Layton as King of their castle.

Now, I am most definitely not a fan of our Conservative government either. And I've certainly had my issues with them when it comes to their support, or lack thereof, of our military. But when it comes to NDP federally, particularly on the issue of support for the military and their work in Afghanistan .... yeah, right.

Thus, the little bit of cognitive dissonance when I read this piece written by Peter Stoffer, one of the NDP MPs from Nova Scotia, in today's Chronicle Herald.

Mr. Stoffer notes that although we have seen improvements to a number of veterans’ benefits in recent years, including operational stress injury social support centres, wellness and transition programs under the new Veterans Charter, and assistance for Allied veterans now living in Canada, there is much more we can do to improve the lives of veterans and their families. Which, as he states it, is why New Democrats continue to press the Conservative government to implement key reforms for programs and services.
Some of these reforms include unfulfilled promises. The Harper Conservatives ommitted to resolving the clawback of Service Income Security Insurance Plan(SISIP) pensions for disabled veterans, extending the home care (VIP) program for all widows and veterans, as well as fully compensating all victims of Agent Orange and holding a public inquiry into its use. Despite promising significant reform, the Conservatives have not stopped the practice of appointing their friends to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Unfortunately, the government’s lack of action on SISIP and full compensation for Agent Orange victims from 1950 to 1984 has led veterans to launch class-action lawsuits in hopes of forcing a government response.

Beyond its broken commitments, the government needs to improve the New Veterans Charter for modern-day veterans to better support those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, bring an end to the unjust clawback of CF and RCMP service and CPP disability pensions at age 65, increase the survivors’ pensions from 50 per cent to 66 per cent, and eliminate the gold-digger clause (marriage after 60) that prevents widows and widowers from receiving pension and health benefits.

New Democrats have also advocated for equal access to veterans’ hospitals and pavilions throughout the country. Currently, as some families have recently discovered, veterans are not eligible for a bed at the local veterans’ hospital or pavilion if they did not actively serve in the Second World War or Korea. In one case, a veteran was not eligible for admission because he did not serve in a "theatre of war" in one of those wars, even though he had a long and distinguished military career. In a similar story, a veteran was turned away because he served in Cyprus.

We argue that the federal government should make these services available for all veterans, open up discussions about the future of the facilities, and develop Health Care Centres of Excellence for modern-day veterans, RCMP and their families. These specialized centres could provide a unique model of care to better assist veterans with specific physical and psychological injuries and needs.

Veterans and their families deserve our deepest gratitude for their contributions to our country and for protecting the freedoms we hold so dear. For these brave men and women, Remembrance Day is every day. The least we can do is make sure they receive the support they have earned. Lest we forget.
It's awful hard to argue with now, isn't it?

Here's hoping we will be hearing more of the same from the NDP in the future. And that some of that patriotism and respect and gratitude for our military actually rubs off on Mr. Layton.

That would be a very good thing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Healing

I have tried my best to avoid our local hospital over the past year.

But I've been up there two or three times since Mom died; once for a workshop and once for blood work, anyway. Still I have managed to avoid the actual wards. Like the plague.

There is a coffee/snack kiosk in the lobby and surprisingly, the coffee is pretty good. Being a true coffee addict, I spent a lot of time there when Mom was in the hospital. One woman, in particular, who worked there (her name escapes me now -I have a good memory but it's a little on the short side) was particularly friendly. Sweet, actually. We chatted a lot and shared a lot of personal stuff.

I've seen her at the kiosk on a couple of occasions when I've been at the hospital since then. And I literally could not physically force myself to walk over there and say hello.

Just. Could. Not. Do. It.

It was too much. Just the thought of it hurt too bad.

I was up at the hospital this morning for blood work. And she was at the kiosk. I was surprised to find that not only could I go over, get a coffee and chat with her but I was compelled to. I really wanted and needed to say hello.

So I did. And shared with her that I hadn't been able to speak to her for the past 11 months. Not until now. She got it. She's still sweet. I wouldn't have expected any less.

I walked out the door with tears in my eyes. But I had to wonder ... perhaps, just perhaps, it was a small sign of healing?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

'Secure' Health Care

There is a good opinion piece in today's paper concerning the inappropriateness of using security guards as long-term attendants for patients suffering from various forms of dementia.

There is no question that many with Alzheimer's and various other issues are simply confused and wandering the halls of health care institutions. Others become violent.

And it's not like we can them "accountable" for that in some meaningful way - consider how much their world has changed, how confusing and scary that must be and then add in ever-changing caregivers, some always better than others. Consider that someday that could well be you and I.

Even without the issue of violence, the 'wanderers' can pose a huge problem. Both for their own safety (if they happen to wander off the ward) and to the mental health of other patients. We saw that happening during Mom's long hospital ordeal last year.

When Mom was hospitalized and confined to bed by her physical illness, an older gentleman in the room across the hall was a wanderer. He would come and stand in the doorway to Mom's room and talk to her. The problem was that both and he and Mom were subject to dementia. So while what he said probably wasn't making a whole lot of sense, it made even less sense to Mom's fogged mind.

When we returned from a weekend away, I found Mom terrified, refusing to eat or sleep. Between 'the man in the doorway', the nurses in and out of the room and the absence of her main support person (me), those two days became too much for her. It had all meshed into some confused horrifying story in her mind which made her sure that "they" were out to hurt her and her family.

Ironically, it turned out that 'the man in the doorway' was the father of a close friend, who I never even realized was in the hospital. Once we discovered that and told Mom about it, she was fine. Because, as she put it, she "knew the family".

But we also saw hospital rooms with security guards at the door day and night. It definitely made you wonder what was up.

First of all, it can't be an efficient use of resources.

Then there is the question of how much training these officers have. Does it prepare them to safely engage the "60-year-old stroke victim who throws furniture; the psychotic senior who violently strikes everyone, including their own family; or the frail grandmother who screams day and night"?

There's a situation ripe with potential for abuse. Although, in fairness, that's not just an issue for security guards.

And, as noted in the article, the "deterrent factor" offered by a uniformed presence might only serve to make thing worse, especially if paranoia is part of the patient’s illness. The omnipresent security guard, outside the door, only adds to the patient’s isolation, stigmatizes them and their family, and erodes what little dignity the disease has left them.

I can say it no better than the words of John D. Allen (a security professional for more than 20 years; four of those spent supervising the security teams assigned to three Nova Scotia hospitals):

A security officer should never be the primary care plan. It is a clear indication you are not coping.

. . .

Whether their condition is organic, caused by trauma or dementia, brain-injured Nova Scotians deserve the same level of dignity and care we all enjoy, and the need for properly trained health care professionals to deal with their special needs has been clear for some time.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "You can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members" - but the issue, as with everything in health care, is funding.

As we age and face the insidious prospect of our minds turning on us, specially trained orderlies and attendants will become a necessity if we hope to live in a dignified, caring environment.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Illogical Logic, Irrational Fear?

The story of the 13-year-old boy from Ontario who died on Monday is enough to scare any parent.

Almost enough to scare this parent into reconsidering the vaccination issue for her kids. After all, Kit Kat has mild asthma and the Blue Jay has a neuro-developmental disorder, which presumably puts them both at higher risk. Hell, even my own MS, some might argue, might put me in a higher risk category.

But here's my problem.

There's still everything Dr. Mercola has to say on the subject. And although this video interview is quite lengthy, it's worth a listen. He makes a lot of sense. And the interview will tell you a lot more than the text on the page, which makes some valid points on its own.

My two problems in particular have to do with the fact that although we are told repeatedly ad nauseum that flu activity is increasing in the United States, with most states reporting "widespread influenza activity", a three-month-long investigation by CBS News revealed some very different facts.
The CBS study found that H1N1 flu cases are NOT as prevalent as feared. A CBS article even states: "If you've been diagnosed "probable" or "presumed" 2009 H1N1 or "swine flu" in recent months, you may be surprised to know this: odds are you didn't have H1N1 flu. In fact, you probably didn't have flu at all."
Apparently in late July 2009 the CDC advised states to STOP testing for H1N1 flu, and they also stopped counting individual cases. Their rationale being that it was a waste of resources to test for H1N1 flu because it was already confirmed as an epidemic. Okay, fair enough.

But. Just like that virtually every person who visited their physician with flu-like symptoms since late July was assumed to have H1N1, with no testing necessary because, after all, there's an epidemic.
Before beginning their investigation, CBS News asked the CDC for state-by-state test results prior to their halting of testing and tracking. The CDC did not initially respond so CBS went to all 50 states directly, asking for their statistics on state lab-confirmed H1N1 prior to the halt of individual testing and counting in July.

What did they find? CBS reported:

"The results reveal a pattern that surprised a number of health care professionals we consulted. The vast majority of cases were negative for H1N1 as well as seasonal flu, despite the fact that many states were specifically testing patients deemed to be most likely to have H1N1 flu, based on symptoms and risk factors, such as travel to Mexico."

In other words, the diagnosis of swine flue is being repeatedly made NOT based on any lab tests. In fact, the diagnosis is made even when the test results prove otherwise.

And just to back up that little observation, last night I was watching the CTV news. Which was where I first heard the tragic (to say nothing of scary) story of Evan's death. But that piece was followed by another piece on the mass immunizations programs now beginning in which it was stated that you can self-diagnose the swine flu.

Get this. Supposedly, if you have fever and two or more of the following symptoms, you can diagnose yourself with swine flu. The additional symptoms included things like
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • extreme fatigue
  • headache

Well, excuse me, but based on those criteria, I must have had the swine flue at least 500 times in my life. In which case, I should have built up a whack of immunity and pretty well be swine flu proof by now, right?

Yeah. And that logic seems to make as much sense to me as the constant non-ending hype demanding that I must vaccinate myself and my family against this great pandemic.

By the by, I'm sick. Have been for two and a half weeks.

It sucks. It's very hard to get through the day without a two-hour nap. Sinuses, bad. The cough is intermittent. But I think a fair bit of it is coming from my nose draining, if you know what I mean. Fever? Maybe. I think so. Sometimes.

I have no doubt my doctor will tell me tomorrow that I have swine flu. But I won't buy it unless he can prove it to me with a blood test. Because, personally, I am 99.5% sure that I don't. That last 0.5% only because anything can happen.

Although if I do, I would actually be okay with that. Because I can get it over with and forget about it. And everyone else in the house has been exposed, too. So we won't have to worry about that any more, will we?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Enough Said

"Epilepsy strikes and kills about as many people every year as breast cancer, which gets five times more federal funding."


Watch CBS News Videos Online

More Americans are suffering from epilepsy than Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy combined.

*Please watch the video*

H/T to Take Five

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Maritime Kitchen Party

I leave tomorrow for the one-day Maritime Kitchen Party in New Brunswick on Saturday.

And, yeah, I am looking forward to it.

I've never been able to attend any of the Association for Community Living's Conferences before. But I've always wanted to.

And although this means missing my annual trek to Tools for Life, I guess sometimes you just have to choose. I'm sorry to miss Tools for Life but I am sure it will be back again next year.

So here's to a good weekend. A little bit of learning, a little bit of networking, a little bit of respite. Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

* Cross-posted on a Primer on Special Needs and the Law

Well, Well, Well

Thanks to Dust's comment over at Lex's, I turned to my good friend Google to see whatever happened to that pastor who was ordered by the Alberta Human Rights Commission last year to desist from expressing his views on homosexuality in any sort of public forum. And pay the complainant $7,000 in damages.

Turns out the good Reverend is a fighter.
Today, however, he is in Alberta Court of the Queen's Bench, appealing the conviction of hate speech that resulted in the above penalties. That conviction was based upon a letter to the editor in the Red Deer Advocate, in which Boissoin expressed his opinion that homosexuality is immoral and dangerous, and called into question new gay-rights curricula permeating the province's educational system.
Personally, I'm rooting for a victory for Rev. Boissoin. Because, as I've said before on more than one occasion, I'm a firm believer that Canada has went too far with some of the "hate speech" provisions in our various Human Rights Acts.

And, lo and behold, apparently some progress is being made on that front.
OTTAWA, Ontario, September 2, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled today that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, Canada's human rights legislation against hate messages, unreasonably limits the Charter right to freedom of expression.
You might protest that the Commission's decision in this matter is self-serving. A last ditch effort to save itself. And you may (or may not) be right. But either which way, it's the result that matters to me. And this is a result I strongly agree with.

It's not that I feel such cases shouldn't be brought forward where appropriate. It's just that it strikes me that a court of law (with all the substantial and procedural protections that applies) is the forum for such cases to be litigated.

Because although I firmly believe in free speech as a constitutional right, I also believe that it, like all rights, has to be subject to such "reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".

And that’s why I feel these matters shouldn’t be dealt with by human rights commissions. The balancing involved is too important, too critical … it needs to be done in a court, not by a quasi-judicial tribunal. Where there is too much potential for abuse.

So. Onward and upward, then.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sick and Tired

It's official.


I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired, I am.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Zero Tolerance = Zero Sense

Zero tolerance has been variously defined as:
  1. A "get tough" policy of making no exceptions in regards to a particular (usually criminal or undesirable) matter, born as a response to a general sense of uneven application of rules and punishments. To react to a proscribed activity or substance with absolute prejudice... Without regard to mitigating circumstances or conditions.


  2. Authoritarian rule system whereby breaking of the rules is taken very seriously and punishment is overly severe to get the message through.


  3. A common phrase referring all lack of being able to tolerate something. Often a policy referring to various rules to increase strictness and banish all regard for anything against the zero tolerance policy.


  4. A policy, usually by American schools that any reference to a gun, violence, or drugs will get you expelled automatically with no trial.
You can read more on the history of the concept here.
Since the 1980s the phrase zero tolerance has signified a philosophy toward illegal conduct that favors strict imposition of penalties regardless of the individual circumstances of each case. ... Critics of zero tolerance believe that inflexible discipline policies produce harmful results. Moreover, school administrators have failed to use common sense in applying zero tolerance, leading to the expulsion of children for bringing to school such items as an aspirin or a plastic knife.
I have a friend who rightfully likes to note that common sense is the least most common sense of all. And that last statement about school administrators failing to use common sense in applying zero tolerance could probably win an award for the understatement of the year.

A six-year-old was suspended ordered to spend 45 days at his school district's "alternative school for troublemakers" after he brought a combination folding fork, knife and spoon to eat his lunch at his Delaware school last month.
The knife is banned as a dangerous instrument under the Christina School District’s zero-tolerance policy, which officials said required them to expel Zachary or send him to the equivalent of reform school regardless of his age or what he planned to do with the utensil.
But don't worry he's in good company - a fifth-grader in the same school district was expelled last year for bringing a birthday cake and a serrated knife to cut it with. In that case, perhaps, common sense prevailed; the expulsion was overturned.

The Board isn't too worried though. They seem to think they have it under control. They're prepared to consider a narrow change that wold affect only kindergartners and first-graders and allow for [wait for it] three to five day suspensions rather than mandating harsher punishments.

That's right, boys and girls, apparently the solution to 5 or 6 year old bringing his camping utensils to class is a 3 to 5 day suspension. As opposed to being expelled. Because that's compassion. That's common sense.

And these are the people we entrust with the care, teaching and discipline of our children? What does that make us - as crazy as them?

But sadly for all of us, there's more to this than just the obvious insanity. In theory, Nova Scotia has recognized [See pages 2 & 3 of the link] it's disparate impact (or some might say, stupidity) and it's harmful effects and thus, does not have a zero tolerance policy.

Notice I said "in theory". In reality, students are being suspended or otherwise punished for behaviour for which is a result of their disability. Behaviour over which they have little, if any, control.

Anybody remember this story? About the Digby teacher who permitted encouraged his students to hit a child with Down's Syndrome. As a way to "teach" him not to hit his classmates. And I am aware of more than a few other instances in this fine Province where students with special needs have been punished (in some cases up to the point of multiple suspensions) for behaviour which is caused by or related to their disability.

I am all for challenged children learning self-discipline. But that can be a long slow process. For which many times teaching appropriate behaviour as opposed to punishment is much better suited.

But consider this: Would you suspend a child with verbal Tourette Syndrome for shouting out inappropriate comments in a classroom? Would you punish a blind child for walking into a wall?

Don't be ridiculous. Such a thing would never happen, you say? Go back and reread the fate of the six-year-old above. Are you so sure?

And although a child with Tourette or who is blind are more obvious examples, is there really any difference between those scenarios and suspending an autistic child (for example) for her behaviour? As opposed to developing an appropriate program and behavioural interventions for the child?

And don't let anyone say it can't be done. For proof otherwise, we need only look to the US.
On the positive side, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is viewed by many in the United States as a sound legal framework for accommodating students with disabilities within the school system, including in the application of discipline. The purpose of the Act is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services to meet their unique needs.

The provisions on discipline in the Act flow from this principle. First, a child with a disability who is removed from school must still have access to educational services. Second, a child with a disability cannot be removed from a regular school placement indefinitely. And third, a child whose behaviour was a manifestation of disability must be accommodated.
Golly gee, what a good idea. Think there's any chance it might just catch on here?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING


'TWAS THE NIGHT OF THANKSGIVING,
BUT I JUST COULDN'T SLEEP.
I TRIED COUNTING BACKWARDS,
I TRIED COUNTING SHEEP.



THE LEFTOVERS BECKONED -
THE DARK MEAT AND WHITE,
BUT I FOUGHT THE TEMPTATION
WITH ALL OF MY MIGHT.


TOSSING AND TURNING WITH ANTICIPATION,
THE THOUGHT OF A SNACK BECAME INFATUATION.
SO, I RACED TO THE KITCHEN, FLUNG OPEN THE DOOR,
AND GAZED AT THE FRIDGE, FULL OF GOODIES GALORE.
GOBBLED UP TURKEY AND BUTTERED POTATOES,
PICKLES AND CARROTS, BEANS AND TOMATOES.


I FELT MYSELF SWELLING SO PLUMP AND SO ROUND,
'TIL ALL OF A SUDDEN, I ROSE OFF THE GROUND.
I CRASHED THROUGH THE CEILING, FLOATING INTO THE SKY,
WITH A MOUTHFUL OF PUDDING AND A HANDFUL OF PIE.
BUT, I MANAGED TO YELL AS I SOARED PAST THE TREES....
HAPPY EATING TO ALL - PASS THE CRANBERRIES, PLEASE.


MAY YOUR STUFFING BE TASTY,
MAY YOUR TURKEY BE PLUMP.
MAY YOUR POTATOES 'N GRAVY HAVE NARY A LUMP.
MAY YOUR YAMS BE DELICIOUS.
MAY YOUR PIES TAKE THE PRIZE,
MAY YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER STAY OFF OF YOUR THIGHS!!


HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL


Friday, October 9, 2009

Colour Me Stunned

When the alarm goes off in the morning, I stumble out of bed and turn the radio on. Then I stumble back into bed, ostensibly to listen to the news before I got up but, in reality, to get a few more winks of sleep.

This morning, my half-asleep brain jarred itself awake when I heard that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Price. Actually, in all honesty, for a split second I questioned whether I had been or still was dreaming as I lay there listening intently to the rest of the story.

So, yeah, colour me shocked, if you will. Did you know there were a record 205 nominations for this year's peace prize?

Now, look, I am not anti-Obama. Trust me, enough are. It's not like they need any more help in promoting their cause. Like I said at the time, I appreciate the historical significance in the US electing its first black President. In fact, I think it's rather cool. But I'm not so much into personality cults.

And my standards for Obama are pretty much the same as they are for any politician. Namely, show me your stuff. Impress me with your good judgment and acute sense of right and wrong. Show me that you are, indeed, worthy of people's vote.

To date, I haven't felt much for Obama, the politician, one way or another. Good or bad. Other than he does give good speeches. He has a good voice. And his kids are cute.

In all honesty, I have nothing too much either for or against the man at the moment. Because he hasn't accomplished a whole hell of a lot yet. In all fairness, hasn't had a whole lot of time to accomplish a whole hell of a lot. I don't hold it against the man. It's just the way it is. Time will tell.

Which would explain my shock at not his not just being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (that, in and of itself would have surprised me), but at him being actually awarded it.

I mean, what the hell has he done to further world peace?

Like I said, this isn't really so much about a criticism of him. He's only been in office for less than a year. So if he had managed to accomplish something to further world peace in that time, I would be very suitably impressed. But other than his speeches apologizing to the world for America's past actions and inactions and his promises to lead us into the dawn of a new age of international relations ... I ain't seen too much.

And, forgive me please, but just because Iran has supposedly agreed in principle to ship most of its current stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be refined for exclusively peaceful uses and pledged that within weeks it would allow the inspection of a previously covert uranium enrichment facility, I'm not quite ready to cry "peace in the Middle East" just yet. As in seeing really is believing.

First of all, it appears that no ground has been given on demands that Tehran halt the enrichment of uranium, meaning that the overall problem of Iran's nuclear program remains. And I seem to remember a neighbouring country that failed to follow through on its promise to allow full weapons inspections by the international community. So, yeah, Seeing Is Believing.

Then again, there's also the fact that this "agreement in principle" was just reached yesterday. So somehow I doubt it was what swayed the Committee to make the award it did.

But hey, apparently they had their reasons. And for them, it's not so much about seeing. Just about believing.
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Norwegian committee said in a statement.

"His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Asked why the prize had been awarded to Mr Obama less than a year after he took office, Nobel Committee head Thorbjoern Jagland said: "It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve".

"It is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done," he said.
Silly me, I had no idea it had been renamed the Nobel We Would Like To Have Peace Prize. I mean, I'm sure more than a few people qualify for that one.

Well, at least I know I'm not the only one to feel this way. Apparently, I'm in good company.
The award to Mr. Obama so early in his presidency stunned much of official Washington, and drew a wide range of reactions from around the world. "So soon? Too early," said former Polish President Lech Walesa, who won the peace prize in 1983. "He has no contribution so far. He is only beginning to act."
Ah, well, I really cannot say it any better than Lex did earlier today.
And congratulations, Mr. President. Please accept my fondest wishes that your accomplishments may some day match your accolades.
And I mean that with the utmost sincerity. Because if the man actually can manage to live up to his press advance billing, the world truly will be a better place.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

About That Needle in the Haystack

Far be it from me to recommend to anybody one way or another whether they or a family member should be vaccinated for swine flu.

But I have no hesitation in being an advocate for individuals having all the knowledge possible and making an informed choice.



No, I'm not suggesting that you should make a decision one way or another based on this piece, either. That would simply be foolish.

But admitting my own biases upfront when it comes to vaccines [my older sister suffered severe results from vaccination encephalitis many years ago from a small pox vaccine and I believe vaccines triggered (not caused, but triggered) my oldest daughter's challenges], I only suggest that people take the research plunge and make a decision based on their own perceived risk factors as opposed to blindly taking the vaccination plunge.

You could certainly do worse than to start your journey with Dr. Mercola.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In The Year of Our Lord 2009

Dubai: The UAE law grants people with special needs the right to employment, education, marriage, nd decent living on equal terms with their normal peers, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said.

"People with special needs can involve in creative works in various fields," Shaikh Mohammad said as he welcomed a group of people with special needs from all overthe UAE who were invited to visit him on Saturday, in the presence of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince.

The Vice-President said people with special needs should not stay at home and become a burden to others, because the UAE laws give them all rights to live like others.


So I suppose I should be happy with this, like it's a good thing. Right?

The fact that it took until 2009, well, better late than never. Right?

I was particularly interested in that last line though, that "people with special needs should not stay at home and become a burden to others, because the UAE laws give them all rights to live like others". Yeah, that's important I suppose. A good enough reason on its own to pass the law, really. So that they won't have to be a burden to others anymore.

If my sarcasm cuts a bit thick (or if, in case you missed it, that was, by the way, sarcasm), it's because I find it hard to know how to respond to stumbling across a story like this. Hey, for a society that can't find it in itself to give women equal rights, it is indeed quite a step forward to grant them to individuals with "special needs".

Whatever that terms means.

Shaikh Mohammad instructed the Ministry of Social Affairs to accelerate the enforcement of relevant legislations, devise an early intervention programme to deliver full care to the physically challenged people and oblige all federal and local entities to provide all necessary services in government buildings and utilities to cater for the requirements and needs of this special category.

Shaikh Mohammad described this category, which plays a vital role in the social fabric, as ‘people with special challenges’, because they challenge hearing and speech impairment and physical disability by work and contribution to the service of their community and nation. Each one of them can do so by being creative in his or her field and according to their own capability, he said.

I'm not sure if this special category includes all those that we in the Western world would lump together in the catch all category of "special needs". In that I can't really tell from reading the article whether equal rights have been granted to the mentally challenged, as well as the physically challenged.

But who know? Maybe in another 1000 years or so?

At any rate, it's always nice to know they are fans of the "Semi-Olympics".

Monday, October 5, 2009

Flying With The Angels

In my (very) short air show career, I've been fortunate enough to watch Sean Tucker perform twice. That would be two out of three air shows I've been to.

The man is good. Very, very good. An absolute pleasure to watch perform.

So would you care to?

It's the first time I've actually heard Tucker speak and I must say it's really impressive how his love for flying and his excitement comes through in the video. Just listening to him puts a smile on my face.

Which is all the more impressive when you consider how often he's flown with the Angels. And just about everybody else who's anybody. You would have almost sworn this must have been his first time.

And just for the record, did you happen to notice that reference to Tucker's aviation lawyer/pilot father? Again, what's up with that?

H/T to FbL for the video link


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Buried Like a Needle in a Haystack

Speaking of the impeccable integrity of journalism, I found it a mite bit strange last week when I came across this story about the possibility of seasonal flu shots raising a person's risks of contracting swine flu buried deep in Section B of Nova Scotia's provincial newspaper.

Strange because Section A (in other words, the entire front piece) of that day's paper, all 10 plus pages of it, made no mention of what could have turned out be such an important little fact. Instead it was full of stories about like this one, setting out Nova Scotia's plan for inoculating its residents against both H1N1 and the seasonal flu and others concerning whether or not pharmacists might be used to give the H1N1 vaccine.

It's always good to see even, unbiased reporting, says I.

Then again, in their defence, I suppose they might have been a little concerned that if they put the story in the front half of the paper, there might just be some readers out there gullible enough to think that there could possibly be any legitimate concern [scroll to the bottom of the link] about this newest, or any, vaccine. And we would never want that to happen.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gullible? Who's Gullible?

Apparently the Supreme Court of Canada docket is ripe with freedom-of-the-press issues this fall. And not so surprisingly, the media types feel compelled to weigh in on the legal issues.

So tell me, does anyone else see a problem with this reasoning?
The most high-profile case arises from the arrests in 2006 of the "Toronto 18" terrorism suspects. While some details of the group’s alleged plans to blow up public buildings have emerged, a sweeping publication ban on evidence has produced more questions than answers.

Courts routinely restrict media reports about crimes, citing the need to rein in publicity that could influence the outcome of the case or make it tough for suspects to receive a fair trial. Judges have the power to suppress evidence presented at bail hearings and other pre-trial proceedings until the trial is over.

But is it necessary to delay the public’s right to know for several years, the time it takes most major cases to reach trial? Why do our courts treat jurors as if they are gullible enough to believe everything they read in the papers? And how effective are news blackouts in an era when the Internet and social media give citizens unprecedented power to share information about court cases?

Let me get this straight.

One of the points this columnist hinges his argument against publication bans on is that jurors aren't actually gullible enough to believe everything they read in the papers?

Presumably our columnist still intends for us all to read the newspaper he is writing in. He just doesn't expect us to be "gullible enough" to believe everything they print. I can only assume he would apply the same reasoning to what we see on the TV news, as well.

So which one of these definitions of "gullible" do you suppose he is using?

fleeceable: naive and easily deceived or tricked; "at that early age she had been gullible and in love"
easily tricked because of being too trusting; "gullible tourists taken in by the shell game"
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Easily deceived or duped; naïve, easily cheated or fooled
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gullible

gullibility - credulousness: tendency to believe too readily and therefore to be easily deceived
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

gullibility - The quality of readily believing information, truthful or otherwise, usually to an absurd extent
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gullibility

gullibly - In a gullible way or manner
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gullibly

"Easily deceived or tricked"?

"Easily cheated or fooled"?

Or "readily believing information ... to an absurd extent "?

Do you really mean to tell me that I really can't believe what I read in the newspaper?

But. But. But. I thought journalism was built on certain tenets. Subject to professional ethics and standards, like.

  • Like to "seek truth and report it".
  • To "test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error"
  • To "diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing".
  • To "identify sources whenever feasible: you know, so we will have as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
  • To "make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent".
  • To "not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context".
  • And to "distinguish between advocacy and news reporting", to make sure that "analysis and commentary [is] labeled and not misrepresent fact or context".
Gawd, it looks like I really am gullible, after all.

Either that or our columnist has taken his mandate to report truth to a whole new level.