Science stream

Posted by bernicky - April 30th, 2013

The thought has occurred on occasion that neither of our children will grow up to have what might be described as good jobs. Our son had a great many things to deal with while going through high school which left him looking for a path which offered comfort rather than challenge when he entered CEGEP: this resulted in his going into Communications. If there is anyone less employable than someone with a general liberal arts background it would be someone in communications. He is currently toying with the idea of switching to the theatre program which at least would offer some hope of helping him with his stand up and he is a decent actor so it is a potentially wise career move.

Our daughter on the other hand seemed destined for the arts. She is a talented graphic artist and likes to work in multiple media but she has chosen to pursue the science stream in school. This pleases me because she definitely has the temperament for maths and sciences and also because artists are rarely, if ever, paid what they are worth. The decision to pursue science stream was not, as one might imagine, based in the desire to pursue scientific enquiry as an end in itself. Nor was it because she has a particular penchant for maths though she is quite good at them. The decision to go science stream was a result of experiencing the non-science stream.

To put it bluntly our daughter realized what so many of us realize when we are in school: no one wants to know what you think, they want you to repeat back to them what they think. Questions are posed in such a way as to give the illusion that what the student thinks is relevant to their mark but in reality no such relevance is present. Our daughter realized this early in this academic year and indeed may have realized it before and only expressed her frustrations with it this year. She has her own opinions and ideas and they are strongly held. The idea that someone would ask her opinion and then attempt to “correct” her opinion to the one which was taught is anathema to her. While the balance of her classmates seem comfortable with this approach to pedagogy our daughter is not. It was this which most motivated our daughter to pursue the science stream.

The maths and sciences are not the same as the soft subjects. Problems are posed and there is a factual answer which is not the subject of opinion. An object is either at rest or in motion. Force equals mass times acceleration. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Water is H2O. There is no opinion to be graded, answers are either right or they are wrong.

Whether or not she continues with the sciences through to university remains to be seen but one thing is for certain it is easier to catch up on English or Film Studies in university than it is to catch up on calculus.

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“Gonna tell you a story that you won’t believe”

Posted by bernicky - April 29th, 2013

This is a long one.

Jim Croce’s “Roller Derby Queen” was rolling around in my head the last few days as we planned to go to The Beast From The East roller derby competition. Roller Derby in Montreal has become quite a popular sport. It is a hard hitting intensely aggressive all female sport which is a bit of an oddity. We have been looking forward to the event for some weeks now and were stoked to finally get underway to the east end. The first order of business whenever we decide to travel to parts unknown in the city is Google maps. Google maps is a great tool which allows users to map out directions from their home to their destination (Bing maps is equally as good but Google is what I use). Once the directions were written down we all piled into the van and were off.

Our daughter has a friend named Bea who lives in Brazil. We took a slight detour on our way to the roller derby and stopped by the post office at the Dorval mall to pick up a package which Bea had sent to our daughter. It contained a letter and some sweets which are popular in Brazil. It was Bea’s response to our daughter having earlier sent a Canadian Care Package to Bea. The package our daughter sent had Quebec No. 1 clear maple syrup, maple candy, maple sugar and Aunt Jemima Pancake mix. Apparently the Brazilian confections are quite tasty.

The package from Brazil.

The package from Brazil.

After we picked up the Brazilian package we headed for the east end. The plan was simple enough, go, watch some roller derby for a bit, bail, have some lunch and get back to the west island in time for our daughter’s two o’clock vaccination appointment. The instructions written up on yellow notepad paper from Google maps were clear enough but that is kind of where things started to go south. We got to exit 68 off of the 40 east bound and started looking for the yellow piece of paper with the instructions on it. The paper was nowhere to be found. That was okay though as I was fairly certain that I could remember the route.

The majority of streets in Montreal are one way north or one way south. While that is is similar to a lot of major metropolitan centers Montreal adds its own twist: change of one way direction depending on how far north or south you are in the city. This fact came into play when we were on the service road after exiting the 40 and I spied Saint Urban street. From the instructions I had written down earlier I remember that I was supposed to go south on Clark until it turned into Saint Urbain and then run left on Jean Talon. Since Saint Urbain is one way south it seemed obvious that a right hand turn was warranted: wrong. At the point from which we turned Saint Urbain was exactly one block south bound before it turned into one way north bound. Ah ha! Okay, we turned around and headed back to the service road.

What ensued was a comedy of misdirection, redirection, roads closed due to construction, unmarked speed bumps and being completely turned around. Our journey started around ten in the morning and by the time we found the correct street, going in the correct direction to get us to our destination it had turned eleven and was heading towards eleven thirty. We finally found the arena. There was no parking on either side of the street. There was no parking in the paid parking lot. There was no parking on the next block over in either direction. We started going away from the arena still not finding parking. When we finally got to eight blocks away the kids called it as a wash and we decided to go get some lunch.

At first both the kids wanted to go to Lafleur. Lafleur is a local hotdog chain with a well deserved reputation for great french fries and cheap hotdogs. The fries are hand cut potato, blanched, cooled then fried. The only thing which could make them better would be if they fried in beef tallow instead of vegetable oil but that is not likely to happen in this day and age. While we were driving our son decided that it ought to be my turn to choose where to eat and our daughter consented to this idea.

Where to eat? It seemed like a good idea to head up to the mountain and just grab a couple of sandwiches and eat around the lake or up on the hill overlooking the lake so that’s where we headed. The only hiccup in the plan occurred when we actually arrived near the chalet. Half the road was closed, an entire parking lot was taken up by construction vehicles and the lone accessible parking lot was overflowing with cars.

No problem, plan B. Plan B was Chef Maison Roti in LaSalle where the best chickpea and potato roti, chicken doubles and potato cakes are made.

We drove down off the mountain, past St. Joseph’s Oratory and down onto Decarie.

There is a Quebec tradition which is not understood by visitors nor natives. From the trench boulevard that is the Decarie there is only one possible exit to get onto highway 20. In order to access that exit drivers have to take a fork which divides the Decarie heading downtown from the 15 which heads out to the south shore. The exit to the 20 was closed.

This is in fact quite a common arrangement during what we call the construction festival in Quebec. Workers advise drivers of road closures at the point of closure only. No prior warning or indication that an alternate route might be a better course of action. In this particular case the closure was made all the more entertaining by the fact that the Champlain bridge, into which the 15 leads, was down to one lane of traffic and being fed by both the Decarie and highway 20. We took the first possible exit off of the 15 and headed into Verdun and stuck to surface routes to wend our way into Lasalle and eventually to Chef Maison Roti just on the corner of Dollard and David Boyer.

It was our children’s first exposure to Trinidadian food. To take it light on our daughter I ordered curried chicken with rice, two bara (fried bread) and a potato cake to split with her brother. James received two chicken doubles – a sandwich made from bara, channa or dahl and curried chicken with tamarind sauce. For my own part I stuck with my favourite – a chickpea and potato roti with hot sauce. While our daughter was not overly enthused with the absence of french fried from the menu James was amazed at the flavour and enjoyed every minute of the food.

After lunch we got back in the van and headed back home to drop off James and head to the doctor.

As it turned out though our daughter wanted James to come with us. James is a bit of a talking machine and has an ability to put a lot of people at ease – he was very good at doing this with Lynn when she was paralyzed and remains good at doing this with our daughter. So it was that we arrived at the doctor fifteen minutes early so we could be called in twenty minutes late and kept waiting in the examination room an additional twenty minutes before the doctor came in to check our daughter’s vaccination record and give her the vaccine.

Phobia is a word which many people use but unless you have a real phobia you don’t really understand the irrationality of the fear. In a psychological battle between death and their phobia those with phobias will lean heavily towards death as the preferable option. Our daughter has a phobia of sharp points – in particular needles. A few weeks ago I had to hold her down while she had a blood test. On Saturday once the vaccination needle was loaded and the doctor moved toward her our daughter withdrew on the table back into a corner where she could not possibly be accessed. I had to pick her up and put her on a chair and hold her down. She was so concerned protecting her left shoulder that when I put on the chair and was holding her right hand down from her shoulder she twisted to protect her left shoulder with the wall. This left her right shoulder fully exposed and the doctor plunged the vaccine home. The blood curdling scream which followed was almost breath taking. It would have been funny but for the half dozen or so small children waiting in the waiting room to receive their examinations.

After the tears and being told that there are four more vaccinations required to bring things up to date we left and moved on to do a little shopping picking up some toiletries and new shoes for James.

The highlight of the day was the second to last trip of the day from the Dorval shopping center to Safari Ice Cream (used to be Wild Willy’s Dorval) for a little cool refreshment. James had cookies and cream ice cream in a cup, our daughter had soft serve chocolate (don’t get me started on her choice of ice cream) on a sugar cone and I had a maple walnut on a standard cone which in all honesty was a little stale but the ice cream was great.

Ice cream at Safari (a.k.a. Wild Willy's)

Ice cream at Safari (a.k.a. Wild Willy’s)

After ice cream we went to rent some movies whereupon it was discovered that James had returned his last rentals late and there were over due fees due. It wasn’t enough to prevent our rentals of The Emperor’s Club, Grease and The Machinist. When we got home it was going on 16:30 and we had basically been sitting most of the day so we all decided to take a walk.

Just taking a walk.

Just taking a walk.

The beautiful thing about the day despite not really doing what we most wanted to do was that we were all together for the entire day. It was a day free of computers, Internet, texting and phone calls. We actually had fun being lost and trying to get to the roller derby which we ultimately never saw. While it may have been a day where nothing worked out as it was supposed to it still was a wonderful way to spend the day.

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Posted by bernicky - April 22nd, 2013

Weight has always been a problem. Through elementary school, high school, CEGEP and university my weight steadily climbed until peaking at 140.5 Kg (310lbs). With a great deal of deprivation and effort a battle of the bulge resulted eventually in my weight holding steady for a few years at around 79 Kg (174lbs) but that did not hold. Fluctuations between 185 and 174 were common enough but when Lynn was paralyzed and then later when she went into palliative care the weight just piled on and on and on. All through 2012 there was a losing pitch battle between losing weight and gaining weight as the numbers steadily climbed until in February of this year the scale hit 94 Kg (206lbs). It was an unacceptable number and I started fighting back and watched as the scale needled downward slowly until it hit 90 Kg (199lbs) and it seemed inevitable that 174 was only a matter of months away.

My mother used to say: many a slip between the cup and the lip. It is an expression I still use but frequently forget in day to day life. After we arrived back from visiting my mother I resumed running with some effective results on the weight front then two things happened. First on the morning of Saturday the 10th of March I severely sprained the LCL in the left knee. Later that same day my mother died. A bad day in any terms but in diet and exercise terms a horrible day.

Aside from cooking when stressed and depressed the consumption of food, especially high fat and high sugar foods, is my go to place. Injured and essentially unable to walk for several weeks my calorie consumption going through the roof has moved the needle on the scale to the 95.5 Kg mark (215lbs). While I started running again this past weekend the reality is that at this weight with the knee issues I have to be careful and cannot put in the distances I would like to be able to both improve my wind and lose some weight through exercise. It is still frightfully cold out for April and I am still working insane hours at work. All this leads to an incredible sense of frustration. Frustration leads inevitably to overeating which only compounds the problem.

The cycle will eventually break as it gets warmer and cycling and swimming become exercise options and I break the sugar habit again but right now, right this minute it is all about frustration.

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Posted by bernicky - April 19th, 2013

The above video is one of our son James doing stand-up comedy at the famous Montreal Comedy Nest (a frequent venue for the Just For Laughs Festival). Open Mic night is just that an open mic. As long as you are brave enough you can take the stage and try your hand at stand-up. This is a strong bit with a flat part just before he hammers it home with an unexpected wrap up line. The video is just shy of five minutes.

On another comedy front the inevitable doctors follow up appointment turned into something of a laugh fest itself. It seems that the second round of PSA testing (prostate specific antigen) resulted in higher levels the second time around. Round three will be in June and if the levels are higher the third time around it will be time for a visit to the friendly neighbourhood urologist. Woohoo.

Wait, wait, there’s more. After having a look at the troublesome left knee and doing poking, prodding and other sorts of manipulation it is off to the x-ray clinic as he suspects there are definite signs of arthritis. Probably should have mentioned other joint pain – if you ignore it, it will go away has always worked for me.

Wait, wait, there’s more. Another drug has been added to the morning plate. This one is a statin because it seems that the cholesterol level, while being within normal levels, is actually a little higher than doctors like to see in diabetic patients. As Lynn used to say ” ‘Tis to laugh.”

Really though: what is to complain about? The weather is getting warm again. The pavement is clear and ready for bikes. This weekend will mark the start of working back towards being in race shape for this fall. It’s all good. The rest is just background noise which, while distracting, really is just noise the good stuff is that on which you have to keep your eyes trained.

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Still needed…perhaps wanted.

Posted by bernicky - April 17th, 2013

Fifteen hour shifts are not a pleasure but overtime is the occasional necessity for single parents. That our children are 15 and 19 respectively makes it less difficult but not easy. Last week three days were fifteen hour shifts. This week I will be working five, fifteen hour shifts. There will be two more fifteen hour shifts next week and then it will all be done with.

We don’t not talk but we are not talkers. It is not as if when we are home together that there is a non stop chatter amongst us. In truth all of us are quiet in private we don’t talk much. We do things together but talk is not a frequent thing.

Absence can frequently make the awareness of a the need or desire for something. Such seems to be the case with being absent from home so much of late. Our son texted me that he needed to talk but that it wasn’t that important which only begged the question: if it wasn’t that important why did you text me? Our daughter and I normally sit together when she is having supper and we go through a process akin to teeth pulling to get the details of her day and how school and life are going.

Last night upon arriving home our son was still up and explained that he wanted to change his course in CEGEP (something like 1st year College in America) from Communications to Theatre Arts. He seemed a little guarded about the request which was funny since his mother and great grandparents were all theatre people and there was no way that I would say no or otherwise castigate him for making the choice. He wants to do theatre so he can hone his stagecraft for his standup comedy. What Lynn and I always hoped for was happy children and if it will lead to his happiness then so be it. He will be on stage again tonight at the Comedy Nest honing his routine. Not a lot of eighteen year olds doing standup anywhere in the world which makes it all the more impressive to me that he is so committed now to pursuing this course.

After sorting things out with our son I went into my bedroom. The white note paper on my single, unmade bed stood out sharply on the purple sheets. It was a note from our daughter and it is perhaps the sweetest thing she has ever done for me. Here it is.

I hope work wasn’t too stressful today. Lisa and I had fun at Wal Mart and I bought a new game. James and Malcolm hung out and I made them some Pogos (corndogs) and fishsticks for dinner.

I got 71% on my science test which is better than I thought and I got 90% on my math test which I didn’t like -_-

We (me & Sam) finished our sit prob today and I think it was ok (maybe). Sam was kinda upset the teacher was correcting mine not hers which was kind of funny. I’m probably going to forget some of this so I wrote it.

Love you,
goodnight x

Oh yeah, the stairway light stopped working I think

It was true, the bulb in the stairwell leading up to her and her brother’s rooms had burned out and was replaced before I turned in for the night. The note simply made my day and perhaps my year. A simple thing showing that perhaps the simple act of being there is far more important than we may imagine.

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Tide and time

Posted by bernicky - April 15th, 2013

Lynn was the consummate organizer of special events. She loved special events. While our children were young it seemed to me that they must have believed that birthday celebrations were a multi-day multi-event process. There would be the birthday celebration at daycare, the birthday celebration at supper with the family and then the birthday party. At each event there would be cake and merriment though only at the supper and party would there be gifts. The birthday parties were always themed and try as I might last year to develop something along the same lines it didn’t quite work out.

Last year we celebrated with a Tardis cake for our daughter and a Superman cake for our son. Both celebrations were relatively quiet affairs coming as they did four months after Lynn’s death but somehow it seems like she would have managed a better job of it had things been the other way around. The idea that Lynn would have come up with something better or done something this way or that comes frequently to mind. That thought is often a guide for me when making decisions either about the children or about something to do with the house. It could be that most people take a similar approach after they’ve been widowed; I have no way of knowing.

This comes to mind today because our daughter’s last birthday celebration was a little wanting and our son’s 19th is coming up and I still cannot get motivated for birthdays. Birthdays, holidays and special occasions were Lynn’s bailiwick and that was that. I did, and do, the day to day of breakfast, dinner, supper, laundry, home maintenance, grocery shopping et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Holidays and birthdays are just not interesting to me and they never have been. How people can get worked up over the passing of a day on which their mother worked hard but they basically took a breath, cried, pooped and then went to sleep is unclear to me but they do. If anything our son’s impending 19th is simply another confirmation that age happens to everyone. Lynn had a knack for taking these events and making memories of them. It is a knack which is sadly lacking in the three of us who live on.

The pictures which end up in our Shutterfly albums now are less of staged events and more of the day to day. Pictures taken when we go for walks or go for a hike or take a trip. Very little of what we do as a family is planned it simply happens. It could be that, that is a bad thing and I should plan more or it could be that it is a good thing only future recriminations will let me know for certain. I’ve always been more of a free range parent than Lynn was and I continue on in that vein (which explains the Europe trip sans father in some small part). You can never now if you are getting it right you can only hope that you are and keep moving forward because forward is the only option.

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the book of lynn priest – keeping stuff

Posted by bernicky - April 7th, 2013

Normally I can figure out roughly why Lynn kept some piece of paper or another and decide on throwing it out or keeping it depending on what it is. I sat looking at the complete Gazette trying to figure out why on earth she kept it. Could it be the article which featured Meg Roberts about gay marriage and the Unitarian Church? I was putting it section by section into the recycle pile until I noticed the date: June 19, 2003. That was the day that Lynn found out she had breast cancer. That one is a keeper.

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Doing it right

Posted by bernicky - April 7th, 2013

Yesterday was spent sorting through boxes of stuff. It was difficult and the process revealed that my big sister probably had the right approach when dealing with our mother’s recent death. Lynn’s death was fifteen months ago and really the effort to really make a dent in the stuff she left behind has only just begun. While trying to do this last year every time the process was started it took forever to do even the smallest box. Last weekend and yesterday things went quicker than previously but nothing approaching what anyone would describe as quick. Today in lieu of sorting I did groceries, took a few pictures and have been cooking.

Cooking is something which I do because it needs to be done. The kids will not cook for themselves beyond toast, hotdogs or macaroni and cheese. Cooking is also what I do when I am upset.

Strange as it may sound sometimes I don’t know that I am upset or depressed until I realize that I am cooking beyond what is necessary to put food on the table on that particular day. Today I am in the process of making a pot roast, I baked two dozen chocolate chip cookies and three shepherd pies. The sorting will now have to wait until after a bike ride to clear my head.


Shepherds Pies


Pot Roast




Spring buttercups

Spring buttercups

Spring buttercups

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the book of lynn priest – elastic slinger – stephen beauregard

Posted by bernicky - April 5th, 2013

Okay, A favourite Lynnie anecdote. What I always remember first about Lynn is her laugh and her smile. But as you know she had wildly varied range of great facial expressions.

In the box office, Lynnie and I used to fight like cats and dogs. Always good natured and usually born of boredom, it never lasted long. One time during a particularly colourful go-to, I pulled out my most powerful weapon, a RUBBER BAND! Like her fear of baloons popping, she hated rubber bands for fear they would snap. I held up the band, drew it tight and said: ” Lynn, if you don’t shut up I’ll …”

She stood there, rounded her shoulders and squaunched up her face into her best gunslinger expression and said: “Go ahead, do your worst.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or to be very afraid but I put the elastic down and never threatened to use it again.

I’ll never forget that expression. I’ll never forget that face.

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Getting it arranged

Posted by bernicky - April 4th, 2013

The Mega Trip. That is what the trip to Ireland, England, France and Turkey has been dubbed by the relatives. It is a good name for the trip.

The Irish segment has been set with a visit to Ballyduff and a planned excursion to Blarney Castle. The B&B that the kids will be staying at is brilliantly appointed and was just featured on national television. The B&B is called Ard Na Ciuin Guesthouse and while it is a little isolated it is close enough to some interesting sights – Blarney Castle, the Round Tower of Ardmore, Derreennatra Bog and other things they will have stuff to do while visiting their cousin.

Today our cousin from Louton called and we discussed what the kids could do while in London. Camden Market is looking like a definite visit as is the London Eye but the rest is still up in the air. Paris has come together already with a night tour of Paris capped by a visit to the Moulin Rouge, supper on the Seine and a three day pass for bus hopper/boat hopper around Paris which should keep them busy. Turkey hasn’t been planned out yet though we are certain that the Blue Mosque, Aye Sophia and bazaar will be be on the list of places to see.

Everything is coming together.

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