Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Flying on skis

There's nothing like cross-country skiing, fresh air, snow, and a good workout. Now x-country skiing is great at anytime but at night it's even better. The temperature was ideal (-7 to -8 degrees Celsius), great snow (dry and powdery), wax was perfect and finally the moon is almost full. All these things factored in make it indescribable. You almost fly across the snow and you can do 8 feet just on one kick. It's the closest thing to flying I know with your two feet still on the ground. Add to that, the full moon and it's "féerique" (more beautiful than reality, from the fairies world) The moon shining on the snow is so bright that most of the time I had my head light turned off. The pale white light, sparkling on the snow, with the black, black shadows of the trees makes an image approaching the abstract. When you stop all you can hear is the soft sighing of the breeze in the trees, nothing else. No cars, no people talking, nothing. If ever you get a chance to try I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

And they're off.

We are having an election here right now and the politicians are making promises right, left and center. Promises that everyone knows they will never keep. (and politicians wonder why they are about as popular as a dose of clap) So to make things a little less cynical, or maybe to prove I ain't the only cynic here, here are some quotes on the the subject of democracy.
  • Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. WINSTON CHURCHILL, speech, Nov. 11, 1947
  • Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote! BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
  • Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear, ALAN COREN
  • Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. OSCAR WILDE, The Soul of Man Under Socialism
  • It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting. TOM STOPPARD, Jumpers (Ah those hangin' chads and electronic voting machines)
  • Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right. H.L. MENCKEN
  • The ballot is stronger than the bullet. ABRAHAM LINCOLN, speech, May 19, 1856
  • The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter. WINSTON CHURCHILL
  • Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Maxims for Revolutionists
  • It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny. JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, The American Democrat
  • Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors. RALPH WALDO EMERSON
  • In every well-governed state, wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing. ANATOLE FRANCE, Penguin Island
  • The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment. ROBERT HUTCHINS
  • Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time. E.B. WHITE
  • Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. H.L. MENCKEN
  • Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. HELEN KELLER (a very wise woman)
  • Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers. ARISTOTLE
  • Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike. PLATO
  • Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage. H.L. MENCKEN
  • Democracy is the road to socialism. KARL MARX
  • Friday, February 23, 2007

    Justice is served

    Today the Supreme Court of Canada made me proud to be a Canadian. It threw out the provisions of Canada's Anti-Terrorism law making it legal to detain a person indefinitely without trial.
    The current Federal law allows sensitive intelligence information to be heard privately by a federal judge , with only sketchy summaries given to defense attorneys. ( Of course the people doing the accusing are the ones who decide what information can be given to the accused. This usually means next to nothing.) If the people choose to fight their deportation they can spend years in jail while the cases go through the courts. Even if they are freed, they risk being labeled as terrorists. (Maher Arar comes to mind) This means that the accused has no way of knowing the complete charges against him and therefore no way of being able to adequately defend himself.
    The justices of the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision (9-0), stated that certain parts of the law that pertain to the certificates are against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and they give parliament one year to make changes to the law.
    ''The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process,'' Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the ruling.
    In the last couple of years our liberties have gradually been eroded in the name of security. To tell you the truth, I feel that these draconian laws are far more dangerous than any terrorist attack. The loss of liberty and freedom usually does not come in a terrible revolution but is a gradual giving away of our rights. Once started it is too easy to justify still more sacrifices until there is nothing left.
    We would do well to remember that in the Germany of the 1930's, Adolf Hitler was democratically elected and by the manipulation of the public's fear was able to take complete power. Too many Canadians gave their lives to stop him and to protect the freedom that we enjoy today. Thank g*d. we are still far from that situation and hopefully with today's Supreme Court decision we will be farther still.
    Maybe the men who were detained are guilty of something, if so put them on trial and give them a chance to defend themselves. If they are found guilty, then you can deport them. To not do so, not only infringes their rights but it diminishes everyones.

    PS: I found a nice quote in the Montréal Gazette that fits perfectly.
    "I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample underfoot." Horace Greeley

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Oh my g*d she's bald.

    Well good old Britney blew a gasket, as if she wasn't running one cylinder short of a V4 (have to be ecological). She cut off all her hair and got a tattoo. I don't know whether she is just bonkers or if she is sly as a fox. All that free publicity, maybe it will give some much needed CPR to her career, let's face it, it has been just about dead for the last three years. What is really strange is that this piece of fluff news, has been breaking news for days. In some places it even made it to the evening news and there are tons of videos on You-tube. Personally...yawn who cares?
    Now mind you, I have nothing against bald women, after all Sinéad O'Connor has made a bald head her trade mark, but then again she has talent. Britney on the other hand is not even close to being in the same class, nor does she have the same class.

    All of this just to introduce the trivia of the day... Hair, or lack there of.
    • Average number of hairs on the head: 100,000
    • Red hair: 90,000
    • Brunet: 100,000
    • Black hair: 110,000
    • Blond hair: 140,000
    • The longest documented hair length is Xie Quiping with 5.627 meters (Guiness Book Of World Records)
    • Annual growth: 12 cm
    • Female hair grows more slowly than male hair (too bad ladies)
    • Normally takes about 7 years to grow hair down to the waist
    • Male hair is more dense than female hair (ditto)
    • Lifespan of hair: 2 to 7 years
    • Diameter of hair: 0.1 mm
    • Load-carrying capacity: 100 grams (= one chocolate bar)
    • Humidity stretches the hair (also causes frizzz)
    • Combing is less detrimental than brushing
    • Hair grows faster in warm weather
    • Elderly people have slower hair growth and diminished hair density (it's called naturally going bald)
    • Hair is the fastest growing tissue in the body, second only to bone marrow.
    • 35 meters of hair fibre is produced every day on the average adult scalp.
    • 90% of scalp hairs are growing and 10% are resting.
    • It is normal to lose 100 hairs per day from the scalp.
    • You must lose over 50% of your scalp hairs before it is apparent to anyone.
    • Thyroid imbalance and iron deficiency are reversible causes for hair loss.
    • Over 50% of men by age 50 have male pattern hair loss.
    • Forty percent of women by the time they reach menopause will have female pattern (hereditary) hair loss.
    • The technical term for balding is alopecia (There's a word for you Jazz. Britney is suffering from self-inflicted alopecia)

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Medieval Help desk

    Jazz sent me this since she knows that I love the medieval time period and I also have a rather quirky sense of humour. (Just ask my students) It is hilarious so I thought that you might all enjoy it as much as I did. The Medieval Help Desk
    Enjoy. :o)

    Here is a bit of medieval trivia for you trivia nuts.

    • The keep at Bridgnorth Castle, located in England, leans at 17 degrees, three times further than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
    • In 1813 a walled up skeleton was found in one of the vaults of Craigmillar Castle.
    • In 1787 Robert Burns was knighted at Clackmannan Tower by Henry Bruce's widow with the sword of Robert the Bruce.
    • The largest castle in England is Windsor Castle.
    • The largest castle in Wales is Caerphilly Castle.
    • All the inhabitants of Cainhoe Castle, in Bedfordshire England, died due to the "Black Death".
    • Loch Doon Castle once sat on an island in the middle of Loch Doon. In 1934 the castle was moved, stone by stone, to the west shore of the Loch.
    • Killyleagh Castle is the oldest occupied castle in Ireland. It was built in the 13th century.
    • In 1250, Walter de Clifford forced a royal messenger to eat the king's Writ, wax seal and all. (ketchup with that?)
    • At Exeter Castle, in 1136, the garrison used wine to extinguish fires from a siege. (what a waste)
    • The medieval long-bow had a range of 220 yards and could easily penetrate 3/4 inch of oak.
    • Super-heated sand was used in warfare. It penetrated the joints of armor and made the attacker run in the opposite direction.

    Thanks to

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    The name is Bond, James Bond!

    Since I bought the whole collection of the James Bond films, I have been watching them with Mrs. BB every Saturday night. Sure the special effects are rather rudimentary and Bond is more macho than is politically correct in these newer egalitarian times, but the films do have something. Being a rather curious person I decided to look up the order of the films and that of the books. There is certainly a difference... the first shall be last. So the new James Bond film is which came out recently was the first book written. And even though I must say I was somewhat reticent about a blond Bond (Ian Fleming's description of him makes him 6'2" black hair and blue eyes) I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It was a Bond that we hadn't seen in a long time, cold and ruthless, just as he was in the books. After all Commander Bond is an assassin.

    Here are the order of the books as they were published:
    1. Casino Royale (1953),
    2. Live and Let Die (1954),
    3. Moonraker (1955),
    4. Diamonds Are Forever (1956),
    5. From Russia, With Love (1957),
    6. Doctor No (1958),
    7. Goldfinger (1959),
    8. For Your Eyes Only (1960) (short stories: For Your Eyes Only, A View to a Kill, Quantum of Solace, Risico, The Hildebrand Rarity)
    9. Thunderball (1961),
    10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1962),
    11. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963),
    12. You Only Live Twice (1964),
    13. The Man With the Golden Gun (1965),
    14. Octopussy and the Living Daylights (1966)
    Here are the films in order that they appeared:
    1. Doctor No* (1962)
    2. From Russia With Love* (1963)
    3. Goldfinger* (1964)
    4. Thunderball* (1965)
    5. You Only Live Twice* (1967)
    6. On Her Majesties Secret Service** (1969)
    7. Diamonds are Forever* (1971)
    8. Live and Let Die*** (1973)
    9. The Man with the Golden Gun *** (1974)
    10. The Spy Who Loved Me *** (1977)
    11. Moonraker*** (1979)
    12. For Your Eyes Only*** (1981)
    13. Octopussy*** (1983)
    14. A View to a Kill*** (1985)
    15. The Living Daylights**** (1987)
    16. Licence to Kill**** (1989)
    17. Golden Eye ***** (1995)
    18. Tomorrow Never Dies***** (1997)
    19. The World is Not Enough ***** (1999)
    20. Die Another Day***** (2002)
    21. Casino Royale****** (2006)
    * Sean Connery **George Lazenby *** Roger Moore **** Timothy Dalton ***** Pierce Brosman ****** Daniel Craig Green = not an Ian Fleming story

    Here is some trivia about James Bond.
    • In the film "You Only Live Twice" the screen play was written by Roald Dahl the famous author who wrote many children's books.
    • In the film "From Russia with Love" Ian Fleming has a cameo appearance.
    • Jane Seymour, the actress that plays Solitaire in "Live and Let Die", has eyes of different colour, grey and brown.
    • Goldeneye (film 17) was the name of a WWII contingency plan in case the Nazi's invaded Spain that Fleming worked on while in the British Secret Service. It was also the name of his home in Jamaica.
    • Ian Fleming had the same rank as Bond, Commander RN
    • Ian Fleming chose the name James Bond because he thought it was bland and boring.
    • Ian Fleming participated in the great deception before D-Day where a body was placed in the water containing documents that led the Germans to believe that the allies would invade Greece instead of Sicily. (see The Man Who Never Was)
    • The Bond family motto is "Non Sufficit Orbis" (The World is not Enough) (film 19)
    • Favorite weapon is the Walther PPK but before that weapon he used a Beretta which was judged to not have enough stopping power.
    • Bond always took his vodka martini, medium dry, shaken not stirred.
    * Some of the trivia borrowed thanks to

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    More Trivia

    Here is some maritime trivia for Jazz and Ian

    • It cost $3 million to build the Titanic and $100 million to make the movie. (Should have spent more on the boat I guess.)
    • And keeping to the topic. The Titanic took 2 hours 40 minutes to sink (11:40 pm to 2:20 am) and the film takes 3 hours 14 minutes to watch. (without the previews)
    • Again on the same subject: The panel on which Kate Winslet floats after the Titanic sinks actually exists. It is to be found at the Halifax Maritime Museum along with other bits and pieces of debris from the sinking (deck chairs, flotation devices etc)
    • And Finally: The tombs of the victims that were not claimed by relatives are to be found in a Halifax cemetery. They are placed in such a way as to reproduce the curve of the bow of the Titanic and two cedars were planted to show the start and end of the gash that sank her. Every few years the coroners and forensic experts take out the effects of the victims that were not identified and using new forensic techniques try to put a name on the bodies. They have been surprisingly successful and there are now tombstones marked "Unknown but to God" that now have a name below. :o)
    • One of the tombstones of the victims has the name "Jack Dawson" on it. (He wasn't the same one as the film.)
    • We have our own maritime disaster on the St. Lawrence River. In 1914 on the St Lawrence near Rimouski, the Empress of Ireland sank . She went down in less than 15 minutes after being holed by the SS Storstad. Out of 1477 people on board 1027 died, and more passengers died on her (840) than on the Titanic (817). Yet she is relatively unknown.
    • A Mr. William Clarke, a coal stoker in the boiler rooms, survived the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. He had also survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic 2 years before. (Hope he stayed on dry land after)

    RMS Empress of Ireland

    RMS Titanic

    Hérouxville Redux

    Well the bigot does it again. André Drouin, the author of the defamatory declaration from the village council of Hérouxville has opened his mouth on television and proved to everyone that he is the village idiot*. He actually demanded that the prime minister declare a state of emergency, like the one declared in 1970 by Prime Minister Trudeau (the War Measures Act), to protect our** culture, abrogate all accommodations, reasonable or otherwise, and make sure the immigrants toe the line.
    Help, help, the big bad immigrants are going to burn our houses and women, stone us and forcibly convert us to Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism or (insert your religion here). Quick, barricade the doors and windows and call out the army. We must absolutely put them back in their place, after all, if they are refugees from a war it has to be because of their culture. (Yes, he did say that.)
    This just goes that every village has its moron*. He, unfortunately, was elected and was provided with a public forum. Hopefully the legal proceedings that have been brought against him under the Charter of Human Rights will finally shut him up, cuz I'm very tired of having my good name sullied by his ignorant, bigoted ideas.

    * I mean this in a generic way, I, in no way, wish to insult people who are suffering from a handicap. They are way more tolerant and much less mean-spirited than this bozo.

    **I say again, his culture sure as H*LL ain't my culture. I'm ashamed to have him as a fellow citizen. Maybe we should deport him.

    Friday, February 02, 2007

    Just for you little sister (Jazz)

    Here are a couple of little tidbits of miscellaneous trivia for Jazz who asked so politely.
    1. Oscar the Grouch is based on a rude and grouchy waiter that worked at Oscar's Tavern where Jim Henson and Jon Stone of Sesame Street fame used to eat lunch.
    2. On a baby, the belly button is exactly midway from the top of his head to the bottom of his foot.
    3. Keeping to the theme of babies, more babies are born in the month of September than any other month.
    4. Two dogs were hanged at the Salem witch trials
    5. Ketchup was once sold as a medicine
    6. According to Guinness the longest bout of hiccups was 65 years (that's got to hurt)
    7. 46% of all television violence happens in cartoons. (must be coyote and roadrunner)
    8. Al Capone's older brother was a policeman in Nebraska
    9. 20% of all potatoes in the US will end up as fries
    10. Farthest distance a pumpkin has been hurled without the aid of explosives: 3178 feet. Hum just have to wonder about the people that have nothing better to do than hurl pumpkins... must be like us bloggers living in a twilight world of irreality. ;o)
    Hope that feeds you trivia appetite, Jazz

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Tag you're it!

    Weird is as weird does. I have been tagged by my lil' sister Jazz. Now don't get me wrong but my sister is the weird one in the family, me, I'm just your everyday normal teaching kind of guy. Oh I can see her staring at me right now with her eyebrows in the air, muttering to herself, Yeah right.

    Ok here goes.

    1. I have been a teacher for 30 years and I still love teaching. This could be considered weird since the age group that I have always loved teaching are the 13-14 year olds...Yeah that's right right in their adolescent hormonally charged weirdness.
    2. I love Gregorian Plain Chant nothing better that driving up to Gatineau with 2 hours of Gregorian Chant echoing full blast in the car. I find it relaxing, a bit like driving in a cathedral.
    3. I love to go trekking by myself across mountains, rain or shine, for a couple of days, as long as I am far away from the the bustle of humanity (at least 30km away). I get enough of humanity at school.
    4. I love old stones... I teach ESL but if I hadn't been an ESL teacher I would have been a History teacher. I just love to crawl all over ruins, the older the better. Mrs BB and I spent two summers in the UK and Ireland. Paradise, so many ruins to visit.
    5. I have no sense of musical rhythm (some people would say I have no sense period, but let's not go there). I couldn't play a musical instrument to save my life. My sisters are both able to play something, one used to play the piano the other a tenor recorder. My daughter can play the violin, my wife plays the classical guitar, and my son could play the recorder. What can I play? Absolutely nothing. One of my friends tried to show me how to play the bass guitar for a song. Not too hard he said, one or two chords and a bit of rhythm... hah he soon gave up. I could finger the chords but the rhythm resembled nothing even close to that of the song.
    6. Last but not least, I am a trivia nut. If you could make a living from trivial pursuit I would be rich. I just love reading trivia, the Bathroom Reader series, News from the Weird, anything that contains esotheric, strange and little known facts, of little or no value. I just need to assimulate them. So here I am with thousands ot titbits of totally useless information filling my poor little memory. In the meantime I have trouble remembering my name on Mondays. "What's ma name, and where's my lunch box?"
    As for tagging 6 people. Well I can't very well retag Jazz now can I? And I don't know anyone else so very well. So as Jazz said anyone who wants to try it go right ahead... consider yourself tagged.