Friday, November 30, 2007

Cavalcade 'o Santas

I was down at the world trade center building yesterday where they've set up an exhibit of Santas throughout history. I found it interesting and perhaps you will too. You can click for larger images.

It started with Saint Nicholas, a real guy (unlike all the others here) who lived from 280-346AD. He became famous for his good deeds and miracles that he performed.

Medieval Santa, circa the 12th century. Lore has it that he walked from village to village with gifts and good cheer.

Father Ice hails from Siberia. The story goes that a young gentle girl was banished from her house to the Frozen Forest by her mean stepmother. As she began to freeze, a huge blizzard parted and Father Ice appeared. Impressed by her kind and humble nature, he showered her with diamonds. The wicked stepmother, upon learning this, sent her own daughter into the forest to reap the same benefits. But the ill-tempered, spoiled child disgusted Father Ice with her behaviour. He waved his arm and froze her for eternity.

This is Russian Santa. He carries birch sticks to dole out punishment to bad children and carries a tree to symbolize the gifts he brings to good children.

Black Peter (no, not a vibrator model) helped Saint Nicholas in the handling of naughty children. He is well known throughout central Europe. Though he's scary looking, he could turn jovial and benevolent when a disobedient child would recognize and change his or her behaviour. Then he would leave gifts instead of the dreaded lump of coal.

Bavarian Santa was thought of as a messenger. He took children's requests up to heaven and then descended to Earth using his umbrella and bearing gifts from the Angels to give to the children. So very Mary Poppins, eh?

Today's Santa lives at the North Pole and rides a flying sleigh towed by eight reindeer. His elves toil away in his workshop and Santa carries a list of all the good and bad children.

The next 21st century Santa has a cell phone to keep in touch with headquarters. A silver thermal flight suit keeps him warm for the midnight journey. He has a laptop with a computerized disc of nice children. I think of him as Disco Santa.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Work fun

It's final exam time in my classes. In order to prepare students for the final, I give them all the answers as we play the game Jeopardy! Except that they don't have to phrase the answer in the form of a question. I learned this way of reviewing in high school. The dreariest subject for me was History. Ugh, how I loathed the memorization of dates and events because I couldn't fathom how any of those things would be useful in life. (They're not, though understanding the cycle of events probably is, so we can learn (ha!) from the mistakes.) Then I got into Mr. Greco's class and History and Economics suddenly became interesting. It was in his class that we invested in the stock market while learning about economics. I still remember the stock and the appreciation realized in the 4 month semester. He also played Jeopardy in class to prepare us for the exams. What a fun way to review, with prizes and everything. So all these years later, I'm doing this with my students and they love it. Boy do people get competetive! And this leads to outbursts of wrong answers that I find hilarious. As you can imagine, the best ones come from the beginners. I always include the category "potpourri" just like on the show, with answers unrelated to the test, you know, just for fun. This week there were some funny responses from this category:

In which direction does the sun set?

On which continent can Libya be found?
"I know, I know, Egypt!"

Name a city in California.

So fun. I always put a bunch of geography questions in now because there seems to be a weakness in this area, and I delight in exposing it. Sadistic, I know. One girl couldn't tell me which direction her house was. I asked her if she drove to work every day and she said she did. Those are the moments where I realize how different people's brains are. Imagine not knowing where you were all the time. I can't begin to imagine it. Orientation is pretty much job one in my world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Ugh, look at the hour. The crack of dawn (that always sounds dirty to me) is still hours away, and I've got to schlep my butt out to the burbs like every wednesday for the past months. It never really gets easier. I couldn't even stay up last night to see who won Dancing with the Stars, dad blammit. I love Marie, but did you see her in the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane getup? I was kind of embarrassed for her.

What else? I started the Christmas cards, if I just do five per day, I can have them done in a couple weeks. I love doing the cards and I hate it too, my fingers always get cramped and I ask myself why I didn't order those little return address labels like I promised myself last year. As you might imagine, Rob and Carl (see yesterday's post) have strong feelings about the cards as well. Again, Carl rules the roost. This weekend we get to put up the tree and start listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD every day until the 25th. I never get tired of that album. I used to be able to play much of it on the piano, but I've been lax and become rusty.

Well, I'm off, hope your humpday is easier than mine

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The trouble with brains

This is one of the days I should skip blogging. Unfortunately, my sense of duty (cursed thing that is, I'd do so well as Japanese) has me sitting here staring at the screen for 20 minutes before I write the first sentence. I knew I was going to have extra time this morning when my first class of the day was rescheduled. "You'll think of something to write about in the morning," I told myself. That was Rob, the lazy voice that lives in my head. He heads up the procrastination department and sits on many committees, including the "Doing things Mickey Mouse Roundtable" and the "Easy Shortcuts Way". I hate Rob this morning. I loved him yesterday when he was promising good and easy things forthcoming for the blog this morning, but now I'd like to shoot him. Rob is often at odds with my sense of duty (led by Carl, by the way) but after about the age of 25, Carl was promoted, and Rob has forever since been a subordinate.

I bet you'd like to shoot Rob too now. Or perhaps it's Carl that you'd like to see demoted. No wait, don't answer that.

All day today, Carl will be reminding me about the fact that I have to leave at 6am tomorrow, so what am I going to write about. Carl will not be helpful in the idea generating department, he'll just sit there harping and nagging me until I've roughed out an idea on paper. Sheesh, now I want to shoot Carl. Oh wait, Rob is tugging on my sleeve. What's that? He says I can skip a day if I want to. Uh-oh, Carl just sent him to his room. So have a nice day and I'll see y'all tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Feeling like 25 again

Serge sabotaged the weekend. He's so sneaky that way. See last weekend he downloaded the free trial of the game 10 Talismans. It's a stupid puzzle matching game but still addictive. We exhausted our free play time and I figured that was it. Then he goes and buys the game this weekend. I don't want to tell you how many hours we frittered away on the stupid game, let's just say it's a shame number of hours. I kept moaning about the dearth of productivity happening, and Serge said, "We're having fun together." I don't know how together we are when we're both gnashy toothed and riveted to our computer screen, but since we are in the same room, I guess he's right. I went all the way through and beat the game twice, while serge struggled to win until he finally did around 7pm on Sunday. He kept accusing me of cheating. I took it as a compliment.

I insisted we do our family christmas card photo this weekend (PUT THE GAME ON PAUSE SERGE), so we (I) set it up and took a couple dozen pics, hoping for a good/unique one. I think we succeeded. Here is one of the shots that will not be used, but it's kinda cute anyway. When we get to Christmas, I'll show the pic we did choose.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Poisonous knowledge

Boy has winter slapped us in the face. It was in the teens yesterday and when I mentioned this to spouse, he said, "Shit, I have to close the basement trap at the other building." WHAT?! What do you mean close it? It's not closed? "I opened it in the spring to let the basement breathe." While I admire his generous disposition toward the respiration of the building, I couldn't help but imaginightmare (a new word I've coined, feel free to use it) the pipes bursting and flooding the basement, destabilizing the building causing it to crumble into itself. I might have been shrieking and flailing my hands a little.

"Calm down. You say the same thing every year. I shouldn't even have said anything."

More sputtering and but, but, buts from me, and then he said he'd go over and fix it. Unfortunately, the tenants weren't home all day and we need to enter the ground level apartment to access the basement. All day I had disaster thoughts. Luckily this morning the temperature has risen above freezing, so I can relax.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Boring update

Here's the view out my office window this morning. It looks like January out there. That's the big news this week. The rest of it has been work, work, work. I'm in the home stretch as all the contracts I teach conclude prior to Christmas. Then I'll have a good month to putter about before the next slew of contracts come in at the end of January.

Today I'm going to try out our new little snow blower that I picked up yesterday. An $80 gadget (regularly $160) to save on the back stress of shoveling. I hope it works well. It's going to be tough because the snow we have was mixed with sleet and freezing rain, so it's more like "fluffy ice" than snow. We tried with the regular snow shovel and couldn't do anything with it.

The brazilians upstairs called me this week to complain about the lack of heat in the kitchen. I sent Serge up to fix it. We figured it was probably just a breaker. Nope. The problem was that the tenants didn't know what a thermostat was. "We thought it was a thermometer," is what they said. I don't suppose they needed much heat in the tropics, so this was a new thing for them. Cute, in a super lame kind of way.

Friday, November 23, 2007

This and that

I got through my first day of winter driving. It was awful outside yesterday. Even though they forecast lots of snow, there was a good deal of sleet and freezing rain as well. I learned how to scrape off a half inch of ice from the windshield. I learned that it's much easier to scrape the windshield if you warm up the car and defrost for 15 minutes first. I took it slow and easy on the road while others (young males) seemed to be playing bumper cars. In true curmudgeon fashion, I balled up my fist and shook it in the air at them.

Some of the retailers here are mimicking the black Friday sales in the US. I've got my eyes on a little snow blower (at half price!) that will make shoveling the patio less back-breaking. Add another tick to the curmudgeon column.

I finished the book Red Leaves by that traveler's check guy Thomas Cook. There I was on my morning break blubbering in the food court. And now I can't get a couple of the overriding themes out of my head: Everybody lies. Can we really, truly know a person? It was a heartbreaking ending, as you might imagine.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Warm wishes

Happy Thanksgiving to those south of the border. May your day be filled with great food, warm company and holiday cheer. Wish I could join you. Instead, I will be working all day and navigating the city for our first real winter storm. We should have about 6 inches of snow before the end of the day. I'll snap a couple pics to show tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The other day I mentioned here that I saw a deal for vacationing in Cuba. Seven days at a resort, all drinks and food included (even booze) and round trip flight and transfers to the resort for $700 including tax. Such an amazing deal. You can get the same kind of package in Mexico or the Dominican Republic for a couple hundred more, but I'm all about the deals so Cuba is really calling. When I mentioned it before, there was some sputtering about the prohibition of Americans traveling there. As I recall, Castro seized power and appropriated much of the land owned by American interests, and the subsequent embargo took effect in 1962. Before I was even born. While it's handy to blame Castro and his communistic ways for the poor undeveloped state of the country, the more accurate view is that the US helps keep it that way by preventing investment there. This is not the case with other communist regimes such as China. The ban on tourism there hasn't stopped its slow progression nonetheless. Europeans and Canadians escape to Cuba in the winter. In addition, Americans have been vacationing there for decades, albeit by detouring through neighboring Mexico or Canada. Travel isn't actually banned, it's having any sort of trade transaction there that is. I wonder if paying a Canadian company for an all-inclusive trip would count. We'll probably end up going to Mexico or not going at all, but the forbiddenness really makes it attractive.

I've always been the kind of person who is law-abiding when it makes sense. The reasoning, "because it's the law" doesn't really work with me. It's why I've done such illegal things as host a poker party and skinny dip in the ocean. How about you? Do you scoff at some laws, or do you blindly toe the line?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tis the season

It's pretty cold here. In fact, there's snow falling outside as I type. It was so chilly yesterday morning that I got out the scarf and gloves finally. I hate getting them out because it's like admitting that winter is really here. Time to face facts, it's here. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I ducked into the bathroom before one of my lessons and sidled up to the urinal. As I was running through in my head what I was going to do in the class, I let fly with the yellow. Something wasn't right. Shit! I'm not used to the scarf yet, and it was hanging down getting sprayed and ricocheting the pee all over my pants. I cleaned up as best I could, but it still looked like someone threw a water balloon at me. Winter complicates everything, sigh.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tale of two video stores

After work Friday, I went to our old video store (the one near our last place of residence) because they carried a film I wanted to show this week in class. They have a deal where you can rent 4 films for a week so I perused the store to find three more that would be good to show/watch. I spent about 45 minutes in there before I went to the counter to rent them. The guy informed me that I had to pay my late fees before I could rent.

"Late fees? No, there must be some mistake."

"In May of 2006, you rented War of the Worlds and brought it back 6 days late. You owe $46."

"That's impossible, I've never seen that film. Plus I've rented since then."

"They just didn't make you pay the late fees when you rented. You only rented one time since then - last November."

"I didn't rent that film."

"You're right, Serge rented it, but it's on your account so you're responsible."

"I am not paying $46! I could buy the film twice for that price!"

"Well, $30 has to be paid today."

"You're going to lose a client like this."

"You probably didn't rent here for so long since you knew you had these late fees."

That was it, fuck these people. I stormed out of there in a major huff. (Up here, you don't have to supply a credit card in order to rent films so they can't really "get you".) I went to the car and called Serge. "Did you rent War of the Worlds and turn in the video late?" He said, "Yeah, we saw that, it was terrible remember?" (of course I don't remember) "But does it ring a bell that you brought the video back late, because they say it was 6 days late." All Serge could say was, "It's possible." (Who can remember - it's been a year and a half.)

I got in the car and went to the video store across the street from our new home and asked about the late fees I have to pay. The last set of films I rented there I forgot about and turned in late. (I always remember if I turn something in late because I get really pissed at myself for forgetting.) The girl looked at me and said, "Three films were three days late, so it's $6. But you can just use your points to pay the fees." "I have points?" I asked. It seems that I have points accumulating each time I rent films. So she erased my late fees but also informed me they didn't carry the film I wanted. (Swimming with Sharks)

I came home and looked up the film on Amazon. It's available for $11.49. I ordered it and was told there was no charge because I had gift certificates already applied to my account. (This was a surprise to me. I must have forgotten about it.) So I will have the film Wednesday. And of course I will never spend another dime at the old video store chain. They have gone onto my boycott list, along with Blockbuster (I've had video trouble before) and Harvey's.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Une belle soirée

Here we are before going out to dinner. Serge had spent the afternoon getting pampered at the spa. I'm not so sure this was a great idea, he's talking about weekly visits for massages now.

We went to an eclectic restaurant. The funniest thing is that all the employees wear underwear on their heads. (Can you imagine how this idea was fleshed out? "I know! We'll start a fine french restaurant where all the waiters wear underwear on their heads. Wait, I've got another one, how about using socks for napkins, too? What an awesome idea. Dude, roll another joint.") I was thrilled to discover that foie gras was on the menu last evening. We had some with a delicious Sauterne. Serge's mom had alerted the waiter to the fact that it was Serge's birthday. I've never seen such a unique bday presentation. Here watch.

Friday, November 16, 2007


* One of my students explained how she got her forehead scar. It seems she and her friend were playing "blind people" as kids and she ran into the corner of a table. That was the last time she played that game. (I found this hilarious.)

* My childhood scar on my face was caused by my mimicking the babysitter who had just shaved with a straight edge razor. Thankfully, I don't recollect it.

* My grandfather (RIP) had a pair of webbed toes.

* Spouse turns 41 tomorrow.

* I came home Wednesday to 22 messages on the machine, all from the same 800 number - all hang-ups. When they called again, I asked if it was necessary to call my house 23 times a day. The girl just kept repeating her opening line, "I'm calling on behalf of...." She refused to answer my question so I told her to never call me again and hung up.

* How did "casualty" come to mean "death"?

* The college and university students are on strike here. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? They're striking because the tuition fees have been raised (by $50). Welcome to the real world guys, prices go up. Anyway, they're only hurting themselves, I'm sure the profs are loving it.

* Merguez sausage always tempts me. But when I honor the temptation, I always think the same thing, "Tastes like there's butt in here."

* This site rated my blog "elementary school level" reading. (Cuz of the poop talk?) This will probably disappoint the francophones that read, since they often have trouble with my turns of phrase.

* When people (mis) use the phrase, "I could care less," I always think, "Who's stopping you?" It's couldn't, not could. Duh.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I've been doing a new listening exercise in class. I do this each session with a song. I find a song where the words are reasonably clear when sung. Then I type up the lyrics and blank out certain words for the students to try to catch. I have to record the song onto a cassette which I play/pause/play/pause in class. This is one of the bigger hits in my exercise repertoire, I guess since everybody loves music. I also try to choose songs that are well-known. The last two sessions I did Hotel California (original version) and Cry Me a River (Diana Krall version). This session, I chose What a Fool Believes (Carol Welsman version). I didn't use the original Doobie Brothers' version because, honestly, it's too hard to catch the words with their falsetto shrieking. I had heard a new cover of the song on jazz radio and the words were very clear so I decided to use that version. I looked up the song on Itunes, where over 20 versions exist. I found and purchased it, recorded it onto cassette, typed up the lyrics and brought it to work. It's been a total flop.

Apparently, this was never a hit up here. Only a couple of students have had a vague sense of familiarity with the song. I checked with a musician friend who plays weddings around town and she told me she had also learned this. It seems that when they'd play the tune at weddings, everyone would sit down. People like to dance to tunes they know. Anyway.

Yesterday, I did the exercise with my class of twenty-somethings. Something struck them as very funny as I started the song. They worked themselves into a fit of laughter (trying so hard to stifle it, unsuccessfully) all of them with tears streaming down their face and having trouble catching their breath. I wanted to laugh along too and even did a little (contagious as laughter is) as I kept trying to get them to tell me what was so damn funny.

Do you know why they were laughing? Because, according to them, this is "old man music." It made me have pouty lips. And then I admonished them, "It's not nice to mock others' musical taste." They still couldn't stop laughing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The mirror's tall tale

I thought I had mentioned somewhere that the reflection you see of yourself in the mirror is NOT the image that everyone else sees when they look at you. I looked for the post where I mentioned it but couldn't find it. This blog is getting a bit unwieldy and I fear repeating myself, which I surely do. Anyway, I remember that there were a couple comments not believing that what I purported above is true. So I thought I'd clear it up with a little experiment. First I'll explain. If you hold up your arm and put your finger under the right eye, when you look at the mirror, your finger is under the eye on the right side of the face in the mirror. However, when someone looks at you as you hold your finger to your right eye, from the observer's point of view your finger is pointing at the left eye. Don't believe me? Here I took a picture of me with the camera directly and in the mirror. I am holding a number up. Look what happens to the number.

That's right, the number is backwards. I can't turn the paper to achieve this effect, it's impossible. (Try it!) In the mirror you are seeing yourself backwards. This probably explains why so many of us find fault with pictures of ourselves. We're not used to seeing that viewpoint! In fact, the only way to see what others see is in pictures. If you give more emphasis to one side of your appearance (such as the parting of your hair) due to what you see in the mirror, this is a bit folly. The only true way to see which "looks" better is to take pictures of it in the two ways and look at them. Mirrors are liars, as are their many reflective cousins.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I got all red-faced yesterday. It hasn't happened like this in a while, so I guess I should be happy. Just as I was being let out of the secured area by one of my students, she said to me, "Richard, all the women who work here find you very handsome." I looked right at her and said, "Gee, thanks for embarrassing me." She laughed and said something else, but I was too off balance to pay attention.

It's not that I can't take a compliment. I'm very good at saying thank you for compliments, but why say thank you for something you had no hand in? I have a similar reaction when someone compliments my eyes, since I had no doing in the fabrication of them. If you compliment my clothing (which I selected) or my work (which I did) or my friendliness (which I strive for) then I'm honored and grateful for the compliment. Otherwise, it just embarrasses me.

At least I'm not like spouse. Every time I tell him he's cute or handsome, he invariably replies, "I know."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sucker segue

Well the tire purchasing went off well. Only $520! And I say only because I was prepared for $650. It was killing me to see the comments yesterday from those who live in snowy climates having never purchased winter tires. But here's the thing as I have been informed of up here: it's not the snow, it's the cold temperatures that makes one need "grippy" tires. Apparently at temps below 0 degrees F, one needs winter tires because even the salt and gravel on the streets don't really melt at such extremes. And it gets below 0 F a great deal up here. At least that's the story I'm going to believe, otherwise, I'm a sucker. And I really hate being a sucker.

Did you know there's a town in Oklahoma where every year "Sucker Day" is celebrated? Yes, the tradition began many years ago when a traveling salesman came to town to announce that the circus would be passing through, posting bills to that effect and talking up the event to the townspeople. Since folks from all over would be coming to see the circus, the town merchants would benefit from having advertising in the circus program. The salesman sold all of the advertising in the programs and left for a week to print the programs so that they would be ready for the circus dates. The next week on circus day, thousands of people from all around the neighboring villages descended on Wetumka to watch the circus come to town. The school band was there, the mayor beamed proudly. There were hot dog vendors and giddy children. They waited and waited. The circus wasn't coming. The mayor, realizing they'd been had, declared the day "Sucker day" and announced that all hotdogs and drinks were free. (Way to make lemonade from lemons, eh?) And now each year, the town hosts the Sucker Day festival which they honor with a parade and carnival like activities.

There are so many expressions that define a sucker. Duped, fooled, had, boondoggled, taken in, bamboozled, tricked, scammed, hornswoggled, conned and deceived. I loathe when any of those adjectives apply to me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Forced expenditures

The car we have has All-Season tires on it. I was under the impression that four season tires would be adequate during winter since winter counts as one of the four seasons. Our friend Dan informed me that no, we will be needing winter tires. I did not want to believe this because were I to, I'd have to go spend $650. I spent all week grilling people about the necessity of winter tires. I couldn't believe that even though the marketplace is rife with various models of all-season radials, that they are basically useless here in the winter. Why would they be selling them if this were true?

I was like the giant pharmaceutical company telling the labs to run the tests as long as they arrived at the result specified.

Person after person shot me down. "Yeah, I thought like you until I had that terrible accident." "Oh yeah, those four season tires, that's what made me do a 360 on the Papineau bridge." "Those tires turn your car into a death trap. You must get winter tires."

Finally forced to face facts, I spent a couple days hunting for the best deal on new tires. I looked at private party ads and big box store prices. I priced out shipping them from the states, which would be a hundred cheaper, but customs delays cannot be ruled out. And snow is imminent at this time of year.

I found a deal to go to Cuba during my research (I got waylaid a bit) One week, plane, hotel on the beach, all inclusive meals and booze for $699 tax included. Hmmm, a set of tires or a week on the beach in Cuba? If I were younger, I'd opt for Cuba. Being the responsible adult, sigh, I will be getting the tires (this morning at 8 o'clock). Luckily I have spouse though, so maybe we can do both.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Visiting starlings

It amazes me that a flock of starlings gathers here on a busy street. I was transfixed for several minutes by their activities. If I were a kid, I'd find this vid incredibly boring. It's just a bunch of stupid birds! Nowadays, I find it magical.

Friday, November 09, 2007


* Here's why I'm inclined to ignore most medical science when it comes to nutrition. They change their minds every few years! Depending on which study you reference, eggs are good or bad for you, coffee is good or bad for you, certain fats are good or bad for you. Fish is healthy, but not too much. You need omega-3 but now it's linked to problems. Just the other day, the British medical establishment announced that pregnant women can consume one alcoholic drink per day safely. The Canadian medical establishment on the same day (taking issue with the British announcement) announced that there is NO safe consumption level of alcohol during pregnancy.

* On a related note, there is an inherent flaw in the medical establishment issuing guidelines for EVERYONE. This would be sound practice if we were all identical copies of one another. But we aren't.

* Personally, I think genes have more power over your fate than personal habits. I acknowledge that I could be wrong.

* Speaking of fate, I figure the big events are already decided. I think of life as a coloring book. The outline is there. There are fixed boundaries and yet our free will let's us color in the drawing with whatever hue we'd like. You can't color outside the lines.

* I find Starbucks coffee to be too bitter and too caffeinated. They make the best iced coffee though.

* I love my mom. (Doesn't everybody?) She sent me this vid cause she knew I'd like it.

* By far the most popular post on this blog is, "How to make perfect french fries."

* I'd rather have people convicted of identity theft treated far more harshly than those convicted of drug dealing. Sometimes I just have to shake my head at our society's priorities.

* One of the signs of maturity is the ability to freely admit it when you're wrong. Sadly, some people never grow up.

* Great line from the Phantom Tollbooth uttered by the noise doctor: "Why, I'm kept so busy I can hardly fill the orders for noise pills, racket lotion, clamor salve, and hubbub tonic." Clamor salve. What a great name for a band.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

This, that and the other thing

Oh my God, I've got Pandora back. This makes me very happy. Apparently you can use a proxy server in the states to circumvent the block in place that prevents access from other countries. It turns out that this falls under the category of "hacking". It made me kind of proud in a way, dedicated novice that I am, to be elevated to such a skilled sounding title. Too bad it's also a negative sounding title, but I don't care because I get to find new music to buy again! Pandora has turned me onto so many artists and bands that I hadn't known about and now I will be able to discover more. Everybody wins, right? Apparently, government regulations get in the way of access, and no one is happy about that.

Something else to be happy/unhappy about. Snow. I was sitting in the car waiting to go into a lesson when I saw ashes falling on the windshield. That's strange, I thought. Is someone smoking nearby? I looked around and saw no one. Then I realized it was snowing. It's been so long I didn't even recognize it showing up. Sigh. The long hard winter has begun.

I had a great class yesterday. We were talking about the cult "The Army of Mary" because I had given out an article about the excommunication of six nuns for belonging to the sect and purporting that its leader is the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. (I give all my students different stories to take home and then they summarize them at the next class.) At the end of the student's storytelling, I asked if she believed in reincarnation. No. I went around the room. No. No. Yes. From there we descended (or ascended depending on how you look at it) into talk of astral projection and the tunnel phenomenon upon dying. We talked about the unexplained and the explained. We talked all about Chris Angel and his amazing tricks. There was a staunch skeptic in the room. All of it baloney. And then another student detailed her out-of-body experiences to us. I gave them my line that the truth is that we cannot know what happens after death so might as well imagine that it's pleasant. Then we got into the theme of Big Fish and ended up agreeing that believing in a little bit of magic makes life more interesting than believing in none at all. I think we even got the staunch skeptic to open her mind a bit. Yes, a very satisfying class.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Flatus mania

Just because I'm like this, I have to mention that I adored checking Daniel's link to a Wikipedia entry. Of course I read the whole thing. My favorite line was this:
Nerve endings in the rectum usually enable individuals to distinguish between flatus and feces, although loose stool can confuse the individual, occasionally resulting in accidental defecation. I bet we've all experienced being the "confused individual". But I love that there's a scientific explanation for how we "know" what's pressing at the door.

From that entry, I found out about Le Petomane, the fart maniac, who was a rave at the moulin rouge in Paris. His acts included singing the song La Marseillaise with his anus, and using his butthole for sound effects in skits and sketches. It's really cool that I found out about this guy because I can do that too. Breathe with the hole and suck stuff in and expel it. I even have witnesses. I'm sure I've written about it. Yes, I have. This guy made a living off of it. Can you imagine going out to see an anus act? What was that movie, I'm sure it was a John Waters film where a guy gets up, rips down his pants and buttlipsyncs Ba ba oo m ow m ow, ba ba oo m ow m ow. I think Divine was in it. What if Cirque du Soleil should think on this. It might fly in Vegas. Or maybe it's all so 100 years ago. Oh my, a thought just occurred to me. What if I'm the Petomane reincarnated? Drawn to a French speaking culture and writing about flatulence. Could be. Could be.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Did there used to be real ginger in ginger ale like there used to be coca(ine) in the Coke? At the restos and bars I've worked at/been to, ginger ale means 7-Up with a splash of cola. I mention this because I've become addicted enchanted by this product that one of my students turned me onto. Niamakoudji. (I'm sure this is the authentic name, but I've got to say its not the catchiest of monikers.)

Actually, he concocts this in his makeshift kitchen. I've been encouraging him to market the product in shops, but apparently there are strict and expensive requirements to be adhered to that he is as yet unable to do. So he sells it out of his desk drawer. Anyway. This stuff is powerful man. It is concentrated so you need to mix it with water which means you can set your own taste. I like about 1 part to 5 parts water. Still, everyone I've had taste it has grimaced. It's quite zingy with ginger (almost shockingly so) and it envigorates me as well as coffee - no better, it feels like when Popeye eats the can of spinach, I can feel it coursing through my body. Plus I love spiciness. Let me amend that, I love spicy going down but loathe it on the way out. For some reason, ginger loses its spiciness before it slithers through the anal aperture. Not so with curry, wasabi, or hot peppers. "Burning ringpiece" is our coded warning when dining out and one of us is considering the spicy. Actually that's not true, but it used to be. Now all Serge has to do is say "Richard" in that admonishing voice and I get it. Since we're talking about this, (or at least I am) is there any way to stymie the burning ringpiece phenomenon? I mean can you consume some substance along with the spicy to dull its effects before sliding out of the dump daisy?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Weekend update

It was a pretty lackluster weekend, in fact we didn't even get in the car to go anywhere. We walked to brunch on Saturday and visited the new spa they opened nearby. There, I bought spouse his birthday present. On our way over there, spouse said, "You're not going to buy my present in front of me, are you?" And I said, "Of course, that's how you'll get exactly what you want." So he ordered a 90 minute massage and a manicure for his mini spa day on his birthday in two weeks. I told the nice lady that I wanted to prepay for his birthday and she gave me my total, "$127.00" Instantly Serge said, "That's not ALL you're getting me." It made me laugh and want to smack him at the same time. The lady giggled.

I finished the book I've been reading for the past six weeks - Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint. It took me a long time to read it because the print is so small and the first third of the book is (yawn) character development. The rest of the book is cool as the characters slip in and out of this world and "myth time". Anyway, since I finished it, it was time to dig out my list that I got from all of you and head to the library. I picked up The Phantom Tollbooth and Red Leaves. Just reading the Phantom Tollbooth in the metro on the way home got me hooked. The print is very large on the pages in this book, so I'll probably finish it within the week.

Last night we had martinis and cheese fondue. I tried to stay awake for the Simpsons treehouse of horror, but fell asleep watching. I wonder if it was good.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Discovering contentedness

I've been getting pretty chummy with one of my fellow English teachers. I'll call him Bob. You know how you meet someone and you find a lot of similarities in your characters so that you have an instant affinity for one another? It's like that with us. We ride together out to timbuktu to give lessons and we always talk easily and at length about various topics. Since his name has come up at home quite a bit lately, spouse asked, "are you sleeping with him?" I laughed and said, "oh yeah baby, long and hard." It's a little game we play, harmless. What was really charming later was when I was with Bob, riding up the escalator from a crowded metro station, and I relayed this little exchange to him. I said something like, "Spouse asked me if you were my new boyfriend," and Bob's face instantly smarted red. It was so cute, I bet he's not used to such talk in a public place since he's straight. I didn't mention it though.

Later that same afternoon, I mentioned the lottery jackpot that is so high this week. Bob asked me if I would quit immediately if I were to win and I responded that no, I would at least finish my present contracts. Money isn't going to rob me of my integrity.

I bought lottery tickets for the week so I could spend some of my time fantasizing about winning. This fun little game only works if you buy a ticket, and for me, that is where the value lies. For the fantasy. Still, as I was fantasizing yesterday, I couldn't really get into it because there really isn't anything I'm dying to have/do. I already go a little crazy at the end of my summers off, I can't imagine such idleness year round. Part of my fantasy involves distributing $100 bills to the homeless, but I can already do that if I just knock a couple zeros off. Sure, I could travel the world, buy a mansion, and hire people to pamper me, but these things don't have the allure they used to. And then it dawned on me. I'm happy. This is a wonderful thing to realize, that everything is just right, a perfect balance of work and leisure, of routine and vacation. I haven't checked my numbers yet this morning, but I feel like I've already won.

Friday, November 02, 2007


* More brouhaha up here because the captain of Montreal's hockey team speaks English at games instead of French. (according to him because he's ashamed/embarrassed about it) While we were discussing this in class, I asked if we live in a free society where people can speak as they wish. One student felt that were this America and a player spoke no English, he would be just as vilified for it. I laughed and said, "No, nobody cares what language you speak as long as the team is winning."

* A terrible angst inducing thought occurred to me yesterday. Only 7 weeks til Christmas.

* I learned this week about the MK symbol on food packaging. This came up because some constituents up here purport that we pay more for goods with this symbol. The symbol designates Kosher and is on lots of things - peanut butter and coke for example.

* What's the difference between lust after and long for. As far as a I can tell, they both mean desire strongly.

* Here's the underside of the elevated highway 40 which cuts through Montreal. I was stuck at a light under it and coming from earthquake country, it made me nervous.

* The Canadian dollar is now worth $1.06 U.S. This means that if you had bought Canadian dollars with your U.S. money in 2002 and sold it back today, you would have realized a gain of 72%. I wish I'd known that then.

* I love the very hard Sudoku puzzles because you must make a leap of faith and "guess" at a number, and follow it through until you see if you guessed right or wrong. I try to intuitively guess, which works at least 3/4 of the time.

* Are they called slippers because they're slippery on the floor or because they slip onto your feet? And loafers? To loaf around, a loaf of bread...nope, I don't get it.

* We snagged another 4* hotel in Socal in January for $55 a night. Priceline is probably my favorite company these days.

* Why do we say fix dinner to mean make dinner? Do they say this in England and Australia, or is it just North America? Students are always flummoxed by this expression.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Can't wait

Have you heard about TV is really coming to the internet. NBC and some other companies are joining together to bring instant tv with a searchable database for tv episodes and movies that you can watch streaming (like youtube) on your computer. What's the catch? Commercials, though they say they will only have 1/4 of the number as on regular tv. I think this is a fabulous idea. And about time the big media companies are embracing the internet with this venture instead of rabidly focusing on controlling content all over the place. I imagine this is the beginning of the end for satellite tv companies and gadgets like tivo. I can not wait for this. You will get to watch what you want, when you want. Plus, they are making it so you can clip scenes from the content to place on your blog or website!!! (I felt it called for three exclamation points.) Anyway, when I read about it, I instantly thought of Gayprof and how he would creatively use clips from Mary Tyler Moore, Charlies Angels and Wonder Woman, seasons of which are all slated to be available on hulu. You can pinch yourself now to verify that you're awake.

For now, you can only access the beta version of the site by invitation. I'm waiting for my invitation and you can get on the list too by visiting