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