Thanks to their nearly successful Stanley Cup run this past spring, the National Hockey League‘s Edmonton Oilers are again this town’s most difficult ticket, but we were able to attend the second home game of the 2006 preseason tonight versus the Phoenix Coyotes.

On the LRT, Dorami-chan was amazed at the range of hockey fans wearing their team colours – kids, mothers and even grandmothers were all decked out in Oilers jerseys. Rexall Place was less than full and quieter than my last time there — Game Three of the first round playoff series against Detroit this past spring. The crowd perked up during the pregame scoreboard montage of playoff highlights, only to be put to sleep by the national anthem singer’s stultifyingly plodding renditions.

This was the Oil’s third game in as many nights, and they iced a team that was only half NHL regulars. Still, that was better than the Desert Dogs, who rested notables like Cujo, Doan, Jovanovski, Nolan, Roenick, Comrie and Laraque in favour of a bunch of unknowns. So, I don’t think it means anything, but the half-Oilers looked very strong, at even strength and on the power play. The training camp rave reviews about the seemingly telepathic combination of emerging star Ales Hemsky and newly acquired Petr Sykora were absolutely accurate. They will be fun to watch this year.

Tonji-kun lasted until the halfway mark of the Second Period, then became unmanagebly restless, forcing us to bail at le deuxieme entracte. By that time the Oil were leading comfortably 3-1, the eventual final score. I guess we didn’t miss much, other than the post-game rush home!

Game Report: Oilers vs. Coyotes – 19 September 2006


Over the last couple of weeks, Tonji-kun has become more directive in his play. He puts toys of his choice in the bath while the tub is filling, and now, instead of using the shower curtain for “inai-inai-baa (peek a boo)” (thank goodness – that moldy thing needs a wash or replacement), he asks me to sit forward so he can stand behind my back and tap my shoulder when he wants to be “found”.

During the summer, towelling off and dressing for bed would occur during Edmonton’s long northern twilight, but now with the evening darkness that signals approaching winter, I need to turn on the bedside light to see, which casts shadows on the wall. The other night I did a bit of puppetry for Tonji-kun with hand shadows. He seemed to enjoy the show, and to my surprise he has remembered and requested it every night since, asking for “Wan wan” (his word for “dog” is a dog’s bark in Japanese) – a dog is the only hand shadow I know (and Dorami-chan says the Japanese would call my pointy-eared dog a fox) . If this goes on, I will need to expand my repertoire!

I saw evidence at supper today of a new development Dorami-chan noticed yesterday in the car: Tonji-kun can do a second sign, “Motto (more)”, or at least his version of it (it should be: fingertips of both hands brought together; he does: fingertips of one hand into palm of other). Whatever, it was deliberate, consistent and used in the appropriate context (an empty milk cup). Even in spoken language children don’t say words perfectly at first (or ever – see Dubya and “nuclear”). Tonji-kun was very pleased that he got the result he wanted (a refill). We are amazed and have pulled out of storage our notes from our sign language class a few months ago. This stuff actually works!

Japanese Sign Language WWW Guide

Wikipedia > Japanese Sign Language Syllabary

Japanese Sign Language opennew world of communication, friendship

I thought this might be a good way of periodically summarizing new developments in Tonji-kun‘s ever-changing repertoire and physical state.

  • Teeth – 7 out, and 8th (a lower incisor) just showing. Beautifully white and straight. He looks after them with his little toothbrush. He can do a fair bit of damage to a whole apple (skin on), but becomes full or bored before it is finished.
  • Handedness – showing some preference for his left hand.
  • Mobility – YES, and then some. His walking is steady, fast … and determined if he sees something of interest. He has learned to get down stairs on his bum. His reach has increased, such that last week I had to install the doorknob protectors we bought some time ago.
  • Speech – none, but some consistent sounds:
    • “Ma-ma” – any food item (specified by pointing)
    • “Wan-wan” – dog (“Wan-wan” is how a dog barks in Japanese)
    • “Ba-ba” – bus (in Japanese, “basu“)
    • “To-to” – bird (in Japanese, “tori“)
    • “Bu-bu” – pig (in Japanese, “buta“)
    • “Ahhh-ah” – after dropping or breaking something
    • Shrieking for no apparent reason – this we’d like him to stop, please
  • Signs – yesterday he just started doing the sign for “bath” (scrubbing chest with both hands)
  • Diet – Eats everything we give him (he loves rice and tofu!). Can drink from a sippy cup, and from a regular cup with a straw. Eats lemons without wincing. Still breastfeeds at bedtime and when tired during the day.
  • Social – recognizes faces, claps when pleased (or when others clapping), laughs when amused (or when others laughing).
  • Understanding – he follows (some) commands, e.g. Ask “Buta-san wa doko desu ka (Where is Mr. Pig)?” and he searches for and brings a pair of my boxer shorts with a motif of dancing pigs (BTW something I would never buy myself, but thanks again, Sybil and Dave).
  • Play
    • Constructive (Starting to be): about two weeks ago, began putting Duplo together instead of tearing it apart, stacking rings instead of (or after) taking them off the stand, putting toys back in their place.
    • Soccer? Keeps the ball with him like a natural.
    • Music? Often humming to himself.
    • Brave – enjoys going down the slide solo (but supervised, of course).
    • Helpful – wants to participate in things others are doing shovelling, sweeping, lawn mowing. Dorami-chan got him a toy mower so he can feel involved from a safe distance without endangering his digits and limbs.
  • Memory – gets very quiet when we tell him “Goron-goron ga kuru (Thunder is coming).” He was frightened by his first prairie thunderstorm earlier this summer.
  • Sleep – wakes up crying at least once in the middle of the night.

I was startled from my half-asleep state early this morning by a news story on CBC Radio about a patient fatality resulting from an overdose of medicine administered through my home institution, the Cross Cancer Institute. I won’t make any specific comments about this case, leaving that to the CCI’s Communications Office because I have no professional connection to the events and know only the facts made available to the media.

But I will wonder about how the design of the medicine administration system allowed such an error to occur. Analysis should include all aspects of the process, including the delivery mechanism, a programmable pump. At an informatics conference I attended in 2004, we learned that usability simulations at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation have found that some kinds of pumps are, because of their interface design, accidents waiting to happen. Mandating one, two, even three human checks is one after-market way to deal with this, but does not address the root cause. Pump manufacturers should be held to higher premarket standards of design safety.

One off-season diversion for fans of the National Hockey League has been speculating about which free agent players will end up on which team in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement environment. We’ve read stories this summer about general managers and coaches e-mailing, phoning and even showing up on the doorsteps of players’ homes to express their interest in obtaining their services.

When I left Kingston and the Kingston Leftovers league I became an Unrestricted Free Agent recreational hockey player. I am almost certain my fate was of little interest to anyone by me, and there certainly wasn’t anyone knocking on my door. It was me sending e-mails and making phone calls to the various local leagues I found on the Internet:

  • Alberta Men’s Hockey League
  • Edmonton Recreational Hockey League
  • Green Pepper Hockey League
  • Edmonton Ice Box League

As of tonight, I am off the UFA list, having signed on with the Pond Dogs, a 4-year-old team in Division 6B of the Alberta Men’s Hockey League. There was one open roster spot and five interested players. The tryout consisted of seeing who would pay the registration fee first, and I had the fastest chequebook! With the start of the new season just a few weeks away, it’s a relief to have that settled. Now I can get serious about my fitness regime. 😉

Because of utilities work going on in our alley, I have had to return home from the front of the house this week. Tonji-kun happened to be looking out the living room window today as I approached the house, but disappeared as soon as he saw me. Dorami-chan says he rushed smiling into the kitchen and said something that sounded like “Otoh-san” (“Father” in Japanese). I don’t know who felt happier, him or me.

Parkallen Restaurant

Rating pending

This restaurant was mentioned in the Edmonton Journal around the time the recent troubles broke out in Lebanon. The owner had gone over there to be married, but (Canadian? I’ll have to re-check the story) officials would not allow his bride to return to Edmonton with him.

After an afternoon trial session with a local acupuncturist, Dorami-chan wasn’t feeling up to cooking supper, so we thought about showing our support for Lebanon (or the owner at least) by trying this place on the way home.

AMBIENCE: Upscale – tablecloths! Booths and tables available. No music.
SERVICE: Slow, but there was a large family celebration party going on. High chair, but no seat belt. Takeout and delivery available – may be the best way to experience this place.

FOOD: Unable to assess yet – before our order could be taken, Tonji-kun got restless. We decided bail to avert disaster. But it did seem pricey – double-digit prices for simple appetizers like hummus, for example.

Julio’s Barrio
Whyte Avenue


We made our first visit to this popular Mexican eatery on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue strip after seeing a play nearby at the 2006 Fringe Festival.

AMBIENCE: The streetside patio tables were full, but the dark, cool interior was a welcome respite from the hot afternoon sun.

SERVICE: Attractive, friendly and attentive. Baby chair, children’s menu, crayons. Tonji-kun actually started to draw with the crayons briefly before reverting to chewing on them.

FOOD: Portions are large, but execution is heavy handed, either blah or excessively spicy. If chips and salsa are a good indicator – chips edible but thick and hard, and salsa just heat no tomato.

This was not the worst Mexican food I have ever had, but not the best, either. This place owes a lot of its success to its location.

The Chinese Clown Cabararet

Jane and Tair Chen

With Tonji-kun now on the scene, we necessarily approached the Fringe Festival this year with a different attitude, exclusively looking for kid-friendly productions. We started with this play – or almost didn’t, as I didn’t look closely enough at the ticket to realize the venue was the only one well away from Fringe Central. After a brisk walk, we were almost last in line, and thus got front row seats (people seem to want to avoid the front row if there is a possibility – threat? – of interaction). I had great hopes for a clown show in the Chinese tradition, but these were diminished when Jane Chen emerged in a Western clown costume. (Tonji-kun was fascinated by her big red nose, though.) No matter, maybe the play’s content would highlight Asian American themes. Unfortunately, what followed was a fairly generic Fringe show that happened to be performed by Asian actors. By that yardstick, the play was long and started to lose steam in the second half.Tonji-kun got restless and we had to bail, but didn’t feel too bad about that.