June 11, 2012
Petrie Island: Frog Week

Despite the lack of turtles, "turtle week" was a such big hit with Elizabeth that she asked whether it was time for "frog week" several times a day.


We invited Maria along. This was not as successful an outing as I hoped, as Maria got about a dozen steps onto the trail and then decided she needed to be carried. I mostly don't even carry Elizabeth anymore (a good 10lbs lighter), so this was a non-starter, particularly since I was suspicious that carrying one girl would lead to demands from the other.  Maria looked at me. I looked at her. She crossed her arms, sat down deliberately and started to scream. Of course this set off Elizabeth, who was crying because she wouldn't be able hear the frogs singing and that Maria was going to chase them all AWAY...


Sigh. I tried to get Elizabeth to go ahead with her friend Julia, but Elizabeth was having none of it. So we sat down and I told Maria that when she was ready to come and look at the frogs we would keep going. Eventually she decided that screaming wasn't having the desired effect and cut it out. Then we had a nice time. We heard and saw many frogs. The girls declined the opportunity to touch the real ones captured by the more enthusiastic older members of the group, but they were clearly interested in the frogs. I did need to get them to use grass to encourage the frogs to jump instead of rocks. I'm sure the frogs didn't enjoy the outing as much as the kids did!


The hike was pretty long and very hot, but despite that initial resistance the girls did very well. The tree with the giant leaves apparently was cut down by a beaver (a coppice). Normally that tree has smaller leaves, but getting munched by a beaver causes mega-sized leaves.


After the hike they cut out, glued and labeled the life cycle of a frog. Elizabeth insisted on writing her own labels (and actually did a credible, if not entirely legible, job). Maria insisted on decapitating a number of her frog parts with the scissors. They were both extremely proud of the end results. I think they even had fun.

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June 10, 2012
Baptism Anniversary

We mark Elizabeth's baptism every year with cake and ceremonial lighting of baptism candle. I rather incautiously told Elizabeth we'd have a barbecue and cake when her godparents came for her party. Being barbecue season, we had barbecue for dinner one night. Elizabeth promptly burst into tears when the cake and godparents failed to appear. Brendan and I had a horrible time trying to figure out what was wrong. Whoops!


Elizabeth got to pick her own cake but since she wanted a carrot cake with almonds there was chocolate too. Auntie Janice helped decorate, because Elizabeth felt a party needed "decowations". Godmother Rachel read some scripture about baptism and Mommy lit the baptism candle. Elizabeth held the candle for the first time, but managed not set fire to her hair. Then Elizabeth and Rachel played outside in Elizabeth's playhouse while Uncle Dave dangled his son upside-down.

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June 5, 2012
Venus Transit

Auntie Janice borrowed our binoculars and set up our own Venus transit projection, so my plan to watch online suddenly morphed into obsessively following the sun with Elizabeth's painting easel. The entire household spent the evening watching a dot move across our bbq, so clearly I wasn't the only excited one.


We don't think that Elizabeth quite "gets" the solar system yet but she did understand that something was in the way of Mr. Sun and everyone was quite enthused about it. As the sun set and the trees / houses began to obstruct our view, we moved from back to front to neighbour's yard.


Passersby thought our pajama party was a little odd until they were close enough to see what we were looking at.

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June 4, 2012
Petrie Island: Turtle Week

We've joined a local homeschooling association this year since we are not sending Elizabeth to preschool and in order to get a better sense of what resources are available in Ottawa.


One of the members organized a series of field trips to Petrie Island. The first week was turtle week. Unfortunately cold and rainy, Elizabeth couldn't spot the solitary turtle basking across the pond. "That's okay", she said. "I got TWO turtles at home". The nature hike was pretty interesting. We're learning to identify different kinds of plants right now. Can you guess which plant Mommy thought Elizabeth needs to learn about first? In order to avoid accidents...


At turtle beach, Elizabeth got to collect turtle egg shells that had been eaten by raccoons and other predators. "Tsk, tsk, tsk" said Elizabeth. "Wacoons sure are pesky animals". Afterwards she made a turtle craft.


Seeing the heron was by far her favourite part of the field trip, though she wanted me to make the bird fly next to her again and was a little perturbed that my superpowers don't extend to bird whispering. I told her that it was probably frightened of her. She was rather indignant at the idea. "I am NOT scary, Momma."

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June 3, 2012
Doors Open Ottawa: Lights, Ambulances

For our second day of Doors Open Ottawa we visited the Ottawa Citizen, the Chaudière Falls Generating Station No. 2 and the Ottawa Paramedics.


I was disappointed by the Ottawa Citizen tour, probably because it had the potential to be one of my favourite locations ever. You'll notice there are no pictures. That's because they told me "no pictures in the building". Other people took pictures without penalty, but since I specifically asked (and Elizabeth heard the question and answer) I figured I'd better not.


The other disappointment was that they were taking pictures of participants and making a front page mock-up, but we were told that our tour was starting right away and didn't have time to have this done. I figured we could do it afterwards but that's not how it worked. Yukiko and I wished that how things worked was a little more obvious. We can understand why they didn't have the presses operating (although that would be infinitely cooler), but some parts could have been staged - for instance they could have had a few papers hanging from the clips on the ceiling to show how that works.


It was still neat though, and given that the staff were likely all still reeling from layoff announcements earlier in the week I think they did a good job. I was interested to learn that the Ottawa Citizen has been around since 1845 (as the Bytown Packet). They create four aluminum plates of each page (black, red, yellow and cyan). I guess I knew that each colour is printed separately but I was picturing something more like a giant computer printer rather than separate aluminum plates for each somehow. They do recycle the aluminum afterwards!


Our tour guide made a point of telling us that newsprint is environmentally friendly, as it only uses forestry byproducts (wood chips and recycled newsprint). The ink is apparently soy based. That's the primary reason we don't get a newspaper ourselves - I HATE getting newspaper ink on my fingers. That's the main reason I quit delivering pennysavers back in the day...


Newsprint is delivered in huge rolls (1500 pounds each). The roll at the center is disproportionately small - really itty bitty. They have special round fork lifts and the rolls are stored on raised platforms so they don't have to lift them onto the cool little carts. All of this would be easier to show than to describe...


After the Citizen we headed out to see "where our lights come from". Number 2 is the oldest generating station in Canada. Built in 1891 (and refurbished in 2001 carefully to preserve heritage elements), it is part of three Hydro Ottawa generating stations at that location. Together they generate 18 megawatts or 2% of Ottawa's power needs. That's pretty cool! There's a 1910 ring dam up at the top protecting the Hydro Ottawa and Hydro Quebec stations.


There's not too much to the facility, but they did a good job of showing us around and answering questions. We got to see a video showing the trash rack in operation (cleaning out the river!) There was a hydro truck and a few little demos. Elizabeth LOVED the part where she got to answer questions about electricity and win prizes (they were very lenient). She did not enjoy the electrocution hazard house, mainly because the noise of electricity arcing was not appreciated.


We probably should have gone home for a nap after Sunday school followed by two Doors Open Ottawa locations, but Elizabeth was keen to go to another one so we headed to the Paramedics. Mom and Dad found this a lot more interesting than Elizabeth did. I think our tour was particularly in depth because we had a former paramedic from Florida in our group and he asked a lot of questions.


Apparently we have more than 400 paramedics in our city. By weekday afternoons there are about 50-60 ambulances on the roads with two paramedics per ambulance. Most paramedics have twelve hour shifts. They cover a 2800 km area (wow...)  The busiest day of the year by far is Canada Day, when volume triples. So you should be extra careful on Canada Day apparently. New Year's Eve and Hallowe'en are also particularly busy.


I was interested to learn that the dispatching technology is standard across Ontario. If an ambulance from Petawawa crosses into the Ottawa area, Ottawa dispatchers immediately have dispatching control over the vehicle. This is not true for Gatineau. Even though it is much closer Quebec has a different radio structure and they are unable to communicate. Suspect this is partly why emergency response on the river along the provincial boundary is still a bit tricky!


The paramedics do a lot of standardization of equipment. Bags are laid out in the same way and everything is shrinkwrapped on site so that they know whether it needs resterilization / restocking or not. Their maintenance program is also quite extensive. The stretchers apparently know how many times they go up and down and report this back. When they've lifted a certain weight or been folded / unfolded a certain number of times they get tagged for maintenance. Everything has bar codes and tags. When the tags get taken off the bags, the equipment guys know they have to recheck the contents. They also have a massive storehouse for all their supplies and medications. Apparently they order all medical supplies for the city of Ottawa!


They've just opened a new bariatrics unit with special ramps, powered winches and increased surface area on the stretchers. They are also particularly proud of their stair lift stretchers, since they mentioned numerous times.


Aside from special ramps and stretchers, they have a lot of different kinds of vehicles. From portable emergency rooms in a bus (complete with oxygen and all kinds of monitors) to utility vehicles, to rapid response cars, to bicycles - they really have everything. The bike squad has a pretty impressive amount of equipment packed into their saddle bags, including miniature defibrillators! There's even a unit that can bring out equipment and supplies to restock ambulances in the field, complete with its own generator and lights, in case of large disaster like a plane crash. Or for Canada Day...


What they don't have is air ambulances, since that's managed at a provincial level (instead of municipal). Apparently paramedics need special training to handle providing care at an altitude. Did I mention I learned a lot on this tour?


The paramedics have their own car wash and mechanic. They used to centralize maintenance but it took two vehicles and two techs out of service. The things hanging from the ceiling are power cords. Everything has onboard computers that must be charged. The charger apparently only works if needed (trickle power?) The fleet is currently diesel, but they are switching to gas. Apparently Ford was unable to meet Californian ambulance emission standards with diesel. Interesting to know that California laws dictate our choice of fuel!


Overall I was left with the impression that the paramedics have made huge progress in streamlining their operations. They've struggled with response times in the not so distant past but when our paramedic guide insisted that they've turned a corner I believed him.


After our tour Elizabeth got to sit in an actual ambulance and watch another kid get hooked up to a heart monitor. It's safe to say that this was definitely her favourite part.

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