Saturday, February 28, 2009

On A Wing And A Prayer ... 100 Years Later

Been a little quiet around here lately, no?

I thought I best at least make an effort to do something about that. And since technically I have posted on the The Flight Deck since I've posted here, I thought might just cheat a little bit. Copy. Paste. Edit.

We won't tell anyone, okay?

February 23, 2009, was the 100th year anniversary of the first flight of the Silver Dart, the first powered aircraft flight in Canada.

As I wrote about earlier, in October, 1907, Alexander Graham Bell invited three men (one British subject, one Canadian and one American) to his estate in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, to begin working on a dream that would take flight 18 months later. Joined by an official observer from the United States, US Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, the five men formed the Aerial Experiment Association .

Five aircraft were created, including the June Bug (which introduced a tricycle landing gear system to the world -I assume of the type that Lex has been going on about lately) but the piece de resistance was the Silver Dart which was their first controlled-power aircraft. And which flew for the first time on February 23, 1909.

The replica of that first flight was set to on Sunday, February 22m 2009, in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. A day earlier than planned as apparently they are concerned about weather conditions (we were execting another storm day around here for the Monday) and a repeat performance of what occurred fifty years ago when the pilot who lifted off from frozen Bras d’Or Lake in a similar replica belly-flopped back down to the ice soon after.
A couple of days before the 23rd in 1959, they flew it on the ice and it was all right," Mr. Jermyn told The Chronicle Herald Saturday.

"But on the 23rd, it was a very windy day and the pilot took it out and nobody thought he would fly it, but he did. He turned it into the wind and off he went, and he just got hit by a gust of wind. He got it up and over, but it stalled and it fluttered down and smashed the wing tip."
Organizers expected about 20,000 visitors to watch the re-creation of the flight in a replica attempted to be a true as possible to the original Silver Dart. The aircraft is about nine metres long and three metres high with a 15-metre wingspan and weighs about 545 kilograms. As in the original, motorbike parts play a key role in the plane’s motor and fasteners.

The plan was, if the weather cooperated, they would also try to carry out the official flight again on Monday, along with a flypast by the Hawk One, a refurbished RCAF F-86 Sabre 5 and performances by the Snowbirds and SkyHawks.

Retired Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason was in the pilot’s seat and Roberta Bondar was expected to be on hand, along with descendants of the original inventors and the modern-day crew.

Turns out that there were perfect conditions for five, count them, five flights on Sunday. Well, perfect, if you don't count the nose wheel collapse on the first try.

Unfortunately, not so much on Monday, which was the actual anniversary. What can I say, welcome to winter in Nova Scotia.

On a wing and prayer. One hundred years later.

Former astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason goes aloft Sunday in a
of the Silver Dart after taking off from the ice of the Bras d’Or Lake
in Baddeck. Today is the 100th anniversary of J.A.D. McCurdy’s
historic flight in the Silver Dart, which was the first powered flight
in Canada. McCurdy and Alexander Graham Bell helped design
the original plane. (VAUGHAN MERCHANT / CP)

Saturday, February 21, 2009


On the long commute home from work this evening last night, I caught a portion of the IWK Radiothon.

The IWK is our regional children's hospital and for any who have had the pleasure and misfortune (for it is often both) like our family to make use of it, it is muchly appreciated. Although I've made the occasional passing reference to the IWK on the blog, it's a part of my life that I've far from freely shared here.

But listening to the snippets and the stories on the drive home sure brought back a lot of memories. That hospital was the Blue Jay's (and hence our) second home for many, many years when she was little. So this evening it was memories of many a sleepless night, worry, tears and yes, strangely enough, even laughter. Although the latter was in small doses, indeed, as for many hours you watched your baby's body wracked by seizure after seizure, despairing that they would ever stop. Memories of a time which felt like it would never end.

But somehow, for now at least, it has. I'm not so optimistic as to believe that time in our lives is all over. Gone and finished forever. Because I know the seizure monsters all too well. I know how they lie in wait, hiding, waiting for you to let your guard down. I know they may well be back. In a month, a year or even five years from now.

And yet, for now, we have peace. At least from the seizures. And for that I will always be eternally grateful.

But if and when and should the seizures return, at least I know that the IWK will always be there. That the Blue Jay will get good care. And that somehow the rest of will survive. Just as we always have.

So tonight last night I was happy to see the radiothon go so well. An annual telethon is held every June and each and every year I am amazed by how much money that hospital can raise. But over the past three days, the radiothon, by itself raised $368, 803.21. And in the eight years that C100 has held the radiothon, it's raised $2.5 million for the IWK.

Now that's money well-spent in my books.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

** Obama Is Coming To Town **

** To be sung to the tune of "Santa Claus is coming to town" **

Giddy, positively, giddy, they say is the mood in Canada. Or at least in the Prime Minister's office. And what could inspire such a state in what must be an altogether too sombre place, you ask.

Well, it's quite simple really. Variously referred to as "The Obamanator", "The Big O" and "The Obamessiah", in some circles [but not here, that would be disrespectful], President Barack Obama is coming to town. Or to Ottawa, anyway. Close enough.

Although, perhaps in all fairness, it should be noted that not all Canadians are completely giddy at the thought. Michael Ignatieff, the fearless new leader of the federal Liberal party, is bound and determined to let President Obama know that, come hell or high water, Canada must leave Afghanistan by 2011. And, fearless as he is, he also plans to warn the President against economic protectionism while extolling the virtues of free trade.

I hope Iggy can talk fast; something tells me that he's not going to have a whole lot of time. To be persuasive.

Meanwhile, some are taking the opportunity of this visit to raise the profile of their own agendas, saying that Obama's plans to stiffen environmental regulations will leave Canada looking less than green. Or maybe that's green with envy, I'm not quite sure.

And the media?

Me thinks they might be feeling just a wee tiny bit jealous.

History tells us that when the president of the United States of America comes to Canada, his people make all the decisions they care to make, which seems appropriate enough, given how much more important and powerful they are.
Yup, we're gonna have fun, fun, fun 'til the President decides to fly away. *

* Yeah, I'm open to better suggestions for that last line.

Update: It's official. Obamamania has arrived! Complete with Obamaburgers and Obamatails Obama BeaverTails. Yeah, I agree. It's a complete Obamanation!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid Does

I like to think that as Canadians, we might be a tad bit more civilized, nay, refined in some ways, than our American counterparts. Alas, apparently it is not to be so.

In which case, I'm sure those Dal and Saint Mary's students are right proud of themselves for doing things the left way. After all, don't we all just know that Lockheed Martin is, like, evil? And, like, must be destroyed?

But the best part was this:
The Student Coalition Against War sent a letter to the president of Dalhousie University and to the career centre at Dal, demanding that Lockheed Martin be pulled from the event, but they did not get a response.

Mr. Rashid and other protesters tried to get inside the job fair to further make their point but were denied entry by police and Cunard Centre security.

It just goes to show what this event’s all about," Mr. Rashid said. "It’s totally controlled by the corporations on the inside."

"It’s not in the spirit of a university where students are supposed to be critical. There’s no criticism here."
No, none at all.

And, apparently, if these 15 students had their way, there would be no freedom of speech or freedom of association either.

Perhaps they ought to check out the Charter. Just as part of their eduction, you know.

Asif Rashad, a protester calling himself Dr. Clusterbomb, reads to the gathering
of demonstrators outside a summer job fair at the Cunard Centre in Halifax on
Tuesday. The group was protesting what they said was university support
for war profiteering by allowing companies with military contracts such
as Lockheed Martin take part in the job fair for students of Dalhousie, Saint
Mary’s and Mount Saint Vincent universities. (Tim Krochak / Staff)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Welfare Queens or Desperate Times?

Ain't the internets grand?

I really have no idea how I got there (although that happens more often than I would like to admit when I surf), but I came across an interesting article this morning in Mother Jones, an obviously left-leaning online magazine, which I believe I have stumbled across before.

Now before anyone reacts to the name of the publication, please hear me out.

I have many American friends who tell me how awful the welfare system is in the United States. How so many people abuse it and live high on the hog while ordinary, working people can't seem to do half as well for themselves. And since I don't live there and don't have any particular knowledge about their system, I basically accept what they tell me.

Then, as I said, I stumbled across this article this morning. It's about the welfare system (or perhaps, some might say, the lack of a welfare system) in some of the southern states, like Georgia.

So here is your mission, if you choose to accept it.
Go ye forth, read the article and come back and tell me what you think.

Yes, the article is lengthy but I found it a good read. And yes, the following comments admittedly tend to be the usual political crap so I just ignored them.

But please, just read the article. And tell me.

Pretty please.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Justice At Last ~ Remix

It was one week ago today that I wrote about my horror on hearing of Penny Bourdreau's confession.

One week ago today that I found that I could only barely ask myself how a mother could possibly do that to her own child. And noted that if I was suppose to be feeling some sort of pity or compassion for this woman, was suppose to consider that there must have been horror in her background or some uncontrollable mental illness that caused her to do what she did, I was unable.

A commentor wondered why I would even care if there was some horror in the mother's past and questioned whether I would ask the same question if the boyfriend had killed Karissa. They went on to note that "when men kill they are demonized, when women kill they are analyzed".

So. First let me restate that what I said was that I couldn't even ask myself such questions, that I couldn't get past what this so-called mother had done to her child to even care about any supposed "why".

But, in a sense, I do think Anonymous made a valid point. As Tam pointed out, also in comments, "it is always more shocking when a mother kills a child". I might extend that sentiment to "when a parent kills a child" and yet, yes, I suppose in some way, it does seem even more horrendous when it is the mother.

Perhaps it's because it's beyond what we can fathom; that as mothers, we quite simply can not imagine ever doing such harm to our children - children we carried in my own bodies - therefore, there must be some reason for it, no matter how far we, as a society, have to stretch to find one. This despite the fact that the argument could be made that anybody who intentionally kills any child must be operating with some serious mental health difficulties.

But speaking of "the boyfriend", I caught most of the televised interview with Vernon McCumber on CTV earlier this week. And was admittedly surprised to find him coming across as very sincere and genuine. How many "boyfriends" do you know of in similar situations who have come forward to the speak to the press? Although there may well be some, this is the first situation I am aware of where this happened.

The first news article I read concerning Boudreau's guilty plea referred MacCumber having "no way of knowing Boudreau would take Karissa's life when he told her shortly before the murder that Boudreau had to choose between keeping Karissa or him". I also heard and read different takes from various news services, everything from a statement that McCumber issued "an ultimatum" to Boudreau to his having commented that their place was cramped since Karissa had moved in. Quite a big difference from a comment that the residence was cramped to the issuance of an ultimatum, implying that it's either me or the kid.

On the CTV interview McCumber set out yet a different version, that Karissa and her mother were fighting so much that he told Penny that this wasn't constructive, they had to get some counseling. This, incidentally, is in agreement with the original news story that broke when Karissa first went missing.

As I wrote at the time that Karissa's body was first found:
On Sunday, January 27, 2008, 12 year old Karissa Paige Boudreau went for a drive with her mother. Mother and daughter weren't getting along so well (no real surprises there as any parent of a daughter that age will tell you) and apparently mom was applying some of that parenting advice that talking in the car, when you don't have to actually "face each other", sometimes works better. Eventually they stop at a local grocery store and mom goes in while Karissa waits in the car. When she returns about 15 minutes later, Karissa is gone.
MacCumber said that although he had some suspicions, he didn't know what Penny had done until she confessed to the police. That also dovetails, in some ways, with the Agreed Statement of Facts entered into court on the guilty plea wherein Penny stated that she drove Karissa to a Sobey's parking lot, "where she phoned her boyfriend to say Karissa had gone missing".

He spoke of loving Karissa, of being in agony over what had happened. Of being wracked with guilt and regret since finding out the truth. Of realizing that if he "had just insisted to go, she would have been okay".

Apparently MacCumber gave a similar interview to the Chronicle Herald, shortly after which paramedics and police were called to a north-end Halifax apartment building where a man who was thought to be Vernon MacCumber was threatening to commit suicide.

Look, I don't know the truth here. Quite frankly, probably none of us ever really will.

All I can say is this:
  • That in the televised interview, MacCumber did seem surprisingly remorseful and sincere.

  • That nothing will ever bring back Karissa.

  • That it would be just fine by me if Penny Boudreau were to rot in hell.

  • And that it seems highly unlikely that the police will be able to use their "standard" mob sting when they suspect parental killers as much as they use to given that they've now told the whole world how it works.

Growing Pains

The Blue Jay fancies herself a bit of an equestrian, she does. Which I suppose she might after eight or so years of riding.

I will never forget the first time I saw her take a fall. She was probably seven or eight years old, in her first year of riding, and such a tiny little thing courtesy of the keto diet. As I watched she somehow managed (and to this day, I've never figured out how) to move herself up the horse's neck. Up and up. Until she went over the top of his head.

I tried not to laugh but it was pretty funny to watch. And fortunately, being the energizer bunny she was at the time, she popped right back up and kept going.

So when I heard that she fell riding this past Wednesday I didn't think too much of it. After all, these things happen. Imagine my surprise to get a call from school this morning, as I was trying to make my way out the door to work, to tell me that the Blue Jay was in a lot of pain with her back from that fall while riding.

Pain? What pain?

Although she had apparently complained at school on Thursday, she hadn't said a word at home last night or this morning. So it was news to me. They had given her Advil, tried to distract her with things she enjoyed doing but she was consistent. Both verbally and in her body movements. Her low back really hurt.

I got her in to see my chiropractor this afternoon and he checked her out. Said that she had some restriction in her lower back, which was probably right where she landed. And suggested some ice over the next few days. Which was all fine.

But when he reassured me that he had checked for fractures and was pretty positive there weren't any, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Because such a thought ~ that she possibly could have seriously hurt herself ~ hadn't even occurred to me. Oh well, I guess I will never be accused of over-reacting.

There was one other interesting thing about the visit though. The Blue Jay has been to this chiropractor once or twice before, but it was a long time ago. She doesn't remember him. And I made a real effort to sit back, bite my lip (almost literally) and let her handle telling him what the problem was and where it hurt.

As a parent, you get so use to speaking for your child to doctors and others in authority when they are little. And for most kids , I think that as they get older they just naturally assert themselves and assume more of that role. But a kid like the Blue Jay tends to get 'therapized' and gets use to others speaking on her behalf.

So it was interesting to just sit back and leave it up to her. The whole situation (both of doing the majority of the communicating and the actual getting an adjustment) was pretty foreign to her. And although she wasn't me (which I am sure is a very, very good thing for her!), she did a great job.

Growing pains. For both mother and daughter.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Belated Hurt Pain

Does anyone really mind getting belated Christmas gifts?

Not I, I think they're great. An unexpected surprise. At a time of year when a little more cheer goes a long way. I don't even mind belated Christmas cards. After all, it's the thought that counts and they make me smile.

But belated sympathy cards? Not quite in the same ballpark.

Found lurking in the mailbox this morning (no, not the virtual kind) was a package from Palliative Care. Expressing their sorrow at our loss and offering us help and resources. A good idea which might have been much appreciated. Which might still be much appreciated. But, please, over two months after the fact?

Not to be outdone, in the regular Canada Post mail came a sympathy card. From a woman my Mom grew up with, whose name is familiar but who I don't believe I've ever met. But who, ironically, as she pointed out in the card, was my brother's Grade 4 teacher.

Now I appreciate the fact that we dropped the ball by not putting a notice in the local newspaper where my Mom grew up. On the other side of the country. And when we go home this summer to bury Mom's ashes next to Dad, I will be sure to remedy that and have some form of memorial service there for her friends.

And don't get me wrong, I certainly appreciate the sentiments behind this particular sympathy card.

But this is the third belated sympathy card I have received. And despite the best intentions of the senders, all each one does is bring me to my knees. Yet again.

You know when you have a bad cut and it scabs over? And then something unexpectedly pulls the scab off. Or when a nail cracks in half and the tear goes down real deep? And how if you can't fix it right away, a piece of the nail is guaranteed to get snagged on something and pulled back.

You know how much that suddenly, unexpectedly hurts.

Yeah. Like that.

So may I suggest, as a rule of etiquette to keep in mind ...

  • belated Christmas cards ~ good

  • belated sympathy cards ~ bad.
Update: Some might consider the picture above to be rather harsh. I agree. But did I mention I was having a bad day?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Colour Me Green

Yeah, I still have more to say on the Karissa Boudreau story. That will come later. Hopefully tomorrow.

But for now, I'm afraid, you really need to colour me green. A deep, dark shade of green. Check this out.

And then. Then I could die happy, says I.

H/T to SpazSinbad at NeptunusLex and, in fairness, a link to Brian Terwilliger's site

Update: Click on the FullScreen on the bottom right of the video screen. It is so worth it for the great photography.