Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Three Years

Yesterday marked the three year anniversary of the day we arrived in Montreal. So what are my thoughts regarding each city and why did we move here. Some of this has been said before on these pages, so bear with me.

I have been pleasantly surprised by Montreal. I had a rough idea of the city and it's character from my experience of it over the previous decade, but the remaining aspects that I have learned about since have been very positive. It is very very unique city overflowing with character. Vila wrote something the other day that touched on some of it:

Ours is truly a distinct society, for reasons that include but are immeasurably more complex than linguistic affiliation. Our history is a history of smoke: of jazz clubs and burlesque houses and political backrooms. It is European, not British; Catholic, not Protestant; radical, not liberal. Montreal is a calculated risk, the fine line between meaning and poverty, connection and conflict. It is, as it is often said, the smoking section of Canada, and that’s why it is different. And so much more fun.

I have really enjoyed discovering this new place and it's people. Plus there is so much more left out there. We had chosen this place to raise our children, but part of me wonders what it would have been like to live here as a young adult, a student, or a child. We have just begun to make friends here and we are interested in how that aspect will enhance the experience.

So how did we come to decide on the move. I know it was odd for many back home because the decision came fairly quickly. We had lightly thrown around the idea of moving to Montreal over the years. Then one day we firmly decided it would happen and we left in less than six months. But that's always how we have done things. After five years of engagement we organized and had a full wedding and reception 850 miles away in three months. We decided to have a kid and gave birth nine months later. That's just how we are. As for why, there were many reasons. But above all, it had to do with best place logistically and environmentally to raise kids. The decision came soon after our first child was born.

As for Chicago. I wrote the following after the Gazette article a while back. I was going to paraphrase it, but it says too much and says some things I have been wanting to get out there.

After spreading the word about the Gazette article, I got some responses from friends and family back in Chicago that kinda caught me off guard. They were congratulatory, but there was a hint in there that the article showed an overly rosy picture of my new home. What I mean is that the article from the vantage point of those people I left to move here seemed to suggest that I saw Montreal as an immensely better place to live than Chicago.

Now I would really like to clear the air a bit. First, I have hated, HATED, those people who leave a company or a place then spend every chance possible after leaving to bad mouth the place they left in order to validate their decision. I am the last person who want to be one of those people.

Also I AM IMMENSELY PROUD TO BE FROM CHICAGO. Being a Chicagoan IS my identity and why I chose it for the title of this blog. I have expounded on this before so I don't want to keep repeating myself. There are many other aspects to who I am, but being from the city of Chicago is probably the tops. That said, I don't want to be one of those people who constantly bores everyone with stories about how things are different back home. So my Chicago tales will and should eventually tale off. I don't want to always be known as That Chicago Guy. There are just too many other facets of who I am (or at least I like to think so). But at least for now, my Chicago experiences are still fresh and give me a point of reference in my new home.

This being my third winter here, I have started to get pangs of homesickness. I think part of it has to do with the winter doldrums, and also because we don't currently live a life of a young couple, but more as parents. We don't have the same lifestyle here as when we left Chicago. But the feelings are still there. Pangs of nostalgia for all the things you can't do as a tourist are the ones that come to mind. Taking the El train to work, going to the Taste of Chicago, the Art Institute, or the Museum of Contemporary Art on your lunch hour, running on the lakefront in the morning before work, 16" softball with beverages, and just the freedom to meet up with friends and family at will... It is quite similar to any other nostalgia like high school or past travels, but maybe it's different because we made a decision to leave it. It was choice instead of forces outside of our control.

To those of you who in Chicago who have been understanding, held back any hard feelings because we left, and welcomed us back on each visit back. Thank you whole heartedly. As hard as it was for us to leave, I know it was hard for you to watch us go. I have tried to keep mindful of you and your feelings while writing these posts, but sometimes my enthusiasm gets the best of me. Again the upside of being away is that each time we return it becomes a special occasion to see each other.

As far as the content of this blog, I don't anticipate any changes. Really the purpose of it from the beginning has been to share my discoveries and experiences in this new place. Along the way interest in sharing myself jumped in. And now nostalgia has a hold on me also. So that is really how it will stay as in the title 'Observations, Memoirs, and Opinions'. I hope it stays of interest to you and hope you will keep reading knowing that I love Chicago and love my friends and family there.

Lastly, the question as to whether we will move back popped up this weekend. When we decided to move to Montreal, we made the commitment that it would be for the long haul. We did not want a question to be hanging out there so that if any little thing came up we would turn on a dime and head back. This is still the case especially since we have a house and my permanent residence should come any day now. It would take some extraordinary circumstances to return now that our roots are down.

So here is to many more years. Again I would like to thank everyone for reading and hope that I can keep it interesting for you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Taken from the Trocadero at dusk in 1991 or 1992.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

40 Questions

Forty is a number of cleansing and renewal. Hence the references of rain for forty days and forty nights. Or that guy wandering in the desert for forty years. Actually, I think he just put forty on his taxes, it was really thirty-seven. But none of this has anything to do with what follows.

Recently I encountered two sets of 40 questions, one via email and another posted on another blog. The teenage girl in me yearned to play along and answer the questions, but the wise-cracking teenage boy won out. So I took assorted questions from each and the result is as follows:

Participate with me on this. It's excurciatingly interesting. I only sent this to folks whose answers were sent to me first! This is what you are supposed to do if you have trouble figuring out the obvious, and try not to do more meaningful ways of sharing with others who you are and spoil the fun! Just give in, follow the other sheep, and do it. Copy, do not forward (repeat DO NOT FORWARD), this entire e-mail and paste it into new email. Change all the answers so that they apply to you (and only to you) then send this to a whole bunch of freakin' people you know *including* (repeat INCLUDING) the person who sent it to you. Now this one is difficult, put your name in the subject (repeat PUT YOUR NAME IN THE SUBJECT). The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known useless facts about your friends. It is a fun and easy 40 questions to answer. ;-P

1. First Name: Frank, but I also go by Hot Stuff. Hot Stuff Hashimoto at your service.
2. Were you named after anyone? I was never told that I was, but since my father and grandfather have the same name, I have a fairly good guess.
3. Can you handle the truth? You don't want the truth because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
4. Have you ever eaten dog food? No. But I'm stocking up on cat food for my retirement.
5. How often do you drink? At every meal with occasional sips between. I should probably drink more.
6. Do you talk in your sleep? Nope. Don't snore either. I stayed up all night one night to see and it didn't happen.
7. Have you ever been stung by a bee? Yes, it doesn't hurt much, but I hate all the bloating.
8. When did you last cry? Real men don't cry. American Idol or Meet the Press, I can't remember.
9. What is your favorite lunch meat? Bologna with a splash of oregano and garlic mayo.
10. Kids? Children! Is the word association section?
11. If you were another person, would you be friends with you? If I was another person I would be totally disoriented. I think I would be busy trying to figure out who I am, this other person. Then I would fall madly in love with myself. Just like I am now.
12. Do you have a journal? Nowadays they're called blogs. Get with it people.
13. Do you use sarcasm? No, I gave it up for lent.
14. What are you looking forward to? A computer monitor.
15. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No! But I do unite them afterward!
16. Do you think you are strong? Physically or mentally?!? The other day I couldn't find the underwear at the store. I was afraid to ask so I just left. But I couldn't push open the door so I spent the night. Does that answer your question?
17. Shoe size? 9.5, 10 If I'm feeling lucky!
18. Red or pink? Pink! No really, PINK! Warning everyone, I'm coming out!!! WOO HOO!!!
19. What is the least favorite thing about yourself? Like I'm gonna tell you. Or I could give you a lame answer. How about my enormous ego?
20. Who do you miss the most? Bill Clinton!!!
21. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Black and blue. This should give you deep insight into who I am! Obviously a filler question.
22. Last thing you ate? Four cups of coffee and an Austrian goat milk Cappacino with Madagascar cinnamon.
23. What are you listening to right now? My inner dialogue telling me to get back to work.
24. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? I'll agree with my sister, Cornflower blue. That way I would live forever!
25. What is your favorite smell? Gasoline. No really, gasoline!
26. The first thing you notice about people you are attracted to? You realize you are asking a very superficial question based on purely visual qualities since your very first things you notice are before the other person has openned their mouth. I would say that they look "hot".
27. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Social decorum requires that I say "Yes".
28. Hair color? Salt and Cayenne Pepper by L'Oreal.
29. Eye color? Same as Lake Michigan on any given day.
30. Do you wear contacts? I'm trying to cut back, but the reduced functionallity has been hard to get used to. My toes are screaming in pain.
31. Favorite food? The most expensive thing on the menu. I'm shallow like that.
32. What color shirt are you wearing? White! Fascinating, isn't it!
33. Summer or winter? Spring and fall. I prefer seasons that are also verbs.
34. Favorite dessert? The Sahara
35. Who is most likely to respond? The police. Try it. Dial 911.
36. Least likely to respond? My brother.
37. What is on your mouse pad? That is so old school. Get with the times and get one of those laser pointer mouse thingys.
38. What did you watch last night on TV? Survivor - Extreme Makeover Edition.
39. Rolling Stones or Beatles? Franz Ferdinand or Interpol. Don't look now, but your age is showing.
40. Do you have a special talent? NO! I am a Loser!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Crowded Chicago

Taken from the IBM building by Mies van Der Rohe. When I was a teenager and young adult I was really interested in all the skyscrapers and buildings downtown. I knew each one and who designed them. I could probably still name all the ones in the picture save two or three. Though my knowledge is slipping.

As an aside, the cityscape shots for Batman Begins were taken from this angle. They were probably taken from either the Leo Burnett Building on the right or the RR Donnelly Building in white and mirrored glass.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


It all began in 1983. The company that my father worked for had sponsored a car in the Indy 500. They organized a bus tour for some employees and their families to go see the race. So our family went and we saw the race firsthand for the first time. My father and I really enjoyed it and so began the annual trek to central Indiana to see the race. When we got home from the race, my father sent in the application for tickets for the following year. We got tickets inside turn 2 which we kept renewing for many years.

Those first few years followed the same ritual. Wake up and leave Chicago at 3 AM. Take rural backroads on the approach to Indianapolis. Park the car near a small park a mile south of the track. Leisurely make our way to the track. See the race. Follow the sunburnt and drunk masses back to the car. Have a small BBQ dinner in the park to avoid the traffic. Then return to Chicago that evening. Those first years it was always my father, myself, and a changing cast of characters. Usually friends or co-workers of my father.

In the early nineties, the routine changed. We made a weekend out of it. We would camp a couple hours west of Indianapolis near Turkey Run State Park. We would drive down Friday, do one of a few different local things near the park on Saturday, race on Sunday, and return Monday. In addition to hiking the trails in the park there were covered bridges, flea markets, canoeing, and watching Bulls playoff games. All the while enjoying a leisurely weekend next to a campfire. The attendees had increased from just four to include a few others. My sister, her boyfriend, and my father's girlfriend came almost every year. As for the others it switched to friends and family of my father's girlfriend and occasionally friends of me or my sister.

As for the experience at the racetrack, it had also changed over the years. At the beginning it was really a testasterone fueled bachelor party sort of affair. Men ogling at the ladies. Some with 'Show Us Your T*ts' signs. People getting really wasted alongside people passionate about the race. In the last few years I went, it had transformed into a family affair. There were many more women and kids there. They had all these booths to keep people entertained. Even the bathrooms were clean by previous standards. Through it all it remained a slice of Americana and a glimpse of one aspect of humanity.

We are sports fans, but we are not big racing fans. Though it could be said we were fans of the race with all it's tradition. Every year we would pick the drivers in a round robin fashion so that everyone had someone to cheer for. I'd keep a running total of where everyone's picks were via the radio. Over the years, you get to know who the different drivers are so even if your picks were not doing well, you would probably cheer for someone with a chance to win.

In the early years the traditions of the race (which went off like clockwork) almost seemed kinda out-of-date and hokey. The big Purdue drum circling the track. That police troupe that can drive their motorcycles while standing on the seat. The parade of current 'celebrities'. Jim Nabors singing "Back Home Again in Indiana". Then of course "Gentlemen (and later Ladies), Start Your Engines." The whole while with the very distinctive voice of the announcer giving a play by play. But towards those final years, those traditions gave a warm familiar feeling. And I suppose that's what traditions are for.

Sadly this will be the first year none of us goes to see the race. The tradition is over and it's pretty much my doing. We scheduled a family event up here in Montreal, so everyone will be here. To a degree, it had been slowing down as far as tradition. First my sister stopped going, then myself. It's interesting because it was one of the last things we did before moving to Montreal. We attended the race on Sunday and left Chicago on Thursday.

It was the event that marked the beginning of summer. There were so many aspects to it. Sunburn, cold showers, that tingle in your spine as the cars sped by on the first lap, pit toilets, building campfires, smelling like campfire smoke all weekend, remembering to take the stereo headphone radios to the race, wondering if it would rain on raceday, the flea market, canoeing, bizarre campground owners, freezing in the rain, trying to remember the previous years, the covered bridges. Just so many memories.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Good Morning, Apollo

This is the Apollo Basin in the Gardens of the Chateau de Versailles. It is a fountain representing the sun god Apollo rising out of the sea to usher in a new day. The photo was taken when I was studying abroad in Versailles steps away from the gardens. So I had easy access to the gardens and took many pictures under various settings. Maybe not as much as I should have, but enough to get some great shots. There are many more pictures of the gardens and the chateau to come including those with the fountains working, with fireworks, and numerous photos of the statues and fountains.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Soon after arriving here, I went to a building construction meeting. I was blown away. The conversation at the table toggled between French and English constantly. This guy spoke only in French. This one only in English. And a couple others were well-versed in Franglish switching every other word. And everyone understood what the other said. It was fascinating for me who had just gotten off the boat.

But there was something else. As with any building project there are the main players. The owner, the contractor, the architect, and the consulting engineers (structural, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing). So they got around to talking about those items applying to the consulting engineers. They said stuff like: "This is where hydro enters the building." and "This is the room dedicated to hydro." They were refering to the company Hydro Quebec. At these meetings you generally phase out for those parts not applying to you, but that last sentence made me wonder. Buildings have mechanical penthouses full of air handling equipment. They have electrical rooms where the circuit breakers are kept and the power is distributed. You also have switching rooms where the phone lines are distributed. But this was the first time I had heard anything about a room where the water is distributed. It seemed a bit strange and I just assumed it was a local thing.

Then I start hearing about them on the news. Hydro Quebec's profits are declining and they are threatening to raise the rates. Raising water rates? Water rates are peanuts compared to all the other utilities. I kept hearing more and more about Hydro Quebec. They even have this big building downtown with that cool logo with a lightening bolt. Finally I got called out to do a job at Hydro Quebec's research facility on the south shore. And it was like: "Why does a water company need a research facility?"

Arriving there I encountered this huge black Corten Steel Building with power lines leading away. They had a few fenced off areas with some sci-fi power conducting equipment with power lines, generator, and transformers. Stuff that would super-cool in a movie. And apparently they filmed a Highlander film there. Then inside it was more of the same. More electrical equipment that would bring an army of Frankensteins to life.

It was then that our client clued me in. Hydro Quebec is a power company. The Hydro part of their name acknowledges that almost all the power in Quebec is generated by hydraulic dams. Some smaller ones down here, and some huge ones up by St James Bay. So all the power is hydroelectric. They generate so much power that they sell some of it to the US. And electric heat is very popular here.

But even after the years living here, there are times when it takes a couple seconds to remember: It's the electric company!

Friday, May 19, 2006


The lilacs are in bloom and the scent is flowing through the whole neighborhood. Lilacs are very popular here and it seems there are several on every block. And the flowering trees are putting on quite a show. Trees of solid white, pink, red. Very nice.

In other news, my Flickr obsession drove me to buy a better scanner. One that will scan slides and negs with good quality. Brought it home Tuesday night and Oh! My! Lord! It was just too cool. You see, when I went to study abroad, I had been working at a photo shop the summer before. So I bought 100 feet of Ektachrome 60 film and rolled something like 35 rolls of slide film to take with. I also took another 35 rolls in print film BTW. So I got home and processed them. I held a little slide show and put my family to sleep. But since it was wicked expensive to create prints, the slides have sat in a nice little storage box. I haven't looked at them in over a decade.

So the other night I took this cool slide viewer that looked like I had never been taken out of the box and started pumping in slides. WOW! I was blown away just seeing all these images that I had not remembered seeing. And some of them are pretty damn good if I say so myself. Plus, the scanner itself worked great! It didn't crash my computer and it didn't take long to scan them. It also has a bunch of bells and whistles that should cut down or eliminate processing time after scanning. I cannot express how anxious I am to recapture, print, and display these images. But that's not all, I also have a binder of all my negatives from over the years to go through. It's buried somewhere in storage, but it should not take long to find. The only difficulty is much of the slides and negs have a healthy layer of dust on them. But I don't care! This is just sooo cool!

With that, the blog will have a small programming change. I will have two written posts and two photos posted a week. As opposed to the previous three written posts and one photo routine. It's a bit crazy to be that organized with what should be a free flowing media, but that's the way I like it. Also I prefer to post my really good photos here before posting them on Flickr. So that's why I want to step up the frequency of posted photos. So with that, watch for my first scanned slide to come up Tuesday. It should be fun since I was more passionate about photography back then and had more time to dedicate to it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Holy Chip

I have to admit I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to the Catholic Church. It's not a major part of my life, but it does stand in the way when the topic of religion comes up. Needless to say religion is not an easy topic. It is very charged from both sides. I know people and have people close to me on both sides of the issue of religion. It is one reason this post has been so long in the making. I may tip-toe around certain topics because this is the public realm. Some beliefs may come out here, some in a more intimite setting over drinks if the circumstances are correct, and some are probably best kept to myself. I'm not a wave maker and the last thing I want to do is hurt those close to me. That said, here we go.

I spent my first twelve years of schooling at Catholic institutions. My family was Catholic, but not particularly religious. We were not devout, did not discuss it much, and did not attend church regularly. If I could roughly break it down, there were four types of schools in Chicago when I was growing up. First was the public school designated to you. Second were the magnet schools you could attend if you passed a certain exam and were chosen. There were the Catholic private schools. And there were the more expensive (dare I say elite) private schools. Others can correct me, but I think my sister and I went to Catholic school both because it was better (and safer) than the designated public school and everyone in our family went to Catholic school. As far as the atmosphere, it was probably like most other schools. Though we had uniforms, a religion class every semester, and attended mass every once in a while. Now I'm not one of those people who had some horror story about my time in Catholic school. It went quite well for me.

Now my parents brought me up with a steady diet of science and nature. I still enjoy them both to this day. But even at that young age I started to see some conflicts between common scientific knowledge and teachings by the church.

For high school I chose between three schools: A college prep Catholic school, a public magnet school, and a technical Catholic school that also offered college prep classes. I chose the last one because I wanted to be able to take wood working classes with aspirations of possibly becoming a carpenter. In my third year at the school we took a class called "Ethics" taught by one of the more intelligent priests at the school. We learned about existentialism, utilitarianism, socialism, Nietzche, Kierkegaard, self-actualization. Most of which I have forgotten, but it was fascinating for me and it also steered a good friend toward his college major. But having grown up surrounded by almost only Catholics, it really opened my eyes. It also really surprised me because what was taught in the class (by a priest) did not always agree with the tenents of the church. I found it to be a turning point because from then on I looked at the church with a more critical eye.

I went on to a public college, so I no longer was required to take classes in religion or attend mass occasionally. I went on with my life without the church. I had no major quarlms with it so it became a part of the rest of the world like the other world religions. I entered the work world. Nothing changed. I only went to church for weddings, funerals, and occasionally with a good friend.

It's cliched, but then there was September 11th. Everyone ran back to secure places from their childhood. For many that was religion. I was not one of them. But it did open my eyes a bit more. Around that time, I started following politics more closely. Religious leaders seemed to be getting more press. And the ideals they were pushing forward did not seem to make sense to me. Abortion, gay marriage, celebate male priests only, an us versus them attitude against other religions. It seemed like I found myself on the opposite side on a very good portion of issues that were coming out in the press. So formed the chip. How could I say I am a member of a religion that holds so many truths I don't agree with?

Then came the DaVinci Code. I try to avoid things that the masses raves about. But at one point I said why not and read it cover to cover in a week. I could not get enough and could not put it down. In addition to being a thriller, which I really like, it played on my misgivings with the church. I believed the statement at the beginning saying that all facts were true. Part of me wanted to believe what they said about the history of the church. At the time I was a bit jilted thinking of how the church authority through the years was not much different than those in politics doing what is necessary to keep people on their side. Again, I gobbled up the history offered in the book. I even read (almost unquestioningly) the US News and World Report special issue that delved further into some of the issues. One book referenced in the issue compared how Jesus was a tragic figure, dying and reborn, like so many dieties in other religions beforehand. And it suggested that Jesus may have been an exceptional person, but his story was modified to match the classic diety mold.

So a year later, I reread the DaVinci Code. This time, I reread it to be clear I understood what it had to say in regards to the church. At that point I was still not questioning what they stated as true. It was more recently when it came out in the press that what he stated was not true that I questioned the book itself. I did some limited research and got some points clarified, supported, or dispelled.

Now I know what some of you are saying (or have said). "Why did it take a book like that to open your eyes to well documented facts that have been around for ages and available at your local library?" Well it's simple. There really was no passion to seek out things against the church. And at what point does something contradicting common knowledge pass from conspiracy theory to feasible possibility? Many would love to believe the movie JFK or Fahrenheit 911, but in the end it will probably end up as he said - she said. There will probably never be a smoking gun. People will be left to believe what they want.

But there is still a chip. I disagree too strongly with some major points of the church for it to go away anytime soon. And I have difficulties with how much it is run like a business or a political machine. I do agree with so many tenents like love your neighbor, treat those as you would like to be treated, help the less fortunate, don't judge others if you yourself have done wrong. There is so much good in the teachings of the church that it is so hard to swallow those tenants that go against. Love your neighbor as long as it's not an intimate relationship with a member of the same sex. Or how some of them have gotten so twisted in today's world. Pseudo-religious leaders calling for assassination attempts.

Come on people. This is the modern age so get with the times. We're smarter now than we were back when much of that doctrine was written. And get rid of all these people who are using religion for alterior motives.

I'm not saying that I will or want to be a religious or devout believer. I'm just saying that it would be nice not to have any hangups with something that is very important to people who are close to me.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Nathalie was born in Quebec to a francophone family. She had earned the nickname "grasshopper" for her unstoppable energy. The only way to get her to stop was to sit her down with paper and crayons. She loved to draw. Her tenacity and drive were evident even at an early age. On her first day of school she pushed her way to the front of the line for the bus. Someone was not happy with this and pushed her into the doors. So she missed that first day with a bloody nose.

During her childhood she was told that women had their place and it was not in the work world. In high school, she told her guidance councellor that she was interested in architecture. Again she was told she it was not a reasonable goal. She applied to various architecture programs but was not excepted. She was not deterred. She enrolled in an architectural technician (architectural drafter with technical knowledge) program. Unlike her peers she still had a passion for architecture and becoming an architect. After finishing her degree, she continued with other related programs while still trying to get into an architecture program. She attained degrees in urban planning and environmental design. First she applied to francophone architecture programs in Quebec. Then she applied to anglophone programs across Canada who did not accept her because her level of English did not meet their standards. Finally she applied to the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Versailles and was accepted.

She wanted so badly to become an architect that she was willing to fly to Europe alone to live with distant friends of the family on her own dime. In short it was a difficult time being alone in a foreign land. After four years, she won a scholarship to travel back to study for a year at an American university. And that is where I met her. She returned to France for two years to finish her degree. She chose the Bibliotheque Nationale de Quebec as her thesis project locating it on the parcel of land just west of Place des Arts in Montreal. After near constantly working on it for months, she finished in record time. In addition to the local professors and architects on her jury, Anne Cormier of Atelier Big City was flown in from Montreal. She won awards for an exceptional project and exceptional work ethic for her project (exceptionnel projet de thèse et exceptionnel Éthique de Travail). She even won another scholarship to return to the US to do a thesis there. Again she worked hard on a thesis title "Architecturalizing the Edge". It dealt with creating an physical interrelationship between the city grid of Chicago and the lake. She even had Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne sit on her jury.

She then entered the work world gaining employment at Perkins & Will architects in Chicago. During her five years there, she worked on such esteemed projects as the interiors of the Hotel Sofitel in Chicago, the LG office towers in Korea, Tribune Interactive in Chicago, Terminal 3 of the Dubai Airport, and a new university in Angola. But it was not until moving here to Montreal that she would be able to work on a project as the head designer. Last year her first completed work took shape.

This is an office building in Repentigny, Quebec built to house a contracting company. The mayor decreed it as an example of the calibur of commercial building he would like to be built along this commercial avenue. It is very special to have a project of hers finally built.

I am very fortunate to call Nathalie my wife. We have two wonderful young daughters and their character is a direct reflection of the great care their mother takes in helping them becoming the best they can be. They are fortunate to have her as their mother.

Happy Mothers Day Nathalie! We love you very much!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Dumping in Ireland

Designated Car Dumping Pier

Suburban Kenmare

Here are a couple photos of Ireland. It was at the end of my first stint abroard. We had a month of travel time. The first two weeks were spent on the watercolor sketch trip. The watercolors from that were posted earlier this year. Then I had two weeks that I did not know what to do with. I visited a woman I met in Leewarden, Netherlands for a bit. Then stayed with a friend from home who was going to school in Aberwystwith, Wales. Finally I had a three days left to check out Ireland. After a quick tour of Dublin, I took a train to Kenmare (I can't remember why). While I was there I wandered around away from the city and took these two photos. I also visited Killarney and the Ring of Kerry before taking a stomach turning ferry back to France.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Play (Soft)Ball!

Today was supposed to be our first softball game of the season. Unfortunately the park district has not prepared the field yet, so the game will be rescheduled. During my first two summers here, our team finished close to last place. It seemed we could do nothing right. Balls were not caught, throws were off the mark, nobody could hit. Last season that all changed. We won the championship with a record of 18-6. Everything clicked and we got many lucky bounces. So for me at least I don't feel any pressure to win it all this season.

I started playing as a replacement my first summer here. It took a bit of getting used to since I had not played 12 inch. I'm not a very good fielder. Plus the difference in size required a different strategy at the plate. Swinging for the fences gets you no-where if you don't have the bat speed. Lazy hits over the infield or punching it through the gaps is the sure bet. And aggressive base running in a league of poor throws and catches goes a long way. My second season I became a regular and since the pitcher left the company, I took over. That first season as pitcher did not go that great. Lobbing a ball underhand so that it reaches a six foot elevation then drops just past the plate 40 feet away is not easy. But then you have to place the ball so it is more difficult for them to hit. High and inside, High and outside, Just plain low. I have gotten better as a pitcher and hopefully I can build on that this year. Though alot has to do with how well the team fields the balls they do hit.

Back in Chicago we played in a league with teams from employees of different architecture firms. We played 16 inch softball which is a soft ball with a surface somewhere between tanned leather and suede. The ball is bigger than the softball used everywhere else. It is almost too large for standard softball mitts so the ball is caught with your bare hands or sometime pop ups and fly are 'basket' caught. Elbows down and close together with your hands about shoulder height and facing you. Hitting it is similar to hitting a pillow so powerful swings do more damage than bat speed. Throwing is a bit awkward and if your fingers are not open enough on a ball thrown to you, you could end up with a jammed finger.

The environment on the field toggled between laid back friendly and overly competitive. Some of that had to do with the architectural community being so close. You probably know someone on the other team which could be good or bad. And my favorite part was that it was a reason to spend time outside with your favorite beverage. Beer was stocked up before the game and people would even bring their beverage out onto the field with them. Then most times teams would meet up afterward for more drinks, conversation, and sometimes pool. Good times.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stock Photography - Too Funny!

The other day I was flipping through the local daily magazine that they pass out in the Metro and came across the following ad looking for medical testing participants:I looked at it, chuckled, and a wide smile grew on my face. I had seen a picture of those two before a couple years ago, but they were not smiling. I got home and consulted one of my Onion books and confirmed my suspicions with the following article:
I'm still chuckling. It is just too funny that the pharmaceutical company chose a photo from the same set of stock photographs.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Anne Marie

In the early eighties, Anne Marie found herself an intelligent and well read woman without a college degree and overweight. The persistance in her character would soon become evident. She began taking night classes and decided to take up jogging to help shed the pounds. After a decade of night classes and two different universities, she received her college degree.

Running started out as a way to loose weight, but soon became a major facet of her life. She joined a local running club (The Lincoln Park Pacers) and attended their monthly meetings. She also joined CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) and began running in the races on their circuit. Soon she was running in about three races a month of varying distances (5k, 5 mile, 10k). She subscribed to Runners World and Runner magazines. She kept a daily log of her distances. Soon it became her identity. She was a runner, but it didn't stop there.

She decided she would attempt a marathon as the next challenge. Marathon running was not in vogue as has become today, especially for women. Back then it was almost only for people who were seriously into running. Even then you had to have some special drive to think about attempting it. Today it has become a major industry with prescribed training programs everywhere and groups that meet once or twice weekly to help you through your long runs. Back then you were pretty much on you own with a handful of possible training programs to follow. In 1985 she completed the Chicago Marathon in four and a half hours. She had caught the bug.

She ran Chicago again the next year, but there was also the Lake County Marathon in the spring. So she went out and ran that one. She has continued to run Chicago every year, but has completed many others over the years. She had worked herself up to six marathons a year. She even ran the Pikes Peak Marathon. A 7815 foot ascent and descent in addition to the 26.2 miles. In 2001, her finish at the Chicago Marathon marked her 50th marathon. She at one point attempted to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but her times were not getting any better. So she decided to take on another goal.

Ultra-marathons. Now she had completed ultra-marathons before, but they were ONLY 30 miles (a marathon is 26.2). She attempted and finished the Ulmsted 50 miler near Raleigh, NC in 2000. Then she completed it again the following two years. But then there was another goal. The 50 miler at Ulmsted is the shorter of the two races held. The big race is the 100 miler. The runners are given 30 hours to complete the course along the trails in the Ulmsted National Forest. In 2002 she attempted the 100 miler, but came up 10 miles short due to serious blisters and an unlikely finish before the time cut-off. 90 MILES completed in 27 hours. She decided to give it one last try the following year, but had to stop at 70 miles.

Since then she still runs a few marathons a year. She is up to 71 not counting the ultra-marathons more than once. But now she has a new beau and her interest in running is now shared with her interest in Harley Davidson motorcycles. She has a Superglide that her partner converted into a trike (three wheeler). She has logged 15,000 miles on it and takes it out for long rides on the weekends. Her fashion has changed from brightly colored running apparel to jeans and black Harley t-shirts. I mention this because I find it interesting how her outward appearance now shows the strength of character I have always seen in her. And it's just fun to say my mom is an ultramarathon biker chick.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Prague Oct 1991

This is my favorite picture from Prague. I was there in October 1991 travelling with five other students. This was soon after the wall had come down so the city was not ready for the influx of tourists. Accomodations were quite different than other cities. There were no hostels or hotels. We arrived late at night after the tourist office had closed. Running out of options we decided to take up the offer of one of the many people in the train station offering a place to stay. Shortly we found ourselves following our guide through dark deserted winding streets. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I thought it was a set-up and at any moment a large mob would descend on us.

We ended up at a residence where the family gave up their beds for us to sleep and prepared us breakfast the next morning. Unfortunately it was the one city on our trip where nobody spoke the local language and almost no locals spoke English. So it was quite awkward with no means of communication. We thanked them as best we could. The price was very cheap, but it was still odd to sleep in their beds while they slept on the couch.

Prague was a beautiful city even at that time before they cleaned it up for the Westerners. It was kinda like a majestic city that now had a layer of grime from the communist years. Even with the grime it was quite a beautiful city. It is one of my favorites. I seem to have an odd affection for slavic and germanic locales even though it is a very small part of my heritage. Maybe it's because I grew up in a German neighborhood.

I like this photo because of the perspective, the old trolley and the lights of the old car. It is a bit out of focus because of a hand held slow shutter speed at twilight.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Unfortunately, the hockey season came to a close here in Montreal a couple nights ago. Although I probably saw all of 40 minutes during the whole season, I did notice quite a difference in my understanding of the sport. As a side note, don't think I was giving hockey the short stick with only 40 minutes. My time alotted to watching any sports has been cut down severely.

During the previous season when the NHL was on strike, I played ice hockey for the first time. I had played floor hockey as a kid and know how to ice skate better than your average person south of the border. But I was (and still am) just starting out when it comes to stick handling. And I can't skate backwards. Regardless, I came to understand the rules and strategy of the game.

So when I watched the overtime of the second playoff game, I was really amazed by the skill of the players. I could really understand the difficulty to do what they do. Plus understanding what is going on goes a long long way. Blue line, icing, back checking, line changes. They were all vague concepts before, but now I follow what they are and have experienced those things first hand. Not to mention that the overtime was a really exciting.

That said, there is one thing that still surprises me about the sport. The randomness of the movement of the puck and really how even though these guys are experienced professionals, it still seems like much of the time they are just slapping at it. They have infinitely more control over the puck than I have, but in most other sports I follow there seems to be much more control of the object in play.

So I'm making progress on the hockey front. At this rate, I should have a good handle on it when our daughters get older if they find it interesting and are possibly even interested in playing.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Movie Literate

There is a list of movies outlined by Jim Emerson on Roger Ebert's website that he considers a sampling needed for someone to be movie literate.

...they [are] the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies. They're the common cultural currency of our time, the basic cinematic texts that everyone should know, at minimum, to be somewhat "movie-literate."

AJ and Patrick have both shared which movies they have seen. I'm into pop culture so I thought I'd share my list also. The ones with the astericks (*) are ones I have seen. I was going to include commentary, but this is going to be long already.

* 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick
The 400 Blows (1959) Francois Truffaut
8 1/2 (1963) Federico Fellini
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Werner Herzog
* Alien (1979) Ridley Scott
All About Eve (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
* Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen
Apocalypse Now (1979) Francis Ford Coppola
* Bambi (1942) Disney
The Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) William Wyler
The Big Red One (1980) Samuel Fuller
The Bicycle Thief (1949) Vittorio De Sica
The Big Sleep (1946) Howard Hawks
* Blade Runner (1982) Ridley Scott
Blowup (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
* Blue Velvet (1986) David Lynch
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Arthur Penn
Breathless (1959) Jean-Luc Godard
Bringing Up Baby (1938) Howard Hawks
* Carrie (1975) Brian DePalma
* Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz
Un Chien Andalou (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis (1945) Marcel Carne
* Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanski
* Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles
* A Clockwork Orange (1971) Stanley Kubrick
* The Crying Game (1992) Neil Jordan
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Robert Wise
Days of Heaven (1978) Terence Malick
Dirty Harry (1971) Don Siegel
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) Luis Bunuel
* Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee
La Dolce Vita (1960) Federico Fellini
Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder
* Dr. Strangelove (1964) Stanley Kubrick
* Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCarey
* E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Steven Spielberg
Easy Rider (1969) Dennis Hopper
* The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Irvin Kershner
* The Exorcist (1973) William Friedkin
* Fargo (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen
* Fight Club (1999) David Fincher
Frankenstein (1931) James Whale
The General (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
* The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
* Gone With the Wind (1939) Victor Fleming
* GoodFellas (1990) Martin Scorsese
* The Graduate (1967) Mike Nichols
* Halloween (1978) John Carpenter
* A Hard Day's Night (1964) Richard Lester
Intolerance (1916) D.W. Griffith
It's a Gift (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
* It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Frank Capra
* Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg
The Lady Eve (1941) Preston Sturges
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) David Lean
M (1931) Fritz Lang
Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior (1981) George Miller
The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Huston
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) John Frankenheimer
Metropolis (1926) Fritz Lang
Modern Times (1936) Charles Chaplin
* Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
Nashville (1975) Robert Altman
The Night of the Hunter (1955) Charles Laughton
Night of the Living Dead (1968) George Romero
* North by Northwest (1959) Alfred Hitchcock
Nosferatu (1922) F.W. Murnau
On the Waterfront (1954) Elia Kazan
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Sergio Leone
Out of the Past (1947) Jacques Tournier
Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman
Pink Flamingos (1972) John Waters
* Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
* Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino
Rashomon (1950) Akira Kurosawa
* Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Nicholas Ray
Red River (1948) Howard Hawks
Repulsion (1965) Roman Polanski
The Rules of the Game (1939) Jean Renoir
Scarface (1932) Howard Hawks
The Scarlet Empress (1934) Josef von Sternberg
* Schindler's List (1993) Steven Spielberg
The Searchers (1956) John Ford
The Seven Samurai (1954) Akira Kurosawa
Singin' in the Rain (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
Some Like It Hot (1959) Billy Wilder
A Star Is Born (1954) George Cukor
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Elia Kazan
Sunset Boulevard (1950) Billy Wilder
Taxi Driver (1976) Martin Scorsese
The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed
Tokyo Story (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) John Huston
Trouble in Paradise (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
* Vertigo (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
* West Side Story (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
The Wild Bunch (1969) Sam Peckinpah
* The Wizard of Oz (1939) Victor Fleming

Wow! Only 37. That's pretty sad. I thought I'd do much better. Well in order to try to correct that. Here are the ten movies I'll try my best to see. Taxi Driver, A Streetcar Named Desire, Singin in the Rain, The Seven Samurai, On the Waterfront, The Manchurian Candidate, The Maltese Falcon, La Dolce Vita, Lawrence of Arabia, and Rebel Without a Cause. Pretty much all movies from the fifties. So how do you score?