Happy New Year From Parliament Hill, and Our New Little Nephew

Happy New Year from all of us. We are wishing everyone a wonderful 2012!

Below is a quick video from Parliament Hill this evening. We live just a few minutes away so thought we’d stop and check out the seasonal decorations, which we heard were quite beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, also included below are a few peeks at my sister Gillian’s new baby – John David Keenan. Way to go on the successful delivery of number huit! (Interesting, in keeping with Canada’s new found emphasize on safety and security, notice baby John’s anti-theft GPS-like electronic anklet used by the hospitals here in Ottawa).

Tomorrow, or shortly thereafter, I’ll post a few shots from our trip to the museum of civilization as well as a few reflections from 2011, which was one of, if not our best years ever.

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Christmas Day – Fun Times

Super thankful to everyone for their kind generosity and for helping us have a fantastic Christmas, including all family and friends from away.

On Christmas eve we hosted my sister Gillian and the Keenans for a great evening before heading out to church and caroling.

This morning we had quiet time as a family opening gifts before a yummy brunch at our friend Stephanie’s home, and then on to Orleans for an amazing Christmas dinner, again with Gillian and Sean and the gang.

(Special nod to Gillian who is expecting any day now and still pulled off hosting Christmas.)

Below are a few snap-shots of the day, including a short cute video clip as the boys begin to open their stocking (at 5:45am!) which is always the first order of business – can you tell they are excited? Ali seems pumped to even get the inevitable stocking socks, and Fin begins to open up his mommy’s stocking which, incidentally, I had just put together about 5 hrs earlier. I had to cut short my stocking filming to guide him to his own goodies.

It snowed a fair bit overnight, just in time to make it a true White Christmas in Ottawa.

Also included below is a little of the frolicking on the way to check out the ice on the Rideau Canal, which should be sufficiently frozen in a few more weeks. In the meantime we will stay warm and practice our X-Box kinnex skills – you gotta’ love it when toys for les enfants are just as much toys for les parents! MF had at least as much fun as the boys today.

Wishing all family and friends the very best of the season!

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Hello there page visitors

Hi. It has been a while since I have posted much. Things are good. Typically busy as ever with a house with two little boys, two jobs and lots of interests and activities on the side.

Feeling much better after the protracted flu from hell. All that down-time has me feeling refreshed and excited to enjoy the upcoming Christmas holiday season . Tomorrow we’ll attend the school Christmas concert, and then finally put up our tree. Woo-Hoo, I love shopping for a tree. After having planted close to 250,000 trees years ago I never feel guilty about putting up a real tree.

Gotta run, off to the rink! Ohh must be careful, there is freezing rain – the school buses are not even running today.

Nasty Lasting Flu

Arrghh…Since last weekend I’ve spent more time in bed than, quite likely, when I had open-heart surgery as a four year old. (ie almost all day, everyday)

I tried to make it to the office on Wednesday but the day lasted about 15 mins – I broke out in a sweat and my manager gently told me to go home until I am actually better.

Unbelievably, I feel almost as raunchy now as I did on the weekend. The upside is that the aches and sweats are not as bad, but I now have a chest cough and sore throat. The headaches remain as well.

I share these lovely details in part to fulfill my “man-cold/flu” victim role, and, more seriously, to coax anyone still considering the flushot to go for it!

I’ve never had a flu this bad. The nice thing about weeks like this is you appreciate your normal good health, and also working in a place that respects your wellbeing. I hate taking sick leave, I have about six months worth of potential sick-leave pay built up over the past 12 years. However l am glad to have it when I need it!

It has been a tricky fall – first shingles (which I got through relatively easily) and then this – maybe time to examine some patterns, like my tendency to eat a buffett lunch a little too often, and to not get enough sleep.

Speaking of which, good night. Sleep and eat well, and get that flu shot!

Footnote: I just called the provincial health line to ask a question and the poor nurse had a horrible case of laryngitis. We had the most ridiculous conversation. I’d croak and she’d reply with a near imperceptible whisper and the odd squeak. We both had to keep saying “I’m sorry, could you please repeat that”. At first it was highly irritating but it soon became quite hilarious. Gotta’ love those odd moments.

Weekend in The Hood

Here’s yet another post to partially chronicle our year in Ottawa, this one is for the grandparents out yonder – here’s some weekend action including sight and sounds from our community centre/street winter-party, with games, horse rides, a fire show etc.

Also a snapshot from the bench at Alistair’s hockey game this morning where I am one of the helpers. The Red Army are still looking for their first win but today they tied again, 5-5 and AJ had two nice assists.

I am currently blogging from bed as I have been felled by the flu that has moved through the house – wishing I had gone for a flu shot – hint hint for any reading…

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Political Protest Hits the Streets of Ottawa, Cars Hit Front Yards.

I got tied up at work this evening and left for home around 6:30.

Right from the onset of leaving the office things seemed a little odd, not only was it pitch black, which I am not used to seeing, but it was raining (a little) in mid-December, which I am also not used to seeing.

Aside from the nocturnal and meteorological aberrations, I also heard emergency sirens coming from what seemed like every direction, and I even heard what sounded like a simultaneous mixture of a celebration and a protest.

Somewhat perplexed, I fastened my toque, hoped on my bike (well “our” bike, since mine was thieved a while back and I still ride my wive’s) and proceeded to head for home.

As I got halfway between my office and the University of Ottawa campus I happened upon a police road block and saw about 150 people standing on the street outside of an embassy. Being the curious Gerard monkey that I am, I slipped along past the road block, through the side walk, and stopped to see what was going on.

I soon learned that the Congoese (hope I have that right) community of Ottawa was protesting the corruption and general state of chaos in their homeland. They were symbolically voicing their frustration at the one building in Canada that officially represents their country.

What was surprising for me was that the police showed up in full force and actually had a fairly large riot squad (of about 40 officers in full gear) standing on the front yard of the consulate protecting the building. Clearly this is not something that happens often in Ottawa, but the police were prepared for any escalation.

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Darth Vaderesque Riot Police stand in front of Congo's Embassy.

I spoke with a CBC reporter (David Gerow) who I recognized from his days in Edmonton, and apparently before I arrived things were a little tense, but by the time I got there the protest seemed very peaceful, yet still very passionate.

The crowd sang songs and chanted protests, alternating between sitting and dancing. At times you could sense the genuine frustration and even anger as they expressed their dissatisfaction with a desperate situation that has seen over 5 million (!) people die in what is called the African World War since 1998. The worst of the killings were years ago but violence still continues in the eastern part of Congo, Africa’s second largest country, and home to 70 million people.

Today they were protesting that recent elections were undemocratic and that President Joseph Kabila should leave Congo, while at the same time venting frustration that the West, including Canada, sits idly by while women and children are victims of corruption and brutality, and that the dysfunction leads to oppression and death on a daily basis.

Apparently there were similar protests in several other capital cities around the world.

Talking to some of these young protesters I was struck again by the good fortune that we have here in Canada and the trivial nature of most of our obsessions.

Below is a very poorly lit look at the scene. In the clips you are able to hear the group as they vocalized their frustration, as well as one of the protestors as he was interviewed.

Just as a footnote, some of the sirens that I heard as I left the office had to do with what I saw after I left the Congo consulate – several blocks later I saw a three car pile-up that ended up in someone’s front yard – thankfully nobody seemed hurt. I decided not to take a photo of the unfortunate mishap as I sensed the drivers would not appreciate the gesture.

Anyway, here’s to the good people of Congo as they continue to struggle for peace, security and improved democracy.

A Song Instead of a Photo – A Day in The Life

Just over a week ago I saw the exact spot where John Lennon was shot – just outside his old apartment across the street from Central Park in New York.

At the time I snapped a photo, thinking that it was something I should capture; however when I looked at it later I just couldn’t bring myself to post it along with other photos of New York.

Obviously there is something a bit awkward about marking the spot of any cold-blooded murder, even if it doesn’t involve the killing of one of the most gifted and popular musical artists of all time.

So, rather than a photo of the entrance to the Dakota, here is one if the most amazing musical creations of all time. I absolutely love the simple melodic lines and the sound of Lennon’s melancholic voice in this song – they stand in contrast to Paul McCartney’s peppy and up-beat verse. Lennon’s vocals also contrast with the symphonic sounds of the complex orchestration throughout.

Here is “A Day In the Life”, which, although the song was co-written with McCartney, it started as a Lennon original. It is regarded as one of the Beatles’ most criticality acclaimed songs ever, and is likely the stand-out track from the most influential album of all time. (And, for good measure, below that is the perennial favourite and beautiful plea for peace –  Imagine)

A Few More Sights and Sounds of New York

One of the things we hoped to do while in Ottawa this year was to make it to New York, at least for a few days. As promised to family, and further to the post from a few days ago, here again are a few peeks at New York from our trip last weekend for Mary Frances’ b-day. (Who, by the way, came down with a nasty cold the day we arrived yet managed to hang in there for all the planned activity).

Most of this is tourist action, (i.e. Broadway, museums, and open-top buses etc.), but some is a little “off-the-path”, including a few seconds from inside the Birdland jazz club, and also inside MF’s favorite vegan cupcake shop in the world – “Baby Cakes” (she has their cookbooks). The last shot was the view from our room.

Given the scope of the city and the richness of the culture, three days in New York allows for only a superficial view, but what a view it is! The towering buildings and the cavernous street views give it character beyond description. The unseasonably warm weather and the chance to learn a little more about the City’s history was a real pleasure. Enjoy a quick sampling here. I may add some better photos taken with a proper camera later. As usual I am blogging on the run with my phone.

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