We are all believers it would seem

When the Vancouver Winter Olympics started 17 days ago I was very cynical. After the opening ceremonies and the first couple of days of the games it appeared that Vancouver was going to fail. There was no snow on Cypress, the Olympic Cauldron was behind a chain-link fence and our athletes did not seem to be doing that well. Our “Own the Podium” program not only seemed completely un-Canadian, it looked like a failure. Half-way through the games the ‘Own the Podium’ people came out and said their hopes were too ambitious for this games. If we didn’t own the podium in 2010, many were hopeful that we had at least put down a foundation for future games.

Then something happened. I am not sure what but things began to change. We started to win medals, many more medals than we had ever won at any other Olympic games. Plus we won gold on home soil! People became proud to be Canadian as we watched our athletes win. Canadians are not an overly nationalistic people. Historically, we have not had a galvanizing event around which we could gather and point to as a significant event in the formation of our nation. The Americans have the Civil War. Canada was formed as a result of a very successful set of negotiations. Canadians rarely feel nationalistic in the way other nations experience it. Countries like Russia, Japan, and the United States display their nationalism unfettered and without apology. For a short amount of time, our nationalism galvanized, we displayed our hopes and dreams for our country as one. A very rare event in quiet, staid, apologetic Canada.

It cannot go unsaid that these Olympic Games belonged to our women athletes. The women inspired us and their teams to achieve more. From the guts performance of Joannie Rochette to the free-spirited Ashleigh McIvor who came screaming down the mountain our women did not let us down. Clara Hughes, a veteran of both winter and summer games, won a bronze medal in an awesome performance. Our women’s hockey team played with heart and soul and won against the Americans.

In the lead-up to the Games, the February 15th edition of Maclean’s outlined a list of athletes to watch at the games. Out of 9 entries* only 3 were women and one of the women was the coach of the Canadian Women’s hockey team. This seems way out of line when compared with the actual results. They devoted an entire page to Jeff Pain and his wife discussing their marital problems. They featured Patrick Chan but not Joannie Rochette. Why Sidney Crosby but not Hayley Wickenheiser? I have my theories for sure.

Today it seemed like the entire country was holding its collective breath at the end of the third period when the Americans scored the goal that tied the game. We all breathed a sigh of relief when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal. In Olympic hockey matches winning silver means that you lost. I have never seem more miserable athletes than the Americans, both the women and the men’s team, when they lost their games to Canada. I hate to think of what might have happened had Canada lost.

The Closing Ceremonies were much more Canadian than the Opening Ceremonies. I liked how they made fun of their own malfunctioning equipment. Neil Young, William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, and Micheal Buble – it does not get more Canadian. It has been a great 17 days and I can say that I believe – if only for a little while. Bring on the Paralympics!!

*Here are the athletes featured: Jeff Pain – Skeleton, didn’t medal, Alex Harvey – Cross-country Skiing, didn’t medal, Sidney Crosby – hockey, did medal, Larcellas Brown – Bobsleigh, did medal, Ashleigh McIvor – Ski Cross, did medal, Chris Del Bosco, didn’t medal – Ski Cross, Cindy Klassenm didn’t medal – Speed Skating, Manuel Osborne-Paradis – Alpine, didn’t medal, Mel Davidson – coach of the Women’s Hockey Team, did medal, Patrick Chan – Figure Skating, didn’t medal

Dispatches from the Swamp

Blogging every day is not an easy task. Quite often there is nothing I find inspiring enough to devote a blog post to it. Sometimes there are events that are happening which I either don’t have an opinion on or I can’t be bothered to formulate one. Today is one of those days. I could blog about the Olympics and the fact that we are kicking some gold medal ass. We actually seem to be owning some of the podium – the gold part. I do think our athletes have done very well and all the naysayers can suck it up.

On these days, I tend to blog about goings on at chez Shihtzustaff. I am going to do that today, in bullet form:

  • Clio is doing well today. She has not coughed at all. Ya Clio!
  • Deb has a new name for Zoe. She is ‘da piggy huntah.’ She has been given this name because that dog is completely obsessed with the guinea pigs. She barks at them, and tries to get into their cage (did so once because of human error). Last night while Deb and Angelina were cutting Edith’s nails, Zoe was literally trying to crawl up Deb to get to Edith. She is one crazy-ass little shithead!
  • Still on Zoe, AKA ‘da piggy huntah’ she has learned to play so well. For a dog who spent 9 years in a puppy mill she is definitely embracing life as she knows it today. Everything she does is done with gusto, her head and tail held high. She owns the world and she knows it! It is such a pleasure to watch a dog grow in this way. It is one of the true gifts of rescue.
  • I am constantly amazed at how loyal Piper is to me. She sleeps molded around some part of me every night. She knows when I am having a bad day and she sits with me. She never demands attention like some of our other dogs, instead she leans against you so you know she is there. She is incredibly cuddly in the mornings and even submits to have her ever-filthy wrinkle cleaned.
  • I suffer a great deal from very tense muscles in my neck, shoulders and lower back. Today I bought a shiatsu back massager for my chair in the living room. While it is not comfortable to sit on all the time as the roller protrudes far out, it works very well. Basically the roller goes up and down your back slowly. You can press into it for added pressure. It is going to work very well to my back in a little better shape. I also bought a heating pad to continue to help to reduce some of the pain I feel in my back. Maybe I will take less muscle relaxants now.
  • Gemma continues to do very well. We have not noticed any progression of her disease at all. She no longer behaves aggressively but we still keep her and Zoe apart. Zoe has a long, long memory and just seeing Gemma sets her off. She is a scrappy little girl!
  • My colitis is acting up quite a bit these days. I will spare you all the details.
  • I am back to work Monday after having 2 weeks off. I am not really sure how I am going to pull this off as I am still sleeping 12 hours a day. Should be interesting to say the least. I do feel rested and a little bit more relaxed. We will be going into a very busy time over the next couple of months.
  • If I blog tomorrow I will have actually completed a full month of blogging. There was a technical glitch that saw one of my posts submitted the next day so technically I guess I did not manage to do it. However, in my mind I know that I did. Now we are on to March. For those of you who blog, NaBloPoMo is a great way to help you blog daily.

That is it until tomorrow!



Life has never been easy for Clio. We think she was born to a backyard breeder and shoved in a crate for most of the first year of her life. Her legs, it seems, were put on backwards. She is blind and quite likely a little brain damaged. One vet described her as a train wreck who should have been euthanized shortly after her birth. Instead of doing right by this dog, someone (we have no idea who) threw her out of a moving vehicle at Boundary and Marine in Vancouver. A very kind man stopped and picked her up and took her to the shelter.

She initially came home as a foster dog. However it became apparent that once Clio bonded with me she was never going anywhere. She is a difficult dog at times. She is very demanding and she rarely sits still. If Clio had her way, she would be sitting on me all day and all night. She has never managed to be toilet trained but she knows to go if we put her outside. Cuddling with Clio can be like a wrestling match. Once she settles down though she is lovely.

Clio has been coughing for about 2 weeks. It seemed to get a little and then it got worse again. I took her to the vet. Her chest was x-rayed. She has a slightly enlarged heart and she has small tumours on her lungs. She has also developed a grade 2 heart murmur. We will not investigate any further because there is nothing they can do to help her. Further tests will only stress her out and she is already stressed.

I am not sure what will happen. We don’t know if she has an aggressive form of cancer. Hopefully it is a slow-growing type. She is not showing any other symptoms so it is hard to know. One thing for sure, as soon as we think she no longer has a good quality of life we will help her to pass. Clio is a dog that has great difficulty dealing with anything outside of her normal routine. She is as predictable as the sun rising every day.

I sincerely hope we do not have to make that decision soon. It is going to be very difficult.

More Olympics!

This Olympics should be renamed the “Women’s Olympics.” Canadian women have now won over 80% of the medals awarded to Canada. Our Women’s hockey team has taken gold as well. I wonder if there has ever been research done looking at the difference in performance of women over men.

I would hazard a guess that women generally handle stress better than men. Women are used to having to work harder and be better all the time. I don’t think men handle the stress in the same way. Women are used to juggling competing priorities as we strive to be succesful. Women like Hayley Wickenheiser have children and are able to continue in their sport at a very high level. Regardless the reason, Canadian women have made us very proud at these Olympic games!

Olympics Overload

The Olympics have been great. I have enjoyed watching some of it – especially the figure skating. However, I have to say that I am getting tired of it now. So many shows that I like are not being broadcasted. I am so thankful for the Apple TV which gives me alternatives.

Speaking of the Apple TV, I had to clear out my hard drive the other day because all of the media for the ATV had filled it. I purchased a new 2TB drive to hold all of my stuff and to back up all of the computers in the house.

In other news, Zoe continues to charm us whilst being completely bad to the bone. She is the cutest dog! Her personality shines through all the time. She is a great little dog!  Sawyer is doing really well too. He is growing like a weed and he will be neutered in a couple of weeks. One of his testicles has not descended. I have read about another dog who is having testicle issues. Sawyer is doing well integrating with the pack. Some of the older dogs, Madison, Clio and Molly can’t stand him. Kiefer isn’t great with him either – hopefully that will improve once Sawyer is neutered. Sometimes neutered dogs don’t like other intact males – it’s a hormone issue. Kirby, Sienna and Piper are really good with Sawyer. Zoe is hysterical with him – she barks and he jumps. Wash, rinse, repeat. It is a very loud game.

Gemma continues to do well. She has gained some more weight and she runs like a demon. She is not showing any signs of cancer except for the odd behavioural issue. She is very interested in food and getting lots of cuddles. Gemma is one of the most beautiful dogs I hae ever seen. Her eyes are deep and soulful.

Gemma Joy with one of her 'babies'
Gemma Joy with one of her 'babies'

Piper is an intensely loyal dog. When I am having a bad day or not feeling well she does not leave my side. She leans against my leg when I am on the computer and she lies on my feet in the reclining chair. She is very comforting to me.

2010 Olympics Short Program

The womens’ short program was nothing short of amazing tonight. Joannie Rochette was spectacular in her skate tonight. Even more so given the passing of her mother. She is an amazing athlete to have been able to go out there and skate so well. I am really looking forward to the free skate and I am seriously hoping that Joannie wins gold!

Ashley McIver’s gold ski cross run was fantastic. Many of the skiing and snowboarding events rely on fractions of seconds. The race clearly showed Ashley clearly ahead of her nearest competitors. Congratulations Ashley. I think we officially own the right-hand corner of the podium – the foundation!

Woo Hoo!!

The performance tonight by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir was picture perfect. Usually, I find ice dancing quite boring. Not tonight! I cannot believe the things they did on skates. The move where Tessa is perfectly balanced on Scott’s back seemed almost impossible except for the fact that they did it.

Tessa and Scott displayed such pride and amazing sportsmanship as they accepted their gold medals. They sang “O Canada” as it played and really gave back to the audience. The audience, in turn, gave even more love back to them.

Congratulations Tessa and Scott. I hope you have a very long career, you are already succesful at such a young age! The future is bright for you.


I have been on vacation for a week and I am feeling so much better. I actually have some energy and I don’t feel like sleeping all the time. Even with my hemoglobin at the low-end of normal now I am still feeling very tired. Fatigue is a major symptom of colitis. I am still sleeping 10 or 11 hours a night. Now that I am caught up a little bit I actually have energy to do some of the things I wanted to do while I was off.

I have arranged to take another week off. I can use the rest and I still have lots to do. I want to back up all the computers in the house and I need a new TB drive to complete this task. I have a letter to write about some very bad service from the company who put in our flooring. I also want more time to relax and take it easy.

March will be a killer month. I have a major grant application due by the end of the month. I am going to rest in advance. I think I will be much more effective at work when I go back. For the first time ever, I had  not checked my work email in over a week. I noticed that after the first day I stopped thinking about it. Then I dreaded the thought of checking it so that kept me away. I had to check today so that I could update my vacation responder and deal with anything critical. Now it is back to no work email for me!

Apple TV – Review

Apple TV

Deb gave me an Apple TV for Christmas 2009. First off, I must say that I ♥ my Apple TV. I use it almost daily. I have found many different shows to watch than I would normally. If you are not sure you will like a show you can download an episode or two for usually a $1.99*. Not a big investment if you decide you don’t like the show. You can also rent and buy movies to play on the Apple TV.

There is some confusion around what Apple TV (ATV) is and what it is not. First, it is not a TV. I am not sure why the used TV in the name as it is a misnomer. ATV is an iPod for your TV. You download content and you sync it with ATV in exactly the same way you do with music and your iPod. My ATV has a capacity of 144.63 GB. It is a decent size and allows you to story quite a collection of media to watch. The ATV will also play music and photographs. You can also connect to YouTube through it. Data is transmitted wirelessly and it was very easy to set up.

Unfortunately, ATV is buggy. I have had shows just stop in a random spot and kick you out to the top menu which means you have to drill down to get back to the show you were watching. You don’t miss anything but it is annoying. Sometimes it will just cease operation and you have to reset by unplugging the power. Again nothing is lost but it is annoying.

The worst bug that I have found so far happens when one tries to sync rented movies to the ATV. Rented movies sync differently than all of the other content. For some reason you have to ‘move’ the movie from the rented movies box to the ATV box. The picture below show what it looks like. I do not have any rented movies that need to be moved right now.

Screenshot from iTunes

The problem comes when you try to move the movie to the other box. Sometimes the movie will not transfer. I have determined so far that if the screen saver activates the transfer stops. Other times it seems that iTunes or the ATV is frozen. Today, for example, I tried to get Food Inc. to go over about 10 times today. Finally, I restarted the computer, the Airport Extreme and the ATV.

Another issue that has come up for me is corrupted downloads. For some reason it happens with my episodes of 24. I had three episodes I had not watched and none of them would play. A quick email to iTunes Support solved the problem within about 12 hours. They re-queue the content for you to download again. They are also pretty liberal with the credits if they think you are at all upset. I once got 5 free songs because I could not download ringtones in iTunes from Canada. Apparently they are only available in the US.

Even with all of the bugs I would still recommend an ATV if you like to watch a lot of TV. I must say though that it is an expensive beast to feed. I am constantly on the look out for iTunes cards priced lower than their actual value. At Christmas I was able to get several $50 cards at $10 off! It was insane! Costco also has cards that are about $91 for $100 worth of iTunes credit. The iTunes store is also very quick to assist with any problems. When I first got the ATV, I accidentally downloaded season 7 of 24. I did not mean to do this and no box came up asking me if I wanted to download it. They refunded the purchase. I still have the files but I have not watched them. If the iTunes store was not as prompt in handling issues I would probably feel different about the ATV experience. Even though there are bugs with the ATV, I still prefer it over renting videos and watching them on a DVD player. The quality is great and it is so much more convenient.

*Some shows are $2.49. There is also a rumour that Apple is in negotiations with CBS that might see their shows sell for $.99 an episode!

I have created a monster…!

The other day I noticed that the cat was interested in wet dog food. One of our dogs, Clio, is has always been very thin and we have been trying to see if she could gain some weight eating a high quality kibble and canned. She loves raw but she does not seem to get enough calories from it. Anyway, the cat seemed to want canned food so I bought her some. Within a very short amount of time (a little over a week) the cat has decided that she shall have her minions serve her wet food every evening. She will make my life miserable if I do not comply. So now I have to make sure I have wet cat food in the house or my life will not be worth living.

Clio - You can see how thin she is through her back end
The Cat - Bella

In other pet related news: Edith let me pick her up today. This is a major milestone for that little guinea pig. The last time we had to get her it was traumatic for both her and us. I did not hold her long because I did not want to upset her. She did not seem thrilled, hopefully over time she will like it more.