Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Montreal Photojournal 2: Logistics and the Alouettes Home Opener

My current residence is not very far from Percival Molson Stadium, the home field of the Montreal Alouettes. This Tuesday was the home opener game for the Alouettes, which I was completely unaware of. I came home to see an entire stadium’s worth of buses parked outside of my apartment. Have to get those rowdies home somehow, I guess.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reality is stranger than the plot of a stoner flick…

From the BBC Asia-Pacific Desk:

Stoned wallabies make crop circles

Apparently poppy crops in Australia, used for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals are being consumed by marsupials, who then get high, behave strangely and eventually start pawning family heirlooms just to support their habit.

The BBC page has some great comments; I’ve copied my favourites below.

I saw a whole bunch of them dingos going mad in my corn field only last night. I'm not sure if they were high or not but I'm pretty sure they were. One of them had a ghettoblaster and they were listening to some kind of fast electronic music. Lock 'em up and throw away the key, that's what I say!
Roger, Melbourne

I want to know who sold out the wallabies? Who's the narc? My guess is the platypus, he is such an odd duck.
Chet Guest, St. Paul, Minnesota USA

Don't know about crop circles but I saw one today trying to jack a car, presumably trying to get enough together for his next fix.
Greg Corcoran, Durham, UK

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Europe photo leftovers 1: Berlin Hauptbahnhof

So with a mountain of photos left over from a year ago now in Europe, I’ve realized that they don’t do that much good just sitting in my hard drive, taking up space, and occasionally showing up in screensavers. Thus, even though it is now a long time past, I’m starting a series of posts to put up some of my favourite photos from my escapades in Germany and thereabouts, that were never shared on here before.

To start off, this is the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central station).


This massive building is one of the largest train stations on the continent, and is five gigantic stories tall. For a better idea of scale:


Those little white specks behind the bus? Those are people.

And this is the place from the inside. Trains run at both the top, and lowest levels. The place also effectively doubles as a shopping mall, as well. One could buy food, luggage, books, and even clothes.

Berlin_Hauptbahnhof_3 The place was a daunting introduction to Europe; I spent at least half an hour wandering around lost (and sleep-deprived) before I found out where I needed to go.

Wikipedia has proven itself yet again, and provided one last awesome photo to tag on here, from the grand opening, and I have to share it even if its not mine.


Perhaps this all doesn’t mean much unless you were there, but the place is truly impressive, and while not a tourist attraction, definitely deserves note, and that’s why it gets mention here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fluoride, Sagan, and Arguments from Authority

When looking up information on how to take care of a few new house plants, I learned that Dracaena plants, among others, don’t handle fluoride in their water that well. Not knowing if the water here in Montreal is in fact fluoridated and thus safe for my spiky new comrade, I figured that a quick Google search would help me determine what the story was. In short, I learned that no, the water in Montreal is not fluoridated.

The long part of the answer, however, was irritating:


In this Canada Free Press article, Dr. Jones goes through the common arguments against water fluoridation, quoting several doctors on their opinions and views on fluoridation, and comes to the conclusion that RARRWG FLUORIDE IS KILLING US ALL.

He then quotes a great scientist:

Carl Sagan, the noted astronomer, was right when discussing "authoritarian" judgments. He remarked that "arguments from authority do not count; too many authorities have been mistaken too often".

And finishing the article, the Canada Free Press tells us about the author:

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He's been a ship's surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto.

It’s enough to make Dr. Sagan turn in his grave. If I understand Dr. Jones’ argument, he says “Don’t listen to the scientific consensus about this issue, listen to me, I’m a doctor. But don’t listen to someone just because they have a title, people who do that are usually hiding behind their credentials.”


from plognark

I was going to try and refute some points that were made about fluoridation, but I’m finding it’s not worth the time an effort when I just don’t know enough about the issue. A full response has the potential to turn this initially small rant into a 10-page diatribe, and the article is a couple of years old, so any real relevance to anything I might say would be lost. I’ll just say that I’m not that worried. We have far more harmful toxins in our environment that we know for certain are hazardous, and still willingly put them into our bodies.

The point I make here is that invoking someone with credentials as if that makes their points more valid is sloppy reasoning, and in fact a fallacy: the argument from authority. Dr. Jones brings up this fallacy to support his point, but in fact a reader who pays attention will see that it in fact invalidates a large part of what he said. If only Carl Sagan were around to lay a slap down on the author for misusing his name…..

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Montreal Photojournal 1: Club Main

To kick off an anticipated string of photos to share from Montreal, I today present a photo from the past weekend’s Club Main event. For the weekend, St. Laurent (“Le Main”) street is closed to traffic and local businesses extend their shops, restaurants, etc. to the street. The weather was not particularly great for an outside gathering, so it was fairly quiet, at least when I was there. I did, however, find my way to one of the small parks along the street, and, well, see for yourself. Look closely.



Can’t see?

I’ll give you a hint: the mistress of ceremonies led the show in a pleasing baritone. Such is Montreal.

edit: just figured out, though it was staring me in the face, the performance was actually part of the St-Ambroise Fringe festival (duh)


I enjoyed today’s Toothpaste for Dinner comic, and thought I’d share:


Friday, June 19, 2009

A New Home, New Language, New Culture

Seeking out research opportunities in my field has brought me to McGill university, located in the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec. I wouldn’t have believed you, had you told me a few years ago that I would be here now. That said, it has not been overly difficult to get adjusted and settled in here. While the primary language here is French, Anglophones have little difficulty navigating, speaking with locals, and basically doing anything, as most people here are bilingual. I’m told that it is in fact difficult to learn French here as if you have any sort of Anglo accent, people revert to English. My 9th-grade French education has come into use, but has by no means been essential.

While it is taking me some time to adjust to the rapid-fire pace of downtown in a major urban centre, the noise of constant traffic outside my bedroom and a general attitude of disinterest by passers-by that I’m not used to, I’m beginning to get settled in, used to things, and comfortable.

I expect I will have a lot to offer up about this fine city in the future. For now, I’ll leave up a photo of downtown Montreal, as seen from Mont-Royal, the city’s namesake.


Friday, June 12, 2009

I know you’ve missed me…..

Well, I’ve let this page grow stale with time and so I suppose anyone who was reading once upon a time has left, but I’ve been inspired to get the ball rolling and start writing again. As I used to write about my escapades in Europe last summer, I’ll need to change gears a little, and figure out how I want to continue with this space. That said, I still have some great pictures to share. For now, I’ll just post a current desktop wallpaper of mine that I really like, dug out of my photo archives from last August.

DSC06750_edited-1Figure 1: The white cliffs of the island of RĂ¼gen