October 2002 Archives

Gloria Gaynor eat your heart out!

Picture this: 27 kids, somewhere around 11 years old, in costumes and make-up, who have spent an hour in the gym playing Hallowe'en games (including those gross-out favourites in which you deliberately stick your hand in cold spaghetti labelled "Intestines"), all excited about Trick-or-Treating to come. They have all (and I mean ALL) brought in candy from home - more candy than my kids collected on their rounds last night. Presumably, the parental thinking behind this was that their particular child could share with classmates - but since every other kid's parents thought the same thing, each kid has a massive bag of sugar to munch on steadily over the course of the day.

Final ingredient: a substitute teacher. Namely, me.

Oh, and did I mention that their regular teacher left me to assign them 3 pages of math homework due the next day? You don't understand the concept of "plaintive" until you've heard a chorus of kids shouting "but Miss, it's Hallowe'en!"

But I survived! And from what I hear from the other teachers, and from my aunt, who has been teaching elementary school for, like, ever, Hallowe'en is scary even if you're not the substitute. So, if I can get through October 31st, I can handle just about any other day.

My day started at 10:10, although I showed up about an hour beforehand to fill out the requisite forms for the school board files (scariest part of Hallowe'en? Starting the day with forms in one's second language from the federal and provincial tax people). The teacher I was replacing left a very complete set of instructions, so it was relatively easy to get through the various classes. I started in the gym, helping to supervise the activities mentioned above. Then I "helped" the 2nd Grade teacher (in other words, sat in the class while she corrected their homework with them).

It was only well after 11 a.m. that I finally met "my" class, for a half hour Religion class. Nothing too complex or oppressive, they were working on artwork they made for an anti-violence campaign. After lunch, I helped in the Kindergarten class for an hour, which was fun. The teacher had a great activity - she had a huge pumpkin on lots and lots of the brown paper that no kindergarten class should be without. The kids sat around the pumpkin and took turns pulling out the seeds and pumpkin guts. Then they had to guess how many seeds there were, and then count them all. It was great! Some of the kids were right in there, digging away, and others were squeamish, but not for long. There were 153 seeds.

Finally, I ended the day with the infamous math assignment with the Grade 6 class. We managed to do about half the assignment in class, so they didn't have quite so much homework. Plus I totally blamed their regular teacher for the homework. I definitely do not want to teach at this level on a permanent basis, but it's kinda fun to be in that environment once in a while. And the kids were not bad - one boy gave me some of his candy, a girl took my picture (brought the camera for Hallowe'en, I assume) and (this is the part that makes me happiest) the one boy that the other teachers warned me about (and I mean, low whispers in the hallway, sinister type warnings) was an angel.

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.

Sigh

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:

after4.jpg

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 :P

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:

after4.jpg

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.

Hmph.

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