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.