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.