gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for April 2009

US Swine flu protocols seem a bit extreme

April 30, 2009 @ 12:53 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Seen on the 'net

By now you’re probably aware of the Swine flu outbreak that’s wreaking havoc everywhere. People are cancelling vacations, athletes are competing in front of empty stadia and some people are even dying because of it. Consequently, governments are starting to come up with protocols to be followed when someone is suspected of having it. The most extreme protocol is almost certainly the one announced by Secretary Napolitano of the US Department of Homeland Security in a briefing she gave yesterday. I’ve extracted the relevant paragraph here, with emphasis as required:

We’re also actively monitoring travelers at our land, sea, and air ports. We’re watching them for signs of illness, and we have appropriate protocols in place to deal with those who are sick. Precautions are being taken to protect travelers and border personnel. Anyone exhibiting symptoms is being referred to an isolation room where they can be evaluated by a public health official before proceeding to their destruction.


(To be fair to Secretary Napolitano, I do note that since I started to write this entry they’ve corrected the release so that it reads “… before proceeding to their destination.”)

Kudos and thanks to SGA Signs and Trophies

April 29, 2009 @ 00:29 By: gordon Category: General

Recently, I had to order some small trophies for my curling league and have some engraving done. I went to Globe Trophy & Engraving, the same place I went to last year, and talked to the salesperson. They pulled up my order from last year and said they would order the same items and they promised they would have them ready for pickup at noon on the 23rd, which meant I would have them in time for the awards banquet that evening. I thanked them and said I would email them the details for the engraving in a few days once I’d finished crunching the numbers. I also wanted to order some curling pins, but they didn’t have anything in their catalogue that was appropriate, so I decided to call around.

Happy that I’d placed the order for the trophies, I headed off and scouted out a supplier for the pins, SGA Signs and Trophies. I talked to them on the phone and they said they would order the pins, engrave the year on them and have them ready for pickup in a couple of days.

A couple of days passed and I picked up the pins on-schedule.

“Excellent!” thought I. “I love it when a plan comes together.”

And then I went to pick up the trophies from Globe, which is when the plan unravelled.

I walked in and said I was there to pick up my trophies. The guy looked slightly confused, but maybe that’s his normal expression. He went into the back for a while and then someone else came out and said he’d check up on the first guy. After a wait, the salesperson I dealt with originally came out with three trophy cups, which is when I got a really bad feeling.

“We can’t find your order. Are you sure you ordered them?” she said.

“Uh, yes. I’m positive. I was here and you and I talked. You said you’d order them and that they would absolutely, positively be ready for pick up on the 23rd, which is today.”

“I’ve checked the system, and I can’t find any record of an order. I do remember talking to you, though.”

“How can you not have ordered them? That’s the basis of your whole business! You order things for customers, engrave them and the customer picks them up. Now I’m left without the trophies and it’s the day of the banquet. I’m not happy about this.”

“Well, we can engrave these cups and order the trophies you wanted. Then you can pick them up next week and pay for them then.”

“And how much is that going to cost me?”

“Well…” <flipping through catalogue and pointing to the price> “…this much plus engraving.”

“On top of the cups?”


It was at this point I pulled out my cellphone and called SGA Signs and Trophies and explained the situation to them.

“No problem, sir. We can help you out. If you can drop by, we’ll have them ready in a couple of hours.”

And so I left, pausing to tell them I was heading to their competition who could fulfill my order.

Upon arrival at SGA Signs and Trophies, I looked through the available trophies, selected three and give them the engraving. They said they’d be ready in a couple of hours. Excellent!

When I returned a couple of hours later, the trophies were ready. In fact, they noticed the trophy I selected for skip of the year was missing a bit so they prepared an alternative trophy, complete with the name plate. The trophy they suggested was better than the original one, so I went with it.

So, I have nothing but good things to say about SGA Signs and Trophies. If you’re looking for trophies for a sports league or you want to have something engraved or any of the other services such as having paint stencils or signs made, visit SGA Signs and Trophies. Ask for Imad and tell him Gordon sent you. 🙂

Gimme a B!

April 25, 2009 @ 13:12 By: gordon Category: General

B Like many civil servants, I’m in a position that has a requirement to be bilingual. When I started this job in the fall of 2007, I had to sign an agreement to attain a BBB bilingual rating within two years.

Government bilingualism ratings consist of three letters from A to E (there’s also an X), one each for reading, writing and speaking. The levels for each component can be summed up thus:

  • A is a basic ability to read/write/speak the second language.
  • B means you can handle most situations and concepts.  This is usually the minimum requirement for reading, writing or speaking in a bilingual position. A lot of positions have a BBB requirement.
  • C means you have an advanced ability, just shy of someone who’s first language is your second language. More senior positions often have a CBC or CCC requirement.
  • E means you read, right or speak the second language so well that you’ll never have to be tested on that element again.
  • X is a much-feared assessment because it means you don’t have even a functional ability. Avoid the X!

I’ve had a CBA rating for a couple of years, so I’ve been taking part-time French courses to practice speaking French.  It seems those courses have paid off because I obtained a B on the speaking component of a test I took last week. This means I have a CBB, which means I meet the requirements of my position. (In fact, the C was 2 points shy of an E.)

I’m really happy about this because I was scheduled to go on full-time French training for at least 18 weeks starting in May. Instead, I can continue working on my projects at work and can even take some time off this summer.

Yay me!

International Day for Monuments and Sites

April 18, 2009 @ 07:25 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Heritage

18april Every 18th of April, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an organization I’ve been involved with since the very early 1990s, celebrates the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This year’s theme is Heritage and Science.

Heritage and science are inextricably woven together in two distinct ways. Science and technology lead to the creation of heritage and have for many years. From ancient observatories like Kokino in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to more modern sites like Maritime Greenwich in the UK, astronomy is but one of the fields of science that has had a profound impact on heritage.

At the same time, science and technology provide insights into heritage on a scale unheard of even a century ago. Application of science and technology such as radioisotope dating like carbon dating, X-ray diffraction and information management systems to new conservation tools and techniques mean that we can learn increasing amounts of information about artefacts and the cultures they come from.

The Internet and the World Wide Web have provided incredible opportunities for people in the heritage conservation field to communicate to each other and to the public at large. My involvement with ICOMOS over the years started with the creation of a gopher server followed shortly thereafter by ICOMOS’ first website, which was one of the earliest websites on the Internet. ICOMOS was the first international heritage organization in the world to have a presence on the Internet, something I’m very proud to have had a role in. It has lead to a grassroots group concerned about the imminent demolition of a heritage property in the UK finding the information they needed to convince the authorities to revoke the demolition permit and get the property designated. A reporter in Japan wrote a series of articles about the theft of carved stones from Japanese heritage sites that appeared in a national daily newspaper, raising the profile of these thefts.

Clearly, science and technology have had a profound impact on heritage and vice versa. I encourage you to visit ICOMOS’ 18 April website at 18april.icomos.org to learn more about the International Day for Monuments and Sites.

No charge for that, sir

April 17, 2009 @ 01:12 By: gordon Category: General, Out and about

My Tracker had been sounding kind of throaty for a couple of days and when I poked at the tail pipe is swung back and forth. Not good.

So, last weekend I stopped by Active Green + Ross on Bank Street about an hour before they closed to see if they could do something to make it better. One of their technicians put the Tracker on a hoist and took a look. It turns out that the tail pipe was no longer attached to the resonator, and thus the rest of the exhaust system, and was only being held in place by a rubber anti-vibration mount.

He suggested that he could cut the heat shield off the resonator, slip a slightly larger piece of pipe over the resonator and cut the end on an angle, too. This sounded like a reasonable interim solution so I said “go for it”. After ten or fifteen minutes, he had crafted a temporary tail pipe.

When I went to pay for it, the person at the counter said “don’t worry about it”.  “Seriously?” I asked holding out my credit card.  “Yup. If you decide to replace the muffler, hopefully you’ll come back to us.”

Wow! Here’s a company that gets it. For the cost of a couple of feet of pipe, a clamp and fifteen minutes of the technician’s time, they’ve done more to make me want to go back to them than any advertising campaign could.

So, if you need a muffler replaced or other maintenance done on your car you should check out Active Green + Ross.

A particularly stereotypical Monday

April 06, 2009 @ 12:14 By: gordon Category: General

So, I leaped dragged myself out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed half dead this morning expecting to take the test for the spoken part of my French second language equivalency rating this morning. With a sore throat and trying to cough up a lung about once a minute the test was shaping up to be a magical experience. The unexpected snow this morning was just icing on the cake.

As I staggered to work, my cellphone rang. It was the voicemail system at work calling because someone had left a message. I punched in my password and listened to a message from the language testing people. My test, which had already been rescheduled once because of a scheduling snafu, was cancelled because the examiner was sick. I arrived at work, checked my email and then promptly went home sick.

Some days when you think it’s really not worth getting out of bed you should seize that thought and run with it.

Maybe Tuesday will be more of a success.