Friday, March 31, 2006

Parc National du Bic

This is one of the many pictures from our trip to Gaspe two summers ago. We spent a night in Le Bic. We chose a bed 'n breakfast out of a guide book while being warned it was a bad idea to chose one that way. We arrived and it was a very charming place. We settled down for the night but were awaken by trains passing through town at 3am, 4:30am, and 5:30am. The whole time laying on the horn to prevent any cars from thinking of gunning the grade crossing. Needless to say not a very restful night.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Conversation, not Monologue

I wasn't planning on posting today, but the comment from the godmother yesterday got me thinking. Instead of addressing it in the comments, I thought it would be better out here where more people will see it. I'm trying to limit my posts per week, but there seems like so many things to talk about.

The purpose behind blogging was the point mrne brought up that I would like to talk about. She suggested that blogging was similar to an internal monologue. It is true that I said once that blogging for my part has been a way to express things that have come up in my internal monologue. But my drive behind blogging has been different. I really see this whole thing as a big watercooler break or a discussion over beers.

My hope is that my posts serve two purposes. One is to share thoughts or experiences. My other hope is to generate conversations with others or sharing by others also. Quite similar to the comment strings seen at the cassandra pages, the blork blog, and ni vu ni connu. I'm not fishing for validating comments like on many photoblogs. My hope for many posts is that they generate interesting points and perspectives. It's funny because lately I have been better at finding topics for the Metroblog that interest people in sharing. Then again, I only post twice a month.

Yes, it is odd I am encouraging others to comment when I, myself, am on a bit of comment self-restraint. Again, I will elaborate probably next week.

So feel free to comment. I'm interested in hearing from you. Even the opinionated among you, which is, well, most other bloggers. I can take it as long as I have had a good nights rest, unlike last night. If you have any suggestions as to which kind of posts you like, let me know. I'll still post items that interest me, but I've got such a backlog that I can be choosy as to what gets posted. Hope to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


In real life, I tend to be a fairly quiet guy. Ask my extended family, my in-laws, or the people I work with. I tend to be more talkative around close friends, immediate family, and those I know I have common interests. So why does much of my modesty and quietness almost disappear online? Where does this dichotomy come from?

On the real life side, I have always hated those who boast about things they do, how much they make, what status symbols they own. Or those who take things in their life and exaggerate them to impress. For me, even when I have things that I could boast about, I am very careful and reluctant in real life to reveal them. I feel some of this is out of respect. Not everyone has been as fortunate and trying to show or give the impression you have more is just not right. Maybe it's also because I would prefer others to like me for my character rather than what I've done, what I have, or who I know. I would hate for people to think I'm trying to impress them.

But I am finding my actions in the blogosphere out of character and a bit disturbing. I blather on about places I have been or things I have been fortunate to do. OK, it is true that for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to share with the world who I am. Nowadays I want to share what things I've experienced since that time. But why reveal online where ANYONE can read it? There is an oddness in that globality. Why do I have this urge? What does it say about my character? Am I a closet extrovert?

My best guess is this. Blogging is really about sharing. Sharing your thoughts, your feelings, your opinions, your life, and basically yourself. It is really quite liberating. But it allows you to share in a way that normal means of communication do not. You can share items that you would like to share, but may not normally come up in the flow of conversation. You can put stuff out there and if people are interested they'll keep reading. If not they move on to another blog , the news, or the Kilauea volcano. Also, by revealing yourself you allow anyone else on the web to connect with those aspects of you they otherwise would not. It's not something locked up in your head for someone to discover long after you're gone, if ever. From a personal standpoint, it is also sharing parts of me with new people I have met (either electronically or in real life) here in my new home. And even sharing aspects with old friends and family that had not had the opportunity to be shared. The sharing is quite similar to when you're first making friends with a person then sharing who you are to see what other common things there are between you. If a stranger connects with it and I make a new aquaintence or a friend all the better.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Introspection Times Three

This past week has seen three great introspective posts written by women here in Montreal.

The first by Me: The Sequel discusses words and their power (good or bad). It hit a nerve with me since I have been having a case of comment hangover lately. I may elaborate later.

The second by the Lightspeed Chick discusses the kid factor. I found the introspection interesting because of my feelings on the matter. Procreating should be a choice and not a requirement. Society seems to be moving toward less pressure on having kids. But is still out there. For the record, raising kids is very rewarding if it interests you. And it helps to have patience.

The third is by Zura and she discusses the joys and the curse of being thirtysomething. It's an interesting age. So many different people at so many different stages of their lives. Some want to stay twentysomething, some like to think they are fortysomething, and some just accept and are present in their thirtysomethingness.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Summer Urgency

I have mentioned before back when I had three readers (me, myself, and I) that there seems to be an urgency among the people here to drop everything during the summer and get outdoors. A relative that has a boat and him and his family disappear for the summer to spend every possible moment on the boat. Relatives kept saying we must go camping now or get out into the country for a day trip. The office is deserted at quitting time almost every night. Everything is now. And everyone was so depressed two summers ago when it rained all summer. I didn't quite get it.

Well.... after three winters I finally get it. A bit surprising since this has been the warmest winter ever. I have caught the bug. I'm itching to do things outdoors and exploit every minute of warm weather. It could be even doing work like turning over the compost heap or building a deck, but I want to get out! Bicycle rides, softball, and SAUSAGES ON THE BARBEQUE! Kicking a ball in the park, having meals outside, even cutting the lawn. I'm tired of watching Willy Wonka, Wallace and Grommit over and over. I WANT TO DO STUFF OUTSIDE!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tokyoplastic Drum Machine

From the land of my forefathers comes the tokyoplastic drum machine. My sister passed along this link. If you have a few minutes to spare, this is a cool website to poke around. For the drum machine, click on the Japanese characters under 'enter tokyoplastic', then click around until you get to the venus flytrap, then click on the flytrap titled 'drum machine'. You'll need to click on character, squares, or the Japanese flag when it seems to stall to keep moving to the next stage. The whole thing reminds me of the taiko drummers that we saw every year as a kid at the Ginza Holiday Festival. The dark grey creature with the tenticles in the bottom left corner also has a cool percussion short. Hope you like it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Boston Recommendations

In two weeks I will be in Boston for a hockey tournament. Does anyone have any recommendations of places to see, things to do, interesting bars? And if you have any recommendations considering that our group will be primarily francophone men in the 20's and 30's, some with their 'copines', that will also be appreciated. I doubt the Freedom Trail will appeal to them but I will try suggesting places like the aquarium or maybe a museum or two. Is there anything interesting around Harvard or MIT?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Towers of Chicago

These are two of my favorite early 20th century phallic symbols in Chicago. The white tower is Mather tower which recently had it's top totally rebuilt. It was actually the worlds tallest for a very short period. The dark green tower with gold highlights in the background is the Carbide & Carbon building. Legend has it that the design was inspired by a champagne bottle. It was also recently renovated to become the Hard Rock Hotel. The picture was taken from the IBM building by Mies van der Rohe.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pop Culture Shock

There is an aspect that has been hard to get used to. Not being 'au current' with the local pop culture. To a degree I am a fish out of water. Here is an example. I had seen this commercial about erectile dysfunction and what must be a celebrity comes on and says some cheesy line that somehow connects hockey with winning the battle over erectile dysfunction. I see a couple other times and finally I see it with my wife in the room. So I ask her who that is and she informs me it's Guy Lafleur one of the biggest hockey players around.

It was just a weird feeling because the tables were turned. Back in the states I was the one always informing my wife who so and so was on TV. Oh, that's Jim McMahon the quarterback of the 1985 Superbowl Champion Chicago Bears.

Now we live in an area that reportedly has many locally known celebrities. My wife keeps pointing them out. Oh, that was the actor from such-and-such from when I was a kid. Or that woman is the daughter of that news anchor. So I worry that I could be giving the local Gary Sinise, John Malcovich, or Billy Corrigan the evil eye for cutting me off when I really should be gapping in surprise of seeing them and yielding way for their immense contribution to society.

I did actually see one local celeb at the supermarket. It was that guy who did the Bell ads before the beavers took over. You know, the guy who dressed up like women and blue collar workers. He pulled up in line behind us at the check out counter.

I am making an effort to get into the scene. We have watched every Star Academie since moving here in order to get familiar with the music scene. And when we remember and have the time we watch Tout Le Monde En Parle. They tend to have quite a few faces-in-the-crowd, but there are enough well-known faces. So I'm inching my way toward familiarity with the Quebec pop culture, but unless I completely wean myself of anglophone media, I think it will be a loooonnnnng time before I reach an level near to the knowledge I had back in the states.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Urbanite in Suburbia

I grew up always saying I would NEVER live in suburbia, yet here I am.

I grew up in the city. The house in the center of the picture. Zoom out from the link to get an idea of the breadth of the city around. Now I would love to exaggerate and say I lived in the 'hood, but really it was a semi-dense urban neighborhood called Northcenter. Similar to the Montreal neighborhoods of NDG (for ethnic make-up) and far east Plateau or far west Hochelaga-Maisoneuve (for density of buildings). There was talk of gangs occasionnally passing through the neighborhood along with scattered graffiti. My cars over the years had been broken into at least four times that I could remember. Almost everytime for a radio. But it was a relatively safe place with some of the same trappings as anywhere else. Before the car, I walked, ran (as in jogging), or took the bus to get places. We grew up playing amongst the factories behind our house or at the nearby parks. We'd climb up on the factory roofs or over their barbed wire fences to retrieve balls. Or we'd play whiffle ball at the street intersections with the manhole at each corner serving as a base.

When I returned as an adult, another aspect of the city became accessible. Bars, restaurants, street festivals. All within walking distance. One summer when I was painting our apartment, we listened to the dance music being blasted just down the street where they were setting up for the Pride Parade. Taking public transport to work. Not using the car for weeks on end. It was hard to imagine living life a different way.

So how exactly did I end up in suburbia (emphasis on the sub). Well, life changes and priorities change. Safe and an affordable place with a yard was the primary motive. Also one of the driving factors for the more to Montreal. Though, we are still only 15 minutes from the action. That is, when we have time for it.

What are my impressions or suburban life? Well, the big plus has been becoming a homeowner. I love doing work around a house and having space to breath has been great. We did home repair and maintenance when I was a kid and I enjoyed it so much it steered me to my profession. Now I don't get hung up on how good the grass looks, but I do really like an immaculately shoveled driveway. Weird, I know. Considering it's only a quarter of what we cleared at the house I grew up in, it's not too difficult to keep clear.

As far as the suburban environment, we are in an established suburb with mature trees so it has some similarities to what I grew up with. The people in our neighborhood have been very friendly, though there are some upturned noses at the grocery store. The noise level took a little getting used to. We had trouble going to sleep the first few nights because it was so quiet. I don't even remember any crickets. I grew up hearing ambulances, police sirens, and even the el train passing off in the distance. Not to mention the buzz of traffic or planes passing overhead. But here there is nothing.

To sum up, the transition has not been very difficult. Though if it was a newer suburb with no trees and farther from the center city, then there would be problems. I have no qualms with rural life. I could probably live there just fine as long as there was something interesting to do and/or see (not just endless cornfields). It just that weird transitional suburban area I don't care for of endless car-centric strip malls and cookie cutter homes.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Reality Television

After two posts a couple weeks ago about reality television, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my thoughts on, excuses and reasons for watching the genre. There was a time a few years back when about half the TV I watched outside of news and sports was reality TV. Oh wait, that's still the case except I don't watch as much TV.

It started the second season of Survivor when the Superbowl led into the season premier (Mark Burnett is no idiot). Before that I was like everyone else who said it sounds ridiculous. I am also opposed to jumping on bandwagons, so that was another reason to avoid it. So that first episode hooked us and we have watched every season since. Not that I look at it, my resolve doesn't sound very strong. Anyhow, we have watched every season of the Amazing Race since after most of the way through season two. We have seen the Bachelorette and the following season of the Bachelor in addition to half of the first Joe Millionaire and parts of the second. So what are my reasons/excuses for following these shows. For each show there are different explanations.

Our favorite is the Amazing Race. There are two main reasons. First is that they travel the world and you see the places from an angle other than those on travel programs. Secondly there is the competitive aspect. Teams to cheer for and those to cheer against. On this show it is much more each team competing independantly as opposed to in cooperation with the others like on Survivor. On this show it is about the race and I don't really care for the relationship side of it.

Survivor is also a competition, but it relies much more heavily on the personal relationships. How do people interact with one another? And the biggest question is that in the context of the game if you check your principles and morals at the door does it tarnish your character outside the game? How do the players adapt as the game evolves? Yes there are many seasons where only the leftover people are in the final episodes. And that is why it keeps getting harder and harder to come back.

As for the two dating game shows , Bachlor(ette) and Joe Millionaire, my interest in them started again as a competition, but evolved into another study on people's psyche. At first it was about which guy or girl the contestant in charge would choose and how that matched up to our own tastes. But as you watch these people fall head over heals for the bachelor(ette) it started to get sickening. Yes, we all fall in love, but wake up people this is television. You are living in expensive accomodations going on fancy dates with fairly limited contact with the bachelor(ette). Three or four pseudo-dates do not make a 'marry me' relationship. But at that point I'm watching trying to get into their heads to understand why they are all so suseptable to think this is 'The One'. 'The One' is another concept I really have a problem with. Then there is the issue of this being a degrading modern day harem. Love and competition should not be mixed. Yes, it happens in real life, but to do it for enterainment purposes is just leaves me with a dirty feeling. Lastly the other major problem I had with these shows was the editing. The teasers at every commercial break are ridiculous. There are two or three 'special' moments in each episode that are repeated ad nauseum before and after every commercial break and before and after every show. The whole thing is just so overwrought.

Yes, if you had to sum up this post, Amazing Race = Good, Survivor = OK, Bachelor (ette) = Bad, Joe Millionaire = Really bad. And Temptation Island was one of the most evil things on television.

What is your take on the genre?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Pats

Today is the day that every good little red-haired kid of Asian ancestry living in Montreal pulls out their Aran sweater and green corduroys and wears them to work. Maybe I should go out and get some Kilkenny for later.
It's the day one of the cheesiest pick-up lines is grossly overused. "Do you have any Irish in ya? Would you like some?"

Oh yeah. And last weekend they dumped their special mixture of kryptonite and plutonium into the Chicago river to turn it flourescent green. You should see the night pictures.

This also means that 'Irish season' here in Montreal will be coming to a close soon. And Cheney still hasn't bagged one.

Picture borrowed from the St Pats Parade FAQ page.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

March Madness

Every year at this time, I would fill out multiple brackets for the NCAA tournament. For a few years I even ran the office pool. And in the past couple years I went so far as to research all the teams in February to have a very good idea of which ones were really good and which were paper tigers before the brackets came out. I have probably filled out brackets every year that I was on the continent since I was 10 or 12. That's 20 years for those of you playing at home.

The enjoyment of the whole thing is the competition. Both on the court and in the bracket. By choosing teams for your bracket, you almost always have a team to cheer for. Whether you win the pool or not can depend on any single game. So there is always a bit of urgency for your team to win. But it isn't about the money, it's the satisfaction of knowing you picked better than the next guy. Even if it was random. It's fun to sit there with the brackets of all the people entered into the pool and determine game by game where everyone stands and which brackets have been mathematically eliminated and who has the best chance of winning. What combination of wins do I need in order to win the pool?

But this year is different. I may fill out a bracket of my favorite teams, but I will not enter a pool. I haven't followed the season at all (like when I was a kid). And it seems kinda pointless knowing nothing about the teams. So this year I will cheer for teams outside of knowing how they have done. I will cheer for my alma mater Illinois. I used to hate Duke with a passion until I visited the campus and the medical center save my mother's life. I will cheer for them. I will root for all the Big Ten and Midwestern teams. And lastly I will cheer for teams for very complex reasons such as I like their names (Villanova, Xavier, Gonzaga), or I have been to the city they are from, or I have cheered for them in the past (Syracuse, Florida, Kansas).

So I'll watch a few games and follow Illinois, but that passion and interest in the games won't be the same.

Update: (11:36pm) Well, I just joined a pool in the 11th hour (literally). Some good friends who I play against every year. The appeal of the competition is just too great to pass up. So I did a little research and cranked one out.

It's nothing like last year where I submitted something like 8 brackets in three different pools with hours of research. I'll probably do as well.

Anyhow, now I have a reason to watch the games.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sidewalks and Curbs

We moved here in early June 2003. Now I had visited Montreal at least once a year for the previous ten years and almost always around Christmas. But this was really my first time to really get a look at the city outside of downtown.

During that first summer, there were a few mysteries about the sidewalks and curbs that really jumped out at me while discovering the area around where I work. I was able to figure out some of the mysteries fairly quickly and others took a winter or two to solve.

First mystery was that the sidewalks were covered with black granite pea gravel everywhere. Kinda like a street the month after it is repaved. That mystery was easily dispelled after asking around. People told me that the pea gravel was laid down during the winter for traction on the sidewalks. Made sense and it was true but it seems like it takes half the summer for the sidewalks to be reasonable clear of them.

The second mystery was that ALL of the curbs look like something has been chewing on them. Every single one of them is beat to hell. It is quite impressive. Arriving at the beginning of the summer, there didn't seem to be any good reason for it. But after the first winter, I started to see what could be the cause and after the second winter it was confirmed. The city's process of clearing the snow is the cause. Between the snow plows on the sidewalks and more importantly the plows on the street, the curbs take quite a beating. The difference in elevation between the street and the sidewalk is not enough for a plow driver pushing through a couple feet of snow to determine the exact location of the curb. So the curb loses the battle.

The third mystery was related to the second. There were these mysterious scrapes diagonnally across the sidewalk. Most of the time at driveways where the curb dips, but also randomly on the sidewalk. Now this one I haven't actually seen, but I have a good idea what it is. It is the plows again, but this time they swoop onto the sidewalk at driveways to draw the snow into the street. But the plow ends up picking up some concrete with it.

The last mystery was that projecting parts of the sidewalk appear to be ground down. The sidewalks are quite uneven with section projecting above adjacent ones. I think this unevenness is due to some of the frozen ground issues in the previous post. In some places it looks like these projections have been chipped down for a better transition. In other places it looks like someone was there with a concrete grinder and ground it down for an extremely smooth transition. Much like they do for places that must be handicap accessible and free of trip hazards. So that's what I started to think. The city is actually going around and grinding down the bumps in the sidewalk. Crazy, but impressive.

After a couple winters I figured out the real cause. The city employs these mini bulldozers to clear the sidewalks of snow. These fly around feveriously after every snowfall sometimes passing one right after the other. It turns out that the plows on the front of the bulldozers are inadvertantly shaving down the major projections on the sidewalks. I am still quite amazed when I see these ground down spots. Some look just so perfect.

So ends this mini-series on how winter battles the infrastructure. I still have some observations of how the city does things differently because of the snow, but I'll probably take a break on cold subjects until the end of the year.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Five Meme

Yet another meme which I voluntarily tagged myself with. This one asks you to list five weird things about yourself. By the way, the site will reach FIVE thousand visitors shortly.

1. I really have a fascination with change. Particularly in the environment, natural or man-made. Stuff like how cityscapes have changed or are changing over time. How landscapes change. Rivers changing course, volcanos creating new land, buildings being built. It's the evolution of things. It gets me excited to see what the future will bring. It can also be something of a much shorter duration like the tide ebbing and flowing. Spring and fall are my favorite seasons. Funny how their names are also verbs.

2. When I blow my nose in facial tissue it is always the same sequence. First both nostrils, then one nostril by itself, then the other. After the first blow I fold the facial tissue from a rectangle to a square. After the second I fold the square into a triangle and after the third I fold the triangle into a smaller triangle. So you always know if I have a cold if my waste basket if full of little kleenex triangles.

3. I enjoy parallel parking. It's a source of pride in having grown up a city boy. Pull up, back-in in one movement, no touch, inches from the curb. Perfect rice every time.

4. My wife loves this one. When I was a kid after trick-or-treating on Halloween, I would take out all the candy, categorize them (hard candy, lollipops, chocolate, and stuff I really don't like), then line them up so that each group is evenly distributed in the line. I would then eat them in order. That way I could enjoy chocolate at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Plus the items I don't care for as much would also be spread out instead of all at once. Judging from my dental bills, I should have just thrown out the bad ones.

5. I am an ambidextrous dart player. I am very good with my right and above average with my left. It's odd because I look like an uncoordinated goof throwing a ball with my left.

I tap everyone who reads these pages and is interested in participating. Just make sure there are five of you.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Breaking the Ice

WOW! What a difference a couple weeks makes. The daytime highs are hovering around 0C, the snow is slowly melting, and it is light during the commute home. Spirits are much improved.

This picture was taken two years ago (along with all the other pictures I've posted) this time that year when a Coast Guard hovercraft was making his way up the seaway doing doughnuts. He'd ride up over the unbroken ice and the weight of the hovercraft would start breaking up the ice. It was kinda fun to watch. A day or two later, they opened the locks and the water swept away the ice downstream.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Bachelor - Building Division

Apparently they are looking for a successful, handsome, and charasmatic architect for the next in 'The Bachelor' series. What I don't understand is why they aren't looking for an architect Bachelorette. All the women architect friends I have are gorgeous. OK, they are all taken, but it would be interesting if they had a professional woman as a Bachelorette calling the shots.

I did have one run-in with the series. Back in Chicago I was at our local liquor store (Binny's) to stock up on Maudite and Fin du Monde. As I am walking through the store, I noticed all these women dressed to the nines. It was a Thursday night and they were all gussied up like it was Saturday night at a trendy club. High heals, fancy dresses, over the top make up. Just like on the Bachelor. So as I'm walking around (it's a big store) I realize they are in a line all giggling talking in excited tones. So I make my way over toward the wine section from the beer section. Over in the wine section is the end of the line at the back of the store. As the ladies briefly part, I realize that it is that Firestone guy who was the Bachelor that season. He had chosen a woman from Chicago and they were there to hawk his wine.

I selected my wines, glanced over a few times to remember the moment, and headed out. The thing that still amazes me is all those women. Were they really dressed up in hopes he would dump his new girlfriend (who was standing next to him) on the spot and go out with them? I guess we would all get dressed up if we wanted to see someone famous, but still. And why was it only women? Does it mean there are only women watching that show? We lived near the 'Boystown' neighborhood and the Pride Parade starts every year less than a block away. Why wasn't anyone from that neighborhood there? It was a really bizarre occurance and one I'll never forget.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Amazing Race - Season 9

The new season of the Amazing Race started last week. It is currently my favorite show. I really enjoy seeing the places they visit from a real person's point of view and not the travel brochure version. I also enjoy the competition aspect. You choose a team or teams to root for and get into the game. Granted there are can be some extremely annoying jerks on the show which makes for someone to root against, but for me it's more about the ride. So far the most annoying team(the Screaming Frosties) just got eliminated and the intense husband (Mr. Shop of Horrors) has not started chastising his wife (much). Looks like they are going to Stockholm, Tokyo, Mt Fuji, the Corintian canal in Greece, Russia, and something that resembled Thailand or China.

For those of you who saw last week's show, here is some info on one of the places they visited. My good friend John posted a Weekly Dose of Architecture on his page about the Hotel Unique back in October. Check it out for some an in-depth look at it from an architects perspective.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

On the 61st day after Xmas...

my city said to me. "Please pay our Christmas late fee."

Have you ever been annoyed to see people in your neighborhood displaying their Christmas decorations well into the new year? Well, some suburbs of Chicago are doing something about it. A few of them are writing into law guidelines as to when holiday decorations are allowed to be displayed. More specifically that decorations visible from the street must only be displayed during a time from 60 days before to 60 days after the holiday they celebrate. If they are up outside of that time you risk getting a warning or a fine.

It really falls along the lines of neighborhood appearance. For instance, currently some neighborhoods around Montreal outlaw those snow shelters that people place in their driveways during the winters. Or others require your building proposal go before an appearance committee to verify it is in keeping with the character of the neighborhood. This is not as big of a deal as those, but has the same spirit.

Now, aside from it being a bit against people freedom to do what they want, this really sounds like a good idea. Think about it. That's a third of the year you would be able to celebrate any of the dozen or two that are traditionally celebrated. In the states you could even justify covering your lawn with US flags for the whole year between Presidents day (Feb), Memorial day (May), 4th of July, and Veterans day (Nov). As far as Christmas we are talking about being able to display the decorations from before Halloween to late February. That's quite a chunk of time. Of course nobody wants to go out in the dead of winter and have to take them down, but usually there are a few 'nice' weekends it can be done. As far as lights, it is only a matter of not turning them on. Otherwise they are usually not very conspicuous.

In the interest of full disclosure, we finally turned off our Christmas lights. We strung up white lights outside our window in the trees and saw it more as a winter decoration. It looked really cool during the snow falls. Our real reason for pulling the plug was because of the recent electric rate hike.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Potholes and Roads

It's that time of year when the potholes appear. This year in Montreal they appeared early due to warmer temperatures.

I have been really surprised at the state of roads. The potholes here are huge and plentiful. And they pop up very quickly. I have seen potholes grow to a foot or two (30 - 60 cm)wide by four inches (10 cm) depth in as short as a week. The freeze/thaw cycles just rip the roads apart. On my daily commute there are a handful of locations where I've given up tryin to find a 'line' to take to avoid a pothole riddled section of road. Even after repairs are done, it's like driving over rumble strips. Sorry for the lack of pictures with this post.

An obvious response to the pothole problem would be to build the road out of concrete. Though concrete is more durable, I suspect it is cost inhibitive. Sidewalks are made of concrete, but there is more leeway as far as unevenness and roads would require more concrete (thickness and width) more often. So it seems asphalt is the answer as long as it remains less expensive.

The snow plows give the roads quite a beating. In addition to the interaction with the asphalt, I have noticed how all the painted lines are noticably fainter every spring. My guess is that they must be repainted every three or four years if not sooner.

And it is not just the potholes. The roads are noticably bumpy in general. Drawing on my knowledge of what we deal with in the building industry, here are a few educated guesses as to what else may take their toll on the roads. If there are any road construction or maintenance experts out there, it would be great to be enlightened whether these are also factors. Maybe the subgrade can be engineered to withstand these forces.

In addition to the freeze/thaw cycles a road goes through there is also some other forces at work from below. One is ice lensing where water coming down from the road surface or up from the ground below encounters a freezing layer. The water freezes and causes water following behind to stop and freeze also. Thereby creating a lense of ice inside the earth. This pushes up on the surface above and when warmer temps arrive the water melts and the surface above settles back into it's original position.

Frost heave is similar, but involves the moisture present in the earth. In this case the earth expands together due to how water expands when it becomes ice. This can be damaging if different areas rise at different rates due to different moisture contents. I'm pretty sure that this is why if you go to a park soon after the thaw you find that the earth is nice and soft. I'm not positive this could have a large affect on the surface, but it could.

Lastly there is the soil makeup. Near where I work there are expansive clays. What this means is that the clay expands with a higher moisture content and contracts under low moisture content. We have many building nearby which had settled severely (1 to 2 feet from one end to another) when there was a drought a few years back. There is a section of sidewalk that does dips like a roller coaster in the areas adjacent to trees. Probably because the trees were drawing out all the moisture during the drought. So I think if the presense of expansive clays was not taken into account during the construction of the road, it would have an adverse affect on the road surface.

So in short, the forces of nature take a great toll on the roads. I really think that the cold temps instead of lack of maintenance is the reason for the difference from other places I've been.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Welcome Gazette Readers!

Welcome to those of you who have reached this site via the article by Hayley Juhl. Thank you also to Hayley for the opportunity to reach a larger audience. She did a great job of distilling down the better bits of the blog.

For a sampling of some other points covered, here are a few links to a sampling of other posts.

Recently I wrote about the snow removal process in Montreal along with how it is dealt with in Chicago. I also did a study of the medal hunt in Athens. A follow up will take place shortly concerning the Turin games. But as we all know Canada did very well. I also posted some watercolors I had done in Europe over a decade ago.

Lastly was a 'Best of' that I had compiled as my 100th post. It includes some photos, some levity, and comments on language, racism, obesity, traffic, and sovereignty.

So feel free to browse and feel free to comment. Keep in mind that my understanding of many aspects of life here is evolving and sometimes my observations were a bit naive. I really hope to learn more about life here and this medium has helped in many ways.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Buck n Jack

I posted this photo back when I only had 20 visits per week traffic. I punched it up a bit in Photoshop. I may go back and clean up some of the other hazy ones. The reason that I'm reposting it is because I've been getting quite a bit of traffic from an odd link. Follow these steps and see the result.

Go to Google.
Click on Images.
Type in Expo 67 and Search Images.
Now find the third image over in the first row titled "US pavilion at the Expo 67"
Click on the image and Whammo!!!
You end up at my page, but only the current month.

I'm pretty sure somebody saw the original post and created the link to the blog and not the specific page. So now I get a steady stream of about a half dozen visitors per week from this link. The odd part is that the image in Google is an old post card from wikipedia and not my photo. Anyhow, if it brings people in who are interest in the Montreal all the better. Maybe that's where my Ohio State reader came from.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Armchair Experts

While watching the Olympics coverage, a thought crossed my mind. It really seems we all quickly become minor experts on each of the sports. We watch a few competitors make their way down the course or go through their routine while listening to the commentators critique their performance. Before we know it we're watching thinking or saying stuff like: "She really looked stiff going down the moguls. Look at her head bouncing around. She doesn't have that fluidity the judges are looking for." Or. "Their bobsled rode up really high on that turn, their gonna loose .002 seconds on that. Oh wait, they tagged the wall. It's over."

But figure skating is one that still eludes me. I grew up watching every Olympic skating event because my sister was/is a skater. But I still don't know the difference between an axel, a lutz, or a sow-cow. Much less be able to see if they skipped the triple for a double. So I was really lucky that even though she lives 800 miles away, she was here in Montreal to give us our own personnal commentation for at least a couple events. A bit of history on the competitors along with her own play-by-play. Maybe we can meet up in Vancouver in a few years.