Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there,
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night. »

Merry Christmas to everybody. May you all have a peaceful, lovely Christmas with those you love.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Life of a teacher

Sometimes it isn't easy teaching but many times it is very satisfying. I could always pass up the paperwork and the endless meetings but what keeps me going are the kids.
Often adolescents are said to be lazy and will amount to nothing, yet each year they amaze me with their work and creativity. My students are in Secondary 2, the equivalent of grade 8, so they are 13-14 years old. They are on the cusp of becoming adults balanced between childhood and adulthood and they go back and forth between the two. It is a remarkable age because you can see the child that they are and at the same time, the adults they will become. Their enthusiasm for new things is a wonder to see and when properly focused they can really do great things.
We have just finished the Christmas Project where they researched different countries, their Christmas traditions, songs, food etc. They were presenting all this week and their work was excellent considering that it was all done in their second language. They also had to bake Christmas cookies from their country to give to their fellow students after the presentation. Let me tell you that the cookies were good and I'll have to do some extra exercising to get rid of the calories.
Some of my former students have gone on to do great things. There is one studying in the Université d'Ottawa and is presently working as a page in the House of Commons (the equivalent of Congress for our American cousins), another is studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. We have some studying in medicine, science, law and education. One is presently doing an internship as an radio host on local radio. Needless to say that I am proud of them all. :o)
I am a lucky guy. I have a wonderful family that I adore and a job that I love. What more can you ask for in life?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weird Canada III

I haven’t blogged in a while, well make that a long while. All blogged out I guess, no inspiration and when I get home from a day of teaching, there are always odd jobs to do such as correcting and preparing classes. When I finally finish I just haven’t got the energy to think up something original to write about. Anyhow here is some weirdness about the Great White North that I picked up in the last edition of the Bathroom Reader, just to prove that we are not any less wacky than the rest of the world.


Outside Samia, Ontario, in June 2010, a driver flagged down a police officer on Highway 402 to warn him of a semi truck meandering all over the road. The officer caught up to the truck and pulled it over. The driver's explanation for his erratic driving: He was attempting to pull out one of his teeth. No longer able to deal with a toothache, he tied one end of a piece of string to the bad tooth and the other to the roof of his cab. "One good bump" and it would come right out, he told the officer. As it turned out, he was right‑the officer could tell by the bloody tooth on a string sitting on the seat.


In Japan, Wagyu cattle are fed beer and massaged with sake each day. The result is the richly flavored and expensive (more than $100 a pound) Kobe beef Seeking to create his own specialty beef market, Bill Freding of Southem Plus Feedlots in Oliver, B.C., has developed his own booze‑based method: wine‑fed cows. Like the cattle at other high‑volume beef producers, Freding's cattle eat a diet of primarily grain. But they also drink a liter of wine every day for 90 days prior to slaughter. The red wine is from wineries in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, and Freding claims the beef tastes "sweeter."


Wildlife officials in Deer Lake, Newfoundland, had to put down a moose in 2009, after someone reported the animal collapsing from exhaustion in their backyard. Witnesses reported seeing three teenage boys chasing the moose for hours and hitting it with sticks The teens were quickly caught, brought up on animal cruelty charges ... and acquitted. Why? One of the boys' fathers testified that they couldn't have been abusing the moose, because at the time they were busy vandalizing a local church.


For Valentine's Day 2010, the Toronto restaurant Mildred's Temple Kitchen pulled out all the stops for romantic diners‑serving intimate meals for two ... and openly encouraging couples to "couple" in the restrooms. A handful of concerned citizens reported the Mildred's promotion to the Toronto Public Health office. The agency investigated and found nothing wrong with the idea, as long as frisky patrons stayed out of food‑preparation areas.


In June 2010, Marika De Florio's five‑year‑old neighbor was driving her crazy, riding his battery‑powered four‑wheeler past her Seeley Bay, Ontario, house over and over again all afternoon. She asked the boy's grandparents several times to keep it down, but to no avail. So De Florio went outside and, in full view of the boy, took off her shirt. That, she reasoned, would convince the boy's grandparents to bring him inside. Indeed, Mike and Nancy Berry quickly hustled their grandson inside and then called the police on De Florio. No charges were pressed, however‑it's legal in Seeley Bay for women to be topless in public.


Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal's social work department began a project in December 2009 investigating how pornography affects the way men view and relate to women. Part of that research required a "control group" for comparison, so Lajeunesse advertised around Montreal to recruit 20 young men who did not view pornography. He received zero responses.


In the 1910s, Toronto police had full authority over movies, including the right to ban films they considered offensive. The criteria: Any movie that showed a pro‑America attitude, murder, or an extramarital romance could be banned. Any movie. In 1911, an inspector reported, "I witnessed a moving picture show of Hamlet, written I think by Shakespeare. That's all very well to say it's a famous drama, but it doesn't keep it from being a spectacle of violence." A few weeks later, the same inspector banned a film version of Romeo and Juliet.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween in snow boots

We got our first snow fall last night so it looks like the kids will be doing Halloween trick or treat in snow boots this year.
It's a pain since I wanted to take down the gazebo this week-end and now I can't. Hopefully it'll get warmer and we'll be able to finish all the garden stuff before the snow gets here for good. We'll have to start looking to change our summer tires for the winter ones sooner than we thought I guess. Hell, we're still on Daylight Saving Time. Oh well it comes from living in the great white north. I'm sure that Jazz is seriously pissed off this morning. ;o)

- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, September 26, 2010


If I was to take a bicyclist from the late 19th century and gave him today’s bike, he would instantly recognize it and be able to use it. The bike is an invention that is nearly perfect in it’s simplicity. It has changed very little over the years. Yes the materials have changed and there is a more sophisticated system of dérailleur with the gear shifts integrated into the brakes but the major parts of the bike are still the same. The 10 speed bike that I had 30 years ago is heavier than the one I have now but it functions basically the same way and side by side they are nearly the same. 
 I came across an internet page however that shows that this may all be changing. Go to Yanko Design and have a look. I wonder if they’ll make an almost perfect design better.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trains and things

We usually don’t look at trains as they go by but today as I was doing my daily bike ride, I had to wait at a train crossing as a super long freight train roared past. As I waited I looked at the different tanker cars going by on the rails. To tell the truth it was a little bit frightening. There were tanker cars filled with very corrosive pure hydrogen peroxide, some filled with hydrogen chloride (hydro-chloric acid) and some filled with chlorine gas. Inter-disperced among them were tankers filled with liquified petroleum gas (propane). The train was going through the West Island with all its housing and people. In fact right close to the tracks, not far from where I was, is an old folk’s home. Now what would happen if ever the train derailed? It would probably wipe out a good percentage of the people living near the tracks. The propane could leak and possibly explode, the chlorine tanks could rupture and release a gas that was used as a chemical agent during WW1, highly toxic hydrogen peroxide would mix with the hydro-chloric acid giving us god knows what. I’m kind of glad I don’t live near the tracks. Mind you it is probably just as bad on the highways with trucks filled with the same type of chemicals. I guess in this case, it is better not to know too much since there is nothing that can be done about it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Statistics, statistics, statistics

The Canadian government has decided to no longer make filing the long census report mandatory. From now on it will be purely voluntary. This has had many people up in arms since let’s face it, without a little coercion pretty much nobody will fill it out. We probably won’t say, "Hey this is intrusive, I’m not filling it out." , we’ll just put it aside on the hall table with all the other stuff we just don’t want to deal with right now and hope it’ll go away by itself. The great Canadian way, procrastination.
The effect this will have is that the sample will not be as random as it should be but will only consist of  "do-gooder" or as we say in French « teteux »,  who always pass in everything. You know the ones when we were in school, the ones who always handed in their stuff on time and when the teacher asked for a 500 word essay would write a 5000 word master’s degree instead. Do we really want government policy to be dictated by what the do-gooders think? It’ll be as if the teacher’s pet helped dictate the school rules for the rest of us poor smucks...
Now after that, you are probably wondering when the hell I’m going to get to the point. Well the point is this, Mrs. BB just showed me the neatest thing about Blogger. In the dashboard there is a tab called stats and it gives you all the statistics about your blog, how many people visit, who visits, which of the posts are the most popular, for today, this week, this month and forever since the beginning of time micro seconds after the Big Bang and all of this with graphs, maps and percentages. It’ll even tell you which bowsers were used  for the visits.  It also gives you access to all the comments ever written in your blog. Rather neat don’t you think. Completely useless of course, but neat none the less. (Yes I know, you probably have known about this forever, hummm maybe I was asleep when they talked about it.)
I also discovered the other day that using Google docs you could set up a form linked to an spreadsheet page and embed this form in an internet page and have people answer questions that are compiled in the spreadsheet. We were looking for a way to put a school questionnaire on the internet and compile the answers we’d get from the students. So there it was a simple way of doing things and to top it all off, it is absolutely free which is a big plus when you teach in a public school.
Maybe the Canadian government should set up a blog, embed a form and let google compile the stats for them. ;o)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

That is the end my friend

Since geewits asked me so politely I'll write a out the end of our mega trip to France. (You don't want to piss off someone who has survived 100 degree weather, not a good idea at all ;o) )
To start with we had to get from Rennes to Paris which is about 400 km. Not much you say but we had to do this on a weekend at the end of August. Now let me explain about the highways and vacation time in France. The French have an excellent system of roads, well maintained, large (usually four lanes) and straight. The speed limit on the roads is 130 km/hr (that's 81 mph for our American friends), there is always Radio Route giving news, music and the traffic situation. The radio station is always available all along the autoroute and you never have to change channels. The roads are toll roads but it is very simple. You get a ticket where you get on and pay when you get off. Yes it costs but the quality of the roads is worth it, not like here where they made you pay for a road that was frankly in bad shape. At least there we got our money's worth.
Now the other variable is summer vacation. In France everyone and his uncle heads south during the summer. Since they are about 63 million people living in a country smaller than many of our provinces it makes for a lot of people on the roads during the summer. In metropolitan Paris there are about six million people. So as you can see the roads get rather full. In fact since everyone leaves for or comes back from vacation on the weekend there are often mega traffic jams. In fact one weekend at the beginning of August the radio announcers on Radio Route were saying that there were over 500 km of traffic jams on the highways. Luckily most of the time we were going opposite to the crowd. One Saturday, we went by a traffic jam over 20 km bumper to bumper and this was on a four lane highway. So let's say that on the weekends the roads can be hell.
So now let's get to the point. We needed to get to the airport on a Saturday. Suffice to say that we got up at about five am so we would be ahead of at least some of the traffic. Of course since we had gotten up really early there wasn't really all that much traffic so things went really well and we got to our hotel well before noon. We then brought Clio back to its owners and took the shuttle back to our hotel. There we repacked our baggage weighed it carefully since we were only allowed one checked in bag of 23 kg (50 lbs. ). Anything non essential went into the garbage since we had bought souvenirs and they all had to fit into our baggage allowance. Since we were allowed 10 kg for carry-on I can guarantee that my backpack was really heavy.
The next morning we got up early once again since our plane was at ten we had to be there at 7 am. We took the shuttle from the hotel at 6:30 then changed for the airport shuttle (it's a big airport) and finally got to terminal 2A and our embarkation point. We registered our baggage and breezed through security and finally we were good to go. We got on our flight and away we went back home. The flight went really well and we got into Montreal almost a half hour ahead of time. In fact our daughter had just arrived when we came out of customs with our baggage. All in all we couldn't have asked for a smoother ending to our trip.
We have now been back for a week and a half and our bodies have finally gotten used to Quebec time so now I am actually waking up at 6 am instead of 3 am like last week.

- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, August 27, 2010

Frivolous Friday

Friday is the of the week and time to look upon the stupidities that have come my way this week.
First of all there was the promise made by the head honchoes of the STM who promised the people who take their buses that they would never have to wait more than ten minutes. Now this is really nice but they must have been smoking more than tobacco because this is just not going to happen in any regular way. Well maybe at one a.m. in the morning but certainly not at rush hour. As the president of the union so aptly pointed out, they don't have a magic wand to control the weather and the traffic on the bus routes. Hades they can't even keep enough buses on the road to cover all the routes in a timely fashion much less guarantee that there will be a bus every 10 minutes.
To top it all off, the promise is only for some of the routes, so no matter what, you are still going to piss off a lot of people. Knowing them, they'll probably pull buses from the suburbs to fulfill their promise. I don't know who thought of this one but they are really geniuses at making the maximum amount of people angry at them. Way to go guys, that is really going to make people take the buses in to work.
Now this morning I saw another group of peole who really haven't got a clue a out how things should be done.

We are Friday morning and I am driving down the road to work. It is in the middle of rush hour and there is a ton of traffic, suddenly in the 2 lanes coming towards me I see flashing lights. Guess what, it is a convoy of extra large vehicles. The kind that drive in the middle of the white line because the load is so wide it takes up both lanes from the side to the median divider. Of course they are creeping forwards at about ten km/hr blocking all the traffic going into Montreal. Thank deity, I was going the opposite way. I really don't know what they were thinking when they planned this one. Maybe they could have done it at night, you know when there is little or no traffic but face it that would have been way too intelligent. But what is even more frightening is that this had to have been done with the cooperation of the authorities. Good lord the mind boggles. I sometimes wonder how our human civilization has got this far. Stupidity reigns.

- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Carnac home of the menhirs

Today was a really nice sunny day so off we went to visit Carnac. Carnac is a a world renown center of the megaliths. There are acres of rows upon rows of standing stones all aligned off into the horizon. An interesting fact is that they are usually aligned west to east. The stones that are west are the largest (2-3 meters) and the eastern ones the smallest (1 meter). When you stand at the western end of the rows the fact that the stones get smaller accentuates the feeling of perspective giving you a feeling that the rows are farther than they really are. I wonder if this was deliberate on the part of the builders or if there is another reason for the discrepancy in the stones.

There are also many megalithic tombs. Some are small but "Le tumulus St. Michel" is big enough for the villagers to have built a small chapel on the top. It looks more like a small hill than a man made object. Also the were many menhir or standing stones. If any of you have read "Astérix le Gaulois" will know that Obélix, Astérix's friend has planted them all over Gaul. LOL I guess it's as good an explanation for their presence all over the region, except that they were put there about 3000 years before the Gauls were in the region.

- Posted from my iPhone

Normandy and Brittany

We are presently in Vannes in Brittany, although there isn't much to see here it is close to the megalithic stones of Carnac. Since the last post we've travelled across Normandy and visited the landing sites of D-day. Those soldiers had a great deal of courage because even today it a daunting sight.
We also visited Mont Saint Michel, a medieval monastery perched on top of a rock in the Bay Mont Saint Michel. It was very impressive but there were way too many people visiting there must have been 30 buses parked in the car park along with the cars of course. Wall to wall people. After having gotten out of there without kicking anyone we went and visited the Chateau de Fougère, which is the biggest medieval castle in Europe with an area of two hectares.

Yeterday we visited the port of St. Malo. This is a walled medieval town that was one of the principal seaports of France. In the 17th and 18th centuries it supplied 25% of France's wealth in trade. It is also the hometown of Jacques Cartier the French explorer who discovered the Saint Lawrence river. He sailed all the way to Montreal before turning back down the river. At a café the had American style coffee which they called "jus de chausettes" or sock juice. Their coffees are small and very very strong.

In the afternoon we visited the Chateau de Combourg, the home of Chateaubriand (no not the steak the author). It was a medieval castle that had been refurbished in the 19th century to make livable, but none the less it can't be all that comfortable. The descendants of the Chateaubriand family still live there.

The pictures are taken with my iPhone since I haven't had a chance to download them from my camera and post them.

- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Photos instead of words II

We are now in Normandy after having driven across the north of France. We pretty much followed the front lines of the First World War. We noticed as we drove along ruler straight roads, that there are no really old buildings, everything pretty much dates from the 1920’s, nothing medieval or even 18th century. Then it dawned on us, everything looked new because everything had been destroyed, nothing was left so they had to rebuild everything. It was a very sobering thought, even the straight roads were a result of war, when you rebuild a road why make it crooked like it was before, just draw a straight line and get on with it. There’s nothing left anyhow.
20 to 25% of all the headstones where unknown at the cemeteries of the Battle of the Somme

Canadian cemetery at Courcelette

In Flanders field where poppies grow...

The British Monument to the missing

Unknown French soldier

Unknown British and Canadians

The Battle of Vimy was the crucible of hell where Canada’s identity was forged. It was the first battle where Canadians fought as Canadians and not as a part of the British army. Forty thousand fought to capture Vimy Ridge and they succeeded where both the French and the British had failed with terrible losses. After Vimy we no longer considered ourselves to be colonials but we were Canadians able to do what other countries had not been able to do. From then on we fought together and under our own leaders and we were considered to be second to none. We had developed new tactics, new ways of doing things and the others came to us to learn how. Canada paid a heavy price, 10 000 casualties, 3500 dead or missing. Vimy was burned into our nations soul.
Today Vimy is a quiet, wooded park that France has given to Canada in perpetuity. It still bears the scars of that day. In fact you are not allowed to wander around the park since there is still live ammunition hidden in the ground that are still dangerous. Here and there, you can see remnants of the trenches, the craters and the underground bunkers. 
Finally on the highest point of the ridge is the monument to those who have no tomb. They are just names, thousands of names along the walls of the base of the monument. I may be biased, but I found that the Vimy memorial is the most beautiful of all those I saw in France. There is nothing in the monument glorifying war, just emblems of sadness and loss. 

The trenches

One of the craters over 3 meters deep
Canadian Cemetery
Danger Explosives

The Vimy Memorial

But northern France is not only sadness, waste and loss. It also reflects mans higher instincts for beauty and light. Northern France has probably the most beautiful gothic cathedrals, which are a poetry of light and stone that reflects man’s better nature. This is the most beautiful cathedral we visited, the Cathedral of Amiens. It is simply breathtaking.