A Bit of Fresh Air

Last weekend, it looked like winter was a foregone conclusion. This past weekend, it looked like summer was mounting a comeback. The truth is that evidence of autumn is all around us. The colours are beautiful and they need to be seen, and the best way was definitely on foot.

Sarah and I headed out for a walk on a nearby trail. One great thing about living where I do is that there are abundant places to walk and see nature. There are trees everywhere from the urban to the suburban to the countryside. In the summer we’ve got a lot of green and in the fall, we’ve got more colours than my camera can record.

We were out for about an hour and a half. It was by no means an epic hike, but we got to see a Covid safe farmer’s market, a park, a trail, and some scenes of a gurgling river. I probably should have put it on Strava, but I wasn’t concerned with that.

As I said, the colours were incredible…..and this is only the beginning. There were still lots of trees that hadn’t changed yet. Also, we came across a pine tree whose needles had changed to yellow. I don’t remember seeing that before.

At one part of the trip, I found a five dollar bill that had blown up against a fence. Naturally, it became mine. Sarah, good-hearted that she is, felt sorry that some poor child had lost their money and I should be looking to give it back. I countered that the poor kid was probably going to spend it on cigarettes or more likely stuff for vaping–I don’t know what they call it???? liquid nicotine? I do know that they think it’s cooler than cigarettes and that holding the vape without even smoking somehow is worth sharing on social media.

So, beautiful colours, a healthy walk with someone important, and I probably saved some youth from starting an addiction. It is pretty obvious where Today’s Perfect Moment can be found.

Posted in autumn, beauty, fall colours, hiking, nature, perfect moment, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

September Morning

I’ve missed a few rides lately. Last weekend the temperature was 4 degrees. The other times coincided with something I either had to do or wanted to do. Keeping that in mind, and knowing that the temperature was changing quite rapidly this year, I knew that I had to get out for a ride this morning. I am not convinced it is the last ride of the year, but cooler temperatures and lots of rain are forecast for the coming months. As far as the club is concerned, this is the last official ride of the summer.

When I arrived at the meeting point, I was the only one there. I did laps around the parking lot to stay warm and functioning. It wasn’t cold, but I dressed for it to get warmer. It afforded me the opportunity to take some pictures of the trees in the area. The colours were fantastic.

Only two others showed up. Most club members were doing other rides. Not exactly how I pictured the last ride of the season, but that is the kind of year it has been. Attendance has been sparse for most rides and many people were busy making group rides of their own.

Our ride was the familiar bakery ride. The ride took us through some beautiful landscape. There were lots of leaves with vibrant colours and the corn stalks were really high. The temperature was warm enough when we were moving and I found myself enjoying the scenery a lot. I was so happy that I got out for the ride. I wish I had charged up my faux pro and gotten some video.

We made it to the café in good time and were greeted by a ton of riders. It seems that this café is still going strong despite not having indoor seating and requiring anyone making an order to wear a mask. Glad to see it can be done. A note to some TV lovers, the apothecary shop featured in Schitt’s Creek is located kitty-corner to the café. I am not sure that is important, but someone might be interested.

At the café, we met up with the Egals–which is the women’s section of the Eagles. Of course women are welcome on the regular rides, but they have chosen mostly to ride as a group of only women this year. I met a few people I hadn’t seen since last year. I kind of lament the splitting of the group, but they seem to be thriving while the regular crew is not gaining any members. Perhaps it is a Covid thing, or perhaps it isn’t.

It wasn’t my most challenging ride and I really didn’t set Strava afire with my exploits. However, I got out on my bike and that is what matters. Yes, I want to go faster, but part of that is getting out on the bike more and pushing yourself to go faster. This might not have been the ride for that, but a couple of hours on the bike certainly beats a bunch of hours sitting on the sofa or sitting in front of the computer screen.

Posted in autumn, bicycles, club, cycling, cycling gear, fall colours, group rides, Newmarket Eagles, Saturday morning, strava | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Frying Pans

So universe, there is something I have been wondering about for a long time. Why don’t they sell lids with frying pans?

I know, you can buy lids separately, but they rarely fit, and they rarely look like they belong with the frying pan. I want to delicately cook my chicken for my chicken sandwich, and a lid is essential.

You might argue that since frying pans are easily scratched and more easily disposed of that having a lid would cause a person to have a pile of leftover lids. That may be true, but you don’t have to sell every pan with a lid. And if I had the lid already, I would probably buy the same frying pan again. How is that for marketing?

Posted in cooking, marketing, questions, shopping | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Toy Store for Adults**

**because “Adult Toy Store” would have got us all thinking about something completely different.

As recent and long-time readers know, I have become interested in doing some woodworking. I have become addicted to some videos and really want to try my hand at some of these projects. I’ve also been reading magazines. I managed to get a bunch of them from the library –so I didn’t need to spend any money. I am not sure what I want to build, but I want to build something.

I have a few tools, but nothing major. I have a router and a small bench top router table. I have a drill and skill saw. I have a sander, and I have jigsaw that was probably made for small hobby projects. I have been thinking of purchasing some other tools and I have toured Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, Home Depot, Lowes, and Rona. They’ve got big brand names of tools, but they don’t seem to have the selection or the really good stuff.

After reading some magazines, I discovered that there were a couple of specialist woodworking stores in the area. While not exactly on my way home from work, they were kind of close. The only trouble was that they closed early. I probably wouldn’t have a long time in the store. Nevertheless, I decided that if I got out of work relatively quickly, I was going to go there. It never hurts to browse.

As I typed that previous line, I could feel how wrong that was. Of course browsing hurts. Browsing creates desire. Browsing causes one to do mental financial calculations in one’s brain. Browsing shows you what you want is out there. Basically when the store clerk told me that “this is one awesome toy store”, he wasn’t lying. The men and women who are into woodworking probably drop a bundle at the store.

I certainly enjoyed my trip to the store. I saw the dust collection system that I will probably buy. I saw the drill press that I will probably buy. I saw….there really is no point in listing it all. I saw a great bunch of stuff that I want to buy. It is a toy store and I got the same feeling I had when I was a kid and could wander the toy aisle unsupervised while my mother shopped somewhere else. Now, I just need to go back on a Saturday when I can have more time to wander…unsupervised.

I left empty-handed except for the store catalogue and a head full of dreams and ambitions. The drive home from there was extra tedious and the radio didn’t save me with some great songs, but I didn’t mind. I had already had Today’s Perfect Moment. What more could I want?

Posted in perfect moment | 2 Comments

Beautifully Quiet

This sandwich doesn’t have much to do with this post, but I guess I should taunt you as well.

I felt very sleepy by the end of my teaching day. It’s only Tuesday, but it is amazing how strong I felt the Friday feeling of weariness. It could be the ongoing pandemic. It could be the gruesome political scenes I see playing out around me. It could be that I just need to sleep more.

I thought my lunch might liven me up, but besides digitally taunting my girlfriend with pictures of my delicious sandwich, not much of consequence happened. Nothing stirred me particularly strongly.

Dismissing students from a digital teaching platform doesn’t have the same power as doing it in person. It is kind of like hanging up on someone on a digital phone. Yeah it’s over, but there isn’t anything dramatic about it. It’s just a click. If their sound is off or they don’t receive any notifications, it is going to be even less exciting.

So after dismissing my students, and reminding them (again) about their homework, I set about creating Today’s Perfect Moment. I sat down and enjoyed a cup of coffee. I made no reflections about my teaching. I made no plans for the next classes I would teach. I just took a moment to do…nothing. How beautifully quiet it was.

Posted in coffee, ESL, homework, questions, quiet, students, teaching | 4 Comments

Battling the Machines

I should be writing about how I prepared a decent meal for my girlfriend on the weekend. Too often, I have relied on takeout rather than my culinary skills. While one is certainly easier, it really is a little on the lazy side–especially since she cooks some rather epic meals.

While I should write about that, I am instead favouring something that happened a bit more recently. I have to write a new chapter in the saga of men over machines. If it sounds compelling, please read on.

Yesterday, I changed my internet and TV provider. There are always better deals than what you’ve got, and after looking at the wasteful amount of money I have been spending on TV that I really don’t watch very much of, I decided to trim that expense by taking one of these deals. As far as internet speed is concerned, it is fast enough for my work needs and allows me to watch some TV on my tablet.

The thing about changing internet providers is that it is really all about having to reset your devices and passwords. For me, my printer/scanner has been a saviour since I started teaching from home. The thing works well and based on my experience with other people’s scanners and software, it is relatively easy to use. When I changed my provider, I quickly changed the computer, the tablet, and my smartphone so I could access the internet. What I forgot to do was reprogram my printer.

This morning, I wanted to use the printer but it failed. I tried for quick fixes and nothing worked. I really wanted to scan some documents for class. Even though I had the manual (and was able to put my hands on it quickly) and the appropriate cables (I have lots of inappropriate cables too) I couldn’t get it to work quickly.

When I got home from work, I set about solving the problem. I followed the steps and was rewarded with a non-functioning scanner. Actually, I thought the whole thing didn’t work, but came to discover that the printer worked wirelessly fine, but the scanner was offline. How weird was that.

I wrestled with the problem for quite some time before I had it solved. I checked YouTube, I checked forums, and I even called my new service provider and had the displeasure of speaking to one of their customer service representatives. She was unpleasant, so you can imagine how I responded. Just remember sarcasm and bluntness are considered virtues in my family.

I checked the software version and was told I already had the best and most suitable software version. This obviously wasn’t true as I ended up downloading the latest software to get the thing to work.

While I might think that sarcastically lacing into a customer service representative would constitute a Perfect Moment, I don’t want to celebrate negativity. Instead, I want to share how it felt to finally solve the problem. I felt smart and capable, and I felt like I triumphed over the machine. That is Today’s Perfect Moment.

Posted in computers, cooking, ESL, fixing, food, online, perfect moment, repair, software, teaching | 7 Comments

Giving Away Some Clutter

Being back in the classroom has definitely added to the dynamic of my interactions with students. Owing to physical distancing recommendations, I am not physically close to my students, but just being in their presence has made some differences.

One of these has been to hear their anxiety over the coming winter. We are experiencing some rather cool temperatures right now, and I can see that it is having an effect on their anxiety level. Currently all of my students come from countries that do not experience below zero temperatures even in the depth of winter. So when it is 4 degrees in September, they have all started to worry.

For one student at least, I was able to do something to cheer them up. You see, I have a pair of women’s heavy-duty winter boots in my closet. These were left by my ex-wife because she moved to a warmer place. I was doing some cleaning and spotted them. Rather than put them in a donation box, I was thinking of trying to give them to somebody. My options were Freecycle or start asking around. I asked my students and they seemed to be interested.

I took them to school and left them in the classroom before the students got there. I spent time preparing for class and really didn’t give it another thought. When I got back to the classroom, the students were in discussion and I could see that they were talking about the boots. I was rather worried that they didn’t fit, or weren’t acceptable and I was going to have to haul the things home again.

Instead, before I could even ask, one of the students said that they fit her and she asked if she could have them. I had already offered them, but I appreciated the polite request and didn’t act in my normal snarky manner. I said sure…or maybe I said absolutely. I try and vary my expressions when talking to students so they get exposed to more vocabulary.

At the end of class, as she was leaving, the student thanked me again. She was so happy to have a warm pair of boots. I was happy to get some space back in the back of my closet without having to throw something useable away. I really hate when something goes to waste. This is probably as a result of my upbringing.

Making someone else happy and not being wasteful is an easy Perfect Moment.

Posted in class, decluttering, ESL, free stuff, students, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

From Students to Shaving

I was working on phrasal verbs with my students today and one of the words in phrasal verbs in question was “tire me out”. After seeing the phrasal verb, along with some others we were looking at in context, I set them a discussion task involving questions using the phrasal verbs. The question I asked them was which tired them out more, online classes or face to face classes.

The answer surprised me a little. They said that online classes tired them out more. I was a bit confused, but since they have been trained to give more information when answering questions, I soon got to hear their interesting logic behind the answer. One of them explained, and was quickly backed up by the others in the class, that with online classes they wake up only 5 minutes before class and stumble over to their computers without much thought. When they take face to face classes, they have to get up earlier, shower, eat breakfast, and make the commute. They then explained that this “woke them up.”

I had to consider that they confused “being tired” with “something tired them out”. I could certainly see their logic. However, due to a large age gap, maybe they hadn’t really confused it. Maybe lying around all day waiting for classes to start online really did tire them out. They live in a world where everything (except English classes) is provided “on demand”.

They went off on a tangent about not needing to get ready for class and I thought of myself getting up early, taking a shower, shaving, and eating breakfast before teaching the first online class of the day. I am thick skinned, but they were making me out to be a chump.

I should relate this to my weekend. I didn’t shave from Friday morning to Monday morning. I had a decent amount of growth going. My girlfriend regards my stubble as “daggers’ but by the third day, I could imagine it was starting to get softer. I briefly toyed with the idea of growing my first “pandemic beard” but so many other people had beat me to it.

I relish the oppourtunity not to shave. It is always good to give your face a vacation. However, and my girlfriend is going to love me admitting this, shaving off those three days of stubble also felt pretty good. Which one is the Perfect Moment? It doesn’t really matter. I enjoyed both of them.

Posted in Covid 19, ESL, online, shaving, students, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shopping Carts

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

A second question for the universe.

Why does the cart I chose appear normal and functional in every single way until I get it within the shopping aisles. Suddenly the wheels start locking up or rolling in directions I don’t want to go.

I probably wouldn’t mind so much if those wheels took me to the chocolate section.

Posted in grocery shopping, questions, shopping | Tagged | 1 Comment

When ESL Teachers Clean Up

I was at work today….really at work, not teaching from a chair in my extra bedroom. And for all the significance that should have in this yet unresolved pandemic era, it wasn’t that remarkable at all. Instead it was something simpler, yet far more illustrative. I call it Today’s Perfect Moment, but that is perhaps a bit ironic.

As you might have read in past installments of this blog, the teachers usually hang out at work in the Teacher’s Room. I don’t know what really characterizes that room, or set of rooms really, in the best way. I will try my best to let you see it through my eyes and breath it through my lexicon.

It is, in fact, chaos. It is anxiety. It is eerie calm. It is diversity in so much more than the obvious. In everything from thoughts to actions, from music to poetry, from languages to nonverbal grunts, from humour to cruelty it assaults and comforts you. It is a sanctuary and an oppressive force. It is loved by many and hated by some.

It is all these things, but neat and tidy it is not. Yes, some teachers are organized and hygienically superior, but they are not the majority. The desks, really more like tables since the company doesn’t believe that anyone would want drawers, are covered with books, pens, textbooks, souvenir knickknacks, and old photocopies that may be needed some day. There are coffee cups, half-read, dog-eared novels. There are travels guides–few of which are up to date. There are trivia cards from a multitude of games because although the games are not fun, the questions certainly are. The boundaries of what space you might actually occupy are blurry for most. Chairs are not tucked in and computer screens are not closed. USB sticks and half eaten lunches litter the computers.

As a deep cleaning will soon be undertaken, teacher’s were asked to come and clean up their spaces at separate times to allow for both physical and temporal distance. In the past two weeks, my every other day trips to work have seen me encounter suddenly clean and junk free desks. Things are gone. It is odd how empty the place looks.

Many of these people will be back whenever the ESL industry recovers. This will require an easing of border restrictions, more flights, economic fortune, and a willingness to fly in an enclosed flying tin can with a bunch of strangers. So probably next summer.

The truth is, though, many will not be back.

Posted in cleaning, co-workers, Covid 19, ESL, online, teaching, work, working from home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment