Monthly Archives: January 2014

Hump Day: The day Uncle Brian learned good manners from his nephew

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

On Christmas Day, my seven-year-old nephew received a retro toy as one of his gifts: Connect Four. The game is kind of like tic-tac-toe, except that you need to line up four disks of the same colour across a number of standing slots in order to win. The game requires some strategic thinking and the ability to think ahead by several moves — sort of like chess, although perhaps not as advanced.

My nephew loves the game and was really happy to find it under the tree at my mother’s, a gift from his cousin. Ignoring all other shiny baubles and electronics, he asked me to set up the game for him right away. Of course, I obliged. I was even hoping he’d challenge me to a game. The poor little thing would get clobbered.

Unfortunately, in my case, challenging me even to a game for little kids is enough to unleash the competitive hounds of hell from deep within my cold black heart. I take no prisoners. I was going to wipe the floor with him and quite possibly destroy his self-esteem forever. He would likely end up a broken man. That’s how badly I would beat him.

Connect fourNow, I kind of didn’t know that he’d been playing this game every day at daycare since 1835. Don’t ask me how a seven-year-old could have been playing a game since 1835, but he must have been. All that practice made him quite a little diabolical Connect Four prodigy. “Do you want to play, Uncle Brian?” Well, of course I did. I hadn’t humiliated anyone yet that day, I thought. Might as well start with my nephew. My cold black heart needed fuel and the tears of a little boy on Christmas morning getting trounced game after game by his terrible uncle would be just what it needed.

About 15 minutes later, I was a sobbing mess. Here I was, a grown man being completely shattered at Connect Four by a short red-haired monster who did not know the meaning of the word mercy. “Connect Four!” he would say as soon as he won. “Connect Four!” I grew to hate those words.

Finally, at some point, he got distracted by something shiny across the room (he’s only seven, after all) and made a mistake, allowing me to win. “Finally! You little (insert bad word here)!” I exclaimed. There were dirty looks around the table aimed at me. Oops! I guess I got a little too competitive for my own good.

“Good job!” my nephew said as he congratulated me. “Do you want to play again?” At that moment, I felt like the Grinch when he hears all the Whos down in Whoville start singing even though he’d just stolen all their Christmas presents. Good job? I’d just called him a (insert bad word here) when he won and he told me, “Good job!” when I won. What’s wrong with this picture? Why are you being… fair?

Now, you’d think I would have shed a tear at that moment, recognized my evil ways and had a beautiful halo appear over my head accompanied by the voices of a thousand angels. A renowned artist would have been hard at work creating a beautiful Uncle of the Year Award for me — commissioned by the United Nations, of course. Oprah would be on the telephone literally begging me to host my own show on her network. Pope Francis would rename St. Peter’s Basilica to Uncle Brian’s Basilica.

You’d think that, wouldn’t you? In fact, that generous feeling lasted about five seconds. “OK, let’s play again, you little (insert bad word here).” Several other matches ensued, with me taking the upper hand in victories due to the fact that I was catching on in regards to game strategy and that he’s only seven. After each victory, he continued to say, “Good job!” (Obviously, a habit he picked up from the good people at school and daycare.)

I, on the other hand, was going through murder-suicide scenarios in my head every time I lost. No, not murdering my nephew, of course. That would be a bit harsh. But that game; that darn game… it would meet a quick and painful death in the driveway under my winter studded tires because, you know, Connect Four games just magically end up in the middle of the driveway on Christmas morning. Happens all the time. And if it accidentally got broken into a million pieces, well, those things happen too. Call me the Tony Soprano of games I’m not that good at. They must die.

You know what, though? I do greatly admire the fact that he would say “Good job!” after each move I’d make or each game I’d win. Having turned into a stark-raving mad competitive jerk-uncle, I certainly didn’t reciprocate. He would even teach me which moves I should have made in order to win.

Who was this little freak? Was he crazy? How was he going to handle the cruel world out there by encouraging others to do their best and showing people how to win? Where was his killer instinct? Where was his competitive nature? Why wasn’t he rabidly trying to win each game through temper tantrums and dirty tricks like jerk-uncle here?

Obviously, he’s the family shame. I mean, really! Telling me I did a good job when I did well. Encouraging me along the way. Patiently teaching me the best strategic moves. Oh woe is us! Why have you brought shame and pestilence upon the good Cormier name?

Well, in the end, I guess he’s not so bad. Maybe I need to tone down my competitiveness a tad. And he did show some good qualities that Christmas morning of which I should be proud. Something tells me, in the end, that he’ll be just fine. To his parents, grandparents, teachers and daycare leaders, it’s my turn to say, “Good job!”

Hump Day: Unsettling family photos harken back to a harsher time

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

HEADS UP: There’s a photo near the end of this post which may be upsetting to some.

With technology these days, it’s difficult to imagine the great lengths through which people went in days gone by in order to get a photo taken. It was expensive, awkward and difficult. Unless you stood deathly still (that’s foreshadowing for what’s coming up, by the way), the photo also tended to be slightly blurry.

Today, those of us with smartphones may take dozens of photos per day — many of them being “selfies,” the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2013 Word of the Year. In the pre-digital age, some of us would take the odd selfie or two, but wasting film and developing costs on this silliness was a waste of money.

I remember my late friend George from university would always take a selfie if he found your camera lying around. Since you couldn’t preview the photos you took like you can these days, you often didn’t know until you picked up your photos after being developed. “Oh what a nice photo of us at the party. That’s a not a very good photo of John. And… George!!! When did you get hold of my camera?”

This would inevitably lead to a fit of irreverent laughter from George. It was pretty difficult to stay mad at him and was all in harmless fun. I think I have one or two of his selfies tucked away in old photo albums somewhere.

I look back at the photos of my youth. Being the oldest child in my family, it seems like every milestone was documented, including birthdays, Christmas, being held in the arms of practically every living relative, the obligatory butt shot (me standing up with the help of leaning on the television screen), and an infamous diaper change photo taken right before my parents left the house for my baptism. (Apparently my timing for bodily functions wasn’t exactly convenient.) There was my mother dressed to the nines for church and holding me up by the ankles while slathering on ointment.

The brother and sister who followed aren’t nearly as well documented, however. Their toddler years are barely documented through photography, likely due to the fact that by the time my sister was born my parents had three children under the age of four. There was likely hardly enough time to breathe let alone snap photos of every burp.

Needless to say, there are no photos of my brother’s or sister’s baptism. My sister was probably baptized at lightning speed as my brother or I was probably crying or having a tantrum. I can just imagine the scene at my sister’s baptism and my mother thinking to herself, “Hurry up and throw some water on that damn baby so we can get the other two down for their naps before they drive me insane! Throw the water! Throw it now! Just spit on her! You’re a priest! I’m sure God won’t mind!”

As the years have passed, cameras have become a huge part of our lives. Through digital cameras and smartphones, virtually every aspect of our modern lives are documented — sometimes overly documented, mind you, but they’re documented at least. We don’t even think twice anymore about taking photos — or videos for that matter since every camera and smartphone out there also (usually) takes excellent video.

I had a couple of uncles who blessed us by taking family movies. What a treat to see everyone back then. Old photos are one thing but watching videos of your grandparents kissing in their backyard in the 1960s, your grandmother dancing a little jig at your late aunt’s wedding or Christmas morning at your cousins’ house is all something really special.

Which leads me to the foreshadowing comment from the opening paragraph. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, family photographs were rare. They were expensive and a true luxury. It was perhaps only on very special occasions such as weddings that a photographer would be hired. Regular households most certainly didn’t have their own camera. They were large and clunky and God knows which nefarious chemicals had to be used to develop the photos anyway.

Weddings weren’t the only special occasions for which photographers were hired. I’ve always had a bit of a morbid fascination (probably because it’s so tragic) with Victorian-era post-mortem photography, or taking photos of people after they’ve died for historical purposes.

Back then, minor infections by today’s standards could be deadly, not to mention epidemics such as influenza. If someone died, especially a baby or younger person before their wedding, the only way to remember them was to hire a photographer, often for a family photo. Yes, it sounds creepy and morbid, but there was no alternative. They didn’t have hundreds or thousands of photos like we do today. They had none, until they had to have one or forever forget what their loved one looked like. Hard to imagine today!

Victorian era - twins
Likely the first and only photo of these twin brothers together… but only after the brother on the right had passed away.

Many such photos are available online and offer a fascinating view into history. There are mothers posing with their deceased children; toddlers propped up using contraptions to make them look alive; and siblings posing with their late brother or sister. One heartbreaking photo is of two brothers in their early teens sitting on a sofa — one brother with his arm around the other, his dead brother’s head lying on his shoulder. Both are dressed formally for the occasion, the first and last photo ever taken of the deceased.

Whenever we complain about all these photos being taken in today’s modern society, try to remember what a luxury it was in days of yore when your one and only photo was taken after you’d gone through the Pearly Gates. Now, say “Cheese!”

Dieppe native Caroline Savoie moves past first round on France’s version of The Voice

Caroline Savoie
Caroline Savoie

Dieppe singer Caroline Savoie wowed the judges on France’s version of The Voice in an episode aired January 18, 2014. In fact, all four judges wanted to have her on their team in the hopes of her being the eventual winner. Despite being woefully uninformed about Acadie, the judges all desperately wanted to work with her. Eventually, European pop star Mika was chosen by Caroline as her mentor. (For some reason, he also spoke to her in English instead of French.)

Here’s Caroline’s successful audition:

 

And if you didn’t know who Mika was before watching the above clip, here’s a video of his song Grace Kelly which topped the UK singles chart for five weeks in 2007. He was also nominated for an Emmy in 2008 for best dance recording for Love Today.

GMSC continues to evolve its structure; commits to long-term capital investments to further enhance its wastewater treatment activities

GMSC logo

NEWS RELEASE

January 17, 2014
For immediate release

Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission continues to evolve its structure; commits to long-term capital investments to further enhance its wastewater treatment activities

RIVERVIEW, N.B. – The Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission (GMSC) remained very active in 2013.

Significant inroads were made in regards to overhauling the organizational structure and internal managerial and financial capabilities as a result of recommendations flowing from a human resources study and report by Battah & Associates.

In May 2013, the GMSC received an all-encompassing report entitled “Wastewater Conveyance Asset Development and Ownership Study – Preparing the Commission for its Next 30 Years,” commissioned from Richard F. Gabbey of Crandall Engineering Ltd. The report addressed and made recommendations regarding all aspects of the organization from its legal structure and governance, to its cost-recovery model and jurisdiction/limits.

Since that time, the Commission has been investing significant effort into reviewing and – where appropriate – implementing these recommendations in order to ensure long-term issues are addressed and that it positions itself to best deliver on its mandate for municipal ratepayers.

From the financial perspective, the Commissioners have deemed it imperative that funds be put aside for use as part of its capital program to ensure it meets new federal effluent regulations prior to the 2020 deadline.

“I am pleased to confirm that, in 2013, the GMSC was able to move $11.2 million to its capital reserves to be used for our planned biological treatment upgrade project to meet secondary treatment regulation requirements,” said GMSC Chair Winston Pearce. “Over the past year, we were also able to generate more than $400,000 in interest on our investments and bring our capital reserves to more than $26.7 million as we prepare for major investments over the next decade.”

The Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission was established in 1983 to support the wastewater collection and treatment needs of the Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview tri-community. Since then, it has developed a 30-kilometre collection network and a treatment facility to best deliver on this mandate. It has also become a leader in the reuse of biosolids through the generation of type “AA” compost (the highest grade currently achieved in Canada) as opposed to disposal in a landfill site. The organization is now positioning itself to further upgrade its facilities to provide an enhanced secondary treatment approach that will allow it to meet recently introduced mandatory federal regulations prior to the 2020 deadline.

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Media contact:

Winston Pearce
Chair
Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission
506-381-0899
winston.pearce@gmsc.nb.ca

Hump Day: Cold-wracked columnist cackles with glee, coughs in chagrin

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

For several days over the past week, I’ve been pretty much housebound due to a very serious illness that women mock with open disdain and men fear to their very cores. Yes, my friends, I had a man-cold.

Now, the man-cold is not just any type of cold. It’s a vicious illness that virtually disables the males of the human species at least once per year. During this week or so of intolerable suffering (and whining), the male cancels all appointments, stays on the sofa watching television and generally complains about how the world is ending.

Female folk — especially those who’ve experienced childbirth without an epidural — heap scorn upon those with man-colds. “Thank goodness you didn’t experience childbirth!” one Facebook friend wrote when I advised the world that I was dying of a man-cold. Others displayed bald-faced pleasure at my suffering, as if I was dancing in front of them like some sort of congested court jester with a runny nose.

Due to the complete lack of sympathy I was garnering online from my so-called friends, I did some research to prove that the ghastly man-cold was right up there with being beheaded, passing a kidney stone the size of a baseball and going too far in when cleaning out your ears with a knitting needle. In other words: awful.

Man-coldI found one video on YouTube that did give us pitiful men a lot of sympathy when suffering from the if-it-isn’t-deadly-it-should-be man-cold. Although it was uploaded as a comedy video, the video entitled Man-Cold Ambulance gave me a brilliant idea: there should be an ambulance service set up especially for men suffering from man-colds. Off-duty paramedics could make some extra cash on the side getting those of us with man-colds glasses of juice, teddy bears to hug, changing our adult diapers (too sick to go to the bathroom, of course) and to tell us everything will be OK. That’s all we’re looking for, after all — a bit of sympathy in a cruel and uncaring anti man-cold world.

Please don’t call 911 to access Man-Cold Ambulance. They won’t believe you’re dying and will tell you to not to call back unless you have a “real” emergency. Excuse me, emergency snobs, but having a man-cold is a real emergency! And yes, Medicare should cover it. I expect to see that in election platforms during the next election.

And lest you think I’m picking on women for not having much sympathy for those of us suffering from man-colds, men are just are just as bad. You see, to cover up their own shame from having suffered from their own man-colds, they revert to poking fun and calling names, such as “Suck it up, buttercup!” or “Handle it, princess!” I ignore their jibes. Obviously, they’re ashamed at their own past man-cold behaviour and are trying to make themselves feel better by pointing fingers at others. I pity them.

Don’t come crying to me the next time you die from a man-cold, you unsympathetic swine. And yes, I will cackle with glee over your open grave as they lower your phlegm-filled casket after you gave up the ghost following a sneeze so powerful that your brain flew out of your mouth. (Friendly advice: Aim for a wall for easier cleanup. Avoid furniture and pets, unless it’s feeding time. It’s best not to drive or operate heavy equipment for a day or two afterwards until you regenerate new brain cells.)

I’m not sure why we men tend to suffer more from colds than women. Is it all in our minds, or should we just stand up for our right to suffer and complain like other minority groups do? What about our own special parking spots at retail establishments, huh? If pregnant women and families with small children deserve sweet parking spots near the door, surely men with man-colds deserve the same privilege.

Until this happens, I suggest that all of us with man-colds cough on the door handles of every vehicle between our car and the front entrance. Spread the love, I say: ‘Honey, who put green slime all over the car door handle? I have it all over my hands. And why is that very handsome coughing man with the runny nose laughing and telling me to put my fingers in my mouth and rub my eyes?’

If I have to suffer, we all have to suffer. That’s my life’s mantra.

I don’t know why men with man-colds clearly suffer more than women with plain old run-of-the-mill fairy-dust baby colds, but I’m pretty sure it’s because we’re just more intelligent. Yes, I said it. I have no argument to prove my point, so you’ll just have to trust that I know what I’m talking about. You probably wouldn’t understand the extremely complex explanation anyway.

Isn’t there a lawyer out there who’s willing to take on a class action lawsuit to get those who’ve suffered from man-colds proper compensation for our pain and suffering? Surely the government could cough up (snicker!) a few pennies for the millions of Canadian men who suffer from this debilitation week-long affliction year after year! I had to cancel business meetings, volunteer work and family events because of my man-cold. You’d think someone would be willing to send me a big fat cheque (even a little skinny one would be nice) to say they’re sorry.

There’s also a clear shortage of support groups for this disease. Don’t you think I deserve to be sobbing in front of a group of strangers with mascara-stained tears drawing lines down my face as I recount the horrors of sneezing on the back of the head of someone in the lineup to pay for cold remedies at the pharmacy? I certainly do.

Now let’s hope things don’t get worse, like a paper cut. Shivers down my spine!