Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Playing with technolgy

This is me experimenting with software, pictures and learning how to tell visual stories online. I am very lost, my brain is melting, but I am about to copy and paste something. You will either see my photo story or a bunch of gooblity guck. I am hoping for the best, but expecting the worst...


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Go stand in the toilet - or - the irony of losing your nouns while teaching a 5 year old how to read and write.

A few years back, I saw a great show by comedian Sandra Shamas. I think it was called At Wit’s End. In part of the show, she discussed hitting her 40’s and the phenomena of noun loss. Suddenly, this very articulate woman found herself literally at a loss of words and not just words in general, nouns in particular. She would find herself mid sentence about to name something and be completely at a loss for what that something was. “Can you pass me that...that...that...silver thing, with the curly metal end? You know that thing we use to open wine? ” Or she would just simply call something by a totally different name...totally randomly and with no conscious realization.

I laughed and laughed...and thought; that could NEVER happen to me. I am relatively smart, well-read and a writer for god’s sake – how could I ever possibly lose my nouns?

Well...it’s happened! So often now I find myself asking for something or just simply telling a story or sharing an anecdote when suddenly the noun is simply not there. Gone. Lost. Stolen. I look at the object in complete bewilderment. I know what the thing does, what its purpose is. I’ve used it on many occasions but now, I am suddenly drawing a blank as to what it is called. I can’t tell you how often I have resorted to simply calling these noun-less objects “thingamajigs.”

And while I find it extraordinarily alarming, it does provide endless hours of amusement to my 5 year old. For example, the other day, I looked at him with all sincerity and asked him to “go upstairs when he finished dinner to brush his calendar.” And by dinner I meant breakfast and by calendar, I of course meant teeth. He just looked at me like I was from another planet.

Then last night I was going to give him a sponge bath (because he just got a new temporary airbrush tattoo and didn’t want it to get wet). So I asked him to “go stand in the toilet.” He didn’t know whether to laugh or question my sanity. And I had no idea why he was balking at my request until I slowly replayed the sentence in my head and realized how absurd it was. All I could do was laugh...which immediately gave him permission to laugh with me. (And of course I meant bathtub. I am not some lunatic who bathes her child in the toilet!)

Happening in everyday conversation is one thing, but it’s also happening when I am reading him books or trying to teach him the definition of new words. The nouns, they just randomly disappear. How am I supposed to teach my child to be literate, when I am slowly sinking into my own personal world of illiteracy?

For the most part it is absurd and does cause much laughter to him...and to my friends, who are also suffering the same fate...and to me as well. But as a writer, I worry that one day, I am going to stare at a blank computer screen and not be able to find a single noun, or adjective or adverb or...a...a...wait...wait a second...damn it. What is that word again...the one that usually describes an action?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Toilet Replacement Program Rant

For those of you who know me, you know I wrote a kid’s book about water called One Well: the Story of Water on Earth. Well, after over a year of touring Canada and the US preaching about water conservation, this past January, I finally replaced my own toilet tank. I am now the proud owner of a 4.5L/flush tank.

After the toilet was successfully installed, I dutifully applied for the City of Toronto’s Residential Toilet Rebate offer. Through this offer, residents are given an incentive for switching City approved toilets – essentially 60-75 dollars cash back to offset the cost of purchasing a new low flush toilet. The toilet I selected was indeed one of the “approved” models so I applied for the rebate. I was going to switch anyway – but a rebate is a rebate!

Now here’s the twist. I only replaced the tank, not the bowl...because, in my mind, since I have a two piece toilet and my toilet bowl was in perfect form, there was no need to replace the bowl. Replacing the toilet bowl would only mean unnecessarily throwing out something that still worked well and adding it to landfill. With the new tank, the toilet flushed beautifully and I now only use 4.5L of water/flush, saving about 8.5 L of water with every flush. And the toilet has never required the dreaded double flush.

About a week ago, my application for a rebate came back to me and was DENIED. Why? You guessed it, because I didn’t replace both parts of my toilet. I decided to call the city, because frankly, I don’t see the logic in encouraging people to replace a part of their toilet that does not need replacing! Seems rather wasteful and counter-intuitive to me, wouldn’t you agree?

It took over two weeks to finally speak to a real live person...at which point they just confirmed what was mailed to me. The rebate only applies if you replace both the toilet bowl and toilet tank. I argued that while replacing the tank helps conserve water, replacing a perfectly good toilet bowl only further adds to landfill issues, which leach toxins and chemicals into groundwater, thus polluting water and therefore negating any positive effects of switching to low flow toilets.

The city’s water woman’s response was “(paraphrased)...Our purpose is first to conserve water – it’s not that we don’t care about landfills, but that is not our concern. We are looking at conserving water.” Can you believe the short-sightedness of this?

She further went on to explain that they test bowls and tanks together and cannot verify that a tank with a mismatched bowl won’t be double flushed. Well frankly, once an approved toilet (tank and bowl) are in a person’s house, the city can’t verify our flushing habits (can they?? Big Brother, perhaps?). Nor can they verify any modifications anyone might make to their so-called approved toilet tanks and bowls once they are installed.

This City’s program seems flawed. While encouraging people to replace toilets and mandating that both the tank AND bowl must be replaced to qualify for the rebate, they are actively trying to solve one problem – water conservation – but just as actively exacerbating another – landfill.

I wonder – how many toilet bowls have unnecessarily made their way into landfill sites since Toronto’s Residential Toilet Replacement Program came into being? I wonder – how many people have replaced both parts of their toilets, just to qualify for the rebate? Do the numbers of toilet bowls now in landfills justify the amount of water conserved?

Perhaps one solution is to modify the program so that the City encourages simply replacing the toilet tank where possible...because after all, it’s the tanks that are the real culprits here. Maybe a two pronged incentive program is more environmentally sound? It sure might keep a lot of toilet bowls from unnecessarily going down the drain...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Heading West - Vancouver & Haida Gwaii

I just wanted to let you know that I will be heading to Vancouver to attend Serendipity 2009 (http://www.library.ubc.ca/edlib/table/index.htm), to receive my Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award. I am very excited to attend the conference and meet Children’s Literature Roundtable participants from across the country! I am also thrilled to be returning to Vancouver and hope to reconnect with some friends while there.

I will also be offering my student workshop program while I am in Vancouver. So, if you are an educator or librarian and are interested in booking me for a school or library visit, or know any teachers who might be, I have some time on Thurs February 26 and Friday February 27. Please contact me at rochelle@rochellestrauss.com to discuss bookings.

Haida Gwaii – A Dream Come True

Also - after over a year and a half of planning, I am heading to Haida Gwaii after the Vancouver leg of this trip. I am touring and doing workshops there from Monday March 2 to Saturday March 7. Haida Gwaii has always been one of my “top 10 places to see in my lifetime” – so I am very excited that this trip has come together! If you have any travel tips or suggestions about what to see and do while I am there, please do not hestitate to send them to me!!