10 or 40

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Today my spouse reminded me that 2017 was our 10th wedding Anniversary, we were married in July 2007 in Ottawa prior to our departure for Rome, were we would spend the next 4 years.

But in November 2018 we will be celebrating our 40th Anniversary when we met in Ottawa all those years ago.

There is a difference in gifts for each anniversary, 10 years is tin or aluminium and 40 years is rubis. Tin or aluminium is so pedestrian.

I think I would prefer 40 to 10, but that is just me talking.

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The world is a small town

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This saying figures in the title page of my blog. This is certainly true of where we are now. We go to Receiver Coffee three times a week when I am done with my duty at the Art Gallery. It is the in spot on Richmond Street behind the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

The food is quite good and the coffee superb, they also have art on the walls for sale by young emerging artists. Currently they have amongst others a photographer who is also a barber at one of the Hip Barber shops in town. His name is Jared Doyle and he has an account on Instagram Ivory Orphan. Looking at his portfolio I notice that we know all the people featured, same at the Café, everywhere we go now, look around and you see friends, acquaintances, neighbours or prominent citizens, we speak to everyone, exchange greetings and news. It is that sort of a place.

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This morning I was listening to CBC Island Morning with Matt Rainnie and Rich Cormier, there is a big storm coming says Matt so you should go to the grocery store and stock up because Friday morning it is going to be a snow day and no one should be on the road. He is speaking about the entire Province of Prince Edward Island not just Charlottetown the Capital. As I write this the storm has arrived and already the wind is howling at 80Km per hour and we are expecting 40 Cm of snow or 16 inches in the next 5 hours, which is significant. The winds will top 100km in about one hour, the bridge to the mainland has is closed to all traffic and the Canadian Coast Guard has come into the harbour to dock for the night, I can understand they don’t want to be out at sea in this weather.

So I followed Matt Rainnie advice and went to the SuperStore to stock up on all the food items we may need. I was not alone at the store and it was a chance to speak with people about this and that, at the Deli counter a lady was exchanging news with the Deli Counter clerk, the polite thing to do is wait until she finishes the story, you don’t want to barge in, she might be someone’s cousin you know.

Got my shopping done, it was a beautiful day today but by 6 pm the clouds had accumulated and on the news they were giving us the run down of all the places that were cancelling activities tonight, all of it re-scheduled for a Saturday or later. So it is pretty obvious no school tomorrow, the University and College are closed. Many businesses will not open and very likely the government will also be shut down for the day. The airport has already cancelled the evening flights and many delays for tomorrow, so call ahead. At any rate who wants to land or take off in 80 Km winds, not me.

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I still had to take the dogs out, they did not want to go out too much wind and blowing snow for them, but out we go, not far like a few feet do what you have to do and turn around quick.

Yes we live in Mayberry and it is a nice feeling, everyone will be at home tomorrow and just read and relax until the storm passes.

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Mysterious Solstice Monument in Ottawa’s Major’s Hill Park

This increbile structure can be seen in Ottawa, you just have to pay attention not to miss it. Really an incredible design and so many are not even aware it exist.

OTTAWA REWIND

Being the nation’s capital, Ottawa is filled with many curious structures, from incredible museums to stunning historical architecture that fills the downtown core. Yet there are other intriguing structures that go unnoticed unless a more detailed and closer inspection is made, structures that are mysterious in nature and without clear explanation.

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-5-02-53-pm This image from Google Earth shows the elliptical concrete pad at the lower right and the secondary structure in the top left. (Google Earth)

Once such structure is a bizarre concrete pad in Ottawa’s scenic Major’s Hill Park. I’ve walked over it many times, but have never noticed until now the oddity of the whole thing. A glimpse at it from an aerial image illustrates its very esoteric nature.

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-12-04-24-pm The concrete pad has a circle with divisional lines and a single dark line emanating towards the northwest. (Google Streetview)

It is a carefully crafted solstice monument which interprets an event that has been celebrated among many…

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My Top Seafood Picks: Favorite Fish

Good fish! Something to enjoy all year round.

Buying Seafood

I get asked on nearly a daily basis about my favorite seafood or what fish I like to eat. I’ve gotten better at answering these questions but it’s hard to rank them. When choosing what to get for fish it often comes down to what I can find that is fresh, preferably local, and affordable. Out of the fish that I’ve tried, and I can get on a regular basis, here are my top choices, along with some vintage public domain images of classic seafood.

haddock-farci-1914 Haddock Farci – 1914

Haddock

Haddock is my favorite fish, it’s a species that I have been connected to my entire life. Fried, baked, broiled or in chowder, haddock is mild, flaky and versatile. If you grew up in a New England fishing family, cod may be king, but we all brought haddock home. Also haddock is a guilt-free choice from a sustainability standpoint here…

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Sapphire Jubilee, EIIR

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On this 6 February in 1952 King George VI died in his sleep at the age of 56 of complications from cancer. His daughter Princess Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen and acceded the throne of Canada, Great Britain and the Dominions of the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth II celebrate 65 years (1952-2017) on the throne today, but the Canadian monarch will not be spending it with parades and confetti. Instead, Queen Elizabeth II will spend her Sapphire Jubilee quietly and somberly in commemoration of the death of her father, King George VI.

The Queen is the first Sovereign to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. Queen Victoria reached her Diamond Jubilee and was the longest-reigning monarch until H.M. Elizabeth II surpassed her in 2015. While Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee was well-celebrated in 2012, this one will be more solemn.

Today she will remain at the Sandringham estate (where her father spent his last days) to contemplate on her long reign.

Queen Elizabeth II, nicknamed Lilibet was only 25 years old when her father died. She was then after a mourning period crowned in 1953 in Westminster Abbey. When she married Prince Philip in 1954, her father gave her a necklace and a pair of sapphire earrings. A decade after her coronation, she had a matching tiara and bracelet made.

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The 90-year-old queen is one of the longest-ruling monarchs in history. The Sun King Louis XIV of France ruled for 72 years.

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Picture taken last month at Buckingham Palace, from left to right, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles the Prince of Wales, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge. The men in this photo are wearing the Order of the Garter on their left leg with the blue sash of the Order.

What is interesting about this photo are the large portrait paintings framing this picture, on the left H.I.M  Emperor Frederick III of Germany and King of Prussia and on the right his wife Empress Victoria, who was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. The link to the Imperial Family of Germany who are first cousins of the Royal Family has been quietly emphasized lately. The current head of the German Imperial Family is 40 yr old H.I.R.H Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia, their cousin, in the photo below with his wife Princess Sophie of Prussia.

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Cooking

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How many people remember Gourmet Magazine? We use to receive it monthly and it had all manner of recipes with all kinds of strange ingredients you knew would not be on the shelf of your local grocery store.

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Those were the days when we would give dinner parties and try to replicate one of the recipes in Gourmet. We went through a lot of effort, me shopping for the mystery ingredients and Will cooking it all.

Then came Martha Stewart and we were now on another level all together, it took me quite a bit of time to realize that she had a staff of 50 behind her in the kitchen, house, garden to do all those little simple chores. You never saw them and no mention was ever made of them, but if you tried to do something she suggested you quickly realized that you needed days of preparation in order to achieve a decent level. Then came Bon Appétit and then America’s Test Kitchen with Christopher Kimball, love that show on PBS.

With those dinner parties and luncheons, table setting was also important, the right flowers for the centre of the table, linens and dishware to accompany the food, crystal glasses, silverware, plate or sterling. I use to spend a lot of time on thinking about the details. I still do some planning but it is a lot simpler now.

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We did a lot of those dinner parties throughout the years and did entertain but that was a different time and we did have people to help with the service at table, cooking, cleaning etc.

I would not think of doing any of this nowadays, fashion has changed, everyone is more in favour of simpler dishes and smaller portions, people also do not drink as much. Many only drink wine, cocktails are out and after dinner drinks are no longer offered. We also entertain differently more casual and relaxed.

Though I still like to cook something special and try a new recipe, I am just not willing to spend the time we use to spend in the preparation. Well prepared, good food does not need to be complicated to please. Each meal on a daily basis is simpler but all are made from scratch and we have resisted so far the frozen entrées or processed can foods. My motto is If I have to eat it, then it should be good. When we have guests we always try to surprise them with a dish they never had at our house, no repeats and no take-out.

I still like a good bottle of wine and will go to some effort to find what is best but at reasonable price.

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Simple is good and still looks beautiful! Next weekend we are having friends over to celebrate our first Winter visit to PEI one year ago this month, this is when we decided to move here. The menu will be gourmet pizza with various toppings, I asked our guests what type of pizza they like, some are vegan and others have toppings they really like so will try to please all. We will have wine paired depending on the flavours. It will be all about conversation, good food, wine and the moment.

Tomorrow Sunday our friends will skate across the street from our house on the improvised skating rink, it is fairly cold right now, the ice is like a polished mirror. I told them to come to our place afterwards for hot chocolate, I have a reserve of two flavours Chocolate truffle and white chocolate to warm them up. It should be fun.

What a week

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Lots of emotions this week which leaves me somewhat exhausted. Though I live in Canada the circus at the White House and the dangerous buffoonery, the constant stream of bluster politics is dragging the USA down into a level that is very difficult to understand. This is somewhat like an early dusk as day light slowly vanishes, it is very sad to watch. It also makes me fearful for what is coming.

Then this week we had an attack on the Grand Mosque of Quebec City, six men shot dead while at prayer and 19 others badly injured. The terrorist was a White young man, Roman Catholic, raised in an upper middle class family, well educated, still attending University. Again we saw the fake news phenomenon claiming early on that a second gunman, a Moroccan was also involved, FOX News reported this ad nauseam until the Prime Minister’s Office got involved and told them to remove the tweet in question since it was false, they did finally. This did not prevent alt-right groups in Canada to spread more false news and conspiracy theories to slander the dead and other muslims in Quebec City. The next day another mosque this time in Montreal was attacked and vandalized. The police have reported that more anti-muslim attack have taken place in Quebec.

The leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, Jean-François Lisée nonetheless continued when interviewed by journalists with his Ethnic Identity speech and could not see how this type of speech could lead to actions by individuals like Alexandre Bisonnette. We have had decades in Quebec of such speeches by so called Nationalists. The day of the massacre Monsieur Lisée continued with a declaration on Economic Nationalism in Quebec clearly stating that those Foreigners who come to Quebec come here to take our money and this does not profit Quebec, that is no longer acceptable. The Parti Quebecois has a way of always positioning itself as they did in the past with their Quebec Values debate as a Us against them the foreigners. It is a seductive speech for many and the Alt-right groups and what is called the Radio poubelle (garbage radio) shows constantly attack anyone who appears different, Muslims have been a special target and constantly vilified. This is a disease in Quebec and it is very troubling how diversity has been rejected by many and cannot be accepted because of the threat it represents to those so called mythical Quebec values and the survival of the French fact, which is not in danger except in the minds of the Quebec Alt-right groups.

On the day of the funeral it was revealed that the Muslim community in the City of Quebec did not have its own cemetery, discussions for the establishment of such a place have been dragging on for 10 years, politicians were afraid to offend again the Nationalist groups. Now the Mayor of Quebec Regis Labaume who has been visibly shaken by the events of this week promised that a Cemetery for the Muslim community will be established soon.

I heard all the political speeches at the funeral of the 6 men and I thought that there was some grand standing but all the calls for tolerance, acceptance and respectful  co-existence will probably fall on deaf ears, you cannot change the hateful attitudes of the Nationalists in Quebec who are convinced of being a superior race.

Changing attitudes is according to psychologists one of the hardest thing to do for humans. Here we have ignorance fuelling prejudice which are deeply seated. I saw it in Gatineau which is across the river from Ottawa against the African community. Some in the White, French speaking town did not like the fact that these French speaking Africans were better educated and held it against them. There is wide spread and systemic discrimination in Quebec against the non-white non-Christian segment of the population in the Province. The current Provincial government has not been very forceful in moving against Alt-right groups or Radio stations in Quebec City whose well known and popular hosts have broadcasted hate speech often singling out Muslims or other minority groups.  This is turn has led to a view that it is normal and acceptable to have racist opinions because it is only your opinion.

You can read the comments on chat lines or in newspaper, to say that they are vile is putting it mildly. In Quebec, Donald Trump has lots of fans cheering for him, the hate of the other is that well anchored. That is not to say that other provinces in Canada are immune from hate, in other regions opinions run against Asians, Native groups, Blacks, Jews and Muslims and immigration in general. Our Conservative Party politicians like Kellie Leitch and her Canadian values speech, it’s not racist she insist or Kevin O’Leary who thought it was funny to show himself on YouTube shooting several high powered fire arms hours after the Quebec city massacre or other conservative leadership candidates trying to imitate Trump with pronouncements, fear sells by time. These people have aspirations to one day lead the country.

What I would like to know is how do you change attitudes, open minds, educate people. Is that possible at all when so many have closed minds and refuse to listen. They may be a minority group on the margin of society, they may be 1 in 10 but still they poison the social discourse with their nonsense and it leads like in this case to murder of innocent people whose only crime was to look different.

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photo of the funeral for the victims, a very large crowd came to pay respect and the political leadership was also present to honour the dead.   

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Saturday 4 February 2017, 1000 + march against Islamophobia in downtown Charlottetown. People do care about their neighbours safety and well being. Good for you PEI!

Theatre night

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There are many fun activities in Charlottetown which are very special to this Capital. Art in the Dark I already mentioned, there are also many cultural nights organized by groups, music and art etc. Many venues are small and can accommodate maybe 50 people so they have an intimate flavour, others like the Art Gallery are larger and last Saturday over 200 people came to the opening of the Winter Show at the Confederation Centre.

Tonight we went to see the play The Dining Room by  A.R. Gurney at the Elmwood Heritage Inn. The Inn is on the tony neighbourhood of Brighton on North River Road. The house is set well back from the road, at least 200 meters and at an angle, so you can see it when passing by but you need to enter the property proper to have a real good look. All the land around the house now occupied by a few other house use to be the estate. At night it is difficult to see how big the house is, but once inside you realize this is truly a gigantic mansion built in 1888 as a wedding present. I was intrigue by the house and I asked our host who owned and built this place. It turns out it was the grandson of Samuel Cunard who got it when he married. The house is as it was then except for modern touches like electricity, a modern kitchen and bathrooms. Beautiful woodwork, many fireplaces, intricate ceilings and chandeliers, all the rooms are big and imposing. Today this is a premier B&B in Charlottetown. www.elmwoodinn.pe.ca

The Cunard family are Canadians and Samuel Cunard was born in Halifax, in the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia. His shipping empire is well known today for its Ocean Liners but he started in business by owning the contracts to move mail from the mainland all around the Maritime Provinces and down to Quebec City and Montreal, before he extended himself to England.

The 1972 play the dining room is about dining rooms in homes of wealthy New England families who have servants and cooks and adhere to a bizarre ritual of strict etiquette at meal time en famille. The meal cannot go ahead if father is not present, everyone must behave and be well groomed to come to table, conversation is always polite and centres on Social Club activities, business circles, dinner parties with fine china, silverware, linens and well prepared food and impeccable service. But there is also an underline plot of hypocrisy, adultery, divorce, inheritance, family feuds, pettiness, lonely housewives, absent husbands, unhappy kids and long suffering servants who are silent observers.

It was great fun to see this play in the formal dining room of the house, we sitting in the salon and on the side, the actors moving around us. At the intermission, the owners served bubbly and canapés, we saw friends and had a great evening.

Japanese Tapeworm Found in American Wild Salmon

This is an interesting point made on raw fish and possible danger in eating sushi. Something I had not thought about.

Buying Seafood

For those who like their salmon on the rare side, time to be more careful as that prime piece of wild Alaskan salmon may be infected by D. nihonkaiense, a member of a genus of tapeworms that can infect humans. This particular species, the Japanese broad tapeworm is the second leading cause of diphyllobothriasis (tapeworm infection) in humans. The tapeworm is usually transferred to human when they consume raw or under-cooked fish that contain the eggs or larvae.

d_latum_lifecycle Life cycle of diphyllobothrium tapeworms. Source: CDC

This has been a long-standing and probably under reported issue in Japan, and could be growing due to the popularity of sushi worldwide. Now the CDC has a report that states that this tapeworm species has been found in North American salmon for the first time. According to the report chum, masu, pink, and sockeye salmon are the species most likely to carry D…

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to clarify the record

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I believe that I need to write this entry to clarify the record given that FOX News and other like minded news outlets in the USA including the White House are spreading #Fakenews on what actually happened in Quebec City last night at the Islamic Centre and Mosque.

It is important to set context in what actually happened last night. The City of Quebec is very old in terms of North American settlement, founded in 1608 and was the Capital of the French Empire in North America until 1763. It then became the Capital of British North America until we responsible government was established in 1867 in Canada and the new Capital became Ottawa.

Quebec City is a small town, a big village, every one knows everybody, its gossipy, it is also fairly conservative in terms of politics. There are the old families and the others, there is a divide between the Upper Town and Lower Town. My family lived in Quebec City in Sainte-Foy and then Sillery in the 1960’s I have a lot of relatives there since 1662 when my family first arrived in Canada.

Immigrants to Quebec City, they have been there since day one, nothing new. I remember when I was 6 years old that our family pharmacist was a Syrian Refugee that was in 1962, JFK was President then. Jews in Quebec City they go back to the French Colonial days of the 18th century, blacks also most came from France. Though Quebec or New France was suppose to be a Roman Catholic enclave of the French Colonial Empire, there were plenty of Protestants or Huguenots fleeing the wars of religion in Europe. There were also back then 10 men for each women, need I say more…

So the presence of a diverse population and a multiplicity of religions and culture is nothing new. In the last 50 years the Provincial Government of Quebec has recruited almost exclusively immigrants from French Speaking Arabic mostly Muslim countries, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and in Africa mostly from the former French Colonial Colonies, like Cote D’Ivoire, Sénégal, Cameroun, Benin etc…

So yes there are lots of Muslims in Quebec who happen to speak French and are usually well educated. Unfortunately and this is the very sad part, for the last 50 years we have had a lot of xenophobia and racism fostered by politicians on a nativist and populist line to gather votes and money, they will stoke fear of the other. The political line is about race, language and pure French ethnic stock not tainted by inter-marriage with none French ethnic background. Several commentators on the radio in Quebec City are also making a career by offering daily hateful diatribes against anyone who is not #purelaine. We also had a former Prime Minister Steven Harper who loved to single out Arabs and Muslims for his own hate filled speeches, trying to pass himself as the Canadian Donald Trump. Strangely enough he now jet-sets with the GOP in the USA giving the sort of lectures they love.

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Alexandre Bisonnette 27 years old 

The events of last night at the Centre Islamique in Sainte-Foy was the work of a young man, a loner, demonstrating anti-social behaviour, who apparently according to neighbours had been bullied in school as a child, though his classmate describe him as a boor and an obnoxious twit, he has an identical twin who lives somewhere in Canada. His name is Alexandre Bisonnette, 27 years old, lived at his parents in the small village of Cap-Rouge near Quebec City. He liked hunting and had a gun collection, this element surprises me because fire arms are strictly controlled in Canada and I hope we will find out how he got his hands on an AK-47 to commit his crime, a weapon that is strictly controlled and impossible to get, unless you have links to criminal gangs. His family claim tonight that they do not understand what happened, such a nice boy. Did they not notice that he spouted alt-right opinions, that he was in love with Marie LePen of LeFront National in France, that he was trolling websites about refugees and women and that he was spewing pure hate for them.

Apparently he had wonderful parents, I strongly doubt that, if the two previous criminal cases in Canada are any proof of parents who are distant and not involved with their child until disaster strikes.

So our criminal terrorist was white, Roman Catholic, French Canadian, living in the suburbs of Quebec City. He came from a comfortable well to do family, never lacked for anything, went to good schools and was a University Student at Laval. Amongst his victims was a Professor from Laval University. Sorry White House, sorry Prez. Trump, sorry Fox News not an Arab, no Islamist here, just a plain white, christian suburbanite jerk.

Prime Minister Trudeau in the House of Commons today spoke on the events and he re-asserted that Canada remains steadfast as a diverse and multicultural country, welcoming to all and that such horrible events will not change our course as a Nation. It is just tremendously sad that this event comes just after the weekend of that Fascistic decree by the Donald, which is an assault on human dignity and decency.

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Crowds on Parliament Hill in Ottawa tonight, a vigil for the victims, flags are flying at half-mast to honour them in Canada.