BONUS TAKE-AWAY LIFE LESSON FROM DECEMBER 2011: Kafka was limited by his lack of experience as a teacher

in Mississauga.

Brag Letter – 2012 The Year that our would-be Mayan Overlords Wimped Out. I started the year with a hopeful observation on Facebook – “…so far the year doesn’t suck…” and – for the most part – this year did not so much Hoover as blow right by. January We took off for Chicago as our first adventure of the year. Toronto was in the teens for temperature, in that winter that never did come, but we drove through Ontario lake-effect snow squalls that seemed to wait leap at us in every dip in the 401, then into a Michigan that had the packed snow to prove to us that winter did still exist.

1Mike, Melissa and Leah (Hanna took the pic)

At the border in Detroit we met the oh-so-friendly, courteous and polite Officer Singh of the US Border Patrol … a true example of rising just below a lack of training in deportment. Word of advice to Officer Singh – you only get one freebie of yelling at a Korean woman, using it as an opening gambit in interaction is not recommended. Next time it may well get ugly. Gee, a guy with a chip on his shoulder yelling right off the bat in an interaction involving customs, routines, and safety– where have I seen that before Other than that the road was a real hoot. We stopped in Ann Arbor for the night right near the campus. Melissa wondered how so many empty motels could stay in business. I pointed out the football stadium, and the desk clerk allowed as how, on game days, the places were all packed with wolverines. We drove on the next day and the irony of western Michigan was almost too much - where strip club and casino billboards litter the side of the highway while the radio dial is covered in a duopoly of right wing talk radio or fundie “Woncha come to Jaysus, but first woncha make a love offering” pap. I had not been through this part of the US, except for a late-night run-throughs on the road to elsewhere, or flyovers/connections at O’Hare, for going on forty years. We got mixed up on one of the connections between highways on the east side of Lake Michigan (mea culpa) and my eyes were opened on the detour that we took. You don’t see this from the Interstate. Rust Belt is just a concept until then. Gary, Indiana looks like the aftermath of a Zombie attack. Maybe it looks busier or more populated or vital when it isn’t the holiday season – but I doubt it. The highway into downtown was as I remember it – stressful confusing and very busy. There doesn’t seem to be any sense or correspondence between the signs and the exits, but Melissa’s navigating saw us through.

We stayed at a great Hotel just north of the museum district. Melissa got us a great deal. We went to all the museums we could, shopped for cheap but super food at Trader Joe’s, took full advantage of the outstanding Chicago transit system, and had really hospitable interactions with Chicago people.

2Dad would never do this...

3Girls in front of Chagall at the Art Institute

Melissa got us into the Mart on the strength of her Interior Design credentials and the girls got to check out high-end furniture and decorating… I mean really high end, stuff that the Koch brothers would have to budget for… It was my idea (again – mea culpa) to walk back to the hotel from our trip to the Mart. The city blocks in Chicago are human sized, like the ones in Montreal and unlike the ones in Toronto. The night was not too cold and I thought it would be nice to walk for a bit rather than wait for a bus. We only got slightly lost. We were actively discussing just how slightly, when a man on the street approached us and asked us if we needed directions. He not only gave us directions, he walked us a half a block to a turn and pointed out a landmark down the street where we needed to make another turn. He then refused an offer of money for coffee, even though he did 4Hanna and Leah on our walk across town. not look warmly dressed, and asked us to just tell people “back in Canada” how friendly Chicago is… So I am.

If you have children you need to go to Chicago. The museums are excellent, the food is great, and the other attractions are awesome.

Other News in January – Does Anyone Remember January?  Best Quote of January: Jeanne Devon on the Repub Primaries:
"It looks like it's basically a tie between the loathsome one and the reprehensible one, with the goofy delusional one coming in third. The batshit crazy one and the stupid frightening one may drop out. The angry mean hypocrite is really pissed. It's been a nailbiting night of irrelevance!!!" ----Jeanne Devon

Best Meal of January: Miso soup with spinach and shrimp; steamed bean sprouts and green onions in sesame oil and sea salt; brussel sprouts; rice; sweet chili salmon steaks. Life is good. Harper gummint spent thousands on cosmetic upgrades to Rideau Canal locks; Atawapiskat kids froze in the dark. I wonder whatever happened to Atawapiskat anyway? In the “plague on both houses department”. Rick Santorum lost Iowa. By nine votes. Or not. Sad news as Michael O’Leary passed on. I never knew him as “Michael”, he was always “Mr.”. Best damn Social Studies teacher ever.

Best photo and caption of January:

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” - Buddha ~♥~

February This was a month for good eating along with slow dawning realizations, such as:   Those report cards were not going to correct themselves Vic Toews is not an aberration or embarrassment to the Tories – he is doing exactly what Harper wants him to do. The US Congressional Republicans were bent on getting back at all the women and girls that had ever turned them down for dates, (the many, many, women apparently) by forming guys only clubs to discuss womens’ girly super-secret ladyparts – NO GURLZ ALLOWED!!!11!!!

Celine Dion purchasing Schwartzes’ Hebrew Delicatessen just confirms that Montreal Anglo culture has atrophied to the point where it can be pickled and displayed in the window of a kitaine shop.

My wife was 10 times the student I ever was. I mean, I knew she was smart (except for the strange, unique, and uncharacteristic event where she married me) but I realized this month that she has superhuman integrity and stamina once she has resolved herself for a task. Sleepless nights and endless work. I stand in awe. Rick Santorum may look like an earnest and goofy psychopath, but under it all he really is just a psychopath. Winter was going to make an appearance after all – snow might not, but winter was. Smokers at Oakville GO gifted me with another case of allergic reaction followed by bronchial pneumonia halfway through this month. I realized that they will never go away… …and a realization in hindsight – this was the month that Elizabeth Warren helped win the White House for Obama. She eviscerated Romney for his “corporations are people” bit and introduced the long overdue argument that the 1% did not create their wealth alone and should give back to help restore a healthy economy.

 

Last night: oven roasted potatoes with onions; sole filets poached in heart friendly margerine with garlic and lemon pepper; garden salad. This morning: refried leftover potatoes as hash browns; maple smoked bacon; eggs over easy, hot joe and plenty of it; sectioned tangerines.

Quote of the Month # 1
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist” ---Dom Comora

Oven baked chicken breasts marinated in balsamic vinegar with minced onion, garlic, flaked red pepper, chilli powder, rosemary, parsley, sage, (no thyme!), poultry seasoning, ground black pepper and salt; California mixed vegetables (frozen - so sue me!) hot rice straight from the cooker.

Household News: We have a new “second kitchen” this month: right beside the old “first kitchen”. The second kitchen is where the old owner had a Chinese Buddhist shrine, but I think we screwed up the Feng Shui by putting up a wall and making it into first a dining room, then turning it into a bedroom for the live-in tutor, now a kind of pantry/breakfast kitchen. The girls have taken to drawing and marking all over the drywall addition, since we told him that we will be taking it down if we ever move. Writing on walls is a rather exciting endeavour I have not partaken in for nearly 50 years… It’s all coming back to me now.

Quote of the Month #2
“HOO-HAA Cherry Soda!”

Breakfast: shredded leftover chicken in chicken broth with diced leftover carrots, leftover rice, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper; pan fried bacon; sliced bread. It is finally winter cold outside. Life is good.

AND A special guest menu by Tessa Blanc Sunday lunch: cream of turnips and carrots, duck à l'orange (made with Port), oven-roasted potatoes with fresh thyme, asparagus, huge salad with cilantro dressing, homemade dark-chocolate-&-walnut brownies with homemade crème anglaise, served with Fauchon Earl Grey tea.

You are learning well Paduwan!

March – In Which We Learned the Results (some Unexpected) of What Should Always Happen When the Wholly Unprepared and Grossly Overhyped Encounter Hard Cold Reality

Liberal MP Justin “My Little Pony” Trudeau toyed with Tory Senator Patrick “No, Really, Senator” Brazeau for just long enough for me to time my hard boiled eggs.

Rusty Limbaugh found out just what happens when you spout off just one time too many after you have passed your tipping point. At last count Limbaugh was leaking Clear Channel money from every orifice and advertisers were running away as fast as their no-cut contracts could expire (98 major advertisers left him in March alone)

H/T To my Ol’ Red Rag – The McGill Daily. University kids and supporters in Quebec march for months in opposition to ham-handed government attempts to raise tuition costs….

Everyone can see that it’s pointless, but they work and make noise and stop traffic and…

…they win.
"High tuition is not an economic necessity, as is easy to show, but a debt trap is a good technique of indoctrination and control. And resisting this makes good sense." -Noam Chomsky, 19 mars 2012

Joke of the Month
Kid goes to school in an Ottawa Senator's jersey. Teacher asks why he is wearing a jersey from Ottawa. Kid replies "My friends are all fans." Teacher asks "What would you do then if your friends were all crackheaded losers? Would you be one too?" The kid replies "Yeah, I guess I would have to wear a Leafs jersey then..."

I published two diaries on Daily Kos One was on dealing with right-wingers of the Breitbart ilk, the other on why I pray for Dick Cheney. Check them out – diaries under username “deepfish” and, as always, keep anything but effusive praise to yerself…

Other accomplishments for the month After five years of residency, and more than a dozen long flaxen-raven-tressed young ladies in residence (one time or another) our drains finally surrendered to blockage. My formula: elbow grease, a screwdriver and needle nosed pliers… What I pulled out of the drains was a sight few grown men have ever seen… Much beer needed.

Quote of the Month
"There are now more guns than people in the US. And if you laid them end-to-end, Ted Nugent would ejaculate until he dissolved in a pile of dust."--Bill Maher

This month we also found out that wearing a hoodie and carrying skittles were probable cause for harassment; being black was incitement for a self-proclaimed watchman “stand your ground”; walking through a neighbourhood where you had every right to be could be a death sentence.

Music We Listened to This Month Irish Descendants, Nathan Rogers, Noah Zacharin, Alison Krauss, Johnny Cash

In March I lost a friend and coworker – Dave McArthur. Kayaker, provider of winter coats, teacher from the floor up, quaffer of schooners, protector of first graders from over-cossitted puddle-splashers. “Perfect is boring”. Somewhere, I am certain, he is hard at work, teaching, and teaching teachers, and coming up with lessons too good not to share, and sharing a pint or two of good beer. Gone too soon and missed only all the time.


April is a Tuesday kinda month – don’t you think? Not quite spring, at least not where most people I love live, not still winter. The kind of month that hangs like an extra hanger in the closet after laundry day… not so much the cruellest month as the most awkward… But then a day in late April will happen, when some fresh breeze will shoot by and you can almost feel a hint of something you feel you might want to have tried to remember. The best April is like getting up from sleep with a great half-thought out plan.

Recipe of the Month (Screw Lent – we’re talkin’ CHOCOLATE!)
From friend Bambi Bellows. Nota Bene: I have it on good authority that it is acceptable to substitute "HOMO" ™ Milk for "Fucking Milk"™ Life is good. It's NOT low carb, but my hot cocoa recipe got invoked *twice* yesterday. I will confess that, being in retail, we occasionally get gifts of Ghana cocoa powder and I'm more than a little spoiled, but dutched chocolate cocoa is a commendable choice, else whatever cocoa you have to hand. 1) Use as thick a milk or cream as you can. 2) Scald the fucking milk. You'll thank me for *that* little accident for years to come. 3) Pour milk/cream into blender with cocoa powder. 4) Add one shot per customer of each of the following: Amaretto Frangelico Kahula Coconut rum Plus More cinnamon than any sane person would add A little more cinnamon Sweeten to taste 5) Blend 6) Fill the cup with whipped cream FIRST 7) Pour cocoa over whipped cream 8) Ok. Praise all that you hold dear that you're a friend of mine and that you read this recipe 9) For Lord's sake, DON'T drive. You won't taste the alcohol. Don't let that fool you. After your third or fourth cup, you're not going anywhere anyway. Now. Who loves you?

This Month in NOT Making Melissa Cry Melissa knocked herself out for one course in particular this term. The prof was of that difficult unorganized kind (and not in a charming absent-minded but cuddly way). Assignments were changed at the last minute; directions were fuzzy where they occurred at all. It was a class for interior design, but the prof had the class doing extras like choosing food items and writing up descriptions for a restaurant menu – in other words tasks that were not and would never be asked of professional interior designers. On one of her early assignments the prof noted that her writing had a lot of mistakes and allowed as how she needed to use a proof reader to weed out spelling and grammar mistakes. Note: Not that such help was just allowed – but NECESSARY. This was said in front of the class. So, for most of the term, I proof-read Melissa’s copy. This required many hours of revision and conferencing over her ideas. I don’t speak Interior Design and Melissa had to revise my revisions then send them back to me for checks of grammar and spelling. Every idea on the page was Melissa’s. Then in April the prof sends Melissa a letter saying that she will not release a mark for the course and is recommending that Melissa take the whole course over again for “getting outside help”. Melissa had received straight A’s in her marks for every course she took. I was going to go down there and break things and make loud husbandly noises. Not necessary. Melissa, in addition to making top marks had also made many friends and admirers. One of them was the head of the program. When the facts as detailed above were made clear the head of the program had Melissa’s marks reinstated. The Prof hasn’t had a course since. Melissa is happy; the house is happy. Life is good.

April 7 William Wordsworth's Birthday.... THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Apparell'd in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream. It is not now as it hath been of yore;— Turn wheresoe'er I may, By night or day, The things which I have seen I now can see no more. The rainbow comes and goes, And lovely is the rose; The moon doth with delight Look round her when the heavens are bare; Waters on a starry night Are beautiful and fair; The sunshine is a glorious birth; But yet I know, where'er I go, That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth. EASTER 2012

Pink and purple clouds out my window and down by the horizon. Sole filets with lemon; julienne potatoes pan fried with leftover Easter ham; salad... Life is good.

I wonder, though, how that nice Jewish boy from Galilee would feel about us celebrating his victory with a dinner of ham?

Hanna was sick this month and we spent four hours in ER one night waiting to be seen. Strangely enough it is just when you spend a good deal of time waiting that you gain a measure of consolation – serious cases get seen first. Still, it tears at your heart to see your kid sick. Things could be worse – we could be in the States.

May And suddenly it is spring.

Brewing Sun-Tea on the deck above the irises in the backyard Pond.

In Spring we come alive… Select Journal/Status Entries From May 6 Melissa worked too hard today. Backrub tonight will have to be extra. Forsythia bush in the front yard, cherry tree in the back (Hanna's idea). It balances the magnolia. Took a walk with Leah to grocery shop. Also accomplished today. Laundry sorted and done, lawns cut, koi pond plumbed, cedar hedges cleaned out, weeding done, beds ready, shopping for Korean food and medicine done. Supper of tomato soup with garlic, grilled cheese and ground pepper sandwiches. Life is good

From May 17: Walked home after work from Tenth Line and Eglinton to Sixth Line and just below Dundas (for those living outside the Centre of the Universe™, the technical term for that would be "a F*ck of a Long Way"). The lilacs are just coming out, and lavender, and the scent of a hundred other wild flowers I have never bothered to get to know (and why is that? Is other life so pressing and damned important?). It was warm enough, with that kind of insistent breeze that would be annoying in a Southern Ontario Winter, but is just this side of noticeable in spring. Roadkill was at a minimum, and road-idiots even less so. People are busy building stuff, covering up the most fertile farmland in Canada with another layer of pavement and patio. Saw sheep and llama farms.... sun was warm. Last of the merlot in my cup. Life is good.

From May 23 Went to the cardiologist for an appointment and echo cardio and EKG. Y'know, no matter how many times I go, you never get used to the delight of slimy sticky lead patches and conducting creme. Good news is that, despite my trick lung, I'm doing fine. Lunch of leftover roast chicken and spring greens and grape tomatoes under balsamic vinaigrette. Then by bike to my GP. Had to wait an extra hour because the appointment book was screwed up. (For those Americans keeping score - cost so far out of pocket for medical services today amounted to a whopping $0.00). Biked home. Bought plonk. Waiting for din-dins. Life is good.

From May 31 Biked home down Ridgeway from 10th and Eglinton to Burnhamthorpe then out to 6th Line and down to home on Grand Ravine (Google Earth it - great scenery). Home in less than half the time than it takes to grab the bus. Melissa pan fried a mackerel filet in its own juices, and we wrapped pieces it with greens and hot paste and rice in lettuce leaves. Life is good.

Koi Pond. No Koi Racoons and I now have a détente.

Unresolved Questions from May Did this guy get a real job eventually? Did he put this experience on his Resume? If so, how did he phrase his duties? Are those “Mom Pants” that Romney has on? Why is he facing away from the crowd? Is Schadenfreude addictive? Who cares? It’s fun!

Marriage Rights were a big deal last spring. I wrote and posted this…

I hadn't noticed - do we have a sudden surplus of people in this wretched world ready to publicly express commitment, honour, fidelity and lifelong love to each other? Are we stumbling over bothersome types who are willing to help us build society by commiting to the happiness and well being of loved ones? Are we shaking responsible and caring people out of the trees? Otherwise - why the current fuss about extending marriage rights to couples who might happen to share the same plumbing with each other? Finding someone who is willing to trade a life for a life with another is rare enough that we should celebrate it, - (and with good wine! - and embarrassing dancing!) -whenever it occurs - doncha think?


I, FOR ONE, am going to know what to say when the ducks show up. I've made a list of phrases, and although I don't know which one to use yet, they are all good enough in case they showed up tomorrow. Many people won't know what to say when the ducks show up, but I will. Maybe I'll say, "Oh ducks, oh ducks, oh ducks," or just "ducks wonderful ducks!" I practice these sayings every day, and even though the ducks haven't come yet, when they do, I'll know what to say. Excerpt from Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin

This was the month of the duck. (H/T to Carole Belgrade)

We started the month with very heavy rains. Union Station in downtown Toronto flooded. (see pic)

The rain got the pond kick started – still no koi, but the reeds and lotuses made strong early growth

During the rainy weekend we got the house cleaned for the first of a number of planned summer sleepovers

One good result of having homestay students for a number of years is that we have about eight or nine more beds than we have people in residence.

I figure that the rain also gave someone else in the neighbourhood thoughts of nest improvement and connecting with family.

From June 16 We had just got back from a trip through the wild backroads of Durham County (cue banjo music) when… Facebook Status:
. Melissa and Hanna and Leah came in about an hour ago and told me that there was "some kind of loon" apparently injured in our front yard. I went out and there was a female mallard hiding in a circle of tall shrubs just off our driveway. When I parted the shrbs to get a closer look she waddled out onto the red cedar mulch, gave me a look, and sat down

I figured she must be hurt or dazed. What a dope I am! Called the humane society. Just as they were pulling up 10 minutes ago, I decide to take one more look. The duck waddled out onto the mulch. I saw a gleam of white. A nest, with 8-12 little eggs.

A pic of the nest area is at left. The nest was in among the shrubs at the centre of the picture.

The humane society guy and gal were very informative. Gestation takes about four weeks, and she will want to take the young ones to the nearest body of water soon after hatching... which means that we may soon have fluffy little clumsy bits of cuteness floating around the lotus blossoms in our koi pond out back... Melissa gets to NOT weed for a month. The girls are giddy and giggling.

I did some reading up. Our duck was late in the season for nesting. Mallards usually finish up by the first week of June. It might be because she was young, or this might have been a “replacement” clutch. I also learned that male mallards are scum. No, really, I could tell you stories. I thought at first that she was a bit short in smarts – I mean, our front yard is not exactly isolated. But the more I watched her the more I realized that she must have scouted out the area. We are the only house for blocks with a daily automatic sprinkler – ready drinking water. I also found out that brooding ducks totally change their diet from grasses to insects, slugs and snails, and that part of our garden is abundant in all three. She had a routine – she would go leave the nest periodically and rest out on the lawn, or totally disappear. It was hard to tell when she was on the nest as it was almost totally covered by the shrubs and grass. On the few occasions that I parted the grass to look and she was there, she would look up and hiss softly. From June 17
Dotty Duck is back on her nest. She rustles if I get too close, and I don't want to stress her, but all you can see is greenery - she really did choose one of the best spots in the neighbourhood. Filled the koi pond to the brink so if the ducklings appear they can get in and out... We figure she'll be brooding for at least three more weeks.

From June 28
Woken up at 1:30 by a quacking duck. Went out and a pair of raccoons were being held off by momma. Yelled at them. They went away. She quacked until *I* went back in the house... Life is good..

The duck was outnumbered but still managed to save most of her eggs. We found one on the driveway – or at least the shell. The rest seemed intact.

Duck eggs are laid one per day, so ours took eight days to all come out, but the miracle of duck eggs is that they all hatch within an hour of each other. The next time I checked the nest it was empty – totally cleaned out, no shells. Mallard ducks do not return to the hatch site with their chicks, and eat the shells and generally tidy up before leading the young to water (nope – not our koi pond, she probably lead them down to the ravine) . She was a fastidious low maintenance tenant. I hope to see her again. According to the experts mama ducks will return to the same general area of a successful clutch. The nesting site is under a half metre of snow and ice, but it’s nice to think of our ducks winging over sun dappled water down south. Bring spring back, kids. So I’m a Protector of Water Fowl…

OTHER Accomplishments this month:

Michael Coren kicked me off his FB discussion page. (I think it was because I asked him questions.)

We all went to a local Rotarian Ribfest and we all agreed that Korean Kalbi would leave all these guys in the dust. For old time’s sake I checked out the sound board for the stage show. I feel old.

This was just for a penny-ante public address and garage band stuff, but the board looked like something out of Star Wars compared to what I used to see as a Roadie… But then I realized – Hey, I’m still here.

On June 21 I stood up to a Corporate Dragon and was left mostly unbowed, shaken – but unbowed. (see the top of the letter for a clue – further this correspondent can not detail even at present)

Now – the best graphic of the year – I don’t know what it is, but this pic had me falling out of my chair laughing.

Bonus – Generalized Rule To Use The Next Time You’re on a Barstool and Want to Start Something Methot's First Rule of Professional Sports: It ain't a real sport if a normal sized person can't play . If a normal sized person can't play it’s not a sport - it’s an exhibition of human oddity. Hence baseball and soccer and tennis and rugby are still sports, hockey is on the bubble, football and basketball are freakshows.

Quote of the Month – Lee Camp
"There are two things you should not pick a fight with: an angry sea and a whole lot of vaginas"

Watch here:

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