Friday, June 29, 2007

Positive Spins Are Always Possible

An amateur genealogical researcher discovered that his great-great uncle, Remus Starr, a fellow lacking in character, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture is this inscription:

"Remus Starr; horse thief; sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887; robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives.
Convicted and hanged 1889."

In a Family History subsequently written by the researcher, Remus's picture is cropped so that all that's seen is a head shot. The accompanying biographical sketch is as follows:

"Remus Starr was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1885, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

I believe the researcher is now working for a major world government administration rewriting recent and current events.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer Storms

I know I only have 13 more working days left but I honestly feel like I'm being pushed out of the office. Some of the signals:
  1. Friday I was almost bulldozed out of my cell - sorry cubicle, the one with the view of the Mall and Parliament Hill - and moved to a temporary position. To make way for one of the summer students!!!!
  2. Tuesday I found out that I had no voice-mail access and it took the entire morning to set up my computer system.
  3. Today I couldn't log onto one of the Confidential drives.
  4. A staff meeting is scheduled for next week and I've been told attendance is optional.

Well at least no one is hanging around asking what's happening with my chair and stapler. Though come to think of it I can't find my stapler!

Stormy skyline
One advantage to my new - temporary - cell is that I have a view of the Ottawa River. When the temperature starts climbing into the high 30s you can pretty much guarantee that a thunderstorm will be brewing in the Valley. This one today was pretty spectacular - lots of lightening strikes, high winds and that rather strange - and worrisome - funnel like cloud formation. We didn't get a drop of rain downtown but the Québec side had a pretty wild time of it.

Tomorrow we're doing a River cruise - the weatherman promises no thunderstorms, no clouds and a break in the heat. It's a "team" building exercise, I'm invited so I guess I'm still part of the "team."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

...But Mozart for Their Own Pleasure - I

The Angels sing Bach for God,
but Mozart for their own pleasure.

If anything could make me believe in the existence of a good and loving Creator it would be the music of Mozart.

Le Nozze di Figaro - the Letter Duet
Ileana Cotrubas and Kiri Te Kanawa - John Pritchard conducting
Glyndebourne 1973.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Stuff - III

Reese amongst the CDsPoor Reese, he's never had much appreciation for the music we play around the house. Before he lost his hearing it was mostly just ladies screaming, then it sort of became a generalized noise and now its just the occasional bass thump. But what he really didn't appreciate was when those damn CDs were dumped all over his room earlier today.

It was time to go through the CDs before the movers come - at last count I had some 800. They ran from Lady Pank (a Polish rock group), to all of Diana Krall to four versions of Cosi Fan Tutte to John Sheppard's Mass Cantante for the Sarum Rite. A fairly eclectic mixture but at one time or another essential listening.

The rule of thumb was to be: if it hasn't been listened to in the past two years out it goes! That's all well and good as rules go but I really couldn't get rid of the 1938 Glyndebourne Cosi, its the benchmark for all recordings since and I may listen to it sometime in the next four years. And really we weren't here last Christmas and the Christmas before we didn't play the Polish Christmas Carols but it really is a lovely recording. And that original cast... well you get the picture. But surprise, surprise there were a few that I decided I could live without - including the aforementioned Lady Pank. So 85 CDs are going to the used Record Store tomorrow. That means we only have to pack 700 odd.

Well at least its not vinyl!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

BBQ Bitches

BBQ on the MallIt’s time for the annual porcine and fowl flesh feast on the Sparks St. Mall – the Great Chicken and Rib Cookout. Every year around this time BBQ teams from the U.S. and Canada set up their pits on the Mall - normally three or four blocks from our offices. This year someone took pity on us poor Transport Canada workers and put three in the gardens at our end of the Mall.

Waiting for Bad Wolf's Best Missouri Centennial Award Winning Alabama pulled-pork sandwich – very tasty I must admit - I overheard this snippet from three Somerset Gay Ghetto Boyz in line behind me.

1st SGGBoi: There aren’t any pretty boys down this end of the Mall!

2nd SGGBoi: What do you expect? Its Transport Canada.

Me: Yeah, but we’ve got brains and we’re all incredibly well–hung!

Okay I’d didn’t say that but I wanted to.

The Poetry of War

On my way home on the bus last night I came across these two stanza’s from Where Are the War Poets? quoted in Ronald Eyre’s National Service.

Where are the War Poets?
They who in folly or mere greed
Enslaved religion, markets, laws,
Borrow our language now and bid
Us to speak up in freedom’s cause.

It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse –
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse.

Cecil Day-Lewis- Where are the War Poets? - 1943

As the body of Trooper Darryl Caswell, the latest fatality from the Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan, was being laid to rest news came of three more deaths. Though the numbers on the Canadian casualty list is insignificant compared to Afghani or American deaths it is disproportionate to the number of combatants taking part in what was sold to the Canadian Public as a Peace Mission.

The purpose of the mission has changed in the past two years but despite the hollow rhetoric calling for the support of our troops, Canada’s New Government is still sending soldiers out badly equipped and in unprotected vehicles. According to old Snake Eyes because I don’t support our involvement in Afghanistan I don’t support our forces; seems to me that his Government’s support should go beyond speeches and sound bytes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Little Noledge is a Dangrus Thing

Being a Canadian part of my national inferiority complex is to feel superior to our American cousins - and lets never forget we are cousins - when it comes to our system of education.

But my dear old Mom was right: the more puffed up you get the more air there is to knock out of you. After reading this little news item I am feeling somewhat less superior. My colleague Pauline blushingly admitted to being a graduate of Fredericton High School when it was a large institute - 1000 in her graduating class. But she assures me she does no how to speel.

I do feel bad for the staff of the yearbook. Though I'm sure computers make it easier, I recall what hard work it was putting one together.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We'll Build a Highway to Paradise

The boys over at the Holy See must be thinking of me these days. Honestly! They heard I was a concerned about driving in Rome. Why else would they have come out with Guidlines for the Pastoral Care of the Road? I feel safer now, knowing how much attention Italians pay to Papal edicts.

And beside, they knew I was looking for an excuse to post a video of Rufus on the blog.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Reesie? A Barrymore? You Decide

Is it me or does Reese bear a striking resemblance to the Great Profile?

From the Office Window - Friday June 15, 2007

July 13 is my last day at work - only four weeks away. Emotions are mixed - I have worked with some of my colleagues for 30 years off and on. Many of us are on second careers - we started at Air Canada, retired and came back to work in the Government. From a few comments I've overhead some people are getting tired of going to my farewell lunches - my former sous-chef Molly figures this is number 4, that she can remember!

I know I will miss the people - old colleagues and new - and I will miss the incredible view - changing with every season - I have from the office windows.

Lebreton Flats and the War MuseumLebreton Flats - was once a crowded community of taverns, small businesses and company houses many owned by the E. B. Eddy Co. They were razed in the 1960's to make way for ... nothing until the War Museum was built in 2002. Plans have been approved and construction started on luxury condominiums and apartments and the developers are making a killing.

The Mill and Victoria IslandVictoria Island is the venue for most of this year's National Aboriginal Day celebrations - some of the biggest names in the Native arts community are appearing from June 21-24. Before it became the site of lumber mills and factories the island had particularly significance for the tribes along the Ottawa River.

The Supreme CourtI wish the area around the Supreme Court were a little less austere but given what's done there maybe its appropriate.

Alexandra and Interprovincal BridgesThere are only five bridges connecting Ottawa to Gatineau - four in the downtown and one in the West - rush hour traffic can be hell.

Beginning of the Sparks Street MallOur end of the Sparks Street Mall is all flower beds and trees - the cafes, restaurants and stores are a few blocks away.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Come Into the Garden, Maud - V

Clematis blossomThe clematis at the side of the family room has always been a heavy bloomer but the one on the deck has never once had so much as a bud. I hadn't realized they could be so temperamental.

Honeysuckle vine in bloom
Honeysuckle vine in bloomFour years ago the honeysuckle vine was a pathetic twig but this year has been its most spectacular - sort of imagine it in the next few years surrounding the door.

Barren peonyFor the first time neither of the peonies has a single bloom; by this time they should have been loaded down with ants, a few sticky buds and gigantic pink-white blooms. Maybe I should have divided them last fall?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Come Into the Garden, Maud - IV

Tiny purple-blue flowers
I have absolutely no idea what these flowers are. They are dotted throughout the garden and bloom for a week or two.
Close up of purple-blue flowers
More of those blue flowers
They are quite lovely and in full bloom first thing in the morning when the sun hits them, but....

Flowers at sunset.... towards sunset they close up and become this little pea pods.

Just wondering if anyone knows what they are; Lynette I can normally count on you to refresh my fading memory on things floral.

Memories - Father's Day

Tater doesn't update everyday but when he does it is always incredibly well written and filled with an understanding of the people and events in his life. His most recent essay is a beautiful memory piece.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Would That I Could Have

I spent 33 years of my life working with Air Canada - 15 of them at an airport either toiling on or training people for the front lines.

Fifteen years of:
  • having my birthright called into question because the plane would not/could not take off in pea-soup fog or a blinding snowstorm
  • having my IQ level publicly and loudly downgraded to a figure in the minus column because seven pieces of carry-on luggage had been allowed at every other airport in the world
  • having my sexuality thrown in my face because some business man couldn't get a window seat (Yes, he called me a "faggot"; and the only response I could think of was: You'd be a better judge of that than I sir. Which he was too stupid to realize meant: Takes one to know one!)
I only wish at one point I had had the guts to follow the example of these intrepid canines at Bangkok International Airport. No doubt it would have got me fired but damn there were days when it would have been worth it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Come into the garden, Maud - III

The Japanese Iris
The Japanese Iris
A close up of the Japanese IrisThese Japanese Iris were part of Fred and Lori's purple-blue design. Again because I didn't split them last fall they are not blooming as profusely as in previous years.

My ThistleThis thistle sprang up early in the spring amongst the ferns and hostas by the house. I should have pulled it up then and now that it's grown I'm rather fond of it. So, like the random strawberry plants and the odd raspberry cane it will stay for now.

Strawberry edging And speaking of strawberry plants I find this a rather attractive edging for the deck. Who knows I may even get a few berries for my cereal one morning.

The Reesie Report - II

Just a quick update on Reese: he's coming along, taking his anti-inflammatory medication, his antibiotics [unless he can carefully isolated it from its hiding place and delicately spit it on the floor] and behaving himself as always.

He's back to playing some of his favorite games such as:
  • here I lie abandoned; no one loves me, cares for me or pats me
  • that food doesn't really look very attractive in that blue dish perhaps if you hold it in your hand it'll be more appetizing [my mother was right presentation is everything]
  • if I whimpering pathetically and look towards the kitchen my dinner will be served earlier
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts, wishes, prayers and concern. You're an incredible group of people.

PS: Lynette, two things: How's dad doing? and what's billy up to?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Finita la comedia

Definately not Opera ChicThe Sybil of Opera in Italy has been slapped with a cease and desist order from the temple where, if there was anyone sensible in charge, she should be, if not high-priestess at least in charge of publicity.

Earlier this week legal council for La Scala instructed Opera Chic to remove her logo (a fun spin on their rather dull coat of arms) from her blog. She was also directed to remove all photos taken inside the theatre. Though within their legal rights its rather pathetic that no one at Italy's premier opera house recognizes the great - free - publicity she gives them. She writes with wit, charm, knowledge and a deep love of the place and music; and she makes going to La Scala sound like the major event it should be. Her piece on the upcoming season was certainly more exciting than what was posted on the official site - where by the way some of the money spent on legal council could have been directed to hiring an English proof reader.

Fortunately no group of dark-suited Milanese lawyers can keep a feisty New York babe down. OC (Opera Chic not Orange County) will continue to give us her pronouncements on things musical and operatical under a new - and frankly imho hotter - logo.

By the way that is not OC in front of La Scala in that picture - she is younger, hotter and far more stylish. Also note I did not include a link to La Scala - just to punish the bastards!

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Reesie Report - Addendum

And just to prove that though he's scared the crap out of papa for the past two days he's still capable of giving him that "You Bastard, you don't love me! You won't share your grapes with a poor starving puppie!"

I relented - he got a .... okay a few grapes.

The Reesie Report

Things didn't go too bad at the vet; much of what is happening with Reesie is because he's an old dog and because he was paralyzed and had major back surgery. He never did regain total use of the one back leg and there is always the danger of atrophy or further spinal cord rupture. When he starts stumbling and refusing to walk the way he did the past few days I must admit I panic. I saw his sister go that way and it meant more surgery which at his age he just couldn't handle.

Our vet - thank god old-style country vets still exist - hit on the problem within minutes. The poor old Reeserman had very badly impacted anal glands - something his sister had all the time but this is new with him. It was causing him pain - therefore the constant low whimpering - which combined with the limited mobility that he has had since the back operation created the problems with his back legs.

Within minutes of Dr Varney doing what he had to do - I won't go into it here - he seemed to be better if highly offended by the procedure. I've been told to watch him carefully for the next day or two - like I don't do that anyway - just in case. And we'll hold off on the Rabies and micro-chip - not sure about Reesie but the 14 gauge needle scared the hell out of me.

Thanks to all you sweet wonderful dog-people out here - lynette and tater especially - I'm glad I'm not the only one that panics when my best bud turns poorly.


Reese on the moveI would not normally put up a post like this - mostly because I don't like to scare Laurent who is so far away and feels so helpless when situations occur here at home. But his old MAC gave up the ghost earlier this week so I am taking a chance that given the time difference etc. he won't see this.

Reesie is scheduled to go to the vets this afternoon to get his rabies shot and micro-chipped for the move, however a few things have been going on the past few days with him that may need more immediate attention. I won't go into it in any depth but I am concerned for my little buddy, he isn't well. I know he's old - 13 going on 14 - he's had major back surgery and there have always been health problems but things have been happening the past few days that scare me.

We'll see what our Vet - the old-style country type - says tonight - being Irish I always prepare for the worst but hope for the best. My blog mama lynnette has been going through a time with one of her pups but I'm glad to say things seem to be working out. Hope for the same for my best bud.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Come Into the Garden, Maud - II (contd)

Honeysuckle flowers
I'm intrigued by the cluster of tubes, the lily-pad-like leaves around the flowers and the oval-shaped leaves on the rest of the vine. I find the whole combination fascinating.

Come Into the Garden, Maud - II

Honeysuckle vine in bloomI mentioned on the weekend that the honeysuckle vine would become a show of orange flowers and by Sunday afternoon it certainly had. The computer desk is beside the door and I've been blogging to a background of the buzz of honey bees and the odd bass drone of a fat bumblebee.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Come Into the Garden, Maud* - I

When we first arrived at the house there was only two stalks of columbines - now they have self-seeded and are scattered around the yard. They just seem to pop-up anywhere - which is fine with me.

More columbines

*Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone ;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson - 1895

I'm Going to Chuck Some Wood Alright!

Starflower???I don't remember the name of this little beauty if, indeed, I ever knew it. It starts out as a small green pine cone-like bud and then flowers into this blue star burst with feather-like petals. It is really quite lovely and I had at least twenty in one area of the yard.

You will notice the use of the past tense. I came out to do the morning inspection yesterday and found:
Sheared at the stem
One single bud was left and there may be one struggling to break out. All the other stems had been sheared off. The same thing had happened to my Butterfly flower by the side of the house.

And the cause would be:
Furry Little Bastard
Furry Little Bastard MunchingThis well-fed, furry little bastard is one of two groundhogs (woodchucks) we have sharing our backyard. One lives under the shed and the other under the deck. Up to now we have all cohabited without major incident - though there has been the odd territorial squabble within the rodent community. This is the first time they have ever inflicted any sort of damage on the garden. The lawn is over-planted with clover - a great alternative to grass and grub-resistant (you're gardening tip for today)- and I thought they were happy munching that.

Now comes the question: What to do about the little buggers?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Opera at the Baths

Giovanna Casolla (Turandot) photo by Corrado Maria FalsiniAnd I'm not referring to the night Eleanor Steber played the Continental!

People who know me well were placing bets on how soon after our arrival I'd be dragging poor long-suffering Laurent off to our first opera. Well we arrive on Monday July 30 at 0800 and should be taking our seats at the Thermes de Caracalla on Friday August 3 at 2100. That's a good 109 hours after our arrival, quite long enough in my opinion.

I booked tickets at Charta On-line for a performance of Puccini's Turandot. I'm not sure I'll be doing that too often, there was a surcharge of 14 euros ($28.00) per ticket for "Internet service" so I may just stand in line at the box office when I want tickets for anything else, maybe even stopping for a leisurely "ombre" at a local cafe on my way back home.

Every Marcello Giordani(Calaf), Giovanna Casolla (Turandot)photo by Corrado Maria Falsinisummer the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma present opera and ballet amidst the spectacular ruins of the old Baths. The biggy is always Aida with horses, elephants - and I am told one year a giraffe - though what they have to do with poor Aida pining for her Patria by the Nile I'm not sure. These days the singers are often not the big divas and divos but its really more about the spectacle, a warm Roman summer night and the setting.

I've been told that this production of Turandot is unusual in that we don't get the entire population of China decked out in courtly splendor screaming for Calaf's head. Apparently it is more intimate though its hard to imagine intimate at Caracalla. I'm looking forward to it.

While looking on YouTube for videos of Caracalla I came across this newsreel footage of an opening night Aida at Caracalla in 1962. Stella, Simonato, Bergonzi - big operatic names at the time, were performing and the audience was filled with B-grade celebrities of the day.

It gives you an idea of the size of the stage and the spectacle. And that announcer cracks me up - he must be going for a speed record.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Further Out of Apathy

Stephen Harper This past week our beloved Prime Minster Stephen Harper, continued his "I'm more a patriot and more Canadian than you are" grandstanding. According to old Snake Eyes - come on now look at those eyes and tell me those don't remind you of the stars of Snakes On A Plane - if you haven't served in the military then you can't criticize his Minister of Defence. Also if you've lived and worked outside Canada you're not a patriotic Canadian. And he equates support of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan with loyalty to Canada and support of our Military. I can't imagine where he picked the idea up? Any suggestions from my American friends?

Well I question his Minister of Defense when the families of soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan are not reimbursed the cost of funerals. And I lived and worked overseas for the Department of National Defense and the Canadian Embassy when I was a diplomatic spouse in Poland. And I have difficulty with our current role in Afghanistan - though I fully support the women and men of our under-paid, under-equipped and under-staffed Armed Forces.

So according to Mr. Harper's standards I am both un-patriotic and un-Canadian. My only response to Snake Eyes would have to be the old Pierre Elliott Trudeau one-fingered salute.

Notice once again I did not provide a link to any biographical information for Mr Harper - the Wikipdia entry is obviously the work of a Conservative Party PR firm. Now if they can only rewrite the history books the same way things will be Right - excuse the pun.

Spring Has Sprung - VII

I've been neglecting the garden lately - no in reality but virtually i.e. I haven't posted any recent shots of what's been flourishing in the back yard. Lori and Fred - the previous owners - worked hard to create a typical English garden with something in bloom from early spring to the autumn. Working with shades of green and purple, blue and yellow perennials and the odd splash of red or orange they gave us something that I have enjoyed over the past four years. Hopefully the new owners will find as much pleasure in it as we did.

Honeysuckle vine

In the next day or two this honeysuckle vine will be a mass of orange flowers and the hummingbirds should be around dipping into the tubes. Oddly it has no scent - I thought honeysuckle always had a perfume.

The Ostrich ferns

The ostrich ferns pretty much take over the back fence and are a great background for the bed of hosta, day lilies, periwinkle and bishop's scourge

Lemon geraniums

In other years this bed of lemon-scented geraniums was a mass of purple-pink blooms but I didn't divide it last fall. The scent is still incredible on a warm summer night.

Honeysuckle bush

This old honeysuckle bush definitely has a scent and last night after a wild thunderstorm it radiated through the garden.

Honeysuckle bush

I always love the iris beds we had around the house when I was a kid - here I have these beautiful purple ones, some yellow that are just coming into bud and Japanese iris that will bloom in the next few weeks.