Friday, 18 February 2011

Mubarak Makes a Call

When people learn that I volunteer with a crisis hotline, they always want to know what kind of calls we get there. We're trained to handle basically anything. The following is a script for how I might handle a more high-risk call:

Phone: Ring ring!

Me: Hi, this is the Distress Centre.

Male caller:
Hi. I'm in distress and I don't know what to do.

Me:
Ok, well, can you tell me a bit about what's going on?

Caller:
I used to be a dictator, but now millions of people hate me and are rioting in the street.

Me:
Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear that.

Caller:
I think they're going to kill me.

Me:
Uh, oh. What makes you think that?

Caller:
Well, they're screaming that they don't want me and they're lobbing molotov cocktails at my bodyguards.

Me:
I see. That's not good.

Caller:
No.

Me:
Is this happening right now? Are they throwing cocktails right now?

Caller:
Yes, but they don't know where I am. My window shades are all drawn.

Me:
Good. And have you changed the locks on your doors recently?

Caller:
Yes. But I don't think they'll hold if the rioters find out I'm in here.

Me:
Well, I think you're doing a very good job of staying calm. How is all this making you feel?

Caller:
Millions of people hate me. How do you think I feel?

Me:
Overwhelmed, maybe?

Caller:
That's a good word. Yes, a little overwhelmed.

Me:
You know, sometimes when people feel overwhelmed, they start having thoughts of suicide. Is that the case with you, today, sir?

Caller:
Uh, no. But I'm scared the rioting masses will kill me.

Me:
Have you notified the police?

Caller:
Yes, but they're having trouble standing up against the military. The military is onside with the rioters.

Me:
Oh. That makes things a bit more difficult. Do you know what happened that made everyone want to kill you?

Caller:
I stole about 68 billion dollars from them and generally abused their human rights.

Me:
Yeah, sometimes that kind of thing can upset people. Is there any chance you'll be abusing people's human rights today, sir?

Caller:
Whose side are you on?

Me:
I just want to make sure everyone's safe.

Caller:
I think I want to leave this place.

Me:
That sounds like a good plan. Will you be able to leave?

Caller:
Yes. I know how to fly airplanes. The thing is, I don't know where to go. I can't access my $68 billion, currently. I have no money to set me up anywhere.

Me:
Huh. That presents a problem, doesn't it. Do you have any spare change tucked in the couch cushions or something?

Caller:
Well....

Me:
What about a hatchet? I read a book once where a kid survived on his own in the wild with pretty much nothing but a hatchet.

Caller:
I think I have a hatchet somewhere.

Me:
Good! Ok, so, here's an idea. How about you grab your hatchet, fly away in your plane, land in an uninhabited desert or a forest somewhere, and live on nothing but your wits alone for a month or two until all this blows over. How do you feel about that plan?

Caller:
Could you find me the co-ordinates of the nearest uninhabited forest with a landing strip?

Me:
Sure, I can do that for you. Just give me a moment. Whereabouts are you?

Caller:
Wait... this is confidential, right?


I wonder how this guy is going to end up. And how his country is going to end up, for that matter. It's weird, really. He goes through so much trouble to accumulate so much wealth and in the end will it help him at all?

It's kind of ironic - probably the only thing that can help him now is far too expensive to ever buy, and yet completely free...

Leave your hurting on the road behind you
Let the wind go with you ‘til morning comes
And your sorrow, it can’t save you
It won’t answer for what you’ve done

-NeedToBreathe (Let Us Love)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Fantasy Cartography

This is a map of the Fire Emblem world:


Yes, I had to take a few liberties with it, such as adding on to the Nabata desert, and flipping Akaneia on its side so that it can hook up with Sacae, but really... how else was I supposed to make all the continents fit together nicely? Both Ilia and Silesia are up north, where it's really cold, but the deserts are in random places. I don't think there's an equator line anywhere, but then, nobody's ever made the claim that the Fire Emblem world is round, have they?

Given that only three of the six continents are canonically even in the same world, I think this isn't too bad. I'm surprised there aren't more FE world maps online. Am I really the first to make one?

If I were to do it over, I wouldn't have made the water such a dark blue. Oh, and PS - does anyone have any ideas for what to name the island in the SE that I randomly drew in? "Carla's Island" doesn't quite cut it, and "Carlaville" doesn't sound very Fire Emblem worldish.

Cheers.

Speaking of maps: "We're all pilgrims on the same journey - but some pilgrims have better road maps." Nelson DeMille

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Dancing and Blog Traffic

These are pointe shoes:
You may have figured out that I'm trying to boost my blog traffic. It's not entirely dishonest, because, as you know, I was a dancer myself for about eleven years. My teachers and dance-mates did say that I have beautiful feet en pointe (or did at the time). Can you believe that I don't seem to have ANY pictures of my actually wearing them? Gah! All those years of training and nothing to display for it! Granted, I could take a picture now, but my shoes are no longer in pristine condition, I don't have the same gorgeous costumes, and well, such a photo probably wouldn't generate as much traffic as this picture above.

Traffic on this blog has never been highly congested, but I find some of the stats interesting.

The three most viewed posts on my blog are predictable:

Ronon vs. Teal'c

followed by

Dies Irae and I Guess This is Fan Art, which are neck and neck.

The next most viewed, Random Post, is more unexpected. There's not even a picture there. It's just rambling.

The most often used Google keyword that finds my blog is "maple leaf" and "Canada maple leaf". Apparently, once upon a time, I put a picture of a maple leaf on my blog. I had to go on a treasure hunt when I saw how much traffic this picture was generating, because I didn't remember actually using it.

To date, I've had 62 page views from Latvia.

Also, December and this February have seen the greatest dearth of visitors since I started my blog. Interesting how that correlates with the greatest dearth of posts since I started blogging. Or not so interesting. As you decide.

Back to the dance theme for the quote - this one is a paraphrase of a revelation had by former dance-mate Deanna Witwer (nee McLennan) one sunny Saturday morning rehearsal:

"The answer to all of life's problems and questions can be answered by one of two things: God or abdominal strength."

BTW, it doesn't look like either God or abdominal strength helped my sister in this dance. There I am, pleading to God, and she still ends up a corpse...

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Really Old Paperwork

If you love old things, that is, old things relating to my ancestral past, then you'll love this letter. David Loewen, my great grandfather, wrote this to his sister shortly after my Grandma was born.

David and his family had just emigrated to Canada from Russia 3 years earlier, on the Empress of France. Here's my great grandma's passenger declaration (click for a close up):



But now, on to the letter. It's really too bad you have to see it in type instead of in it's original, beautiful Gothic script:

***

Letter written by David Loewen

Translated from German by Erna Heinrichs

Transcribed to the computer and edited by Carla Heinrichs


Words in italics are notes by Erna Heinrichs.

Footnotes by Carla Heinrichs are numbered.


***

Beechy, October 2, 1927

Dear Sister and Brother-in-law!

We wish you peace and joy. Tuesday on the 27th of September, we had the pleasure of receiving your such appreciated letter. I have been busy with feeding children, laundry, and putting them to bed, keeping the rooms in order and taking care of Lena, and that has to be done while the neighbourhood has the threshing machine humming and each teamster collects his $7.00 daily.

But we also received a gift. On Sept. 25, 9 o'clock in the morning we were presented with a healthy, pudgy daughter. She has the name which you, Neta, liked so much: Erna. We are happy our children are healthy and growing. You should see how little Lena runs and makes fun. She doesn't only make the children laugh but adults as well.

We have started to teach the children High German. Henry can speak quite correctly already. Susie said “Aunt Neta should come to Grandma's house and we will visit her.” Come and see how our children play ring-around-the-rosy. Little Lena enjoys it too, although she lags behind in the falling down. It is a joy to have the children, but also much work and cost to keep them nourished and a big responsibility toward our Creator who has given them to us.

Lena is much improved (1). She is often out of bed. (When I was working on the obstetrical ward, the doctors had some women in bed for ten days) Henry and Grandma were here visiting today. (Henry was dad's adopted brother who was only six or seven years older than his son Henry.) (2) She is quite well now. She and Henry have been digging potatoes for three days. Papa had ridden to the church. Elder H. Neufeld, Hiebert and leader Martens from Main Centre were there on visit and to bring glory to the Lord.

Wish you were here. The parents have harvested the summer fallow wheat that was close to the house. It netted circa 1300 bushels. Both we and the Enns have nothing threshed. Our crop had suffered little from the frost, but instead we had rust. The last seeded will hardly pay the cost of threshing. Abr Dyck at the river had averaged 20 bushels on his light land: The Wiens have harvested about 130 acres and from that received 2900 bushels and they still have 70 acres to do. Corn Wiebe (Wiens' son-in-law) also has a good crop. Bernard Nickel will not get much. The grain also has various grades. Fitz Morris had wheat in the wagon and had to cover it so the wind wouldn't blow it away. Of potatoes we expect to get 25 bushels. Carrots will probably amount to 8 bushels. The children and I put them in the cellar. Pigs we haven't any. One cow we have for which I paid $45.00. The other (3)----



***


notes by C. Heinrichs:

  1. His wife, recovering from childbirth. Both David's wife and daughter were called Lena.

  2. That is, the Henry with Grandma is only six or seven years older than Erna's brother Henry.

  3. Unfortunately, the rest of the letter is lost.


***

"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now." Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Saith the Statistics

Setting: senior high Sunday school, year 2005 or 2006.

Characters: I can distinctly recall only three other girls who were in class that one day, but there were probably more. Our usual teacher wasn't there, but we had a sub.

Discussion topic: the amount of young people that fall away from their faith and walk away from church.

I remember the sub sighed, looked at us all sadly and said that very few of his peers that were raised in church with him were still in church. He said that that a large number of us wouldn't still be Christian by the time we were his age. What a downer. I didn't really believe him, but prayed that day we would prove him wrong and that in thirty years we would all be even stronger in our faith than we were that day.

Of the three girls that were definitely in class that day, I know that one of them has fallen away, suspect that another probably has, and don't know about the third. And it's only been what, five years? How bleak.

One of my peers, who still attends the church and is more in-touch with what has happened to the rest of our former classmates, wrote an article in the monthly church journal. He said that he can remember 18 regular attendees from our age group, and of those, he knows of at least eight that have stopped attending church altogether.

The really sad part? Our church is actually doing pretty well in the area of young-people retention. If you google the stats, you'll get a variety of numbers, ranging from about 61% to an 88% church drop-out rate for young adults. Some eventually come back, and not all of them actually lose their faith, but these numbers are appalling. Granted, I haven't looked at the studies, so I'm not sure of their methodologies. Also, the studies are American, which may or may not mean much for us in Canada. But one thing the studies all agree on is that my peers and I still have to survive another year or two before we've made it past the prime weeding years.

When I was in senior high, the girls' Bible study group was extremely small. There were only two regular attendees, including myself. Last year, we were happy if we got even two girls. This year, however, it's a small night if we've got less than seven girls. Yay!

On Sunday nights, I help lead their Bible study. This last Sunday, we discussed the issue (one of the girls had asked to talk about it). I split the girls into groups to demonstrate what the statistics said about them and reminisced briefly about my former classmates. We discussed why we thought the numbers were so high.

-People disagree with what the church teaches
-People feel judged and not accepted by the church
-The church doesn't teach people how to live - it's irrelevant
-The church is a social group and not terribly worthwhile

We discussed what could stave off the drop-outs.

-Be welcoming and nonjudgmental
-Teach and model practical application
-Engage in deep study of the Bible

So we agreed to call each other out if any of that isn't happening. Who knows? There's always hope. Maybe this time we'll beat the odds. In ten years, I hope to see all the girls still living strong.

"If you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?" C. S. Lewis

"Most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change." Joel Osteen

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

New glasses! Yay!

And it's high time. I've had my old frames since I was fourteen, and the prescription had missed an update. This was ok, because I wore my contacts almost exclusively for about seven years, but since the contacts started bugging me, I've been forced to rely on glasses once again (at least until my optometrist says contacts are an option).

Needless to say, I am excited to finally have glasses that look good - and not to mention to be able to SEE again! Thanks Brianna and Rachel for helping me pick them out!

It may be a little self-indulgent to post pictures, but I'm just that excited, and anyway the messy hair counteracts whatever ego boost I get from posting pictures of myself. Compare:

New pair #1: The angle of my head in this picture doesn't quite model the frames perfectly, but I love them. They're black, with a cool white/black stringy pattern on the ear pieces.

New pair #2: These are actually green. They're a little less "formal" than the other new ones - a little funkier. Love these ones, too!

Old pair #1: These are what I'd been wearing for the past two months (or seven years). A kid from church described them as "Arthur" glasses, as in Arthur Read the cartoon aardvark. What do you think?

Old pair #2: Okay, so I haven't actually worn these since I was as kid, but you can see why... Especially given that these ones are bifocals. And half an inch thick.

"I had some eyeglasses. I was walking down the street when suddenly the prescription ran out." Steven Wright

“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” Helen Keller