Talk about scary…

Okay, so tomorrow is Hallowe’en. Which is probably why the powers that be have chosen tomorrow as my first substitute teaching job.
I’m terrified. I’ll be teaching Grade 6 at the Boucherville elementary school. So, do I wear a costume? I was thinking I could go without, but tell the kids that I’m their usual teacher with a really, really convincing disguise. Or Spiderman – anything with a mask, I guess.


My little boys are relentlessly growing up.
Yesterday was Robert’s 3rd birthday. The theme this year was construction – Andrew and I bought Robert a huge Tonka set (dumptruck and motorized digger). I can’t wait to get the FOUR (!!!) C batteries required to operate the digger. The set comes complete with its own plastic boulders, ‘cuz, y’know, kids have trouble finding rocks and dirt.
Dina and Steve gave him a great construction set that includes five mustachioed union guys and a Site Office. Colin was playing with it for less than five minutes when he announced “This man is not working today.” Colin’s pretty sophisticated, for a five-year-old.
Terence and Irene gave Robert a huge Lego dumptruck that comes with a box of Duplo (that’s the big Lego). I’ve been scouring the web for pictures of these toys, but to no avail. But there’s an open invitation for those who want to come over and play (with the toys). A dumptruck load of thanks to Terence, Irene, Dina, Steve, Mum and Jeannine for helping with the birthday celebrations.

The Rant for the Day

Today’s topic is “Every one else is an idiot behind the wheel.”
I believe it was George Carlin who observed that every driver believes s-he is doing fine. Anyone who drives faster than me is a maniac, and anyone who drives slower is an idiot.
Well, there are several reasons that I think all the other drivers on local highways should have their licenses revoked. Some of them should just be shot.
1. Driving hazards
Perhaps because all cars are now equipped with daytime running lights, drivers seem to think there’s no need for them to ever turn on their lights during the day. Which means that in the middle of a torrential downpour, every car is invisible. Oh, sure, you can see the cars coming in the opposite direction, across the median. But cars in the same direction are totally obscured by rain, spray and darkness.
People, the daytime running lights only apply to the headlights! From behind, no light. When driving on a highway at high speed (and it is still high, even when ‘reduced’ to accommodate the weather) it is extremely important the the driver behind you knows you’re there. So turn on the lights when the rain starts. Hmph.
2. Tailgaters
Once again, this one’s related to the speed at which we’re all zipping along. When there are only two cars on the road, I can appreciate the frustration evoked by the other car slowing you down needlessly (see point 3). However, when there are many, many other cars, in front and beside, calm down. The person directly in front of you is not responsible for the slower traffic, and all you accomplish by driving into their trunk is to freak out the driver. When there are loads of other cars in both lanes, where is that person supposed to go, anyway?
The lights-in-rain thing is a matter of ignorance, perhaps, but tailgating is not only dangerous, but also damned arrogant. What makes you think that you’re so much more important that your fellow drivers? Do you really have the right to aggressively force people to move out of your way? Frankly, it’s overaggressive drivers that make others slow down, so chances are the reason things are slow in the first place is at least partially the result of idiots who tailgate.
3. Oblivious Hat Wearers
The other side of the speed demon coin is the slowpoke. Okay, fine, drive below the limit. It’s your right, and you are obviously not breaking any laws. But for cripe’s sake, get the heck outta the fast lane! If you’re driving 110 kmph along the highway, you are not ‘fast.’ Let’s face it, the tacitly accepted limit is 120 – so 110 may make you faster than the tractor and hay wagon, but you’re setting yourself up for tailgating if you mosey over into the fast lane for no apparent reason.
Which brings me to…
4. The Blind
I like to consider myself open-minded, but blind people should not drive, political correctness be damned.
I have to assume these people are blind, otherwise, why the *&$%# are they switching lanes when I’m already occupying the lane into which they’re moving? Particularly when there’s no one for miles behind me, and they could easily wait a second until I’ve passed them. Grumble. Snark. Grr.

The Fruits of Labour

Tada! Three weeks ago, our basement looked like this:
As some of you know, the basement has been a no-man’s-land for over eight years now. When we bought the house, the former owner told us she would clean up the basement prior to leaving, and then neglected to do so. The contents at that time included hundreds of pieces of wood, in various sizes; and the previous owner made it very clear that it was her wood, and she wanted it. After eight years, we figure she’s not coming back for it, after all.
Since then, we’ve been busy renovating upstairs, so we have very much ignored the basement. We were both storing things for other people – I had Alison’s old Tandy computer down there, and Andrew had, among other things, his ex-girlfriend’s wedding dress 😛
Jeannine, the world’s greatest mother-in-law, has been visiting since the end of September, and she and I decided to roll up our sleeves and clean up the basement. It took us two and a half weeks, but the results are astonishing:
Now the kids have a designated play area, which means their room is much easier to keep tidy, and my laundry area is roomy and well-organized. The dark, crowded cold-storage room is now a bright clean pantry, and under the layers of solidified coal in the furnace room we discovered a tidy tool room. I love it!
Many, many thanks to Jeannine, without whom this would not have been possible. Also, many thanks to the very understanding sanitation engineers who took away tons (and that’s not as figurative as you would like to think) of trash. Finally, thanks also to Zip and Kathryn and Lou and Tilly, who between them got rid of all the wood, as well as the leftover wainscotting from the kitchen and half a dozen old storm doors.

And today’s winner is…

The Gazette columnist who wins the coveted “Got Maggie All Riled Up” award for Saturday, October 5th, is Jack Todd.
Now, granted, I have never been a Todd fan, from his days as a bombastic “city” commentator through to his new-ish role as a purportedly intellectual sports pundit, but for the most part I just take the “don’t read his column, don’t get ticked” approach.
Today his column, headlined “TV host, agent offside”, dealt with the recent firing/rehiring of Ron MacLean by the CBC. So I couldn’t help myself. On the other hand, by the time I got the bottom of the first column of text I was frustrated enough to give up, and I have not read the conclusion on C2.
His point seems to be that MacLean shouldn’t be represented by agent Don Meehan, who also represents several hockey players. He questions MacLean’s journalistic integrity, suggesting that MacLean would never say a bad word about a fellow-reprentee, and that even if he did, “wouldn’t you wonder if he’s doing it not because that’s what he thinks, but because he is trying to prove that he’s not influenced by his relationship with Meehan?”
Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Personally, I would trust MacLean further than I could throw Todd.
The part that really rubbed me the wrong way, however, was Todd’s inaccurate and inflammatory reference to MacLean as “the leading greedhead in the world of Canadian sportscasting,” and to the CBC “bow[ing] to his ourageous demands.”
First of all, given that his co-host on Coach’s Corner, everybody’s favorite throwback Don Cherry, makes over $700,000 a year as a reward for being the only man on the planet still willing to wear those collars and for making the whole PC movement appear fruitless, I think it’s a little unfair to call MacLean the “leading greedhead” for asking for $600,000, from $400,000 last year. Secondly, the CBC did not cave, they repeated their original offer of $450,000, and the ubiquitous agent Meehan accepted.
Well, it’s my own fault. I could have read the headline and said to myself, “this is going to be an exercise in frustration, perhaps best to avoid it.” I just hope I remember that next time!

While we’re at it

And what’s the deal with Alexa McDonough and her handy blue box? Are we supposed to think that she was actually inspired by the speech to pop into a nearby office and grab a conveniently empty recycling box?
I thought the NDP were above such theatrics. While the point may be valid, I for one was completely unimpressed with McDonough’s use of props. Does she think that we need a visual aid to understand her point? The fact that just about every non-Liberal MP and most pundits used “recycled” as the key word to describe the Throne Speech just made her seem all the more small-time when she held up her plastic pal for the cameras. No one else felt it necessary to provide a physical manifestation of their point.
He’s done it again
So, L. Ian MacDonald has managed to get me riled again. In today’s Gazette, he claims that only in Canada would the non-renewal of the contract between a sportscaster (namely, Ron MacLean) and a network (i.e., the CBC) get front-page coverage in both national newspapers, taking precedence over the Throne Speech. As a comparison, he questions whether U.S. president GWB’s State of the Union address would have been overshadowed by a similar falling out between some guy I’ve never heard of and FOX.
But, I ask you, what if the American counterparts were Bob Costas and NBC? I suspect that Americans are as blase about their politicians as we are about ours. Not to mention that, as MacDonald himself points out (as did many others a day earlier), the Throne Speech was not exactly the Magna Carta, given that there’s not much new or radical or particularly explosive in what Chretien has laid out as his “legacy” plan.

Sept. 2002 Archives

Sunday, September 29, 2002
One more thing
AND we turned on the furnace. Who ordered this weather? It’s those damned ski people, isn’t it? Hmph.
Weekend Retrospective
This has been one of those great weekends – the kind in which you accomplish a lot, but still feel like you’ve had a relaxing couple of days.
On Friday, Jeannine and I spent another hour in the basement, then I rushed off to the Alexis Nihon mall to meet Garran and, more importantly, his Jeep. We loaded up the kids’ new train table and brought it home. After we unloaded the table into the basement, Garran went off to more glamorous things, and Andrew came home for lunch. We loaded up the car with about six boxes of dishes culled from the basement clean-up operation, and then Jeannine and I dropped Andrew off at work. We proceeded to Village des Valeurs, dropped off the dishes, and found a great new raincoat (20$) for Jeannine, and yet another leather jacket for me (8$).
Then we took a break at Rockaberry’s, where we had fabulous pie and a cup of coffee. We strolled through a bed store looking for bunk bed inspirations, and at some point we picked Andrew up, dropped him off at the car rental lot, and hit the stores once again.
Andrew, by the way, was renting a car to take himself and a few other members of the Montreal Scrabble Club to a tourney in TO. He gets back tonight.
Yesterday, we did some general tidying, and Dina and Steve came by for a visit in the afternoon, with presents for Colin. After supper, Jeannine went into hyper-Grandma mode and looked after bathtime and bedtime while I had grown-up time (kind of) at Terence and Irene’s for Geek Night – recommendations include Greg the Bunny and SeaLab 2021.
Today started with Kathryn and Zip coming by with Zip’s very manly pick-up to make one trip to the wood dump in NDG, followed by loading the truck with all the wainscotting that used to be in the kitchen, as well as most of the spare shutters and windows that have been languishing in the basement for more than eight years. My imaginative sister plans to make said shutters and windows into her kitchen cabinets. The wainscotting is destined for their bathroom.
Other weekend activities included filling up three garbage bags with clothes for Village des Valeurs, tons of laundry, various cleaning projects, and lots of snuggly coffee-sipping and paper-reading in the comfort of my own bed, sans children, thanks to the World’s Best Mother-in-Law.
And yet I still have time to blog it all!
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Construction zone
I’ll be playing with the template occasionally – one thing I plan to create is a separate page for the photos, to save time and space on the main page.
Many apologies for any temporary inconveniences during this construction period.
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Many thanks
Colin thoroughly enjoyed his birthday.
Thanks to all who called and e-mailed, and a special thanks to Grandma, who supplied the cake.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
And where were you five years ago today?
Today’s the big day – Colin is FIVE years old!
Saturday, September 21, 2002
Little Radio Receivers in my Brain
I’ve had Sinatra’s I Get a Kick Out of You going through my head all morning. All things considered, this is not a bad thing. I had a narrow escape the other day, when a certain very tall friend-in-law mentioned She’s Havin’ My Baby, no doubt the most nefarious song of all time. A former flame and I used to play a dangerous game in which we innocently hummed the tune to a song in an effort to inflict upon the other the torment of hearing an endless loop of something dreadful…
Girls’ Night
I got a last-minute invitation to join Dina for a girls’ night at Jen’s place, with Jen’s two sisters and Fanny. The theme: a Pride and Prejudice marathon, in which we watched the entire miniseries. Five hours of Colin Firth scowling and occasionally getting wet. *Sigh*
Many, many thanks to Jen for the hospitality!
Also, many, many apologies to Fanny, since she was right and I was wrong: Mr. Darcy’s first name is, indeed, Fitzwilliam.
Friday, September 20, 2002
As you may have noted, commenting is now an option (thanks to Bill and her astounding brain). So please feel free to let me know what you think. As I said to Mr. Big, just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be heard.
Billding my Blog
A gazillion thanks to my mentor, the bountiful Bill, who supplied me not only with invaluable help with blog maintenance, but also vodka. If other instructors did this kind of thing, I would be much more inclined to continue my studies.
Okay, I Lied
I am actually inclined to continue my studies. After much discussion with my better half, the decision has been made – I will pursue my Ph.D (last seen entering a Walmart in Idaho, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap. If you have seen my Ph.D. please send any info to the hotline ASAP).
I have emailed the Universite de Montreal to set up a meeting with someone to discuss what I want to do; I’ve also contacted one of my favourite profs from Concordia, to see if he can give me any direction. I want to focus on 18th and 19th century women authors (i.e., Austen, Eliot, Gaskell, the Brontes, etc.) in a historical context. Beyond that I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing.
Plus ca change…
I’ve also planted the seed with my Softitler supervisor that I would be interested in negotiating a permanent part-time gig, which would be ideal in conjunction with studying. Something like 25-30 hours a week. Barring that, the freelance deal is pretty sweet, and we can survive on the reduced income for the three or fours years of the degree.
So there!

Method to My Madness?

I spent the better part of today “cleaning” the guest room in preparation for the arrival of my mother-in-law. Those familiar with my house will know that I have a lot of books (understatement of the year nominee), and that many of said books are housed in the guest room.
You see, I have always wanted a Woody Allenesque room in the house, with many, many shelves teeming with many, many books. So one whole wall of the guest room is bookshelves, and there’s a medium-sized Ikea bookcase in there as well.
So I decided to rearrange my library…
Since the better part of my reading takes place in bed, I thought it would make sense to shelve all of my unread books in the guest room for easy access. The bottom shelf in unread nonfiction, and the next two shelves are unread fiction. I have a lot of reading to do!
Anyway, right now the room looks slightly messier than before I started cleaning. This is saying a lot, considering that with our recent renovations, the guest room became a temporary storage facility, not only for our odds and ends from other rooms, but also for the thick layer of dust created by the floor guys. On the other hand, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (I can also see the closet, which is perhaps more relevant).
I have scheduled a blog tutorial tomorrow with the incomparable Bill, so I hope to have a comment feature, among many other bells and whistles, very soon. In the meantime, if you have a comment that can’t wait, please feel free to send me e-mail.

He ain’t pretty, he’s my PM

L. Ian McDonald trashed the Prime Minister today regarding Chretien’s remarks before the UN and in various other venues. Chretien said, in reference to 9-11, that poverty in the rest of the world breeds contempt for the richer nations. McDonald and other critics have been blasting him for this, claiming that he’s blaming the victims.
What these critics are overlooking is the fact that Chretien is right. Granted, Bin Laden and many members of his organization and others like it are at least comfortable, if not wealthy. But it’s not that simple. I’ve heard reports that while Palestinians in the West Bank have to ration their water, their Jewish neighbors in the Israeli settlements are obliviously washing their cars, filling their swimming pools and watering their lawns. The average Palestinian is not Bin Laden-wealthy, and aside from having to live in poverty, suffers the indignity of watching the neighbors live high on the hog (kosher restrictions notwithstanding). To make matters worse, Israel is consistently portrayed better than Palestine in the Western media. No wonder extremist factions thrive!
My almost-five-year-old son, Colin, has a habit of not listening to my husband and me. Very frequently, we find ourselves screaming at him. Then he gets upset because we’re yelling. The point is, if he listened the first time (or the second or third, for that matter), we wouldn’t have to resort to screaming. Perhaps if more efforts were made to understand the situation in the Chretien context, fewer counter-efforts would be required.