Archive for August, 2007

With family visiting, we are tourists in our own backyard again. Yesterday, African Lion Safari was our day trip.

Situated about an hour west of Toronto, the park is possibly the best cross-generational attraction in the area.

You can drive around the safari zone in your vehicle at your own pace. Repeat tours are no extra charge. There are also tour buses if you want the guided experience.

As well as the safari, there are several excellent activities including a falconry / birds of prey flying demonstration, a trained elephant show, guided boat and rail tours, as well as the usual kids’ essentials, such as a water park and climbing frames.

The safari and frequent demonstrations were excellent. Ouside the safari zone, distances between attractions are easily walkable, even in yesterday’s blistering heat. Line-ups were minimal.

A fine day was had by all. For a party of six (five at adult rate), a full day’s entertainment was under $200.

Here are a few of the day’s quirkier shots.

The welcome mat:

canadian safari humour

Rhino through tinted glass:


This ostrich vets all vehicles:

hail the ostrich


you WILL hail the ostrich

The lions do their usual thing:

lion around as per

But the giraffes were more active:

boneless giraffe necks

The elephants know a trick or two:

four legs good - two legs better?

Slam trunk?

elephant hoops - african lion safari

Feeding frenzies take place at random intervals:

am I the food? - african lion safari

This bald eagle looks impressive:

bald eagle swooping - african lion safari

A baboon family goes about its day:

baboon family african lion safari

And we enjoyed going about ours.

African Lion Safari: Strong candidate for best day out in the Toronto area.


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Summit to hide?

The use of undercover police agents at the Montebello summit in Quebec has caused an uproar in Canada. Attended by North American leaders George Bush, Stephen Harper, and Felipe Calderon, the summit was bound to attract protestors.

A YouTube video shows three masked men mingling with protesters in front of riot police. One of the masked men has a rock in his hand.

The police have admitted that the men were undercover agents, but deny they were agents provocateurs whose aim was to incite violence and discredit the protests.

“I confirm (to) you that there are no agents provocateurs in the Sûreté du Québec. . . It doesn’t exist in the Sûreté du Québec,” said Constable Melanie Larouche.

Undercover agents or agents provocateurs?

Few people deny that there is a role for undercover agents in many police investigations: Drug gangs and paedophile circles are two obvious examples.

But public protests? Here, the justification is much shakier.

Let’s draw an analogy.

If I make a complaint in a restaurant, I’ll call the waiter over and explain the problem. I might ask to see the manager. There will naturally be a bit of tension, but I’ll be calm and reasonable.

If a stranger stood by my side wearing a bandanna and carrying a large rock, the tension in the restaurant would be ratcheted skywards, with many people put on edge.

And what was the agent that provoked this excess tension?

I know the restaurant context is somewhat removed from a political protest.

However, the basic point remains: If I choose to protest peacefully against government policies, I don’t want to stand next to masked undercover agents who are carrying big rocks.

The optics look wrong – from all angles.

Errors of judgement are common in politics. However, when the global defender of democracy comes to town, Canada should make every effort to show the world that the voices of the people will be heard loud and clear.

Story link here:

Sûreté du Québec to review practices

Video here:


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Smile – it’s Friday

I was going to post something about the protests in Montebello, Quebec, but have opted for light relief instead – it is Friday after all. This isn’t original content, but I hadn’t seen some of these before. From a message board I read and probably from lots of other places:

Greg Scott: We’re looking for an occupation beginning with ‘T’.
Contestant: Doctor.
Scott: No, it’s ‘T’. ‘T’ for Tommy. ‘T’ for Tango. ‘T’ for Tintinnabulation.
Contestant: Oh, right . . . (pause) . . . Doctor.

Jamie Theakston: Where do you think Cambridge University is?
Contestant: Geography isn’t my strong point.
Theakston: There’s a clue in the title.
Contestant: Leicester.

Stewart White: Who had a worldwide hit with What A Wonderful World?
Contestant: I don’t know.
White: I’ll give you some clues: what do you call the part between your hand and your elbow?
Contestant: Arm.
White: Correct. And if you’re not weak, you’re . . .?
Contestant: Strong.
White: Correct – and what was Lord Mountbatten’s first name?
Contestant: Louis.
White: Well, there we are then. So who had a worldwide hit with the song What A Wonderful World?
Contestant: Frank Sinatra?

DJ Mark: For 10 pounds, what is the nationality of the Pope?
Ruth from Rowley Regis: I think I know that one. Is it Jewish?

Anne Robinson: In traffic, what ‘J’ is where two roads meet?
Contestant: Jool carriageway?

Bamber Gascoigne: What was Gandhi’s first name?
Contestant: Goosey, goosey?

Presenter: What is the name of the long- running TV comedy show about
pensioners: Last Of The …?
Caller: Mohicans.

Q: Which American actor is married to Nicole Kidman?
A: Forrest Gump.

Leslie: On which street did Sherlock Holmes live?
Contestant: Er . . .
Leslie: He makes bread .. .
Contestant: Er . . .
Leslie: He makes cakes .. .
Contestant: Kipling Street?

Presenter: Which is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?
Contestant: Barcelona.
Presenter: I was really after the name of a country.
Contestant: I’m sorry, I don’t know the names of any countries in Spain.

Question: What is the world’s largest continent?
Contestant: The Pacific

Presenter: Name a film starring Bob Hoskins that is also the name of a famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Contestant: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

O’Brien: How many kings of England have been called Henry?
Contestant: Er, well, I know there was a Henry the Eighth … er . . . er . . . three?

Ulrika Jonsson: Who wrote Lord of the Rings?
Contestant: Enid Blyton

Daryl Denham: In which country would you spend shekels?
Contestant: Holland?
Denham: Try the next letter of the alphabet.
Contestant: Iceland? Ireland?
Denham (helpfully): It’s a bad line. Did you say Israel?
Contestant: No.

Dale Winton: Skegness is a seaside resort on the coast of which sea: a)
Irish Sea, b) English Channel, c) North Sea?
Contestant: Oh, I know that, you can start writing out the cheque now,
Dale. It’s on the east coast, so it must be the Irish Sea.

Presenter: What religion was Guy Fawkes?
Contestant: Jewish.
Presenter: That’s close enough.

Chris Moyles: Which ‘S’ is a kind of whale that can grow up to 80 tonnes?
Contestant: Ummm .. .
Moyles: It begins with ‘S’ and rhymes with ‘perm’.
Contestant: Shark.

Wright: Johnny Weissmuller died on this day. Which jungle-swinging character clad only in a loincloth did he play?
Contestant: Jesus.

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For anyone who has managed to miss the Paul Potts’ phenomenon, here is his first audition on Britain’s Got Talent. Just double click on the “play button” in the middle of the screen:

He’s a bit good, isn’t he?


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 In most marriages and long-term cohabitations, each partner’s approach to domestication can cause friction.

Typically, flashpoints will include the build-up of dryer lint, toast crumb accumulation, misuse of shower curtain, or failure to replenish fresh cat litter.

Over time, reactions to these domestic flashpoints can develop in a number of ways. In fact, the continued success of the relationship may depend upon the nature of this development. Here are three possible scenarios:

In scenario one, the flashpoints assume nuclear proportions. As a result, other areas of irritation can mushroom at an alarming rate. New flashpoints may involve flagrant margarine melting, sock clutter, and a cavalier approach to toothpaste caps. Relationship meltdown can rapidly ensue.

Scenario two is far more idyllic. Idiosyncratic domestic habits become warm and familiar reminders of your uniquely adorable partner. Just strolling around the house witnessing the spray of evidence becomes pure pleasure.  

“Ah bless, the bathroom floor is dripping through to the lounge ceiling again.”

“Aw look, see how the light of my life leaves eighteen pairs of shoes tossed about the hallway.”

“My sweet love has once again left last week’s pool of cat vomit in the basement, despite promising to clean it up – mmm.”

 Idyllic, yes, but there’s something unnerving about this mental shift.

Scenario three is, I suspect, the most typical. Yes, it’s that sigh of acceptance. It’s those raised eyebrows of resignation, the bowed back of domestic martyrdom. The years ahead can look like a long and dusty road.

As usual, nature has provided the perfect solution. At least for many.

The solution is mind-blowingly simple.

Pay the natural offspring. Just pay the kids to mop up after the aberrant habits. Just give each kid a list of five chores. The solution assumes an average of two kids per couple.

In the solution, each partner is allowed to choose five chores which will address the annoying habit consequences of the other. Also, each partner is then allowed to carry on with their shamefully uncivilised habits.

 If there are more than five habits, you’ll simply have to make (or adopt) more children.

For the cash outlay, the North American term of “allowance” is perfect. “Pocket money” doesn’t quite cover it here.

Upshot: Both partners get to keep their worst habits, both partners are happy that they won’t have to deal with the fallout, and the kids get cold hard cash (plus happy parents). Domestic bliss ensues.

Interestingly, when we compiled our post-nuptial allowance lists, my sheet of paper listing my wife’s annoying habits remained absolutely blank. Idyllic or what?

The kids seem busy with the other list, though.

Anyone got a list to share?


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I love New Year’s Day.

A time of hope and optimism.

Woefully misguided? Perhaps.

Sometimes, the hope lasts until Christmas. Then, you’re tempted to really start believing.

No, not that New Year’s Day. Or the Chinese one. Or the others. They’re just feeble excuses to overeat, drink to excess, and desecrate fountains.

I’m talking about the proper one. The one by which notable events in history are solemnly recorded.

That’s right: The English football season kicks off today.

My team, the legendary Barnsley FC, has a storied 120-year history littered with glory and landfills’ worth of silverware. There’s an excess of garbage-related vocabulary in that last sentence. And for good reason.

One particular Barnsley game has acquired unmentionable status in our household. Quite simply, days are all the better for not going there.

The game-that-must-not-be-named is the Division One (now the ChampionshipWembley play-off final of 2000 between Barnsley and Ipswich Town.

There, I named it, but fear not, fellow blogging wizards; the Expatronus Curse doesn’t work in the blogosphere.

In early 2000, we were weighing up the pros and cons of moving from England to my wife’s native Canada.

The scales were delicately poised.

Now, I wouldn’t claim to be the most obsessive football fan in the world. Because I’ve met people like that.

But I have invested significant amounts of time, travel, and money in watching and playing the greatest game in the world. Yeah, I know, there are other sports, but they’re not real religions are they?

For Barnsley, in May 2000, victory in the play-off final would have meant a return to the Premiership: The top tier of English football.

For our family, victory would have meant that the balance of our emigration decision would swing towards remaining in the UK.

 Three key moments stand out from the game.

Key moment number one: Delirium

After just six minutes, Craig Hignett, our midfield maestro, unleashed a high-velocity drive from over 30 metres. The ball thumped against the crossbar, bounced off the keeper, and rolled into the Ipswich net. The massed ranks of 35,000 ex-miners and their red-bedecked kith and kin exploded in wondrous disbelief. Barnsley 1-0 Ipswich.

Key moment number two: Despondency

Just before half-time, with the score at 1-1, Barnsley were awarded a penalty kick. It was the perfect moment to take control of the game. Darren Barnard fluffed it. And the scales of emigration tipped west.

In the second half, Barnsley looked shell-shocked. We weren’t even at the races. At 3-1 behind, the game seemed lost.

However, Barnsley clawed their way back into the game. After a penalty brought us back to 3-2, we pressed for an equaliser.

And so very nearly got one.

Key moment number three: Anguish 

An inch perfect cross was met by Georgi Hristov: Our most expensive signing ever. He was directly in front of the Ipswich goal. It was Georgi’s moment to etch his name in the Barnsley seams of history.

Georgi sent the ball powerfully goalward.

In our minds’ eyes, 35, 000 fans saw the net billow. We rose as one to salute the dream comeback. But the mind’s eye is capable of mindless blindness. Especially in a crowd.

barnsley fans wembley play-off final 2000

It wasn’t to be.

Reacting on pure instinct, the Ipswich goalkeeper, Richard Wright, pulled off the save of the match and managed to beat the ball away.

A standard football game lasts around ninety minutes, but its defining points are often played out in nanoseconds.

With our heads still shaking slowly, Ipswich scored a breakaway goal in the dying seconds to make it 4-2 and kill the game off.

On the day, Ipswich deserved their win. But the game could easily have gone Barnsley’s way.

Back at home, I knew that someone was secretly pleased to see that save.

But she had had the goodness of heart (and good sense!) to hope openly for a Barnsley victory.

For the rest of us in London, we trudged away from Wembley, had a disconsolate curry in King’s Cross, and took the train back north.

Meanwhile, the scales dipped and the family compass swung west.

And six months later, we were all in Canada in time for New Year’s Day. The other New Year.

What’s that you say? You didn’t think I was shallow and irrational enough to base a key life decision on something as insanely trivial as a football result?

Hey, if you want logic, that’s what all those tech sites are for!

But today’s New Year is all about memories revisited and hopes renewed.

Season’s greetings. May all your dream goals come true.

Happy 2007/2008!

For a more balanced match report, see the BBC version here.


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Erin over at Prairie Road was kind enough to tag me with a relatively easy set of self-revelatory questions. Here goes:

4 jobs I’ve had:
1) Saline Bag Preparer, Tilburg, Holland
2) Regional Water Pressure Monitor, UK
3) College Professor, Ontario
4) Nightporter, Switzerland

4 films I could watch over and over:
1) The Three Colours trilogy
2) Groundhog Day
3) Kes
4) Jean de Florette / Manon des Sources

4 Places I have lived:
1) Scarborough, England
2) Davos, Switzerland
3) Issoire, France
4) Ontario, Canada

4 Favourite TV shows:
1) House
2) Six Feet Under
3) Only Fools and Horses
4) The Young Ones

4 Favourite Foods:
1) Goan fish curry
2) Stilton
3) Pistachio nuts
4) Bananas

4 Websites I visit everyday:
1) Guardian
2) My blog
3) BBC
4) Barnsley FC message forum

4 Places I would love to be:
1) Corsica, France
2) The Lake District, England
3) Tamil Nadu, India
4) Strines Inn, South Yorkshire, England

4 Favourite Colours:
1) Red
2) Green
3) Terracotta
4) Black

4 Names I love but would/could not use for my children:
Sorry, can’t think of any!

With the same questions, I tag Allison, Tim, Tiny Bellows, and Rhetorically Sterculian.

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