Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Miss 10"

I have a great boss.

I know we're supposed to say things like that in public - and since this is a public blog where I've made no attempt to disguise my identity, I pretty much have to say that.

But having to say it doesn't make the fact that she's fabulous any less true.

Every Friday afternoon, we have a staff meeting, exchange kits for the week and get any materials we need for our science clubs and workshops. It's crowded and chaotic, as people run around checking lists and telling stories about their week.

I walked into the office carrying a pile of science stuff, dropped it on a table, and turned to say hi to my boss.

"Hey Mel! Oh boy do you ever owe me a big!" She said this with a strange smile, almost looking grim.

"Um. What did I do?!"

"Don't worry about it right now - just get the rest of your stuff. Then we'll talk."

Twenty minutes later, I was chatting with my co-workers when my boss came back into the room, saying "Okay Mel, close your eyes".

Not knowing what to expect, I did as I was told.

I heard a swooshing sound, then felt something go over my head and onto my shoulders.

"Okay, open your eyes" she said, grinning at me.

She had placed a sash made out of brown paper towel over my shoulders, Miss America style, with the words "Miss 10" written across it. Baffled, I looked up at her and asked what it meant.

Looking jubilant, she said, "Well, I got a call from JB (not his real name) yesterday. After talking to Kyle about what type of information I should have prepared, I called him back this morning."

"Oh my god! What did you say?!"

"Well, I told him all about how horrible you are; unreliable, unfriendly, can't depend on you, you never pay attention to your material - you know, stuff like that".

"Please tell me you're kidding!" (which she clearly was)

This time she smiled proudly and said "He asked me to rate you on several different factors on a scale from 1 to 10. I started to laugh halfway through because I just kept repeating "10. 10. 10" She giggled and rolled her eyes.

"I told him that I wanted to say you were horrible so he wouldn't hire you! Then I told him how great you are."

Cue "Miss 10" running across the room, leaping over a box full of chemicals to hug her boss the same way people hug their friends.

Thanks to her, I was one step closer...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

In which I stop wondering how Bush won the presidency

Note: this post is just MY opinion. It's based on observations, conversations and some research. I apologize if anything I write offends you.

For the first time in my life, I've become fascinated with an election. Ironically, it's not even being held in Canada. But like many others I find myself paying attention to the lead-up to the American elections, primarily because of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Let me begin by saying that if I had a choice, I'd vote Obama. And I'd encourage my friends to do the same.

I have struggled with politics and especially politicians since learning about them in high school. Even to my teenage self they all seemed the same: false, self-serving people who were looking to get ahead without care or concern for the people voting them into power. Sounds harsh, but when you look at the state of North America today, seeing so many people struggling to make ends meet every week, or waiting for 8 hours to see a doctor - things are not good. And the people who've been in charge of our world and our politics for the last 30 years are largely responsible for this.

For the first time, I clicked on a link from an article about Mr. Obama to hear part of a speech he was giving in Houston. I've liked his statements and what I've read about him, and wanted to see if he appeared to be truthful while speaking about the changes he wants to bring.

43 minutes later, I couldn't believe I'd listened to his entire speech. He's gifted in front of a crowd, emphasizing certain words, and explaining himself clearly without appearing to struggle. (Far cry from Dubya's difficulty pronouncing words like "nuclear").

Again, it's ironic that I even care about this, considering I'm not an American.

To decide the reality behind politicians, I usually figure that about 1/3 of what they say is actually true. Even if that's the case with Obama, I'd STILL vote for him. I honestly believe he has something special and can help heal our neighbouring country. They need it badly. The war in Iraq has damaged the worldview of America more than people here realize. When I lived in the UK, every person I met had something horrible to say about Bush and "those idiots who voted him into power". Their words, not mine. Usually, I responded by saying that people in North America generally disagreed with the Bush administration's politics, and that hopefully the next election would bring about change for them. Every time I mentioned being a Canadian, people responded with a derogatory comment about the Americans.

That bothered me (and still does) because many people south of our border are fantastic, hard-working, and good people who certainly don't deserve what people overseas are saying about them.

I hope that when they do finally pull out of Iraq that it won't be in 100 years (as McCain said he sees happening), and that the next American president will work to help them build their country back without pushing our Western ideals on them. It's not our place to force our political (or any other) systems on people who live in a different country. Yes, I believe that we can share what we've learned with them, and encourage certain ideals - like a democracy where people can vote and have freedom of speech and religion - but there is a boundary that can be crossed all too easily, causing war and oppression instead of peace and democracy.

After the debate between Obama and Clinton on Tuesday, I read several articles that discussed how friendly they were with each other, only using random little jabs, but mainly playing nice. I thought that was strange, since both of them speak more strongly in front of their supporters.

Both campaigns have used mailers (junk mail to most of us - explaining their political platforms and bashing those of their opponents) to emphasize the differences in their policies. Apparently one of these mailers from Obama quoted a newspaper that said Hilary supported the NAFTA agreement. She got mad, newspapers jumped in with their opinions, another newspaper called Obama's statement misleading, and the whole issue got very confusing. Regardless of what is actually true, we know that she supported the free trade agreement, as did Bill Clinton (easy to verify online) - but she is now vehemently denying this fact.

Her response to this (allegedly several days after the offending mailers were sent out) has been a furious attack on her fellow Democrat, during which she first compared him to George W. Bush, then:

After the talk, she continued to take the fight to Obama while talking to reporters, displaying two of Obama's direct mail attack pieces, which she called “blatantly false” and claimed that his rhetoric doesn’t match reality.

"Let's have a real campaign,” she said, her anger palpable. “Enough with the speeches and the big rallies... Shame on you Barack Obama... Meet me in Ohio. Let's have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign.”

At a press conference later in the day, Obama said the mailers are accurate and that he's puzzled why Clinton is raising them now, since they have been around for at least several days.

"It makes me think there is something tactical about her getting so exercised this morning," Obama said in Columbus, Ohio. "Sen Clinton as part of the Clinton administration supported NAFTA. In her book, she called it one of the administration’s successes."

After reading this, I couldn't wait to get to the comments, since the political articles usually draw a strong response. These are always entertaining, with at least three or four absolute nutters adding their two cents in. This time they must have banded together because there were a LOT more than normal.

Just look at this:
Are we ready to have all blacks in the Streets if Osama..i mean Obama gets the presidency?...Imagine if O.J. was declared innocent after a DNA that said "ONE in a billion would want those people deads"...what we can expect of deads by Blacks? I had a Dream...
that was about a black never been a President of USA
as God told me in my Dream.
- Larry Allen, Miami, Florida

or this:
She's right, guys. Voting for Obama means voting for George W. Bush, Part II. Like a true leader, Hillary's taken the high road through this whole campaign. Unlike Obama, she doesn't use dry humor and sarcasm to distract voters. With Hillary Clinton, what you see is what you get. And it's lookin' pretty good to me.
- Brian Masck, Flushing, Michigan
(Just a quick note to people who don't know about American politics: Bush is a Republican and Obama is a Democrat - not sure how they could be the same when they support such different politics - but I guess everybody's entitled to their opinion)

Then a CANADIAN from my hometown of Sudbury (still can't believe this) wrote:
I question Obama's fundraising. I think Oprah Winfrey is doing something behind the scenes to funnel millions of dollars to Obama. I feel there is something fishy going on.
- Gus Cacciotti, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

I think the phrase WTF applies here...

There are at least a half dozen comments playing on Obama's name - marking it's similarity to Osama. Pretty damn sad, and any person who is bothered by the fact that their names sound alike needs to give their head a shake.

Then, there's people like this:
Hell no I won't vote for anyone with the middle name of "Hussien".It might as well be Hitler! I am not fooled by anybody he has a silver tongue and can flash a pretty smile if necessary, and for Michele Obama she is too "street" for me. At least Mrs. Clinton has been a Christian her whole life and knows she was put on earth to serve. Nobody is perfect but I am not ready for A newcomer to be President and have Michele as first woman (as her remarks do not suggest she is much of a lady).
- Denis

Heehee, this one just makes me laugh, cause apparently somebody felt strongly enough to write in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!
(I guess I'm INMATURE for laughing at this)

I have been trying really hard to find a ridiculous one bashing Hillary - all the funny people are busy trashing Obama - other than calling she and Bill "Billary" and complaining about her own bad decisions and policies, nothing that's made me laugh yet. I'll keep looking and promise to post one as soon as I find it though - cause this is really looking one-sided (despite me already saying that I would support Barack, not Hillary).

And - to explain the blog title - it's people like this next guy who MUST be the reason that good ol' Dubya got to run their country (into the ground) for 8 years:

- William Caruso, Clark, NJ

Well, as a proud "weoman", I hope both the USA and Canada have many opportunities in the future to see a female name on the ballot.

I also hope that if you are an American that you read up on the facts, don't trust only 1 news source (few are unbiased), and take the time to learn about what these politicians stand for before making your vote.

And I hope that no matter who ends up in their White House will manage to finally start changing things for the better.


Update: I found a half-funny Hillary bashing one (finally):
Whoever vote for Hillary/Billary Clinton it means that pewrson is a quite naive and takes liars as a true words. The Clintons always lie.
- Jim Bagrowicz, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tornadoes and Canadians

When I was 19 years old, I became fascinated with tornadoes. There were specials on the Discovery channel and the Learning Channel that I'd watch, rapt and wide-eyed, trying to imagine the awesome power held in those storms.

My boyfriend at the time shared my love of thunderstorms and would sit outside on the porch with me to watch the lightning and rain. One night, Sudbury actually went under a tornado watch (meaning a possibility of tornadoes). The clouds were pitch-dark, and it was just after dinner, so we were pretty excited (and yes, call us dumbasses, but northern Ontario doesn't get this kind of thing very often, so it was exciting to us) and decided to go out to the street with raincoats to see what we could see. It's funny that we were so happy to get outdoors, honestly believing that we might see something when if we'd been thinking about it, his parents would never have let us outside if there had been a real chance of a tornado.

Off we went into the rainy, staring up at the sky like little kids.

This was 10 years ago, but I remember the conversation pretty much went like this:

"Hey! Is that a funnel cloud?!"

"no. Just wispy clouds"


"Oh but look! THAT one looks AMAZING!"

"Is it a funnel cloud?"

"Nah. Just looks cool."



(crazy lightning)

Then, the loudest clap of thunder EVER: KABOOM!

Cue two dumbasses in raincoats flying indoors at warp speed, only to stop short at the door and nonchalantly step inside with cool "we weren't afraid" greeting to his family.

We kept to the windows after that.

When Jeremy and I were living in Windsor, I was surprised to learn that we were living in Ontario's version of Tornado Alley. The schools all had procedures in place for tornado warnings, and the kids knew what to do if one showed up.

We had several tornado watches, a couple of warnings, saw a few funnel clouds, and enjoyed several incredible thunderstorms during that year. Since the balcony faced the south-west, we got a great view of any weather coming in. Michigan had several tornado warnings that summer, many of which were close enough to the border that we thought something might actually happen here too.

As much as I've always wanted to see one, I know it's lucky that I've never had to. Still, I find the combination of awesome beauty and power endlessly fascinating even though we've all been reminded again of how much destruction they can bring.

Since they've been hitting the news a lot lately, I went to YouTube to see what kind of videos were posted of the recent tornadoes that hit the southern parts of the States. After several jaw-dropping ones, I found this:

I love being Canadian. Gotta love a couple of guys calmly taking a video of a giant tornado, while at the same time giving updates on it's movement to their friends, then offering to take pictures of a total stranger standing in front of it after a few minutes of friendly conversation, before introducing themselves and saying "have a good one".

They even tossed in an "Eh".

I doubt I'd ever be that cool if I saw one...

Friday, February 08, 2008


This morning, I got news that somebody I used to know very well died over a month ago. We used to work together - way back when I first moved to London 5 years ago. He was a supervisor at Stream, and a kind-hearted person who I'm sure recognized a scared kid when he saw one. It didn't take long for him to become a confidant.

"Listen grasshopper", he used to joke, before giving me advice on anything from my phone stats to my relationships.

We pranked my friend Mooney several times, and joked around constantly. It's because of that time in my life that I identify with show The Office so strongly - the friendships and drama that you find whenever a group of people work together. There was a lot of that happening, but he was like the big brother / father figure to me and I got through a lot of hard times because of him.

He always stood behind me, and whenever HP praised us, he was the first one to give his congratulations. I think he got a kick out of how much they liked me - he used to joke that I was really the person running things, while he just made sure we got paid. In some ways that was true, but he really did make us a team. Our little group of 12.

The last time I saw Mike, he was heading down the green hallway at work on his way out of the building for the last time. I cried a little, because I knew work just wouldn't be the same anymore.

I've wondered about him over the past few years - thinking idly that it would be great to meet up for a coffee and an update on our lives. I imagined telling him that Jeremy and I are getting married, and watching his surprise (we'd only been together a little while when he left), talking about England, and how I'm now fighting to find a teaching job here. I'd hear about "his wife" (not actually married, but he always called her that - and after a couple of decades, it kinda made sense) and the things he'd been up to.

And we would have laughed a lot.

I always thought that I'd see him again...

Rest in peace, Mike. I hope you died with no regrets, and left a happy life behind.

We'll miss you.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

If I was Google, I'd sue these jerks

wooohoooo. Apparently I'm rich:


Swift Code: BPH KPL PK,
A/C#: 329606=101244=169=678

Our Ref: CBN/IRD/CBX/021/04
Attn Honorable Contractor,
During the auditing and closing of all financial
records of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) it was

discovered from the records of outstanding Foreign
contractors due for payment with the Federal Government
of Nigeria in the year 2006 that your name and company
is next on the list of Those who will receive their
I wish to officially notify you that your payment is

being processed and will be released to you as soon as
you respond to this letter.
Also Note that from the record in our file, your outstanding
contract payment is USD$10 Million (10 Million,United States
Dollars). Kindly re-confirm to me if this is inline with
what you have in your record and also re-confirm to me the
information below to enable this office Proceed and finalize

your fund remittance without further delays.
1) Your full name.
2) Phone, fax and mobile
3) Company name, position and address.
4) Profession, age and marital status.
5) Copy of Drivers License I .D.

As soon as the above information are received,
your payment will be made available to you via an
international certified bank draft,which will be

delivered to your doorstep for your confirmation.
You should call my direct number as soon as you
receive this letter for further discussion and more

Best regards,
Proff Soludo
Executive DIRECTOR

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

Wow. 10 million bucks. Wonder if they want copies of my passport and birth certificate too?

I was going to call them to collect the money, but oops! They forgot to include a number!

(Either way, how very nice of the Central Bank of Nigeria to offer to send so much money through this lottery.)

Ooh gotta go! I just found out how to increase my penis by 6 INCHES! And when I'm done with THAT, I can be one of the lucky few to donate money to a little boy in Nigeria (hmm again?) with an extra arm and no legs just by forwarding the email to all of my friends!

In other interesting news, I'd like to announce that The Weath er Network doesn't know it's arse from it's elbow.

That's right. I said it.

We've had the craziest weather I can ever remember during the past few weeks, we've seen heavy snowfall, accumulations of up to 25cm, then watch it all melt the next day. There's been hail, tons of rain, fog, "ice chips" (thanks for that one Weather Network), and then sunshine. The temperatures have dropped to as cold as -27, and risen to +10.

Today, I was sure school buses would be canceled due to the freezing rain that had fallen overnight. Luckily they weren't, and I got to teach three workshops, then spend a couple of hours helping out at the office before the next storm hit us. My boss drives a minivan, and had it parked on the far side of our lot, where each space angles slightly upward as the ground turn into a hill. At around 2:00pm, she realized that her van wasn't where she'd parked it. It had traveled half a foot down the little hill and was almost on the road.

The freezing rain that fell for several hours is now snow. Appar ently this major storm has come in from the USA (funny how the cold weather is always blamed on US) and will now dump a mix of freezing rain and snow from 15-25m. I really wish Mother Nature would give up the crack.

Since I teach two more workshops in the morning, I checked the to see what was happening.

First, I saw this (click on the pics to enlarge):

Then after clicking on the link, read about this storm:

Then I scrolled down to the long range to see if we were going to keep the snow for more than the 3 or 4 days it's been lasting (due to temperatures that rise and fall like a damn yo-yo) and saw this:

How can you POSSIBLY SAY "we expect up to 1cm of snow" when there's a flipping blizzard on it's way???

Apparently somebody at The Weather Network is playing a mean trick on somebody else.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Black February

I'm so tempted to start this with "it was a dark and stormy night". As I sit in front of my computer, cold drink at my side, I can hear the rain hammering through the snow in our yard and bouncing on the bare spots of pavement in the driveway. The air is becoming thick with fog. Having recently discovered that today is the grisly anniversary of the murder of the "Black Donnellys", the weather seems especially eerie...

Every Monday, I teach at a school in Biddulph Township, then make my way to another school in St. Marys, a gorgeous little town that reminds me a lot of Stratford. With an hour to waste between science clubs, I found myself wandering through the streets, poking in and out of the little shops unique to the hilly little town. Eventually, I discovered a camera shop, and spent several minutes chatting with the lady behind the counter in the way that small town people do. It's funny that even after living away from Capreol all of these years, I still get recognized for the small town girl that I am.

When the phone rang, I turned to the bookshelf nearby and noticed a red book titled "Revenge of the Black Donnellys". Since this is a particularly fascinating part of local history, I picked it up immediately. The story told of a curse laid upon those who murdered members of the infamous family 128 years ago tonight.

Reality interrupted, and I went on with the rest of my day, teaching class, a quick trip to the grocery store, then home for dinner and a relaxing evening of online TV watching and laundry.

Then I remembered the date.

Interested, I visited several of the websites sharing information about the massacre that happened over a century ago, and become incensed with the idea of traveling up highway 4 again, to where a church stands on the Roman Line, and up the road to where it all happened. I knew exactly where to find the place where the most violent murders in Canadian history occurred because I drive past it every week.

My imagination ran wild...

Impatiently wiping the rain off the windshield, I drove through the night with a grumbling Jeremy in the passenger seat. As annoyed as he was about being forced back out into the damp winter night, even he couldn't resist the adventure we were taking.

"Imagine! All of that craziness happened exactly tonight!" I grinned at him, already feeling the shivers of fear and anticipation warring in my belly.

"Uh huh. Thrilling." He growled at me, fumbling with the camera in his lap. "I really don't get why you just HAD to do this tonight. The weather's horrible. AND we're not going to see anything."

As the church loomed out of the darkness, I whispered, "St. Patrick's. It's theirs."

"You are SUCH a nerd."

Sticking my tongue out at my skeptical fiance, I made the right turn onto the road. Not feeling so much excited as nervous - I really wasn't sure what to expect.

We parked the car and wandered up to the church and graveyard, me trying to take pictures through the rain, but not really getting anything worth keeping. Remembering that other people found ghostly shapes in their pictures of this place, I kept them all to look at later.

After about 10 minutes, Jeremy had had enough, and my shoes were soaked right through.

"Okay, let's drive up the road to where they used to live. We've come this far, and I bet it'll be worth it just to see this place!" The adventure was getting to me again.

As we headed up the dark road, the rain stopped, leaving a slight mist that hung in the air ("along with their ghosts", I thought to myself), making driving more difficult. Gripping the wheel with both hands, I hummed along with the radio, thinking that hip hop music didn't exactly fit the mood, but a little too freaked out to turn it off completely. It reminded me of being alone in the house as a child, depending on the TV for company.

Having never been to the place we were going, I drove slowly, keeping an eye out for buildings and houses as we rumbled down the road. I thought again of what I'd read earlier that evening:

The little kitchen exploded into chaos, and death surrounded the Donnellys on every side. Carroll had let out some kind of signal, and the door burst open with a gang of men who entered with murder on their blood-thirsty minds. Armed with clubs, sticks, and other farm implements, they surrounded the startled family, and began beating them to death. They cared not for the sex or the age of their victims, but only that their name was 'DONNELLY', and on that night, February 4th, 1880, the Donnellys had to die.

Suddenly the rain came back, slamming onto the windows and roof of the car so loud that the radio was drowned out. Glancing at Jeremy, I slowed down to a crawl and looked out the window into the darkness.

"I guess we can't get out of the car, huh."

"HELL no!"

Feeling relieved, and a little silly, I slowed down even more, and prepared to turn around, no longer interested in seeing what lay behind the rain when a sharp green light appeared within the layer of clouds.

"Um. What the HELL is that?!"

The rain kept pouring, stopping Jeremy from being able to get a decent picture, so he rolled down the window to try and capture what we were seeing. As he rolled down the window another car came flying up the road, the driver's face frozen in a mask of panic.

"You know what? We can just watch the movie."

As we turned around, I swear I heard the sound of screaming.

Slamming the car into gear, I pushed down on the gas as much as I dared, praying that we'd be able to get away. Finally back on Highway 4, I breathed a sigh of relief. We'd seen a couple of figures moving through the graveyard; probably living people, but we didn't stick around to find out.

I couldn't wait for home and daylight.

The rain stopped again as we traveled away from the darkened landmark, replaced by a thick fog that felt like it was trying to smother everything underneath it. We passed a car on fire on the way home, then another that had rolled into a ditch. Nobody was was around - not even the drivers. I was surprised to make it home without incident.

Not sure I'll ever look at those pictures...


Think this sounds way out? Well, it was fun to write, hopefully you enjoyed reading it.

Check out some of the Black Donnelly websites for some gory but fascinating Canadian history and let your own imaginations run wild. (And yes, they have pictures)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Good Life

Brainhell's good friend created a blog, BHAtRest, where people could share their stories about him and talk about how he changed their lives.

I'm going to be 29 years old soon - even though turning 30 seems like I'm getting OLD, I know that I'm still a pretty young person who should have several more decades before it's my time to go.

He should have had more time too, but ALS stole those years. But instead of facing an early death with bitterness or angry words, he quoted Captain Kirk, saying "it was fun".

Those three words sum it up, don't they? Maybe that's the secret to life: knowing that at the end of your own, you'll be thinking of good memories and the people you love - not the bumps and bruises taken along the way. If you live a good life (as best you know how) then the end can be faced without regret and people will celebrate who you were and what you stood for.

A very good friend of mine
Told me something the other day
I'd like to pass it on to you,
Cause I believe what he said to be true
He said:
We're here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can't shine everyday
And the sun is shinin,
In this rainy city,
And the sun is shinin,
Ooh isn't a pity?
That every year has it's share of tears,
Every now and then it's gotta rain

We're here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can't shine everyday


I don't know his real name. He called himself Brainhell, a name that always made me uncomfortable because it so aptly described what he was going through. Despite everything, he left a pretty amazing final message - one that I hope to never forget. It was a privilege to get to know this man through his blog, and I encourage you to take the time to read it.

You'll find his blog here.

Rest in peace, BH. You will not be forgotten.