Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Yesterday, the Canadian Parliment passed a resolution recognizing Québécois as a nation within Canada.

Now when I first moved here I was a bit confused when I was told that the Féte de Saint-Jean-Baptiste (St John the Baptist Day) is Québéc's national holiday. "Shouldn't it be a provincial holiday?" In my mind the words nation and country mean the same thing. Consulting the dictionary, a country is a whole territory or the people of a nation. A nation is a stable community of people with a territory, history, culture, and language in common. While nation specifically states history, culture, and language, country still refers to people or territory as part of a nation. Either way, I'd say that Québéc does qualify as a nation by definition due to it's distinct cultural differences that tend to fall along the lines of language.

But the reason for this post is to talk a bit about the reaction after Prime Minister Harper proposed the resolution. For those of you who don't know, the Québéc sovereignist party, the Bloc Québécois, was planning to propose a resolution stating that Québéc should be recognized as a nation outside of Canada. Harper beat them to the punch to say that it should be a nation within Canada. Now mass media has been debating this nonstop ever since. It is the variety and difference of answers that have surprised me.

Some are saying Harper was an extremely shrewd politician for stating it. Also saying that it will appease the Québécois to be acknowledged as a nation within Canada. That this will be enough for them to forget the idea of becoming a sovereign nation.

On the another side, people are appalled that someone of Harpers intelligence (by the way, that's his redeeming quality over his counterpart down south) could totally miss the boat and open the door to Québéc sovereignty. How could he commit such a gaff?

Even the sovereigntists are divided. I've heard some say they are happy enough to be recognized as a nation. Others are assuming new rights within Canada will come from it. And others are saying this is the first step towards sovereignty.

Who's right? Who knows? Where do I stand? Well, I've said it before. Basically if they can pull it off and nothing changes, more power to them. That is unlikely, but if there is minimal change and there isn't a Montréal airlift of anglophones out of the province the day after a referendum is passed, I'd be OK with it. I like it as a place where anglophones and francophones can peaceful coexist. Like at our house.

And lastly there was talk today about how Harper and his lackeys specifically stated Québécois instead of the anglophone version Quebecers. When pressed about why one word and not both, he in no specific terms stated it primarily directed toward the one group.

This is all quite important, but also quite dramatic.

Really makes you wonder what the future holds.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Florentine Streetscape

A cold late-December day in Florence, Italy. 1991

I'd like to take another chance to expound how much I'm loving photography in the digital world. Many of us who grew up in the darkroom age loved the darkroom process. It was part scientific and part artistic. In order to produce good pictures you needed to have the discipline, patience, and accuracy like a scientist, but you also needed the artistic talent to be successful trying new techniques and creating great photos, not just snapshots.

The downside was that it costs alot to start with, so experimentation came at a price. Plus to varying levels, it took a while to gain the experience level needed to consistantly produce technically correct shots. Ones that were not over-exposed, over-developed, or not fixed enough. And the opportunity to do color darkroom work was extremely limited. So the ability to enhance color shots (dodge, burn, crop) was pretty much impossible.

This is why I am really enjoying this opportunity to revisit so many of my old shots using a scanner and Photoshop. The chance to rescue over- or under-exposed shots. Crop them the way I'd always wanted and very rarely a chance to burn or dodge parts that were not just right. Plus as I mentioned before, to print out all the slides that I've scanned pays for the scanner a few times over. Yes, I could selectively choose shots, but I like having it all out in front of me to choose between on or the other. The digital world affords me these freedoms.

And I've only scanned a small portion of my stuff so far. So there is much much more to come. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

When Barry met Larry

I used to work for a large firm with offices in many cities. The namesakes of the firm and the head office were in New York. The namesakes would come around to the other offices from time to time and it was a fairly big deal. In addition to being namesakes of the firm, they were as close to being celebrities as you can get in our line of work. I'm sure if you watched a week of the Discovery Channel, you'd be sure to see one of them at least once on a show as an expert. Although they had reached this "status", they remained some of the most personable people you could work for (as you shall soon learn). Although their company employed hundreds of people, they were not hesitant to talked to those unknown to them. Their approachability also took the edge off any hesitation to approach them because of their celebrity.

The firm grew fast in the time I was there. In our office we increased from 35 to over 100 in three years. It was quite dynamic to have so many new people and there were some very interesting characters among them. Larry Green was one of those characters. Larry was a happy fellow and he was very friendly. So friendly that it got annoying at times. He was someone always interested in what was going on, but at times going too far or hanging on your arm too much. He meant well and had a good heart, so for many of us that was enough to overlook the less than positive points.

So one day I went to the bathroom. As I was using one of the urinals, I heard a cellphone go off in one of the stalls. As was habit among the busy higher-ups, the phone was answered. A few words into his short phone conversation, I realized it was Barry Hansen, one of the namesakes. He finished his call and moments later I hear from the adjacent stall "Hello, Mr Hansen. We haven't met, but my name is Larry Green and I work here for you." Barry replied quite happily without a hint of annoyance "Well I'm glad to meet you Larry, I'm Barry Hansen." To which Larry came back with "I'd shake your hand but..." Barry had an equally playful reply that I can't remember because I was so stunned. There was a bit more back and forth, but I hurriedly washed my hands to escape this bizarre lovefest. I walked out the door but held it open enough to see them both exit their stalls and cheerfully shake hands before washing them.

It was definitely the oddest moment of my 9 to 5 career.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What A Week!

This has been a pretty amazing week.

I received a request to use this photo for a museum presentation. Something about comparing the structure of the JC Bridge to something else. They may or may not use it since the resolution is pretty low.

There were the Canadian Blog Awards. The blog received 72 votes in the Best Personal Blog category. That put it in 8th out of 112, 29 votes shy of the second round. My post on snow removal in Montreal received 50 votes putting it in 9th out of 38, 13 votes short of advancing. I really only expected 36 votes at most, but there were two things that started giving me delusions of grandeur. First the snow removal post got mentioned on the Montreal City Metroblog and secondly it got mentioned on the Skyscraper Pages. Between the two of them, my traffic quadrupled for a couple days. My traffic is still at twice the normal levels. I kinda wonder if I had mentioned the awards on the post if it would have gotten enough votes for the second round. Though that type of campaigning is more aggressive than is my style. I had quite the behind the scenes get out the vote campaigning going on with quite a few of my votes coming from back home. It was more successful that I had expected.

There have been a couple other items related to the increased exposure. I received a request from a freelance writer who wants to write a print article about snow removal post I had written. I haven't heard anything since my reply. I also received a call from Radio Canada requesting to interview me for their morning program regarding the snow removal post and the blog. That may happen later on after the snow arrives and the topic is more relevant.

And probably the biggest news was that the 70 person office that I work for has been bought out by a company twenty times our size. A very diverse company that is very successful in Quebec and has started to reach out beyond the borders into the rest of Canada and other places like the Caribbean, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Although I'm not a fan of huge companies, I have liked working for good sized ones in the past. They offer some things that a small firm cannot. As with any place, much will be determined by the management and their relation with the rest of the company. I've worked for a big firm with a family feel, but often times they can be very impersonnal. So we shall see what comes of this. I'm cautiously excited about it at the moment.

And life has been busy at home and at work. So less attention has been spent on these online endeavors. Though you probably haven't noticed since I've been eating up a backlog of posts written in the past. And things won't slowdown soon. Only three weeks left until we leave for vacation. Still much to do to prepare for that also. The vacation should be quite relaxing with nothing to do and no internet connection. Some time to read up on things and maybe recreate that backlog I'm using up. I always have a handful of ideas for posts floating through my head. Kinda frustrating not having the time to write them down.

And lastly we have been preparing to have a Thanksgiving style supper with some friends tonight. A great way to cap off a busy and eventful week. Appropriately enough there will be a couple friends from work and a couple friends from online.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

To those of you south of the border (US, not Mexico. Though Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in Mexico also.)

This picture was taken at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal this past September. It was our first time there and we were pretty amazed by the size of it. Our points of reference are the temporary markets in Versailles, France that we frequented while living there. This was twice or three times the size of the main market there. In comparison, Jean Talon has an abundance and variety of fruits and vegetables that I didn't remember at Versailles. But Versailles had much more in terms of meats and cheeses. One thing I really liked about Jean Talon is that there is an abundance of local products. Maple syrup, sausages, and oodles of produce. Though maybe I'm just used to the supermarket where it is less obvious where items come from.

This summer was marked by increased exploration of the city and surroundings. It seemed every other weekend we went someplace different. A picnic in Mont Royal Parc, camping in Oka, a trip to Jean Talon, a day at the beach in Parc Orford, and leisurely rides through the countryside. There is still so much to see and it's all an hour or less away.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hill Street Blues

Many of you my age probably remember that cop show from the mid-80's. In our house it held a special meaning because my father grew up on the real Hill Street in Chicago. FYI, there is actually no police station on the street. The street is only two blocks long including the house he grew up in along with the elementary school he attended. The building he grew up in has since been replaced by the appropriately named the Walter Payton College Prep. Although Hill Street Station was a fictional place, it was still kinda cool to think we were in some way connected to a popular TV show.

The street is in a very pivotal location. At one end of the street is the foot of the highrises that make up the Gold Coast of Chicago. One of the most affluent areas of the city. On the other end is (or was) Cabrini Green. The projects. A collection of highrises of very similar design, but due to a different record of maintenance and a different median income became a difficult and later dangerous place to live. The street itself was populated with low to medium income families. Occasionally those from the projects tried to take from those more fortunate in such close proximity. There were a couple instances in my life where this happened to me in this in-between area.

I was reminded of all this recently by the passing of Jack Palance. Not specifically because of Jack, but through a chain of thought. You may remember that he was the host of Ripley's Believe it or Not. Well, just north of Hill Street in Chicago there was a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. Well the Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club (which was only boys back then), which I was a member, organized a trip to see the museum along with a hot dog lunch afterward in the park. Well, while we were at the museum, somebody broke into the bus and stole all the food. The older boys in charge did well at taking it in stride (although pissed off) and getting some more food. But it did open my eyes a bit.

The second instance was when we went to pick up a new bicycle that my sister was getting. The bike shop was a few blocks north of Hill Street. At the time, I was in my late teens and had use of the family van. I would be getting her old bike since she was getting a new one. So I parked the van and helped her get her new bike. When we got back, the drivers window as busted and the bike, a pair of roller blades, and a small boom box radio were gone. You see, the van had windows all around and none of the items were covered. Yet another lesson on life in the city. Cover all valuables or put them out of sight. It wasn't the first time a car I was using was broken into and it was not the last.
The area is now very much gentrified. So much so that the almighty dollar is pushing people out of the projects in order to tear them down and rebuild condos and townhomes. The land is just too close and convenient to downtown. The poor are being pushed out into the surrounding neighborhoods or even as far out as the suburbs. The reverse of white flight is happening. Those with money and without kids are pushing the poor farther out. I'm not saying whether it is good or bad, but more it is interesting how the inverse is now happening.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Paris Pantheon

Taken during a tour we were given of the Pantheon, Paris, France. November 1991.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


There has been a lot of talk about the use of petroleum lately. How much it pollutes the atmosphere, how limited the supply is (I've heard 10 years before we run out), and how dependant we are on it. So there has been increased talk over the past two years over how we as a population can ameliorate these issues. It's been something I have been spending much time thinking about and I have some observations or at least questions. I'll try to touch on some of them, but I'm sure it's a subject I'll come back to.

It is staggering to think of how dependant we are on energy generated by petroleum. Personal transport, material transport, air travel, and heavy industry (construction comes to mind).

Although technological steps have been made toward decreasing petroleum usage in the personal transport arena, people using that technology is a small minority of the population. It is disheartening that it takes government subsidies for people to feel it is financial acceptable to buy green.

Material transport such as trucks and trains will likely be replaced by the same technology used by cars or over to electricity for trains. Though adding power lines to the millions of miles of railroads in North America would be a HUGE task. My guess is material transport would take a huge hit and we would return to local foods and products. Or at least, that's my hope.

I really can't imagine what could replace jet fuel. Will our world of jumping on a jet to travel half-way around the globe disappear? It would be turning the clock back a few decades, but it would really change the world to have limited air travel again just as accessible air travel changed the world.

I also wonder about heavy industry such as construction which relies on mobile equipment. Will that turn back the clock also? Someone suggested a move toward battery power, but that begs the next question. If even half of the petroleum powered machines were replaced by electric powered machines, where is all the power going to come from.

Right now petroleum is getting the finger pointed at it, but if petroleum is taken out of the equation, what could possibly replace it. Electricity seems the logical answer, but how will it be generated. Wind, solar, tides, gravity, geothermal are quickly becoming popular. And although petroleum pollutes the air, what effect will these other forms of energy have on the environment.

Quebec gets almost all of it's energy from hydralic dams and wind turbines. But people have pointed out that the land flooded by the dams create waterborne decay of the existing plantlife that contributes greenhouse gases. What effects will these other forms of energy have on the environment. Will a planet covered in solar panels disturb effect solar energy balance on the planet similar to the deforestation of the jungles or the paving over of cities? Will stealing energy from the earth disrupt it's balance in some detrimental way?

In the end, it boils down to us. We are a rapidly growing population that gets more energy hungry by the day. Things will have to change. In many ways it seems we will have to step back in time because that's the model of lower energy use that we know. But innovation will step in. We may need be more energy efficient, but new ways of living will be created. And that is what excites me when I think about the extinction of petroleum usage. We will return to a more nature friendly way of living. I am excited to see what innovation takes us there.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Drunk in Winter

No, actually it's a sign for caves up in the St-Leonard neighborhood of Montreal.

Don't forget to vote in the Canadian Blog Awards.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Voting Begins

Voting has begun over at the Canadian Blog Awards. There are over 300 nominees in the 20 different categories. This blog has been nominated in two. Best Personal Blog and Best Blog Post. I have put together a list of noteworthy nominations that I recommend. Voting runs from today until next Tuesday. You can vote once each day (per computer). It's not required that you vote in every category, but you must make all your selections before submitting your votes. So vote for your favorites and make your keyboard heard.

Best Blog
Blork Blog
Metroblogging Montreal
Why was Daddy Kissing that Man in the Park
Zeke's Gallery

Best New Blog

Best Group Blog
Metroblogging Montreal

Best Humour Blog
Why was Daddy Kissing that Man in the Park

Best Photo/Art Blog
Digital Apoptosis
Monday Morning Photo Blog

Best Entertainment Blog
Zeke's Gallery

Best Personal Blog
Chicagoan in Montreal
Blork Blog
It's All Grey to Me

Best Media Blog
Montreal City Weblog

Best Blog Post
Chicagoan in Montreal: Snow Removal in Montreal
Babayaga: Death of the White Trash Latte
The Eponym: Smell This Law
Blork Blog: The Tragedy of the Venetian Socialite
Metroblogging Montreal: My Day at the Office

Best Blog Post Series
Blork Blog: Of People and Places

Best Activities Blog
Blork Blog

Best Local Blog
Metroblogging Montreal

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Summers End

Taken during a walk in the forests near Sutton, Quebec a couple weekends after the autumn peak in October.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Better than Bond

The new James Bond movie Casino Royale has seen heavy publicity over the past couple weeks. There are the traditional movie trailers in theatres and on TV. There are billboards either advertising the movie itself or the new Bond hawking some wares like watches. Then there are print adds in newspapers and magazines. Lastly there are the rounds of talkshows introducing the new Bond to the world.

I have to tell you that I LOVE all this publicity.


Well... every single time my wife and I see an ad, my wife, not being one for understatement, reiterates "He is SO ugly." I chuckle everytime because by default that means that I am better looking than James Bond, Mr 007. I find that pretty cool.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chicago Screen

This is a piece of art that I noticed from the parking lot of a grocery store when we were in Chicago last summer. It is on a non-descript wall of a Chicago Fire Department building. The screen is quite intricate and it is backlit at night which punches out some of the features even more. I really like how they cobble together so many aspects of Chicago and it's history.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Zu Zu's Petals

There is one thing that happens to me often now that I am a parent. I'll get into the elevator or walk around on the street and reach into my pockets. Most of the time I'll find something that reminds me of my kids. A pacifier, a snack bar wrapper, or often a small toy. I had put them there at some point while attending to them. They are nice little reminders and always make me think of the movie It's a Wonderful Life.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dutch Pasture

Taken while visiting a new friend in Leeuwarden in northern Holland. November 1991.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I Love Republicans

I must get something off my chest. I love the Republican party. They have done so much for the US and it's reputation around the world. Under their leadership they have shown the world that the United States is a caring nation concerned about citizens of other countries around the world regardless of the financial consequences. They bring to justice ruthless dictators who threaten the peace of the world or those who do harm to their own people. Others may be looking out for their own personal and financial gain, but the GOP's highest concern is the welfare of those at home and abroad.

Within the states, they have been the driving force in drawing the nation together. No longer are there ideological extremists who are ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal. America is a united force with shared values working together towards the same goals.

Today, there are so many people who's actions are dictated by an interest in amassing wealth. For themselves, their families, or their cronies. The Republican Party is a shining example of what these people should be doing instead. They fight for those less fortunate. Those people who need a helping hand when times are tough. They work toward creating a government to aid these people despite whatever burden it may have on big business. Their aim is to work for the common man and not those with expensive cars in gated communities.

Their glowing record of good deeds has won them the hearts and minds of voters across the nation and the citizens of the world. Again, others might say they share the same values as a certain segment of the population just to win votes. Praying on the faith of those who already practice faith more regularly than others. But no, the GOP genuinely shares those values and those values would be an integral part of their campaign regardless of the political fallout. They are the most morally upstanding individuals in the political arena.

They have been battling forces that may do harm against America. It has been done in secret so as not to disturb the psyche of the citizens. And they have been winning this battle. After September 11th, the forces wishing bad against the US practically disappeared. Even Ancient Babylonia and the surrounding areas, an area of conflict since the beginning of time, calmed down to where people of all backgrounds now live in peaceful proximity. After 9-11, those in power and their party could have orchestrated a massive response alienating everyone else on the planet, but those Republicans have nurtured the sympathy that the world showed the states after those horrible events.

Now, I'm not saying to blindly vote Republican. Within any group there are some less than shining stars. Take that black sheep John McCain. A man who strictly votes in a conservative mindset. We need leaders who are more free-thinking. Could you imagine if he had won the 2000 Republican primary over he who became our glorious leader?

So when you go the the polls on Tuesday, be sure to seriously consider voting Republican. They are the only honest party out there. They have won my trust.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Salzburg Fortress

Inside the Hohensalzburg Fortress above Salzburg, Austria. October 1991

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The October Trip - Second Half

I have finished posting the second half of the Octobre travel break. It includes the remainder of our stay in Prague, then visits to Berlin (day one and day two), Copenhagen, and Stockholm. There are also a couple interesting stories about night clubs we visited in Prague and Stockholm which weren't exactly what we were expecting. It was a great trip. We breezed through every city and missed a lot in a few of them. But we really got a flavor of each one and have a good idea of which ones to return to. Even those short stays gave a sense of the physical character of the places. One of the things I really enjoy about travelling. It also opened the door to travelling in Europe. I learned the drill and was able to apply that mobility to many weekend trips to locals within an overnight train ride away.

I know when I first introduced this project that I had said it was primarily for me and if you like it all the better. Well now that I have been writing it, I find that it is very much bloglike as opposed to a personal journal. It is written for friends, family, and the public who are interested in reading it. The much more personal items are kept to myself just like in this space. That is all just a function of it being in the public eye. And it is not to say that I don't include personal tidbits. There is plenty of that. They are still personal blogs, just not overly personal.

I'm not sure if I will be able to keep up with the pace of all the items I'd like to write about the study abroad. I have been able to keep up with the travel items, but I haven't touched any of the day to day items or my impressions of Versailles and Paris. My hope is that I can tackle that during the holiday break, if I have time and an internet connection. I have a ton of stuff floating around in my head that will be great to finally get written down. But until that time, I'll try to keep up with the places visited. Hope you find it of interest.