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Beginning of Summer - Somebody's Mother

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 12:00 PM
On the Internet, there’s a sucker born every minute
Recently, I received an email from what seemed like Paypal and I do emphasize what seemed like Paypal. Just in case you’re not an avid buyer of stuff on eBay and the Internet, Paypal is a company that allows you to transfer money either from your credit card or bank account safely via the Internet. The email told me that I had to validate my Paypal account information or my account would be closed. This made me very, very suspicious.
I didn’t respond to it. Instead, I went to the Paypal web site and was not surprised to find that they have a web page on scams. The address is very long but it’s easily found at http://www.paypal.com. I forwarded the email that I received to another link where Paypal lets you know whether or not the email came from then. Of course, I received a response that the email was fraudulent.
That email is an example of something called a “phishing scam.” The message contained a link that I could have clicked on to that would have brought me to a web site that had all the Paypal logos. It really would have looked like the real thing. I would have been instructed to enter my credit card information and Bob’s your uncle! Somebody could have had a field day with my credit card.
That’s not the only scam that’s out there. The other day, someone came to me and showed me the printout of an email that she received. She was rather excited because the email told her that she won a small fortune in a Spanish lottery. I went on the Internet and showed her a variety of government sources that proved that this was a scam. First of all, common sense would dictate that if you haven’t bought a ticket, you can’t win a lottery! All these sources say that. This particular scam has several variations. Either they ask you to send a large amount of money to cover costs such as security, insurance and blah-blah-blah or again, they ask you for bank account information. Guess what happens then.
Another scam email that I received had to do with a Nigerian trying to move millions of dollars out of his country offering me a percentage of the money if I help. Apparently, this one has a lot of variations too. The request may come from a Nigerian bank manager, a Nigerian government official, the wife of a deceased Nigerian general, an official with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, a church minister, an Iraqi officer on the run from Saddam's men, or a widow dying of cancer. I mean, how would any of these people get my email? Since, I’m gullible enough to believe that I’m their last hope, I will pay a wide variety of fees until technically, I run out of money. Luckily, I barely glanced at that one!
In fact, I was stupid for even opening it. My usual policy is to delete emails from sources that I don’t know, especially when I see that there is a paper clip next to it symbolizing an attachment. Thank you, I’ll pass on having some stupid virus dumped into my computer. So far, that policy has worked very well along with having up to date virus protection, a pop up blocker and firewall on my computer…knock wood!
More importantly, the next time somebody wants any kind of information from you that could jeopardize your finances, just say no! Be wary. There’s a sucker born every minute – don’t let it be you.


June 30th Canada Day Parade – A Hot Eastern Townships Tradition

You’d have to have a very good imagination to remember how frozen your hands might have been as you shovelled snow in January. I sometimes think that the reason that Canada has a reputation as an even-tempered country is because we have very big weather to contend with. In fact, we are more than a little smug about it because we deal the weather pretty well.
I’ve always been a summer person, partially because I’ve never really graduated from school as I work in education. It’s hard to feel like a complete adult when you long for summer holidays as much as the kids and the old ditty, “No more pencils, no more books” may be rewritten to say: “…no more students’ dirty looks.”
Fortunately, our country’s national holiday comes in on July 1st and it celebrates the beginning of summer as well as Canada’s heritage. What better way to celebrate it than to head over to Hatley or Bury for a Canada Day Parade! I’ve lived here for 16 years and my photo album is full of proud veterans, floats, children with painted faces and lots of people that I don’t know looking very happy as they wave the maple leaf flag.
My friends and I have a particular spot where we meet to watch the Hatley parade in the town square. Although we may shop for bargains and unique items as we walk up and down the stalls, we gather at the same spot that we always have when it’s parade time with our straw hats and our skin slathered with sun block. High heat just seems to be as much a Canada Day tradition as fireworks and parades.
This is the time of year that I feel the happiest that I’m no longer a New Yorker. First of all, nobody is crazy enough to have a parade in early July in New York City. You’d either be baked alive or suffocated by the methane gases coming up from the sewers. Second of all, the climate in the United States is very much divided nowadays. If you’re against the war in Iraq, you’re a traitor and a lousy Commie…although I hear that Commies are not as big a threat these days. Chances are, somebody would be protesting something as the parade goes by.
North of the border, one of our greatest worries is what’s to become of Medicare, a fine Canadian tradition that everybody is proud of. Luckily, if you hold a dissenting opinion, it’s not considered un-Canadian. We’re used to free debate. The second great worry, one that may overtake Medicare, is national unity. Both the Federal and the Provincial Liberal Parties are not overly reassuring to Quebeckers these days and it is looking very likely that another referendum may be ahead of us in a year or two.
We have a lot of concerns to find solutions for yet we should not lose sight of the fact that we are very lucky to be living in a country where we can speak freely, where our children have a very good chance of growing up both healthy and educated and where there is equal opportunity for all to both freeze and fry in our great Canadian climate! When the float of veterans goes by in the Canada Day Parade, give them a big hand. They deserve it.

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What would our Greatest Canadian say?

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 11:26 AM
Here's my last two columns. Kind of diametrically opposed but hey, it's June.

June 16, 2005 What would our “Greatest Canadian” say?
Last week was my birthday and I got a gift from the Canadian Supreme Court that I never asked for: a two-tiered medical system. With all its weaknesses and long waits, (believe me, when you have a chronic illness, you learn a lot about long waits), I was mostly contented with the medical system that I had paid years of taxes into. That’s why I was surprised to hear that, by the close vote of four justices to three justices, the right for all to receive equal health care was thrown out the window within 12 months of Tommy Douglas being chosen as “the Greatest Canadian.” Mr. Douglas might have appreciated the irony but he would have been screaming and yelling all the same about the decision.
George Zeliotis and Dr. Jacques Chaoulli (a doctor who apparently was most eager to open a private clinic) took a single hip replacement operation, and with the cooperation of the Supreme Court, undid one of Canada’s finest achievements.
In his Toronto Star column of June 13th, Thomas Walkom writes: “To someone who must wait six painful months for surgery, the debate over two-tier health might appear a no-brainer. Why shouldn't he be allowed to spend his own money to get faster service? Indeed, if there were an infinite number of physicians and nurses, there would be no reason to prevent the practice. But there are not in any country. The problem with two-tier health comes in the aggregate, as the limited number of health professionals available gravitate to those who pay the most. That's why a solution for one person can become a problem for someone else.”
Make no mistake about it – this is going to turn out to be your problem and my problem unless you and I get very lucky and win the lottery. If you don’t have private health insurance and your family doctor refers you to a specialist, you won’t have your pick of specialists. You’ll have to pick one that hasn’t opted out of the public system. On the other hand, if you do have health insurance through your job, you can be darned sure that your premiums are about to climb sky high to give you that option of jumping the health care queue when you need anything from a blood test to a CAT scan. You can afford it, right?
I would like to hope that the premier of our province might be sympathetic toward the little guy and consider going to bats for equal access to medical care by at least considering the use of the notwithstanding clause. After all, he is a Liberal. Oh, yes, I just forgot, he’s actually an ex-Progressive Conservative. M. Charest just might be pleased at the prospect of private enterprise stimulating our economy because there’s money to be made from the sick and desperate, probably an awful lot of money. It is a sick world after all. Romanow’s 2002 royal commission into health care recommended maintaining a single tier public health system as did other provincially funded commissions around the country. But where’s the profit in that?
I have relatives in the United States who pay well over $1000 U.S. a month for their health insurance and yet there are still doctors who refuse their private insurance so they have to pay anyway. We have just opened the door to that kind of dilemma for people to resolve: whether it’s worth going into debt to stay alive. This is just what Tommy Douglas fought so hard to get rid of and seven people in the Supreme Court were given the power to throw us right back into the pits of a decision of life vs. debt. It just doesn’t seem right to me.Those of us who are worried about what will happen when we retire have something new to worry about and we are right to be concerned. Tommy Douglas is not here to remind us that in spite of its faults, we have been blessed with a medical safety net that we cannot afford to lose. All we have is Peter MacKay…digging potatoes.

June 23, 2005 How The Sound of Music Saved My Summer
This has been the best week of the year. It’s better than Christmas and Easter, all rolled into one. This is the last week of school. I always think of June as a month of Fridays. It’s the month where everybody anticipates free time just the way we anticipate a really great weekend on Friday. Although the free time often turns out to be less than we expect it to be, it doesn’t change the fact that the anticipation of living out fun-filled, golden, sunny days is nothing short of delicious.
Within two weeks, parents may hear a litany of “I’m bored, I’m bored” till the lucky kids who get to go to camp climb up the steps of the bus but right now, the world is sweetness and light. I was one of the supposedly lucky kids who got to go to “sleep-away” camp – that’s what we used to call it in my day – but I was definitely not grateful for the opportunity. According to my mother, I set a record in my camp for attempts to run away. My parents thought that they were being exceptionally good to me by getting me out of the extreme heat of the city to a camp where I might learn to swim, make lanyards and play baseball. While I enjoyed the swimming, I soon found out what a loser I was at sports and crafts. My potholder fell apart. I always got stuck in the out field, ‘way out in the out field. This earned me the disdain and contempt of my fellow campers and I was truly miserable…until they announced auditions for that summer’s camp musical, The Sound of Music.
I had listened to the cast album of The Sound of Music over and over again on my little record player from the time that I was a toddler. I knew the album backwards and forwards. My mother even borrowed the script from the library. Mom, my sister and I would split up the parts and perform the play in the car during long rides to the cottage while my poor father fought New York City traffic.
This is why a sense of relief washed over me when I heard about the camp play. I knew that I was and always would be the last person picked for the teams when it came to punch ball, dodge ball and make-an-idiot-of-yourself ball. Singing was my refuge and The Sound of Music was my home ball park. When I got up to sing “My Favorite Things” with the camp pianist, I felt like I had just hit a homerun. Being incredibly short for my age and able to carry a tune, I was a shoe-in for the role of Gretl, the youngest daughter in the von Trapp family.
Everything turned around from there. I got to rehearse with the older kids who thought that I was cute and didn’t care that I was a complete and utter clutz. It just made me even cuter in the dance sequences.
My mother and father came to see the show. Mom wore a bright pink shirt and sat in the front row just so I knew that she was there. That made me even more nervous but it didn’t matter. The play was a big success and I found my niche in camp.
Years later, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to audition for the 1994 Townshippers production of The Sound of Music and lo and behold, I was cast as Mother Superior. This was amusing on many levels. “Climb Every Mountain” was the one song that I’d always skip when listening to the album and I never quite saw myself as a spiritual leader of nuns. Yet, I had a great time and made new friends, all thanks to The Sound of Music.
Every summer, there are opportunities for great surprises and great disappointments. The beauty of June is the knowledge that something, possibly something wonderful, is right around the corner. It really is a month of Fridays.

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Maybe Prostitutes Don’t Like Being Compared to Politicians!

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 2:44 PM
Last week, Ms. Belinda Stronach changed political parties and we got a very ugly taste from politicians and media alike that women have not “come along way, baby.” Civility went right out the window and sexism flew right in.
Since when do we call people by their first names in news articles? Jean Charest and Lucien Bouchard crossed the floor. We did not say Jean this and Jean that. Probably we wouldn’t have known which Jean we were talking about so tradition has it that we call people by their last names unless we are friends with them.
Claude Ryan crossed the floor so many times that it was an aerobic exercise. We didn’t get buddy-buddy with Claude. We just don’t do that with men. Ms. Stronach has a snappy first name and is young so our media immediately puts her on a par with a celebrity like Cher and calls her by her first name, Belinda. The next thing you know, she’ll be on Entertainment Tonight as Canada’s answer to BeyoncĂ©.
She also has the effrontery to be a blonde. This gives a paper like the National Post every right to subtly compare her to someone like Marilyn Monroe with a not-so-clever play on words for their headline: Blonde Bombshell. Every blonde joke comes to mind and that’s not the fault of blondes when you have MP Jim Runciman remarking, “She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick, with what she’s done here today.” His party leader, Stephen Harper, was no role model either, “I’ve never really noticed complexity to be Belinda’s strong point.” In other words, what can you expect from a dumb blonde? Never mind that she won an election - her electorate was probably just mesmerized by her legs.
Finally, both politicians and media used what many consider to be the most insulting analogy that they can throw at a woman: comparing her to a prostitute. Albertan Conservative, Tony Abbott described her as a “political harlot” and as “a little rich girl who is basically whoring her out to the Liberals.” Yech, not a pretty image! The Journal de Montreal ran a cartoon that showed Stronach as a prostitute leaning on a car with the prime minister at the wheel saying, “Climb in?”
Those people who ply “the world’s oldest profession” must be getting a bit fed up. Imagine being compared to politicians. It’s downright humiliating. If a person chooses to be a prostitute, they are selecting a life that will get more miserable as they get older. The only person that they eventually hurt is themselves. You might argue that their customers are being morally sullied by paying for sex but then again, they are the ones who are hurt.
Politicians just steal from everybody. Forget robbing the rich to feed the poor. Many of today’s celebrities in the political business are robbing from rich and poor alike to feed themselves. That makes them thieves on a far grander scale than those who are working the city streets. These folks are reaching into everybody’s pockets and the only pleasure that they give to society is the revenge we can’t help but feel when they get caught.
I’ve always argued that any profession that I wouldn’t want my mother, sister, or daughter to go into is wrong for everybody else’s mother, sister, or daughter. I wouldn’t want a family member of mine working in an opium den, a strip club or a brothel. The way the House of Commons is looking these days, I hope none of my kids chooses a career in politics either!

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April 27th

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 4:12 PM
One month later, April:

April is a time of mud. How do you make poetry out of mud? It's exhausting. Here in the Eastern Townships of Quebec as we inhale spring and exhale mud, it's just ugly and tiring and if this is the way nature is reborn year after year, than I think we need to rethink the system.

Except it's nature's way of telling me something's wrong. Here's what I wrote in my article in the Sherbrooke Record this week:

King Kong the Garbage Can
It’s hard to make poetry out of mud and verily, this is the mud season. Moreover, it’s the season of garbage and my municipality is giving me the opportunity to throw out more garbage than I can dispose of.
Sorry, Stansteaders, but if you’re not there yet, I’m sure that your turn will come. I live in one of those boroughs of Sherbrooke where the citizens have been compelled to pay one hundred dollars and acquire one of those gargantuan-sized garbage cans on wheels. Literally, that garbage bin comes up to my chin. It’s a veritable mini-dumpster.
To say that its size is inconvenient is only the beginning. I used to keep a reasonably sized garbage can on the back porch and it served our family’s needs very nicely. It was usually about three quarters filled by garbage day and not too heavy to schlep out front to the curb. Plus, the nice men on the garbage truck would often wave or wait a few seconds as my husband or I sprinted to the curb to get it there before they left.
Since my municipality believes in modernization, the first step in being modern seems to be to put a few guys out of work by having a mechanized truck that grasps a compatible bin and empties out its contents. I know that many of us worry about taxes but the more people who are employed, the more people who pay taxes. This makes for a healthy society. While many of us would not choose sanitation work as a career, for some people, it’s a job and the job that puts food on the table. Why eliminate those jobs to save money? Is this reasonable economy?
The size of the bin also sends a big message about garbage. When we finally used King Kong the garbage bin, my husband observed that we barely filled the bottom of the bin with one week’s worth of garbage. We’re a family of three right now. One of my neighbours who lives alone was complaining about the size of the garbage bin too. She feels silly throwing out her little bag of garbage into such a huge container. Another one of her concerns was the worry about senior citizens having to push such exceptionally large containers every week.
If we’re also thinking environmentally, let’s remember that such huge containers require a lot of plastic and if we’re building them bigger than they need to be, that means more consumption of materials and energy than is required. That doesn’t sound very Kyoto-friendly to me. What would Rick Mercer say? The government is shelling out big money to make us more energy conscious and probably paying Mercer quite a bit to be its spokesman. Meanwhile, our municipalities are pushing these overly large containers on us. It seems like a conflict of objectives to me.
With the wonders of science and engineering, surely some company could come up with a way to make containers for the way real people throw out their garbage or should be throwing out their garbage. By giving people smaller containers, the municipalities would be encouraging less waste. With the controversy over our garbage dumps these days, that would be in line with what everybody wants: dumps that aren’t overflowing and people consuming sensibly.
Meanwhile, King Kong lives by the side of my house and I suppose that I’ll have to get used to him even if it doesn’t make sense. Maybe I can write a poem about him.

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Somebody's Mother

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 5:37 PM
Just what every busy mother needs: a blog. This is the blog of the quintiessential Somebody's Mother.

Did I spell quintessential right? When will I learn to iron pants with straight creases that go right down the middle? What year did you say this was?

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