Leaving 2017

By , December 30, 2017 12:20 pm

Good Things of 2017

Tessa and Scott: I love the Roxanne program. I love their energy and passion. Yes, Scott sometimes gets into it too much and he’s not perfect. I don’t care. They’re perfect together.

Euro Sport image from NHK Trophy in Japan.

Murdoch Mysteries: still going strong after 11 seasons. May I just say, please let George be happy for more than half a season!!!

Murdoch saved from jail once again.

Alias Grace: I sort of watched the mini series on CBC, mostly because it followed Murdoch Mysteries. I recently read the book by Margaret Atwood. Readers of my blog will know that I DO NOT usually read fiction. Though it is based on a true story, it is still fiction. I loved it! I don’t think Grace murdered Nancy Montgomery. After watching the mini series, I thought I recognized the actress who played Grace, but I couldn’t quite recall from where. It turns out she played Ruby Ogden, Julia’s sister, on Murdoch. Small world. Or, CBC world.

Cooper’s Bar Mitzvah: my nephew did a great job on his big day in October. His friends coming up and speaking about him was very sweet, especially for 13-year old boys. The weekend provided a wonderful opportunity to visit with family from out of town.

Hockey theme

Emilie, Shannon and Risa – first cousins from Vancouver.

Richard Parker, the Cat: phrases commonly heard around our house now that we have this energetic little devil – RIIIIIIIIICHARD (downward inflection)! What are you doing? How did you get THERE? Who brought the blanket into the kitchen? Get out of everyone else’s food!!! Leave Bailey alone!

Risa and Richard, taken by my cousin Emilie Irelan in October.

Here’s a rare scene: all four cats together – Val is feeding them treats.

Rapport: the blog I edit for OHASSTA. This is why I don’t have much time to blog here anymore. Doing the paper edition for the November conference made October extremely stressful, but I proved that I could do it.

Museums, especially the newly revamped Canadian History Hall in the Museum of History in Ottawa: OHASSTA conference attendees got a tour – I really loved the story of Nuvumiataq,  who was reconstructed from bones found in the Arctic (on Baffin Island). He is also in Canadian Geographic magazine’s Nov/Dec. issue which focuses on Indigenous peoples of Canada. The guide told us that when Inuit advisors from Arctic Bay saw the finished exhibit for the first time they thought he looked familiar!

The Table: vegan buffet restaurant in Ottawa – it is SO nice to have more than one choice on a buffet – choice of everything is pretty amazing.

From The Table’s Instagram account.

Skye: my vote for horse of the year at Sunnybrook Stables – calm, predictable, relatively gentleman-like (except when he is eating), capable of being ridden in a lovely frame, cloud-like canter. Rex would be second place for me – cute as a button (except when that gigantic head of his accidentally hits you – it hurts!).

Skye getting his Christmas carrots.

Huntsville area: our summer trip included a fun visit to the Screaming Heads, a rural property near Burk’s Falls full of huge concrete art pieces. The land belongs to artist Peter Camani, a former high school art teacher. This one says “put up your hand.” As a teacher, I can relate! I have to say, however, my favourite part of the visit was not the art (I don’t tend to “get” art); it was the walk through the sprawling meadow across the street. I have always wanted to walk through a meadow with its waist-high grass and jumping grasshoppers. It did not disappoint.

Squirrel in the fireplace: Anonymous creature got in sometime on Fri. Dec. 22 and was there to greet me when I arrived home from school. Our fireplace is two-sided so I got some pretty good views of him. He had to be lured out with peanut butter into one of the cat carriers. Mission accomplished. He is not staying. We had a brief moment of eye contact – I do love squirrels, just not in my home.

Val: my husband continues to be the most wonderful, supportive, caring man on earth. I love him so much and he deserves immense much credit for keeping me sane. Here he is in the above-mentioned meadow at Screaming Heads.



Look kids: annotating

By , November 16, 2017 9:55 pm

I was at the Canadian Museum of History tonight in Ottawa. OHASSTA conference attendees got a special tour of the new Canadian History Hall. I loved it – so much amazing stuff.

I wanted to share this photo of a document that John A. Macdonald was doodling on during one of the constitutional conferences leading up to Confederation in 1867.

2017 Anniversaries

By , November 12, 2017 6:03 pm

2017 is an incredible year for historians with so many anniversaries to celebrate, commemorate, and ponder.

Other than Canada 150+, for me, the most significant are the Russian Revolution and Martin Luther’s writing of his 95 Theses.

My interest in Russian history goes back a long time. In university, I studied Russian history and Soviet politics. In fact, the Soviet Union broke up during my Soviet politics course in 1991. It was very dramatic for the students! I’m sure it was overwhelming for the people of the crumbling Soviet Union as well.  There is no longer a place in my grade 12 history course for the Russian Revolution, sadly. For those who are interested, check out the Economist‘s lead article on the continuities between Vladimir Putin and tsars of Russia’s past: A Tsar Is Born.

The Economist, Oct. 26, 2017


Though I am an atheist, I am very interested in the character of Martin Luther. He was a complicated and often cruel man. Five hundred years ago Luther caused a major rift in western European Christianity with his posting of his 95 Theses, or complaints, against the Roman Catholic Church. The rest is history, as they say. One of my favourite PBS history series is Empires. The multi-part story of Luther is very compelling: Empires – Martin Luther


PBS, Empires: Martin Luther


For other anniversaries, see this article in Newsweek (from an American perspective), or this one from Maclean’s (from more of a Canadian/international perspective).

Commemoration is one of the hottest topics in history today. How do we mark? How do we remember? Do we celebrate? Do we learn from the past? Judging from Canada’s experience during our 150th, these are all complex questions well worth studying.

Richard and the Giant Cat Wheel

By , November 2, 2017 10:17 pm

We have four cats. Yes, we are crazy. But Richard, our newest, is crazier. He eats dry wall. He terrorizes one of our other cats, Bailey. He is OCD and ADHD.

To use up his energy, we got him a giant cat wheel. Basically it’s a hamster wheel writ large.

See Richard run!

Return to Blogging and Skating

By , October 29, 2017 4:16 pm

It has been a long time since I have blogged here. That’s probably largely attributable to the fact that I spend so much time blogging on the OHASSTA blog, Rapport.

Blog is a bad verb. Let’s use write.

In my return, I shall write about one of my favourite fall-winter topics, figure skating.

Oy Patrick.

I love Patrick Chan’s skating – I don’t care if he jumps or not. However, I do care if he falls and doubles. In my completely outsider opinion, Patrick’s problems are in his head. Or else he trains poorly and isn’t a hard worker. I’d seriously doubt that. I doubt Marina Zoueva, his coach in Michigan, would allow that. Patrick could just skate around on his edges and he’d impress the hell out of me but I guess that’s not the sport at hand. Fourth place at Skate Canada International 2017 was a fall from grace. Tracy Wilson’s consternation on CTV said it all. Or maybe she was concerned about Brian Orser who had gall bladder surgery in Regina. Maybe Patrick’s pride has taken one too many hits in the face of all those young jumping beans who can’t skate.


Canada's Patrick Chan performs his free program in the men's competition at Skate Canada International in Regina on Saturday, October 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson ORG XMIT: PCH215


(National Post, http://nationalpost.com/sports/olympics/patrick-chan-emphasizing-his-strengths-and-passions-in-final-season)

I have to say, that look on Patrick’s face reminds me of those times when only half my class hands in their assignment on the due date.

Love Tessa and Scott

They are without doubt the greatest ice dancers ever. Plain and simple. Technically, emotionally, musically! Most importantly, they have range. Though I enjoyed the technical prowess of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, I was constantly annoyed by the sameness of every routine they skated. The same drive and passion for excellence, but the same level nonetheless. As fans, we need more. As skaters, I’d assume they’d need more. Skating without Tessa and Scott will be empty again.


(Toronto Star, https://www.thestar.com/sports/amateur/2017/10/28/canadian-skater-kaetlyn-osmond-wins-singles-title.html)


there are dance teams waiting in the wings. And I don’t mean the French – though they are lovely, they don’t have the range. I mean Katelyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, newly returned to greatness with their reprise of “Je suis malade”. Also, I have really come to admire the American team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (another team that trains with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal). Deep edges, very smooth. Very musical. I always like what Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles come up with. Their skate to the music from Perry Mason is an interesting choice. Very understated. Ironically, one of the Perry Mason composers was jazz musician Lud Gluskin (don’t ask me how I know this). He didn’t compose the piece they skate to, but it’s a cute little connection I’ll take.


Meagan and Eric’s Big Return

As Meagan could be overheard saying in the “kiss and cry” area after their free skate, the quad is back. We all know they lost their way some time last year. They , Meagan in particular, looked so nervous leading up to that throw quadruple too loop. After that, back to the old fist-pumping confidence. I hope it will last them throughout the season. I haven’t watched much else in the pairs world. I still like Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch despite her frequent falls – I like the different style of choreography in their short program, “In the Air Tonight.” I also liked the choreography of Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot – very modern. But they just didn’t skate it. I do finally see what all the fuss about Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France is all about. Very promising team – very athletic, with modern choreography. LONG legs on both of them.



(Golden Skate, https://goldenskate.com/2017/10/emotional-victory-duhamel-radford/)

Happy at last.


Looking forward to the next skates.



BIG Club Meeting

By , September 21, 2017 6:35 am

Here are the documents from the Thurs. Sept. 21, 2017 meeting on Gold and Silver, club request forms, club fest …

Gold and Silver Reform (overview)


EXISTING_Club_Request Form_2017-18


Please hand all club request forms in by Tues. Sept. 26, 3 pm. There will be an envelope on the bulletin board outside room 145. No electronic submissions please.

We will get back to you by Fri. Sept. 29.

Club Fest is Thurs. Oct. 5 at lunch in Titan Hall.

Welcome New Students

By , September 4, 2017 10:03 am

Hello everyone! Welcome to my CHY4U class, whether you’re a new student, or familiar with me. I’m really looking forward to a good semester; this will be my second time around with my revised version of grade 12 World History. It’s very different from grade 11 – be prepared for a very different style. If you’re new, the course will hopefully make you realize the incredible horizons of history!


First Activity

If you scroll through my blog you’ll notice that I like to write book reviews. I would like you to write either a book review, a movie review, a documentary review, a YouTube review, a website review, or a tv show review. The one catch is that it has to have something to do with HISTORY! Any time period, not necessarily just 1450-present (the time frame for CHY4U).

Also, please reveal something of yourself in your review: what do you like when it comes to history and reading/viewing? What makes it appealing (or not) to you? What did it make you think about? What did you learn from it?

Length: a good paragraph at least – it doesn’t have to be as long as some of my reviews.


Send It To Me

My email is risa@cabal.org or risa.gluskin@tdsb.on.ca. Please send your review by Friday Sept. 8.





By , August 7, 2017 12:28 pm

Mark Kurlansky, Paper, 2016


I don’t necessarily read a Mark Kurlansky book about “something” to learn stuff about that thing. I prefer all the other things I learn along the way. In that sense, Paper didn’t disappoint. The journey included interesting stops on the topics of Egyptian papyrus, Chinese calligraphy, the Reformation, the American Revolution, the industrial process (which I am really into right now), the rag trade, and of course the printing process.

Years ago I read Kurlansky’s Salt (2002) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was probably my first “commodity biography”, or book about a certain thing. From then I went on to acorns, soil, cochineal (little red bugs that make ink), cotton, and various other things that I can’t recall anymore. I do recall enjoying this type of historical tourism – learning a bit of this, a bit of that as I vicariously travel the globe. One more reason why I don’t need to travel in real life.

Perhaps in the subsequent years I have come to expect more of a narrative linking the tourist sites (or topics) together. Though I really like Kurlansky’s thesis, I think he only threw it in when he remembered it was important.

The narrative arc that is supposed to join the book together is what he calls the ‘technological fallacy’: “Technological inventions have always arisen from necessity. … Studying the history of paper exposes a number of historical misconceptions, the most important of which is this technological fallacy: the idea that technology changes society. It is exactly the reverse. Society develops technology to address the changes that are taking place within it.

I totally agree with this. From my somewhat Luddite standpoint in this technologically obsessed world, I wish people would recognize that the technology they use doesn’t have to drive them. Oh well, seems I’m a total loser on that one.

I agree with Kurlansky that, in historical comparison, we are not living in the most change-driven era ever. Certainly the era of the 1790s to the late 1800s was seeing much more change in daily life than we are. And the changes were far-reaching in their impact, at home where the machinery may have been putting people out of work, and abroad where slavery and imperialism were working hand in hand to entrench the use of non-white people as labour to feed the white industrialized world. That is the thesis of Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert (2015), an incredibly well researched, thorough book that holds onto its thesis very tightly. Perhaps in that sense I’m a bit disappointed with Paper because it’s more of a journalistic effort than a true history. But it’s not really a fair comparison.

Paper is still as ubiquitous as ever, despite the so-called digital revolution. Everyone should have a sense of its history. I recommend Paper, whether you read it on a e-reader or in book form. No big shock that I only read books on paper. Otherwise my library would be physically empty.




This Is Why I Don’t Like Movies

By , August 7, 2017 11:46 am

Netflix kills me! Too many choices. I cannot exist in that universe. A few days ago we actually found something we could agree on to watch: The Founder, the story of Ray Kroc ‘s creation of the McDonald’s empire.

Though I enjoyed the movie (“based on a true story”) there was something bugging me after. Finally, a few days later, I tried to look up some information about Ray Kroc’s first wife, Ethel, who just kind of disappears from the movie after he utters his desire to divorce her at the dining room table.

There’s really not too much out there on her, at least after my superficial research efforts. There is, however, a lot of information about parts of the Ray Kroc story that aren’t in the movie, or are ‘changed’ in the movie. The movie, therefore, to me, is more fiction than fact.

I know I’ve written about this before – how shocked I am when Hollywood changes something to suit its preferences, or timelines, or values. I guess I am so naive (or out of practice at watching movies) that I just forgot.

There’s not much of a place for women in The Founder. So I will say that I thought Laura Dern did a good job playing Kroc’s neglected first wife. There was also, apparently, a second wife, before he married Joan, the focus of his attention in the movie. Also, Ray and Ethel apparently had a daughter. She didn’t exist in the movie. Not important, I guess.

I will end with these two “nuggets”: one, the last time I ate at McDonald’s was probably 1989; two, I hate fiction!


My Banquette

By , July 23, 2017 10:54 am

No, not for eating in a restaurant.

For floating on Rice Lake.

What an awesome hubby I have in Val who got this for me and pulled me around on it. It’s also quite nice for sitting on the shore reading a book.

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