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The Remembrance Day Ceremony for Montreal was held on our campus due to renovations at its normal venue. They had four cannons do the 21-gun salute to signal the beginning and the end of two minutes of silence; those were easily heard from my office. They were late, though--I'd already done my personal minute of silence at 11am.

~

I just got confirmed to take part in a fibromyalgia study being done by a McGill doctor. An excerpt from her website talks about her previous research:

Dr. M. Catherine Bushnell, Canada Research Chair in Clinical Pain Research, is addressing these far-reaching effects of chronic pain in her work. She has shown that grey matter in the brains of patients with fibromyalgia (an incurable condition of chronic muscle and connective tissue pain) decreases more rapidly with age than does that of healthy individuals.

It does? That doesn't sound good. :(

Here's what the study I'm in is about:

The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of fibromyalgia on the brain, on how people feel pain, and on how they think and remember. We expect that the results of this study may improve our understanding of fibromyalgia and related chronic pain conditions. The results in the patients will be compared to those in healthy control subjects, which is why you are invited to take part in the study.

Your participation in the study will involve a telephone interview of around 15 minutes, two visits to the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain that will both last for 1.5-2 hours and one 1-1.5 hour brain imaging session at the Montreal Neurological Institute.


I'm a bit nervous because one of the sessions will involve "apply[ing] non-painful and painful warm, cold and pressure stimuli to your hand, arm, or leg" until my tolerance level is reached. A "nail bed" is mentioned (WTF O_O). However, in the end I will get $200, a free MRI (I hope they let me see the result! I want a picture of my brain ^_^;), and the satisfaction of having participated in something that may help me down the line.

In fact, during my pre-screening, I was told how progress has been made in fibromyalgia research (to the point where they have decided that it shouldn't even be called fibromyalgia because it has nothing to do with the fibrous things and pretty well everything to do with the brain, so they are unofficially calling it "acute all-over pain" or something like that) and the doctor gave me the names of a couple of pain-managing drugs to ask my real doctor about. So I should really call my doctor (haven't seen him in like 3 years).

~

The birthdays have come and gone, and the whole family went out to dinner to celebrate back on November 1. We went to our usual spot, but this time we had the worst service ever. The waitress was a lady in her 40s, not our usual one, and we did find out that only two waitresses were working while the place was filling up. So delays with getting our food and some slow service were expected and understandable.

What we could not tolerate was the service itself. There is no other way to put this except by giving a list of her infractions:

-Although we had been there before the place got crowded, it took forever to get her to even give us menus. When she did, she practically tossed the menus onto the table, hitting Paul in the head with one that slipped out of her hands because she was trying to hand them out at such furious speed.

-After taking forever to come back to take our order, she did so by leaning down on the table between us, crowding whoever was right there and putting her elbows in their face. Who does that? Why couldn't she write on the pad in her hand like every other waitress in the world?

-She was extremely abrupt in taking our orders, every word she said sounding curt as she rushed us along. She didn't ask us what we wanted to drink, and if you forgot to include a drink while she was rushing you, too bad for you.

-Our appetizers arrived, and some people were supposed to have soup or salad that came with their table d'hote choice. I had specifically requested no soup and I didn't need a salad because it already came with my meal. The waitress arrived with too many soups, curtly demanded who had ordered them, and then was left with extra soups in her hand. She insisted that one of them was mine. I told her I had said I didn't want it, and her response was to slam it down in front of me and tell me to "just give it to someone else, then".

-Getting her attention for anything was next to impossible. If you tried to flag her down she would respond brusquely and usually with a "talk to the hand" gesture. By this point we were all very pissed off. My bro is easily angered, but for some reason nothing angers Da like bad restaurant service so he was really irritated too. Paul was barely containing his temper over having been hit in the head with the menu, and I was angry too, which doesn't happen often (I normally have way too much patience in that kind of situation). It's too bad that we were at a big table in the back away from the other patrons, because we would have had no problem loudly proclaiming the situation to them had they been within polite earshot.

-While waiting for our meals (for an hour), Kel managed to grab the waitress and ask her about drinks. The response was "Oh, you want your drinks now?" and Kel was like "Uh, no, we want to order our drinks." The drink order was finally taken, but in the same rudely abrupt manner.

-When our meals finally arrived, Da's didn't. And didn't. And still didn't. He got a hold of the waitress and got angry at her, and it was obvious that she was stressed but the way she kept saying that she was sorry--and patting him on the arm as she did--showed that she wasn't sorry at all. We were also very sure that she had no idea that her behaviour was utterly unacceptable. Eventually his meal arrived when the rest of us were finishing ours.

-Those of us with the table d'hote were supposed to have gotten a free Jello dessert with the meal. Instead we just asked for the bill. Knowing it wouldn't arrive soon, we said screw dessert, put our coats on and marched to the front and demanded the bill NOW. The guy in charge was running the cash, and the waitress handed the bill directly to him to add up rather than do it herself.

As he did that, we told him how disgusted we were with her behaviour. The bill was $120 for 10 people. We left no tip. ZERO. We told him exactly why, so I wonder if she'll be reprimanded, but either way, I don't think we're going back there again.

So, yeah...nice birthday meal. At least my whole family was united in our disgust for her!

~

The Graduate Coordinator in one of our sister departments died (unexpected for most people since he apparently kept his illness a secret until almost the end) at the unfortunate young age of 44. This left them with no replacement, so they have asked to borrow me for a half or whole day per week to help them out (with compensation, possibly overtime-level) until they can get that position filled. I didn't know the guy beyond a couple of email conversations and seeing him at meetings, but I learned that he was active in McGill's gay community and was married to a male professor from another Montreal university. It's good to know that we live in a country where he was allowed to marry the person he loved so that they could have that time before he died.

~

We finally got an estimate from the tub refinishers, and at last have an appointment on November 26 to have our tub and wall tiles refinished. It will cost us just over $1000 but the tub--the 40-year-old original tub--will look like new, and so will the tiles. And then that weekend Paul should be able to put the floor in, then the fixtures, and then at last we'll have a fully-functioning bathroom upstairs again! By then it will have been over two months since we had an upstairs toilet.

~

My niece Alexa is two months old today and is growing like crazy. She had thrush but is all better now. One thing I'm learning with her, though, is just how hard it is going to be for me to even hold any baby of my own someday. Babies' heads are hard, and after only a month I was no longer able to cradle her in my arms because the pressure of her heavy head on my arm hurt too much. And even with my arm propped on a pillow so that I don't have to hold her up myself, I couldn't manage it for long. I can hold her up over my shoulder but even that can't last too long--especially since she still can't hold her head up but she sure can loll it around and smack my shoulder several times with it like it's some kind of weapon.

But apparently I do want one of my own. I've found that I've been thinking about it more and more lately. I kind of wanted to be childfree to save myself the pain but it's not turning out that way. It turns out I can like babies--not as much as I like kids, but there it is. I think I'd be a pretty good mom, and Paul a good dad. Then again, I haven't had to change a dirty diaper yet, so that may change...

(And I'm still a kid magnet. I was at a wedding back in late September, and a bunch of us were in a group dancing. All of a sudden I felt something take my hand--it was the little flower girl, about five years old. She didn't say a word, but she took both my hands, drew me away from the group, and danced with me for one song, not letting go the whole time. When the song was over she went back to her mother, and I didn't see her go up to any other stranger to do that all night. O_o)


~


And now reviews of new things I've been watching this season, just for the hell of it.

GLEE
I got into this randomly after someone posted a scene from it on Facebook. I adore the music, and the insane cheerleading coach is the best character to watch. Some of the dialogue is amusing, but the plots...we're what, 8 episodes in, and they've already used "Character X might quit the Glee Club!" for at least half of them. The rest of it is weird-yet-trite high school drama that is pretty boring, and all of the stereotypes are painful. I'll keep coming back for the songs, though.


FLASH FORWARD
I've actually owned this book for a few years, and when the series began I decided to reread it. That done, I'm not sure I like what the series is doing with it. The book tells you in the first three pages that turning on the Large Hadron Collider is what causes the Flashforward, which propels humanity's consciousness twenty years into the future, not six months. The rest of the book follows a few characters--the scientists who were involved with the LHC for the most part. It is not an action/mystery novel, except for one small part. It is a story of how people deal with what happened and the possible inevitability of it, both at the personal level and the level of humanity as a whole.

I find it annoying that they have decided to make this series into a giant Lost-type conspiracy/mystery. I realize that blaming it on the LHC is no longer quite relevant, but making it a mystery takes away from what the real story is supposed to be. In the book we have things like the airplane industry taking a huge hit, as people are afraid to fly because they don't know if the blackout will happen again. Eventually CERN publicly takes responsibility so that people can get back to their lives knowing that the blackout won't spontaneously happen again. In the series, it should be at least mentioned that the world is afraid of getting back to normal because nobody knows if it will happen again...except the show is too busy focusing on its Big Mystery. The book gives us tidbits of changes taking place in the world (economy, government, etc) because of what people saw. The series doesn't seem to care.

Spoilers:
Last episode involved something that was a huge turning point in the book: A character who had a flashforward killed himself, thus proving that the future was not fixed. In the book it's a person who is depressed because he always thought that someday he would make it as a writer and his flashforward proved that even in twenty years he was still going to be in a minimum-wage job. There was also the overall idea that the flashforward ruined people's lives by dashing hopes and dreams, even for people who were obviously still alive in twenty years. What does the series do? It suddenly foists this pivotal idea on a character who during barely a few minutes of one episode is shown to have accidentally killed someone in the future. To prevent this from happening, he commits suicide.

I'm annoyed by this. It feels silly that they had to up the ante to make it a noble sacrifice (one brought on by guilt, but it was played as a sacrifice) instead of the simple yet poignant idea of the loss of hope for one's future. The other thing that sucked about it was that something that was a turning point in the book, and indeed had repercussions for all of humanity, was only the B-plot of the episode, while the FBI agents ran around with their conspiracy as the A-plot. I have to admit that the idea of the "Ghosts" meeting to do crazy things because they think they'll all be dead in six months is an interesting one that wasn't in the book, but tying it all in with more conspiracy takes away from it, IMO.
End spoilers

Also, BOO to what they've done to the only character to escape the book with his name intact. Lloyd Simcoe, the scientist in charge of the LHC experiment, is the main character of the book, along with Theo, his assistant. Scientists, not FBI agents, and not shadowy conspiracy types. Neither of them are American, either. Author Robert Sawyer is Canadian, and so Lloyd is Canadian, while Theo is Greek and the various other characters are part of the international scientific community and come from all over. But apparently in the series Lloyd has to be British or something, because that makes him sound more charming/evil/whatever, and all the rest of the main characters have to be American. And FBI agents because those are much more IMPORTANT and full of ACTION than scientists. They've given part of Lloyd's role to FBI agent Mark and what's left is not the same at all. They gave Theo's part as the guy who doesn't have a flashforward because he will be murdered to FBI agent Demetri, so instead of a young scientist having to play detective on his own, we have a guy with the resources of the FBI (not to mention more of a reason to have been killed). It's just not quite the same.

This has the potential to be a good series, but they should focus on the overall human drama a bit more. The impact that something like this would have on humanity is so much more interesting than a conspiracy involving dolls and blue hands and WTFever.


V
I'm a fan of the original miniseries, so of course I have to watch this too. It's a reimagining, and overall it seems on-track to keep the same themes and the same character types, with the added concept of the "they were already here" bit. I don't mind that. I do somewhat mind that we have once again replaced the main-character scientist with an FBI agent. What is up with that? IIRC, Juliet was a biochemist or something of that sort, so when she became a Resistance leader, it was something completely outside of her norm and showed what an ordinary citizen could do if they had to. Erica is obviously the Juliet character and has FBI training to back her up, so she's already got what she needs to be that type of leader instead of growing into it. Aside from that, I have no problem with the Mike Donovan character being a priest--it sort of amalgamates two characters, since there was a priest in the Resistance in the original. Already the Daniel character is in place, although they seem to have changed his motivation for joining the Visitor version of Hitler Youth from looking for purpose and power to doing it for a pretty girl. Meh.

I did find that the pilot moved kind of too quickly, with a lot of reveals for just the first hour of a show. We have the Visitors arriving, we find out they're not the good guys they seem to be, we find out about the conspiracy of them already having had people on Earth for years, and we find out that they're lizards underneath the human skin. Really all that's left to reveal is the true reason why they're here (and they had better not change that!).

It's not clear to me who the Tyler character will be yet. Obviously they will never find anyone as badass as Michael Ironside (the first role we knew him in, so that even to this day I only have to call him Tyler and my sibs know who I'm talking about), but they should at least try.

The reporter character is a guy instead of a woman, but is shaping up to be the same so far.

Morena Baccharin's short hair is terrible. She is a beautiful woman and had such beautiful hair, and that haircut is just awful.

The V naming conventions seem to still exist so far, with female names ending in "a" and male names ending in "n".

I totally miss the red and black Visitor uniforms, and the Visitors don't have the reverb in their voices that set them apart from humans in the original (something that the Resistance had to come up with a way to duplicate when they went undercover). I know it was kind of 80s, but it was still awesome!

One thing that is off is the idea of calling the Visitors "V's" and painting the V on buildings as support for the Visitors. This is entirely backwards from how it should be. They are called the Visitors, but even though my child self insisted on calling them V's, my bro informed me over and over that they were not also called V's, and that the spray-painted V was actually a symbol of the Resistance--"V" for the victory that they hoped for. So it's kind of amusing that everything I got wrong about this as a child has actually been turned around to be made fact for this series.


~

Anyhoo, that's about it. If I think of anything else, I'll just add it in.
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December 2010

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