Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An engineer's guide to cats

Looking forward to another great year in '09

(Note: I don't normally post my column on the day it's published, however since it's New Year's Eve and this is a "time-sensitive" piece about the New Year, I decided to post this one today. I will revert to the normal posting schedule next week - article published on Wednesday and posted here on Thursday.)

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Editorial Page

Well, we made it through another year, dear readers. As the final hours of 2008 wind down, 2009 looms on the horizon with all its hope and its renewed sense of wonder and determination to make our lives better, be it through working on ourselves or in the world around us.

I'm very grateful because 2008 was a wonderful year. I believe a lot in sending out good vibes... and I must thank 2008 for being the best ever.

I'm healthy. I lost 35 pounds this year. Added to the 82 pounds I lost in 2007, that's a grand total of 117 pounds so far. I've already achieved my perfect weight in my mind. I'm just waiting for my body to catch up, but it will. Oh yes it will! I'm grateful.

I was able to reduce that most hated blood pressure medication that I'm on. I was quite happy about that -- and even happier when my latest check-up showed an absolutely perfect reading, even with the reduction. As I continue to lose weight, I hope to be able to further reduce the medication. I'm grateful.

Financially, my mortgage came due and I was able to refinance and consolidate a bunch of things, giving me literally hundreds of dollars extra every month. I was also able to upgrade my home's heating system, adding to the value of my home. I also treated myself to some new furniture here and there. I'm happy in my home. I'm grateful.

Despite the financial pressures that plague many university students, my son continues to do well in his final year of university. For a kid who had such a difficult time in high school, he certainly has turned the corner in university. He even managed to win the romantic lead in his final university theatre production to be staged next semester. I'm grateful.

The two cats I share my home with and who greet me at the door every day are in good health and good humour. They get along great and continue to be wonderful company, especially on cold winter nights when I'm snuggled up on my sofa with a blanket over me. Cindy will crawl underneath and snuggle, too. Casey will simply lie on top and fall asleep while purring happily. Good times. I'm grateful.

My aunt Mary passed away in Guelph, Ontario, earlier this year. Although I had not seen her in many years, I have great memories. She was always so nice and friendly. Like me, she loved animals and had them throughout her life. After my uncle Roy died, Mary was cared for by many of her close relatives in Guelph. She died loved and surrounded by people who cared for her. I'm grateful.

My great aunt Marie, who I've written about a few times, passed away in November at the age of 97. She was a nun and the personification of kindness and generosity. I'm glad that I got to know her better in my adult years. I'm so happy to have held her hand during visits and felt her genuine love and happiness whenever I went to see her along with other family members who accompanied me. If I ever have doubt there is human goodness in the world, I need only remember Marie. I'm grateful.

To the community of fellow nuns who cared for Marie -- both emotionally and physically -- during her entire life among the congregation, all I can say is that she couldn't have chosen a better group of sisters. Despite all their various personalities, they came together as a true community to care for her -- and she for them -- in good times and in bad. I'm grateful.

To my employers, be they full-time or freelance, working with these colleagues and clients over the past year has been a true blessing. Every day, I learn lessons in kindness, generosity and professionalism that I try to remember whenever I get frustrated, tired or disillusioned. I'll continue learning from you all, I'm sure. I'm grateful.

To my family, I'm happy that you're in my life and wouldn't have it any other way. We may not be a touchy-feely bunch, but that doesn't diminish the love that's there and will forever be. I know that I can count on you when the going gets tough. Please know that you can count on me, too. I don't know why we all chose to be in each other's family in this lifetime, but I'm glad we did. I'm grateful.

I've had many friends throughout the years. I'm still close friends with many from elementary, junior high and high school. During university, I met many more. The friends of my youth have become the friends of my adulthood. What a lucky person I am to have grown up with such splendid people. I feel so honoured, quite frankly, to know you, and happy that we haven't drifted apart. The comfort we feel when together, the teasing, the genuine caring... That isn't easy to come by. Let's grow old together. I'm grateful.

To the friends I met in adulthood, you're just as special because making friends as adults is sometimes more difficult. The number of these friends may not be as high as the friends I made in my youth, but they're no less special. There are absolutely stellar people in the world and I'm so lucky to have found you. I'm grateful.

To anything "bad" that happened to me in 2008, all I can say is that I've learned from it. These events made me think of a solution, change how I was dealing with something, "smarten up" (so to speak), or just learn to be patient and let things pass.

Adversity can only make you stronger. It's the best teacher. I'm grateful.

As for 2009, I'm grateful, too, for whatever you may bring.

Happy New Year!

Countdown to New Year's: 1 day!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Celebrity birthdays for December 28

Character actor and perennial Hollywood Squares panelist Cliff Arquette (a.k.a Charlie Weaver) would have been 103 today. In this 1968 Hollywood Squares opening, only Sally Field, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Nanette Fabray are still living. Van Johnson just died a few weeks ago (December 12) at the age of 92.

Character actor Lou Jacobi is 95.

Professional wrestler Leaping Lanny Poffo is 54. (Lanny is on the right at the beginning of the video.)

Saturday Night Live writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers is 36.

Actress Mackenzie Rosman, who played Ruthie Camden in the long-running family drama 7th Heaven, is 19.

2008 American Idol runner-up David Archuleta is 18.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

John Amos is 69 today

American actor John Amos, best known as playing the father (James Evans) on the sitcom Good Times, is 69 today.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 81

Legendary singer and actress Earth Kitt died on Christmas Day (yesterday) at the age of 81. Fittingly, she was probably best known for her hit holiday song "Santa Baby".

Here she is singing "Old Fashioned Girl" and "Santa Baby".

In addition to her singing, she also played Catwoman in the 1960s TV series Batman.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Queen Elizabeth II's 2008 Christmas Message

It's Christmas morning!

St. George's Chapel Choir - I Saw Three Ships

Merry Christmas!

To everyone out there who reads my blog, have a very Merry Christmas! Your support is truly appreciated.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas countdown: 1 day!

Judy Garland - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Sharing the special Christmas holiday spirit

(Note: I don't normally post my column on the day it's published, however since it's Christmas Eve and this is a "time-sensitive" piece about Christmas, I decided to post this one today. I will do the same for the New Year's Eve column next week and revert to the normal schedule after that.)

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

It's Christmas Eve! Finally!

It's also the last day that "Santa won't come if you don't do your chores" (or whatever other parental sin the kids are currently committing) will work for at least 10 months, if not 11, depending on the stubbornness of the child. I personally don't remember my parents using this on me, but I'm sure they did.

We were a family of modest means, but there was one thing for sure. . . our Christmas tree was bursting with presents every Dec. 25.

I still remember the anticipation of the gifts. It would take me forever to fall asleep -- I would literally shake with excitement -- and then I'd wake up every hour on the hour. Finally, not being able to stand it, I would get up at about 4 a.m. and creep into the living room to see if Santa Claus had indeed visited our little bungalow in Lewisville. He always did. And I never heard him arrive -- ever. Must have been the reindeer slippers!

Like many families, we would have turkey for our holiday meal, which we usually ate at lunch. Relatives would come and go. My aunt was usually there with us. A few lucky years, different sets of grandparents would also visit.

I remember my paternal grandparents coming over for Christmas dinner one year when we decided to have duck instead of turkey. I don't know what possessed us. Oh the duck was delicious, but I think we ended up eating Huey, Dewey or Louie instead of Donald and Daisy. They were quite tiny and I remember it being said that the duck experiment would be the last. It was turkey every year after that! At least we'd all have enough to eat then. Two small ducks certainly weren't enough for eight people.

To my adult horror -- because I now know that it's about the worst thing you can feed a dog -- I also remember my paternal grandmother happily feeding about half a box of chocolates to our dog. She sat on the arm of the sofa, would reach into the huge red holiday box of Ganong chocolates (the only kind allowed in the house, might I add), grab a chocolate and toss it into the air. Of course, the dog ate every one of them. (Don't try this at home. Chocolate is toxic for dogs. . . seriously. Luckily, our dog was OK.)

I can remember her laugh like it was yesterday. What I wouldn't give to hear it again. She had a hearty guffaw that would cut through the room like laser beam.

My grandparents from Prince Edward Island visited one Christmas. I was quite young, but I remember begging them not to leave. I have a photo of me frantically urging them to stay. I'm sure they were eager to get back home after spending a few days with various families of noisy kids, but I certainly wasn't ready for them to head home.

At Christmas, our house was usually full of relatives. . . either on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Different years brought different crowds. As cousins grew, they stopped visiting, but we'd still see each other in passing if we visited their houses.

Like all families, the children grew and developed other interests, wanting to be more with their friends than with their family. Thankfully, not too many years later, it all came back to roost when they once again sought out family for the holidays.

Of course, not all years were rosy. The years following the deaths of certain close relatives were always sad, as was the Christmas after my parents broke up. That year -- 1987 -- was definitely the worst, as Christmas traditions were thrown into turmoil and the guilt of leaving one parent alone while spending time with the other was almost unbearable. Transitions into new traditions are never easy.

With that said, the following year was much better. . . and each one after that saw new and happy traditions take hold. The family has grown and although there are many different faces around the Christmas dinner table than there were in the 1960s and 1970s, they are no less special than those who sat around the dinner tables of my youth.

Luckily, sadness and melancholy only severely tainted one of my Christmases, however there are many out there who are regularly reminded of unfortunate events around the holidays. I know that it's a very difficult time of the year for many. . . those who have lost a close friend or family member. . . a parent. . . a spouse. . . a sibling. . . a child. There is a glaring empty place at the dinner table, one that can never be filled again.

Still, others have their holidays tainted every year by bitter memories of long ago. Perhaps the memory of an alcoholic parent lingers -- someone who was supposed to make Christmas joyful for you but who was too caught up in their own illness to do so. That's a hard memory to shake. After years of connecting the holiday to something horrible, I can only imagine how hard it is to make new and more positive associations.

Some succeed at it. Some never do. I certainly can't stand in judgment of anyone who sees Christmas as a sad time, but I still think it's a real shame that not everyone can have a good holiday -- even if things aren't perfect in their lives.

So here's my Christmas gift to you. Today, I'm sending out good vibes to everyone out there who's in need of some Christmas spirit. If you're grieving, lonely, anxious, ill, poor or just unhappy, grab some of these vibes and hold them close.

If some of my spirit can help you find a little bit of happiness this year, take it! It's yours! Think of it as modelling clay and turn it into something of your own; something happy that you'll be able to remember year after year. May this Christmas be a new beginning for you. And please know that, ultimately, everything will be OK.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Aftermath of Moncton's latest snowstorm

Christmas countdown: 3 days!

A really cool light show to the tune of a techno version of Amazing Grace. Spectacular!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

Tonight is the first night of Hannukah. Happy Hanukkah!

How to light the Hanukkah menorah.

How to play dreidel.

Happy dogs in the snow!

Welcome winter!

Today is the first day of winter and Jack Frost is hard at work painting designs on icy windows.

Enjoy it and be safe! As for Moncton, we'll be getting blasted with a major snowstorm later today, so it's a fitting start to the season.

Christmas countdown: 4 days!

The Lennon Sisters - Silver Bells

The Lennon Sisters - Marshmallow Christmas

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas countdown: 5 days!

Johnny Cash and Friends: Silent Night, The Little Drummer Boy.

One of my favourite Christmas videos on YouTube.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kevjumba: What I hate about college

Christmas countdown: 6 days!

The hymn "Il est né de divin enfant" is a staple in French-language churches across the world at Christmastime. Certainly, here in Moncton, it's a hymn that I've heard throughout my life while attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

It's not a hymn that you would exactly link to Utah, however, but these kids do a great rendition. Here's the Salt Lake Children's Choir singing "Il est né le divin enfant" during a performance on December 1, 2007, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On attempting to have a perfect Christmas

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

Attempting to have a perfect Christmas is what many of us strive for. You want everyone who receives a gift from you to be thrilled, those who receive Christmas cards to feel special, and those who receive visits to be happy to see you!

Every year, I prepare quite an extensive Christmas letter to go with the more than 100 cards I send to friends, relatives and colleagues. I make a list of stuff I did, places I went, and a bunch of other things, including major family news. To make it look presentable, I try to learn a few more new tricks with my word processing software every year. Having it professionally laid out would be too expensive and a bit of overkill.

Actually, it's pretty amazing what you can do with software when you actually learn how to use it! I'm not one to read instructions. I usually only use about one-third of the capacity of anything electronic that I own -- with the other two-thirds never put to good use because of my stubborn refusal to read instructions and user manuals.

"Huh? You mean my googaphonic thingamajig can do that... and that... and that?" I usually only find this out when some problem I have with the thingamajig in question sends me to the never-opened user manual to figure something out that is maddening me. I'm sure readers of the female persuasion who are reading this right now are saying in unison, "Typical man!"

And no, I won't ask for directions, either. Honestly, I could go out for a leisurely Sunday drive and get lost and I will refuse to ask for directions. I would rather die than admit I don't know where I am. I'll stop at a gas station and buy a map. I'll retrace my steps and try to figure out my error -- perhaps wasting a tank of gas in the process -- but I'll never ask for directions.

Should you be unfortunate enough to be out with me on one of these errant Sunday jaunts, you'd better bring along your rifle because nothing short of the feel of the cold barrel of a gun against my temple would make me stop and ask for assistance. Well, either the feel of a gun on my temple or when the language of the road signs turns to Russian... then you know it's time to admit defeat and get help.

Anyway, back to my Christmas letter. Somehow this column got turned around from about my letter to Russian-language road signs. See what happens when you write a column about nothing? You tend to let your mind wander. (It's too bad I refuse to ask for directions back, eh?)

Throughout the entire Christmas letter writing process, one thing kept nagging at me. I was forgetting something important. What was it? I went through every relative... who died... who got sick... who had babies. What had I done or been involved with that was noteworthy during the year?

I saw Elton John in concert. I saw Bill Clinton give a speech. I helped out on a few election campaigns here and there. I wrote about this column and some radio work. I wrote about how the book I edited was doing. I wrote about work.

Thinking I was just being paranoid, I finally decided to get the letters printed. After all, it was getting close to Christmas and I needed to ensure that the post office had enough time to deliver the cards.

Finally, when everything was done, it came to me. Not a single word about my son made it into the letter, which is kind of like forgetting to mention you won a kabillion jillion dollars in the lottery, were elected Imperial Grand Poobah of Uranus (feel free to giggle at the word "Uranus" -- we all do it!), or married and divorced Phyllis Diller during a wild weekend while drunk on margaritas made with mouthwash and sore-muscle liniment.

By the time I remembered, it was too late to go back. Everything had been printed already and I was past the point of no return. With deadlines looming and absolutely no more time to work on the cards, I mailed everything with no mention of my son and how he's doing at university. (Very well, I should say.)

My guilt was amplified by the audible whimpers of Baby Jesus in my head. As well, I could just imagine that Santa Claus was immediately putting me on his "naughty list" and hereby declaring me unfit for any semblance of parenthood. (I should explain that my son believes that my Christmas letters are completely stupid, so my guilt at having forgotten to mention him was eased by the likelihood that I subconsciously forgot him on purpose to in order to punish him. How dare he, huh?)

When I mentioned to an aunt that I'd forgotten to mention my son, she told me she'd been wondering what was going on. "Great, now the rumours will fly," I thought. I could just imagine the next family gathering rife with gossip about trouble in Brianland.

"Oh," she continued, "and you forgot to mention your uncle's (her husband's) open-heart surgery!" For heaven's sake! Not only was Baby Jesus now flat out bawling, but Santa had hired professional assassins to take me out at the first opportunity. "Oh," I stammered. "I guess I forgot that, too." Considering it was the "talk of the family" for two or three months, you'd think I would have remembered!

I give up. Next year, all everyone on my Christmas card list is getting is a drunken telephone call from me in the middle night! I'll even let them talk to Phyllis Diller.

Christmas countdown: 7 days!

Once in Royal David's City

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This week's Hump Day column...

... is about my annual Christmas letter and how I forgot to include something rather important this year! Read Hump Day on the editorial page of every Wednesday's Moncton Times & Transcript or check back here tomorrow when it will be posted online.

Canadian Idol cancelled for 2009... may return in 2010

According to reports, CTV's über-popular talent competition - Canadian Idol - has been shelved for the 2009 season but may return in 2010. Apparently, it was proving difficult to line up advertisers for the next season due to the poor economy.

This is probably one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. So you have a #1 show that targets a young audience, features Canadian talent and draws in droves of viewers over the summer, traditionally a low ratings period - and you cancel it?

I'm perplexed and disgusted. Shame on them! Shame, I say!

Christmas countdown: 8 days!

The First Noël by Celtic Women

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas countdown: 9 days!

The Carpenters - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas countdown: 10 days!

Here's The Holly and the Ivy sung by Natalie Cole and José Carreras. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful carols - and it's about 400 years old!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Iraqi journalist throws his shoes at President Bush during news conference in Iraq... He's lucky he didn't get shot!

Bush had a sense of humour about the whole situation, at least.

Countdown to Christmas: 11 days!

Today: Various versions of Jingle Bell Rock...

1) Billy Idol

2) Hall & Oates

3) The Chicken Poks (yes... chickens)

4) And finally... Bobby Helms

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 12 days!

Here are some old Christmas TV commercials you may remember:

Fruity Pebbles


Compilation - various




Friday, December 12, 2008

Can you help find this lost dog in downtown Moncton?

Click on the photo for a larger version.

Countdown to Christmas: 13 days!

Christmas on Sesame Street!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh, my aching back; why did I wait so long?

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Editorial Page

I've had nagging lower back pain for years and have had massages and done exercises to try and cure it. Both helped a bit, but I finally decided to put my employer's health plan to work for me and go see a chiropractor.

Visiting a chiropractor seems to be controversial in some corners, but I know many people who've been helped very much after being treated. There are horror stories in every profession, I'm sure, but I went in with an open mind. It helps, of course, that I've known my chiropractor for 32 years since we went to junior high school together.

Now, when you're having your body twisted every which way, it's best to be relaxed. Since I trusted him, I didn't have a problem being relaxed, but some of the bizarre twisting and turning that he had me into on the table could have probably qualified me for the Olympic gymnastics team. I don't know how cute I'd look in tight body-length leotards, but I'm on the verge of getting fitted for some after the several treatments I've received so far.

I'm pretty sure that after this, I'll be able to do a balance beam routine that would make Nadia Comanici's 1976 "perfect Olympic 10" routine in Montreal look like a drunken stagger down a street greased with butter and strewn with rusty nails.

I figured out his trick to get me to relax early on in treatments. He would have me on the table twisted into a pretzel, start telling me a story to distract me, and then "Blammo!" --- try to tie me into a human bow tie in order to fix my aching back.

It's interesting being twisted and prodded into positions you didn't think were humanly possible. In a sick kind of way, I've always envied my cats for being able to lick themselves in areas that are just, well, not possible for we humans, and perhaps my chiropractor treatments will allow me to finally achieve my lifelong dream of bathing myself from head to toe with my own tongue, I don't know.

During the first few treatments, though, I really wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't know whether to shake his hand afterwards, go the pharmacy for a pregnancy test, or curl up in the fetal position in the corner with mascara-stained tears falling down my cheeks and pointing to a therapist's doll. "That's where the bad man touched me."

He adjusted my neck a few times --- you know, the cliché chiropractic move of "cracking" someone's neck to make them feel better. I'd always wondered how it felt, and found it quite nice, actually. Thankfully, he told me before he did it the first time that I'd hear loud sounds in my head along the lines of what you hear when you crack your knuckles. And boy, did I ever! According to him, I was pretty far out of alignment.

He asked me why I jumped after he did the neck adjustment. It may have been a reflex, but it was also to check if I could still feel my legs.

After a few treatments, we finally pinpointed the trouble and it was a great relief to know that I wasn't the only person around suffering from my exact condition. Luckily, it could be treated, but of course there are no miracle cures for these things, especially after I waited years and years to go for treatment.

The last thing, after all, that you want to hear from a medical practitioner is, "I've never seen that before." Or just as bad, "The only time I've seen this is on a National Geographic special. By the way, you may want to take a photo of your nose before it disintegrates into dust over the next few weeks." Or worse, their eyes just well up with tears and they hand you a business card to the closest funeral home and advise you not to bother buying any green bananas.

I don't know why I wait so long to go to get treatment for these things. Whether it's a back problem or anything else, I pretty much procrastinate to the point that I'm on the verge of either picking out the colour of my casket or I show up on the doctor's doorstep hooked up to life support. Some people run to the doctor the minute they get a twinge. I tend to wait until the twinge has turned into pain so severe that I can honestly tell you that I know how an elf would feel giving birth to an elephant.

Thankfully, I wasn't the only one of my chiropractor's patients who was being twisted into a pretzel, if the groans and grunts coming from the other treatment rooms were any indication. But when you're being readjusted, I guess that's just the name of the game, huh?

Little adjustments in our lives take place all the time. It's when you ignore things for years that more drastic measures are necessary. The same goes for your body, I guess.

I'm glad that I finally "tore off the bandage" and decided to go to the chiropractor. I can see a difference already. I didn't expect a miracle cure overnight, of course, because I'd let the problem go on for years before I sought treatment. So I'm happy with the way things are progressing.

I just hope my chiropractor friend isn't too shocked when I show up on his doorstep one day carrying a newborn baby in my arms. "Uhm, you remember that really difficult adjustment you gave me back in December? Well, perhaps you shouldn't have twisted me so hard."

People need to remember that we Cormiers are a fertile bunch and treat us accordingly. Just look at the number of pages we fill in the telephone book. Beware!

Christmas countdown: 14 days!

Christmas with Liberace!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Corporate community backs launch of heating initiative in Southeastern NB

(Click on the photo for a larger version of the poster.)


(Moncton, NB – Dec. 10, 2008) Corporations across Southeastern New Brunswick are supporting a new initiative launched today aimed at helping area residents stay warm.

“This program is an excellent way for the business community and citizens in general to help their neighbours,” said Maura McKinnon, Director of Player Experience and Innovation at Atlantic Lottery (ALC), one of several firms backing the “Heating Up the Holidays” program unveiled at ALC’s regional head office in Moncton. “Each year ALC supports more than 50 Atlantic Canadian events, both financially and through volunteerism. Community is at the heart of everything we do.”

Donations to the Heating Up the Holidays program can be made at any RBC Royal Bank branch in Southeastern New Brunswick or at ALC from Dec. 10 to Jan. 16.

“The funds collected will be used to help area residents struggling to pay their oil bills,” says Glen Dormody, RBC’s Regional Vice President for Eastern N.B. and P.E.I. “The weather outside is cold enough; no one should have to be cold in their home as well.”

While the bank is collecting the donations, staff with YMCA of Greater Moncton’s Reconnect program will actually coordinate applications from those interested in receiving assistance through the program. (Interested citizens can phone Reconnect at 856-4362.)

The Heating Up the Holidays program announced today stems from a concept developed last year by Matt Eagles of Moncton, an employee with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts' Global Reservation Centre in Moncton.

While on leave from Fairmont to work as a loaned representative with the United Way of Greater Moncton and Southeastern New Brunswick Region, Eagles fielded a phone call from a woman who was ill and having trouble paying for her home heating oil. To help the lady and others like her, Eagles came up with the idea of challenging Metro Monctonians to take money they might spend on hostess gifts for Christmas parties and instead make a donation to an oil fund for those experiencing financial difficulties.

This year, the initiative has grown as a result of a partnership between YMCA of Greater Moncton, RBC Royal Bank, Co-Op Fuels and the United Way of Greater Moncton and Southeastern New Brunswick Region Inc.

Zane Korytko, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Moncton, says that while there is no specific financial goal for Heating Up the Holidays, the hope is that everyone will be kept warm over the coming months and connected to the supports they need.

“This is a grassroots opportunity for the community to get involved in providing extra support to help vulnerable individuals and families,” said Korytko.

During today’s press conference, representatives of Atlantic Lottery and Downtown Moncton Centre-Ville Inc. challenged downtown business owners and staff to support the program by making a donation on behalf of their employees, employers, or whomever they wish at ALC or an RBC branch.

“We’re hoping that the local business community really steps up to the plate and contributes generously,” said Daniel Allain, Executive Director of Downtown Moncton Centre-Ville Inc. “I can’t think of a better time of year to think about others and truly make a difference.”

Debbie McInnis, Executive Director of the United Way of Greater Moncton and Southeastern New Brunswick Region, applauded all of those involved in the Heating Up the Holidays initiative for their support.

“We’re pleased to have been able to bring the various partners together to create an opportunity for citizens of Southeastern New Brunswick to get involved and gain a greater awareness of how the economic crisis is impacting people right here in our community – our neighbors,” said McInnis.

For more information, contact Zane Korytko, CEO, YMCA of Greater Moncton, 857-0606,, or Darrell Vautour, Director of the YMCA’s Reconnect program at 856-4362,

This week's Hump Day column...

... is about my recent trip to the chiropractor and how I avoided going for so many years! Read all about it on the editorial page of today's Moncton Times & Transcript. It will also be posted online here tomorrow.

Christmas countdown: 15 days!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Happy 40th anniversary to CBC Radio Moncton!

I attended the open house celebrating CBC Radio Moncton's 40th anniversary today and was so happy to have met several of the former hosts and newsreaders I'd heard over the years, including Lori Joudrey, Marty Kingston, Brent Taylor and - last but not least - Walt Forsey, who has made several video contributions to this blog.

Congratulations to all my friends over at CBC Radio Moncton on your 40th anniversary! May you have (at least) another 40 more!

The station first went on air on December 8, 1968. Other events on December 8, 1968:

Wrestling commentator Michael Cole was born. Here he is getting chewed out by Stone Cold Steve Austin:

Former New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina was born. He retired from baseball on November 20, 2008.

Christmas countdown: 17 days!

John Lennon was assassinated 28 years ago yesterday on December 8, 1980. It seems only fitting that today's Christmas video is a tribute to his memory... and one of the most beautiful Christmas songs of modern times.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Latest SNL Digital Short is a monster hit!

I laughed out loud when I saw Andy Samberg's latest SNL Digital Short. This guy is brilliant. Like his collaboration with Justin Timberlake on D*ck in a Box, this one has an adult theme. Be warned... but it's too funny not to watch.

Click here if the above video gets deleted.

Christmas countdown: 17 days!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas countdown: 18 days!

Mel Tormé and Judy Garland

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas countdown: 19 days!

Bugs Bunny's Christmas Carol

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Christmas coundown: 21 days!

This is AMAZING! Tennessee Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae singing O Holy Night...

'Beautiful Marie' leaves warm, lasting legacy

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

When the phone rang at 8:26 a.m. last Wednesday, it caught me by surprise. Who in the world would be calling me at home at this time of the day?

Thanks to caller ID, I saw that it was my uncle. "This can't be good," I thought. "He wouldn't be calling me so early unless someone died." There were a few relatives on "death watch", so to speak, so it could have been any of them. A few names came immediately to mind. Which one would it be?

I answered and it was indeed bad news. My great aunt Marie, a nun for nearly 80 years, had passed away during the night. She was 97. Her death was not unexpected. In fact, it was a welcome release, in my opinion, from her long life whose quality had long ago ceased for all intents and purposes. Since she'd broken a hip this summer, her health had declined at a fast pace. In recent weeks, she slept practically around the clock.

I made a few calls to let some cousins know. Again, no one was surprised, but it was still sad. Marie was such a dear person that it would be difficult to say goodbye to her, even if the end was welcomed by all, including Marie.

In fact, in her early 90s, she was at my cousin's house one Christmas Eve when she was heard saying, "Jesus forgot about me again this year," a reference to the fact that she was still alive. Evidently, she had not expected to live so long.

The wake and funeral were both held at the convent. Marie looked peaceful and resplendent in her simple wooden casket covered with a powder-blue patterned fabric. She wore a navy blue dress -- blue being her favourite colour. Rolled up tightly in her hand was the original copy of the handwritten final vow she had signed on Aug. 15, 1934. A photocopy of the vow was on the casket for mourners to read. Beside it was a list of her postings, from her first in 1931 as a cook at the convent in Petit-Rocher, to 2004, when illness forced her into retirement and a room in the convent's infirmary.

Because of her short stature, she was nicknamed "La P'tite Marie" (The Little Marie) by the sisters. With so many nuns being named Marie (her original religious name was Sister Marie-Virginie -- shortened simply to Marie when they were allowed to return to their birth names), I guess her nickname was a way to tell her apart from the others.

For most of her career, Marie worked in service to others, mostly as a cook, sometimes in the laundry. Her fudge was legendary, with ultra-sweet divinity fudge being her specialty. She had spent so many years in Petit-Rocher that the current mayor even sent a letter to be read at her wake. The letter said that her recipes are still known far and wide throughout the community and grace many a table on regular basis.

During a special prayer service where Marie was eulogized, a sister asked mourners if anyone had ever seen her in a bad mood in her nearly 80 years as a nun. No one had. Even in illness, she always smiled and never complained. No matter who entered her room, they were met with a wide smile and an "Allô cher!" (Hello dear!). And before they left, she would give a heartfelt "Merci!" (Thank you!).

She was always so sincerely happy to see you that she made you feel like a million bucks. She wouldn't just smile upon your arrival; she would laugh.

During the wake, we heard cute stories about how the priests would tease her by putting her cooking utensils on shelves too high for her to reach. Perhaps they were trying to see if they could actually make her angry -- which proved to be an impossible task.

With female relatives, she would ask what their husbands did for a living. And for some reason, she would often ask how much money they made, perhaps to give her some sense of economic context to the world, since all her needs were taken care of by the religious order to which she belonged.

Marie never learned to speak English. Her great friend, the late archbishop Donat Chiasson, used to call her "Beautiful Marie", partially in friendly teasing and partially for the fact that she was such a beautiful person. She radiated kindness, generosity and unselfish service to others. She took joy in her work and lived a long and happy life.

At her funeral in the convent's chapel last Friday, family members and her fellow sisters gathered to bid La P'tite Marie a final farewell into her well-deserved eternal rest -- 77 years after she first entered the convent and 74 years after taking her final vows.

As a pallbearer, I sat in the front row. At the end of the funeral, we carried Marie's casket out of the convent, down the steps and into the hearse. Along with the family, many of the nuns wept openly inside the back door as they watched us, knowing it would be the last time that any of us would see her.

My eyes filled with tears as I realized I would never hear her "Âllo cher!" or "Merci!" again. Nor would I see her face light up with glee as I entered her room, she being so happy to have visitors.

One of my strongest memories of Marie was at my grandfather's (her brother) funeral in June 1980. As she stood before his casket, she reached in and placed her hand over his. Initially, I was shocked because I didn't know this was even allowed.

Twenty-eight years later, I did the same to her as a sign of respect. Her hand was cold and stiff, but Beautiful Marie's memory was warm in my heart -- and will always remain that way.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas countdown: 24 days!

This week's Hump Day column...

... is a tribute to my late great aunt, Soeur (Sister) Marie Cormier, as well-loved nun who died last week at the age of 97. She had been a nun for nearly 80 years.

The above is the last photo taken of Marie on her 97th birthday in June 2008.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Celebrity deaths for November 30th

Singer Tiny Tim died at the age of 64 in 1996

Author and journalist Pierre Berton died a the age of 84 in 2004

Celebrity birthdays for November 30th

Actor Robert Guillaume ("Benson" & "Soap") is 81.

Singer Billy Idol is 53

Singer Stacey Q is 50

Singer Clay Aiken is 30

Saturday, November 29, 2008

R.I.P. Soeur Marie Cormier (1911-2008)

My great aunt, Soeur (Sister) Marie Cormier, died this week at the age of 97. She had been a nun since August 15, 1934. She was a wonderful lady who had a smile and kind words for everyone. She will be greatly missed by her family and the nuns she shared her life with for nearly three-quarters of a century. The above photo of her and me was taken on January 1, 2008.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Even when on your very best behaviour...

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page
November 26, 2008

I'm not one for dressing up, but sometimes you just have to don a suit and tie for those special occasions. Anything less would be inappropriate.

Last weekend, I attended a large business banquet with about 700 other people. My table colleagues were interesting and we spent the evening talking about a variety of topics, including business, politics, society and life in general.

Now, I'm not the most cultivated person on Earth, but I like to think I know which cutlery is used for which course during a formal dinner like the one I attended. I also know enough to keep my napkin on my lap when I'm eating and not tuck it into my shirt like I'm having dinner with the families from Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons or The Beverly Hillbillies.

I was on my best behaviour, conscious of my terrible swearing habit and making sure the worst word out of my mouth was "gosh." I also tried to hide the fact that my blazer was too big for me now that I've lost 115 pounds.

I should also say that I attended the banquet with a female work colleague who shares an irreverent sense of humour, so between conversations with gracious dinner guests, we kept ourselves entertained by making each other laugh.

The food was great and very tasty, as it usually is at these sorts of events. The hotel pulled out all the stops to make sure that everyone was well fed.

At some point, I felt the need to wipe my mouth. I reached down for my napkin, brought it up to my face and would like to say that I dabbed away delicately at the corners of my mouth like an 18th century snob having dinner with the king, but I have to admit I pretty much just tried to clean half my head with about as much class as a clumsy bull in a china shop.

As I practically covered my entire head with the napkin and scrubbed myself clean in a very indelicate and unrefined manner, it was then that I realized that the pretty pattern on the napkin that strikingly resembled my tie was indeed my actual tie. Not having looked to ensure that I had grabbed my real napkin, I'd mistakenly grabbed my tie and had proceeded to practically bathe with it.

When I realized what I'd done, my heart sank. What would people think? Would I be made to stand on a table in the middle of the banquet tables and be mocked and jeered at like some big unrefined loser?

Oh I just reeked of class, I tell ya. What was next? Belching out loud, rubbing my bare belly and yelling, "Well, Ma, them vittles were sure good! What's for dessert? Porcupine pie with possum ice cream and squirrel sprinkles?"

Actually, the angels were looking down upon me at that moment, because the others at the table were happily chatting each other up like there was no tomorrow, so they thankfully did not witness my momentary colossal uncouthness.

My work colleague, however, had seen everything and burst into laughter as if having just been given an overdose of laughing gas by her dentist. Once I realized my etiquette faux-pas, I quickly dropped my tie and grabbed my napkin, hoping that no one would notice except for my work colleague, who I was then contemplating having to kill after the banquet to ensure none of this became public.

After having a good laugh about my mistake, I decided that a trip to the rest room was necessary. Maybe I could even wash the gravy out of my tie. Before washing my hands before going back to my table, I flipped my tie over my shoulder to ensure that it did not get even dirtier. (Not that it couldn't have used a good scrubbing anyway.)

I returned to the table at the front of the room right next to the stage. I must have walked by a couple of hundred people to get to my seat, not to mention a few dozen mingling around the hallway outside the banquet room. I sat down.

Of course, my tie was still flipped over my right shoulder. Perhaps I should have just started dancing a jig and playing a tune using the spout on an old and cracked bottle of moonshine.

This stuff only seems to happen in front of large groups of people. Luckily, I can laugh about it now, but I was mortified at the time. Perhaps I need an etiquette coach or something. I'm not sure. You've heard of "My Fair Lady"? Well, maybe it's time for "My Fair Brian".

I should just scrap my (somewhat pitiful) tie collection and switch to wearing turtlenecks. But then I'd just turn into one big ball of sweat since I'm not one to wear sweaters. You might as well set me on fire than make me wear a sweater. I'd be cooler covered in flames than I would be wearing something made out of wool.

I know what! I'll just staple my tie to my shirt before the next formal banquet I attend. It may look a bit odd, but at least I'll avoid embarrassing myself.

Or maybe I'll just become a nudist. Does anyone know where I can buy a barrel of hair removal cream? I may be etiquette-challenged, but I do have my pride, you know!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Crazy Australian hail storm!

Look at this! Absolutely amazing... and scary! The hail is so large is breaks the windshield.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One month to go 'til Ho! Ho! Ho!

It's official! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The countdown is on!

Monday, November 24, 2008

This week's Hump Day column...

... is all about a social faux pas I committed at a banquet I attended this past weekend. The photo provides a good hint as to the honest mistake I made at dinner while I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing!

Check out Hump Day on the editorial page of this Wednesday's Moncton Times & Transcript. It will be posted here on Thursday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aftermath of November 22, 2008, snow storm in Moncton, NB

(It ended up being 28 cm of snow, apparently.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lots of snow in Moncton today!

The first winter storm of the year hit us hard today. Even the snowplows got stuck! These videos are courtesy of Newschaser's YouTube account.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Capitol One needs to hire better proofreaders!

I work in the public relations industry, and it's a nightmare when you produce something only to find a huge typo that forces you to either trash what you just printed or go to reprint.

I normally have an eagle eye for typos (and yes, I probably make typos in my blogs), but it's not often that I see such a huge error in an ad in a national magazine. The ad above appeared in the October 20, 2008, edition of Maclean's Magazine. If you can't see it right away, look at the second word of the second line below the devil.

(Click on the photo for a larger version.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You can't live without a few scuffs, scratches

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Editorial Page
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There's a saying that goes something like this: "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways -champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other - body thoroughly used up and totally worn out, screaming 'Woohoo! What a ride'!"

Now, I'm certainly no daredevil by any means, but it's a philosophy that I try to follow whenever my reserve of courage is topped up. When not applying it to my own personal life, I at least try to apply it to the things I own.

For instance, I'm currently in the market for a few pieces of new furniture. Just recently, I purchased one of my planned acquisitions -- a new dining room set. Nothing fancy, but very nice at great quality and an affordable price.

Buying new furniture can be stressful. First, it's usually something quite expensive, not to mention something that you'll have to live with seeing every day for the next several years. I went on a furniture buying spree in 1988 when I was setting up my first solo apartment. It was practical and on the low-end of the quality scale, but still nothing to sneeze at.

The dining room set lasted about 14 years. One leg had fallen off the table while the metallic chairs had become scratched beyond repair. The sofa and loveseat only got discarded a couple of years ago, at the same time as my mattress. They had served me well, but it was long past the time to let them go.

Disgustingly comfortable, the sofa set was broken beyond repair. The springs were busted. The fabric was so dirty that you could have grown a crop of wheat in the dirt between its fibres, and large holes had started to appear. The mattress, for its part, was saggy in the middle, full of holes, and had wires sticking out of it due to many broken springs. Whenever I turned over in bed, I would scratch myself.

For sure, I got my money's worth out of that furniture. Most of it lasted for the better part of 20 years and several moves. No matter how often I moved, my "stuff" was always with me.

Eventually, however, all good things must come to an end. The dining room set was replaced by a hand-me-down set from my mother. This served me well until last week, when I decided that it was high time to once again invest in some new stuff of my own. I'm pleased to say that it's getting rave reviews from those who've seen it, and I couldn't be happier.

The sofa, loveseat and mattress were also replaced about two years ago -- both at the same time. This time, I focused on quality - something that would last and be fashionable. No flowery patterns. No weird colours. Just good and solid.

If you've purchased a bed lately, you'll know that you practically need a ladder to get into the new ones. I'm surprised the obituary section isn't filled with poor souls who kicked the bucket after falling off of these new super-high mattresses. It took me a week to sleep properly. It was like sleeping on the top bunk of a bunk bed without a railing. One innocent turn in the night you'd end up on the floor.

My point - if you remember the saying at the beginning of the column - is that getting new furniture is like buying a new car. It stresses you out before you finally get that first little ding. Then you can relax. And when you have pets, the first "ding" in the furniture comes mighty quickly.

The minute the new dining room arrived, I sprayed it with a can of "pet repellent" that I bought. It was supposed to have my pets running for the hills. My cats being who they are, of course, scoffed at the repellent and interpreted it as "Please adopt me as your new bed and play area."

My cat Casey sniffed the repellent and rolled around on the chair like it was catnip. Cindy, the other cat, immediately adopted the dining room chairs. So much for keeping the cat hair off them, eh?

Some people suggested that I get rid of the cats to preserve the furniture. Huh? No way. My furniture is just stuff. Pets, however, are part of the family. I would never deprive myself of the pleasure of having pets just because of some hair and a scratch or two on my stuff. My furniture isn't surgical equipment. It's furniture. The cats may cause a bit of damage, but I'm lucky in that it's minimal and there are lots of other less drastic remedies to fix that sort of problem.

A house is meant to be lived in. I know people who practically tip-toe around their own house because they're afraid to scratch the floors. The furniture is covered in plastic to preserve it like a work of art by a long-dead painter.

Hogwash, I say!

Live your life. Walk on the floors with your dirty shoes! Let the dog sleep on the sofa! Life isn't meant to be lived without a scuff or scratch... and your furniture should be there for you to use and enjoy, not protect like a diamond.

When I get to heaven, I hope I'll have a few scuffs and scratches on me, too. You can't say you have truly lived if you arrive looking like a new car.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This week's Hump Day column...

... is about the stress of buying new furniture. It's just "stuff", but why do we treat it like gold? We try to keep our pets off of it, and cover it up to ensure it doesn't get dirty. I say "Hogwash!" to all of that. Let's start living on it and using it for what it was meant to be used for. We weren't meant to live life in a bubble, and our furniture isn't meant to be treated like surgical equipment. The same can be said of our own lives.

Check out Hump Day on the editorial page of Wednesday's Moncton Times & Transcript. It will be posted here on Thursday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Celebrity deaths for November 17th

Good Times' star Esther Rolle died 10 years ago today in 1998. She was 78.

Country singer Don Gibson died five years ago today in 2003. He was 75.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Honey, the neighbours have the biggest freakin' dog I've ever seen!"

October 28, 2007, in the Kingswood Park area of Moncton.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Keeping an eye out now for those great sales!

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

With Halloween and Remembrance Day out of the way, the Christmas shopping season has begun in earnest. Although many people follow sales like a religion, this is the only time of the year that I faithfully check out the flyers that show up in my mailbox and in the newspaper. (With apologies to this newspaper's advertisers.)

Some of the deals you can get are simply awesome. Stuff is half price or better on a good day. And with the holiday shopping season upon us, it's time to start looking for those deals so that the new year doesn't arrive with a mountain of debt . . . and regret!

But now that I'm regularly checking out the sales, I remember why I normally skip them and buy what I need regardless of whether it's on sale or not. Sure, I would save money by following the sales, but I find that it's so stressful trying to figure out whether or not you got a good deal.

For instance, something that's marked down by 50 per cent in one store looks like a great deal. Well, in fact, it is a great deal. But why is it that every time I buy it, it's on for 60 per cent off at another store? I swear, it becomes so exasperating to try and get the best deal that I just give up.

I get way too paranoid. Am I being ripped off? If I wait one more week, will an even bigger special come on that pair of silk fur-lined underwear I've had my eye on?

Despite the fact that all these sales flyers drive me crazy, I can't help but look at them at this time of year because some of the deals are just so amazing that it would be irresponsible not to take advantage of them, but only if it's something that you're going to buy anyway. We've all been caught in the trap of buying a case of peanut butter-scented deodorant just because it's on sale for 99 per cent off. "Dad likes peanut butter. It'll be a great Father's Day gift!"

My problem is that when I buy something, I keep it, even though it's something I decide I don't want or need. This is in stark contrast to people who I call "sport shoppers". These are the people (usually women) whose hobby it is to shop and then return things. I'm sure you know people like this. I know I do.

One friend of mine is so bad (or good, depends on what side you're on) at this that I can predict with almost 100 per cent certainty that anything she buys will be returned. She never settles for her first choice. She has to buy it, return it, and then get the colour, style or size that she wanted in the first place.

I guess I shouldn't judge, though. Whenever I buy a lettuce or cauliflower at the grocery store, I might as well throw it away the minute I get home. If you've never heard a head of lettuce scream in terror, just listen closely whenever I pick one out at the supermarket. "Oh no! No! Don't choose me! I don't want to rot in the refrigerator! I've always dreamed of being in a salad ever since I was just a little seed! No! You'll never eat me! I don't want to die like this! No-o-o!"

Ever notice how a cat clings on to you with its claws when you try to put it down? Well, heads of lettuce do that to each other whenever I go grocery shopping. "Hey, grab Ernie over there. He's got some brown leaves on him already! He's dead inside already."

If I actually finish eating an entire head of lettuce without throwing at least half of it away, they say an angel gets its wings and that a bratty teenager is spared the heartbreak of acne. It's that miraculous.

Part of the danger of scanning the sales flyers closely is that you will buy what you don't need. Men who like tools are likely the worst for this. "Look, honey! The hardware store has those fancy German Doohickeyhoffen wrenches on for half price!"

"Gerry, those wrenches can only be used to fix the tailpipe on a 1969 Jaguar."

"But... I want one... I need one... It's half price... I will die without it... The sun will implode."

Been there, done that. That would explain the 604 mixing bowls of various sizes, depths and colours that fill my cupboards. I'm a sucker for a nice mixing bowl or any other kitchen gadget on sale. Need to carve a cucumber into the shape of the Eiffel Tower? I have a gadget for that. Have a recipe for pureed salmon teeth? I have a salmon tooth puree machine, too! And God help me if any of this stuff goes on sale. I'm there in a flash with a glazed-over look and a credit card that is literally screaming in terror.

You've heard of the movie The Silence of the Lambs? Well, put me in a kitchen gadget store having a half-price sale and the movie would be called The Screams of the Credit Card. Hear that little plastic-like voice coming from my wallet? "No! No! Not the electric alfalfa sprout peeler! No!" Ah, shut up. It'll only hurt for a minute.

So, yeah! Following sales stresses me out big time. Either I'm afraid of being sucked into buying something I don't need, or I finally buy something and then find it on sale for 250 per cent off the week after. Or maybe I feel the urge to wake up earlier than the birds to get to the store to stand in line for it to open.

Sorry, but there isn't anything I want badly enough to wait in line at 6 a.m. for the store to open. Well, except for that beautiful solar-powered walnut slicer on sale at the kitchen gadget store. You know, the slicer that comes with a 10-year warranty and a 65-page recipe book for only $199.99!

I'll die without it! It'll change my life! Cha-a-arge it!