Archive for January, 2008

Need Some Soul?

Yesterday, after a very lengthy day’s work, instead of going home and collapsing aimlessly in front of the TV I decided to take up the offer of a friend and make it out to the Kalmunity Tuesday night at Sablo Café. The perfect soulful balm to the kind of day I had had. An evening of fantastic live organic soul-funk-jazz improv rendered by great musicians all feeling and channeling the Vibe. It did the trick. I got home by midnight, my soul full, my mind relaxed. As for the café, it’s located on the corner St. Dominique and St. Zotique (metro Beaubien), the drinks are relatively cheap and the sandwiches are notably yummy. Cash only and cover is 5$ at the door. Check it out one of these Tuesday nights. :)

English Stand-Up Comedy in Montreal

Everything in the world is wrong, right? Wrong! It’s just people who keep focusing on things that are wrong and in the process, they destroy everything that is right.

Since the end of last summer, I started going to comedy clubs. I saw stand-up comics on YouTube and on TV (Comedy Central Presents and Last Comic Standing) and I figured that there must be some place in Montreal with stand-up comedy. How could a city host the Just For Laughs festival without having events dedicated to comedy?

On this winter day, I give you a few stand-up comedy events that are happening in Montreal, every week and every month.

Interesting iPhone news for Canada

It seems unlimited data plans are coming to Canada with Rogers. According to the article, the changes could come as early as February 5th. That’s not when the iPhone will be sold in Canada, but it’s good news for people who already have one and want to browse without having to look for a wifi hotspot to avoid astronomical charges.

The Ride Thus Far

After a couple of weeks riding the metro, back in late November, or whenever it was that we got our first snow, I made the choice to ride my bike into work all winter. I had done it before. I had been a bike messenger for two years. So I had a pretty good idea of what it entailed.

I’ve been using a fixie, basically a converted road bike, which was the first road bike I ever raced on, into a bike with one front brake and one gear that is fixed. There is no free wheeling.

This turned out to be an advantage in the winter as I can brake with my feet by back pedalling and not having to rely on my front brake. Because of all the snow and ice that had accumulated, the front brake, on many days, was nearly useless .

I won’t begin to tell you how much I spent in terms of clothing to keep dry and warm. But I probably could have done it for much cheaper then I had.. But I figured, if I was going to ride in the snow and slush, I might as well do it in semi-style.

Je veux qu’on me serve en French, calisse!

The French language seems to have become a big concern since the news came out that a journalist got 15 jobs downtown without needing to speak French. Personally, I don’t pay attention to the language I use, the bottom line is communicating and understanding. Too much bad has happened because of the lack of that.

I just read this article which I found pretty funny, even though it’s pretty easy to guess the punch line.

It’s definitely exagerated to show a point, because I never anybody say “Qu’est-ce qu’on fait tonight?” I never heard anybody use the word “tonight” in a French context. And in this sentence, “Calm down Manon, take it easy!”, there is way too much English for a person who is trying to speak French.

It’s an ironic scenario and those two characters are definitely stupid.

If I say “Montreal” what image comes to your mind?

Magenta%20Stadium_2.jpgWhat do the Eiffel Tower, the US Capitol, Big Ben, the Acropolis, the Forbidden City, Christ the Redeemer, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Chateau Frontenac, the Sydney Opera House, the CN Tower, St-Basil’s Cathedral, Hagia Sophia, St-Peter’s Basilica, the Petronas Towers, and even the Hollywood Sign have in common?

They represent architectural icons that form a major part of their home city’s identity, something that Montreal clearly does not have.

To get a proper icon, two conditions are absolutely required (1) it has to be architecturally unique and (2) it has to be either visible from the city core or located in a centralized location. Other redeeming factors include (3) a close association with a major geographical feature, (4) a high symbolic/historical value and (5) the willingness of its host city to use it for its own marketing.

Building architectural icons is a challenge, for instance architectural originality cannot please everyone, that’s why it’s original. The other significant factor is cost, while there will always be hungry people in the streets, the benefits of an appropriate icon are harder to quantify. How to you precisely measure its impact on tourism or even something as theoretical as increased civic pride?

While Montreal has a lot of worthy geographical and architectural landmarks none of these really qualify as an icon that would be recognized the world’s over. The closest thing that we have is the Olympic Stadium but it fails miserably when it comes to location. Other candidates include the St-Joseph Oratory and the cross on Mont Royal but they don’t have that “visual punch” that would make them instantly recognizable.

In fact, the one building that could have made it is the Biosphere. It is indeed very original, visible from afar, centrally located, closely associated with the St-Laurence River and it was built during an important period in our history. Unfortunately its problem is one of marketing. As my wife aptly commented “there is nothing to do there”. That may not be entirely accurate but its current role as an environment museum simply isn’t cutting it.

[update] Metroblogging Kuala Lumpur argues that residents and non-residents often have a different view of what exactly constitutes an icon.

DUO auto+bus

The STM and Communauto this week announced a new partnership whereby purchasing 12 monthly bus passes, gets you a registration to Communauto for $5 extra instead of the usual $500.

This of course seems like a fantastic idea. But I suspect the devil is in the details.

People I know, who use the service, state that it often requires that you reserve a week in advance to get a car from communauto for the weekend. I’d curious to know from others, if this is in fact your experience. Because if so, dropping the $500 registration fee is going to open the door to many new subscribers.

Communauto’s fleet of cars, would be overextended and they would no doubt have to purchase more cars.

Interac cloning ring on the West Island?

I have heard a report that a debit card cloning ring is currently active on the West Island. The scammers use threats or bribery to convince store clerks to to replace their Interac machines with card scanners. Alternatively, the card can be swiped into a scanner located under the counter while the PIN number is obtained with a video camera.

While I heard this story on CHOM, I have yet to read about it in the online media. Nevertheless, keep your eyes open for strange behavior and don’t wait until the end of the month to check on your bank statements.

From Paris to Montreal

I arrived back from holiday in France where I stayed with my girlfriend’s parent’s and friends. Still jet lagged and getting a little annoyed at waking up at 3am all the time.

One thing I love to do in France is regale our French friends at our Canadian winters. “Snow up to our eyeballs.. -25c and that’s considered warm!” And other such white lies. I sure as hell ain’t gonna convince them that we make great bread.. or better foie gras or have cheaper wine. So I gotta brag somehow.

We arrived Sunday and while it looked like Montreal, it felt more like Paris. What gives? Well at least there’s still snow on the ground.

That was Sunday. Today? The snow is pretty well gone and the temps are about spot on with Paris. So really, they have the great foie gras, the baguette with a crusty crust AND a light crumb and what do we have ?

Oh well, the good news is if it rains again tomorrow, I’ll be able to train on my bike outside.. Kinda like I did in France.
Ok, ok I’ll stop.

I remember: The 1998 ice storm


• I remember the second week of January 1998, as we lived through the great ice storm.

• I remember that this was the first winter in our house in Pierrefonds. At the time, our daughters were 6 and 5. We also had a corn snake named Gumby. Need I remind you that reptiles don’t like cold?

• I remember driving to work on the 520 east, when a truck going in the opposite direction lost an inch-thick sheet of ice the size of a king-size bed which crossed the median and smashed into the car ahead of me. Fortunately the driver made it ok but his windshield was all cracked.

• I remember my wife calling me shortly afterward to tell me that the power was out and that she was pissed because she had a big laundry in the washing machine.

• I remember walking around the neighborhood with my daughters later that night and seeing dozens of blue flashes on the horizon as all of the transformers in the West Island were shorting out.

• I remember moving to my mom’s townhouse on Ile des soeurs along with my brother and his family who were living in Kirkland at the time.

• I remember the next day as the four of us driving west on the 20 to check on the house. A foot of water had accumulated in the curved tunnel at the entrance of the 13 and I plowed into it at about 25 kph. I still wonder how I managed to maintain control of the car and not slam into the wall.

• I remember when I was walking toward my mother’s townhouse with my oldest daughter ahead of me and hearing a loud creaking sound coming from above her. An ice-laden branch gave way and fell toward her. I jumped ahead and essentially body-slammed my daughter into the snow bank thus shielding her from the branch and large pieces of ice that fell on my back. I’ll never forget the faces of my wife and mother who saw everything from the kitchen window.

• I remember Black Friday, the third day of freezing rain, when the power finally went out on Ile des soeurs and most of the city. My bother’s son was getting sick so he decided to drive up to my father’s place in Quebec city while we moved back out to our cold and dark house. At the time, the authorities were considering evacuating the island since they almost lost water pressure and were worried about all of those people using candlelights. It truly was our darkest hour.

• I remember the four of us sleeping in the living room and waking up every two hours to put a log into the fireplace.

• I remember waking up one night to the sound of chunks of ice falling off the branches of our large oak tree onto our victorian windows. Trying to find some cardboard and duck tape in the middle of the cold night was not fun.

• I remember wearing my corn snake under my clothes to keep him warm.

• I remember running out of firewood. My brother had an extra cord of wood in his garage but I had to get into his neighbor’s house to get his spare key. I almost pissed in my pants when I saw a police car driving down the street.

• I remember seeing a huge convoy of trucks from Con Edison coming up on the 40.

• I remember being invited to my brother-in-law’s appartment on the Plateau the day he got his power back. He made enough food to feed an army.

• I remember kissing an electrical engineer from Connecticut when I saw him walking down my street after 6 days without power.

• I remember this period as one of the most stressful of my life.

• I also remember that we got out of it fairly easy, being without power for only 6 days and sleeping only half of those in the cold. Some people in the dark triangle went a full month without electricity.

• The following autumn, I bought so much firewood, that it has lasted us to this day.

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