Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Weight Wager

As many of you may have heard, Blork and I have made a wager over who could lose the most weight relative to their goal. So the clock has started ticking with the end date in early August six months from now. In addition to the weight I've lost already, I've committed to lose another 27lbs. That would get me to 178.5 which is considered healthy for my height and frame. But I haven't weighed that much since 1991.

It should be fun. I enjoy healthy competition and as long as Ed can keep up, it will be a great motivator to stick to the goal. Regardless of the outcome, we'll likely both be in better shape. And we can celebrate at the end with some chocolate chai cupcakes a la Martine.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tour Guide

A line of sycamores in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles, France. Winter 1991-92.

Recently, Patrick, a Flickr member whose pictures I've been viewing regularly, mentioned that he was going to Versailles. So since then, I've been offering what I know about the city and places that I recommend seeing.

It reminds me how much I really enjoy doing this. There is just something inside me that wants to share all the great things that I have encountered. Be it in Chicago, Montreal, Versailles, Paris, or anywhere else I've been. It could be just giving tips before people head there. But of course I'd love to actually be there with them to see what they like compared to myself and also to see how much they enjoy the same things that I do.

Sometimes I'm almost too eager. Taking people on whirlwind tours of the city to see as much as possible. When people came to visit when I lived near Paris, on the first day we would start at the Latin Quarter, see Notre Dame, the Louvre from the outside, walk the length of the Tuileries and the Champs Elysee, see the Arc du Triumph from the outside, then head to the Eiffel Tower likely climbing to the top just before sunset to see the city in the daylight and at night.

But I always enjoy having visitors and taking them on tours of the places we've lived. You could say it is how I met my wife. After returning from my first stay in France, I introduced myself to the French students on the opposite exchange and offered to show them around. In the first month we visited Chicago, Springfield IL, Oak Park, and Pittsburgh on a grand tour of everything Frank Lloyd Wright. We were going out by the end of the tour. Even the following year, I organized trips through a student organization to many of the same places.

Of course the best is to share it with family and good friends. Again, my first stay in France was a bit bitter sweet. On one hand I was experiencing so many interesting things. On the other I could not share it with family and friends firsthand. Eventually that did happen, but it was really just a sampling of the total experience. It's one of the things I'd love to do if we ever won the lottery. Set aside money for each friend and family member, then take a trip with them. Whether it's a cross-country road trip or a trip to another continent. The key would be to share a place they would enjoy seeing.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Weight Game - Week 3 & The Diet

So after two more weeks, I'm down another 4 lbs for a total of 9 lbs. That actually brings me back to where I was last fall. Sad, but true. It should be a tougher go after this. I likely won't be posting as often about this in order not to bore you to death. It'll likely be on a monthly basis.

So how exactly did I lose that much that fast. This go-around I decided to try the "Wets do Munch" diet. OK, that's not really the name, but you can get the book and the real name via the link. It's the first book I ever bought online. That after popping in many bookstores downtown only to find they didn't have it and it would take a week for them to get it.

I really like the diet because I like the logic behind it. Keep you're metabolism high in the morning, don't eat foods that take long to digest late in the day, and eat healthy foods. This means eating as much fruit in the morning as you can (or want). The natural sugars sustain a high metabolism and keep you satiated until lunch. Lunch is the big meal and the only meal you eat meat. You eat a large portion of meat along with vegetable or grains of you choice. Grains are considered to be corn and beans, not wheat and traditional grains. Dinner is again fruit along with vegetable or grains after you have had your fill of fruit. The objective is to keep you satiated until bedtime and not going to sleep still digesting your supper.

Prohibited items include sugars, starches, and fats. Sugar is an obvious one. Starches like refined potatoes, flour, and even whole grain still send your pancreas working overtime. And fats are avoided because they are fattening. But I'm still not sure I completely agree with that one. I may work certain fats (like mayo) back into the diet when it becomes a sustain diet instead of a loss diet.

That's really the gist of the diet. It's a bit quirky, but I'm finding that it works. I really have to say it has been one of the easiest for me to follow and has a chance of continuing past the weight loss. I used to rarely eat fruit, but now I eat more in one day than I used to eat in a couple weeks. And I actually like it. I feel that I'm eating so much healthier than before. No snacks are allowed between the three main meals, but I have found that I usually don't get hunger pangs between meals like on other diets.

The book, as with other diet books that I have read, seems to take it's time getting to the point of what is the diet. This diet, unlike the others, is not by someone in the medical profession. This is some guy who by trial and error determined this diet and has now written a book about it. So it's very much "I tried this and it works" and "I tried this and it doesn't work". It comes across as one persons opinions instead of medical consensus or a doctor with several patients. But again, I like the logic behind it and it has been working very well so far. Heck, I've even strayed once or twice a week without losing a step on my weight loss plan. Though I did stuff myself late Saturday night and regressed a little. We had some very good Indian food (from my limited experience) at Restaurant Gandhi in Old Montreal.

I've very interested and hopeful that this success continues. Especially since today I made a wager. More on that soon.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Taken on probably the windiest day of the year last September. This is Parc René Lévesque in the Lachine neighborhood of Montréal.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

No Drugs

So the answer to the last post was #4. 'I have done illegal drugs' is a false statement. I kinda figured it would be easy because since almost everyone has tried them at one time, why would you include it in a list like that. Either way, it looks like I got some splainin to do. The other four items will be elaborated on in the coming weeks.

In truth, I have only been offered marijuana only twice in my life. The first time I shrugged it off because I was the driver that night and I had no idea what my reaction to it might be. At that point I hadn't even tried alcohol. Plus I feared a situation where I could not get the car back home and have to explain it to my parents.
The second time was in college and some of my co-workers at the photo store said they had some and would have it after hours upstair. I backed out of that one because: I already had something going on that evening; I wasn't too keen on their company to start with, much less trying something new with them; and lastly because I figured another offer would come up at some point.

Now before y'all start thinking I'm a goodie-two-shoes, it's not that. I see it like this. When I was a kid, I had a best friend named John. We hung out together until we went to high school. I placed into third level classes while he was at second level. So we didn't have any classes together, plus I joined the cross-country and track teams so my afternoons were taken up. We rather quickly grew apart only seeing each other when we passed in the hallways. We each had a new group of friends. I ended up in the brainy running crowd, he became part of the heavy metal crowd. By junior year he was heavily into drugs and dropped out of school. So what I am saying is that part of the fact of why I have never done drugs is because of the crowd of people that I was around. My friends didn't do them, so it greatly diminished the possibility that I would.

So that's it. That's the story. Nothing more.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Five things you don't know about me.

I have been officially tagged by the honorable Jonas Parker with a meme. So here are my five things and you have to guess which one is not true.

1. I flashed the audience during a school play.

2. I ran 1000 miles over a summer.

3. I have only found three people with shorter fingers that I have.

4. I have done illegal drugs.

5. I used to frequent a gay bar.

So which one is false? Regardless, all will be revealed in a future post. Let me know if there is one in particular you would like me to elaborate on.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pick-up Sticks

In the historic district of Wake Forest, North Carolina. December 2006.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Chicago Bears - NFC Champions

The Chicago Bears are going to the Super Bowl! I was 14 yrs old the last time they did that. And it looks like they may be facing the same team.

Although I am a die-hard Cubs and Bears fan, I have learned over the years to hold back really getting my expectations up when the teams start doing well. It has happened all too often that you get your heart set on them going to the final game and they come up short like the Cubs in '84, '89, and especially '03 or the Bears in '84, '86, '87, '88, '90, '91, '95, '01, and '05. So it came as much as a relief as a joy to see the victory and advancement to the Super Bowl become a reality as the fourth quarter wore on and the team pulled ahead.

Time to enjoy this accomplishment then look forward to the big game in two weeks.

Learning to get personal

This blog has been featured on the pages of the Montreal Gazette again. Page B2 of Saturday's paper. Pick it up if you have a chance. The online version is only available to subscribers. Thanks to Steve Faguy for the article. If you don't have a chance to check it out, here are a couple bits, but I urge you to read the Gazette anyhow.

"While many blogs begin with personal posts and move to more public topics as they grow an audience, [Frank] has done the opposite. "I've become more comfortable talking about myself without feeling like a narcissist.""

And my weight resolution has gotten even more public:

"His latest project is to fulfull his New Year's resolution to get in shape. He hopes blogging about it will keep him motivated to lose 25lbs by August."

I guess there's no backing out now. Especially since I'm in the process of making a wager with a fellow blogger.

Those Canadian Blog Awards really got this blog much publicity. Thank you again to those who nominated the blog. This is the second print article I've been interviewed for (I haven't heard if the first was published) and I've been contacted by both the CBC radio morning and lunch programs. But I think I failed the mock interview for the latter. It's nice to get the recognition, but the goal has always been to share thoughts with possible conversations that they generate.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bear Down

There's a big game on Sunday at 3pm for those of you not following American football. The Chicago Bears will play the New Orleans Saint for a chance to play in the Superbowl. And they'll be playing in my favorite stadium.

The song this opera singer is singing is the Chicago Bears fight song. It used to only be known by die-hard fans. Back about ten years ago, my father would pass out the words to the song at the game. So we had a mini-choir singing along in our corner of the stadium. I'm sure they post the words on those two wonderful cantilevered scoreboards.

Go Bears!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


The Nyhavn (New Harbor) in Copenhagen, October 1991.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about photoblogs vs Flickr and why I prefer using Flickr. Although it would be fun to have a photoblog (if I had the time) since it is much more formal, I'm really enjoying Flickr.

I know some of the arguments against it such as the format and the fact that browsing images are done by thumbnails which really don't do the images justice. But it is really the exposure, the network, and the lack of pressure on Flickr that I enjoy.

First, it's the fact that anyone, anywhere on Flickr may stumble upon my shots. Users can come in from various avenues such as groups, tags, favorites, or contacts. I have seen photos from a gazillion different users. Whereas on photoblogs exposure can come through word of mouth or photoblog listings. You are likely to find higher quality shots and more talented people as a group, but you have to search.

Second, I really like the network capabilities. I have a photo like the one above in Copenhagen. I can add a Copenhagen tag and add it to groups about Denmark and Scandanavia. That gives avenues for people to see your shots. And with their whole interestingness thing, you can browse the best shots under a specific tag. If I have a great shot of Nyhavn, more and more people will be able to see it.

And lastly, it's the lack of pressure. There are a lot of mediocre shots on Flickr and at time on photoblogs. So what's the big deal if I post a dud. It'll slip into oblivion while the other rise to the top. During the process of posting photos I have also discovered a bit more about my abilities. Similar to architecture, I'm not an avant-garde artist/designer. I tend to be better than the average bear, but not the cream of the crop. I feel photoblogs should be that cream of the crop. My stuff tends to be too concrete or technical or mainstream to be cutting edge artistic. Funny how that kinda reflects who I am.

Also I find it interesting how my photos reach farther afield than my blog. Although the blog is partly about general ideas, there is also a good amount of local content. The combination seems to cater more toward local blogs. Whereas the photos appeal to people from all over. There are three likely reasons why I've been in contact with people all over via Flickr. First, I've been actively participating in groups about Chicago like Guess Where in Chicago. So my Chicago contacts have been on a steady increase. Secondly, it may also partly be due to the fact that most of the photos I post are primarily from locations outside of Montreal such as Chicago or Europe. And thirdly, even if the pictures are local, they don't require background to be understood or enjoyed like say local politics. It's not a huge revelation, but I still thought the difference was interesting.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Weight Game - The Intro and Week 1

As I mentioned last week, one of my main resolutions is to finally get my weight back down and keep it off. At first I thought I would avoid talking much about it here because I was worried about not living up to my resolution. Like last year I mentioned it here and I lost only seven pounds. Three of which were back by the summer and then another seven were added before the New Year.

But this year is different. Unlike last year where I just planned to eat a little better and try exercising, I have a set diet that I am following. But before getting into that, I thought I'd cover where I've been and where I am.

In my high school years, I remember being around 170 for my 5'-10" frame. I was big into running back then, though even that couldn't stop a slow and steady increase in weight. My freshman year in college started a continuing cycle of waxing and waning. I ran my first marathon that October, then promptly stopped running to refocus on my studies. I put on ten pounds that fall and winter. Hence began the cycle of adding weight during the late-fall/early winter then losing some of it (not all) over the spring and summer. A steady increase over the years.

One notable weight loss was during my first stay in France in 1991. They had no prepared food like mac and cheese or hamburger helper. So I cooked almost everything from scratch. I really enjoyed it. Two notable gains include when I gained financial freedom and when our first child was born. When I first started working and getting a substantial paycheck, it was like letting a caged animal run free. I was sucking down Starbutts latest super sugary concoction twice or three times a day and regularly having my fattening fast food favorites like burritos, pizza, and McDonalds. While our first child was cooking in the oven, I sympathetically gained weight alongside my wife. Though she lost the weight naturally over the next year, I never recovered.

Since we bought our computer in 1999, I have been keeping track our my weight-reduction attempts via spreadsheets and graphs. I feel it is the only way to comprehend your progress. The interesting thing is that I now have that all on record and can compare current progress against past years. I can also see what worked and what didn't (like last year).

So what worked. The Atkins Diet. In 2000, I lost 20 lbs on it, going from 204lbs to 184 lbs in 6 months. In 2004, I tried it again and lost 19lbs, going from 213lbs to 194lbs in 5 months. The problem with the diet was that there was so much preparation and eating out basically set you back a week. Although I wasn't hot on the idea of protein only, it was the diet that showed me how evil sugar and refined flour can be. I also tried the Zone diet in late 2000, but I found the requirement to strictly regulate portions difficult to manage. Though, this diet helped me understand the nutritional value of many foods. In 2001, I trained for my third marathon, but lost all of three pounds. I can only hope the lack of weight loss was due to increased muscle mass.

I have been interested in losing weight this year because my father is getting remarried and I would like to look good for it. Plus my father introduced me to the "Lets Do Lunch" diet and I've been giving it a whirl. I started at 213lbs and I am now at 208lbs. I will go into my thoughts about the diet in the next installment. But needless to say, I'm quite happy to be down 5lbs after a week. I know from experience that it is part water and the first pounds are the easiest to lose, but heck if it isn't a good motivator.

My hopes are that being this public about the whole thing will keep me dedicated to it. Plus the diet is currently a big part of my life so it makes sense to post about it. The diet is easier than the previous two mentioned, but it does still take work. My goal is 183lbs for early August. Lets see if I can do it (and keep it off).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hello Winter

You're fashionably late this year. Though I'm not complaining.

Last year you came to the party a month earlier.

Lets hope for a relatively easy commute home.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Taken at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Fla late last month. This is a small prescribed burn area that has begun to reemerge. During our stay down there, I kept wanting to see and photograph some indigenous landscapes and plant life. With so much development going on, it's hard to know what is native and what is imported or created. So I was really happy when we went to the sanctuary. They have four different native ecosystems all within walking distance of each other. The areas are a pine flatland, a wet prairie, a cypress forest, and a marsh. Some very different landscapes teaming with wildlife. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Two Degrees of Separation Only

One thing that I've thought about recently is that before getting into blogging, all of my good and close personal friends were people that I either went to school with or worked with. I really can't think of any people who I have met outside of those circles that I have become very good friends with. I don't have any problem with it and it really works for me. But it does seem a bit odd doesn't it? It really make me seem like an introvert. Now, I'm not outgoing, but I've been good at getting people together in the past.

And even aquaintences seem to fall at most one degree of separation from that. They are friends or aquaintences of the people I had direct contact with. But none of those blossomed into real friendships. Does it require that I'm cooped up with someone on a day to day basis for relationships to work? Am I the only one?

Now, in my defense, I was never comfortable striking up conversations with strangers. I always prefered strong (or light) one on one interaction with people I know well and see eye to eye. Or groups of the same people. I've always wondered if it was a product of growing up in the city. Keep to yourself in the sea of people.

Another possibly lame excuse is architecture. In school we worked late hours sequestered in our studio together at times missing much of what was going on around the rest of the campus. Even the year when I lived with non-architecture students who were some of my best friends, I was at home the least often of the group. Those close architectural quarters also fostered good and lasting friendships. We also seemed to be speaking the same language and sharing the same passion. Many love affairs and eventual marriages were born out of it including our own. Then we went on to the work world, but the paycheck was the biggest change. Still the long hours and close quarters. And so many of the same people. There was such a network among architects in Chicago that you never seemed more than two degrees of separation from another architect. We were always going to the same lectures, exhibitions, and parties.

But why do I bring this up. Well, the blog world has broken that seal. I've started meeting people from other professions or who I did not go to school with. The world outside. Not that I was not in contact with others before, but it is more that a comfort level has been reached. Friendships are happening. Even exclusively virtual contact with people I have never met. Though I hope to have the chance to meet those people someday since I still feel at least one face to face encounter says volumes about who a person really is. It really is a brave new world and I really have to say I've been enjoying it.

Thanks, everyone.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bonita Sunset

A shot from the back door of the place where we stayed in Bonita Springs, Florida last week. It had been raining all day and the sky cleared just before sunset to produce these results. If anyone is interested in information about staying at this place, let me know and I'll forward it to you. I hope to write about some of my observations and impressions of Florida soon.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy New Year!

A bit belated, but just as sincere. I hope everyone has a happy and healthy 2007.

2002 was the start of a small family. 2003 was the year of getting adjusted to a new city. 2004 was the year of many visitors (10 from out of town). 2005 was the year of homeownership. And 2006 was the year of an expanded family. 2007 will be about achieving balance between work, family, and pleasure with two working parents and two kids at daycare.

One thing I thought about during our 20 hour-3 day return to Montreal is that 2006 is only the second year in the last 15 that I did not board a plane. On the flip side, I logged over 7000 miles of car travel between trips to Boston, Chicago, and Naples. I LOVE driving, but I can hold off from taking any long trips in the next few months.

As far as resolutions, I don't have many. Searching for balance and working harder at being a better parent are a couple. I do have a weight resolution. Ever since I was in high school, I had a nasty habit of gaining ten pounds between October and January, then losing five of those pounds over the rest of the year. When my wife gained weight during her first pregnancy, I gained alongside her. She lost the weight, but I did not. Granted, I have kept my weight steady since moving to Montreal, but it would be nice to get back down to the weight I was when we got married over five years ago (185lbs). To be blunt, I'm tired of being this heavy. I'm more subconscience of my looks and I'd like for that to end.

I made the same resolution to lose weight last year, but this year I have a goal, a set time limit, and a diet plan. The goal is to be able to fit into my wedding suit for my father's upcoming wedding this summer. He also is dieting and showed me the "Wet's Do Munch" diet and I really like and agree with the principles of the diet. It is based on fruits, vegetables, and good quality meats. I had much success with the Atkins diet which helped me shed pounds for my wedding, but I'm a bit leary of the long term effects. I don't have an exercise plan laid out, but I do hope to get some in along with many stretching exercises. I've been getting alarmed at how inflexible I have become. So I'll break out my weight loss spreadsheet (to keep track) and give it a try.

My blogging endeavors will become much more random and less frequent. I'll probably blog in between the cracks instead of forcing it into a schedule. Life looks to become much more busy both at work and at home. The vacation was a real vacation and I had no time to write. And our internet access was a limited 26kbps. So I was only able to do some cursory checking up on goings on. That said, I hope to keep actively blogging and keeping up with all of you.

Best Regards, Frank.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Another Sucker

After her... I like my results. Makes me wonder if subconsciencely I have a huge ego. I'm just happy I wasn't deemed Superwoman.

Your results:
You are Superman

The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Friday, January 05, 2007

Marsh Mellow

This picture was actually taken three years ago on our last trip, not the most recent one. We took an airboat tour in the Everglades that started off by visiting the local alligators. One or two of them were fairly trained where the airboat driver would pull up near them and throw them marshmallows. This guy pulled up next to my side of the boat and opened wide for his snack. Although he was rather calm, it was quite hair-raising to have him only three feet away. If you head down that way, it's an activity worth trying to experience. It was also educational concerning the Everglades and the alligators. The full speed airboat ride through the glades was also a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

4270 miles and 75 hours later...

... we're back.

Almost the equivalent of driving from Chicago to San Francisco and back. Or Montreal to Salt Lake City. That was the five day travel portion of our vacation down to Bonita Springs, Fla.

As much as we had a good time with good family and friends, it is nice to get away from the transient lifestyle. And what a nice surprise to come home to sunny above freezing temps. For months I was wondering if we would be battling a snowstorm coming home.

Our trip down was two legs with a day stopover in the countryside near Raleigh to see Mom. The return trip was three legs with another day stopover in Raleigh and a stopover in New York City to see archidose and his wonderful wife. I have now been in NYC four times and only set foot on the island of Manhattan once. And that was for work, so we hope to return for a real visit soon. This may sound weird, but I really have enjoyed driving in NYC. The bustle and jockeying make me feel alive and remind me of Chicago. Your senses and your brain are working hard to work with the traffic, determining your route and the most efficient means to get there.

Oddly enough the most traffic we encountered was in Orlando and not in the corridor between NYC and Washington. Those areas went relatively smoothly. Though DC to Richmond was also difficult.

Our rented Kia Sportage was concurrently an automobile, a dining area, a sleeping area, a playroom, a restroom (in a diaper kind of way), and an office. It was a nice car that lacked power at times but the very low reliability rating in Consumer Reports will prevent us from getting one.

Lastly, we came across many interesting names of towns, but this one stuck in our minds. Someone from Montreal is called a Montrealer. But what do you call someone from this place...

I've got some interesting observations of Florida that I hope to share soon.