Friday, 31 January 2014

A Nice Trip to Get Groceries

Yesterday was, for me, a kind of busy day:  Drive Kate to the hospital, go work out at the gym, pick Kate up at the hospital, rush home for Kate's home nurse, meet with our financial advisor.  All of that on four hours sleep.  So, when our finance guy left, I was not in the mood to go out and get groceries but we had nothing for dinner and Kate, the cancer patient, wasn't up to it.  Grumbling, I went off in search of vittles.

My first stop was Produce Depot - they have the large grapefruit Lena and I like and some pretty good oranges.  So I loaded up the cart and as I was walking to the cash I was stopped by a delightful 67 year old woman (you are a good looking 67, I said.  I know, she said, I take care of myself) asking where I got my oranges.  The conversation turned to the weather then to the fact she came to Canada from the south of France over 40 years ago and that once her old dog dies (I'm hoping she meant her pet and not her husband) she'll be moving back the 400 year old ancestral home to escape the increasingly difficult Canadian winters.  "You have a very good day." she said as we parted.

When I got to the cash, an elderly woman with a walker was paying and the young cashier helped her load her walker with her purchases and insisted on getting someone to help her to her car.  When it was my turn, I complimented the young woman for helping the lady, explaining that my wife had mobility issues and when she asked for help at other stores (i.e. Loblaws), help was given only grudgingly.  She was a little embarrassed, but admitted she likes to make sure that the people who seemed to need help got it.

Then I went down to Farm Boy to get some samosas and a few other things for dinner and another nice young woman greeted me at the cash.  She noticed my Senators cap and asked if I would be watching the game later that evening.  This led to a thoroughly nice discussion about fandom and how great we Sens fans were and how awful Leafs fans were.

By the time I got home, I was feeling a good bit better.  Who knew a trip to get groceries could be so therapeutic?

Monday, 27 January 2014

Ten Things People do to Piss Me Off

I am trying to be a more tolerant and happy person.  Nevertheless, people insist on doing things that piss me off.  Here is a top ten of sorts:

  1. Texting while driving.
  2. Parking in a handicap spot without a permit just because someone is too damn lazy to walk an extra 20 yards.
  3. Leaving a grocery cart in a parking spot because someone is just too damn lazy to walk an extra 20 yards to put it where it's supposed to go (I do make exceptions for the aged and infirm).
  4. Writing in library books.
  5. Playing your music too loud, speaking too loud too late at night (repeat offenders mostly) - you don't live on an island.
  6. Blowing YOUR snow into MY driveway.
  7. Not saying "thank you" when I hold the door open for you and not getting "The Wave" when I let you in in traffic when I didn't have to.
  8. L'office de la langue francaise (and yes - I omitted the squiggly little accent under the "c" just to piss YOU off).
  9. Cashiers yapping to each other instead of paying attention to ME, the paying customer, and making sure they're not scanning things twice and putting my four litres of pop on top of my loaf of bread and carton of eggs.
  10. Big oil, big finance, big insurance and big telecom.
As explanation for this venom, I can only say I didn't sleep well at all last night.


Geoffy Bubbles

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Concordia BA in Economics (Co-Op Program) Classes of 1992-93

Lying awake at three in the morning a few weeks ago I was reflecting on my university days and realizing that this coming summer will mark the 25th anniversary that I met all my undergraduate friends.  We were in a bit of a special program - a Co-op program in Economics at Concordia University in Montreal.  The premise of co-op programs is to give students the dual benefits of a university education and practical work experience.  So, we would have one semester at school and the next would be a hopefully relevant job placement.

The application process for the program was a little more rigourous than for the general program:  as I recall, we had to write a letter of intent and had to interview with the program director and, of course, you had to have decent grades coming out of the Quebec CEGEP system or high school elsewhere.  Somehow, I made the cut and was admitted into the program.

I remember, with some clarity, a meet-and-greet being held in the summer of 1989 before the start of the semester.  That's when we all met each other for the first time.  About fifteen of us started out in the program.  We all took our classes together, studied together, would go to Ottawa together and live together and go to Co-op functions together.  On the whole we became a pretty tight knit group with some clusters of us becoming closer than others.  I cannot believe how smart these people were as a group.  Academically, I was so outclassed by these guys that I can only guess that a clerical error was responsible for me getting accepted.

As Dickens wrote about other circumstances, my undergrad days were the best of times and the worst of times.  What I appreciate most about those days, though, are the people I met.  Those I was closest to in those days were far better friends to me than I was to them and I was, and still am, grateful for their friendship.  Though I've lost touch with many of my former classmates, I am still in touch with several. 

After graduation, we all scattered all over Canada and the world, so I hardly ever see anyone any more and I quite miss them.  If any of you are reading this and are ever in Ottawa, please be sure to look me up and an early happy 15th anniversary. 

Man, cue Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days."  I hope I haven't embarrassed anyone with this uncharacteristic sentimentality.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Depressed Person's Social Life

This morning I got together with a friend and former colleague for a coffee.  Most people take this kind of get-together for granted, but for a person with serious depression, the prospect can be daunting  in a number of respects.  Just working up the energy to get ready for such a meeting can be an effort.  Almost by definition, I am miserable and I figure I don't want to inflict myself on other people, and why would they want to spend any time with me anyway?  Partly in response to this, I feel a need to turn myself "on", that is, fight to appear at least minimally social, if not exactly chipper, which can be thoroughly exhausting.

Collectively, these things pose a burden that on most days I am unwilling to bear.  Indeed, this particular friend and I had not seen each other in years, though we have kept in touch via Facebook and e-mail.  We have made plans to meet several times, but inevitably I would cancel because the effort seemed too much.  This happens often and so I have, to a significant degree, isolated myself from some truly great friends, which in turn exacerbates the depression, which makes it more difficult to get together with people, and so on, and so on.  Ironically, though, on those rare times I make the effort, I hardly ever regret it.  Indeed, as was the case this morning, I even feel at least a bit better having spent the time with a friend.

So, late last year I promised myself I would seek out more opportunities to socialize and make fewer excuses to cancel.  This is a first step and I hope to take a few more in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

One Example of Discrimination Against Girls in School

Being a father to a smart, funny and beautiful daughter has opened my eyes to many issues, good and bad, about how girls and women are treated by institutions and society in general.  Before Lena came along I thought girls and women had achieved a respectable level of equality with the males of our species.  I don't want this post to be a laundry list of issues but rather I want to focus on one matter that affects some 9 to 11 year-old girls here in Ottawa.

I've written in previous posts that, for a variety of reasons, we had Lena's cognitive abilities formally tested some time ago and that her scores revealed a degree of giftedness.  This led to her being invited to participate in the Ottawa Catholic School Board's "Program for Gifted Learners", or PGL for short.  This is a one day a week pull-out program where kids from across the school board who have scored beyond a certain threshold on a recognized cognitive test are brought together at one of two satellite schools for "enriched" learning.  Each satellite has one class every day of the week or ten classes of what I assume are of similar size to Lena's - twenty to thirty kids per class.  So, maybe a total of 200-300 kids.  I admit this is a bit anecdotal, that maybe some of the other classes are mainly girls.  Somehow I doubt it, but it is possible.

In Lena's class of about 20, she is one of five girls.  She tells me that the Wednesday class at the other satellite has no girls at all.  I'm not sure what the reasons are.  We had Lena tested at our own expense and on the basis of the results contact her school and that set things in motion.  I don't know if a mechanism is in place to identify possibly gifted students, have them tested and get them the resources they need in the schools, or if parents are always responsible for those initial steps.  If parents have to take that initial action to identify their children, why aren't they getting their daughters tested?  If the schools have a duty to identify giftedness why aren't more girls being identified?  Are the tests somehow biased against girls?  Are parents and teachers just socialized into not recognizing that girls can be smart, too?

This bothers me enough that I will be contacting the school board.  I suspect the effort will be a bit Quixotic, but I feel I have to try.  I'll keep you all posted.