Friday, December 31, 2004

News flash - secret project soon to go public

I'm spending most evenings glued to my computer, working on the program I started two years ago, then set aside when I started working full time. Previous attempts to complete this program met with failure - whenever I got the urge to spent effort on it, the timing and/or motivation just wasn't right. This time, I've left myself ample time, and I'm highly motivated.

I expect to be done final redesign this week (two years is a long time to go between design sessions, and some of my ideas have changed in the interim), with coding proceeding through the next three weeks. Beta testing should be ready to go by late January with full trials beginning in mid-February. I'm looking at this as a business opportunity, not just a programming exercise, and I really want it to be successful.

My programming strengths are business logic and back-end stuff. I'm a fairly novice web programmer, and will be seeking outside help once I'm ready to put a face on this baby. Hopefully, I won't get bogged down in those details until the time is right - no need to think about anything potentially distracting at this point.
I survived the holidays

It's been a good week. Lots of food, even more calories, lots of diabetic sweats - yup, my kind of holiday!

Tonight, there's just one more night of partying (a.k.a. eating what I shouldn't) and then (hopefully) sanity returns.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

The gifts have been opened. Each of us got at least one gift we weren't expecting. My wife's side of the family is here for lunch right now, but I had to sneak out for a few minutes because I have problems handling crowds. A ten minute break is all I need.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Revisiting Christmas Past

By sheer coincidence, my Daily Differential backup overflowed today. So what, you ask? Last Christmas, my wife bought me a DVD-Rewriter. As a computer professional, I'm keenly aware of the need for backups. And that meant that prior to last Christmas, I did DAILY differential backups that spanned many CD-RWs. Last Christmas day, I took a full system backup of my primary computer, and that took up three DVD discs. Since then, I've been able to do my Daily Differential backup on one DVD disc. This means it could run unattended. Well, this morning (or more precisely, yesterday morning), I was greeted by an unfamiliar dialog: "Please remove current disc and insert new disc to continue backup". Yup, I hadn't seen that message since last December 25th.

Tonight, I took a fresh backup of my system. This time, the backup required five DVD discs to store the 29 GB of stuff I manage. There's no music or movies included. It's all operating system, programming languages, source code, and databases. Now I'm ready to enter the new season with the knowledge that another full backup is again, about a year away.

Monday, December 20, 2004

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Jessie's home! Let it be proclaimed from the mountain tops, or maybe the tree tops ... or maybe the top of the staircase. Whatever. She's home, and we're all happy to see her. Too bad she won't be staying more than a few days. She's scheduled to work Christmas Day, so it's going to be a short visit. But a good visit nonetheless.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Keeping my promises

I promised pictures! If you're using Internet Explorer, captions will appear when you mouse-over the pictures. For the more enlightened among you, I've included the captions below the photos as well.

The kitchen was very dark, with cheezy paneling and cheezier faux brick.  Hard to clean, and dreary, my wife had decided the day we bought the house that eventually, this would have to go...
The kitchen was very dark, with cheezy paneling and cheezier faux brick. Hard to clean, and dreary, my wife had decided the day we bought the house that eventually, this would have to go...

This picture shows the faux brick as it encompasses the entire dining area and extends around the wall into the living room.
This picture shows the faux brick as it encompasses the entire dining area and extends around the wall into the living room.

By far the dirtiest part of the job was the initial stripping.  Though not visible from this shot, the archway between the dining area and living room had been curved.  My wife decided to square it off to make the area appear more open.  In the process of removing the faux brick, some of the drywall panels were damaged, so they were torn down completely.
By far the dirtiest part of the job was the initial stripping. Though not visible from this shot, the archway between the dining area and living room had been curved. My wife decided to square it off to make the area appear more open. In the process of removing the faux brick, some of the drywall panels were damaged, so they were torn down completely.

Our son wants to be a drywaller.  What better vote of confidence than to let him practice on our walls?  Here, he's being supervised by my brother-in-law, an accomplished do-it-yourself-er in his own right.
Our son wants to be a drywaller. What better vote of confidence than to let him practice on our walls? Here, he's being supervised by my brother-in-law, an accomplished do-it-yourself-er in his own right.

Ready to go with the mudding, my wife sports her favourite painting moomoo.  This dress has seen more action than most paintball warriors.
Ready to go with the mudding, my wife sports her favourite painting moomoo. This dress has seen more action than most paintball warriors.

Mudding was hard work, and here, she stops to wipe her brow.
Mudding was hard work, and here, she stops to wipe her brow.

Fast forward a few weeks...

Sorry I didn't get any pictures of the painting that proceeded after the drywall was done. My wife had decided to apply stucco paint to give the walls some texture. It turned out to be a marvelous idea. Not only was it not as important to do sanding, but we were able to incorporate some of the imperfections of the brick applique into the finished product, giving that much-sought-after distressed look.

The dining area is much brighter.  The phone has been placed on a side shelf (instead of being on the dining table), and the dreary brick and dark paneling has been replaced by a gleaming white surface throughout.
The dining area is much brighter. The phone has been placed on a side shelf (instead of being on the dining table), and the dreary brick and dark paneling has been replaced by a gleaming white surface throughout.

The transition from living room to dining room is much brighter, giving the impression of a larger space.  The squared archway looks quite impressive.
The transition from living room to dining room is much brighter, giving the impression of a larger space. The squared archway looks quite impressive.

The olive green door was repainted a deep green, more in keeping with the colour scheme of the living room.
The olive green front door was repainted a deep green, more in keeping with the colour scheme of the living room.

Partial view of the dining area, from the vantage point of the front door.
Partial view of the dining area, from the vantage point of the front door.

And finally, a view of the kitchen backsplash, formerly faux brick, taken through the archway to the dining area.
And finally, a view of the kitchen backsplash, formerly faux brick, taken through the archway to the dining area.

That's it! All done and ready for the holidays. Now, my wife can take a well-deserved rest, and I can go about reconnecting all the surround sound equipment. I sure have missed it lately.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Mission Accomplished

The painting is done. And I have to say, the dining area and kitchen look bright and inviting. Look out Debbie Travis, my wife is coming to town!

Pictures to follow tomorrow!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Home Improvement

Things continue to improve on the home front. Where once bricks lay strewn and walls were bare, there is now wallboard, primer and stucco paint. I am amazed at what my wife has been able to do, virtually on her own. She accepted some help from her brother and our son putting up the wallboard, but beyond that, all the preparation and finishing has been done solo - with advice from Home Depot and HGTV.

Not wishing to be one who my wife ridicules for not lending a hand, I can say I dutifully performed all tasks assigned to me. So far, that includes moving a china cabinet TWICE (so paint could be applied to adjacent walls); unscrewing two screws that held up a curtain rod; and opening TWO cans of paint. Yup, I've definitely done my fair share of the work!

Pictures of the finished room will follow, though it will be difficult to find pictures taken before the work was done.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Life's a bitch and so am I

Just a bit depressed lately, hence the lack of blogging. Don't really want to discuss it here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Happy birthday, ya big lug!

I've been really tired today, probably the effects of a few late nights in a row of serious sleep deprivation. This evening, I finally crashed. Having just woken up, I pretty much mucked up my plan to call you on your birthday. I try to do it every year, and today, it was on my mind all day. Sorry I fell asleep, and I hope you had a fantastic birthday.

When I talk with you next time, let me know how you're liking the new job.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This weirded me out

I really understand the idea of people having a dog to protect them and their families. But I have a feeling that this person is taking things a bit too far.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

My wife the home-wrecker

I never thought I'd agree with the characterization. But it's official... my wife is a home-wrecker. She has single-handedly brought down the wall dividing the kitchen from the dinette, and the dinette from the living room. First it started with the removal of some faux-brick decoration on the walls. Then, it escalated into removal of drywall, culminating in her unilateral decision to remove the archway between the dinette and living room. She had planned for the wall to be re-boarded, mudded, sanded and painted in a week's time. Not only has she under-estimated, but with her being set to start a new job this coming Monday, time will be more scarce to work on pet projects.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

So, who is Ken Jennings, and does he know I'm his brother?

I've only watched him play one match, but aside from his uncanny ability to answer all questions trivial and a remarkable ability to buzz in very quickly, he's not much different than I. We're both software engineers. We're both married. OK, that's about the extent of our similarities. Fortunately, we have even fewer differences. He's rich, and I'm not so rich.

Ken, any time you want to visit me and drop a few loonies, be my guest.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Christmas is coming

It seems to me the ads have started earlier this year. Is it because the merchants fear we won't spend enough if they don't start their reminders? I'm not sure, but it certainly is a bit disconcerting that I'm going to have to put up with ads for the next seven weeks.

Gonna have to get my Scrooge outfit out of the closet soon.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Get off your asses and vote

I don't know how many Americans read this blog. But if you're reading this on voting day and haven't yet voted, what the hell are you waiting for? You have the privilege and right to take part in the election of democratically selected representatives. If you don't take the time to tell them which you would prefer to be your voice in government, you really can't complain that things in government aren't going the way you want them to.

Trust me... voting is important, and this blog will still be here when you get back.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Carved in stone

I accompanied my mom on a shopping trip to a local stone-cutter to finalize arrangements for a marker stone for dad's grave-site. We had to compromise a bit on what we got, because my father's original wishes could not be accommodated due to changes in the cemetery's bylaws. The dimension of the stone my father would have preferred to have is no longer available.

After consulting with the designer on-site, we agreed on a design that I believe will honour his memory.

All we have to do now is talk with the rabbi to book an appropriate date for the unveiling.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Not for nothing

The place that makes the memorials wasn't open on Sundays, but it wasn't a complete waste of time. We took a side trip to the cemetery to visit not just my father's grave; but all of our relatives buried there. While there, I took photographs of the relative's stones, as well as photos of the general area around my father's final resting place. With those photos in hand, we were able to walk among the many example stones at the stone cutter's shop and narrow the short list. The actual size of the stone can only be determined after consultation with the stone cutter. He's used for most of the stones in the Jewish cemetery, so he's more familiar with size and design restrictions than the average shopper. Next weekend, we'll go again during business hours to see what's what.
Shopping day

Today's the day I accompany my mother on a shopping trip. I hate shopping, and spending shopping time with my mother would rank very low on my "fun things to do" list (if such a list existed). Yet, this trip is important. She's looking for a monument for my father's grave, and I want to make sure she doesn't choose anything distasteful. Never having been on such a mission before, I don't have many expectations, though, if it's as hassle-free as the funeral parlour arrangements were, I'll be quite happy.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Back to earth

The past week is best described as uneventful. With two of the major stresses removed, life has become - dare I say - boring! Yes, I know the blog is boring. But now, so is life!

That's not all bad.

The only exciting thing around here is anticipation over the U.S. elections. Living in a Canadian border town, our lives are inexorably linked to those of the Americans living a mere two miles away. Not only are our economies dependent on similar industries and the commerce of cross-border traffic, but the threat of terrorism is quite high in this area, with some of the world's largest corporations having either headquarters or major centres of commerce in this area.

Add to that the fact that within 10 miles of my Jewish home is the second largest Arabic population outside of the Middle East, and you can see why I'm more than a little concerned. Am I paranoid? Perhaps. But a healthy dose of paranoia can be good. It teaches me to be careful.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Here comes the bride!

My wife should be a wedding planner. Everything, and I mean everything went off as planned, without a single mishap. I suppose if I had to find something that went wrong, it would be that, when the Master of Ceremonies called my wife's brother to the front of the room to say grace before the meal, that was the first time he heard that he would be doing that. My wife had forgotten to ask him!

Other than that, the entire day (from preparation to ceremony to reception) went absolutely perfectly.

And now, here's Christie and husband Jesse.

The happy couple

Saturday, October 16, 2004

T-1 hour

It's 2:00PM here. The wedding begins at 3:00PM. We've spent most of the day thusfar getting last minute things ready. We've been to the reception hall to set things up, and soon, it will be time to head to the church. Since beginning this post, I've just taken a few shots of the bridal party in their gowns, and I must say, my wife looks positively hot! I won't spoil the surprise by posting any of my recent pics right now. Instead, I'll wait until I get home later tonight.

There's going to be a wedding today. During rehearsal, the bride's father (I'm her step-father) joked that he might not give her away when called to do so, to which I quickly replied "If he doesn't, I will!"

I'd tell my nervous step-daughter to break a leg, but then, she'd probably fall off her 6" heels and actually do it!

Pictures will follow shortly after the wedding...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Practice makes perfect

We had the wedding rehearsal yesterday. Everything went quite well. I suppose the only potential problem will be with the ring bearer and flower girl. The flower girl loves posing for the camera. While I was practicing some techniques and shooting angles for the big day tomorrow, the camera I was holding caught her eye. She instantly stopped and faced me square on, giving me the cutest of smiles. When she was urged to continue down the aisle, she did so at a snail's pace, never once removing her gaze from my camera.

I guess I'll have to forego the pictures, lest the flower girl never make it down the aisle.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

She's back!

Before I start work, I just want you to know that Kare is back, and so is my link!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

New Daily Read

I stumbled upon this site a couple of days ago. I don't know how I could have missed it all this time. Written by a guy whose politically left alignment changed after 9/11, I found his style compelling and persuasive (though I was already more right-wing). You can now find it in my links.
My new favourite website

Guess what kind of pet I own.
Thanksgiving Day Feast

My wife outdid herself tonight. The meal was fabulous, and the company was pleasant. Add to that the coincidence of my son's birthday falling on the holiday, and there was nothing that could have been better.

I just wish I didn't have to be back at work in less than eight hours.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

There's method to my madness

I was checking out the background and voting records of the candidates for U.S. Presidential office. It turns out that only the democratic nominees had a voting record, seeing that Bush and Cheney haven't had Senate/Congress membership since before 2000. The site that furnished the voting information also featured background information about the candidates, like their year of birth, family information, and religious affiliation.

I was surprised to learn that thee of the four gentlemen running for the highest offices in the land are affiliated with the SAME religion. What do you suppose that religion might be? Odd man out is here.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Highway Robbery

I stole this list from Eagle Eye View, who stole it from ... who stole it from ... and so on, and so on, etc.

A bit intriguing actually... a list of 200 things some people may have tried/wanted to try. I'll highlight the ones I've done, and leave the rest alone. It's too early in my life to say I wouldn't want to try some of the others.

01. Bought everyone in the pub a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain (several times, though never very far)
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Done a striptease (those who know what I look like will to be totally grossed out by that!)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night long, and watched the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game (not really sure what qualifies as "huge", but the stadium was standing room only)
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
19. Touched an iceberg
20. Slept under the stars
21. Changed a baby's diaper
22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
23. Watched a meteor shower
24. Gotten drunk on champagne
25. Given more than you can afford to charity
26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
28. Had a food fight
29. Bet on a winning horse
30. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
31. Asked out a stranger (does a blind date count?)
32. Had a snowball fight (I guess this would only be strange to someone in Hawaii)
33. Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier
34. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
35. Held a lamb
36. Enacted a favorite fantasy
37. Taken a midnight skinny dip
38. Taken an ice cold bath
39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
40. Seen a total eclipse
41. Ridden a roller coaster
42. Hit a home run (though never in an actual game)
43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking (quite recently, actually)
45. Adopted an accent for an entire day
46. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
47. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
48. Had two hard drives for your computer
49. Visited all 50 states
50. Loved your job on all accounts
51. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
53. Had amazing friends
54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
55. Watched wild whales
56. Stolen a sign
57. Backpacked in Europe
58. Taken a road-trip
59. Rock climbing
60. Lied to foreign government's official in that country to avoid notice
61. Midnight walk on the beach
62. Sky diving
63. Visited Ireland
64. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
66. Visited Japan
67. Benchpressed your own weight
68. Milked a cow
69. Alphabetized your records
70. Pretended to be a superhero
71. Sung karaoke
72. Lounged around in bed all day
73. Posed nude in front of strangers (does it count when women enter the men's shower?)
74. Scuba diving
75. Got it on to "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye
76. Kissed in the rain
77. Played in the mud
78. Played in the rain
79. Gone to a drive-in theater
80. Done something you should regret, but don't regret it
81. Visited the Great Wall of China
82. Discovered that someone who's not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog
83. Dropped Windows in favor of something better
84. Started a business
85. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken (with my current wife)
86. Toured ancient sites
87. Taken a martial arts class
88. Swordfought for the honor of a woman
89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
90. Gotten married
91. Been in a movie (do my Bar Mitzvah and wedding videos count?)
92. Crashed a party
93. Loved someone you shouldn't have
94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy
95. Gotten divorced
96. Had sex at the office
97. Gone without food for 5 days
98. Made cookies from scratch
99. Won first prize in a costume contest
100. Ridden a gondola in Venice
101. Gotten a tattoo
102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on
103. Rafted the Snake River
104. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
105. Got flowers for no reason
106. Masturbated in a public place
107. Got so drunk you don't remember anything
108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug
109. Performed on stage
110. Been to Las Vegas
111. Recorded music (unless you mean as an artist)
112. Eaten shark
113. Had a one-night stand
114. Gone to Thailand
115. Seen Siouxsie live
116. Bought a house
117. Been in a combat zone (if you count Israel as a combat zone)
118. Buried one/both of your parents (recently)
119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off
120. Been on a cruise ship
121. Spoken more than one language fluently (well, maybe not fluently, but well enough to be understood)
122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
123. Bounced a check (though not intentionally)
124. Performed in Rocky Horror
125. Read - and understood - your credit report
126. Raised children (though not from infancy)
127. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
128. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
129. Created and named your own constellation of stars
130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
131. Found out something significant that your ancestors did
132. Called or written your Congress person
133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
134. ...more than once? - More than thrice?
135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking (doesn't everyone?)
137. Had an abortion or your female partner did
138. Had plastic surgery
139. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived
140. Wrote articles for a large publication
141. Lost over 100 pounds
142. Held someone while they were having a flashback
143. Piloted an airplane
144. Petted a stingray
145. Broken someone's heart (and never forgave myself)
146. Helped an animal give birth
147. Been fired or laid off from a job
148. Won money on a T.V. game show
149. Broken a bone
150. Killed a human being
151. Gone on an African photo safari
152. Ridden a motorcycle
153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph
154. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
157. Ridden a horse
158. Had major surgery
159. Had sex on a moving train
160. Had a snake as a pet
161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
162. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
164. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
165. Visited all 7 continents
166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
167. Eaten kangaroo meat
168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
169. Been a sperm or egg donor
170. Eaten sushi
171. Had your picture in the newspaper
172. Had 2 (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in your lifetime
173. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
174. Gotten someone fired for their actions
175. Gone back to school
176. Parasailed
177. Changed your name
178. Petted a cockroach
179. Eaten fried green tomatoes
180. Read The Iliad
181. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, cups because your apartment needed them
183. ...and gotten 86'ed from the restaurant because you did it so many times, they figured out it was you
184. Taught yourself an art from scratch
185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
187. Skipped all your school reunions
188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
189. Been elected to public office
190. Written your own computer language (though it was a requirement of graduation at University)
191. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
192. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
193. Built your own PC from parts
194. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you (if "software" constitutes art)
195. Had a booth at a street fair
196: Dyed your hair
197: Been a DJ
198: Found out someone was going to dump you via LiveJournal
199: Written your own role playing game
200: Been arrested

Interesting list... and from it, you can see that, for the most part, mine has been an uninteresting life! But I'm not complaining.
I'll miss you, Kare

I've been part of the blogging scene for more than 2-1/2 years. Not exactly one of the early adopters, but still, around for quite a while. When I began to blog, I did so because I had been reading other blogs and thought the idea of having my very own site where I could express my own opinions, share information about things of interest only to me, and generally offer an area where friends and relatives could keep tabs on my goings-on would be cool.

One of sites I had read back in those days was Kare's. Her perspective was one I could relate to, as was her writing style. It wouldn't be technically correct to call her a friend, though we did exchange emails through the years, and despite changes to her hosting and the occasional hiatus, I followed her and kept tabs. In fact, of all the links to other blogs I have on my site, hers was the very first one.

It was disappointing to see that her link had stopped functioning recently, but I became a bit spooked when I noticed that someone else who had links to Kare's blog had substituted an ominous message. Having recently lost my father, I guess I have death on the brain, and I jumped to the conclusion that Kare was no longer among the living. That's why I was so relieved today, when, in response to a query, Kare replied to an email saying that she was, in fact, alive and well.

I can't tell you, Kare, how happy I was to hear that, despite the fact that I won't have the opportunity to read your words any more.

I have officially retired your link, but hope, Kare, if you see this message, that you keep me in your thoughts, and inform me if and when you decide to rejoin the blogging universe.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Presidential Debate #2

Boring! The same phrases over and over again. I am somewhat biased. I probably lean more to the conservative side more than to the liberal. Still, I don't think that anyone who objectively evaluates this debate can honestly say that Senator Kerry did a good job of directly addressing questions that came his way. While the president was also evasive on some questions, Kerry did it incessantly.

For example, a question to Kerry might be: "How would you handle this situation...". His answer was invariably: "I sure wouldn't do what the current president did..." before going into detail of how the president screwed up, and how he would have done differently. But exactly what he would have done? Well, that went largely unanswered.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Hard times ahead

My wife's been suffering from stress for the better part of a year, mostly due to unbelievably difficult conditions where she works. This week, she finally reached the breaking point, announcing her intention to leave. I applaud her decision, having advised her many times to take this step. Now that she's actually done it, perhaps her stress level will decrease. In the meantime, an already tight budget situation will obviously become tighter. Still, it was the only decision that made sense.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Jump right in

The news about Microsoft's major security update, SP2, has been mixed. I've read about some of the holes, some of the incompatibilities, but also, some of the benefits. A couple of days ago, I decided to finally take the plunge and apply the update that I've had in my hands for a few weeks now. I got my update by CD - having ordered it immediately after it became available. But I held off installing it until I could see how it worked on some other people's computers. A couple of my friends who use me as their computer resource were having some difficulties with their computers. I noticed that both of them had already downloaded and installed the SP2 update.

It turned out that neither of their problems was related to SP2; and having had a chance to examine the update on their system, I decided it was time to take the plunge. Well, it's been two days, and nothing has broken yet. I was pleased to see that, upon installation, the Security Centre recognized that I already had ZoneAlarm installed, and the Microsoft program left it intact, not even asking whether it should apply the Microsoft Firewall. That's a refreshing change from what I'm used to seeing. I was also pleased that the security centre recognized the Avast! anti-virus program, and correctly reported the version number; and that it was up to date.

Except for having to retrain ZoneAlarm regarding my lockdown preferences, I found the security centre to be quite well organized. And the popup-stopper integrated into IE's browser does a better, and more intuitive job than the Popup-Stopper was doing. So far, it's defeated every popup/pop-under I've encountered, without blocking access to secondary windows spawned through legitimate interactions. My initial impressions have been quite favourable.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Reefer Madness

The government has been trying to get us to listen to them about this for years!
Modest little Anne

Anne ... straight from the hip is one of the blogs featured in my list at right. Anne is a thoughtful young woman, currently living in the eastern U.S., but previously from Los Angeles. She wants to be back there, involved with Hollywood productions. For now, she's a researcher for the HBO program "The Wire". Look for her name (Anne Hefley) in the credits for the show.
My first Yiskor

As part of the Yom Kippur service, I took part in my very first Yiskor service. It didn't take long, but it was a different experience. It's like the first time you see an 'R' rated movie... you have ideas of what it might be like, but you're not an adult yet, and you just have to live with the images of your imagination until you experience the real thing. Yiskor wasn't an earth-shattering experience, but it was touching. I noticed my sister crying, and she was the one who had made light of the service only days earlier.

In typical male fashion, I had given no prior thought to Yiskor, which meant that I hadn't thought to get a memorial candle ahead of time. Fortunately for me, my mom had an extra candle at her home, and I ended up using that. I must remember to get one of my own for the next time.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

How was it possible yesterday to blog about a movie without mentioning the occasion... my wife's birthday! We had a lovely day. She went to breakfast with her son while I attended sabbath services; then it was off to lunch and a movie as a threesome. We returned home for a quiet afternoon, followed by dinner out. Then, what was to be a quick visit with my mom (so she could wish happy birthday to my wife) turned into an impromptu movie night.

All in all, a pleasant day!

Saturday, September 18, 2004


Perhaps the most famous line in film. Soon to be replaced by "Lens cap".
Happy New Year!

I often think about the future. The distant future... like in the Zager and Evans song "In the year 2525". I imagine we all think about it once in a while. Well, according to the Jewish calendar, we've just begun the year 5765. Wouldn't it be cool if some biblical scholar would re-release the song, using the same year markers, but writing lyrics in the context of the timeline of Jewish history. I might just buy the CD!
Credit where credit is due

Thanks to Daniel Codres of for creating a really neat FREEWARE utility for grabbing frames from video streams and video files. Because of his efforts, I won't have to spend so long trying to figure out how to get thumbnails for my "Comic Relief" section. For those of you who have actually visited those sites, you might remember I had this graphic


Don't smoke or drink


representing one of the videos. It pales in comparison to this image


Bathroom humour


don't you think?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Thanks, Lindsey

Lindsey, a fellow blogger and reader of this blog has offered space on her server to host the funny video I mentioned earlier. For now, please use this link. Eventually, I'll figure out how to grab a frame of the video to serve as a thumbnail in my right-hand menu.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


I was really enjoying the Bell Canadian Open, until about the 70th hole. I got the ominous feeling the Canada's favourite son would find a way to blow the lead. Fuck if I wasn't right. And fuck if he didn't find a way to blow advantages in the first two playoff holes.

I guess I don't really know whether he lost the playoff, since I nearly kicked in the TV when he hit into the water on the third playoff hole.

Cool video

My sister sent me a video via email. It's really funny - funny enough to be featured in my comic relief section - except I've run out of allotted space for hosting on my server. I don't want to pay more for space, and don't want to remove any files that are already on the server. If you're interested, drop me a line requesting the video (it's approximately 3MB in size), and I'll send it to you. It's called "Get outta my car".

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

13 - my lucky number

So sayeth the King of Swaziland in this story.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Go get em, Tiger!

As I write this post, Tiger trails Vijay by two strokes after six holes in the final round of their tournament. Whichever golfer finishes ahead of the other (even if by some strange quirk of fate neither of them actually won this tournament) takes the world #1 golf ranking.

But there's a story that hasn't been told. Last year, Vijay won only one fewer tournaments than Tiger, and actually won the money race. Today, going into the last round of this tournament, Vijay has won five times to Tiger's lone victory. EVEN IF TIGER RETAINS HIS #1 RANKING, he will almost certainly lose it next year. That's because the ranking is based on a two-year moving average of results, and over a two year period, Vijay has won nine tournaments to Tiger's six (not counting today's result). That will come back to work in Vijay's favour next season.

But for today, I personally would like to see Tiger's record streak remain intact.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Did you hear the one about...

I feel foolish about not posting this earlier. Have you ever been in a situation where someone tells a joke, and then, a few minutes later, someone laughs at it as the punchline hits them?

Or you're in a conversation, and you can't think of a witty comeback, and then a few minutes later, you think of the perfect thing to say, but just can't figure out how to fit it into the current stream? Well, that's what I'm about to do...

Yesterday, at the wedding reception, the food being served was not chosen with the Jewish diner in mind. Virtually none of the entrees, as originally served, was even remotely acceptable to even a mildly observant Jew. One of the people at the table, completely innocently and in the spirit of humour, urged me to imagine the dish was something other than it really was. He told me of trips he had taken to Africa (he's someone who does charity work for African organizations) where some rather exotic meats were served. He jokingly said he just thinks of it as chicken.

As soon as he said that, it reminded me of a movie I had seen many years ago, about some high-society dining club where patrons spent a king's ransom to be served exotic (and federally protected) species of meat. I wanted to say something to him right then about this movie... but I didn't remember the name of the movie, or anything about the actors. It would have been pretty lame to respond to his comments by saying: "That reminds me of a movie I once saw". Such a response would have led to followup questions, questions for which I would likely have no answers.

So, anyway, not being one to let things like this go, I came home and went to IMDB to look up the movie. Does anyone know how difficult it is to find a movie when you don't know the title, or the actors, or even when it was made? I gave up after only a few moments of searching.

The next morning (today, Sunday), I turned on the TV just in time to see an ad for the very movie I was thinking about! No kidding... the TV hadn't been on more than 10 seconds when the ad appeared. Apparently, the movie, The Freshman is playing on Monday evening on one of the cable movie channels. Is that freaky, or what!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

I could have danced all night

Just got home from the reception. Long story short... great reception, great choice of music, great exercise.

There are probably some at the party who laughed under their breath. There may have been some that laughed out loud. I don't care. I had a great time. Normally, when my wife and I go to a party that features dance music, we do two or three slow ones, and maybe one fast one. That's all my wife's knees and hips can usually bear. Tonight, for whatever reason, she was able to dance two slow dances and three or four fast ones! Incredible. But what was more incredible was my level of energy. I usually sit not-so-still when she gets to the point where she's tuckered out. Not-so-still as in "dancing in my chair". Tonight was different. When I got the urge to dance, I danced. Whether she joined me or not didn't really matter.

I left the party thoroughly drenched in sweat. I have never been that wet without being immersed in a pool, bathtub or shower. But it was FUN! Perhaps the sight of me dancing circles around her was what got my wife on her feet more than normal. Whatever the reason, our dancing was intimate and my insane solos were uplifting.

Not to mention the number of calories I must have burned tonight!
I now pronounce you...

It was a beautiful ceremony. A girl who attends my wife's church got married today, and we were invited. I have to say the minister performing the ceremony was so good. His words to the bride and groom were insightful and relevant. He also did an excellent job explaining how young marrieds have this exhuberance about this day that is sometimes lost over time, and that the best marriages are those that keep that spirit alive. My wife and I had a civil ceremony only at a local wedding chapel. There was no religious aspect to it, because neither of us would have felt comfortable getting married in the other's place of worship; nor would be have felt comfortable in any kind of religious middle-ground.

We've been married 14 years, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat; but it was really uplifting to hear such words as part of a religious ceremony. After the ceremony, I made a point of approaching the minister to congratulate him on his selection of hymns and messages. He then surprised me by saying that the whole thing was taken from the original 5-books (translation - the Hebrew bible) because the original wedding ceremonies, as described in the original books of the Old Testament, just couldn't be beat.

Old Testament or New, the words were perfect, and the ceremony was lovely.

The reception begins in about an hour, so I guess I should start getting dressed up again!
Having fun tonight!

I've spent the past few hours working on my blog template. I hadn't noticed, but the provider of my guestmap service had bit the dust... clicking on my map took you to one of those domain resellers - you know the ones - they cybersquat on every domain that used to work and is now defunct, trying to get you to buy the name back from them.

Anyway, my guestmap provider was gone, and I don't want people to click on dead links on my blog. So, tonight, I found a new guestmap provider, and linked them into my page. I wasn't happy with the artwork they provided for their link, so I used my rotating globe image instead.

I also was getting annoyed with my archive list. There were several reasons for this. First off, the list was getting long. Even after having converted from a weekly archive to a monthly archive, the list was still fairly long. Second, the list was being shown in the format "01/01/2003 - 01/31/2003". It would look so much better just saying "January 2003". And lastly, the archive links were being displayed from oldest link to newest link. From my experience, people are more likely to want to read the more recent posts than the less recent ones, so why should I force them to scroll down to the bottom of the webpage to get to the most recent archives.

And speaking of scrolling to the bottom of the page, it was getting quite annoying that my main blog page was expanding further and further down, as new archives were added.

Tonight, I fixed all my pet peeves at once by:
  • changing the date format to "human readable" format

  • reversing the display order (now the most recent month is listed first)

  • creating a drop-down menu for the archives, so the archive list doesn't affect the blog page length

  • creating a link within the menu to bring me back to the main page

Check out the archive menu on the right to see what I mean.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Getting political

I normally keep my politics to myself, but today it's a different story. There was a letter to the editor in the Globe & Mail about recent terrorist threats against French journalists in response to France's ban on religious head scarfs.

It makes a very valid and striking point... when was the last time Christian or Jewish terrorists threatened to kill innocent French citizens over this ridiculous French-government policy? It just goes to show how low some people will stoop to get their 15 minutes (and 72 virgins).
And you thought you knew everything!

Today's question: what are magnets made of?

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Add a link, nuke a link

Bloggers occasionally go on hiatus. If I enjoy their work, I generally leave the link on my list. It may be a dead end, but eventually, the day comes when I click, and it is alive again. Then, there's the case of Michelle. Her idea of going on hiatus is starting a new blog. Since I don't like going through a day without reading her work, I've added her new blog link to my list. Check out Popped Culture.

Then, there are those who post so infrequently that I just grow tired of the wait. Such was the case with Pretty Girl in the Corner whose link has been removed to make room. "Make room?" you ask... how can you not have room for additional links? Simple really... I spend too much time already on all my daily reads. I simply don't have time to read another.
Surely they jest

This marriage was made in hell. Literally.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Happy Anniversary!

Happy anniversary to me! Laurie and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary yesterday. I had taken Friday, Monday, and today as time off so I could be well-rested and stress-free for the occasion. She has been off since last Monday, preparing for my step-daughter's wedding shower, and extended her vacation for a full two-weeks to encompass our anniversary. As we did for our 10th, we spent the evening on a romantic dinner cruise, which, although romantic and a cruise, was woefully inadequate on the "dinner" side of things.

The Pride of Windsor website talks about the dinner entrees that are served on the scheduled cruises, so you can imagine my shock when I discovered that the ONLY entree available on our cruise was pork stirfry. Not exactly the dish a Jewish patron expects to see!

At Laurie's suggestion, I've written them a letter, asking that they make some sort of restitution for the inconvenience and breach of their stated terms. We'll see where that goes.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Olympics suck!

I never enjoy the Olympics. They interfere with my normal TV schedule, and let's face it... Canada is no powerhouse nation. It's not like there's much to look forward to. Still, I had high hopes for the Canadian rowing team, and I was certain they would do well with all the hype they had been generating. I'm sure glad I'm not a betting man.

On another front, I found myself rooting for the "local athletes"... those who lived within a few miles of my own home. Today, the last of those was eliminated from competition. There wasn't a single medal among them.

Please, let this end soon!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

New Section of links

I get asked questions by friends and family about computer security. I have, in the past, outfitted these people with trusted anti-virus, firewall, and anti-spyware tools. Nevertheless, the human engineering found in some of today's popup ads and spam are quite tempting. In an effort to be proactive and offer ongoing advice to those who seek it, I have created a new section of links over to the right. I won't be going hog-wild with this section. Rather, I'll try to find relevant, useful links that can be browsed by those with questions about their computer's security.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


I'm learning much about myself, as I learn more about my religion. I'm learning that I enjoy getting up in the morning to go to the prayer session. Whether this will last once the weather turns is anyone's guess, but so far, it's really a part of the day I look forward to. I'm learning more about the prayers, and am becoming more proficient at reading them aloud. My shyness at making mistakes is beginning to slowly disappear, not because I'm any less self-conscious, but rather, because the daily practice is making me better.

I had mentioned that my visit to the old synagogue had been enjoyable. I told this to the rabbi of that shul. He's the same rabbi who shows up most mornings at the community prayer meeting to join in. He's the same rabbi who visited my father while he was in the hospital. I've come to like this rabbi as a person, as well as respecting him as clergy.

Today, I discovered the rabbi has tendered his resignation. The cross-border commute that his wife (a U.S. citizen living in Canada) has to endure on a daily basis has finally reached the breaking point. She wants to leave the city, and he has obliged. In a way, it's good that he's leaving, since I'm beginning to know him better than I do my own congregation's rabbi. I've been feeling a bit of guilt that I have been praying with this man 5 days a week, while I continue to declare my allegiance to the other rabbi who leads me the other two days.

He has given the synagogue two months to find a successor. Hopefully, the new rabbi will be as nice a guy as this one.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Masterpiece Theatre

I rented Kill Bill volume 2 yesterday. I hadn't seen it at the theatre. I had seen volume 1, and it was just barely tolerable. Who knew I was so sensitive to gratuitous violence. I think it was the anime that really got to me. Anyway, I had heard such good things about volume 2, I just couldn't resist. What a masterpiece. Everything in this movie went counter to my expectations. Though in retrospect, I should have seen many of the plot twists, I am pleased to say I didn't; and that every one of them was a pleasant surprise.

Now, if only I could get my wife to watch it (she walked out of Volume 1 during the early anime sequences, thoroughly disgusted with the violence and utter evil portrayed on the screen).

Saturday, August 07, 2004

A stroll down memory lane

I'm still in the 30-day mourning period following my dad's passing, and as such, have been faithfully attending morning and evening services so that I can say Kaddish. There are two orthodox synagogues in this city... the main one, and the small one. I normally attend the small one, though, when I was a child, I attended the main one.

Today, the rabbi for the small synagogue was out of town, so I attended the main one. It was a stroll down memory lane in more ways than one. First, the immenseness of the building hit me immediately. The echos and stale air were as they had always been. I'm so glad I don't have to go there often. But there was something pleasant and familiar about this visit as well. Each rabbi and cantor have their own style of reading and chanting. When a congregation changes rabbi or cantor, often this signals the beginning of a new way of doing things. Familiar tunes give way to new tunes. Sections of prayer that were previously sung are now read dryly, and vice versa. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the current rabbi and cantor conduct services nearly identically to how they were conducted in my youth. I recognized virtually all the tunes, and various passages were sung/read aloud in much the same way as in my youth.

Although that made the visit to the main synagogue far more enjoyable than it could have been, I much prefer the small, quaint, understated atmosphere of the small synagogue, and will be glad when the rabbi returns next weekend.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Not much going on here

In contrast with the hectic change of pace that was the only constant through the last few weeks of my dad's life, things since his death have been remarkably boring. My days now begin with a visit to the local synagogue or community centre, where I find a mineon to say my Kaddish prayers. These sessions occur early enough during the day to get me back to my home in time to report for work at the regular time. After work, I take another trip to the centre for the evening prayers. I have been thinking about whether I will continue this ritual after my 30-day mourning period is up - except for forcing me to fall asleep earlier than I usually do, this has not been intolerable, and I even think there may come a time when my attendance at these sessions will make a difference to some other "new mourner".

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Good show!

Eric has been meeting the family all over town this weekend after returning from the Toronto area where the rest of our extended family lives. Today, in addition to meeting relatives, we had the opportunity to visit Colasanti's Gardens. As usual, the visit was very enjoyable.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I now pronouce you...

What a hoot! The same-sex-marriage rush in Canada has had it's first casualty. One of the first lesbian couples married in Canada now wants a divorce. One small problem... same sex DIVORCE is not yet legal in Canada.

Maybe the government thought that people who had waited so long, and tried so hard, to tie the knot would actually want to stay married for more than a few days! These goofs went their separate ways after only five days of marriage!

It's clear to me they just wanted to be in the record books. One of the first to marry, and THE first to divorce. They should have done the civilized thing and had their marriage annulled during the 7-day warranty period. Instead, they cause eachother all this grief.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Shiva continues

During the week following the burial, we sit Shiva. Not living in a Jewish household, and with Eric in to visit, the "traditional" shiva is not observed in my home, although I am attending all the prayer meetings, and making trips to visit other family members.
Welcome Eric

Eric came to town Monday. He's Jessica's fiance, and this is our first opportunity to meet him in person. If first impressions are any indication, Eric will be a welcome addition to the family.

Friday, July 16, 2004

In other news...

Anne wrote yesterday about seeing a story about a bizarre event on a recent flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. I hadn't paid much attention to the heightened state of alert at Detroit Metropolitan Airport issued by the media a couple of weeks ago. But, with Eric (my future son-in-law) scheduled to arrive at Detroit airport next week, and having read the linked story, I am starting to feel uneasy about my daughter's flight from Detroit to Denver at the end of next week to meet Eric's parents.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Funeral, Kaddish and Kiddish

Part I: The Funeral

As is the Jewish tradition, funerals are held as soon as possible after death. With my father passing just minutes before midnight on Tuesday, there wasn't time to arrange for a Wednesday funeral. So, we had it today instead. With dad being the last of his siblings to pass away, the only surviving relatives were of a younger generation. I've never been overly social, so I wasn't sure how many people would come to pay their respects. To say I was overwhelmed by the response would be an understatement. Several of my relatives made last minute changes to their plans to be here. In one case, second-cousins vacationing on the east coast drove 10 hours by car to get to the funeral on time. In another case, a cousin who had started reading my blog shortly after his last trip to Windsor made arrangements to come to the funeral even before I had formally told him of my father's death - he had read about it on the blog!

It seemed that each person who came had something wonderful and touching to say about my dad. Though I had known how this man had touched the lives of so many, still it was a real tribute to show up at the funeral, where no-one but the survivors would ever know they had come. Words cannot express the joy they brought to me, my sisters, and my mom.

Part II: The Kaddish

I remember going to a funeral a long time ago where the son of the deceased was unable to recite the Kaddish (the traditional prayer for the dead). It scared me, because for the past few years, I've had this morbid fear of screwing up this prayer at the gravesite, thereby somehow dishonouring the memory of my father. There are several variations of the Kaddish, with the "Reader's Kaddish" and "Mourner's Kaddish" being the most familiar. These prayers are recited several times during the course of a daily religious service; so despite the fact I don't attend services as regularly as I should, I have still learned these prayers over a span of over 40 years. There is another version of the Kaddish known as the "Grand Kaddish". As its name implies, it is longer than the other versions (about double in length), and happens to be unfamiliar to me. It is the "Grand Kaddish" that is recited during burial ceremonies. Yesterday, while visiting my sister's home, I asked her whether I could look at a prayer book, so I could get an advanced look at that prayer.

It was a monster. I recognized the words that began the prayer. But, beyond the first four words, it was Greek to me. I don't speak Hebrew. I don't understand the language at all (OK, maybe I know the word for "father", "mother", "dog", "water" - but that's not "speaking" the language). Hebrew, however, is phonetic. That is, each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a distinctive sound. That means that I can "speak" the language without knowing what I'm saying. Unfortunately, being able to parrot the sounds is difficult, because, without knowing what you're saying, there is no ability to "anticipate" what comes next. It makes reading very difficult. The first time I tried reading the seven-line first paragraph, it took me nearly ten minutes. Not only would this not be acceptable, it would be downright embarassing.

I decided to create a transliteration of that first paragraph (the remaining paragraphs were the same as the other kaddish versions, so I already knew them). A transliteration is created by assigning English letters to substitute for the sound made by the Hebrew letters (consonants) and punctuation marks (vowels).

Hebrew letters are read/pronounced from right-to-left as you read the page. Using the alphabet and sound guide from the link above, imagine how long it would take you to create this example of transliteration. It shows the "usual" version of the Kaddish (the one I know by heart). Since I was having trouble reading the passage, it took quite a while (nearly an hour) to get a transliteration that was both accurate, and easy to read. If you don't know what I mean by "easy to read", try reading this: ify oud on'tk now wha time ant ryre adin gth is.

So, an hour later, I have finished the work, and begin to practice reading the transliteration. There's no way I'm going to memorize this passage overnight, but if I can at least make it sound "familiar" to me, I should be able to get the reading rate up. I had been practicing for a good half hour, and had the reading time down to about 1-1/2 minutes for the paragraph. That's still slower than it should be read, but tolerable. The only thing I needed now was a copy of the prayer book to take to the gravesite with me, so I could "hide" my cheat sheet.

My brother-in-law was quite accommodating, managing to locate a more compact (portable) version of the prayer book. I was about to leave the house with the book when (for some unknown reason), I decided to look inside and read the prayer again. To my absolute shock, I discovered that the two prayer books did not agree on the wording of the prayer! In this seven-line paragraph, I found about a half-dozen words that were different between the versions! Remember, I don't know Hebrew, so I had no way to tell whether the discrepancies were due to typographical errors, writing style, or who knows what else!

I was going to be meeting the Rabbi later that evening to make arrangements about the service, so I thought I'd transliterate the different passages and ask the Rabbi which version of the prayer was correct. I'm glad I did... because it turns out the SECOND version of the prayer was the correct version.

So, here I am, standing at the gravesite, but I had forgotten to bring the prayer book with me. No problem... I'd just borrow the Rabbi's copy. When it came time for the prayer, I held his prayer book, pulled out my trusty (revised) transliteration, and proceeded to stumble through the first paragraph in what seemed like a long time to me, but probably because I was so nervous. Once I finished the first paragraph, I put away my cheat sheet and began to recite the familiar part of the Kaddish from the book. Then, believe it or not, I ran into one stanza in the "familiar" portion of the prayer that didn't seem so familiar. Luckily, the difference between what I was reading, and what I remembered, was only one word - and an easy one to pronounce at that.

I've worried about this prayer for twenty years. Now, I can finally exhale.

Part III: The Kiddish

I didn't eat breakfast this morning. I'm not sure why, perhaps just nervous. But the funeral service was scheduled to start at 1:00PM, with the burial scheduled to follow after a lengthy funeral procession. By the time we got the "business" out of the way and proceeded to the catered buffet meal, it would be past 3:30PM. I've been to lots of catered meals put on by the synagogue. In every case, the meal doesn't start until grace is recited. Everyone (myself included) was milling around impatiently waiting for the Rabbi to arrive so he could recite the grace. He finally did arrive, only to approach me and ask why no-one was eating. When I told him, he looked at me with that "what, haven't you ever been to one of these gigs before?" looks. Turns out the grace is said by the same person who recited the graveside prayer. Translation: EVERYONE WAS WAITING FOR ME, and I didn't even know it.

I have to say, the Kiddish was a big hit. I had no idea how many people to expect for the funeral service, and didn't have a clue how many would actually travel out to the gravesite for the interment. And from there, I had no idea how many would actually proceed to the buffet. My sister had ordered enough food for sixty people. Somewhat fewer actually came, but when you consider that only about 1/4 of the attendees were local, that's a good turnout. This kind of spread is one of the things I usually enjoy photographing, but needless to say, it would have been VERY inappropriate of me to whip out the camera (I had actually brought the camera with me, but wisely left it in the car). I can't begin to tell you the variety and quality of food offered to the guests... although I can say from experience that the smoked salmon, bagels, grapes, egg salad, tuna salad, pickles, and brownies were delicious. I can also say there were at least five tempting dishes I passed up because my plate had been filled with the aforementioned items.

Anyway, I do believe the food was well received. And from the limited amount of doggie bag food available afterward, I think I can safely say that the buffet was a hit. Kudo's to my sister for ordering the right amount of food, without any idea how many people would actually show up.

In addition to food, the Kiddish gave me the opportunity to visit with each table (a table roughly corresponding to one or two family units). There was one exception. By sheer coincidence, one of my cousins was celebrating a "reunion" on the occasion of their twin-daughters' 40th birthday celebrations. They took time to gather the entire clan - three generations worth - to come to the funeral. They used at least two tables on their own.

Every time our extended family gathers for a wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah... we always say we'll get together. And of course, with everyone having busy lives and living in different cities, we never do. Here's hoping that this time, we WILL get together and not wait until the next sad occasion.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Journey Ends

My father, taken at last year's father's day celebration

May 3, 1920 - July 13, 2004

Rest in Peace

The end came swiftly and peacefully, with my sister and me at his side. He spent the final two days of his life listening to joyous music eminating from the hearts and lips of his loving children and their spouses. Nurses at the ICU commented that never before had anyone been serenaded by continuous show-tunes, hymns, pop music, lullabies, nursery rhymes ... sung at the top of our voices.

We could tell he was listening. While still hooked up to monitors, there were distinct patterns of blood pressure that could be directly attributed to who was singing. When my sister or my wife sang, blood pressure was low and steady. When I sang, blood pressure immediately soared and became erratic. Even in a near-comatose state, my dad had strong opinions about my (lack of a) singing voice.

Tonight, I had arrived at the hospital, ready to begin the night-time shift. My sister was describing how the day had gone, and what to watch for, now that my dad had been removed from the monitor. My dad must have been listening for my arrival. He chose that 20-minute window of shift change-over to alter his breathing pattern, open his eyes wide, and make noises (which we thought were moans of pain - but now believe to be an attempt at a final goodbye). We both spoke to him at that point, told him we loved him, and gave him permission to sleep. Less than a minute later, he was gone.

There were no tears. My dad had left us the greatest gift of joy imaginable. A final expression of love.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Thanks to all

Even though we are following my dad's last wishes, it is certainly easier when aided by a helpful and knowledgeable staff. I'd like to thank the following Hotel Dieu ICU staff for their assistance and sympathetic understanding...

Dr. Datta
Dr. Muscedere
Mary C - Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Karen S - Respiratory Therapist
Donna N - Registered Nurse
Denise D - Registered Nurse
Natalie P - Registered Nurse
Sarah F - Registered Nurse
Joyce J - Chaplain

... and the entire ICU support staff and team
Dawn of a new day

I stayed with him through the night. I slept mostly, having been awake for the better part of the previous 24 hours, knowing that the monitors would alert me to the moment of truth.

The monitors never sounded. I awoke at 6:25AM and he's still with us. His kidney function is gone, having produced almost no output throughout the night. The doctor had told us beforehand that this would happen. Although his body is strong, it is shutting down, slowly but surely. He is peaceful, showing no distress at all except for the moments when nurses must turn his body to keep him comfortable. To me, it seems like he get annoyed when his rest is disturbed... perhaps believing that those poking and prodding are trying to interfere with nature's course.

Even in his march towards death, he holds his head high.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Almost over

It's 8:55PM, July 12. We have removed the ventilating tubes. All medications have been suspended, except for the morphine drip. It's only a matter of time until my father slips away to join his many brothers, sisters, and parents.

It's been a long, difficult road, but the journey is almost over.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Critical stage

My worst nightmare has come to pass. Dad, completely awake and able to hear/understand all around him, is able to respond to questions which can be answered using gestures, nods, blinks, etc. However, he is too weak to utter an intelligible sound or to hold a pencil, so he lays there with the most frustrated expression as he is completely unable to communicate his thoughts to those around him.

I need to devise a way to pry his thoughts from him using questions, but so far, am having no success.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Quick catch-up

The lancing device I brought for my dad is gone. But because I put up a fuss, a new one appeared in it's place - the same model that I had originally brought.

But it doesn't really matter, because yesterday, my dad had to be readmitted to the hospital. Turns out he's been refusing food and water for days (apparently a voluntary decision), and it finally caused him to become too weak to remain healthy. He's now in the hospital, back on an intravenous, but otherwise in decent shape.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

What a bummer

I visited my dad on Tuesday evening, and remembered to bring the lancing device. The nurses have been manually using a lancette to pierce his finger to test for blood sugar. He's been wincing from the pain. So, I brought a spare lancing device from my old testing kit.

I got a call tonight from my mom, who reported that the device has gone missing. I don't know if it simply got tangled up in some clothing, or fell on the floor, or was taken by one of the staff (who don't have their own lancing devices).

I'm going to do a search, and I will be able to recognize it. I prominently marked the lancing device with my dad's name, and I'm sure whoever took it rubbed off the name to cover their tracks. But I'm just as sure they didn't know I also labeled the INSIDE of the device in such a way that the mark can only be viewed when you're specifically looking for it. Someone's gonna get caught with stolen goods!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Much less sucky

On a brighter note, my sister informs me that yesterday, my dad took a short walk without the aid of a walker. He did require minimal assistance getting up from a seated position, but once on his feet, he was able to walk on his own. That's wonderful progress, since it's been only four days since he was released from the hospital. I'll have to get a picture of him walking during my next visit.
That sucks

I wasn't able to get a picture of my parents with the sign on Sunday. I arrived with my camera, only to be told that my mom had taken the sign home with her Saturday night. Best laid plans...

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy 57th Anniversary

I can't believe it... me, a photo freak, forgot to take pictures of both my parents standing together for their anniversary. And I had prepared a special sign, at my father's request, to mark the occasion. I'll have to get a picture tomorrow.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Happy Canada Day!

This will be a short post. Happy Canada Day to all my friends celebrating the birth of our country - whether you're celebrating today or tomorrow. As for me, I have special cause to celebrate. My dad was released from the hospital today. He's now in a nursing home!


Dad after arriving at the nursing home - alert and in control!

Thank God (and everyone who prayed with me) for my dad's recovery

Monday, June 28, 2004

A good week

I haven't posted in a while. But it's been a good week. On the recovery front, my dad has been progressing well. All tubes have been removed (still has the catheter) and he's been breathing on his own. It now seems like he's going to be able to leave the hospital soon and enter a nursing facility, at least for a while. He's been progressing with the physical therapy (even though it really wears him out), and for the first time in a long time, it doesn't look like he's a moment away from backsliding.

My cousin came from out of town just to visit my dad, and came to the hospital Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to see him. I think my dad was really glad to have the extra company. Earlier in the week, one of the guys who had worked for my father back in the 1950's and 1960's came to the hospital to visit. It was like they had just talked the previous day. It sure must be nice to be a good person and have so many friends.

My cousin came from out of town just to visit my dad, and came to the hospital Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to see him.

On Saturday night, my cousin and I decided to take in a baseball game at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers for the past three seasons. It was my first visit there, so I took way too many pictures. The game turned out to be very exciting, with the home-team pulling it out with a homerun in the bottom of the 9th inning. Who could ask for more.

A picture of the main scoreboard at Comerica Park

My first trip to Comerica - it's a cool stadium with good views in every seat

Despite being in the second tier bleachers, just outside the foul post, the view was unobstructed

My cousin, sitting in the stands at Comerica Park

It looks like my cousin was enjoying the game

It was really good seeing my cousin after so many years. Though we talk on our birthdays, it's just not the same as seeing eachother in person. Despite the reason for his visit, everything was very upbeat, and I hope I get the opportunity to see him again real soon.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Recap in Pictures

I've given it some thought, and decided pictures would be appropriate.

When I first posted about the minor surgery, it seemed my dad would be home in a matter of days.

Dad on the day of his minor surgery

As you can see from the picture, he didn't seem any worse for wear, considering his age.

Within days, he had developed a reaction to the antibiotics administered as part of his post-op care, and while doctors struggled to figure out what was going on, he had begun the process of slipping into a near-death state as the SJS took hold of him. He looked like he had been in a fire... his skin was blistering all over, both externally and internally. Deep red rashes were evident on his torso, arms, legs, face, and scalp. The inside of his mouth was raw and bleeding. These were the days when I could barely stand to look at him, for fear my shock and horror would be telegraphed to him. Mercifully, I have no pictures from this period, although the picture below is representative of his condition.

A patient suffering from SJS shows the rash on arms, neck and torso

After nearly a month of treatment, my dad had been progressively getting better. However, it wasn't all good news... Not only was he suffering from SJS, but he had contracted pneumonia and septicemia. And after the steroid treatments were stopped, the SJS started to make an immediate comeback. Then, the doctors decided to try a blood transfusion. He seemed to make a nearly miraculous recovery.

This picture was taken the same day he had the blood transfusion

After the transfusion, he seemed to perk up a bit, though the receding SJS rash is still evident.

In this picture, if you look closely at his neck, you can see the bright red rash that had completely engulfed his body. Around his mouth are the remnants of sores and dried blood that had come from his internal bleeding. Still, I took this picture because it represented a monumental improvement from his condition over the previous two weeks.

Little did I know that within four days of taking that picture, my dad would be having what we thought were his last moments on earth. And just three days later, we again thought it was the end.

Somehow, he keeps fighting back, and today, we got to spend Father's Day with him. As you can see from the pictures below, he's on the mend again.

My dad listens as I read him the Father's Day card my wife and I gave him

When I looked at this picture afterward, I could tell how alert and attentive he had been.
It made me so happy.

A picture of my mom and I flanking my dad

My dad looked pleased that we were there to celebrate Father's Day with him.

Mom being cheeky with my resting dad

Lending a cheek, my mom gets cozy with dad.
At the time, he seemed to be more interested in getting some sleep.

And I couldn't do it without the support of my wife, seen here posing with my mom.

And of course, my wife (posing with my mom) was there to help lend support to me and my dad.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Visiting my dad

So, we visited the hospital today for Father's Day, and saw my dad out of bed, relaxing on a reclinable wheelchair. While he sounded weak and had oxygen being administered through his nose, he was a bit more chipper than I've seen him. I took the opportunity to read aloud the card we had purchased, and into which I had pasted a personal note (printed from my home computer to look like it was part of the original card). He didn't seem at all depressed today, though he was a bit uncomfortable in the chair and asked for the nurse to do something or other every five minutes. I guess he's going stir crazy in the hospital. Who can blame him.

I'm of two minds whether to post pictures that show him in less than perfect health. On the one hand, the pictures may not be too pretty. On the other, it gives my family members who live out of town a chance to see my father in a condition better than when they last saw him. I'll have to give it some thought.
Father's Day weekend

My father's day weekend started early, with a family trip to honour my wife's dad. We invited her parents for a day out at Colasanti's in Leamington. I think the last time we visited there was last mother's day. Anyway, the day was very enjoyable. On the way there, I phoned my own dad at the hospital. I was so impressed with his recovery. For the first time in several weeks, he sounded like he had some energy. His voice sounded strong and intelligible. I should explain that last point... my dad has been very weak and during part of his treatment, he has been receiving nourishment through IV's. In that time, he hasn't had much liquid through his mouth, so his tongue and throat have been somewhat dry. This made it difficult for him to speak intelligibly. It sounded like when you're in the dentist chair with your mouth open and you're trying to make yourself understood. For someone with a trained ear, you can be understood, but to someone who isn't used to it, it's difficult to understand.

Anyway, I had no trouble understanding what he was saying. I told him I'd try to make it to the hospital on Saturday, but the day in Leamington went on for quite a bit longer than I originally thought it would, so there was just no time to visit my dad. Sunday (father's day proper) will be my opportunity to see him.

My cold symptoms had been pretty much receding until moments ago. I have just now started getting a bit of a runny nose. I don't know if it's because I haven't slept in quite some time, or if I still have the remnants of a cold. I so desperately want to see my dad, I think I'll just ask for a mask before I enter the room.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Out of ICU

I've been at risk of a cold for the last few days, seeing that my wife showed symptoms a week ago. Late Tuesday night, I finally started showing symptoms of my own, so I've been staying away from the hospital since yesterday. My dad is out of the ICU and back in a room. When I called him this morning to say I may be able to visit in a couple of days, he said "I think I may be out of the hospital by then".

I'd like nothing more to see him healthy and out of the hospital, but what I don't want is to see him unhealthy and out of the hospital. I hope he continues to improve.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Where have you hidden my father?

The man in my dad's bed didn't appear to be the same person I've grown used to seeing over these past weeks. The man I saw yesterday was awake, alert, and had an appetite. He had no SJS rash, no noticeable breathing impairment. In addition, he had a voice and wasn't shy about using it. I tried to help him take a drink, only to be rebuffed so he could do it himself. When I casually remarked to a nurse that he might need physical therapy to recover lost muscle tone, he made a mock fist to "punch me in the nose" - a clear sign that the spirit had begun to return.

When I left him last night, it was just after the nurse had taken his vital signs. Except for a bit of continuing "crackle sounds" in the lungs, all were in the "healthy" range, including his blood-oxygen level, which was at 95% without aid of oxygen or a blood transfusion. With signs like this, I think they'll be transfering him back to a hospital room sometime soon. I only hope he gets the same level of attention he got in the ICU, since it's this extra level of attention that I'm sure is responsible for this second miraculous step back from the brink.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Good news?

The colonoscopy was done Saturday morning. The good news was that there was no source of bleeding found in the colon. The doctor said that the scope only shows the main path through the colon and is unable to show the diverticula. So, the surgeon believes my dad's bleeding may have come from there.

From the referenced website:

... diverticula follow the paths of the arteries as they penetrate the muscle layer of the colon wall. Uncommonly, these same arteries can erode through the thin wall of the diverticulum and cause a major hemorrhage. This usually occurs when a person is elderly. The earliest symptoms are faintness and the appearance of much bright red blood by rectum.

That pretty much describes the colour of the blood we were seeing when he was bleeding. Overnight, my dad maintained good vital signs and experienced no bleeding. The doctors still want to perform an angiography to find the source of the bleeding, but that procedure only works when bleeding is present and profuse. I guess as long as my dad's condition continues to improve, I should be grateful.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Girls are Pretty

Eva's got a blog list that includes Girls are Pretty. The author is not shy at all and uses language that might offend some readers, but it's an interesting read.
Deja vu

Another frantic call. Another trip to the hospital at breakneck speeds. Another set of final goodbyes. Somehow the wires got crossed. Apparently there was a test that could have been performed between the last time my dad was bleeding and today, when he started again. Some mixup as to whether consent had been given appears to be the reason the test was not performed. Now, the test is riskier (after the latest trauma to my dad's battered body); yet conversely more likely to yield positive results (due to the additional blood-letting). When I left him, they were prepping him for a colonoscopy by feeding him massive dosages of fluids. It will wash out his system in preparation for the test. Once we get the results of the test (scheduled for tomorrow morning), we'll know whether surgery is needed.

He's bleeding again.
Moonlight Serenade

We did something different last night. My sister, who normally takes the "day shift" at the hospital, wanted a return visit. She asked whether we could go together. With just her and me at the bedside, I decided to give an impromptu rendition of songs I performed as a child (either at my Bar Mitzvah, or at elementary school plays). For some perspective on how long ago all this was, please remember I'm now a grandfather. Anyway, here I am, recalling the words to songs not sung for over 40 years, and my sister joins me (just as she did at my Bar Mitzvah).

Back then, "Mary Poppins" was just being released, and my sister and I had entertained the Bar Mitzvah guests with our renditions of songs from the movie. Though my singing voice has long since become unbearable, performing for my father seemed to be just the medicine he needed. He smiled (both with his mouth and eyes), and his humour was quite evident, as he remarked that my singing was providing him the opportunity to produce several satisfactory bowel movements.

Whether that means he was using the "music" as a cover for his bodily sounds, or whether he was politely saying I sang like shit, I don't really know. What I do know is that my sister and I had fun, and my dad seemed to enjoy the show.

After returning home, I spoke with my other sister (who was only 5 years old during the Bar Mitzvah gig), and she told me she had considered doing the very same thing earlier today when she had visited! Perhaps for tomorrow's visit, she'll add her two cents, thus completing the serenade.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Hang in there!

It's a miracle. The bleeding stopped, all on its own. It was the only scenario the doctors didn't believe would happen, although they had said, theoretically, that it was possible. So, my dad is out of the ICU, not going to have tests, or an operation, and is back in recovery immediate danger, but is still being kept in the ICU for observation and possible further testing.

Hang in there, pops!
Extraordinary measures for an extraordinary father

A few days ago, while my dad was being treated at the hospital, we felt it would be appropriate to broach the subject of extraordinary measures. Should things digress to the point of no hope, would my father want us to do everything possible, including the use of machines, to keep him going. He's a proud and strong man, despite his current condition, and, to no-one's surprise, he indicated heroic measures would not be necessary.

Today, minutes before I was to leave home to visit the hospital, my mom called me. She was crying hysterically, and said that I needed to get to the hospital right away. I had been talking with my sister when the phone rang, so when I got back to her, we decided to go together to the hospital. My dad had bled out, and was being kept alive by massive blood transfusions. We rushed to the hospital.

By the time we got there, my dad had been disconnected from the blood supply, but was still alive. The on-duty doctor explained that his bowel was probably ruptured, his blood pressure couldn't be maintained for very long, and he prepared us for the end. There was, he said, a slim possibility of prolonging his life with surgery, but the prognosis was not good. Again, we put the question to my dad about the possibility of surgery, and again, he said he had had enough. As he began to slip away, I placed a call to my sister in Toronto, hoping that somehow, she would be able to get down here in time to say goodbye. We also called the rabbi.

Within a half hour, my dad's blood pressure had dropped to the point where he needed to be transfered from the ward to the ICU. In the ICU, where they are better equipped to deal with such outbreaks, they started a couple of new lines from which they could infuse blood into his system more quickly. The standard veins in his arm had collapsed, as had one lung. Renal function was severly decreased, and oxygen levels were falling to critical levels. Blood pressure was now being reported in grim terms.

The doctors' efforts in the ICU were unbelievable. Within an hour, they had stabilized him to the point where the family could once again come to his side. Except for my sister, who was still making her way in from Toronto, the entire family was at the bedside, including some very close cousins whom we had contacted from the hospital. The ICU doctor gathered the family to discuss options. None were particularly good, although he made it clear there were still options available to us to try to extend my dad's life and give him one last chance at recovery. Being fully aware of my dad's intentions, we initially balked at any heroic measures. We were leaning more toward providing a sedative that would allow my dad slip quietly away in his sleep. But then, we started to think about the options. As described, although they weren't particularly optimistic, the doctors did indicate that if they could determine the cause of the internal bleeding, and if the damaged tissue was relatively localized, there was a chance that his life could be saved. With much help and physical therapy, my dad might once again enjoy a quality of life that would be worth the effort.

Our family approached his bed in the ICU. By now, he had blood being fed from three separate lines, and oxygen was also being administered. We could see the monitors showing a lower than ideal rate for blood pressure, respiration, and pulse. Oxygen levels were all that was acceptable, and that was due to the massive blood transfusions. We explained to my dad what the doctor had told us... that without further treatment, he would be gone by morning; and that with treatment, there were no guarantees. We told him he'd need to be placed on a ventilator soon, to preserve his respiration and reduce the need for the blood, which, while keeping him alive, was complicating the efforts to keep him breathing. We told him that after some tests were run, he might have to have surgery to repair his bowels, or that his bowels may completely die and have to be removed. We told him he might have to use a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. Most of all, we told him that we all loved him, and weren't prepared to say goodbye if there was even a chance that he could be saved.

Finally, it was his choice to make. He looked at us all. And then he said "I want to fight". So now, we have a clear directive. The test will be done. Surgery will be performed if required. He may die tomorrow in the process, but it won't be because he gave up on life, or because we allowed ourselves to give up on him.