Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cara Cleaner and the Forty Thieves

It's a sad comment on the state of our house lately ... well, ok, maybe not just lately. Alright, since I was old enough to fold laundry and shut a drawer ... Except for a brief period in University, when, my room was not only clean, but sported different phases, including pink (I mean entirely pink), blue and white and the infamous twinkie light from the ceiling phase. It was relatively clean, and relatively tidy, but then, I only had one room.

Anyway, as I was saying, sad comment. Thursday was the last day of school for my oldest and so Friday I celebrated by cleaning the counters of any and all paper. I don't know about you but it feels like the school sends home half a boreal forest full of paper every year, each one inscribed with a little love note, precious drawing, or ominous "important message" so that I am either too cutified or terrified to throw most of it out. It would be fine if I had a whole other house to load the paper into or even some sort of paper station that would sort, toss and properly archive each treeling as it arrived, but the international brain bank has yet to come up with a solution for me. As it is, my counter space has been rapidly eaten up by paper. Report card replies and mortgage forms conveniently lay by the coffee maker, stacks of magazines in the bread box, lovely and generous offers to "cruise the Bahamas" and "win one of five $1,000,000,000 homes" as well as a few dozen bills that I need to pay sit stacked in the middle of the table with the centerpiece, candle and all, perched on top so they won't run away, and five or six books are strewn around just for good measure. I knew it was getting bad when I couldn't find a spot to put my spoon down and had to balance it in my teeth!

So, getting back to the story at hand, Friday I cleaned. Wow, it looked good. I felt like a pioneer, clearing the brush off the last twenty acres. The counter top was mine, all mine. I could lay out a recipe book, take out a bowl, or make a five course meal! Well ... at least, I could open a can of fruit without sticking a "return to the principle" form permanently to the counter. In my frenzy I even cleaned the kitchen floor. After supper we all went out for a drive. When we arrived home my son looked into the kitchen with big round eyes. Ah, I thought, he must be admiring mama's work.

There was a curious glint in his eyes. "Wow," he said, "did someone break into our house?"

"What?" I said, quickly scanning the room behind him to see if there was anything missing. There wasn't. "No."

He looked amazed,"Well, someone must have come in and cleaned it." his eyes locked mine seriously.

Now, this would have been a good moment to teach my son about the fine art of domestic engineering, and a prime time to lecture him on the principles of appreciation and observance. Instead, I just sent him into the kitchen.

"Take a look," I said, "if you find them, give me their number."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Englehart Derailment

I recently started doing some editing and writing for a company newsletter up here. I thought you might be interested in this story about some pretty heroic people. Who knew that civilians could also work as a first response team? Here it is:
Derailment Heroes

It could have been a disaster. A few months ago, terrifying pictures flashed across our TV screen and appeared on our front pages. A spill of sulphuric acid had occurred when an Ontario Northland train had jumped its tracks. The nation gasped. Englehart’s townspeople had been warned not to drink the water, or even use it for their livestock.

Out of the focus of the camera lenses, a brave and determined team from our site worked a marathon schedule in difficult conditions in order to make things right. “When there is a spill of our product in Canada, the closest site sends a team out right away,” says Perry Harvey, head of our team members during the cleanup. “It’s part of Xstrata’s ‘Responsible Care’ program. When a spill occurs, we are the first ones on site.” Timmins was given the call and leapt into action. Two key members of the HSMAT team were sent right away to assess the damage and begin planning, while the remaining members prepared to send eight more to battle the spill. When the team arrived, they discovered that fifteen S.A. tank rail cars, and seven box cars of zinc and copper, all our products, as well as sixteen other cars had derailed. A daunting 1.78 million pounds of acid needed to be transferred or otherwise dealt with, but this was no easy task as the terrain and the weather conditions were dangerous. The train had jumped the tracks far into the bush. If any member of the team were to become injured, it would take at least twenty minutes to get to where the ambulance was stationed. Since the acid had flowed into the Blanche River there was no potable water on site to maintain the emergency showers which would have to be used in case someone became contaminated. There were no roads into the area so all tools and supplies would have to be carefully planned. The team and their tools would need to be shipped down the rail directly to the site, and since the weather had fluctuated that weekend, the slope down to the river was treacherous.

Our team took it all in stride. Working with the utmost concern for safety and in extreme caution, they began by hosing down the area to dilute the acid so that the team could work on it. They also built safe working platforms and made a ramp and ladder to improve the footing on the slope. They were soon supplemented by the Sudbury crew who worked with them in gruelling twelve hour shifts, twenty four hours a day. Using a special pump to take the acid out of the overturned cars and into new cars, they laboured to save the product, and clean the area, all the while avoiding contamination. A few times they needed to cut new holes in the overturned tanks to retrieve the fluid. They also covered the acid laced ground with soda ash in order to neutralize it. The ash turned the acid into harmless water, heat, and carbon dioxide. Meetings took place every morning and evening to assess the progress.

It took six full days of painstaking work before the site could be declared clean and ready for the next set of workers to come in. Grateful Englehart citizens opened their stores and restaurants early and kept them open late every day just so they could serve these tired workers.
In the end our team had done an amazing job. They had transferred eleven tank cars of acid in rough terrain and poor weather conditions with no injuries and no exposures. The news was right, it could have been a disaster, but thanks in part to the work of our very own HSMAT team it was simply a job well done.

Thanks in acknowledgements section to:
Perry Harvey and Tim Miller for interview

Monday, June 25, 2007

Let's Go High Tech

Ah, the age of technology. Basking in the golden glow of the afternoon sun, eating a gourmet five course meal re hydrated moments before by my robot servant, sighing deeply as "work minute" arrives and I will have to push a button.

Ha! My robot appears to be late. My printer died last week. It was having communication problems with my hard drive and, instead of opting for therapy, it decided to crash and burn. Though not before printing off a ream of half of garble containing the mysterious message to wa---ch you-- bac---k.

The modern dream is hardly a reality. Hands up those of you who work longer than nine to five and spend half that time erasing email, printing copies of memos and rewriting important documents that disappeared in a "crash". You know what I'm talking about. So, now, I am attempting to get my new, oh so much faster printer to "talk" to my computer. Make friends, be buddy, buddy, at least exchange a curt "hello". No dice.

"I don't really need you," I threaten, "Shakespeare wrote lots of plays, really good ones, and all he had was parchment and a quill. If you won't cooperate I'm sure they still sell pencils at Staples."

Ominous silence.

The machines mock me. Ah, yes, there may be a day far, far off in the future where man and machine will live together in harmony, it working, me sipping a sweet soda, but not today. Today, they are in therapy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Open Sesame!

Yes, as promised I am jotting down another crazy adventure here in diaper land. They can completely undress, that's right, snaps, buttons, velcro, even clips are not a problem for these girls. We often find them first thing in the morning looking like they are auditioning for the role of Pat Benatar, one arm out of their shirt and hair flying in all directions. And yes, we have even found them minus their diapers.

The first such morning I awoke to hear my husband shouting, "Oh, no you don't" Which was quickly followed by a "Get in here!" and a "This is the grossest thing I have ever seen in my life!" Our beloved daughter had not only discovered the wonders of taking her diaper off, she was enchanted by what was in her diaper!

The day then proceeded as follows:
"Don't take your pants off!" "Oh, no. Where's your diaper young lady?" Get out of that ... Where are your pants?" "Just leave them on!" "How is it possible to be tied to a chair and still get your pants off?"

Finally, after chasing our daughter around the house like an escaped convict, and watching me nearly fall over from exhaustion, my husband did the only sane thing possible at that moment. He threatened her. "Keep those pants on or we're going to use duct tape!"

I really didn't believe him, but the next time I went by the change table there he was placing the the bedtime diaper on our little wriggler, duct tape in hand.

"There," he said with delight as the silver tape gleamed in the glow of the setting sun, "you'll never get out of that!"

She was suspiciously quiet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Toddlers 'R Us

They can chew through anything.
Yes, if you get low enough to the ground they may even eat you alive.
It's true. Don't let their cute little smiles lull you into false security.

Even so, I press on. This morning, serenaded by the tuneful calls of "Mommy, bottle!" I rose, traipsed out to the kitchen and filled two bottles for the hungry little nippers who were now so sweetly jumping up and down in their cribs. Now, as I gently explained to them the other day they are "so close to losing your bottles, so help me!" so keep that in mind for the following story...

An ordinary baby, when presented with a bottle after a long and hungry night would simply lie down and sip the sweet nectar, not these ladies. I reentered the room to find the first of the ladies merrily dumping said bottle on the wood floor. Not to be outdone by her sister the second of the ladies took a slurp of milk and promptly spit it on her bed sheets. "No,no, no!" I wailed, grabbing the bottles and attempting to stem the tide of flowing milk, which, had there been honey available, would have resembled Canaan, the land flowing with milk and well... you know. "This, ladies, is not what we do with our bottles."

Now. Clearly, these babies are smarter than they look. They may be all googly eyed and chubby cheeked, but fools they are not. "Bottle." said the first opening and shutting her pudgy little fist. "Bottle?" Said the second batting her cute little eyes.

"No way" I said,"I know what's going on. I know what you're going to do with it." A statement that was greeted with piteous wails all around.

"What's going on," My husband asked reaching toward the crib, "have you given them their bottles?"

"Not too close," I whispered, "they'll eat you alive."

It's true, they will.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

Yes, it is me. I have finally succumbed to the mountain of guilt that has been building since January. Yes, I have been peeking in every once and a while, watching my blog slowly die from neglect ... much like my cactus in university ... a plant that "they" said no one could kill. Ha, I say, Ha! While I realise that no one will probably read this post, still it alleviates a little of the guilt, and at the same time makes me laugh. Did anyone else notice how weird those google ads were getting? Most of the time the ads are pure entertainment value. Who knew that a post on Parental Olympics would bring up an ad about Hair Replacement? Just how did the computer figure out that one? A little scary. However, the with the last post being about smelly toots it should have been no surprise to see ad after ad of "female" problems. I don't even want to know. So here I am forced into action! I could not see my blog go down in a blanket of shame! So I will post again ....

I wonder, this time will I have the chutzpa to continue posting? Will I wait until the google ads are so bizarre that I am yet again forced into evasive action? Was Superman Returns really that bad of a movie or am I just bitter? After all, his hair stays in place while flying for crying out loud!
Stay tuned for further forays into the posting universe, where these and I am sure far less relevant questions will be asked and probably answered, irreverently of course ....