Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hard Time in the Internet Age

Apparently I've dodged a bullet, but I may be a wanted man. You might recall my abject failure in blogging from Europe last month. You may also recall my one small success in exchanging a few quick emails courtesy of a wide-open private wireless connection I encountered.

I broke the law, as it turns out. Using someone's WiFi signal without their permission is a crime in the UK. And the authorities are prosecuting. At first blush I thought this sounded a bit harsh. As I think about it a bit, I'm conflicted. It probably should be viewed as theft, but what is the best punishment?

Either way, I'm polishing my shiv.

Monday, August 27, 2007

David Tennant Saved My Marriage

For as long as I can remember, Dee and I have always had 'our show'. It's very seldom that we ever find ourselves sitting down in front of the TV at the same time, but we've always found 1 or 2 programs that we would make a point to watch together. Really, it's been an excuse to spend time with each other - and the fact that we always have a good snack and a good red wine only enhances the ritual.

Way back when, it was Twin Peaks (we're still pissed about the dancing midget ending). These days, we try to catch the Daily Show and we eagerly await the new seasons of 24 (aka Fucking Jack!) and Heroes. Lately we've been in a lull, however, as there really isn't much on the tube that we both agree deserves our limited, combined attention spans.

While our tastes are somewhat divergent in the general sense, I know she's a repressed geek. So I delicately introduced her to the The Doctor. As in Who. I have to admit something - I'm somewhat of a lapsed Doctor Who fan myself. This season I promised I'd watch every episode, with no exceptions. So one evening I casually popped in the latest epsiode that I had taped, and proceeded to watch The Doctor whilst Dee did a crossword.

Long story short - she's hooked. Now she's not content to wait 7 days between each CBC airing, so I've managed to.... ummmm.... 'find' a complete set of Series 3 that we can watch at our leisure. So now we have 'our show' again. Dee looks forward to each Doctor Who adventure, and has even wondered aloud what other 'stuff' David Tennant has done. I believe she's smitten.

I just don't have the heart to tell her there are only a few more episodes in a the current run. Maybe it's time to 'find' Series 2.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Invisible Threat

In the not too distant past it would have seemed somewhat odd to talk about terrorist threats while leafing through your vacation snapshots. Sadly, the Bogeyman is our regular traveling companion anymore. I'd swear we know some TSA agents by name down in good ol' Orlando MCO. And the sight of National Guardsman (with serious firepower at the ready) is almost an unremarkable fixture in many tourist spots throughout the US.

But Europe was different. In the UK, the threat of the Bogeyman seemed more ominous; the feeling of safety more tangible.
  • Salisbury Plain - tank crews patrolled the back-roads of Salisbury Plain as we casually strolled the walking paths of Stonehenge. Yes, the picture above is real.
  • London - as London Eye riders exit their 'capsule', 2 attendants calmly enter the capsule with over-sized dental mirrors. Their goal: search under benches and above light fixtures for anything suspicious. Oh, and don't take video footage of this process - they don't like that at all. Trust me.
  • Portsmouth - the current terror threat level is causally posted for all to see in this, the home of the British Navy. Two heavily-armed (i.e. automatic assault rifles) security officers stand watch over a group of burka-clad ladies and their children as holiday photos are snapped beside the HMS Victory. The security officers don't pretend to be doing anything other than watching these people. When the Muslim tourists move, so does the security detail.
  • UK in general - We heard a statistic on the radio as we putt-putted down the M4. The UK employs more CCTV (security) cameras per capita than anywhere else in the world. While actual numbers are not known, the estimate is something close to 1 camera for every 12 people. That's over 5,000,000 cameras keeping citizens safe - or something. George Orwell sprang to mind as London police arrested the latest batch of terrorist suspects based on CCTV evidence.
France - or rather Paris - was another story. The only overt security we really saw were a few soldiers patrolling a railway crossing in the middle of nowhere as we sped by on the Eurostar. As well, the President's residence enjoyed the protection of a few dozen Surete and soldiers. Their job was mostly standing around making idle chit-chat and some occasional spirited blowing of whistles at rubbernecking tourists.

Beyond this, it seemed that the French are somewhat half-hearted about the whole idea of terrorist threats - no armed officers prowling tourist hot-spots, no posted threat levels. There were some very token bag inspections at the Louvre and Disneyland, but that was it. Our hotel was a stone's throw from the Saudi and Japanese embassies, but we saw exactly one rent-a-cop in the vicinity. His job: keep the illegal parkers from his part of the street.

Two countries. Two realities. And both different than ours. It's a strange old world, isn't it?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Checking Out

Because I work much too hard, I'm taking a week off for our annual pilgrimage to Dee's family cottage. I wish we could get an Innertube connection there. One can only spend so many nights playing Rummoli and dreaming of air conditioning and indoor plumbing.

Nevertheless, I shall be back next week with a few more self-absorbed posts about Europe. Brace yourselves.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Meezer No More

We've lost a few friends in the past 12 months - both the 2-legged and 4-legged types. And just when we thought this particular planetary alignment had been re-shuffled towards chaos, it spent the last of its cosmic influence on the weakest among us.

We were compelled to commit little Maple to the oblivion of the veterenarian's needle yesterday. She had been a member of the family for a scant 6 weeks or so, but the last 10 days saw her change: drastically, rapidly. Within a few days of our return from Europe, Maple had become lethargic and her apetite was lacking. Even her favourite game of 'chasing the little plastic thing down the hall' could not hold her interest.

By coincidence, we received word from the Cat Breeder that there had been problems in Maple's litter, and that we should call her if we noticed persistent sluggishness. We called and learned that Maple's father had passed along a disease called FIP - Feline Infectious Peritonitus. This wasting disease has no cure, no accurate test beyond autopsy, and is always fatal.

Maple stopped eating. She stopped playing. She spent the past week just sitting in patches of sunlight trying to keep warm while she dozed. We brought her water and we sat with her. She seemed to like that and, sometimes, she'd summon the energy to crawl into someone's lap for a neck scratch. Unfortunately there was little else we could do and, with Dr. Sears' blessing, we decided to end Maple's suffering rather than commit her to a painful and sad end brought about by a full run of FIP.

The kids are devastated. This was the 'real pet' they had never been able to have in the house until they discovered the uniqueness of Siberian cats. Now she's gone. To their credit they put Maple first, however. JediBoy put her in the carrier, kept Maple calm during the car ride, brought her into the vet's office, and handed her over. There were (and are) lots of tears, but we all played the best hand with cards that had been dealt.

Under the circumstances, Cat Breeder has dealt with this well. Maple's father has been sterilized and removed from the cattery. The other cats have been isolated according to standard FIP protocol. We have the choice of a refund or a new kitten (apparently this not the case with all breeders, so our vet tells us).

We'll have to decide what we want. While she wasn't with us long, Maple will not be forgotten - or replaced.