Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Traditions

Most people put up Christmas trees in their living room for Christmas, we haven't done that for years. In fact we gave our Christmas tree to BB daughter so she could put it up in her living room. What we have is rather special and unique, Mrs. BB's Christmas village. Now we are not talking about a couple of houses under the tree, we are talking about a full blown town, with ski hill, farms, train station, airport, sea port, lumber yard, hospital, a couple of churches, an Indian village and many other things. The main street is teaming with people and vehicles and there is even a historic old part of town. It is awe inspiring and takes up about 3/4 of the living room, about 10' by 10' at least. Mrs. BB has been adding to it over the years with my modest contributions and let me tell you she works very hard at putting it up. Everything has its place and every place has its thing. When we have visitors they sit there looking at all the parts and are fascinated by all the details. At night we turn off the lights in the living room and turn on the lights of the village and it is simply beautiful. Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what I am talking about. So with that, in the words of that immortal poem, "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Monday, December 10, 2007

After the time

We had a really big snow storm on Monday, 30 cm of it, but it was not all bad since the 30 cm of soft, dry snow and temperatures hovering around the -5 to -10 degress celsius means... the cross country ski trails are OPEN!!! Last year we didn't get to ski until the middle of January. Hell people were still playing golf on New Years day. This year however is different and we are able to ski early in December, not just tentatively ski whilst watching out for gravel, rocks and branches but really fly across the crisp, white deep blanket of snow. As an added bonus, there was hardly anyone on the trails, either they thought that it was too early for the park to open its trails or they were all xmas shopping. So off I went on Saturday and Sunday and ended up doing 20+ km . Yes, snow storms do sometimes have a good side.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I was listening to the news about the start of the Bali conference on climate change today. It is supposed to be the start of a new round of negotiations for a Kyoto II type of plan. Unfortunately, cynic that I am, it will probably go nowhere just like Kyoto did, since the major polluters will simply not sign on.
What I did find strange was that 10000 representatives from 180 nations will be flying to Bali for a conference on climate change... Hmmmm... does anyone see the incongruity of it? Using Google I found a site called that has a calculator for the carbon footprint engendered by flying from one place to another. I then took three capitals from each continent and figured out the number of tonnes of CO2 for one person flying from each one, return from Bali. Taking an average I then multiplied by the number of delegates. The average number of tonnes is 2.93333 per person. There are about 10000 people, therefore the conference will produce 2.93333 x 10000 = 29333.3 tonnes of CO2. (This figure is probably a very conservative estimate) To make it more concrete, that is equivalent to 5867 cars with a fuel efficiency of 9l/100 km driving 24000 km per year (for you Americans that is 26 miles/gallon driving 15000 miles per year). All this for climate change, hummm a teensy bit ironic n'est-ce pas?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The wisdom of wisdom teeth

Why is it that I have never been wise and yet I have wisdom teeth? Last Thursday I had to get a wisdom tooth taken out. Let me tell you that at my age that is no little thing. Old hard jawbones do not lead to an easy and quick extraction. Now I look like a lopsided chipmunk and I have to eat soft mushy food for a while. Although my dentist is good, that is one experience that I would rather not have to go through again. To add insult to injury, Thursday was our first snow/sleet/frozen rain storm of the season. So on top of having to have that tooth taken out I had to drive in really lousy conditions to get there. Sometimes you just can't win.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ode to a teacher.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...
In short it was the end of the sixties and the start of the seventies. The slaughter that was Vietnam was winding down, the summer of peace and love was now a memory, men were walking on the moon and the drug culture was coming home to roost with the deaths of Joplin and Hendrix. Those were the years that I started CEGEP (a kind of junior college crammed between high school and university). We were finally learning to fly on our own wings, even if sometimes it was more like the take off of a goony bird than the soaring flight of an eagle. Those were heady times indeed.
In Jazz's last blog, she remarked that a comment I had made reminded her of Mr. Donald Petzel, a teacher we both had (singular praise). Her comment brought back a host of memories about my time spent in his classes. So, perhaps too late, I would like to pay tribute to one of the teachers that marked me to this day, and in a way say the thank you I should have said long ago.
He was a rather tall portly man, who always wore dark sixty-ish horn rimmed glasses. He had a command of the English language that would have made an Oxford don proud, but most important of all he was the consummate teacher. He would always start his classes with a "Good morning scholars" including us in the great fraternity of scholars and then would proceed to stretch our minds past the point that we had ever dreamt of going. Never would he put down a student who gainsaid him, in fact he would delight in pushing us to elaborate, support, elucidate, our thoughts on whichever subject we were discussing. His famous "Whaaaaat?" when we made outrageous claims, let us know that we had better find something logical to support our claims right quick.
One of the most enjoyable courses I have ever had the pleasure to partake in was the study of the book of Job. Sounds boring doesn't it? But no, I can sill remember vividly the discussions we had about the nature of good and evil, about why "sh*t happens" to good people, and why the deity and the devil were taking bets with each other over the poor hapless Job down below.
He was a renaissance man, erudite, capable of discussing just about anything but above all what defined him was that he was a teacher. He cared about what we thought, about showing us how to think, to ponder, to discover and to define our thoughts and ourselves. He never let us lapse into intellectual laziness. He showed us that it was all right to think differently as long as we could back up our thoughts.
He taught for more than 45 years and marked generations of budding young minds before dying in 2005. I consider myself to be privileged to have had him as my teacher. If I can just be half the teacher that he was, I'll be satisfied.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

End of term and things that go honk.

Since we have just ended the term, my brain is now in complete shutdown mode. Tons of corrections and last minute orals kind of does that to you. So instead I'll show you some pictures I took last weekend. Enjoy!

The goose

It's got to be here somewhere.



Lady and gentleman


Ok, everybody out of the pool.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thoughts on accomodation

Here in Québec we are having a big parliamentary commission (Bouchard-Taylor Commission) on reasonable accommodation. This in itself is not a bad thing (although expensive) except that all the yahoos have come out of the woodwork (which was probably to be expected). Having listened to the commission on TV a couple of times, here is what passed through my mind as I listened.

Please people be honest, as we say in French "assume toi!". If I hear one more of you start your rant by saying that you are not xenophobic or racist and that some of your friends are visible minorities, I'll scream. When you tell the commissioners that we shouldn't allow turbans, hijabs, furry hats and long black coats, and that our poor Québec culture is being submerged by the rising hoard of immigrants with strange headgear and funny hair, YOU ARE BEING XENOPHOBIC AND RACIST! So ASSUME TOI!!!!


To the women's libbers. Yes I know that our grandmothers and our mothers and our sisters and our wives have worked hard to gain equality with men in Québec. I know it was a long hard slog and that we are finally getting there. Thank goodness for that, nobody believes in it more than I do but trying to force these rights and freedoms onto someone against their wishes is not the way to go. If they want to wear the hijab...THAT IS THEIR CHOICE not yours. They are not trying to force you or your daughters to wear them, they just want the freedom to do as they please. Forcing them to take off their hijab because you think it is a sign of inequality between men and women is taking away their freedom of choice and that is precisely the thing that you fought so hard against.
It also crosses my mind that I haven't heard you howling about the images that young girls are subjected to in our modern egalitarian society... you know the songs where women are treated as sl*ts and b*tches and the dress code is more likely to be found in a sleazy motel room than the board room.


And then there are our dear politicians... hey Pauline that bill that you want passed by the Assemblé National (parliament) of Québec, I find that it's a really good idea. You know the one that takes away certain citizenship rights, such as the right to run for political office, from immigrants that can't pass a French test. It's such a good idea that I'd enlarge the scope of it. Make everyone in Québec pass the French exam... every man, woman and child. I figure that we'd eliminate about 40% of Québecers, if the quality of the French I've been reading in the comments about reasonable accommodation is anything to go by. As a bonus, we'd probably get rid of a bunch of politicians along the way.


So Mr. Commisioners Bouchard and Taylor, if I could humbly suggest a short succinct recommendation for your report... it can be writtewn in only four words... LIVE AND LET LIVE!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Been a while

It's been a while since I've updated... a big pile of corrections (which I should be working on at the moment), many committees and not much time. Oh well, that's life. We have been having a really beautiful autumn with sunshine and warmer than usual temperatures. The trees have changed colour and the geese are making their way south. The honking of geese flying in their V formation is one of the most haunting sounds I know. It is a primal sound that has been around much longer than our modern cities and towns. Every time I hear them, it makes me think about how it must have been before we tamed the land around us. The pictures are from last week, where I had the choice of walking in the woods with my camera or writing a blog. The woods easily won out. It was such a nice day, with temperatures of 24 degrees, almost double the seasonal average, it was T-shirt time. There were even people swimming in the lake. Strange but welcome weather.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Accidents happen!

Since my lil sister Jazz isn't here at the moment, and was last seen gallivanting around Texas with geewits, I've decided to do her Friday rants with a couple of my own.

Dear lady with the cell phone,
Driving is a full time occupation, especially when you are driving on a highway, in the morning rush hour with the sun shining directly in your eyes and you have no sun glasses. (Already not a smart move.) Squinting into the sun, whilst talking on a phone, surrounded by hundreds of cars is a sure recipe for an accident. Mind you, I really don't care if you scrap your car, but if you do it'll cause a major bottleneck that will back up traffic for kilometres and make me lose even more time than I already have.
A fellow commuter

Dear older gentleman,
We are in Canada and not the UK. Please be advised that the left hand lane is not the slow lane, it is the fast lane and should be used by faster traffic. It is not normal for all the cars behind you to pass you on the right. If you were in the proper lane they would be passing you on the left, so if you see many cars passing you on the right, IT'S BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT WHERE YOU SHOULD BE!
A fellow commuter

Dear lost lady,
I know for a fact that sometimes finding the proper road is difficult and it's easy to get lost but driving between two lanes to keep your options open is not the solution to your dilemma. Weaving back and forth at a much slower than posted speed is also not recommended.
A fellow commuter

Dear Indy 500 driver,
We are in Montreal's rush hour traffic, not the Indianapolis 500 speed way. Zigzagging through traffic at speeds double that of other vehicles, cutting in front of cars without signalling, cutting across three lanes of traffic to hit the exit, is not only stupid but suicidal. If you want to abrogate your miserable life on this planet, please use the river, (we're an island there's plenty of river to use,) in that way you won't bring anyone with you.
A fellow commuter

So ends the rant.

PS Thanks to Ian for the Awesome Dude award, I finally put it up. I'll give it on to Em but he already has it, and to Evil Spock, live long and prosper!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bimbos, the Movie

While watching TV on th weekend I came across this little tidbit. It seems that there is a Hollywood producer who wants to make a film about the trials and tribulations of poor little rich girls. The film will feature a series of scenes that illustrate what the poor girls have gone through. One scene will illustrate the trauma of Paris' incarceration, another about Britney's meltdown, and still another about poor little Lindsay Lohan. Now, how stupid is that idea? Unfortunately, my little cynical voice tells me that it will probably fill the theatres even if it is pure garbage.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What P's again?

I've been tagged by my lil sister Jazz again. She just likes making me work hard, lazy person that I am. Well OK here are my seven P's

I consider parenthood to be my greatest achievement. Not that I'm a perfect parent, but if the proof is in the pudding, we seem to have done a pretty good job with the kids because they have turned out to be intelligent, well read, responsible adults.

: where would I be without people? I work with adolescents (yes they are people, sometimes I think that they are more mature than certain adults) everyday, many, many of them, with their hopes, dreams, and problems. This kind of leads me to a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde complex. In school I am a people person, I like to listen to the kids, talk with them, joke around, laugh and be there. On the other hand outside of school, I can be pretty much a loner, a leave me alone and I'll be just fine, type of guy. Every so often I have a desperate need to be by myself, go trekking alone in the mountains, go on long cross country ski runs, bike alone. Thank deity that Mrs. BB is such an understanding spouse.

Public schools:
This is where I have spent most of my career. It is underfunded (well anyhow the money doesn't get to the classes) and often not appreciated. (Often get the feeling that we are considered to be a free babysitting service). It often has a bad reputation and yet it continues, in sometimes appalling conditions, to produce a relatively sane next generation. In my experience the majority of kids are just fine. As in any group of humans there are always some bad apples but the vast majority of students do not deserve the reputation they have. The kids deserve much better than they are getting.

I am a teacher, first and foremost. Always have been, always will be. Even after 30 years, I still have great fun teaching and interacting with my kids. I think that I am a good teacher, or so the kids and parents tell me. Teaching for me is more than a job, it is a vocation. I know of no other job that can have such an impact on the future, on the kids who are our future, so it deserves to be done well and with passion.

What I wear on my back (all 35 pounds) when I do one of my favourite things, trekking. My good old 80 litre pack, full of dried food, gorp, water, water filter, stove, fuel, sleeping bag, mattress, clothing, socks, wet weather gear, etc.

My life has been peripatetic. Being an Airforce brat we would move every 3-4 years, Montréal Qc (2 years), Downsview On (3 years), North Bay On (2 years), Greenwood NS (8 years) , Bagotville Qc (3 years) and finally stopping in Québec city. I've slowed down since university, I've only moved three times in the last 30 years. But the urge to see other horizons hasn't left me since Mrs. BB and I just love travelling.

I have shown this and finally got to the end of the list...

As for tagging five people, well I'll be lazy and let anyone who wishes to do this exercise go right ahead. If your little heart desires, be my guest, consider yourself tagged.

PS: How weird, my blogger has turned back to English after having talked to me in German for the last few weeks. Go figure.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What a day.

I went climbing at Mount Sutton with the students today. A really perfect day, the sun was shining, there was a small breeze and the temperature was a balmy 24 degrees. Celsius. The students really liked the climb and had a great time. What more can one ask for? The view from the summit was gorgeous, with the trees starting to turn red, the different shades of blue grey of the mountains fading off into the horizon. We could see all the way to Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump and farther on the horizon the White Mountains in New Hampshire. What a day!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Weird sights

Since I've had my rant for the month, let us go on to lighter things. Can you possibly tell me who in the world would buy a Walt Disney "Cinderella" toaster. Now I can understand a Cinderella lunch box, book bag, pencil case, sneakers, or something like that for kids but a toaster? Yes it's true. If you go to Zellers you will be able to buy your very own Cinderella toaster. I'm not joking, they actually sell Cinderella toaster's there. (No they are not selling them in the toy department, but in the kitchen appliances for adults.) Even stranger, if they are selling them that means that someone is actually buying them. If it's a trend, then why not Bugs Bunny toasters which would say "what's up doc?" to let you know the toast was done or a Snow White apple peeler?
On a street corner in Montreal I saw a really strange personage the other day. (In a town of strange people he was really strange) Imagine a guy, trying to look like a gangsta rapper. He was wearing low (really low, somewhere around mid-thigh) jeans. You could see his not too clean jockey boxers, and tucked into his jockey's was a rumpled undershirt tight over his pot belly. Now you must add big fake silver jewelry, small sunglasses crooked on his nose, a hairnet and a baseball cap set crooked. To top it all off, like a cherry on a sundae, he was wearing his mother's fur coat. Of course this guy must have been almost six feet tall and his mother was obviously about five feet. The overall effect had to be seen to be believed. There he was on the corner trying to look tough, flipping a "loony" (for those who don't know, a Canadian 1$ coin) and all around him people kind of looking away with an half concealed grin on their faces. Mind you he probably thought that he was the epitome of cool. All of this and to top it off, he was as white as wonder bread.

All day today, Blogger seems to have become bilingual. Certain directions and words are in German. Not everything, just certain things. Why German? Deity only knows, I use French and English on my computer so why German. As we say in French "mystère de boule de gomme" (loosely translated "bubble gum mystery " don't ask me why.)

Friday, September 14, 2007


Sometimes driving to work feels like being in Spielberg's 1971 film "Duel". You know the one... where a car driver gets chased by a psychopathic truck. "A duel is about to begin between a man, a truck, and an open road. Where a simple battle of wits is now a matter of life and death."
I have been driving along the same road for the last 15 years to get to school and during this time the quantity of trucks has quadrupled. Last Thursday while driving along, there were so many trucks in the right lane that it was like driving beside a train. They were nose to tail for kilometres. Rather intimidating. Of course all these trucks slowed the traffic down to a crawl since all the cars squeezed into one lane. (A person would have be be completely deranged to want to drive encircled by these mastodons.) To make matters worse from time to time one of then would pull into the left lane and slowwww down traffic even more. (Who's going to argue with a giant 18 wheeler truck when it butts in front of you, forcing you to put on the brakes and slew to keep from hitting him.)
All the pundits tell us that trucks are needed for the economy and that business can't get along without them. Maybe that's true but maybe we should also look at the cost of having so many trucks on the road. The philosophy of "just-in-time" inventory and rapid delivery might be nice for business but I'm not so sure that it's good for the rest of us.
  • Trucks pollute. One truck puts out about as much pollution as 150 cars and they are not even held to the same standards as cars. Most big trucks do not even have antipollution devices not being obligated by law. A train pulling the equivalent of 280 trucks of freight produces the equivalent of 30 trucks of pollution. (Could be a lot less if we electrified the railroads like the European rail system. We have much cheaper and cleaner electricity here than them. I'm sure we could come up with a hybrid system for when electrification is impossible.)
  • Trucks usually cause traffic congestion at the peak traffic hours. Though I have no statistics, empirically from my observation, the days when traffic is the slowest are invariably the days when there is the most truck traffic. All that stalled traffic is not very good for air pollution.
  • I was once told by an engineer who had worked in Transport Québec that a truck had a negative impact on roads equivalent to 10,000 cars. Everyone has seen and driven in the runnels carved into the road by truck wheels. They were certainly not made by cars since they are wider than any car width. For example, the Champlain Bridge in Montreal underwent major repairs a few years ago and these repairs were supposed to last 50 years. It has now been ascertained that they'll barely last 15 years because of all the heavy weight truck traffic.
  • Compared to the wear and tear that trucks cause to the roads, they do not pay even a fraction of the the costs. Yes, they pay the same fuel taxes, license fees as car drivers but a car does not put the wear and tear on our road system that a truck does.
  • Supposedly trucks are more economical than trains. Of course they are, they don't have to pay for the upkeep of the roads, like the railroads do. Make them pay the real price for their usage and wear on the roads and they would probably be much more expensive than the railroads.
  • How many times have you seen accidents involving cars and truck. I know truck advocates say that car drivers are dangerous and cut in front of trucks. This is probably true but that does not cover all accidents. Where I live there was a major accident when an eighteen wheeler ploughed into stopped cars at a red light. The driver had been asleep. People died. In another accident on Highway 40 in the east end of Montreal, a tanker trailer truck again ploughed into stopped traffic on the highway killing many people. I've seen trucks pulling out onto a boulevard, turning left, crossing the boulevard and blocking it from side to side in the face of oncoming traffic. This was in the middle of winter, during a snow storm in icy conditions. I've seen trucks turned over in curves, trucks dropping their loads in the middle of the road, trucks losing control on the highway and wiping out a couple of cars on the way. When you are in a car, what chance do you have against them? I sometimes feel that certain truck drivers know this and use it to drive with impunity.
  • Another problem is that many trucks should not even be on the road, bald tires, brakes shot, lights out etc.. (To be fair there are also many cars that shouldn't be on the roads either. Maybe we should have MOT inspections every year like in the UK. Cars and trucks that don't pass get their licence plates removed until repaired.) Every year in the spring the transport inspectors stop trucks but there are too many trucks and not enough inspectors, so many get away with it.
  • There is also the fact that trucks are getting bigger and bigger all the time. The standard size is now a 53' trailer, whereas a few years ago they were much smaller. There are also more and more "train routier" road trains as we call them here. You know the trucks pulling two 53' trailers (That must come out to 120' of rig counting the truck itself.) Not light loads either, I've seen them pulling two flatbeds full of logs. No matter what they tell me, I'll never believe that they have full control of their rigs. If an emergency happens they'll never be able to control the load.
What would I do if I had the power? Well first of all I'd pass a law saying that trucks may only be used to deliver freight within 100 kilometres. Anything outside of that radius must be carried by freight train. There are now special freight cars where the truck drives up unto the freight car and leaves the trailer which is then carried to destination. Once arrived, it is then delivered to its final destination by another truck. Money must be spent to electrify the railroad grid to make it even less polluting.
I would have hours of exclusion, morning and night, where trucks are not allowed on the roads around a city, to help with traffic congestion.
Trucks have to be smaller and carry a lighter load to help with road deterioration and I would ban "train routier" and oversize loads.
There would be new much higher licensing fees to make trucks pay their fair share of the road usage and there must be yearly inspections for all vehicles.
OK I'm drastic, but I'm also tired of feeling that I am driving the highways and roads on sufferance. So there is my rant for the month.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jazz is right...

After having read my lil sister's blog, I must come to the same conclusion as she did. That is really the PINKY SWEET HURL INDUCING AWARD of the year. It is so frothy pink that even Pink Barbie would be nauseous. In the light of this realization, I have marshaled my meagre artistic talents, Adobe Illustrator, an Illustrator template (You didn't really think I could do something artistic by myself did you?) and made a new logo for the award. I hope that the person who designed the original will not be too upset and curse me to the nether regions of hell.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Award

Em has kindly given me an award... *Blush*. "The Nice Matters Award" This award is given for being a nice blogger. So I'll pass on my good fortune to some other bloggers that I've been following for a while.
First of let me be accused of nepotism because I'm going to give the first one to my lil sister Jazz. I know she tries to make out that she's a world weary, cynical broad, but underneath it all she is a very nice lil sister to have.
My second choice is everyone's favourite curmudgeon, Ian who despite his grinch like attitude at times, really cares or he wouldn't rant so hard.
Then I'll add Voyager, a nice lady mountain trekker (we both love the mountains), who is always worth reading.
Next is Tai, a fellow traveller, the one and only who has moved into a new house and a new job.
Then here's Dr. Deb, she always writes a very interesting blog about psychology, and people.
Finally Choochoo living in Hellhole Norway in a new apartment as strange as the last. May her studies go as she wishes.
And I'll add one more, Cs, not last as an afterthought, but because she has already received this award from Em. He beat me to the punch.
Enjoy and thanks

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Following others, what I did

Having no inspiration these days, I've decided to do like Ian and my little sister Jazz and tell a bit about what I've done in my life. Let's see it's hard to get going since I don't feel that it is an extraordinary life, but here goes.
I'll start with the important stuff, stuff that we often overlook. I've been married for 31 years to Mrs. BB. (Doesn't seem that long but I guess time flies when we're having fun.) We've raised two wonderful children who are now intelligent, productive, stable adults. I've also been teaching for 30 years and I still love doing it. Having had a family early on Mrs. BB and I didn't travel much until our kids grew up a couple of years ago, but we have been making up for lost time.

I've gone trekking with Mrs. BB in the Parc de la Gaspésie. We crossed the whole park from one end to the other (over 100km) across some of the highest mountains in the southern part of Québec. The whole trip took us about 10 days and when we finally came straggling into civilization it took us a while just to get used to it. You don't know how good a cold beer tastes until you are sitting on the terrace with one, after having completed the last 20 kilometres across "le Mont Albert", one of the highest of the mountains, with a full pack. There we were sitting at a table, dirty, sweaty, tired, in hiking boots, with a 35 pound pack at our feet and all these tourists kept staring at us as if we had come from another planet...

I've gone trekking in Nepal with my little sister Jazz and Mr. Jazz. It had always been my dream to go trekking to Everest. Not climb it, just get close to it. In 2000 that is what I did. We got to Pheriche at 4600 meters when we both got a good dose of altitude sickness. Realizing that no mountain is worth dying for we started back down. Since we had more time, we were able to take trails that the tourists usually don't take, so we ended up on a trail above Pangboche in what can only be described as a perfect day. Breathtaking scenery, beautiful weather and a path that we had pretty much to ourselves. Like my sister I've visited the Swayambunath and the Bodnath stupas which are the most beautiful in Nepal. I also visited Tengboche Monastery, one of the oldest and most sacred.

I have (along with my wife) also been to the Neolithic tombs of Newgrange and Knowth in Ireland. They were awe inspiring. Imagine a tomb that was built around 3200 BC. That is 5000 years old, almost 1000 years before the pyramids. These tombs were built without any metal tools and yet are so well built that on the winter solstice as the sun rises its light races across the ceiling and hits the main chamber just as the sun clears the horizon and then retreats across the floor. We've also visited Avesbury and Stonehenge as well as many other neolithic stone circles in the Orkneys and Outer Hebrides. It is humbling to realize what our ancestors could do with so little.

We've also hiked along Hadrian's wall. Over hills and ridges, it goes on as far as the eye can see. Those Romans sure knew how to build.

I've climbed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, as well as assorted other mountains in the highlands. One of them was beside the Loch Ness and we could see the loch from one end to the other.

I've walked and climbed in Edward's I castles in Wales. They are truly something to see, being the state of the art in military technology of the 13ht and 14th century. What struck me the most though, was that, although the castles are now in ruins, the towns that grew up around them are all thriving. Maybe there is hope for mankind yet.

I've sat in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris and listened to a choral singing a Gregorian Chant as it echoed across the thousand year old church, with sunlight steaming through the stained glass.

We've walked in the desert of Tunisia and haggled with merchants of the Souk El Bey of Tunis. (It helps to have a friend living there to show you the ropes. ;o)) And we've walked around one of the most complete Coliseums outside of Rome.

I spent ten years in the artillery (army reserve) and finally finished as a Captain and CO of the 58e Batterie where I had started. Got to do many things in the meantime including jump school in Edmonton. (Never got my wings since I busted a knee and had to leave before the end)

I've read more books than I can count. If I had all the books that I've read since I was a kid I could probably start a pretty decent library. Reading and books are one of man's greatest inventions.

I guess I could go on and on. Doing this exercise at least makes you realize just how much we have done in our lives. Hey and the best is still to come. ;op

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to school special

Last Friday, we all trooped back to school. Summer sure went quickly. The renovations finally finished around the 15th of August and I spent the remaining week in Gatineau with Mrs. BB. Many cities could take example from the National Capital Region (Ottawa and Gatineau). The region is a paradise for those of us who like outdoor sports. There is one hundred seventy kilometres of bike trails all around the region. Not trails that share the road with cars, but wide paved bike trails made especially for people who like to ride. As opposed to Montreal all these trails are joined together so you easily get from point A to Point B with a minimum of fuss.
Then there is the Parc de la Gatineau. This is a large park that is just beside and inside the city of Gatineau. It is a 363 square km triangular shaped park that includes many mountains, lake, and streams. The park's location in the Gatineau Hills makes it a popular destination for cross-country skiing and biking. There are almost 200 km of cross-country trails and many of these trails are used by bikes and hikers during the summer. Since the terrain is very hilly it's a good thing to be in shape before riding up into the hills.

In Gatineau Park you will also find William Lyon MacKenzie King's Estate called Kingsmere. It is open to the public and can be accessed by car or by bike if you don't mind pedalling up some rather steep hills. Mackenzie King was the 10th Prime Minister of Canada and was the longest serving Prime Minister in British Commonwealth history (1921-26, 1926-1930, 1935-48). In his personal life MacKenzie King was rather eccentric. He was a firm believer in spiritualism and communed with Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his dead mother and several of his pet Irish terriers (all named Pat, makes it easier to remember names I suppose).

Another of his eccentricities was his fondness for building "abbey" ruins from parts of old Ottawa buildings that had been torn down. So all around his grounds you can find "ruins" of old abbey buildings. (I've been to England and believe me these "ruins" are not even close to the ruins of Riveaulx or Melrose Abbeys)
Something that not many Canadians know is that he was the prime minister that first created the notion of Canadian citizenship . This was put in place on January 1st 1947, before that we were British citizens who lived overseas. In honour of this, Mackenzie King was awarded Canadian citizenship certificate number 0001. A little known fact is that Canada's first natural born Canadian is still living today in New Brunswick.
Here are a couple of more pictures taken whilst riding the Gatineau bike trails.

Wreck of a "draveur" boat

Parliament Buildings along the Ottawa River

Denizens of the river