Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bike paths and ski trails

In Montréal we pride ourselves in being an open cosmopolitain city but when you get right down to it, it is pretty much like any other big american style city, many roads, many cars and not much in the way of safe paths for walking or biking.
Last week I was staying in Gatineau, the little city on the other side of the river from our nations capital, Ottawa. I was amazed by the amount of green space and bike paths that exist in that one small town. The picture on the left is a picture of Parc Gatineau bike path. It's also used as a cross country skiing trail when there is enough snow. This is only one of the many bike paths that crisscross the city, not just a sign saying that cars must share the road with bikes, but real bike trails just for bikes. The bike paths not only crisscross the city but they also join up to each other and to the kilometers of bike paths in Ottawa. In Ottawa the same thing is the case, all along the Ottawa river there is a green space that has a bike path that stretches its whole length.
What do we have in Montreal? An autoroute that cuts off the city from the St. Lawrence River. There are bike paths, the canal Lachine path being one, but it is not joined to any others. To get to the bike path you must go down Lakeshore road with the automobile traffic. Lakeshore road not being in the best of conditions, this sometimes can be quite perilous especially when you share with buses and trucks. Even getting down to Lakeshore road is dangerous since you have to cross over autoroutes, where cars won't give you any chances as they get on or off the autoroute...(cloverleafs)
On the southshore, off the island, there are also many bike paths, but to get to them from the island is to say the least a rather dangerous undertaking since getting across the bridges is almost impossible. The only really safe way to cross is the "Estacade" (a kind of small bridge that is used to break up the ice before it gets to the bigger bridges) but that is kilometers out of the way. In Gatineau-Ottawa the bridges all have a dedicated path for bikes, nice and large not squeezed between the railing and the cars.
We are always talking about how people take their cars to work instead of using their bikes or the transit system. Well if you have an alternate system that works then people will use it. If there are safe paths then people will be more likely to use their bikes. In Ottawa there are there are thousands of workers who bike to work. In fact all the government buildings have bike racks, enough for all the workers who wish to bike in. They also have showers and a place to change. Quite a different mentality.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thoughts on Christmas and kids

It was the last day of school before the Christmas vacations, so today was very relaxed. We had a basketball tournament between the classes. For the tournament they got themselves organized and even wrote a theme song in English (their second language). My homeroom won the tournament by 2 points. The kids were ecstatic, group hug, cheers, the whole nine yards. It's funny because we were certainely not the favorites, but our team spirit won the day.
Often these days kids get a bad rap, but it's stange that all the kids that I teach (and have taught) are good kids, not perfect, but good hearted and willing to do their best for something they believe in. (I can count on the fingers of my hands the really bad kids and I've been teaching for 30 years.) This year, secondary 2 (grade 8 for the rest of you) wrote over 400 Christmas cards for Amnesty International political prisoners throughout the world. So there is hope for the future, maybe they'll do a better job than my generation and there will finally be "peace on earth and good will amoungst men".
So as that famous poem says, "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Joyeux Noël (the film)

Saw a great film on the weekend called Joyeux Noël. This little gem of a film got a nomination for the Oscar for best foreign film and it is really worth seeing. It takes place during the First World War on December 24-25 1914, when the British, French, and German troops declared an unofficial cease fire and crawled out of their trenches to celebrate Christmas. This really happened, it has been well documented. The story really brings out the futility and stupidity of war and shows how the most enthusiastic proponants of "kill the enemy" are all people who stay safely way behind the lines. I won't say anymore because I don't want to ruin the film for you, but if you want to see a great little film rent or buy it at your nearesr DVD place of purchase. I got mine at Costco. It is really worth it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Montréal winters

Winter has finally come with a vengeance. When I left for school on Thrusday it was raining and the temperature was about +2 degrees C, when I got home the temperature had dropped to -11 degrees C. That's what I hate about winter in Montréal, not the cold, not the snow but the variations from damp, wet to freezing cold.
To the contrary of my sister Jazz, I like winter sports. I like the cold, clear days of winter where the temperatures hovers in the minus teens. The air is like champagne, the snow is dry and squeeks under our boots. I am a great fan of cross country skiing (nordic, not downhill). I love the sensation of flying over the snow on my skis, of the stinging sensation of the wind on my face and the sun in my eyes. There is no sensation like it especially when you have the exact combination of wax, temperature and snow. Unfortunately in the last couple of years we have been having yo-yo weather. We get a nice drop of snow and then the temperature warms up, it rains, sleets and the temperature then drops drastically. What happens to the cross country ski trails? They become ice. It is possible to cross country ski in icy conditions, but it is a pain in the keaster. You have to use klister, a gooey kind of wax that sticks to everything and is a real pain to clean up after.
What I would like is a real winter, nice and cold, with plenty of snow, no sleet, rain, and damp. I can live with the cold, in fact I prefer cold dry weather to overly hot weather, but this type of winter, the kind that can't make up its mind is awful. You can't do warm weather sports, such a bicycling or inline skating and you can't do winter sports cuz there's not enough snow and what there is has turned to ice. :o(

Monday, November 27, 2006

Black Friday

The U.S. Thanksgiving was last Thursday, so now they are free to start their Christmas shopping... Black Friday, the start of the shopping season, is not called that because of the negative connotations of shopping for the Christmas holidays, it is so named because that is when stores go from red ink to black ink and start to turn a profit. In fact some stores make 50% of their profits during the Christmas shopping season... frightening isn't it.
But even more frightening is the fact that stores in the States open their doors at midnight after Thanksgiving to start off Christmas shopping and there are people who line up starting at 7pm on Thanksgiving to be the first through the doors. They actually eat their Thanksgiving turkey sitting in the parking lot of their local mall. This year one man even brought his Glock with a pocket full of bullets in case of trouble. A rather extreme way of dealing with line jumpers!
Tell you the truth some people really, really need to get a life.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Finally after what seems to be years of grey clouds, we finally had sun today. There was a large yellow ball in the blue sky. The light was magnificent. We have had a really wet and gloomy autumn this year. I think it has been weeks since we saw some clear skies. In fact the weathermen were saying that it has been the wettest autumn on record. The dark, gloomy weather just gets us down. This morning when I saw the sun, I felt like a plant. I just felt like standing there, face to the sun drinking in the light. It seems that the weather will be clear for the rest of the week... maybe enough time to pick up a little energy.

Later... went out and actually saw some stars, you know those twinkly things in the night sky. We were discussing the lousy weather this afternoon with my fellow teachers, seems to me that we hadn't had sun for at least 2-3 weeks correct me if I'm wrong.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thoughts about Thanksgiving, roads and such things

For once we had a really nice Thanksgiving weekend. The weather was superb, warm and sunny. Almost made you think it was summer again. Haven't written in a while cuz I'm just lazy I guess. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote, an overpass fell down in Laval. That is the second one in the last 5-6 years, mind you the last one wasn't the government's fault since it was the construction company that f****d up. Of course, I'm sure that that fact doesn't really matter all that much to the victims. There was also the highway 40 incident where a good chunk of road kind of fell into a huge hole when the culvert collapsed. Who says that driving in Québec can't be an adventure? Makes you wonder where all the gas tax ended up.
So here we are in the automne, where Québec has made it into international news for being a place where crazed killers roam the crumbling infrastructure. (seems almost post-apocalyptic) Not exactly the kind of PR we need. Good thing we have old Kimmy to take the media scrutiny away from us. And yes little sister (that's Jazz to the rest of you) the politicians should be forced to drive wherever they go instead of flying. Then at least they would have an idea about how our roads are. We could even get them to test drive all the overpasses, at least they would be useful. Only wish our roads were half as nice as those I drove on this summer in Britain.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Dawson Tragedy

Since I am from Montreal I'll put in my 2 cents worth about the tragedy. The first thing that I will say is that the young man (I won't even mention his name, the faster he is consigned to oblivion the better) was a grade "A" loser. He wanted to be someone, thought weapons gave him power, posed with pictures of his weapons as if it was cool, but basically he was a loser. So much so that he should have had "LOSER" tatooed on his forehead. Face it, at 25 still living with mom and dad, wearing a long black coat and combat boots, playing violent first person shooter video games, wanting to go out in a hail of bullets, is not the most mature mindset. More like something you would find amoung adolescents. The reason that he hated those young men and women in Dawson was basically because they were not losers, they were making something of themselves so they would be able to contribute something to society. We must not forget the victims... but the shooter, put the curse of oblivion on him. He wanted to be known, well deny him recognition, make him a non person.
The second point is about the weapons. He had legally bought a semi-automatic rifle (can't even be used for hunting), a 45 caliber pistol and another weapon. He even registered them. What is wrong in this scenario? I really think that ALL semi-automatic weapons should be banned. Don't go tell me about the poor little hunters... if a hunter isn't a good enough marksman to kill his animal with a bolt action rifle he shouldn't be allowed in the woods... he's a menace. The only legitimate use for a pistol is target practice and competition. For that a 22 caliber pistol will do just fine. So all other calibers of pistols should also be banned. As for the target pistols, they should only be used on a range as a member of a shooting club and the pistols locked up in the shooting club's vault after the member has finished using them. Sounds drastic, yes it is but I'm tired of people saying "it's not the gun that kills, it's the person who pulls the trigger" well having no trigger to pull makes it a lot harder to plan a massacre using a baseball bat or a kitchen knife.

Friday, September 08, 2006

On liars and damned liars.

Part two of the US Senate's Intelligence Committee's report (now there is an oxymoron if ever I heard one, linking politicians with intelligence) has come out today. Part one stated that there had never been any weapons of mass destruction in Irak. Part two states that after investigation there is no evidence of any link between Sadam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
I think that the US constitution gives Congress and the Senate the right and the duty to impeach a president who deliberately lies, obstructs justice, goes against the US constitution. I just wonder what they are waiting for. What does he have to do, shoot the justices of the Supreme Court?
Ironic, the Republicans wanted to impeach Clinton about Monica, and here we have a president that has broken just about every US and international law and nothing. There is an old saying that says that we get the government that we deserve... well if that is true, then the Amercicans are in a bad way.
There are however many Americans that are not sitting idle. If you wish to learn more about what they are doing go to maybe with a bit of luck they will succeed.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back to school

It has been way too long since the last time I posted must be jet lag..;o) Well school started this week and my brain is still insisting that I should still be on vacation. I have realised, as time goes on, that I could easily get used to being a person of leisure. Do you know those people who say, "If ever I won 10 million dollars nothing would change, I'd keep right on working.. " well they are full of it. That is a load of BS. I'd stop working in the next micro-second and leave my job to some deserving young person. This said, I haven't won the lottery so I'm back to school.
This year I am starting my thirtieth year of teaching... that's right 30 years. That's probably longer than some of you have been on this green earth, and to tell the truth, despite all the grumbling, I still love what I do... so that's my confession for the day.
The adolescents of today are often maligned, but the vast majority of them are good people, growing up in a world that can't be easy to grow up in. After all they are the product of their upbringing... and we are the ones who did the upbringing. So if they are so awful, we have only to look in a mirror to see who is to blame. We adults seem to have a selective memory when it comes to our youth... I seem to remember some rather weird and wacky things that I did at that age. ;o)
That said, I met my new batch of students yesterday and they seem to be a good bunch of kids...should be fun.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I'm back from a great vacation

Well our vacation in the UK is over. snif snif... I guess we have to come back someday. It was great fun and we saw and did some fantastic things.
Hiking on Dartmoor and seeing the wild ponies on the other side of a tor. Such a beautiful place.
Seeing Stonehenge, awe inspiring.
Driving around Cornwall and Wales with the ocean cliffs on one side and the hedgerows on the other. Sleeping at a campground in Tewksbury close to Tewksbury abbey. Staying at another canpground beside Castle Howard (the house shown in the film Brideshead Revisted) and realising people still live there. Visiting numerous castles, abbeys, and churches that date back almost 1000 years (I'm rabid amateur historian. I'm facinated by piles of old stones ;o). Visiting neolithique sites such as a flint mine or a copper mine that date back 4000-5000 years (first industrial revolution?). The Batttle of Hastings, Dover Castle, The city of York (just loved it), Stratford on Avon and old William Shakespeare, the British Museum and it goes on and on. There is so much history in that one small island, it is amazing.
The weather was superbe, we only really had 3 days of rain in 5 weeks. The British meterological service said that it was the warmest and sunniest July since they have records. Must have known we were coming.
Was there something we didn't like as much... well to tell the truth London was disappointing. There are some fantastic things to see but we felt that the wild cat developement was ruining what would have otherwise been a very beautiful city. There were beautiful little Wren churches surrounded by huge, ugly, cement and glass buildings. Some of them were truly ugly, like the Modern Tate (looks like what Dartmoor prison should look like), the glass pineapple etc. For once I think that Prince Charles was right and that the developpers are killing the soul of the city. London should have taken a page from Paris and forced the developement outside the city. Oh well that's my gripe for the day. (As you can see I'm not a great fan of big cities)
But we did have loads of fun and we met some really extraordinarily nice people, like the taxi driver in Liverpool, who when we asked him for directions to drive to a certain road, told us to follow him and led us to the address that we needed to go. There were many other people who took the time to explain things when we had questions, who were patient with us when we were lost and searching, and chatted with us when they noticed that we were Canadians. We'll always keep a fond memory of the people of the UK.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Vacation Time :o)

Ah vacation time. Now that school is finally out and the horrendous piles of corrections are done. :o) (Really happy all my kids passed and got pretty good marks, and no I didn't make up the exam, someone else did, so it's not me being nice. Anyhow they tell me that my exams are usually way harder. ;o) ) I finally have time to write this. This one will probably be the last one for a while since Mrs. Big Brother and I are leaving on Saturday for Merry Olde England for a month. London, the Tower of London, the British Museum, Stonehenge, the cathedrals and castles, Cornwall, Wales, climbing Snowdon, walking on the moors, York, the Cotswald, Dover, and last but not least, the pubs and the beer.(Already did all of Scotland, all the way to John O'Groats, the Orkneys, Cape Wrath, the Hebrides, the Highlands and also spent a month exploring Ireland)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I am a Guiness

Took the test and this is what came out. Seems to work cuz I love Guiness. Even went all the way to Dublin to drink a Guiness where it is made (from Canada that's quite a ways) ;o)

What Type of Alcoholic Beverage Are You?

You're a Pint of Guinness!
Take this quiz!

Coffee for me!

I tried this and I found it rather fun... thank you Hagletoast.
You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The number of the beast the day after

Yesterday was 666 day, Damien the remake was launched and I went to my physio whose telephone number ends in 0666. Nope nothing happened, the only joint twisting was done by the physiotherapist... oh well maybe in another hundred years or better still in 4460 years it'll be the real thing. Believe it or not the secretary was telling me that when some people see the phone number they refuse to come to the clinic... talk about weird.
We must however remember that for the Chinese the number 666 is lucky, so lucky in fact that I heard that Chinese couples were getting married on that date for luck. In fact if you add the numbers up the sum is 18 and in Chinese the character for 18 means "to be rich".
So all things considered I'd rather be rich than power puking and twisting my head around 360 degrees... remember "The Exorcist"?. As for Damien, the anti-christ, he'll probably end up getting blown up in a terrorist attack. ;o)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Same old thing :o(

I know it happened last week but I just didn't have time to write about it. Last week we had a little upset where Joe Volpe, a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal party, received 29 donations amounting to $152,700. Most of them came from twenty $5,400 donations from executives of Apotex Inc., and members of their families. He finally had to give back some of the funds because they had been donated by minor children. Amoung them, $10800 from two 11 year old twins and $5400 from their 14 year old brother. (Boy, don't I wish I had had that kind of cash when I was a kid... in fact don't I wish I had that kind of cash now! LOL)
While this is probably not illegal in the strict sense of the law, it surely contravenes the spirit of it. It seems that the Liberals just have not learned anything. No wonder people don't trust politicians... it's not that we are cynical, we are just being realistic...

PS I'm sure that the Conservatives and others are just as bad... just give them some time and it will all come out. ;0(

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Snail Mail

How's this for slow? I was reading that the French postal service just delivered a postcard that was mailed September 29th 1910. It only took 96 years to get delivered to the recipient's daughter-in-law since the recipient had died in 1978.
Think about it, when the card (a picture of the Sémois valley in Belgium) was mailed the Titanic was not even completed, much less sunk. It was mailed four years before the First World War and 29 years before the start of the Second. The airplane was in its infancy and men walking on the moon was just a story by Jules Verne. Email? Forget it. There were telegrams, the telephone (if you didn't mind the neighbours and the operator listening in) and the Postal Service.
Gives a whole new dimension to the term "Snail-mail"

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Been absent...

Finally got my cast off last Monday... it feels so good to be free of the weight and the hassle. Makes you appreciate having two hands, there are so many things in our world that can only work well with two hands.
I haven't written in a while since last week I was in Washington with my students. We went to see old uncle George. ;o) Mind you, I did see him in a big cavalcade riding down Constitution Avenue, with a huge police escort. There were police cars blocking traffic at each intersection, a motorcycle escort to make sure the way was clear, a bunch of big black SUV's with men armed with automatic weapons hanging out the windows. It was like watching an emperor driving by. I found the situation ironic in the land that professes that everyone is equal. Here in Canada the Prime Minister walks his children to school and then walks off to his office. I know that the need for security is different, but it is ironic none the less.
I must say however that Americans really know how to do a capital city. As the students said, "It's like walking in ancient Rome". The museums are really magnificent and they are all free. The Aerospace museum, the Museum of Natural History , the National Gallery, the Museum Of American History etc. We also saw the National Archives with the original Declaration of Independance and the US Constitution, and the Library of Congress and finally all the memorials. We also visited Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. (If you only visit one museum, visit that one. It isn't an easy museum to visit, my students came away from there somber and quiet, and for 14 year olds that's saying a lot, but I can guarantee that that it will touch you.) We were also impressed by the cleanliness of the streets and the flowers everywhere. You can see that they take care of the city. The people were also nice and very patient since the student's English was sometimes mangled. (They are French speaking and English is their second language) There was even an employee of the metro system that lent a student his cell phone to call his mom after seeing him trying to use a pay phone. We warned him that we came from Montreal and it was a long distance call but he said that it was OK. That was really generous of him and we greatly appreciated it. That is one of the nicest things about travelling, meeting nice people. :o)
There was really only one point that bugged me and that was the "over the top" security. At the Capitol there was a group of students with their teacher talking to a someone that worked there. They seemed to be trying to arrange a visit (something that is pretty much impossible since 9/11). On the top of the steps overlooking them were two soldiers? security? armed with automatic weapons and one of them had his weapon aimed at the group. Not casually pointing but deliberately aimed. That is frightening. Where they expecting the group of high school students to storm the Capitol and take the senate hostage. That's almost paranoid. God knows that after 9/11 they had to beef up security, but there is a point where it become a bit much. Thank goodness my students didn't notice. I am really glad to live in a country where that type of paranoia is not needed, and I hope that one day the American people will also be able to live without that kind of security.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Friday Afternoon

Here I am on a Friday afternoon, the sun is shining, and all is well with the world. I haven't written in a while cuz to tell the truth typing with a cast is a major bummer. In fact the cast itself is a major bummer. It really takes a lot of energy to get along with it. You are always asking people to help you. Ever tried to open a juice bottle with only one hand, cut a slice of bread... squished bread, lousy slice... fustration assured. Makes you appreciate having all the bits and pieces working. (OK Jazz, I know... I'm not always all there...duuuh what's my name and where's my lunch box? but at my age I'm allowed.) It has been so nice this week and my bike and inline skates are sitting there in the garage going "Take me out for a ride please, pretty please", soooo fustrating. Well at least I could have my morning coffee on the patio before going to work and sit here after work reading a good murder mystery knowing that the situation isn't permanent. Have yourselves a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cleaning up

It was once said that he who controls the information controls the game. Our Prime Minister has promised a massive cleanup of our government. He is even proposing a new law to do so. Now that is all well and good, except that he has taken the reforms to the Access to Information Act out of the package to send to a commitee. Now we all know that sending something to a commitee is the kiss of death. They will mull it over, gum it to death and it will quietly slip into oblivion.
Now can someone explain to me how you can clean up corruption if there is no transparency. How do you know where the corruption is? How do you keep tabs on what the government is doing if you can't get the information. The Prime Minister doesn't even want his ministers to talk to the press, much less give them information about what is going on.
So from where I sit it is business as usual. If the politicians want us to respect them, they should maybe let us see what is going on. If not it's still the same old book with a new dust jacket.

On another note, I was reading about a Los Angeles cop who gave a $114 ticket to an 82 year old woman because she wasn't fast enough to cross a five lane boulevard before the light turned to red. There's one cop who really wins the booby prize for stupidity. Instead of giving her a ticket he should have blocked the traffic himself to give her time to cross the intersection.
It really makes you wonder sometimes.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Medical System...Thanks

Usually when you here about the medical system it is to complain or tell horror stories about the awful service/waiting list/hospital/employees etc. Well guess what? I'm not going to do that. Today I had to have minor surgery on my hand, nothing very important, just something that had to be done. Well the waiting period before the day surgery was very reasonable and when I went in to the Lakeshore hospital the service was courteous, professional and expeditive. The people where invariably nice, explaining everything that they were going to do and answering any questions I had. The surgery took place using a drip block (sort of like the dentist freezing your tooth) so they didn't even have to put me to sleep, so I was out of there in record time. The only inconvenience is the plaster cast that slows up my typing skills by 50% :o(
Thanks to the doctors and staff of Lakeshore hospital for their professionalism, courtesy, and humanity. It is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Of unused intellignece.

Spring is here and the daffodiles are coming out. At the same time road repairs are starting up again. Mind you, I have nothing against repairing the roads, lord knows that they need it, but it is the way they go about it.
Highway 40 is one of the busiest highways in Montreal and they are currently getting ready to start repairs, so they have deviated the lanes and made them much narrower. This of course slows down traffic. So far so good. Now comes the fun part. The city of Point-Claire in their infinite wisdom has decided to dig up the service road. They therefore have shut down one of the lanes. Now you would think that since they are repairing the highway causing major traffic congestion you would want to keep the service road open as an extra safety valve to help the flow of traffic, but oh no, instead they shut it down causing an even bigger snafu. Let me tell you that whoever thought that one up was really not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer or the brightest light in the Christmas tree.
As the saying goes...God must really love stupid people, he/she made so many of them.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Commonwealth Games..good show!

Did you know that in the Commonwealth games offers full inclusion for atheletes with disabilities? In that way Chantal Petitclerc's gold and the seven other medals won by our disabled atheletes have been counted in the Canadian total. They are truly world class atheletes and regular atheletes would be hard pressed to do as much in those conditions. Finally these atheletes are given the recognition that they deserve.
I was listening to a report on CBC Radio about the Paraolympics at Torino and the reporter was saying what a shame it was that there were hardly any spectators or media at the events. I find that so sad, these atheletes have overcome so many hurdles and all they get is an afterthought. The Olympic Governing Committee should take a page from the Commonwealth Games. Include these superbe atheletes so that they get the recognition that they deserve. Let them have their place in the sun. How hard can it be? If there is a will they can surely find a way.
Finally bravo to the Canadian Team for having chosen Chantal Peticlerc to be the flag bearer for the team... I am sure, that for her, it was as great an honour and pleasure as winning her gold medal. After all, this was a gesture from her peers, recognizing her talent and perseverence.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Of seals and cod fish!!!

Don't you wish that international stars that are in need of an infusion of publicity would stay away from the "save the animals " thing. Bardot's back in Ottawa to shake a finger at we Canadians saying naughty, naughty, because of the seal hunt. There are about 5 million of the critters, and the population has been going way up since the 70's. They are far from being an endangered species. I wonder why McCartney and Bardot haven't shed any tears for the poor common cod fish, whose population has been decimated by overfishing. Certain nations of the EU being amoung the worst offenders... Could it be because the cod fish are not cute, are not photogenic ? Where were they when Canada was trying to control the EU fishing fleets that were scooping up all the cod they could, making a recovery of the population almost impossible. What about all the little lambs or calves being slaughtered in Europe to make lamb chops or veal parmesan?
Can we all spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E-S???

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Of priorities and the public good

I think that this rant deserves a post all by itself. As I have said before I am a teacher in the public school system and as such have been told that the system costs too much and that we must do more with less, that we must find creative solutions. There is no money. So our students work on old beat up computers that have been donated and don't work half the time. There is no money... we are trying to find the $25000 it would cost to equipe a new computer lab but it is going to take some kind of miraculous finances to accomplish this. What services will we cut to do it?
In the mean time, our elected commisioners of the school board have voted themselves $65000 worth of new P5 laptop computers ($48000 for computers and $17000 for IT support such as WIFI and broadband internet at home). The students are using recycled computers and they are spending the equivalent of two new computer labs to "save paper and mailing costs". (But let's be fair, in fours years when they are obsolete, they'll be changed and the old ones then given to the schools... how's that for generous. )
We are always being told that there is no money, that we must cut costs. I just wonder sometimes what percentage of the billions in the education budget is really spent DIRECTLY on the students. (By directly I mean, money that goes into the classes, that the students profit from, either in equipement or direct services) I would not be surprised if it was less than 1%. Since the students are at the end of the line there isn't much left when everyone above have taken their slice. Then society wonders why so many students drop out and don't finish high school. The budget should be reversed... the students get what they need and whatever is left over can be used for other things. Gee what an inovative thought, the education budget actually being used for the education of students.

Luv that new car smell...

Last post car died... put it out of its misery. Got a new car, don't you just love that new car smell? That folks is the smell of hard earned cash going, going, gone... Bought a Subaru, cuz the last Toyata kind of soured me on Toyota's in general and Corollas in particular. I know they are good cars but I got the only lemon they ever built. (By the way I forgot one other defect in my last post... when we put gas in the Corolla's tank the revs would yoyo so you had to keep your foot on the gas or she'd die. Ever try to keep your foot on the gas, work the clutch and brake and pull out of a service station? After 2km the occilattions would fade and away you'd go until the next time. :o( ) The Impreza drives like a charm and I'm really happy since I no longer have to worry if I'll get home again.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Cars and things...

Last night the f***ing transmission/clutch of my Toyota Corolla gave out... The thing started to whine, grind and finally jolt. Acrid smoke started to come out from under the car. The only good thing is that I wasn't far from home and finally limped into the driveway. The language I used about the situation would have blistered the paint off the barn at 100 meters. (This is one advantage of being bilingual, it gives you so much more material for creative swearing) This car must have been made on a Friday at 4pm just before a long weekend... after a year changed the bearings on the transmission, after 2.5 years changed the linking arm for the wipers (took them over a week to get the part since this happens so rarely), the anti-theft stopped working, the A/C died when its bearings seized, the check motor light kept coming on despite changing just about every part in the pollution control system... the motor takes about a gallon of oil between oil changes and sounds like a farm tractor, the suspension always makes the ride interesting, and finally the transmission/clutch gave up the ghost with a screeching whine and a crunch... We've always had Toyota and never had any problems. We ran the cars into the 270000 km's and still they ran, yet this one was one big pain in the kiester. One thing is sure, I'm not pouring more money into the thing... to paraphrase Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch... "it is dead, defunct, passed away, this is a dead car... it is not sleeping, it is DEAD". So I guess I'll soon be paying car payments again but it won't be to Toyota.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


We spent the March Break in "le Vieux Québec". For those of you that are not from Québec, "la Vielle Ville" is the old part of Québec City near the St. Lawrence River. It dates back to the the 17th and 18th century and has been largely restored. It is one of the first UNESCO hertitage sites in North America. It is the cradle of French America and most francophones have ancestors that come from there. This is where it all started.
As I walked along the snowy cobbled streets, that have a distinctly European flavour, I reflected upon what it must have been like to live there 300-350 years ago. You would have left a nice safe civilized country, sailed for at least a month across the stormy Atlantic, to end up in a place where nothing was the same. You had more freedom, but life was probably much harsher than back in France. Chances were that you would never see your family or homeland again. Yet people made a place for themselves and created a French culture in this strange land. They set out and explored a continent, going from Hudson's Bay to the far west all the way down to Louisiana and New Orleans.
This is where my roots are, and I can feel that even if I have spent most of my life elsewhere. It is a strange feeling, this feeling of being home. I was an airforce brat and as such lived all over the place but when I came to study in Québec, as I got off the bus, the feeling struck me, I was home. This place was home. It is a feeling that I have never had elsewhere. I know it sounds strange but that feeling has stayed with me all my life and though I have lived longer elsewhere than here, Québec is still my home, my roots.

Friday, February 24, 2006

March Break, Yeah!!!

Finally March break is here... in the darkness of a cold/cool dank winter we can all take a break in the educational world. Why, many you ask, do we get a week off in the first week of March? Well one very good reason is that both students and teachers are much more likely to do grievous bodily harm to each other at this time of the year, so in lieu of hibernating the winter away, we all get a time out to go back to our corners to prepare for the final half of the year. ;o)
So it's a week of taking it easy, undoing the stress and preparing for what is to come, for both the students and the teachers. Soooo...
Have a very good, relaxing, and safe March Break, doing all the things you love!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sitting in the dark

The electricity went out last night on my side of the street, not the whole street, just our side of the street. (How come that always happens when the temprerature is -18 degrees celsius (0 degrees F) with a wind chill of -25 degrees(-13 degrees F)) We could look out of our cold dark house and see the lights in the houses across the street. Even the street lights were on.... but not on our side of the street.
We always take our modern convenience for granted until it stops working. Sitting there shivering in the dark reading by the flickering light of a candle, oh all right to the light of a propane camping lantern, made me think about how much we depend on our fragile technology. Makes me think of a quote from Carl Sagan, "Our society is exquisitly dependant on science and technology, yet very few of its members know anything about science and technology." How true it is. I know people who don't know how to connect their VCR to their TV. Look at how many people use a computer without having any idea of what is going on. Yet we all depend upon it for our very survival. How many of us could suvive without the technology?
A couple of years ago, we had an ice storm that shut down the electrical grid, in many places, for over a month in the dead of winter. People had to abandon their homes and go live in shelters. New Orlean's infra-structure is no more and the city has almost ceased to exist. Yet we still take it all for granted. Push a button, instant heat, light, and entertainment.
Makes you think when you're sitting there shivering in the dark. ;o)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

St. Valentine's Day

Happy St. Valentine's day to all of you love lorne people out there. Did you know that:

  • Approximately one billion Valentine cards are exchanged each year...the largest seasonal card-selling occasion of the year next to Christmas.
  • Most Valentine's Day cards (83%) are purchased by women. However, the number of cards purchased by men (currently 17%) is gradually rising, thought by some sources to be due to the fact that men often purchase two cards for their siginificant amusing one and the obligatory romantic one which they believe is expected of them.
  • Half of all consumers prefer to receive a humorous Valentine, followed by a romantic greeting (31%) and then a more risque form of card (8.2%). More than one-third of women (36%) and 26% of males prefer to receive a romantic Valentine. 13% of males prefer a more sexy Valentine, whereas only 3.5% of women prefer this variety of card.
  • February 14 is the most important holiday for florists, accounting for 32% of annual sales.
  • 73% of people who buy flowers to send on Valentine's Day are male...only 27% are female.
  • Approximately 110 million roses...the majority of them being red...will be sold and delivered within a three-day time period during the Valentine's Day celebrations.
  • 36% of males and 28% of females put off their Valentine's Day shopping until February 14 or the day before...64% of consumers will plan to do their shopping a week or more prior to the date.
  • Males tend to spend more money on Valentine's Day gifts than do females and are more likely to buy big-ticket items...the average amount spent being $95.00.
  • Alexander Graham Bell applied for his patent on the telephone on Valentine's Day in 1876.
  • The chief colors associated with Valentine's Day are pink, red and white. Pink is a delicate, almost innocent shade of red and is also connected with Saint Valentine, whose burial was said to have caused the pink almond tree to blossom. Red is a symbol of warmth and feeling...the color of the heart, while white represents purity and faith...a faith between two who love each other.
  • from :
For more St. Valentine facts for Canada see: The London Free Press

Sunday, February 12, 2006

To the Moon and Back

Watched the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon" last night. Boy that sure brings back some memories. I can remember watching the lift off's on TV with Walter Cronkite giving the commentary. It's funny, my generation grew up with the space program. We lived through the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space shots. We watched John Glenn orbit the earth, the first space walk, Armstrong stepping out on the moon. It is probably the best thing that was done in the sixties. It made us all dream of one day being in space. (Star Trek was born in those years.) We were with the astronauts and it was something that every one of us could relate with. Yes it cost billions, and yes there was also the Vietnam War, racial injustice, and the Cold war but the whole world could dream of the stars. If we could go to the moon, we could do anything. I think just about everyone stared out at the moon in wonder when Armstong, Aldrin and Collins were there.
It cost billions, but it was money well spent. Too bad that they squandered the dream, billions are still being spent but to what end? There is still poverty, war, and all kinds of social ills and on top of it, we don't even have a common goal, a dream. :o(

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ah the weekend, finally

Ah the weekend has finally arrived... been a long week. Doctor's appointment (does anyone like doctor's appointments, it's almost up there with seeing the dentist), Génie en Herbe on Tuesday (for those who don't do secondary school or have kids, it's the French version of "Reach for the Top", there's a whole league with rules, competitions, and statistics, great fun, but it means that when there is a competition, we get home after a 13 hour day) and finally having to deal with having my credit card cloned by some thief.
It is really a pain, although the credit card company is ok about it and they don't bill you for what was ripped off. But finally we all pay for the thieves since the companies make us pay higher interest rates to cover the losses. You'd figure that someone would come up with a better system, something with a NIP that isn't stored on the card, but then again people get ripped off with their interact cards. Maybe with computer chips but it probably costs VISA less to leave things as they are than to spend the money to change it (see article). I know at least 4 people who have had it happen to them so watch out even though there is probably not much you can do about it.
Now on to the weekend. Finally we are getting nice cold dry sunny winter weather, I love it. It's much better than the damp, grey stuff we've been having since the start of winter. You know kind of mixed up weather that can't make up its mind whether it's fall or winter or a hybrid of the two. So I finally got to go skating on the Rideau Canal... great fun and exercise. To top it off tonight went to a nice Scottish pub for a pint of Guinness with a steak. A fine ending to the week and tomorrow should be pretty much the same. That's the life!!! :o)

Monday, February 06, 2006

I think the whole world has seen and heard about the cartoon issue. All I can say is that I find it extremely ironic that by protesting the "blasphemy" with violence, arson, and death threats, they are giving credibility to what would otherwise be an exercise in bad taste. Laughing at another man's religion may be in very bad taste but it certainly doesn't deserve the violence, hate and threats that it has engendered. Obviously religion just does not seem to have much of a sense of humour, I guess it comes from taking yourself too seriously.
In another twist of the weird, how do you like our new Prime Minister’s spanking new cabinet. Not too bad, for a new style politician, who is going to change the nature of politics. He named a turn-coat liberal to his cabinet (remember the big kafuffle about Belinda?) and he made one of his political cronies a senator (remember the TRIPLE “E” senate, efficient, equal and “tadah” ELECTED) and then named him to his cabinet without his ever seeing the inside of a ballot box. The more it changes the more it is the same old, same old… and they wonder why people are cynical about politics.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Democracy at work

What is democracy and when does democracy start to be coercive. I'm sure everyone has come across situations where the group decides what each member must do or not do. Everyone must march in lockstep and nobody can march to his/her own drummer. To justify this they use democracy to tell you what you must do (or not do) and god help you if you have a different opinion. You're not a team player, you're not following the party line, you are not right... you are a traitor; you are responsible for breaking up the team. It's all your fault.
No I'm not talking about a strike, nor am I talking about a major negotiation or an election. I'm talking about simple everyday situations that we meet whenever a group gathers. Has majority rule gone too far... I wonder? (I know that it's not politically correct to question this but I've never been PC)
Here's a hypothetical situation to illustrate the point... It is Christmas and in schools there are often Christmas parties at noon with your class. Some teachers don't want to do a party with the kids and that's fine, they are allowed to do what they want during their noon hour, it is their time. So they vote to stop all parties because they don't want any of the kids asking them why they're not doing something. In other words, everyone must do the same thing because they can't assume the consequences of their decision. So instead they bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator. We are not ordering them to do a party on their own time. They are completely free to not do one, yet they use "democracy" to stop others from "doing their thing" because they have trouble taking responsibility for their decisions. Here my illustration uses schools but I am sure that the same situation exists everywhere. (I'm even sure that among the "cols bleus" (municipal workers of Montréal that have a very militant union) there are reasonable workers that just want to get their job done to the best of their abilities and are high jacked by the hotheads of their union.)
It is ironic that in the name of democracy we force a rigid homogenization on people. People should be allowed to be different, to have their own way of doing things, to do things if they want to (or not)... in other words a nice big dose of "live and let live". If not, how do we tell the difference between a tyranny and a democracy?

Monday, January 30, 2006

What a way to start a week...

Wouldn't it be nice if winter could make up its mind? Went to bed last night with snow and woke up this morning with freezing rain, and at noon it was a fine humid drizzle. I wish that we could have one or the other but not both at the same time. The weather person says that we are 5.5 degrees celsius (that's 9.9 degrees F for you Americans) above the seasonal average. (Can we all spell global warming?) Nice to have warmer weather since it costs less to heat, but it might be nice for it to be a little less humid and a little more stable. ;o)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Fustration in the morning

I am one of those unlucky people that has to drive to work each and every morning... (I don't have any choice cuz there just isn't any public transport from where I live to where I work :o( believe me I would if I could.) The traffic was really heavy this morning and we were all patiently waiting in a loooong line to get onto the 20. Lo and behold comes this driver, driving along in the left lane, passing everyone who had been there driving "stop and go" for five minutes. Just before the entrance to the highway he wants to cut into the line in front of everyone. Unfortunately I was feeling rather grumpy (I'm allowed to be at my age and because the alarm clock hadn't gone off that morning) so I didn't stop the car and let "Monsieur" cut in front of me. (It helps that I have an older car and his was a new one) He was so fustrated that that he hadn't got his way that he found a way to pass in front of me on the highway and flip me the bird... Now here is a guy so arrogant, that he feels that he doesn't have to follow the line and everyone must let him pass in front of them (stopping the whole line of cars in the process) and he has the unmitigated effrontery to be fustrated and angry when we didn't all bow down to his majesty. All I can say to him is... no I won't stoop to his lack of "savoir vivre" but I must admit to a bit of satisfaction at having made his morning even more fustrating... I waved at him with a smile as he passed. :oP