Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Solstice

Yesterday was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year where darkness is at its height and daylight at its least. From now on the day will gain time as the night gradually shrinks. This day has been important for pretty much all of human history, our ancestors rejoiced on this day because the sun was again on the ascendancy.
When we were in Ireland we visited Newgrange, a neolithic tomb that is 5000 years old, which makes it older than the pyramids at Giza and 1000 years older than Stonehenge. This mega tomb was built completely without metal tools and is really, really huge. In fact we saw other passage tombs that had not been completely cleared away and they resembled hills. What is remarkable is that the passage way to the burial chamber in the depths of the burial mound is perfectly aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice. As the sun rises over the horizon, the light creeps along the roof of the passage way and just as the sun clears the horizon it illuminates the burial chamber for a brief moment before creeping back down the floor of the passage as the sun climbs higher in the sky. What is remarkable is that our ancestors 5000 years ago were able to figure out precisely the angle and inclination of the passageway to achieve this and were able to build it into their tomb without our modern technology. In fact they didn't even have metal tools but were using stone, bones and wood to build this. This is truly awesome  and is a testament to human ingenuity.

 Newgrange Neolithic Tomb

The passageway in Knowth the sister tomb to Newgrange

The entrance to the tomb, the opening above the entrance permits the light to enter on the winter solstice. Notice the spirals carved on one of the entrance stones, these spirals are found carved on many of the stones used to built the tombs and probably had great spiritual significance.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's The Difference?

A couple of years ago the then mayor of Montréal came up with a new slogan for the city, "Une Île une Ville" which roughly means one island one city. What he wanted to do was merge all the municipalities into one huge city, which he would be the mayor of. Why would he do that? Well Montréal's finances were a mess, the city was deeply in debt and it was a simple way of making some cash by getting a nice cash cow in the West Island which would never have enough representation to do something about it. Now the PQ provincial government of the time was in a centralizing mode saying that bigger was better.
Needless to say that most of the citizens of the West Island municipalities did not take kindly to this and raised a mega stink. The provincial government being the highly democratic entity that it was, simply overruled everyone and merged the cities. After all they knew that nobody from the West Island would vote for them anyway being separatists, since there was a good percentage of Anglos and immigrants. To make a long story short, finally the Liberals were elected partly on the promise of being willing to demerge the already merged island. Came the big day and most of the West Island communities voted to demerge, but some of them didn't get the percentages to demerge so they stayed a part of Montréal. Now what difference does it make you ask? Well as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. These are pictures I took as I was walking to the pharmacy tonight.The first picture is of Pierrefond's sidewalks The second is a picture of the sidewalks of Kirkland which demerged and the third is a picture of the path through the neighbourhood park. I rest my case, bigger is not better it's just less efficient.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ouch the sharp end of pricky things

Our school went in today to get the students vaccinated against the H1N1 flu and I accompanied them. Since I was already there, I finally gave in and got the shot. (It's hard not to when you've been telling the kids that there is nothing to worry about, that it doesn't hurt a bit and then turn around and refuse to get it yourself.) Mind you, I think that the whole situation is very highly overrated and is more the product if the media circus than anything approaching reality. But since I have 20 month old twin grand daughters, Allison and Zoé, I won't take the chance because they had yet to be vaccinated because of a cold the last time I saw them. I really wouldn't want them to catch it from me.
This means that in the last couple of weeks I've had more sharp objects poked into me than I've had in a very long time. Let's see, I gave blood then I got four vaccinations for the Ecuador Humanitarian trip in February (The yellow fever is a real bitch, it hurts like hell) and now the H1N1 vaccine. Hopefully my hide won't be punctured again for a while. ;o)