Wednesday, February 24, 2021

An update on Iris’ vital signs.

UP TO SCRATCH: Ready, Iris, ready.

As regular readers (ha-ha) of Petes Blog&Grille know, for the past three years, Professor Iris Cat (“Iris”) has been sitting behind a message board in the front window of her house in the southwest corner of Toronto.

You read right. Three years. We know this because the signs started about the same time as Iris’ sign guy started his new job at  The Lawyers Daily and this week  marks the completion of his third year there. 

Regular readers might have also noticed that Iris’ messages don’t change as fast as they used to. In fact, as we write this, Iris has not been to the window in over two weeks. At least she wasn’t in the window when her official photographer was around to grab a picture. So a sign sits in the window, waiting for her to give it her royal assent, as it were. (This, boys and girls, this is called foreshadowing.)

To find out what’s up with Iris, Pete’s B’sB&G caught up with her and conducted this impossibly ridiculously childish time-wasting pretend interview..

P’sB&GIris Cat Iris Cat where have you been?” (Ibid. foreshadowing)

IrisJust slowing down is all. Who isn’t? Thinking about making a change or two.”

P’sB&G: How’s the health?”

P’sB&G: Purrfect.

P’sB&GSo what’s up?”

Iris: Good question. You see, I was thinking I’d maybe step down from the chair, maybe get in some volunteer service cat hours; I was looking at a place in Elliot Lake, maybe take a course in yeowling, but then this huge opportunity sort of reared its head.” 

P’sB&G: Opportunity?”

IrisYou might have heard Justin Trudeau’s looking for a new Governor General.” (Note to our beloved American readers. A governor general is the queen's representative in Canada.A very important but non-elected job. Sort of like being Oprah.)  

P’sB&G: You’re kitten!”

Iris: Not bad. But I'm as serious about this as I’ve ever been about anything.”

Carrier number one, on left, during an 
earlier visit to Government House.  

sB&G: The G-G's job?”

Iris: Pourquois paw? I think I'm more than qualified. I'm very good looking. Did you ever notice I have two different coloured eyes?”

PB&GBeing the G-G’s about more than appearances.”

Iris: If you say so. But I have very loyal and diligent staff that can tend to the day-to-day stuff. You would not believe the things I can get my people to do. They’ve been known to get into their car on a snowy day and drive across town to Costco to buy kitty litter. For me! If that's not loyalty I don't know what is. And the guy who writes these signs? He's been to Government House already and knows where the bathrooms are. I think we are good to go.”

PB&GMight you be doing this just so you can make a purroguing Parliament joke?”

Iris: I'm feline very good about this.”

Monday, February 15, 2021

Why am I so bad at arithmetic? Do the math

you show your work when
it's in your head?

Until about 15 minutes ago, I blamed my big brother Ed for my lousy relationship with math. It's a sort of weird grudge that I never told him about, so he'll only learn if he reads this, but I'm here to report that my dismal arithmetic and math skills might not be Ed’s fault, after all. 

Before I explain, I should tell you about Eddie the math wiz. 

 Ed is 29 months older than me. (I’m actually proud of myself for doing that bit of arithmetic just now). 

He was two grades ahead of me and always made arithmetic look easy. Ever since I can remember, Ed could wow us all by rhyming off his times tables and doing complicated math equations in his head. 

The only reason you've not heard of Ed going on to win a Nobel Prize for math was his misfortune years later of winding up in the class of one very determined Sudbury High School grade 10 teacher who insisted “showing your work” was just as important as getting the right answer. 

Teachers liked "showing your work." I seem to remember Eddie and that particular teacher arguing the matter to the point where Ed wasn't welcome in class any more. I forget. I'll ask Ed later.

Ed went on to earn a philosophy degree and I believe he would still argue that having the right answer is way more important than showing your work. Besides, how can you show your work when it’s all done in your head the way he did it? (Teachers were also big fans of “buckling down,” another life lesson my mom and dad forgot to teach us.) 

I’m pretty sure it was that math teacher who squelched Ed’s love of math. 

But back to me. 

It's discouraging having a math wiz older brother like Eddie.

Plus I was the youngest of 10 and very spoiled. From the time I was born, older brothers or sisters looked out for me and if I ran into a problem, they did their best to help me fix it.  They still do.

So, to this day, faced with a difficult task that I don't have to have to do, I simply won’t. 

And I did okay in grades one and two arithmetic. In grade one, our teacher was the very little and very kind Mrs. Beckett.  The grade two teacher at St. Albert’s was a tall slender woman who went to our church and always sat up on the right hand side near the exit, Miss Winnie Trainor. 

We’ve all had aunts like Miss Trainor and she knew our mom and dad and I think Eddie might have been one of her favourite kids.

Come grade three. 
ED BADGE OF COURAGE: The stories he told...

When I was five or six years old in grade one, eight-year-old Ed returned home at lunch times and after school like the wounded soldier with the blood-soaked bandage wrapped around his head in Red Badge of Courage. Ed terrified me with tales of what unfolded in school that day. 

The stories went on all year.

The grade three teacher’s name was Miss Girolametto (we always knew whether our teachers were married or not). Miss Girolametto (pronounced Jerl-a-metto) was cut from different material than Mrs. Beckett or Trainor. Eddie said that she was so drill-seargenty that he suspected Miss Girolametto was in fact Mister Lametto. 

Failing grade two on purpose seemed like a reasonable plan. 

Time passed. Eddie moved on up through Mrs. Donovan’s class on to Mrs. Jordan. 

 I got to grade three. 

And it was there — in Miss Girolametto’s class — where any remaining enthusiasm I had for math fizzled out. 

Except. It wasn’t because of the tough teacher. 

It seems to me that, that year, a horrible concept was inserted into the school curriculum: The math problem. 
(Photo by Chuck Swinden stolen from Sudbury.Com)

Math problems. 

Completely made-up dilemmas, created for the sole purpose of giving young boys and girls something hard to do. 

Mrs. Beckett and Miss Trainor, they were all about solution. 

But problems? How mean can you get?  Take entire groups of happy little kids who just want to play and give them problems to solve?  

 “Johnny has six apples and he has to give his sister Polly two so how many does he have after that?”

My parents didn’t raise us to invent problems. It wasn’t Miss Girolametto who was cruel, it was the world. 

Creating problems for the sole purpose of solving them seemed just evil.

I don’t get it. I better ask my big brother Ed. I know can count on him.