Friday, July 31, 2009

Verbing weirds language.

I got the following email today as part of a detailed exchange on a request for information from a local employer:

Is this issue being actioned by you?

Calvin was right. Verbing weirds language.


Sunday, July 26, 2009


Last Sunday, July 19, we lost a member of our extended family when "cousin" Sam, our dear friend C.'s cat, passed away. I haven't been able to blog about it at all until now. But not to comment on his passing seems wrong, too.

He hadn't been himself for a little while and hadn't been eating, so C. had taken him to the vet for observation over the weekend. The end, when it came, came quickly.

Sam was a guest in our home many times over his 16 years, while C. was away visiting family or taking care of other business. He spent several happy Christmases with us. Veronica envied him; Mojo absolutely worshipped the ground he walked on, and followed a few steps behind him everywhere he went in the house.

Sam, for his part, was the perfect houseguest. Among our nicknames for him were "the Grey Ghost" and "Gentleman Jim". He was the gentlest, best-natured, sweetest cat I've ever known. Veronica's attempts to intimidate him were met with a bemused stare; Mojo's clumsy attempts to play with him were met with gentle engagement. He glided around the house silently, observing events from here and there, begrudgingly accepting our affection until the center of his universe got back.

Of course the important person here is C., who has lost a companion of 16 years. She's handling it as well as I would have expected someone of her character to, which is to say, literally as well as possible. I hope I deal with it as well when... well, you know.

The scan above is of an older but favourite photo, which is a bit scratched up. But I think it highlights his wise, intelligent face and engaging manner.

I don't think you'll see Mojo blogging about this one. The fact is, I just don't have the heart to even tell his fictional self.



Saturday, July 25, 2009

Have you any garbage, please?

A post on Extreme English's blog reminded me of some of the richness of living in a bilingual province.

In French, hair is literally plural ("les cheveux") and it is not uncommon here in New Brunswick to hear francophones make that translation into English. For example, the receptionist at Husband's old job used to greet him sometimes with, "Your hairs! You got them cut!"

For similar linguistic reasons, it is not uncommon to hear francophones say in English that a friend "just got her baby" (instead of "just had her baby"). It takes about 3 seconds to realize that the French phrasing makes more sense. I mean, she did just get it? Right?

Francophone co-workers might also remind you to "close the lights" (instead of "shut off the lights").

One of the reasons I love living in a bilingual province so much.

I'm sure that Anglos speaking French make similar missteps all the time, but I'm not familiar with any. (Any francophones are warmly invited to make us aware of our linguistic quirks in comments.) A tangential incident was when I ran into the Metro in Montréal during a surprise cloudburst to ask the clerk at a newstand "Avez-vous des poubelles, s'il vous plaît?".

"Poubelles", of course, is garbage, or a garbage bin. What I wanted was a "parapluie" - an umbrella.

He had the compassion to not laugh too hard.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


So, the "backfill blogging" thing didn't work out too well. People apparently forget, or don't have time, to go back to read the posts once they're filled in with background info. (Except for the exceptionally attentive Ronnie, bless her.)

Because I know my very small readership, and there ain't no way the alien stripper wouldn't have evoked some comment. :)


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Backfill Blogging Acadia

I mentioned in comments that I was trying out something I call "backfill blogging". I posted a photo a day while we were on vacation on the east coast of the province - near le coeur d'Acadie - with the intention of going back and filling in details of each location or activity. If you scroll down, you'll see that I've already filled in several of my earlier posts.

I've created a map to try to put the vacation into context; hope it does so.

One thing I wanted to share was the tradition of Acadians in this province of putting l'étoile d'Acadie - the star of Acadia - on their homes, to proudly proclaim their Acadian heritage. The Acadian flag features the colours of France with l'etoile added in the upper left-hand corner, and displaying a star on one's home has become a way of announcing the family's inclusion in that proud clan.

Here's a small collection of photos that demonstrate the variety of homes that show l'étoile.

You'll see these stars on homes throughout the province, which is neat; but they're particularly prevalent on the east and north borders of the province, where the Acadian culture is particularly strong.

The story of Acadians in New Brunswick is long and complicated. For too many years, they were second-class citizens in their own provinces - after they returned from their expulsion. That all began to change in New Brunswick with the passage of the Official Languages Act in 1969. Premier Louis Robichaud's legislation put French on an equal footing with English in NB and opened the gates to civil and public sector jobs wide open to francophones for the first time.

The result today of this and other social reforms is a thriving Acadian culture and a thriving French language across the province, but nowhere so much as the north and east of the province, le coeur d'Acadie.



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sightings in the Wild, part deux

Husband spotted a copy of Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? in local heroic independent bookstore Westminster Books in downtown Fredericton today. His cellphone takes small photos, but the book is unmistakeable!

I would like to sincerely apologize in advance for the lack of a critter of any description in the picture. I believe Westminster has at least one bookstore cat, but s/he was on his/her union-mandated break at the time of the photography.



Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saint-Louis-de-Kent [UPDATED]

This photo is largely self-explanatory - it's a shrine to the Virgin Mary in St. Louis de Kent. What is interesting, though, is that it was created in the 1870s (the date was posted but I stupidly didn't jot it down, thinking I'd have no problem finding the information on the internet. Only, not so much.) What is also interesting is that the statue is apparently a duplicate of the statue at Lourdes, although the Lourdes shrine looks pretty dramatically different than this place. The small figure to the left of the Virgin is a statue of a girl praying. And, of course, the kneel rail in front of the shrine is for pilgrims to pause and pray.

The banner above the Virgin's head says "Je suis l'immaculate conception", which I don't believe you need to have much French to translate.

A few years after the installation of this shrine, another local Monsignour arranged the creation of a remarkable reconstruction of the scene at Calvary, on the hillside above the shrine to the Virgin. As you see, the sunset was illuminating Christ as we took the photo. I don't know if it was planned or not, but it was a pretty spectacular effect.

There's a prayer rail here, too.

We didn't seek out this shrine as much as stumble across it, wondering what this beautiful tiny park on the water was. We were impressed with the immaculate care of the grounds, including a path with stairs and handrails that leads from this installation to the shrine below and several beautiful flower gardens.

It did make me wonder how many people did seek it out on purpose, and what thoughts and prayers and petitions had been raised in this place.



Friday, July 10, 2009

Petite Aldouane [UPDATED]

Petite Aldouane is a tiny village between Richibucto and Kougibougouac Park that we passed throug near-daily. The Petite Rivière Aldouane runs through it.
This is just a pretty picture of a pretty river in a pretty village on a very pretty day. Beauty like this was around us constantly. We take it for granted here, I was reminded.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Richibucto [UPDATED]

Beach, beach, beach, yes, yes, but a girl's gotta eat, so on Wednesday we went down to the wharf in Richibucto, which I mentioned was home base, and got a couple of fresh lobster.

The photo at the top of the post is taken pre-carnage, in our hotel room. The small plates were for the potato salad (in the tub), not, as some commenters have speculated, designed to hold the lobster overspill. That was just Husband's creative plating.

They were big lobster - about 2.3 lbs each (old habits die hard, and you still buy your lobsters in pounds). That claw on the right is just about as big as it looks. And it was goooooood.

We were staying at the Silver Birch Motel in Richibucto, which is not where we were supposed to be staying. We'd booked a week at a lodge just outside the gates of Koughibougouac National Park. We arrived there on Sunday evening to discover that some things - a lot of the things - that were advertised on the website didn't, in fact, exist. (The restaurant? Only open for breakfast. The pleasant beer garden with the hanging plants? "Oh... that hasn't been open for a few years now..." The on-site internet? Non-existent.) As displeased with the fact that we'd been misled as by the lack of amenities, we asked for - and got - our money back. Now at loose ends, we scratched our heads, headed back south, and decided to stop at the first decent hotel, motel, chalet or lodge we spotted.

It turned out to be the Silver Birch. The sign said "Restaurant...Birch Lounge...Vacancies". The front desk clerk was pleasant. "Do you have wireless internet?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "Sign on the dotted line," I said to Husband.

The room - a ridiculously cheap $75 a night - was faded but clean, and big, and boasted a kitchenette and sofa as well as the bed. Definitely a step-up from most family-owned tourist motels in the area. The restaurant featured excellent home cooking (including a breakfast to die for), and since we happened to have hit town in time for the local Scallop Festival, served up enormous platters of huge, plump scallops with fries or mashed potatoes, veggies and coleslaw for less than $10 every evening.

The lounge - well, the lounge was an experience in and of itself. Bare-bones would be a compliment - Husband dubbed it The Spartan Lounge - veneer tables and stacking chairs, a handful of regulars playing video gambling machines, and a smaller handful of regulars sitting at the bar chatting loudly in French with the garrulous bartenders. We were made to feel more than welcome.

The jarring exception to the painfully generic motel bar decor was a series of space-themed murals that had been painted, inexplicably, on every door in the place. Just the doors. And our favourite mural was the jaw-dropping Space-Alien Stripper (as we dubbed her) painted on a door behind the bar that led into the kitchen. She's wearing some kind of totally-ineffectual space helmet that isn't sealed. Those tassels are real, folks, and swung back and forth every time someone passed through the portal.

All in all, the Silver Birch proved a perfectly adequate home base from which to go north, or south, as we chose on any given day, and explore the area. Every staff member was inordinately kind to us, and I hope they prosper for years to come.

Weird space murals and all.



Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Kouchibouguac [UPDATED]

On Wednesday the weather had turned hot and sunny and we headed to the raison d'être for this vacation, Kougibougouac National Park and the beach!

This is Kelly's Beach, one of several in the park. This beach itself is located on a wide dune, and you access the beach by traversing 1.2km of boardwalk similar to that at the Eco-Centre (previous post). In addition to the dunes' inherent fragility, its far ends to the north and south are nesting grounds part of the year for the piping plover. The plovers' eggs and chicks are at great risk from a wide variety of predators (foxes, crows, dogs, cats), along with human accidental destruction, so during nesting time the nesting areas are strictly off-limits, both the dune and the beach.

They're serious about this - a security guard polices the boundary all day, sitting in a small sunshade at the beginning of the nesting area.

Sometimes the nests are encircled with wire fencing so that the birds can get in and out, but predators can't get to the eggs or chicks. The park rangers also rely on night-vision video cameras to keep an eye on the nests.

I spoke to one park ranger who told me that it had been a very good year so far - they'd recorded eight live chicks. (I read in the park literature that only 1 in 4 survive to flight age.)

Good luck, little guys!

Given the weather (the temperatures went from 23° to 29° over the next 3 days and it was cloudless and sunny), the number of tourists crawling over every part of the region, and the fact that the local kids are out of school, the beach - the nicest in the immediate area - was astonishingly roomy the three days we spent significant hours baking on it. lots of families, though - lots and lots of kids. Made for some interesting watching, but a much louder beach experience than we're used to in Cuba!

For the next few days we continued to explore the region (I will be posting a map in the near future) but made sure to clock lots of beach time at "Kougch".



Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bouctouche [UPDATED]

On Tuesday the weather was even better so we visited a spot we had both been looking forward to - the Irving Eco-Centre on the Bouctouche dune.

The Bouctouche dune is "one of the few remaining great sand dunes on the northeastern coastline of North America". It stretches for 12km parallel to the east coast of New Brunswick.

The dune is a fragile habitat where migratory shorebirds nest and native grasses try - with varying success - to anchor the dune from the ravages of wind, water and erosion. The dune is also getting narrower due to rising water levels, a side-effect of climate change.

The Irving family/industrial conglomerate, whose roots are in Kent County (and whose presence is overwhelming in New Brunswick), has created an impressive infrastructure on the dune. An interpretive centre, lookout tower, and slate of educational programs help locals and tourists alike understand the ecological importance of the dune and the surrounding habitat. 2km of meandering boardwalk allow visitors to walk the dune and see the flora and fauna (well, birds, mostly, and crabs and other shellfish) that populate it.

To the right of the boardwalk as it appears in the photo above is a saltwater marsh, fed by the tides that slip over and around the dune; we saw graceful herons feeding there. (Too far away to photograph without a zoom, sadly.)

(<= saltwater marsh) There's no admission fee to experience this beautiful natural treasure; I'm not sure how the financing works (the lack of an admission fee made me wonder mightily), but as far as I can tell the Irvings built the thing "as a gift to Kent County" and donations and gift-shop sales certainly contribute.

The Eco-Centre was a great experience, but just driving through this part of the province is a treat all by itself. Take, for example, this roadside shrine to the Virgin we saw not far from the park entrance. You'll spot these here and there around here - a reminder of the very French, very Catholic history and culture of this place.

Weather was definitely improving. Wednesday would be sunny and 23°; time to explore Kougibigouac National Park and hit the beach!



Monday, July 06, 2009

Moncton [UPDATED]

Our vacation this year was spent on the east coast of NB, along the Acadian Coast. The focus of the trip was Kougibougouac National Park - more about that later - but we established ourselves at Richibucto, roughly in the middle of the part of the province we wanted to explore, and spent some time getting to know our Acadian neighbours.

The week started out decidedly iffy - lots of sun/cloud/shower changes, and cool, all day Sunday and Monday - so on Monday we decided to head south to Moncton to visit the Magnetic Hill Zoo. More than anything we wanted to see the new lion cubs, a male and a female, that the zoo had recently brought in to keep company with Kito, the resident 10-year-old lioness who lost her mate in January.

The cubs are a male and a female, and the photo at the top of this post is of the young lioness.

This is the male. We made a point of being around for feeding time and as you can see, he is, um, feeding. You may also note that his mane is just starting to come in.

This is an olive baboon, who was being fed cherry tomatoes by his keeper when we visited.

And this, I believe, is a white-handed gibbon. (I lost my zoo map.) He was putting on an aerobatics show, swinging around wildly on the firehose strung throughout his habitat.

Having visited the zoo before, we spent most of our time at the lion and primates exhibits. (Tomar the tiger, who was the zoo's main attraction at the time I wrote the post I just linked to, has since passed away of age-related causes. He is gone but clearly not forgotten; a large portrait of him overlooks the visitor's centre, a path in the zoo has been named after him, and I bought a t-shirt with his handsome face on it at the gift shop.)

The showers held off all day and it was a good way to start the vacation.

Now if only the rest of the week would see improving weather so we could get to a key feature of the vacation - the beach!!



Friday, July 03, 2009

Sighting in the wild!

Strange Adventures Comic Book Store, Fredericton.

I also checked out the local Chapters today - they'd had 3 copies, but had sold out :)



Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

We're about to head to the local festivities, although the skies are grey and gloomy.

In the meantime we've been watching the ceremonies and performances on Parliament Hill on TV, an exercise which handily illustrates the problem of combining live events which have lots of natural gaps and pauses with anchors who can't. stand. ten. seconds. of. silence.

Such as when one commentator helpfully filled in a little lull in the conversation by informing the nation that the 21 Gun Salute "is shooting blanks".

How counter-intuitive.