March 30, 2005
Seattle but will we be sleepless?
So we're off to the big city of Seattle tomorrow morning. I am so ready to go on a holiday that I want to leave now! I haven't been on holiday since last July, and for a wanderlust traveller like me, it's been killing me...

Having to cancel the week before last just added to the frustration.

The only plan we have so far is to take the kid to the zoo on Friday. We don't really have a zoo here, so we have to drive the 2 hours to get to something worth showing the little one.

I am hoping to take my niece to a pub tomorrow night. She turned 21 yesterday, so it seems like something we just must do to celebrate her birthday. I haven't really figured out any good places to go yet, but if anyone has ideas around the Lake Union area, feel free to leave a comment.

With that, time to finish packing and hasta la vista, see ya next week!
The Unique Life of Mariane Pearl
She ended her lecture tonight with these words by Diane Ackerman:

…I swear I will not dishonor my soul

with hatred,

but offer myself humbly as a guardian

of nature, as a healer of misery,

as a messenger of wonder,

as an architect of peace…

Amazing from a woman who has seen the first-hand results of terrorism and hatred.

Mariane Pearl gave a fantastic lecture tonight as she spoke of her life and how it has changed since her husband and best friend, Daniel was murdered by Al-Qaeda cooperatives. Can you imagine being 6 1/2 months pregnant in a foreign country, when your husband goes out for a meeting and is kidnapped? Not only that, but that his actual murder is played over and over again on video, available widely on the internet.

Private pain and grief is a luxury. This was something she learned quickly. Her heart and soul was put on display for all to see.

I took away her statement that we must work not to put labels on people and to see beneath the politics to the human story. For her situation, she was born in Paris of Cuban parents, and a practicing Buddhist. Daniel, her soulmate, was born in the US but his mother was born in Iraq and raised in Israel. Of course, a well known fact that he was also Jewish. A very multicultural union in their meeting and their son is a product of all that we should strive to become. No boundaries, just a mix of all cultures and creeds. A human being. Daniel wanted him to be called 'Adam', to be a testament to what the people of the 21st century should be. A citizen of the world.

Mariane was a delightful speaker, with a beautiful French accent that one could listen to for hours. She spoke lovingly of the man that was torn from her life so abrupty and violently, and how that she honours his life by sharing his story. It was obvious she was not entirely comfortable in front of an audience, but at the same time, that endeared me even more. She was just like everyone else, but she had a story to tell.

She answered many questions from the audience. I wish now that I had brought a notebook to take down notes of what she said. Much of it very profound. She is raising her son in New York, and is disillusioned with the politics of mainstream media. Her wish would be that the media and journalists spent more time on the human side of things, rather than the political agenda. Many questions still remain regarding her husband's murder. Some things may never truly become clear.

Once again, a fantastic lecture in the Unique Lives and Experiences series. Next up is Whoopi Goldberg on April 7.
March 29, 2005
Rollercoaster or Ferris Wheel
I'm not quite sure what ride I'm on but the pendulum swung the other way tonight.

After I let my emotions get the better of me the other day, I've had two phonecalls tonight. Suffice to say, my insecurities were unfounded. I just hope I can keep them demons at bay for a while yet.

For the first time since Todd was deployed, I didn't forward my cell phone tonight when I went out. I figured there was no chance he would call, considering most of his calls come in the middle of the night. BUZZER!! Wrong!!!

While I was out celebrating my niece's birthday, he tried to call. And now again, just before midnight, he tried a second time. 'What, don't you love me anymore?', he teased when I told him how I was so bummed about missing his call earlier.

This rollercoaster definitely is quite the ride. If just the basic new relationship drama wasn't enough, this long-distance warzone stuff definitely throws a wrench into the mix!

He's promised me a pic of him standing outside the Blackhawk. He says he's been on quite a few 'missions' of late. I like to think of him more in the non-combat role - since he's in the logistics support part, but I'd be naive to think there isn't danger involved. I got more details of what he's been up to than I have in a long while. It's definitely been more than he signed up for and I now know that his moods are not anything more than trying to get his head around where he is and what's happening in his world.

So no more drama queen for me. Next time I do a little freak-out, someone slap me upside the head, ok?
Denial of assistance
How would you like to be this mom? Her baby, just 6 days short of his first birthday, falls down a flight of stairs. She frantically calls 9-1-1 as her baby screams.

The paramedics arrive and declare nothing's wrong. That 'babies don't break' at this age, and leave.

Realizing that her baby is in need of help, she drives him to the hospital himself while he keeps passing out. Turns out his femur is broken.

The ambulance service is looking into it.

With rising waits at hospitals, it's one of those 'inside tricks' that if you really need help, call an ambulance. If you walk in, you are in line with the rest. But if you come in by assistance, the paramedics must wait with you until you are admitted. Not sure if that's the case here, though.

I wonder what was going through that paramedic's mind when he misdiagnosed the injury. I certainly hope at the very least he must go through retraining.
People's Court
Today, my niece got her day in court. Small claims court, that is.

Last August, a very strange and alarming incident happened. It was a hot evening, and Hayley wouldn't settle for anything. Finally, exasperated, she and her sister decided to pack her into the truck and go for a drive hoping the little one would finally fall asleep. She had just got the new vehicle about 2 weeks before, and the newness of driving it was still exciting.

Shan drove around for a while, as Hayley nodded off, when Jamie mentioned that a new subdivision was being built nearby and that my brother had mentioned that he was interested in it. Ya gotta know my brother for this part...every time something's new, he wants it. He loves to dream. So they decided to drive up and see what it looked like.

They drove onto the construction site and parked in front of the show house to take a peek. Shan opened the door of the truck and suddenly, from nowhere this very scruffy looking man appeared running at them with a piece of plywood! She screamed, as expected, and retreated to the truck. The man came at the truck screaming obscenities and smashed the hood of the truck with the 2x4.

While Jamie phoned 911, Shan started to drive away. They left the subdivision, and parked on the side of the road while they told the police what had happened. Then, again, from nowhere, the man was back. Still brandishing the plank, he went to town on the back end of the vehicle! The police told them to stay where they were and they would be there shortly, but obviously Shannon was more concerned about safety. She told the police her name and number and said she was going home, to safety.

By the time, she got home, she was a shaking, hysterical mess. The only good thing was that Hayley had slept through the whole thing (no idea how!) but the truck was damaged on the hood, front fender and rear tailgate. She was understandably terrified and still has nightmares about it, as she said it felt like she was in a slasher-flick.

The police arrived some time later with a different version of events. The person at the site had identified himself as the security guard and that they had attacked HIM! A little difficult, considering they were two young girls and Shan was fairly heavily pregnant at the time. So with nothing to go on other than conflicting stories, the police decided to close the case against any criminal charges.

A little investigation later found out that this particular company finds homeless people to stay overnight in their construction sites, for free shelter. Cheaper than real security guards, I guess.

Granted, the girls should not have been on the site. It wasn't the smartest move, but at the same time, they certainly weren't being destructive or anything malicious.

The damage to the truck was $1500. My brother visited the site contractor to request damages. He was met with resistance, not surprisingly and was told 'Take me to court, then!'

Well, they did. Today was the day. Shannon has been so nervous this past week. She knew she was in the right, but having to tell her side of the story to the judge was really preying on her mind.

They walked in and the Wapner-esque judge looked at Shannon sternly and said, 'What makes you think you're entitled to this money?'

She calmly told the judge what had happened, and that she felt while she made an error in judgment, and that there were no signs stating it was on private property. If there were, she certainly wouldn't have gone.

The judge then turned to the site contractor and asked his side of the story.

'Well, I don't think we should be responsible for the actions of our employees', he stated.

The judge's mouth apparently fell open. He sternly intoned that he disagreed. That the contractor, indeed, is responsible for his employees and that if they can't afford to be more careful in who they pick for their security guards (the police had provided some reports on the incident), then to expect further judgments against them.

He then turned to Shan, chided her a little in her choice of driving destinations and then awarded her 100% in damages and court costs.

Case closed. The truck will now be fixed and we have spending money for Seattle. Which by the way, we leave Thursday!
The Red Ensign Standard #18
The latest round up of the Red Ensign Brigade has been raised at Tipperography.

The posts over the last two weeks have been particularly wide-ranging and it's a great cross-section of those who love Canada's potential.

A great job, a great read and as always, thought provoking!
Living in interesting times
Received this from a friend this morning and thought I would share....

How old is Grandma?

One evening, a grandson was talking to his grandmother about current events. The grandson asked his grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general.

The Grandma replied, "Well, let me think a minute, I was born before television, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees and the pill.

There were no credit cards, laser beams or ballpoint pens. Man had not invented pantyhose, air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes dryers, and the clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air and man had yet to walk on the moon.

Your Grandfather and I got married first and then lived together. Every family had a father and a mother. Until I was 25, I called every man older than I, "Sir"- - and after I turned 25, I still called policemen and every man with a title, "Sir".

We were before gay-rights, computer dating, dual careers, day-care centers, and group therapy. The Ten Commandments, good judgment, and common sense governed our lives We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong and to stand up and take responsibility for our actions.

Serving your country was a privilege; living in this country was a bigger privilege.

We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent. Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins.

Draft dodgers were people who closed their front doors when the evening breeze started. Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends - not purchasing condominiums.

We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings. We listened to the Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President's speeches on our radios. And I don't ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey.

If you saw anything with 'Made in Japan' on it, it was junk. The term 'making out' referred to how you did on your school exam. Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and instant coffee were unheard of. We had 5&10-cent stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents.

Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel. And if you didn't want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail one letter and two postcards.

You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for $600, but who could afford one? Too bad because, gas was 11 cents a gallon.

In my day, "grass" was mowed, "coke" was a cold drink, "pot" was something your mother cooked in, and "rock music" was your grandmother's lullaby.

"Aids" were helpers in the Principal's office, "chip" meant a piece of wood, "hardware" was found in a hardware store and software" wasn't even a word.

And we were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby. No wonder people call us "old and confused" and say there is a generation gap.

And how old do you think grandma is???

(Highlight the next line)
Grandma is 58 (born 1946)
March 28, 2005
I know I'm not the only one
Blogger is getting more aggravating than ever!

These past few days, every time I get inspiration for a post, I try and try to connect to Blogger. Most of the time I get errors or timeouts, or can't connect at all.

By the time I finally get through, I'm questioning why I even bother. I also can't seem to figure out how to set up Permalinks to my posts, which is annoying.

I know a few people have switched to Typepad. Are you happy with it? What version is the best (Basic or Pro)? I wouldn't mind getting my own domain, but it seems like it would be a hassle.

All I know is that I can't stand this instability with Blogger any longer. Any help/hints/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Odd coincidence
So forget the Ides of March, apparently, it's March 28 you should be worried about.

In an article '41 years ago today', the Vancouver Sun reminds us of a local tragedy:
It's just after midnight on March 28, 1964. People in Pt. Alberni..listening to radio reports of a major earthquake in Alaska, are bracing for a tsunami heading their way. The Alaska quake had a magnitude of 9.2, strongest in North America's recorded history, lasted more than three minutes and caused enormous damage, especially in Anchorage. More than 100 people were killed in the state, many more to the giant waves than to collapsing buildings.

Four hours later the first wave of the tsunami came surging up the narrow 40km Alberni inlet and hits the town of 19,000 hard. There was extensive flooding along the inlet. But a second wave was coming and it was bigger and more dangerous. The narrowness of the inlet meant the height of the water was magnified. When the second wave hit it smashed down like a fist onto Port Alberni, damaging nearly 400 homes. Luckily, because of the warning, no lives were lost.

And hours later 11 people died under the tsunami when it hit Crescent City, California.
So fast forward 41's just after midnight in Indonesia. The world starts shaking again. Of course, this time, their recent memory is a little too fresh. December 26 is not even 100 days previous. For the past 3 months, aftershock upon aftershock has hit the region. Earthquakes of magnitude 5 and 6 are commonplace now, as the earth tries to regain it's balance like adjustments on a chiropractor's table.

It looks like casualties are in the quadruple digits again. I wonder how many of them are people who have just been fortunate to return to their rebuilt homes.

Not a fun time in that part of the world!
The latest from The Boy
I finally heard from Todd today. It's been a stressful week. I knew he was being moved, and in his emails he seemed tense, annoyed, angry. I try not to read into it, but damn it, I'm a girl. It's within my nature to question and analyse to death. Experience has taught me that bad things happen when people clam up.

I have to ground myself with remembering he's not living a life in the same way that I am. His reality, his days, his nights are not even in the same realm.

So this morning, the phone rang at the ungodly hour of 3:23am, the first phone call in 10 days. He's in his new location in Kuwait. For now, he has left Sandbox A for Sandbox B. He sounds ragged and edgy. Depressed. Said he would give anything for a big hug. What can I say? How can I tell him what he needs to hear?

I tried to be upbeat. I tried to make him smile. I told him he can now look forward to new adventures in his new home.

A buzzer sounds. If I was playing the Sims, it would have reacted in the little caption with the negative sign.

'I've had enough adventures for a lifetime', he growled.

I change the subject, sensing that anything else I say will just cause me to keep digging my imaginary hole.

I ask him what I can send. He replies more music. Soft stuff. 'I need something to calm me down', he says. I want to ask what's really going on, but I know any further questions will just shut him down more.

But the rest of the conversation was stilted, strained. I can't begin to understand what he's seeing, what he has seen. In the 10 minute calls, it's hard to get into anything more than surface. He's hesitant on all he says. I can hear him searching for what he can say and what he can't.

Last week's ER comes to mind. Neela commented that she was frustrated at how she had built a relationship with Gallant on a few calls, a few letters. I wish I could remember the exact words. Since that episode, I have been melancholy. I wonder what I'm doing. Am I living a fairy tale? I want so badly to believe this to be right, and usually I hear it in his voice too. But this morning was so different. So unsettling.

Patience is a virtue, they say. I repeat that in my head many times a day. What else can I do?
March 27, 2005
No fear!

Remember when you had no idea that anything bad could happen? No idea what gravity was? Or that it was possible that someone might not be there to catch you when you jump?

This photo makes me remember all those wonderful feelings of childhood, before there were repercussions to your actions.

I love the fact that Hayley has no idea of anything bad right now. She is so full of life, and I hope it is a long time before she realizes that there might be a time when someone can't catch her when she falls.

Kids really give you a wonderful glimpse into the way life should be.

Could those eyes be any bluer?

I swear they get more intensely blue every day I see him! Lex is 11 weeks old today, and has somehow picked up the nickname 'Sexy Lexy'. Heh. He'll really hate us for that when he's a teen.
Well, I won't even go into how it happened but I did myself good today. I had an unfortunate interaction with the business side of a razor today and cut the tip right off my index finger.


Not just a slice, mind you, but let's just put it this way, I could commit a crime using that finger today and it would not leave a print. Although, maybe some DNA.

There were no medical clinics open that we could find, and the hospital wait was about 6 hours so we just taped it up as best we could. It is still bleeding quite a lot and it's now been about 7 hours. I've had to change the bandages three times already and it is THROBBING!

I'll likely get my doctor to take a look on Tuesday when they reopen. Something tells me a tetanus shot may be in order.

I feel pretty silly about it all. Stupid move, really. Happened in an instant, like all good accidents.

So that was my Easter. I did, however, before the drama, bake a cheesecake and make some foccacia from scratch for our dinner. It was at my Mom's this year, and we had a great turkey feast this evening.

And with that, I hope everyone else had a great Easter. Whether it was with family, without or just another Sunday, I hope it was a good one!
Is Google slipping?
What, no cute little logo for Easter? Google changes it's logo for just about every holiday and non-holiday and has come to be known for it's cute little kitzy changes. Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, even New Year's Day. But nothing today? Odd...

For a search engine that's known for even translating into Klingon, it's a little disappointing.
Hello, my name is...
So everyone knows your porn star name is your first pet and the street you grew up on, but here's a few more:

YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (Name of first pet / Street you live on):
Buffy 7

YOUR MOVIE STAR NAME: (Name of your favorite snack food / Grandfather's first name):
Golden Oreo Joseph (Or Charles)

YOUR FASHION DESIGNER NAME: (First word you see on your left / Favorite restaurant):
Caillou La Pergola

EXOTIC FOREIGNER ALIAS: (Favorite Spice / Last Foreign Vacation Spot):
Cinnamon Waikiki

SOCIALITE ALIAS: (Silliest Childhood Nickname / Town Where You First Partied):
Fresca Steveston

ICON ALIAS: (Something Sweet Within Sight / Any Liquid in Your Kitchen):
Coke Oil

DETECTIVE ALIAS: (Favorite Baby Animal / Where You Went to High School):
Kid McNair

SOAP OPERA ALIAS: (Middle Name / Street Where You First Lived):
Jo Seaton

YOUR STAR WARS NAME: ( First 2 letters of your first name and the first 3 Letters from your last name makes your first name. Take the first 2 letters of your mother's maiden name and the first 3 letters of the city you were born in):
Subry Weric

now it's your turn :) (Thanks to Inky)
I write like a what?
Hat tip to The Deployment Diary, a little quiz that analyses writing styles has dictated that it's positive my writing style is that of a man!

I disagreed, obviously, and was hit with the nice little comment 'That's one BUTCH CHICK!'. Apparently it can't take criticism.

I'm pretty sure anyone reading my blog has no question as to my gender.

Do the analysis here.
My next dream destination

This is the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, Michigan. The island is a throwback to old times, where cars are banned and transportation is done by horse or walking. It's not easy to get must fly into Detroit, and then either drive for 5 hours to the ferry terminal, or fly in by a puddlejumper.

On Todd's recommendation, I watched 'Somewhere In Time' last night. It's a 1980 movie starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. On the surface, it seems a bit hokey...the guy travels in time to meet the love of his life. Very dated special effects, but the story was very sweet. It was filmed almost exclusively in this hotel.

I have a list in the back of my mind of 10 places I want to visit in my lifetime.

1. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (we wanted to go when I was in SA, but civil war prevented us)
2. Angel Falls, Brazil
3. Machu Picchu, Peru
4. Athens, Greece (and the greek islands)
5. Cork, Ireland
6. the volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii
7. Easter Island
8. Caribbean Islands
9. Azores, Portugal
10. The Canadian Maritimes in the Fall

Now, I have to include the Grand Hotel in that list. It changes all the time. If I could, I would just travel, but it's not too much fun alone and well, then there's that money thing.

What's your Top 10? If money and time were no object, where would you travel?
March 25, 2005
Employment Spam
Taking a quick break from my book-reading to bring you one of the more funnier pieces of spam I've received lately. My resume is up on a number of job searching websites and today I received this :


Hi, my name is /0001/ and I am the State Director for American Income. I saw your resume on the Internet and felt that I should contact you immediately. Our company currently has openings for several outstanding individuals, like you.

If you are an individual seeking a financially rewarding career with a company that is part of the Torchmark Corporation (TMK) a Top Forbes 400 company that truly believes in Honesty, Integrity and Trust, then I would like to speak with you.

Please reply to this email or call my office at /0002/ so we can schedule an interview.

Best Regards

American Income

To unsubscribe from future E-mails please go to
Please allow two weeks for the removal process of your E-mail address to be complete. American Life Insurance * 1200 Wooded Acres * Waco TX 76710

I guess good ol' 0001 doesn't really mind that I live in another country. And the fact that he/she changes their name to 0003 by the end shouldn't be a red flag at all.

Spam...comes in all shapes, sizes and creeds.
March 24, 2005
Where I will be for the next 48 hours

It's HERE! It's HERE! It's HERE!!!!!

Since I was a young teenager, I have been a huge fan of Wilbur Smith's books. I consume them and can't wait for the next fix. This latest offering just arrived this morning and feels like the most exquisite treat. It's only released in the UK on March 28, and in North America on May 5, but I'm on a list that allows me to get it a few days early.

The sad part is I hesitate picking it up because I know I won't be able to put it down, and then before I know it, it will be finished and I'll be having to wait another 3 years before his next book comes out. If at all. The author is now in his late 70s...each new book from him almost feels sacred now.

Triumph of the Sun is going to join two of his main storylines together. Something that has been decades in the making. When I went to South Africa, where most of his stories are based, I visited most of the places in his books, lending real memories to his words. The story lines that brought the characters to the Middle East gave dimension to the world we know today. He's not a gentle writer, but his words bring to life a time not so long ago with all the blemishes and the joys we take for granted.

With that, I will now retreat to my favourite chair and will return once I'm done.
March 23, 2005
Next time I'm going to McDonalds
An article today on CBC caught my attention. A study has found that restaurants are cleaner than some hospitals in Canada. In part, the article states:

No level of government – city, provincial or federal – is in charge of monitoring infection controls at hospitals. That contrasts with the restaurant industry, in which eateries must pass regular health inspections or face being shut down.
Read the rest of the article here.

Since privatizing the sanitation of our hospitals, there has been a serious backslide in the care taken to keep things clean, and people are paying the price. On top of that, the beds turn over so quickly, that there really isn't time to properly clean in between patients. It's a scary situation, which in the end costs us more trying to fix the mistakes made.

Personally, I have seen some pretty embarrassing examples of this during my recent hospital trips. I wrote about the conditions of the waiting room and ER back in December, when I was admitted for kidney issues. Imagine having to give a sample, entering the ER bathroom to find the toilet seat covered in blood. Would you want to sit down?

Last year, I was admitted to the hospital for a perforated colon. While I was there, I contracted Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection that came very close to taking my life. It used to be a term unheard of, but now is becoming well known as the cases explode. I was lucky. It was caught early, but it is terrifying to think how close I came. However, while I was there, I witnessed some very awful things. Full bedpans left in hallways for over 6 hours, a bloodied bandage on the floor outside my room stayed there, kicked from one side to the next, for 2 days. I was moved to a private room, which had a janitor come in twice a day and swab the floors, quickly clean the bathroom and move on. No more than 10 minutes, and I was in a critical care ward! My Mom moved a chair closer the bed and was shocked to find dirt built up under the legs of the chair that it took a good tug to move.

That's some of what I've seen personally. Meanwhile, in the last 6 months, my sister in law and my friend have both come down with the 'Superbug'. For my sister in law, she had a very minor bladder surgery and contracted the drug-resistant bug at the hospital. She was in ICU for 3 days and it looked pretty scary but she pulled through. With my friend, she had a small growth that needed lancing in the ER. There, she also came down with the bug and was in serious trouble for about a month. By the way, both of those incidents are at the same hospital my brother is currently at.

I will say though, that the care my brother has received (with the exception of the 6 day wait for transfer to the other hospital) has been exemplary. The ICU unit he is in is immaculate and I can't say enough about how well he has been taken care of.

When my aunt was admitted into the hospital last November for a stroke, there was a large mass of some sort of bodily fluid on the floor beside her bed. My Dad, horrified, covered it with a towel and called the nurse to page housekeeping. The nurse looked at the towel, and said 'Oh that shouldn't be there' and picked up the towel, thinking that's what my Dad was concerned about. Upon seeing the dirty floor, she remarked "Don't worry about that. It's dry."

The confidence level though in the system is so low though, that we praise for such small things as no litter or nice, sunny rooms. We tend to look at the surface, as thinking about anything deeper makes us cringe.

I am well aware that the hospital workers are overworked, given much demand and no means to properly care for people in the manner they should. I have heard many nurses lament that they know things are falling through the cracks, but there is little that can be done given the situation. The cleaners can do a cursory job, but with the beds so overbooked, and turnover so high, time is not on their side and there are far too few people to take care of it at all. But the cost of not taking care of the small things end up costing our system far too much, both in care expenses and in the cost to society in general.

It's not a comforting feeling to know that going to the hospital may actually end up making you worse than you would be otherwise.
Growing up so fast

He's not even 3 months yet, but Lex seems to be growing like a weed. He shares the same incredible blue eyes his sister has and will definitely be breakin' some hearts in years to come.
March 22, 2005
Gonna wash that stress out of my hair!

Fantastic news this evening as we all breathe a huge sigh of relief. There is no significant damage to the heart or the surrounding tissues. No angioplasty, no bypass...just anti-inflammatories and relaxation.

It has been a rollercoaster week, and one that has made us all very thankful for how precious life is. I know I am looking forward to getting back to a more relaxed life.

Hayley, however, has been the epitome of 3-year old willfulness. Sure, it's easy to say she's acting out from stress, but holy hell, that child has an attitude! Love her to bits, but I can see why her Mom gets so frustrated.

One example last night...she's been potty trained for 6 months or so. We were lying in her parent's bed last night while I read her stories. She suddenly said "AnnieSue...I gotta pee." So I move toward helping her up and she looks up and smiles..

'Nevermind. I just did. '

Not an accident, mind you. Just not in the mood to actually get up and do anything about it!

I said to her.."Hayley, why would you do that? Now your Mom's gonna fire me as a babysitter!'

'Naw, I wanna be fired'.

'Sorry, girly, you can't be. You're in the union.'

Hence, since then, she's been skipping through the house yelling at the top of her lungs that she's in the union. At least I get to go home. [grin]
March 21, 2005
Parole of a Cop Killer
Tomorrow, the murderer of Cst. Tom Agar, as well as 3 others, will be granted unsupervised day parole. All going well, he will be released fully by September. A cold blooded killer allowed to walk the streets.

I first mentioned Cst. Agar in my rambling, emotional post after the Mayerthorpe tragedy. I was 10 years old when he was gunned down at the local RCMP detachment, and it affected me deeply. My brother had recently graduated the academy and this happened in my hometown. However, I was factually incorrect on a few things...given my age, and the years, my memory was hazy. I have since had the chance to become aware of the case a little more deeply and I think it's one that definitely bears remembrance.

Cst. Agar was working front counter on the evening of September 19, 1980. 26 years old, and a 4 year veteran of the force, he was certainly not expecting that day was the day he would not be coming home. His wife was pregnant with their second daughter, and he was eagerly looking forward to the new addition to the family. I originally blogged that she went into premature labour upon the news, but I was remiss there. While she certainly must have gone through absolute hell, that was not one of the things she had to go through.

Stephen LeClair, meanwhile, had spent the day drinking in a bar in downtown-eastside Vancouver. After being kicked out, presumably for unacceptable behaviour, he returned with a gun and murdered 3 other people (2 men and a woman) before carjacking a couple and forcing them to drive to the Richmond RCMP detachment. For those not familiar with the geography, it would have been about a half-hour drive.

He entered the police detachment to find Cst. Agar at the front desk. LeClair asked him "How fast can you draw ?", and shot him point blank in the chest. The ensuing moments saw another officer shot and wounded, but he was able to return fire and wounded LeClair. He was then taken into custody without further incident.

This man took 4 people away from their families and loved ones, let alone two children who will never really know their father. It was in cold blood. Pure evil. This waste of skin knew exactly what his intentions were. It scarred our community and fellow officers and forever took away the innocence of 'front desk duty'. It is situations like these where I strongly feel we should consider bringing back capital punishment. Evil people like Clifford Robert Olson, Paul Bernardo and cold blooded cop killers have no place in our society.

Since the incident, a brick wall was erected in the local detachment to allow for safety of those working front desk. However, I don't believe it's standard practice, and have seen other detachments, both RCMP and City that don't have the same level of safety available to their officers.

Now this man will be granted freedom. 25 years have passed, but has he been rehabilitated? Someone who tried to use the excuse that 'he was too drunk too have control' could truly be able to be part of a civilized society? He killed 4 people and seriously wounded another in his drunken stupor, not to mention traumatized the people who were forced to drive him to his tragic destination. It saddens me that he is even given a chance again.

update: The killer's parole has now been delayed until June. Well, at least it's a few more months!
Tomorrow's the day
We have a date. Tomorrow at 10am, an ambulance will transfer Ron to the other hospital. Once there, he will have an angiogram (dye inserted into his heart to see where the blockage is) and then a decision will be made as to what type of procedure he will require. It could be an angioplasty, a stent or a full bypass.

I didn't sleep last night. I didn't sleep the night before either. I am feeling like a walking zombie. My back was giving me a lot of trouble so today, I carted myself off to the chiropractor and it would seem I had 5 ribs out of place. No wonder I had trouble feeling my arm. I knew the stress had to come out from somewhere, so I guess this was it.

Hoping to crash tonight, and then will spend the day with Shan and the kids. It's so tough on her. Everyone can just be at the hospital but with the young babes, she just can't. Everything must be so choreographed and it's rough on her. She wants to be with her Dad as much as we all do, but doesn't have that freedom. I'm frustrated at that for her. I have been trying to help, but it is an hour drive away and not completely easy. Considering she has a sister living with her and another Aunt (my brother's Sis-in-law) within 5 minutes, let alone her husband, I think there should be more people sympathizing and giving her a break to let her be with her Dad. She's beside herself with worry, and it's starting to take it's toll on the kids. Vicious circle.

Coming home tonight, I had another scare. My brother's house is in a very rural area. I was bumbling down the road, at a fair clip, when a coyote ran out right in front of my car. I had to slam on the brakes and lost control momentarily, while the damned beast just stood entranced with the headlights in front of me. I truly thought I was going to run the poor thing over and it gave me a terrible shock. In fact, I was on the phone at the time (hands free!) and all my Mother heard on the phone was me yelling 'Ohmigawd! NOOOOO!' Nothing like freaking just everyone out at once. Sure enough, though, I was able to stop in time and the coyote ran off into the bush. My heart is still skipping beats!
March 20, 2005
Things that will make me get back to work soon!
It has nearly been two months since I was laid off. It is a wry irony that I was given my 'restructuring speech' on Groundhog Day, as my days are definitely running into each other. During my exile from the rat race, I have found a few things that would definitely make me run screaming back to the Cube World.

1. Kirstie Alley - yeah, you're fat. We get it. Have you ever heard of over exposure? Remember, when you were learning grammar and writing skills in elementary school, the teacher taught you not to use the same word over and over again? There was a reason. When your latest endeavour into a TV series fails, it wasn't about pointing out the obvious. It was overexposure. Telling the same joke over and over and over again is not funny.

2. Vijay from Jack FM - probably only people in the immediate area of Vancouver will have any idea what I'm talking about here, but this relates to #1. Over exposure. When I saw the first commercial, I thought it was refreshing, different, and pretty funny. He's a pretty regular looking guy with a very strong Indian accent singing the praises of a local radio station. Apu meets the advertising world. But when you see the same commercial up to 20 times a day, it is no longer funny. It's grating. Too bad...too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

3. Signing into news websites - why do so many make you do this? You find a great story, you want to read more but nuh, uh...not until you tell us who you are. Sure, there's bug-me-not sites, but it's still an extra step. It's annoying.

4. Cambodia - I'm sure other Canadians can agree with me on this, and the Americans probably have no idea. If you have to register into any site, if you're in the States, the USA is usually right on the top of the country list. If you're Canadian, pressing "C" brings you to Cambodia, then you have to scroll down. It's a small thing but it's frustrating.

5. The ads for things we don't have here. Sirius, Tivo and most of the sites that only ship to the USA. Why is that? We're not that small. We have the technology. It's like being the shunned family member.

I'm sure I'll add to this list, but that's enough for now.
How sad
This story made me so sad (attached below so you don't have to sign in). If losing a child isn't bad enough, to have this happen is beyond words. Even worse, even if they figure out who the culprits are, the punishment certainly wouldn't fit the crime.

Many years ago, my house was broken into. It was just before Christmas. The theives came in, opened up all the pressies under the tree, and ransacked my mother's jewelry box. They stole, in part, her engagement ring and quite a few very sentimental objects. About 5 years after that, I was talking to a friend's brother who had recently been released from jail for B&E's. It turned out that my house was one of the ones he had broken into, or at least he thought it was, considering he was seriously into drugs at the time. It's a rare opportunity when you are given a chance to confront someone like that. While the goods taken were quickly sold to a pawn shop and could never be recovered, I know that what was said stayed with T after that. Suffice to say, I didn't hold back. Sometimes, I wonder if victim statements would help more criminals understand. It's a fantasy world I live in, I'm sure, but it certainly felt good to get some closure in that incident.


Whoever stole the ashes of twins Liam and Joseph Jacques should have the common decency to return the cherished remains -- or at least tell police where to find them, Surrey RCMP said yesterday.

A handcrafted red-oak box holding the ashes of the boys was stolen from the Jacques family home Thursday afternoon.

Insp. Richard Konarski said it's likely those responsible have no idea what they took, or how important its contents are to parents Lisa and Trevor Jacques.

Whoever broke into the apartment in the 10400-block 148 Street stuffed the box, a laptop computer, portable DVD player and about $8,000 worth of electronics into plastic bags, also taken from the apartment.

Lisa Jacques told The Province police are in the process of recovering images of the suspected thieves from building security cameras. They were apparently picked up on video getting off the elevator and leaving the lobby.

Konarski said police would send a cruiser to pick the box up and return it to the Jacques if the thieves call and reveal where to find it. Police are also asking a woman who called from a nearby building to tell them about the theft to please call back.

Liam and Joseph were born prematurely June 21, 1992. Liam survived just one day, while Joseph lived for only six weeks. Their paternal grandfather carved the box to hold the twins' ashes.

The box is light red, 25 to 30 centimetres long, 10 cm wide and 71/2 cm high.

Zodiac personality
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Oddly, I'm a Virgo though. But Aquarius sounds a bit familiar. =)
Continuing on
The good news is that my brother has been good for 24 hours now. Well, actually 36, I guess.

Yesterday, we all tried to stay away and give him the rest he needed. Only his girls, and one of my brothers went. He watched a few movies (you can get a DVD player in the room, but just not a test to tell you where the blockage is!) and is now starting to feel a lot better. In fact, when asked this morning what he'd like us to bring, he said a get away car.

Of course, as with most procedures, nothing happens on the weekend. They have him pencilled in for tomorrow so we're hoping that stays to plan. Nothing, though, is written in stone.

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, my back has given up the ghost and I'm walking like an 80 year old. I guess all this stress got me too tense and I'm really uncomfortable today. Such is life.

I will go up to the hospital later, but in the meantime, it's feet up and rest for me.

Todd's been calling again every day to get updates on Ron's progress, which touches me deeply. I have to let my guard down yet a little bit more, when I know that it's not just me he's interested in, but my family as well. He's being moved to a new base now, but I don't know where yet. Things are just changing and he's needed elsewhere. I just hope he gets his package of trans-fats before he goes! I mailed that just last week!
March 18, 2005
And so it goes...
I am emotionally and physically exhausted tonight but wanted to update our lives a bit. For those you that read every day (which, by the way, THANK you very much for the support as it is extremely appreciated), but also to keep a bit of a log of what's going on so hopefully I can look back on this in a few months time and be thankful of how far things have come. Oh, I so hope that will be how I look on this.

Ron had yet another attack today. This one was a bit more serious than the one yesterday, but not as serious as the main event. He's now on oxygen, but is in good spirits otherwise. He has always had a great wit and it's fantastic to see him not losing that.

Today's attack happened just as my parents were leaving. He felt the pain come, but didn't want to alarm my Mom so he just pretended he needed to sleep. This is one of the most frustrating things my family does...we get so worried about worrying the others that all of us have been guilty of hiding things to protect each other. It serves no purpose and it's a major pet peeve of mine. However, I know I've done it as well, but it really is a useless thing to do. Once Mom and Dad left, he said to his wife 'Get the nurse now.' in a very quiet, very controlled voice, which Sandi said freaked her out more than anything.

3 shots of nitro and the oxygen got things righted again. By the time we saw him about 90 minutes later, he was much more relaxed but is very tired. They figure part of the problem is the visitor stream. He has now been put on 'family only' visits, but like I mentioned to the nurse, with a large family like ours, that's not much of a help. So for now, it will just be his kids, me, and my parents allowed. But having said that, I think I will try to avoid going for now and just try and more be 'soft support'. Like looking after the babies so Shan can go instead, or whatever else I can do. Besides, I brought him my Gameboy tonight so that should be good for him for a bit.

Hell...I am just so unbelieveably tired tonight. I have a massive headache, feel nauseated and I'm scared. I feel like if I even let go of this tough exterior, this little-miss-fix-it persona for a second, I will completely lose it and end up in the fetal position rocking back and forth.

Obviously, he hasn't been moved to the other hospital. There are no beds available and no room to do the test. They have him pencilled in on Monday but again, there are no guarantees. This is the most frustrating part of our medical system. Just too much demand and not enough supply. The person in the neighbouring bed was in 9 days before his angiogram, and the new guy in the other bed was in Emergency for 3 days before being transferred. The chilling part today was that the other hospital phoned today to see if he was still in the hospital and still in need of the test. At first, we thought it was great they called until we thought about it a little more and realized the reason they were wondering if he didn't need the test anymore, and it wasn't that they thought he'd gone home. Urgh. Not a nice thought.

But in fantastic news, all my brothers have gone to visit today. It's worth mentioning because of all the drama we have in the family. We really don't see each other and it's been at least 3 years since it's happened. Sometimes, the most terrible situations have a funny way of making us take stock and realize how important life is. Trivial stuff just does not matter.
March 17, 2005
A New Style

In all the drama yesterday, I was in the midst of getting my hair cut, coloured, the works. 3 hours...time I rarely spend, as there is always far too many more important things to do. But what's once every 6 months?
The night it was...
It started out ok...we went for dinner at a pub in honour of the day. I had a couple of Bailey's and Hot Chocolate and even found myself laughing a lot. Then the call came.

Ron had another attack this evening. He is, again, resting comfortably in the Cardiac ICU but we remain in purgatory. They know he has blockages but without the test cannot confirm how serious they are. The fact that he continues to have attacks is not a good thing, but he did have a rally today where he felt quite good and took a bit of walk.

The test he requires is at another hospital. There are only two hospitals available for this test, and understandably, are incredibly overbooked. He is only one of many in his situation. We had been assured he would be transfered today, but then were told there were no beds available. Such is the life of an overburdened medical system.

His Chief was going to talk to the hospital and see if there was anything that could be done. It's been a bit of a parade of the Blues today, as a good percentage of his shift mates and other friends in blue got the word that he had fallen ill. If there is one thing to be said, it's the brotherhood of those wearing the badge. They have really taken to the cause and are being a lot of help.

So we wait. Every moment is an eternity. Every second a lifetime. I think I may go stay with my brother's family for the next few days as being home in this house by myself is not good, and gives me far too much time to think and worry.

Thanks all who have been praying and sending thoughts. It's much appreciated.
A Letter To Rose
Imagine you and your new husband have decided you must leave your country and start a new life in a foreign land, knowing that you will likely never see your family again. Not knowing where you'll end up or what lies ahead, as you ready to depart aboard the ship, you receive a letter from your Mother-In-Law. You have been warned that she already disapproves of the union, based on your religion alone, but due to the rather hasty circumstances of your courtship and departure, you never got to meet her. The letter becomes precious. It is read often over the years as a taste of home:

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4 Hillgrove Place
Off Clarence Pt,

Friday 1st (sometime in 1922 - we believe)

My dear Rose

Just a line in answer to your note enclosed with the cake which I received quite safe. Well, my dear, I am sure you will have my every good wish for your happiness and prosperity. I am sure Joe will make a good husband he has always been a good son and I hope when we meet we shall be great

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chums as Joe has been always more like a big brother and we are all the world to each other. We are all so sorry that we were not able to come over for the wedding but never mind girl, we shall soon meet and have a wedding all on our own. If the parcel post will run again from here before we go I shall send your present but I hope to be able to bring you something good when I come. Do send us a photo likea dear and I will get one of mine & send you. I expect you are as

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longing to see what I am like as I am to see you. I am not a dreadful person as Joe will tell you. He was the one to get around me. You bet. Well dear you may thank God you and your people are left Limerick as all the place is in ruins and burned almost to the ground. Isn't it dreadful? We are nearly dotty with the explosions. Bombs & Firing day and night here. Now I must ring off as I am in a hurry for post and hoping to hear by return. Best love and may God Bless you both. I remain your fond and loving Mum & Dad, M. Webber. Tons of love from Billie Birdie Beatty also Peggy [ed. - the sisters]

Happy St. Paddy's Day
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(My great-grandparents and family in Ireland, circa 1930)

My grandfather, Joe was born in Cork, Ireland in 1899, the first born and only son. If the tales were all true, he would have had us believe he was conceived under the moonlight by the Blarney Stone, and born on a ship in the middle of the Irish Sea. My grandfather, you see, had the incredible knack of making the mundane sound fascinating and incredible. But at the same time, most of what happened in his early years needed no embellishment. By his second decade, he'd already lived more life than most of us do in our entire existence.

At 15, he joined the British Army and fought in WWI. Of course, he lied about his age. Everyone did in those days. By the time he was 18, he was returned to Ireland an injured veteran, having survived a bayonet strike in France. He was left for dead on the battlefield, and was found alive by French nuns. The wound had festered, leaving him with very little stomach and intestine. It would plague him all his life, and while he did not complain, he would often have his antacids at the ready.

When he returned to Ireland, he joined the Royal Irish Constabulary, an offshoot of the police force that had many a run-in with the IRA. It was a heady time. After WWI and until 1922, Ireland was in the midst of it's Troubles and experiencing close to a civil war. Families were strained as many took sides and it was a difficult time for all. He lost his closest friend (with the unfortuante nickname of Lucky) when he was shot in the head by a sniper as they were walking down the street.

He met my grandmother by gunpoint. Not much more a romantic story could be told, but he was on patrol the night she decided to sneak out of the nurse's dormatory for a quick smoke. It was after curfew, and he saw movement. Thankfully, he was not trigger happy and thus, a love story was born that rivalled the greats. Their courtship was short and given the political and social climate they chose to leave Ireland. Given his Irish-Catholic family and her English Protestant one, it raised some difficult choices during those times. They flipped a coin...heads was Canada, and tails Australia. You can guess what they got.

They sailed into a wintery Montreal in 1922, my Nan, Rose, newly pregnant and highly nauseated on the ocean voyage. Their first stop in Canada was harsh. A new land, new language and Joe had contracted an illness on the ship. For a while, it looked like Rose would be a widowed young Mom in a foreign land. Thankfully, he recovered and they made their way west to Vancouver.

Joe spent the rest of his years as a farmer, a fisherman, a volunteer policeman, a truck driver and pretty much anything that kept food on the table for his six kids. Rose raised her kids, and when they were gone from the nest, took in foster kids until finally at the age of 60, had to retire.

Rose died of a heart attack at the age of 76. I was 8 but I can remember my Grandad weeping and being inconsolable. His heart was gone, and he never truly recovered. Finally, after 6 deeply depressed years, his body finally gave in and he passed on to be with his Rose. Amazingly, the cause of death was due to the scar tissue from the bayonet injury nearly 60 years previous. It was as if his body finally decided it was time.

He gave us a love of all things Irish. He told us of the rolling hills he longed to see again, pointed out similarities to our geography and when he was tired, he would speak in the most lovely Irish brogue. In fact, just 6 days before he died, he sung songs from his childhood so clear and so strong that they will stay in my consciousness for the rest of my life. He told us stories and fables that night, both real and imagined. He made me very proud of my heritage that night. In fact, my tattoo is of a shamrock and a rose to remind me of where I come from, and that love can be everlasting.
March 16, 2005
Not exactly what we expected!
So the trip to Seattle is postponed. A second trip in a row that I have had to cancel 24 hours before departure.

My brother had a significant heart attack today. He's 47, in no particular ill health and in fact, healthy enough to train new recruits at the police academy. So this was not expected in the least.

This morning, he was driving his daughter's car to the shop when he got the chest pain and arm tingles. He had enough sense to realize he was in trouble, so he pulled over, went into the nearest store and requested they call 9-1-1. Thankfully, he was in the hospital early enough to head off more serious damage.

He's currently in the cardiac ward, awaiting further tests to determine the level of damage. He's not exactly comfortable, nor does he look like he's going to win any beauty contests any time soon, but he'll be ok. He's very grumply with the fact that the chest-applied monitors have damaged his new tattoo and given him a chest wax he didn't sign up for. Just tells me that he's still himself under all those tubes.

Ya know, it's a bit of a wake up call when your brother gets a touch with mortality. Sure, we deal with it every day with his job, but this is different. I have accepted the fact my parents are aging, and that they become more mortal with every passing day, but my sibling? He's not allowed to age, because that would mean I'm aging too and that is just not going to happen.
March 15, 2005
The blurred line of responsibility
Last week, the BC Supreme Court found a local pub 50% liable for the actions of a drunk driver who had been drinking at their establishment.

The pub, now called the Buck and Ear (but was Third Avenue Pub at the time of the incident) is just around the corner from me and is the source of many fun memories over the years. The establishment has been around for the better part of the century, and has a real historical feel to the place. It's had it's day as a fisherman's bar, a peeler bar and many others over the years. In fact, for a long time, it was almost a right of passage for the local boys to be hauled out of there at some point for causing disturbances.

In this case, the patron - McWilliams - was extremly intoxicated. He'd been drinking at the bar all night and then tried to leave the premises. He was returned to the pub by an concerned patron, who yelled out for help getting him a cab which seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The man then left, got into his car, and subsequently drove into 5 pedestrians. One of which suffered life-altering injuries, and had been out celebrating his recent high school graduation with a life full of promise. He now faces a life challenged by mobility and brain injury issues.

While testimony showed that the servers and bartenders were taught the correct procedures, through the 'Serve It Right' course, further examination showed that they often overpoured, and even drank while on shift.

The court case found The Buck 50% liable financially for McWilliams' actions. While I do agree more could have been done to possibly stop McWilliams, I find the 50% liability extremely high. McWilliams, being an adult should have known his limits and taken responsibility accordingly. If you can't handle it, don't drink. The bartenders/servers should not be babysitters. Continuing to drink and relying on the staff to take care of him should not absolve him of his actions. By setting the liability at 50%, it diminishes McWilliams' role in this and that rankles me. I think I would have been ok with 20-25% though.

What do you think? Should bars be responsible for your actions?
Too much of a good thing?
An interesting article from the New York Times states some of the more soft issues created by a communication-rich environment for the deployed soldiers and their families. It's a registered site, so I've copied the article here.

It's a double-edged sword. It's great to hear from loved ones while they're over there...but at the same time, with lines so clear and being able to hear often, it gives a false sense of distance. When my Mom's brother went to war in WWII, she was only 4. When he returned, she was 10 and didn't even know the man who walked back in the door carrying a child and holding the hand of an Irish woman. All she'd ever known was a picture on the wall and very distant memories. Now, 60 years later, we hear the good, the bad, the everything. I wouldn't want it any other way, but the article gives some food for thought.

For Troops, Home Can Be Too Close


Published: March 15, 2005

Jane Murray was fuming as she answered the phone, and, hearing her husband's voice, let it rip: their teenagers had once again left the bathroom littered with empty shampoo bottles despite repeated lectures on tidying up.

It was a routine parental exchange, but not one Ms. Murray would have indulged in had she taken a moment to collect herself. The problem was one of context. Ms. Murray's husband, Col. John M. Murray, was calling from Baghdad, where he commands 6,000 soldiers of the First Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Tex.
Over nine time zones and many months of separation, his wife's outrage over a messy bathroom simply did not compute, turning a conversation both Murrays hoped would serve as precious reconnection into a reminder of how far apart their worlds really were. "I slipped up," Ms. Murray said ruefully.
Military scientists have long studied wartime communication, but the war in Iraq is opening a new dimension. Virtually every soldier, sailor and marine there has access to e-mail and cellphones, a broad and largely uncensored real-time communication network unprecedented in military history.

The military is taking steps to control the information flow, in part with Internet kill switches at bases to give senior officers a means to enforce communication blackouts. Military researchers, meanwhile, are scrambling to track the broader impact of instant communication technology. Studies under way include the interpersonal - as in the Murrays' painful collision of household and war zone - and urgent matters of national and military security.

"We are going to learn profound lessons from this war about how to manage these devices to communicate what we really want to convey, and reduce the negative aspects," said Dr. Morten G. Ender, a sociologist at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Learning the best use of e-mail, cellphones and other interactive devices is critically important to the military, where careless communication can cost lives. But experts say that even seemingly mundane exchanges have implications for troop morale and the emotional health of service families.
More than 95 percent of the military personnel in Iraq report using e-mail, and nearly two-thirds say they use it three or more times a week, said Dr. Ender, who also is looking at subtler issues like whether officers, troops and families chose e-mail for certain types of messages - routine news, for example - and saved more personal topics for cellphone conversations.

The capacity for such real-time, interactive communication has unquestionably aided military field operations, but researchers say the emotional and psychological impact on soldiers and their families is less clear.

Just as television coverage during Vietnam brought shocking images of war into living rooms, so today's communications technology has the potential to immerse already anxious families in the raw experience of combat, while miring soldiers in domestic problems that distract from the mission.

"My wife is having problems with getting yard work taken care of without having to pay out the nose for it," a 29-year-old Army captain complained in a survey about whether deployment had resulted in "marriage issues."

Others reported haggling by e-mail or cellphone over money. The Internet enables soldiers to monitor their bank accounts from Iraq, a mixed blessing in the case of one soldier who discovered that her husband had used up her combat pay on Yankees tickets and a new boat.

Families, too, can become so tethered to cellphones and e-mail that they have difficulty re-establishing normal routines at home, said Dr. D. Bruce Bell, a psychologist and an expert on military families, formerly with the Army Research Institute in Arlington, Va. This contrasts with previous wars when letters arrived infrequently, and separations provided opportunities for spouses to master new skills.

Finally, there is the problem of technology misfires - the Iraq cellphone network crashes or e-mail goes astray. These can bring on spikes of anxiety as family members leap to the worst possible conclusion.

"We've raised expectations of instantaneous communications to such an unreasonable level that when we can't connect, the technology ends up being a new source of stress," said Dr. Frederic Medway, a psychologist and a specialist in military and family separation issues at the University of South Carolina.

The technology can also distort communication. Cellphones and e-mail artificially compress time and space, giving the illusion of chatting almost in the same room. But as the Murrays' experience shows, context greatly influences how people "hear" what's being said. Frequency and volume, moreover, don't necessarily contribute to better understanding. "We are seeing a great deal of information overload in soldiers in Iraq and in their families," Dr. Ender said.

Military communications science covers a vast terrain. Commanders must be able to communicate with frontline troops and supply lines, while keeping important information from the enemy. But they have a parallel duty to facilitate those troops' communication with loved ones because of demonstrated psychological benefits to morale and combat readiness. Studies of German military units in World War II showed that soldiers isolated from contact with family and the larger society were more likely to surrender.

Such military concerns have led to significant communication innovation. The concept of the postcard as a short form of letter is believed to have originated in the War of 1812, when a commander worried about morale suggested that his men write greetings on scraps of paper, which he had delivered to their families.

In World War II, the Army tried to speed up family-to-soldier communication with a system called V-Mail. Letters were photographed; the film then was flown to battlefronts for reproduction and distribution. But what soldiers and families gained in speed, they lost in privacy. Besides passing through many strangers' hands, V-mail was subject to military censorship.

Real-time communication technology eliminates such controls - an obvious concern for military leaders responsible for both security and the psychological well-being of troops and their families. The military has responded with increased training, essentially teaching self-censorship to keep details of military encounters confidential. For families, the advice is to keep conversations upbeat.

But the military's ability to shield soldiers and families is limited. When an Army helicopter was shot down in Iraq last year, televised images beat notification of next of kin by many hours - an agonizing communication gap for family members at Fort Hood, who recognized the insignia of the helicopter brigade from news footage of the wreck. Maria McConville, wife of the brigade commander, received many panicky calls that day.

"Every wife wanted to know, 'Was it my husband?' " recalled Ms. McConville, who also couldn't say, pending identification of the dead and the military's notification visit to their families.

It is this system of in-person notification that has pushed commanders in Iraq to intervene in the timing and content of soldiers' personal messages home. The increased oversight was brought on by several incidents early in the war, after families heard through the virtual grapevine - and not always accurately - that their loved ones were casualties.

This was the impetus for installing kill switches on Internet servers at Iraq military bases that senior officers can activate at the first word of troops wounded or killed.

The idea is to forestall the natural inclination of the service members to reassure parents or spouses that they are all right, or to comfort the family of an injured buddy. However well intentioned, such messages can have dire consequences for service families as they spread unverified through the same technology that sped them from Iraq. Among many anxious questions: "If Ms. Jones's son e-mailed, why hasn't mine?"

Because cellphones operate through commercial Iraqi networks outside the reach of military kill switches, many commanders have also directed troops to refrain from talking or messaging about casualties until senior officers give their approval. Violation of these standing orders can result in military prosecution.

Taming the technology, however, remains work in progress. Kill switches, for example, send a message of their own. Now, when e-mail messages don't go through or calls go straight to voice mail, families tend to leap to the conclusion that someone's hurt or dead, ignoring possibilities - technology failure, for example - that previously carried greater weight.

The military is addressing this reaction with so-called negative notifications, which are e-mail bulletins to families whose relatives are in units that didn't lose anyone but still are subject to the communication blackout.

"Basically, we're letting them know there's a casualty, but it is not in your unit," said Maj. Diane M. Ryan, an Army spokeswoman. She acknowledged that this heightened anxiety among service families that did not receive the negative notifications.

Relieving their anxiety isn't accomplished so speedily. The military aims to notify families within four hours of a death, but the process frequently takes longer. Delay can result from courtesies embedded in the casualty notification process: for example, the delegation cannot visit families before 6 a.m. or after 10 p.m.

Which is not to say researchers and military families advocate turning back the clock on real-time communications. The benefits of hearing a loved one's voice or reading a newsy late night e-mail message far outweigh technology's harms, families say.

As for Ms. Murray, lately she has had better things to talk about with Colonel Murray than shampoo bottles, their new role as grandparents. Ms. Murray was at her daughter's bedside immediately after the birth.

"The first thing we did was call Dad in Baghdad," Ms. Murray recalled. "We could never have done that before cellphones."

Another quiz thingy...
The Prioress
You scored 2% Cardinal, 66% Monk, 52% Lady, and 43% Knight!

You are a moral person and are also highly intellectual. You like your
solitude but are also kind and helpful to those around you. Guided by a
belief in the goodness of mankind you will likely be christened a saint
after your life is over.

You scored high as both the Lady and the Monk. You can try again to
get a more precise description of either the Monk or the lady, or you
can be happy that you're an individual.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 1% on Cardinal
You scored higher than 99% on Monk
You scored higher than 66% on Lady
You scored higher than 66% on Knight
Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid
Your neighbours are what?
This blog is a pretty funny read. What would you do if your neighbours were in the, um, companionship business?

Her bio reads in part:

  • Yeah... My Neighbours Are Hoors. This is a blog mainly about the brothel on the ground floor and what its occupants get up to. Hoors is my affectionate term for them. I'd like new visitors to my blog to know that I really don't intend to cause any offence to the girls downstairs. I respect what they do. Sometimes though, the goings-on are just too enjoyable not to go down in writing! Names have been changed to protect the... um... er... Innocent?
    Not just for Baghdad anymore. It's catching on in London.

    I knew some waiters can be touchy about tips, but this is ridiculous.
    Another blast from the past
    My Grandfather's Kit List from 1941

    My grandfather was in the RCMP for a time, as a volunteer in the early 40's. Most of the boys were at war, and he was 42 with 5 kids at home and one overseas in the RCAF. It was his way of doing his part from here.
    The Red Ensign Standard #17
    Rue has done us proud, hosting the Red Ensign Standard #17.

    Check out what some of the more profound bloggers in Canada are saying this time around. The group is now over 50 people, and the task of rounding up the posts is not a small one. However, Rue has put it all together in true style, making it an easy read and leaving you wanting more.

    Thank you, Rue, for your hard work!
    What's on your fridge?

    Taking inspiration from Rue, here's a picture of my refrigerator/shrine to my travels & friends. I started collecting magnets over a decade ago but have long since run out of space (my dishwasher door looks similar). There are magnets from lots of odd places I've been to over the years, and pictures of friends and family. There's also a wedding invitation and very outdated pictures of friend's kids. Speaking of which, that's one of my goals over the next little while to get all the pictures updated to at least one's taken within the last year.

    Now, I've shown you mine. What's on yours?
    March 14, 2005
    Baby smiles
    March 13, 2005
    The Life of a Military Girlfriend
    I may be crazy but I'm wearing capris and sandals today. The clematis is growing back, the sun is bright and the world is in bloom. Gotta love the Wet Coast when it's not raining.

    I cringe at the above title, by the way. I am not good with the GF word at the best of times. It scares the hell out of me. You think guys have the mark cornered on commitment phobia? Yeah, not so much. Every time I've garnered that title, it's been nothing but trauma to follow. I try to keep myself grounded, telling myself that this is just the now...we don't know what the long term brings. I have spent a very long time relying on myself and am finding it hard to admit that my emotions are wrapped up in another's actions. It angers me at times, it makes me nervous, but at the end of the day, the hopeless romantic I've tried hard to bury underneath a rough exterior is doing the happy dance. Todd said the other day I had what it took to be a military girlfriend and I didn't understand or know what to make of that. I still don't know...but I do know that I will stand by him and do whatever it takes until he comes back. It's a given. He hasn't asked me to do that, but it is what I want to do.

    I took another trip to the US yesterday to mail the latest package to Todd. It may seem odd but somehow taking the trip across the border, both in time and effort, is sort of a half-assed attempt to honour what sacrifice he's making. Instead of just popping down to the post office, it's now at least an hour or more do get something away and I find it is somewhat fulfilling. I am now getting to know the postal clerk at Mailboxes Unlimited in Blaine now. When I walk in, she always greets me with a 'How's our boy doing now?' Even the border guard yesterday seemed to recognize me.

    He has called me the last 6 days out of 7. I think that he's really feeling far from home these days, and the emotion in his voice has been so strong. I tried to tell a friend several times this week what he said but each time choked up myself and couldn't. Suffice to say, he is doing well physically but is feeling very out of sorts in every other way. So far, I'm the only one who has sent him anything at all and it's been nearly 2 weeks since he's been able to catch his daughter on the phone. He feels very lost, very alone. I guess it was inevitable but all I can do is listen and it is so difficult. I want to wrap my arms around him, tell him it will all be okay. But when I don't know that myself, how can I tell him?

    The living conditions are no Club Med. The paper-thin walls are not conducive to sleep. He has been living on only 4 hours a night, between the attacks and just the general noises of all the others in the living quarters. I asked him about earplugs but he laughed wryly. Apparently, a silly question. Earplugs aren't an accepted method when you need to be alert for incoming mortar attacks.

    I live attached to my cell phone these days. If I go out, I forward my home phone to my cell. I am never out of touch. It's been worth it, although there have been a couple awkward moments when the phone rang at the worst possible time.

    So far, reading the military and military support blogs and getting to know others who lead similar existences have been the most helpful. In my real life, I don't have many friends I can talk to about it, so I keep most of it inside. My closest friends and family remember all too well the disastrous reaction and after-effects of Todd's deployment and most are fairly vocal that I should move on and walk away from the situation. But I've never been one to listen to advice...but rather, follow my own path. This is no different.

    And with that load of waffle, it's time for some happier moments. I'm off to the park with the kids to go fly a kite. Can't think of a sweeter way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
    March 12, 2005
    Mushy brain
    I have been having the same fun as Rebecca with migraines. The last two days are a complete blur. But I seem to be improved this morning, so hopefully it's moving on. Hope so...I'm taking a run into the US this afternoon.

    Our official trip to Seattle is now booked for Thursday-Saturday next week. We'll be staying downtown but fairly close to the zoo. I'm hoping to go see Gunner Palace while I'm there, as it looks like they're playing it in a cinema close to the hotel. Other than that, does anyone reading this have any great ideas (other than the zoo) for 3-year old kids?

    Because I'm less than profound today, I'll leave this with a list from Friday Feast:

    Feast Thirty-Nine

    Appetizer - Where do you go when you want to relax?

    To the beach by my house. I can go sit there and watch the tug boats, fishboats and barges go past me and feel myself calm down. Anytime I'm way over the top stress-wise, you'll find me up there taking in the scenery.

    Soup - Tell about something that made you laugh this week.

    Holy hell, I'm having trouble with this one! I must have laughed this week, but do you think I can remember???

    Salad - What is your favorite texture?


    Main Course - If you were to publish your autobiography, what would the first sentence be?

    The old country doctor looked at the worn-out new mother and shook his head sadly. 'You may finally have your daughter, but for how long, I just can't say...'

    Dessert - Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day? If so, how?

    I usually like to do something, but I do have my shamrock tattoo so I'm wearing the green 24/7 anyway. Usually, if I'm at my parents, we have the traditional meal of corned beef, boiled cabbage, boiled potatoes and carrots. I LOVE that! Later on, friends will gather at one of the local pubs selling green beer. This year though, we'll be in Seattle so likely nothing.

    Well, that's it for me. My brother is off to get his new tattoo today. He's very much into them and today will be two additions - Alexander's name on his family tree and the memorial ribbon for the fallen officers. I thought it was great that he was doing that, but it would seem it triggered some pretty strong emotions in a friend of mine, who felt it was plainly wrong. My brother's point being that he's been in the field for 25 years and has seen far too many people lose their lives, or their health and mobility. By having the tattoo, it honours the sacrifice and gives a symbol that reminds him how precious life can be. I'm proud of him for doing it.
    March 10, 2005
    If we don't stand up to evil, who will?

    That quote struck me as profound during the ceremony today. I watched it from beginning to end and had intentions of making a list of the top 10 quotes, but that hasn't quite happened.

    I will pass on this poem though, that was emailed to me by a friend of my brother's. I have no idea who wrote it only that it was apparently 'by a Mountie about the four Mounties that were murdered last week NW of Edmonton.'

    As four Mounties stood and faced their Maker,
    which most sadly comes to pass,
    They bowed down to see their boots were shining,
    just like their first academy class.

    "Step forward now, young Constables
    how shall I deal with all of you?
    Have you turned the other cheek down there?
    Or have you all been true blue through and through?"

    The first Constable,
    with squared shoulders, said
    "No sir, I guess I ain't,
    because those of us who carry such weighty badges can't always
    live like Saints."

    The second confessed he'd worked most Sundays
    and that at times his talk was rough,
    and that to control such senseless violence,
    sometimes words were not enough.

    The third confessed he'd never took a penny,
    that wasn't his to keep,
    Though he'd worked a lot of overtime
    when the bills just got too steep.

    The last Constable stated that he never passed a cry for help
    though inside he had occasionally shook with fear,
    "and once," he said quite meekly,
    "I've wept unmanly tears."

    The Constables all agreed together,
    that they were not sure if they deserved to rest amongst the best,
    Because their life had been one of serving,
    And so they were used to having less.

    "But if you do have a place for us here, need not be too grand,
    we don't expect, nor have had too much
    so if you don't...we understand."

    There was silence throughout all of heaven
    While the Saints nodded together as they stood,
    And the Constables stood quietly shoulder to shoulder,
    for their final judgment...bad or good.

    "Step forward young police Constables,
    You have borne your burdens well,
    Come walk a beat on Heaven's streets;
    You've done your time in Hell."

    Vancouver, British Columbia
    A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer, who looks forward to a better Canada. I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from cdnsue. Make your own badge here.

    Steal this button and link to me!
    Turning thirty and a half
  • July 2004
  • November 2004
  • December 2004
  • January 2005
  • February 2005
  • March 2005
  • April 2005
  • May 2005
  • June 2005
  • July 2005
  • August 2005
  • September 2005
  • October 2005
  • November 2005
  • December 2005
  • January 2006

  • The WeatherPixie