Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pakistan Blogs

"I was terribly sorry that the assassination denied the people of Pakistan their full range of choices in the scheduled election. Assassination is foul murder, and also a tragic crime against the voters, a form of the most serious treason against the nation."
The Pakistani Spectator :: Read the rest of the post HERE

"History has always been written by those who hang heroes"
Saady :: Read the rest of the post HERE

"This weekend was a truly sad one, not just because of a great politician and leader of our country being murdered but what her supporters and other elements did to Karachi in the name of mourning."
Deadpan Thoughts :: Read the rest of the post HERE (pictures)

"Benazir Bhutto has stayed with us enough to leave behind her vision of the future. Let us honour that vision. Her sacrifice has not weakened the federation, she has made the federation stronger. But we are not talking about a federation presided over by Musharraf. We are talking about a federation free of the army's involvement and Musharraf's presence."
Farrukh Khan Pitafi :: Read the rest of the post HERE

"Her murder is the murder of Pakistani nation."
The Pakistani Spectator :: Read the rest of the post HERE

"Also, the government suddenly realizes that Pakistan should be kept clean, so they wash the whole scene immediately after the incident."
Land of Pure :: Read the rest of the post HERE

"And then it sunk in. My country. My people. Me. What a loss. What a loss. I did not support Benazir but I think she was a great politician of Pakistan. What a loss."
Jalaluddin :: Read the rest of the post HERE

See what Pakistan Bloggers are saying today

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Making of a Modern Day Martyr

The world watched carefully as the drama of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination unfolded before us. Video of the incident shows a person beside Bhutto’s car shooting a handgun three times towards her, followed by a bomb blast. Immediately several first hand accounts – including doctors, American journalists, bystanders, Bhutto’s aides and even her husband - witnessed to the world the death of Bhutto from gunshot wounds.

The Pakistani Interior Ministry also confirmed that Bhutto had died - from a gunshot wound to the neck.

Then, in rapid succession, the Interior Ministry issued conflicting statements regarding Bhutto’s death. They first claimed that she was killed by shrapnel from the explosion rather than gunshot wounds and then that she died merely from a skull fracture suffered when she fell into the car - and not as a result of any attack. Finally, after all the explanations offered seemed to create some controversy, the Pakistani Interior Ministry stated simply "It is immaterial how she died."

However - it is precisely the importance of how and why she died that has created this desperate attempt to sow doubt and confusion around her death.

"They're trying to deny her a martyr's death" CNN national security analyst Ken Robinson said. "Her torch burns bright now forever. She's forever young; she's forever brave, challenging against all odds the party in power and challenging the military and Islamic extremism."

Bhutto's detractors, including members of the Pakistan government, would seemingly control that legacy if successful in minimizing the attacks role in her demise.

But Benazir Bhutto will become even more influential in her death than she was in life.

Silencing a living opponent might seem easy enough - but silencing a martyr?

Not likely.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"She Has Been Martyred”

Pakistani opposition leader and leading Prime Ministerial contender Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi today.

"I am not afraid, I am ready to die for my country."
- Benazir Bhutto (with Time Magazine)

Benazir Bhutto was many things in life – a well educated, charismatic, high profile world leader; a former prime minister; a promoter of democracy; an anti terrorism crusader; a courageous and brave human being... but more importantly, I think, she was a woman. The first woman to lead a modern Muslim country.

Democratically elected twice by her people, she was deposed and ousted both times amid alleged charges of "corruption" that appeared politically motivated by male dominated and militarily backed political rivals. She spent time in exile, under house arrest and years jailed in solitary confinement. Yet, despite this past treatment and intelligence reports indicating that Islamic militants would send suicide bombers after her, she returned to participate in the democratic election set for January 8th, bringing hope once again to the people of Pakistan.

With less than two weeks to go to that election, Bhutto’s campaign, struggle and life are finished in what is surely a tragedy for Pakistan, if not the world.

Peace Be Upon Her.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Seasons Greetings from
the Wojtaszek Family

Tracking Santa

Before Duncan and I head off to bed very early this Christmas Eve we have discovered that NORAD had updated their Santa Tracking site - they now have a cool addition where you can actually track Santa in 3-D through Google Earth. We are watching as Santa is warming up his reindeer at the North Pole. He leaves in a few minutes! First stop - Russia.

I've always loved this time of year - and even more so now as a parent. Let the magic begin!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We Are the Internet

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Winter Solstice Approacheth

The Dark of Midwinter

Today the sun didn't rise until 8:45am - it's 3:20pm and already the sun is going down. By the time the Solstice comes this year (Dec 22nd in 2007) the sun won't rise here before 8:49am and will set a mere seven hours and 27 minutes later. These next few days are the darkest days of our winter - time well spent in the comfort of celebration and hot chocolate!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dziekanski’s last words were plea for help

Dziekanski Memorial by Heart Industry.

"I want to get out, help me find the way...
Police! Police! Can't you help me?
- Robert Dziekanski, before being killed by the RCMP

The New Zealand Herald reported ("Man tasered to death was asking for help" Nov 16 2007) that a polish blogger had translated the last words of Robert Dziekanski (see above).

Immediate Restriction on Tasers

An interim report on Taser Use released by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) today has made 10 recommendations for immediate implementation.

Here are two important highlights:

Recommendation 1: RCMP immediately restrict the use of the Taser by classifying it as an "impact weapon" in the use of force model (allowing use only in those situations where an individual is behaving in a "combative" manner or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to the officer, themselves or the general public.

Recommendation 2: In situations where an individual appears to be experiencing the condition(s) of excited delirium that the RCMP only use the Taser when the behaviour is also combative or poses a risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the officer, the individual or the general public.

Read the Executive Summary and the full recommendations online.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Like I'd Never Seen the Sky Before

Today is a special anniversary for Duncan and I, especially given our shared proclivity to the magic of the number seven...

This day marks 7 years since the day our destinies merged together and we found new meaning in life, together. It wasn't the easiest of beginnings - for anyone who has ever fallen in love with their best friend can attest to the confusion and problems this might create - but after a while it became apparent that neither of us could imagine a life or a world where we would not be together, come what may.

Since then the time has flown by, even too quickly perhaps (7 years already!!!). My days start snuggled into the man who doesn't want to let me go even though the day beckons him. When we are together we are hand in hand and full of smiles, debating some political issue or just enjoying what is going on around us. When we are apart my heart longs just enough for him to know I am missing him, and to rejoice when we are reunited again. We are always wanting to share something about our day with each other (which is what msn, text messages, faceboook, and email are for!), and we end our days much the same way we start them - falling asleep in each others arms. Life with Duncan is a gift I get to live every day, and in return I want to give him everything.

Happy 7 Years Duncan; I will love you until my dying day - and forever more.

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's Officially Christmas in Alberta!

Merry Christmas everyone!

You can see my other Christmas pictures here!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Her Father, Her Murderer…

"Self-professed mercy killer Robert Latimer denied day parole" Macleans Magazine, December 5, 2007.

On October 24th 1993 Robert Latimer murdered his 12 year old disabled daughter Tracy. A pre-meditated murder, he had considered options like giving her valium, shooting her in the head and then burning her body. Ultimately he decided to poison her by piping carbon monoxide into his truck, where he had previously secured her. He then watched her die - it took 30 minutes.

Latimer killed Tracy while her family was at church and then placed her body in bed for her mother to discover. For some time Latimer lied about killing his daughter - claiming that she had passed away in her sleep and even tried to have her body cremated before an autopsy could be preformed. He only confessed to her murder after the results of the autopsy showed carbon monoxide poisoning to be the cause of death.

Ironically, just twelve days before Tracy was killed, Latimer was offered a permanent placement for Tracy at a nearby facility - but he rejected it saying he had "other plans."

Is the law and this situation complicated? Perhaps. But Latimer was convicted twice and found unanimously guilty of second degree murder by all 24 jurors.

Even today Latimer remains unrepentant and sees himself as the real victim, believing that he did the right thing – meaning he would do it all over again given the opportunity. That's a dangerous precedent that puts him at a higher risk of re-offending or encouraging others to perpetrate like crimes.

Parole is not a guaranteed right of a criminal, but something they can earn through demonstration of appropriate behaviours. The parole board tries to determine if you have the potential to re-offend, usually this is based on an acknowledgement that you committed an offence and have demonstrated some kind of remorse because of it, yet the parole board said they were left with the feeling "Mr. Latimer has not developed sufficient insight and understanding of his actions." The fact that even years after Latimer murdered his daughter he is unable to show remorse for his crime demands that he be kept in prison.

Tracy suffered from a disability called Cerebral Palsy - a non-progressive, non- life threatening disorder that approx 50,000 other Canadians also live with – with a normal life expectancy. A person with the disorder can expect to improve somewhat during childhood if they receive the necessary care from specialists and their disabilities are properly managed. Latimer admitted to the parole board that he and his wife did not seek outside help or advice about Tracy. He also did not provide her with adequate pain relief medication – for reasons that were never made clear beyond Latimer believed that drugs beyond Tylenol would interfere with her anti-seizure medications.

We will never know the person that Tracy was becoming, but we know what she was like from testimony at the trials. Tracy could think independently and had attended school since she was 4 years old. She smiled, laughed, cried "very seldom," responded to affection, recognized and communicated with people, enjoyed horses like every other 12 year old girl, loved music and campfires. Laura Latimer, Tracy’s mom, testified that she was a "very happy, very happy little girl" and wrote in her own diary that Tracy was often happy and smiling. Tracy's surgeon was impressed with the progress she was making and testified that her quality of life was improving with each procedure. Tracy's teacher testified she was a "happy, loving person who did not show signs of extreme pain," even though she had a dislocated hip.

Tracy had only just returned home two weeks before her death. She had been living in a group home for four months and came home to prepare for her hip surgery, an operation that would have alleviated her pain.

"Some people were willing to agree his daughter's life was not worth living - it's extremely dangerous to vulnerable people with disabilities" said Jim Derksen (Council of Canadians with Disabilities).

Before you grant Latimer any credibility at all consider what that means for the safety of other vulnerable Canadians, including your future self. Able-bodied people can not and should not judge the "quality of life" of a disabled person. It is too simple and misinformed to dismiss this as a mercy killing or "a father putting his child out of her misery."

Many people live with the medical problems that Tracey had, and many other kinds too. Thousands of Canadians in this same situation take care of their children every day. Parents do not determine if their child deserves to live or die. Children are not property and they have a right to be protected by their parents and the law.

It is disturbing to me how some "able-bodied" people can talk so poorly of disabilities, saying thoughtless things like "If I ever become disabled, kill me." What does that say of our society? And what is a disability? After my Dad's first stroke he had dementia - a disability to be sure, but he still managed to really enjoy the next 20 years of his life. My sister recently had a disk out of place in her back and is now learning to walk again - she's only 40. Is her life now not worth living?

Latimer is NOT some hero that through an act of love compassionatly ended his daughter’s suffering. He planned her murder (rather than provide her the help she needed), lied to cover it up in order to get away with it AND still shows no remorse. If Latimer believes what he did was right, he can believe that it is worth rotting in prison for. Let him serve his sentence for it's the least he (and Tracy) deserve. Robert Latimer is where he belongs.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's In The Mail!

Canada, USA, Iceland, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Portugal and Spain... all places recieving "Holiday Greeting" cards from me this year.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cultural Anthropology in Real Time

I am moved by how much this message speaks to who I have become and my (obviously not so unique) worries about it - and the impact of this is greater even for my children. The world we are thinking in today - the world we are thinking up - is not the same as the world we thought we would be growing up in.

See more discussion here and here.

Goodbye Summer...

How beautiful the leaves grow old.
- John Burroughs

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blog Catch Up - Would you like Fries with that?

Yes indeed, it is time for another installment of "Blog Catch Up." A lot has happened since the summer and I haven't had much of an opportunity to sit down and blog about it. So, without further ado, here goes.

The Columbia Icefields

Due to the fact that I contracted E-Coli this summer we had to cancel our family trip to Ottawa, which I felt very guilty about since it also meant we missed Elaine's wedding. When I felt better we went to Jasper for four days, during which time we explored many lakes, crevices and mountains - it was gorgeous. We also went to see the Columbia Icefields - the glaciers were very impressive - but receeding.

My sister Kate

For the first time in my life I met my sister Kate, who came out to visit from England. The experience of welcoming my sister to Canada, my home and even more so my family was life altering - but it felt completely normal and never uncomfortable.

Duncan meets Brian Mulroney

As part of Duncan's birthday celebrations this year I got tickets for lunch with Brian Mulroney, which included Mulroney's new book, which he signed. All in all the lunch was enjoyable - but that Duncan got to talk to Mr. Mulroney was the high point.

My sister's Ambulance

Life is sometimes full of surprises... Part way through my sister's trip to Canada she woke up (after having back pain for a couple of days and seeing a chiropractor) and couldn't feel her legs below her knees. That started a flurry of activity that involved two hospitals, a CT Scan and an MRI, emergency spinal surgery and the long road to recovery - she's back in England now but still can't walk. I would issue a strong warning here to everyone thinking of going to a Chiropractor - don't. The guy she saw said she had to come back 72 time to get fixed... but in reality what he did was push her disk into her spine - the Surgeon said another hour before surgery and she would have been paralyzed. For Life.

Raven's New Glasses

Raven turned 12, got accepted into the Junior High that she applied to (and she is loving it) and had to get glasses. The real story behind the glasses is how many places we had to go to find a pair she liked - these were eventually found at the university in HUB mall where they had many cool frames.

Duncan turns 29 years old

Duncan turned "almost 30" this year - and like a fine wine he is getting better with age! The way things worked out he had two birthday parties - the traditional one at Hooters and one at home on his actual birthday, so he got spoiled. (Here is the Pic everyone wants to see).

Happy Thanksgiving!

With my sisters surgery and recovery she missed her flight back to England - which meant they got to stay and share a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner with us, which was wonderful. I used our Dad's china and cooked a turkey with all he trimmings. Neither Kate nor Mel have ever had a Thanksgiving meal since, well, no pilgrims in London I guess. I was delighted to have them with us.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Awesome Responsibility of Citizenship

"To you from failing hands we throw The torch;
be yours to hold it high."

From Vimy To Kandahar, for everything you do...
Thank You.

Monday, November 05, 2007

All Information is Miscellaneous

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat!!!

Happy Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

In the past four years in North America more than 150 people have died after receiving a discharged shock from a Taser weapon. There is some debate about the cause of these deaths but it remains a fact that these deaths would not have occurred if not immediately preceded by the tasering.

I think we need to understand this correlation better before allowing their continued use on the Canadian public.

Right now in Canada a Taser can be used in any situation, on any person (including children, the mentally handicapped, pregnant women or people who are already handcuffed), for any period of time - with no need to justify its repeated use.

I believe our police forces in Canada operate at a high standard of integrity. However people do make mistakes, some people use bad judgment and some people will abuse the power they have to use these weapons - like in the case of Malaika Brooks who at eight months pregnant was tasered multiple times by american police for refusing to sign a traffic ticket - especially when the guidelines of such use are not clear.

Tasers are not safe pieces of kit. Staff Sgt. Sherstan, (RCMP Emergency Response Team in Edmonton) says that Tasers should not be considered non-lethal – but a "less-lethal alternative" to using a firearm in situations where the use of said firearm is authorized.

I think we should suspend using Tasers in Canada until we have:

    An understanding of accumulated research regarding deaths

    A national standard on when/how the Taser is used

    Restrictions on multiple use and certain areas of the body

    Restrictions on use in routine, non-life threatening situations

    An emphasis on alternative measures to subdue

    A reporting structure for every time a Taser is used

    A disciplinary policy for those who misuse their Taser

In addition, I think a public awareness campaign to educate the public on the properly determined use of this weapon by our police services and to reinforce the expectation and importance of complying with legal commands from police officers would be integral to decreasing Taser incidences.

Friday, August 24, 2007

In other news...

GLOBE AND MAIL: "A neuroscientist working in Britain has found a way to induce an out-of-body experience... The work could lead to a new generation of virtual-reality video games that would create the sensation that players really are somewhere else."

I have been waiting for someone to invent this technology, seeing how I am always needing to be in two places at one time.

Friendly Fire Ain't.

(CNN) -- "Three British soldiers were killed in a suspected "friendly fire" incident involving a bomb dropped from a U.S.[F-15] fighter plane during a clash with Taliban militants in Afghanistan, military officials said Friday."

I can't even begin to put into words how much I despise "friendly-fire" incidents. These "accidents" - careless mistakes when the ramifications are so great - are not acceptable. It's bad enough being on a battlefield with an enemy trying to kill you - you don't need to doubt your "friends" as well.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Elizabeth May on "Russian Roulette"

In describing our continued dependence on cars and oil Elizabeth May, leader of Canada's Green Party, consistently warns we are "playing Russian Roulette with our life support system." I don't disagree; as a species we have certainly historically exhibited a lack of proper concern in such matters.

May implies the majority of the population are blissfully ignorant, suggesting that we are happy to consider climate change mostly as a subjective topic and not one neccessarily deserving our immediate attention. "If you were in France in the heat wave of 2003, watching the ice melt in the Western Canadian Arctic, or the water rise in New Orleans in August 2005, or British Columbia in the fires of 2004, you might well conclude that things are already pretty dangerous," states May in a recent Killam lecture.

For May to get a car when she herself knows/believes/has seen that these things are occurring boggles me.

May preaches that the planet needs to see carbon reductions of 80% by the year 2050 – which could truly only come about by an astronomical undertaking of people willing to make significant lifestyle changes. Yet for the sake of her own convenience and her political aspirations, she is now willing to become a carbon contributor rather than making a far greater statement by remaining carless and proving that it can be done successfully (albeit with some effort).

As a family we make a lot of sacrifices to live as much of a carbon neutral lifestyle as possible. One of them is that we haven't had a car in over 12 years.

I am certainly one of the early people to come to the notion that, regardless of the actual cause(s), our climate is changing and not in a positive manner. Not wanting to contribute further to this has been our motivation for a few simple lifestyle changes (recycling, water and electricity conservation, utilizing mass transit, living in a townhouse rather than a house, for example).

But the reality is that it is inconvenient. We are sacrificing.

And why? Because every little bit helps - and as more and more people make changes that will help too.

Elizabeth May has cancelled out our contribution towards a carbon neutral society. She may as well have bought a Hummer for all the real difference it makes now, optics and perception being everything in politics. The idea that not even the leader of the Green Party can live a car free life is somewhat demotivating, unpalatable and disheartening.

Screw it, I am getting a car.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Working like a Dog...

Wesley's first pay cheque

Wesley got his first job this summer, $12.00 an hour!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Brother Shaped Hole in the Universe

I have seen the fire of life

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The night I was obviously not meant to sleep through...

My various awakenings today started innocently enough - needing to go to the bathroom. While doing so (in the dark, attempting not to wake myself up) I knocked a glass into the sink and broke it. Despite the noise no one stirred. I went back to bed only to wake up again positive that I had heard the phone ring, which is never a good thing in the middle of the night. With that feeling of dread one gets when they are expecting bad news, I get up long enough to assure myself that it was just a dream. However, the anxiety does not go away.

The next time I wake up it is more insiduous - my eyes wide open, I am still, breathing, listening, not sure what has woken me up, but positive that something is wrong. Then, the sound of metal crunching on the road. I turn to look out the window in time to see a man picking himself up off the road - and his motorbike laying on it's side in the middle of it. I think maybe he has just fallen off until I see the car and decide they have obviously collided. I watch - have to watch - with some amount of concern as the man insists on walking (he's obviously hurt his hip but he otherwise seems fine). After they exchange info the driver leaves - heightening my concern as I watch the man pick up his bike and push it down the road, hobbling beside it as he struggles with its weight. I wonder at his tenacity - turns out he only lives a block down from me and I assume he just wants to get home, something I can appreciate. I decide I don't like the road in front of my house very much (our rental car was destroyed just last month in the same place this guy came off his bike).

With the sky lightening as the sun approaches I debate going back to sleep once again or waking my still-sleeping-like-a-baby husband when I see a flash of white-ish cat running along on the other side of the street. My brain awakens even more with the recognition of a cat my husband would be very worried to know is off gallavanting in the dark, so I get dressed and go outside to confront and retrieve one awfully guilty-looking cat.

Now, with just an hour to go before the alarm rings, I am doubtful of any chance of getting any more sleep on this very odd night. I guess it's time for coffee!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pay no attention to the iRack...

The iRack looks unstable!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

As long as the map stays yellow its all good!

It's 3:44 am and it's still 24°C (with a relative humidity of 57%) so it's little wonder I can't sleep. The day temperatures were 32°C with little relief, so it's also no surprise that we have a severe thunderstorm rolling in. Environment Canada has issued a severe weather warning (not as bad as a "watch") - but with a command to monitor the weather and tot ake immediate safety precautions if "threatening weather" approaches.

The crazy winds and rain are upon us and the lightening is fairly impressive to watch. Not having anything else to do at the moment I did cover my flowers (to protect against the large hail) but if the winds get any more aggressive it might just blow the cover away.

I noticed there is a family sleeping outside in their car. In the event this turns into a Tornado Warning my basement might be a little fuller tonight...

UPDATE: 4:20am and the storm has calmed down quite a bit and so far no hail, which makes me happy. The temperature is also dropping (almost 5°C so far) so I am thinking of heading back to bed to enjoy the coolness that is 20°C. Oh, and the family drove away at some point during the deluge, hopefully to find a hotel!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tagged by Duncan...

The Rules:

1. You post 8 random facts.
2. At the end of your blog, tag someone else and they must post random facts.
3. You leave your chosen people a comment telling them they've been tagged.

8 Random Facts about Allie

I am a bit of a geek at times - I have no problem saying Voldemort and I might believe in the force.

I'm an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church (1999), which often makes me think of my favourite Red Meat comic.

I served in the Infantry for six years and have been trained to kill.

I have my hunting license.

I can dream lucidly.

I no longer have an appendix.

I have never broken a bone (knock on wood!).

I love to sleep in but secretly worry that I am sleeping my life away.

I tag Lilly and Michele.

See also: 15 things I have done you probally haven't

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Join Dumbledore's Army!

Going to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lucky in Love - 07 07 07!

Poolside at Las Vegas in celebration
of our third wedding anniversary

If there were nothing else but our love for each other
we would still have everything we need!

Duncan, these past seven years with you at my side have changed my world - thank you for being such a gift to me. I love being married to you - Happy Anniversary!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dangerously Hot!

The famed Las Vegas sign

Our second trip to Vegas was as delightful as our first visit... and certainly re-affirmed it as one of our favourite places on earth to go. Never more than 6 feet apart from each other, it was a great time to re-connect with Duncan (especially since I was so completely distracted for the past 2.5 weeks working on a Nomination Campaign).

Phantom is playing at the Venetian

The main reason for this trip to Las Vegas was Phantom of the Opera - Duncan's gift to me for our third wedding anniversary. It also gave me the opportunity to return the thought with a video ipod for him - which considering how high our dollar is right now was a steal. We also partook again in Jubillee, which is in it's 25th year of production this year and was just as fabulous as ever. We also made sure we saw TRANSFORMERS on it's opening day - and we were not disappointed!

Allie and Duncan at the Hoover Dam

We took a morning to travel 45 minutes into the desert to stand on (and in) the Hoover Dam - which in itself is a dam impressive structure, ensuring that we had a dam good time (dam, the jokes just don't get old). We did fly over the Hoover Dam on our way to the Grand Canyon last year, but seeing it up close is something else - especially when you peer over the edge for the very first time.

View from the Stratosphere of the Strip

I think I can now confirm that the Paris Buffet is my favourite place on earth to eat (and eat...) but we did have a perfect dining experience in the revolving restaurant in the Stratosphere Tower (I heart revolving restaurants). We dined on more than our fair share of succulent Chateaubriand, which was preceeded by the best Lobster Bisque I've ever had and finished with a chocolate desert shaped like the Stratosphere. Whatever shape chocolate comes in is the perfect shape for me!

Bellagio Watershow - with Rainbow

I was continously delighted by the Bellagio watershow, day and night we were able to observe it many times and never the same show twice. I love the Bellagio, it's a gorgeous casino and hotel, and even though it's newer it's usually what I think of when I think Las Vegas. Perhaps I can thank Danny Ocean for that.

Dolphin kindly posing for a picture

We finished our last afternoon in Las Vegas exploring the Mirage - a casino we largely missed on our last trip - and enjoyed seeing the new baby dolphin and the various large cats (who were mostly just trying their best to sleep through the heat). We then proceeded back to our hotel for one last meal at the Hooters - a place I am sure we will be back to even if we never stay at the Hooters Hotel again!

Duncan and Hooters Girl

Viva Las Vegas!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

In Vegas for July 4th Celebrations!

July 4th Decor at the Bellagio

With the lure of Las Vegas strong in our hearts it was just a matter of time before we returned and - as I write this - we are day four into a five day return trip... a trip that has been fabulous, as it should be, and very, very HOT. I rationally know that the desert in July should be hot - but I mean, it's hot even for Vegas standards - about 46 degrees Celsius (about 116 Fahrenheit)! I don't really know how to describe how hot it feels - but lets say it's like being in an oven - the heat comes from the ground as well as above and the sweat literally evaporates before it reaches your skin. According to the Las Vegas News there have been just four days on record when the mercury has climbed to 116 degrees or higher, with the all-time local record being 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Baby, it's hot here!

We have loads of pictures to post when we return, and until then I will mention a few highlights of the trip so far: Phantom of the Opera (was brilliant), Jubilee (was perfect as always), Rollercoaster at NYNY (a unique way to see the strip), the Hoover Dam (was dam impressive), Hooters pool side bar (was too long in the sun for my poor, red, Duncan) and TRANSFORMERS (which was awesome - especially after just standing on the Hoover Dam).

Tonight we are heading to Freemont Street and then up the Stratosphere revolving restaurant - Top of the World - to watch July 4th fireworks and celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Happy 4th of July, Las Vegas!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Congratulations Raven!

My Valedictorian

Raven graduated grade six, with Honours! Not only did she receive the commendation of the Academic Excellence Award she was also chosen as Class Valedictorian - something she managed to keep a secret from me until it was time for her to go up and make the speech (which she also wrote herself). Raven also earned an A in PE - something she has worked very hard for! We are very proud of her - Congratulations, Raven - way to blast away elementary school!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Still Awake...

But very excited that Duncan is coming home today!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I am coming to a sad realization...

I've been a Vista user now for about three months - those three months have been characterized somewhat by disappointment and frustration (Duncan even managed to break Vista in the first week). Don't get me wrong, the Northern Lights screen saver is AWESOME (I could stare at that for hours) but a screen saver does not an OS make! Everything else, even the new Office 2007, has presented it's own challenges. It's slow, it's not compatible (whose brilliant idea was that?), something (I'm not sure what) is sucking my ram, sometimes I have trouble connecting to the internet, and the security features (as illustrated so well in the ad above) drive me crazy. I don't need all these extra steps in order to get something done or sent, and to be frank the things that Vista decides on it's own to disallow bugs me more than you can know.

I almost bought a printer last month, it was 50% off. I asked the salesperson if it would work with Vista and she shook her head sadly and said "No." I found myself quipping in apology "thats okay, my laptop doesn't work with Vista either..."

Now it seems that a Mac will be joining our previously PC only home. I am sure the side to side comparision will be documented.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Front Page!

Allie Wojtaszek, Special to the Journal

I was surprised to see a local news story I had recently participated on the front page of the Edmonton Journal this morning. A pleasant surprise, though, and my picture looks great. Don't forget to look at my other Listen pictures in the Journal's Photo Gallery. I am becoming a real photographer!

See also my Listen Bird Group on Flickr. I uploaded a bunch of new Listen pics.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In Recognition of Oustanding Service

Congratulations Duncan!

Premier Stelmach attended Edmonton Meadowlarks AGM tonight as our guest speaker. The Premier presented four Leaders' Awards to members of our constituency - Duncan was one of them, all very well deserved. It's great to see such a strong and vibrant constituency association as we head into nominations and the next election!

Rent controls are just not the answer

My friend Daveberta had an interesting post yesterday where he tries to imply that somehow the PC Party actually controls the Premier and that by voting down policy at our AGM to consider rent controls we are forcing Premier Stelmach's hand on the issue. That's an interesting argument but it's (thankfully) not accurate.

The way the policy discussion was structured at this AGM illustrates how important an issue this is to our Party membership. 83 Constituencies submitted Policy Resolutions and then the membership voted on the five most important that would be discussed at the AGM. The mere fact that this was one of the five policies that made it proves how important an issue this is to us.

The fact remains though, that when everything is considered, Rent Control is not a solution to Alberta's Housing Crisis.

As a renter I struggle with this issue, but I do try to see it from the view of the Albertan property owner as well. If you have a property that you rent out, I assume that you do so not as a service to Albertans but to make a profit, to secure your families lively hood, or to create a safe future for your retirement. With rising costs, utilities, property taxes, higher wages for maintenance workers, higher contract costs for upkeep and the legal fees associated with renting - what would motivate someone to continue to rent (especially with property prices at an all time high) if they could not meet all these new needs, rising bills AND still support their families and the goals they set out to achieve when deciding to invest in rental properties?

Further, why on earth would any developer or potential owner even build new rental units if rent controls were in place? Why not just build condos or houses and sell them - at least you will get market value for them.

Nothing is cheap in our province, and I suspect (knowing a few) that most landlords are good people who have families to support and bills to pay, just like us. We do need to find a solution - one that works for all Albertan's - and in the mean time find a way to support the lowest income members of our province who are having the hardest time dealing with these rising costs. But rent control is not the answer.

More Dis-May

Paul Well's has a great post about the continuing saga of Elizabeth May trying to staunchly defend her ill-thought comments comparing the Prime Minister to Neville Chamberlain. He first jokes (great Simpson's reference here) "She has a point. If people accused Elizabeth May of talking about Nazis every time she talks about Nazis, where would we be?" But then continues, more seriously, to the heart of the matter, saying "What is thuddingly obvious to any serious observer is that May cannot have meant anything by the Harper-Chamberlain comparison except what she is accused of having meant. If I say somebody's action is "a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis," ... I mean that in the face of a greater moral danger than the one Hitler represented, he is showing instincts of appeasement. What is also clear is that May meant every word of it." Go to Inkless Wells and read his entire post on the subject.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Power to the People...

Thanks to Shaw I'm blogging live from the PC AGM and Convention here in Edmonton. I wanted to mention a few thoughts that arose from the heated discussion at our AGM earlier this evening regarding raising our membership fees, which our Provincial Party Executive had attempted to do already (and without consultation) at an executive meeting.

The strength in our Party lies within it's core - at the grassroots level - with it's constituencies and their members. These members have long resisted raising membership dues, especially as a method of fundraising, and with good reason: a $5.00 fee makes membership in our party available to anyone and everyone who wants it. I think it is of utmost importance that everyone who wants to participate in the democratic process be able to do so, and the price of a membership to a political party should never be a barrier to this.

In attempting to raise our fees in a closed meeting (and inform us of it later), our executive forgot about the most important people in our party - us. Today, the grassroots members of the PC Party of Alberta sent a clear message in voting down the proposed fee elevation... we know that power lies within our voice, our vote and we will not tolerate anyone trying to take this away from us. Power to the People.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Christmas in Wonderland

Dinner tonight at Old Spaghetti Factory (WEM) provided additional entertainment as we watched the filming of a scene for the movie "Christmas in Wonderland" which is in production right now at West Edmonton Mall. The scene (performed by a couple of stunt doubles Jodi Stecyk and Troy Dorchester, filling in for actors Chris Kattan and Preston Lacy) involves a race through the mall on small motorbikes with some well placed mishaps on the way; culminating with a spectacular crash through a glass window overlooking the Waterpark - and a wet landing.

I found it very interesting to see first hand the amount of work and effort that goes into a production like this, especially the amount of time that it takes to set up for a scene that is actually only a few seconds long.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stupid Is As Stupid Does...

I've been trying to figure out what to say about the St├ęphane Dion/Elizabeth May "Deal" that hasn't already been said on other blogs and then I saw this. I think it says it all!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Children of Petawawa

Having both been a soldier and a parent in my life the stories from CFB Petawawa, where it is reported that many children are "on the brink of suicide," have weighed heavy on my heart.

A Canadian childhood is supposed to be full of fun and carefree times, an opportunity to explore your world in safety and discover who it is you would like to be when you grow up. For the children of Petawawa, where many of Canada's Afgahnistan related deaths and injuries have had the largest impact, stress, anxiety and fear is more dominant. Their flags at school fly at half mast often, once for 49 days straight!

It's been reported in the news that the children are afraid of being called out of class in case they find out their mother or father are dead and that others hide in their homes with all the lights off, reasoning that if they can't be found when a military official comes to tell them their parents are dead, it won't be true.

We expect our soldiers to be brave (and they are), but thats a little too much to ask of their kids. These children need help - and I am happy that it appears they will now be getting it - but I am at a loss to understand why the support took so long to get into place when we knew this would happen.

Part of supporting our troops is making sure we look after their children and keep them safe until they return. It's the least we can do.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Vancouver Island 2007

Vancouver Island 2007
Originally uploaded by Allie Wojtaszek.

The winters here in Alberta get the best of me at times; they are just too long. By March, when the place of my birth is unfurling spring's glory in many tiny blossoms, I am more than ready for winter to be a memory. The trouble is that spring doesn't really begin where I live until the end of May (any vegetation trying to grow before the May long week end is past is usually short lived). May is still a long ways away.

So in search of spring I embarked on a weekend adventure - involving Comox, Courtney, Campbell River, Oyster Bay, Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville and Quadra Island.

More pictures here!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Soundwave vs. Dollansky (and CAUS)

"... We do not inherit this Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from Megatron. Lastly, I seek to eradicate unnecessary fees that burden our students. I speak of the portion of SU fees that are paid to CAUS. The Council of Alberta University Students. This external advocacy organization cannot match my superior intellect and brute force!"

In case you're wondering, Stephen Dollansky did indeed win. And so did us humans.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Blog Catch Up - Would you like Fries with that?

This is what happens when I don't alot myself enough time to blog; I fall behind and I make myself feel better with a hefty helping of "blog-catchup." So, without further ado:

Duncan's Lobby Conference is this week and he's been very busy recently putting everything together to ensure a great conference for all involved. Thankfully he wasn't too busy to take me for green beer on St Patrick's Day - a first for me! Being a religion scholar means St Patrick isn't my favourite Saint, so I'd hadn't yet indulged!

When my darling "little" boy all of a sudden told me he needs a haircut and new dress shoes (he wears a size 11 mens now!) I suspected something was up - turns out he had a big concert band competition - the very next day. They did wonderfully, of course, and the Ajudicator awarded his Band with a "Superior" and a "Very Excellent," top marks!

My lovely daughter has always been a straight "A" student, with the lone except of PE, where she always seems to get a "B." While I don't think a "B" in PE class is anything to be upset about, it has become an obsession of hers to increase this mark (she does remind me of myself at times). I do suppose it could be worse, she could discover Facebook!

Duncan was invited by the ATA to be part of thier Political Action conference by being part of their Blogger Panel. Ken Chapman, Nicole Martel, Daveberta and of course, Duncan, spoke to the Political Action Officers about blogs as alternative media, as political tools and about how to have influence in the blogosphere. I was happy to be there and I enjoyed the dialogue. It was interesting to hear the personal motivations and stories behind each of their blogging and some of the questions that the teachers asked are still rattling around in my head, daring to provoke some non work related thoughts. The horror!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Four Years Later...

As Bush sends more troops to Iraq in an attempt to regain control in Baghdad, and as Congress considers alternate measures to bring their troops home, world wide protests mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq invasion and occupation. It's a not so happy kind of anniversary, one you hope doesn't have to come next year.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Parenting with Love... and Logic?

There are all these books out there about parenting with Love and Logic. I know this because I have read my fair share of them, and up until this exact point of time in my parenting career I would say that they have been helpful and welcome.

I believe that teens are perhaps the most endearing, challenging and important group of people in our society - our strongest critics, our future leaders and eventually, our caregivers. This belief, combined with the memory of my own teenhood challenges and the fact that I love my children, lead me to figure the parenting teenagers "stage" would be easy. Or at least, easier for me. Because I am just that good.

Boy, was I wrong. And it really has nothing to do with Logic...

"Raising teens is like trying to nail jello to a tree"
- some poor, unknown parent of a teenager

I really do try, but there are times I am still on the recieving end of "the look" again (if you're a parent of a teen I am sure you know this one - it's the "You're so Retarded" look). I can't wait to be smart and cool again! Can't they see how totally awesome I am?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Finally, a gift you can send to your 'frienemies'

What do you get that wannabe Wise Guy who already has everything? The plush severed horse head! Same effect - no mess!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Speech From the Throne

How'd they know I was coming today?

Monday, March 05, 2007

New Camera!

New Camera!
Originally uploaded by Allie Wojtaszek.
Here is one of my first pictures taken with my new camera. I have seen this picture for some time but have never had a camera that was able to capture it like this! Obviously, still much to learn, but I am having fun!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Enjoying the Wiikend!

After playing the Wii for the better part of the day we decided to watch the Flames/Oilers game last night over at our pub. Turns out they were showing something called "UFC" instead. I wish I could say I am more cultured for the experience, but somehow I doubt it. I prefer my fights on ice.

Today has been Wii, Wii and even more Wii. I know time is a luxury and we have taken a lot this weekend to relax and have fun, but damn, this Wii is way more fun then I could have thought! Nintendo has outdone itself, and it's not just the games. We are also enjoying the little extra's like our Mii's, surfing the internet and looking at our pictures on the TV.

Since I have my new camera now too I have also spent some time surfing through the many pages of Flickr, trying to get some ideas for shots I would like to try. I've added some brilliant pictures from all over the world to my Flickr Favourites, which I am hoping you can see if you click on the link. It's hard not to be inspired by these pictures - we live on a beautiful planet with a lot of interesting people.

The kidlets come home this evening and I am really looking forward to having them home again. I and hoping they enjoyed their weekend as much as we have ours.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Chronology of a Wii

Forty Wii available!!! This must have been what it was like
when Jesus turned all that water into wine...

Hey... What's a PS3?

05:30... The "O" stands for "Oh my god it's early!"
The people in front of us have been here since 1:30am.

Starbucks opened at 6:35am.
There was much rejoicing!

Just an hour to go now... the line up is much longer
but the wait is much easier in the sunlight.

They handed out the tickets at about 9:10 am
- we are actually going to get one this time!


Next we drag our mattress and bedding down to the living room and gather the neccessary "weekend supplies."

Zelda, here we come!