Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last flight of shuttle Discovery today

The space shuttle Discovery lifts off for the first time on August 30, 1984, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, courtesy Associated Press.

We lived on the West coast of Florida. The shuttle blasts off from Cape Canaveral on the East Coast. Today is the last flight of Discovery, which faces museum retirement as the space shuttle program winds down.

Our family has watched live shuttle launches for years. My Floridian kids grew up with space shuttle launches and find them “ordinary”. We had a routine when there was a shuttle launch. We would watch the beginning of the launch on tv, then we would run out to the backyard to watch the eastern sky for the tell tale plume of smoke. Many neighbours would be in their backyards also watching. A few days later when the shuttle returned we would hear a double boom which shook the windows. This was was the sonic boom as the shuttle broke the sound barrier on its return to Cape Canaveral.

One morning the shuttle came in very early and the sonic boom shook the windows and woke us up. Another time we saw a night launch, which was spectacular.

In 2003 we were waiting for the sonic boom of the returning Columbia. We turned the tv on to track the shuttle’s progress back to Florida and instead watched live coverage of the Columbia disaster.

Discovery is the last of the 3 original orbiters. Discovery has flown 38 times, orbited Earth more than 5,000 times and spent nearly a year in space. It's hard to believe its almost 30 years old!

Here in Ontario it’ll seem strange to watch the shuttle launch on tv with no need to run outside and check the sky.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The students are running the show at Pinellas Park Middle School

A recent fight at Pinellas Park Middle School courtesy St Petersburg Times

This week Pinellas Park Middle School, in Pinellas County, Florida was in the paper reporting 50 arrests since September. This is in addition to almost 466 suspensions, making it a very violent school. There is still another ½ year of school, so one wonders what those numbers will be at the end of the school year.

Hubby was a substitute math teacher, and he saw firsthand the discipline problems. Things got so bad that he refused to work at several schools, and Pinellas Park Middle was one of them. Students would often swear at teachers and disrupt the class. It was extremely difficult to teach. The administration at this school does nothing to help their teachers.

Now, according to Chris Schafer, former president of the Schools Advisory Council for Pinellas Park Middle School, he is aware of;

This is not the only violent school. It’s just the school that currently has the highest arrest numbers currently.

Last year this time John Hopkins Middle School, also in Pinellas County, Florida had similar arrest/suspension numbers to Pinellas Park Middle. By the end of the school year this school had 1192 suspensions at 122 arrests. The school has 1209 students in grades 6 to 8. That’s almost the entire student population.

Almost all of the schools in Pinellas County have a high number of student arrests and suspensions. Are schools like this elsewhere in the US or is it just Florida?

Something is definitely not working. Why are so many children being arrested? Why is there so much violence? Many school administrators simply have the school resource officer arrest and take the child to jail rather than deal with the issue at school before it gets out of hand. How can any child get an education with all the classroom disruptions?

Compare to local schools in Ontario, zero arrests. I believe suspensions are also low. I have asked the children what happens at school, and apart from children sometimes being chatty in class when the teacher is trying to get their attention, they are not aware of their classmates being sent out of the classroom or disrupting lessons.

Why is there such a difference between Florida schools and Ontario schools? I wish I knew, but it seems that American children also deserve to go to a safe school where they can learn.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Should it be a crime to leave school at lunchtime?

“Off campus during lunch? Florida lawmakers think it oughta be a crime”

“So the cafeteria lunch stinks and McDonalds is just around the corner. Big deal that you just need a few minutes to clear your head and get away from it all.

Two Miami-Dade lawmakers want to make it illegal to leave high school at lunch time and empower police to arrest students who do.

Rep. Esteban Bovo Jr. and Sen. Rene Garcia, both Hialeah Republicans, have filed identical 
bills saying simply: "A public high school student may be arrested for leaving school grounds during his or her designated lunch period. District school boards shall implement this section by July 1, 2015."

The above is from

A major difference between schools in the US and Canada, is the Canadian high schools allow their students to leave school grounds at lunchtime. When he started school in Ontario my eldest couldn’t believe it when he was allowed to walk with his friends to the local mall (5 mins from school) and order a subway sandwich for lunch. In addition, he has an hour for lunch, so he has time to eat, and make friends. Just a little bit of freedom has made a big difference for him. Yes, all the students come back to school after lunch.

In the US, he was not allowed to leave the school grounds, and often ate lunch alone because of the staggered lunch schedule. If he did have the same lunch as a friend, he had to decide whether to eat, or have a conversation, since he only had 20 minutes to eat, and 5 minutes to get from class to the cafeteria, and 5 minutes to get back to class from the cafeteria. Bathroom breaks were only allowed 3 times per semester, so he wasn’t allowed to do that either. It seemed like way to much control. He told a Canadian friend that he wasn’t allowed to leave campus during lunch and they asked “were you in prison, or in school”. It seemed unbelievable to his friends in Canada that everything was so strict. Additionally, his classrooms had no windows, and there were security cameras everywhere with a direct stream to the Pinellas County Sheriff's office, and 3 armed school resource officers wearing bullet proof vests continually roamed the school hallways. My son went to one of the most sought after schools in the county.

Now two Florida lawmakers was to criminalize children for leaving school at lunchtime. It seems to me if you give the children a little responsibility most will return after lunch. After all, they go home in the evening and come back the next day – or do we want to keep students at the schools overnight to make sure they return to class the next day?

Aren’t we arresting too many American children from school?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ontario experiencing tropical like temperatures

Photo courtesy Douglas R. Clifford, St Petersburg Times.

The weatherman said Southern Ontario will experience tropical like temperatures today. Or rather, he said after the sub-zero temperatures we have become used to, it will feel like sub-tropical temperatures.

Today’s high will be 9C (48F). It feels warm, and we’ve thrown the windows open for some lovely fresh air. Much of the snow has melted, and we are left with mud. With the warm weather, and the evenings getting lighter, hubby thinks spring is here, but I told him, not yet. Weather is due to turn cold again tonight, -6C (21F) and more snow is expected. This is just our little warm spell before more winter, and the snow was getting dirty and needed refreshing.

Now, look at the above picture. Looks better than the mud, doesn’t it? It was taken yesterday at Clearwater Beach, in Florida, where it was hot 25C (77F) and sunny. It’s tourist season in Florida now. The beaches are too crowded for the locals, and we stayed away from the beaches until later when there were less people and the temperature was warmer. We prefered going to the beach when the temperature was in the 90F (32C) range and the water was hot! Still, looks like fun, when we are in the middle of “mud season”.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cool way to go to school in Ontario

School children take this Air boat across a portion of Lake Simcoe from Georgina Island so they can get to school. Before the airboat, the children had to live on the mainland during the week so they could go to school.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

De-Icing Planes at Pearson Airport Toronto

This is interesting to watch. Courtesy Chris So, Toronto Star

Click to large screen for full effect.







Saturday, February 12, 2011

From hot climate to cold climate

From recess on the beach, when the younger two were homeschooled, to playing in the snow in the backyard. 

Is he really going to dump that snow on his brother's head? I hope not!

As far as moves go, we couldn't have gone for a bigger change. Moving from a very hot climate to a very cold climate. Sometimes it fun to compare the two. It's hard to believe it was only a few very short months ago we were on the beach in Florida.

Tobogganing at recess

Local children tobogganing during recess, under watchful eyes of their teachers. I heard one teacher saying to a child that he mustn’t roll down the hill, it was safer that he ride down the hill on his sled.

There was much laugher and happiness until the bell rang, and then there was a collective “Aw”, as they had to go back inside again.


Snowbanks are getting really high along the side of the road. It makes the neighbourhood look a bit like a lunar surface. We’re having lots of beautiful sunny days, but they tend to be the coldest days.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Venice, Paris, and Guelph?

Duncan Street leading to St. George’s Anglican Church. With century old limestone buildings in a beautiful historic downtown area Guelph has that European ambience.

I had to smile when I read an article this morning in the Toronto Star stating that Guelph is the most romantic city in Ontario, beating out Toronto.

It’s interesting how Guelph won that title. ranks the cities based on per capita sales of romance books. You mean that because Guelphites love Harlequin romance novels, we’re the number 1 romantic destination in Ontario? Maybe we’re just lonely, and reading romance novels makes up for something lacking in our real lives? Hardly a romantic destination when you think of it that way.

I think Guelph is a romantic city, but not for the same reasons Amazon says we are.

The town is full of old world European charm. Add to that mix two beautiful rivers, tea houses, and lots of conservation area, set right next to rolling countryside, and I think it’s a very romantic spot.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Will my US born sons be stripped of their US citizenship?

Birthright citizenship looms as the next big immigration battle in the US. Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the father of the anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, has a new target in his cross hairs. "Anchor babies," the ugly epithet used to label children born of undocumented immigrants. He has even stated that an anchor baby is a baby born to a mother who is not a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth. Note the word “mother”. Senator Pearce states that only non-US citizen mothers "drop anchor babies", and that fathers do not. My sons' US born father does not matter to Senator Pearce.

My children may be considered anchor babies, depending on how this legislation is written, since I was not a US citizen at the time my children were born. Does it matter that I was a “legal immigrant” the entire time I resided in the United States? It should! However, this immigrant hysteria has blurred the line between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants. Read this article "In any case, the proposal to abolish birthright citizenship also importantly applies to documented immigrants, even green card holders. So even children of fully legal immigrants should not, according to the bill, become citizens either."

Or read this article: "Birthright citizenship. Anchor babies. Both terms refer to the automatic conferring of American citizenship on any child born in the United States to an illegal immigrant or
non-citizen mother which must be stopped".

The words "non-citizen mother" mean my children are considered anchor babies, and this puts them at risk of being stripped of their US citizenship.

I have followed this legislation closely. It all comes down to semantics.

The key phrase that this legislation hinges on is whether or not the mother was “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. Sometimes the phrase “illegal immigrant” mother is used, and other times the words “non-citizen” mother is used. They are not interchangeable. If the legislation rolls as currently worded with “non-citizen” mother, then my sons are affected and may be stripped of their US citizenship and their birth certificates could be cancelled, while their mother is now a US citizen since she naturalized after they were born. This would be ironic!

Should birthright citizenship be abolished, it will create a new set of (through no fault of their own) stateless people who were born in the US. This is just heartless!

This immigrant hysteria is a big reason why I got my family out of the US.

As an immigrant I just didn't belong there.

Meanwhile, my (US citizen) immigrant husband has been living in Canada for 4 months now, and Canadians have made him very welcome.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First snow day!

Photo courtesy

We’ve had “hurricane” days in Florida where the schools close. Today the kids get their first “snow” day. They are so happy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From Hurricanes to Blizzards

Photo: courtesy noaa.

We have gone from preparing for hurricanes to preparing for a blizzard. All of southwestern Ontario is under a severe winter storm watch.

Having lived in Florida for years, we have lots of experience preparing for hurricanes. There would be several days warning of a hurricane, and everyone would rush out to the grocery store, or Home Depot/Lowes, and buy supplies. Shelves would be stripped bare of water, batteries, plywood, in a few hours. There were long lines at the gas pumps as people filled up in anticipation of evacuating if the hurricane was very strong. If you didn’t go early you were out of luck. The pace was frenetic. The neighbourhood sounded like a construction site as neighbours sawed plywood and hammered it in place over their windows.

Preparing for a winter snowstorm has a much calmer feel to it. We went to the grocery store yesterday to get groceries to make sure we had food in for a few days. There were no special stocks of batteries, and water. The store wasn’t busier than usual. No line ups at the gas pump.

What I appreciate is I don’t have to worry that my house is going to blow away or agonize over whether to evacuate. If the weather gets bad all we have to do is stay home. The biggest concern seems to be loss of power, so we will make sure the house stays warm, we have flashlights and batteries, and our cell phones are charged.

The kids are really hoping they get a snow day.