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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh the irony...

How's this for ironic? Our beloved ex-Canadian, Conrad Black has written a biography of Richard Milhous Nixon.
For those of you who are too young, Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States. He also has the distinction of being the only US president to resign. Of course, he didn't have all that much choice, it was that or be impeached by Congress. This all came about in his second term when it was discovered that he had authorized and then had a hand in covering up a break in at the Democratic Election Headquarters. Known as the Watergate Scandal, after the hotel where the break in occurred, this finally lead to his downfall. During the investigation, it was brought to light, that not only was there a break in at the Watergate but also illegal wiretaps, other break ins, use of confidential medical records to discredit an opponent and assorted other dirty tricks. There was even a presidential enemy list of people who opposed his presidency. (Kind of makes you think of a more recent president doesn't it? )

Now on to the author of this new biography, Lord Conrad Black. Conrad Black is a newspaper mogul who was recently convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. He now faces a possible long jail sentence, we'll know in November. Lord Black has always been a rather right wing law and order type of person and he and his wife have often railed about leftist softies. Using his various media outlets, Black denounced Canada's welfare system as "an overgenerous reinsurance policy for an underachieving people"; railed against high taxes and unions supporting worker's rights. He once called an Ontario liberal politician the Salvador Allende of Canada and was quoted as saying that he was " trying to strangle, disembowel, and immolate the vestiges of the incentive-based economy." During the strike at his Calgary Herald newspaper, Conrad Black even called the Bishop of Calgary a "jumped-up little twerp"and a "prime candidate for exorcism" because he dared to back the striking workers.
After the publication of Black's biography of Richard Nixon, he was quoted as saying “It’s hard not to acknowledge [Richard Nixon’s] sleazy side, which I do not have,* ”
Yeah right, it takes one to know one.

* bold italics are mine

Monday, August 06, 2007


Well we just got over a big thunderstorm, plenty of rain, thunder and lightning. It's grey, wet and humid and that means that there'll be no work today. Mrs, BB and I are getting the front of the house redone. Before, the side walk was cracked and slowly sinking into the earth and the retaining wall, built of railroad ties, was disintegrating. (Hey the railroad ties were not my idea, the previous owners had put them in. They are a real problem because you just can't throw them into a land fill because of the creosote. ) But I am digressing, so this year we decided to have the sidewalk, driveway and retaining walls redone. So we got a bunch of contractors to submit for the job and finally chose one. We were told that it would take about three weeks, the last of June (finally started the first week of July) and the first two of July. Lo and behold we are now the first week of August and they are still not done. They are not even close to completing the job. Mind you the work that has been done, has been very well done.
Now comes my point, Albert Einstein stated in his Theory of Relativity, that time is relative. So it is between the time estimates of building contractors and real time. The contractor will give you an estimated time based on the optimistic assumption that
  1. The weather will be perfect for the whole time.
  2. Murphy's law will be suspended
  3. There will be no other jobs to interfere with yours
  4. There will be no statutory construction holidays in between. (In Québec they are obliged to give a "vacances de la construction" at the end of July.)
Now this is patently impossible. Based on the construction work we have had done in the last couple of years, I'd say that you must take the contractor's estimated time of completion (E.T.C.) and multiply by 2 to get the real time of completion (R.T.C.) so ETC x 2= RTC. Following this line of logic three weeks will become 6 weeks, which is about right. Another way might be to calculate using workdays. Three weeks is 21 days. 21 days / 3.5 days a week of work = 6 weeks. This can be called BB's Theory of Relative Construction Time.
So there we are. These R.T.C. estimates seem to be pretty much in line with what I have observed for all types of construction. If they say it'll take 2 hours, it'll be closer to 4 or 5. If they say a week, it'll be about 2-2.5 weeks. Having also done renovations, I would say that BB's Law of Relative Construction Time should also apply to whatever construction project you put your hand to. If you think it'll take a day to complete you can be pretty sure that it'll take about twice that. Now don't get me wrong I'd much rather they take their time to do the work and get it right, than rush a job and have to start over. It's just that if you are planning your summer it might be nice to have a timetable that is a little more exact. Since I'm a teacher it's not much of a problem since I can be home most of the time that they are working, but for someone with limited vacation time it must be rather complicated.