Friday, December 15, 2006

Warmer Climes

We're off to Florida tomorrow. I'm using the last of my paternity leave and heading south to spend time with family over the holidaze. This is a shot from three years ago when we did the same thing. Though this time we are driving. I estimate close to 70 hours of travel and 6000km (3600 miles).

This space should be quiet during that time. The place where we are staying does not have internet access, but does have a computer. I may seek out an internet cafe just to see what's going on. Otherwise I will likely write offline and copy it over later. UPDATE: The place we are staying does not have a computer, so if I write anything it will be longhand.

That said. I expect my presense on the internet will diminish. Not disappear, but I'll probably be posting less often. I've already started to see how life will be getting more hectic, so the correct balance will need to be found between many different aspects. Hopefully it will only mean less frequency and not less quality. I've really enjoyed doing this and will try to keep doing it.

So have a happy holiday season and talk to you again in January.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Points of Relativity

Over the past few months I've noticed three differences. A couple of progress and one of quality of life.

The first was back last summer. We went to Parc Orford and spent a day at the beach. We had done the same thing soon after moving here. The thing I noticed was how at ease I was compared to the previous time. That first time, I was nervous. My French was quite shaky and I was worried someone would talk to me and would be totally lost. Or worse judge me for being an anglophone not fluent in French deep in what I thought was a largely francophone part of the province. I have to say that I was spooked for quite a while that there was an anti-anglo sentiment below the surface that one day would explode on me. Not that I had any indication that it was the case, but with the referendums and with some negative experiences with some of our French aquaintences in Versailles, I worried it was there. Maybe I'm also a bit of a perfectionist and felt I was not showing respect unless I spoke fluently and correctly. But three years has made a difference. I was completely at ease after getting to know so many people from here and to see that anti-anglo sentiment is rare as long as you show respect. To boot, my ear for the language has advanced considerably so I was able to follow most everything that was said around me.

The second was more recent and related to the first. Nowadays when I order at a restaurant, I don't have that nervousness and have that confidence to be OK with making minor mistakes. But it is also that it all comes so easily now. Before I could spend minutes formulating what the correct words should be. Now it's old hat and flows off the tongue. It's definitely not perfect and I still make long pauses searching for words. It's a nice knowledge level to be at and will make advancing much easier. I bit more incentive to study and fill in the gaps. I hope to do that over the vacation with a study book I purchased.

Lastly, one of my favorite topics: traffic. When I first arrived here, I was so surprised with how courteous all the drivers were. Driving relatively slower, not cutting each other off, and taking turns when two lanes merged. Well over the last year or so, the drivers here have started getting on my nerves. I've been seeing less respect shown between drivers. Or have I? I thought back to some of the driving I experienced in Chicago and the people here returned to being angels. It also becomes a question of whether you bring your level of tolerence down so that you get stressed out driving, or do you keep the same level and live a life of less stress. I will be choosing the latter. The bad drivers are not worth it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Wow! That's weird. I've been surfing during lunch and came across this photo. After a couple seconds it became real familiar. Then I looked the details. Hold on a second! I know that building. I worked on that structure. I designed those connections.

Turns out it's the last project I worked on before leaving Chicago. The developer got tons of attention when a previous project expressed the bracing on the outside of the building similar to the John Hancock building. So he wanted to do the same with this little project. I really don't know how I had forgotten about it. Nice to see it came out well. I'll have to swing by and take a look the next time we're in town.

The problem is that feeling is coming back.

More Europe

There have been a few posts added to the European Memoirs blog since I last mentioned it here. The posts include: a trip to the French Alps; a trip to visit someone in Holland; a class trip to Chartres, France; a tour of the Pantheon in Paris; a description of the EuraRail Pass; and some words about homesickness.

After the holidaze I hope to post about time spent in Rome, Florence, and Paris.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wordpress - It's the New Blogger.

Nope, I haven't switched... yet. But if I did, it would look like this (without the flowers). I got curious the other night and created the blog and that header. But Blogger beta won't let me export to it. The ability to add a personalized header along with Dante's level of security would be my main reasons for switching. But I don't have the time to play around with it, so I need a "press this button" export feature for a relatively easy switch. Until then, I'll stay put. Don't update your RSS feeds and links.

I was planning on unveiling this after Xmas, but I like the look of it so much I had to open the present before.


Taken in the forest near Sutton, Quebec. October 2006.

Monday, December 11, 2006


It's seeping in. Mainly through images. I've always been a visual person. If you tell me a location, my mind puts me there. Driving down that street, recreating the environment.

The images have always been there, but for some reason there is an increasing emotional element attached to them. I remember that place and all the memories attached to it. It's nostalgia and always has been, but there's an increasing yearning for that place.

Homesickness is sneaking in.

Part of it is due to seeing great "slice of life" shots of the city in images on Flickr. Excellent photos taken by Patrick , April, and Devyn. Along with photos from my old neighborhood by Shannon. Everyday images and angles you see when you live in a city.

Last night was another instance. We saw the movie The Lake House. It was a good movie with a common sense flaw that left me asking why she didn't pick up a phone book. But it was the images of the city and how the story was firmly planted in the city. Keanu's character is an architect passionate about the city and it's buildings. It entered into my world even filming in an architectural bookstore I frequented. And one of the characters had the same last name as my mother. It was kinda surreal and definitely left me homesick.

All this and I was just noticing this past couple weeks how far I've come adjusting to living most of my day in another language.

In some ways, there is no going back. Just as I can't go back to Europe as a naive student or go back to life as a kid. Moving back would be a different experience. My life has changed.

We won't be going back until next summer, but part of me will always be there.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Winter Observations

Now that we have received our first snowfall, I can expect with every new encounter to be asked if I have any trouble with the cold weather up here. I've talked a bit about it here before, but I thought I'd share some of my more recent or better understood observations.

The average year-round temperature difference between Chicago and Montreal is about 8 F (5C). The mean temperature difference at the height of summer is 6F (3C) and 11F (6C) at the height of winter. Now that's not really a big big difference. At least when you compare Chicago to North Carolina or to Florida. But it is enough to make a difference for one aspect of winter.

The snow removal post from last winter has been getting alot of attention and it has been interesting to read comments left on the Skyscraper Pages. I was surprised to see some people assume winter or the amount of snow that falls is not very significant. They were questioning why such an elaborate operation is required as opposed to almost every other US city.

Well it is not so much the amount of snow as the temperature. Back in Chicago, we would get snow. It gets cold and the snow sticks around. Sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months. But the temperature would get up high enough that there would be daytime thawing from the strength of the sunlight. It would not all go away, but it would usually keep the snow from piling up too high. Every few years there would be a particularly snowy and/or cold winter and the snow could pile up. But not to the levels or frequency of here in Montreal.

But here is the difference. That 11F (6C) degree difference keeps snow from melting during the day. In addition, Montreal is farther north and receives less sunlight in the winter. So unless snow is moved, it isn't going anywhere for a few months. And there seems to be significant snowfalls once or twice a week. Enough that they need to plow the streets every week or two if not more.

As for the conditions of the roads and sidewalks. They salt the major streets just like they do in Chicago. But due to the frequency of snowfalls, they probably salt them at least three times a week. The bridges seem to get almost daily treatment because although snow melts due to the saltings, they water refreezes overnight creating black ice. It seems rare to see the bridges dry during winter. As for the sidestreets, there is almost always a thin layer of snow or ice on them. Again this is due to the temperature not getting high enough for daytime thawing. Same goes for sidewalks unless they are along a commercial strip. Even then they likely have a mix of gravel and ice. So designer shoes are useless. Winter footwear and winter tires are a must.

Lastly, I'll repeat how I'm dealing with the colder temperatures. Kanuk. The fall before our first winter here, the in-laws suggested we get a Kanuk winter coat at their big annual sale. We each bought coats good for -30C and it has made all the difference. That along with long underwear, a scarf, good gloves, and a real stocking cap make the winter almost pleasant down to 0F (-17C). Kinda wish I had all this stuff back in Chicago when I had to spend an hour outside with part of it up on a windy el platform.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Parisian Smog

A view of the city from the cupola of the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter of Paris. December 1991.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Full Moon Fever - Fishing for Ideas

Back when Blork switched over to Wordpress, his tag 12 Monkeys became more prominent since it's at the top of his list. I was a bit intrigued by this little project. Basically for the calendar year of 2004, Martine and Blork created a target subject for other participating bloggers to write a post on that topic. Their series included jobs worked, alive moments, taxi rides, tearjerking movies, out of characterness, monkeys on your back, first impressions of Montreal, weird and musical things, pitching your life, dining horror stories, border stumbles, and a year off. Since my blog had not been born back then and I did not know of these two fine individuals, I could not participate.

Given that the new year is rapidly approaching and I enjoy creating ever more side projects to cram into my already busy schedule, I thought it would be fun to try something similar in the new year. But I haven't come up with an idea of what. I like the format and even the ideas, but it would be nice to come up with something different, yet similar. But twelve what? There are twelve signs of the Zodiac, 12 Angry men, 12 days of Xmas, and 12 lunar cycles (or is it 13). While writing this, that last suggestion struck a bell. Hows about if it is a post on a certain subject on the day of the full moon. In 2007 there are 13 of them, Jan 3, Feb 2, Mar 3, Apr 2, May 2, June 1, June 30, July 30, Aug 28, Sept 26, Oct 26, Nov 24, and Dec 24.

But then, what topics? Shall we go the favorites route, the best stories route, the all about me route, the create something route, or all of the above. I'm trolling for everything here. If you have any thoughts on where this should go or what the topics could be, I'd really like to hear from you either in the comments or via email. If you don't have any ideas, let me know if you are interested anyhow. I'd like to have a few people participate instead of just spouting off by myself.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Florence, Italy. December 1991

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Who Am I?

Here are three quizes I've taken. Each seems to claim me as their native son. I'm not sure what that says about me.

Maybe I catch on quickly. I managed a perfect score on this first little quiz. Though the natives will probably agree that anyone that lives here for a year or two could do well on it with a little educated guessing. The questions aren't that tough and none had anything to do with history.

You are 100% Canuck!

You rock, you are an almighty Canadian through and through. You have proven your worthiness and have won the elite prize of living in a country as awesome as Canada. Yes I know other countries think they are better, but we let them have that cuz we know better than they do, eh?

How Canadian Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I also took this quiz a while back. These questions are much harder I think. Funny that they say I should run for mayor. I had that delusion going for a while. But they did get me right about being obsessed with the city at one point during my life.

True Chicagoan
You are a true Chicagoan! You've probably lived here for a long time, or are thoroughly obsessed with the city and its history. Congratulations! Maybe you should run for office.

Are You a True Chicagoan?
brought to you by Quizilla

And lastly I came across this one over at Frankie Can't Relax (via Me:The Sequel). I'm impressed with this one. Got me dead on. Though I'd be interested how others from other regions do on it to see the validity of the quiz.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

And a late-breaking entry via the new Me:The Sequel. A quiz to determine your tarot card. I kinda like what it says except that it says I'm a stubborn traditionalist. Maybe sub-consciencely, but not in my conscience mind.

You are The Hierophant

Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.

All things relating to education, patience, help from superiors.The Hierophant is often considered to be a Guardian Angel.

The Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I thought this shot would be appropriate given the forecast for wintery conditions. A rare view of snow in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles in early 1996.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Yesterday, the Canadian Parliment passed a resolution recognizing Québécois as a nation within Canada.

Now when I first moved here I was a bit confused when I was told that the Féte de Saint-Jean-Baptiste (St John the Baptist Day) is Québéc's national holiday. "Shouldn't it be a provincial holiday?" In my mind the words nation and country mean the same thing. Consulting the dictionary, a country is a whole territory or the people of a nation. A nation is a stable community of people with a territory, history, culture, and language in common. While nation specifically states history, culture, and language, country still refers to people or territory as part of a nation. Either way, I'd say that Québéc does qualify as a nation by definition due to it's distinct cultural differences that tend to fall along the lines of language.

But the reason for this post is to talk a bit about the reaction after Prime Minister Harper proposed the resolution. For those of you who don't know, the Québéc sovereignist party, the Bloc Québécois, was planning to propose a resolution stating that Québéc should be recognized as a nation outside of Canada. Harper beat them to the punch to say that it should be a nation within Canada. Now mass media has been debating this nonstop ever since. It is the variety and difference of answers that have surprised me.

Some are saying Harper was an extremely shrewd politician for stating it. Also saying that it will appease the Québécois to be acknowledged as a nation within Canada. That this will be enough for them to forget the idea of becoming a sovereign nation.

On the another side, people are appalled that someone of Harpers intelligence (by the way, that's his redeeming quality over his counterpart down south) could totally miss the boat and open the door to Québéc sovereignty. How could he commit such a gaff?

Even the sovereigntists are divided. I've heard some say they are happy enough to be recognized as a nation. Others are assuming new rights within Canada will come from it. And others are saying this is the first step towards sovereignty.

Who's right? Who knows? Where do I stand? Well, I've said it before. Basically if they can pull it off and nothing changes, more power to them. That is unlikely, but if there is minimal change and there isn't a Montréal airlift of anglophones out of the province the day after a referendum is passed, I'd be OK with it. I like it as a place where anglophones and francophones can peaceful coexist. Like at our house.

And lastly there was talk today about how Harper and his lackeys specifically stated Québécois instead of the anglophone version Quebecers. When pressed about why one word and not both, he in no specific terms stated it primarily directed toward the one group.

This is all quite important, but also quite dramatic.

Really makes you wonder what the future holds.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Florentine Streetscape

A cold late-December day in Florence, Italy. 1991

I'd like to take another chance to expound how much I'm loving photography in the digital world. Many of us who grew up in the darkroom age loved the darkroom process. It was part scientific and part artistic. In order to produce good pictures you needed to have the discipline, patience, and accuracy like a scientist, but you also needed the artistic talent to be successful trying new techniques and creating great photos, not just snapshots.

The downside was that it costs alot to start with, so experimentation came at a price. Plus to varying levels, it took a while to gain the experience level needed to consistantly produce technically correct shots. Ones that were not over-exposed, over-developed, or not fixed enough. And the opportunity to do color darkroom work was extremely limited. So the ability to enhance color shots (dodge, burn, crop) was pretty much impossible.

This is why I am really enjoying this opportunity to revisit so many of my old shots using a scanner and Photoshop. The chance to rescue over- or under-exposed shots. Crop them the way I'd always wanted and very rarely a chance to burn or dodge parts that were not just right. Plus as I mentioned before, to print out all the slides that I've scanned pays for the scanner a few times over. Yes, I could selectively choose shots, but I like having it all out in front of me to choose between on or the other. The digital world affords me these freedoms.

And I've only scanned a small portion of my stuff so far. So there is much much more to come. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

When Barry met Larry

I used to work for a large firm with offices in many cities. The namesakes of the firm and the head office were in New York. The namesakes would come around to the other offices from time to time and it was a fairly big deal. In addition to being namesakes of the firm, they were as close to being celebrities as you can get in our line of work. I'm sure if you watched a week of the Discovery Channel, you'd be sure to see one of them at least once on a show as an expert. Although they had reached this "status", they remained some of the most personable people you could work for (as you shall soon learn). Although their company employed hundreds of people, they were not hesitant to talked to those unknown to them. Their approachability also took the edge off any hesitation to approach them because of their celebrity.

The firm grew fast in the time I was there. In our office we increased from 35 to over 100 in three years. It was quite dynamic to have so many new people and there were some very interesting characters among them. Larry Green was one of those characters. Larry was a happy fellow and he was very friendly. So friendly that it got annoying at times. He was someone always interested in what was going on, but at times going too far or hanging on your arm too much. He meant well and had a good heart, so for many of us that was enough to overlook the less than positive points.

So one day I went to the bathroom. As I was using one of the urinals, I heard a cellphone go off in one of the stalls. As was habit among the busy higher-ups, the phone was answered. A few words into his short phone conversation, I realized it was Barry Hansen, one of the namesakes. He finished his call and moments later I hear from the adjacent stall "Hello, Mr Hansen. We haven't met, but my name is Larry Green and I work here for you." Barry replied quite happily without a hint of annoyance "Well I'm glad to meet you Larry, I'm Barry Hansen." To which Larry came back with "I'd shake your hand but..." Barry had an equally playful reply that I can't remember because I was so stunned. There was a bit more back and forth, but I hurriedly washed my hands to escape this bizarre lovefest. I walked out the door but held it open enough to see them both exit their stalls and cheerfully shake hands before washing them.

It was definitely the oddest moment of my 9 to 5 career.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What A Week!

This has been a pretty amazing week.

I received a request to use this photo for a museum presentation. Something about comparing the structure of the JC Bridge to something else. They may or may not use it since the resolution is pretty low.

There were the Canadian Blog Awards. The blog received 72 votes in the Best Personal Blog category. That put it in 8th out of 112, 29 votes shy of the second round. My post on snow removal in Montreal received 50 votes putting it in 9th out of 38, 13 votes short of advancing. I really only expected 36 votes at most, but there were two things that started giving me delusions of grandeur. First the snow removal post got mentioned on the Montreal City Metroblog and secondly it got mentioned on the Skyscraper Pages. Between the two of them, my traffic quadrupled for a couple days. My traffic is still at twice the normal levels. I kinda wonder if I had mentioned the awards on the post if it would have gotten enough votes for the second round. Though that type of campaigning is more aggressive than is my style. I had quite the behind the scenes get out the vote campaigning going on with quite a few of my votes coming from back home. It was more successful that I had expected.

There have been a couple other items related to the increased exposure. I received a request from a freelance writer who wants to write a print article about snow removal post I had written. I haven't heard anything since my reply. I also received a call from Radio Canada requesting to interview me for their morning program regarding the snow removal post and the blog. That may happen later on after the snow arrives and the topic is more relevant.

And probably the biggest news was that the 70 person office that I work for has been bought out by a company twenty times our size. A very diverse company that is very successful in Quebec and has started to reach out beyond the borders into the rest of Canada and other places like the Caribbean, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Although I'm not a fan of huge companies, I have liked working for good sized ones in the past. They offer some things that a small firm cannot. As with any place, much will be determined by the management and their relation with the rest of the company. I've worked for a big firm with a family feel, but often times they can be very impersonnal. So we shall see what comes of this. I'm cautiously excited about it at the moment.

And life has been busy at home and at work. So less attention has been spent on these online endeavors. Though you probably haven't noticed since I've been eating up a backlog of posts written in the past. And things won't slowdown soon. Only three weeks left until we leave for vacation. Still much to do to prepare for that also. The vacation should be quite relaxing with nothing to do and no internet connection. Some time to read up on things and maybe recreate that backlog I'm using up. I always have a handful of ideas for posts floating through my head. Kinda frustrating not having the time to write them down.

And lastly we have been preparing to have a Thanksgiving style supper with some friends tonight. A great way to cap off a busy and eventful week. Appropriately enough there will be a couple friends from work and a couple friends from online.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

To those of you south of the border (US, not Mexico. Though Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in Mexico also.)

This picture was taken at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal this past September. It was our first time there and we were pretty amazed by the size of it. Our points of reference are the temporary markets in Versailles, France that we frequented while living there. This was twice or three times the size of the main market there. In comparison, Jean Talon has an abundance and variety of fruits and vegetables that I didn't remember at Versailles. But Versailles had much more in terms of meats and cheeses. One thing I really liked about Jean Talon is that there is an abundance of local products. Maple syrup, sausages, and oodles of produce. Though maybe I'm just used to the supermarket where it is less obvious where items come from.

This summer was marked by increased exploration of the city and surroundings. It seemed every other weekend we went someplace different. A picnic in Mont Royal Parc, camping in Oka, a trip to Jean Talon, a day at the beach in Parc Orford, and leisurely rides through the countryside. There is still so much to see and it's all an hour or less away.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hill Street Blues

Many of you my age probably remember that cop show from the mid-80's. In our house it held a special meaning because my father grew up on the real Hill Street in Chicago. FYI, there is actually no police station on the street. The street is only two blocks long including the house he grew up in along with the elementary school he attended. The building he grew up in has since been replaced by the appropriately named the Walter Payton College Prep. Although Hill Street Station was a fictional place, it was still kinda cool to think we were in some way connected to a popular TV show.

The street is in a very pivotal location. At one end of the street is the foot of the highrises that make up the Gold Coast of Chicago. One of the most affluent areas of the city. On the other end is (or was) Cabrini Green. The projects. A collection of highrises of very similar design, but due to a different record of maintenance and a different median income became a difficult and later dangerous place to live. The street itself was populated with low to medium income families. Occasionally those from the projects tried to take from those more fortunate in such close proximity. There were a couple instances in my life where this happened to me in this in-between area.

I was reminded of all this recently by the passing of Jack Palance. Not specifically because of Jack, but through a chain of thought. You may remember that he was the host of Ripley's Believe it or Not. Well, just north of Hill Street in Chicago there was a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. Well the Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club (which was only boys back then), which I was a member, organized a trip to see the museum along with a hot dog lunch afterward in the park. Well, while we were at the museum, somebody broke into the bus and stole all the food. The older boys in charge did well at taking it in stride (although pissed off) and getting some more food. But it did open my eyes a bit.

The second instance was when we went to pick up a new bicycle that my sister was getting. The bike shop was a few blocks north of Hill Street. At the time, I was in my late teens and had use of the family van. I would be getting her old bike since she was getting a new one. So I parked the van and helped her get her new bike. When we got back, the drivers window as busted and the bike, a pair of roller blades, and a small boom box radio were gone. You see, the van had windows all around and none of the items were covered. Yet another lesson on life in the city. Cover all valuables or put them out of sight. It wasn't the first time a car I was using was broken into and it was not the last.
The area is now very much gentrified. So much so that the almighty dollar is pushing people out of the projects in order to tear them down and rebuild condos and townhomes. The land is just too close and convenient to downtown. The poor are being pushed out into the surrounding neighborhoods or even as far out as the suburbs. The reverse of white flight is happening. Those with money and without kids are pushing the poor farther out. I'm not saying whether it is good or bad, but more it is interesting how the inverse is now happening.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Paris Pantheon

Taken during a tour we were given of the Pantheon, Paris, France. November 1991.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


There has been a lot of talk about the use of petroleum lately. How much it pollutes the atmosphere, how limited the supply is (I've heard 10 years before we run out), and how dependant we are on it. So there has been increased talk over the past two years over how we as a population can ameliorate these issues. It's been something I have been spending much time thinking about and I have some observations or at least questions. I'll try to touch on some of them, but I'm sure it's a subject I'll come back to.

It is staggering to think of how dependant we are on energy generated by petroleum. Personal transport, material transport, air travel, and heavy industry (construction comes to mind).

Although technological steps have been made toward decreasing petroleum usage in the personal transport arena, people using that technology is a small minority of the population. It is disheartening that it takes government subsidies for people to feel it is financial acceptable to buy green.

Material transport such as trucks and trains will likely be replaced by the same technology used by cars or over to electricity for trains. Though adding power lines to the millions of miles of railroads in North America would be a HUGE task. My guess is material transport would take a huge hit and we would return to local foods and products. Or at least, that's my hope.

I really can't imagine what could replace jet fuel. Will our world of jumping on a jet to travel half-way around the globe disappear? It would be turning the clock back a few decades, but it would really change the world to have limited air travel again just as accessible air travel changed the world.

I also wonder about heavy industry such as construction which relies on mobile equipment. Will that turn back the clock also? Someone suggested a move toward battery power, but that begs the next question. If even half of the petroleum powered machines were replaced by electric powered machines, where is all the power going to come from.

Right now petroleum is getting the finger pointed at it, but if petroleum is taken out of the equation, what could possibly replace it. Electricity seems the logical answer, but how will it be generated. Wind, solar, tides, gravity, geothermal are quickly becoming popular. And although petroleum pollutes the air, what effect will these other forms of energy have on the environment.

Quebec gets almost all of it's energy from hydralic dams and wind turbines. But people have pointed out that the land flooded by the dams create waterborne decay of the existing plantlife that contributes greenhouse gases. What effects will these other forms of energy have on the environment. Will a planet covered in solar panels disturb effect solar energy balance on the planet similar to the deforestation of the jungles or the paving over of cities? Will stealing energy from the earth disrupt it's balance in some detrimental way?

In the end, it boils down to us. We are a rapidly growing population that gets more energy hungry by the day. Things will have to change. In many ways it seems we will have to step back in time because that's the model of lower energy use that we know. But innovation will step in. We may need be more energy efficient, but new ways of living will be created. And that is what excites me when I think about the extinction of petroleum usage. We will return to a more nature friendly way of living. I am excited to see what innovation takes us there.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Drunk in Winter

No, actually it's a sign for caves up in the St-Leonard neighborhood of Montreal.

Don't forget to vote in the Canadian Blog Awards.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Voting Begins

Voting has begun over at the Canadian Blog Awards. There are over 300 nominees in the 20 different categories. This blog has been nominated in two. Best Personal Blog and Best Blog Post. I have put together a list of noteworthy nominations that I recommend. Voting runs from today until next Tuesday. You can vote once each day (per computer). It's not required that you vote in every category, but you must make all your selections before submitting your votes. So vote for your favorites and make your keyboard heard.

Best Blog
Blork Blog
Metroblogging Montreal
Why was Daddy Kissing that Man in the Park
Zeke's Gallery

Best New Blog

Best Group Blog
Metroblogging Montreal

Best Humour Blog
Why was Daddy Kissing that Man in the Park

Best Photo/Art Blog
Digital Apoptosis
Monday Morning Photo Blog

Best Entertainment Blog
Zeke's Gallery

Best Personal Blog
Chicagoan in Montreal
Blork Blog
It's All Grey to Me

Best Media Blog
Montreal City Weblog

Best Blog Post
Chicagoan in Montreal: Snow Removal in Montreal
Babayaga: Death of the White Trash Latte
The Eponym: Smell This Law
Blork Blog: The Tragedy of the Venetian Socialite
Metroblogging Montreal: My Day at the Office

Best Blog Post Series
Blork Blog: Of People and Places

Best Activities Blog
Blork Blog

Best Local Blog
Metroblogging Montreal

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Summers End

Taken during a walk in the forests near Sutton, Quebec a couple weekends after the autumn peak in October.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Better than Bond

The new James Bond movie Casino Royale has seen heavy publicity over the past couple weeks. There are the traditional movie trailers in theatres and on TV. There are billboards either advertising the movie itself or the new Bond hawking some wares like watches. Then there are print adds in newspapers and magazines. Lastly there are the rounds of talkshows introducing the new Bond to the world.

I have to tell you that I LOVE all this publicity.


Well... every single time my wife and I see an ad, my wife, not being one for understatement, reiterates "He is SO ugly." I chuckle everytime because by default that means that I am better looking than James Bond, Mr 007. I find that pretty cool.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chicago Screen

This is a piece of art that I noticed from the parking lot of a grocery store when we were in Chicago last summer. It is on a non-descript wall of a Chicago Fire Department building. The screen is quite intricate and it is backlit at night which punches out some of the features even more. I really like how they cobble together so many aspects of Chicago and it's history.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Zu Zu's Petals

There is one thing that happens to me often now that I am a parent. I'll get into the elevator or walk around on the street and reach into my pockets. Most of the time I'll find something that reminds me of my kids. A pacifier, a snack bar wrapper, or often a small toy. I had put them there at some point while attending to them. They are nice little reminders and always make me think of the movie It's a Wonderful Life.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dutch Pasture

Taken while visiting a new friend in Leeuwarden in northern Holland. November 1991.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I Love Republicans

I must get something off my chest. I love the Republican party. They have done so much for the US and it's reputation around the world. Under their leadership they have shown the world that the United States is a caring nation concerned about citizens of other countries around the world regardless of the financial consequences. They bring to justice ruthless dictators who threaten the peace of the world or those who do harm to their own people. Others may be looking out for their own personal and financial gain, but the GOP's highest concern is the welfare of those at home and abroad.

Within the states, they have been the driving force in drawing the nation together. No longer are there ideological extremists who are ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal. America is a united force with shared values working together towards the same goals.

Today, there are so many people who's actions are dictated by an interest in amassing wealth. For themselves, their families, or their cronies. The Republican Party is a shining example of what these people should be doing instead. They fight for those less fortunate. Those people who need a helping hand when times are tough. They work toward creating a government to aid these people despite whatever burden it may have on big business. Their aim is to work for the common man and not those with expensive cars in gated communities.

Their glowing record of good deeds has won them the hearts and minds of voters across the nation and the citizens of the world. Again, others might say they share the same values as a certain segment of the population just to win votes. Praying on the faith of those who already practice faith more regularly than others. But no, the GOP genuinely shares those values and those values would be an integral part of their campaign regardless of the political fallout. They are the most morally upstanding individuals in the political arena.

They have been battling forces that may do harm against America. It has been done in secret so as not to disturb the psyche of the citizens. And they have been winning this battle. After September 11th, the forces wishing bad against the US practically disappeared. Even Ancient Babylonia and the surrounding areas, an area of conflict since the beginning of time, calmed down to where people of all backgrounds now live in peaceful proximity. After 9-11, those in power and their party could have orchestrated a massive response alienating everyone else on the planet, but those Republicans have nurtured the sympathy that the world showed the states after those horrible events.

Now, I'm not saying to blindly vote Republican. Within any group there are some less than shining stars. Take that black sheep John McCain. A man who strictly votes in a conservative mindset. We need leaders who are more free-thinking. Could you imagine if he had won the 2000 Republican primary over he who became our glorious leader?

So when you go the the polls on Tuesday, be sure to seriously consider voting Republican. They are the only honest party out there. They have won my trust.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Salzburg Fortress

Inside the Hohensalzburg Fortress above Salzburg, Austria. October 1991

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The October Trip - Second Half

I have finished posting the second half of the Octobre travel break. It includes the remainder of our stay in Prague, then visits to Berlin (day one and day two), Copenhagen, and Stockholm. There are also a couple interesting stories about night clubs we visited in Prague and Stockholm which weren't exactly what we were expecting. It was a great trip. We breezed through every city and missed a lot in a few of them. But we really got a flavor of each one and have a good idea of which ones to return to. Even those short stays gave a sense of the physical character of the places. One of the things I really enjoy about travelling. It also opened the door to travelling in Europe. I learned the drill and was able to apply that mobility to many weekend trips to locals within an overnight train ride away.

I know when I first introduced this project that I had said it was primarily for me and if you like it all the better. Well now that I have been writing it, I find that it is very much bloglike as opposed to a personal journal. It is written for friends, family, and the public who are interested in reading it. The much more personal items are kept to myself just like in this space. That is all just a function of it being in the public eye. And it is not to say that I don't include personal tidbits. There is plenty of that. They are still personal blogs, just not overly personal.

I'm not sure if I will be able to keep up with the pace of all the items I'd like to write about the study abroad. I have been able to keep up with the travel items, but I haven't touched any of the day to day items or my impressions of Versailles and Paris. My hope is that I can tackle that during the holiday break, if I have time and an internet connection. I have a ton of stuff floating around in my head that will be great to finally get written down. But until that time, I'll try to keep up with the places visited. Hope you find it of interest.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


A shot taken during a two-hour stopover in Annecy, France at the foot of the French Alps in November 1991.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Useless Rain

Rain in October serves no purpose. There is no growing season ahead. There is more than enough snow to provide the moisture needed in the spring. So October rain is only here to set the mood and make the falling leaves stick to everything.

Mind you, I'm one of those nutballs that doesn't have a problem with rainy days. I almost like them as much as sunny days and cloudy days. I like the ambiance. Meloncholy and clean. As long as I've got enough on to keep me warm and I'm not walking ten miles in wet clothing or footwear, I enjoy it. Maybe it goes back to my fascination with water and how it changes the environment and topography.

But in October, all this rain still doesn't make sense.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tower View

Taken from the observation deck of the Tower of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal in August 2003. I'm a big fan of the stadium even though many native despise it. I like the fluid forms and the sculptural quality. Seems odd that finally thirty years later that unconventional forms like this are really starting to come into vogue.

On the blog awards front, I have been nominated anonymously for Best Personal Blog. Thank you, whoever you are. I'm honored. I have been trying to nominate some other blogs, but I haven't seen them added to the list yet. Voting starts November 15th.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Public Consultation

For those of you not living in Montreal, the hot topic of the last week has been the mayors decision to rename Parc Avenue along with Bleury Street to Robert Bourassa Avenue. Many people are furious for a variety of reasons. Some are upset because they feel Parc is an integral part of the collective memory. Some are upset because another avenue is being renamed for a politician. And others are unhappy because they don't feel Mr. Bourassa was deserving enough to have a major thoroughfare named after of him. But the biggest reason people are upset is because the mayor made the decision without public consultation. He did not consult the general public, nor the local community leaders, nor the local elected officials. He decided it within his administration then announced it to the public as a fait-au-compli.

While I completely agree with this last point, I also feel a tinge of guilt. You see, seven years ago I was on the other side of the coin. One day my supervisors came up to me and asked if I was interested in working on the New Chicago Bears Stadium. Growing up as a Bears fan, it was a dream come true. The only thing that could top it would be a worlds tallest building or work on Wrigley Field. It was very beginning stages so I could have the chance to see the building from start to finish.

As with other projects, it is not always in the best interest of the project for the public to know about it until the development reaches a certain point. Many times the goal is to have a well thought-out project before it goes under the microscope of public scrutiny. While other times it is to advance a project to a point so that the public could not prevent or distort the project from being built. Sometimes this is done for the developers financial gain, and sometimes it is done to prevent a good project from being designed by committee. A perfect example of this is the site of the World Trade Center. Daniel Libeskind designed a wonderful soaring building that has now been completely redesigned by David Childs and pressures from every possible person connected to it. It will still be a good building, but quite likely not a great building.

This was the worry with the Adaptive Reuse of Soldier Field. The concept and design of the project were extremely bold. Gutting a classical lakefront landmark and placing an ultra-modern stadium situated in and spilling over the existing facades. The project was quietly developed over a couple years, then when it was getting close to ready for construction, it was opened for some public hearings. But the mayor and his connections helped get the project approved with some additional funding. Many in the public were furious, particularly those who did not like the mayor to start with. The project went through the wringer of public opinion only after it had been approved and started construction. It was called the "mistake by the lake" and an ultra modern toilet bowl. People were generally polarized as either loving it or hating it. Even to this day.

Personnally, I'm not proud of that aspect of the project. Though I had no part in ramming it through the approval process, I did keep my mouth shut about it for a couple years. Why? I felt it was a great project. Something the city would be proud of. A better stadium than any other in the league. Plus it was so unique with an unconventional layout and design. And I still feel very strong it is a great building. Not only for the spectators, but also the guy walking or driving alongside it.

After it opened, the camps were still divided. But it seemed that many, especially the spectators, liked the new stadium. Though the one thing that remained and remains a sore point with so many was the lack of public consultation. In very rare instances, something good can come of it, but for the most part the public must be able to have their voices heard. Who knows how many more people would like the project had they not felt it was shuffled in behind their backs?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Little Mermaid

This is one of the pictures from the 1991 October travel break. It is the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I have to say that I'm a bit surprised at how much attention some of the photos on Flickr get, while others that I really like get close to none. This is one of those photos that got a lot of attention. I figure it is due to the subject matter instead of the artistic qualities of the photo.

In order to draw more attention to the photos that I like, I have created a set in Flickr that highlights them. Feel free to check them out and comment (good or bad) if you like.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Get Out

I have felt that the US should stay in Iraq until the civil unrest has finished. I don't feel that it was right to go in and take Hussein out of power. But now that the forces were there, they should finish what they said they were going in there to do. To pull out would show that the country would not follow through on what they set out to do. Or an impression could be made that a withdrawal was done solely due to popular opinion.

That was until I read this story.

OK. That's enough. Get out. That behaviour is unacceptable and it is multiple times worse than any occupation or withdrawal. If any group wanted an event as a rallying cry to fight against the US and their occupation of Iraq, this is it. It is such an abhorable act that it staggers my mind. I'm at a loss for words. And 24 hours after it was breaking news, the story is nowhere to be found. My cynical side says the story was shuffled to the side in order not to influence public opinion for the upcoming election. Yes, it is possible this was an isolated incident. But it is more likely that there have been and likely will be more like it. Regardless, I see it as a sign that this needs to be over.

While we are on the topic, the government used to tell everyone that they would only stay long enough for local personnel to be trained to keep control of the country on their own. How long does that take? We have seen zero progress. I've also noticed that they haven't been saying that lately. Now the rhetoric has returned to the war on terror.

Your plans to "finish the job" are not working and no progress is being made. Your "staying the course" is proving to be more detrimental to the so-called "war on terror". Your suggestion that we must not "cut and run" is becoming the less sensible option. Yes, it may mean a civil war with a less than favorable faction taking power. But what is the other option. An endless occupation with no progress toward peaceful democratic rule. It is time to accept that your decision of a military enforced regime change was wrong. Our reputation as a country will be damaged and it will lay heavy on our conscience. But the best action at this point is to pull out and allow the country to find it's own way.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Caserne de Pompiers #1 (Firehouse #1) in the Maisonneuve neighborhood of Montreal. Designed by Marius Dufresne after he discovered Frank Lloyd Wright. It now houses a small theater company. Here are a couple more pictures of the building.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Post #300 Renovation

Monday I said I was going to compile another "Best of" for those new to the party and since it has been almost 200 posts since the last one (post #100). I started to compile it and it proved to be a difficult task. Wading through the archives, determining what could be considered the best, and adding links, etc. The whole time I was thinking that it would be so much easier if I could just throw everything into categories. That way I wouldn't have to choose and visitors would still be able to find topics that interest them. For instance, some may be coming to read about my take on Montreal, while some may be interested in me.

Well for the last month or two, Blogger has been advertising a new beta-version. With more flexibility and the ability to add bells and whistles not previously available. The two that interested me the most were the ability to add labels/categories and the other was the ability to control who sees the blog. Now, some of you know that I have been toying with jumping to Wordpress. For the two reasons above and the ability to customize the look instead of using a template. Unfortunately we're short on cash at the moment and it'll have be another day. Of the two reasons to jump, the viewing permissions turned to be a bust. It's a toggle switch where the blog is invitation only or public. There is not the ability to do it on a post by post basis.

So by now, you can see that I took the plunge into beta. It's for the sole reason of being able to categorize my posts. In large part I am really liking the improved version. It's like getting any upgrade like a bigger monitor or a new car. It's not perfect, but there are enough new bells and whistles to make it a fun improvement. The ability to add elements and move them around. And the dashboard makes adding categories quite easy since I can do it in bulk on one page. Instead of doing it post by post. And along the way I learned how to back up this thing.

So there we are. A good chunk of the previous posts have been categorized for easy reference. One knock on it is that you view the whole post in each category instead of just a few lines. It would make it easier to peruse. I hope to have all the posts categorized in the next few days. I did create a "Best of" since there are a handful have gotten tons of traffic. If you feel there are others to add, let me know. I've given the same treatment to the other blog also.

I hope it doesn't bother anyone how I divided up the blogs I link to. Cohorts are people that I've met in the real world or have a well established online rapport. The other three are self explanatory. Though just so you know, I read the blogs that link here also.

So enjoy the new diggs. I hope you like it and feel free to explore the categories.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rouen Streetscape

One of the pictures I uploaded recently for the European Memoirs blog. Rouen is a very nice city with three impressive gothic churches. A good day trip from Paris, or a stop on the way to Honfleur and the Normandy Beaches.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Canadian Blog Awards

It's that time of year again. Nominations are being accepted for the Canadian Blog Awards. My love of competition, my need for validation, and just plain curiousity has me interested in being a part of it this year. So feel free to nominate me if you feel what you read here is worthy. The only two categories this blog could fall under are Best Personal Blog andBest Blog (yeah, right).
There is also the best post or best post series categories. A couple of my most popular posts have been Snow Removal in Montreal and my most visited blog post ever is Population of Montreal in 2005. Search engines have popularized the second one.

And if any of you are interested in being nominated, let me know. I'll be happy to nominate you. Actually, we could all nominate ourselves, but it doesn't feel quite right doing it that way.

I realize that this is just one big popularity contest and I only have a small chance of getting in the final three. But if it brings in more like-minded people and/or people interested in what's written here, that can only be good. I hope to have a "Best of" coming up soon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Wrigley Field Scoreboard

Baseball season is over for the Cubs, but I like this shot of the old scoreboard. Although they have tacked a video screen to the bottom, the top is still manually operated with the workers sticking their heads out to watch the game once in a while. I've heard that it's incredibly hot in there and smells like pee. Their only way to relieve themselves is into a funnel with a pipe that leads down to the sewer below.

But it sure is nice to look at from the outside. As long as you are good at addition.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

... you know.

Some excerpts from the President's press conference today:

"The speaker's strong statements have made it clear to not only, you know, the party members, but to the country, that he wants to find out the facts,'' Bush said at his press conference outside the Oval Office. "All of us want to find out the facts. I mean, this is — you know, this is disgusting behavior when a — you know, a member of Congress betrays the trust of a… family that sent a young page up to serve in the Congress."

"He's… done a fine job as speaker, and when he stands up and says 'I want to know the truth'… and I believe yesterday he said that if somebody on his staff, you know, didn't tell him the truth, they're gone. I respect that and appreciate that and believe him.''

"I think the elections will be decided by security and the economy. I really do,'' the president said. "You know, I know this…Foley issue bothers a lot of people, including me. But I think when they get in that booth, they're going to be thinking about, you know, how best to secure the country from attack, and, you know, how best to keep the economy growing.''

"We've got to deal with these problems before they come to…our territory… You know, I understand that some are saying, 'Well, he's just trying to scare us.' My job is to look at the intelligence… and I'm going to tell you, there's an enemy out there that would like to do harm again to the United States because we're in a war.''

You would think after six years as president he would have a better way to pause. You know.

October Travel Break - First Half

The first half of our October travel break has now been posted on the European Memoirs blog. It includes Munich, Oktoberfest, Salzburg, Vienna, and our arrival in Prague. There's a couple interesting stories among the sites seen, but the ones I find more interesting are during the second half. So there is much more to come.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

First Crowds

This was taken on a morning on our way to class the year I was studying abroad in Versailles. They would usually open early the side gate to the gardens at the Neptune Basin. So we would enter the gardens then walk out the front gate of the chateau. Sometimes they would open the front gates just as we were walking out to the surprise of many early risers trying to be the first into the chateau and gardens.

Our classes were held in the old horse stables (Petit Ecuries) of the chateau. The building is the wide building with the dome just to the left of the statue.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Breastfeeding & Circus School

Last Saturday morning our family went to Complex Desjardins to drop off my wife and the baby. It was an assembly to raise awareness for breastfeeding. At 11am, all of the mothers would attempt to feed and they would be counted. There were 920 feeding of the over a thousand participants who were trying at that time. We received two tickets to see Monsters on Ice since we participated. Although myself and our older kid were not there for the event, we did spend a bit of time inside before we had to leave. The atmosphere was a little on the surreal side. A gathering of babys with mothers who are more endowed than your average woman on the street. Baby carriers, diaper bags, strollers. And quite a few fathers who seemed a bit uneasy and out of place. They were asked to stand on the side while the mothers gathered in the center court.

Our older daughter and I left and went to Circus School. That is really a cool place. They have all kinds of apparatus. Trampolines, high wires, trapeze, tumbling mats, items to juggle, and high bars to balance yourself while atop balls, rollers, or stilts. And there are at least five different groups all going at the same time in different corners of the room. Flips on the trampoline, handstands on the mats, or walking up the stands while juggling balls. Its interesting to see these kids already doing circus type exercises and all looks like so much fun.

Well, last weekend I had the chance to join in. The youngest children are required to have an adult with them, so it was my turn. It was much tamer stuff, but it was still a blast to do things similar to what they do in the circus. We did an exercise where I throw and flip her in the air. She had to balance on my hands while I lifted her up. And there were some basic balancing and tumbling exercises. At times I found myself concentrating more on what I was doing as opposed to helping my kid do what she was doing.

It reminds me of two things. First, it reminds me of the exercises we did in high school. Our cross country and track coach was a pole vaulter and a bit of a nut. At times we did unrelated exercises like handstands for cross country. And for the year I attempted the pole vault, we were doing gymnastics on the rings or the high bar. Swinging on a rope up over the bar in order to simulate pole vaulting and jumping off the gym balcony onto the mat in order to get used to the falling. Actually I tried the pole vault just to do those exercises. I was really not good at it. I was too slow to generate enough energy to produce any height. And my weight didn't help things.

But the other thing it reminds me of is my grandfather and it makes me wonder if one of our daughters may follow in his footsteps. There is a very strong circus presense here in Montreal and part of me wonders if they may follow that path. For now we'll just have fun with the classes. Maybe I'll try one.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Linear Swirls

This is a shot that I took on my lunch hour earlier this summer. I like it, but I feel there's something that could be done to it to really make it pop. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears. This is Jeanne Mance Ecole Secondaire (Secondary School, grades 6-9). The entire perimeter of the building is covered in artistic graffiti.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Survivor Diversity

When it was announced that the teams on this season's Survivor would be split along racial lines, I like everyone else thought that is was pretty silly. They mentioned it would increase the minorities in the game, but creating competing teams just didn't seem right in a world trying to overcome stereotypes. Thankfully, when asked what they thought about it, all the players downplayed it. They felt pride representing their part of society, but it was not as though they were competing against another race.

My viewpoint and feeling about this little experiment changed during last weeks episode. After only two weeks as four segregated teams, they were combined and mixed up into two teams. It's a new look for Survivor and I really like it. Every season before now had a token Asian and one or two token African Americans. It represented their percentage of the population, but it always put a spotlight on them. But I like the current mix. Your alpha-type whites with your alpha-type blacks with your alpha-type asians and your alpha-type hispanics. One big mixed alpha-type Survivor family.

Maybe another reason this mixed make-up felt comfortable to me was that it reminded me of high school. Although it was a Catholic school and did not have students of other religious backgrounds, the racial make-up was quite varied. Quite similar to Survivors make-up. Throw in some Polish, Germans, Irish, and Italians and you'd come pretty close.

I realize this mix-up has only just begun and there's still a possiblity that tensions may arise along racial lines later on. But at least right now, I'll liking it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Château de Chenonceau

It is interesting to see what photos gain the most attention compared to those that I feel are good ones. This is one that is in both camps. The river was amazingly still that day and I was able to take some very good photos. For more on my visit to the chateau read here.

I was thinking the other day that it is kinda funny how my Flickr account has become a sneak preview of what will be covered in the European Memoirs blog. One month done, eight more to go.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ode to October

October is my favorite month. We have quite a history together and I enjoy it's place in the change of seasons.

Many milestones in my life have occured in this month. During my second year of high school cross-country, I came in fifth place overall for the final race of the year after spending the year as a middle of the pack guy. It was the highlight of my high school running career and I never ran that fast again. I completed three marathons (89, 99, & 01) during the tenth month of the year. I started dating my future wife one mid-October evening and later married her an October afternoon almost seven years later. And our first daughter was born during this month.

But I feel a magic at this time of year regardless of the history.

Autumn offers my favorite weather. Summer is fun for the warmth, but my fair skin prefers cloudy days. And the problem with winter is that you spend your free time in the dark five days out of the week. Cloudy can be depressing in long stints, but darkness can be so empty. There is something about the autumn reprise from the summer heat. Similar to how spring is a break from winters chill. But for me spring heat never comes fast enough. Fall offers a moderate to chilly temp that is for the here and now. There is no yearning for that cold weather that follows. A time to enjoy long sleeves and light jackets that provide all the warmth and protection you need. Cooler temperatures that don't require hats and gloves. Just you and your rosy cheeks. Just enough to enjoy a cozy fire.

There is magic in the sights and smells. The oft mentioned color explosion, but also the scent of those leaves as they decay. Cool temperatures provide crisp views free of summer's haze or winter's smog. Fall is a rapidly changing landscape as plants prepare for hibernation. It's the time of harvest and a celebration of death. The best time for a good bowl of chili is while watching a football game with your beverage of choice. The month of apple picking and pumpkin carving. An damp earthy scent fills the air. A gloomy gothic moment before the earth goes to sleep that ends appropriately with Halloween.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

September Class Trips

Two more posts have been added to my European Memoir blog. They encompass two trips. One to the chateaus of the Loire Valley and the other a day trip to Rouen and Honfleur in the Normandy region. These trips were largely uneventful story-wise and they are largerly about the places visited. This is probably because I spent much of them running around on my own. There are a few interesting people stories coming up in posts of the October travel break.

Much more coming soon.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Taken at Navy Pier in Chicago in July 2005 at the same time as this photo and this one.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We Are a Community

I was contacted last week about a post I had written for Metroblogging Montreal by Cecilia Jamasmie, an editor for Orato, an online journal "True stories from REAL people." She was wondering if they could repost one of the posts I had written about the Dawson shootings in their journal. I checked it out and Ed's article had already been posted. I procrastinated over the weekend and gave her a response early this evening (Tuesday). And it was up in a couple hours.

Rereading the post I'm kinda surprised that I had written it. Not for content, but that I managed to convey what I had on my mind fairly well. I had wondered if I may have written it telling people to act instead of suggesting. Rereading posts and realizing that they did say what I wanted to has happened before on this blog also. And seeing something that I had written on something that resembles a newspaper was also a bit odd. As I've said before, I was good in math and science in school, not english and writing. It was the subject that kept me out of 'honors' class. So whenever these recent recognitions by other bloggers or newspapers comes along, it's quite a pleasant surprise.

I'd also like to take a second and thank all of you readers. I enjoy writing this stuff and it's a bonus to see that you like some of it too. And thanks also to those of you who have linked to this blog. I keep coming across blogs that reference back here that I had not known about. I'm flattered and I apologize for not linking back. To tell the truth, I've been bad at creating the links back when I find them. Then I have trouble finding them again. Feel free to drop me a line. I'm interested in reading more of what you have written.

Also regarding their reprinting, I don't know if I agree with the title they chose. I didn't really talk about guns or fear in the article. It was meant to bring the focus back on what we could do in a positive way. I could have spruced up the original title "A Concerned Parent" to be more newspaper worthy. As it was, I kinda questioned whether "parent" should be in the title since "community" was the major subject. I'll ask if they can change it. And they reprinted my juvenile bio that I created for Metroblogging. I was trying to be funny and now I look like I have no credibility. I guess it's just another kick in the pants to grow up. You're not a teenage goof off anymore. So nothing more than dry serious monotone recollections from here on out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Inner Court

A photo of the inner court of the Chateau de Versailles taken in 1991.

The first time I lived in Versailles, I was fortunate enough to live near the gardens and the chateau. Our walk to school with a minor detour took us through the gardens and out the front gate of the chateau. In the photo, we came out of a passageway on the left and walked diagonally toward the camera. It feels surreal to have experienced a place like that on a daily basis.

I've been scanning slides and negatives like mad. Currently I'm scanning pictures from our October travel break through northern Europe and I'll get back to Paris and Versailles photos after that. At this rate I will have enough pictures scanned to post one on Flickr every day for a few years. As my wife jokes, that's my Japanese side coming out. I take a lot of photos when we travel, or at least I try.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Our car now has 225,000 km (140,000 miles) on it. And over the summer we had quite a few repairs done on it. We are hoping to stretch it until next summer, but in the possibility that it doesn't make it, we have been casually researching what new cars are available and what meets our needs. So we have been checking out all the other cars on the road and making mental notes.

Well, the other day a kinda cute thing happened. I got home and my wife says "Hey, I saw this one car that looked pretty nice. It's called a 'Tucksen'." I was kinda surprised that I hadn't heard of it before since I had already looked at pretty much every car in our price range available in Quebec. She continued "Yeah, it's a Hyundai I think." Then I figured it out. It was the Hyundai Tucson.

I still kid her about it, but it's true that Too-san is an odd way to pronounce Tuc son. So now it has become another pet name that I have given various vehicles and car lines. Here are some others:

Jag you are
Merk eh deeze (I just like pronouncing it different)
Innie (as in belly button)
Fix Or Repair Daily
Doo doo scooper
Horde Extorter
Sneeze on Entrails

I also say life is more exciting everytime I see a Montana and pronounce Pacifica with a Catalan lisp. Yes, I can get pretty dorky sometimes.

Do you have any others?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Billy Loves Candice

Wow! What a bomb! I was starting to think shows like Survivor and the Amazing Race were falling into a pattern with the same personality types and the same interpersonal conflicts, but last night's revelation on Survivor: Cook Islands was a first. This is where I am supposed to tell those who haven't seen it of a spoiler alert.

The first hint of something odd was when after the immunity/reward challenge had been completed, Billy had an exchange with a couple women on the Raro tribe.

Candice: "I feel really feel bad for you guys."
Billy: "I'm next."
Candice: well "We love you."
A slightly stunned and earnest Billy replied "I love you too."

OK, that was weird. Everyone seemed to go on with what they were doing. For the Aito tribe, that was preparing to vote of Billy having just thrown the immunity challenge.

So we get to tribal council and Jeff is working the Ozzy vs. Billy angle when Billy has his revelation.

Billy: "I'm playing the game. That is what I came here to do. My prize isn't even... the million dollars. My prize was... that I... I fell...I...I...fell in love in this game. Love at first sight. Her name is Candice. And in between..." (girls bust out laughing)

Jeff: (stunned look and gesturing) "Candice... from the Raro tribe"

Billy: "Yeah. After the last challenge we sorta mouthed the words 'I love you' to one another. So that was my prize. My prize was her." (Jeff is now holding back laughter)

Jeff: "I don't think I've never heard anything that surprised me more than what you just said. And I want to be respectful because I don't know what happened. But what would she base feeling the same way you feel... on?"

Billy: "I think it's just ya know love at first sight. I think it's just a..a..a..a rapport thing."

Jeff: "So you're absolutely sincere right now."

Billy: "I'm dead serious."

Definitely one for a "Best of Survivor" special. Now I want for the season to be over to see Candice's reaction when Billy proposes.

Tiffany Stair

This is another shot that I took in Chicago this past summer. I'm not a big fan of Tiffany, but his work was some of the more interesting objects to take picture of during my 30-minute mad dash to take as many pics as possible. I've already posted other pics from that photo-quickie here, here, and here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Irish Samurai

Some of you may have wandered over to my photostream on Flickr. Over there, I go by the moniker "The Irish Samurai". You may have wondered where that came from, so I thought I would explain.

It was a nickname I came up with for myself back in high school. My sister and I were having fun sending in personal ads to The Reader, a weekly newspaper in Chicago. Like most people we were sending in vague <25 word submissions on 3x5 index cards (this was before internet) that were anywhere from slightly philosophical to random thoughts. The Irish Samurai was one of the pseudonyms underwhich I sent some of my submissions. Seeing as how many people come up with pseudonyms for Flickr accounts (David the Pretender, Leonzerider) I thought I would resurrect that name.

Basically the name comes from my two lines of ancestry that are most prominent. I'm a redheaded kid with a Japanese last name. Since I am also a quarter Irish, the name seemed to fit. I look vaguely Irish and all the ID's in my wallet say I'm Japanese. So that's it. That's the story. Plain and simple. No illusions of being military nobility in County Kerry.