Archive for the ‘life of surprisesaplenty’ Category

Enjoying a short winter- perhaps only because it is short

January 7, 2014

On January 14, my son and I fly back to South Korea.  In Busan today, the temperature is +6C.

Here in Penetanguishene, schools, roads, well, everything is closed because of the blizzard.  The wind is howling and dumping snow and the temperature is below -15C even before wind chill is taken into account.

My son and had fun today anyway.

Winter started early with a lot of snow in early December.  I seem to remember lasting snow only falling around Christmas (and falling for the next ten days straight, but not until then)  This winter, it has been early and constant.

blizzard jan 7 (1 b)

We had to go out the garage door because the front door is snowed in.blizzard jan 7 (2 b)

Even the back door is blocked up.  The wind has actually pushed snow through the screen door so snow has piled up between the doors.blizzard jan 7 (4 b)

Once outside, we built a quinzee.  Outside, the wind was strong and the temp around -15C.  Inside the snow house, there was no wind and the temp was much closer to 0C.  The main problem was having our glasses fog up in the quinzee (1 b)

If we were staying in Ontario for the whole winter, we might soon get sick of the weather.  A short but real winter (again, in Busan it is miserably cool but not cold enough for sledding or making snowmen) is fun and I’m glad to have had the chance to enjoy it.

I sure hope our flight isn’t delayed though.

Late Fall at the Wye Marsh

November 19, 2013

The school groups aren’t doing much at the Wye Marsh this month.  We were incredibly busy in October but there are only occasional groups coming until, I guess, next year when cross country skiing starts up.  A coworker and I felt the need to canoe and see what the marsh looks like in mid-November.

First, I found this wonderful swan-foot print and needed to compare it to my own hand.  Sure, my foot is longer, but this is huge for a 12 kg animal.

DSC09976 b We were using a smaller canoe so we explored areas we couldn’t earlier in the giant ten person canoes.  Here, the edges of the channel were so narrow, we just pulled our boat through.DSC09971 b Did I say, November?  I meant Movember.  Squint or click on the image to increase the size if you cannot see my luxurious mustache!DSC09971 cWe had passed this beaver den almost every day for around five months.  After three weeks away, we arrived to find a cache of small trees and branches with delicious bark for the beavers to access through the winter in front of the den.
DSC09968 b This kestrel is the Marsh’s newest resident of the Birds of Prey program.DSC09966 c

I guess this back end of a cheetah needs a little explanation.  My son loves cheetahs and this is around half of a Christmas gift I am working on for him.  There is more, and another mustache shot at Creativiti Project.  Midland Wood Carvers is a group of carving hobbyists that I sometimes join to beg for assistance and wisdom.  Their workshop is at the Wye Marsh. DSC09981 b

Legoland, Toronto Island, the ROM and more in Toronto

September 24, 2013

The Little Guy and I spent a good weekend in Toronto, but one that left me wondering just how computer literate I really am.

First, the activities.  We met a fellow ex-Korea ESL teacher and his children at Legoland in Vaughan.  I’ll describe the pics, then the day.

A miniature of the ROM – ironic that we finished the weekend at the real thing.

DSC09479 b

Building a Lego camera takes serious concentration.

DSC09482 b

Peddling for height on the Lord of the Rings ride.DSC09485 b


My son loved Legoland as did the other kids.  I thought it was as good as it could be.  We entered ($18 per child, $22 per adult) and learned how blocks were made, then really enjoyed a dark ride where we could use laser guns to protect various Lego people.  Then, we were in the common room which contained many giant bowls of blocks, a workshop room that offered assistance in building things, a few ramps for Lego cars, a jungle gym (that the eldest child was too tall to be allowed in), an LOTR ride and a 4-D movie theatre.  I guess my main concern is that Lego is all about building things and blocks were provided in abundance but it just felt like, “Come in for a Lego adventure! Now sit still and concentrate!”  Loud adventure and contemplative concentration just don’t mesh all that well in my opinion.  The ramps, which looked like they were intended for cars were just used to roll wheels which were connected to nothing.

Again, perhaps I am being too much a middle-aged adult because the kids had fun, but the ‘serious’ activities were underutilized.  The LOTR ride seemed fun but was a weak fit with the general Lego theme.

It was a great place to be because of the miserable weather that day, that’s for sure!


On Sunday, we went to Toronto Island and I want to go again, soon.

Does Parks, Forests and Recreation want us to have fun or to tramp down the goose poop that was everywhere?

DSC09492 b

There was an ‘Island Girl’ run going on that featured Hawaiian and steel-drum music along the edges of the course.DSC09496

Mute swans.DSC09497 b

Toronto’s skyline from the Island.DSC09498 b







Next to the ROM was The Word on the Street Event, featuring TVO Kids.DSC09506

Finally, we went into the ROM.




Now the description of my poor internet savvy.

It was raining on Toronto Island -OK, probably everywhere – and that dampened our spirits but we were having fun.  We wanted to rent bikes but were concerned about interfering with the race.  the TVOKids Word on the Street event took us completely by surprise.  Why did I not think to research our destinations to see if anything special were happening? The information was not pushed to us but why didn’t we think to look ahead?  Next time.

swearing in a foreign language is fun!

September 6, 2013

I really expected to find more research on this subject, or at least more content discussing it.  I found nothing on the specific subject described below.  If my readers find anything relating to my post, please let me know in the comments.

The first four paragraphs of this post are lead up to my main point – this is a case of the introduction likely being longer than the intended thesis of the post.

I lived in South Korea for more than thirteen years and cursing or ‘bad words’ in Korean or English was a common subject for discussion.  For my fellow foreigners “shibbal Seggi” was a meaningless string of sounds and the translation we heard, given quickly and shyly also meant little (“Dog baby”).  To be more specific, it means you are so vile you likely did not have human parents and are part dog or other dirty, stupid animal.

“Fuck” is similarly difficult to explain and much time is needed to describe how it is to be used and why it is offensive.  “It means ‘sexual intercourse’?  That sounds great!”

Perhaps four times in my eleven years of teaching at Korean universities I needed to take a student aside and tell them to never wear that shirt in my class again -in each case the shirt had writing that included the word “fuck”.

Such words in foreign languages do not have an easy translation and are often used ironically or for shock value by non-native speakers.

Swearing on the web: Wikipedia, University of New Haven.


All this has been a build up to a partial defense of the student president and orientation facilitators at St Mary’s University in Halifax.

From the Globe and Mail:

For the nearly 400 Saint Mary’s University students participating in a chant about rape during their orientation week, it was more about the rhyme than the words, according to the student union president.

Jared Perry told reporters Thursday that he knows now repeating the chant – celebrating non-consensual sex with underage girls – was wrong.

I learned of the building outrage while listening to CBC radio.  Among the people interviewed was a St Mary’s student who had been raped and for whom the chant caused her to relive those horrific times.

Another interviewed student tried to explain how the chant had been repeated every year since at least 2009 and, as best I recall, noted that the words had no real or visceral meaning for the young students to relate to.  I find this explanation simultaneously sadly weak and reasonable.  I started this post with the use of strong language that meant nothing to the speaker due to ignorance and a lack of living in the language.  Can this argument also defend native speakers?

I hope so for I have been a part of similar chants in my not-so-youth.  On a sports team I was part of, we occasionally sang a cheer that included, “We’re going to kill, rape, pillage and burn”.  I think that if we had been asked why we used those words, we would have said they simply were a more explicit form of “We will destroy the other team” which is an entirely acceptable turn of phrase.  Looking back, from the distance middle age gives me, I hope I would stop such a chant and suggest others, but at  the time I recall no concern over the words.  I would like to think that the fact we were clearly there to race gave us a little more slack in concern over word choice than a group of young adults who were clearly there to drink and try to score, but I may simply be offering weak rationalizations in my own defense.

The words are important and the university students need to know what is acceptable behavior and what is not.  I don’t know if ‘sensitivity training’ will work or simply bore the students into shutting out other important lessons.  I think I cannot hold the students to blame but the president and facilitators clearly have some lessons to learn.

Chemtrails in Simcoe County

May 17, 2013


I recently joined a local field naturalist club (not field naturist, these people their clothes on).  I might be the youngest person in the group but everyone seems very knowledgeable, gentle and eager to be involved.  The last two points came to the fore last night when a woman began circulating a petition demanding that the Canadian government stop secretly releasing unknown contaminants via chemtrails and to tell us what is in these chemtrails and the group’s president politely let the signing go on (without once offering support for the position).


Briefly, chemtrails are visible evidence of chemicals being released in high atmosphere from jet aircraft.  These are in addition to (probably) harmless contrails that jets make under the right conditions.


I thought it was a crazy conspiracy theory until I woke up this morning and looked out the window!chemtrails (4) chemtrails (b1) chemtrails (b2) chemtrails (b3)Now, …

I still think it is a crazy conspiracy theory. Well, there is a broad umbrella of chemtrail conspiracy theories: The chemicals are designed to reflect sunlight back to space to cool the Earth, the chemicals are used to control human behavior, or, my favorite, are used, in connection with electro-magnetic waves, to power and focus high-energy particle weapons.

Each idea is crazy and groundless, as Mythbusters, How Stuff Works, Al Gore and Wikipedia all try to explain.

I found an online version of a petition that looks similar to the one I was offered last night.

WE, the undersigned residents of Canada draw the attention of the House to the following:

THAT high altitude aerial spraying has been observed occurring over Canada; from British Columbia to Newfoundland; for at least the last two years;

THAT this aerial spraying has been carried out by large military type jet aircraft that create white plumes which evidence suggests are chemical-laden (hereinafter “chemtrails”) and often seen in the form of large “X’s”, “O’s” and checkerboard patterns;

THAT this aerial spraying has been carried out without the knowledge or consent of the Canadian electorate;

THAT chemtrails in the atmosphere across Canada can only adversely affect the health of our population, especially children;

THAT Canadians have the inalienable right not to be sprayed with massive amounts of chemicals from the sky for whatever purpose;

Note the absolute confidence that the writer has that these contrails are carrying deliberately-added and dangerous chemicals and that the Canadian government must be aware of, if not behind it all.


One neurologist claims to have evidence of damage from aluminum nanoparticles.  I think he really does show that such particles are dangerous but note in his references he has nothing that ties them to high altitude release via chemtrails.

I tagged this post as ‘hoax’ but is that correct?  ‘Innocently wrong’ isn’t specific enough.  The people at the meeting are not generally ignorant in scientific matters so the term doesn’t fit.  “Insufficiently skeptical” does, as perhaps “overly suspicious”.  Such attitudes are also found in this video where a woman doesn’t think rainbows can happen anywhere but in the sky.


Provincial Park Images of the day: Wasaga Beach

May 5, 2013

What better place to go on a sunny day than Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, the world’s longest freshwater beach and the town I was born in?

The little guy is in front of more than 12 km of beach.wasaga (3) b

This sand was so powdery that we just can’t guess what animal made these tracks.  I realize now that I should have put my thumb in the pic for size comparisons.  My thumbnail would fill the gap between the upper and lower marks.  Large bug or small vert?wasaga (1) b Collingwood still has snow.wasaga (2) bThere is no land to be seen at the horizon.  This might as well be the view from Sokcho.wasaga (6) bI have seen many of these little depressions in the sand but have never heard what causes them.  Still don’t know.
wasaga (7) b I took this pic to prove I waded out a little distance.  At ankle depth, the sun-warmed water was pleasant but well before knee depth, it turned icy!wasaga (12) b Ontario Parks truck making the rounds.wasaga (16)


Ontario Parks

Friends of Wasaga Beach

Trip Advisor

Wye Marsh, April 29, 30

April 30, 2013

I have fairly big news: Surprises Aplenty is now employed!


Some time ago, I described my situation, moving back to Canada as leaving a job I love to find one that I can tolerate and earn enough to care for the family.  Well, I am lucky to have another job I expect to love but I don’t think it is one to keep the family in rice and kimchi.


My new employer, the Wye Marsh is an outdoor education centre that, well, have a look at the sorts of things I’ll be doing and working with.b DSC08352 This beaver was walking across a field near a canoe launch point.b DSC08358

These red wing black bird are everywhere.b DSC08362

For the first time in at least five years, an osprey is using the purpose-built platform for nesting.b DSC08365

These pitcher plants live on nutrition-poor ground and supplement their fertilizer with insects drowned in their pitchers.b DSC08370

This Canada Goose mother is guarding her nest.b DSC08371 I was told the names of both flowers – the yellow ones are not dandelions.b DSC08373

This snapping turtle was in such a hurry its legs blurred as it waddled.b DSC08374

Really, I’m not that old

April 19, 2013

…said plaintively.


Yesterday, I went to a wonderful store specializing in educational toys for children.  As I paid for my purchase, the cashier asked if I were a grandparent as there was a special.  I told her, no, and that I was a little angry.

Today, this came in the mail:

50 plus

I must admit, I love the Grey Power commercial where the father is bummed out by his fiftieth birthday and only halfheartedly thanks his son for the new drill. Then, his wife gives him a grey power brochure and he is thrilled…but still pushes his son’s gift away while his son watches.

Anyway, I’m not a grandfather, nor am I fifty.  My first exposure to music was probably Smother Brothers Think Ethnic and the first music I owned was Dumb Ditties -on vinyl (Here is Bridget the Midget by some guy named Ray Stevens).  Actually, The Smothers Brothers were probably being banned around the time I was born, anyone who bought that album would be over fifty.


But not me, darnit!

Provincial Park Image of the day: Awenda in spring

April 14, 2013

My mother, son and I returned to Awenda Provincial Park on April 13 and had a good walk although no wildlife was spotted.

Again, we visited a beach and again, I admired the ice piles.

blog awenda hike (3) blog awenda hike (4)

I could have walked out to them, I think.  The last four metres was of thick-but-broken-and-refrozen ice and where I could see water, something in the clarity wailed cold.  I was still going to do it, but my son was watching and I decided not to demonstrate what foolishness I am capable of.

blog awenda hike (5)

We found one fin and one deer scapula (?) blog awenda hike (6)

My son likes to be clear on where precisely he is.  When he learned we were just outside of Penetanguishene and in Tiny Township, he decided this line was the border and delighted in hopping in and out of Penetanguishene.

blog awenda hike (7)


Since I’ve returned, deep views into forest have become fascinating to me but I cannot explain why or take a photo that offers the same awenda hike (10)

Awenda has a small ampitheatre and stage.  I hope to hear some wildlife talks or the like awenda hike (11)



As the ice leaves, so do the animals

April 10, 2013

The ice melted around my home first, and now perhaps half of Penetanguishene Bay is ice-free.  When the only open water was near my home, I was treated to a wide variety of birds and mammals who had no other place to be.  I’m ready for warmer weather, but it was pretty cool to see both a muskrat and an otter only ten metres from each other – and even closer to me.  Not shown are the huge number of Mergansers that were too shy to allow me close enough to take pictures.april 9 (3) b April 10 Otter And Muskrat (2) b April 10 Otter And Muskrat (3) b April 10 Otter And Muskrat (6) b April 10 Otter And Muskrat (7) b April 10 Otter And Muskrat (8) b spring is here (1)b


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