Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Science Gone Mad

UPDATE: Pogue made some good points in a comment and finding it a little unwieldy to include all the links in a comment, I decided to go the update route.

So first, Pogue's comment:

OK, not having seen what the original research proposal was it's difficult to say what funding was specifically approved for. As I read the article, the form of H5N1 they worked with is not contagious to humans, so I don't know how it was made "more deadly" other than for headline effect. I doubt that the proposal was to make it an airborne pathogen. In my circles that is referred to as "weaponizing a virus" and I'm not surprised that there is discussion about classifying it. The technique is the issue, not the specific result. When we get into a "government shouldn't have funded that research" argument be careful what you wish for - almost any research may have some potentially dangerous applications, so we shouldn't support stem cell or HIV related research, right?
First, let me say, that for me, personally, the issue of who financed the research is much less of an issue than that scientists intentionally set out to do this. [See my previous comment re: just because you can do something doesn't mean you should actually do it.]  Although, I must say, seeing who the backer was does make me stop and shake my head more than a little bit.

Moving on, I think I see where/why you got the idea that this specific strain of H5N1 is not "contagious to humans". Unfortunately, the quote was a little misleading.
The researchers, led by Albert Osterhaus of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, mutated the H5N1 strain of avain flu, which could not be transmitted between humans, to an "airborne" strain that can be transmitted in coughs and sneezes between laboratory ferrets, the best animal model of human flu.
What they were (rather badly) trying to say was that (prior to the present research) this strain of the virus was not transmittable between humans - from coughs or sneezes. However, although it's ability to infect humans was limited (transmission required direct contract with either infected poultry or contaminated surfaces) it has proven to be deadly when it does. In fact, you might recall back in 1997, when it spread through live-poultry markets in Hong Kong to humans, killing 6 of 18 infected people. So far, on average, it's killed roughly 60% of the humans it has infected. You can find a list of the confirmed human cases and mortality ratehere.

So as far as I am concerned both the technique and the result are the problem. I don't know whether they started out with the intention of "weaponizing the virus" (frankly, I have no idea what they might have been thinking at that point) but that certainly does appear to be the result.

I must admit I can't quite follow your comment about not supporting stem cell or HIV research because almost any research can have potentially dangerous applications. From what I know about stem cell research, the only down side is that some individuals have used aborted fetuses to harvest infant stem cells. Putting aside the fact that adult stem cells are suppose to work just as well (if not better, in most cases), I see that as a problem with how people choose to use new scientific knowledge as opposed to a problem with the research itself. And, quite frankly, I can't quite get my head around what you might be thinking about with HIV research.


Could somebody please explain this to me?

But, please, speak real slowly ... because you're going to have to work really hard to make me understand, let alone accept, this one.
A new report out Tuesday claims Dutch scientists have created a highly contagious, airborne form of the bird flu, which could potentially be capable of killing millions.

Unlike the normal H5N1 strain of avian influenza - which was only contagious through close personal contact with an infected person - this form can be spread by merely coughing or sneezing.

The lab-created bird flu strain was engineered by a team of scientists led by Ron Fouchier of Rotterdam's Erasmus Medical Centre. The researchers said the mutation only required a few variations to the original strain.
But wait ... it gets better!

The research was funded by ... wait for it ... the United States National Institutes of Idiocracy Health.  And ... and for the piece de resistance... officials of that same government have begged requested researchers not to release information concerning the virus to the scientific community.

Because ... you know ... if they did, well, maybe, just maybe, some terrorist group might get ahold of it. And you know, kill us all. The theory of unforeseen consequences always being at play and all.

But, hey, don't take my word for it.
The decision was made after the US government warned releasing the details could be kill millions of people if it was used as a weapon of biological warfare.
Of course, freedom of speech and scientific integrity being the laudable constructs they are, the idiots scientists involved have expressed concern "about withholding potentially important public-health information from responsible influenza researchers".

As to the justification for that concern - apparently, "many scientists within the influenza community have a bona fide need to know the details of this research in order to protect the public, especially if they currently are working with related strains of the virus".

Right, that.

And yet it seems rather self-obvious that there would be a lot less need to know and a lot less to protect the public from if this particular virus hadn't been so painstakingly created in the first place.

I mean just because you can do something ... does that always mean you should?

Just for giggles, I note that the scientific community isn't all that impressed with the request to have the research information withheld; first, because they note that, perhaps,the government ought not to have authorized the research if they did not know how to deal with it and, secondly, it's all a little too late considering that several details had already been shared with hundreds of researchers and governments in open meetings.

So, has everybody had their flu shot for this year?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Very Unmerry Christmas

Sifting through my email this morning, I came across this story.

This story that almost defines words.
A 9-year-old autistic boy who misbehaved at school was stuffed into a duffel bag and the drawstring pulled tight, according to his mother, who said she found him wiggling inside as a teacher's aide stood by.

The mother of fourth-grader Christopher Baker said her son called out to her when she walked up to him in the bag Dec. 14. The case has spurred an online petition calling for the firing of school employees responsible.

"He was treated like trash and thrown in the hallway," Chris' mother, Sandra Baker, said Thursday. She did not know how exactly how long he had been in the bag, but probably not more than 20 minutes.
And just what did this young boy do to ... deserve ... such treatment, you may ask?
Baker said when school officials called the family to pick him up, they were told he was "jumping off the walls." Days later, at a meeting with school officials, Baker said she was told the boy had smirked at the teacher when he was told to put down a basketball, then threw it across the room.
But don't fret, gentle reader. All will be fine. After all, the matter is being ... investigated.
Mercer County schools Interim Superintendent Dennis Davis said confidentiality laws forbid him from commenting.
"The employees of the Mercer County Public Schools are qualified professionals who treat students with respect and dignity while providing a safe and nurturing learning environment," Davis said in a statement.  
And there is, of course, legitimate reason for using a duffel bag in such a manner.
At a meeting with school district officials, the bag was described as a "therapy bag," Baker said, though she wasn't clear exactly what that meant. She said her son would sometimes be asked to roll over a bag filled with balls as a form of therapy, but she didn't know her son was being placed in the bag. She said school officials told her it was not the first time they had put him in the bag.
After all, it's not like this sort of thing occurs on a regular basis.
A July letter from the state agency to special education directors said the state had investigated two informal complaints this year.
In one, "a student (was) nearly asphyxiated while being restrained," and in the other, a student vomited from panic attacks after spending most of an academic year "confined to a closet, with no ventilation or outside source of light," according to the letter.
So. What are we to make of this?

In Kentucky, there are no laws on using restraint or seclusion in public schools.

I'm not aware of any "time out" bags being used in Nova Scotia, but we're all very aware what can happen time out rooms aren't regulated. Or, sometimes, even when they supposedly are.

It boggles the mind to think that such a thing could happen in the US, of all places, with their plethora of safeguards against just such abuse.

The woman who started a petition in this matter, herself autistic, stated "That would not be wrong just for an autistic student. That would be wrong to do to anyone".

Might I suggest that the only statement that need be made (if any) is that such a thing should not be done to any student. Ever. Period.

This is not just a lawsuit waiting to be filed. It's a lawsuit begging to be filed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

'Autism Night Before Christmas'

Disability is a part of my life. A part of my family's family.

Or, put another way, overcoming challenges is a part of my life. A part of my family's life.

So when I came across this little gem on 5 Minutes for Special Needs (a spot I make it to far too rarely lately), I just had to share. Because it's something I think just about any parent of  a challenged child, be they autistic or not, can relate to.
Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
Yes, even the mouse

We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
But the holiday jitters
They always distract

The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When nightmares of terror
Ran through my OWN head

Did I get the right gift
The right color
And style
Would there be a tantrum
Or even, maybe, a smile?

Our relatives come
But they don’t understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from flapping his hands.

“He needs discipline,” they say
“Just a well-needed smack,
You must learn to parent…”
And on goes the attack

Now go read the rest of it. Please.

And  a Very Merry Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Miracle

I believe.

You might recall (well assuming I have any semi-regular readers left, that is) that a little over a year ago my husband lost his job of 15 years.

Which might lead one to question what, exactly, would happen a year later when his EI benefits ran out. Well, that's exactly what we were wondering too. Especially considering I only* work part-time and it was a struggle to keep it afloat even with EI.

But then this past Friday (the very last day for his EI claim), he started a new job. Hence the name of this post.

Now is that timing or ... a miracle?

True enough, it's not much more than minimum wage pay but it's full-time and we're certainly not complaining. In fact, we're actually doing a little (extremely fiscally-responsible) celebrating.

And I'm happy to say that I've taken up a new hobby now too. Nope, you will never guess .... Breathing! I know, who would have thunk it? Breathe in ... breathe out ... nice deep breaths. (Thanks, Pogue!)

So now that I can actually breathe a teeny tiny bit and seeing as how we were just speaking of celebrating, I was wondering if maybe I should decorate ye olde blog a little for Christmas. I mean I always do every other year, right?

So, let's see, maybe if I put this here and move that there and buy a new ...

* Although it feels like pretty much full-time + trying to get this new business off the ground. What between the paperwork, the workshops, the two-day "Core Training" ... gee, I have the feeling I'm forgetting something but I can't for the life of me remember .... Oh yeah, right! Then there's the whole actual running the business part!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Over

No, not the blog. Just me.

Overwhelmed, overburdened, overstretched ... overcome.

It's been a year since my husband lost his job. [Stupid expression ... now if we could just remember where he put it, everything would be fine.] And for the past year, I honestly feel like I've never stopped running.

A wrongful dismissal suit against his former boss.

A fight to get Employment Insurance (due to said wrongful dismissal).

Defending the bogus lawsuit his former employer then brought against him (to get out of paying the judgment in the wrongful dismissal suit).

Another fight with Employment Insurance due to their efforts to collect the entire judgment in the wrongful dismissal suit as income (and therefore an overpayment), even though we had only received half of it at that point.

Helping my husband study for and take the five-hour exam necessary for him to get the papers saying he was qualified to do the work he has done for over 30 years.

Fighting to get him the necessary accommodations for the exam (there's a whole long story to that we're not even going to touch today).

There's more. In between here. We won't discuss that. Not here.

Getting the Kit Kat where she needed to be.

The constant battle to get her sister an appropriate education.

*Starting* my own business (after being self-employed for17 years??), involving workshops and a tonne of paperwork to keep the people that are helping me start my business happy. Somehow that's not helpful. The tonne of paperwork, I mean. Not the workshops. They've actually been helpful except that I have been so busy with so many other things that I have hardly had time to process (let alone implement) any of the great ideas and information I'm getting.

You see, I gave up one of my two clients (from the legal analyst work I was doing before and continue to do) in order to concentrate more fully on this new business. But shortly thereafter, some unexpected research jobs fell in my lap that I simply could not afford (financially) to say no to.  Which means I have hardly had any time to focus on the new business. And yet I seem to be working more and more hours. And having less and less time to do the things I like to do just for myself. Like blogging and reading blogs, for example. All that and I am now half way through the Self Employment Benefits program that I accessed to get the new business going.

But shall we continue -very recently finding out that my husband can't go back to his former employment (even if he coudl fine a job) because he could well lose what's left of his hearing, which is progressively getting worse and worse.

Realizing this past week that he has about one month less of EI entitlement left than we thought - meaning he only has a few weeks left. Yep, it will run out a week or two before Christmas.

Dealing with the myriad of paperwork that has now come my way to help my husband apply for retraining (which first involves intensive literacy upgrading). Did I say myriad? I meant myriad.

And then ... the icing on the cake.

It's November 29th. Three years. And I miss her so much.

And yet, it's almost feels like I am not allowed time even for that - the Kit Kat was very close to her Grandma and each anniversary of that date seems to strike her as hard as the last. Fro me, although I'[ve been thinking a lot about Mom lately and it hurts (a lot), I find it doesn't have quite the same sharp sting it used to. But it seems to be just as sharp as ever for the Kit Kat.

And then I read this today on her FaceBook page:
tomorrow is going to be another year of not seeing you, of not feeling your hugs or your voice telling me it will be ok or that god is looking after me its also another year of you not here ♥ :'( I love you grandma and I miss you with all my heart!!
And then I cried.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Favourite Quotes*

Everyone is a genuis. But if you judge a fish by its ability to
climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it's stupid.
~ A. Einsteen

*Hey, I don't seem to have much else to say at the moment.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Out of the Loop

Which, it would appear, is what I've most decidedly been as of late.

Not that I don't have my reasons, of course [like working flat out within the window of a six-month funding opportunity to develop my new business, while, of course, still keeping the old business (to say nothing of life) afloat] but that does nothing to change the fact that I'm often feeling a week day late and a hundred dollar short when it comes to keeping up with current events lately.

Such as, for example, when I came across reference to President Obama's proposed plan to protect the unemployed against a hiring bias by prohibiting employers from discriminating against job applicants because they are ... well ... unemployed.

Say what? Is this for real? Apparently so.
Under the proposal, it would be “an unlawful employment practice” if a business with 15 or more employees refused to hire a person “because of the individual’s status as unemployed.”

Unsuccessful job applicants could sue and recover damages for violations, just as when an employer discriminates on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
First of all, I had no clue that this was even an issue, even occurring at all. Although I suppose that's what tends to happen when you cocoon yourself in your own little world, no?

Still, putting aside the cracks about this simply being a make-work project for trial lawyers who don't have enough work, this makes me shake my head on oh so many levels.

First things first, I have to ask, just how stupid are employers? 

Why would any employer intentionally risk shooting itself in the foot by basing hiring decisions simply on the fact that a person is unemployed or has been unemployed for a certain amount of time? 

Skills are skills and you either have them or you don't.  Just because you haven't been working for a while, whether from being laid off due to a sluggish economy or voluntarily removing yourself from the workplace for some period for personal/family reasons (to care for a sick relative, for example) doesn't change the fact that you're either qualified for a particular position or you're not.

I can certainly see the argument that someone who is currently employed will most likely have more up-to-date skills than someone who has been out of the workplace for an extended period (for whatever reason). That's a valid consideration.  But the relevance of that would seem to me to depend on how long a particular person has been unemployed. Not simply the fact that they are unemployed.  So is this actually an issue? For real?

Moving beyond that disconnect, I come to the legitimacy validity sensibleness of President Obama's proposed legislation.  Sorry, but kind of another WTF moment...

I'm pretty confident in saying that most industrialized countries (including the US) already offer protection in some form from discriminatory employment practices that have a disparate impact on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin unless an employer can show that the particular practice is  what we in Canada like to refer to as a BFOR (bona fide occupational requirement).

But we tend to protect potential employees on the basis of what are generally considered "inalienable characteristics" , in other words, characteristics that an individual has no choice or control over, such as their gender, their race, whether or not they have a disability...

Are they now proposing to create a new “protected class” ... the unemployed? Really?

That seems out of whack enough on its own, without even considering the potential consequences of such a move.  I mean, let's face it, American society (in particular) is simply just not litigious enough, right?/sarcasm off.

Quite the message that - "if you’re unemployed and you go to apply for a job, and you’re not hired for that job, see a lawyer".

Well, like I said, always good news for the litigation bar, I suppose.

Then, this evening, checking out what was new at Lex's (something I seem to do far too rarely these days), I came across this - protesters have been occupying the financial district in New York in opposition of "corporate greed? For the past three weeks?

And they have their own website?

And, and, and ... they could be like the Tea Party of the Left?

Wow... I mean, who knew?! Well, obviously not me ...

Left. Right. Is there actually a Centre? 

My apologies to my American friends but, say what you will, you have to admit that they're always entertaining, if nothing else... 

Although I must say, this commentary on their Declaration of Grievances Demands does strike a chord with me. (The commentary, that is. More so than the Declaration.)

For what that's worth.  Which I imagine is not that much, seeing as how woefully uninformed I appear to be at the moment.

Forget keeping up with the Jones'. This girl is struggling to keep up with The World.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WTF??!!

Ever have one of those moments when your life is chugging along like normal and all of a sudden you see, hear or read something that makes you go ... WTF?!  Did I just see/hear/read that right?!

Well, it happened to me as I flipped through today's paper and, quite frankly, I didn't don't know what to make of it.

So let's play a little game and see if anyone else sees anything [glaringly] wrong with this picture?
FURUDAL, Sweden — Mike Danton played the hero in his opening game of the Swedish league.

The former NHL player, who served five years behind bars for a failed murder-for-hire plot, rushed to the aid of IFK Ore teammate Marcus Bengtsson, who was convulsing on the ice after a hard hit in Sunday's season-opener.  
~  ~  ~

According to Danton's blog, Bengtsson took a late hit with about 14 minutes left in the game against Soderhamn/Ljusne. He lay on the ice suffering convulsions for six or seven minutes.

``As his eyes continued to roll into the back of his head, his mouth finally opened a bit,'' wrote Danton, who is captain of the Swedish team. ``It was at that time that I jammed my fingers into his mouth and clawed his tongue.''
Anybody? Anybody at all?

Now don't get me wrong, I've been rather impressed with this guy for a while now. I'm not a big hockey person by any stretch of the imagination but I followed with interest the story of this former NHL player after he was released from prison for conspiracy to commit murder following an attempted murder-for-hire plot.

What grabbed my attention was that following his imprisonment, he returned to Canada and enrolled at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. Where, yes, he played hockey. But where he also committed himself to his studies, working towards a degree in psychology and maintaining an A average.

So back to today's story ... can anyone tell me what caused my jaw to fall to the floor?

Let's try this ... does anyone know any basic first aid? You know, like the kind Danton says he picked up learned in prison?

First aid for seizures is pretty basic and straight-forward.  It's not like you need any specialized skill to help in such a situation.
1.Stay calm

2.Prevent injury
During the seizure, you can exercise your common sense by insuring there is nothing within reach that could harm the person if she struck it.

3.Pay attention to the length of the seizure

4.Make the person as comfortable as possible

5.Keep onlookers away

6.Do not hold the person down
If the person having a seizure thrashes around there is no need for you to restrain them. Remember to consider your safety as well

7.Do not put anything in the person's mouth
Contrary to popular belief, a person having a seizure is incapable of swallowing their tongue so you can breathe easy in the knowledge that you do not have to stick your fingers into the mouth of someone in this condition.

8.Do not give the person water, pills, or food until fully alert

9.If the seizure continues for longer than five minutes, call 911

10.Be sensitive and supportive, and ask others to do the same
Anybody? Anybody at all?

How about the FACT that you are NEVER suppose to put anything (including your hand) in a person's mouth during a seizure?

Not only is such a move dangerous to the idiot person trying to "help" (picure somebody in the midst of a seizure suddenly chomping down on your hand and not letting go - that's right, I said Not. Letting. Go.), but it can actually harm the individual who is seizing - jaw and face muscles often tighten during a seizure and if this happens when something is in their mouth, they may break and either choke on or swallow the object or, if you're lucky, maybe they will only break their teeth.

Come on, people, the only thing you accomplish by sticking anything in a person's mouth during a seizure is to obstruct airflow, which is potentially life threatening. 

Sound like a plan, Stan Mike?

Now I know it seems like no TV producer out there in La La Land can get this straight, but still ... Really?

It's too bad, really. Dalton could have actually been helpful and useful had he turned Bengtsson on his side (as other players did later), to prevent saliva from blocking his airway and help him breathe more easily. Trust me, Mike, if the guy was having trouble breathing, it wasn't because of his tongue.

And he could have helped people with epilepsy in general by explaining to the media after the fact exactly why he HADN'T tried to put his hand in the poor man's mouth!

So tell me, please, what kind of first aid course, supposedly certifying you in "first aid response" teaches a person to "jam their fingers" into the mouth of a person convulsing and "claw their tongue"?

And how, exactly, is it possible for this story to get international coverage without anybody picking up on the fact that it was only by virtue of simple dumb luck that our "hero" didn't seriously hurt himself or the other player?

So, yeah, as I was saying ... WTF??!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Success

About our little adventure in trying to get out youngest daughter into that private school for learning disabilities ... I have only one word to say.

Success.

Okay, maybe nine words ... Thank you Lord. And Thank you Dept of Education.

And, trust me, the latter are not words you would ever often hear me say.

Next up is applying for the Tuition Support Supplement and seeing how much of a bursary she migtt be eligible for but we are definitely over the biggest hurdle...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unintended Consequences

Oh, the irony, the title of my last post, the day before the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, being "Hard" ... as if I know what "hard' really is.

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

~  ~  ~  ~

I've had a deep respect for Craig Kielburger for quite a few years ... ever since I first heard about his passion and his accomplishments back when I was a member of Results. For those that aren't familiar with Craig's work activism (and I see that apparently at some point along the way he has also been joined by his brother), I would strongly recommend that you read this. And this. And this.

Yeah, I told you I was a bit of a fan, right?

What can I say, but that my own children would turn out so well ...

At any rate, my eye tends to pick out news stories where Craig's name is mentioned. Which is exactly what happened this morning, when I read this story in amongst all the other 9/11 stories in today's newspaper.

A story in which Craig writes about his personal experiences on Sept 11, 2001 and the aftershocks that he feels ten years later in a sprawling refugee camp on the Somalia-Kenya border.

You see, within two weeks of that fateful day in 2001, President Bush signed an executive order making it illegal to provide "material benefit" to terrorists - including humanitarian aid.

To say that seems logical, makes sense, would be an understatement.  But, as I constantly find myself preaching to my children, "actions have consequences".  Sometimes very unintended consequences.

And so it is that relief workers in Dadaab ten years later are experiencing a great deal of difficulty when they try to feed the starving.
Innocent Somalis are dying, including 29,000 children. But U.S. anti-terrorism laws had prevented some U.S. charities from working in Somalia, and now many - despite recent policy changes - are wary of accepting U.S. aid money for fear of inadvertently funding terrorism. Aid could fall into the hands of Al-Shabaab, a group of Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, and that charity might be considered an accomplice to terrorism by the U.S. government.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
While in Dadaab, relief workers voiced the difficulties they encounter and the extreme caution with which they try to feed the starving. They also talked of how Al-Shabaab's link to al-Qaeda is likely one of the factors that have stopped people from donating to the dying Somalis.
Although exceptions have been made to the law for groups acting "in good faith," confusion about the policy still reigns among U.S.-funded charities fearful of accidentally funding terrorists.

And, quite rightly, both journalists and donors question whether the food and money is going to "alQaeda-backed Al-Shabaab." A valid concern, it presents a moral quandary for donors and a challenging situation for organizations trying to save innocent starving civilians.

And yet it's not just the stark reality that the events of September 11, 2001, have resulted in the world not responding to a humanitarian crisis in Somalia ten years later as it has to other such crisis, such as the Haitian earthquake (despite similar concerns there like corruption and disrupted supplies) that grabbed my attention. 

What really grabbed me was the parallel drawn between the reaction of New Yorkers who gathered together in candle light vigils ten years ago tonight (a reaction not that dissimilar to that not just of other Americans but of many, many people around the world) and wondered what would happen to their loved ones, their city, their country; who were really asking the question "Are we going to be OK?" and the situation in the refugee camps today.

In Craig's words:
I thought about that vigil when I was in Dadaab. The camps aren't equipped with electricity, so candles illuminate rows and rows of tents and makeshift shelters. At night, the refugees gather in the flickering light to ask about their loved ones, and their country, as well as that very question I heard in New York. "Are we going to be OK?"
Perhaps part of the reason this article struck me so was because it resonated so well with my own feelings expressed on a previous 9/11 anniversary a few years ago.
It's truly sad that so many of us have lost that sense of compassion and empathy, of being united in a common cause. Or experience. Or perhaps it's some other word that I cannot quite touch at the moment. But I know it was there. Just as surely as I know we have lost it in the intervening years. And that, I think, is another tragedy born out of that day.

So, no, I will never forget September 11. 2001. I will never forget the horror of it all. I will never forget those many who lost their lives that day or the families and friends they left behind. I will never forget that there is true evil in the world and that I saw it in action, with my own eyes, that day.

But neither will I ever forget what it felt like to see so many united in our humanity. Or what it feels like to lose that.
Or, in the words of the Kielburger brothers:
It saddens me to think that a "with us or against us" mentality might have overshadowed our compassion. In the week following 9/11, I watched shell shock and terror dissolve into an incredible outpouring of kindness.
~  ~  ~  ~
It's an unfortunate irony; a terrorist act on 9/11 brought forth such kindness in people, and when compassion is called for again, a fear of terrorism has limited our ability to help those who need it most. There are no easy answers on how to bring aid to those in the snare of Al-Shabaab, but we have to continue to find a way to help compassion triumph over fear.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hard

So it's been a bit quiet around here the last few weeks. Meaning quiet at Free Falling. Not exactly so quiet in my life.

Having made a very last minute (although not because it was left to the last minute) decision to try and get the Kit Kat into our local, extremely expensive private learning disabilities school, it has, in fact, been rather crazy around here.

This was something we had been contemplating two or three years ago but because our school board refuses to give IPPs to students with learning disabilities and, without an IPP, a student in Nova Scotia isn't eligible for the substantial chunk of funding available through the Province's Tuition Support Program ... it pretty well seemed out of reach at the time.

So imagine my surprise when, sitting in a meeting with the Minister of Education a couple of weeks ago on what I thought were totally practically unrelated issues, I happened to spontaneously bring this issue up in a  discussion concerning inequality between school boards and I was told that students in our particular school board didn't need an IPP to access the program.  After picking my jaw up off the floor, I made a valiant effort to move on with the meeting because, trust me, I couldn't actually say out loud what I was thinking at the time. 

You see, back when this issue had come a few years ago I had approached the Dept of Education with the fact that our Board refused to provide IPPs for LD students and was told that no, I must be mistaken, that wasn't allowed but they would check into it and get back to me. When they finally did get back to me, a few months later, I was given the brush off with some comment to the effect that perhaps my daughter didn't require an IPP. 

Given that my Mom had been recently diagnosed with a terminal condition (this was about six to eight months before she passed away), I wasn't in any position to take on the battle so I let it slide.  And then, suddenly there I was being told that this change in requirements about the necessity of an IPP had been made right about the same time as I had made my enquiries of the Department. Imagine that ... funny how no one had bothered to let me in on that little secret.

At any rate, such began the mad rush to once again check out the school and begin the stack of paperwork needed to 1) apply for admission; 2) apply to the government for Tuition Support funding; and 3) apply for a bursary.  Because given our current financial situation, unfortunately there's very little we can contribute at the moment to the cause. Although I might point out that, ironically enough, back when I had initially inquired about this (and was turned away), we had actully been in a position where we could have contributed something to the cause.

And, oh yes, lest we forget, one more little detail to be taken care of ... the person who had advised me in that meeting that students from our Board didn't need an IPP to qualify for the Tuition Support program quickly backpedalled when I phoned him up a few days later; no, of course, he hadn't said that; what he had had meant to say said was that new program parameters now allowed a student to be "working towards an IPP".  Whatever that means. 

Well, apparently that meant that I had to very quickly call a meeting of the Kit Kat's Program Planning Team at her former school (wait, did she even have a Program Planning Team??!!) to see if they would agree that she should be working towards an IPP. 

But all things come to those who wait work hard enough ... or so I hope, anyway.

The private school agreed that the Kit Kat could start with the other students the first day of school even though we didn't (and still don't) know if we will get any funding from the Province.

And the Kit Kat ... well, let's just say she's working on "adjusting" to her new reality, tenuous as it might be.  She had been completely behind this move and I had warned her to think long and hard about it before I put the works in motion because once I started, there would be no turning back. I had also pointed out that her biggest challenge in the new school would most likely be her lack of friends.  Because it's hard for any teenager to change schools and make new friends.  And it's even harder for a kid with a learning disability. And harder again still for a kid with a nonverbal learning disability.

So, while we still don't know if we will get the funding to make this work, we remain hopeful.  And if the answer is no, there is, of course, always an appeal process. Oh joy, oh bliss.

In the meantime, while we await word on that and the Kit Kat adjusts to some very big changes in her life, I have now begun the even larger stack of paper work necessary to get some additional services for the Blue Jay. Because, one thing about my kids, they never want to play second fiddle to the other. Meaning if one is demanding all of my time and attention, the other one will be sure to soon follow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Alerts to Threats in 2011 Europe

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Libya and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing.." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is canceled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

-- John Cleese - British writer, actor and tall person

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Defining Crazy

Sitting here at work, late on a Wednesday afternoon ... and my mind turns to examine my day.

I left home this morning around 8:30 to make the 1.5 hour working day commute to Halifax. Spent the rest of the morning in a meeting with another a parent of like mind, the Minister of Education, her Executive Assistant and the Director of Student Services for the Province.

Meeting complete, Krista and I stopped for a coffee and a long quick chat.

Then, off to work.

But, alas, I can't stay at work because I have to make it up the our regional children's hospital before 4:30.

Up to the hospital, errand complete and realizing that I am now outside the 15-minute window that would have guaranteed me free parking, I decide I might as well check and see if a certain social worker is in her office.  For to move along my efforts to get some additional services for the Blue Jay. 

A very good decision as it turned out; the 10 minute wait to see her being more than the worth it; presumably anyway - let's just say it will be if things get moving along again now as they should.

Then, back to the Barristers' Library (through rush hour traffic, of course), park the car, grab a quick supper and, now, back to work. Where I will most likely be for another 2.5 to 3 hours. 

Then the 1.5 hr commute home.  Thank goodness for audio books to keep me awake!

My day ... productive, yes, but it would be nice to stay in one place (both physically and mentally) for more than a couple of hours.  I think I'm starting to discover the definition of mental whiplash.

*Oh yeah, lest we forget, we can now throw just a tablespoon of blogging in the mix too!

**And for anyone wondering if I might ever get back to something substantive in these here parts (and that most definitely includes me!), I can tell you that I do have a very substantive blog post rolling around in my head.  Actually, it's been trapped in there for close to a year now but recent events appear to have revitalized it somewhat.  The only real problem being that it is substantive.  Which is just another way of saying "time-consuming to compose".

And so, the plan is to get back to you on that, just as soon as the juggling show slows down a mite. And I manage to down a few Tylenol.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Miss Me?

I was just wondering becaue we were away on vactaion for this past week.


Anyone chance to notice?

Monday, August 8, 2011

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...
enough money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own,
even if she never wants to or needs to...
something perfect to wear if the employer,
or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...
a youth she's content to leave behind....
a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to
retelling it in her old age...
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra...
one friend who always makes her laugh... and one who lets her cry...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...
a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family...
eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems,
and a recipe for a meal,
that will make her guests feel honored...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...
a feeling of control over her destiny...
how to fall in love without losing herself..

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
how to quit a job,
break up with a lover,
and confront a friend without;
ruining the friendship...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
when to try harder... and WHEN TO WALK AWAY...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
that she can't change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents..
that her childhood may not have been perfect...but it's over...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
what she would and wouldn't do for love or more...
how to live alone... even if she doesn't like it...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
whom she can trust,
whom she can't,
and why she shouldn't take it personally...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
where to go...
be it to her best friend's kitchen table...
or a charming Inn in the woods...
when her soul needs soothing...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
What she can and can't accomplish in a day...
a month...and a year...

REMEMBER:

GOOD FRIENDS ARE LIKE STARS.

YOU DON'T ALWAYS SEE THEM,

BUT YOU ALWAYS KNOW THEY ARE THERE!!!!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Still Hanuted by the Resdential School Scandal

This really saddens me.

Last month I shared the story of Jeremy Meawasige, the 16-year-old Native boy with severe and complex special needs who is at risk of being placed in institutional care, not because his family is saying they can no longer care for him but because the federal government refuses to provide the respite funding necessary for his mother, who is still recovering from a stroke, to care for him at home. 

This is something she has done without complaint all for all of Jeremy's life prior to her stroke (and from reading the news reports, it sounds like she had no help at all prior to her suffering a stroke) and is willing to continue to do, as her health allows her. 

It's extremely telling to me that Mom is not simply saying "I've had this stroke, now take care of my son for me here at home" (which, really, it's arguable she has every right to do).  No, now that she is able to get around somewhat with the help of a cane, she is asking for less support than that provided by her Band last year. The sense I get is that she is only looking for short-term assistance to tide her over for her recovery.  Not that, of course, she shouldn't be receiving a significant amount of help with Jeremy anyway, stroke or no stroke.

And yet now the plot thickens Jeremy's story turns even more tragic - not only is the solution seen as institutionalization but institutionalization outside of Nova Scotia.  Not just away from his mother and his home. Not just away from his culture. But in another Province, entirely. Not that we should be surprised, I suppose, given how dismally Nova Scotia has handled the issue of providing appropriate care for children with complex needs.

But, wait, this sad, sad story isn't over.

Now I read that there are more First Nations children in care at this moment than at the height of the residential school system. For any that don't know, the residential schools had a catastrophic impact on Natives and became Canada's national disgrace, for which Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Home of My Heart ~ A Photo Blog

About those photos I took last summer on our trip to Cape Breton. I feel moved to share.

These were from where we stayed for the first couple of nights. Dundee Resort. Very nice.

Even nicer when the stay was a very generous uunexpected gift from someone else.






Then we went "on the road", traveling around the Island via the Cabot Trail.

Around the Trail we go.




Unfortunately, my pictures don't even come near capturing the majesty and beauty of the Cabot Trail but we all do what we can.




We spent the remainder of our time in Cape Breton at the Seaparrot,
a wonderful little resort on the ocean




Drinks anyone?


Ah, what is life without a hammock?

Sunning with some friends.



The decor.







But, alas, the time came to leave.

Don't laugh ... it you have a hankering for some excellent eats,
this is the place to be!


Next up ... Boston! I hope. Eventually.

Your Soul Has Violet Eyes

You understand people well and are a natural born therapist. You are a gentle listener and the ideal confidant.

You believe that this world truly lacks understanding. You try to exercise compassion as often as you can.

You are a compassionate and forgiving person. You are willing to overlook most mistakes.

Affection is like air for you - you need to give and receive it to survive. You need love in your life.

This is one of the results from the quiz, What Color Eyes Does Your Soul Have?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finally

As in I finally managed to download upload 1035 pictures from my camera to my computer.  What?!

So it took me a while to actually install the software, what's your point?

Summer Olympics 2010.

Cape Breton trip 2010.

Trip to Boston.  Which was in the Fall of 2010.

I only mention that because, would you believe, I had actually had to look back to the old blog posts to see when that was.  It seemed like it must have been at least 2009.  Not a good sign, me thinks.

Summer Olympics 2011.

Anyway, the point of this (mostly pointless) post is that now that I finally have those pictures off my camera, I might just get some up here on my blog.  Who knows, I might just go wild and crazy and make some albums for Facebook too.

Then again, maybe we I shouldn't get too excited ... although I took those 1035 pictures off my camera last Thursday, so far I have only had a chance to actually look at 100 of them. 

Unless, of course, you count the times I stop while passing my computer to stare in wonder at my ever-changing screensaver of these pictures I now recall taking but have never actually viewed before. 

Baby steps...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eye Candy

I'm not a huge fan of Ford but ... I am a big fan of the Blue Angels.



And eye candy. Let's never forget eye candy.

The only downside is ... it makes me awful lonely for Osh Kosh.

H/T Vincent at Neptunus Lex

Monday, July 4, 2011

Canada Day "In Action"

We all know that Canada is in Afghanistan as part of an UN-mandated, NATO-led mission with more than 60 other countries and international organizations, supposedly at the request of the Afghan government. That's old news.

But this year, July 1st marked the official pull-out of our combat troops, the day marking the end of combat operations for the Canadian military.

So I got to thinking - what was Canada Day like for those members of the Canadian military in theatre in Afghanistan this year?

Was July 1st a time of celebration? Reflection? Fond wishes? A passive goodbye party? Or was it just cause to celebrate as one of the few occasions they are allowed two beers and barbecued hamburgers?  Maybe all of the above?

For what it's worth, here's the view from Canada’s top commander on July 2nd as he bid farewell to combat troops in Kandahar.

Gen. Walt Natynczyk, in his final address before the formal end of operations, urged returning soldiers to watch their "battle buddies" and take care of each other as they begin the long journey back to regular life at home.

His remarks had a poignant ring for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Regiment, as two of the four deaths in the last combat tour were suspected suicides.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Natynczyk, the chief of defence staff, also spoke to the uncertainty most soldiers feel about the end of the Kandahar mission and what will become of an army that has evolved and takes enormous pride in being a fighting force.

The world is an unpredictable place and the general noted how no one would have expected at this time last year that CF-18s would be involved in a NATO-led bombing campaign over Libya.

"Who knows what the future will bring," he said.
And, of course, Peter MacKay had to chime in too.
His comments were echoed by Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who told troops during a town hall outside of the new Canada House at Kandahar Airfield that the mission in Afghanistan is not done, but simply evolving.

"We don’t leave tasks undone in Canada. We finish what we start," he said, referring to the training mission in the country’s north where up to 950 soldiers and support staff have started to deploy.
Says he.

Well, it may supposedly* be the end of "combat" for Canada but it's far from the end of Afghanistan.

From now until March 2014, our military is to be deployed in a non-combat role to train the Afghan National Army. And we are to be centred in Kabul instead of the "always volatitile Kandahar province" (which seemed to be its official media name). Up to 950 military personnel will be provided to train the Afghan National Army and up to 45 civilian police officers will be deployed to train the Afghan National Police.

That's nice. But Afghanistan remains a volatile and challenging environment - have we made any real progress over the past ten years?

Our key achievements so far are said to include building and repairing 50 schools in Kandahar province, rehabilitating the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system, and contributing to the eradication of polio across Afghanistan. 

And along with international partners we have helped train and mentor about 50,000 Afghan troops. The Afghan National Police now numbers almost 116,000, more than the 2010 goal of 109,000 set by the Afghan government and by the International Security Assistance Force. And, last but not least, our civilian and military police mentors have helped train and guide over 2,800 police officers since 2008.

We're told that through this work, we have provided necessary funding to build police stations, pay police salaries and equip officers. And as a result, a growing number of Afghans in Kandahar province say they feel safer in their communities. God, I hope so after all this.

But hey, as good as that sounds, we best not forget to add to our list of "accomplishments", finding and detonating (intentionally or not) a hell of a lot of IEDs. And routing out a lot of Taliban, some of whom later returned to the roost. After all, we paid dearly for that particular chunk of work.

But now we're told that our "new" role in that war-torn country will build on the accomplishments of our mission over the past 10 years. Our objective, we are told, remains the same: to help build a more secure, stable and self-sufficient Afghanistan that is no longer a safe haven for terrorists.

To do that we will focus on four key areas:
•investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programming in education and health;

•advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, including through the provision of up to 950 trainers for Afghan security forces;
•promoting regional diplomacy; and

•helping deliver humanitarian assistance.
Funny, they say that hindsight is always 20/20.  And yet I'm not so sure about that at the moment.  Or perhaps we're just not far enough removed yet to develop that focus. Not I, anwyay.

Oh well, I'm glad it seems to be working out well for Prime Minitster Harper, anyway. /sarcasm off/

Forgive me I seem to be rambling. It's just that I probably am.

But I started this post wanting to wish a belated Happy Canada Day to our troops in Afghanistan, those soon on their way home, those just arriving to help pack things up and those who will remain behind to continue training the Afghan army, engage in development programming in education and health, promote regional diplomacy and help deliver humanitarian assistance. You know, what they said.

So, anyway, like Happy Canada Day, guys (and gals), eh.**

* I say "supposedly" because, call me crazy, but I just can't see how we can focus on the training or development work without engaging in security, aka combat.  I mean, isn't that how we got here in the first place?

** If I sound a bit ambivalent there at the last, it's probably because I am.  Not about wishing our troops a Happy Canada Day but about ... well, maybe it's kind of like how we speculate it might be for the troops, not sure if I'm feeling celebratory, reflective, or something else after writing this post. Perhaps a couple of beers coolers and a barbecued hamburger would help?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Uncaring, Unprincipled, Unacceptable

That I wrote about this very issue two years ago is a very sad commentary:
That a funding kerfuffle, that the federal and provincial governments cannot agree on who, exactly, is responsible to provide the funding necessary for aboriginal children with special needs to stay at home, with their families, where they belong is sadly, perhaps, not surprising.

But that this bit of 'government infighting' as it is so colloquially called has resulted in families being told that they may be forced to give up their children because the First Nation can no longer pay for their care and federal and provincial governments can't agree on who should pay is beyond despicable.
And if it was unacceptable then, what is it now?

Two years ago, I questioned where the  Nova Scotia government stood when it comes to Jordan's Principle.  I guess now we have our answer.
Jeremy Meawasige loves music, sunny days at the beach and his mother.

But Jeremy has extensive physical and mental disabilities. And the failure to resolve a dispute between the Pictou Landing First Nation and the federal government over how his care is paid for may result in his institutionalization.

"It’ll be over my dead body," said Maurina Beadle of the possibility her 16-year-old son might be institutionalized.

Jeremy is diagnosed with autism, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and spinal curvature.

For 15 years, Beadle provided 24-hour care for her son. She spoon fed him pureed foods, carried him, prevented his self-destructive tendencies and changed his diapers.
That, in itself, by itself, is unacceptable in my mind. That a parent should single-handedly have to provide 24-hour care for their child for all those years anywhere in Canada is quite simply unacceptable. 

But as if that wasn't bad enough, last year Jeremy's mother had a stroke.  Fortunately, the Pictou Landing First Nation stepped up to the plate, providing three hours of home care every day.  Last year that cost the First Nation $82,000.

But now, even as the cost decreases due to his mother being out of a wheelchair and now able to walk with the assistance of a cane, she is being told that her son might have to be institutionalized because no level of government is willing to pick up the cost of a small amount of home care. Home care to which Jeremy would be more than entitled to were he to live off-reserve in this Province.