Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lighter on My Feet.

Up until recently I was a pretty bad yo-yo dieter. I would lose 15 to 30 pounds during the spring and summer only to put it back on between October and New Years. A few years back I put on the weight but have since not taken it back off. So I have been randomly fluctuating between 205 and 215. I used to be big on running and sports, now I still play sports but get winded or my knees hurt during or afterward. I can't help but think the knee problems are due to the weight. OK maybe it was all that long distance running in my youth, but taking weight off it will help.

Soooo.... I am making a resolution. I will get back down to 180 lbs by the end of May. I am mentioning it here because this is one of the best ways to reinforce the goal. By making it public, you have others around you to encourage you along and help instead of hinder. Plus there is the motive of saving face. This time it will be through regular controlled eating habits and exercise and not the Atkins diet like a couple previous times. I will cut down on snack and replace them with healthier ones like apples and oranges. No more extra portions and I plan to bring my lunch to work instead of having the piled high Libenese special downstairs. I feel confident that the weight will stay off because of fewer pressures to eat in this society. And heck, I want to look thin like most people here.

There you have it. Wish me luck and see you on the other side.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Music as Identity - Part 5 - Electronica

It was 1996 when I met John. Damn, it's almost been a decade. He was a rather eccentric fellow who joined our architecture firm. We became good friends and he introduced me to two bands in particular. Yo La Tengo and Stereolab. Yo La was good, but Stereolab has stuck with me through the years. And so began my interest in Electronica or as Wikipedia calls it the sub-genre of Downtempo Music . It seemed quite a natural progression. I had been big into dance music and this was kinda like music for people who grew up listening to dance music/synth pop. Like lite jazz for todays Baby Boomers. To boot, Austin Powers had just come out and Stereolab's style had similarities to some 60's lounge music. Surprisingly, even though their music is so electronically based, they are one of the best bands I have seen in person. Alongside Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails in the same small venue (The Metro) five years earlier.

From there, we bought a compilation CD called UltraChilled. The album left us with such a good feeling everytime we listened to it. It didn't leave the CD player. From there, we got in to the popular Play by Moby and my sister started introducing us to other bands. She supplied us with a steady stream of musical groups that we loved one after the other. Favorites like Thievery Corporation, Kruder & Dorfmeister, DJ Krush, and Royksopp. In addition, we bought more in the UltraChilled series and picked out bands that we liked. There's also Massive Attack and Boozoo Bajou. My recent favorite is details by Frou Frou and a Quebec compilation CD called Resonance. The latter has songs that vary from more recent styles to stuff I listened to almost two decades ago.

It is quite interesting to see how I got to this point with the influence of previous musical tastes. To make the liasons and the disections. Will we continue in this direction or will some other genre influence our listening tastes? Will we regress or just be content to listen to the stuff we used to listen to? How will our decendants be affected by our listening tastes like I have by my parents? Cool stuff to think about.

Next stop, I will return where New Wave and Industrial left off. Dance Music. Currently the other forthcoming parts include Dance Music, Grunge (yes, Grunge), Mainstream & Misc, and the Conclusion. I may add another part if any come to mind. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


I'm a fairly average sports fan. I can really get into it at times. Other times I'll be concentrated on something else then check back once in a while to see what's going on. Lately it has been the latter. I'll return to this, but first I would like to talk about the differences between sports here and back home.

Stateside there are sports going on almost constantly all year. At some points there are even two major sports or leagues competing for our attention. Arguably, football and baseball are the biggest in the fall and summer. Basketball and hockey are lesser competing with each other in the winter. Nascar is huge in some locales also during the summer. College football and basketball also vie for people's attention. Personnally my allegiances fall roughly in the following order Cubs & Bears, University of Illinois College Basketball, the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, and the Indy 500 race. For the other sports teams I am a fair weather fan, if that. I never got into hockey because it was not a sport we could play very much unless we got passionate about it and played in a league.

Here in Montreal I have found that sport is not as big a part of popular culture. Save one big exception. Hockey. I came up here hoping to discredit the thought that hockey is the only sport in Canada. It is not the only sport, but it is still quite pervasive. When I came up here for interviews, I took a break between them and had lunch at Peel Pub in order to catch up on the latest sports news. Every television had sports on it, but it was hockey or Caribbean workout. I was hoping for some college basketball, so I finished my fish and chips and left. But there are other sports. Baseball was here for a couple seasons while I was here before they left. The other big sports (Canadian football, Formula One, and Soccer) I have not gotten into because I really don't have others around me who are fans of it. Part of the fun of following sports is to compare notes with other fans. I can still follow teams back home because I can discuss them with my father who is a huge sports fan. Last year was very quiet on the sports front with the Expos leaving and hockey on strike. The hockey fans up here came back full force after the strike.

So that brings me to what happened to me this past week. I have been a bit focused on this blog thing and haven't been making my daily rounds of other websites. I watched some NFL pregame show found out that the Bears are considered by some to be the best team in the league. Huh? You've got to be kidding. I've been half following them all season and thought either they would fall apart before the playoffs or in the first round. Now they have clinched their division and have a first round bye. Well at least that means I'll be able to see them instead of the Patriots or Giants.

Then I was looking at ESPN online and they have a front page article about how the Fighting Illini are undefeated. What? But they lost quite a few of their good players last year? So after all this I feel quite out of touch with the Chicago sports scene. The Cubs I can follow because we get WGN, but the others I rely on national TV. I'm gonna hafta be more vigilant about finding out when the games will be on. That is... if I can slip it in between twice daily showings of Cinderella.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Hello Family and Friends

Welcome to my blog. Feel free to browse around. A good starting point to give you an idea of what I have written here, scroll down to the Post #100 - The Best So Far.

For those of you who did not receive an email from me, I have opened this blog up to family and friends. Some of them have been reading for a while, but I have widened the circle. One of the reasons is because I have found that the words written here are nothing to hide. If it is something that I would share with the general public, it is something I could share with them. For myself, things of personal nature are best left between myself and the people they concern.

This space as evolved to become an outlet for my inner monologue. Whether it be observations or personal opinion. It has been great to get many of these thoughts out of my head and written down. My hope is that they are topics of interest and they initiate discussion. By no means am I an authority on anything. So many times the postings may not be well researched. Feel free to correct me or if you find my point of view incorrect. That is the nature of this medium.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas vs. Holiday Season -Yet Another View

There have been much talk lately about the use of the term Holiday Season over the traditional term Christmas. Religious conservatives stating that a religious holiday is now becoming secular. Yes, in some instances there are some ridiculous changes of the term in order to appear politically correct. Such as the Christmas tree offering from Halifax to Boston being changed to the Holiday Tree. My take is that if you are talking about something that specifically relates to Christmas and has a history with Christmas, call it Christmas. If you are talking about the season and talking to a broad audience who may be of different religious backgrounds, say Holiday Season. Of course many of the arguing points fall in the fuzzy area in between. Such as Target Stores changing their decorations to holiday decorations. The decorations are probably related to Xmas, but they serve people of various religions. And are decorations necessarily tied to Xmas.

Anyhow, the reason for bringing this up once again is I came across an article with a twist on the whole thing. Apparently there are Christians who do not celebrate Christmas. The logic is why celebrate Christ's birth when his teaching occured primarily as a grown man. Also, the merriment that is associated with the holidays is not really in keeping with strict religious doctrine. Pigging out and getting drunk are not really looked upon in the Bible in a positive sense. They also point out that many of the traditions like Santa Claus have no religious basis. So the argument follows that why make a complaint that Christmas is becoming secular when much of it already is and has had a long history being secular.

So my suggestion is that we forget this whole thing about whose Christmas it is and celebrate it the way we want to in the positive traditions of the holidays. It's a bit like the Christianity that I grew up with. Lets not dwell on negatives like banning gays, pitting us against them, and knocking off foreign leaders. Lets love our neighbor, help the less fortunate, and enjoy the company of those around us. That's what we should be focusing on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Post #100 - The Best So Far

It is hard to believe but this is my 100th post. So far I have enjoyed getting these things written down and I feel proud of much of the content. The other day I was browsing through the blog and thought it would be good to resurrect some of the better posts. So in keeping with America's fascination with superlatives and having grown up with David Letterman, here are my favorite top eleven posts in chronological order. Why not ten? Because ours goes to eleven.

July 8: London
Written shortly after the terrorists attacks sharing my thoughts.

Aug 1: Back Home Again (From Home?)
A clearinghouse of past observations on the differences between Chicago and Montreal.

Aug 15: Poulet
A tongue in cheek observation of Quebecers eating habits.

Sept 19: Racism
My take on racism in both Chicago and Montreal.

Oct 7: Language - Part 3, Correction
A thorough study of the language demographics on the island.

Oct 8: Autumn This Weekend
One of the two best photos. The autumn peak actually occured much later this year and with less pizzazz.

Oct 16: Overpopulation
A rant on the growth of the world population.

Oct 30: Sovereignty - Part 2 - My Viewpoint
Aside from language, probably the second most important topic here.

Nov 17: My Beaujolais Nouveau Story
Some humour from my past.

Nov 30: Music as Identity - Part 2 - Industrial
A bit of nostalgia.

Dec 2: Montreal Sunset #4
My other favorite picture.

So that's it. I hope to be able to share more interesting items and observations. I am enjoying writing this and I am really happy to meet so many interesting people through this medium. Happy Holidaze.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Life in Hell - 24 Warning Signs of Stress

Before the Simpsons, there was Life in Hell. I was processing some old boxes of miscellaneus items and came across these cartoons I have saved after all these years. The other will be posted later. Click on the image for a larger view.

When I was in high school I would drive every Thursday night into the Lakeview neighborhood and pick up a Chicago Reader. There were three things I was looking for. Firstly, I sent in typed up 3x5 cards to the "Personals" section under various aliases with what a teenager considered witty quotes and banter such as "A woman begins by loving love and ends up loving a man. A man begins by loving a woman and ends up loving love." Secondly, I religiously read News of the Weird. Lastly, I read Life in Hell. As with the Simpsons, it is a social commentary, but more on a personal relation level. I found this one appropriate for the stress created by the holidaze. Work is crazy with people wanting stuff before the end of the year. There are various holiday parties to prepare for and attend. Then there is the gift foraging. Next one will be about work when we return after the holidaze.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blogger Get-Together.

Friday night I met up with a bunch of other Montreal bloggers. Sadia and Zura floated the idea and those also in attendance included Paolo, Jonas, keyofD, the Shatnerian, and myself. It was interesting because it was kinda like a blind date except we had been reading each other's material for a while. So there was some trepidation and nervous chatter. Plus it was interesting to finally put faces, voices, and real-world character to each person's semi-anonymous online persona. It was a wonderful evening of engaging conversation, great stories, and most of all fascinating people. Thank you very much Sadia and Zura for the invite, I hope we can all do it again soon.

Heck of a Snowstorm!

Wow! That was something else. I was really amazed about the things I saw the day of the 41 cm (16 in) snowstorm that blew through here Friday morning. It's not that I had not seen that much snow before, just how quickly it arrived, how people and the city dealt with it, and the aftermath or lack of.

I went to sleep at midnight Thursday night. I purposely looked outside because I knew that the snow as coming before sunrise and I wanted to see if it had started. No snow yet. When I woke up at 6am, there was at least 15 cm (6") and by the time I got out to start clearing it away an hour later, it was about 20 cm (8"). We allowed extra time for the morning commute and it seemed to work out fine. I got to work right on time 90 minutes later. It was slippery and I plucked a 60 pound bag of sand in the trunk for more traction. We followed the city construction grader plows up St.Laurent til we got to Ontario. We sat at the light and cars were sitting diagonnally criss-cross up the slope to Sherbrooke and none were moving. We managed to get over to Berri and take it's gentler slope.

At work I could see all the city snow removal equipment working at full force clearing streets and sidewalks as the snow as still coming down. I ventured out (without my camera unfortunately) and had fun pushing through the snow. It reminded me of cross country where our coach would take us running up and down the beach on Sunday. Except this time no one was yelling at me to pick up the pace. The sight of a city covered with a 16" blanket of new snow was astounding. Just everything was covered. Then every so often people were digging out their cars and cleaning them off with shovels. Not brushes, shovels.

It only took me 20 minutes to get my car cleaned off, dug out, and pulled out of the space. It was fairly easy since all the snow was light and fluffy. Every street width was reduced. Two lane streets became one lane streets. Some one lane streets became obstacle courses with cars parked diagonnally. It really was like a war zone. The commute was amazingly good. We think everyone else went home early. The only thing that slowed us down was the road conditions. Though when we got home there was a three foot high line of snow blocking the driveway. And it was hard pack from the snow plows. So I dug out the bare minimum and left the rest for over the weekend.

This whole thing has been quite an experience. Definitely early for this much snow, but good exercise. Let's just hope it's a while before we get another.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Watercolor - Peillon, France

I am copying the idea that Paolo started on his blog. I have a bunch of drawings and photos in boxes that would be better served in the public eye. So I will also start posting them on a weekly basis. This one is from 14 years ago. Damn, I'm old.

My junior year of college was spent studying abroad in Versailles, France. During the year we had plenty of time off to travel and at the end we were encouraged to join one of a few handsketch or watercolour sketch trips. I opted for watercolour and we toured the French Riviera and Tuscany. I probably completed about 7 or 8 of them. I will post the best four. This is probably the second or third I had done. You should be able to see the progression. Peillon is a secluded hill town tucked up behind Nice and Monaco. Built largely of stone with roller coaster pedestrian streets like this one. Holy crap, I was just surfing and found a picture of the subject on some other page.

In other news, all this nostalgia has pushed me to commit my memories to paper. So I have created a blog about my memoirs of Europe. I have spent 19 months of my life over there and it had a significant affect on the direction of my life. So if it interests you, you can check it out. I am trying to go in chronological order.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Music as Identity - Part 4 - Singer Songwriters

Growing up, one of the primary types of music my parents listened to was the singer-songwriters of the early '70's. James Taylor was probably the biggest since I know his songs so well. They evoke some much emotion and comfort when I listen to them. Then there were the two American women Carole King and Carly Simon. Carole King was one I actually stumbled on recently. I heard a greatest hits and realized, hey, I know all those. Then there was the Canadian, Gordon Lightfoot. I really like Lightfoot for the folk aspect of his songs, there is a very personal feeling to his songs and his voice. There was also Simon & Garfunkel, who's work probably needs no explanation.

Lastly, probably the ones my sister and I know best were John Denver and Barry Manilow. We took a road trip out to Colorado in the late seventies. As was tradition with each of our road trips, we bought a tape or two and played them on the trip. A tour of Lake Michigan was Christopher Cross (Ride like the Wind). Cooperstown, Boston, and Acadia was 1984 by Van Halen. The Pacific northwest was Phil Collins and Billy Joel. But our trip to Colorado was none other than John Denver and Rocky Mountain High. Barry Manilow was played at home. It was our first live concert at Ravinia Music Festival Grounds north of Chicago. I have the impression my sister and I spent the night taking turns on my fathers shoulders in order to see the show.

Other singer-songwriters and bands that we listened to include: Jim Croce, Don McLean, Harry Chapin, Elton John, the Carpenters, Bread, Chicago, and Kansas. We didn't listen to rock, disco, or Motown much, so it wasn't until later I learned more about Led Zepplin or the Rolling Stones. Though we did have the Saturday Night Fever album and it got heavy rotation.

It is interesting to look back at that time and that music in the context of what came after it. From there my tastes when to Pop/early New Wave, to New Wave & Industrial, to Dance Music, to... The explanation for the fairly radical switch was probably that I had entered the adolescent years. It has been nice to revisit the music of these singer-songwriters over the past few years.

Next up, I will skip from high school to the present and look at Electronica/Chill Out music.

Monday, December 12, 2005

With Sympathy

Recently a fellow Montreal blogger, Zura, posted that a friend had been taken hostage in Iraq. Harmeet Sooden was taken hostage on Nov. 26 along with another Canadian, an Englishman, and an American. They went over for humanitarian reasons and were captured by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. The latest reports are that all four are alive and doing well. We hope for Harmeet and everyone that knows him that he comes back safe and sound. From an article in Scoop magazine in New Zealand:

In an email to his friends Harmeet described the purpose of the four-person team"s work in Iraq as: "providing humanitarian aid in the form of training and documentation of non-violent responses to lethal inter-group conflict. We will also record the current conditions in Iraq, meeting with representatives of NGOs, Christian and Muslim clerics, Iraqi human rights groups and others". He also recounted a story from Iraq: "A little 3-year old girl, Alaa, ran up to me and gave me a big hug me yesterday. She reminds me of my niece. She, however, does not see as my niece sees. She sustained severe shrapnel injuries to her abdomen and micro-fragments peppered her eyes, face and body during a US military attack in May on al Qaim, Iraq. Her mother lost an eye. She lost two brothers and several other relatives".

In trying to sympathize with what Zura and her friends are going through, I thought back to three similar situations that occured to me.

Through all four years of high school, I sat in front of Jaime during homeroom. Although he tended to give off a tough guy aire in the halls, he was always very nice with me. Shortly after we graduated, I heard that he had been killed in a motorcycle accident. It was the first time that someone I knew of my age had passed away. It's a similar feeling as having a childhood figure passing, but does not have the deep sorrow of a close friend or relative. Sad, achy, and a bit disorienting.

In my second year of college, those of us in architecture were a fairly close group. That happens with long nights in studio spent together. One night a bunch of us were there late and some other students popped in before they left for Indianapolis for the weekend. I talked to one of them, Bill, for 15 or 20 minutes. About what, I can't remember. Turns out he contracted spinal meningitis and didn't make it past the weekend. This was similar to Jaime, but a bit jolting in that the sickness took him so quickly and I had just talked to him.

Lastly, a member of a white supremisist group went on a three-day shooting spree in 1999 killing two blacks, a Korean, and injuring others. At the beginning of his spree he passed through the highly Orthodox Jewish Chicago neighborhood of West Rogers Park. He drove through the neighborhood shooting at people on the street. He was a poor marksman and only injured my cousin Ephraim striking him in the knee. He was fortunate and I recently learned that he enrolled in the Israeli army. This one hit home how your life can be touched by angry extremists. They are not only those you read in the papers in far away lands.

So again, I really hope Harmeet comes away unharmed and puts to rest the fears of his family and friends. I know the feeling.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Music as Identity - Part 3 - New Wave

As mentioned in the last post, I learned about (what we considered) New Wave music early in high school from a couple friends. Primarily my friend Eric introduced me to bands like Depeche Mode (around the time of Music for the Masses), New Order (Substance), and The Cure (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me). From what Wikipedia says, this was music from the later period of New Wave. At the time, we listened to the local college station, WLUW, from Loyola University. They played almost exclusively music from this genre. I grew to love Erasure (The Innocents), Siouxsie & the Banshees (Peepshow), Art of Noise (Best of), Echo & the Bunnymen (self titled), Nitzerebb (That Total Age), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (Best of), Cocteau Twins (Blue Bell Knoll), and the Psychedelic Furs (Midnight to Midnight). It was the music we listened to and danced to. I even had my hair cut in a 'wedge' through most of high school. Best described as an extreme combover (with a full head of hair) cut in a straight line, and shaved under on the sides.

DM, New Order, The Cure, Erasure, Cocteau Twins, and Siouxsie were the bands that stuck with me. The Cure probably more than the others. Somebody by DM and Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division were the songs of emotion from that time. The dance tunes were many from DM, New Order, or Erasure. As an aside, my friend Eric is Filipino he would often take me to family gatherings and events. One was a large celebration in a gymnasium with almost only Filipinos. There were usually only two or three other non-filipinos. We all chowed down on ponsit and chicken adobo. Anyhow, synth pop was very popular and what we called the Filipino national anthem was always played. Once they put in Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order, the dance floor was packed.

Oddly enough, after looking over the list of bands that are considered New Wave, it seems my tastes have always followed that genre. Before and after those bands listed above. Though these bands were more mainstream such as Duran Duran, INXS, REM, XTC, or Tears for Fears.

And now a little game of name that tune (my sister and Eric can't play because they know them all, I'm sure.) The last one should be easy.

"He wasn't white and fluffy, he just has sideburns"
"And turning on his heal he left a trail of bubbles bleeding in his stead"
"I'll make your heart smile. Pain will you return it."

Again, it is quite something to dig back and research the info for these posts. Brings back so many memories, most I have not thought about for over a decade. Finding bands that I only have on tape and still being able to remember the lyrics. Along with the emotions they evoke. Remembering the adolescent years and all that went on. Maybe I'll finish processing the last few boxes from the move and dig out those tapes.

For the next post in the series, I will dig even farther back to the singer songwriters that my parents used to listen to.

South Beach at Night.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

South Beach Observations

Here are some of my observations during my 24 hour stay in South Beach along with the 12 hours of travel required to get there and back.

- Everyone clapped as we touched down. I remember people doing this before, but it had been a while. It kinda caught me off guard thinking that it must have been a tough landing. Like we were close to dying and I totally missed it.

- South Beach was cool. Beautiful people and beautiful buildings. I have always liked the Art Deco style, but to see the South Beach version of it was even better. The colors (and warm temps) do a lot compared to the staid limestone versions back in Chicago. There were more good looking Latinos than I remember back home. It kept catching me off guard to see someone who looks primarily 'American' and than hearing them speak fluent Spanish. There are quite a few that did not have that stereotypical Latino look.

- I overheard a lot of Spanish being spoken. I should have expected it, but it surprised me. I also heard quite a few people speaking French. I could not distinguish if they were French or French-Canadian. They didn't have distinct accents in either direction.

- Business travel is bitter sweet in nice locales. It was the same when I was in LA two years ago. South Beach was beautiful, but it can get depressing eating by yourself all the time and constantly lugging around your office with you. The upside as with any solitary travel is that you can spend eons setting up nice photos and choosing where you go. But again, having someone there to share it with is better.

- As we boarded the plane in Miami, an endless line of police cars and emergency equipment raced over to a few gates down out of view. We backed out, passed by the gate with easily thirty vehicles surrounding the plane, then took off not far from it. I got a picture of the mayhem as we were taking off. My boss said this morning that some guy who said he had a bomb was shot and killed. Kinda weird how close I get to these situations. There is also a post on the Metroblog.

- Can someone explain the rush to get off planes? Is it claustraphobia? As the pilot or stewardess was explaining over the intercom that you must keep your seat belts fastened, I hear a chorus of clicks and two older guys jump up and open the over head bins. It happens on every flight. Then they have no choice but to stand there and wait five minutes for the rest of the plane to exit. The whole while, I sat back comfortably and exited only a few seconds after them. I really don't get the rush. It's not like the Amazing Race was on.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Miami Sejour

I'm headed off to Miami for a couple days. Hopefully my flight back won't be delayed and I'll make it to YULblog. In the meantime:

Which is most likely to happen while I'm down there?
A. meet, make friends with, and hang out with Chad and his pregnant wife.
B. be blindsided by some kid named Elian during his driving test.
C. be mistakenly arrested by bank security and retired police officer Tubbs.
D. I will be awakened in the middle of the night by a drag queen that resembles Lex Luthor and his excort named Sparticus.
E. while poking around a vacant store, find six hundred uncounted ballots for some guy named Al.

Anyhow, hope to see you at YULblog.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

This is Bizarre.

A while back I noticed a referral page that I had not heard of before. I clicked on it and came across a page that listed me in their blogroll. I felt kinda honored because it was only the second page that I knew of that had done that. But, it was kinda weird because there has not been any contact (comments on each other's pages) at all. Usually a blogroll shout out is after at least a minimal amount of back and forth.

But just now I happened back on that page and found they had posted my most recent sunset. I didn't mind that so much, but there was absolutely no acknowledgement where it came from. It really comes across as if it was a personal photo. I will confront them, but I would like to mull the whole thing over a bit. It's late and I have work to finish before tomorrow morning. It's just so bizarre.

Chicago Style Pizza

It is my favorite pig-out food. Everytime I have returned to Chicago, it is one of the first things I try to get my hands on. We order twice as much as we can possibly eat and save the rest for breakfasts or snacks. Pure heaven. It must be an ingrown thing. Our parents rewarded our good grades with a Chicago Style deep dish pizza dinner at Lou Malnati's. Visitors to Chicago have found it to be no big thing. Probably the same way I have had trouble understanding the smoke meat and bagel thing here. Blasphemy, I know.

This all comes up because we recently tried one of those 'Chicago Style' pizzas by President's Choice (PC) at Provigo. I'm sorry, but IT SUCKED! The principle was there, but the correct ingredients were not. For those unfamiliar, Chicago style pizza is a pan pizza with the layers of tomato sauce and cheese inverted. The crust is normally a butter or beer crust. It has a consistency similar to cornbread or it is at least risen a bit like a cake, not pie crust like PC. Next is a layer of mozzarella cheese. The filler is usually slabs of sausage (not deer scat like PC or Dominoes) along with mushrooms and pepperoni sometimes. The top layer is tomato sauce with bits of stewed tomatoes. The only purveyors of real Chicago style pizza that I know of are Lou Malnatis, Gino's East (featured on the Amazing Race), and Rico Benes. Even the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory on the Champs Elysee had good Chicago style pizza. When I was working on the stadium construction, the roach coach always had some Rico Benes pizza and I pigged out almost every day. Must be how I got this gut.

So a note on the pizza here in Montreal. Now there were always very good thin crust pizza places around in Chicago. Yes it was greasy, but the sausage was real (not scat) and it had a nice thick layer of cheese. My worries started when people told me Dominos had the best pizza here. As far as ordering out for pizza I have been bitterly disappointed. There is just something about it that lacks flavor. I have found that Pizza Hut has the best delivery pizza. Even in France we were able to get some good funky gourmet pizzas. Really our best bet here has been gourmet frozen pizza. Ones with goat cheese, artichokes, and stuff like that. If anyone can recommend a good pizza place, maybe a delivery place on the south shore, I am all ears. I will gladly eat these words along with copious amounts of pizza if I can be proved wrong.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tag! You're it!

Zura has tagged me with a 'meme' along with a couple others. A meme is a blog game where you are tagged by a fellow blogger, you write a post according to specified instructions, and you in turn tag another blogger(s). It's kinda like a blogger version of those chain emails written by teenage girls that my father keeps sending me. In this meme, you google '(your name) needs' and post the results. An overwhelming number of my results related to either: a prime minister, a certain disease, or a jazz musician. Only one was myself.

F needs system failures, transit related and otherwise.
F needs to be preserved.
F needs other ways to deal with financial aid.
F needs to protect rare species and forests.
F needs to tell you all the gory details.
F needs 6 month airline notice.
F needs to build on this success to create new opportunities.
F needs for us to cooperate to realize the holding of a conference.
F needs to pay special consideration to the socially disadvantaged.
F needs to reform his political and economic systems to meet new challenges.
F needs to restore confidence in the financial system and give the sagging economy a boost.
F needs to call project Dana for assistance.
F needs an English speaking minister.
F needs his neighbor once in every ten years.
F needs to clarify the function of Dsg4.
F needs to increase the thyroxine dose over time.
F needs to become weary of coming to meetings, parking himself, and listening.
F needs not to be heard obviously.
F needs to push men to admit depression.
F needs to ensure transparency in order to enhance the understanding.
F needs boardinghouses opened.
F needs help from Frank.
F needs to shake the status quo.

Looks like I've got a lot to do including some big ones. Makes me look like a world leader or something.

I, in turn, tag Rachel and John.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Montreal Sunset #4

It has been a while since I put up a sunset. Click on the picture for a bigger version. For those of you keeping track at home here are #1, #2, & #3. When we lived in this apartment, it was our first time in high rise living. There were some nice perks such as covered parking and a pool, but the best perk was the sunsets. In the time we lived there, I probably took over 100 photos of sunsets. We were also prefectly situated to have the sun set over the city. This photo has NOT been modified. It was probably the most surreal one while we were there.

In other news, my traffic doubled last month and I quickly passed the 2000 visit mark. Much of it has come through searches for info on Montreal, but thank you to those of you who keep coming back.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Music as Identity - Part 2 - Industrial

Since writing the last post I have thought of a couple other points. First, it is the connection with others with the more rare musical tastes that really interest me. I get more excited when someone says they were fans of Front 242 than of The Cure. Actually, I can't recall ever actually meeting someone else who was a Front 242 fan, but I would be pretty excited if I did. For this reason, the list of music types will generally go from rare to more mainstream.

As I grow older, I seem to forget actual moments when things started or finished, but I believe I started listening to Industrial music around when I was 15 or 16. When I started high school at age 14, I became friends (who I have kept to this day) with fellow cross-country runners who introduced me to New Wave which included The Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Depeche Mode, New Order, and Nitzerebb. That music will be covered in the next post.

As we got older, there was a juice bar dance club called Medusa's where they played our music. We went a few times, and later I went often by myself. The crowd was fairly diverse. Whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, goths, preppies, new wavers, city kids, suburbanites, straight, gay. It was one of the few if not the only dance club for those under-age. The club was split into three levels. The lowest level was the large dance floor with two to six foot tall boxes scattered on the floors and near the walls. The music always had a beat for dancing. It was where people showed off their moves or just stood by and took it all in. We preferred dancing on the boxes just for the playful back and forth. Easier to see and be seen. The middle level was basically a series of rooms set up like lounges. A place to get away, but oddly enough, not a make-out haven. The top level was the video room. A fairly large space with a screen at each end and some boxes in the middle. This is where I could actually connect visuals to the songs. It was usually more melodic songs with less of a heavy beat. Or at least songs they had videos for.

On the large dance floor is where I grew to love Front 242 and Ministry. Front 242's Headhunter was THE song. Everyday is Halloween by Ministry was the other. Though not industial, there were also any number of dance songs by the New Wave artists listed above being played along with some early house and hip-hop. In the video room, I came to learn of the less popular musicians along with some of the more popular alternative musicians. It is where I heard How Soon is Now by the Smiths and Kooler than Jesus by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. There was also Birthday by the Sugarcubes and older videos by The Cure (Pre-Standing on the Beach).

This exposure to Industrial Music lead to Wax Trax! Records when it was still on Lincoln Ave near where John Dilinger got shot. Wax Trax! was the distributors of Front 242, Ministry, Thrill Kill Cult, the Revolting Cocks, Die Warsau, and KMFDM. This interest in Industrial also lead to seeing Pigface in concert at the Metro. Pigface was composed of members of the other bands on Wax Trax. Another band I enjoyed from this style included Meat Beat Manifesto. OK, now I'm just name-dropping, so I'll stop.

I guess one of the reasons these memories of industrial music rushed back is because most of that music was on records and tapes. The records have since gone their own way and the tapes are stashed away in some box. So when I thought of the music recently, it had been a long time since it crossed my mind. After a bit of web surfing, a few pages suggest that Chicago was the center of Industrial music. I wonder if this is true and how popular it was elsewhere. So please let me know if you had heard of these bands outside of Chitown. I'm gonna hafta get my hands on those CD's so I can blast the pants off these south shore suburbanites next summer.

Next stop: New Wave.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Music as Identity - Part 1 - The Intro

It is interesting what makes up peoples identities. Sometimes it is interests, sometimes it is what you do, sometimes it is where you are from, and sometimes it is who you associate with. For some it is a mixture of these. For some it is one singular aspect. Over the span of my life each of these has or does define who I am. And it has varied over time. Some have come and gone, some have slowly drifted back to lesser importance, and some will probably never leave me. For instance, where I am from has drifted between being a large part of my identity to a small part multiple times. What people generally regard as identity is shown in the Blogger profile. Listed (if you wish) are age, location, employment, general interests, and more specifically favorite movies, favorite music, and favorite books.

Interests and who you associate with are ones that you have the most choice in defining who you are. It is interests and more specifically music taste that I will focus on here. It is interesting how for some people there is one interest that defines them. Like a sports fan who is all about a particular team and known primarily as a fan of that team. Same applies to film or music.

Since my adolescence, I have felt that musical taste has been a strong part of what defined who I was. It was stronger then and has gradually been shared with other aspects of identity. My best explanation for the feeling is that musical taste helped define who I was in the adolescence years when I was trying to define my identity. It could have been that I was truly trying to find as many unique aspects to be sure I would be unique. Not just another face in the crowd in the big city at a school of over 2500 boys. Generally my tastes have not been mainstream, which may be another reason I feel it is a major part of my identity.

But there is another aspect. As suggested by Blogger with their friendster write-ins, it is a part of your identity which will help you determine compatability with others. To a degree, your taste in music, movies, or books will give you clues into whether you see eye to eye with others. Whether you share ideologies or at face value whether you just plain like the same things.

What has brought this on? As I get older I am getting more nostalgic. Possibly also because of reading others experiences via their blogs, such as the Nine Inch Nails and Bauhaus concerts recently in Montreal. Plus in looking back it has been cool to see the journey of how I got here and what has defined who I am. So... in order to express my nostalgia, I will share my different musical tastes over the years and my thoughts. Another reason is because I am curious if my musical journey and experience matches those of others raised elsewhere or even back home. These won't be in any particular order, but as the feeling (or nostalgia) hits me.

The first stop: Industrial.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Population of Montreal in 2005

I have mentioned this before, but I get a lot of people coming here when they do a search for 'population of Montreal in 2005'. Now I don't know why people are looking for 'population of Montreal in 2005' or more importantly why my blog keeps coming up in searches for 'population of Montreal in 2005'. I'm listed second currently on searches for 'population of Montreal in 2005'. Do you think I'll become #1 if I keep mentioning 'population of Montreal in 2005'. It seems my post on the language demographics on the island are the page that is referred to when looking for the 'population of Montreal in 2005'. But for those of you who are not interested in the language demographics and truthfully want to find out what is the 'population of Montreal in 2005'. Here is your answer. Drum roll please....

The Population of Montreal in 2005 (2001 actually) is.....

1 812 723 of the nicest people you could meet in the world.

So there you go. Now you know the 'population of Montreal in 2005'. I really hope you can all sleep well. Aw heck, since I love numbers here are some more. The population of the Montreal Metropolitan area in 2005 (actually 2001) is 3 650 000. The population of the city of Chicago in 2005 (2000) is 2 896 016 of the nicest people you also could meet in the world. And the population of the Chicago Metropolitan (Chicagoland) area in 2005 (2000) is 9 157 540.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Pat Morita

Ouch that one hurts.

Pat Morita has passed away. As with others my age, I looked up to the fictional character of Mr. Miyagi as a mentor. A character who dealt with negative forces with a reasoned approach. OK, sometimes with force, but still with calm and reason.

Now I was not an avid fan of Mr. Morita, and did not follow his career, but the Mr. Miyagi character holds something special for me. Mr. Miyagi very much resembled my grandfather. His style, his accent, his manner of speak, and even his grunts. My grandfather passed away a couple years after Karate Kid came out, so I could not watch the movie without thinking of him. Mr. Morita was one of the few prominant Japanese American celebrities out there. The only other I can think of is David Suzuki.

It is odd how this stings. It happens everytime someone from my childhood passes away. Like when Jimmy Stewart passed. It doesn't help that I have been on a bit of a nostaglia streak lately. Reading other blogs has really stirred up a lot of memories. And before that child rearing harkens back to how things were when I was a child. Could this be middle age or am I still too young?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Artistic Graffiti

Here's a view of some graffiti I pass everyday on my commute. This type of artwork is common in this neighborhood. Well done graffiti like this can liven up the city. Tags are just plain vandalism. I had created a tag when I was growing up in the city, but I could never bring myself to actually put it somewhere. I just had too much respect for the owners of the property and the image of the city. So it never made it out of my high school notebooks.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

American Thanksgiving

Today is American Thanksgiving. It is probably THE one holiday that is unique to the US. And it is arguably the one major holiday that has not become commercial. Don't get me started on the ridiculous shopping frenzy the day after.

It is the Thanksgivings of my childhood that always seemed so special. Especially those with my mother's side of the family. I enjoy my father's side, but let me explain. My mother was third oldest of eight siblings. So the youngest is only 8 years older than myself. It made for an energetic family reunion of young twenty-somethings that as a young kid I aspired to be. There wasn't the heightened emotions of getting presents. It was kicking back, having a great meal, watching some football, and enjoying everyone's company. Maybe even stepping outside and throwing the ball around.

Oddly enough, the office I work for here holds a cocktail party to entertain clients on the same day so I get to celebrate a bit. So far I have missed five Thanksgivings: two in France, one in Lexington, Kentucky (big mistake), two here and counting...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Religious Right

I was flipping through channels this evening before heading to bed and switched to see what was on CNN tonight since tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. I have been on a bit of a self-imposed ban from CNN in order to see more of how news is reported here in Canada. I have to say that it has been a very nice break. There is a lot less news telling me something or someone is going to kill me. There is less violent crime. It's still there, just not as often. I really enjoy CFCF news in the morning and 940 news on the radio. I know 940 is CNN affiliated, but it is primarily still local. The other extreme from oddly enough the same TV station is seeing Lloyd Robertson pop on during Survivor or the Amazing Race telling 'what I don't know might kill me'.

So back to tonight. Apparently Jerry Falwell is starting this 'Friend or Foe' Campaign against perceived religious descrimination. He is calling on all public schools to return to allowing Christmas to be celebrated. But there is not ban on religious expression, so it's hard to see his point. Although he does not come out and say it, he hints that Catholic teachings must be allowed to be taught in public schools. My point is that if he feels Catholic teachings must be taught in school, then it should be done in private Catholic schools. I spent twelve years in those schools and that is where it should be taught. He was also hinting that since Target stores have chosen to become more politically correct and have holiday decorations instead of Christmas decorations, his followers should boycott their stores. Come on! That's just getting silly. This is a diverse country. Yes, the number of practicing Catholics is rapidly declining, but reverting to imposing one groups beliefs and celebrations on the rest is not the answer.

It seems that the religious right is riding high due increased isolationism and conservatism in the US due to recent events (9.11 and Iraq). And I get the sneaking suspicion that they are capitalizing on it in order to further their agenda. There is a sense in the US that the world is against them and many are reverting to find shelter. Many are finding that shelter in their religion. There is absolutely no problem with this. The problem is the talking head TV evangelists are assuming the role of leaders. They say ridiculous things like New York, New Orleans, and Florida deserved their disasters because they were not following the written word. Or suggesting that leaders of countries should be killed. I just don't understand how people can be following these guys.

Maybe it's the big picture versus isolated incidents. I'm a fan of Bill Clinton and was willing to overlook his indiscretions. Some people may hold those indiscretions in high regard the same way I find what Falwell and Pat Robertson say to be morally irresponsible.

I think I'll go back to avoiding CNN.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Roque the Vote

The nominations for the Canadian Blog Awards are now closed and now it's up to you to vote for your favorites. Take a peek at the Montreal Metroblog where I give a run-down of the local blogs nominated along with a couple others. I went a little nuts and nominated five of those listed. Check them out, they are some of the best out there.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Native Americans in Quebec.

This is the second part of my series on American Indians. There seems to be much more of a presense of Native Americans here in Quebec. There are reservations all over the place including a couple across the river from the island of Montreal. They are close to the general population and not relegated to Oklahoma. Also travelling around the province, it seems every place has an Indian tourist shop or sell Indian produced items. Every time we visit Quebec City we stop at the Seven Nations Shop. I have flown Air Creebec and half the passengers were American Indian. I have seen their lean-to shacks in the wilderness north of Chibougamau. There they spent the winters hunting caribou. We passed the remains on the roadside. The Indian presense is more than what I had seen stateside.

There is a flip side to this presense and embracing of the culture. If I understand correctly, the Indians are largely supported by the government. From what I hear, there seems to be much resentment about this within the population. I hear second-hand how they live in deplorable conditions, they do nothing, and live off their government checks. They disregard hunting laws that others are required to abide by. Then there is the whole tobacco thing. These same people I hear this from speak in a negative tone when discussing how Jews and Westmount residents take their money. So I'm a bit skeptical of their views.

Again, I would really like to know your thoughts on this topic.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Beaujolais Nouveau Story

This morning French wine lovers are waking up with a hangover. Last night at one minute past midnight the newest batch of wine from Burgundy's Beaujolais region was released. Around the world people hold Beaujolais Nouveau parties to celebrate the occasion. And to start the festivities the celebrant yells out 'Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!' ('The New Beaujolais has arrived!')

This leads to my Beaujolais Nouveau story. Everytime I hear the word 'Beaujolais' this is what comes to mind. Ten years ago (it's been that long already?) I spent my second stint living in France. This time, as with the first, I got by without a visa. Instead I stayed in the country by doing back to back 3-month tourist visas by leaving the country every three months. Nobody really checked, but I didn't want to chance it. And it gave me a chance to travel a bit.

It was getting around the time that my previous 3-month visa was up and I needed to leave the country. The school, where my fiancée at the time was finishing up her studies, advertised a weekend bus trip to London. So I signed up. The night of the bus departure the guy (Guy) who rans the school cafet (café) decided to have a little Beaujolais Nouveau party. He served bad Beaujolais and the school horn band came and played. There was quite a bit of merriment with swing dancing, drinking, and French hors d'oeuvres.

It came time to leave and as those of us who were leaving went down to the bus I noticed that most of the others were first or second year students. Most were away from home the first time and they were very inebriated. As the bus took off everyone was singing, laughing, making loud comments... Suddenly from the back of the bus someone starts screaming 'UN SAC!! UN SAC!!!' Almost instantaneously there was that distinctive human roar and a loud splashing sound as the aisle filled up with semi-digested wine and party snacks. With that, a very astute student jumps up and screams 'Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive!!!'

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Home on the Range

These next two posts will relate to American Indians (or Native Americans if you like) and our relation to them. This first post will discuss an ongoing debate at my alma mater, the University of Illinois. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has recently ruled that any university that uses Indian mascots, nicknames, or logos are not allowed to participate in or host post-season play (playoffs). For more info see this article. This is a very hot topic at my old school, with passionate people on both sides of the debate. It was actually like that when I was there a decade ago, but this ruling has brought it to the forefront. I have friends and family who are alumi who feel strongly the tradition should be kept. So here's my take on it.

I remember my freshman year during orientation when I was first introduced to Chief Illiniwek in Assembly Hall. They introduced a very well dressed clean cut young white man in a very nice suit. From my recollection it was stated that he was from a prestigious fraternity and the affluent north suburbs. There was talk of how it was a prestigious position and how it was an authentic Indian dance. I walked away with an impression that has never left me. Why was this position given as a reward for status? Coming into college I already had a negative impression of the Greek system due partly to an episode of 21 Jump Street involving a hazing death.

During my six years in Champaign, I grew to enjoy the tradition and the ceremony. I still get goosebumps when he comes out at halftime. It is very well done theatrically. It has more of a respectful aire than many other Indian mascots such as a tomahawk chop or caricature cartoon logo.

But between these two situations, I rest firmly on the fence. I am not passionate for either side of the issue because I sympathize with each side. Not to mention the people who's opinion I respect on each side. It is a part of my university's tradition, but it is still a white rich kid dressed up as an Indian doing a faux Indian dance. If I heard correctly, the university has somehow worked it out that someone with Indian heritage is now in the role, but still, my cynical side thinks about what means were used to get him there. Maybe all team mascots should be animals, inanimate objects, or hilltops.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Everyone in both cities always ask me what the differences are regarding temperature and weather. Here's the answer to the former. I have checked the average temperatures for both cities and there is a 5F (3C) degree difference from Chicago and Montreal. That may not seem like much and for most of the year it is not. It is summer and winter where the difference is most notable.

For instance, this summer when we were in Chicago the temperature was an oppressive 40C (104F) degrees. You can't do anything in that type of heat. We were even sweating in the pool. At the same time, in Montreal it was 36C (96F). Still hot, but good swimming weather and you can still do stuff outdoors.

Part of the difference is not as much the increase in actual temperature as the number of days above or below a certain temperature. Here in Montreal, the summer temp gets above 30C (86F) only 8 times on average. Whereas it is for weeks in Chicago.

The biggest difference is of course the cold. The temp stays below freezing for many more days and more consistantly here in Montreal. So the snow doesn't go away whereas in Chicago there is alot of winter thawing. The benefit is that it always stays white and you have more opportunities to enjoy winter sports. You are not guessing which weekend in February will be good to plan a ski trip away from Chicago. Here you are rest assured there will be snow, just not necessarily ideal conditions.

Lastly, an interesting note is the relativity. People in Chicago can't imagine temperatures of -30C (-22F), while some Montrealers found this summer of about 12 days above 30C (86F) to be difficult.

Personally, I really enjoy summer temps between 25C (77F) and 30C (86F) so I really like it here. For the winters, we stocked up on warm clothes (Kanuk coats and long underwear) and I was able to endure -50C (-60F) wind chills during a business trip 500 miles north of here last winter. I'll write something about that later in the season.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What’s in a Name?

One of my first impressions after moving here was everyone has the same last names. The frequency that I would meet a Beaudin, a Landry, or a Menard started to make me think there was a very small pool of family names. One example is that my wife went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. She told them her name and the person behind the counter said there are 18 people in the computer with that given name and family name. I was so convinced about the name frequency that I came up with the hypothesis that the top two dozen most common names make up at least half the population.

So the other night I tried to put it to the test. I poured over the South Shore phone book and found what were the top two dozen names. My thinking is that the South Shore phone book should be a reasonable representation of the Quebec population. It’s linguistic makeup is similar to the overall Quebec population and it is off island while still having the diverse ethnic influence of the big city. Just as Montreal does on the overall population of Quebec.

So I discovered that the top two dozen only make up 9.44% of the population. The top name garners 0.92% of the population or 1 out of every 109 people have that name. I am not sharing the names because I would like to give everyone a chance to guess at the names. If you can name the top three in order, I’ll buy you a drink at the next YULblog. I’ll do the same if you can name ten of the top two dozen. How’s that for incentive. I will post the answers next week. Those of you from here may not find it as a surprise.

As an aside, my wife’s family name was not common back in Chicago. I think there were only a dozen names listed. But here it is tied for the seventh most popular name. As for myself, there is not one listing with my family name in the South Shore phone book. There are only four listed on the island of Montreal. It is similar to what it was like when I was a kid in Chicago. There were only three of us listed back then. Now there are two dozen (minus one).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Belvedere

This is not very original view, but every visitor from out of town must visit the Belvedere. It has such a great view of downtown and beyond. On a clear day you can see New York State, Vermont, and New Hampshire along with the mountains of the eastern townships. These are some good friends who came up to visit a year and a half ago.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Blogging - Some Observations

Firstly, I wonder about my place in this whole thing. For my first months blogging I was casually posting about twice a week with only a few loyal friends who would check it out. Since I discovered the Montreal Metroblog and YULblog, I have become a contributor along with becoming closed to obsessed with this new world. Before I would spend my computer time checking out the weather, the Cubs, sports, Mt St Helens, Hawaiian volcanoes, earth quakes, tropical storms, Chicago News, the Onion, and occasionally Wikipedia. Now it is almost exclusively about blogs, checking on this one, checking others in Montreal, and trying to come up with posts for this blog and the Metroblog. So I'm wondering, will this last? Will I keep up this interest? Will it naturally slow down into a normal hobby? Or will it be a flash in the pan and I lose interest completely? Most likely my interest and involvement will wane down to a natural hobby. It has filled a void that has been missing since I left Chicago. I have finally started meeting others outside of family and co-workers. And I really enjoy the conversation at YULblog. Something we used to do regularly back home.

In doing some research looking through the nominations for the Canadian Blog Awards I have had some interesting observations. First the caveat that the blogs that I know of outside of Quebec are those nominated for the awards. The ones inside Quebec are primarily anglophone members of YULblog. Also I have tended to read primarily blogs in English only for the reason of expediency. I have so much that I want to read that I tend to read that which I can read fast. I know I will have to overcome that if I want to advance my French.

So my observations are these. There are an awful lot of political blogs out there and there are none that I have seen coming out of Quebec. Writers here mention politics, but there are not blogs devoted to it. Also there are a lot of stay-at-home moms writing blogs. Sometimes they are some of the more interesting personal blogs and they usually don't concentrate on their kids. Maybe it is their outlet. The Montreal blog crowd has a high concentration of those into computers and those into video games. Again, that may have something to do with YULblog. My personal preference is personal blogs that are varied whose author obviously has similar interests or outlook on life. But they also must have some commentary on culture and politics. I will soon list the nominated blogs I think are the better ones and they will likely have those qualities. I also like really well done photoblogs.

Lastly there are generally three types of commentors who I will relate to birds. First there are the birds that take it all in and don't say a peep. Second, there are the songbirds who take it in and respond with a sonnet. Lastly, there are seagulls that eat everything in sight, make a lot of noise, crap everywhere, and leave never to be seen again. I have been fortunate not to have many seagulls. Myself, I am a bit of a comment whore. Something inside me makes me want to comment very often on other blogs. I really don't know what it is, but I do try to limit the comments to only the better ones. Also since I like to comment, something in the back of my mind makes me wonder whether my posts are decent due to lack of comments. Anyhow enough rambling.

In the meantime, I hope you find this interesting and feel free to leave comments.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Canadian Blog Award

In case you had not heard of them, nominations are being accepted for the Canadian Blog Awards. I am asking those of you who may read this on a regular basis to take a look at some of the other blogs nominated and consider nominating this blog. There are a multitude of categories including Best Blog, Best Political Left Blog, Best Sports Blog, Best New Blog, and Best Personal Blog. Of course the reason I mention it is because I'm wondering if you find what is written here interesting and if it stands up to some of the others listed. Is this blog worthy of a nomination? For a nomination I consider that it would only have to be as good as just below average. Of course we all hope that what we do or produce affects others in a positive way, so my curiosity is getting the better of me and I am making this suggestion. I don't want you to nominate me just because you know me. I would really prefer you check out the others first. Personnally, I am in the process of checking out the blogs in the categories that I could be nominated (Best New Blog or Best Personal Blog). I'll list ones I find interesting soon. The deadline for nominations is two weeks from today, 20 November. If I get nominated, I will try to spruce the page up a bit with stuff like links to other blogs and maybe a non-standard webpage. Actually I hope to do that anyhow when I find the time, but a nomination will make that a priority.

A couple interesting things that I have noticed going through the blogs so far. First is that there are a ton of political blogs out there. A much higher percentage that I had thought. The other thing is that a large percentage of the blogs are from western Canada, mainly Calgary for some reason. I don't recall seeing any from the Maritimes and only a few from Quebec.

In other news, I mentioned recently I have been getting some interesting traffic. Someone almost on a daily basis reaches this site via a search for 'population of Montreal in 2005'. I can't tell if it's the same person or what, but it's weird that I keep getting that.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A New View

Time to start putting up some Chicago pictures. This is one of Chicago's newest attractions. 'Cloud Gate' is a sculpture by Anish Kapoor which is situated in the new 25 acre Millenium Park. The park was built over an old railway yard as part of Grant Park. I was very lucky to watch as this project came to fruition. I worked only a few blocks away for a while and spent occasional lunches checking out the job site. The project includes a theatre for music & dance, a bandshell by Frank Gehry, a large urban garden, a bridge, a plaza for festivities, underground parking, a bike storage facility, a restaurant, ice rink, an interactive fountain, a memorial, and the 'Cloud Gate' sculpture. It is directly across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and a link to it will be built in the future.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sovereignty - Part 3 - The Current State

To start this part, in addition to the reasons mentioned in the previous two posts on sovereignty, there are two major reasons for this series. First, along with language, this issue is a major part of living in Quebec. The results have a major bearing on what will become of the province and it's culture. Second, the recent events that follow have brought this topic to the forefront. Again, this is not news to anyone who has been here for at least a few years. Parts 1 & 3 are primarily for those outside Quebec (maybe more Canada), Part 2 was for everyone.

I left off at the 1995 Referendum in Part 1. It has now been 10 years. The push for sovereignty in the years after the referendum was not strong enough to propose another. In 1999, the federal government passed the 'Clarity Act' which proported to make sure any referendum questions would be clear. Some felt the referendum question was ambiguous.

The Parti Quebecois lost power to the Liberal Party in the 2003 elections. If I understand correctly, this was due to their heavy handed move of conglomerating the suburbs around the major cities. All of the municipalities on the island of Montreal were combined with the city of Montreal. The south suburbs were all combined into the city of Longueuil and the north suburbs became Laval. Many suburbs like the one I now live in have since voted to separate. But in 2004, the Liberal government came under fire in a sponsorship scandal. The Liberal government sponsored activities in order to promote being Canadian inside Quebec. The intent was to disuade Quebecers from secession and persuade them to be proud to be Canadian. Apparently, some of the money that was spent on this program was either for work not actually done, or it made it's way back into the Liberal Party. The irony is that the program was done to prevent another referendum, but now the scandal has made sovereigntist interested in having another referendum. This scandal has hurt the image of the Liberal Party in control here. It will likely put the Parti Quebecois in power at the next election likely in 2006. Many candidates for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois have campaigned that a referendum will be called a year or two after they come into power.

My hope is that when this new referendum comes to vote, everyone will consider the implications and really what is at stake when they vote. Have negotiations with Canada really have been exhausted or is everyone considering the past failed attempts enough? Does everyone understand what could become of Quebec if it were to secede? Yes, we pay double taxes (federal & provincial), but how much will that change? There has been animosity in the past, but could that be placated in order to clearly see what the solutions are? Could the solution be an even weaker federal government and stronger provincial governments?

My fear is similar to what happened in the last US Presidential election. What some people feel is important will make them overlook other important issues. Or people will not have knowledge of all the important issues. I feel that in the US election, people voted for Bush because of the likely upcoming Supreme Court vacancies. They wanted a president that would nominate conservative members. While I felt the election was a judgement on the act of going to war and the character of the person in charge, not only his beliefs. It seems all too often that people vote in reaction to events instead of the overal picture. The anti-megacity vote was one. The vote against the liberal scandal will be another. I still don't understand how Bush got reelected though. I also hope it is not a matter of who has the more charasmatic advocate or what irrelevant minor scandal comes about close to the vote. This is an issue more important than anyone you could elect to office. This will be around a long time and touch every aspect of the world around us. It should not be taken lightly.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sovereignty - Part 2 - My Viewpoint

I have now been aware of Quebec for 12 years and lived here for two. My wife and my in-laws are franophone, so my knowledge and personal experiences of Quebec have been primarily from them until recently. Now that I live here I am conflicted regarding whether Quebec should become sovereign.

In history, a major reason for a good percentage of conflicts is either one power oppressing another or distinct societies forced to exist together. This was the case in India, Yugoslavia, and to some degree Iraq. I mention Iraq not because of the US occupation, but because it seems there are distinct groups of people within the country who may be better off if they are separated into different areas.

Now I'm not saying that Quebec is extremely oppressed by the rest of Canada, but they are very distinct from the rest. Not only with language, but by their welfare programs and their ideals. To a degree the distinct nature is like Texas is within the US. And if they secede, they can take the president with them.

Now that I live here, I cannot only dwell on the romantic notion of sovereignty. I have a vested interest in the economy, the bilingual culture, and the outlook of this place. My occupation is closely tied to the economy. When things are not good like during the US recession in the early 1990's, work is hard to come by. During the dot-com boom salaries were going through the roof. I love the bilingual culture here. It has made my assimulation that much easier. If sovereignty happens, my worry is the anglophone community will slowly disappear. I enjoy that my wife and I can each speak are mother tongue languages and find outlets in our respective languages. Plus our children will also be able to grow up in this environment. Lastly I worry about Quebec being able to flourish on it's own. I don't deny that there are people here capable of running a separate Quebec. I worry that the transition would cause turmoil.

So that is my current standpoint on the situation. I would really like to hear your feelings on the matter. The next part in the series will cover the events of the last few years and the current situation.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Montreal Moonset

Taken an early October morning. You can see the line up for the Victoria Bridge in the bottom right corner.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sovereignty - Part 1 - Some Background

Let me start by saying that my goal is not to open a can of worms. The goal of this series is two-fold. First is to inform those who know little about the situation here in Quebec much like I did 12 years ago before I met my future wife. Second is to hear others take on the situation. I come to this country primarily from the francophone side. I am interested to know truly how the anglophone or allophones feel in Canada, inside and outside Quebec.

If you would like to know the whole story, the Wikipedia page is a good place to start. To save some reading (It has taken me a while and I'm not done), here is my attempt at a summary.

One of the basic principles behind the sovereignty movement is seen in the Constitutional Debate of Canada. Quebec is a distinct culture and has a distinct national identity within Canada. One side of the debate suggests that Quebec should have an equal standing in Canada. The other suggests that special provisions should be made for Quebec within Canada due to it's uniqueness. The current situation floats somewhere between. One side says Quebec has too many special provisions while the other says not enough.

Quebec is the only province that has not ratified the Constitution Act of 1982. There have been many attempts to implement provisions that would address Quebec as a distinct society so they could ratify the act. The Meech Lake Accord (1987) and the Charlottetown Accord (1992) are a couple of these attempts. While each were accepted by a good percentage of the population, there were enough no votes inside and outside Quebec to prevent them from passing.

From Wikipedia: "Although it is primarily a political question, cultural concerns are also at the root of the desire for independence. The central cultural argument of the sovereigntists is that only citizenship for Quebec can adequately and permanently resolve the difficult issue of the language of the majority (Quebec French), allow Quebecers to establish their nationality, preserve their cultural identity, and keep their collective memory alive."

The 1980 referendum. In the late '70's, the Parti Quebecois gained popularity in Quebec. The party advocates national sovereignty for Quebec from Canada. Their gain of popularity made them feel that sovereignty through a referendum would be possible. The referendum basically called for sovereignty-association where Quebec would be separate except for economic ties like trade agreements and common currency. The referendum was defeated 60% to 40%.

The 1995 referendum. In 1995, the idea of sovereignty was again brought to the forefront. After the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord, many in Quebec felt that a resolution to the Quebec question would not be answered without sovereignty. The Bloc Quebecois was formed since the last referendum and is the sovereigntist federal party. As their power grew, also did the sovereigntist movement. The new referendum was similar to that of 1980 except the economic association was left optional. The referendum was narrowly defeated 50.58% to 49.42%.

More recent events from the past three years will be covered in Part 3.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Welcome YULblog!

This blog is now branching out a little further. I am now listed on YULblog, which is a listing of blogs in Montreal. YUL are the airport call letters for Montreal's Dorval airport. As relative to this airport as ORD is to Chicago's O'Hare airport. YULblog is not a blog about Christmas. Welcome everyone who has come through that link. I hope you find some of this interesting.

In related news, my sitemeter is rapidly rising. I should hit the 1000 mark in the next week and my weekly hits are getting close to 100 per week. This blog started in February, so you can get an idea of how quickly my hit rate has gone up. My page views and time spent on the blog are going up so that's a good sign.

It has been interesting to see how people have been coming to the site. I would say a good bulk of people lately have come via searches related to the language series and the overpopulation post. Some others for the racism post. I am still planning on posting on the separatism issue here, but I would like to get my thoughts down correctly. I will probably get quite a few hits for that.

It has been quite a release to be able to share these observations that I had been thinking about over the past two years. Feel free to comment. This is only one persons perspective. It is from a different perspective, but may be naive and not completely accurate. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


The prefered makes of cars is different here. There are fewer American made cars. It seems their low end cars are the default if people cannot afford low end Japanese models. Volkswagens and Mazdas seem to be more popular. And you don't see as many LARGE vehicles such as the Lincoln Navigator or the Ford Expedition. The Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3, and the Toyota Echo are very popular.

The new Smart car fortwo can be seen all over now, especially for advertising. Minivans seem to be as popular. It seems four wheel drive cars like the Subaru Outback and Legacy are a bit more common due to the combination of decent gas mileage and 4WD for winter conditions. The interesting thing is that other four wheel drive vehicles particularly SUV's are not more popular. I guess high gas prices trump over getting in and out of unplowed parallel parking spaces.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Montreal Sunset #3

This reminds me of a Monet sunrise painting I used to have in my room during grad school. For comparison, here are sunsets #1 and #2.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Speaking Canadian

In my time here, I have not noticed a few differences in Canadian English versus that which I know of in the states. There are three that stand out that I can remember and they are listed below. There are other smaller differences such as using British terms as opposed to US used terms. By the way, I don't like to use the term American since technically it should refer to people or things from two continents, not just the US. Anyhow, here are the three terms that jump out to me. I think there are a couple others, but I can't remember them.

About : This is probably the signature word that screams Canadian. Here they pronounce it a-boot, whereas in the US it is a-bout.

Schedule : This word is pronounced like they do in the UK. Here it is pronounced shedule. Back in the US it is skedule.

Processed cheese : When I first heard this term, I thought everyone was just being honest and calling it what it is. But recently I realized that it may also be that they don't want to (or have no reason) to call it American cheese. Also they pronounce it differently. Here it is pro-sessed cheese while in the US it is prahsessed.

Lastly, it is funny the avenues that take you to certain reaches of the web. I was looking at my sitemeter summary and saw that someone from England found my site after doing a search for "the percentage of people speaking in Montreal" on Google. I clicked on the third result and got sent to an interesting article on North American linguistics and English in Montreal. It has parallels to my recent post on demographics. It's an interesting article about the research of a professor from McGill.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


There has been much talk since gas prices have gone up about reduced energy use and renewable resources. But I think there are some other issues that should be thought about.

Back in the early days of society and religion, having children was used by those in power as a way to continue to stay in power and/or propagate their religion. To stay in power, if those under you have many children, they will have a more difficult time trying to get an advantage on you. For religion, having more children will mean there will be more followers, and maybe some years down the road they will work their way up to power. It can even be seen today where poor Irish and Italian immigrants coming to North America started as blue-collar workers and have worked their way up to mayors, presidents, and CEO's.

I feel this propagation trend needs to be slowed down. At a very basic level each person requires food and produces waste. When you throw modern conveniences and amenities, it multiplies. Overall, the resources of the world are getting or are very strained. Some suggest we will need to colonize other planets due to the increasing population, but why not control the problem and enjoy the earth we have. There are currently places that have zero or no population growth including Chech, China, and Quebec.

What am I suggesting? Many major religions hold that sex should only be for procreating. As opposed to the past when those doctrines were created, we have effective means of birth control. And modern psychology has shown that sex is a necessary form of intimacy between two people. People should pick the time and atmosphere that children are brought into the world. There should not be this common belief that everyone must have children to have a complete life. Yes, some children from accidental pregnancies go on to be great people, but what about all the others who unluckily are brought into a life of hardship. What I want to say is that everyone brought into the world should be there because they are wanted for real reasons. I think once society starts doing that, we will start living in a more balanced and stable planet. If we don't get a handle on population growth, the renewable energy efforts will be fighting even more of an uphill battle.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Autumn is Fleeting

Same pic as last week, but from a different angle.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Honk If You're Horny

One item here that has recently jumped out at me again is the lack of honking. Again, my primary driving experiences consist of the Plateau and the South Shore.

Sometimes is seems like people will wait an eternity even for a courtesy honk for someone not paying attention to a traffic light. Usually it is only at about 3 to 5 seconds before someone taps the horn if at all. I applaud it because it cuts down on noise levels, but my brain desperately wants to give the courtesy tap after 2 seconds. I guess it's just that city boy in me wanting to get on with it. I have actually held myself back to 5 seconds because I : don't want to start a trend; and I want to avoid at all costs being the pushy American. Of course there are exceptions, but there are always exceptions everywhere. Back in the city of my birth if you didn't move within a second (sometimes instantaneously) you would get the horn. So this has been a nice change, but at times to the degree of insanity. But if my stress levels go up, I may revert to the semi-pushy American.