Thursday, March 31, 2011

Singing between classes

Here is an example of Inuit throat singing, performed by a couple of school girls between classes in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. One of the girls makes very interesting sounds. One sound even sounds like a frog.

Inuit throat singing

Photo courtesy:

I’ve always been fascinated with the Canadian north, and I’ve always wanted to go there.

One of the things I find interesting is Inuit throat singing. It sounds strange the first time you hear it, very primeval, but then you realize there is a pattern, and it’s very beautiful.

Originally, Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment among Inuit women while the men were away on hunting trips. In the Inuit language Inuktitut, throat singing is called katajjaq, pirkusirtuk or nipaquhiit depending on the Canadian Arctic region. It was regarded more as a type of vocal or breathing game in the Inuit culture rather than a form of music.

In Inuit throat singing, two Inuit women would face each other either standing or crouching down while holding each other's arms. One would lead with short deep rhythmic sounds while the other would respond. The leader would repeat sounds with short gaps in between. The follower would fill in these gaps with her own rhythmic sounds. Sometimes both Inuit women would be doing a dance like movement like rocking from left to right while throat singing.

The sounds would vary, and often would emulate sounds found in nature. The first woman to run out of breath, laugh or break the rhythmic sequence would be declared the loser of the game.

Sadly inuit throat singing was forbidden by Christian priests for nearly 100 years. Fortunately this ban was lifted some decades ago, and there has been a revival of this art form.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pup on sled

Youngest on sled with pup. Surely he isn't going to ride down the hill with her, is he?

Um, yes he is!

We went sledding on Saturday. Youngest decided Sophie would like to ride the sled down a short hill. To my surprise she liked it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


A friend sent this to me.

Click on picture to make it easier to read.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Canadian Government defeated

Photo Guelph Mercury: The Speaker of the House follows the Sergeant-at-Arms who carries the Mace, which is removed from the House of Commons when Parliament is no longer in session.

By a vote to 156-145, the House of Commons has passed a non-confidence motion against Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, leading to Canada’s 41st election campaign.

Harper will visit Governor General David Johnston (the Queen’s representative in Canada) tomorrow to formally request the dissolution of Parliament.

Canadian Government due to fall this afternoon

LIVE: There is a vote of non-confidence in the Canadian Parliament, and it is widely believed that the Harper Government will fall, with a Canadian Election to be set for early May.

Elections in Canada are short, about 6 weeks in duration.

Being in possession of Oregano at school may get you expelled

Adam Grass, from Chesapeak Virginia, was a candidate for the National Junior Honors Society. He was little more than an innocent bystander to a schoolboy prank.

"One of Adam’s classmates brought in a bag of Oregano as a joke and displayed it to students during lunch. One student said “it looks like pot”. Adam immediately backed away. Another student took possession of the Oregano. Encountering Adam in the bathroom later, that student asked him to return the oregano to the classmate who had brought it to school in the first place. Adam initially agreed, only belatedly realizing that the owner was not in his next class. Adam then gave the oregano to someone who did have class with the owner. At no time, did Adam treat the so-called “substance” as anything other than oregano or intend to deceive anyone about it. Moreover, when school officials intervened and questioned Adam about the matter, he related exactly what happened, which was corroborated by the other students interviewed by administrators and school officers.

Despite the fact that Adam was an unwitting accomplice to what Institute attorneys describe as nothing more than a schoolboy prank, he was shown “zero tolerance” by school officials. As a result, Adam and two other students were given 10-day suspensions pending expulsion for possession and distribution of an imitation controlled substance. Institute attorneys point out that school officials may be misapplying state law in this matter, in addition to violating Adam’s constitutional rights. Specifically, Institute attorneys argue that oregano does not meet the statutory definition of “imitation controlled substance” under Virginia law and Adam did not possess the requisite intent to “give, sell, or distribute” an imitation controlled substance as defined by the Chesapeake School Board in Article XIII of its “Expectation of Conduct and Sanctions for Violation.” Moreover, “Adam had no intent to violate school policy,” Whitehead wrote in his letter. “His intent was merely to convey a harmless bag of oregano back to its rightful owner.”

What's next on their list of "imitation" controlled substances, nutmeg?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

24 hours later

Same photo as yesterday, but 24 hours later.

Today is a beautiful day.
Many people who live outside Ontario may not realize that we get a lot of sunny days in the winter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's nasty out there

I can barely see the woods for the snow.

We're staying home today. Weather is really nasty. Snowing hard, high winds, low visibility. Road was plowed, but it's covered in snow again.

There's about 7 inches of snow so far, and our backyard has about 12 inch snowdrift.

It was so nice and mild last week, but it seems winter is back with a vengeance.

Winter's back!

In answer to hubby’s question “Is it Spring yet?”, well, technically yes. It snowed again last night, and it’s snowing now. It’s quite a heavy snow.

So, let’s just call this a spring snowstorm.

The roads are treacherous, many have not been plowed. Snow is about 4 inches deep so far and still snowing.

Kids have a snow day today.

The Speed River is Speedy

Photo of Speed River at Gow Bridge during Spring, courtesy of J. Saper. To see more of J. Saper's photos, click here.

Last weekend we took the dog for a walk along the Speed River, in Guelph. All the snow had melted, and the weather was very mild.

We used to bring the family up to Guelph during the summer when we lived in Florida. We would rent canoes and canoe on the Speed River. During the summer it was a quiet river with very little current. Hubby would say to me “Why do they call this thing the Speed River, the water barely moves?”. I told him “wait until Spring”.

After the large snowfall melt last week, the waters were very turbulent, like they are in this photo. I love the lighting in this photo, and you can see a church in the upper left hand side. This is Church of our Lady, which is a beautiful catholic church built on a hill which overlooks the downtown area.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Signs, signs, everywhere there are gun signs

Photo 1: Gun sign at shopping mall in Ohio
Photo 2: Gun sign at nursing home in Ohio
Click photo twice to enlarge

As a Canadian living in the US, I was shocked at the number of signs I saw that prohibited guns. I was shocked because it reminded me that so many Americans are armed. The local Starbucks had one. There was even one outside our local Walgreens Drug Store - so I hope the customer filling his prescription is not off his meds today.

Photo 1 is a sign outside a shopping mall near Middletown Ohio. Note, it says “Unless otherwise authorized by law”. It means that if you have a permit to carry a gun, you may. So the sign is virtually useless, since I think most people carry a permit. I imagine the sign is there to satisfy liability requirements for insurance purposes.

Photo 2 is a sign outside hubby's grandmother's nursing home. Very sad.

The signs didn’t make me feel safe, but quite the opposite. These gun signs reminded me that many people are carrying a gun, and although a shooting statistically probably would not happen, it was, however remote, a possibility.

Even more ridiculous, is Florida is a right to shoot state.

Whilst there are many things I liked about the US, I certainly do not miss their gun culture.

Forget state flowers or birds, Utah has an official state gun

Photo courtesy via CNN.

with a 19th century Colt single action Army revolver because it was instrumental in settling “Arizona territory”.

Fantastic! In a country where senseless gun violence is rampant, let’s glorify guns even more.

Will young children in school be forced to learn the different types of state guns, the same way they are taught to memorize state birds and flowers? Let's not stop there, people, let's give away a free official state gun to people registering to vote, applying for a driver licence, paying their property taxes. Woohoo, guns for everyone!

It still sounds like the Wild West to me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

It is Spring yet?

Crocus flowers in melting snow, photo courtesy of Marco Langbroek

I have learned a new Canadian phrase.

According to the weatherman, where I get all my news, Canadians have nicknamed St. Patricks Day "Patio Day". This is about the time they expect a nice spring day and, for the first time in months, they can spend time on their patio.

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, the high reached 60F (16C). The snow on our patio that morning had, indeed, all melted by the afternoon - so - we could see our patio again, but it was too muddy to think of sitting out there yet.

Hubby is very hopeful that spring is finally coming. Was it only a few months ago he was excited every time it snowed? Now, like most Canadians, he is sick of the white stuff, and keeps asking me "Is it Spring yet"? Well....maybe. March can be unpredictable.

The weatherman says we are getting 4 minutes of extra daylight each day. Since our clocks have switched forward, I'm convinced that none of those minutes are in the morning. And look, there's even some brown shredded wheat looking stuff that may one day turn green again and resemble grass.

Alas, no flowers yet, just mud patches where they should be. Until then, I will enjoy looking at the pretty crocus flowers in melting snow.

Forget Florida, we went to Niagara Falls for Spring Break

Niagara Falls is still partly frozen. There is no maid of the mist running, because the river is partially frozen over.

Canadians don't call it spring break. They call it March break.

This week is March break and there is no school. Actually, there isn’t much anything this week, because I think everyone is in Florida. When you get to the Canadian border you will see a sign saying “not home – back in 5 days”.

We took a day trip with the kids to Niagara Falls yesterday. Just 70 miles, and a little over an hour from home. Kids went to Ripley’s Believe it or not, Crystal Caves mirror maze, and several other kitsch places.

The falls are always awesome, wet and noisy. When we were near Horseshoe Falls the mist was so heavy that you could see it floating around along the road and sidewalk.
Another fun day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Inglis Falls

Photo 1: Inglis Falls as it usually looks. Photo courtesy: John Vetterli

Photo 2: Inglis Falls yesterday, covered in ice. Only the top part of the waterfall is visible. The waterfall goes through a canopy of snow and ice and comes out the bottom. I bet it'll look awesome when it melts and the ice breaks away.

Just beautiful!

Birthday fun in the sun.....and snow

Having fun on the Bruce Trail.

The kids are off school here this week for March break.

We are fortunate in South Western Ontario to be surrounded by 3 great lakes. Yesterday we went to Owen Sound for the day. Owen Sound is a town on a large peninsula of water (also called Owen Sound) off Georgian Bay which is part of Lake Huron. It is a very popular resort area. Much of the water in Owen Sound was covered in ice. It was amazing to see such a large body of water partially covered in ice. The water there is so pure that the ice boulders on top of the water were tinged with blue.

Later we went to Inglis Falls and the Bruce Trail. We travelled 2 hours north of Guelph, and the snow here is much deeper. Here is the family walking along a trail on the Bruce Trail. We saw snowshoe tracks, and there is a very good reason for this. The snow here is very deep, and as soon as we stepped off the tracks we sank about 2 feet into the snow. Even the pup realized to keep on the track. It was such a fun day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm dreaming of a white birthday

It's my birthday today. There is still snow on the ground, but it's going to be a sunny day, so we'll probably go out and do something fun.

Kids are off school this week for March break. We are still in the habit of calling it Spring break. Spring break in Florida isn't for another 2 weeks. I guess the Floridians can't get anywhere near the beaches this week since a large portion of the Ontario population has gone to Florida. I can't really blame them, it's the "I'm really sick of winter" time of year.

Hubby has done really well for his first winter, but everytime the temperature momentarily spikes above freezing he keeps asking "Is it Spring yet?"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Boy faints near Prime Minister Harper

Photo 1: The gap behind the PM where the student fell. Photo: The Canadian Press
Photo 2: The PM visited the student before he left.

Prime Minister Harper visited a Guelph school last Friday. The students were standing behind the PM as he was answering questions. One boy started to fidget, then he passed out. Nothing happened for a moment, and the students looked shocked. Then they all filed off the platform behind the PM, an adult came and helped the poor boy off, and then some students shuffled back on again and voila, they replaced the boy with ANOTHER KID! Just like that. And this is Canada and as you Usian readers often tell us, we don’t have a lot of people here, so I’m impressed ;)

Seriously, though, I felt really bad for the boy, since this was being televised live. I would say to him that there’s no need to feel embarrassed, and you are not the first boy to pass out behind PM Harper.

A few years ago at a conservative party conference another boy standing behind PM Harper also passed out. It’s probably hot standing for a long time under those lights.

So, I’d say to the student who fainted, it's ok. Don’t feel embarrassed as it could have happened to anyone, especially if you skip breakfast. Given time you will realize you have an interesting story to tell.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Columbine style school massacre avoided

Seminole High School is a high school near where we used to live in Florida. Hubby used to be a substitute teacher there, and many of elder boy's closest friends still attend this school.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Nathaniel Zeno, a 16-year-old tenth grader at Seminole High School in Pinellas County, Florida, was planning to pull off the next Columbine massacre
. Zeno was making a list of firearms he would need, and attempting to recruit kids who had a history of cruelty to animals to participate in his planned massacre. He had been reading up extensively on Columbine, and had written a detailed plan on how he was going to carry this out.

Luckily, a staff member at the school noticed him walking around the school making notations on the map. Pinellas deputies believe that had Zeno been able to get his hands on a firearm, he probably would have turned up at school one day and carried this out.

Zeno made a confession on the last posting on his block on Friday March 4th stating:

"To anyone who reads this, I might be going to jail. I planned to shoot up my school and was caught marking up a map. This is not a joke. If I don't send another journal within a week I'm in jail. To my friends, goodbye and good luck."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Forget exam results, let's think Danish pastry instead

Cherry Danish pastries from Panera Bread.

Yesterday we went stateside to visit Buffalo for the day.

Unfortunately, ever since the US border nightmare incident when we moved to Canada, our kids don't want to go to the US at all, so we chose to go on a school day and leave the kids in school in Canada.

We were really impressed with Buffalo. We’re used to crossing the border at Detroit, but Buffalo is only 90 miles from home. Buffalo looked well cared for, and there were pretty parks.

So, we went to all our old favourite haunts from Florida. Moe’s for lunch. I love it when they say “Welcome to Moe’s” when you walk through the door. We walked around Target a bit, found a t-shirt for oldest boy. So hard to find any clothing teenagers like. Did some price comparisons for fun and found that many prices were similar to Canadian prices.

As we were only in the US a few hours we had $0 allowance on return to Canada, so we couldn’t really shop. It seemed weird to go to all your favourite stores and know you technically cannot buy anything – kind of like being there, but not being there. We weren’t planning on buying anything anyway, and figured the t-shirt and some snacks would be ok. I know lots of Canadians buy clothing during a day trip and wear them home, but we’re new to this border shop thing and just wanted a fun day out and some lunch.

Next, we had to find our favourite Hershey Symphony bars to stock up on, and we found a place on Delaware called Premium Gourmet that sells Boar’s Head Turkey Salsalito. We used to buy that at Publix in Florida, so we were happy to find it there. Went to Panera Bread for coffee and a cherry danish pastry, then came home.

Weather was sunny, and everyone seemed in a good mood. When we arrived at Buffalo the US border guard was pleasant, looked at our US passports and waved us through, so we weren’t hassled at the US border either.

What a fun day!

Exam Results Pending

Still waiting for exam results, uggh! The exam had to be sent to Toronto, so these things take longer here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Exam today

I was a real estate broker in Florida for 20 years, with my own brokerage.

In Ontario I’m starting over at the beginning. The real estate licensing course in Ontario is very demanding. The past couple of months I’ve been studying to become a licensed real estate salesperson. I still have to take more exams to become a real estate broker again.

This morning at 9:00 I sit the real estate exam.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Despite being homeless student excels at school

Photo courtesy Cherie Diez, St Petersburg Times.

Tina Giarla, 18, center, a senior at Pinellas Park High, talks with seniors Andrea Ezell, 18, and Steven Preston, 17, at school this month. Tina has succeeded and is college bound despite a rocky home life that included many moves over the years.

Here is an uplifting story regarding a high school student in Pinellas County, Florida. Technically homeless, she has worked hard to get good grades and has even won a scholarship to college.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

From backyard pools to backyard rinks

Many of our neighbours in Florida had backyard swimming pools. In Ontario many of our neighbours have backyard hockey rinks like this one. Often when we go for a walk we will see kids playing hockey.

Yesterday was just one of those days

Yesterday was just one of those days where the snow was powder perfect. We took a long walk in the woods and it was so beautiful.

There are several ponds nearby with hockey nets set up. We heard a “whacking” sound, and found a pond with some kids slamming pucks into the net.

Enjoying winter

Sophie enjoying her walk in the snow.