Thursday, June 22, 2006
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
So tomorrow we will be returning to Chicago on a fact finding mission for more material for this blog. I've exhausted all my previous tidbits, so we're returning for more fodder.
No actually we're making our yearly trip back to see family and friends. A couple friends are getting married and we're making a mini-vacation out of it. It's always amazing how packed the itineraries for these trips get. No matter whether it's a week or two. Always someone to see or something to do. I guess it is really a function of trying to pack in as much stuff as possible. For instance, on a shorter trip we would meet groups whereas on longer visits we would try to meet people individually.
There is an interesting thing about the friends aspect of being away. The people you keep in contact with tends to boil down to closer and closer friends. Pretty quickly you lose contact with acquaintences. Then it's friends you many not have known very long or ones you didn't see that often. Losing contact is partly my doing. I can be quite bad at responding to emails while away and our available time to see people while there can be fairly limited. So we concentrate on those closer to us. It is unfortunate because they are good people. It boils down to logistics really. On the extended family side, we see them pretty much at the same frequency as before we left. Except it is more for the occasion of us coming back as opposed to weddings, birthdays, and funerals.
So I'll probably won't be posting during the trip. A couple written posts may come out, but I won't have access to photos. My apologies that I have not responded to comments left here lately. Everything has gotten quite busy. I keep thinking things will slow down after the next event or deadline, but there is only a temporary lull until it's time to start getting ready for the next. I guess that's summer in Montreal. Time to do as much as you can until you have to reinstall your snow tires.
Speaking of, lets all hope the 220k km car holds out for the 2750 km round trip. It is currently making it's fifth visit to the mechanic this year.
Lastly an update on my three resolutions. First I haven't lost any weight since the beginning of the year, though I haven't gained any either. I started running again, but on one run my calf tightened up right at the turn-around point. So I had to hobble back. I haven't gotten back on that horse. And lastly, I still have plans to post once a month in French. I have some ideas already, but just need to sit down and hash it out. It'll help when we get a French keyboard at home also. That's why my text doesn't have the accents when I comment on Flickr late at night.
So take the time to check out some others on my blogroll while we're gone. Or check out my pics or favorites on Flickr. There is some really cool stuff out there.
Categories: Chicago/Montréal comparisons
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Sunday, June 18, 2006
I used to have an uncle who would always boast that he was his father's son. Basically saying he was just like his father. At the time, I was a teenager with the same name as my father. So wanting to establish my own identity, it was the last phrase I would have wanted to tag on myself.
Well, two decades gives a lot of time to establish your identity and it also gives you perspective.
Today I am very proud to say that "I am my father's son!"
I am who I am today due in very large part to him and his character.
If you talked to his family and friends, they would say his two most prominent qualities are his loyalty and generosity. He always remembers his family, friends, and those who helped him become who he is today. He keeps in contact with friends and relatives who have moved away. He still attends reunions for the elementrary school he attended across the street from the projects. He still donates to schools and organizations that either he, my sister, or myself attended or participated in decades ago. When we were kids, we would often help out at the Little Brothers of the Poor. We would help pack holiday boxes with donated foodstuffs or travel door to door in the blighted areas of the city delivering those boxes. When I expressed interest in spending a year studying abroad, he pulled out all the plugs to make it possible. For that I am eternally grateful. It is easily the single event that determined the course for the rest of my life.
Another aspect of his character is that he is a planner. When we were children, he and my mother would take us on two or three week cross-country road trips. He had our itinerary written out on one big spreadsheet. It included every stop and sight with approximate times of arrivals and destinations. On an extended family level he has organized large reunions for members from Florida to Ontario to come and enjoy the big city. He has already started the ball rolling on a reunion for what would have been my grandmothers 100th birthday in 2008. On a professional level, he has been on the committee organizing a large conference of financial managers in Chicago. He was even the chairman (head organizer) for a year or two.
He has also been a great teacher. My sister and I were introduced to so many aspects of the world around us. Our family made regular visits to the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. Every Sunday night we would sit down to PBS and watch their lineup of cooking shows, This Old House, documentaries, Nova, even Monty Python and Faulty Towers. We often went to the River Trail Nature Center at all times during the year be it the summer, the maple festival in the spring, or the honey festival in the fall. Sometimes just for a walk in the woods as seen in last week's photo. Every couple years we would take road trips around the country. Yellowstone, Washington DC, San Fran, Acadia, Seattle, Boston, and even Knoxville. Each place with something to offer be it nature, history, or diversity. He also taught me sports. Everything from skill sports like bowling or darts to team sports like football and of course baseball. Techniques, strategy, and just plain enjoyment. We were given such a diverse base of knowledge and interests from which to start our lives.
But above all, he has been supportive. Through our schooling and into our adult lives. He was there to offer advice in a supportive way. Even as young adults you don't know what may be the best way to go about things or what possible solutions are available. He has always been there to offer a hand or share the knowledge he had acquired over the years. He has also been supportive regardless of his feelings. He did not agree with my running marathons, yet he was there each race day trying to cheer me on from as many points along the course as possible.
He has even been supportive for one of the worst things I could have done to him. Taking his only son and grandkid(s) 850 miles away. I know of all people, it hurt him the most, yet he didn't say a word. He was too concerned for my feelings and concerned that my wife would not feel any guilt moving to her hometown. Friends, family, and the city I love could all be visited time to time. But his frequent presense is a void that cannot be replaced by this new home. Lost are all the in-between times. The hanging out at home catching a game. An early weekend morning of golf. Or just having a beer in his favorite bar. On the positive side, when we see each other a few times a year, those times are that much more special.
So in many ways, I feel that I am my father's son, but at the same time I feel it is what I aspire to be.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Thursday we played our sixth game of the season after going 5-0 for the previous five. Three years ago I volunteered to become pitcher. I figured that I'm fairly good at skill sports like bowling or darts and this is a position I could have fun with. I have gotten better over the years to the point that I now have pretty good control.
But at the beginning there was one aspect of that position that really scared me. First, you are the closest person to the batter. And second, you are in a follow through motion when they hit the ball. You are very vulnerable since you have a shorter time to react and you are usually not in the best fielding position. That first season I had a few balls hit almost directly back at me that really spooked me. I started to make sure to be ready as soon as the pitch was thrown. That affected my control, so I tried to limit how soon I would change my stance. And during many games, I would get so tired by the end that I would concentrate only on throwing the ball.
By the second season, I had overcome that initial fear and actually got fairly good on the fielding front. Any line drive ball that was in arms reach I was able to snag. That included three screamers coming directly for my head.
So Thursday was a close game. It was nearing the end and the opposing team was up to bat. We needed to keep them from scoring and they needed to score. One of their two biggest guys was up with one out. I got behind in the count and needed to be sure to throw him a strike. My aim was too good and it was right in the center. He must have seen this and was thinking home run. Unfortunately, he didn't get any lift on the ball. The result was the fastest liner I have ever seen screaming directly for yours truly. I was a bit off balance from delivering the pitch and it was so fast I could make no evasion to avoid it. In fact, I wasn't even able to turn my body for a glancing blow.
The ball squarely impacted halfway between my belly button and my left side. I absorbed the blow so completely that the ball just dropped and rolled a few feet. I remember a glimpse of the ball halfway between home plate and myself, then this muffled thud as it hit me. The outfielders later told me they heard it too. Amazingly the pain was intense and stung like all get out, but it wasn't a 'wailing in pain' kind of hurt. Also, I don't know how I avoided it, but I did not get the wind knocked out of me. I just dropped to my knees for a minute to wait for some of the pain to go away, then got up and walked around a bit.
I had no trouble playing the remainder of the game. My knees and feet were actually the parts I was having difficulty with. It was tender to the touch, but it didn't hurt to make movements like twisting, running, or bending over. I put some ice on it during the game. I got home and there was some minor discoloration. The following morning there was a hint of purple, but nothing major. It was still tender all during the day.
But when I got home, it looked like this. It's one of those 'looks worse than it really is', but it sure looks gross. I'm wondering if the red will advance further up. One thing that concerns me now is whether some sort of permanent mark is left behind. Not like an imprint, but an area of discoloration. My skin is very light, so any color will really pop out.
So there's my little war story. Hopefully I didn't gross you out. I'm actually a bit proud that my body stood up to a blow like that. Though I don't think I'll join any fight clubs soon.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Here is a picture of my sister, Nancy, and I three decades ago. From the set of slides that I have, it looks like it was one of our first trips downtown, taking the el. This was taken in the north courtyard of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue. You get a glimpse of my nuclear red hair that I had until adulthood. Progressively my internal jadedness turned it to it's current darker shade. Funny how those clothes came back into fashion.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
A few months ago my wife gave birth to our second child. Seeing as how a significant part of this blog has been about comparing life in the two cities, I think it's appropriate to share a comparison of our birthing experiences in each city.
Before moving here and actually even before our first child was born, a friend and his wife had their first child in Chicago, then had their second in Toronto. He reported back that his experience in Chicago was vastly superior and that he would really not recommend having a child in Canada. Just so you know he is a Canadian from Toronto and has a tendancy toward exageration.
Our first child was born in Chicago. Before the birth, we attended the regular check-ups with the OB-gynie at this big hospital downtown. The check-ups were great and the OB-gynie was a very very nice person. Even conducting the exams in French for my wife. The day of the birth came and we went to the hospital. We had chosen a well-reputed hospital downtown designed by a famous architect from the sixties (we're both architects). We went through the pregnancy triage and eventually made it to the birthing suite. It was a very large room with a stereo, a sofa, a lazy boy, and an alcove with all the monitors, incubators, and such. During the labor, there was always a doctor and a nurse who would each pop in from time to time to check on the state of things. During the time we were there, shifts changed so we had two or three different doctors and nurses. Our OB-gynie would not be there for the birth because it was not her shift. Nearing the time of the birth the doctor brought in an intern who would assist. And when it became evident it would be happening in a matter of minutes, a group of three or four others were brought in to care for the baby. The baby was born and was immediately wisked off to be cared for by these additional people in the alcove. It was in part due to muconium in the amniotic fluid, but I got the impression it was standard procedure. It was only for a few minutes, but of course for us seemed extremely long. Worrying that something was wrong. After they had finished their work, our newborn was returned to us all wrapped up along with relief that everything was alright.
Our accomodations for the following two days were in the building mentioned above. To a degree, we got what we wanted. It was a very cool looking building, but due to it's age, it was behind the times of modern post-partum care. The rooms were a bit cramped, though we had one to ourselves. It lacked some bells and whistles that something built more recent would have. During our two nights there, the baby was allowed to sleep in the nursery only returning to feed. This was done to allow us to get some sleep and recover from the delivery.
Our second child was born here in Montreal. Again we attended the regular OB-gynie appointments. This time in a small office in a residential neighborhood. I did not attend every appointment like last time because of obligations at work. The check-ups went well and again the OB-gynie was very nice. The day of the birth came and we went to the hospital. The hospital we had chosen was fairly standard from what we have experienced here so far. We again went through triage and eventually made it to the birthing suite. It was the size of a good sized hotel room with a lazy boy in the corner and a place to stash the incubator. We had the parade of nurses and doctors like before, but our OB-gynie came by and let us know she would be there for the birth. At the time of the birth, there was only my wife, the nurse, the OB-gynie, and myself. It made for a much more intimate experience especially since our doctor was there. Also the newborn was given to my wife immediately and all tests were performed while she was holding the newborn.
The accomodations were pretty much from the same time period of our previous hospital. As such, there were only a limited number of single-occupancy rooms. Our first night was in a double and the second night a single became available. The double was very cramped and as you can guess the single had ample room to spread out since it had twice the space. A difference from the first hospital was that the policy of this one was for the newborn to stay with the parents through the night. This was so for the parents to bond with the new arrival.
So those were our two experience. Now I must point out that these are one couple's experience and that I think the difference is only partly due to locales. For instance, the hospital here stressed that they had a policy of immediate and continued contact after birth. That may not be the case at all hospitals here and there are likely some with that policy in Chicago.
Did we prefer one experience or hospital over the other? Of course not. They both had their qualities and both experiences were positive and very special for us.
So there you have it from our little multi-national family.
Categories: Chicago/Montréal comparisons
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Back when I was a teenager, I did like many others and made mix tapes. Maybe I was anti-social, but mine were generally greatest hits for myself. A few tapes were compilations of songs related to a certain theme. Numerically inclined as I have always been, I numbered my mix tapes. I recently rediscovered some of the remaining tapes and have been listening to them in the car. I really liked this one (#5) and thought it would be fun to play a game. Here in order are selected lyrics from each song. Can you guess the song and band that goes with the lyrics and what was the theme of the tape? It's funny. My intended theme was one thing, but after reading the lyrics there seems to be quite another. If you need a hint, there was a certain genre omnipresent during the period I compiled it. So here are the lyrics:
Song A1: At the close of day, The sunset cloaks, These words in shadowplay, Here and now, long and loud, My heart cries out
Song A2: I've waited hours for this, I've made myself so sick, I wish I'd stayed asleep today
Song A3: She’ll hear me out, And won’t easily be converted, To my way of thinking, In fact she’ll often disagree, But at the end of it all, she will understand me.
Song A4: I've wasted all my tears, Wasted all those years. Nothing had the chance to be good, Nothing ever could.
Song A5: Fortunately you have got, Someone who relies on you, We started out as friends, But the thought of you just caves me in.
Song A6: Yonder she's walking, She comes my way, Her red dress on, Her long black hair.
Song A7: You were so in awe of me, You were so divine, You would do just anything, To still be mine.
Song B1: When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, And resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow And we're changing our ways, taking different roads.
Song B2:When you're near, there's such an air, of spring about it, I can hear, a lark somewhere, waiting to sing about it.
Song B3: I'd love to touch the sky, So take me in your arms, And lift me like a child, Hold me up so high, And never let me go.
Song B4: I told you, That we could fly, 'Cause we all have wings, But some of us don't know why.
Song B5: Do you know what it means, To be left this way, When everyone's gone, And the feelings they stay.
Song B6: I've been a fool, talking to myself and no-one else, I play it cool, so cool that no-one ever understands me.
Song B7: Spinning on that dizzy edge, I kissed her face and kissed her head, And dreamed of all the different ways, I had to make her glow.
Song B8: We’ve always had time on our side, Now it’s fading fast, Every second, every moment, We’ve gotta make it last.
Friday, June 09, 2006
This is a picture that my father took of me as a kid. Photography was a hobby of his and he tried a few times to enter contests. This was one of his entries. He taught me much of the basics and instilled a healthy interest in the craft. Apparently I also still have an affinity for beat up clothes.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I haven't mentioned it on these pages, but I have been a bit off for the past few weeks. Basically most aspects in my life have been demanding more time and energy. Work, home, the little ones, and even my interest in Flickr and blogging. It had resulted in exhaustion in a way I don't think I have had experienced before. I had experienced exhaustion in a physical sense before. Probably similar to what Paolo is experiencing now. But that exhaustion was different because it resulted from the passion of working on a single aspect or project. This one is due to different areas stepping up at the same time. But the result was one that felt odd. One that resulted in a lack of drive. A desire to retreat to small escapes more than I should. I found myself checking Flickr, my email, or my RSS feeds all too frequently. It seems odd to search out other items to occupy one's self when there are so many pulling you in other directions.
Over the last week, many of these aspects have relented. The big event we were preparing for at the house has now passed. So now we are free to spend the rest of our summer as we wish. The load at my employment has changed from many different small projects to one big one. It is so much easier to focus. The little one is getting better at sleeping through the night. A good nights rest does wonders. And as I prefer to do, I now have a backlog ready for my online interests so there is no pressure to prepare or produce. Also, my initial interest in Flickr has waned away from obsession.
But last night really flipped the switch. I had great expectations for last night's YULblog and it did not disappoint. It was a new venue and I along with others really think it is where it should stay. It was very conducive to this type of get together with space to move around and freely congregate. Many of the usual suspects were there. I had not seen Ed, Martine, and Captain Andre for a few months. It was great to touch base and shoot the breeze. I got to talk more with Patrick and Marie-Jo. I hung out with Jonas (with a new do) most of the night enjoying his distinctive character. But one of the major aspects for me was meeting for the first time people I have been reading for quite a while. Nick made his first YULblog appearence. If you want to know how I feel about the new smoking ban, his post on it says it better than I could have written it. And I got to meet fellow Metroblogging Montreal contributor, Vila. I have been following her writing since joining the metroblog, so it was cool to be able to connect a real person to her writings. It was really a pleasure to meet both of them and I hope to see them both at future get-togethers.
It was a great evening. A great setting with great people to converse and joke around with. It is really one of the things I really enjoy in life. Hanging out with friends and family talking over a beer. As is my habit, I was one of the last to leave. It made for a very late night followed by an early morning. This morning I had signs of lack of sleep, but there was something different. That drive was back. I could put my head down at work and plug away. Even when I got home this evening, I had signs of drowsiness. But I had no problem getting things done that needed to get done. It really is a great feeling.
So thank you to everyone last night. I had a great time and it was great to see you again or for the first time. I really hope future YULblogs will continue like this.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Last summer was our first as owners of a real live house. So in addition to the many maintenance chores there were a few projects we were interested in doing. They were not big jobs, but it became fairly difficult to fit them in between unpacking, regular maintenance, and tending to a toddler and pregnant wife.
The first project was one that I really wanted to complete. I built a compost bin behind the tool shed as seen here. Nothing fancy with some 2x2's and wire mesh thrown together one afternoon. The labor intensive part was turning it over as often as possible and keeping it moist. There are ways of keeping up a compost heap that require less work, but I tend to like doing manual labor on the weekends. What you see is all the leaves from last winter. I turned it over earlier this spring and it was teaming with nightcrawlers and giving off a fair amount of steam. Hopefully this "batch" will be ready by mid-summer.
This last project took the most time. At some point, our carport was split in two by a fence. Although this means that only the front of the car remains covered (which it really doesn't need to), the other half is now a nice partially covered outdoor space. The problem was that the fence was solid planking on both sides with no gate. They had an opening where they installed a shower curtain. The fence was also six feet tall. That's good if you like privacy, but we prefered that it was more open with a view to the street when standing up.
So I removed all the planks, cut them to about four and a half feet tall, and reinstalled them in a staggered configuration. By staggering them, I had extra boards that I used to cover the new gate. As for the section above the planks, we had planned to install a store-bought criss-cross lattice. Unfortunately the quality of the ones in the store was pretty poor. So we bought individual slats of wood and assembled it by hand. One weekend, I was only able to half finish it with all the horizontals and some of the verticals. We liked it so much, we decided to keep the design. For the latch, I wanted to something really special. Something that functions well and is easy to use with winter gloves. So I assembled this contraption. It works well, but how it works is not always evident to the first time user.
As for this summer, our plans are not too big. Well, at least they may be bigger in scope, but much less in complexity. We are going to extend a deck and add a guardrail that is missing. There is also an area with stepping stones and deteriorating concrete between them. We intend to remove the concrete and replace it with soil and something that grows. We're not sure what yet. All this while juggling the maintenance and two kids.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Sunday, June 04, 2006
There is one aspect of blogging that I have found interesting and fun. With many bloggers there seems to be a cloaked identity that seems to add some mystery about the person behind the words. More often than not, bloggers do not post their image with their blog especially at the beginning. If an image is included on a blog, many times it is a feature that alone would not let you recognize the person in public. What is also interesting is how over time the person's real life image comes out and sometimes even their real names.
This topic has come up again in my mind because of Flickr. Flickr tends to be the opposite of the blog world with the vast majority of people including pictures of themselves. I have even seen some that seem to take only pictures of themselves and many baring it all. Even though Flickr has a policy about it, there are images from many 'adult' aspects of society, but luckily I have not yet seen anyone slapping the butt of their pet primate.
So why the disparity and what could be each's reasons for showing or not showing one's image.
As for not showing one's image, I can think of two reasons. Credibility and Security. For the writer more than the photographer, it is more about the words. Though sometimes for photographers it's about the images they take instead of images of them. In either case, we are swayed by someone's image since our mind may cross reference it with characteristics of others we have seen with the similar features. Some people are greatly influenced by the appearance of others while many can see past it. But when you are writing, you would prefer the other person to concentrate on the words and ideas conveyed, not whether they look like Uncle Fred or Aunt Doris.
I also think many people refrain from showing themselves out of security. There is no shortage of stories about nutjobs lurking on the internet. By writing under a pseudonym without an image or address, you are free to write what you want without real life reproach be it from work, family, or society. That is great if the liberation allows for free speaking or cathartic venting. It is unfortunate to see the times when it is used for slander.
As for showing one's image, there are a few reasons. Exhibitionism, Pride, General sharing, and Connection. Exhibitionism is the obvious one for many Flickr accounts. These tend to be the category of bare all without necessarily having artistic content. Pride is somewhere between general sharing and exhibitionism, though I don't know where the line is. Maybe this category is for anyone that creates a set of pictures of just themselves. General sharing means that you don't exclude yourself from your photos and it's not all about you. Lastly connection is offering your image to the reader/viewer so they know who you are. Throwing a little honesty in the mix. I find that many experienced bloggers take this route. They have been public for a long time, nothing bad has happened because of it, they are well-documented, they have a loyal readership, and they feel free to connect on another level.
What do I do when I come across another blog or photostream? I have to admit that I look for that visual connection. For blogs I may look for a Flickr account to see what they look like. For photostreams I may look for an "images of me" set, but I also look for their "best of" sets for a connection there. Be it taste in photos or common locales visited. I'd love to say that I'm above that desire to see their faces for a connection, but I'm a very visual person. I love looking at things and maybe thats why I like Flickr so much. I'd also love to say I'm above making snap correlations when seeing another person, but I'm not. I have come across blogs and photostreams where the image suggested I may not see eye to eye with that person. Characteristics matched other people I had encountered in the past. I think and hope this is due to human nature. When faced with a new group of people we can gravitate toward those whose characteristics we feel we have a connection with.
So where have I fallen in all of this on the display side. I started out like everyone else playing the game of hiding behind partial images or bizarre images from my past. And I had fun playing that game. I had a desire to post my image, but part of me was still concerned about security. But now with Flickr, I'm really interested in 'coming out'. Maybe it's the comfort of seeing so many others out there. Just as I have shared what I'm thinking through blogging, I'm interested in sharing what I "really" look like. Granted there have been images of me out there on the internet and in Flickr. There was one of me giving a lecture to grade school kids at an engineering open house that was taken down not too long ago. Plus having taken part in some Montreal blogger activities, my image has been taken. Though nothing full frontal. So when will I come out from behind the mask? Well, we have some ideas of how to do it with some pizazz and have fun with it, but we need some free time to do a 'shoot'. So it will happen one way or another though it's still quite possible I will be 'outed' by another blogger with a camera at some event beforehand.
So most of you reading this have a blog and possibly a Flickr account. What is your experience? Are you in hiding? Have you come out? Did it take a while? And why did you come out? Some keep images of themselves off the blog, but it's on Flickr or other webpages. I don't know why but I find it all so intriguing. Maybe it's just the mysterious masquerade of it all.