Monday, June 26, 2017

Quebec Trip #18: Quebec's Ursuline Nuns, Crypt and Smallest House

Ursuline Monastery of Quebec City
In today's blog, we'll explore an order of nuns that helped form the city. Although the
Ursuline nuns have been in Quebec for four centuries, they are departing in 2018.  Here's a look at their chapel, a creepy crypt inside and their tiny house.

The Ursuline Monastery of Quebec City and convent was founded by a missionary group of Ursuline nuns in 1639 under the leadership of Mother Marie of the Incarnation, O.S.U. She's also buried in the Monastery.

Crypt of Mother Marie of the Incarnation
It is the oldest institution of learning for women in North America. We learned that they started the first school for girls in North America for both native Americans and French girls. They made a huge mark in educating girls and women.
What Tom thought about the crypt...

The Ursuline Tiny House
THE TINIEST HOUSE - In part of the monastery there's a very tiny house that was built between the church and another building. It looked like it was just 15 feet wide!  

Statue outside the monastery

NEXT: Porte de Champlain, the Balloon Street and Funny Photos


Sunday, June 25, 2017

THIS AFFECTS YOU: Senators pan Trump’s proposed cuts to rural airports

Welcome to another blog of "This Affects You" - well, if you live in rural areas and use airports... the

Trump administration wants to remove that convenience for you.
   Of course, many who live in these areas voted for Trump, so perhaps they don't want access to air travel.Did you vote for this? :)
Here's the story from the

Senators pan Trump’s proposed cuts to rural airports

A bipartisan group of senators is fighting to maintain commercial air service in rural communities after the Trump administration called for eliminating federal support for such a program.

In a letter to the administration on Monday, a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) expressed concern over the president’s budget proposal, which would cut all funding for Essential Air Service (EAS).

The 40-year-old program helps give small towns and remote communities access to air service, where it can otherwise be difficult to support financially.

“Without this support, many rural areas may no longer have access to air services,” the letter says. “This would significantly reduce support for rural communities in our states.  A reduction in support could lead to a reduction in services and ultimately in jobs for rural America.”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao recognized the importance of the EAS program during a recent Senate hearing, assuring rural lawmakers that she is “working with the administration to address” the issue.

But the administration may need to work harder to assuage their concerns, as criticism has been mounting that a number of Trump’s initiatives would leave rural communities behind.

Another contentious aviation idea endorsed by Trump would separate air traffic control from the federal government and hand it over to a nonprofit or nongovernmental agency in an effort to modernize operations.

Critics argue that the interests of the general aviation industry and small airports would not be adequately represented under such a model and worry that an outside agency would impose new fees and taxes.

Lawmakers will have a chance to debate Trump’s aviation proposals when they work to reauthorize of the Federal Aviation Administration, whose legal authority expires in September.

“As we move forward with the budget and FAA Reauthorization, we ask that you work with us on issues and challenges pertinent to rural aviation, and keep us informed relative to any changes regarding the EAS program,” the senators wro

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Karma for Idiots: Stupid Voters Losing Island Home to Rising Seas: President says "Don't Worry"

 Some Tangier  homes flood now in storms. Cr: baldeaglebluff/Flickr   

It's Karma in Action for idiots:  If you're stupid enough to support someone who doesn't believe that climate change and rising oceans will drown your island, you deserve what you get.  That's EXACTLY what's happening with Tangier Island in Virginia where most of the residents voted for someone who thinks their loss of 12 feet of land a year is "Fake."  Well, they voted for their own demise.

From the News:

Scientists predict rising seas will soon swamp Virginia’s Tangier Island. The president doesn’t seem to believe it. Trump phoned James “Ooker” Eskridge, the mayor of Tangier, Virginia, on Monday, a few days after CNN aired a story about the impacts of climate change on the island in the middle of the bay, The Daily Times in Salisbury, Maryland, reports. Trump “said not to worry about sea-level rise,” Eskridge told the newspaper. “He said, ‘Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.’”(Photo: )

IDIOTS OF THE ISLAND: Eskridge told the president that Tangier Island is "a huge supporter of Donald Trump. ... This is a Trump island; we really love you down here." The island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay is a Republican stronghold — about 87 percent of residents voted for Trump in the November 2016 election. 

The island, population about 450, is losing up to 16 feet of land a year, scientists say. 

BOTTOM LINE: If you're stupid enough to support someone who doesn't believe that climate change and rising oceans will drown your island, you deserve what you get.  Buy a houseboat and remain stupid. 

Aerial photograph of Tangier Island Virginia. Credit:
Full Story from DelMarvaNow NEWS: (The news source for the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia peninsula region): 

HOW THE ISLAND IS SHRINKING: Read or listen to this storm from Living on Earth:
Tangier, The Shrinking Island in Chesapeake Bay

Friday, June 23, 2017

Quebec Trip #17: Duke of Kent's Claim to Fame and his Home

Rob and Tom walking to the Kent House
In this 16th blog about Old Quebec City and our May 2017 visit, you'll learn about a famous residence called the Duke of Kent House (Not the Clark Kent house, as Rob would have hoped). 

WHERE IS THE DUKE OF KENT HOUSE?  It is located on the corner of Rue Saint-Louis and Haldimand streets in the Upper Town. It's near the Château Frontenac.

Nick, Mike and Tom outside the Kent House
Originally it was the site of the home of Louis d'Ailleboust de Coulonge, 4th Governor of New France from 1648 to 1651 and his wife. It was later a hotel, and then a residence again.

DUKE OF KENT'S ARRIVAL - On the formation of Lower Canada, in August, 1791, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn in the U.K. arrived in Quebec City and leased Judge Mabane's house. He lived there for 3  years with his mistress, Madame de Saint Laurent, before he was transferred to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1794.

Duke of Kent by Sir William Beechey 1818
WHAT IS THE DUKE OF KENT FAMOUS FOR? Prince Edward was the fourth son and fifth child of George III, King of the United Kingdom and the father of Queen Victoria! 

FUN FACT - On June 27, 1792, Edward is credited with the first use of the term "Canadian" to mean both French and English settlers in Upper and Lower Canada. The Prince used the term in an effort to quell a riot between the two groups at a polling station in Charlesbourg, Lower Canada. He's also known as the "Father of the Canadian Crown" for his impact on the development of Canada.
A sign we liked with a dog in sunglasses

Though altered and transformed since its original construction, the most part of its foundations and of the first floor walls date back to the vicinity of 1650, making it one of the oldest houses, if not the oldest house in Quebec City. In 1759, the Articles of Capitulation of Quebec were signed within the house. The present edifice has remained largely unchanged since 1819. It presently serves as the French Consulate.  

If you want the full and very, very, very long history of who lived in the house go to:,_Quebec


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Quebec Trip #16: The Funiclaire and Who is Louis Jolliet?

Nick and Mike Ride the Funiculare

In this 15th blog on our May 2017 trip to Old Quebec City, Canada, we'll ride the Funiclaire which runs a boxy "car" on a track from the lower to the upper town. We'll also tell you who Louis Jolliet is and why you should know him. It's his house that acts as a station to the funiclaire.


The Old Quebec Funiculare is a funiculare railway in the Old Quebec. It connects the lower town to the upper town and a trip on the line travels 210 feet at a 45 degree angle!!  There are 2 cars, one on each track.   
View from upper to lower town onboard
Looking at the Upper Town station
The historic building in lower town where it arrives

BUILT, REBUILT, REBUILT, REBUILT... The funiculaire opened on November 17, 1879, and originally used the water ballast system of propulsion, similar to that still used by the Nerobergbahn in Wiesbaden, Germany. The line was converted to electrical operation in 1907. On July 2, 1945, a major fire destroyed the structure, necessitating a rebuild that was completed in 1946. Since then, major renovations have taken place in 1978 and 1998. In 2004 it celebrated 125 years of operating

THE FAMOUS LOUIS JOLLIET HOUSE /FUNICULAIRE STATION - Although you may not know who Louis Jolliet is, you should. He made a major discovery in the U.S. Louis Jolliet,  "discovered" the Mississippi River along with Father Jacques Marquette in 1673
Historic Marker on the Louis Jolliet House
  His 2 story house was completed in 1683 according to plans by the French stonecutter and architect, Claude Baillif.  Since 1879 the house has served as the lower station for the funicular linking the Upper and Lower towns.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Quebec Trip #15: Architecture of French vs. English Houses

English House (Left) vs. French House (Right)
In this 15th blog on our May 2017 trip to Old Quebec City, Canada, we'll explore the Architecture of French vs. English Houses and there was an historic fire that changed the way structures were built starting in 1727. Of course, Tom found it especially interesting since he's an architect.We'll explore the differences in styles and tell you about the history.

A vaulted cellar

WHAT FRENCH HOUSES LOOK LIKE: They have slanted tin roofs, and use rock from the St. Lawrence River, some of which were porous so the outside was coated with stucco or tin sometimes to keep the rain and snow out. Walls of houses were also shared with other houses, and french houses were built to open onto sidewalks.

WHAT BRITISH HOUSES LOOK LIKE - They have flat roofs and they're built from rectangular bricks, so they're more linear. Flat roofs were more likely to cave in from heavy snowfall than the french pitched roofs.

"WE BUILT THIS CITY" - HOW IT ALL CAME TOGETHER - After 1664, workers were trained in the classical tradition (but had little experience) and were likely familiar with a treatise on stonecutting, carpentering or woodworking. Stonemasons supervised construction, passing on their instructions to carpenters, woodworkers and roofers. Apprentice masons, masons, master masons and stonecutters, became by default the first "architects" in New France. (source:
A vaulted cellar in an art gallery

A GREAT CITY FIRE CHANGED THINGS  - After major fires in Québec City (1682) and Montréal (1721) the use of wainscotting and other flammable wooden embellishments were prohibited.

In 1727 Old Quebec City dwellings had to be of stone, erected on vaulted cellars; fireplaces and chimneys were to be set in outside walls; chimney stacks had to be installed in a single, solid wall of masonry, to facilitate access; gabled walls and right-angled interior walls had to emerge on the roof, to serve as firebreaks; garreted roofs with occupied wooden stories were banned, to be replaced by unoccupied attics sloping on both sides; the heavy "great roof beams" gave way to lighter beams or trusses that could be dismantled quickly. All woodwork — casings, porches, stairway turrets — was forbidden on outside walls. (Courtesy of

FUN FACT - 2 DIFFERENT BRICK COLORS - Orange bricks were imported from Scotland and Yellow bricks were imported from Ireland. Both were seen in houses throughout the city. 

NEXT: The Kent House, THEN: Ursline Nuns and their Tiny House

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Quebec Trip #14: Governor's Park and Battle of Quebec

Wolfe-Montcalm Monument

In today's blog about our May vacation to Quebec, we'll take you to Governor's Park, the Battle of Quebec and a Monument to 2 Generals (on opposing sides of a war).

GOVERNOR'S PARK -- known in French as Jardin des Gouveneurs -- is a quaint park near the Chateau Frontenac. Take a stroll down the avenue Ste-Genevieve to view 19th century Victorian houses, or stand in awe of the 50-foot Wolfe-Montcalm Monument.

MONUMENT 2 TO BATTLING GENERALS -The Wolfe-Montcalm Monument is an obelisk more than 20 meters in height. It was unveiled in 1828 in memory of the generals on both sides who died during the famous Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The French General, Montcalm and the English General, Wolfe, who fought each other. The monument stands behind the Château Frontenac hotel in the Governor's Park.

Death of General Richard Montgomery in the attack on Quebec on 31st December 1775 in the American Revolutionary War: picture by John Trumbull

FUN FACT - Our tour guide said that because there's so much French and English people and influence in Quebec,The city put up the monument to both sides to keep peace and acknowledge all citizens.
Nick and Mike walking down a street

On December 31, 1775, during the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), Patriot forces under Colonel Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) and General Richard Montgomery (1738-75) attempted to capture the British-occupied city of Quebec and with it win support for the American cause in Canada. The attack failed, and the effort cost Montgomery his life. The Battle of Quebec was the first major defeat of the Revolutionary War for the Americans. (According to

NEXT:  Architecture of French vs. English Houses

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hilarious! RUSSIA TIES: A Randy Rainbow Song Parody (from GREASE!

This is the BEST ever!! RUSSIA TIES: A Randy Rainbow Song Parody (from GREASE!

Get Official Randy Rainbow T-shirts and other fun merch here:

Quebec Trip #13: Boardwalk,Toboggan Run, Citadel and Quebec's Founder

The Toboggan Run
In this blog about our trip (in May) to Old Quebec City, you'll learn about Chateau Frontenac's Boardwalk, Toboggan Run, the Citdel and the city's founder because they're all in the same place! 

OUT ON THE BOARDWALK - In the Upper Town, adjacent to the famous Chateau Frontenac that we've been talking about in our last couple of blogs, there's a great boardwalk.
Rob's sketch of what's what
   Walk on this beautiful wooden boardwalk that runs alongside the St-Lawrence river. You can watch the boats, the ferry and on the other side of the river, see Levis (the city on the other side of the river). It's a beautiful place that's packed with tourists. There are benches available all over to sit and relax and sometimes there are actors and troubadours singing and playing guitar, as well as acrobatic shows. 

THE TOBOGGAN RUN - The traditional toboggan run is one of the very oldest attractions in town. It's operational in the winter time of course, when the snow falls and last I checked it was about $2.00 per person.
 Zooming down at speeds of up to 70 kph  (43 mph)  is quite a rush! The three icy runs are open from mid-December to mid-March, or even longer if weather permits. Up to four passengers per toboggan.(See below for a video of the quick trip!). For information:
Hotel Frontenac

THE CITADEL -  Although we didn't go in the
The Citadelle of Quebec, also known as La Citadelle, is an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada. 
  CITADEL TIES TO BENEDICT ARNOLD- It was built in 1775 after the attack from Benedict Arnold and General Richard Montgomery of the U.S. attempted to take Quebec on 31 December. There, Montgomery was killed  and Arnold wounded and forced to retreat. The Americans attempted to  keep Quebec under siege, but withdrew after the arrival of British  reinforcements in the spring of 1776.
   It is located atop Cap Diamant (Cape Diamond), adjoining the Plains of Abraham. It's the oldest military building in Canada,  and forms part of the fortifications (walls) of Quebec City.
For more about the Citadel's history, go to Wikipedia's entry which is quite lengthy!

Statue of Champlain

SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN'S STATUE AND ODD FACT - There's never been a portrait of Champlain located, so sculptors and artists just imagined how he looked to create a statute. His remains have never been found either!
  WHO IS HE? - Champlain is known as "The Father of New France," because he founded Quebec on July 3, 1608!  He was a French navigator, cartographer, draftsman, soldier, explorer,  geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler.  He is important to Canadian history because he made the first accurate map of the coast and he helped establish the settlements.

 Here's a video of the Toboggan Run in operation during winter:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Participated in a NASA Panel at AwesomeCon!

L to R: Mike, Rob, Christine, Laura, Maggie, Chris
 I (Rob) got to participate in a NASA panel at Awesomecon in Washington, DC on Saturday night, June 17th. AwesomeCon is a convention that brings together science, technology, pop culture like movies, tv, comics, superheroes, science fiction and more.

   I talked about how I write stories about the next generation space telescope (the James Webb Space Telescope) and try to come up with clever headlines to get people's attention and interest them in the science and technology. Of course I wore my Superman shirt so that I fit right in! 
Rob in his Superman Shirt Ready to Speak

   I was joined by Mike who is an amazing video producer, Laura who manages all of the outreach for the Webb telescope for NASA, arranges interviews, hosts events, and more; Maggie who is the Social Media guru and has an amazing knowledge of astrophysics; Chris who is one of the most amazing photographers, and Christine who does education outreach in so many ways (and she's an actress, too). 
Laura standing in front of a packed room
THE EVENT: We all talked about how we do our jobs to bring the excitement of science and technology to the general public, and what the Webb telescope is going to see (as far back as 13.5 billion years, just after the big bang; exoplanets, galaxies forming, atmospheres of planets in other solar systems and so much more). 

THE ROOM: The room was actually filled to capacity. It was amazing!

JWST spacecraft
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
WHAT IS NASA's JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE: The James Webb Space Telescope is  a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror.  The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October of 2018. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. FOR INFORMATION: visit:; or
Artist Karen Hallion and NASA's Maggie Masetti

Ben Penrod and Steve Anderson from Third Eye Comics (Rob's Comic book shop) created the Annapolis Comic-Con, soon followed by the Southern Maryland Comic-Con, both still thriving local shows that cater to comic book lovers like themselves. Ben started planning Awesome Con full-time in 2012, and the first one launched in April 2013. It was an immediate success, and it quickly grew into one of the largest fan conventions on the East Coast.

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

Great Books by our friends

Great Books by our friends
Check out these great books (yeah, Rob's are in there, too)

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next

Podcast of Rob's 50 min. interview on Paranormal Filler Radio 7/13/14