Sunday, April 30, 2006


Audrey was born in south central Illinois soon after the turn of the century. She was a flower child born decades too soon. A liberal open-minded free spirit born from liberal parents in an highly conservative part of the country during a highly conservative time by today's standards. "She treated everyone equally and held no prejudice" wrote my sister. "She taught her family to live life without bias, to be optimistic, and to never stop learning." She was a country girl who dreamed of life in the big city if not the world. In her teens she ran off with a friend to the nearest big city, St Louis. She was married at an early age, but it did not last. She left him and divorced at a time when divorce was uncommon.

She then moved to Chicago where she met and married an Filipino man. Interracial marriages were also uncommon at that time. She continued to dream. She studied the city of Paris and people who had travelled there would be convinced she had been there due to her knowledge of the place. She dreamed of drinking cafe au lait on the Champs Elysee. She would have six children with this husband, but would also leave and divorce him.

Her third husband was a Japanese performer who had recently lost his wife and his career. "She was his morning glory who gave new meaning to his life" my father was quoted as saying. She would have another child and in her senior years she lived downstairs from us. Her imaginative nature lended to hours of creative and imaginative play. She would hold meetings of 'The Endangered Species Society" where we would study animals on the brink of extinction. The meetings were very formal with role being called. We played games like the Grand Prize Game. Just like on the Bozo Circus filmed blocks from our house. During the summer she would sit on the front porch making us clover flower jewelry as we ran to collect more.

As my cousin Cathy said of her "she was way ahead of her time. She got the most out of life, and did exactly what she wanted."

Many people called her Audrey, but I called her Grandma. Years after her passing, I was fortunate enough to live in Paris. I got to know the city quite well. I wish I could have shared it with her.

3 Women

Over the next three Sundays, I will post articles about three women in my life. These three are/were women of great character who have/had great influence over who I am today. I feel this should be acknowledged.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ste Chapelle - Cracked

Probably the most professional photo I've taken. Long exposure with a tripod. Taken in Paris, March 1995.

Here's the story behind the crack. I put it in one of those frames with a glass front and only clips holding to the backing. Well somehow a corner got wet and glued itself to the back of the glass. Then I tried soaking the whole thing in water hoping it would detach. Then I could hang it to dry like photos in the old days. No luck. Now most of the photo is glued to the back of the glass and there are air bubbles in places. Then at some point while trying to tranport it, it was dropped on a corner. So that's how the crack came about. Unfortunately, it is the only copy that I can locate at the moment, so I scanned it with the crack. I figure it gives it a bit of character.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Friday Night Road Rage

The CAA monthly journal Touring ran an article a while back talking about a study on road rage. Apparently local law enforcement set up a hotline for people to call in when they witnessed road rage. The most notable discovery from the hotline was that HALF of the phone calls were received on Friday night. I thought it was pretty interesting, but didn't think too much about it afterward.

Well over the past few months I have started to notice a trend that matches that study. People really do go crazy on Friday nights. There's a lot more tailgating going on. People gun it when the light turns green. They give it a bit more gas than the rest of the week in order to advance through traffic. Everyone is just a little more aggressive. It has been a bit bizarre to notice this trend.

So why? Well the obvious reason is that every want to start their weekend as soon as possible. It's not people from the 'cinq a sept' (happy hour) because I'm usually on the road as that is starting up. So someone would have to do a few shots immediately after work and head straight home for that to be a factor.

But whatever the reasons, it is really a bad way to start the weekend for the rest of us. I have been avoiding as much as possible to get worked up in traffic. But Friday nights are tough. My adrenaline is usually flowing pretty good by the time I get home, but not for good reasons. Maybe we should spend the extra hour and take public transportation on Fridays.

By contrast, back in Chicago I would get worked up on almost every commute. Maybe it was just my perception and maybe I took everything a bit too personally, but I'd be pretty stressed out when I arrived at work or home. There was no chance to take a breather and the nerves were getting quite frazzled. It was only about a year that I was required to drive to work, but it was enough to temporarily give me a distaste for one of my favorite activities. Driving. I was very happy when I was able to take the el to work again.

So what is your preferred time for road rage? Monday morning going back to work? Wednesday night due to the mid-week blues? Or Sunday morning just for the fun of it?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


There are some things that I just can't get a feel for. One of them is humidity and the other is the finer points of taste. On the humidity front, I can say it's humid when it's foggy and dry in the desert, but otherwise I can't tell between a dry heat and a humid heat. For me, it's just hot. I say that because people from either Chicago, Montreal, or Paris keep suggesting that it's better or worse in one place or the other because it is more or less humid. I can't tell a difference. For me 32 degrees Fahrenheit is 0 degrees Celcius, that's it.

So when I talk about a lack of sense of taste, I am specifically referring to alcoholic beverages. In my adult life, I have made attempts to become well-versed in wine and scotch. With wine, I bought Wine for Dummies and read it cover to cover a couple times. My goal was to get to know Bordeaux wines in particular. So we would buy a few bottles at a time and drink one over the course of a couple days. It may have been our technique, but for me they all tasted good, but knowing whether it was great eluded me. When wine was served at other places, others would try it and say this is a very good wine, but for me it wasn't any better than another. Of course, I know the differences between the different type such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cotes du Rhone. But between wines within each category the differences (other than glaring ones) escape me.

Regarding scotch, a friend of mine was a bartender at a bar known for their scotch collection. I would meet up with other friends the night he worked and he made attempts to introduce me to scotch. I bought Mike Jackson's book on scotch, again, read it cover to cover a couple times and even analyzed the summaries in the book for each of the scotches offered by the pub. This one is more citrusy. That one is more salty and smokey. Another is more smooth. Again it eludes me. For me it's hard to see past the sting of the initial sip. It's almost like I was looking for scotch without the sting. Again, some of the more pronounced scotches like Talisker, I was able to see what they were talking about, but the others tasted the same.

That said, there are a couple other beverages that I do have a better feel for. Coffee and beer. Though not on the level of connoisseur. I can taste the difference between the different coffees offered at Starbuts or Second Cup as far as different strength and acidity. It's probably because I have so much experience drinking it. It's not like I have been drinking two or three glasses a day of scotch for the last twenty years. For beer, I love all the different kinds and microbrews up here. We used to smuggle home bottles of Fin du Monde and Maudite before it was offered in Chicago. Sometimes there is not much difference, like between Boreale Rousse and Belle Guelle Rousse. But for the most part the variety of microbrews is impressive. I am making my way through those offered by the local grocery store. Hey, maybe I could be an amateur beer connoisseur!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The French Resolution

of 2006. I have now been here almost three years. Although my conversational French has progressed enough over that time that I keep getting complimented on my language skills, I still have a ways to go to become fluent. I still find myself missing parts of conversations and programs on television. Sometimes when I'm speaking, I can be quite fluent, but many times I'm still searching for words or trying to use the francosized version of a word in English. This said, I have the impression that I have plateaued and made little progress in the past year or year and a half.

As far as the written word, it is quite similar though worse. I can get through many texts quite well, but I'm better off keeping a dictionary handy to be sure I have the correct understanding. My writing needs the most work. I have done very little and most of my understanding of the language has come through listening and speaking. Grammer and how phrases are turned are the biggest obstacles. I have studied much of the basic tenses, but those like the future and the more complex tenses are unknown to me.

In short, it's all about practice. Maybe a bit too often, we opt for television in English. Many times I'll pass on text written in French because I feel I am short on time. And lastly, I'll do the same for writing in French. If I am sending an email and I know the person on the other end will understand English, I will likely write in English. By no means is it out of disrespect since when speaking to them I always try to keep it in French, but my writing is lacking behind. Lately I have been reading more and more blogs in French, but my responses have stayed in English.

So this is my resolution. I will write at least one, hopefully two, posts a month in French. My idea is that the best subject to cover would be my progression in learning French. I have written an overview before, but this should go into more detail. I can't say they will begin soon because I just thought of this. Plus they will take probably more than twice as long to write even a short post. But I figure since I am taking the time to write in this blog, I could at least use some of that time to make some progress. Lastly, I will probably not include an English translation for a couple reasons. One it will take more time. And second that my intention is to write in French, not to write in English, then translate to French. Just as when I speak in French, I am thinking in French. Translating back will take more time which is in short supply as it is.

So there you have it. Hopefully I can keep to it. As far as those resolutions earlier this year, each of them started off pretty good, but have now regressed. Though I haven't given up on them.

Friday, April 21, 2006


A couple weekends ago I was in Boston for a hockey tournament. The picture is what I saw when I was blindsided on the ice. No, actually it is part of the jellyfish exhibit at the New England Aquarium. Here are some interesting points from the trip.

Although I was back in an overwhelmingly anglophone country, I was still speaking 50% French 50% English. It was actually an opportunity to practice my French in a relaxed setting. Also even though I should have expected that everyone spoke with a Boston accent, it still caught me off guard to hear it so much.

I got reaquainted with and binged on Smartfood and Sam Adams beer. I even smuggled some back. Not that snack food and beer aren't good here. But those two and I go back a while.

I spent my coldest day of the winter there. When I left the hotel, I saw it would be partly sunny and 10C (50F) so I left my hat, gloves, and scarf thinking it would be nice. Turned out it was a little colder than expected with no sun and a biting wind. Luckily I didn't catch a cold.

Saw Harvard, the aquarium, Quincy Market, Fanueil Hall, and Boston Common between trying to agree on places to drink and eat. The fun of travelling in a big group. Could have seen more if I ran off on my own, but it was fun to spend time with some cool people from work. Good thing is that there is plenty more to see and I've gotten my bearings pretty good for the next time. In a few years I hope to return with the family as part of a US history road trip including Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Back in the Day

OK it was not that long ago. Yesterday's post by my friend John reminded me of something I used to do.

How cool it would have been to have accessibility to blogging a few years back? A couple years after I had begun working, I really started getting into the architectural lectures happening around town. Usually there would be a half dozen big name architects who would blow through town and give a lecture. Calatrava, Libeskind, Koolhaas, Shiguru Ban, Henry Cobb to name a few. Then there was a steady stream of lesser known architects, designers, or historians who would give interesting lectures. The problem was that it always seemed that I would hear about the lectures either the day of or miss them completely.

At one point, I said that was enough. I need to keep track of what lectures and events are coming up so I wouldn't miss anything. So I bookmarked a few sites and decided to send my findings by email to some friends. After about a year into it, I was including everything in the art, architecture, and design world that interested me. Architectural or art lectures at the Art Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, the Graham Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and of course the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Exhibits at the Art Institute or the MCA. I even included events from the City of Chicago special events page. Stuff like movies in the park, street festivals, and dancing in the park. It had gotten to be a two hour affair every Monday morning to compile the list. I did this on working hours with the bosses permission because of the following reason.

It started to be just some close friends, but slowly it branched out to people I went to school with, former co-workers, then even kids that I had tutored in college. But that wasn't the end of it. Apparently after I had sent it to those people, they turned around and sent it to others. Sometimes even to whole offices. Acquaintances who I did not send it to were stopping me at lectures and telling me they got the emails through the grapevine. It was pretty amazing how much it had grown. I told this to the bosses and they thought it was great. A great service to the architectural community from someone at a firm that works with the architectural community. So they permitted me to take the time to compile it.

Unfortunately I know very little about the inner workings of webpages (that's why I'm on Blogger). So at the time I was stuck dispersing the info via email. This format would have been a great way to get the word out without clogging up inboxes. Plus it probably would have reached an even greater audience. I have very little interest in doing something like that here in Montreal because I don't have the time to go to the lectures. Why keep track if you can't go?

Lastly, there was one other project I dreamed of doing at that time. An interactive webpage of downtown buildings. The page would have every block with every building. Each building would have a popup window giving any relevant information. But the impetus for this was that the demolition of many older buildings was getting a lot of press. My question was really what buildings meet a certain threshold making them worthy to be saved for generations. The landmark process was kinda wishy-washy at the time and some of the reasons for saving certain buildings seemed questionable. Others were more than worthy, but were still taken down. My hope was to define degrees of worthiness. Like 'must be kept at all costs', 'picket for a few days to see if they change there mind', or even 'please, please,please replace this with something else'. This was all before the controversial Soldier Field renovation. Anyhow, the interactive webpage project is gone. I have other interests nowadays.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hip Size

I have commented before a couple times how much thinner people are here, but my brain is still trying to make sense of it. I promise this is my last comment on the subject. At least until everyone starts disrobing again next spring.

This post applies more to those on the lighter end of the spectrum. The thinner people I see here are of a size that I rarely remember seeing in the states. And here they seem much more frequent. It seems pretty obvious that the size of people stateside is due in large part to what has become standard size portions at restaurants and arguably increased influence via advertising. One fellow blogger has also gone as far as suggesting that thinner people here in downtown Montreal is due to a bulemia epidemic. But try as I might I cannot shake one theory out of my head. Genetics.

Maybe it's just the optical illusion of seeing people thinner than I am used to. But it appears to me that people's frames are smaller. Like the bone structure is not as wide. The idea kinda slipped as everyone bulked up clothing-wise for winter. Now that those layers are disappearing, I catch myself gazing at people trying to make sense of it. After three years, I still surprises me. Thighs are thinner, butts are smaller, and of course waists. That applies to both sexes. Could it be that the muscles there are more efficient and require less bulk? OK, maybe that has to do with the fact that they don't have to carry around as much bulk. But is it that they have the bare minimum to get around and they would have difficulty in a footrace? Most of the athletic people I know here aren't that skinny.

This said, there are two laws of nature that still hold true though. As people advance in age, they have a tendancy to add pounds due to inactivity. And as public transportation becomes more scarce, the same applies. Patrons of the Promenade St-Bruno put more pressure on the earth than those walking downtown Ste-Catherine. Walk farther east on Ste-Catherine and the guys get more buff, but that's a topic for another day.

So what do you think? Is it really just a case of thinner people or does the gene pool have something to do with it? Regardless, it makes for some nice summer scenery.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fukuzo (Frank)

The life of Hashi & Osai before 1941 was covered in the previous post. They had a very successful act that afforded them liberties and relative freedom from prejudice. All of this during the Great Depression. This changed when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Suddenly everyone looked with suspicion at anyone with an Asian appearence. They changed their names to Hia Sing and Sue Ming to attempt a disguise as Chinese performers. The last performance of "Hashi and Osai" was on Christmas Eve, 1941. Although still performing under pseudonyms Hia Sing and Sue Ming they were too well known as Japanese performers and could no longer work in the industry.

They spent some time with close friends in central Illinois, but could not find a retreat from antagonisms. Locals hearing of Japanese hiding out came to break their radio and take their knives. So they returned to Chicago where they had never had any trouble. With their performance career over, Frank tried various jobs until he owned a restaurant. The cooks would not cook for him, so he learned to cook himself. He had found his second career. He worked in the kitchens of many esteemed Chicago restaurants including the Ding Ho, the Mid-America Club, the Wrigley Building, the Conrad Hilton Hotel, Marshall Field's, Maurice's Restaurant, and the French haute cuisine of Le Manoir.

While Frank's successful second career paid the rent, Osai stayed at home. They lived with other Japanese, some of them performers, but speculation is that she found this to be a very difficult time. Her career had ended abruptly and she was home with no children of her own. Osai fell ill of cirrhosis and passed away April 28, 1949 at 51 years old. Although he had pulled out from the difficulty of losing his first career, after losing Osai, Frank had hit bottom. He found comfort in his longtime performer friends from near and far. His life would change dramatically again and it would become turning point in his life.

He opened a new chapter in his life when he married a white woman, Audrey, and they had his first and only child, Francis Dean, at age 55. He was pulled out of the depression from Osai's passing by a very loving relationship with Audrey in which they shared common viewpoints and perspectives on the world. He embraced the American culture studying hard in an American History course he enrolled in. And in 1965 he became a US citizen at age 69.

When I was very young, the couple moved in downstairs from us. Frank from my perspective was quite an interesting person. I saw him in his retirement days. He was largely a quiet man who spoke only when he needed to and still spoke with an accent after all these years. He was quick on his feet for someone in their eighties. He was an avid Cubs fan listening or watching games when possible. He also like playing cards whether it was solitare after lunch or pinochle with the other senior citizens at their weekly meetings. We accompanied him to the store of Japanese goods and took him to the Ginza Holiday festival to see the taiko drummers.

One memory is still very vivid. He needed to change a light bulb hanging in the center of the room. At 85 years old, he pulled out the step ladder and climbed up to the top step to reach the bulb. Audrey screamed at him saying it was too dangerous. He looked down and just said "Baaah" as if to say 'I was an acrobat, I can at least climb a ladder and change a light bulb.'

On July 26, 1986 he passed away, just four months after his 90th birthday. He had lived quite the wonderful life. He had seen every state of the union, lived the life of a successful performer, and worked alongside many famous people. He had found the love of his life twice and happily lived into his retirement years surrounded by family. As my cousin Cathy remembers "His kindness. Never said a mean word, always had twinkle in his eye, and just treated everyone so kindly. Sweet, sweet man... He was a total gentleman... Very classy."

It has been with great pride and great pleasure that I relay the story of my grandfather's life. This is a rough summary of my sister Nancy's History Master thesis. Pretty much all the content is from her work and some copied word for word. Her thesis also compares Hashi and Osai's experiences with other Japanese immigrants who were largely young males coming to work in agriculture. She is hoping to get is published and if it is, I will forward info about it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Image Infatuation

My Flickr account is up and running. I hope to continue posting pictures up there on a regular basis. Everything from interesting stuff from the past to personal photos for back home. But access will depend on who you are. So family and friends should drop me a line and I'll add you to the contact list. I may upgrade to a pro account, but it will depend on how difficult I find the 40 photo per month limit.

I'm a bit obsessed with Flickr at the moment. There are so many cool pictures out there. I really like the ones saved to my favorites. Generally they are either photos that evoke memories, those that show they were taken by someone with real talent, or just plain cool stuff. There artistic shots that are almost cliched, so it has been fun to rummage through the pages looking for something really special. I love images and could surf (and have been surfing) Flickr for a long time. I even found a picture someone took of my father.

As for the photo above, it was some playing in the dark room during high school close to two decades ago. I wasn't very skilled and maybe not very meticulous about removing dust, so there are very few salvageable photos. But I had fun all the same. I did my best to remove the dust on the above photo in Photoshop. The tree was up by the North Pond in Lincoln Park and the building is one of my favorites, 333 Wacker, where the three rivers converge.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Political Placards

A few weeks back, I was commuting to work and saw the following poster attached to a light pole. Similar to the political placards that have been present quite often since moving here.

But since this one was up first one up and I had not heard of another election coming up, my anglophone eyes thought they may be a joke. Take off the accent, separate the last name into two words and you'll see what I saw. By no means am I making fun of her name since I should be one of the last people to do that. But that is what my eyes saw.

Then these placards started showing up. My thought was that the party picked the right guy to represent them. He looks pretty green.

This candidate from the Parti Québecois looks like he's working so hard he broke a sweat for the ad photo. Looks like it paid off. He won.

And lastly placards for this candidate started showing up. On the ad with a head shot it is apparent as a friend put it, you can see her facial hair 'while driving by at 50km/hr'. I have absolutely nothing about women who choose to let their facial hair grow naturally. I'm for anyone who challenges social norms. But I thought it may not be the best idea when running for office which for much of the voting public is a popularity contest.

As for this shot, I could not quite figure out what the image was trying to convey. Is she wishing well to the seal hunters on their departure? Does she work part time at the local airfield as wind sock? Or is she about to drop the flag as the official starter of a snowmobile drag race?

Granted, I have not been following this election very closely because I can't vote. I know it has been front page news for the past weeks, but I still have no idea who these people are or what position they are actually running for.

Turns out the election was last Monday. I only heard the night before when it would take place. In the end, the posters may have not played any difference. It seems that much more emphasis is placed on what party you are electing into office as opposed to which warm body. I think it has to do with what ideology you want in the legislative body and that the leader of the party with the most legislative members becomes the provincial or federal leader. I prefer the US model of electing a leader, but as we all know it's not fool-proof.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hashi & Osai

My sister, Nancy, recently finished her thesis in history which focused on the uncommon experience of two Japanese acrobats and their life stories. Their names were Sei "Osai" Sakamoto and Fukuzo "Frank" Hashimoto and they eventually formed the performing duo of Hashi & Osai. Nancy also created a great webpage about it as part of a webpage design class that you can see here. I will try my best to summarize her work.

Osai was born in 1897 and as was common practice at the time, was excluded from being listed on a family register as thus did not have any formal family status. She was given up for adoption and was taken under the guardianship of an acrobatic trainer. In 1905 she was brought to America and the city of Chicago. It was in Chicago that she was trained. Along with her fellow performers the training included harsh beatings resulting in scars, a broken arm, and concussions. Less than a year after arriving, she began performing as part of the Otora Japanese Family. Soon after the troupe was reorganized into the Namba Troupe and began traveling around North America. She continued to perform in show business as a acrobat, contortionist, and performer.

Fukuzo was born in 1896 to a large commoner agrarian family in Japan. He was recruited to join the Fukumatsu Kitamura acrobatic troupe and came to America in 1906 leaving his family behind. The training was very strict and he recounted that beatings were given if routines were not performed correctly. Although he had no family, he developed strong and lasting relationships with his fellow performers. In 1907 he joined the Ringling Brothers Circus for three years. He gained the favor of the eldest brother, Al Ringling, and Fukuzo's contortion act was place in the center ring. After Ringling, Fukuzo went on to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for three seasons. He helped train wild horses and worked as part of the Japanese cavalry performing as one of the Congress of Rough Riders. After the Wild West Show, he continued to perform in vaudeville.

In 1917, Fukuzo and Osai along with two others formed the Fuji Troupe and toured the country for three years. In 1919 they married and soon quickly formed the duo act named "Hashi and Osai". It was at this time that Fukuzo changed to the Americanized version of his name, Frank. Their performance encompassed several elements: high perch, water spinning, girl on pedestal, fast tumbling, spotted flip flops, hand balancing and a Risley act. Their act was always a two-person team and consisted of acrobatics and gymnastics, contortion, and balancing. In the many towns where they performed the reviews by critics of their exhibition was always held in high esteem.

One article read "Hashai & Osai, a Japanese boy and girl, offer one of the surprises in their oriental thrilling and sensational juggling act, said to be one of the best that has been on the American stage in years." Another read "the sensational act of the well-known Japanese team, Hashi & Osai, as one of the five outstanding acts of vaudeville in the Beacon's Theater's stage this week, outclasses any turn of this nature to come to Vancouver in months." "Dynamic feats of thrilling gymnastics that will keep you in breathless suspense. Extraordinary entertainment - with a complete change of acts in each of the two shows each evening."

They performed in popular venues such as the Chicago Stadium and Soldier Field in 1929, Palisades Park in New Jersey in 1930, the Shrine Circus in Los Angeles in 1932, the World's Grain Exhibition in Regina, Canada in 1933, the Al Ringling Theater in Baraboo, WI in 1936, and the Oriental Theatre in Chicago in 1939. They also hopscotched across the US and Canada including: Montreal, Boston, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Sioux Falls, Cincinnati, Dallas, Vancouver, Billings, Des Moines, Wichita, Omaha, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and St. Louis in addition to countless small towns. They were very successful enjoying a life of freedom and acceptance unusual for Japanese immigrants at the time. That changed on December 7, 1941.

part two to come next week...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Boston avec Les Boys

This afternoon we're making the trip to Boston in order to play in a hockey tournament. Tomorrow morning we play two games with only a half hour break in between. Hopefully I'm in good enough shape. Then probably spend the rest of the day passed out in the hotel room before an evening awards banquet.

Saturday we have free, if we can still walk, to explore the city. Sounds like we may have a group interested in the aquarium and maybe a museum or two. Then some nightlife and a return home Sunday morning.

That's me with Hank Aaron's number in last year's tourney.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Opening Day

Friday is Opening Day at Wrigley Field. I have spent countless hours at that park. Sometimes it was about the game and sometimes it was about an enjoyable afternoon people watching. But most of all it was about spending time with friends and family.

Opening Day was always a bit odd. On one hand, baseball is a sport of hot summer days. But in Chicago, some opening days were a manageable 55F (13C), but there were a few that were an almost unbearable 30F (-1C). It was not so much that it was cold as much as you are immobile for a couple hours. Likely with a wind in your face drinking a cold beer. And for some reason the cold air, a full bladder, and standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow fans in front of a trough doesn't work for me. Made for some excruciating moments. Gotta go, but for some reason you can't.

On the positive side, there is all the pageantry. The fresh hope that this could be the season they go all the way. Seeing the ballpark again after six months of cold weather. Getting back into the gameday routines like picking up a Bar Louie sandwich before going in and grabbing a beer on the way to the seats. The gameday routine is different now than when I was a kid. Back then we would pick up a bucket of pop (soda) at the 7-11 across the street and have nachos with jalapenos around the fifth inning. But instead of frequent visits to the restroom and a red face to match my hair after the jalapenos, now it's a belly and possibly a hangover the next day. As a working stiff the opening day routine involved throwing on my jersey, leaving work early, boarding the el with all the others playing hooky, and moving with the masses to the park. Everyone experiencing that first game together.

There was always an electricity about that first game. Maybe this will be the year.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Comment Hangover

Well, as promised, here is my post about commenting. I've had a string of personal blog philosophy posts recently and this should be the last for a while.

Do you ever leave a comment on someone else's blog, wake up the next morning, and think did I get across what I wanted to say? Or say something you thought was witty then wonder if the other person took it seriously or even took offense to it? Well, lately I've just been getting a bit of a bad vibe from my comments. Maybe it's insecurity sneaking in, but I think I'm gonna take a step back for a while and be a bit more critical about my comments. Let me explain.

First, although everyone loves to say that blogs are off the cuff, fresh, and uninhibited. There is still a level of permanence that cannot be denied. It is different than a conversation in that what you write stays there and can be read and disected numerous times. Whereas, in a conversation, the memory of what you say is dependant on the listener and what they retain. I think this level of permanence demands that what is written have a bit of forethought into what is laid out there. Yes, a blog entry can be erased along with comments on other blogs in some cases. But really, who feels good about censuring themselves after having published their words.

I usually post at night after the rest of the house has gone to sleep or trying to squeeze it into my lunch hour. So either that lack of lucidity or a rush to get across a point may have been making for bad commenting. It's true that sometimes I rush to get in a point before the conversation takes another turn. Also, I have had a bad habit of trying to be too concise to the point where the idea that I'm trying to make gets lost or misunderstood. Posts on my own blog lack this for the most part since I usually take a couple times to revise them so they are cohesive and comprehensible.

There's a level of impersonality about commenting that I probably still have a problem with. Unless I know the person very well, the uncertainty of their reaction doesn't allow for quick responses. I'd love it if many of these topics could be discussed face-to-face over a beer, but distance and time prevent that. Posting and commenting provide this opportunity to hold reasonable (sometimes excellent) discussions that would otherwise not take place. The comments in one of the previous posts illustrated that.

After all this said, I'll probably give my comments the same treatment as my posts, though hopefully I that won't mean commenting on two month old posts. In the meantime, I'll keep reading everyone else's blog and hopefully be able to slip in a reasoned comment once in a while.

Now back to posts about the real world.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Maple Sucker

Last night we were watching one of the networks up here (CBC, Global, or SAQ, I can't remember) and they had this special on a devise in the maple syrup industry that is gaining popularity.

For those of you south of the land where ice was born, maple syrup is huge up here. They have these places called sugar cabins, cabanes a sucre en francais, like Chalet St. Hyperglycemia where everything is made with maple syrup. You have eggs drowning in maple syrup, ham, pork rinds, crepes, little tiny hot dogs, potatoes. A real meat and potatoes meal covered with sugary goodness. And since you haven't already had enough because your kids are now doing cartwheels on the ceiling, there is the grand finale. Le tire (taffy for you blokes). Maple syrup further boiled down to a thick consistancy, poured over snow to harden, then picked up by you with a popsicle stick and eaten. There are regularly scheduled free bus trips to these sugar cabins sponsored by the local dentists. But I digress...

So on this show they had a devise that will apparently send the maple syrup industry through the roof making maple products more popular than smarties, air filled chocolate bars, and whippets. The traditional method of extracting sap from maple trees has been and still is to tap a tube into a tree then let the sap naturally drain out into a bucket. In order to make maple syrup, the contents of the bucket are boiled down to create the final product. Four hundred buckets of sap are needed to create one bucket of syrup. This new devise was created by a maple syrup harvester, Marc Tremblay, near Thetford Mines here in Quebec. Apparently one spring day a couple years ago, he was vacuuming out his car in the spring when he got his idea. He decided to connect the shop vac up to one of the tree taps to see how much more sap he would get. Well after adding some duct tape and sterilizing the container of his shop vac, he found it yielded three times his normal sap production in a fraction of the time.

The first year was a windfall. He went around from tree to tree with his 4 wheeler, the modified shop vac, and a generater and got so much sap he was almost unable to boil it all down correctly. But later that summer he paid the price. About half of his trees could not survive loosing what was essentially their blood. So he enlisted the help of the Université de Sherbrooke to find a solution for the trees. Meanwhile he perfected his creation creating a central accumulation point with an industrial vac and vast pipeline network leading to all the remaining trees. Complete with adjustable valves to attain the correct flow rate for each tree. The solution of the professors at the university was to replenish the sap that was removed with a watered down corn syrup mixture with added potassium and nitrates. So far the results have been good with only one out of forty trees lost and no noticable effect on the finished product.

As far as the device, it is receiving great acclaim. Mr. Tremblay's second year was just as productive without the loss of trees. But since his brother has bought the farm and he has gone into business selling his product. Orders are apparently pouring in from all over the sappy area. The testimonial from one of his neighbors said it all, "It's really an amazing innovation. It really sucks!!"