Saturday, 24 July 2021

Saturday Photo: In Memory of Everyone Who Died before Their Time

My sister Laurie died suddenly in July 2002.  She was beautiful, as well as being smart and exceedingly concerned about justice.  Here is the day Lee and I got married: a good memory.

In this period of far too many premature deaths, I offer my condolences to those who loved, and who now continue living.  The hole in the heart never fills...

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Saturday Photo: The Rapids Where the Going Gets Tough, If Not Impossible


 Spent a lovely few hours last Sunday at the Parc des rapides on the St. Lawrence.  These rapids and the St. Mary's rapid to the east effectively blocked sailing ships from going up the great river.  The first canal around the rapids was built in the late 18th century, and since the 1950s all ships have avoided them by using the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Living in the middle of the island of Montreal, it's easy to forget just how powerful the river is.  Standing next to the rapids and watching the terns fish in them was a good reminder of that.  There are forces bigger than us, even if we try to get around them.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Saturday Photo: Wayward Grass....


 The view at the Technoparc last Sunday: grasses and clouds and birds.  There was a time that we did a lo of bird-watching, but kids and dogs got in the way.  Now that we have neither in the house, we've gone back to a little low key bird-watching, which has led to the discovery of a number of interesting places that we wouldn't have visited otherwise.

The Technoparc is a a parcel of land that some would like to develop but which so far has lain fallow.  It's tucked right up next to Trudeau airport, which would at first glance seem to be not the best place for a bird santuary.  What's more, there must have been times in the not to distant past when parts of the ponds were partially drained for some kind of project.  But at the moment, the 215 hectares are a refuge for a wealth of bird life.  Some animals also call it home: we saw a lot of rabbits last week, so many that I wonder if the ecosystem couldn't use a fox or two.

The grass and reeds are as tall as I am right now, and the mosquitos are as big as my fist--no, that's an exaggeration included only to warn the wary. Great space to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Saturday Unphoto: From Bloomberg Green on Wild Fire

 

By Linda Poon

The worst day for human-caused fires in the U.S. is July 4. That’s a particular problem this year, as a historic heat wave and record drought have exacerbated the risk of wildfires.

That’s why more than 150 fire scientists signed a letter this week urging people in the West to skip fireworks this Independence Day, just as the U.S. enters peak wildfire season. Blazes are already raging in several states, with some spreading through tens of thousands of acres in California, Colorado and Arizona. 

In response, some cities and counties in California, Oregon, Arizona and Utah have canceled public displays, and imposed restrictions or outright bans on the use of personal fireworks. But it won’t be easy to tamp down that bombastic American tradition.

Some places like Aspen, Colorado, are trying out alternative flashy displays. At the popular “Old Fashioned Fourth of July'' festival, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association is hoping to dazzle attendees with a laser show instead of traditional fireworks. In 2018, the association tried a choreographed drone display. “You have to evolve,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg CityLab that year — but smoke from a wildfire that broke out just a day before the holiday canceled that show, too. 

Other places are cracking down on personal use, which can be especially risky and became a more popular hobby during the pandemic. In the San Francisco Bay Area, sheriffs confiscated 15,000 pounds of illegal fireworks, along with $1 million in cash, from two residents who were also operating illegal sales out of a warehouse in Oakland. In a dramatic twist of events in Los Angeles Wednesday night, police who were seizing homemade fireworks caused an accidental explosion as they were attempting to safely detonate the explosives. Seventeen people were injured, including police, in the blast that destroyed the specialized bomb truck containing the fireworks. 

L.A. is also using incentives to dissuade people from setting off their own fireworks. The police department launched a buyback program on Wednesday, receiving some 500 pounds of fireworks in exchange for gift cards. And police are sending cease-and-desist letters to online marketplaces like Craigslist that were hosting illegal sales.

Fires are not the only environmental concern. Cities in China have banned fireworks before to prevent spikes in air pollution. In the U.S., fireworks release 42% more pollutants into the air than on a normal day, according to a 2020 study.

But as the effects of climate change worsen, wildfires loom large as an urgent reason to rethink the explosive pastime. “We're getting to the point where we need to think seriously about restricting the use of fireworks,” says Jennifer Balch, a fire ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “Frankly, we're asking too much of our firefighters who are probably hunkered down waiting to see where the wildfires are going to start.”

Between 1992 and 2015, humans started 7,000 wildfires on July 4, according to Balch. Of all the fires reported that day from 2014 to 2018, more than half were sparked by fireworks, according to a separate analysis from the National Fire Prevention Association. Experts warn that extreme hot and dry conditions enable sparks and falling embers to more easily ignite trees, shrubs and other vegetation. The slightest breeze can carry that fire far and wide.

In 2017, a teen sparked the massive Eagle Creek Fire by throwing two fireworks into the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. It raged for three months, blowing some into Portland and burning through nearly 50,000 acres of land. And in 2020, a smoke-generating “pyrotechnic device” set off during a baby gender reveal party ignited the El Dorado fire, which tore through more than 22,000 acres of San Bernardino County, California.

The percent of wildfires caused by humans has inched up over the last few years. “That's something that's also very much related to our development patterns and our settlement, in that we are building more and more homes into flammable landscapes," Balch says. 

Despite the warnings, the show must go on for some Americans — with some calling the city bans “anti-American” and at least one state’s legislative leaders refraining from any statewide action. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has been pushing the Biden administration to allow fireworks at Mount Rushmore, after the National Parks Service denied the state’s request in March. Fireworks there have been halted since 2009 due to safety concerns, including fire hazards. They resumed for the first time last year under Donald Trump’s presidency. 

But with large swaths of America already on fire, and 2021 setting the perfect conditions for yet another intense wildfire season, perhaps the most patriotic thing for those in the American West to do is lay off the pyrotechnics. 

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Gate to Where?

Lots of changes in the world.  Sad news about the past coming out.  Pandemic easing here, but raging elsewhere.  All of this, plus drought and heat waves  come to mind as I wander my neighbourhood.  This is part of the lovely installation off Van Horne boulevard where sculptor Glen LeMesurier displays some of his works made from the castoffs of industrialization.

The gate in the photo is closed, and who knows what lies on the other side?  Not I.  Like everyone else, I go forward, hoping for the best.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Gypsy Moths....


 This week I went for a walk in one of my favourite places, the Mount Royal Cemetery.  This time of year it usually is full of flowers and fruit like crabapples setting on.  But, to my great dismay, great swaths of the trees were completely denuded of leaves.

The culprit is the Gypsy Moth caterpillar.  We saw them all over the pavement, and jogging friends have said they've been covered with them after running through stretches where the beasts are munching away.  


Dreadful things, but, I'm told, not quite the disaster that they appear to be.  Most of the trees will survive, many will leaf out again, and this kind of infestation cyclical.  Not quite the 17 year cycle of the cicada, but nevertheless something that comes around every 5 to 10 years.

The fact that we're in a very dry spell won't help the trees' recovery.  Rain last night was encouraging, but the jury is still out.  So is my desire to go walking in the cemetery--just too disturbing to see, perhaps.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Mangroves, the Key to Sea Rise Control?


 Firsts installment of the photos some friends in Jakarta took for me, as I try to research what's happening there for my new project, Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Risking Oceans. Mangroves have and could continue to save many shorelines from erosion.  Just one of the things I'm learning about.

Photo by Alya Fauzy

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Adventure in the Middle of the City


Last weekend we spent a glorious Saturday in Parc Agrignon with some young friends.  It's a very large park by urban standards, and has a Métro station at its edge.  When we arrived in late morning people were arriving with picnic baskets and barbecues, ready to enjoy the first weekend when gatherings were allowed outside in Montreal.  

We had a great time, and our friends, who had to check out everything, particularly liked the wilder side of the lake.  It had woods and places where you could get close to the water, plus grass and weeds to pretend to get lost in.  Their game was some adventure drama that they concocted, vaguely inspired by Star Wars.  A down-to-earth pleasure for all...

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Saturday Photo: What to Read...


 We've just set the list for the 2021-22 season of the Atwater Book Club.  Here it is, if you want t get a head start!


2021
September 1
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Nobel Prize for literature 2017)
Klara and the Sun, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. The book offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?


October 13
Who DoYou Think You Are? Alice Munro (Nobel Prize for literature 2013)
Rose and her stepmother Flo live in Hanratty -- across the bridge from the "good" part of town. Rose, alternately fascinated and appalled by the rude energy of the people around her, grows up nursing her hope of outgrowing her humble beginnings and plotting to escape to university.
Rose makes her escape and thinks herself free. But Hanratty's question -- Who do you think you are? -- rings in Rose's ears during her days in Vancouver, mocks her attempts to make her marriage successful, and haunts her new career back East as an actress and interviewer.


November 10
The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
Off the easternmost corner of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans, where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. Piya Roy, a young American marine biologist of Indian descent, arrives in this lush, treacherous landscape in search of a rare species of river dolphin and enlists the aid of a local fisherman and a translator. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this isolated corner of the world that exact a personal toll as fierce as the tides.



December
March by Geraldine Brooks
From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated the character of the absent father, March. Brooks follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Pulitzer Prize 2006


2022
February 9
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo--until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.





March 9
The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
As an Armenian American living in San Francisco, Armanoush feels like part of her identity is missing and that she must make a journey back to the past, to Turkey, in order to start living her life. Asya is a nineteen-year-old woman living in an extended all-female household in Istanbul who loves Jonny Cash and the French existentialists. The Bastard of Istanbul tells the story of their two families--and a secret connection linking them to a violent event in the history of their homeland.


April 13
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
This story within a story follows Charlie Marlow, whose job was to transport ivory downriver, and who develops an interest in i an ivory procurement agent, Kurtz, who is employed by the government. Preceded by his reputation as a brilliant emissary of progress, Kurtz has now established himself as a god among the natives in “one of the darkest places on earth.” Marlow suspects something else of Kurtz: he has gone mad.

A reflection on corruptive European colonialism and a journey into the nightmare psyche of one of the corrupted, Heart of Darkness is considered one of the most influential works ever written.

May 11
Indians on Vacation by Thomas King
Inspired by a handful of old postcards sent by Uncle Leroy nearly a hundred years earlier, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace Mimi’s long-lost uncle and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe. By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple’s holiday trip to Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.


June 8
Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady
With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It's World War II, and while stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and is desperate to see the world. They marry against Vivian's family's wishes--hard to say what it is, but there's something about Jack that they just don't like--and as the war draws to a close, the new couple travels to Windsor to meet Jack's family...

 

 

 

 

The painting, BTW, is Lübecker Waisenhaus by Gotthardt Kuehl

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Saturday Photo: The Animals of My Neighborhood...and Jokes

When this Covid business started and I was effectively cut off from our grandchildlren, I looked around for ways to keep in contact with them.  Sending letters was a partial solution even though we live in the same city.

 Last spring I wrote a series of stories about our extended family, which included tales of the Spanish Flu epidemic a hundred years ago.  Then, having covered the bases there, I looked around for more things to send in the mail.  These include a series of photos of the strange animals around our neighborhood, like this urban wolf that howls not far from the Outremont Métro station.

But, the kids tell me, nothing beats jokes, so I've been looking for suitable ones in both English and French.

Here's favourite of the youngest (4 1/2: Two mothers are talking  while their children play in the sandbox. 

"My baby has been walking for three months now," says one.

"You better go looking for him," says the other.  "He's probably a gone a long way in that time."

Well, I guess we have a new category to join the "Dad joke" one: it's the Kid joke.
 

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Saturday Photo: May Afternoon at Giverny


 

 

 

 

Twice in May we visited Monet's garden at Giverny, north of Paris.  It was a lovely experience each time, with the flowers in full bloom and the weather wonderful.  The second time we walked back to the train station at Vernon along country roads that were equally splendid.

 How nice it would be visit again.  Not this year for sure. 

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Saturday Photo: Making Book Lists for Next Year--and Maybe Summer Reading

I love this painting called Couch on the Porch, Cos Cob, by Childe Hassam.  Painted in 1914, it captures the feeling of summery days, pre-airconditioning.

 Would love to have your ideas for summer reading, or for book groups next winter.
 

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Saturday Photo: More Whimsy

 
Last summer some kids near Parc Molson spent some happy time making a little scene in front of a tree in the strip of greenery between the sidewalk and the street.  You'll see what it looked like below. Then came winter and snow and all that and I hadn't thought about the whimiscal setting until this week.  That's when I was delight to see that they had recreated the scene, only this time with a bear coming out the door!  Bravo, kids!


 

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Saturday Photo: Am I Blue? No, How Could You Be with This Kind of Display


 Garden escapes in the woods last Sunday!  Just gorgeous.

And there there's this couple:



Saturday, 10 April 2021

Saturday Photo: Ahead of Time, But the Flowers Are Up


 The bees are buzzing around the scylla and other early plants in the front yard, about two weeks earlier than usual.

People are enjoying the weather (even though we're about to go back to an 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal tomorrow night) but it's rather scarey.  Sucha warm, dry, early spring is very unusual--but it's entirely possible that will become the norm. 

Climate change, of course, to add to our pandemic woes!  The temptation, which should be resisted is to enjoy what we can get when the gettings good.  Not a wise choice, I suppose.  This afternoon it will be back to work on a project that possibly may help show our way to a better future.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Saturday Photo: (Very) Urban Agriculture


 This year's crop from the ornamental orange tree. Have had up to 23 in the past, and this year it took months for these to ripen (they'd set on during the summer.) 

But I'm pleased to see them and will use them to cook a duck recipe for Easter supper. Sadly, it will be for the old guy and me only.  We do hope to take a walk in a park with the kids and grandkids though, which is better than last year when we weren't going anywhere in that first lockdown.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Saturday Photo: Chartres, Light at the End of the Tunnel


 This is about the time of year when we might start talking about what to do and where to go this summer.  Probably won't be doing that this year, again.  Which means that I am turning toward the past to satisfy my itchy feet.

This is one of  many photos I've taken on one of our several trips to the cathedral at Chartres.  It's just an hour by local train outside of Paris, through suburbs and farm land.  Lee loves Gothic architecture and Chartres is his favourite example, so no trip to France is complete without a day at Chartres.  

But given the current situation the photo seems particularly relevant.  We have been going through dark times, and perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel, just as the mid-day sun floods through the south windows of the cathedral on a spring day.  


Saturday, 20 March 2021

Saturday Photo: Snowdrops, and Spring Is on Its Way...

Well, actually the snowdrops in front aren't as far along yet--this photo was taken a couple of years ago--but there definitely are little green shoots coming up.  In addition, we woke up last Sunday morning to the scent of skunk: another definite sign of spring.

Heaven knows we need all the good signs we can get!  The authorities keep telling us that the light is showing at the end of the tunnel.  I must admit, also, that we had our first Pfizer vaccine almost two weeks ago.  But given that Covid-19 variants which might escape the vaccine are swirling around, I guess we'll have to look to the those things which make us smile that have nothing to do with pandemics!
 

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Saturday Photo: The Frozen St. Lawrence a Year Ago Before All Hell Broke Loose


 On March 9, 2021 we got our first Covid-19 vaccinations, which was very appropriate since on March 9, 2020 we had our last carefree escapade.  That was the day we took the train from Montreal to Quebec City: two night, three days, much good food, great walks and a visit to the Musée national de beaux arts du Québec.  We came home on Wednesday to find things turning upside down, and we haven't ventured out of Montreal since.

This is what the St. Lawrence looked like from the heights--beautiful and cold.  This year we had a winter full of snow and ice with little rain or freezing rain which meant that getting outside around here was great for walking and (for those younger than me) skating.  Thank goodness for that!

As the light appears at the end of the tunnel, I still find myself looking back to that lovely little trip, though.  It has sustained me....

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Satuday Photo: Light at the End of the Tunnel


 The photo may not look like much, just a column of light falling on a bedroom wall, but it means that spring is almost here.

Every year about the first of March, the rising sun swings far enough north to shine briefly in our back bedroom.  Not for long, and then just a sliver, but it means that in a month there will be a much longer period when the sun peeks around the buildings outside and shines in the back of our house. 

Of course, this week has given us deep winter conditions, but it's nice to have a glimpse of what is coming.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Because We Need a Smile..


 It's up to you to choose which smile, of course!  Came across this smiley-hat wearing gargoyle this week.  It seems to embody the crazy back-and-forth emotions of this crazy time...

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Waiting for a Bike Ride...


 Or maybe it's winter storage for bikes!

Days are getting longer, this winter of our discontent will be over sometime....

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Winter Biking, and Valentine's Day

Yesterday, February 12, was this year's Winter Bike to Work Day.  I'm not a cyclist (no way, hit by one age 5, finally learned how age 50, and now wouldn't even try.)  But since the pandemic began more and more people who are actually going into work, are using bikes, it seems.

Really, even in this climate!

Here's a photo I took this morning on my walk (of course, walking is what our two legs were made for!)  Obviously someone has things all set to go when the spirit moves her (or him.)  The other, skelatal bike raises more questions.  Left here certainly since before the snow got deep, and without its seat which suggests its owner wanted to make sure that it wasn't taken before it was wanted for use. 

But also, tomorrow being Valentine's Day, an idea popped up my devious mind: is this the way little bikes are made?  At the end of the winter will we find two or three kid's bikes chained to the post?  

À suivre... 

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Funeral for a Dear Friend, a Fine Man

 

Today a few of us will be celebrating the life of Michel Lizée who died just shy of his 70th birthday after a long illness. As a tribute in the CUPE newsletter put it: "an exceptional activist who worked all his life to make workers aware of the importance of planning and financing their retirement."

 The tribute continues: "His achievements include the implementation of the innovative FTQ wage-funded pension plan for workers in community and women’s groups. In 2010, this plan won the prestigious Plan Sponsor Award from Benefits Canada in Toronto. He was also one of the major architects behind the implementation and development of the UQAM Community Service, which now dates back more than 30 years, whose objective is to support the work of unions and community groups in Quebec.

"An economist by training, UQAM hired Michel Lizée as a research officer back in 1972. Four years later, he joined the SEUQAM (CUPE 1294). He was initially a union representative in 1978 and sat on the Conseil régional FTQ Montréal métropolitain, on the Retirement Committee and was then elected president of the SEUQAM, an office he held from 1983 to 1988.

"A member of the Université du Québec (RRUQ) pension plan retirement committee for more than 30 years, Michel Lizée was one of the most high-profile experts on pension plans, which truly were a passion of his. It was important to him that all employees, whether unionized or not, enjoy a retirement befitting the term. "

Because of the Covid-19 state of emergency, the gathering will be small, but like the sun  on this wild flower, the light that he shone in this dark world illuminates us all. 

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Saturday Photo: Time to Get Outside...


 Snow and cold temperatures must not keep us inside in this winter of our discontent.  Here are footsteps in the snow, showing that a lot of people are fed up with confinement, but have chosen to get out safely...


Sunday, 24 January 2021

Saturday Photo: What To Do on a Snowy Sunday


 It's been a remarkably mild winter until last week.  Sunday we had a spectacular, wet snowfall, and peple enjoyed making all manner of snow creatures.

And then there was this solitary woman reading on a park bench Sunday afternoon.  Obviously it wasn't all that cold, but also obviously she wasn't going to waste such a beautiful winter day by staying indoors.

Good on her!

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Saturday Photo: Let's Do Lunch at the Atwater Library

Construction goes on despite Covid-19, concrete and cement continue to be made--with all that implies for global warming and quality of life.

I'll be talking about that and about my new book Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future at 12:30 p.m. EST Thursday, January 28, 2021.  It'll be one of the Atwater Library and Computer Centre's lunchtime series--by Zoom, of course.

If you'd like to join us, contact the library's tech wizard at ralph@atwaterlibrary.ca for the Zoom link.  You also can get a 15 per cent discount on the book by ordering through the University of Regina's website and using the code CONCRETE15.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Saturday Photo: All's Good, and the State of the World



 All you need to know about Montreal in 2021:  this industrial building in Mile End has not been used for that for a long time, as you can see.

 Don't know when Sweeney Barrel Co/Ltd went out of business but I wager it was a long time ago, and ordinarily I have a lot of problem with graffiti.  This however seems to me to encapsulate Montreal and maybe the world at the beginning of 2021. That is: remnants of the past, filth of the present, and a reminder that somehow we've got to keep at it, if we are to get ourselves out of the current mess. That "all's good" is something to strive for.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Saturday Photo: Life Continues (if you're lucky,) Welcome 2021


 The photo was taken 10 years ago, during the holiday season we were out of our house because of fire next door. We survived that with little permanent damage, thank you very much, but repair of the smoke damage took eight months. That Christmas was the first one we were grandparents, and I wanted to celebrate.  In the end, we had a good time, but it was a bit of a scramble to make the apartment where we squatted (rather elegantly, also thank you very much) look festive.

This is another new year's message at the end of year that was much worse.  Not that we were touched directly except for the various lockdowns, but it's been a sad experience for far too many people.  Let us hope that the joy of colours and enough to eat and hugs (even virtual ones) make 2021 a better year than 2020.