Monday, December 29, 2008

Of Christmas weather and the 99 meme

Well Christmas is over and we finally have a ceiling in the kitchen.... yeah. The weather has been really awful here in the last week. On the 24 there was 20 cm of snow which quickly changed to freezing rain then into rain and more rain. Then last weekend we had freezing rain again on Saturday, that iced everything down which changed to rain and more rain until Sunday. Sunday night there were 60 km hour winds that were gusting up to 90 km an hour in places. In fact the winds were so strong that it blew out the windows in two office buildings, ripped off roofs, caused a brick wall to collapse and 71000 people were without power as a result, luckily we weren't part of that group. Also as a result of the warm weather of +12 to 16 Celsius the snow has melted and rivers are close to overflowing.... and this is only December.

Now on to a lighter vein. This meme has been going around so I decided to give it a try since I am not really feeling inspired tonight. Thanks to Ian, citizen and geewits. BOLD = done it, RED = never and GREEN = haven't done it but intent to.

1. Started your own blog
(Well I'm writing one at the moment so I guess so.)
2. Slept under the stars (Always loved camping and also during my stint in the army)
3. Played in a band (Zero musical ability)
4. Visited Hawaii (Went to Nepal, Ecuador, Ireland, the UK, France, the Dominican Republic but not Hawaii)
5. Watched a meteor shower (Plenty of times the Pleiads are the best)
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/Disney World (Never been and don't intend to.)
8. Climbed a mountain (Does hiking up to the base of Everest count? I have climbed/hiked to the summit of many mountains but nothing that required technical rope work.)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (Can't sing to save my life.)
11. Bungee jumped (Nope and I don't intend to.)
12. Visited Paris (Spent two weeks there a couple of years ago. I'm not really a city person but Paris captured my heart. I loved wandering around the centre of Paris, the Quartier Latin, the Louvre, Notre Dame de Paris.... loved it. )
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (Photography)
15. Adopted a child (Have two of my own plus twin grand daughters...)
16. Had food poisoning (Couldn't stand the smell of food for two weeks...)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (Did it with my students.)
18. Grown your own vegetables (Do I look like a farmer?)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (Oh yes but the painting is much smaller than I thought.)
20. Slept on an overnight train. (I'd like to try a coast to coast trip by train.)
21. Had a pillow fight (Hasn't everyone?)
22. Hitch hiked (Ah the follies of youth.)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (I'm a teacher, we have no vacation days that we can place where we like. So they are not really sick days but mental health days.)
24. Built a snow fort. (And also had mega snowball wars.)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (Yep at Crystal Falls, my but the water was cold. We would jump off the cliffs into the pool below the falls. )
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (One day)
29. Seen a total eclipse (Yes and a couple of partials)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (Many times, I love taking pictures of them.)
31. Hit a home run (I was lousy at baseball as a kid.)
32. Been on a cruise (Nope but I might like to go on an Alaskan cruise...)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (Was there last year with my students but that wasn't the first time.)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (Well I lived in the same place as my first ancestor in New France in 1685 (Québec City) and plan to visit Normandy and Brittany on our next trip to Europe.)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (I am trying to learn Spanish)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. (Money does not happiness make, but yes I have enough to be happy and content.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person (One day soon.)
39. Gone rock climbing (Used to climb up the cliffs in Chicoutimi, no ropes or safety equipment. What can I say, we were young and stupid...)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (As mentioned before, you don't want to hear me sing.)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa (North Africa, Tunisia to be exact.)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (off the coast of PEI)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (And I climbed most of the way by the stairs.)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Mrs. BB and I used to dive when we were younger. We even had a dry suit and the rest of the equipment.)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China (Definately something I'd like to do. I did however hike along Hadian's Wall in England)
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class (Judo when I was a kid.)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen (Yes and it made me realise how lucky I was. There but for the grace of God , goes I.)
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (Wrong gender)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (Many times, tried in November but since I had been to Equator in the lst year they wouldn't take me.)
65. Gone sky diving (Canadian Airborne School, Edmonton Alberta.)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (Will be visiting Dachau with my students as part of a school trip to Europe.)
67. Bounced a check (Don't intent to either)
68. Flown in a helicopter (When I was in the army I was air OP (obsevation post) with my artillery regiment. The Huey would fly so low you could hear the tops of the trees brush against the bottom fo the the helicopter. Great fun.)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial (Everytime we visit Washington with the the students)
71. Eaten Caviar (Uggh)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square (Three or four times)
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London (In 2004 we spent 8 weeks in England)
77. Broken a bone (More than one)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (From cover to cover also the Koran and the Buddhist teachings. Not bad for an atheist.)
86. Visited the White House (from the outside they don't let you near anymore.)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (wrong gender but geewits is right I do have two children BBdaughter and BB son as well as two grand-daughters)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (We won)
98. Owned a cell phone (Still do, doesn't everyone?)
99. Been stung by a bee

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Meme and other news

Well we now have a ceiling in the kitchen, the plastering is done and they should be coming to paint tomorrow... finished at last just in time for Christmas. I haven't bogged in a while because I just didn't have the time or energy. Since I just came back from 10 km of cross country skiing where it was -14 degrees celsius with a nice brisk 30 km/h wind (feels like -24) I am not all that energetic. Having said this I'll borrow from my lil sister and make it easy on myself.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

I'm all thumbs with wrapping paper and tape... the presents invariably look like they were rolled in colourful newspaper, so I much prefer bags. Usually it is Mrs. BB who does the wrapping since she likes to give nicely wrapped parcels and it ain't going to happen with me.

2. Real tree or artificial?

To tell the truth we usually don't have a Christmas tree since Mrs. BB puts up a mega Christmas village. Village? Heck, it's closer to a major metropolitan centre. It takes up at least 75% of the living room. The kids are fascinated by it since everything lights up and many things move around, such as the train and the gondolas for the ski slope.
This year we didn't do the village since our twin grand-kids (Allison and Zoé) are 10 months old and in the crawl everywhere and put everything in the mouth stage of life, so we put up a small artificial tree out of their reach and didn't even think of building the village. It would be about like Godzilla in Tokyo if we had. ;o)
Looks funny but I made a panorama out of three pictures so I could get the whole village in the picture. In the front that you can't see in the picture there are the train and bus stations and the harbour complete with artificial water, fishermen and boats.

3. When do you put up the tree?

Usually Mrs. BB starts construction of the village at the beginning of December. It obviously takes quite a while to put up and take down.

4. When do you take the tree down?

She takes it down in the beginning of January.

5. Do you like eggnog?

Yuck! nuff said.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

It must have been a telescope that I received when I was about 11 years old. I had it for years and loved looking at the sky.

7. Hardest person to buy for?

Me... I love to give presents, but I'll usually just go get the things I need or want when I need them. Drives my kids crazy because anything they could buy me for Christmas I've already gone out and bought.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

Mrs. BB... I just watch her when we go shopping and when she looks at something longingly (often art supplies, she's an artist don't you know) I'll just buy it for her. I usually don't wait for Christmas because I much prefer the instant surprise, the impromptu gift.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

Do they do non-denominational, atheistic nativity scenes?

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

I'll usually give a Christmas card to my close colleagues at school but I don't buy them, I print them myself using my winter photos and special cards for printing in an ink jet printer. I love to give a bit of myself rather than buy generic Christmas cards.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

None that I can think of.

12. Favourite Christmas Movie?

Hmmm, don't really have the time to watch Christmas movies but if I had to pick one it would be "A Christmas Carol" with Alastair Sim as Scrooge in the original Black and White. The scene with the ghost of Christmas Future and the tombstone scared me silly when I watched it as a young kid.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

Usually too late...I hate being in the stores at Christmas... way too many people for my taste.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?


15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?

My moms cooking... Ragout d'boulettes, tourtière, galettes à Laura (a kind of thick cooky/scone. It was a secret recipe of my grandmother), tarte à pichoune (a type of pie with a raisin and molasses filling)

16. Lights on the tree?

Of course there should be lights that way Santa can see in the dark.

17. Favourite Christmas song?

Don't usually do the Christmas song thing, but if I had to give some favourites I'd have to say the old French Canadian Christmas Carols because they remind me of when my father would sing at midnight mass. For example: Adeste Fideles, Ça Berger, Il est né le divin enfant

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

My family lives in Québec and Mrs. BB's family lives in Sherbroke so we usually end up doing the great triangle between Montreal, Québec and Sherbrooke... not always fun when the weather acts up.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?

Dasher, Donder, Cupid, Blitzen, Prancer, Vixen, Dancer, Comet and of course Rudolph (although he is a recent addition to the sleigh, the originals are from the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" published in 1823, Rudolphe makes his appearance in the 1950 song "Rudoph the Red Nosed Reindeer")

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

A star... poor angel with the tip of a Christmas tree stuck where the sun doesn't shine. ;o)

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

We usually follow the French Canadian tradition which is to have a Réveillon after the Christmas midnight mass (we don't do the mass anymore but we still have the reveillon) I remember when I was a kid we were happy since we always got our gifts before the English kids since they would open theirs on Christmas morning and we'd open ours after midnight mass. We'd open our presents and then stuff our faces with mom's great food. We'd end up going to bed at 4 am and sleep til noon.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

The whole ersatz good cheer thing. Christmas has become just a big consummer thing to help the stores make their bottom line before the end of the year.

23. Favourite ornament theme or colour?

At the birth of each of our children we bought an ornament with their name and the year of their first Christmas. We did it again this year with Allison and Zoé so now they also have their ornament in the tree.

24. Favourite for Christmas dinner?

I'll go with my lil sister's description... Mom's "ragout de boulettes". You take chicken broth, make pork meatballs, boil them in the broth. Add flour that you previously browned in the oven to thicken, season with pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg and serve with potatoes (potatoes must be mashed in your bowl after putting in the ragout) and sweet pickled beets. It sounds very bizarre written out like that, but it's delicious. Oh, and tourtière (a meat pie) and desert til it comes out of our ears. My mom bakes so many deserts that it becomes a chore to choose which one you'll take, so we end up taking a bit of everything...;o)

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Like my lil sister, I have pretty much everything that I need. A wonderful wife, two marvellous children, two adorable angelic grand children, a job I love, food on the table, a roof over my head (even if it leaks from time to time). What more could I wish for?
But I do wish that for Christmas others have the same joy, serenity and security that I enjoy. So I'll just repeat that old refrain in the hope that maybe one day it'll come true: Peace on Earth and goodwill amongst men.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

@#$%*&?%$*& week Redux

The @#$%*&?%$*& repairs didn't work, even though I'd put enough roofing pitch to fix the hole in the bow of the Titanic. In the night of Sunday to Monday it was raining, freezing rain and snow. I got up in the the middle of the night to get a glass of water and my two feet were suddenly in cold icy water with some of it dripping down my neck. (Now I know what the people of the Titanic must have felt... darkness and your feet in cold water that isn't supposed to be there. I can seriously say that it wakes you up in a hurry.) Mop and bucket time along with a litany of choice swearing in two languages. (Being bilingual does have its advantages, I just have to learn Spanish and I'll be even more creative.) The next morning I got out the phone book and started at the top of the list and worked my way down until I found someone willing to come and fix the roof. In the meantime the weather had cleared up some, thank god and the guys could get on with the job. They first ripped up the shingles around the vent, thinking like me, that it was causing the problem. As they uncovered the roof they discovered more and more wet areas. The water was not just coming from the vent. It was coming from the joint between the two roofs. We have a mansard roof that comes down onto the roof of the other half of the house. When we had the roof redone the contractor who did it, did not do the joint correctly and so the water was coming down from the other roof and under the shingles of the lower roof. Boy was I pissed off, the repair guy couldn't believe what a shit job had been done, so he ripped up the shingles along the joint all the way to the peak of the roof and redid everything correctly. I also had the vent taken out and the hole repaired, since the vent was really badly placed and couldn't help leaking there. (I'll put in a ventless fan with a carbon filter in the kitchen. ) After having fixed the outside, I called the insurance and they sent over a a damage team to clean up and dry out the mess. They were very efficient but I kind of pitied them since the insulation I have in the attic is loose insulation that is blown into the attic covered with blankets of fibreglass insulation. Let me tell you that when it is wet it turns into a brown sludge and when they took the wet gyprock ceiling down they were up to their knees in the stuff, some of it wet and some dry, what a mess. They cleaned everything up and covered up the hole with plastic until the insurance gives the OK for them to repair the damage... So that was the beginning of my week, I hope that yours was better...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

@#$%*&?%$*& week

You get these weeks sometimes when it just isn't worth getting out of bed. On Monday I looked up as I was drinking my orange juice and noticed something odd in the ceiling of the kitchen... You guessed it good old H2O seemed to have infiltrated in the joints of the gyprock... so I climbed up into the attic after having emptied the closet of all the winter clothing. Once up there I noticed that the plastic protection (Part of an old liner from a swimming pool, thick and plyable. I didn't want to take chances so I put it up in case since there had already been a leak there.) was full of water and it was leaking out. So I emptied it. Emptying something whilst lying on you side with less than 2 feet of clearance is not an easy task. You can't just empty it on the ground since that kind of defeats the purpose. Having emptied the pocket, I closed off the vent (it's the vent for the kitchen fan), shut off the fan so nobody can use it and put a plastic sheet under the whole thing. I figured that everything was ok for a while. Then last night I went up to check again and there was a big wet spot that was dripping down. Water seemed to have infiltrated beside the vent... hell and damnation and other choice French Canadian swear words. Of course it had snowed and was raining and there wasn't much I could do. It wasn't raining hard, but the snow was melting so there was a constant trickle of water. Today I tried to call the the company who had done the job 7 years ago and there was no longer any service at that number. Also called at least eight other companies and either they weren't answering the phone or they refused the repair since they already had too many jobs lined up to finish (It was a very wet summer.). There was even a roofing company called "Couveurs toutes saison" (all season roofers) with 24  hour emergency service. Oooops, nobody answering the phone... hows that for false publicity. Finally I gave up the phone, went to my nearest friendly hardware store, bought a bunch of roof patching gunk in these handy cylinders for caulking, went up on the roof which had dried out a bit since it had been sunny in the morning and caulked all around the vent with a heavy hand. While I was at it I caulked everything else that sticking out of the roof whether they needed it our not. Lo and behold, of course, as I was finishing the job it started to rain, sometimes you just can't win! Hopefully this will do the trick. Now all we have to do is dry out the ceiling and hope it doesn't come down, it's already sagging a bit. Sometimes having a house is a royal pain in the butt.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Poor little politician

Poor little Mario has been having a hissy fit these last few days. He announced that he will not appear on "Tout le monde en parle" a talk show that puts celebrities on the the hot seat, because in the last election they were not nice to him... He said that the show's host, Guy Lepage, had it in for him and wanted him to look foolish. He has also accused the Liberals and Lepage of rigging the show so that Charest would look good. Of course Mario has no proof of this and is now backing away from his initial comments, while the Liberals are chuckling and Lepage is seething at the slur on his integrity.
Look Mario, the Liberals don't need to plan to make you look like an idiot, you already do quite a good job of it by yourself. Suck it up, and stop whining, it only makes you sound like a spoiled brat not a statesman.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae

Ninety years ago tomorrow on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the carnage that was the trenches of the First World War ended. There are hardly any of the brave youngsters that fought in that bloody conflict still alive to talk about it and soon the only thing left will be the rows upon rows of white crosses that mark the places of those who will forever sleep amongst the poppies.
We must never forget those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, for they gave everything so that we may enjoy what we have today. Let the politicians also not forget them, so that they may not squander today's youth in such a bloody undertaking for nothing.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Squabbling children???

Not even one week into the election campaign and already the politicians are squabbling like a bunch of unruly school children in a school yard. Name calling, fisticuffs, vandalism, it's all there for us to see. The ADQ is accusing the Liberals of pulling down their election signs to put up their own in their place. (Election signs are a blot upon the landscape anyway, who wants to see a blown up photo of a grinning politician repeated ad nauseum up and down our roads? We still haven't gotten rid of all of them from the last time.) In a political debate the Liberal Finance minister called her debating partners from the ADQ and PQ, "cons" and "polissons" and the leader of the PQ said that the leader of the Liberals was lying through his teeth. (Mind you there is some truth to the allegations I suppose, but you are not supposed to say it out loud.) In fact they are even fighting inside their own party. At the investiture of a PQ candidate, fisticuffs broke out when the supporters of of the incumbent didn't like the fact that the PQ executive had foisted another candidate on the riding. (The incumbent had pissed of the powers that be in the party, so out he goes, even if he had been there since 1996... doesn't pay to piss off Pauline Marois the head of the party.)
Is it any wonder that politicians are about as popular as a root canal. I've seen more maturity in my 13 year old students.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Two down, one to go.

Well if you have to be in election mode, you might as well go all the way. Our "premier ministre" has just declared a provincial election for December 8th. First we elected Stephen Harper as the Canadian PM (thankfully in a minority government, keeping him on a short leash), then we have been immersed in the presidential election of our southern cousins (who showed the good sense to elect Obama after having elected Bush two times) and now back we go to a provincial election, less than two years after the last one. Mind you, I can understand why our PM, Charest, is doing it. He has a minority government, he is way up in the polls, the other parties are in disarray (especially the right wing ADQ) and shit is about to hit the fan with the economy since there is a recession to the south. (Caused by greed and stupidity that was not checked by the powers that be.) So here's to election fever, I'm so sick of the BS and the promises that I know will never be fulfilled, that I think I'll take two asperin and hide my head under the blankets...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Weird Canada Redux

I was reading the news this morning when I came across this little tidbit. Some employees of La Ronde (our big amusement park here in Montréal) were burning the pyrotechnics left over from the fireworks competition that is held each summer at La Ronde. To do this safely, they carry the fireworks to the huge parking lot and burn them in a closed concrete bunker that only has a small air hole in its top. Everything went as planned until one of the rockets touched off and flew out of the hole. Not only did it rise high into the air, but it landed 30 meters away in the bed of the truck used to carry the pyrotechnics. To make things even worse, the back of the truck was still full of fireworks. The workers seeing how things were going from bad to worse ran like hell and were not hurt in the ensuing conflagration. The resulting explosion sent bits and pieces flying up to 60 meters away. Martin Roy, the spokesman for La Ronde, stated that "It was an accident due to really bad luck, and they would resume the destruction of the pyrotechnics as soon as possible." Hopefully they'll have enough trucks to get the job finished...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weird Canada II

As we all know Canadians have a reputation of being a staid, calm, rather bland people not given to the craziness of our neighbours. A kind of suburban type of people. But let it not be said that we are completely without wackiness. In July of 2007, I wrote a blog about strange happenings in the Great White North, and like all good blogs, here is the sequel.
In the spirit of full disclosure the information contained herein is from the latest Bathroom Reader, "Uncle John's Unsinkable Bathroom Reader". For those of you who love to read miscellaneous tidbits of interesting factoids, these are the books for you. Go have a look, there is something for everyone...;o)


In 2007 the Edmonton Sun interviewed a 70-year-old woman identified only as "Maggie" who claimed she devoured the Edmonton Sun every day literally. For the previous seven years, she'd cut the newspaper into strips and eaten it because, she said, it "tastes good." The woman decided to come forward after doctors removed a massive ball of paper that was lodged in her oesophagus.


In 2007 Christopher Emmorey tried to rob a bank in Peterborough, Ontario. Instead of asking a teller for all the money, for some reason Emmorey demanded just $5,000. The teller replied that she had only $200 on hand, adding that because he wasn't a customer of that bank, he'd have to pay a $5 withdrawal fee. Emmorey waited white the clerk did the paperwork which he signed and gave him $195. He was arrested an hour later.


In 2002 a group of softball players met in a Calgary park for a late night game. At the next field over, a group of croquet players were also playing a late night game. A few hours later, six players from both groups were in the hospital (two were seriously injured) the result of a brawl over which sport was the "manliest."


La Fromagerie Boivin, one of Quebec's largest cheese manufacturers, dropped about a ton of cheese into the Saguenay River in 2004. They thought that aging the cheese underwater for twelve months would give it extra moisture and improve its taste and texture. Did it work? We may never know. In October 2005, the cheesemaker announced that despite the use of thousands of dollars in high tech locating equipment, divers were unable to find the 2,000 pounds of lost cheese.


Lane Jensen, an Alberta tattoo artist, has a tattoo of a large breasted cowgirl on his left leg. In 2007 he decided his cowgirl didn't look buxom enough. So his tattoo got "breast" implants dime sized bags of silicone inserted into his leg under the tattoo. Two weeks later, Jensen lost a liter of lymphatic fluid from his leg his body had rejected the implants. "I guess my girl wasn't meant to have 3 D breasts," he said.


In 2007 a 15 year old in Hamilton, Ontario, was sledding one night and decided he wanted to tag a local bridge with some graffiti. He left his gloves and cell phone in the sled and rappelled down the side of the bridge. Suddenly the rope shifted and the boy panicked. He tried to scurry back up but somehow ended up hanging by his feet, upside down. As he tried to wiggle free, his shirt came off. And it was February. And it was 5'F. He was there for two hours before someone finally heard his screams for help and saved him.


Keep It Simple, a bar in Edmonton, was in danger of being closed in 2003 when officials found out it was not abiding by the citywide smoking ban. The only place smoking is legal is in liquor licensed bars. But Keep It Simple is a bar for recovering alcoholics it doesn't serve alcohol. It does allow smoking, which helps many alcoholics not to drink. But because it didn't have a liquor license, it was illegal for people to smoke there. So in order to let its non drinking customers smoke, Keep It Simple applied for and received a liquor license, which it doesn't use, because it doesn't sell liquor.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fall has fallen

I went walking tonight and autumn is in the air. The temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius, a nice crisp temperature, with the scent of fallen leaves and the slight tang of wood smoke from someone's fireplace. This is the first evening this year where this has happened, we seem to have had a much prolonged summer. It's as if summer had been moved over from it's usual place.
It's funny how each season seems to have its own way of impinging on our senses. In spring its the smell of growing things and damp earth, in summer the smell of freshly mowed grass and the feeling of twilight on the patio as things cool off, in autumn the smell of fallen leaves as they crunch under foot, crisp temperatures and the golden light on fresh sunny days and in winter the silence of softly falling snow, the air cold like a good champagne and the creak of boots walking in the new fallen snow. I think I would have great difficulty living in a place where there are no seasons, it would seem to be a bit boring don't you know.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Much ado about nothing

Friday was a ped-day and ped-days mean meetings. Don't get me wrong, I like my colleagues, my colleagues are excellent teachers, consummate professionals, but whenever you put a bunch of teachers in a room with a mandate to decide on the phrasing of a simple sentence you are in for a long and agonizing time. It took us 2.5 hours to decide on 12 simple comments for the report cards. The nuance of each adjective, noun and verb was discussed until I felt that having root canal work done without anaesthetic would have been better. What does it matter, it'll probably be changed again before the end of the year anyway, I really don't know why people take it so much to heart, we weren't writing the ten commandments here. (This is probably proof that there is a deity, since if the 10 commandments had been writtten by a committee, there would be 100 commandments with 100 subcommandments each and they would still be arguing over whether to put a semi-colon or a comma in the first one. )
(Ironically that morning at breakfast I started reading Kathy Reich's new book "Devil Bones" and the first chapter is about her sitting through a university department meeting that is deciding on a name for the ethics committee... she has obviously been a teacher and knows about meetings because it is a very good description of what happens...
There are three constants in human history that have blocked human progress, warfare, bureaucracy and committees. Just think of where we could be if we didn't have those holding us back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Public Transport LOL

I was reading an article about our newest metro station. The Cartier station is the terminus of the Laval line of our metro system. It seems that it is causing all sorts of problems for the people who live in the streets surrounding it. People are parking cars all over the place, even in people's private driveways. The residents are really pissed off, as well they should be, at the disrespectful behavior of the drivers. There have been towings, fines, fights and vandalism all because there are just not enough parking spaces.
The Cartier metro station has 60000 people go through it everyday. Yes that's not a typing error, sixty thousand people per day. The bright planners at the STM (Société de Transport) only built 450 parking spots at the station. Yes that is also not a typo. They planned for only 450 parking spots. Now how stupid is that. Even if each and every car, car pooled and packed 5 people per car that would only be 2250 people.
Now let us to some basic math. Let's say that of the 60000 people, 75% take the bus, bike, walk or fly to the metro, that's 45000 people. That leaves 15000 people minus the 2250 who are parked, leaving us with 12750 trying to find a parking. Let's say they all car pool to the maximum, that means that 2250 cars have to find a place to park. Now how ridiculous is that?
They are always yammering about how we should take public transport and they do all sorts of ridiculous things that turn people off of public transport. Joé Bleau is going to be frustrated searching for a parking and it'll only be a short while before he says the hell with it and drives his car into work. You can be sure that persuading him to take public transport will, thereafter, be nearly impossible.
Where I live there is a commuter train line, an adequate (not enough of them), albeit expensive, way to get to work. Except if you arrive at the station after seven, forget it, there is no parking, so people just get on Highway 20 and drive into town. It used to be that at the terminus of the metro lines there would be free parking if you had a metro pass or bought tickets. Now you pay the same price for the parking as you would downtown. For example Mrs. BB, the two BB kids and myself would park the car at the western most terminus and buy eight metro tickets (there and back) to get to Montreal. Now we have to pay for the parking, which on weekends is the same thing as the parkings downtown and on top of it we have to pay for the eight tickets... DUhhh, we now just drive downtown, much easier and less costly.
When we were in England many cities had a Park N' Drive. Outside the city, you would park your car in a well protected car park (CCTV), hop on a bus and you would be driven to the center of town with a minimum of stops and fuss. The cost of the parking... a bus ticket. Now that's smart, people will take the bus or metro if you make it worth their while. That's something the STM has yet to grasp.
Oh by the way, do you know what solution they found for the problem? They are going to make residents buy stickers, and the streets will become No Parking except for the residents with stickers. Like I said... dumb!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Newer new look

After reading the comments, I decided, that yes, reading white on black was not good for the eyes. Very dramatic, but not very readable. So here we are with something new in shades of blue. (I even rhyme now)

Monday, September 08, 2008

New look

I decided that Blogger's templates were rather boring, so after having googled "Free Blogger Templates" I came up with this. What do you think?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Election Time

Well it seems that we are in for an election. Stephen Harper our prime minister has decided that enough is enough and since the polls are looking good for him, today he went to see the Governor General and asked that parliament be dissolved. He has done this despite the fact that he passed a law saying that elections would be at fixed intervals, every four years. (He only served 2.5 years.) His excuse, parliament was "dysfunctional" despite the fact that he has passed just about every piece of legislation he has brought forth even if his party was in minority. The Liberals, who have the balance of power, have been "no-show" for pretty much the last two years. Their leader, Stéphan Dion, has all the charisma and leadership skills of a dead squirrel. So let's go for a majority.
What has our beloved PM done in the last two years? Well he threw out Kyoto and came out with his homemade plan that gives the oil producers carte-blanche. Instead of banning guns (especially high powered assault weapons) or making it harder to acquire them, he scrapped the gun registry (which wasn't very efficient to start with) and left it all in limbo. Mr. Harper should maybe go give a little speech to Dawson College and the École Polytechnique students, explaining to the friends of the dead and wounded students the logic of his policies.

Dawson College shooting tribute video
He has kept our soldiers in Afghanistan to clean up the mess left by Bush's policies. When will we leave? Well I figure about the same time as the US leaves Irak, with about the same result, nothing to show for it but bodybags. The list goes on and on.
Everyone knew that it was coming since for the last couple of weeks we have been seeing political ads. These ads focus exclusively on our PM. They show him as a soft and cuddly guy, who loves family, country, the environment. A really nice guy... vote for me and everything will be alright. Do they talk about his party and its accomplishments? Nope, not one word. Just about what a nice guy Harper is. What these ads don't show is that Stephen Harper has always been to the right, he would be perfectly at home with the Republicans (in fact he is great friends with Bush). He comes from the Alliance Party which had/has many members way the right of Attila the Hun. When the Alliance Party finally assimilated the Conservatives and took over their name, I don't think that changed their ideology, they just camouflaged it a bit more to get votes outside of the west.
So are the ads accurate? Put it this way, does putting a Borg into a Teletubby suit make him more cuddly?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hockey mom

At the Republican convention this week end, Sarah Palin, during her speech, made a joke.
"What is the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? answer: lipstick"
Well that pretty much says it all, joke or not. Do we really need a hockey mom who compares herself to a pitbull (a nasty dog bred for its viciousness rather than its brains) as vice-president of the United Sates. Let's face it, McCain is no spring chicken, and should he die in the White House, the nuclear puck will be on her hockey stick. Now there is a frightening thought.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's back to work we go.

Well summer is officially over and it's time to get back to the classroom. Mind you, I rather like my job and enjoy doing it, so it isn't too painful. We also have a new beloved leader who seems to be very dynamic and on top of things. Last year's model was, unfortunately for us, less than optimal, which made my job a lot harder to do, nuff said.

So what did I do after the trip to Ireland? I could say that I travelled to the far reaches of the North American continent but that would be a slight exaggeration, all I did was go stay at Mrs. BB's place in Gatineau. Now for those of you from foreign climes, a small geography lesson. Our nation's capital is Ottawa which sits on the Ottawa river, across said river, is the city of Gatineau which is on the Rivière des Outaouais which is the name the francophones call it. So not only do they have two names for the same river but the two cities, which are for all intents and purposes just one metropolitan region, reside in two different provinces. This has all kinds of interesting consequences, for example, let's say Johnny Canuck works for the feds in the ministry of doodads in Ottawa and his department is moved to their new building in Gatineau. He has moved one kilometre from where he was but he now works in a different province, which means the payroll deductions for income taxes, social security, Medicare are different from his province of residence, which makes filing his income tax return an even bigger hassle. Only in Canada.

What did I do in the month of August besides trying to figure out the name of the river, well I pedalled all around Gatineau. For a rather small city, Gatineau has world class bike trails. The city has hundreds of kilometres of trails. Not bike trails like here in Montreal where you have to share the road with cars. No, real two way paved bikeways that are more than 80% through forest, meadows and wetlands. On the island of Montreal, all the land along the river was sold off to developers long ago. In Gatineau/Ottawa all the land along the Ottawa/Outaouais river and the Gatineau River was made into a park and the bikeway follows the parks. On the island of Montreal, the municipalities can't even get their acts together and hook up all the different bike paths. In Ottawa/Gatineau all the bike paths are one network and it is easy to get to where you want to be. Here in Montreal, if we want to cross the St. Lawrence river by bike, you have to ride all the way to the "Estacade" (a small bridge/pillared structure used to break up the ice) to be able to cross safely, There are three bridges and one tunnel and none of them are bike friendly. In Ottawa/Gatineau all the bridges have dedicated bike paths, not sharing the road with the cars, not riding on the pedestrian sidewalk, but reserved lanes for bikes and to top it off they connect the Gatineau bikeways with the Ottawa bikeways... fantastic. Finally to put the cherry on the sundae, on Sunday mornings all the roads in the Parc de la Gatineau and the Ottawa River Parkway are open only to bikes... The mayor of Montreal is always going on about how green we are, and how we need to get rid of cars in town. He should go see in Gatineau how it should be done, people regularly go to work by bike, there are always plenty of bike racks to park your bike and they are often under CCT surveillance, and more importantly you can get from A to B without getting killed.

So what did I do there... you guessed it, I explored all those marvellous bikeways. I ended up doing 50 km a day and in the three weeks I was there. I did about 600 km in all, I was in bike heaven. So here are some photos that illustrate what the paths look like.

As you can see there is plenty of wild life, in fact the last day (when I left my camera at home) I saw a deer in a clearing. We watched each other for at least five minutes before I kept on riding.

Fallen tree on the Gatineau River

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ireland the finale.

Being the lazy person that I am, I haven't yet put up the last pictures from Ireland. In the last part of the trip we visited pretty much the south east part of the island. The last time we were in Ireland we had passed through Waterford but never really stopped, but this time Mrs. BB wanted to visit the famous Waterford Crystal works. What they can do with glass is unbelievable but also very expensive. The price is a reflection of the workmanship that goes into each piece. As an example, we wanted to bring back four wine glasses, one for each of the children and a pair for Mrs. BB and I. When we saw that each was worth minimum 55 euros (80$ US) we kind of decided that something smaller would be nice. The craftsmanship is worth the price but in this case it was outside the budget.

Here the craftsmen are putting a handle on a jug. The glass has already been cut so they wouldn't want to ruin it.

This is a master cutter cutting a pattern into the crystal vase. Each piece is molded by hand and cut by hand. To become a cutter the person is apprenticed for 10 years and to become a master cutter the person must have a university degree in Fine Arts. There are over one hundred and ten different patterns and the cutter must memorize each one.

These are examples of the designs made by the master craftsmen. These are the artists that design the special commisions such as the trophy above. When they are not working on a commision they are allowed to work on personal projects of their own. This is a project inspired by 9/11 and the heroes that risked their lives to save the survivors.

Of course we had to have a Guinness and supper at the pub. This one of the oldest in Waterford as you can see by the front window.

Our B&B at Rosslare a the south east tip of Ireland

An Irish cottage not far from the B&B

Jerpoint Abbey contains among the best preserved medieval sculptures in Ireland.

The cloisters. Each of the columns has a figure carved into it. The first one was the first abbot and the second one was a knight that was the benefactor of the abbey. He is in full chain mail and his crest is still visible on his shield. His wife is on the obverse of the column.

The sculptures also gave lessons to the monks as they strolled around the cloister, this is one giving the dangers of gluttony. A Pepto-Bismol moment?

An example of the sculptures on one of the tombs. Dates from the medieval period. The on in the centre is the Archangel Michel, the one on the left is Ste- Catherine and her wheel and the other I'm not sure about.

The Browns Hill Dolmen. The cap stone weighs over 100 tons. It is in the middle of a farmer's wheat field. On the main road nearby are a whole bunch of car dealers. I can just see one of them buying the land and having the dolmen in the middle of his car lot. Good thing that it is protected by the Irish Government.

Dunmore Cave is one of the largest caves in Ireland. Legend has it that the Vikings massacred 1000 people in the cave. Although this seems implausible, when the cave was finally explored by archaeologists, human remains were found in the great chamber and later on a Viking treasure was found by a guide as he was checking the cave before closing for the night. The second picture is of our guide playing an Irish lament on a penny whistle in the darkness of the Great Chamber, the echoing sound was eerie.

We finally finished up our trip in Dublin. Dublin is a beautiful city that is known for its Georgian doors. These doors all follow the same design as you can see by the picture.

Phoenix Park is the Europe's largest city park. It is 2.5 times larger than New York's Central Park. One thing that I found fascinating is that the lights are all gas lights like they had in the 19th century. I have read that the original street gas lamps were used until the 60's and 70's, then they put in electricity. They have since gone back to the original gas light except today they are automatic and don't need a lamplighter.

The park is also the home of Ireland's president. The house is known as Áras an Uachtaráin. Kind of looks like the White House doesn't it?

The river Liffey

One of the numerous bridges.

The Ha'penny bridge, so called because it cost half a penny to cross.

A statue of Molly Malone, about whom a famous song is sung.

In Dublin's fair city,
where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"

Since legend has it that she was also a prostitute by night and the statue's assets are there for all to see, the Dubliners have dubbed the statue "The tart with the cart" ;o)

Grafton Street, the main shopping street of Dublin

Indoor market near the Temple Bar.

A street of the Temple Bar. This section of the city has kept its medieval street layout and is the bohemian heart of Dublin. Fishamble Street in Temple Bar was the location of the first performance of Handel's Messiah in 1742

One of the pubs.

Another one

The Old Post Office where the Irish Republic was born in 1916. There are still bullet holes from when the rebellion was put down by the British Army. The leaders of the 1916 Rebellion
were taken to Kilmainham Goal where they were executed by the British.

Kilmainham Gaol

So that concludes our trip to Ireland. I hope that it might have given you a taste for Ireland and that you'll have the chance to visit this wonderful land someday.