Friday, May 23, 2008

Jiang Xiaojuan, Hero

Here is a feel good story of sorts out of China. A young woman (!) police officer (!) who has a 6 month old boy felt that her duty as an officer, and as a mother compelled her to nurse babies either separated from their parents, orphaned, or whose mothers were unable to nurse their own babies. CNN has the story. At one point, this woman was nursing 9 babies (her own child was with her relatives in a neighbouring town). A couple of mothers milk dried up with the trauma of the quake and thank this woman, Jiang Xiaojuan, for saving their infants. She also took on orphans who have since been moved to an orphanage. I can't help but think how wonderful it would have felt to be in the midst of all this devastation and to be able to do something that had such an immediate impact, a definite beneficial role with instant gratification (and instant feedback, pun intended).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Skin Cancer Screening

Well, I think this was an awesome idea that should be adopted in Canada. I saw signs in the elevator for a free clinic where you can show a doctor any skin marks that you might be worried about. Since it was free and there was one mole that worried me slightly (worried my mother a whole heck of a lot more!) I signed up. I arrived, filled in a short questionnaire and was led into a meeting room with a doctor (at least I hope he was a doctor). In less than 60 seconds he had determined the mole was benign and had a quick look at a couple other obvious moles. Nothing to worry about. So in the span of 1 minute for me, maybe 2 minutes for my colleague (who knew the doctor so probably also chatted briefly with him), two patients had been screened and dismissed. The normal procedure would be to set up an appointment with a qualified dermatologist, travel to their private practice, and likely take a good 30 minutes of office time. Here there was a mobile unit, at a university where in the course of the day perhaps a hundred screens could be performed. I suspect that the patient throughput is much more efficient. En plus, there is the added benefit of increased awareness. Given that early detection saves both lives and money I would think this is a model worth looking into if I were working at OHIP.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Soon Geneva, and Switzerland will be invaded, so much for neutrality! Switzerland and Austria are co-hosts of the EuroFoot Tournament. Geneva will host 3 of the games. As part of the celebrations, there has been a football hot air balloon flying above the "world famous" jet d'eau (which is another blog altogether since no one I know of has ever heard of the "world famous" jet d'eau before actually coming to Geneva). Alas, this balloon cannot fly in winds exceeding 30km/hour. Did I mention that the jet d'eau is on the lake? Out of 27 days since the balloon was installed, it could not fly for 16 days à cause de the high lake winds. Indeed last Friday, the winds were at 50km/hour. Now the 360 000CHF (344 451CAD) balloon has a tear in it! The newspaper headlines question who is going to pay for the repair.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Complicated Lego Maneuvers

So I don't know how this is going to work out. Blog-wise.
At first I thought to keep it limited to the monthly updates, but then I thought a more regular posting might be better. So we will play this by year.
L has been constructing a very convoluted method of play. He is doing these Lego mosaics, which are just 1x1 Lego pieces that you can make mosaics with (well duh!)

So he puts one Lego onto a car/truck/train to transport to one of M's new train sets. He then offloads the Lego, has the train transport it one loop, then he has constructed a cargo crane, named Cranky from the Thomas the Tank Engine series, that picks up the piece, transfers it to a second vehicle. The second vehicle then moves the Lego to the mosaic board where it is finally placed in the proper endroit. Crazy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

April Activities

Montgolfiades Internationales de Genève (montgolfière is a hot air balloon) was an early highlight in April. L was disappointed to find out that you have to be 6 years old to ride in the tethered (free) hot-air balloon, but he really seems to accept (for now) age restrictions. Two balloons departed from one of our regular park haunts. The area was not roped off at all so people could go right up and touch the basket, and "help" unravel the empty air balloon. As the fans began to inflate the balloon, dozens of kids (and a few adults) would run up to touch the growing balloon. As the balloon got bigger and bigger, it became more "scary" so the kids would run up for a touch but then immediately run back to the safety of their parents while screaming with glee. As the wind started to roll the balloon towards the crowd on our side of the balloon it wasn't only the kids who were screaming with glee as we all backed up, knowing the balloon couldn't possibly harm us, but nervous all the same. The balloons lifted off about the same time at half a dozen locations around Geneva and soon the sky was full of colourful balls.

The next day the boys and I went to the "Journée Caritas", a fundraiser for a charity organization, where there was a children's group entertaining. We squeezed into a big event tent and managed to find some bench space. The boys spent half an hour eating snacks and listening to the French children's entertainers who seemed to be emphasizing some environmental themes. The cool part is that they seem to know one of the songs from their playschool and they were singing it later on that day.

While the boys have been limited to only having pacifiers (sookies to honour L's Bluenose roots) while sleeping, they have now been completely eliminated. L and M both proudly mailed an envelope containing their sookies to "babies who need them". That night was not pleasant. M felt tricked. "I didn't want to give my sookie to the babies" he plaintively cried for days. After a couple of weeks (!), the bedtime routine is finally settling down, but it is still nowhere near as easy as it used to be.

The boys needed new shoes and the style L wanted were lace-ups. L had been a little obsessive-compulsive about having his Velcro straps "just so", so I thought we could give lace-ups a try. C has been the shoelace tying guru and L mastered the principles in no time. After only about a week of loose bows or prematurely running out of lace while pulling the bows tight, L can tie his own shoes.

M is quite a good imaginative player. He loves to "play toys" and his preference seems to be to role-play the bad guy. While playing cars remains his favourite, he is branching more and more into the action figures, particularly the knights and dragons he received from Santa. M turned 3 years old last week. We finally gave him his first (!) haircut. He has had old-man comb-over hair for months, but the hair at the back of his neck and at his forehead has STILL not started growing. Nonetheless the old man hair had to go.

Spring has sprung in Geneva and we have been working at doing some spring-cleaning in our apartment. We are helped by our brand new washing machine. After 3 years of lugging all our laundry 3 blocks to the laundromat we finally broke down and bought a machine for the apartment. In a fit of spring-cleaning for the body, I started doing the exercise DVD I bought 2 years ago that has just been gathering dust since then. I was pleasantly surprised that after not having done any real regular sports in about 7 years that I wasn't all that bad. Perhaps all that talk about playing with the kids keeping me fit isn't just talk after all!!! C on the other hand has been plagued with ankle problems. One Sunday morning he was in such pain that he went to the ER where he got a diagnosis of probable tendonitis. He does do an awful lot of walking, so he has been trying to keep it to a minimum while his ankle heals.

What says April like a nice family bout of the flu? First C, then L and M were brought down by our local, friendly influenza bug. Luckily, working at a big nasty public university, I was entitled to a flu shot in the fall and seem to have escaped unharmed. Of course, the flu then revolved into various colds, ear infections, bronchitis, and the fun just keeps on going. After a relatively healthy January – March, we are making up for lost time now.

Our other big news is the birth of a new nephew/cousin. That is about it for now. We are looking forward to C going to Amsterdam for a bachelor party at the end of May. The whole family will travel to and English countryside wedding the following week, with a stopover in Canterbury. The next week we will finally welcome our dear friend M-Truro to our humble abode. An invitation to visit us is of course permanently extended to all of you. June will be quite exciting, as the EuroFoot 2008 soccer tournament will be co-hosted in Geneva. Until next time…à bientôt.

Swiss Family T

Gift Ideas

Okay, so I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to put "pen to paper" anytime I came up with good gift ideas for myself or the boys. I'm not too sure how this blog thing works, if I can update posts with new ideas, I suspect that I can, but for now:

L: I saw a book described on anther blog called : Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. It sounds really nice.

M: This coming Christmas we will buy him his own Leapster LMax, so Leapster games would be good.

C: Uses and abuses of history by Margaret MacMillan (the author of Paris 1919)

Big Momma: Power of Now by E
ckart Tolle
belt clip for cell phone (mine is a Motorola 10cm x 4.5cm x 2cm), not much I know, but I promise to keep thinking about it and update frequently